The business world offers countless paths for entrepreneurs to choose. Some are paths of super-sonic speed that catapult a company to the top of the industry, seemingly overnight. Other paths include low risk and relatively low rewards, as business owners take the cautious path to avoid failure. The ideal path would involve steady growth and improvement, but unfortunately, none of these paths guarantee success in the end.
Depending on your goals and your industry, you may find it necessary to move at a certain pace. Those in technology must maintain a fast pace to keep up with the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing market. Those in more traditional fields may feel that consistency and steady quality are more important than constant adaptation. As is the case in so many areas of business, the key here is balance.
No matter what your industry or how grand your goals, you need to be able to find the right balance of growth, change, adaptation and improvement that matches the needs of your customers and the demands of your field. To put it in relatively general terms, there are three basic speeds at which a company may grow.
Some companies launch to the top of their respective fields in almost no time. While this would seemingly be the ideal course for any business, overnight success is often a matter of sheer luck. Even aside from the uncontrollable variables that are usually involved in this path, fast-paced growth is not without its drawbacks. Many companies quickly exceed the scope of what they can handle, either in terms of customers or countless other elements, and this can cause a collapse that is just as fast and epic as their rise.
Slow and Cautious
On the other side of the spectrum, many companies toil in mediocrity and microscopic growth for years, with little to show in terms of success. This is often the result of overly cautious decision making and/or an unwillingness to change by those at the top of the company. This path can certainly lead to a more predictable future when compared to the fast-paced path, but that future may never fully develop into anything meaningful. Businesses that end up on this path almost never reach their full potential.
To avoid the grand pitfalls of super-fast growth and the grinding mediocrity of overly cautious business, you have to find the balance that fits your needs. You want to be able to adapt and improve with the needs and trends of your market, but you must also remain consistent and true to the values that define your company. Finding this balance may be easier said than done, but understanding the importance of it and making decisions with this in mind will ensure that your company reaches its intended destination in the right amount of time.
Starting a business can be one of the most challenging processes of a person’s life. It takes creativity, planning, determination and tireless effort, but once the doors are open and the business takes off, it can be one of the most rewarding moments of life.
But a successful entrepreneur cannot be content and stop there. Now that your company is up and running, you must continue to improve and grow in order to achieve any meaningful level of success. Even if your company is already thriving, the business world moves fast, and those who are not getting better will quickly be left behind. Your competition will always be right there with you, and you cannot afford to be satisfied with mediocrity.
In a sense, a business is like a living organism. It must continue to grow and evolve, or else it will deteriorate and die. If you take the right steps and care for your business properly, it can continue to grow and reach its full potential. With that being said, there are three essential building blocks of business growth:
By understanding and utilizing these elements, you can help your business achieve the highest levels of success.
This building block is the foundation upon which your new business was built. It is the expression of your creativity and the incarnation of your ideas. Innovation is what led you to the first moments of starting a business, and it is what helped you get off the ground. However, it is also what is necessary for your business to grow. Even after the initial innovation that led you to develop the unique product, service or technique that makes your company special, you must continue to improve upon it.
This building block is essentially the quantification of your innovation. It is where your business can be broken down, measured and accurately gauged in order to make improvements. In almost every case, the best information for proper analyzation comes from customer feedback. Listen to those who purchase your product or engage your service and identify what is important to them. Find out what they believe is best for your business and what could use improvement.
Once you have the quantifiable information from your customer feedback, combine it with your innovative ideas and implement them accordingly. This is the step in which it all comes together and your improvements are put into action. With the proper combination of these three building blocks, your business will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.
There are many ways to start a business, and each entrepreneur will take his or her own individual path. Variations may exist in terms of planning, development, funding, and management, and of course, there are countless different types of businesses offering countless different products and services. But no matter the paths taken or strategies implemented, the goal is always to create a profitable venture which you can call your own.
To the average person, the traditional method of starting a business involves developing an original idea, product or technique. While there is obviously nothing wrong with this entrepreneurial path, it can be much more challenging and risky than a common alternative. That alternative is the franchise, and it allows entrepreneurs to create and build their own business with less strain and creative development than its traditional counterpart.
The Fundamentals of Franchising
By its simplest, most legally correct definition, a franchise is essentially nothing more than a license. But in a much more practical and meaningful sense, a franchise is an agreement and a relationship between a company (franchisor) that allows its name and operating methods to be used by an entrepreneur (franchisee). In exchange, the entrepreneur agrees to operate their business according to the terms of the lease.
Business Format Franchising
The most commonly known and recognized type of franchises are known as business format franchises. These are based on an earlier model called the trade name franchise, and the main difference came in the rights of the franchise. Whereas in a trade name franchise, a franchise only owned marketing rights for his or her company, modern business format franchises allow entrepreneurs to have more ownership rights over the entire business, even including operating methods.
Product Distribution Franchising
Also known as traditional franchising, product distribution franchising may be less recognized and identified with franchising by the general public, but it is actually larger in terms of total sales than its business format counterpart. While business format franchising puts the focus on the system of doing business, traditional franchising has more emphasis on the products manufactured by the franchisor and supplied to the franchise. This is commonly found in gasoline, bottling, automotive and other industries.
The changes that came about in the rights of franchisees allowed for much greater control and customization for entrepreneurs who were looking to own a business. These shifts put a much greater emphasis on the success and development of small business owners, instead of simply churning out the same old thing from major corporations. It also allows for a more significant local impact, as franchisees can tailor their service and marketing to the needs of their communities.
But in order to obtain a franchising license and successfully operate this type of business, one must still adhere to franchise standards. If you feel this might be the right path for you to create your business, the first steps include:
- Developing an effective business model, including prospective customers and suppliers, as well as funding strategies.
- Developing a model that will provide consistent positive results without obvious issues.
- Creating a system for employing, training and maintaining a staff that will provide a high level of quality production.
- Maintaining a model with the same standards, branding, and values as the franchisor.
Starting a small business is one of the most exciting and meaningful events in a person’s life. You will likely go through a rollercoaster of emotion throughout the process, but this is all part of the journey and worth it when done correctly.
But unfortunately, many people fail in business simply because they believe in certain myths which have mislead them. Some seminars, speakers, blogs, and marketers will lead you to believe that all you need for success in business is a bit of capital, a targeted profit projection and a strong desire. While these things are necessary when beginning the journey, they are far from all that you will need in the marathon ahead.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what information is misleading and what is truly valuable in the world of entrepreneurial beginnings. However, there are a few keys to spotting the myths and those who are selling them. These include:
- Any information that comes with a price tag
- Unrealistic testimonials from “real people”
- Newsletters or subscriptions that charge money for “business advice”
- Anything that guarantees success in business
- Any information that sounds too good to be true
These are just a few factors that may signify bad info, but none of these are sure-fire signs of a scam or misleading information. You have to judge for yourself whether the advice you take is legitimate or is only for the profit of the person giving it. Generally, those with legitimately helpful information and good intentions do not need to (or even want to) charge to give advice and help.
The Marathon Ahead
The fact is, there are no sure-fire strategies or guaranteed techniques for quick success in business. Business is not a sprint; it is a marathon that will be full of ups, downs, trials, and challenges. But luckily, it will also include excitement, education, fun, and friends. Eventually, with a little bit of luck– and a lot of perseverance– it may also include great success.
If anyone has ever told you that marketing is not a creative field, that person is dead wrong. In fact, successful marketers are some of the most creative, ingenious and pragmatic people on the planet. They must develop effective, persuasive strategies to convince people to buy a product, and then develop creative, efficient means of getting the message out.
Throughout a career in marketing, I have developed several notebooks full of little strategies and techniques that have been effective. Some of these were developed independently, but the majority are based upon strategies of industry legends. This little article is meant to share a few of the best tips, techniques and marketing hacks in my notebooks that could help take your business to the next level.
- Create a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter for your business. These should be both in print and email formats.
- Utilize direct mail and direct response campaigns to reach a wider audience.
- Always stay involved in your community by contributing to local charities and events. Take advantage of any local events as an opportunity to grow your business.
- Keep a list of your previous customers and stay in contact with them. Those who have bought your products/services before are the most likely to buy it in the future.
- Develop a short, concise report that summarizes your services and your values. This should be sent to any new prospects, usually as your second touch, or the second time you interact with them.
- Maintain ads in the Yellow Pages. These provide great value and are not yet obsolete.
- Offer free eBooks, webinars, product demos and other digital items that can entice potential customers.
- Contribute to local newspapers and publications. These articles should not be blatantly promotional but should relate to your industry.
- Contribute to blogs and websites that are relevant to your industry.
- Offer free seminars or lectures that can help build awareness of your business.
- Create a podcast that is relevant to your industry. Bring in guest speakers and industry experts who can lend credibility and helpful information to your podcast.
- Tweak, test and adjust your current ads to find the most effective message, format, and medium.
- Offer incentives to new customers, such as one free month, introductory prices, purchasing benefits and other rewards/bonuses.
- Create regular incentive programs for new and current customers. This may include drawings and referral bonuses.
- Always be on the lookout for effective marketing strategies including those of competitors, industry leaders or anyone with good ideas. Tailor these strategies to your audience and make them your own.
- Barter for your marketing services. Offer free products or services (as opposed to money) in exchange for marketing.
- Do a free giveaway for anyone who brings in one of your print ads.
- Be willing to bring in new clients, even if it means taking an initial loss.
- Create and manage affiliate programs that reward referrals and marketing.
- Cultivate relationships with your vendors. These relationships may prove to be crucial, especially if your business hits a rough patch.
- Offer free public clinics to teach your community about industry-relevant information.
- Offer to pay for leads and market data. This may seem difficult at first, but this information will pay off. Just make sure not to pay too much; the key here is value.
- Conduct polls, studies, and customer satisfaction surveys. Some of your most useful information will come directly from your customer base, and it will come for free through these techniques.
- Network and cultivate relationships with others in your industry. You can develop a plan to trade leads with whom you were unsuccessful.
- Approach large companies, organizations and corporations, offering to be their exclusive provider at a significantly discounted rate.
It is unlikely that all of these techniques will apply to your business, but you should be able to identify several which can be tailored to your needs and help your business grow.
In today’s fast-paced world of instant information, on-demand entertainment and personalized marketing, every business must take advantage of every opportunity for marketing and publicity. There are countless possibilities for this, from television commercials and radio ads to social media campaigns and viral marketing, but small businesses and startups are generally at a disadvantage. For one thing, they are small and have small marketing budgets; and secondly, they likely have a small audience and little brand recognition.
This means that small businesses must be even more eager to take advantage of marketing opportunities– particularly those that come with a small price tag. Enter, public relations, the medium which allows startups and small businesses to reach a large audience and significantly increase branding, for free.
To be specific, public relations is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company, organization or person. Of course, there are a number of ways in which this favorable image can be cultivated, and you must identify the best ways to use this practice for your own business. Speaking generally, there are three key areas to public relations on which a small business can capitalize for marketing purposes:
Developing and implementing a strategy that includes all of these areas will greatly increase the efficiency of your public relations efforts.
This may seem obvious, but the first step to successful public relations for small business is getting noticed. In fact, the entire goal of your public relations policy should revolve around continuously getting noticed in a good way, and for good reasons. This means that your strategies (in both public relations and marketing) should always be based on providing value to your target audience.
The best way to begin is through a press release. For PR rookies, here is a step-by-step guide for successfully creating and distributing an effective press release:
- Create a press release announcing something special or significant about your company. Remember that it must be an attention-grabber that is relevant to the needs of your market.
- Summarize and compress the release into a single hook or angle that is most likely to be noticed by the media and your customers. This will be your headline.
- Develop your press release in a professional format, on your letterhead. It should include:
- Important information
- Supporting facts and figures
- Your contact details
- Send your release to each media outlet you choose with an opening letter that will be interesting and specific to each media person who receives it.
Remember that your public relations strategy should include all media, especially those that are most relevant to your industry, market or business. A diversified strategy should include:
- Social media
- Any other media outlets that your audience may view, read or listen to
The internet has changed the business world unlike few other innovations since the invention of paper money, and the marketing industry may have felt this impact more than any other. For many small businesses, the digital world has opened up boundless possibilities for reaching audiences that were not possible before. Because of this, the size and scale of many entrepreneurs’ marketing efforts often completely outweigh their capabilities of converting prospects actual paying customers.
This is one of the many reasons why direct response marketing can provide some of the most beneficial and tangible results for small businesses. In addition to the measurable success of direct response campaigns, many modern customers respond better to marketing that opens a dialogue with them and asks for their immediate input. While there are many kinds of digital direct response strategies that can be effective, most small business owners find two tried-and-true marketing techniques to be the most efficient.
Direct mail marketing and telemarketing have both been around for decades, and even with the prevalence of digital marketing, both strategies can be highly effective when used properly. For many specialized or higher-priced items, these techniques provide higher conversion rates than any digital strategies, and the direct response element adds measurable data for future campaigns. Here are a few tips to get the most out of each:
- Build and/or purchase a mailing list that fits your target market.
- After accounting for the cost of mailing lists, determine your budget by comparing the cost of mailing vs. cost of the order.
- List the benefits customers would receive from your product/service and determine which is the most meaningful.
- Develop an engaging, informative sales letter centered around that specific benefit. Add appropriate graphics and headlines.
- Include supplementary items that would aid in the purchase, such as an order form, reply envelope, brochure, etc.
- Develop a call plan that lays out exactly what you hope to accomplish during your calls. Add topics to discuss and potential questions that may arise.
- Create a sales script based on this initial call plan that includes appropriate verbiage, product features, product benefits, selling terms, etc. This will provide a structured guide for the call, but you should not expect calls to follow it exactly.
- Ask questions that demonstrate that you understand the potential customer’s needs and offer feedback to show that your product/service can address his/her needs.
- Be relaxed and conversational, always focusing on the needs of the customer but always guiding the call towards an eventual purchase.
- Remember to be grateful for the prospect’s time and allow your demeanor to reflect that.
As with all marketing techniques, the key to success in both areas will be continual evaluation and adjustment. You should not expect overwhelming success on your first direct mail campaign or in your first series of calls, but paying attention the data of direct responses and adjusting accordingly will ensure increasing levels of success as your business grows.
No small business can be truly successful without an effective marketing strategy. But for those entrepreneurs who are not exactly marketing wizards, it can seem like a complex world of strange acronyms and unfamiliar complexities with results that can be difficult to gauge. From print advertisements and TV commercials to SEO and social media, marketing is an entire industry unto itself– and one that many small business owners have little time for.
However, direct response marketing is one area of the field that offers several advantages for small business owners and can be truly effective for nearly any type of business. In addition to opening up a direct line of communication with your clientele, direct response marketing:
- Provides a great return on investment (ROI), no matter your marketing budget
- Produces easily measurable results
- Helps increase the overall efficiency of a sales force
- Allows businesses to reach outside of local areas or traditional markets
- Builds real relationships with customers and clients
What is Direct Response Marketing?
Whereas all effective forms of marketing should be targeted towards a certain group of people and seek to engage with that target market, direct response marketing takes that engagement a step further. It is designed to elicit a specific, measured response resulting from a potential customer’s direct response to the marketer.
This type of marketing can be used to ask for customer emails on your website, solicit comments on an article, produce social media responses and similar forms of direct engagement and feedback. Before the digital era, most direct response marketing was done through telemarketing and direct mail. While these can still be effective in many industries, the internet has opened up a universe of new possibilities for this efficient form of marketing, and small businesses have benefited greatly.
In addition to the time-honored traditions of direct mail and telephone calls, modern direct response marketing can take the form of:
- Calls to action (CTAs) on your website
- Emails that are designed to elicit a certain response
- Digital surveys
- Comment requests on blogs and social media
Direct responses can be one of the simplest forms of marketing for those who are not experts in the field, as the results are easy to measure and quantify. However, even the best direct response campaigns should be used in conjunction with other marketing techniques as part of an overall strategy. Bringing each element together can help ensure real results and a productive business.
No matter how complex and sophisticated marketing strategies and trends may become, the overall goal will always be to draw in more business. Any effective marketing strategy will be geared towards the right target audience and focused on turning that audience into prospective customers. But once you have reached the right people and gained their attention, it can take some special skills to turn those prospects into actual paying customers.
There are many steps between a consumer who is unaware of your product and a current customer, but none of those steps are more difficult to overcome than the one from prospect to the first-time buyer. Your marketing and sales efforts have already converted the lead into a prospect, but any salesman will tell you that there is still a chasm of space left to travel. As a small business owner, you must fill that chasm with your own knowledge, enthusiasm, and personality.
While there are countless techniques for turning your prospects into buyers for the first time, it can be difficult to know which methods will be most effective. This can depend on your product, industry, audience and the specific client, but there are some time-tested methods that can help bridge the chasm for any business. Each of them deals with offering the prospect something additional in order to solidify their decision to buy.
The most common– and generally the most effective– offering to get a prospect to buy for the first time is a special price. This could mean that you offer a special price for first-time customers, an introductory price for a limited time, a lower price for packaging additional products or any other kind of low-price offering.
In addition to– or instead of– a special price offering, you may offer your potential customer special information that will help them decide to purchase. This is especially helpful with online services that can offer free e-books, product demos, newsletters and other such items that allow the customer to feel as though they are privy to inside information to which they would not have access without engaging your business.
If you are unable (or unwilling) to give a lower price, and the customer does not respond to informational offerings, you may need to get more creative. There may be countless possibilities for additional incentives that you may be able to offer to prospective customers depending on your business and other factors. A few common examples include:
- Free bonuses or gifts
- Free shipping
- Referral bonus
- Product upgrades
You will need to find the right balance of price, informational and additional incentives that work for your business, your sales style, and each individual client. Once you find that sweet spot, you will be able to turn even more prospects into paying customers!
Every product, service, and business needs to have strategic, effective marketing to successfully sell, and every effective marketing strategy needs engaging advertising copy. In today’s world of blogs and user-generated content, the importance of good copywriting can be overlooked in favor of keyword-stuffed SEO articles. But as search engines have continued to grow more sophisticated, relevance and quality have become more important than ever.
In this way, marketing trends have essentially cycled back to the same concept that helped to create the industry: effective advertising copy. Advertising copy is basically sales in the form of text, and creating effective copy takes many of the same traits as those of a good salesman. While there will be countless variations and variables depending on your product, audience, industry and many other factors, there are five elements which should be part of any successful advertising copy.
1. Engaging the Reader
This is the first on the list because it is the first thing that should be accomplished by the writing. Your copy should immediately capture the attention of the reader and engage them in an issue that would be important to your target audience. Headlines are generally effective tools for gaining a reader’s attention at the start, but you must remember to keep them engaged throughout the article.
2. Specific Benefits
Marketing copy is more than just a list of features or product specifications; it should be designed specifically to tell your reader how your product or service will meet a need or solve a problem. You must always focus on the benefits of the product/service, as opposed to any features. The copy should clearly and concisely explain to the reader how they will be better off if they give you their business.
Although your writing should explain how a potential customer will benefit from your product/service, they are unlikely to be convinced without evidence. While explaining the benefits and advantages you provide, give authoritative, factual evidence to prove it. This could come in the way of statistical data, customer reviews, example scenarios and a number of other techniques, as long as it is viable.
Since your overall goal is to gain the reader’s business, your copy should be persuasive above all else. The best way to ensure this is to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customer. Think about what they want from your product or service and what they would need to understand in order to buy it.
5. Call to Action
If your copy is engaging, persuasive and focused on proven benefits, it’s time for the clincher– a call to action. This is the element that inspires your reader to act now and take the intended next step. It could be a pop-up for an email list, download of an e-book, a phone call to your sales team, free product demo or any other number of possibilities.