Wyoming Business Tips for Aug. 18

August 9, 2013

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 Elizabeth Parks, Wyoming Market Research Center researcher

“I can’t get my head around the marketing concept. I can advertise my product in the paper, so why all the fuss?” Charlie, Burns

Basically, marketing is reaching out to your customers. Without customers, you have no business.

Market research is what you need to make intelligent business decisions. In thinking about a business, market research can be the most important thing you do for yourself and the success of your business. Then, there are the entrepreneurs already in business who are eager to rush out and spend thousands of dollars on advertising without really knowing what their typical customer profile may be.

But, what is the best way to reach these people? Should they advertise in the newspaper or on the radio, or both, or neither? What you really need is a strategy that will help connect to your customers. But just who are your customers?

You probably have a good idea of who your main customers might be, but you may not know how many others are out there, which is your market size. That is where market research comes in. Is your market large enough to start a business?

To find out how many potential customers you have, start with demographics. We can help get numbers for age groups, income, males and females. Will they be younger folks, married with kids, moms or grandparents? In addition to demographics, we can take a different angle and talk about psychographics.

Psychographics is digging deeper into the personal lifestyles of customers. What kind of newspapers or magazines do they read? What kind of radio stations or TV do they tune into? What movies do they watch? What kinds of entertainment do they enjoy? Where do they go on vacation? As you begin to gather this information, you can get a picture of what your main customers look like. Then, you can think about how to market to them.

The key to any business is connecting with customers. The challenge is knowing what people are thinking and how they will react to your products and services so this connection can be made.

Determine customer needs before trying to connect to them through expensive marketing strategies like radio or print ads. Start with surveys or the tried and true method of asking them. Once customer needs are identified, the business owner should focus on differentiating the product from similar items. Products and services must give customers an obvious benefit -- in other words, “What’s in it for me?”

Businesses should appeal to customers. A business should be unique, not only in the products and services provided, but also in the way the marketing strategy is approached. This may require changing the way the owner thinks about the business. Ask this question: “How can products be made so unique that people will want to buy them?”

The answer will come through market research and planning.

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, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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