Small Business Marketing Strategy – The Importance of Customer Commonality

Cliché but true: customers come in all shapes and sizes. Just check out any grocery store or gas station: you see a cross-section of society, right? You find people from many walks of life and all income levels. But underneath the surface these people share something in common: for some reason–known or unknown to the store’s owner–they all made a choice to shop at the same place.Here’s the small business marketer’s primary puzzler: why do they come to my store? What do they have in common that makes them my customers? Once I know that, then I can discover (and reach) more of them.If you are fortunate enough to have a customer database then you can integrate known data, primarily purchase data, with psychographic or demographic data you acquire from outside. You can then combine both the internal and the external data to construct a composite of your customer base.However, if you are like most retail stores, you will have to rely on other types of data, such as survey data and research data, to establish your customer profile.This type of research can get expensive. Very expensive. Frankly, top-drawer research data is often outside the budget scope of many small businesses. Yet, as a small business marketer you know that understanding your customer is a key to gaining a competitive advantage over your competition.We suggest two sources which are far less expensive than traditional research. Of course, if you have the budget, by all means spend a portion of it with a reputable research firm. But if you don’t here are a couple of sources that can give you some insight.First, look to your peers in your industry. Your trade association and your trade publications both have general information on your industry’s customer base. Granted, this isn’t primary research specific to your individual business. Plus, this is data typically compiled at the national level. Yet, you can combine this industry material with your own common sense and your state or city economic and demographic data. Once done you will have a localized picture of your industry. This can yield some good, if general, facts about your customer base.A couple of half-days spent in this type of research often can yield insights that can’t be acquired without extensive (and expensive) research that is hired out.The second asset: employee research. More on that in our next article.Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.© 2006 Marketing Hawks

15 Ideas To Boost Your Sales Over The Holidays

Most of the time people buy out of emotional reasons. Because of this, things that pull on our heart strings tend to encourage us to buy more than usual.And holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have been known to make us spend the most money of all.My question is, why should the big box stores be the only ones that increase their profits during the holidays?Below, are 15 ways that you can reel in more sales during the holidays – so that you too can profit greatly and receive some holiday cheer.1. Dress up.First we need to catch their attention. To pull the heart strings of our customers to come our way – we need to create a holiday atmosphere at our place of business.Here are a few ideas how we can do this:

Decorate- Add holiday decorations to your store, website, emails, etc. to put people in the holiday mood.
Emphasize family- In your advertisements, emails and specials – emphasize the benefits for the whole family.
Kids rule- Since kids rule during the holiday – add things that will attract children like holiday candy or have someone dress up like the Easter bunny or Santa to greet the kids.
Charity tie-ins- Let all your customers know that a portion of any money they spend will go to a particular charity.
Get creative- use fancy slogans like, “12 Days of Holiday Products.” Or “Treat Yourself During the Holidays…” etc.2. Make holiday offers.People expect offers during the holidays. Why not make them offers they cannot refuse?If you can afford it, give them some of the best offers for the year. This could be:

Discounts of 15 – 40% off.
Bundled items- packages with multiple items for a low price.
Small gifts- provide small items for low prices.
Last minute shopping items- Have great discounts for those last minute shoppers (commonly men).3. Encourage them to come back.The statistic is that there is a 50 – 80% chance that your previous customers will buy from you again. Why not use the holiday as a reason to reactivate a buying relationship with you?Here are a few ideas that can bring your previous customers back into your stores – and get them buying again.

Send them a card- though we may think people get too many of these – your customers appreciate them just the same.
Give them a gift- send them a small token to let them know you care.
Throw them a party- have a holiday customer appreciation party.
Ask them to donate- have a charity run where they have to come to the store to donate toys, gifts, etc.
Send them a gift card for your store- This way when they come to use it, they can purchase other items as well.
Give them a coupon for future purchases- Send them a discount coupon that they can use now or later that will motivate them to buy.Most big stores make most of their money during the holidays: Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.My question is, why should they have all of the holiday fun?Use this opportunity to increase your holiday profits, so that you too can have a season full of great cheer.

The Auto Transport Broker and The Piracy of The Truck Driver

Have you ever thought about what it takes to run a profitable business? To tell the truth before owning my own auto transport business I never gave it a second thought. Frankly, I think most people are just like me. Many folks just get up in the morning, drive to work, put in their eight hours and go home. The next day they get up and start all over again; it is like being in a rut.You are probably thinking that is cold! Well, fact of the matter is that is exactly how I used to be. When we hate what we are doing, we just go through the motions. Who cares if there is a profit or not, it does not affect me – we think. All we are there for is to put in our time and collect a paycheck that doesn’t go far enough.You are probably wondering what this all has to do with auto transport and the piracy of the truck driver. Well, as employees we had better start caring about the company profits. Think about it for just a minute. If they do not make a profit, we probably will not have a job for long. Have you ever thought about it that way?Auto transport industry is no different…After talking with a truck driver, today this very point came to mind. Our whole conversation revolved around the economics of running our mutual businesses. There are so many pieces to the puzzle; but, one main reason really took the majority of the talk.Today there are too many auto transport brokers out there not doing their job the right way. Greed has set in and taken over all common sense. Their focus is on their commission today and not that of the customer, trucker or industry. There is no looking at the stability of the business for tomorrow, next week or next year.Doing whatever it takes to secure the order they lie, cheat and bait the customer to earn a few dollars. Now I am not saying it is not right to earn money, not at all. The point is that doing business that way is an injustice to all. How you ask?I could really get on my soapbox here and rant for hours. Instead, let us focus on just one area of concern…the truck driver, or as we call them the owner operator.Owner operators do not work for free either!As a business owner, many expenses occur monthly this is called overhead. There are necessary expenditures that keep the truck, office, drivers and other employees “in business”, or employed.The business owner goes into business to make a profit. Sounds reasonable, right? They know what it costs to replace tires, change the oil and other fluids necessary to keep the big rig safe on the roads. There are permits, fuel taxes and surcharges, insurance costs and fuel costs too. Of course we can not forget there are truck payments, trailer payments, and the savings surplus account for repairs.Next they must price out their loads to cover the driver expense, taxes, meals and sometimes-overnight lodging accommodations. Then there needs to be some sort of profit margin so the company can stay in business for the following month.If the business owner is the truck driver as well, he or she must factor in the personal expenses, too. Most have a husband or wife at home with kids. There is the mortgage, power and water bills, telephone, food, insurance and taxes just like all the rest of us.Auto transport brokers must educate the customer…Part of the job of an auto transport broker is to educate the customer. I do not know about you, but before becoming a broker I knew nothing about the industry. We learned by talking with truck drivers who had years of business experience under their belts. By implementing these principles in my own business we have been able to weather the storm of this new economy when others have not.Let me ask you a question…when is the last time you were able to walk into your local supermarket and tell the cashier what you were going to pay for that loaf of bread? Ha…won’t happen will it? Of course not. The market sets the price us consumers will pay for the product and we either buy it or we don’t, right?When auto transport brokers do their job correctly, the customer will understand how the transport business works. They will understand why the prices are what they are. Sure there will be slight differences between brokers. Healthy competition is expected and good in the marketplace.What is not good is when one sector of the industry turns to piracy. By charging the customer an excessive rate then paying the trucking company less than market rates this upsets the apple cart. It makes for an unbalanced industry and forces good people like you and me out of business.Two years ago, we watched as about 75% of owner operators handed in their keys. Some of these hard-working men and women were our friends. Business owners who had provided our clientele incredible service at equitable prices. We had developed friendships. They are real people, just like us. More than once, I cried myself to sleep after listening to the plight of these people and the causes for their decision.Today something has to change. More honest hearted people need to step up to the plate. Hard working auto transport brokers who own their own business need to get back to the basics. Educate the public that more than just diesel prices drive prices; which by the way is on the rise again.You would not work for free…stop asking these business owners to pay you to ship your car! As a broker we are not for the government stepping in to solve an industry’s problems like is so rampant today.However, as an individual auto transport business owner, I’m taking my stand. Education is key and our clients are well-educated, informed and happy. They are happy because their truck driver has a profitable business driven by fair market value.

The Battle For Vacation Rental Supremacy – HomeAway Versus TripAdvisor

The sum paid for Holiday Lettings has not been disclosed but one would assume that it generated very good value for the 2 co-founders of Holiday Lettings. And, since TripAdvisor is owned by the publicly quoted Expedia, one would also assume that it represents value for Expedia’s shareholders over the long term.But question: Is this value for the customers of Holiday Lettings, the owners and renters that have made the site so successful until now?The Advantages of CompetitionFor starters, someone that challenges the supremacy of HomeAway brings competition to the market place. And with competition, usually the consumer wins either through price or through an improved product. Price is unlikely to change because an annual listing fee on these sites is typically around $300 hundred dollars. If you achieve a few weeks rental then it’s a relatively cheap and hassle free service. So if not price then what?Perhaps investment in product? Bearing in mind the millions which HomeAway is setting aside for it’s marketing programme, including the recent Super Bowl ad, then it’s likely TripAdvisor will put some money into Holiday Lettings, or it’s US based vacation rental business, Flipkey. But aside from investment and some competition for HomeAway it’s hard to see any other advantages, especially as TripAdvisor claims to be leaving Holiday Lettings to run independently.The Downside of GrowthWith boasts from HomeAway that they have 500,000 listings worldwide, and TripAdvisor surely having similar ambitions, we have to wonder whether these sites are becoming too large. With growth you usually risk losing sight of your customer who, in the end, controls the success of the product. And with growth some owners claim that their rental listing is lost among the masses of other rentals in their area.Where Should the Investment Go?What are vacation rentals all about? Surely they are now exactly what they were 10 years ago – a more personal vacation accommodation option than corporate hotel chains, with very good value and facilities. With the explosion of social media and the trend towards people wanting to engage with real people, we believe there is a perfect storm between social media, the internet and vacation rentals. If there is investment money available then let’s refine the product to bring real value to customers – give them the platform and tools to promote everything that’s great about vacation rentals. Let’s see the owner, let’s hear their knowledge of the local area, let’s see their videos, their Facebook pages – let’s bring personality back into vacation rental websites.


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