A Message From Our Director – March 2017

As you probably know, your business success depends largely on marketing. People won’t patronize your business if they don’t know about it, right? The marketing umbrella covers market research, advertising, public relations, promotions and sales.  Your business may offer the best products or services in your industry, but without marketing, your potential customers would not know about them. Without marketing, your sales may crash and the longevity of your business may be at risk.

You know your products and/or services.  You know your target customer, and you know your price points.  Know where to sell to maximize your marketing effectiveness. Younger customers are more likely to shop using a smartphone, shop on a website, and pay with PayPal or a credit card.  Older customers might prefer to shop at retail outlets.  A marketing strategy helps you determine if a particular magazine, newspaper, radio station, social media site, or other website fits into your selling plans.  Advertise with a combination of media outlets to reach the maximum number of potential customers.

Steer yourself towards profits and business growth.  With a good marketing plan in place, you control your sales.  A good plan identifies specific goals for advertising efforts, explains sales to be expected, and estimates when results should be noticed.  Reaching measurable milestones indicates an effective marketing plan.  Based on results, you can determine to stick to certain sales strategies or revise your plan.

If you would like to talk with someone about creating or improving your marketing plan, the Chamber has resources available to you! Give us a call and we can get you set up, free of charge!  As always, if there is anything else we can do for you please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Chamber Offers Free Business Mentoring with SCORE

Do you want to start a business? Do you need assistance getting started? Do you already own a business but could use help in a specific area?

The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce is happy to announce the reestablishment of the SCORE Counselors to America’s Small Business group (formerly known as Senior Corp of Retired Executives)! This group is made up of both working and retired executives that are willing to donate their time to help current and future business owners succeed.

SCORE offers the nation’s largest network of free, expert business mentors. If you’re just starting a business, SCORE mentors can provide the practical action plan, education and tools you need to open your doors and establish a customer base. Already own a business? SCORE volunteer mentors can help identify ways to increase profit, improve employee and customer satisfaction, and achieve work / life balance. Whether you’re a solopreneur, a nonprofit, a franchisee, a veteran, an independent contractor, a woman- or minority-owned business, or a young or encore (50+) entrepreneur, SCORE can help by providing guidance and resources to help with your decisions.

SCORE volunteer advisers offer expertise in a variety of fields and industries. Get free, customized, business advice from mentors committed to helping you succeed. With SCORE, you can have the honest, confidential and sometimes tough conversations about managing money, motivating your team, and other business topics. Every year, SCORE volunteers help thousands of entrepreneurs start small businesses and achieve new levels of success in their existing businesses.

The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce is also looking for additional mentors; are you interested in becoming a SCORE volunteer? Volunteering at SCORE is a way for you to give back to your community, connect with fellow business owners, and pass on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community.

SCORE volunteers provide confidential business mentoring services, both in person and online. They lead seminars and workshops to help small business owners meet their goals and achieve success. They help expand outreach of SCORE through marketing and alliance building in our local communities. They provide subject matter expertise by industries and professional skills.

Volunteering as a SCORE mentor means you are joining a community of 11,000+ diverse volunteers who are all committed to helping small business owners succeed. Whether you have owned your own small business, come from a Fortune 500 company, retired, college student, have a sincere commitment for helping small businesses or volunteering, there is a place for you as SCORE volunteer. As demand for the program increases, so will the need for volunteers.

SCORE mentors can be your confidant, your cheerleader and your accountability partner on your path to achieving success, so whether you are interested in business mentoring or volunteering, please call the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce at 231-796-7649.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business

business open

Are you thinking about bringing your new business plan to life? Did you recently present a grand opening event at your new local shop? While starting your first business, you are likely to make some mistakes during your new journey. How awesome would it be if you were informed about some of these possible mistakes so that you could avoid them? Here are five errors you can avoid just by knowing about them:

1. Not Thinking Through Your Business Name

As a new business owner it is important to make sure others in your industry aren’t using the same business name. Spend the necessary time to come up with a few memorable names and do your research. You want your business to appear at the top of search results, no one wants to find their business eight pages later on google. Your name should be classic, easy to spell and memorable.

2. Not Having A Website

Half of small businesses don’t invest in making a website. In this day and age, social media usage is growing more and more. Your business can’t afford to not have a website. Creating your own personal website can cost you a little to nothing. Search the web for template site builders (wix.com, weebly.com, or wordpress.com just to name a few) or simple content manage systems to start building your business website today. Now, you are probably wondering about the maintenance needed to run this business site of yours. A little ongoing effort can keep your website remaining relevant in search results and looking appealing for your clients.

3. Not Having A Business Plan

Do you think your little local business isn’t big enough to incorporate a business plan? If you answered yes, then you are wrong. Every business needs a business plan even if it is a two-page document outlining your goals. Over time you can refer to your business plan to ensure that you’re staying on track.

4. Not Marketing

So your business is booming after the grand opening, but that doesn’t mean stop marketing. Smart business owners market even when they don’t need it. Your business may be doing well right now, but in a few months that could change. The key with marketing, even when you don’t need it, is that it will ensure customers are coming to your business all year round. Remember to never use just one outlet to market your business.

5. Not Networking

Get out and meet new people! It’s easy to stay in the office and focus on business, especially if you are running a home-based business. Networking can possibly help you bring new customers to your business, but it can also connect you with others in your industry who can serve as a mentor.

Tip– There is always room to grow in your industry. Never stop learning and developing or it could be deadly for your business. Find new ways to be relevant to your audience and improve and expand your product line.

Kind Regards

8 Tips for Launching a Successful Home Business

Woman using laptop in cafe

Could you be setting your home business up for failure? While you are sitting at home on your laptop responding to emails and serving clients, are you being sidetracked by all the pitfalls and distractions in your home? Here are a few tips that will ensure that you stay focused on your business while working from home.

1. Create An Office

It is easy to end up working on the couch, watching television, while running your business from home on your laptop. As a business owner this is not the ideal setup for someone who plans to succeed. Creating a designated office space will provide you with a better working environment with less distractions. You don’t have to have a spare room in your house to convert to an office. A section of a room will do or even a closet.

2. Set Office Hours Ground Rules

Often times while working at home, you end up running errands, cooking for your family, dealing with the cable man, or folding laundry. Sit down with your family and create office hour rules. Your family needs to respect the fact that you will be working from home. Explain that you want to focus on work during certain hours of the day, and let them know when you will become available to them.

3. Provide Child Care Assistance

Having children around while working on your business can lead to you being unfocused. If you have little children they may try to get your attention by tugging on your clothes or crawling in your lap. Hiring a babysitter or putting the children in daycare for a few hours will help you divide your time and focus on one task at a time.

4. Treat It Like A Real Business

Many people don’t consider a home-based business as being a real job. Treat your business like a real job, invest in something like a professional website and the right business structure to ensure that you succeed.

5. Friend Times VS. Work Time

We all have that one friend that likes to come visit us while we are at work. Let your friends know that you are running a home business but you don’t want them showing up uninvited to gossip on their lunch break or to have coffee. They need to respect your business hours just like your family members.

6. Have An Occasional Get Away

We tend to stay isolated when working from home. Get out and surround yourself with others, it’s good for you. Try attending local business networking events each month. Networking can possibly provide you with new business. Working from your local coffee shop from time to time could be a great way for you to treat yourself after working so hard from home.

7. Grow Your Skills

Stay up to date with your business skills. Read blogs, books, magazines, and even take online webinars, or face to face education course.

8. Build Your Online Community

Connect with other entrepreneurs who work from home to avoid the feeling of isolation. With the use of social media and online forums you can connect with individuals in your field.

  • Remember to set your business up for success by giving it your attention and avoid distractions.

Kind Regards

Tips for Dealing with Workplace Conflict

conflict

Imagine that you have just missed a project deadline at your workplace because your co-worker didn’t finish his or her portion on time?  If you were put in this situation what would you do? What would you say to your co-worker?

Not knowing how to handle discord as it occurs in the workplace can lead to frustration. Here are some tips to help you address conflict head on.

1. Know your conflict style 

Many people try to avoid conflict because it scares them. How many times have you witnessed a professional self-destruct because he or she wouldn’t engage out of fear of conflict? The most effective way to deal with conflict, is by knowing how to properly approach a conflict situation. Instead of letting an issue manifest, you should use a conflict style that best fits you to solve the problem. Here are the five conflict styles that everyone should know: compromising, accommodating, collaborating, competing, and avoiding. For those that do not know which style best fits or describes you, here is a link to where you can take an online style assessment http://www.buildingpeace.org/act-build-peace/learn/conflict-styles

2.  Know styles may vary form one situation to the next 

Each conflict style has it’s own advantages and limitations. No conflict style is more right or wrong than the other. Each style should be used at a specific place and time. Being aware of your own conflict style, is the first step for improving how you view and deal with conflict. Knowing how to identify others’ conflict styles could be very beneficial for you and your workplace. If you can observe how a person conducts themselves during discord and identify his or her style, you can better reach a mutually agreeable outcome for all parties involved in a conflict situation.

3.  Use I-Statements

When approaching conflict in terms of reaching a resolution, the use of an I-Statement can help create a less defensive response from the person whom you are in conflict with. I-Statements consist of stating how you feel, a description of the individuals behavior, and an explanation to why their behavior lead you to feel this way. When stating your emotion or feeling, it must be expressed by saying, “I feel,” followed by the emotion. An example would be, “I feel angry.”

After acknowledging your emotion, include the person’s observable behavior related to your feelings. When stating their behavior steer away from making assumptions, judgments, criticisms, and threats. A behavioral statement includes, “when you procrastinate at work instead of planning ahead on our group task.”

Immediately followed by your behavioral statement, the conditions in which lead you to feel the emotion you felt should be stated. Be careful, you do not want to repeat your feeling here. An explanation statement includes, “because then I have to pick up your slack to get the work done on time.”

The example of an I-Statement put all together

I feel angry (feelings) when you procrastinate at work instead of planning ahead on our group task (behavior) because then I have to pick up your slack to get the work done on time (why).

Benefits of I-Statements

If used in the work place by professionals, I-Statements creates a less hostile way to express a feeling of emotion you’re experiencing. I-Statements are also a more appropriate way to inform an individual about their behavior that caused the issue. These statements avoid blaming others for how you feel and minimize making the person you are in conflict with feel resentment, guilty, or put down.

Annual Sponsorship Tips

When you have annual sponsorship opportunities, consider the following low-cost-to-you options that will make all of the difference to your sponsors:

Website

Have a place on your website for all event and general sponsorships.

Having a sponsorship tab on your website or blog will make it easier for potential sponsors to budget AND it will give you an opportunity to list who the current sponsor is.

Remember to:

  • Have different sponsorship levels for every event and sponsorship opportunity
  • Make sure your contact information is on the page so that potential sponsors can easily contact you

Paper

Keep a document of all sponsorship opportunities readily available to hand out at any time.

Make sure the document has all of the opportunities along with price ranges, dates of sponsorships and where you will be promoting / mentioning their business.

  • Make sure the document is professional yet attractive and creative! This is something that the sponsor will take back to their office, so you want it to not only relay the information but to also give a great first impression

*Tip: Don’t forget to follow up! Send thank you cards, call to say thank you and invite the sponsor to your future events.*

How to Get Donations & Sponsors

How to Get Donations and SponsorsWhen searching for a Title Sponsor remember that you are selling visibility! Their sponsorship is an investment in their branding. They will be paying to have their business associated with a worthwhile event (because your event serves a purpose – see the last post).

*Tip – Seek sponsorship from businesses that try to advertise to the market your event is targeting!*

Different Types of Donations

·         Corporate Contributions –
Corporations usually have a charity budget that they can draw from to donate to your organization or event.

·         In Kind –
Maybe a business has a service that could benefit your event? A really useful in kind donation is printing (flyers!!). Maybe a business has something that they can donate to your business (furniture, technology, bottled water, etc.)

·         Corporate Sponsorship –

Corporations can draw from their advertising & marketing budget. Like an event sponsor, you are selling visibility!
When asking for sponsorships KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SELLING.

Make the sponsorship seem valuable to the potential sponsor by telling them exactly what they will be getting in return.Know the dollar value.

Having different sponsorship packages can be very appealing to a potential sponsor. Different types of businesses need different types of promotion.

Include things in your sponsorship packages like:

·         Website advertisements

·         Promotion on your social media accounts

·         Links to sponsor in your newsletters

·         Promotion on event flyers / Their business flyers in your work place

When presenting the sponsorship package to your potential sponsor tell them exact figures. Let them know how many people are going to see your Facebook post about them and for how many days those people saw it.

You should also keep the cost of your package parallel to the actual value. You’re trying to raise money – don’t over value your packages!

*Tip: The most expensive package that you offer should be greater than any donation that you have ever received.*

When purchasing advertising packages, businesses generally choose the middle option. They don’t want the cheapest thing and, in general, they won’t feel the need to be high end. HOWEVER some businesses go big or go home. You may be surprised by how many people purchase your largest package.