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Strategies to Help Your Small Business Take off Running

Whether you're an experienced player or a new kid on the block, there are several business elements you need to understand in order to succeed. No matter your goal, whether introducing a new product, identifying your customer, or getting the word out, here are some things you need to know.

Unleash a New Offering

I love to introduce a new product to my customers. Not all work out, but months later when I look for up trends in my sales, it can usually be tied to the introduction of a new product.

But don't go too far. Firms that drop their old line to bring in an entirely new group of products often face serious disappointment.

Experts say to expect a 20 to 50 percent drop in your sales projections for a new product or when entering a new market.

It takes time for customers to get to know and trust a new offering. If Bill Gates woke up tomorrow and decided Microsoft should open a chain of hardware stores, it would be a long time before customers gained confidence that Gates and company knew what they were doing.

You will do better if new products are related in some way to the things you have been selling all along.

Introduce new products gradually. For years McDonalds limited themselves to one new menu item per year.

Who Wants Your Stuff? Figure Your Market Share

Here is a simple method that comes in handy on those days when you feel like nobody wants to buy what you sell. It is even more fun to use when things are going well and you feel like you are about to take the country by storm. Figure your market share. That is the percentage of all sales of products and services like yours that are purchased from your company.

All you need is a slip of paper or the back of an envelope. First estimate the number of customers who buy from businesses like yours.

Next figure how many times each of these customers buys in a year (nine ads, 40 candy bars, 3 hours of plumbing).

Now multiply the two numbers together to get the total size of the market. Next divide your sales into the total market size to get your market share.

If you are a small biz working in a very large industry, your market share can be several zeroes behind the decimal point.

Instead, you might figure your market share in your town or in a very targeted group of customers.

Media Creates a Marketing Miracle

You've got a great story, a terrific new product, or some outstanding information that will interest a lot of people.

How do you get in touch with the media to get them to spread the word?

Most people send out a press release via mail. When I worked in radio and TV the letter carrier hauled in bag loads of them every day.

Now days press releases are emailed and I think it gets better results.

But you don't have to have a press release to get media attention. Simply email your idea or information in a brief message. Include your contact info so the reporter can follow up with more questions.

Almost all media have a website complete with contact email addresses.

Editors often appreciate a quick phone call from anyone with good information to share.

Make sure your info matches the media outlet's audience interests. Get to the "good stuff" right at the start of your conversation. Don't bore a busy reporter with preliminary details.

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