Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Inclement Weather Marketing

In North Carolina, we tend to get a good snowfall at least once or twice every few years.  These “snow days” can wreak havoc here in the Triangle.  Driving in the snow and ice is not a North Carolinian’s strong suit, so many civic, school, and business organizations close as a safety precaution.

When a snow storm comes, local media is abuzz about it and updates scroll the bottom line of network TV.  Most of these updates are about area closings and openings.  These updates offer a great marketing opportunity for small businesses.

By tapping into the media, businesses can gain exposure by sharing updates about their office hours.  The result – free brand impressions on network TV (this year these updates were paired with ACC basketball games, broadcasts drawing a huge number of viewers in North Carolina).

The next time snow or ice is closing down offices in your area, seize the opportunity to share your business’ schedule with local viewers glued to the TV while the snow falls down.  This tactic takes little time to deploy and reminding local viewers about your business without having to run an expensive advertisement is sweet!  Even sweeter, if you don’t need to close you can still gain exposure by reporting your regular closing or opening times.

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Differentiating With Customer Service

As more products essentially become commodities, service has become a viable means for increasing revenue and profit margins for companies in these industries. Use a service strategy to your advantage.

Big companies often struggle to develop great relationships with their customers.  Too many levels of authority, employees unauthorized to make decisions, arbitrary policies preventing customer-facing employees from advocating for the customer, and limited access to direct customer feedback often handcuff the big guys from delivering great service and developing good relationships with their customers.

This spells opportunity for agile companies!

One of the reasons I enjoy working with small companies is knowing exactly who stands behind the company and its policies.  This tends to build a more responsive organization and it’s good marketing.  If your a small business, use your size to your advantage.  Develop relationships with your customers and provide the best service possible.  Develop a culture for customer service through training and service programs that empower your employees.

Great customer service can differentiate your business from others and improve your bottom line.  Embrace a culture of customer service and develop relationships with clients that make them want to be your customer for life.

Bobby Bowden Management

Bobby BowdenAs a native of Tallahassee, FL, I am of course a huge Florida State football fan.  With Bobby Bowden coaching his last game this week I’ve been thinking about what made him so successful.  For the uninitiated, Bowden oversaw one of the greatest runs in college football history.  From 1987 to 2000, 14 straight years, FSU finished in the top five of the AP college football poll.

How did Bobby Bowden do it?
I posit his ability to recruit the best players coupled with his delegating management style gave him the winning edge to build the Seminole dynasty from the ground up.

A media darling and adept recruiter, Bowden quickly learned that delegating responsibilities to assistant coaches allowed his program to flourish.  And with Bowden’s delegating management style in effect he was afforded additional time to focus on what he does best – recruit the best players. During Florida State’s 14-year winning streak his staff held tight and the rest is history.

As an entrepreneur, it’s often difficult to relinquish control and let those you hire to do their work without micromanaging them.  Avoid this by hiring employees that are smarter than you, giving them the reins to succeed and holding them accountable if they fall short. Hiring the best employees is difficult, but crucial to your long-term success.

And Bobby would agree having said, “He who gets the best players usually wins.”  And Bobby Bowden usually did just that.

Seek Market Fit, Not Branding

For entrepreneurs, finding the right fit in the market for your startup is essential. Before ramping up marketing programs, assess your fit in the market so marketing dollars aren’t wasted on premature campaigns.  Without the right market fit, no amount of branding will overcome a misaligned offering.

Forget branding and develop a focused product or service that your customers can’t live without.  This is not to say you shouldn’t have a positioning statement for your company.  A positioning statement helps identify, create, and capture markets.  Avoid branding until your market fit is established.

Once you’ve placed your stake in the ground and the majority of your customers say they couldn’t imagine doing business without your product, you’ve found your market fit, and an enviable one at that.  From here, ramp up your branding efforts to build loyalty, create barriers to entry and grow your business!

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Market Sizing

Accurately estimating the market size of your product or service is crucial to determine whether the business or specific industry is worth pursuing.  And if you want financing, investors will want to know what the potential return of their investment could be.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you determine the market size of your business.

I prefer take the wide view when quantifying markets. This can reveal unexpected relationships between types of people or businesses within a market and can also help identify the most suitable market niche to pursue once the business has achieved success in an ancillary niche.

With this in mind, I recommend sizing up three types of markets: the total available market, the served available market, and the target market.

Take the Wide View
Take the wide view by estimating the total available market size (anyone who could potentially use your product or service) first.  After this, narrow your wide view of the market by determining the served available market size (the portion of the total available market your sales channel can reach, which often includes geographic limitations) and identify the further segmented target market size (the segmented piece or niche of the market to whom your company will be marketing your product or service first).

Quantify the Market with Numbers
To quantify these markets, you need numbers. If you’re pursuing an existing market, check out industry and market research reports (e.g. – Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, Forrester, etc.). These reports are often expensive, so you may need to look elsewhere.  Sometimes you can find other articles referencing an industry report, so do a quick search of articles referencing the report and check the Google cached view to easily identify where the information you want is referenced (this can save a lot of time if its a big report).

Still no luck?  Look in the researcher’s news archives, which often includes useful data in press releases about their reports. Research industry trade groups can also be very helpful, and often publish market statistics about the industry they cover.

If all this fails, visiting your competitors websites may provide you with the numbers you seek.  Estimate the market size by looking at competitors’ annual report and dividing their sales revenue by their market share.

Bring It All Together
Remember, one report won’t tell you everything and there are many ways to get an approximate market size for your business.  You may need to take a multiple data points from various sources and assemble it into a tailored market size report that quantifies the total market size, served available market size, and the target market size.

Researching data from various sources will help you see a more complete picture of your industry.  With these numbers, you’ll better understand the potential for your business and which segments of the industry are most attractive.

Happy market sizing!

How have you determined the market size for your company?  Share your experience.

Why Customers Buy

Unsuccessful startups often think customers will come if they build them a solution they should want.  This is backwards.

Startup success can often be boiled down to one thing.  Successful startups know why their customers will buy their product and develop their offering and marketing plans armed with this knowledge.

Once you know why people buy, you are able to accomplish three things.

1. You can build your product to meet your customers true needs
By developing the right product and proper pricing that accounts for the total cost of ownership of your product, your business can be profitable sooner.

2. You can describe and sell your product in a way that resonates with your prospects
It’s a beautiful thing when the positioning of your product matches what your prospects want to hear.

3. You can identify the best channels to sell your products
If you know why customers buy,  you should know enough about them to create a customer mind map and know what the day in their life holds to better target marketing channels in which they will buy your product.

These three things set startups up for success.  The customer is always right, so companies need to be vigilant about getting their team out there to listen to them.  Get out there, get to know your customers and understand why they buy.

Five Ways to Recycle Marketing

In these economic times, marketing can and should be recycled when possible. There are many way to “recycle” marketing.  Here are five ways to recycle marketing:

  1. Copy proven marketing techniques
    When you see effective marketing methods being used in comparable marketplaces, why not try them within your marketplace?  For example, if your business receives a last minute cancellation for service, use a targeted email or Twitter to fill your unexpected vacancy. This gives your customers the opportunity to fill the vacancy, possibly at a reduced price, so they get a good deal and your slot doesn’t go wasted. Everybody wins!
  2. Share marketing resources
    Reach out to your network.  Team up with other companies in your community to pool resources for marketing purposes.  At the very least you’ll benefit from getting another (potentially more objective) perspective on your marketing ideas. It can be very helpful to share ideas.
  3. Barter your product for marketing services
    If your product or service is something a local marketing company could use in their business, try bartering your product for their marketing services.  I’ve bartered my services for many service providers, such as accountants and consultants.
  4. Re-use graphics or marketing elements
    Hopefully your marketing efforts are targeted.  If so, there could be opportunities to use parts of your marketing campaign for new target prospects/customers.  There’s no law against reusing graphics, images, or templates from previous campaigns, just make sure you change enough of your collateral so your marketing effort is distinguishable from past promotions.
  5. Re-distribute your content
    One of the most effective marketing tactics is providing relevant and useful content.  When writing content, you never know if that content will be a viral hit.  Redistribute popular content through other channels (e.g. – website, mail, email, syndication, speaking engagements) or package content in a new way (e.g. – offer a Top Ten Blog Posts for signing up to your e-newsletter or link back to past content as I did in this bullet).

There are numerous ways to recycle your marketing.  Use these suggestions to lower costs while increasing sales.  Hopefully, this post will help get you jump-started in finding your ways to do just that!

How have you recycled your marketing?  Please share your experience or send me a message.