5 Marketing Ideas Small Businesses Can Implement Now!

Small businesses often complain that a lack of budget restricts the opportunities to successfully market their businesses. Too often they confuse advertising with marketing and believe that placing an ad in the local newspaper will keep the customers coming in.

Below are five simple strategies that small businesses can implement TODAY. The cost to implement them is minimal if not free and they will do more to drive customers to your business than the majority of your current marketing activities. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are thousands of ideas out there but here are five to get you on your way.

1. Offer a guarantee

Guarantees often come in the form of money back guarantee. But by thinking laterally small businesses can provide guarantees that communicate their brand promise clearly and effectively. Guarantees also help to build trust, differentiate you from competitors and create a perception of a reduction in financial risk from the customer. Some examples include:

– Guarantee of product quality. “If your not completely satisfied with your haircut we will give you a full refund”
– Guarantee of service. “We will deliver your new bed tomorrow, guaranteed!”
– Guarantee of price. “We will beat any competitors advertised price by 10%”
– Guarantee of product range. “The largest range of lawnmowers in Sydney, guaranteed”
These are just some examples, the sky is really the limit but make sure your guarantee is strong and is consistent with your brand promise.

2. Create a simple special offer.

The best special offers are often the simplest. They can be as simple a offering a free item with every purchase or even a small gift for entering a store during a specific time. You can also cross promote with other retailers to drive customer traffic. Some ideas are:

If your targeting mothers aged 25-40 with your clothing store you could offer a free balloon (with your logo on it) to every child that comes into your store. It provides a positive experience for the mother and a useful point of distraction for the children so the mother can spend more time looking at (and buying) clothes. Offer a free coffee at a nearby coffee shop for every purchase over a certain value and provide products to the coffee shop for a reciprocal offer. Special offers don’t have to be expensive to, just try to make them valuable to your target audience and time sensitive to try and create a sense of urgency.

3. Start a loyalty program

When we think of loyalty programs we think of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program or Woolworths Everyday Rewards amongst many others. The concept is the same in terms of generating customer loyalty but for small business they can be really simple. As an example, any coffee shop that does not have a “Buy 10 coffee’s and get one free” loyalty card available are losing revenue as we speak.

I’ve seen a coffee shop take this one step further and have a card file on the front counter where frequent coffee drinkers can leave their card. What a great idea! The card file ensures that their customers don’t forget to bring the card and that the card owner always returns to purchase the coffees. This idea can be applied across most small businesses including hairdressers, corner stores amongst many others. The key is to give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you and not your competitor.

4. Capture an email list of your best customers

Many local small businesses such as clothing stores, restaurants and hairdressers have a list of loyal customers that keep coming back time and time again. In many cases, the only contact small businesses have with these customers is when they return to the shop or salon. All small businesses should aim to capture a list of their best customers on the basis that they will be offered exclusive discounts and offers as part of being on the list. Wineries are particularly good at this where they offer exclusive vintages to their best customers. The winery is often able to sell through the vintage directly to the mailing list and the customer gets an exclusive wine that isn’t available at the local bottle shop. A win-win for both.

5. Host an exclusive event for loyal customers & friends

Loyal customers like your business already and by being loyal they are often the customers that generate positive conversations about your business. You need to make them feel special and give them an opportunity to introduce their friends to your business. Now that you’ve captured their email address, you can invite them and a friend to an exclusive event. Some thoughts are:

– An exclusive preview after trading hours of your stores new summer range of clothing with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a 20% discount on all clothing. Exclusive only to those on your email list.
– You’ve just introduced a new type of manicure to the services you offer at your beauty salon. Invite your customers to an evening of free manicures and champagne to showcase the new service and say thanks for their continued loyalty.

Exclusive events are a great way to show your customers how much you value them and provide a great way to promote new offers within your business.

6. Under promise and over deliver

Yes it’s an oldy but still a goody. And to illustrate my point I only offered you five marketing ideas in the beginning but given you six. Over delivering does not have to cost you anything. It can really be anything that exceeds the expectations of your customers and creates a positive impression about your business. Some examples are:

– Tradesman that provide additional service over and above what was quoted.
– A discount given to loyal customers outside of sale periods.

The opportunities are endless. The benefits of over delivering are that it gives your loyal customers a reason to talk about your business. It also gives them a reason to recommend you to others and can stimulate referrals that lead to new customer relationships.

These six simple strategies are easy to implement and hopefully they have stimulated your creative juices to come up with ideas for your business. Let me know what you’ve come up with by leaving a comment.

Good luck!

Developing a Business Idea – Business Planning

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline. Jim Collins

Life is full of choices and the right decision taken at the right time and executed also at the perfect hour can definitely bring success. Any business plan has to undergo three stages before it is actually executed.

    o birth of a business idea
    o developing the goals and strategy for that idea
    o creating the right ambiance and the perfect atmosphere to execute the idea

First let us consider discussing the birth of the business idea. Picking the right idea is again a most imperative choice. Many people just go by the crowd and decide to do any business which is considered as the hottest at that particular point of time. But certain things have to be speculated and analyzed before taking the first step.

    o do you think you can start and run your own business successfully
    o what are all your positive and negative aspects when it comes to real life skills and talents
    o how much investment can you possibly set aside or lend for this business opportunity
    o have you analyzed the market value or demand for the kind of business you have in mind
    o who is your target audience and will people actually accept my product or service
    o are there any competitors in this business and if so how much can I be different and capable to meet with this competition

Some ground work about the business idea is necessary and there is nothing wrong in discussing it with the forerunners in this field. Try to meet up with similar companies to find out the pros and cons of the business.

Once you come up with a business idea say to do some online marketing business then carefully draft the business strategy. Setting goals, and drafting the business plan as to the number of employees, office space, lawyers, accountants, office furniture etc is what will follow next. Getting license for the business, legal proceedings, tax factors etc is also very imperative step to go with. A business plan is like a road map to your business and it sets the right discipline in which your business will progress.

Every business should work towards achieving its long term and short term goals. Starting an online business might be less stressful financially but keep in mind that all online businesses are not very successful. It depends on what kind of business you want to do online. The least you should is the tricks of the trade. So equip yourself with the updated and hands on knowledge about the business you wish to start. Note down the marketing strategy for your product or service. Marketing has become a deciding factor of a business these days. Media promotion, web site promotion and other marketing techniques should be optimized for better visibility of the business prospects. The more people see your company’s name flashing before them the more hits you might get and this is where you should strive to make every viewer a possible customer.

A professional business plan however should contain the following,

    o Purpose of the business
    o Funds needed
    o Specifications about the product or services that your business will be dealing
    o Management members with advisors both legal and professional
    o Organization structure
    o Division of power
    o Responsibilities
    o Vision, goals, key strategies and objectives
    o Marketing strategy
    o Promotional methods like resumes, brochures, articles and logos
    o Location and office layout

Thus a complete blue print of the business idea should first be created theoretically before actually moving forward with major decisions. This blue print will give you a picture of what to expect and thus enable you to focus on the lines of the business plan that you have made. Vision is already created and hence the steps towards making this great vision come true are not very far away.

How to Find Small Business Ideas That Match Your Assets and Skills (Part One)

Finding the right small business opportunities ideas that suit you most and with big potential markets before investing your hard earned money is crucial. This step is one of the most important steps you need to perform. Although this step can be a difficult one, it also can be a rewarding one. For that reason you need to be careful. It is the foundation of your business and you need to get it right the first time to save time money and effort.

Business ideas are everywhere you go. But, how do you discover the small business opportunities ideas that suits your skills set, your personal objectives, can be profitable and will be HOT for years to come?

Finding a niche idea needs some search and it’s not hard as you think. The following methods will show you tons of different niche marketing ideas that you can choose from to start your niche business.

Rule of thumb

People like to learn almost about anything. They like to learn about your expertise, other cultures, other people, all sports, products, services, history, health, fitness, etc…. People like to learn about things that are meaningful to them, and they like to explore new horizon. Give them what whey want and you will be in your way to success!

1 – Create a Business About What You Already Know and Then Become the Expert!

“If you work on something you love, you don’t have to work a single day in your life.”

Take an honest look at what you are good at. What hobbies or interests do you have or have you had in the past? What did you learn in your day job? Are you a good cooker? Do you raise kids? Etc…

Try different things and discover what you really enjoy doing and what makes you happy. Ask friends and family for their opinion and they will tell you on what you are good at.

If you don’t have any expertise or hobby to turn into a business (what is very rare) you can turn your problems or challenges into profitable business also.

Most of inventions in the word came out of problems and challenges the inventors were having in their lives.

“There is a great marketer that I know who turns his high blood pressure sickness into profitable business. You see the picture!”

The best way to make good money online is to create value in others’ lives. Give a solution for any problem to make others’ lives easier and they will give you their money.

You see! You can turn anything into a business just don’t under estimate any subject.

Make a list of all what you enjoy doing or what problem you came a cross. Don’ think about how you are going to make money doing those things yet.

If you are really passionate about starting a business of your own and still having hard time trying to figure out which small business opportunities ideas are right for you because you don’t find a subject that you can easily talk about. You still can find a way to start your business.

Here are some places where you can pick up ideas to help you find your way.

2 – Getting Small Business Opportunities Ideas From Magazines.

Magazines are a good source of small business opportunities ideas. Publishers don’t publish magazines that don’t make money. To earn profits, magazines must have subscribers and advertisers. Make sure the niche magazine you prefer has been around for a year or so. That way you know there is an existing market to your niche.

You may look for the repeat ads in magazines. People don’t advertise products if they do not make money doing it.

3 – Visit directories and Online Portals and You Will Find Plenty of Small Business Opportunities Ideas.

Directories are good places where you can get ideas. Search beyond major industrial sectors and look at sub-categories within each and see which one much your ability, your skills or you like most.

Visit dmoz.org, Yahoo.com or any other directory of your choice. Drill down some categories and sub-categories to find potential niche markets. These sites have huge categories lists, which you can use for ideas.

Online portals are also good places where you can pick small business opportunities ideas. Go to eBay.com and drill down through the categories. Each category is broken down to sub-categories. Click on the category of your choice and see how many sub-niches are available for you to choose from.

Amazon.com is a huge online retailer that sells a huge range of products such as ebooks, music, video, DVD, electronic goods, etc. It’s divided into a large number of niches. There you will find huge choice of small business ideas. Make a few notes of potential areas you might consider.

4 – Visit forums.

Forums are also good places where you can pick excellent business ideas. Look for the most asked question. Find out what forums’ users common problem. Ask questions to find out what they are thinking, what they are craving, and what irritates them. This way you can pick a good idea and go with it.

5 – Use Lycos Search engine.

The top 50 list of Lycos is a great way to find what people are searching for. They also keep archives. Here is the URL: http://50.lycos.com

If you’re just starting out don’t try to compete with the top 50 that are listed, but with a little imagination, you can come up with sub topics based on what Lycos tells you. If you keep looking long enough, you might even find some patterns and be able to figure out some of the future top searches.

6 – Ask For Help.

– Ask questions, life is about asking questions, not about knowing answers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something.

– Ask for help when you are having difficulties. Most people like to help others and will willingly offer information and assistance particularly when the individual is grateful for their help.

– Search for free info products using your favorite search engine and you will find plenty of quality free ebooks, reports, magazines, newsletters, etc… that can help you find great business ideas.

You still don’t find any subject that you know to talk about to turn into profitable business! Ok, if you are passionate about starting your home business you still find a way…

Learn About What You Like to Do.

When visiting these places find out what are some things you don’t know but have burning desire to learn more about. Collect as many information as possible about your topic of interest and start learning. The net is offering wealth of FREE and low cost information designed to educate people about any subject they want.

As you can see, there is a wealth of tools and places where you can go to get ideas for your niche. Just take action in whatever way makes sense for your situation and your life. If you take action you will never fail!

Spend, as much time as you can, think carefully about your topic to make sure it is the right selection. You’re planning a business. So, don’t rush it.

Create a list of at least 20 potential niches ideas. Write down as many information as you need about all small business opportunities ideas you consider.

Now, you are ready to go to the next step. Your next step is to make sure which ideas are profitable to turn into wining business.

Do You Need A Business Plan If Your Idea Is New, Untested, or Unproven?

Who Should Read This Article?

Anyone nursing a new (especially untested and unproven) – idea for a business, and/or who is at a loss as to whether or not it will be beneficial to undertake a formal business plan preparation process. The ideas presented in this article are just that – ideas. You are expected — and strongly encouraged – to apply your discretion in assessing their usefulness or relevance to your situation.

“Market research does not work. One cannot do market research on something that does not exist.” – Peter Drucker

Entrepreneurs are often dreamers

They are typically people who start businesses in new areas, that previously did not exist. Their ideas can therefore sometimes be met with resistance especially from people called “experts” who are famous for challenging the practicality or logic (from the expert’s perspectives) of any new, unproven or unusual idea.

Business Plans Versus New/Uncharted Markets

Most of us have heard or read about the importance of going through the motions of preparing business plans before starting a new business. However, what few people take note of is the fact that some of those who have succeeded in business did not have business plans when they started their FIRST businesses – even though, they probably never intended for it to be so.

This is especially true for those entrepreneurs who had to enter an uncharted market i.e. who set out to do what had not been done before. Their new product or service could therefore not be compared with any known standard, since nothing like it existed at the time. If that sounds anything like the kind of business idea you have in mind as a first-time startup, you may have to contend with at least two challenges.

Two Challenges:

1. A business plan might not be as good an instrument to convince your potential investors(banks, venture capitalists etc), as the personal conviction, enthusiasm, charisma and passion you demonstrate for what you want to do! For instance, the “experts” among them, who the rest might look up to for assessment of the viability of your proposed venture, may not reckon with your idea if it is new or unusual. David Sarnoff certainly would have understood this point!

Sarnoff, who invented the radio, had to endure what must have been heart-breaking rejection from those he approached to invest in it’s production. Among other things they could not see THE radio(!) as commercially viable, arguing that no one would pay to have a message sent to no specific recipient!

If only they could see us use that same radio now! 🙂 Sarnoff’s associates could not – at the time – see what he was seeing! And that’s what a first-time startup with a new idea needs to keep in mind. People may not see what you see – at first. That will not mean you are wrong, and they are right – no matter how many they are! If it was so obvious in the first place, you probably would not have been the first to discover it!

2. You might just find that the market is not exactly ready for what you have – even if the idea is quite sound. Again it would be up to you, to “create the demand” for your new product or service idea in the market.

For instance, incredible as it might sound, the telephone that is such an essential requirement for our existence today, was described as having “too many shortcomings to be considered as a means of communication” in a Western Union Internal Memo.The memo concluded that the telephone was of no value to the organisation. But that was way back in 1876! We all know that no business that desires to succeed today will operate without a telephone number.

It’s all about vision. Entrepreneurs are people who apply their creative thinking skills to explore what can be, instead of dwelling on what is, as most others do. That tends to make them see far beyond what people around them can – sometimes causing them problems with others. I believe it was Robert Schuller who said “If you want to be a pace setting thinker, you can expect problems with people – especially those trapped by tradition.” A first-time startup with an unproven business idea is most likely to experience this.

“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”
– Anatole France

Two Case Studies

Below is a description of two first-time startups who were so closely driven by their circumstances, that they could find no use for a business plan in starting up what eventually turned out to be successful ground-breaking ventures.

a). Henry Ford’s “Horseless Carriage”

When Henry Ford conceived the idea of a “horseless carriage”, people told him pointedly it would not work. Those capable of providing the money for production of the automobile refused to even consider it a commercial possibility for one moment! A business plan would have done Ford little good back then! So he and his wife put all their savings together and went ahead alone. But think for a minute – AFTER Ford had succeeded with the automobile, how the same people would have reacted if he had offered them a business plan for a similar kind of notion? By then, he would no longer be a first time startup, nor would his idea be new or unproven!

b).The Train Chartering Company

Simon Pielow (Founder, the Train Chartering Company, USA) didn’t use a business plan when he started off. In a report published at Allbusiness.com he admitted that his decision to proceed without a formal plan was probably not a wise one. However, as the report writer rightly observed, Pielow had no choice but to do this because he was breaking new ground, and had nothing to work with in the way of existing competitors, models or market analysis.

Pielow himself added that he believed a business plan becomes critical to starting up a business when you’re in a competitive market in which many people are offering products or services similar to what you intend to offer. He ended the interview on a humorous note by saying that had he chosen to do a formal plan, he would probably have been too scared to go ahead, and as such never have achieved the success he eventually did!(Good one to keep in mind, this).

Crucial Considerations For A First Time Startup With A New Business Idea

Bill Byrne in his book “111 Proven Strategies That Will Change The Way You Do Business Forever” explains that if you have a business idea that may be ahead of it’s time, you might have to consider these issues:

1. Can you time your entry into the marketplace perfectly to ensure success?

2. If not, would it be better for you to start up too early or too late?

You need to give these queries deep thought, and possibly engage a trusted associate with genuine understanding of, and empathy for your unproven business idea, to help you through the process. Byrne’s queries are based on the need for a person with a business idea that is ahead of it’s time to increase her chances of success by tempering the aggressive drive to enter into the market, with realism of the dangers inherent in arriving there too early – or earlier than others.

“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” — Bertrand Russell

What You Can Do

1. Be Patient and Painstaking:

Take your time to develop and refine your concept or idea to the point you can be certain it will work as you intend to tell your target audience it will. This warning should be particularly instructive if you do not have the capital to :

a. recover quickly and fully enough if anything goes wrong after you enter the market(because you failed to correct any outstanding defects or problems).

b. wait for the market to build up adequate demand for your product or service, to keep you going till you break even or start recording profits.

If you fail to manage this properly, you could suffer fatal setbacks from lack of sustained initial patronage. What could then happen is that others, learning from your mistakes, would polish up your idea and re-present it to the same market, which, by your pioneering efforts have become more receptive, and THEY would have a “profits-fest”!

2. Use Intelligent Niched Marketing:

You will need a well conceived niched marketing campaign, taking advantage of today’s powerful yet highly cost-effective business marketing tools(automated email and website marketing/surveys etc) and strategies, in order to maximise the chances of success while minimising operating expenses.

3. Don’t let experts “confuse” or “scare” you!

Cynthia Kersey(Author of “UNSTOPPABLE: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You”), described experts as having an “ego investment” in the very thing that they are considered “expert”. Note that an expert could even be someone who once had to struggle – in the past – to secure marketplace acceptance(for what was then an unproven idea), and is now successful, plus a respected authority in his/her field. The irony is however that such a person may not always maintain an entrepreneurial mode of thinking or could develop what I call an “expert’s mindset”. A good example of this is probably seen in the quote below:

“640K ought to be enough for anybody” – Bill Gates, 1981

4. Draw Courage From Your Convictions!

Each of us probably has a tendency to become an “expert ” in one-way or the other. The best way to guard against falling into this mindset is to always ask “Why not?” when confronted with the possibility, or suggestion, of a new idea or new way of doing things. For the new idea start-up, you will need to keep in mind that others who were told by “experts” that their business ideas had no merit, drew courage from their convictions and forged ahead in the face of great discouragement/rejection, and suffering. In the end, they proved the “experts” wrong and got more people to believe in their dreams.

You can do the same – even if you do not have a business plan. I know this because I passed through the same road in starting up my own business as a Multipreneur in a society where it was frowned on.

Final Word: Note that I have NOT said business plans are unnecessary – only that they may not always be relevant to a startup’s needs, in which case their absence would not be a fatal handicap.