Small Business Marketing – The Power of a Market Review

Conducting a market review is one of the most important steps in the small business marketing process as it provides together with a business review the information you need to create a dynamic marketing plan. All big businesses conduct these reviews as they know it can save time and money for their business.

A market review does not have to be complicated and a lot will depend on what information you can source. The important factor regarding a market review is to understand the key elements of your market and how these elements can affect your business now and in the future.

The key elements you need to look at when conducting a market review for your small business include:

Size of Market
Your market is simply the overall industry in which you compete. For example if you sell juice then you compete in the Beverage Market. If you sell holidays as a travel agent then you compete in the Tourism Market. Analyzing the size of your market can tell you whether it is growing or declining, help you to identify growth opportunities and for a new small business can determine if the market is large enough to compete in and operate a profitable business. There are many sources you can use to gather information on the size of your market and these include trade magazines, industry associations, search engines and local government websites and resources.

Market Segment Analysis

Segmentation is a process that looks at the total market and then divides the products or services into broad groups that have similar characteristics. In the examples above, whilst the total market is beverages, the segment that is the most important to a juice manufacturer is the Juice Segment. Looking at the total beverage market today throughout the world the leading soft drink manufacturers have entered many of the market segments such as bottled water to expand their business. Market segment analysis also helps you to determine where your small business marketing efforts should be concentrated.

Distribution Channel Analysis
A distribution channel is the way in which your product or service is made available to your customers so they can purchase it. Examples are supermarkets, personal selling (face to face selling), distributors and the internet. Analyzing the sales of each distribution channel in your market enables you to identify which channels are the most important for you to compete in to grow your business.

Market Trends
A trend is any significant change to your market that your business may need to respond to. Examples of market trends include changes to the economy, changing customer demographics, social and global factors (to name a few). If you conduct business in the USA at the moment or are intending to compete in the USA then the concerns about a possible recession and how it could affect your small business needs to be identified so action plans can be put in place to minimize the impact.

Market Seasonality
If a product or service is seasonal it means that the majority of the sales occur at one or a few times a year. Tax accountants obviously have increased sales when the end of the financial year occurs and tax returns and other government reporting are required. Understanding market seasonality factors can lead to your small business maximizing sales through this period and also may highlight opportunities to spread your sales throughout the year.

Competitor Analysis
Your key competitors need to be analyzed in order for you to identify their key strengths and weaknesses and how they compare to your own small business. Reviewing this area means that you can be smarter with your marketing efforts and be proactive against their weaknesses and of course defend against their strengths. One tip that all big businesses do is to have a competitor file with examples of their marketing activities, products or services.

Big businesses know the value of reviewing the market in which they compete and you can to. Remember you can start slowly and just review one section at a time and then put in place activities or make business decisions based on the review to grow your small business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

Running a Bookkeeping Business

There is an old saying that “a poor plan well executed is better than a good plan poorly executed.” This saying applies very well to running a bookkeeping business. The reason most people fail when they start this type of business is usually not due to a lack of vision or intelligence. People simply fail to execute their plans.

There are a lot of bookkeeping business plans available on the Internet. Most of these plans involve learning basic bookkeeping skills and then finding clients. It’s a pretty straightforward plan, albeit difficult.

There are several ways to learn basic bookkeeping skills. One of them is to attend a University and earn a degree in accounting. Accounting majors graduate with a solid understanding of basic accounting principles. Most accountants don’t like to think of themselves as bookkeepers, but the truth is they understand the principles behind bookkeeping very well.

Many people with a degree in accounting have no idea how to set up an accounting system for a small business. This is something that comes with practice and experience. In school, accountants are taught the principles of accounting, but they aren’t generally taught how to step into a business and set up that business’ accounting system.

If you don’t want to drop four years earning a degree in accounting just to start up your own bookkeeping business, there are other ways to obtain the knowledge you seek. A quick search on Google will reveal some of the quicker courses you can take online or with a community college. These courses tend to be much more practical and they give you advice on how to use accounting software (something else that isn’t really taught in the big Universities). Most of these courses will cost you some money, but many are very affordable.

After you have the basic training down, it’s time to get your first client. Finding the first client can sometimes be the most difficult. At this point you probably don’t have any experience behind you and most people don’t want to outsource their bookkeeping to someone who has never done bookkeeping before. To overcome this obstacle there are several options:
(1) Try teaming up with somebody who does have some experience. After you’ve done a few jobs, then you can go out on your own.
(2) Try to find a friend or family member who is willing to take a chance on you.
(3) Try offering your services at a discounted rate, or even free, until you pick up that first customer.

On your first job, put everything you have into it. Really do a good job and you will find that your first client will refer other clients to you. The best way to find new clients is from existing clients. A simple, “Do you know anybody else who might benefit from my services?” will get you a surprising amount of customers.

The blueprint for starting a bookkeeping business is not rocket science. You simply need to understand basic bookkeeping skills and find clients. However, most people fail to execute this simple plan.

Small Business Marketing Tools to Get You Free Publicity

As far as small business marketing goes, free publicity is gold. It’s not just that you’re getting your company name to the public without having to pay for it; it’s that the news publicity – whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, or online, weighs more heavily in your prospective customers minds. Even as skepticism reigns, people see information printed by news-type sources (whether in print or online) as being more truthful, more objective, than information that’s paid for by the company (advertising).

But simply sending out a press kit to your local news media won’t guarantee you that free publicity. The cardinal rule you have to follow is that your information must be newsworthy. One of the ways that news media keep their reputation as objective sources of information is that they are – they’re not going to print a thinly-veiled ad for your product or service as a news piece. But if you write a release that accomplishes both goals – offering the news media an interesting, informational story and letting potential customers get to know your product or service – that’s where free publicity really pays off.

To start, you need to develop a press kit as a standard component of your small business marketing materials. Your press kit should include:

Small business marketing press kit component 1: A letter to the editor of the newspaper (or magazine, or internet site) pitching your press release as a story idea. Many components of your press kit can be recycled, but the letter to the editor should change every time to send out a new press release.

Small business marketing press kit component 2: The press release. Your press release is where the journalist will look to find most of the information for her story. In the release, you should describe the news item (the launch of a new product that will revolutionize consumer’s lives, for example). Feel free to quote yourself and others in the press release expounding on the issue (that way the journalist won’t have to contact you or others for quotes when she’s writing the story).

Small business marketing press kit component 3: Your business card. Make it easy for the journalist to contact you.

Small business marketing press kit component 4: Your corporate bio. Journalists often like to add background information into their stories; make it easy by including a corporate bio that offers the important information about your business, including who founded it and when, location, and other interesting tidbits.

Small business marketing press kit component 5: Relevant photos. The keyword here is relevant: include photos of the topic your press release is about. If it’s a new product, offer some interesting photos. If it’s a new day care service, offer some pictures of the employees with the kids. Use photos that will make your story more compelling.

Small business marketing press kit component 6: Testimonials. It can be a great strategy to build quotations from current and past customers right into your press release. But even when you do that, don’t be shy about adding more.

Small business marketing press kit component 7: A data sheet for the relevant product or service. A data sheet with give the details about your product or service (that’s being covered in the press release). Relevant details include pricing, components, materials, size, weight, and part number – if applicable.

You should put all seven small business marketing components of your press kit into a folder – ideally one with your logo on the front to finish off the presentation.

Once you’ve created an appropriate small business marketing press kit, you can think about the kind of media outlets that you want to target. That small business marketing decision should be based on where your customers are – are they online, reading the local daily, or a national newsmagazine? Free publicity won’t mean much if it’s not picked up by your target audience – your prospective customers.

Once you’ve decided the media outlet that you want to target, find out who the managing editor is and send a personalized press kit to her. Or, if the publication is very large, send a personalized press kit to the journalist in charge of your area (for example, the Food journalist if your product is gourmet brownies or the Technology journalist if your product is computer software). You can also send out a press release for mass distribution using one of many online press release wires.

How to Start a Bookkeeping Business – Two Important Things That You Need to Consider Before Starting

There are lot of guides and e-books on teaching us on how to start a bookkeeping business in view of the high demand of bookkeeping services. However, before you decide to start one, you are advised to consider the following factors first.

Do you have the required practical bookkeeping experience?

It is almost sure that when you start approaching your potential bookkeeping clients, 9 out of 10 will ask your practical experience in handling bookkeeping in the past. This is because as a business owner they wouldn’t want their business records are kept by those who don’t have real life experience.

What I would suggest is, go find some part time bookkeeping jobs in a CPA office if you are a stay at home mom. By taking up this part time assignment, you will have opportunity to expose yourself to different business entities and in the meantime enhance your ability to maintaining full sets of books for a business. Practical bookkeeping experience is fundamental if you want to start a bookkeeping business.

Do you have the minimum capital outlays?

Although a lot of so called expert will tell you that you do not need a high start up capital to kick off your bookkeeping business. However, you are always advised to have a minimum of 6 months cash flows in order to sustain your living before you start generating enough income.

In addition, to start a bookkeeping business, you are required to invest in bookkeeping software, payroll software, laptop, printer, stationery and papers. These items might easily cost you few thousand dollars other than your business registration. Therefore, having a capital budget is important because it helps you to figure out what is the minimum capital requirement for your bookkeeping business.

Obviously there are other equally important factors that you have to take into consideration such as how to find your first client, am I proficient in using bookkeeping software and etc before you decide to start a bookkeeping business.