Posts Tagged ‘business growth’

The First Five: Elements for a Small Business Marketing Strategy

By Amy DeGeer Roten

Growing your business requires spreading awareness about your products and services. Spreading awareness should not be done on the fly, but strategically. A marketing strategy will summarize how to reach your customers and the messages that will engage and keep them.

Information and data should be the foundation on which to build a path between your company, the market you want to penetrate, and your customers.

Start your marketing strategy by answering these five questions:

#1: What: What are you selling? 

Marketing only works if the product or service provides value and is what it claims to be.

Understanding your product, its features, benefits, and value is the key to your marketing effort. It is the basis for your unique selling proposition (USP). The USP is a short phrase that summarizes why your business is special. This phase will help you develop key messages that align with your customers.   

Why do your customers like your product? Why do they continue to come back for more? You should be able to answer those questions, in detail, without hesitation. The answer is the foundation for all marketing and frankly, the success of your organization.

#2: Who: Understand your customers and competition. 

Customers: Identifying and defining your customers  allows you to create groups that have specific characteristics in common, including why they spend money with you. These are your target audiences. Once you know your target audiences, who they are, and why they buy your product, you know what to talk about to keep them engaged and coming back for more. You will also find out if they’re not happy and what you might want to change to better meet their needs.

Competition: Who else does what you do? Why and how are you better? You cannot beat the competition by offering the same thing. Gather data and background on your competition to find gaps or holes and then fill them. This is call differentiation.

Differentiating your business from the competition is important because customers need a reason to choose you. An example of differentiation is Jimmy John’s “freaky fast” claim (which their delivery people prove every day). They don’t claim to be tastier or fresher or cheaper than the other sandwich shops. They are faster. 

#3 How: How are you going to sell your product? 

Brick and mortar? eCommerce such as your website, Amazon, or Facebook? Different customers shop in different places and will require different strategies. Understand where your customers shop and place your product in front of them.

#4 Where: Where do your target audiences get their information?

Email? Television? Radio? Social Media? Publications? Find out how your customers or potential customers prefer to receive communication so you can regularly talk to them where they are.

#5 When: Timing is everything. 

When to communicate should be just as important as where to sell and what to say. Consistent monthly message distribution helps inform customers and establishes a presence, reputation, and brand recognition. Groups of message bursts, i.e., bi-weekly social media posts, are better for promoting a target product, service, or event. Here are a few more things to consider: 

  • Is your product or service seasonal?
  • What affects supply and demand?
  • When are your budgets planned?
  • What is your customer’s budget schedule?
  • Do you have a loyal customer base or are people just learning about your business?

Never stop improving.

Marketing is never static. A strategy will set objectives and guide how your business makes sales, but remember that this is a living document. Target audience characteristics and needs change. The business environment changes. The marketing strategy must reflect those kinds of changes.  Review and update it at least once a year or more if you’re not getting results. 

For more marketing strategy information or resources, please reach out to aroten@mbami.org.

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Expanding During a Pandemic: Q&A with Midland Eye Associates

By Amy DeGeer Roten

Eighty years ago, an optometrist opened his new practice on the Circle in Midland. Four owners and three locations later, Midland Eye Associates has grown into a comprehensive eye-care practice offering vision and medical eye care. Owners Dr. Paul Kimball and Dr. Carl Erickson are dedicated to maintaining and maximizing patient vision with the most comprehensive eye care available. They will remain at the forefront of optometry and use the most advanced technology for diagnosis and treatment. That promise and dedication has generated growth – and prompted their current expansion – which you can see at 217 N. Saginaw Rd.

At the MBA, we know the importance of supporting small businesses. And small business growth is 50 percent of our national GDP. Firms with fewer than 100 employees make up more than 98% of all business in our country and employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce.

To celebrate this growth during such challenging times, here is a quick Q&A with Dr. Erickson.

What was the catalyst for/goals of the expansion?

After I joined the practice in 2016, it became evident that we were running out of space to see patients. We needed to update the site and facilities to support our expanding services. We also want to offer more services in the future.

We purchased two buildings adjacent to our current practice and designed plans to build a new, 7,500 square-foot office. We know Center City business improvements are a focus for the City of Midland and we are proud that our new building supports that.

How many new and retained jobs will this expansion support?

Four to six new jobs and ten retained jobs.

What new services or products do you have?

We’ll continue to provide eye screenings for three-year-old patients at no charge, eye exams, a full-service drop-in optical department, digital photo documentation, and our onsite, state-of-the-art lab.

Our new building will give us the room we need to offer new services, including ortho-k (service for kids to reduce how near-sighted they will be as adults with contact lenses). We also plan to expand medical services for diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and dry eye.

How did your practice and the expansion survive the COVID shutdowns?

Luckily, Midland Eye Associates kept a healthy, rainy-day fund in anticipation of a grand opening for the new facility. However, between that fund and the PPP Loan programs, we remained healthy even though the State Executive Orders closed our practice for two months. Since the shutdowns, things have been busy for us. People are adjusting to life with more time spent on electronic devices, which affects eyesight. They are also dealing with foggy glasses due to facemasks. These two things have created a strong demand for new solutions to COVID-related lifestyle changes.

How did the MBA help your expansion?

The MBA provided helpful direction and contacts to the City of Midland for permitting, introductions to necessary contacts at Consumers Energy, connections to PTAC, and soft skills training information for new employees. You (the MBA) also investigated potential funding that would support our expansion and provided COVID-19 business toolkits, webinars, executive order information. These helped us navigate the pandemic.

Besides COVID and flooding, were there other impactful barriers to expansion?

Luckily, and with the help of the MBA, extraordinary barriers to our expansion have been few to none.

What is the date for the anticipated grand opening of the new building?

Barring no future, unexpected set-backs, we anticipate an April 2021 opening date.

You can learn more about Midland Eye Associates’ offering on their website.

If you have an expansion that you need help with, contact mba@mbami.org or Tina Lynch at tlynch@mbami.org

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Local Business Grows 36% During COVID-19 Shutdown

By Amy DeGeer Roten

The Coronavirus has created a devastating impact on public health, as well as economic shock. However, COVID-19 has not impacted all industries equally. Some companies deemed essential by the State of Michigan are experiencing growth, albeit, not without challenges. This post will highlight how COVID-19 has supported some growth opportunities while simultaneously creating obstacles and how Impact Analytical worked through the inimitable challenges facing “essential” business to reap the benefits of 2020’s unforeseen opportunities.

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