Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Customer Awareness is Vital to Success

By Chemeketa SBDC

If your business (bricks and mortar or virtual) is going to be successful in the long run, you must focus on serving your customer’s needs and desires. The essence of marketing rests on your clear understanding of your customer and delivering a unique product that he or she cannot get anywhere else.

A Customer Analysis helps you predict which items will appeal to your customers and make a dramatic impact on how you spend your advertising dollars. Do you have answers for the following checklist?

1. Who are your target customers and what are they seeking from you?

2. Have you profiled your customers by age, income, education, occupation, etc.?

3. Are you familiar with your customers’ lifestyles?

4. Should you try to appeal to the entire market or just a segment?

5. Are there new customer segments or special markets that deserve attention?

6. Do you know where your customers live?

7. Do you use census data from your city or state?

8. Are you aware of the reasons why customers shop with you? (Convenience, price, quality products, etc?)

9. Do you stress a special area of appeal such as lower prices, better quality, wider selection, convenient location or convenient hours?

10. Do you ask your customers for suggestions on ways to improve your operations?

11. Do you know what products your customers most prefer?

12. Do you know what seasons and holidays most influence your customers buying behavior?

13. Have you considered using customer questionnaires to help you in determining your customer’s needs?

14. Do you know at what other types of stores your customers shop?

15. Do you visit market shows and conventions to help anticipate customer wants?

And, finally, what do you do with this information? Just gathering data is not enough. The answers to the above questions will now give you the opportunity to make true management decisions about your business. You now need set your business goals based on the analysis of your customer. Reminder — make all goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, responsible (person), and with a timeline).

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program . The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE. in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.


Getting Your Business Ready for the Upcoming Holidays

By Chemeketa SBDC

For some businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, the holiday season can be an important period. By now, most businesses owners already have thought about the inventory side for the season. But here are a few added things that might need to be on your planning list.

• Make sure you know your target market. Has your customer base shifted over the years or does it shift a little during the holiday season? Do you need to adjust your marketing to include a slightly different type of consumer or focus?

• Get social. The holidays will be busy, so plan ahead on how to handle social media. Make sure to check online reviews so you can take action if it appears a problem is brewing. Do you need to add a festive picture or let people know you have this year’s “hot” item in stock? Do your product descriptions need a little fine-tuning? How are you going to communicate specials? How and when are you going to allocate the time to update Facebook or Twitter?

• Evaluate your staffing needs and have a staffing plan. Decide whether you will need some temporary help. Know how much a new hire really costs when you take into account hiring, training, employment taxes, etc. Is it better to pay some overtime? This also may be a busy time for your existing employees, and being forced to work a lot of overtime might lead to a disgruntled staff.

• Give great service. It is all about customer service at the holidays, and here is where a small business truly can excel. Go out of your way to provide a personal touch. If you are hiring extra help, look for friendly people who won’t get rattled by tired and stressed-out customers who may not be exhibiting the season’s joy.

• Get found. Check your website, Facebook page, Google Places, Yelp.com and other online places where your company information can be found. Does it still show the correct address, telephone number, store hours, etc.? If you have satisfied customers, you can subtly encourage them to do online reviews — but don’t be pushy.

• Get ready. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in your store that encourages customers to linger. Use creative window displays to lure people in, and music, scents and décor to keep them browsing inside. “Read” your customers — providing good customer service doesn’t mean being overly pushy or always looking over the customer’s shoulder. Some people find this annoying and will try to rush out rather than leisurely lingering and looking.

• Think safety and convenience. Try to keep sidewalks clear from ice and snow, both for your customers’ and your employees’ safety and convenience. Think ahead and plan on who will be responsible for snow removal.
With the shorter daylight hours, make sure outdoor lights are working.

• Get involved with Small Business Saturday. Started in 2010 and sponsored by American Express, this nationwide initiative is aimed at encouraging consumers to buy local and support small independent businesses.
Occurring on the Saturday after “Black Friday” (November 24th this year),
promote this event and concept at your business. Over one hundred million people were part of Small Business Saturday in 2011, and the initiative is supported by President Obama and SBA Administrator Karen Mills. Find out more about this event at www.smallbusinesssaturday.com or www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program . The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each
Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.


Put Luck on Your Side by Doing Things Right

By Chemeketa SBDC

Have you ever noticed another business owner who seems to do everything right, get great reviews, have plenty of customers, and just make everything look easy? You might ask yourself how they get so lucky. They’re probably doing a few things right, and so can you. See how much “luck” you attract when you follow these guidelines.

• Tune your inner radar to “chance” opportunities. People and opportunities come frequently into our personal and business lives. Many of those may be unexpected, but could be great. Pay attention to them. Get into the habit of considering opportunities as they come along. You aren’t obligated to act on any of them, but you will be training your mind to see potential where you weren’t seeing it before.

• Consider the unexpected and new, don’t close your mind to things just because you aren’t used to them. Many opportunities come with potential blessings, but you won’t recognize them if you’re only looking for the same things all the time.

• Other people are the best avenue to serendipity. Maintain a large network of contacts. The more people you know and keep in contact with, the wider net you are casting for yourself. And the more likely it is that something fortunate will be in that net.

• Embrace the idea that there is a silver lining in dark clouds. Any adverse situation will have positive moments and providential meetings. Learn to capture those and see them as opportunities. It won’t reduce the pain of a negative situation, but it will provide opportunities for future good.

• Become an optimist if you’re not one already. Expecting good thing to happen will increase your chance of seeing the opportunities for good and capitalizing on them. The concept of “self-fulfilling prophecy” is real, so make a choice about how you regard your time and your future. You can decide to see the good in people and situations. You can choose to be hopeful and forward looking.

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program . The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each
Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE. in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.