The Right Blend

I recently went to the new coffee house that opened up in our area. I had heard from a few people that the coffee was really good, the atmosphere was inviting, and that it is a good place to relax and socialize. When I walked up to the counter, I noticed that there were over a dozen blends of coffee for me to choose from. As I read the tags for each, trying to decide which one would appeal to my taste buds that day, the young lady behind the counter came over, said good morning, asked me if I had any questions. I said good morning back to her, thought about it for a moment, told her that I was leaning towards something smooth and flavorful, and asked what would she recommend. She told me that either the Caribbean or Morning blend would be a good choice. I went with the Caribbean blend.

As I sat back in one of the chairs to relax and enjoy my coffee, the owner of the shop came over to say good morning, and to see if there was anything else I needed. I said good morning back, that I was good for now, and thanked him for asking. As I sipped on my coffee, I started to reflect on the superior level of customer service that both the owner and his employee exhibited. They made sure I felt welcomed, answered any questions I had, and made me feel like I mattered as a customer. Something, I am sad to say, that has become a forgotten art at many places.

As I sat and savored my coffee, which was an excellent recommendation, I noticed the shop was empty except for me. Looking at the clock, it dawned on me that at this time of the morning there should be more people, since the coffee shop had an excellent location. Then the realization hit me that I had never seen any advertisements for this shop. Everything I knew about it had come from word of mouth.

So what happens when you own a business, have a good product, solid customer service, and customers that tell everyone how good your product is, yet are struggling to get your name out there and build your business? It would seem that you have all of the ingredients to be successful, or do you?

The truth of the matter is that many small businesses struggle to find the right blend of of marketing and advertising that works for their business. Many of these places don’t have a web site, are not engaged in social media, or take advantage of targeted advertising for their area. In other cases they contract with companies to help them that have no understanding, or desire to understand their business, and try to sell them on advertising packages that reach everyone except for their local market. On the flip side, while the grass roots “word of mouth” approach is great for building your local client base, without the vehicle in place to help promote that, it is a long drawn out struggle.

So what is the answer? Just like the coffee shop, with the various blends of coffee, you need to find the right blend that works for your business.

As a small business ourselves we understand the challenge this can present. So, if you need help finding the right blend that works for your business, contact us, we are here to help.

Vertical Markets

I was recently at a power breakfast that was hosted by Delaware’s Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, of which we are a member. Following a great presentation on Social Networking held by Dale Carnegie Training, we had the opportunity to network and socialize. I was discussing my business with a few people, and talked about our launch of services into targeted vertical markets. I could see that some people were confused, and the reason why didn’t quite click until later when I was talking to my business partner. I was gently reminded that most people don’t live in my world of technology and marketing, and chances are they really don’t understand what a vertical market is, or how it can help them, as a business, grow their sales or build their client base.

It was a point that made me realize that it is our choice of words when we are talking to others, that is just as important as what we are talking about, how we relate it to their business, and how we interact with them. The language we use in our jobs is sometimes very unique to our industry, and sounds like a foreign language to anyone outside.

So what exactly is a vertical market? In the simplest of terms, it is a product or service that meets the needs of a specific group, industry, or business sector. Banks are one form of a vertical market, they meet the financial and banking needs on two levels, both personal and business. Basically any target specific industry is considered a vertical, such as: restaurants, clothing stores, auto repair shops, jewelry stores, etc…

The difficulty for many small businesses comes in defining exactly what their vertical markets are when they are targeting their products and services, and trying to figure out the best approach to market to their potential clients, and what language to use. There was a tutorial on a yellow pages sales training site that I recently worked on that makes a great example for this:

The sales person from this publisher was in contact with a plumber. The plumber had a prominent ad under the plumbing heading in their directory. The sales person also asked if the plumber did work with heating and air conditioning. The plumber said “Of course I do, it is part of what a plumber does”. To which the sales person responded “Your ad isn’t under the air conditioning or heating headings. Most people flip to these when they have an emergency or need service. The average consumer doesn’t realize that this is what a plumber can also do.”

For this plumber, he had three potential vertical markets that he could target with his services.

For my business, we recently launched a new vertical of our own. We are now offering technology and social media business services to other small businesses in Delaware. When it comes to defining your market, and building a solution to help you target that market, the one size fits all approach that many companies offer doesn’t work. Like with the example of the plumber, it comes down to understanding their business, and helping them to reach the market where their services would be the most beneficial. You would not offer them the same type of solution as you would a florist or a restaurant, because the businesses are far different.

If you are struggling to reach your target market, tired of the lack of response from your solutions provider, or paying for something that just doesn’t work for your business, we are here to help.

Helping your business grow is our vertical market.

Brand Awareness

For those of us that grew up during the 1970’s and 1980’s, I am sure you remember classic TV commercials that ran all the time, like the “Where’s the Beef” commercial from Wendy’s. Then there were the jingles that people used walk around singing, like the one for McDonald’s Big Mac (Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun), or simple sayings like “Have a Coke and a Smile” from the Coca-Cola company.

This constant marketing of brands for major businesses is something that has evolved over the decades. Many companies look for that one line zinger,  icon, or symbol, that they can use that will stick in people’s minds. Like Subway’s “$5 foot long” jingle, or Geico’s spokes-lizard “the gecko”, or even “Just do it” for Nike. There is also the red bulls eye which is the symbol for Target.

Then there are the battles between products. One of the biggest rivalries, which you may have heard referred to as the “Cola Wars”, is the one between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It is a market share battle that has raged on for decades now. Each trying to not only outdo the other with their commercials and advertising, but also trying to groom the future soda drinkers to buy their product first. Pepsi launched a bold campaign, and installed tens of thousands of vending machines at hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States. This was done knowing that these soon to be graduating consumers would soon be shopping for themselves, and hoped that when they wanted a soda, they would buy Pepsi.

Coca-Cola took a different approach. They went after a total consumer market by visiting all of the major fast food chains, offering to install their drink fountains for free. They also gave huge discounts to these companies on supplies. Literally overnight, Coca-Cola became the drink of choice at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, and Subway. What could be a better way to make a lasting impression than having a person growing up drinking your product?

Then there is the world of technology and social media, with the continued growth of FaceBook and Twitter, which are now household names. Google has embedded itself into our daily lives with the Android platform that runs our “non-Apple” smart phones, and Apple with the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, has a popularity that has grown steadily on a global level. These are all new and evolving avenues for companies to promote and advertise their products on.

So what does all of this really mean to you the business owner? The answer is simple, these companies use their marketing and advertising to not only reach the current consumers, they are also grooming the future consumers. They are building brand awareness, in the hopes that when someone goes shopping, wants a quick bite to eat, a drink, or any one of a multitude of other services, that this “Brand” will come to mind first.

While this is much harder to do when you own a small business, since many of us lack the multimillion dollar budgets that these large companies have for their marketing and advertising promotions, it is possible. Our brand awareness is built one customer at a time. We work harder to provide superior customer services, and to stand behind our products and services 110%. We rely on the personal interaction with our potential customers and clients, getting to know them and their needs. It is this level of personal attention that is worth more in the end than a jingle, commercial, or ad, since the foundation of our brand is built on the customer’s faith and trust in us, and what we have to offer them.

So, what are you doing today to build your brand awareness?

Delaware 302 Business Services

Are you a small business or non-profit organization struggling with your web site, or trying to understand how to use social media? Let Delaware 302 help! The company which just announced the start of its online only store of merchandise branded with the State’s singular area code in November 2011 is now launching 302 Business Solutions.

302 Business Solutions is focused on assisting First State small businesses and non-profit organizations with the web site, graphic design, social media, and public relations challenges that they face. The web site/technology side of the offshoot business will be handled by Delaware 302 owner Phil Wojcik, who has 15 years of experience in website design, hosting, computer programming, and integrated data solutions.

“I’ve found that many small businesses are struggling with technology challenges. They either want to put together a website or online store, but don’t have the technical or design know how- or they have a site and are having issues with their current website hosting provider not providing the personalized level of customer support that they need,” says Wojcik. “I’ve got the experience to be able to help them with all of these issues and more. We believe in providing individualized service to customers, not try to sell them with a one-size-fits-all product.”

Wojcik says that many small businesses and non-profits also struggle with the affordability of technology solutions. As a small business itself, Delaware 302 can offer its services at a fraction of the price the larger design houses charges. Services that 302 Business Solutions will offer on the technology side include: web site design/redesign, ecommerce solutions, website hosting options, data migration, graphic design and branding.

Social media and public relations/public information will be handled by Andrea Summers, the company’s Director of Media relations. Summers also has 15 years of experience in the media, and public information field. Starting out as a local TV news reporter in the mid-1990s, she then spent the next 12 years as a Public Information Officer, specializing in gaining positive exposure for her agency. She is in charge of all of Delaware 302’s social media outlets.

“I’ve seen many small businesses and non-profit organizations that could expand and grow their business through the use of social media, be completely confused or overwhelmed by it,” says Summers. “If you know how to use it correctly you can reach many more potential or current clients/customers than ever before. I can help these groups set up their social media tools and provide training and guidance on how to best use them. We’ve also got options for those who want to use social media but be completely hands off.”

In addition to supporting businesses with social media tactics, 302 Business solutions also offers services including press release writing and dissemination, analyzing and creating advertising buys, press event coordination and media training.

More information on 302 Business Solutions can be found on Delaware 302’s website at www.DE302.com. Or contact us at info@delaware302.com. You can also friend us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DE302, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Delaware_302, connect with us on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/delaware302, or follow our blog at https://delaware302.wordpress.com. Delaware302.com is the online presence of Delaware302 LLC.

Forward Momentum

I was recently asked in a meeting with a fellow business owner: “What does it take to make a business grow?” The answer to that is not as cut and dry as many of the so called “experts” may want you to believe. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to growing your business, with the first and primary one being the type of business you have.

Lets use two different types of businesses as an example. On one side you have a repair shop that specializes in foreign cars, and on the other a florist. While these businesses are both targeted to the consumers, and they offer products and services that are event related, the type of marketing, web site design, social media targeting, and target audiences are vastly different. You would not expect these businesses to do the exact same thing with their business solutions, and expect the same results.

Unfortunately this is what many of the solutions providers in the industry do. They bulk everyone under one umbrella and try to sell these businesses on a one size fits all package. Having been in the technology industry for almost 15 years, I have seen this time and time again, and ultimately it leaves the business unhappy, and in not all that much better of a position than when they started. The only difference, is that they have spent a small fortune to accomplish it.

Growing your business, and picking the solutions to help you do it, are as unique as your business itself. You can pick and choose the pieces that you put together to help you build that forward momentum, and move you closer to the end goal: Growth. You do not need to get tied into using an “off the shelf solution”, and hope that you have made the right choice.

Remember, no one knows your business better than you do.