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Getting Noticed as a Small Fish

Getting Noticed as a Small Fish
By: Alison Lane, Business Advisor

“Helloooo, I’m Here!” 

Small Fish Raise your hand if you have ever got up early, hustled, and given 110% only to find the phone is not ringing, the door is not opening, and the cash register stays shut. 

We can all agree that owning a small business is demanding, perplexing, and often lonely, but those new to the game or competing in a particularly busy market have the extra challenge of getting noticed.  No sales revenue means no money to spend to generate sales, and it can often feel like swimming in circles. 

Fortunately, there are many low or no-budget actions that can be taken to generate awareness, optimize service, and keep customers coming back.

What Really Is Targeting?

Target Target marking is not wasting precious time or dollars reaching the wrong audience or using the wrong channel.  Stop trying to connect with everyone and target the “low-hanging fruit”.  Who is most likely to use your product or service?  Who can afford it? 

Once you have determined who will be the easiest to sell to, dig in!  How can they be reached—are they on social media?  Do they go to events?  Are they part of a networking group?  Think about what is important to them. When purchasing your product or service, do they care about quality, price, packaging, availability, number of choices, design, something else?  Tailor your offerings to meet the needs of the most likely customers. 

Market research is how you find your answers.  Using the Internet or a market research tool like Google Trends is a good start, but nothing beats putting the boots to the ground and talking to people.  Surveys, interviews, social media engagement, and networking can all get you connected.  People love to share their tastes and preferences, so do not be afraid to ask!

It Is About Who You Know

NetworkNetworking is a great method to do market research, but it has many purposes and usually only costs you your time.  Networking events are easy to find via social media, your local business resource partners (like the Maine SBDC), and municipal economic development departments.

Attending a local networking event will get you face-to-face with potential customers and give you the opportunity to give your pitch and put a face to a business name.  One of the biggest values of face-to-face marketing is that it humanizes your company.  How often do you ignore an ad that pops up on your phone?  If someone was standing in front of you telling you about that product, would you pay more attention?  What if they shook your hand?  What if they did something for you?  You’d almost be a guaranteed customer, at least one-time.

Drive Loyalty: Quality Over Quantity

Thumbs upMost businesses rely to some extent on repeat customers, and even those that sell items you only purchase once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-while (like houses, cars, and LLBean apparel, of course) can benefit from loyalty-driven referrals.  Some even say the Pareto principle applies to marketing in the sense that 80% of sales will come from 20% of customers.

So how can you inspire loyalty to ensure that 20% keeps coming back (preferably more and more) and will share their experience with others?

  1. Give them something to talk about—be memorable or do something different: Make a statement, support a cause, throw a party, give out free samples.
  2. Reward customers for talking about you or being loyal. Try, “Share this Facebook post to be entered into our contest…”  Hand out loyalty punch cards to encourage frequent purchases.
  3. Make your customers feel special: Greet them by name, remember their preferences, go above and beyond to satisfy them, feature your customers on social media
  4. Thank your customers: Host a customer appreciation event, mail out thank-you notes or holiday cards, donate to your customer’s favorite causes

It is more than just a little frustrating when your top line number just won’t budge, but small efforts can generate a big return. 

At the end of the day, remember to be persistent –No Fortune 500 company was a household name on day one and part of being an entrepreneur is accepting failure and learning to pivot.

Need help understanding your market? A Maine SBDC business advisor can help (at no cost!). Find an advisor near you.

Lorne Wine – Biddeford, Maine

Lorne- Wine Logo Erin Sheehan and her husband Carson James first approached the Maine Small Business Development Centers (Maine SBDC) with an idea and a draft business plan. They needed help refining their plan and creating financial projections in order to secure financing.

Erin and Carson started working with Business Advisor Susan Desgrosseilliers. Susan helped the pair to understand and create helpful and realistic financial projections. They also worked together to fine-tune their business plan and understand the lenders that could meet their needs. Susan introduced Erin and Carson to Chris O’Brien from Southern Maine Finance Authority (SMFA). They submitted their application and received the funding they needed to start their business.Read More

Maine’s Greatest Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Is the Wave of Retiring Boomers Maine’s Greatest Entrepreneurial Opportunity?

By: Business Advisor Raynor
Business Advisor | Business Certified Appraiser

Business For Sale Starting a business from scratch is one of the most rewarding – and difficult – challenges to undertake. Filing for an LLC is easy, but helping the business to grow and develop requires time, effort, and unconditional (and sometimes unrequited) love.

The hurdles are significant:  20% of startups fail in the first year – a rate that jumps to well over 40% by year 4. [1] Top reasons for failure include: No Market Need (42%), Not Enough Cash (29%), Not the Right Team (23%), Product without a Business Model (17%), and Poor Marketing (14%).[2]

But, if you want the coveted title of Entrepreneur, what’s the alternative? How can you reduce these risks and still achieve your goals?

Buy a Business that already exists. Consider:

  • 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day[3], across the country
  • Maine is the oldest State in the US[4]
  • In the next 15 years, 12 Million Businesses are expected to Sell nationwide – [5] equating to $3.8 trillion in small businesses transferring by 2040[6]

These statistics paint a dark picture that will affect every industry and county in our State… but, for the right people, it’s a land of unrivaled opportunity. By and large, the advantages of purchasing an existing business mitigate the risks of starting one, and you’ll still have the ability to tailor its next steps to reflect your strengths and goals.Read More

Experience Maine – Cumberland, Maine

Experience Maine - Logo Rachel Sagiroglu is passionate about all that Maine has to offer. That is why she decided to start Experience Maine, a new full-service travel concierge and event planning company. Rachel knew that tourism is Maine’s largest industry, but noticed that the corporate meetings and events segment of the industry has only grown by 50,000 business-related travelers in the last three years. With over 20 years of experience in event planning, she wanted to help expand Maine’s corporate meeting and events market.

For guidance on the steps to starting this exciting new business, Rachel contacted Business Advisor Susan Desgrosseilliers from the Maine Small Business Development Centers. Together they worked to price Rachel’s services, create financial projections and develop a business plan that would help understand her business and obtain a loan from Coastal Enterprises.Read More

New Workplace Violence Prevention Training for Retail Small Businesses

Maine SBDC has partnered with the University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute to create a FREE, self-paced online training just for retail and foodservice small businesses!

DID YOU KNOW?

As an employer, you are legally responsible for safety in the workplace.

Workplace violence is the 2nd leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S. overall and the leading cause of death for women. In 2016, cashiers and retail sales supervisors had the highest homicide rates of any occupation, occurring most commonly during a robbery (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).

The training includes information on the types of violent threats in retail workplaces, including robbery, shoplifting, unwelcome walk-ins, and threats from customers or employees. Employers and employees will learn how to respond to violence or the threat of violence by reading body language and using de-escalation techniques. Employers will learn how to establish a workplace violence prevention program. 

This training focuses on recognizing risks and different types of violence, warning signs of violence, de-escalating violent situations, creating a workplace violence prevention plan, and reporting to OSHA. The online program is free and accessible from any computer or mobile device.
Participants may login when convenient and complete the training at their own pace. After
successful completion, the staff member is awarded a downloadable certificate.

Access the training herehttp://www.mainesbdctraining.org

The Cutler Institute, a part of USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, was awarded a $116,000 OSHA grant to help create the online training. The funding is part of the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. The grants provide educational and training programs to help employees and employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures, and understand their rights and responsibilities.

Purple Shed Woodworks LLC – Portland, Maine

Purple Shed WoodworksAfter losing their father to cancer in 2016, Renée Ledoux began to question her career choice as an emergency room nurse. Jason Ledoux began to question his career path after spending time working a desk job, quickly realizing pushing papers was not for him. Neither felt passionate about their career paths and wanted more. One night over dinner with their mother, they were discussing how their father had worked for himself for many years and they got an idea. Why couldn’t they start their own business? The business could combine Jason’s talent and knowledge of woodworking with Renée’s outgoing personality and attention to detail, it would be the perfect partnership. They decided to give it a shot!Read More

Swanson Consulting & Associates – Trenton, ME

Swanson Consulting & Associates LogoTerri Swanson has successfully held several professional roles over her career. In March 2018, she decided it was time to fulfill her dream and utilize her experience in a new way. With a passion for helping people, she started her own Human Resources consulting business, Swanson Consulting & Associates.

Terri was in the beginning stages when she met Certified Business Advisor Shannon Byers.  In Shannon, Terri found someone who could give feedback, ask questions that would generate ideas, and be supportive of her new business.  Together, the pair worked through the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition. This work together provided a visual guide to better understand the business and helped identify critical areas of focus in order to be successful.Read More

Maine SBDC names Ann McAlhany as 2019 State Star

Bangor, Maine –The Maine SBDC has selected Ann McAlhany as the 2019 State Star. The award, given annually, recognizes a member of the Maine SBDC staff that has shown exemplary performance and a strong commitment to small business success.

“Ann is dedicated to the success of her clients and the Maine SBDC program. She is a leader and role model among her peers and we are lucky to have her as part of our team,” said Maine SBDC State Director, Mark Delisle.

Read More