The Fundamental MUST DO’s of a Small Business Marketing Strategy

The ultimate small business marketing strategy is really no secret if you stick to the fundamentals. As a small business owner, you are constantly being barraged with what someone is telling you is the latest and greatest marketing strategy. Before you waste your time and money on something new, you really need to ask yourself if you are doing the basics well.

Take a moment and remove yourself from your business and think of your business as your athletic team. It’s the beginning of the season and you are psyched about the year ahead. What is the first thing that you are going to do to prepare for the year? Do you start by practicing trick plays? Of course not! You practice the fundamentals.

  • If you’re a baseball team, you practice hitting and fielding.
  • If you’re a football team, you practice blocking, tackling, throwing and running.
  • If you’re a soccer team, you practice kicking and passing.
  • You don’t start running plays until your team is in shape!

Okay, now that practice is over and you have showered and cleaned up, it’s time to get back to your small business marketing strateg!

7 Critical Small Business Marketing Strategy Fundamentals

Is your team (staff) in shape? Do they know the fundamentals? Do you have them practice and rehearse the right way to do serve your customers or do you let them wing it and hope they’ll such a great job that your clients will be magnetically drawn back to your business?

Guess what? If you leave it to chance and assume clients will return, you risk taking your business into the world of mediocre results where you will join the legions of small business owners who are wondering where there next customer is coming from. Don’t leave your success to chance and then grasp for the magic bullet that will save your business. A powerful small business marketing strategy begins with the fundamentals. Here are 7 critical steps to your business success:

  1. Critical Fundamental #1: You must have a Unique Selling Proposition, which answers the question “Why should I do business with you?” Your USP is much more than we give good service or do a good job. Your competitors are saying the same thing. Your USP should have the prospect saying “Oh really? Tell me more!” It helps get your prospect interested in buying from you. Give them a powerful reason to do so.
  2. Critical Fundamental #2: Your business must be living your USP. If you make the claim, play the game by making sure everyone in your company lives the USP. If you claim great customer service but you let your phone ring 10 times before anybody answers it, your are not living a USP founded on customer service. FedEx doesn’t claim packages will usually get there overnight, they get them there overnight. If you make your clients go through 5 phone prompts to place an order, you are failing on a service claim. If your delivery driver doesn’t thank your customer, your competition’s will.
  3. Critical Fundamental #3: You must know the fundamentals of selling. It usually costs a huge amount of money to get a prospect to come to or call your business. Once they are there, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the skills to sell to them and maximize the value of the transaction? You do so by cross-selling and up-selling. Don’t expect the customer to ask for more , you must help them along. Sales training is one of the best investments that you can make in your company. Everybody who comes into contact with a prospect or client should know the basics of selling.
  4. Critical Fundamental #4: This fundamental is one of the most critical and obvious but most overlooked element of a successful small business marketing strategy! You must have a system to capture client and prospect information such as name, address, phone number, email address, buying history, preferences and other information relative to your business. Today’s technology makes that very inexpensive to do. When you have this information, you can develop a close relationship with your clients based on what THEY like.
    1. Here is a real world example: My wife and I eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and we like to go to different places. There is only one restaurant in the Cincinnati region that has ever even asked for my name and address. They send us coupons regularly so we eat there regularly. All of the rest are wondering how to get new clients in the door and spend a lot on advertising to get them there. Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Why don’t the others ask about me and what I like? It is real easy and inexpensive but most business owners are out of touch when it comes to knowing their clients.
  5. Critical Fundamental #5: You must have a system in place to regularly communicate with your prospects and clients. You should be frequently hitting them with unique offers, birthday cards, newsletters and special customer only specials. Your customers DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! The research proves it. If you don’t talk to them, you are communicating an attitude of indifference towards clients and opening the door for your competition to take them away from you.
  6. Critical Fundamental #6: You must leverage your marketing efforts by establishing joint ventures and alliances with other companies who have similar client profiles in a non-competing business.
    1. Look at this scenario: You own a restaurant and have 1,000 clients who know and trust you and like your food and service. The florist down the street also has a 1,000 clients who know and trust her. You approach her with an idea. You will pay for amailing to her list in which she endorses your restaurant and offer a special coupon for a free appetizer to her clients. You mail a similar endorsement for her shop to your list. You will both get a huge infusion of new business. Now doesn’t that make more sense than running an ad on the radio or in the paper?
  7. Critical Fundamental #7: First of all, notice all the above fundamentals don’t ask you to risk money on media advertising and any one of them can easily increase your sales 20% or more. However, if you choose to advertise in the media, TRACK YOUR RESULTS! Don’t fall in the trap of building a brand or getting your name out there. If you are investing in something, know your return on your investment. If you put $5,000 dollars into an investment portfolio, you expect a minimum return and you closely track your results. Do the same thing when you invest in marketing.

You Must Get the Fundamentals in Place
Or You Are Losing Business!

As we discussed earlier, a good small business marketing strategy starts like a sports team does in preseason, by getting back to fundamentals. If you are following these small business marketing strategy fundamentals, you should congratulate yourself because you are one of the few who are getting repeat business, referrals and new customers for a fraction of what the average small business spends to attract a customer.

If you are not doing so, get started. It is a lot easier and less expensive than you think and your returns will be huge and you will literally reap exponential increases in sales.

Choosing the ‘Right’ Programming Language for Your Business Solutions

Most likely there are two reasons why you are reading this article at this moment. Either (1) you are starting a business and looking for the most apt software for the best price that will help you get ahead; or (2) you need to revamp your software and technology to stay ahead in this ultra competitive business world.

There are an endless number of programming languages out there – Is java the best technology for your project or is it .Net, PHP or may be Perl? There are an equal number of databases to choose from – Access, mysql, SQL server or may be Oracle. But the question is – how to choose the ‘Right’ technology which is affordable and can cater to not only your current business needs but to its future requirements as well.

Ideally deciding on the best software programming language for your business solutions, should be a team activity which involves heads of IT and relevant departments and experts from your solution provider. But in case you are a small business owner or just starting-up on your own, evaluating the following factors can help you too, to take the right decision on the technology front.

Key Factors

Budget

The first thing to consider for your business is the costs and the possible return on that investment. Decide the budget based on the return, a product/service is expected to bring. If it’s a product with small shelf life and limited features, you might consider a boxed solution rather than a custom solution. It’s a quick and less expensive way to market. But if this application is the lifeline of your business then you need to evaluate the long-term business requirements and benefits of investing in custom build solution with a high-end technology.

– Choose the right features

What are the features you are looking in your software? What are the shortcomings in your business that can be resolved by having the right system in place? Identify the areas where technology can automate the processes, thereby improving business efficiency and productivity. What features would be required in the long run to accommodate more products or services when your business expands? Discuss these features with your solution provider to decide on a programming language which can handle your business for a long time without being outgrown by it.

– Time to market

If you are developing a time-sensitive product, the most critical factor in its success will be its timely release. It may be your best idea and you may have invested in the best technology, building an error-proof product. But if you are not able to market it at the right time, you may lose to your competition who would have captured the market impulse and brought the product at the right time. Quite possibly, you can lose out on a huge market share. Choosing the programming language which can quickly build the product is the key factor here.

– Scalability requirements

What is the intended life cycle of your product/application? If your business requires it for next 5-10 yrs, there is high probability that you might need to expand its functionality or increase usability. The technology used for such solutions should be scalable and upgradable, with or without vendor involvement. Imagine a situation where you have invested a good amount of money and time in training employees to use a software, which after 2-3 years needs upgradation to meet your business requirements but doesn’t has the capability to do so. Surely, you don’t want to land up in such a situation. So, a golden rule – always clarify with your solution provider about the future business requirements and capabilities of the chosen technology and programming language.

– Application demands

o Performance

If you application sees some peak traffic in certain time of the day which is crucial for your business, then performance is the key factor for your system. It will be important to choose a programming language with ability to handle a large number of simultaneous requests/transactions (supplemented by high-end servers) without affecting the speed and performance of the system.

o Security

If security of your application is of paramount importance, then short-listing a technology with focus on security features is what you need to do. For ex – Java security technology provides a large set of APIs (cryptography, public key infrastructure, secure communication, authentication, access control etc), tools, and security algorithms, mechanisms, and protocols. Zero-in on a programming language which provides the user or administrator with a set of tools to securely manage applications.

o Content change requirements

If your application requires a frequent change in the content or you need to change the look and feel of your website quite frequently, it’s good idea to go for a CMS with features and flexibility to be managed by the system administrator without vendor involvement.

Is Going Direct Really Cheaper Than A Broker Or Price Comparison For Small Business Insurance?

The UK media is currently awash with advertising slogans from direct commercial insurance companies targeting small business owners in an attempt to make them switch their provider of business insurance.

‘Get 12 months cover for the price of ten’ and ‘You won’t find us on price comparison websites’ are typical of the slogans emanating from these companies, in a language more akin to the selling of car insurance than the traditional professional and almost stoic approach to the selling of business insurance cover.

In the current recession, price has become the determining factor in winning the war of market share for all goods and services and insurance is no exception. Prudent small businessmen and women are looking to cut costs in all areas of their business and the large direct insurance companies are well aware of this.

The large insurers are also aware that the UK market has over five million small businesses of which a fifth are sole traders, self-employed and people working from home, many of whom are familiar with purchasing their personal insurance direct with the provider, either by phone or on the Internet.

There are three types of provider in the current market for business insurance in the UK.

Intermediaries such as insurance brokers and agents, price comparison sites and direct commercial and business insurers.

Each has their own advantage and disadvantages, however whether one distribution channel is cheaper than another is often a subjective view from a particular trade, or dependent upon factors many of which cannot be quantified in price.

Direct Insurance companies claim to be able to offer cheaper polices because the cut out the costs of the middleman. It is certainly true that direct insurers do not have to pay an intermediary for the cost of the lead or introduction, however it is questionable whether this cost saving is actually reflected in the prices offered to the public.

Certainly there are economies of scale to be made by centralising the life-cycle of a policy from sales point to claim and renewal, however all those functions that are performed by an intermediary still have to be carried out in-house by the direct company and these have a cost.

Many large composite insurers often have distinct direct divisions with their own target market and premium rates. The same company may also have a broker or intermediary division or channel.

It is quite often the case that a large broker with a large book of business of, for example, small builders liability, will receive much more preferential rates then the same companies direct channel, because that insurance company wishes to retain that brokers clients.

Commercial Insurance brokers then are often able to offer preferential rates because they have more flexible schemes and arrangements than the direct channel.

One of the main benefits of using an insurance broker or intermediary in purchasing commercial insurance for small business, cannot be quantified in price and is worth the commission or fee that they may charge. That is advice, market and product information and knowledge, access to various markets such as Lloyds and some human help if the worst happens to a business and a claim is needed.

A commercial or business insurance broker is often able to negotiate far better claims settlements than if an individual were to deal direct with the insurer. The main reason for this is once again the insurer wishes to retain that brokers share of the total risk pool and will often pay out to a broker on an ex-gratia basis. This cost of this service is not quantifiable at the quote stage where small business cover may well just be valued for the price paid or the covers bought.

The third major way in which small business owners can purchase cover is by visiting a price comparison website. All the major UK comparison sites have recently begun to offer online cover aimed particularly at the small business sector, with under 50 employees. This is in direct competition with the direct insurers for television and media advertising space, aimed in particular at self-employed tradesmen and women who require business liability insurance and perhaps commercial van cover.

The comparison price proposition is that they can compare the market or at least a small section of it, to find the cheapest business insurance. They often do not provide any assistance in the purchasing decision-making process and the reality often is, that the cheapest commercial and small business insurance can be found in one of the other distribution channels.

It is therefore important that a small businessman shops around and takes some time to compare offerings including premiums, covers and services from all three sales channels. Prices tend to vary immensely by trade across the direct, broker and comparison markets and often it is a case of finding the provider or supplier who is the industry leader for a particular business type or trade in order to make large savings.

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