3 Marketing Tips to help grow your business

26 10 2010

This week we are going to cover 3 marketing tips to help grow your business.  If you are like many small and home based businesses, you have most likely struggled with getting your product, services or ideas out to the general public.  There are many, many different marketing techniques to get your business advertised, but for many, money is the determining factor.  This week we are beginning a brief series on some marketing tips to help grow your business and not break your bank.

1 – To begin with, you need to have the right marketing message and present it at the right time for your customers.  You do not want to advertise the latest big cars when the gas prices are going through the roof.  The key is to be sure your business offers a solution or solutions to the problems consumers are facing today, not what they faced yesterday.  Don’t spend your hard-earned money on trying to build your image…yet.  You can build your image more effectively by word of as your business grows instead of hiring an advertising agency to promote you.

2 Test the market by trying some direct response marketing pieces.  Keep the cost of printing to a minimum, offer free reports, a free consultation, or some type of coupon to draw people to your business opportunity.  Try a few different direct response offers, and most importantly, keep track of which offers you made and how you sent them out.  Once you receive responses back, track which ones were your most successful and then work to improve upon those.  Do not spend time on ineffective direct response ideas.  If you didn’t get any response, toss that idea and move on to one that did generate interest.

3 – Once you receive responses from your marketing pieces, it is critical that you follow-up with your leads often and quickly.  Ask how they would prefer you to stay in touch with them.  Some may prefer a monthly newsletter, others may prefer a weekly e-mail or a phone call.   Tally the results with what your customers ultimately purchase.

Lastly, ask your customers how they found out about your business.  Was it through a friend, an ad they had seen in a local paper, or some other means of advertising that you have employed?  Do not jump from one advertising piece to another unless you have carefully documented the success and failures of what you have completed.  Very important – do not do major changes to your marketing pieces.  Do little changes and measure the results.  You will be amazed at how one small change can lead to large results.  If you change too many things at one time, you will have no idea which specific change generated the improved business.

Next week we will continue with additional marketing tips to help grow your business.

If you are looking for a second income or a home based business opportunity, perhaps we have something that would interest you.  We have several business opportunities ranging from Stem Cell nutrition, to Pre-Paid Legal Services, nutritional juice drinks to, to waterless vehicle detailing.  Please feel free to ask us about some of our business opportunities, we may have something that would work well for you.

Until next week…

Failure to Plan Part 2

6 09 2010

Last week we introduced the topic of a failure to plan with small businesses.  Many people love the idea of being their own boss and operating a successful small business, but many may not plan properly for that same business endeavor.   There are many reasons why small businesses fail, some of them due to no fault with the originator.  Sometimes a business may fail despite the best laid plans, but those are usually few and far between.  Our focus is to strive to reduce the risk of failure to a nominal percentage.

We covered the lack of a business plan that could quickly spell a new small business’s demise. Part of the importance of a business plan is to include a vision, mission and value statement for your new small business.  It is important to have these statements, but to have them and then not to have any actionable plan to achieve them is no better than not having a vision statement at all.  It is important when developing your vision and mission statement that they actually MEAN something that you can measure.  Just to say that you will be the best in the industry is an empty promise.  How will you be best in the industry?  How will you offer superior products and service?  By making these types of statements means that you should have some form of measurement.  You should have some other company standard that you are measuring yourself, your company and your products and services against.  Without a solid basis of measurements, your vision and mission statements are not any more important or useful than the paper they are written on.

Along with having an initial plan, you should have documented some version of where you believe your business to be in 5 to 7 to 10 years in the future.  Documenting these targets will allow you to make longer term decisions.  Sometimes we get caught up in the short-term fix and lose sight of our long-term targets.  By documenting your 5/7/10 year goals, you will be able to keep in the forefront your long-term goals and may then make  better long-term decisions even when faced with a short-term problem.

A trap that many established businesses fall into is the one where you take time out to do a strategic planning session, write all the decisions down, and then not utilize any of the plans decided upon.  It is often very easy to continue with business as usual, but if you have had a successful strategic planning session, why did you waste all that time if you had no intention of implementing the new goals?  Again, when re-adjusting your strategic plan, be sure that you have measurable targets in place.  You need to have a measuring stick to be sure you and your business are moving in the direction you had planned.

Worst of all is failing to make the tough choices in your business.  There will be times that you may have to stop one project because it just will not produce the necessary profits.  This can be extremely tough if the particular item was a pet project of yours.  You may also have to make the tough decision to let certain people go if they are not producing to your defined targets.  These are all tough decisions, but necessary to maintain the health of your business.  (notice though that all these decisions are based on measurements against a predefined target)

In a nutshell, if you want to have a successful small business, you need to have a plan.  You will need to have that plan documented, you should have clear and measurable objectives so that you know when to make adjustments, you need to follow your plan and adjust when necessary and lastly, you will at some point have to make some tough decisions.  With luck, those tough decisions will be very few and far between.  You will never be accused of failing to plan.  The more you practice planning and adjusting your plan, the easier it will become.

If you are interested in earning an additional income or possibly start your own small business, we may have something that would meet your needs.  Please feel free to review our website and contact us with any questions you may have.  Even if we do not have a business opportunity that is exactly what you are looking for, we would be more than willing to work with you to find your perfect opportunity.

Until next week…

Consequences of Not Following Your Business Plan

19 07 2010

Last week we talked about not forcing yourself to review your business plan on a regular basis.  After a while you believe that you know the plan so well that you don’t need to refer to it anymore.  This week we are going to continue to review the consequences of not following your business plan and how to rectify those consequences.  By year 3 we started adding other products and services to our business without cross-referencing with our original business plan.  Since we had been reviewing the business plan so much, we figured we didn’t have to keep reviewing it. 

Diversification is a good thing, but you need to do it and still keep it within the confines of your business plan.  If you add more products and services, you really do need to go back to your original business plan and modify the plan to include the changes.  Not only do you need to include the additional products, but you should be doing more market research and then taking a step back to determine if what you have added to your product line will enhance your overall business position and help you to move your company forward.  You need to validate that you have not picked up additional products that do not complement your core competency. 

Diversification can be good for your business, but diversification, like change, for change sake may not be a good thing for your business.  You don’t make changes “just because”.  Any changes or diversification you do should remain in line with your overall business plan and goals.  By the end of year 3 and into the beginning of year 4, we had focused so much on diversifying that we lost sight of who we were and what we stood for. 

We looked at our business plan, finally, and discovered that we were so far away from what we had originally planned, that we did not recognize the business we were working anymore.  Our profits showed the same loss of focus too.  We were profitable, but we were working harder for those same profits and we didn’t feel the same sense of accomplishment as we had when we first started out.  In year 4 we discovered that we had to go back to basics and re-work our business plan

By now, all of the original plans and backup plans were defunct.  We pretty much had to start the process of writing a business plan all over again.  The good news is that we had the original template, so now all we had to do was to review where we were and confirm where we wanted to go.  Then we needed to write a business plan that would get us back on track and back to growing and developing the business.  At this point we had almost lost our business identity.  Our loyal customers had been trying to warn us, they would periodically ask what we had in mind for our business.  It took one customer asking us what our business focus was.  He said our business looked like a mish-mash of everything and nothing in particular.  That comment stopped us short.

After that wake-up call, we went back to the drawing board and started asking the hard questions.  We went to our business plan and re-confirmed our goals and strategy and reiterated who we were as a business.  We spent the remainder of the year striving to regain control of our business and to get it back on track with our business plan.  It is amazing how hard it is, once you lose sight of your business plans and goals, to get your business back on track.  Part of our challenge was the re-aligning of our business coincided with the downturn in the economy.  The downturn in the economy helped us to streamline our business processes and really focus on what we wanted for the business.  We are coming out of this stronger and better prepared than we had ever originally envisioned.  

We have now included an annual review of our business plan, whether we need it or not so that we do not fall into the same rut we did.  It is a good idea to review your business plan after the end of your fiscal year anyway, most large corporations do that, so there is no reason why, as a small entrepreneur we should not do the same.  It is an excellent habit to get into and you should then not experience the same challenges that we did when we lost sight of our business plan.  Never assume that you know your plan inside and out.  It will always change as your business and the external environment changes.  Always remember to follow your business plan, no matter how well you think you know it.

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

 Until next week…

Not Following Your Business Plan

12 07 2010

Last week we had continued our discussion about implementing your business plan.   We talked about the challenges of discovering what actually will happen when you move from a business plan on paper to physically acting on the plan.  This week we are going to talk about what happens when you take your eye off the ball and you find you are not following your business plan

One of our booth configurationsIf you read last weeks post, as our rallys progressed, we did continue to touch base with our business plan to be sure we were on track.  By the end of the year, we felt we had become very proficient in working our business plan.  Each rally we attended we performed better at, our booth displays became eye-catching and we kept drawing more people to come and talk with us about what we had to offer, both with products, services and business opportunities.    By the end of our first fiscal year (and the end of the rally year) we were already planning on which rallies we were going to attend in the following year. 

During second year we performed even better than our first year, partly because now the same people who saw us the first year saw us again and realized that we were in the game for the long haul.  We continued to adjust our displays to appeal to the specific crowds and we continued to grow the business.  By the end of the second year though, attendance at the rallys were beginning to slow down, and sales were not as robust as they had been.  When referring to our business plan, our third and fourth backup plans had also fallen apart, but at the time we were not overly concerned since our primary model had been working so well.

At the end of the second year, we started talking to other vendors and were strongly encouraged to diversify our product line in order to capture more of the market.  This is when we began to loose sight of our focus and were not following our business plan.  As we explored other items to bring to rallies, we did not adjust our business plan accordingly.  Why should we?  We had been successful with the business plan for the last two years, we knew the plan, why should we continue to review and physically revise our business plan?  It seemed like a waste of time since we knew what we were doing.

What had we become?

Boy, was that a big mistake.  Once you are not following your business plan, you start losing focus altogether of where you want to grow your business.  Somehow between year 3 and year 4 we began focusing on just selling products and services and not watching our overall strategy of where we wanted to grow our business, or even how we planned on growing our business.  Focusing on selling is not a bad thing, please don’t get me wrong, but selling for selling’s sake is not what our original business plan called for.  Just selling turned us into a retail type of business, and nothing more.  We lost sight of what we wanted out of the business and how we planned to leverage our business down the road. 

We picked up products to sell that would be almost like an impulse purchase.  That is good, but again, it was not originally part of the business plan.  Those product types did nothing to help us grow our business and move it forward.  By the end of the third year, we discovered that with all the selling we had done, we had not performed much better than we did in year 2.  We had added so many different products without measuring and balancing against the original business plan that we ended up having a business that was almost not recognizable from its original state.  We had completely lost focus on who we were and what our business represented. 

Next week we will finish this thought and talk about what we are doing now with our Business Plan and how we plan to not lose sight of it again. 

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

Until next week…

Implementing Your Business Plan

5 07 2010

Last week we continued talking about turning your Business Plan into an Action Plan.  I had identified that you need more than one plan before you actually go into business, because there is a high likelihood that your first plan will not go exactly as anticipated.  This week we are continuing the discussion on implementing your business plan

Implementing your Business Plan is critical to a strong, successful start to a new home-based business.  Why would you want to take the time to write-up a Business Plan if you had no intention of following it?  Your Business Plan is your initial map for growing your business.  It is always important to refer to your Business Plan, but you should include in your Business plan several alternate plans.  I am often reminded of the shortened quote from a poem by Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, and that does seem to be very much the truth when working your own business. 

With all of that in mind, Steve and I developed a back-up Business Plan, and a back-up to the backup plan.  By the time I had submitted my resignation to my “regular” job, we had what we believed many of the bases covered.  Then it all boiled down to scheduling the events, being realistic about which events would be good, and then proceeding to the events.   

In the beginning, we started events with a 10×10 booth space and one table.  As we participated in rallies, we started playing around with our displays so that they became more eye-catching and interesting for people to stop by and look at.  In a rally or really any event, you have to be able to catch a person’s imagination very quickly as they walk by.  If your display is a basic table with some product on top, what is going to cause the potential customer to stop and look at what you have to offer?  This is where marketing really comes into play, which is part of your Business Plan. 

At the various rallies that first year, we kept requesting people’s opinion about our booth and asking them what they were interested in.  The key to successfully growing your business is to identify what your potential customer wants, not what you want to offer your customer.  You have to very quickly let your customer know that you can help them with a particular problem that they are wrestling with.  You do not want them thinking that you are going to force them to purchase the latest and greatest gadget that they will never use.

We did make many mistakes in setting up the displays for the first few months.  We had not gone into detail in the Business Plan what a good display would entail.  Steve and I had different ways to approach customers.  Again, we did not originally include that in our Business Plan.   In the beginning, I had more problems talking with potential customers because I was shy (you wouldn’t know that now, but in the beginning I was terrified to talk to potential customers).  I understood what the products could do to help people, but I was unsure and uncomfortable in effectively presenting that information to the customer.  I stumbled over my tongue a bunch of times.  Initially, Steve had to poke me often to make me talk to people, I was so nervous.  I quickly learned to listen to what customers wanted instead of telling them what I thought they wanted.  After that, it was much easier for me to talk to complete strangers.  I was no longer making a sales pitch, I was offering a solution to a customer’s problem.

We kept referring to our Business Plan before and after each rally, comparing what we had anticipated to what actually occurred and we adjusted the Business Plan accordingly.  By the end of the year, our Business Plan had changed, but we remained successful and continued growing our new business. 

Next week we will talk about what happens when you lose sight of your business plan while working your business…

If you are interested  in starting your own business, please feel free to visit our website at www.hawgwash.net.  We may have a business opportunity that would fit your lifestyle.

Until next week…

Slightly Different Blog Flavor

4 06 2010

Helping to grow your Home-Based Business

To date, I have been blogging on WordPress since the end of July 2009 and during that time have worked to provide interesting and useful information on how to develop, grow and manage a small home-based business.  After I re-read several of my prior articles, I have come to the realization that many of them sound stilted and may even read like textbooks.  Personally, I am not fond of reading textbooks for fun because many times, they put me to sleep. 

Today I am going to change the flavor of the blog a bit to make it hopefully a little more interesting to read.  I have tried to present material that would be useful for people starting up a small home-based business, but believe that what people may really be looking for is personal experiences and observations on building a home-based business.   I am going to strive to make the articles a little more personal, a little less stilted so that you will enjoy reading a little more.  My goal is to still provide good working information, but in less of a textbook fashion.  My ultimate desire is to help others who may be thinking about starting a home-based business to get started and to help those who are currently working a home-based business.  With luck, my thoughts, insights, experience, problems, issues, etc. will help others to either avoid the same pitfalls or to inspire those who may have been struggling. 

As you all most likely know, writing a blog is a learning experience, so, I am going to strive to create articles that have more “life” in them instead of posting essentially text-book lessons.  Currently, my biggest problem is that it is difficult to write when the subject matter is fairly dry, as in writing about business

Starting up a home-based business can be a very exciting experience.  Frightening, exciting, terrifying, at times you wonder what in the world you thought you were doing, type of experience.  I am going to work on capturing those sensations going forward. 

So, starting this Monday, (actually starting now) you will still be seeing a business type blog, but hopefully something a little more fun to read also. 

Until next time…