It seems like a simple step when starting a business, but it is important to identify your industry. By knowing what category your new venture fits into, you can be aware of specific market conditions or trends that are more likely to affect you.
How do you know? One simple way is to figure out your classification in the NAICS, the North American Industry Classification System. Let your fingers guide you to your favorite internet search engine, and do some searches for businesses similar to yours, and see how they describe themselves. Or, ask a mentor or industry leader about how to best classify your venture. You can also ask a business librarian – in New York City the SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library) is a great resource. The SBA also has guides to market research that can be helpful.
Once you’ve done that classification, you can start doing some of the more important work in your business planning, like identifying the size of your market, your competition, the growth potential, and other important business plan items. You’ll start to learn which publications, websites, and resources are central to your industry. Those may in turn lead you to more industry intelligence, trends, and sources of information.
Additional sources like Fedstats can provide links galore to troves of information that you (the taxpayer) have already paid for.
It’s a simple subject that, if overlooked, can cause you more problems down the road. What have you learned about identifying your industry? Share with us in the comments.
Do you know if your small business marketing efforts are getting results? If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone. Even among leading marketers, few are able to prove definitively that their marketing is having an impact, according to The CMO Survey done earlier this year.
The study found that only one-third of top marketers surveyed can demonstrate the impact of their marketing spending. The percentage is even worse for social media; a mere 15 percent of CMOs could prove that social media marketing expenditures had an impact on the business.
The sad thing about this is it’s really pretty easy to track whether your marketing efforts are having a bottom-line impact. Here’s how:
1. Start with a plan. Your marketing plan should include the different avenues where you plan to market your business, from print to online advertising to social media. It should also include goals for what you hope to achieve with your marketing. Make these quantifiable and realistically achievable. For instance, you might hope that a specific online ad will drive X number of visitors to your website; that X percent of those will take an action such as emailing you, downloading a white paper or calling your business; and that X percent of those will actually make a purchase.
2. Track your results. You can track results of specific ads and marketing outreach in many ways. On the most basic level, if customers come into your store, restaurant or business, tracking results can be as simple as asking how they heard about your business. For a print ad, direct mail piece, radio ad or online ad, you can include a keyword or code that customers use to get a discount when they purchase. For social media and online advertising, you can also use online analytics tools to track the results of your efforts. Google Analytics is free and it’s all most small businesses need to see where visitors to their websites come from. For example, you can see which websites direct traffic to your site, such as whether most of your restaurant website visitors come to you from Yelp!, Facebook or Twitter. You should never do any type of advertising without building in a way to track whether it worked.
3. Dig into social. When it comes to social media, most business owners get caught up in counting their fans or followers, or feeling good because they got a lot of Facebook “likes.” That’s part of it, sure, but you also need to see which social media activities pay off in real sales, so you can focus your precious time on those. You’ll want to measure:
4. Assess and readjust. Make time to sit down and assess all this data you’ve gathered. Evaluating your marketing efforts does take some time and planning, but it will pay off in the end by enabling you to focus on the marketing efforts that work and stop wasting time and money those that aren’t working.
Your SCORE mentor can help you set marketing goals, develop a marketing plan and measure your results. Don’t have a mentor? Visit www.score.org to get one today.