Effective Small Business Marketing For Beginners

Effective small business marketing is the lifeblood of any small business. An unsettling high percentage of small businesses fold within the first year of operation with most of the first year survivors closing shop by the end of the third year.

One of the major reasons that small businesses fail is a cash flow crisis. Effective small business marketing is one of the few business tools available to a small business owner that GENERATES cash.

Effective small business marketing starts with being able to write a simple and practical marketing plan, specifically for your business. This marketing plan then forms the basis of all your marketing efforts and acts as a reference point when you have to decide between two or more courses of action.

The result of following a well constructed marketing plan is that all your different marketing efforts form part of a co-ordinated strategy aimed at attaining your predetermined goal. That is in stark contrast to the marketing efforts of most small businesses and immediately puts you ahead of the pack.

Effective small business marketing naturally comes with some challenges – and advantages. Challenges might include a lack of marketing savvy, a limited marketing budget, time constraints especially if you are a one person business and so on. Anyone who has run a small business should recognise the danger of spending too much time working in the business rather than on the business.

There are many advantages however in marketing a small business as opposed to a corporate giant. These include a lack of a hierarchy of decision makers, no red tape to fight through to get anything done, direct contact with your target market and many more.

Effective small business marketing should and can be the cornerstone of every small business. Your simple yet effective marketing plan is the map that will guide you out of the woods towards a profitable business, irrespective of the market segment you operate in.

Business Solutions in Online Survey Software

Whether you’re the VP of a large company or a small business owner, you want to know more information about your clients and your target market. Now that so many people are online the virtual plain of the Internets is one of the best places to contact your target market. To this effect, online survey software companies are a great business solution. They provide you with the ability to build surveys, send them out to mailing lists, and receive answers quickly and all in one software. Using this type of tool as a business solution, the sky is the limit!

Well, almost…. Not all online survey software companies will suit your specific needs. You’ll need to shop around. Online survey software companies all provide survey creators, data collection, and many similar features. How, then, are business people supposed to decide which tool suits their needs best? Survey creation is important because it affects what respondents experience during their survey and determines drop-out levels. It is important to keep in mind the contact management of the software: what features exist for publishing surveys? If you collect data then you most likely need to present the results and therefore the reporting capabilities of the software are also important. With all of these features available, we could choose any one of them to base our decision on. This choice depends on your and your business’ needs.

One way to make a decision, which may prove most effective for determining the utility of a software to your business, is to place more importance on the data analysis capabilities of the various software companies. To get meaningful results from your survey you need more than just numbers and percentages. You need advanced data analysis. Advanced data analysis includes using multi-level crosstabs to obtain brand feedback, for example. Another example could be conducting pricing analysis to measure the likelihood of purchase at a specific price point. To provide you with business solutions survey software has to go above and beyond simple survey creation and data collection. Advanced data analysis is imperative.

There is so much potential for survey software to provide real business solutions. It is important for you and your business to look for the features in each company that will best suit your needs. Here are some of the features that may provide potential solutions for your business:

Solutions for marketing:
Online survey software has the potential to help you to understand your current and future markets using analysis to identity clear action points that feed into marketing plans. Certain survey software companies have the potential to become meaningful market research tools for your company. By capturing customer feedback you can ensure that you minimize customer churn to build relationships and keep customers happy. You can also analyze survey data to speed up a new product development process and gather feedback from your target market on pricing, new product concepts and product features. By collecting feedback on advertising concepts, website design, packaging, logos, etcetera, you can improve current marketing campaigns and fine-tune future ones. For example, some software allows you to use multi-level cross-tabulations to obtain brand feedback from various populations; test advertising concepts using heat-map or video; and conduct pricing analysis with scale slider questions to measure the likelihood of purchase at a specific price point. This software even allows you to create multilingual surveys in order gather global feedback from your customers all over the world.

Solutions for sales:
Using online surveys you can capture valuable customer feedback to provide information to your Sales department about their current satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels as well as future requirements. Use this information to identify ‘at-risk’ customers, follow-up on leads to develop new business or upsell to customers who have unfulfilled requirements. Use trend analysis to measure changes in customer feedback over time. Using advanced analysis functions to identify clear action points that feed into sales strategy can optimize your business’ relationships with customers. You can evaluate the impact of advertising campaigns among your sales forces. Some companies make things a little easier by funneling survey data directly to your sales team with Salesforce integration. This way your Sales department is alerted to dissatisfied customers and provides the opportunity to build relationships before the customer dissatisfaction reaches critical levels.

Solutions for Human Resources:
They backbone of your business is the people who make it work: your employees. To optimize your business you need to make sure your team is fit, satisfied, and efficient. Survey software can provide innovative solutions to keeping your team satisfied and functioning at the top of their game. Using online surveys you can gather feedback from employees about corporate communication, benefits, salaries, satisfaction, training and development opportunities. With features such as ‘grouping’ you can develop 360-degree feedback from questionnaires, e-learning quizzes or even post-training tests. The feedback you receive will allow you to improve churn rates, improve internal communications, address areas of higher dissatisfaction, and develop appropriate training programs. The possibilities for gathering feedback are endless, but of course, once again, you have to use tools with advanced data analysis to deal with this data effectively.

Every business is looking for ways to improve their profits, satisfy their customers, and keep their employees happy. Online survey software is one way to provide your business with solutions and tools to achieve these objectives. It is important to look for attractive survey creators to optimize respondent experience and improve your chances of getting more responses. However, as I have emphasized in this article it is the data analysis components of the software that provide the most advantages and solutions for your business. There are several survey software companies that provide these types of data analysis tools. You need to shop around a find the tool that suits your specific needs. Engage in intelligent consumerism, go beyond the survey sending step, and demand more from your survey tools.

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

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