Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Gardening Can Teach You About Marketing

Spring is in the air (or at least on the calendar), and people everywhere are starting to think about their gardens for the year. While gardening might not seem to have much to do with business, in reality, it has several lessons it can teach us about running a successful marketing campaign. Here are four to keep in mind as you prepare your yard this year.

Start with a plan

Any experienced gardener knows a garden must be carefully planned. From lighting and shade considerations to eventual plant heights, watering needs, and general arrangement, failure to consider the characteristics of each individual plant can easily result in a struggling garden that doesn't please the eye.

Marketing is the same. Randomly throwing together a variety of different strategies and hoping something sticks is never a good approach. You need to plan how each piece will fit together and serve your ultimate goal: getting your message in front of the people who are most likely to buy from your company.

Provide regular maintenance

Once you plan and plant your garden, you'll find yourself returning regularly to care for it. Weeding prevents undesirable plants from taking over. Watering ensures the garden prospers and grows. Without regular care, your plants could die, and the entire garden might turn into a small, wild field.

Your marketing also requires regular attention. Track how well each strategy performs and how much you're spending per customer. Identify areas to improve and refine your marketing. On social media, use each platform to interact with your followers. They aren't going to magically buy just because you set up a page.

Have patience when tracking results

Gardeners know the fruits of their labor might not be visible for several weeks or even a couple months. They put in the work and planning so their yard can look amazing in the future.

You must also be willing to wait to see the results of your marketing efforts. Just because you sent out a direct mail flyer or set up a few social media sites doesn't mean customers will just start rolling in. You need to have patience to see results and understand that marketing is all part of the plan to grow your business.

Make a plan to handle abundance

Anyone who's ever planted a garden knows that sometimes you get too much in return. Maybe your bushes have started to grow so much they're overtaking the other plants. If you planted vegetables, you might suddenly have too much produce on your hands. You need a plan to deal with this excess.

It's also possible in business to get overwhelmed by a very successful marketing campaign. A sudden influx of customers can leave your company scrambling to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with fluctuating customer numbers. Consider part-time help and training staff to adequately handle larger numbers so no customer gets neglected.

As you plan your garden this spring, consider the many lessons you can learn about marketing as you go. If you're ready to start working on a new marketing campaign, contact us. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry

The Internet has been an enormous asset when it comes to doing business. We now have the power to reach potential customers around the world. But while the Internet has given us incredible benefits, it has also produced one major drawback: competition.

Thanks to the Internet, you're likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today's consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.

To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you'll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you're looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.

So, how do you discover your niche?

Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.

If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.

Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you'll have the best chance of growing your business.

What do you do once you have your niche?

Once you've figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don't want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You'll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.

In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.

Once you've identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you'll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.

In today's competitive marketplace, you don't have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.

Translating a Study Abroad Experience Into Business Success

Studying abroad is a popular and honored tradition for many students as they go through college. If you had the opportunity to do so, you likely reveled in the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. But while you were busy learning about new cultures, you were also learning some valuable insight about business. You just might not have realized it. Here are three lessons you learned about being successful in business while you were studying abroad.

Jump in with both feet

When you find yourself studying in a foreign country, you don't have the luxury of taking it slow. You're living in a new land, completely immersed in the new culture. You now have to completely rely on your language and culture lessons because this is no longer just practice.

When you start a new business, you need to apply the same principles. You need to jump in with both feet and completely apply yourself to your new business and new industry. If you try to cut corners or resist investing the time and energy needed for the business, it's going to be substantially more difficult to succeed.

Be assertive about learning

When you first arrive in a foreign country, the next six months or year feels incredibly long, but it's actually quite short. Before you know it, you're back on a plane coming home. You have only a matter of months to absorb all you can about your temporary country. This means meeting the people, trying the food, seeing the sites, and learning the language. You need to be assertive about learning to maximize your opportunities.

When you start a new business, you need to dedicate yourself to learning as well. Once your business officially opens, you only have so much time financially before you need to start having customers. Before you open your doors, you should have a very good understanding of everything there is to know about your customers, how to market to them, and what your appeal will be to reach them.

Surround yourself with helpful people

When you arrive in a new country to study abroad, you're likely to experience some degree of culture shock. There will be a period, however brief, when you feel overwhelmed by the differences in how things are done in the new country versus your home country. One of the best ways to cope with these problems is to surround yourself with people who can help you. In a school program, this might be fellow students going through the same emotions as you. If language becomes a struggle, professors can offer some additional tutoring to help you communicate as well. Finding these key people who want to help you is enormously beneficial.

In business, you'll also face difficult moments. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed with your ambitions and will wonder if success is possible or worth the effort you're putting into the company. You also need to surround yourself with helpful people who can support you. These people can serve as your sounding board, helping you bounce ideas around while also offering guidance when you feel like giving up.

Running a business is a challenging proposition for anyone. If you studied abroad, however, you learned some valuable lessons about success that you might not have even realized. As you begin to prepare for the future of your business, consider the lessons you learned and see how they might be applied to moving your new enterprise forward.