September 17th, 2014 • Posted by Kathy Watts • Permalink
As a small business owner, you are often so focused on the day to day activities of running your business that you don’t take the time to sit down and really evaluate how your business is doing and how it compares to other businesses in the market. In order to help your business grow, it is key to get a clear idea of what your business does well and how it fits into the marketplace. A SWOT Analysis is a great tool for helping you focus on your business’ place and purpose.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. Through a series of questions and analysis, a SWOT Analysis can provide you with information on the strengths and weaknesses of your business, the opportunities it has in your market, and the threats it might face in that market. From there, you can use that information to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your business, but also to uncover new opportunities. A SWOT analysis can also be used to evaluate how your business compares to similar businesses in the marketplace, which can help you craft a more effective business strategy to help your business grow.
So how does a SWOT Analysis work?
It can be as easy as sitting down with your staff and going over the following questions. It can also be helpful to involve some of your clients as well, maybe by asking them to fill out a simple survey. Here are some of the things to consider and ask from each of the four categories:
Strengths - characteristics that give your business an advantage over others
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What advantages does your business have over others in the area?
- What do your clients see as your strengths?
- What factors help you make sales?
Weaknesses - characteristics that leave your business at a disadvantage over others
- What could you improve about your business?
- What should you avoid?
- What do your clients see as your weaknesses?
- What factors cause you to lose sales?
Opportunities – instances or areas that your business could develop as an advantage
- What opportunities do you see in your marketplace?
- What trends are you aware of that could affect your business?
- Weaknesses can also often open up new opportunities. How could you improve or eliminate your weaknesses?
- Threats can also often be turned into opportunities. How can you take advantage of the threats and turn them around into new opportunities for your business?
Threats - instances or circumstances that could have a negative effect on your business
- What obstacles is your business facing?
- What are your competitors doing better than you?
- Do you have a cash flow problem, or debt?
Once you have all these answers, it’s a good time to sit down with your team and evaluate what those answers mean to your business. By identifying not only what you do well, but also what new opportunities there are out there, and how you will handle threats and weaknesses, you will come up with an overall big picture of your business. From there, you can start to discuss and plan out strategies for taking advantage of your strengths and opportunities and managing your weaknesses and threats. In the end, what should emerge is a business plan based on all of this, with ideas on how to leverage this new information to strengthen your business and bring about growth.
A SWOT Analysis is a simple but powerful tool for evaluating your business. By taking time on a regular basis (at least annually) to ask yourself these questions and evaluate what the answers mean for your bottom line, it can help you not only streamline your business practices but can help you better understand where your business currently is and what it will take to get it to where you would like it to be. It can also help you come up with effective strategies for distinguishing yourself in your market.
*** This article is part of our “Time for a Tune Up” series, designed to help you tune up your business practices, get ready for the holidays, and think about your business and marketing strategies, both for the rest of this year and heading into 2015. It’s not too early to start thinking ahead, and now is the time to start preparing for even more success.
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September 15th, 2014 • Posted by Stephany Toman • Permalink
Social media platforms are appearing like wildflowers after a summer rain. Each promises reach into the psyche (and by inference 'the wallets') of their target audience. Each requires a learning curve to adopt, time to manage, and, possibly most important, each should prove its worth to you before you commit precious resources to participate. This means, of course, that jumping on the newest, shiniest, most promoted social media platform in ever isn't really necessary. In fact, there's time, and you should use the time they're spending proving themselves to the world (and you as a business) to focus on what's working for you already. All new businesses will attempt to create a sense of urgency for you, that's how they grow. In this case, waiting a bit and then deciding if there's a good fit is simply prudent and a good idea.
That said, modern marketing definitely includes social media in the mix. The definition of social media has broadened to include blogging, which also supports the idea of creating consistent, quality, content for SEO and general marketing purposes. You want to be seen by the search engines; you want to build a relationship with your audience - two birds, one stone, and thy name is good content.
The content piece continues into the Facebook realm. Facebook provides an opportunity to generate referrals, to nurture relationships with your audience, and to demonstrate your commitment to the art of online conversation, which can require planning and thought. People come out of left field, sometimes, and having a well-planned strategy for responding when the topic gets tricky is key. Consistency is also key. Managing a Facebook presence means you've dedicated resources to planning your social media marketing, to participating in the conversations that are generated by your compelling marketing, and to getting the best results possible in that particular medium. Facebook posts with less words and a really good image garner much more response, so a piece of your strategy should include capturing cool images to use. The audience here has begun to skew slightly older now that teenagers are fleeing due to their parents' participation (and surveillance...), which means users with some disposable income are increasing - always a good thing.
Twitter provides a venue for the like-minded to exchange thoughts on a given topic, like, for example, the benefits of therapeutic massage for post partum health. It's a very trendy, up-to-the-minute medium, and cycles very quickly. If attention focus is your goal, you've only got a very small window using Twitter. It is, however, a great place to build credibility within your audience - the exchanges can be opportunities to plant a seed for a very stimulating conversation in the Twitterverse, while creating a venue on which to share expertise.
YouTube continues to grow at an astonishing rate. The audience loves to see people demonstrating services or creating 'tutorials' on topics germane to the audience. I could certainly have used a lesson in flat iron technique when I realized upon growing my hair out after many years of short locks that I had become wavy/curly, and seriously needed to tame those tresses! Fortunately I have a helpful daughter who stepped up and instructed me at a time I was just about to ask my stylist to 'cut it all off!' due to extreme frustration. My point, though, is watching something is much more helpful than reading about it for most people, and watching something that's been created with the medium in mind, in short segments (less than 5 minutes, if possible), will generate more interest for the occasional longer piece.
LinkedIn has historically provided a venue for professionals to network. The site tends to be used for professional networking, for employers to find potential employees, and for potential employees to find potential employers. It provides a place where credibility within a given industry can be established, over time, and where the comradery feels akin to that of offline professional organizations, in my experience. From a priority standpoint, I'd be inclined to choose one or more of the first three social media options listed before spending too many resources developing a strong LinkedIn presence. It's ideal for B2B's, and slightly less so for B2C interactions, based upon the usual traffic and content that's generated.
The key players in the social media arena remain, overall. The key for your business is determining which make the most sense for your goals and social media presence. Regardless which you choose, you'll need to commit to the experience. The most successful in the social media game are those who respect it as a potential referral and, ideally, revenue generator, and develop a strong following over time. Consistency, clarity, creative content and commitment to the effort will take you a long way to garnering success within the new media culture.
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September 11th, 2014 • Posted by Stephany Toman • Permalink
On my way to class the other day I stopped at Starbucks, something I rarely do anymore in an effort to avoid too many extra calories and because I seem to be running late most of the time (I tend to overcommit and then end up rushing...ahem...). Anyway, as I pulled up to order I saw that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are on the menu and I did a little happy dance because that means it must be Fall, right??
As strange as that reaction is, from a marketing perspective it means they've trained me, using seasonality (scarcity), thereby ensuring I will find a way to get back there again for yet another of those sinfully delicious, spicy lattes. The strategy is simple, brilliant, and one that many businesses have used, with great success, through the years.
Remember the McDonald's Shamrock Shakes? I'm pretty sure there was nothing in them that even resembled wholesome, Irish cream, or even anything from nature as we know it, but we didn't care. As kids, when those popped up on the menu we were super excited because a.they tasted good, and b. it meant St. Patrick's Day was right around the corner. And while we had a broad ethnic representation in my neighborhood, as far as I know there wasn't a soul from the Emerald Isle in sight. But we didn't care.
And then there were the seasonal flavors at Baskin Robbins - Baseball Nut. Fresh Peach. Black Cherries Jubilee. Yumminess by season primed us to pounce when the favorite flavors arrived, consume until we were (almost) satiated, then bid them adieu for another year.
As an adult, it's been my pleasure to enjoy seasonal foods from different local restaurants, a pleasure not unlike enjoying childhood treats around seasons or holidays. With seasonal foods, of course, it's about availability for a short time, then the item disappears until this time next year when we'll welcome the return of said dish and enjoy it to its fullest once more.
Seasonality translates beautifully into our spa and salon marketing efforts. Through my years with SpaBoom I've seen an amazing number of really wonderful spa service menu items. And then we started working with salons and realized how many options there really are for hair styling and care services, something someone not natively of the business wouldn't have immediately understood.
A few services have stuck in my mind as particularly compelling, not always for the service itself, but often for what product the service may have incorporated. There have been blue corn scrub wraps, which are about indigenous ingredients. There have been pumpkin avocado facials, cranberry salt scrubs, seaweed wraps, cucumber facials, spicy chai pedicures, coffee scrubs and creamy, milky options designed to create suppleness.
And who doesn't appreciate a hair treat to prime for the next season, as well? Lovely deep conditioning oil treatments help repair Summer's havoc, and amazing, rich colors manage to capture the light and infuse the hair with depths of hue that please the eye while creating softness and health in the process.
I have a point, here, and it's really this - What is your Pumpkin Spice Latte? Do you have one? If nothing jumps immediately to mind, consider adding a seasonal option to your service menu, one (or more) that add variety while creating a sense of anticipation for your clientele. Ideally, creating four of these, one for each season, makes the most sense, and then promote them in all of your content areas - your blog, email newsletters, on your website, social media, text messaging, and, yes, as in-house signage.
Catch the eye, capture the imagination, satisfy the craving you create, then gently remove the option at a predetermined time until next year. What's not to enjoy about setting, then exceeding, client expectations year after year?
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