Roundtable Recap: Do You Really Know Your Target Market?

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.  On April 21st the Alexandria SBDC Business Development Roundtable tackled the evergreen topic of determining your target market. We started the conversation off with defining the target market. Some of the responses… Read more »

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This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC. 

Do You Really Know Your Target Market-On April 21st the Alexandria SBDC Business Development Roundtable tackled the evergreen topic of determining your target market. We started the conversation off with defining the target market.

Some of the responses were:

  • “customers”
  • “the people who want to buy your product”
  • “customers that provide you the most business…repeat business”
  • “different slices of all of the people who can buy from you”

Alexandria SBDC Business Analyst Jack Parker stated that it was important for you to work out whether they were a startup or a growing business. Startups sometimes have a more difficult time to identify their target market(s), and growing businesses have data about who they’ve done business with and can further refine their target market based on that.

Retail Architect Bridget Gaddis asked how to help someone define their target market when they haven’t successfully done it so far. Several people mentioned seeking guidance from marketing experts, including SBDC and SCORE counseling, and experimenting with different target markets until you find your ideal client profile.

After we discussed defining target market, we pivoted the conversation to this idea of refining your target market over time. Many times the target market you’ve identified and started marketing to infrequently are exactly the target market who ends up buying from you. It was important to many of the Small Business owners at the Roundtable to pay attention to the customer service experience and sales to decide whether certain target markets are right for their business. Over time, you learn to turn away certain kinds of business instead of other target audiences that fit your company well.

Others found that they started out with a larger target market and with good intentions to help that audience, but found that they weren’t ideal for them because of lack of funding to support their business. So, they needed to change course and work with a smaller market with larger budgets to be able to pay for their business. This gives the businesses opportunities to help lower-paying clients when they have time available, but being able to still pay the bills.

Target marketing is important not only for initial defining the marketing efforts of your business, but also, as several Roundtable participants noted, you need to continually take “snapshots” of your business. These snapshots help you take pause and review the state of your target market, mistakes and potential opportunities to grow into new target markets.

We rounded out the conversation discussing target marketing on the Web today. We chatted about collecting data from our visitors, paying attention to keywords (the specific, unique words people search Google to find your business, not just your business name), and searching social networks for data about our ideal target markets.

Next month we will be back at the Alexandria SBDC Roundtable with a discussion on “Time to Tune Up Your Branding.” As the mid-year approaches, this is the best time to re-assess your branding (visual, written and experiential) that’s happening in and around your business’ marketing efforts. So, on May 19th, bring a beverage or your lunch, grab a seat and join us for the next Roundtable to talk about branding in your Small Business.

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Podcasting for Small Business

This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC.  Terrestrial radio started in the early 20th century when broadcast technology became a reality for the first time. It was then that wartime broadcasts could literally be heard around the world and… Read more »

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This week’s post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3Consulting, social media consultant and facilitator of the monthly Roundtable for the Alexandria SBDC. 

Podcasting for Small BusinessTerrestrial radio started in the early 20th century when broadcast technology became a reality for the first time. It was then that wartime broadcasts could literally be heard around the world and were taken by the United States military for its sole use. Commercially viable radio followed just a few decades later. In 1990s Internet radio broadcasting became a reality, through an now-ancient but then-innovative process of recording and pushing audio to the listening audience in far off places that couldn’t be touched by local broadcasting radio waves in the past. Fast-forward to 20 years ago and a new form of Internet broadcasting was developed out of a need to access audio broadcasts when Internet might not be available and wireless broadband was in its infancy. Podcasting (a portmanteau of Apple’s “iPod” music listening device and “broadcasting”) was born; although, it was called netcasting (as the iPod didn’t exist, combining the words “Internet” and “broadcasting”) until podcasting became the term of popular choice.

Podcasting allowed you to download audio files through a Web feed (think, how a syndicated newspaper column  is placed in many newspapers around the country with modern technology called RSS) into a computer or a mobile listening device. From there, you are able to disconnect from the Internet and consume the broadcast. Podcasting had a heyday because of the unique circumstances (say, technology limitations) of the era. When broadband and the proliferation of streaming audio took off over the next decade, interest in podcasting waned. Many but the ardent podcast listeners thought the medium was dead. And they were wrong.

Podcasting since 2008 has nearly doubled in listening audience, specifically here in the United States and I’m sure those numbers are much larger if taking into account the developed and developing nations. The waxing nature of podcasting comprises several possible factors, including American love of urban sprawl and increased work commutes to our increasing demand for customized news and entertainment. With podcasting you get to choose the programs you listen to, and when you can subscribe to shows as specific as a type of cuisine and as broad as how to fix your car, the options seem endless. Therein lies the business case for podcasting. This cultural and technological Renaissance provides a fantastic opportunity to market your business. Businesses are able to emotionally connect with your audiences one-to-one. You’re literally in their ears and have a good portion of a listener’s attention; in a world of fragmented focus it’s like a California miner striking pay dirt during the Gold Rush Era.

On March 19, Alexandria Small Business Development Center held its first workshop focused solely on podcasting for Small Business. The day was built around helping business owners get most of the requisite strategy and technical/technological skills (or know which they need to further develop them) to launch their first podcast. It was an intense day full of downloading information about Web presence and content market strategy combined with copious laughter, seeing a podcast episode recorded live as a demonstration, and a few tears of sorrow as business and organization leaders read their heartfelt scripts in their rough, first drafts.

The Podcast Workshop was refreshing, and yet surprising.  I knew social media was a powerful platform, but it was not until I took this workshop that I realized just how much this form of communication reaches the masses.  Ray’s enthusiasm while explaining how this method of connecting with millions was infectious.  By the end of the day, I, too, was excited by the many possibilities for my small business using podcasts as well as the opportunity to work with Ray on this next step in growing my business.

Laetitia Pryor, Owner, My Time Feminine Care

If you haven’t yet contemplated podcasting for your small business or organization, the playing field is ripe for local and national Web presence building. The time to invest in a multimedia, multi-channel marketing and engagement strategic campaign is hard work, and totally worth it. You can impact your local communities, increase your brand exposure, and add profit to your bottom line with podcasting. Here’s an free, introductory course on YouTube to podcasting to get you started.

[Watch the entire playlist of podcasting tutorials. It’ll only take an hour!]

Podcasting will only grow over the months and years as more smart technology is infused with the ability to download and play rich media like audio and video in almost every environment you spend time: cars, kitchen (in your refrigerator), smartphones, bathrooms even, and more. Take advantage of this time and prosper by doing so. I look forward to listening to you on my smartphone while running or driving soon.

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Roundtable Recap: Multimedia Marketing

This Tuesday, we hosted our monthly business roundtable, which focused on multimedia marketing. Ray Sidney-Smith, our resident roundtable facilitator, filmed this short recap of the conversation for those that were unable to make it. In the video, Ray gives an overview of several of the topics discussed, including localized marketing, developing a multi-channel strategy, and… Read more »

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This Tuesday, we hosted our monthly business roundtable, which focused on multimedia marketing. Ray Sidney-Smith, our resident roundtable facilitator, filmed this short recap of the conversation for those that were unable to make it.

In the video, Ray gives an overview of several of the topics discussed, including localized marketing, developing a multi-channel strategy, and optimizing marketing campaigns by employing different types of media. Ray also covered a similar topic in his monthly webinar for the state SBDC network called, “Beyond Google…Marketing & Managing on the Web” which is an interactive opportunity for people to learn more about how and why to use the Web. This month, the topic was, “Photo Blogs, Vlogs, and Podcasts: The Multimedia Age of Web Marketing Your Small Business,” which ties in nicely with our roundtable topic.

If you’re interested in viewing this webinar, or any of the other webinars in this series, please visit the Virginia SBDC website. Our next roundtable will be on Tuesday, April 21st and will discuss how to determine your target market. All are welcome to attend, and more information can be found on the events page of our website.

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Referrals Are a Solopreneur’s Gold

This post was written by Patricia Frame of Strategies for Human Resources, our guest author for our solopreneur blog series. Most of us know that referrals are a wonderful source of business. And we hope for them. But do you have an active program to help you get referrals? Even a brief online search yields… Read more »

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This post was written by Patricia Frame of Strategies for Human Resources, our guest author for our solopreneur blog series.

Referrals are a Solopreneurs GoldMost of us know that referrals are a wonderful source of business. And we hope for them. But do you have an active program to help you get referrals?

Even a brief online search yields articles by the thousands. Why is referral marketing so critical? For solopreneurs there are several important aspects. People who are referred to you already have some trust and belief in your capabilities so it is easier to convert them into clients. Having existing clients, other business owners, and friends refer potential clients is very cost-effective.

What are you already doing to actively encourage referrals? Many of us know we want referrals but actively seeking them is not something we do well, if at all. Hoping for referrals is not a real program.

Building your referral business effectively requires a plan.

Step 1: Identify those existing clients and people in your network who are the best prospects to provide referrals.  You want people who think your work is great and those who know you and your work well enough to be a trusted reference. Remember to consider past bosses or peers and people from volunteer work  you do plus those contacts you have built in other businesses. Trust is a critical element in all referrals. No-one wants to jeopardize their relationships with a poor referral.

Step 2: Define the specific types of referrals you want – who are your preferred clients?  You must develop a simple profile to ensure your network knows who to refer to you. Although I work primarily with founders and CEOs to help achieve their strategic goals, many other people assume what I do is recruiting. A profile of your desired client helps the people you ask for referrals understand and remember who is a good candidate for your services or products.

Step 3: Review all your existing marketing materials.  What do you have which you could use to help your referral program? Think: LinkedIn profile, website, blogs, newsletters, brochures, business cards, and so on. As you create your plan, you want all your materials to support this process.

Step 4: Decide how you will ask each person you identified in step 1 for referrals.  Is this a phone or email or in-person communication? That is likely to vary among the people on your list. What will you provide to help each remember your ideal client and understand your business — so that they have something to refer to?

Step 5: How will you thank people for referrals?  Big companies and retailers often have contests and rewards but that is not usually something a solopreneur does. A simple written thank you letter or card is very effective. You might also consider, when there is a client who consistently refers you to others who become clients, sending a simple gift or offering a discount on one of your services or products to them.

Step 6: Define your actions and time-line.  An effective program is not built overnight. Trying to contact all your potential referrers at once is more likely to lead to poor follow-through than great results. So create your plan and time-line carefully. Then ACT!

Top Tips

Each month in this column, we will feature Alexandria solopreneur’s tips to help you be more effective in your own business. We encourage you to consider networking with the people whose tips you see here.  If you are willing to contribute a tip, send them to [email protected] and identify them as such. We will use your name and your business name along with the tip.

To jumpstart this, we have two tips this month:

“Don’t operate in a vacuum. Collaborate (your only competition is ignorance) and network with other business owners for exposure, relationship-building, providing and receiving counsel, and cross-referral opportunities. As with all successful business leaders, solopreneurs will know to whom to reach out when needs arise and those same people are likely to respond in kind. Give, get, and thrive.” Peter Baldwin, MarketForce Strategies

“The very best networking experiences I have had come from meetings, lectures, book launches, exhibit openings, etc., where I am truly interested in the event/subject matter/topic. These events attract people with whom I already have something in common, so I have a guaranteed ice-breaker. That way, every networking evening is a winner! Even if I walk out with fewer valuable contacts than I would like, I have been enriched, challenged, engaged by the experience.” Ann Timmons, Communications Artist

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Drive Sales By Making Your Location A Destination

This post was written by Paul Williams, marketing expert and founder of Idea Sandbox and the do-it-yourself local store marketing website LSMGuide. When you think of a destination, what comes to mind? Probably a vacation spot. A place worth going out of the way to get to. A place worth planning to go. A place… Read more »

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Drive Sales By Making Your Location A DestinationThis post was written by Paul Williams, marketing expert and founder of Idea Sandbox and the do-it-yourself local store marketing website LSMGuide.

When you think of a destination, what comes to mind? Probably a vacation spot. A place worth going out of the way to get to. A place worth planning to go. A place you’ll brag about going to.

“We’re taking the kids to Florence this summer.”

When you return, you’ll brag about the visit to friends, family, and co-workers. And, you’ll show-off your pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your business have these qualities? To be worth going out of the way for? Worth the wait? Where the experience is so out of the ordinary, people take pictures and tell their friends?

It is possible. You’ve been to restaurants and stores like that yourself.

So, what does it take to be a destination?

There are two situations…

  1. Either you’re perceived as the first, the best or the only in what you offer. Customers already go out of their way to come to you. Or,
  2. You’ve got to make yourself the first, best, or only.

First, Best, Only

The first bakery to serve a cronut? The best home theater store in the area? The only authentic Korean restaurant in town?

If you are the first, best, or only – good for you – now you need to promote that specialty to drive people to your location and transform that traffic into sales.

More than likely, you’re like most of us. Not the first, or only… And, while you may think you’re the best, your customers do not necessarily perceived you that way.

So, for us, we need to do programming and host regularly scheduled events that help us stand out. (And ultimately, help you become the first, best or only).

Destination Events & Programming

There are at least seven different types of programming you can host, and countless events. Every day offers an excuse for hosting events, programming, or other fun ways to entice customers to your location. Consider…

Special Days & Holidays – If not traditional celebrations like Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, First Day of Spring and Thanksgiving, consider that nearly every day of the week, and every month of the year has some special occasion. In June alone we have…

  • Iced Tea Month,
  • National Doughnut Day (3rd),
  • Strawberry Shortcake Day (14th),
  • World Gin Day (15th),
  • The First Day of Summer (21),
  • and more…

Use dates like these to promote and host fun in-store events. Visit the Marketing Holidays Calendar for more ideas.

Insider Events – Host invite-only special events. Use your eNewsletter and hand-delivered invitations to build awareness. Everyone loves to be treated as a VIP and receive exclusive offers.

Educational Events – Offer classes related to your products that help customers gain expertise. Wine tasting, knife skills class, dress for success, building a home theater, how to make a latte at home. Share your expertise and help customers become experts.

Games & Contests – Host trivia nights. Invest in a few Wii Game Consoles and host virtual leagues – bowling, darts, etc. Have fun prizes and have teams compete weekly. Buy a bunch of classic board games – the ones best for groups to play. Have your staff keep them happy with drinks and munchies!

Arts & Culture Events – Host in-store music, author readings, or bring in a table magician to wonder and delight your customers. Use your wall to exhibit the work of local artists. Do this and, each time you change out the artwork, you can host an Art Opening, which is an excuse to bring people in and sample your new products and offerings.

Charity & Giving – Find a local group or charity in need that matches with your brand, and partner with them on a long-term basis. Host in-store events and events around the community.

Groups & Clubs – If you’ve got the space, allow local groups and clubs to reserve space in your location. If you don’t rent it to them, create special offers for your products and services while they’re there. Give them special access to what you do.

Transform Traffic

Terrific, now you have events to host at your location. But, getting people to the entrance and into your shop is only half the job. The second part is transforming that traffic to something meaningful.

And, it is important to add, it may not be transforming directly to sales…

Prior to making the sale, you may need first to build trust and reduce perceived risk. So we recommend:

Trial: Sample and Demonstration - Auto dealers sell cars through a test drive. Homes are bought via house tours. The expensive brand of pasta sauce flew off the shelf when they sampled at the grocery store. Letting customers try before they buy reduces perceived risk. Even sampling a low-priced item, like a seasonal flavored latte, often needs sampling because people don’t want their day to start on the wrong foot with a cup of coffee they may not like. Sampling, and allowing customers to test products, allows them understand – without the risk – that they do like the product. Sampling and demos lead to increased purchase rates.

Create Insiders: Newsletter Sign-Up - Offering a newsletter, sent monthly by email is a great way to get potential customers to know you better and keep existing customers engaged. Create a way for your customers to sign-up in your location. A simple page printed with “Name” and “eMail” will do the trick. By signing up, customers are giving you permission to communicate with them. In every message to your customers find a way to provide value to them. I don’t mean a coupon or sales offer. Give them what they want to know. If you sell stereo equipment, keep them on top of the latest trends. If you are a bakery, give tips to hosting great kid’s or office parties. Sure, let them know you have a special offer on stereos or cupcakes, but make your sales message a second priority over helping customers feel good about themselves.

Make The Sale

Everything mentioned so far leads to “making the sale.” The important thing to remember is that the “sale” is the end result of doing the right things for your potential customers. Creating meaningful, relevant reasons for them to visit you.

On a final note, of course, any event needs to be supported by awareness-building tools. Make sure customers, and potential customers, know when you’ve got fun programming. (But that’s the topic for another article!)

By implementing these ideas, your location will become a place worth going out of the way for. A place worth planning to go. A place your customers will brag about – to their friends and via social media!

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The Importance of a Professional Headshot

Your headshot says a lot about you. Do you look like a confident person? Do you take care in your appearance? Do you seem like a professional? These are all questions that hiring departments may think of or clients may wonder when choosing you. Whether they are looking at your LinkedIn profile or choosing your services based on the quality of your business card it may have more to do with your headshot than you might think.

Stand Tall No one sees confidence in a person that slouches. Stand up tall when having your headshot taken so that your posture is expert. If this is difficult for you, try squaring your hips and lifting your chest. Then imagine a string pulling you up like a balloon lifting you into the air. Nothing says confidence like good posture.

Smile Like You Mean It Some of the best headshots come from your natural radiant smile. Like the kind of smile where you just laughed. So fake it. Laugh and you will find your natural smile comes shines through.

Color Palettes for Your Skin, Hair and Eyes I love power colors for those in leadership roles, or those seeking leadership roles. Reds can come off as very attention grabbing and classic. Oranges however, depending on the skin tone could be very off putting. When choosing your palette look at a variety of options and hold the colors up to your face. To they make you look washed out or on the contrary do they draw attention to your eyes and make them pop? You want to find out what your color palate is first and then create your look from there. Do you look best in vibrant colors or earth tones. If you are uncertain which color palette best suits you, bring a few options to your session and go over them with your photographer.

Professional Headshots

Simple is Best Again, play up the textures and add in a necklace, some earrings or a nice watch but make sure you are remembering “simple”. You can really over do it with loud patterns like stripes or circular patterns on your shirt or blazer. For those of you that wear makeup, this is a time for the lipstick and mascara. Clean makeup is best as well. Leave the glitter and shimmer at home and opt for matte colors that accentuate your natural look.

High Resolution vs. Web Resolution If you want to print your headshot for promotional purposes make sure you get a release to do so as well as high resolution images. Likewise, if you would like to use your headshot online you will want a web resolution image. Make sure you are clear with your photographer to ensure that you get the images that you want at their best quality for the purposes that you intend them.

Your Photographer Can Make You Lose Weight Instantly Before you get too excited, understand that your photographer is not going to accompany you the the gym or prescribe you a cleanse for days leading up to your session. But, your photographer does know some tricks of the trade that can make you appear more thinned out. For example, say that you have been blessed with not one but two chins, we can remove that for you. And I am not talking post processing so much as when we take your headshot we can manipulate your profile to remove your double chin and overall bring the viewer into the image. A good photographer can photograph you in a way that makes the observer look for a few seconds longer at your headshot.

And sometime those extra seconds, that make you stand at the forefront of all the other applicants, make all the difference.

 

You can reach me at:

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

Follow me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Google+

Restaurant Week Brings New Customers and Grows Business

Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is getting ready to kick off. From January 23 – February 1, 2015, restaurants will be offering dinner for two for $35 or a three-course dinner for $35. This year, for the first time, several restaurants are also offering lunch specials, too. As consumers, it’s clear why we all love restaurant week… Read more »

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Restaurant WeekAlexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is getting ready to kick off. From January 23 – February 1, 2015, restaurants will be offering dinner for two for $35 or a three-course dinner for $35. This year, for the first time, several restaurants are also offering lunch specials, too. As consumers, it’s clear why we all love restaurant week and the value it provides. From the small business perspective, though, what’s the value in participating in an event like restaurant week?

Restaurant Week brings new customers to restaurants. In 2014, OpenTable did a study of winter restaurant weeks nationwide. The study uncovered that 73% of diners during restaurant week choose a restaurant they have never been to before. Even better, 88% of diners said that they were likely to return to the restaurant at which they dined during restaurant week. This is a great way for businesses to grow their customer base and build brand loyalty. Additionally, OpenTable discovered that 91% of diners were likely to recommend the restaurant they went to for restaurant week, so businesses are not only capturing the initial business that is generated during restaurant week itself but also follow-on business that results from word-of-mouth advertising.

Restaurant Week provides free advertising for participating businesses. While restaurants must be members of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA) to participate in Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week, there are no additional costs for participating. In addition to aggregating menus and promoting the event on their own website, social media, and blog, ACVA also advertises Restaurant Week through digital display ads in local and regional papers, other digital advertising, such as Google AdWords and Facebook ads, and in local print newspapers. Last year, digital advertising efforts made more than 500,000 impressions, and print advertising reached a newspaper circulation of 91,000. There are also posters, bill inserts, and brochures at participating restaurants and at the Alexandria Visitors Center. Each individual restaurant would never have the resources to promote their own restaurant to this regional audience, but by participating in an event that is widely promoted and published, restaurants benefit from a wider reach of advertising.

Restaurant Week allows restaurants to highlight new offerings or changes in the menu. Restaurants can feature any items on their Restaurant Week menu, allowing each the opportunity to highlight new entrees, desserts, or other offerings. For example, Artfully Chocolate Bistro and Wine Bar opened their location in Carlyle, and owner Nelson says that Restaurant Week “is a good way to promote the new emphasis we have on meal service.” For new restaurants, Restaurant Week allows them to showcase their menu. Several new restaurants are participating in Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week and are getting their menus out to a broad audience.

A small amount of work on the restaurant’s part can yield great rewards during Restaurant Week. If you would like more information on how to participate in the next Alexandria Restaurant Week, please contact Meredith Sasser at 703-652-5365 or e-mail her at [email protected]. For those of you who are not in the restaurant business, we hope you will consider taking advantage of this opportunity to support local small businesses and enjoy a wonderful meal at an Alexandria restaurant. Happy dining!

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Marketing Trends for 2015

On January 13, Maurisa Potts presented a workshop on Marketing Trends for 2015. This workshop focused on the top marketing trends that small businesses need to be aware of and gave ideas on what to do to take advantage of these trends. While some of the trends were familiar to many small business owners, such… Read more »

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On January 13, Maurisa Potts presented a workshop on Marketing Trends for 2015. This workshop focused on the top marketing trends that small businesses need to be aware of and gave ideas on what to do to take advantage of these trends. While some of the trends were familiar to many small business owners, such as the need to be mobile friendly and the importance of marketing to millennials, new trends have emerged for 2015 as well. These include an increased focus on personalization in a digital world and using emotion to strengthen your brand engagement.

While we would love it if all of our small businesses could focus on every one of these top trends, we know business owners have limited time and resources to dedicate to marketing. After the presentation, Maurisa sat down with us and shared her thoughts on the two most important things that small business owners should focus on this year:

Here are the two trends that Maurisa recommends that small businesses focus on for 2015:

  1. Don’t be afraid to test. Test new ideas and new initiatives, even if it’s a small demographic that you want to try to test a marketing effort to see if it has results. This year will be known as the year of the test, where people will try to think outside the box and be a little more creative in how they attract certain audiences, customers, and new clientele.
  2. Focus on bite-sized content in which you employ the less is more approach in trying to engage consumers and potential customers to your business. Invest more in photos, illustrations, and videos to get your message across. Tighten up what you’re trying to say. Unfortunately, the average attention span of individuals is seven seconds, so you have seven seconds to get what you want across from a marketing standpoint.

We hope you will take advantage of these trends to boost your marketing in 2015.

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