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Posts Tagged ‘target market’

Everybody knows that if you stand still you are, in reality, going backwards.

My company, a Bristol gym, is fortunate to be in a location that is conveniently close to its target market, which makes advertising virtually unnecessary.

Most readers will be aware of the statistic that most gym members stop going after between one week and three months, after having paid for a year’s membership.

It seemed clear to me from the outset that we ought to focus our time, energy and money on what we offer the member once they have joined, as opposed to the industry model which, as some of you may be aware, is to promote heavily, sign people up and then just ignore them.

We hold about four staff meetings each year. Last Tuesday we spent one and a half hours discussing whether we should alter the number of repetitions (ie complete lifting and lowering of a weight) that we advise members to attempt, on the basis that it might be easier for them to understand what we wanted from them, if we gave a lower figure.

It’s easy to forget how much resistance there can be to change, simply as a gut instinct. I personally find the process draining, possibly because I don’t like to tell my staff what to do, I’d rather work through some questions and examples in the hope that they will feel empowered by their decisions.

In the initial stages, progress is slow, because people have different levels of understanding. But the best bit for me is always the passion they show for their jobs and for our customers – the members. They show this passion by arguing with each other about what’s best. I think this is lovely.

Ross Campbell, The Exercise Club, Clifton.

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True net gains?

“Small firms should increase their website presence,” urges BBC entrepreneur expert Howard Graham in a new piece on the BBC website.

He cites the well-established business wisdom that growing your firm depends on creating a unique selling proposition (USP) and communicating it to your target market. “The web is simply the best way of doing that,” he argues.

In many cases, he’s right. For example, an independent bookshop selling rare first editions could make invaluable use of a website to make its unique publications known to a wider audience, and of course sell them via an online shop.

But I’m surprised that Graham should believe it’s “extraordinary” that fewer than half of all small businesses have a web presence. Is it really that astounding when, as the Federation of Small Businesses says, “the vast majority of small businesses serve their local markets”?

I spoke to my greengrocer this week. I suggested the very thing Graham is advocating, that he should consider investing in a website. I expected a negative reaction based on likely cost, but I was wrong. He simply replied: “I’m based in Bristol, why do I want someone in Leeds to know who I am? He won’t want to buy from me, and even if he does, by the time he gets to me, the carrots will have rotted!”

My local grocer was more concerned with making sure families down the street know he was open for business. Graham’s firm carried out a survey that backs this claim up: “A recent survey we carried out at Made Simple Group clearly showed that… specifically improving visibility to generate new business was a key concern for many.”

But is a website always the best way to achieve this? How vital is a web presence to a plumber, mobile hairdresser or local newsagent? Surely good old fashioned word-of-mouth, attention-grabbing signage and business cards do the job just as well – if not better – than an expensive website?

This is not to say small businesses should ignore other avenues of online marketing – social networks such as Twitter, Ecademy and Facebook, as well as blogging. All can provide excellent, low-cost exposure for your business. The Start Up Donut has some great videos that provide an introduction to online social networking.

But a purely web-based approach to publicising a small business can be ineffective if not suicidal. Small firms should increase their website presence – but only if there is true value in doing so.

Mark Hook, BHP Information Solutions

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1 Plan your marketing
Far too often, new businesses take a scattergun approach to marketing. They spend a huge amount of time and focus on marketing – which is correct – but there is no cohesive strategy, plan or thinking. So what happens is, 80 per cent of their marketing efforts results in little or no return.

If you have done your homework, you will be clear about how you help your target market with their ‘pain’, know where your target market hang out and how best to get your message to them. Use this knowledge to plan your marketing, so you focus your marketing on your target market, in a place where they will see it – and in a way that will encourage them to take action.

If you believe that word-of-mouth is going to be all the marketing you need, think again. Word-of-mouth works very well when you are an established business with a good name. Until you are an established business, word-of-mouth, in isolation, will not be an efficient marketing strategy.
Think very carefully about taking an enhanced listing in a physical or internet directory. When was the last time you looked in one of these for a tradesperson or supplier?

2 Know your costs
I’m going to be blunt. If you don’t know the cost of running your business, it normally means you are running your business as a hobby. Poor financial management of a new business is one of the main reasons for a new business to fail in its first year. Poor cashflow is a major factor in this. If you sell to businesses, see how short you can make your payment terms. For example, can you ask for some cash up front?

3 Look for recurring business opportunities
At the start of your business life, most of your business will have to be won from new clients. Winning business from existing clients is estimated to be between seven and 14 times easier than winning business from a new client. Aim to target new business from clients or customers that are likely to result in recurring business.

4 Be flexible
No one can predict exactly how your new business is going to perform. In the first 12 months of trading, you will probably need to tweak part of your business and marketing strategy. If you keep yourself open to opportunities and possibilities, you are more likely to be able to change strategy before it costs you time and money.

5 Work to your personal talents and strengths
In the early days as a one-man-band, you are going to have to be all things to all people. There are always going to be tasks that don’t fit your personal preferences. For me, this was bookkeeping. Be honest with yourself and outsource or delegate any tasks that can be done by someone else, without materially affecting the running of the business.

6 Set and write down business goals
Only about 3 per cent of adults have clear, written goals. These people accomplish five to ten times as much as people of equal ability and standing, but who, have never taken the time to write out exactly what they want to achieve. It’s the same with new businesses. Those businesses that remain focused on their goals are more likely to achieve greater things. In the early days, you are on a steep learning curve, so you will need to revisit these business goals every three months.

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