Roundtable Recap – Identifying Your Target Market

Identifying Your Target MarketOn April 16th, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosted the monthly Business Development Roundtable here in Alexandria, Virginia. We discussed the all-too-important marketing topic of identifying your target market. First, we defined a target market to start the discussion of identifying your target market. Some of the definitions we heard were really insightful and ranged from “finding ideal customers” and Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources really honed in on “who will I call” not just the broader concept of “small to medium-sized businesses.” Eliza Dolin of Ivy Quill Communications echoed Patra’s sentiment on the point and added that you’re actually “targeting individuals” because “companies are not hiring you” people are. Looking back at who has been your customer is equally important. We also discussed demographics, psychographics and understanding the individual profile of your buyer.

Director Bill Reagan noted the caveat that “we’ll serve anybody” is counterproductive; you should “narrow that down” to “help you plan, strategize and emphasize where you’re going to market and align your resources.” There is a lot of research you can do for identifying your target market before you start your business. Alexandria SBDC Business Analyst Jack Parker posited the important question: what does your client profile look like? He stated that you need to look at your core market area, as geographical data matters for most local businesses. Peter Baldwin of MarketForce Strategies looks at target markets a little different in that he looks at the “want’s and need’s” of his clients’ buyers. He noted that target markets change over time; different generations have different want’s and need’s.

Next, we tackled the challenge of actually identifying your target market. I asked the seasoned entrepreneurs in the room, “did you know that you needed to target your market? And, where did you start in identifying your target market?” Patra Frame indicated that she started off at her local library (since she started her business before Alexandria SBDC had started here in Alexandria, Virginia!) to research her audience and made a point that it’s a continual process. Director Reagan mentioned that it isn’t quite as scientific since you will likely have to adjust your target market after you start your business, honing in on the right people over time. But, as he indicated, you need to start somewhere. Assistant Director Gloria Flanagan pointed out that knowing who your buyer is can sometimes be tricky, as in the case of children who may be making the buying decision and the parents are merely providing the capital for a purchase.

Finally, we discussed tracking your customers over time so that you can create a historical record to refer back to you, and then making action upon this data for your target market. Most of the business owners found difficulty in naturally finding ways to meet hands with their direct target market so they had to get creative both in referral networking and advertising strategies. There was a consistent theme that you needed to engage with your target market where they congregated, whether online or offline, with a strong strategy. So much great conversation was additionally had in the roundtable, but you had to be there to absorb it all!

If you’d like to join the Biz Dev Roundtable, just come any third Tuesday at noon at the Alexandria SBDC; our next one is tomorrow, May 21, 2013, and the topic is “Referrals & Leads: How to Use, Get and Give Them.” Bring your lunch, or coffee, network and have a conversation with 30+ Small Business owners and professionals about a pertinent business marketing or management topic.

Good Promotions for Back to School Season

Back to School season is really important for Small Business retailers. And, after Labor Day weekend sales are over, the rush of the autumn season pushes not only our clocks back an hour, but sometimes sales. Pat Melton, researcher extraordinaire (among many other hats) of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, came across a great article by Sharon McLoone at the Old Town Alexandria Patch site. As the article states, “Heather Stouffer, founder of Alexandria-based Mom Made Foods, shares some healthy eating tips for kids starting the school year.” She is finding creative ways to promote her business through the Back to School season, and not just because her line of food lends to kids start school shortly. Every event, holiday or celebration must be contemplated by Small Business retailers and services providers to see if there’s an opportunity to highlight products and services. This economy is going to get better thanks to the work we do as Small Business to kickstart the US market, so let’s take advantage as often as we can!

Read the full story over at Old Town Patch.

What are you doing for Back to School season to push out good promotions to finish your third quarter well?

Pinterest for Small Business Retailers: Marketing Hot or Not?

Red Pinterest logoIf you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.

Continue reading…

Today in Small Business History: Architecture Loses a Genius. We Learn How Not to Run a Small Business

Portrait of Frank Lloyd WrightFrank Lloyd Wright died today, April 9, 1959. He worked for the acclaimed Adler & Sullivan architectural firm throughout the latter decades of the 19th century, under the mentoring of the great architect Louis Sullivan. In 1893, after departing with some dramatics from his employer-architecture firm, as his Wikipedia article states, “Wright established his own practice….” And, while we may have lost one of the greatest architectural geniuses of our Nation yet on this day, we gained some valuable insights into how (as well as how not) to run a Small Business from those years after 1893 when Wright ran his firm.

 

FUNCTION OVER FORM

Louis Sullivan coined the phrase, "Form ever follows function."
Louis Sullivan coined the phrase, "Form ever follows function."

Frank Lloyd Wright was the force behind Usonian-styled housing design and what he believed was the way in which to overcome the great housing problem. Clearly, this was inspired by his mentor, again Louis Sullivan, who coined the phrase, “Form ever follows function.” We’re lucky to have one of the examples of this style of design right here in Alexandria, Virginia, the Pope-Leighey House, which was reconstructed and moved to its current place in southern Alexandria off of Route 1.  You can visit the Pope-Leighey House to see the tour and experience the brilliance of Wright’s design. Contrary to his architectural beliefs, the principles of utility in designing a house was also not apparent to Wright in his own finances. If you read his biography, you learn that he forgot about the basic principles of business–to turn a profit. He loved to live and dress lavishly and died penniless. His legacy is great but not because of his financial wealth. In business so often we forget that utility is much more important in Small Business than looking perfect. Let Wright be a lesson for us all.

Pope Leighey House - 1940 - an example of the Usonian architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright
Pope Leighey House - 1940 - an example of the Usonian architectural style

 

 

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER

Though his relationship with Louis Sullivan was challenged, he still paid for and buried his former employer and erstwhile-friend when he died, also impoverished and alone in a Chicago hotel on April 14, 1924. Relationships matter in Small Business, much more than with big brands, even when the professional relationships are strained. Many small businesses in the United States are started and grown with the people we know and trust; even more are built with family members (husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, children and extended family). These are relationships worth preserving, even when the business of life impacts the personal. You never know when you need your former business colleagues, family business partners and long-time friends turned business associates to bury you, but you know that day may come.

FAIL WITH GRACE

One of the most vital traits for every successful entrepreneur is our ability to persevere in the face of repeated failure. Perseverance requires a belief you learned something from the prior failure to make your next plan a success. Frank Lloyd Wright suffered losing one of his wives and adopted daughter in a house fire; his subsequent rebuilding of the house was also burned down a few years later. He rebuilt the home (Taliesin III) even though he suffered a loss of some half-million dollars in 20th century currency! Frank Lloyd Wright also had two failed marriages, another failed relationship that virtually ruined his career here in the United States, and still managed to publish the great portfolio that made him famous in Europe. In the face of adversity, it seems that Frank knew how to fail with grace, brush off the dust (read, gossip and backstabbing), get back up on the horse and charge forward into the next chapters of his life. We should all be so lucky to have such resilience.

 

While Frank Lloyd Wright may have made some great mistakes in his life, he still stands as a great lesson for us today as Small Business owners.

 

Louis Sullivan photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
Frank Lloyd Wright photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
Pope-Leighey House photographs courtesy of cliff1066™ 

Facebook Timeline Comes to Brand Pages

W3 Consulting's New Facebook Page Timeline

If you’re like most Small Business owners, your Facebook Page stood the same way today as it will tomorrow. However, Facebook has changed your Page to the new Timeline format whether you, I or your customers like it or not. Actually, they did so on March 31, 2012. Facebook is not where I engage my target audiences primarily so all I do is typically syndicate curated content and self-published content to our Facebook Page (like my blog posts and tweets), but for many Small Business owners it is currently their main Social Media hub. (My Facebook Page with all of 26+ Likes would have stayed the same, except that I posted a coverphoto to my Facebook Page in anticipation of writing this post today.) I am writing this article to educate you about the good, the bad and the ugly (sorry, there’s not much good here) of Facebook Timeline, in hopes of providing you with a small business strategy to leverage the change to benefit your bottom line.

Continue reading…

Meetup — The Small Business Marketer’s Paradise

Meetup logo

If you’re a Small Business owner or marketing professional in a small business, you undoubtedly find yourself at a point where you go to networking events and keep running into the same people over and over again. The monotony is not only mind-numbing but it’s also bad for sales as you’re not building new leads for your “trusted referral partner” network by seeing the same folks all the time. Well, worry no further as Meetup™ is here! Er, they’ve been here for more than a decade, but we won’t mind that little detail. So, what is Meetup and why does it matter to Small Business marketing?

 

 

MEETUP, THE MOVEMENT

September 11th changed the world; strangers helped strangers that day in remarkable ways Scott Heiferman recognized. He wanted to keep that momentum going and it became the inspiration for Meetup.com. Meetup, according to their own website, is:

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

I enjoy seeing the “Do something • Learn something • Share something • Change something” motto when you visit Meetup.com before logging in, and that’s the essence of what makes the platform so versatile. I feel like they should add “in real life!” to that message because that’s the key component to what I think Meetup does. It bridges the digital-analog divide so many of us face today with digital (email, phone and text message) and Social Media communications as our primary business contact throughout the workday (and perhaps even more so in our personal lives, trying to stay in touch with family and friends with ever-increasing work hours and workloads). All the Meetups are live, in-person group meetings coalesced around a shared interest. And, what does this have to do with your Small Business marketing efforts you ask? Read on!

 

SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING ON MEETUP

Whether you’re trying to build your Small Business brand, increase sales to your local boutique or retail shop, or want to learn how to build a smartphone app, there’s a community of not only your target audience on Meetup but also like-minded small business entrepreneurs getting together to help you! That’s the power of Meetup! These meetings are usually free (though I believe in the give-what-you-can model since it does cost Meetup Organizers to create a Meetup group on Meetup.com and other administrative costs, plus the value of their time), you can see who’s going, and you can ask questions, share and collaborate before and after the get-together through Meetup.com.

I know that today with the proliferation of Web marketing, it’s easy to think that focusing as much of your resources on your Web presence is important but even I (a Web and digital business strategist) think that all the Web has to offer is worth nothing if it doesn’t make our physical, real world lives better! So, sign up for a Meetup account today, type in your industry, professional, service or product (or a current challenge facing your business), and RSVP for a Meetup in your community soon! You’ll be glad you did.

Google+ for Your Small Business [event]

Google+ logo

 

Google+ for Small Business
Technology That Can Help Your Business Grow!
February 29, 2012
9 am – 12 Noon

 

With only 20 spots for this hands-on workshop, we anticipate more demand than space.  Email or call Patricia Melton if you are interested.  Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis, and then we’ll start a standby list.  See information below.

 

Google is the well-known search engine and leader in the Web advertising world, but if you haven’t already started seeing and hearing, they have recently launched a new service platform called Google+ and its Google relations, the +1 buttonDirect Connect and Search Plus Your World. Together, Google+allows businesses share, promote and measure the building of relationships between the business brands and the people who care about them. In this seminar and workshop, you get the best of both worlds from Alexandria Small Business Development Center. First, Ray Sidney-Smith, president of W3 Consulting, a Web and digital strategy firm for Small Business, presents a strategic overview of Google+ for small businesses. Following the presentation, Ray will walk you through the steps to launch your own Google+ pages for your business. This event is not to be missed!

 

From Google+ Pages’ site:

 

Share

 

Different people are interested in different parts of your business. Whether it’s breaking news, updates, promotions, links, photos – even talking face-to-face with groups via easy-to-use video chat –Google+ lets you easily share the right things with the right customers.

 

Promote

 

Help word get around. Put the +1 button anywhere you’d like people to be able to recommend your business, products or services to friends and contacts all across the web.

 

Measure

 

How’s your page doing, and how could it do better? Google+makes it easy to learn more about how your followers’ interactions on your page affect your brand, and your business.

 

Bring your wireless-enabled laptop, netbook, or mobile tablet (e.g., iPad). The session will be held in our boardroom, located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400.  Because we expect this to close out early, we ask if you register, please attend or let us know if you cannot, so others may have the opportunity!

To register, email or call Patricia Melton, SBDC Counselor, at 703-778-2960.

 

Enter the “Retail Parking” garage via Pendleton Street for free parking.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

What have you accomplished by owning your Small Business?

Small Business Success - Crossing the Finish LineWe hear often about the things we must do and the challenges we have to overcome to achieve great success. While this is  vital and inspiring content for the true hurdles all of us in business for ourselves must face, sometimes we just want to hear about the good stuff. So, that’s what today is all about: your successes.

Here are some categories that might spark your creative juices about victories in your business:

  1. Have you recently closed a big deal with a potential client or returning client? What was the process you adhered that led to the sale?
  2. Did you weather the down economy and now you’re seeing an uptick in the revenue of the business?
  3. Were you recently surprised by a note of gratitude from a past or current client?
  4. As others have covered in the past, customers who have problems with your business can actually be beneficial. Have you had a customer service experience where you’ve been able to save the day after you’ve made a mistake?
  5. Did a client return to your business after having a bad experience with a competitor?

What have you accomplished by owning your Small Business? In the Comments section below, let us know what you have accomplished by owning your Small Business.

 

Photo courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery