Like most of you, I’ve heard of the air quality issues here in Klamath but have not really paid much attention. I’ve been guilty of burning on a red day. My house was cold and the woodstove was the affordable way to heat it.
I was somewhat forced to learn more about air quality through my work at the Chamber. You may or may not know the Chamber is involved in economic development and I learned air quality IS about economic development. And now more than ever, it’s a priority.
We have a window of opportunity over the next six months. If we can reduce our wood smoke, we can avoid more government intervention and regulation. If we fail to reduce the wood smoke, these interventions could force our existing industries to shell out millions of dollars to meet new, stiffer regulations. These new regulations will make it difficult to attract new industries to our community. Whether we’re talking existing or new industries, failure to reduce wood smoke could negatively impact jobs!
Choosing what tools you will use to spread the word about your business an important part of your marketing plan. Whether you decide to use the internet, newspaper, television, or all three, it should be included in your marketing plan and your marketing budget.
One of the best ways to assure that your business is recognized across all advertising mediums is to create a logo. When you use a logo regularly, people will begin to associate that logo with your business. For instance, think of some national businesses you are familiar with. Some of them don’t even use their business name in their advertising anymore because they simply don’t need to. Their logo is so widely known, that if they air a commercial on television, all they have to do is flash their logo and everyone knows what business the commercial is for. If you develop your own logo, people who come in contact with your business will learn to think of you any time they see the logo, in any media you choose to advertise.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a logo. If you can’t create your own, there’s likely to be a graphic artist or a web designer who would be willing to help you for a lower price than a professional marketing firm. They may even be willing to trade services with you, or set up a payment plan. There are a few professionals within the Chamber membership, check with them and mention you're also a member.
If you are a business that provides material goods to customers, you need to have a plan for disbursing those goods. Most of these are stores where customers enter and purchase their items, but a growing number of businesses are either partially, or entirely online. Businesses that have, in the past, been entirely physical places are now starting websites to reach more customers in a larger geographical area.
When a business expands in this way, it is important to decide how these items will be distributed. What shipping company will be used? How much will you charge the customer for shipping? Some businesses charge all customers one flat rate for shipping, and others offer free shipping. It is also a good idea to decide in advance how you will handle overseas orders. Whether you will ship overseas or not should be noted on your website.
Special offers should also be noted on your website, if you have one. People love a good deal. If you’re trying to increase your customer base, one of the best ways to get new customers in the door is by offering discounts, free trials, package deals, money back guarantees, or free items. Oftentimes, specials such as these draw new potential customers, as well as bring back customers you haven’t seen for a while. Be careful not to train your clients that if they wait long enough, there will be a special offer. Try to plan any special deals around times that your business usually slows down.
Every business has a niche to fill. One of the most important parts of developing your marketing plan is deciding where your business will fit in amongst your competitors. Are there already three other businesses who provide the same service as you? How will you differentiate your business from those? If two of those businesses claim to have the best prices, and the third business claims to have the highest quality, you need to find the pigeonhole your business fits into. Your business should have its own flavor. Perhaps your business has the newest technology, best customer service, or you were the first one to provide that service.
Being different is key. Without a differentiating factor, your business will blend in with the crowd. You want to stand out. Finding some things that make your business different and better is an important part of building your client base. The same goes for your advertising. If you’re an insurance company, you probably shouldn’t use a lizard as your mascot because that’s already been done. Develop your own creative way to promote your business. Whatever you choose should also project your positioning strategy. You don’t want to use a cartoon mascot to represent a high end product.
Though it may be tempting to try to provide your product or service at all price ranges, that’s not the best strategy. If you want to provide luxury furniture, then the image you should project to your clients is that of a high end furniture store. Your customers expect to walk into a store full of luxury items. They don’t expect to see some luxury and also some inexpensive low quality furniture. This can actually hurt your image. Pricing should also reflect your positioning strategy. Examine your competition’s prices. If you want to position yourself as the lowest priced, you will need to know your competitors’ prices too.
A proposition is like a slogan; a sentence or catchphrase that customers will learn to associate with your business. It should include information about your market niche. Does your business provide the fastest service among your competitors? The best quality? The lowest price? Find the thing that makes your business stand out from your competitors and include it in your proposition.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have a pretty good idea what makes your customers come to you as opposed to your competition. If that feature worked to attract them the first time, it is likely to attract them again. Your proposition should include the things that have worked for your business specifically. It should also project the image that you want your customers to see.
You may be thinking, “What if I don’t know why customers choose me over the competition?” There are a few ways to go about finding out why. One way is to investigate the competition. Visit their locations if possible. Look at their website or other online media they use. Talk to people who have used their services. What differences can you find? What are they doing better or worse than you?
There are many things to consider when trying to determine the best way to reach your target audience. The first thing you need to know is who your target audience is. Once that has been decided, it will be much easier to pinpoint some different ways to reach them. It’s important not to assume that everyone is your target audience. In any business, there are two or three groups of people who are most likely to use your services.
For example, if you own a landscaping or painting business, your target market will most likely be home owners or business owners. By making this distinction, you’ve already cut a large portion of the population out of your target market. Now it’s time to determine how to reach that audience. What local events can you be a part of that will put you in a room full of home and business owners? What publications do many home and business owners read?
Consider sponsoring a local event that is geared toward your target audience. Sponsors’ names are mentioned in the advertising for the event. When several businesses collaborate on an event, all of those businesses bring customers and advertising opportunities with them. If your business sells western memorabilia, sponsoring a rodeo might prove to be a good investment. If your business sells athletic equipment, you may want to sponsor a sports team.
The first step in creating your marketing plan is to identify your target market. Regardless of the type of business you have, there is a core group of consumers who are most likely to need your product or service. Your job is to identify that group (or groups) and determine the best way to reach those particular people. You can use this worksheet to help guide you to your target audience.
Suppose you are the owner of a mid-priced restaurant. Your marketing plan is most likely not going to include a billboard in Medford. Your advertising is likely to be centered in Klamath Falls, and most likely, within a few miles of your business’s location. However, if your business sells building supplies to contractors, your marketing plan may very well include a billboard in Medford.
Just as the location of the advertisements differs between businesses, so do the target audiences. While the owner of a mid-priced restaurant may target businesspeople and families, a building supply store will target contractors. This may seem very obvious, but some target audiences are harder to pick out.
Many business owners don’t know where to begin when it comes time to develop a marketing plan. Some don’t even know what a marketing plan is. The Chamber wants to help! Over the next few weeks, I will be posting information on marketing plans: what they are, where to start, and how they can benefit your business.
Marketing plans are a guide to all of the marketing you plan throughout the year. For example if you publish advertising in a local trade magazine or newspaper, you will want to plan in advance what your advertisements will look like and focus on for each month. This will help you avoid the last minute crunch that sometimes happens when life gets busy. Sometimes that last minute crunch can be the reason a business misses the deadline to submit a new advertisement. Does the month in question host a holiday? Are your products more necessary at certain times of the year? What should you do in the slower months? These kinds of questions should be addressed in your marketing plan.
Financial records are easy to reference whenever questions arise. Your marketing plan should be too. Each month, you should review how you plan to promote your business. Consider your marketing plan as an instructional guide to get your business to the place you want it to be.
“Jobless recovery”, it is a term that is becoming part of the modern lexicon. But, should we be surprised we are experiencing a jobless recovery? As a country we have been purposefully heading this direction for decades and now that we are arriving at our destination it is creating serious change and havoc, and none too little consternation.
On the legislative and policy side of the issue, we have been mandating ever higher employment expenses through wage increases, individual safety expenses, hiring regulations, building codes, hours of work, age restrictions, ergonomics, and a wide variety of industry standards, and expecting the business community to absorb them as part of a profitable business model.
On the innovation side of things, we are creating technologies, software, hardware, and business efficiencies that continually reduce the number of labor hours needed to produce almost anything.
Employers Must Provide Written Notice by October 1st
October 1 is the deadline for employers to provide written notice of healthcare options to all current employees, as required by sections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (new employees must be notified by their hire date). Regardless of size or whether a company provides employees with health insurance or is required to provide it, every employer must provide written notice that communicates the following:
- Informs the employee of the existence of the health insurance marketplace (referred to in the statute as the Exchange) including a description of the services provided by the marketplace, and the manner in which the employee may contact the marketplace to request assistance;
- If the employer plan’s share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan is less than 60 percent of such costs, that the employee may be eligible for a premium tax credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code (the code) if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the marketplace; and
- If the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the marketplace, the employee may lose the employer contribution (if any) to any health benefits plan offered by the employer and that all or a portion of such contribution may be excludable from income for federal income tax purposes.
Health Insurance for More Oregonians