Sitting Around the Coffee Table

Coffee shop conversationWhere do you ask questions about managing your business? Where do you toss out new ideas to see if they might work? Where are your mentors?

I suspect that one common place might be a local venue where you and other business owners meet on a regular basis. This may be at training or educational programming sessions held in your town or when you attend various trade meetings.

It also occurs when at meetings that may have an entirely different purpose (think city government, park board, social group, or civic organization).  Business questions or a business trends are common discussions that occur during breaks or in pre or post meeting conversations.

As a business owner you tend to trust these conversations and the information offered as it comes from someone you know AND that someone has “been there and done that.” Plus you can validate it by talking to others and further check it out online and/or meeting with educators and consultants.

Connecting with other business owners is a great tool. Yet for some, because of location or time constraints, taking advantage of such opportunities is much harder.

Power of Business was developed specifically to help business owners more easily engage with other business owners. An example was the most recent Friday 15 chat with John Marquis of Ogallala Bay Rum. Not only though can you engage with your colleagues but you are also supported by professional educators from the national Cooperative Extension system.

Starting and growing your business means finding and using resources to your advantage. Power of Business is one such resource. Everything you find on the site is focused on being easy to understand and implement. The goal is that most things can be done while you enjoy a quick break from your other daily tasks.

Looking for answers to questions. Want to get feedback on some new ideas. Need a mentor. Then take 2 steps: 1) Check us out; and 2) Join in the conversation.

Marketing is More Than Sales

Grand Opening by BJMcCray on Flickr

Grand Opening by BJMcCray on Flickr

You have opened the door to your new business.  What a great day.

Of course as a small business owner, you have lots of things yet to do but the shelves are stocked, everything is gleaming, and you even remembered to get change for the cash drawer (Yes, some people still use real money to make transactions. I rarely fit into that category but I have heard stories).

Some time passes and someone walks into your business. It’s the business owner from next door and she just wants to wish you good luck.

Some more time passes and some friends and neighbors have also dropped by.  Some of them actually bought something but you don’t really count that as a sale. No, they were just being polite.

Some more time passes and a stranger walks in, looks around some and leaves.

Some more time passes and a group of people walk in. They look around and then begin to ask questions about one of your products. They ask about a discount if they buy several of the same item. As they make the offer, you are mentally wondering just how to respond. You tell them you will get back to them on their offer.

Some more time passes. Another person comes in. He comments he didn’t know that your store was even here. He is from out of town. He had researched his opportunities, didn’t see what he wanted but had another reason to come over to your town and just happened to see your temporary sign.  You have several items he wants and makes a purchase. YOUR FIRST SALE! You feel like your business is officially open.

The day continues. Sales are slow. At the end of the day, you look at what you sold and get a little discouraged. This isn’t what you expected.

While a fictitious story, it fits the experience shared with me by several owners.

What happened? As you consider the results, the common theme seems to be following the myth, “build it and they will come.” Marketing is much bigger than sales. Marketing must happen early, be ongoing, and use a variety of tools.

So what marketing should have happened?

1. Marketing starts well before the doors are even open. It includes understanding who the customer is and what they want.

2. Marketing also means getting the word out. In the above scenario, nothing was mentioned about pre-opening publicity. Nor was there mention of a ribbon-cutting (free PR + creating awareness among other business owners). And while the inside of the store looked good, the outside had a temporary sign only plus there is no mention of inside signage that can answer questions and even increase sales.

3. Nothing was mentioned about traditional marketing that may have been done. There also could have been pre-opening networking to develop community awareness.

4. Also there was no mention about online marketing. It is important to claim your bubble on the various services such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and others. Also you need some web presence of your own – a website or a blog. This must something you own. The phonebook still has a place but remember that it may be nearly two years before your listing ever makes it into print. Online it can happen nearly instantly.

5. And there are so many other parts of marketing. Just a partial list would include pricing, packaging, store location, social media efforts, image, visual efforts, etc. The list goes on and on. Remember also that marketing is not a one-and-done effort. It must be consistent, build on a regular theme, and help develop your brand.

So while sales are the lifeblood of a business, marketing is the heart that keeps things flowing.

Bottom line – The day you think of a business idea is the day you start your marketing efforts.


Check Margins Before Scaling Up

You may think this is a blog post related to value-added farm businesses only. The reality is that it relates to any business that is looking to grow. If you aren’t making money, or if you could be doing better in some other investment, you should be thinking long and hard about scaling up. This isn’t to say don’t do it (there may be some gains that don’t show up in this first look at the data) but it should certainly give you pause in taking that step. Hope you find this information useful.

August 1st Friday 15 – Live chat is now on youtube

Did you miss the Friday 15 live chat?  You can now watch it

or go to – John Marquis, Ogallala Bay Rum – shared his success story about creating a product line to selling wholesale!

John first started selling on eBay and now has his own website plus listens to his customers on blogs and chat rooms!  He is amazed that people actually share his product and tell how much they like it!

He attributes that to great customer service – I contribute it to John!

Check out John’s business at