Small Business Marketing – Adjust Or “Get Eaten”

Small businesses never have it easy with their marketing efforts. Customer loyalty only goes so far – especially during a recession. When customer start pinching their pennies price is more important than quality or features. As an example my local newspaper wrote about a contractor that did kitchen replacements and upgrades. His average order went down from $20,000 to $8,000 and of course his order book was not filled as much as it was before.

The advertising market is changing a lot. More and more traditional advertising channels are seeing a loss of customers moving their advertising budgets online. However, with this change prices for online advertising get more expensive, too – effectively pricing some businesses out of the market. So, marketing efforts need to go from broad to extremely targeted and that move requires even more skills in online advertising. Learning online advertising is time consuming and almost a job by itself and not many small businesses have the necessary resources to do so.

However, there are options available. While some of these options can be expensive, they can also be less than satisfying as the risk is often pushed to the small business and the service provider walks away with money in their pocket no matter the success rate. These providers work with the money of the small business. An example would be they get paid a percentage of the amount that the small business spends on pay per click marketing. The service provider manages the PPC account for the small business. But again, they get paid based on the money spent on pay per click advertising and not based on how well the PPC campaign is going.

It is better though to consider a lead generation service that sends targeted sales leads to the business. The only risk the business then assumes is the risk of not closing the deal. However, the entire risk of generating traffic and to collect the leads is with the service provider. The service provider and the business agree on a price per lead and then the service provider receives the matching dollar amount per lead from the small business. The service provider only gets paid when they deliver and the small business does not have to pay for anything if nothing is delivered. Local Sales Lead Generation is one of the most successful ways to gain new customers. Very limited risk in acquiring the leads + full control over the actual sales process put the small business in control. It reduces the need to learn and to stay current with online advertising and allows the business owner to fully concentrate on the business and what s/he can do best.

Small Business Websites – Why A Small Business Website Does Not Produce Results

When a small business decides to take their business online there are usually several mistakes that they do. This is partially due to lack of experience and often lack of knowledge. There seems to be a trend that small businesses think of their website as an online business card instead of a marketing tool. That is where the majority of them go wrong. So let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes done when a small business takes their business online.

1. Order of links

So many times you visit a small business website and they proudly flag the “about us” link as their first link. This is called the pride link because they often think that telling people about the company is the most important thing. The links should be in order of importance. Not in the order of the business owners EGO! If you use a website designer and he does consult you on the order of links, chances are you should be using someone else or at least make sure you educate yourself about online marketing because your website designer sure hasn’t!

2. No focus

Most small business websites lack focus. When you enter you are not sure where to go next which makes it hard for the user to understand exactly what he is supposed to do. The website should flow and the user should be able to make sense of the site within a few seconds of opening it up.

3. No sale / No lead setup

Many small businesses do not use their website to increase sales directly or capture leads. It is nothing more than an online brochure or business card. Sometimes the information is more confusing than it is helpful. If you competitors site is easier to navigate and captures either the sale or lead, you just lost a client. A small business websites needs to be even more on top of catching leads than a corporate website because every client lost counts more!

4. No analytics

Most small business websites have no clue what people do when they enter their site. No clue what users are really looking at and where they are losing their potential sale or lead. If customers just walked in and out of their place of work eyebrows would be raised and something would be done. Shouldn’t the same thought process apply to the site? You need to know what is going on with your small business website and what users are doing.

5. No marketing purpose

This is the biggest “Whammy” of them all. Small business websites tend to fail seeing the potential of using the website as a complete marketing tool. The fundamental reason to take a business online would be to do marketing. The lack of marketing vision explains the mistakes from above. If just this single piece was in place when a small business builds their website, many of the other things would be solved because they would educate themselves about what it means to have a marketing tool!

6. No results!

This is no surprise considering everything above. If there is no purpose, no focus, no vision and no marketing thought behind the site then there are probably no results from the site either. What is even worse is that most small business websites do not even measure results or understand how to measure results from their site. Once again it is a lack of understanding more than anything!

So what can a small business do when they are ready to take their business online and setup their small business website? The most important thing is to educate themselves in a few areas. The most important ones being, what you need to consider before building or having someone build your website. How to use the website as a marketing tool and it would be extremely beneficial to you if you at least had some understanding of what SEO is and how it works. What is the difference between a website designer, website developer and an online marketing company? All of them do different things and have a different understanding of how to use the internet; the question is what purpose is your website supposed to serve? For most it should be a marketing tool, because the internet is the most effective marketing tool available!

A Sample Business Plan for a Small Business May Not Be the Best Way

You can find a sample business plan for a small business in all kinds of formats. There is a sample business plan for a small business where you basically fill in the blanks or you can have access to a sample business plan for a small business where you can pattern yours from it or you can develop a business plan that is centered on what you want for your dreams and your life.

I don’t know of better way than to let your business give you what you want for your lifestyle. Whether it’s a sample business plan for a small business or one where your business gives you a plan, it should tell you what is needed to take you where you want to go and when and how you can get there and it should be in clear simple terms, supported with all the specifics.

So using a sample business plan for a small business is just one of many ways to make a business plan but frankly I think designing one that will have your business give you exactly what you want is by far the best way.

So, why not start out with what you would like to have in life for you and your family? Then develop a business plan that could show you exactly what your business would need to do to give you that life style. If you think about it, there is no other way where you have more control over what you want in life than letting your own business do it for you. If you work for someone else, you’re sure not going to have as much control over your future.

So how would you go about making a plan like this? Well if you know a fair amount about business, you can. It will take some special calculations and some work but if you know how to put together a Profit & Loss Statement, you can probably do it.

You would first do a P&L for the present year for your existing business and the first year and as many years after as you would like to have your plan cover. Your existing business financials will be the foundation for building yourself a business plan for as many years out as you want. This data will tell you a number of things but first if you want to build your plan around what you want in life, you would need to decide some things about your life:

1. You would need to decide how much income you would like to have for yourself for each of the years you plan for.
2. You would need to determine what kind of profit margin you would want from your business for each of the years.
3. And by combining these 2 things into a P&L format you can develop a financial business plan that can extend as for into the future as you would like.
4. The first thing it will show you is how much sales you would need each year to give you the income and profit you would like. Once you see the sales needed, if you know your business well enough, you should be able to estimate those additional expenses needed to overcome capacity constraints that will occur as your business grows.

With this information you can actually predict not only what your sales will be, but you can see how much your fixed and variable expenses will be, what your labor cost will be, your material cost, and your profit.

1. So let’s first look at what exactly are fixed expenses? They are exactly what they say they are; they are fixed. This simply means these are expenses that are ongoing whether you have a lot of sales or “0” sales. They are expenses like utilities, taxes, rent, salaries other than the wages used in the making of the actual product or doing a service, business fees, telephone, etc. See how these expenses would continue on even if you have 0 sales? Any expenses that fall into this category are fixed expenses. Far too many small business owners never divide their expenses into fixed and variable. As a matter of fact, if you could have a business that had “0” fixed expenses; this would be the best of all worlds, why? If you had “0” sales, you would have “0” expenses. So the closer you could get to this the better you would be.

2. Variable expenses are those expenses that track directly with sales. If sales stop they stop. These are expenses like supplies used to support in the making of your product or doing your service. Such things as shipping cost for raw materials for your product or service. If you have no sales then you’re not going to be purchasing materials so your shipping cost for those materials will stop as well. As an example, if you have a lawn mowing business and there are no lawns to mow, then you wouldn’t be buying gasoline to travel to your lawn mowing site. These kinds of things are variable expenses. If you’re producing a product, it would include supplies used to produce that product like sand paper, glue, finishing materials, cutting tools, etc.

3. Labor and material costs are also directly proportionate to sales. These are things that go directly into the making of the product or into doing the service.

a. Labor cost is the actual direct labor used in the making of product or doing the service. The cost would also include all the fringe benefits like social security, payroll taxes, vacation pay, holidays, sick pay days, etc.
b. Material costs are all the materials used in the making of product or in doing the service. In the lawn mower service as an example it would be the gasoline used in the mower and any other materials used directly in that service. For producing a product it would be all the materials used in the product that is sent to the customer including all the packaging materials.

Average Selling Price

Now when you calculate your average selling price which is your cost of sales (material + labor) divided by (1-gross profit), you can determine how many customers you would need and then come up with what you think your conversion rate would be for converting leads to customers, you can determine how many leads you would need. Then from this and with the aid of the U.S. Census Bureau and some basic research on your own you can actually have a pretty decent idea of what size your market is and is going to be in the future so you can see if it will support your business plan or not.

So if you can put this all together, you can have a complete business operating plan that would show you exactly what your business would need to do to give you the income and profit you would like to have and a rough idea whether your market would support it or not. All you would have left to do would be to figure out how to make it all happen.

It’s like planning backwards.

1. Determine what you want in life
2. Figure out what your business would need to do to give you that life.
3. Figure out how long it would take you to reach it.
4. Figure out how big of a market it would take each of the years you’re planning for.
5. Then see if that market is big enough.

Isn’t this a much better way to go about planning your business? Shouldn’t your business be designed to give you want you want instead of you working yourself to death just hoping for the best?

So how would you go about calculating all this?

There is quite a bit of calculations and you should know a little about business principles but it isn’t that complicated. So first let’s look at figuring out your future needed sales with this formula:

Projected sales = fixed expenses divided by (1-(var exp % of existing sales + mat cost % of existing sales + lab cost % of existing sales + desired net prof %))

So, let’s say you existing sales is $850,000 annually, your fixed expenses are $275,000, variable expenses is $55,000 or 6.5% of the $850,000, material cost is $236,000 or 27.8%, labor cost is $109,000 or 12.8%, and your existing profit margin is $175,000 or 20.6%.

Now let’s say next year you want to have a profit margin of 25% so what would your sales need to be to give you that profit margin? Now you might think you would simply tack on 4.4% more to sales (25% – 20.6%) and you would have it. Well not quiet. it doesn’t work that way because you are going to have the additional variable expenses, material cost, and labor cost too. Remember, the more sales the more each of these expenses and cost will be.

So here is how you would do it:

Projected sales = fixed exp ($275,000) divided by 1-(6.5% + 27.8% + 12.8% + 25% (your new profit margin) = $896,057 (new sales)

You can do this for as many years out as you want. Obviously this is based on your first year’s fixed expenses remaining constant and no consideration of depreciation, inflation, or taxes.

But most likely you would need to increase your fixed expenses because you’re going to probably have more rent, utilities, or such as your business grows. So, you would simple put in your new fixed expense number in place of the existing one for each of the years you would be planning for.

So, you see if you decided you wanted a 35% profit margin at year 5 then you could see how much sales it would take to give you that.

Now it’s also important to know how many more customers you would need as well so you should always look at that unless you have another way of growing your sales other than with new customers.

Let’s say your average selling price for your service is $925.50 and you have one transaction per year per customer.

Using that first years sales example we used above, you would calculate it this way.

$896,057 divided by $925.50 = 968 customers needed for the year. Now if your average transactions per customer are more than 1, then you would need fewer customers. As an example, let’s say your average transaction per customers per year is 2.5 then 968 divided by 2.5 = 387 customers per year.

Now let’s say you estimate your conversation rate to be 3% of turning leads into paying customers with the advertising method you’re going to use, how many leads would need to contact to get 387 customers? Simply divide 387 by 3% and you get 12,909 leads you’re going to need to contact.

Then the question is; is your market going to be big enough to provide you with 12,909 leads for the next year and how many will you need each of the following years?

It may be easier than you think to figure this out. You would do some research and with the aid of the U.S. Census Bureau you can roughly determine whether your plan can be supported by your market or not.

So what do you think? Is it better to build a business plan around what you want in life then see how your business can maybe give you that or is it better to use a sample business plan for a small business where you are probably guessing?

I’d love to help you some more. Please go to http://www.StrategicBusinessSolutionsLLC.com and see what might be available.

3 HOT Tips To Improve Your Ads/Flyers and Letters for Small Business Growth

One of the areas that you can dramatically improve the number of leads to your small business is through effective advertising.

Right now I’ll take you through 3 HOT tips on how you can bring in more money and customers.

Here are three things you can do to improve your prospecting letters.

1. Use a benefit orientated headline, not your business name.

The biggest mistake most small businesses make is using their business name as the headline for their advertisements.

Your prospective customer isn’t interested in your business name, they want to know what you will do for them. So tell them in the headline.

A case in point is the weight loss market.

If you’d like to lose weight which headline would appeal to you more…?

“Naughton Services” (business name headline) or…

“Lose 5kgs in 7 weeks” (benefit headline)

Obviously the second headline would appeal more.

Make sure you use benefit headlines for all of your marketing pieces.

2. Take a ‘Point of YOU’ approach.

Print out each of your letters/ad/flyers and take a red pen and circle the words I, We, or Our in your letter/ad/flyer.

Now rewrite your letter using the words YOU or YOUR.

Why?

Your prospective customer doesn’t care about you. They are interested in themselves and they want you to tell them how buying from you will benefit them.

So don’t tell them about you in your ads/flyers and letters. They don’t care! Appeal to their self-interest by telling them how they will get value for money, and how they will benefit.

For example…

“I will talk about the 5 key areas that I feel are important in health”
“You will learn the 5 key important areas that will dramatically improve your health”

A general rule of thumb for any marketing piece is that for every ‘I’ or ‘We’ there should be 5 ‘You’ or ‘Your’s.

3. Ask the reader to ACT NOW!

At the end of all of your marketing pieces make sure you ask the reader to take action.

Specifically tell them to ‘pick up the phone’ or ‘visit our website’ or ‘visit our shop’.

It seems really strange to point this fact out. Yet so many businesses simply forget to tell the reader what they need to do to buy from them. And if you aren’t telling them, you’re losing sales.

Your customers are ‘silently begging to be led’ so tell them how to contact you or what they need to do to buy from you. It makes a HUGE difference. Try it and see for yourself.

These three guidelines you have just read, can immediately improve the results you’re getting from your marketing.

Try them, and see if they improve your business growth.

Copyright © 2005 by Casey Gollan. All Rights Reserved