Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Category Archives: Marketing Ideas

Federal Contracting Success Series

By Chemeketa SBDC

1. The Basics of Government Contracting

Topics:
• Who is GCAP and how can we assist your small business to succeed in government contracting
• Understanding the federal codes NAICS and PSC
• Finding leads FedBizOpps, FedConnect, GCOM
• Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)
• Federal contracting set-asides HUBZone, 8(a), SDVOSB, VOSB, WOSB, EDWOSB
• Registrations SAM and DSBS

Date: February 13, 2014
Time: 9 am to 12:00 pm
Instructor:  Marta Clifford

2. Understanding Federal and State Small Business Certifications

Topics:

• FEDERAL-Understanding Small Business Certifications
• Understanding Small Business Goals|• Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Certification & 8(a) Program
• Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Certification (SDVOSB)
• Woman Owned / Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business Certification
• HUBzone Certification
• Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) Certification
• STATE-ESB- Emerging Small Business, DBE- Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise
• WBE-Woman Business Enterprise, MBE- Minority Business Enterprise
• What are the benefits of state certifications?
• How do I market to state agencies? Do any agencies set aside contracts for certified small businesses?
• What are the requirements for state certification?
• How to leverage your small business certifications

Date: February 20, 2014
Time: 9 to 11 am
Instructor:  Marta Clifford

3. Marketing Materials and Methods

Topics:

• Capability Statement what it is, how to write one and how to use it to market to the Federal government
• Websites: why you should have one and what should be included on your website
• BUSINESS cards what do they say about your business
• GCOM GCAP’s Government Contracting Opportunities Match how to make it work for you.
The instructor will assist you with the form while in class.

Date: February 27, 2014
Time: 9 to 11 am
Instructor: Marta Clifford

Location: Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
626 High Street NE, Downtown Salem
Cost: $10 each session or $25 for all three
Registration and Information: 503.399.5088


Maximizing Contact with Customers After a Sale

By Chemeketa SBDC

Right after your customer buys something from you is the perfect time to give them love and attention. Don’t let them fade away. Be sure to remind them how great it was to buy from you (and not from someone else) and how pleased you were to have them as a customer. Here are five ways to do that, how many more can you add to this list?

• Congratulate them. Better than thanking them, a congratulatory “wow, you made a great choice!” or “congratulations on your new membership” lets them know not only that you appreciate their purchase, but that you approve of their decisions.

• Send a thank you that’s interesting and different. Instead of a regular thank you card, use something else that can be sent through the mail such as an envelope containing puzzle pieces. Or a small box with a surprise in it. Make the thank you memorable in some way.

• Ask another staff member to come over and thank the customer at the point of sale. A manager is best here, but any other staff member will do. This lets the customer know that the whole team appreciates the purchase.

• Create ways for customers to let their friends know about the purchase. This is easy these days with social media. But you can go beyond that by having a wall (a real one or a virtual one) where customers can post pictures of themselves with your products. Or space on your website for customers to pose with you and your service providers. Think of ways you can make your customers the stars of their own shows (and yours).

• Have exclusive events that only your best customers are invited to, and make sure they know that not just anyone has been invited. Offer tasty snacks and entertainment.

Please email me your great ways to keep contact with your customers post-sale, and I’ll write them into another column soon.

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.


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.


What Small Biz Can Learn From the Tech Industry

By Chemeketa SBDC

“The Lean Startup” has become a book that every tech entrepreneur has read and quotes regularly. Eric Reis, the author of the book, coined the term “lean startup” to reframe what it means to be a startup and the process that a startup should follow to ensure success… or at least to take a good stab at it. The main premise of the book is that a startup is simply a
series of experiments. Experiments that have a hypothesis (an idea to test), limited variables to test (test certain aspects of your idea, not the whole idea at once), and success measurements (how you know when you succeeded or failed).

By executing and completing these experiments, you are continually refining and defining your product and target market. Through the experiments, you might find out that no one will buy your product, or that a completely overlooked demographic is actually your target market. In the long run, testing small aspects of your idea will save you time and money because you will be forced to focus on the product that will sell and not on superfluous
aspects of your business that do not contribute to your bottom line.

While “The Lean Startup” is written specifically for tech startups, the principles can be and must be applied to small start-up business and social ventures. Here are some examples on how applying the lean start-up principles might look in a small business.

Business idea: Car mechanic Hypothesis: People want a car mechanic in a convenient
location.

Experiment: Find a neighborhood that has to travel 5 miles to get to a car mechanic. Go door to door and offer to provide basic services at their residence.

Measurements: Get 30 percent of car-owning neighborhood residents to pay for services.

Why it works? You will be able to determine if a convenient location is a problem. You will start to build a customer base before making the capital investments into a building.

Business idea: Organization services

Hypothesis: People want to get organized because it makes them calm.

Experiment: In the same time frame, send out two sets of marketing materials. One that uses words and colors that reflect calm, peace, tranquility, etc., and the other that uses words and colors that represent efficiency, time-saving, productivity, etc.

Measurements: Record which marketing materials created the most interest.

Why it works? You will be able to see what motivates people to get organized and develop a customer-centric marketing strategy.

Using the lean startup principles can be intimidating and might be counter intuitive to traditional startup thinking. The fact is you can plan as much as you want but in reality business plans reflect the world that’s in your mind, and not the world that actually exists. To start a successful business from the beginning, you need to be in the trenches with your
potential customers.

Now time for my experiment: Are you interested in learning more about lean startup rinciples and how you can incorporate them into your startup or existing business or nonprofit? If you are, contact me at kmozian@chemeketa.edu or 503-399-5088 and let’s chat.

Kristen Mozian is a business advisor working with the MERIT Microenterprise Program at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center, www.sbdc.chemeketa.edu.


You Can Use QR Codes to Grow Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

You don’t have to go far these days to find a QR code.
They are everywhere. You can find them at grocery stores, bus stops, building
facades, billboards, and restaurants. You can even find them on pets and
humans.

According to a recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey,
81 percent of consumers have seen the QR codes but 79 percent don’t really know
what they are. So what is a QR code? QR or Quick Response codes are the barcodes
that encode data both vertically and horizontally and can hold thousands of
alphanumeric characters of information.

By scanning or reading a QR code with your mobile phone
(provided it has the necessary application) you can access a webpage, download a
file, signup for a newsletter, and get contact information. Invented in Japan
for the auto industry, QR codes have been widely used there for years but are
still somewhat of a novelty in the United States. The growing popularity of QR
codes and their ability to hold lots of information are what make them very
practical for small businesses.

The sky is the limit on what and how much you can share
with QR codes. Here are some of the ways you can use QR codes in your
business:

• Business Card: This may be the most common usage for
QR codes. The code contains contact information, website and blog. Keep it
simple.

• Marketing Material: Create a code that directs users
to your website. Include it on posters, flyers, business cards, packaging
material, sides of trucks and trailers, signage, menus, and stickers. A
newsletter sign-up form is another great way to utilize QR codes.

• Social Media: A code that directly links to your
Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page. Include the code on particular promotional
materials and email signature.

• Upcoming Events and Special Offers: Have a special
sale or event coming up? Create a code that takes your clients to the webpage
which provides the details on what the event is all about. Offer incentives for
showing up.

• Useful Information: Code that links to a page with
useful resources – tips specific to your business, how-to-videos, and special
offers.

So how do you generate a QR code? Numerous website are
available for generating QR codes at no charge. Some are very basic (Kayawa or
Wasp) while others let you customize the color and format of your codes (GR
Staff or Kerem Erkan). For a listing of more QR generating sites visit www.freenuts.com.

Tatyana Sukhodolov is training coordinator at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center. 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.


Tips to Help you Reach New Customers

By Chemeketa SBDC

Looking for some free and easy ways to reach customers?
These aren’t new, but probably worth revisiting. Incorporate a few of them into
your marketing and results will follow.

• Get a tagline if you don’t already have one (this is
a short phrase or sentence that captures what you do). And then use it all the
time. Print it on the back of your business cards. Put it on every piece of
marketing collateral. Use it until customers won’t hear your business’ name
without mentally reciting it.

• Remember the golden rule of marketing: repeat,
repeat, repeat. People simply don’t register a marketing message the first few
times. Or the first few dozen times. You must repeat your message to the same
audience in the same place, over and over again.

• Make sure people can find you on the web.
Learn about social media, and consider getting a Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Pay attention to your reviews on Yelp or other customer feedback sites. Set up
your free business pages in Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, and others.

• Constantly think of filling your customer pipeline.
Make a list of your top 10 prospects or referral sources and keep it on your
desk, your mobile phone, or use it as the “wallpaper” on your computer. Contact
each of them no less than once a month.

• Get out there in person. People do business with
people they know, so build your business network. Attend industry conferences,
join community organizations. Be visible. Connect in person and not just
online.

• Establish a strong company brand and identity. Create
a distinct graphic image—logo, colors, typeface, etc.—that conveys what you’re
about and use them consistently and on everything. This includes your website,
business cards, packaging, newsletters, marketing materials, job ads.

• Tell people what they get (benefits), not what you
and your product/service do (features). All of your materials need to focus on
the benefits the buyer receives—rather than just long lists of features of your
products or descriptions of how you perform your services. Of course, customers
compare features and services, so you’ll need to include those, but always
emphasize the benefits those features bring.

• Get on the email newsletter bandwagon. An email
newsletter is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to communicate with
customers, prospects, and referral sources. Make sure your newsletter provides
some value for the recipient, such as useful information, details on sales, or a
special offer.


Collaboration Can Boost Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

The word “collaboration” is used a lot these days. But
what’s the practical application of that word and concept for a business owner?
Turns out there’s a lot contained there that can help you with your business.
There’s a synergy to working with others that can mean great things for you, and
success for your business. Tap into the power of others and watch what
happens.

A common way to build a collaborative partnership is
when a for-profit business (a pet store for instance) teams up with a nonprofit
(the humane society). They have some common goals, they have a common
constituency, and they can mutually benefit each other.

Another pathway to collaboration is when a group of
businesses in a given industry (retailers, manufacturers, service providers,
etc.) or a group of similar businesses (specialty food producers, health
services providers, artisans, etc.) work together. Perhaps they host an event,
perhaps it’s a group marketing campaign, or a series of meetings where they get
together to share best practices and common concerns.

There are several good reasons to enter into these
mutual arrangements. First is to promote your business to customers (with the
intention of driving sales). As a business owner, this is always on the top of
your mind, and a collaborative effort is another way for you to do achieve that
end. When you team up with other organizations you may gain access to their
customer lists, their ability to reach customers, their expertise, and many
other benefits.

Another good reason is to generate publicity for
yourself and your collaborative partners. The more awareness and name
recognition you can create, the better. Cross-promotion helps everyone.

There are a couple of things to consider before
entering into a collaborative effort with others.

• Consider carefully who you align yourself with in
order to ensure compatibility of mission. Ask yourself who you want to be
associated with.

• Be sure to plan everything out in advance and put it
in writing. The more time spent up front, the smoother things will go.

• Each partner’s responsibilities need to be spelled
out and agreed to.

• Reach a consensus on a common vision for what will be
accomplished and how each partner will benefit.

• Speak well of each other in public; dirty laundry
needs to be kept strictly out of sight. Keep a professional tone, both when
speaking with, and when speaking to, your collaborators.

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small
Business Development Center.


How to Audit Your Marketing Plan

By Chemeketa SBDC

It’s always a good idea to audit your marketing plan to see how its working, and update as needed. Here’s a systematic way to do that.

Start with ROI (return on investment). Are you getting the results you are looking for from your plan? Can you track the dollars coming in to specific marketing campaigns or pieces? Can you quantify results in some other way (“likes” on Facebook, referrals from existing customers, etc.)? Can you tie results to specific marketing efforts?

Next, take a look at all the marketing materials you use, brochures, website, ads, etc. Are they fresh? Are they working for you? Do they speak well for you? Does anything need to be reworked? Marketing is a continual process, and that includes bringing your materials up to date on a regular basis. What’s on the hit list?

How are your employees assisting in your marketing efforts? Do they clearly understand what you’re trying to achieve through marketing? Do they have the tools and knowledge to be able to assist with this? Do you need to invest in them in some way to make this happen? They can be wonderful marketing assistants, but you need to be intentional about getting that from concept to reality.

Are you making good use of your current customers to help spread the good word about your business? Are you keeping in touch with them on a regular basis? Are you asking them for referrals and incentivizing this process? Have you asked them lately for feedback about what you’re doing well and where your challenges are? Perhaps it’s time for a survey, or a simple request for their opinions.

What are you competitors doing these days? Watching them go about marketing can help you spot trends in your industry, provide ideas for your own campaigns, and give you leads to their customer bases. Where are your competitors getting their information, industry associations or trade groups? Industry publications? Are you following these things too? They can be a powerful source of inspiration.

Go back to your plan and start reworking it with the new information you’ve just gathered. Map out the activities you’re going to engage in, and set deadlines and goals. Watch what happens and measure results over the next three to six months. Then start this process all over again!

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.


Learn to Ask Customers Better Questions for Testimonials

By Chemeketa SBDC

For small businesses, a well-written testimonial has one job: to build trust in the minds and hearts of your would-be customers. Potential customers are nervous. They’ve been burned before, perhaps, or are skeptical. When they can see that past customers have tried your product or service and left satisfied, it helps them feel confident that your offer is right for them.

A really great testimonial is worth its weight in gold, but most of us don’t have the first idea how to get one. It’s common to use spontaneous praise which falls flat because of its vagueness. Enthusiastic sentiments (You’re great! Your business is the best! We love you!) are not specific enough to reassure a fence-sitting customer. Many business owners are too busy or too self-conscious to ask for something better.

Don’t let excuses keep you from having this powerful trust-building, sales-generating tool. Think for a minute of the customers you’ve truly enjoyed and who were pleased and satisfied with their experience. Write down at least three names. Today, write them an email asking if they’ll send you their responses to the questions that follow.

1. What problems were you facing before you found Business Name?

2. What did you feel skeptical about before purchasing from us?

3. How has working with Business Name helped you? How much time, money, or sanity has it saved you?

4. What do you like about our business, our products and/or our services?

5. Have you been pleasantly surprised by any part of your experience? What have you found remarkable?

6. Where do you think you’d be today if you hadn’t found Business Name?

7. Anything else you’d like to share?

These seven questions give satisfied customers an easy way to share their experience. When a customer completes the questions, you’ll have a compelling statement of the doubts they had before deciding to purchase, a summary of the satisfying outcomes, and very specific examples of how your business exceeded their hopes.

When you receive a testimonial from one of the customers you chose, be sure to get it on your website as soon as possible. Consider giving these customers a thank-you gift for taking the time to write about their experiences. It’s just one more way to wow them.

As a business owner myself, I find that the more I ask for testimonials, the easier it gets. Your satisfied customers would like to see you stay in business, and this is one way they can help you. Go ahead. Close the paper and get writing.

Jennifer Hofmann is a business adviser at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and the owner of Inspired Home Office. The Small-Business Adviser is produced by the center. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu.