Tuesday, October 29, 2013

5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is rapidly approaching and now is the time to take advantage of marketing techniques that will offer sales success in the upcoming months. In this article by SBA community moderator, K. Murray, there a few “budget-friendly” ideas to help you get started with holiday marketing for your small business.

If your small business has a presence on social media, then a contest is usually a popular way to engage your customers and remind them of the products and services you offer that would be great gift ideas. The key is to have a clever #hashtag and an incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings. Another marketing tip is recognizing your loyal customers and taking the time to make them feel extra special. You can give them special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales. This type of marketing can result in additional business and referrals for your company.

One way to stand out from competitors is to host an open house or special event in your restaurant or store. Use this type of event to showcase holiday season gifts and allow customers to sample your holiday menus and merchandise in advance.  You should pair this event with light refreshments such as hot chocolate or apple cider to get your customers into the holiday spirit. On their way out, you can give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount. A great holiday idea, which was created by Illana Bercovitz who offers small business trends, is to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. You should consider your industry, product, or service and how you could provide advice that makes your customer’s lives easier.  According to Ms. Bercovitz, “everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful.” Remember to use an original #hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

The last tip is to use a historical marketing device, email. Although some may say that it is overused, email remains an easy and inexpensive way to maintain contact with existing customers. The effective way to use email is through permission marketing which means reaching those customers who have requested emails from your business. These include existing customers and those who have expressed interest in your business.  You should also keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:
·         Keep the e-mail short and sweet. Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.
·         Clearly state the email’s intent in the subject line. For example, "A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2013.”
·         Be festive in your design. Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.

·         Follow online marketing rules. Don't forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow government guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The 10 Fastest-Growing Small-Business Sectors Right Now

Recently Sageworks, Inc., a financial analysis company for privately held companies, conducted an analysis of companies with less than $5 million in annual revenues and found the top ten fastest growing sectors among small businesses for 2013. This article discusses the best business sectors to enter into within the current market and their revenue growth.

Four of the ten sectors related to housing which saw sales grow ranging from 10 % to 15%. Although the government shutdown had a slight impact on the number of mortgages being processed, it did not have a long-term affect on the housing business operations. One surprising result from the study is that grain farming showed the largest growth with nearly a 20% increase in sales. According to Sageworks analyst Libby Bierman, “there was a drought in 2012, so they increased prices dramatically because the supply was cut so much.” Bierman predicts that grain farming may not make a second appearance on the list of fast-growing small business sectors, but says “there’s room for another surprise”. 

Here is the full list of the fastest-growing sectors of 2013:

1. Oilseed and Grain Farming
2. Building Finishing Contractors
3. Offices of Real Estate Agents and Brokers
4. Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
5. Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
6. Computer Systems Design and Related Services
7. Other Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
8. Utility System Construction
9. Specialty Food Stores
10. Foundation, Structure and Building Exterior Contractors

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

10 Ways to Promote Yourself to Entrepreneurial Success

An article in Entrepreneur Magazine caught our attention and brought up some good points to remember as you go about trying to market your way to the top of your business community: Many entrepreneurs still believe that a great idea will carry their startup to success. However, it takes more than selling your idea. To investors your idea is worth nothing alone and selling yourself is more important than selling your idea. Your entrepreneurial success is similar to that within the corporate world where it is vital how your managers and co-workers perceive you and your work. Except now your “managers” are investors, vendors, business partners and team members.  Here are some tips for promoting yourself to entrepreneur success from the book “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success” by Dan Schawbel and a few add-ons from veteran startup mentor, Martin Zwilling.

1.       An “idea” is just the beginning: Develop your ability to promote yourself by using your business idea to jump start relationships with investors, customers, and business partners. Learning from these experiences will determine your ultimate success.
2.       Pursue skills you don’t have right now: Evaluate which skills are most important for your business and try to pursue the ones you don’t currently posses or need improvement. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, soft, interpersonal skills are becoming more important than hard, technical skills. As an entrepreneur it is also important to have leadership and coaching skills, which you can learn from mentors and networking with peers.
3.       Polish your reputation, as it's your best asset: Although it is great for people to see what you have done, it is better what people think that you can do now.  What matters more is how much people trust you, who you know, who knows you, and the aura you give off to people around you. 
4.       Your personal life is now public: Your personal life can impact your business success in a big way when it comes to the internet and social media. Take the time to manage your image rather than ignore it. For example monitor how you behave, your online presence (or lack of it), and whom you associate with. These simple things can either help build your brand or tear it down.
5.       Build a positive presence in new media: There are many benefits to having a positive presence on new media. Some of which are building your reputation, connecting you with people who have similar interests, and find educational opportunities that will put you in touch with people who can help your startup.
6.       Play nice with people of all ages: Due to economic need and increasing life spans, people are remaining in the workplace longer. Because of this you need to be able to work well with all ages. Gain an understanding of how each generation communicates and the views they offer to the marketplace.
7.       The one with the most connections wins: With today’s economy becoming more social than informational, it is less about what you know and more about whether you can work with other people to solve problems. So it is important to become connected and stay connected.
8.       Just one person can change your life: Promoting yourself in the right way can make all the difference in connecting you to the key person that will help support your business. All you need is that one investor, distributor, or customer that puts you ahead of your competitors.
9.       Hours are out, accomplishments are in: The success and growth of your business is about more results, and less about more work. So stop thinking about how many hours you work and aim for more milestones and tractions. Begin to measure your results, promote them, and help others realize your value.

10.   Your startup is in your hands: People will help you when you begin to help yourself. So take accountability of your business success. Begin to learn and grow so that you have something to promote and soon you will be benefitting from others. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Community & educational development

The Federal Grants and Loans Directory is now available. Our new and revised
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Friday, October 18, 2013

SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCE FAIR ..... sign-up now to insure your spot

Attention current and aspiring Small Business owners! Do you want to learn about, meet representatives of, and utilize some of the best local resources for your small business? If so, then plan to attend this open conference to network with business resources that can benefit your business.

In partnership with the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Council and York Technical College, the SBDC is sponsoring a Small Business Resource Fair on Wednesday, November 21, 2013 at Winthrop University. Participants will have the opportunity to consult with many local resource providers, serving small businesses and entrepreneurs, all under one roof. Attendees will have the chance to meet small business counselors and to network with other business owners and aspiring entreprenuers.

Cost is $25 per person, and that includes a lunch and keynote speaker. PRE-REGISTRATION and payment is required. The Resource Fair will open the door for registration at 8:30 am, with the event being held from 9 a.m. to 2 pm. The Resource Fair will be held on Winthrop's campus in the DiGiorgio Campus Center (Richardson Ballroom).


For more information contact Becky Adams at the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce at 803-324-7500


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 80/20 Rule of Sales: How to Find Your Best Customers

Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Well in the business world there is an old proverb that states 20 percent of your customers make up 80 percent of your sales. According to Perry Marshall, author of the book 80/20 Sales & Marketing; this 80/20 principle can apply to time management, search engine marketing, and sales.  Business owners waste a lot of time trying to meet the needs of all their customers. Instead they should focus on the most lucrative ones that will produce sales growth for the business. We want to treat everyone equally, but all customers are not necessarily equal.  Mr. Marshall states that some customers earn you an amazingly disproportionate amount of money, many make you a little bit of money, and some even waste your time. With the last group, you lose money selling anything to them at all and waste time that could have been placed on more profitable customers.

So it is crucial for a business to focus on those 20 percent of customers who are vital for business success.  Perry Marshall shares some tips that will help entrepreneurs zero in on this specific group of customers. First, tip is to look at your customer lists. Whether this is your company’s email distribution list or Facebook followers, you can search for your top customers. Just use the R-F-M rule: Check which customers on your list bought most Recently, bought more Frequently, and spent the most Money. In no time you will have spotted your 20 percent. Next, you should study your geography to find where your money making customers actually live. This information can save you money by narrowing your internet advertising and marketing to specific geographies.

Once you know where they live, then you find you customer niche.  Usually customers who buy your specific product or service almost always fit a particular demographic. If you tailor to those customer’s needs then you will naturally attract customers with similar needs to your business.  Next you need to fire your problem customers. There is still that 10-20 percent of customers who take up your phone time and take you away from servicing your most lucrative 20 percent. You need to start cutting off those customers, but in a polite and gracious manner in order to avoid bad reviews.

Last, you want to pinpoint your “silent high-volume buyers”.  These buyers are those customers who send you a purchase order every two months and usually purchase high volumes of products and services. They bring you the highest return and require little maintenance. Spend your time targeting these buyers. Take them out to eat. You may even find that you can provide a service or product that they may not even know about. It may seem natural to give attention to all your customers, but you don’t need to focus on everyone. It is better to pay attention to that 20 percent who buy the most from you.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

5 Ways to Get Out of Start-up Mode And Grow Your Business

It is easy for entrepreneurs to become stuck in start-up mode. However, you should not limit yourself by remaining in that beginning phase. After some time it’s necessary for your business to go from planning to doing. To get into this mindset you as an entrepreneur need to start delegating, picking your business battles, gaining attention, changing your pitch, and creating urgency. 

One of the toughest things is to move from doing everything yourself, to investing in other people to help with business tasks that you can no longer handle. Approximately three quarters of all small businesses have zero employees. It may seem costly to hire people, but you will lose more money through lack of production and the failure to grow your business.

It is also important to pick your battles when it comes to doing business. Don’t spend your time worrying about small things such as creating your logo, which is likely to change along with your business.  Focus instead on bigger battles such as increasing your customer base and earning more money.
Another big hurdle for small businesses is to gain more attention for yourself and your business. You have to stand out among competition and a way to do that is to put yourself out there for the public to see. Tell people who you are, prove to them that you can live up to that name, and reap the admiration and attention you desire. 

Changing your sales pitch is another step that can take your business to the next level. For example you may have started out saying “I own a small consulting firm”. This comes off weak as you begin to gain more customers and doesn't set you apart from other similar firms. Instead, take your pitch a step further by saying something like “I own a consulting firm like none other that guarantees your company increased sales." This shows that you are unique, confident, and capable of providing the services that they need. Also be ready to quickly explain what your business does in a better and faster way.

Finally one aspect of moving your business from start-up to expansion is to move with urgency. Take the time to set specific timelines and achievement marks for yourself and your employees.  This pressure will allow you and your staff to produce more products and services that are sure to increase your profit. Giving your employees these operating tasks will provide your people and company with the momentum it needs.

So remember that your business should progress from start-up mode to grown-up mode. Today it is no longer about the big eating the small, but the fast eating the slow. Take the time to accelerate your business and become a going concern so you will become one of the fast companies in your industry. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Think About It ... You May Not Be On Furlough, But How Has the Shutdown Hurt Your Business?

If you are a SC small business owner who is being adversely affected by the government shutdown, directly or indirectly, the US Senate wants to know how this is impacting your business. 

Please send us an email and note on that email that you are aware that we will be passing this information along to the US Senate; and please provide contact information in the event someone wants to speak with you. 

Send your specific experience with your name, business name and location, email address and telephone number to WinthropRegionalSBDC@gmail.com ..... we'll see that this information gets to the right people.