Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need to Keep in Touch to Get More Referrals

The phone rings.  You answer it.  The person on the other line says, “Bob Smith suggested I call you.  He said you can help me.”  Ahhhh!  It’s a beautiful day!!!

How often does that happen to you?  Probably not often enough.  But with a little marketing planning, you can dramatically increase your referral business.  The result is bigger sales for your small business. The most important thing is to keep in touch with people on a regular, consistent basis.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Most small business owners know they need to do these things.  But few have any type of marketing system for keeping in touch with the right people.  Even fewer small business owners know the right way to ask for referrals.

Who should be on your contact list?  

EVERYONE!  Past clients, prospects, business associates, friends, neighbors, even people who at one point thought they might use your services, then changed their mind.

The biggest mistake we make is to think, “Oh, those people know what my small business is. I don’t need to market to them.” 

Yes, your neighbor, your banker, and the people in your Rotary group probably do know about your business.  But when they think of you, they think of you walking the dog, making a deposit, or organizing a meeting. 
 
Because they don’t see you in your professional capacity, they don’t think of you that way–unless you use a smart marketing strategy to remind them.  And, as much as we’d like to think we are unforgettable to our past clients, they start to forget about us in as little as six weeks!

Obviously, when making a marketing plan to keep in touch with your contacts, time and budget need to be considered.  You will want to see some people once a week.  Others will simply get a monthly e-mail newsletter.  No matter what, talking about your business, mailing personal notes and cards, and sending regular e-mail newsletters to all of your contacts is vital to building business. 

 
By marketing to your contacts on a regular, consistent basis, you will ensure these people think of you whenever they hear of someone else who might need your product or service. The result? More referrals, more business and more sales!

Small Business Marketing – The Power of a Market Review

Conducting a market review is one of the most important steps in the small business marketing process as it provides together with a business review the information you need to create a dynamic marketing plan. All big businesses conduct these reviews as they know it can save time and money for their business.

A market review does not have to be complicated and a lot will depend on what information you can source. The important factor regarding a market review is to understand the key elements of your market and how these elements can affect your business now and in the future.

The key elements you need to look at when conducting a market review for your small business include:

Size of Market
Your market is simply the overall industry in which you compete. For example if you sell juice then you compete in the Beverage Market. If you sell holidays as a travel agent then you compete in the Tourism Market. Analyzing the size of your market can tell you whether it is growing or declining, help you to identify growth opportunities and for a new small business can determine if the market is large enough to compete in and operate a profitable business. There are many sources you can use to gather information on the size of your market and these include trade magazines, industry associations, search engines and local government websites and resources.

Market Segment Analysis

Segmentation is a process that looks at the total market and then divides the products or services into broad groups that have similar characteristics. In the examples above, whilst the total market is beverages, the segment that is the most important to a juice manufacturer is the Juice Segment. Looking at the total beverage market today throughout the world the leading soft drink manufacturers have entered many of the market segments such as bottled water to expand their business. Market segment analysis also helps you to determine where your small business marketing efforts should be concentrated.

Distribution Channel Analysis
A distribution channel is the way in which your product or service is made available to your customers so they can purchase it. Examples are supermarkets, personal selling (face to face selling), distributors and the internet. Analyzing the sales of each distribution channel in your market enables you to identify which channels are the most important for you to compete in to grow your business.

Market Trends
A trend is any significant change to your market that your business may need to respond to. Examples of market trends include changes to the economy, changing customer demographics, social and global factors (to name a few). If you conduct business in the USA at the moment or are intending to compete in the USA then the concerns about a possible recession and how it could affect your small business needs to be identified so action plans can be put in place to minimize the impact.

Market Seasonality
If a product or service is seasonal it means that the majority of the sales occur at one or a few times a year. Tax accountants obviously have increased sales when the end of the financial year occurs and tax returns and other government reporting are required. Understanding market seasonality factors can lead to your small business maximizing sales through this period and also may highlight opportunities to spread your sales throughout the year.

Competitor Analysis
Your key competitors need to be analyzed in order for you to identify their key strengths and weaknesses and how they compare to your own small business. Reviewing this area means that you can be smarter with your marketing efforts and be proactive against their weaknesses and of course defend against their strengths. One tip that all big businesses do is to have a competitor file with examples of their marketing activities, products or services.

Big businesses know the value of reviewing the market in which they compete and you can to. Remember you can start slowly and just review one section at a time and then put in place activities or make business decisions based on the review to grow your small business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

How to Choose an Online Printing Service for Business or Personal Needs

Ordering you personal or company printing work online is the best way to go these days. Companies like Vistaprint and others have refined the ‘web to print’ business model to the point where offline providers find it difficult to compete. Online printing is not only more convenient than other options but it is also more affordable and offers most people a better product selection than they would otherwise get.

Whether you need business stationery and promotional materials or wedding invitations and greeting cards, you’ll find that the range of product offerings with online printers is huge. However, with the growing number of firms out there online offering printing services it can be hard to know which one to choose. In the following articles we have set out some ideas to help you make an informed decision.

Firstly, you want to find out some basic details about a printing company and who is behind it. Look for information on their site relating to how long they have been in business and where they are operating from. Do they have decent telephone support if things go wrong?

Pricing is the most important consideration for many but don’t let this be the only factor to influence your decision. The companies that offer the best products and services are usually a little more expensive. You may get better value with them than you would with a low cost provider that will mess you around or rip you off entirely. You can easily compare prices as most online printing companies feature a price estimate calculator on their site. You’ll find that there is a considerable range of prices for many commonly printed business and personal items so it is worth checking out at least four or five companies to get an idea.

The selection of products and services on offer is important. A printing company must be able to provide what you need in terms of the product type, specifications and volume. If you need a wide variety of printed materials for your business then it will be convenient if you can get everything from one supplier.

Many offer additional services like the popular mailing service where they will send your printed materials directly out to your clients, hot off the press. Some will even sell you a targeted mailing list if you don’t have your own database.

Find out if a printer offers offset or digital printing. Offset is usually the better of the two when it comes to quality although you will pay more for this unless you order a decent volume. Most online printing companies give some details on their websites about their printing operation and the kind of printing they are capable of.

Give some though to the design of the materials that you need printed. At a minimum you will have to be able to upload your designs to the site. It is also nice to work with a printer that offers you DIY options like design tools and templates. Some also have their own in-house designers if you need something specific.

Some online printers will charge you to proof your artwork to make sure that it is ready to go to print. Others offer this service for free.

Requesting a sample is usually made easy as most online printing companies have a form on their site for you to complete for this. If you have time you may as well have them mail samples out so that you can verify the quality.

Make sure that you are aware of the turnaround time for your order. This is the time that it takes for your order to be printed and ready for shipping. Delivery time is how long your order takes to arrive at your address from the time it is dispatched. Allow plenty of time if you need your printing done before a deadline on the off chance that there is a delay with your order.

Before hitting the order button make sure that you are aware of a company’s refund and satisfaction guarantee policies. Read the find print on their site and make sure that it is fair. Most printers on the web will avoid issuing refunds or doing complimentary reprints unless the order had errors that were their own fault. It is therefore critical to ensure that your order is proof read and checked several times to ensure that it is correct in every way.

Lastly, you should do some research online to find out what other customers have said about a specific company. There are numerous blogs, forums and consumer feedback websites out there that people will turn to if they feel that they have had exceptional service from a printer. There are also consumer complaints websites and the Better Business Bureau for those that feel that they have not been treated fairly. If the printing company that you have in mind has a lot of good reviews then go ahead. If, on the other hand they have had a lot of complaints posted about them then you should think twice.

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