SCORE Chapter 591   Bellingham, Washington 

Small Business Tips

Effects of Marketing Happen Over the Long Term
Businesses spend thousand dollars on marketing, but much of it is wasted because advertisers are looking for a one-time quick boost, or their program is too scattered. By most accounts the most successful marketing comes from a marketing plan that is focused and consistent. That means chose your target and your message, and apply it consistently throughout.

    1.   Design Consistency -- Your brochure, business cards, ads, matchbooks and letterhead all have the same design features, so that when

          people see the design they think of you.
    2.   Target Consistency -- Once you have learned who your target market is then focus your efforts only in media that will reach that market.
    3.   Message Consistency -- Your message is the same in all your advertising. Come up with efforts only in media that will reach that market.
    4 Timing Consistency -- Direct mail pieces, ads, events need to happen on a regular basis over a long period of time, so that you can keep 
          your name first in your customers' minds.

Insurance Checklist
    1.   Insurance Plan   Prepare a list of what insurance coverage your business should have. Obvious needs includes fire, theft, liability, but also consider special insurance covering business interruption in case you must close down for a period and other needs specific to your type of business. Contact a qualified broker or agent to explain options and recommend the proper coverage. Get comparable policy bids from at least two sources.
    2 Control Your Insurance Costs   It's expensive to cover all possible perils. Cover the most risky and largest potential losses first such as liability insurance. Calculate how much loss you might incur as a result of each type of coverage. Don't try to save by underinsuring or not covering some perils that could cause significant loss just because you believe he chance of their occurrence is negligible But also, don't get needless coverage. Use as high a deducible as you can comfortably handle financially. Check out small business "package policies" that may be available from your agent.
    3.   Manage your Insurance Program   Keep complete records of your policies, premiums paid, claims made and paid. Have your property and significant equipment appraised periodically by qualified appraisers. Proper records will help you get better rates in the future and assist substantiating claims you may need to make.

Pricing Your Products
Pricing your product or service is an art. Many owners think price is the only reason customers buy from them. However, most customers are willing to pay a higher price for personal service, Product knowledge and convenience. Here are threes areas to consider in pricing your products or service.
    1.   Costs:  First, make sure that you sell your product or service for enough to cover our costs and make a profit. Do a break even analyses (fixed costs + gross margin) at different price points to determine how much you have to sell to make a profit.
    2.   Competition
:  Find what your competition is charging. You should be in the range of your competitors' prices, but stay in the high end by adding value, such as service or convenience to what you offer.

    3.   Perceived Value
:  This is your customer's perception of the value of your product. If you price yourself below the market, customers will assume that what you are offering is of poor quality. Doing good market research will tell you whether price is important to your customers.
Trying to be the lowest cost provider is a risky strategy. If you start with low prices it's hard to raise them later. Instead charge a higher price and focus on being the best provider.

Internet Learning Tutor
What, your company doesn't have a web site yet? Sure, it can require a lengthy learning curve" along with some expense. But, many businesses are discovering that a company's web site is a great small business tool that can accomplished several objectives:

    1. Image: Your web site give you a competitive advantage to enhance your company image, especially if some of your competitors don't have one yet. If most of them do, you need to get started!
    2. Marketing: OK, this is just stating the obvious, but you do need to determine if and how a web site could increase your sales,
    3. Customer Service: Sure, this is probably a subcategory of Marketing, but too important not to highlight. A web site can provide your customers with many useful functions such as: New Products or Services Updates, Quick Contact Source, Online Order Capability and many others. One way of discovering whether a web site would be advantageous for your business is to access the Internet Learning Tutor provided by Verizon in partnership with Entrepreneur Magazine The Internet Learning Tutor is designed to help you use the Internet more effectively, and it is organized in three levels. Level 103 is designed for small business owners to learn how to market their businesses online. Click this link to access the program:
 Verizon Internet Learning Tutor