Janet W Christy, author of Capitalizing on Being Woman Owned and 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses offers her sixth annual version of the Top Ten Resolutions for Women Business Owners.
1) Cast informed votes.New for 2012It is important for Small Business Owners to vote at all levels of government â€“ national, state and local, but to do it after researching the candidates. Small Businesses need advocates and champions in all areas of government, but not all candidates understand or are committed to actually helping. Almost all candidates for any office talk about the importance of Small Business and brag about what they will do to help. In order to make an informed decision and to sift through all the fancy words and empty promises you have to do your own research and not rely solely on campaign material and media coverage.
2) Be certain you know who your customers/clients are.Carried over from 2011Bankers and small business consultants say the biggest obstacle for all small businesses, especially woman-owned, is that they do not really know who their customers/clients are. If you are too general in the description of your customers (using words such as â€œallâ€ or â€œeveryâ€) you will likely be too general in your message and not stimulate actual purchases. If you do not bore down to specific customer/client types you will probably spend some of your time, effort and money marketing to the wrong people. Look back at the misses and successes of the last two years and use that data to help you reassess your idea of your real customers/clients and prospects.
3) Avoid the seduction of quick or easy revenue.New for 2012 If you have accurately identified your true customer/clients then do not be influenced by a prospect who wants to purchase something your do not sell, unless there are multiple, long-term prospects that offer revenue opportunities great enough to be profitable. Also, be careful of consultants, contact data base providers and others who offer riches untold from their lists of decision makers and â€œqualifiedâ€ opportunities.
4) Understand that what you sell/provide is not what is important . Modified from 2011. Remember that you are not selling your products or services, you are meeting the needs or solving the problems of your prospects and clients/ customers! Market your products/services in a way that addresses the needs, problems, wants and obstacles of your customers/clients. Look at it from their view point. Speak their language.
5) Follow Up and Follow ThroughCarried over from 2011. The primary criticism of all small businesses by buyers (government and commercial) is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a vendor follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality supplier. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying â€œout of sight, out of mindâ€; buyers say they deal with many vendors so they need for you to remind them that your business is still in operation and that you are still interested in meeting their needs.
6) Stop begging and harassing. New for 2012. As pointed out in the previous resolution Follow Up and Follow Through are essential; however, it is important not to go cross the line into begging and harassing. The difference is in the feedback or lack of it from prospects. First you must be certain that they need or could benefit from your product/service. If they can, but say they cannot afford it or offer some other reason for not purchasing, then you have to evaluate. Is there enough of an opportunity to merit the time and effort to â€œovercome their objectionsâ€? My mother used to tell me that too many reasons for not doing something start to look like excuses. If you think you are hearing excuses instead of objections, it is probably time to move on to the next prospect on your list. If it seems that you are begging or harassing then you have lost control of the sale.
7) Get over the need to be the lead dog.Combination of several past resolutions Many woman-owned businesses miss opportunities because they are not willing or do not know how to take advantage of chances at part of a sale, project or contract. Subcontracting and partnering increase your opportunities for revenue. Do not limit your opportunities because you want to wait for your own contract from the big corporations or federal agencies instead of partnering with or subcontracting to another business. An additional benefit is that not being the lead means you spend less time seeking business because the lead dog does most of the seeking.
8) Put it in writing. Carried over from 2011I still see so many people suffer from not putting important things in writing. If you put the specifics of every agreement and arrangement in writing you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships. Any partnering or subcontracting arrangement should be spelled out in an agreement and signed by all parties. Any contract with a customer/client should include a Scope of Work/Services that clearly states what you will do, what the customer/client will do and the amount and schedule of payment. All of this applies even if you know your partner, trust your prime contractor, think you understand the project/product requirements or believe in handshake agreements. Things can happen that will alter the original circumstances â€“ people leave, new factors arise, funds are delayed â€“ and if you are not protected by having terms in writing, you could jeopardize your revenue and/or reputation. If you are working with or for friends or relatives, putting conditions and stipulations in writing is just as important and sometimes even more so because it may save a relationship.
9) Put your marketing plan on your calendar not the shelf.New take on an all time favorite. You should develop a schedule of marketing actions, put them on your calendar and carry them out â€“ just as you would any product or service development or delivery for a customer/client. No matter how perfect your marketing plan is, if it sits on a shelf it does you no good. If you do not schedule the actions in the plan and commit to completing them, they will keep getting pushed aside and maybe never done. And we all know that if you do not market your business, you will eventually have no business.
10) Research.Important resolution for any year. Most of the previous resolutions require some research to carry them out effectively. Research is an investment of time to insure that you find the right prospects, do the right thing, use the most compelling words, avoid pitfalls, minimize mistakes and reap the most benefits. Think of research as a light, without light you will just blunder around in the dark.
More detailed information and guidance is provided by Janet W. Christy in her books 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses andCapitalizing on Being Woman Owned in her blog www.janetwchristy.wordpress.com and in articles on her websites www.leverageanddevelopment.com and www.janetchristy.com.
Janet W. Christy is the founder and President of Leverage & Development, LLC, a consulting firm that helps Woman and Minority owned businesses use their status to their advantage. Her services include marketing research and planning, certification assistance, sales guidance, and assistance in government bidding. She is based in Greer, South Carolina; she does offer phone consultations.