Wyoming Business Tips for Nov. 7

November 1, 2010

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By: James Drever, WSBD business advisor                

"We opened our business and are ready to go, but where are our customers?" Rick, Laramie.

Day one of any business can be the most challenging. You have envisioned helping people, selling them products they want, making customers happy and bringing in money. But there you are -- by yourself.

Here is what to do: Open up your business plan and look at the business marketing plan. What were your strategies? If you haven't already, get to work on them. Maybe this is a good time to revisit the plan and brainstorm with a friend or WSBDC business advisor for more ideas on methods to let customers know you are ready to help or sell to them.

If you do not have a marketing plan, and already in business, one is needed for the business. Assuming you have evaluated the industry, location, market, competition and other aspects, focus on the following to put a basic marketing plan together to help grow the business:

-- What is the purpose of your marketing? Common goals are keeping customers loyal, attracting new customers and developing your brand(s).

-- Who is your customer? For consumer sales, think of everything from demographics to hobbies and interests. When selling to businesses, not only do you need to know exactly what kind and what size business, but what individuals who decide to purchase your product or service.

-- What is your competitive advantage? What benefit (not features) do you offer that competitors do not? Keep in mind indirect competition, such as people choosing to eat at home rather than at restaurants.

-- Who are you? What are the values that drive your organization and products? These are the greatest ingredients that build your brand. Branding is not logos and images, but rather trust. The best brands are identities associated with companies, products or even political parties we trust.

-- How will you promote your products and services? Now that you know who you are, what benefits your product offers that your competitors don't, who your customers are and where they are likely to find you. Now is the time to communicate to them with purpose.

As you develop action plans, keep in mind how to position yourself among a competitor's products, the consistency of the message, frequency and expected return on investment. That investment is not only money, but valuable time. There are many marketing methods from social media to speaking events, and of course, advertising, the most expensive and elusive form of marketing. Consider out-of-the-box methods, especially networking, public relations, events and online marketing.

For further assistance, contact a Wyoming Entrepreneur counselor for free consultation help. Counselors can help with marketing plans and have resources at their disposal, such as the Market Research Center. With an effective plan in place, you can realize the business's true potential.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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