When running a small business it is very important to lay out a plan of where your business is, what would you like to bring to the world through your business, where you want to take it and plan the best way to get there. This can be a formal business plan, which is an excellent strategizing tool to develop for your business and then you can update and refocus it from time to time. Or you can start out with a more informal mission statement and assessment of your strengths and areas that need improvement. This second option is a lot less intimidating and will help you gain clarity and focus on what is really important to you and the best strategies for achieving it.
The most important key is to develop a complete marketing plan. This will cover your business philosophy and your strategies for adding value and client extras all the way through what advertising you might place and where to reach your target audience. These ten tips will help you update your business planning and give you a fresh look at your business.
1. Pay attention to articles in newspapers, magazines and television shows about trends and changes in national and international demographics. This information can be very helpful in finding new business opportunities for you, increasing profits and ideas for providing additional value and service for people who do business with you.
2. Go right to your most knowledgeable source, your clients. Ask them for referrals. Explain to them how important this is to your business; give them an extra incentive for spreading the word about your products or services. Providing a small gift is a nice way to show them how much you appreciate their help in referring new business.
3. A marketing plan is only as good as the tracking system you put in place. It will enable you to see where your marketing dollars are being the most beneficial to your business. You will need to track each client, or request for additional information. Get in the habit
of asking your clients “How did you hear about us?” Then keep that information in your database along with there name, address, and any special request or preferences they may have. It is important to know how that client found you, through an ad, referral, your web site… You will see patterns begin to emerge allowing you to focus your marketing efforts where they are the most effective.
4. Joining your local chamber of commerce or other trade associations will help you to network and connect with other small business owners. You will be able to share experiences and bounce new ideas off of these people, and share with other people experiences you have had providing possible solutions to problems they may be facing. More and more the small business world works best when businesses co-partner and act in a mutual interdependent way.
5. You are always marketing your business and yourself. Even if you don’t think it is a “business setting” you are still conveying an impression of yourself and your business. Be helpful and listen to people. Helping people is very rewarding all by its self but you will find that other people notice and will think of your business first when they need the product or service you offer because they know you are committed to the community and helping others.
6. When advertising don’t think big, as in circulation and exposure. Think targeted. Find out how your clients spend their time, what they read and what do they like to do for fun. Then take this information and use it to help you target your marketing efforts so your message will reach the specific group of people that are interested in your product or service.
7. Develop different ways for potential clients to get to know you. Writing articles, doing workshops or speaking are great ways to interact with your potential customers. They will get to meet you and experience your style first hand. If you are uncomfortable doing these things, think of ways to start small and build your confidence. Maybe give a book presentation at your local book store or library on a book you found interesting that has some correlation to the services you provide. Perhaps you could partner with someone else and present together.
8. Keep everything consistent. What is most important to you? What is the essence of what you would like to provide to your clients that is fulfilling to you. Narrowing your focus and determining what you want to share will help you define your business style. You can then have all of your marketing materials reflect that style. This will attract the best clients for you.
9. Give your clients several options for beginning to work with you. Think of ways you can develop and tailor your services so they can work with you on a small scale to begin with. Offer different services with different price points. People like to test things out, make sure they feel comfortable and pleased with the services you provide. If you are offering different ways for them to start using your services at graduated prices, they will experience first hand the value you provide and continue to do more business with you.
10. What types of projects or goals that people have would you enjoy working with most. Are there clients in a particular industry, age group, personal philosophy, or with a greater level of challenge that you would like to work with? When you focus on what is important to you in the characteristics of the clients or the projects they bring you, you will attract clients that are the most rewarding to work with. You’ll be excited by the work you do together and have a great person to refer you more potential clients who poses the qualities that are rewarding for you to work with.
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