Small Business Marketing – The Power of a Market Review

Conducting a market review is one of the most important steps in the small business marketing process as it provides together with a business review the information you need to create a dynamic marketing plan. All big businesses conduct these reviews as they know it can save time and money for their business.

A market review does not have to be complicated and a lot will depend on what information you can source. The important factor regarding a market review is to understand the key elements of your market and how these elements can affect your business now and in the future.

The key elements you need to look at when conducting a market review for your small business include:

Size of Market
Your market is simply the overall industry in which you compete. For example if you sell juice then you compete in the Beverage Market. If you sell holidays as a travel agent then you compete in the Tourism Market. Analyzing the size of your market can tell you whether it is growing or declining, help you to identify growth opportunities and for a new small business can determine if the market is large enough to compete in and operate a profitable business. There are many sources you can use to gather information on the size of your market and these include trade magazines, industry associations, search engines and local government websites and resources.

Market Segment Analysis

Segmentation is a process that looks at the total market and then divides the products or services into broad groups that have similar characteristics. In the examples above, whilst the total market is beverages, the segment that is the most important to a juice manufacturer is the Juice Segment. Looking at the total beverage market today throughout the world the leading soft drink manufacturers have entered many of the market segments such as bottled water to expand their business. Market segment analysis also helps you to determine where your small business marketing efforts should be concentrated.

Distribution Channel Analysis
A distribution channel is the way in which your product or service is made available to your customers so they can purchase it. Examples are supermarkets, personal selling (face to face selling), distributors and the internet. Analyzing the sales of each distribution channel in your market enables you to identify which channels are the most important for you to compete in to grow your business.

Market Trends
A trend is any significant change to your market that your business may need to respond to. Examples of market trends include changes to the economy, changing customer demographics, social and global factors (to name a few). If you conduct business in the USA at the moment or are intending to compete in the USA then the concerns about a possible recession and how it could affect your small business needs to be identified so action plans can be put in place to minimize the impact.

Market Seasonality
If a product or service is seasonal it means that the majority of the sales occur at one or a few times a year. Tax accountants obviously have increased sales when the end of the financial year occurs and tax returns and other government reporting are required. Understanding market seasonality factors can lead to your small business maximizing sales through this period and also may highlight opportunities to spread your sales throughout the year.

Competitor Analysis
Your key competitors need to be analyzed in order for you to identify their key strengths and weaknesses and how they compare to your own small business. Reviewing this area means that you can be smarter with your marketing efforts and be proactive against their weaknesses and of course defend against their strengths. One tip that all big businesses do is to have a competitor file with examples of their marketing activities, products or services.

Big businesses know the value of reviewing the market in which they compete and you can to. Remember you can start slowly and just review one section at a time and then put in place activities or make business decisions based on the review to grow your small business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

What Are Some Of The Most Important IT Services For Businesses?

The success of any business depends on maintaining smooth uninterrupted enterprise operations. In this digital age, it is essential that businesses have IT (information technology) services that will keep their network operational and intact with minimal down time. Because business computer systems and networks are always evolving it is imperative to work with the right IT company to maintain and preserve your companies’ data. This involves a number of steps in order to prevent loss of data due to disasters such as floods, fires, theft, power failure, equipment failure, etc. To ensure the success of your company, below you will find a list of some of the most important IT services for businesses.

Network backup systems are vital in order for a business to keep their data safe. Hiring an IT services company (that offers network support) will help ensure data is never lost or corrupted. With a network backup system in place, you can safely upload your client information, financial records and files via the Internet to a secure off site location where data cannot be harmed. By doing so, your data is safe from storms, fire, unauthorized intrusions, floods, viruses, and hardware malfunctions. As well, backups can be monitored 24/7 to ensure data availability in case of an emergency.

Remote monitoring is a very beneficial service for any size business that enables 24/7 monitoring of your computer network. While this is an effective method used to monitor systems for malicious bugs, intrusions, glitches, and emergencies, it’s also very cost effective. Proactively monitoring, managing, and maintaining your computer network remotely means problems are detected immediately and fixed without the need to have a technician physically come to the business location. Having a constant ‘guard’ for the system and network will help ensure uninterrupted network operation thereby reducing worker downtime. Nothing can be as frustrating as having an office full of workers who can’t work!

It is critical for every business to have effective email and spam protection as this step helps protect against potentially disastrous threats. A technician will help establish an email security and archiving system that will actively secure your email by stopping spam, viruses, worms, and other email-borne malware before reaching the inbox. Furthermore it allows you to preserve and access emails more easily and at the same time allows for the archiving of all inbound and outbound emails online for compliance and backup. There is also continual monitoring of email activity to ensure critical emails are being received and delivered.

With an IT company offering offsite back up disaster recovery solutions, businesses will ensure no data is lost should there be a disaster affecting the computing systems. Such a back up system makes data accessible 24/7 thereby ensuring that said data is immediately recoverable if there is an event such as power failure. High tech facilities house servers safely, protecting them from any unauthorized access and physically potential disasters such as humidity, fire, temperature extremes, dust, and floods. These storage facilities help to protect business systems and data, ensuring that your company information is protected.

A quality IT plan ensures complete backup services, daily checks on your backup, security monitoring, and effective disaster recovery solutions. The loss of client records or financial information could very well be the end of many companies. Unfortunately many companies also need to be protected from the malicious activity of competitors and hackers. Compiled with the waste of money on potential downtime, having an effective IT plan is a necessity for the success of any business.

Small Business Banking

As a small business owner, you will want to focus on banking features that are available, useful and help you realize success with your company. Each financial institution offers unique small business banking programs and packages. There are free business checking accounts, business savings accounts, loans and credit card services as well as online features from credit unions and banks to consider while conducting business. You will want to become familiar with their products so you can choose which will work for you and your business.

When looking at the selection of credit unions and banks, you will see many types of small business banking services that can meet your needs. Some credit unions and banks offer free business checking accounts, while others require a minimum balance. You may need after hour depositing and many small business banking programs include this. Most banks and credit unions offer a debit card or check card with the opening of a free business checking account. This can prove to be a convenient and efficient way to make purchases for your business. You may have an option of an unlimited amount of transactions when you start a free business checking account with your credit union or bank. Check with your financial institution, as there may be limits on usage and account balances.

You will have plenty of options when you open a business savings account. Overdraft protection can certainly be useful when you use your business savings account to cover any overages by your business checking account. Your business funds can earn money with an interest bearing savings account. Each financial institution will set their terms for the amount and the length of the deposit for this type of business savings account. CD’s and money market savings accounts are offered as another source of generating money with your business savings account.

Most small businesses need capital for start up, growth and expansion, and even help through lean times. Credit Unions and banks offer loans and even business credit cards to cover these needs. Many small companies take advantage of business credit cards for convenience and flexibility with their working capital. An example of this would be when using your card to cover the gap in payment for goods and services that your business has invoiced. Small business loans can be an essential element for expansion in the event that you do not have the capital to cover the cost of growing your company. While you can’t predict the future, knowing that your business can take on a loan to assist you through difficult times can put your mind at ease.

Small business banking has grown with the digital age and most banks and credit unions now extend online services to their business customers in addition to free checking and savings accounts. Such services can include taking of care of your accounts payable online, monitoring free business checking and business savings account activity, receiving account alerts at your email or mobile device, bill payment and transferring funds between accounts with the push of a button. Statements through the mail can literally be a thing of the past with online banking. Online small business banking services even allow for the use of accounting software such as Quicken® or Microsoft Money® so that your financial picture can be managed with great ease.

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