Is it better to target a large customer base or concentrate on a niche market?
When you’re just starting out, you should define your target market carefully. It’s usually very difficult and inefficient to try to attract a wide range of customers all at once, because different customer groups respond to different messages and incentives. Niche customer groups can therefore offer a much better prospect of exploiting untapped market potential and honing your marketing message successfully.
However, that doesn’t mean you should not ultimately aim to be a household name with a wide customer base. Once you’ve secured an initial customer base and begun to be profitable, you can then start to identify new niches and new opportunities in complementary markets.
Where is the best place to source a good wholesaler?
Finding a good wholesaler can be difficult. This is because wholesalers tend to have relatively small numbers of loyal, long-term customers and they’ve little incentive to spend much money on marketing. This means that they tend not to have much of a web presence and can be difficult to locate.
Wholesalers often rely on word-of-mouth to gain new trade, so speak to other businesses and ask for recommendations. Your local chamber of commerce or professional trade association may be able to help. There are a few website directories that list wholesalers according to industry, such aswww.simplywholesale.co.uk, www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk and www.thewholesaler.co.uk. You could also have a look at Alibaba if you are willing to import from afar. Alternatively, there’s always the old-fashioned method of looking through the phone book. Some combination of these resources will no doubt allow you to get ahead.
Does social media actually help grow businesses?
If employed correctly, social media can be a useful tool in aiding the growth of a business. However, there’s no instant guarantee of success. It requires deliberate planning and implementation of a clear strategy, which can take significant time and resources. Signing up to many social platforms and then not being proactive is unlikely to give you the results you want.
Define who you want to target your products or services towards and think about the best platform to reach them. For example, B2B brands may have more success with LinkedIn whereas consumer goods brands will likely see better results on Facebook or Twitter. Next think about what type content will engage your target market – the 4-1-1 rule is a good place to start if thinking about a content strategy. Lastly, track your social metrics so you can monitor what’s working and what isn’t as successful.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of e-commerce?
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to e-commerce.
The main advantages are:
When shopping online there are no restrictions to opening hours and consumers are able to make purchases 24/7. There’s also no need for queuing, either in store or on the phone.
Consumers can save time and money by searching for items and making purchases online instead of journeying from store to store to locate difficult to find items. There’s also a great deal of choice as online sites offer unlimited shelf space. Consumers aren’t restricted by store location as purchases can be made regardless of geographical location.
Startup costs are much lower for sellers to start an e-commerce business, as there are no competitive rentals or geographical requirements. There’s less need for a sales force than in a physical store. Electronic purchases are easier to manage for businesses than cash. Consumers can enjoy immediate use when purchasing digital items such as music.
The main disadvantages are:
Shopping online is impersonal and lacks the personal touch. Customers are unable to inspect or experience the product prior to making a purchase and have the inconvenience of repackaging and returning unsatisfactory goods. Some people are resistant to change and would prefer to purchase goods at physical stores.
Customers need to be able to trust the provider before they’re prepared to part with personal information including credit card details. Many web users are wary of fake websites set up to scam users out of their money.
When should I quit my job and start a new business?
If you’ve got a well-paid job that you can continue while you develop your business ideas in your spare time, you should avoid the temptation to quit too soon.
It’s always tempting to think that you could get your business off the ground so much more quickly if you didn’t have to waste time on the day job. However, think about your personal commitments: paying the bills, keeping up with your rent or mortgage and supporting your family. If you couldn’t meet these commitments, it would be even harder to focus on your business.
So instead, focus on working hard and building up your business and finances to the point where you’ve minimised the risk of abandoning the security of your steady pay cheque. As an entrepreneur, patience is a skill that can be very valuable to you.
It’s useful to have concrete targets to work towards, so set a target date for quitting your job along with a set of goals you want to achieve by that date. Think about building up capital, securing investment and signing up a business partner. You could also set targets for the number of customers or sales you want to have secured by the time you hand in your notice.
Finally, some other options to consider before you quit are asking for extended or unpaid leave from your job, or asking for flexible hours so you can allocate larger blocks of time to your business. You could also consider continuing with freelance or voluntary work as a back-up, after you’ve quit.
How do I grow my home-based business?
If you have a home-based business, the methods you use to grow will be different from those of a larger company, and you will need to work within budget and time constraints. However, while you may not have the same resources as a large company, there are plenty of opportunities for growth.
Build a website
A website is an absolute must, especially for home-based businesses, and will become your virtual storefront. If you don’t already have an online presence, it’s a good idea to take the time to create one, or hire someone to build you the perfect website to showcase your wares.
Your website should encompass exactly what your business is all about and include plenty of information on the products or services you’re trying to sell. You should also include your social media channels and share your blogs and other updates on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to help build your following and engage with your audience.
The first rule when you’re just starting out is to focus on one thing you’re really good at. Be it a product or service, put all your focus into that one great offering and think carefully about how you’re going to promote and sell it. If what you’re selling is worthwhile, word will soon get around and you’ll gradually build up your customer base.
Once you’ve found your ideal product or service that your customers absolutely love, and you’ve built up more of a name for yourself, you can think about diversifying your product lines to add more products or services that are related to what you’re already selling. Don’t be afraid to experiment and take chances with new products and samples.
An email marketing list is absolutely essential to help with lead nurturing and keeping in contact with your customers. You can include a form on your website asking people to subscribe to your newsletter, before sending out regular, cleverly crafted emails with updates, special offers and news related to your business. It’s also a great way to ask your customers (and potential customers) for feedback regarding your products and what else they’d like to see from you in future.
Increase your sales
It’s not all about attracting new customers. You can also find ways to increase your sales by offering discounts for products bought in bulk, along with seasonal promotions and ways to reward loyalty for customers who already buy from you on a more regular basis. You may not be able to offer your customers loyalty cards like some of the big shops do, but as a home-based business, you can still find ways to reward returning customers.
As soon as you start to feel rushed off your feet, bring in some help. This could be anything from a part-time employee, to a freelancer or even a close friend who you trust. Bringing in outside help can provide you with a fantastic outlet to help come up with new ideas, as well as keeping you motivated, and you won’t have to handle all those little tasks (that soon mount up) on your own.
Another great way to boost your home-based business is by joining up with another company that sells similar or complementary products or services – the bigger they are, the better. For instance, if you’re making your own brand of luxury cosmetics and shampoos, you could consider joining up with a local beauty salon or hairdresser that will promote and sell your wares in their premises
What’s the best way to launch my business online?
If you’ve already got a great product or service and an established offline business, there are just a few extra steps for you to expand into online sales.
First, research your target online customers. They may be different to your existing customers, so marketing messages may need to be tweaked. Then design and build an attractive, easy to navigate website that presents your offer clearly and makes it simple to buy.
The final, important step is to drive traffic to your website using high quality content and search engine optimisation techniques, targeting keywords that are relevant to your business. If you’re not sure how, there are plenty of marketing services available to help you.
When should I raise the prices of my products or services?
There are several factors that will influence your decision to raise prices. The lower limit on your prices will be determined by your business costs, so if your supplies and staffing expenses are increasing you may have no choice but to raise your prices to keep your business profitable. The upper limit will also be determined by profitability, as you’ll get to a point where not enough customers are willing to pay such high prices.
Customers never like prices to go up, of course, but they’re often motivated by a good deal and the sense that they’re getting value for money. It’s therefore a good idea to synchronise your price raise with a product improvement or redesign, or a special offer.
How do I convert price sensitive shoppers into customers?
If shoppers are price sensitive and they’re not choosing your products, you should not necessarily rush into lowering your prices.
That’s because price sensitive consumers aren’t simply focused on price. Instead, they’re motivated by achieving good value for money. Your prices may well be simply too high for them to afford, but the problem could also be one of perception – they may see your product or service as offering insufficient quality to justify the price.
To convert these shoppers into customers you need to look first at communicating your product’s qualities – and crucially, the benefits that your products offer your customers – effectively, and possibly improving the quality you offer, before moving on to price adjustments.