Small Business Strategy: 4 Vital Tips for Success

Your small business strategy rests directly on the foundation of your marketing system; and if you don’t have a marketing system and you’re not planning on creating one, then you have no small business strategy. End of.

If being successful in business is important to you, then there is no alternative but to take marketing very seriously indeed, and to educate yourself to become very, very good at it. Frankly, the level of marketing expertise I see from most small business owners is embarrassing.

The furthest most of them go is to have some fuzzy notion about the need for more business, and then to leave the rest to chance, hoping, wishing and even praying for punters to walk through the door or hit their website and buy something from them. But hope is a rotten strategy for success.

If you want to enjoy the advantages of a successful marketing system, you need to understand most of what you listen to, believe, and probably think you know about marketing and small business strategy is incorrect. The business world is dominated by marketing myths, and they serve no one but a few phonies.

Strategy idea # 1: Marketing is a money maker

Most small business strategy is curbed by an unscientific “marketing budget”. But why? If you’re marketing properly, then you should be getting an expected positive ROI from everything you do. So… why would you limit your marketing according to some number a bean counter has pulled out of his butt? Bottom line: when your marketing is making money like this, and it’s measurable, trackable and predictable, be ready to plough back as much as you have into it.

Strategy tip # 2: Grab the keys to the Mint!

OK, now let’s pretend you have this stupendous marketing system and you know from experience there’s a 90 % probability every time you run it you’re going to make a handsome profit. A nice place to be, right?

Right. (it’s eminently practical for your business, too).

Nope. If you had any sense at all you’d keep pushing that button like a rat with a wire in its head giving it the shots of “happy juice”

Strategy tip # 3: Look before you leap
But, be smart about this. Start with small tests and monitor responses like a hawk watching a mouse. And even when you have a process that works, don’t wager more than you can stand losing, because the unpredictable happens, and you don’t want to be cleared out by rotten luck falling on bad judgement.

The safe thing to do is determine your evil “budget” as a fraction of profits, so the more you bring in, the more money you can spend on your marketing.

More than once small business owners have said to me they can’t do any more marketing this year on the grounds that they don’t have the budget for it, even though their marketing is making them a profit. Some years ago, right at the beginning of the 2007 recession, I heard a real estate agent say she was stopping all of her advertising, even though it was the only thing bringing in business. Now THAT is insane..

Strategy tip # 4: How to make it pay

So how do you know when your marketing is working?

When it’s making you money.

How do you know that?

By ruthlessly and conscientiously tracking and measuring everything you do.

So the “secret” here is to ensure that your small business strategy is designed in a way to let you track every sale to the marketing activity that brought it in. Right down to every email, postcard and sales call. You can never ever have too much information about this, since it’s the difference that’ll make you wealthy.

Marketing Tips – Small Business Pricing

Pricing is a key determinant in the decision making process customers use to purchase your product or service as well as a key element in determining the profitability of your business. Setting a price for your product or service that appeals to your target market and encourages them to buy is therefore an essential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Before determining your pricing strategy for your business it is important to consider the following:

Your Customer

An effective marketing strategy begins and ends with your customer. It is therefore important to establish how much your customers are willing to pay for your product or service, how sensitive your customers are to changes in price and how price discounting will affect the level of demand and profitability of your business.

Your Product or Service’s Features and Benefits

Unless you have a product or service that offers a unique or additional benefit, and you can communicate this benefit adequately to your target market, if your price is too high you may price yourself out of the market. Look at the features and benefits your product or service offers and how they compare to your competitors. Remember the benefits you provide can either be physical, emotional or both. For example, some customers may see a high price as equalling high quality and are therefore willing to pay a premium.

The Cost of Doing Business

Before setting your price you need to determine what your small business must charge for its product or service in order for you to make and sustain a profit. Look at what the cost and expenses are of doing business and what price you will need to sell at to ensure these expenses are covered. Unless you have a sustainable cost advantage, if your price is too low, your sales volume may not generate enough revenue to cover the costs associated with your business.

The Market and Your Competitors

Your competitors play an important role when setting your pricing strategy. For example, there may be competitors nearby where customers can compare prices so you may need to price match. If it is hard for your customers to compare prices you may be able to charge a premium.

Distribution Channels

Some customers may expect to pay a different price for a product or service depending on which distribution channel they use. For example, if a customer purchases a product over the internet or by mail they may expect to pay a lower price due to the elimination of the middle person i.e. the retailer.

Life Cycle of Your Product or Service

At different stages of your product or service life cycle you may change your pricing strategy to suite your business needs. For example, when you are launching a new product or service you may adopt a low price strategy to encourage trial and repurchase of your product/service on a regular basis. Alternatively if your product or service has a unique point of difference or high cost of production you may charge a premium over your competitors. As your product or service grows in customer awareness and credibility you may be able to sustain a price increase. Alternatively as sales increase, your production costs may be reduced and you may be able to pass on some of these savings in a price reduction or regular promotional offers.

(c) Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

5 Tips Small Businesses Can Take Away From The Tiny House Movement

What on earth could small businesses learn from the tiny house movement if your industry is unrelated? It comes as no surprise that the growth, mission, popularity and purpose of the tiny house movement have grown over the past decade. People are joining this movement for financial freedom, environmental and leisure enjoyment. These owners reduce skyrocketing maintenance costs and living expenses that come from soaring mortgage payments of capacious houses. This movement also frees up more time to spend with family and travel.

Over the past decade, we have seen the increase in restructuring, downsizing and corporate dismantling by many large firms. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.7 percent of all employer firms are small businesses. While this percentage is an impressive number, there are some great tips many small businesses can take away from the tiny house movement.

  • Compact and mobile: Owners of tiny houses downsize to reduce the overabundance of clutter, high mortgage payments, and freedom to do more things they want to engage in. They have the capability of hitching their home on the back of a vehicle and can save money on hotel costs when traveling. Depending on your type of business, with the ease and digitization of many applications and smart devices, you can mobilize your business and take it anywhere. Even if you relocate, your business can be just as portable. Small businesses may be compact in scale, but can be substantial in their return on investment.
  • Energy and cost-efficient: Tiny house owners save money by lower operating costs, energy usage, and maintenance costs. You will find innovative ways to curb your budget in certain areas that will free up money for other important business investments to grow your business. Small businesses may not use up as much energy and power as larger organizations. You can operate more efficiently as well as effectively.
  • Environmentally conscious and sustainable: Tiny houses may be built using environmentally friendly and repurposed materials. They are built to last but are as unique and aesthetically appealing as the details in a larger home. Small businesses can apply similar eco-friendly elements and recycled supplies to their organization. Make a statement with personalized and customized brand installations on a smaller scale, but with great innovative curb appeal.
  • Technological advantages: Technology is not as big and bulky as it once was. Tiny houses can embody the same level of digitization as larger homes, just on a smaller scale. At one time, big businesses had the upper-hand with harnessing more advanced applications in technology. Nowadays, not only is technology more advanced and constantly evolving, many elements are far more affordable than they’ve ever been.
  • Innovative: While tiny house living is not a new phenomenon it is increasing in popularity. The idea of living a quality life on a small-scale pushes us to new levels of residential creativity. We are inspired to try something new, creative, and innovative that will make us stellar in our industry. Since many quality products and services are more affordable and reliable, small businesses can make quality purchases and outsource services that will save on equipment and personnel budgets.

Just because a small business may adopt a few ideas from the success of the tiny house movement, some of these applications may not be feasible or appealing to your particular industry. You don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability. Small businesses have the power, however, to promote their business with creative, personalized and exceptional customer experiences, regardless of size and budget.

Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.