So, why is this important? Premick stated it best:
So, why is this important? Premick stated it best:
When formulating a marketing and sales plan, one of the best places to start is with your competition – what better way to get a feel for what is working, what you can do better, and how to set yourself apart? As Steve Strauss discusses in his article How to Research Your Competition, using marketing research and competitive analysis is key in understanding the market landscape.
So just how should you research your competition?
1. Start with their website – it should contain history, product or service positioning and other useful information.
2. Do physical research – visit their store, call their customer service or purchase from them…what better way to see how they do business than to become their customer?
Being eco-friendly and saving our resources is not just an environmental issue. It’s also a great way to save dollars in your business, and reach out to your customer and client base. Some obvious benefits of following the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” adage are: saving our environment, reducing waste, and saving money.
According to a few sources, January 20th is “Get to Know Your Customer Day”. Whether you are a small business owner or a sales professional, you have one thing in common – your business IS your customer! While it is great to highlight “getting to know your customer” once a year, this really needs to be a daily effort. This got me thinking – how can we all really get to know our customers?
1. Ask! This might seem straightforward, but simply asking your customers opinion is worth its weight in gold. They can offer you insights such as product requests, service upgrades, and just general suggestions to help you give them exactly what they need – and stay loyal to your business.
In the world of small business, trade shows can be some of the best investments that can be made. They offer an opportunity for live interaction (and in recent years, virtual interaction) with fellow business members, customers, partners and vendors within your specific field. Networking, advertising, learnings and demonstrations are carved out for a customizable experience for each attendee or exhibitor.
How can you make the most of these shows? Joanna Krotz discusses her strategy with Microsoft in her article “9 Steps to Making Trade Shows Pay Off”. She outlines key points, such as creating a strategy, research, having a backup plan and getting noticed. In the strategy of getting noticed at trade shows, there are a few schools of thought, however Krotz suggests a dialed-down, more personalized approach. Rather than overwhelming attendees with flashing lights and massive displays, she suggests using personalized coffee mugs with company information as a give-away with plenty of fresh coffee available at your booth. Also, she recommends collecting business cards to raffle off a single high-value item.
Customers for Life
Identifying and reaching out to customers is a challenge that businesses face on a regular basis. But what about retaining customers – for life? A plumber in Missouri, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, uses a “front of the line” program for regular customers – meaning that in the dead of winter, if your pipes freeze, you won’t have to wonder when you’ll be able to get a plumber out. In a recent article on MSN’s Business on Main page, Keeping Customers for Life, companies like Benjamin Franklin Plumbing are used as a model for how to grow and retain your long-term customer base.
Here are some key steps used by companies like Southwest, ED Foods, and Crucial Technology:
Small business owners are often faced with the challenge of how to most effectively market their business with restricted budgets and resources. An article on bestsyndication.com titled 5 Ways Small Business Can Cross Promote, outlines the top 5 steps for making the most of your marketing dollar through collaboration.1. Find complimentary business 2. Make an offer 3. Combine Mail-outs 4. Create a combination display 5. Link your site This is an interesting approach to collaborative marketing. Often times, complimentary businesses or strategic partners pair up at tradeshows and conferences or in advertising campaigns. Perhaps a little ‘out of the box’ thinking can help uncover other uses for this team marketing methodology.
A recent Wall Street Journal article “As Online Reviewers Grow, Businesses are Listening” discusses how online reviews, written by everyday customers is on the rise. With sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Yahoo Local and CitySearch, users have the ability to review and rate their favorite (and not-so-favorite) businesses. Many consumers use these sites to discover and research their choices online. In fact, the article states that 4 in 10 consumers perform online research to aid in offline purchase decisions.
So how can you harness the power of this user-driven content? Some businesses publish positive reviews on their websites, or print them for viewing in their stores. Sites such as Yelp and CitySearch offer the ability for business owners to publish special promotions for their users. Yelp alone had 29 million unique visitors in September, so the purchasing power behind these users is quite attractive.