Marketplace insights

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Marketing tips for small businesses

In the business world, selling and marketing your products or services is a specialized skill. For some Native entrepreneurs, this is just one of the many areas they must learn to master in order to be successful in business. Poor or ineffective marketing is one of the top reasons a business fails; other reasons include poor financial management, undercapitalization and failure to meet with a changing environment.

For some, business skills may not come easy. We must become familiar with business concepts such as profit, pricing and promotion. In the Native environment, we are much more humble about pricing our products, and in some cases we find the value is less associated with monetary than with personal value. This may make it difficult to accept when we have to place a specific dollar value on some of our craft products. But today, even craftspeople must learn the business of selling and marketing in order to fully engage in a self-sustaining hobby or livelihood, given all costs considered.

Marketing is more then just advertising and selling your products. It involves a process that includes identifying customers and their needs, evaluating your service or product for profitability, establishing an effective process for getting your product from you to your customers, and to think of the best, most effective way to deliver your product or service. You must establish a method that will allow for the greatest profitability. In some cases, it costs more to sell a product than what you are able to charge for it. With careful planning and strategic marketing, your chances for success in business will increase.

A simple marketing strategy for a small business includes identifying the following:

"What: First of all, you should inventory what products and services you offer. Make a list and develop a description. How would you describe them to someone? Do this periodically to include any changes in your product line.

"How much: You must establish what price you will charge. Calculate your production costs. Will you be able to sell your products for the costs - not only to produce them, but to cover sales/advertising costs and any overhead, such as storage space or utilities?

"To whom: Who is most likely to buy and what is their profile (income, age, gender and race)? Not everyone will be interested in your product or services (no matter how great they are). You must be aware of your customer base in order to effectively advertise and sell your products. What methods would most appeal to your target customer (e.g., packaging, etc.)?

"How: By what means will you sell your product - retail, Internet, personal selling? Is it better to spend your time and resources selling to vendors or directly to customers? In some cases, travel costs can add up and you might do just as well with mail-order sales.

Also, identify your advertising strategy: flyers, word of mouth, or radio or television advertising. It is also important to prepare a marketing budget, as there will be costs associated with most advertising methods. This will be helpful in identifying the cost to sell your products and again to incorporate into your product costs.

Effective marketing involves careful planning. By following even a simple marketing plan, you are able to think of things and evaluate areas that will help you make better business decisions. You should think through your marketing processes, from developing or acquiring your products or services to the final sale, or what we might call the ''end customer.'' Succeeding in business involves many things. Effective marketing can significantly improve your chances for success. The importance is in selecting all the right choices for making your business profitable.

Lucinda Hughes-Juan has many years of teaching and training in the fields of business and management, with a focus on the cultural dynamics in Native businesses and organizations. She is an enrolled member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. She holds an MBA in global management, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in business and organizational management. E-mail her at MLS8090@aol.com.