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

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.

Rhode Island Family Law – Children, Schools, Schooling And Education

Though not specifically addressed within the realm of Rhode Island divorce proceeding, a particular issue has raised its head several times in my practice over the years in the form more of a particular factual set of circumstances rather than as a direct legal issue itself.A recent call presented this scenario from a Rhode Island lawyer and colleague who was endeavoring to assist clients with a preplexing issue. It went something like this.Two parents who have not yet become a divorce statistic have moved across the country. Their minor child has remained with a friend (unrelated by blood or marriage to either parent) here in Rhode Island to provide consistency with the child remaining in his current school system, etc. The parents would like to have the child remain with the friend through the remainder of his or her schooling. The friend is presumably agreeable to his as long as the parents continue to provide the financial support necessary for the child and that the friend is not held responsible for any liability of the child. The friend also needs the authority to be able to act in the best interests of the child and take legal action as necessary to enroll the child in programs, receive confidential health care information regarding the child, etc…This of course causes a variety of questions to arise that the colleague wanted my input on. The general question was, how should this be done properly (i.e. legally) to be able to accomplish what they would like to do.The tremendous number of Rhode Island family law questions that this factual situation presents is remarkable and therefore, I will end this particular blog post with the questions it raises rather than simply providing the answer I believe is appropriate under the circumstances.Now you may be saying…. huh . . . Chris, what the heck are you doing? This is a Rhode Island Divorce Tips blog. What you’ve set your self up for is to give us TIPS and HELP on these issues, not to give us the darn questions and have us figure it out for ourselves!This may or may not be a semi-useless exercise but it is one that I wanted to try. True, this is a Rhode Island Divorce Tips blog and that it is my intention to give at least some general guidance regarding the issues presented as opposed to any specific legal advice. Yet the one common thread that I have found in writing this Rhode Island divorce and family law blog is that when people contact me about these issues they rarely appreciate the nature and depth of the issues or the true value that are getting by some insight from a legal professional who is trying to assist in the understanding of these issues.In truth, it seems that Rhode Islanders, divorce and family law clients, and even other Rhode Island lawyers who don’t practice in the areas of divorce and family law have a greater appreciation of the the depth and complexity of these legal problems and issues if they at least consider the questions. . . .or by considering the number and type of questions that present themselves to a legal practitioner when he or she either endeavors to provide some helpful information on a Rhode Island legal issue
relating to divorce and family law.Ultimately, is you consider the Rhode divorce and family law questions presented before receiving the answer directly, you gain a better understanding and appreciation of what legal professionals offer in their services and perhaps why their education is so costly which often necessitates rates that seem out of whack with today’s minimum wage.All this digression from the topic aside, consider these various questions that this scenario presents:1. Can an unrelated person be given legal authority over all aspects of their minor child’s life?2. Can custodial rights be given or assigned to another person?3. What are the bodies of rights that a parent has with respect to a child?4. How would you absolve people who take in your child from any liability for decisions relating to your child?5. If you have your child stay with an unrelated person iin a particular school district n order to keep the child in a particular school system, is this perpetrating a fraud upon the school department.6. If you can place your minor child with another person voluntarily and you do so, what are your obligations to support that minor child?7. If place your minor child with an unrelated person voluntarily and with the person’s consent and agree to continue to support the child but assign the child’s care to that unrelated person, who is responsible for the minor child’s transgressions if he or she decides to damage school property?The questions are truly endless. What are your thoughts? What else should you consider? These are all questions that are very specific and your matter is factually driven. There is no real set answer to any general questions such as these that could be included in an article such as this. In my opinion, the best you can hope for is to be informed and to think about all the concerns that need to be presented to the Rhode Island attorney that your approach to seek guidance about your factual situation.When approaching an attorney about these issues, list all the issues and concerns in the form of questions and present to the attorney a detailed picture of all the facts and relationships based on all the possible scenarios that may be encountered both by you as a parent or as a caregiver for the child. It is only be identifying all the facts and the anticipated issues that you want the caregiver to address and/or be protected on when executing those duties that a good Rhode Island family law practitioner will be able to provide you with sound legal advice to address your particular facts and circumstances.


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