Free marketing seminars boost small business owners [The Montana Standard, Butte :: ]
(Montana Standard (Butte) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 27--Learning how to exist and maybe thrive in an old school business climate involves incorporating new data mining, including precise customer demographics.
That's what one small business owner aims for -- a healthy mix of tried-and-true business methods combined with updated online marketing strategies.
Maria Ralph, Butte Business Center owner, gleaned both from a recent retail business development seminar at the Butte Civic Center led by Montana Tech business professor Traci O'Neill that drew about 35 business owners and employees.
"I love the free aspect of it," said Ralph. "You can come and learn and get a ton of information. Marketing is more specific than you think. There's a science to it."
Ralph runs a "coworking" center that offers computers, Internet access, fax and notary services, plus office space for independent, home-based freelancers and entrepreneurs to meet, collaborate and work on business plans.
"Coworking" is all the rage in larger cities, so Ralph is trying to cash in on entrepreneurs in the local business community who usually work from home instead of the traditional work place.
Ralph also wants local business owners to remember the Flat, too, where a lot of businesses like hers are located.
Ralph especially loves the progressive aspects of O'Neill's seminar: breaking down customer demographics by minute criteria, sharing free links, offering online resources from the Butte Local Development Corp. website, creating in-depth customer profiles and consistently using social media.
Her student intern, Megan Graff, recently tutored Ralph on how to incorporate Twitter into her marketing.
"My deal is educating people what coworking is," added Ralph. "I need to narrow down the demographics and figure out who these people are. I'll have to ramp up my website, too."
O'Neill teaches that even though 80 percent of all new businesses fail within the first two or three years, the trick is to focus on the "80/20 rule:" 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of a business' customer base, so "let those satisfied customers be your walking, talking billboard for you."
Nurturing that 20 percent is crucial, O'Neill said.
Know your niche competitors inside and out and "better than they know themselves," O'Neill advised.
"Butte is a small community," O'Neill said. "We're all vying for the same target consumers."
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