Category Archives: Marketing

Ask SCORE: How can I build a strong brand for my business?

By Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE 

If you do a Google search for “what is a brand,” you will find endless opinions from a wide variety of sources trying to nail down the definition. 

The truth is, a brand is an elusive, visceral concept, not a tangible asset. Its value is measured through the emotional connections between a businesses and its customers, not with hard numbers on a spreadsheet. And this is precisely why building a strong business brand can be one of the most challenging tasks for any business owner.

Strong business brands aren’t built overnight. 

Your company’s brand is represented by more than your logo or tagline. It’s the culmination of your interactions with your customers, your business’ core beliefs, how you present your company and yourself to the world – and every other aspect of how you do business. 

Ask SCORE: How can I get more customers? 

By Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE 

For many years, my business efforts were focused on helping client companies market their products and services. I was an advertising agency creative director for five years. On day one, there were just two of us. Five years later, we had a lot of clients and a team of 36. 

Our sales and marketing efforts worked. When the owner closed the agency for medical reasons, I created a virtual ad agency. Six months later I had seven clients, all on the list of the largest companies headquartered in Orange County, CA. That was my goal, and I reached it. 

Working with companies that were large and small, I learned many things. One of the most important was that entrepreneurs need a bullet-point marketing plan. They need to focus some of their energy on finding new customers and the rest on delivering excellent products and services. 

Short answers to the following questions will give you an excellent marketing plan.

Ask SCORE: What’s the best way to communicate with my customers?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to what’s going on around them. True, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy, and perhaps that message or video is really, really important. However, spending too much time in a “heads-down” mode can be off-putting and, sometimes dangerous.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email to communicate with clients. Email is convenient, particularly for work related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion — customers want to be treated as people, not as return email addresses. 

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Don’t you think they would rather do business with someone they know? Wouldn’t you? 

Ask SCORE: What is the best way to market a niche product?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

Marketing a niche product means that you’re not selling to everyone. You are focused on a group of people who are most likely to buy your products or services. 

Having a narrow pool of potential customers comes with challenges and ultimately means more work on your part to find those people who fall within your niche. However, marketing a niche product also has advantages once you identify your customers. 

Successfully marketing a niche product starts with an in-depth understanding of your potential customer’s wants and needs.

When you are targeting a small group of buyers, you need to understand who is most likely to buy your product and how your product can provide solutions to their needs.

Start with a bit of market research. Google can help you find lots of useful information. You can also visit the Kitsap Regional Library and speak to an adult services librarian. The library website can give you access to valuable information. 

How can a non-tech savvy small businesses improve its marketing?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

Trying to understand the effectiveness of your marketing efforts without access to measurable results means your business is flying blind.

Marketing data gives you the insight you need to make well-informed decisions about your marketing efforts and know how to adopt the right marketing efforts to drive the biggest return on your investment.

Reliable analytics will empower you to make data-driven decisions that improve the effectiveness of your marketing.

Just about every business needs an online presence regardless of what they sell. And, bringing customers and prospects to your website should always be one of your primary marketing goals.

Google Analytics is the website analysis platform most used by businesses to get real- time data for insight into how many people visit their website, who those people are, which products or services they’re most interested in, and much more.

Because of its ability to dig into the weeds of your web traffic, Google Analytics is one of the best tools for determining the effectiveness of your marketing and learning how to improve it. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a technology expert or SEO professional to use the platform.

By familiarizing yourself with how to pull some basic information, you can gain an understanding of how well your website is performing for your business. Even at its most basic level, Google Analytics is a tool that the non-tech savvy business owner can operate and benefit from exploring.

  1. Visitor Volume
    See daily and monthly web visitor volume, monitor trends, watch ebbs and flows during
    your marketing campaigns and compare traffic performance as time passes by.
  2. Average Time on Site
    Track how long visitors stay on your website as well as which pages they view.
  3. Bounce Rate
    Measure how many of your visitors quickly left your website after landing on just one
    page. Visitors who leave quickly likely did not read your content and are not interested.
  4. New vs. Returning Visitors
    Measure the ratio of new vs. returning visitors. This is useful data when measuring the impact of your marketing efforts on prospects vs. existing customers.
  5. Traffic Sources
    Determine where your audience is coming from – from different websites and different
    geographic locations.
  6. Conversions
    Set-up conversion tracking and measure the percentage of your website visitors who make a purchase, fill out a contact form, or take some other desired action.

    There are so many tracking capabilities available to small businesses through Google Analytics and these just scratch the surface. One of the best is its comparison tool that allows you to compare data year-over-year to identify trends. This can be hugely helpful in planning your long-term marketing efforts. Google Analytics has the ability to give you better insight into your web visitors’ behavior so you can use make more strategic marketing decisions.

    Fire up your analytics and start making more strategic, data-driven marketing decisions.

    Even if you’re a non-tech savvy business owner, you can still easily make Google Analytics work for your business with the right support. There are many resources available to help small businesses navigate this tool and make sense of the data. One of those resources is your SCORE mentor.

    For help with starting, growing or successfully exiting your business venture, contact SCORE — Mentors to America’s Small Business. SCORE is a nonprofit organization with more than 11,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To contact Kitsap SCORE, email kitsap@scorevolunteer.org or call 360-328-1380.

The Importance of Proofreading

Eats Shoots and Leaves vs. Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

What a difference one comma can make in terms of readability and even meaning.

The above is the title of Lynne Truss’ book about grammar. Like many people, I am on social media, and notice misspellings and typographical errors. I don’t actually correct these errors, as I understand that people often dictate posts and messages into their phones. It does seem to me, though, that proofreading has fallen on hard times. Using my own skills, I attempt to help when appropriate.

Naturally, I proofread my own papers when in school, and even other classmates’ writing occasionally. The first time I remember realizing this is my particular skill is in college. If only I’d been on the college yearbook staff!

In my current nostalgia, brought about by remembering happy times before COVID-19 lockdowns, I’ve revisited college yearbooks and unfortunately noticed many errors. I even took to marking corrections in my old yearbooks. After so many years, it wouldn’t hurt anyone, right? Continue reading

Three Things You Should Understand Before Hiring a Search Engine Optimization Expert

A website is a critical sales and marketing tool for just about every business. It’s a hub for product information, a conversion point for capturing leads, the holding place for marketing materials and company news, and many times serves as your potential customer’s first impression of your business.

However, before any prospect can interact with your website, they first have to find your website. This discoverability is the culmination of a strong SEO, or search engine optimization, strategy and an SEO expert behind the scenes.

Most business owners are digital marketing novices making it hard to know what you’re really buying when you hire an SEO expert.

If you’re like most business owners, you understand the role of an SEO expert from a high level but aren’t as familiar with the full scope of what’s involved or the time required. This makes it a lot harder to confidently hire the right SEO expert and forces owners to take these professionals at their word. Continue reading

Should I advertise in a down economy?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Business Mentor, SCORE Kitsap

A recent article on money.com dealt with a couple of difficult questions: “What Is a recession, and are we in one?” Three experts answered the questions. From a technical perspective we’re not there yet, but we could be very soon. 

OK, fine. I’m not a college professor, a manager of economic research, or an investment strategies advisor, but from my perspective, we’re smack dab in the middle of a recession. The question we all face is what do we do about it?

If you own a business, you want to cut costs, but where? For some companies the decision is easy… the first cut they make is advertising. But you’re not so sure. Continue reading

How can I keep my business going during and after this pandemic?

by Ken Sethney, Volunteer Business Mentor, SCORE Kitsap

Every business owner I’ve had a conversation with in the last month or so is struggling to answer that question. It doesn’t matter what they sell, products or services, they are struggling to find answers to very difficult questions. Almost everyone in start-up mode has simply stopped. 

So, what should they do? What should you do? My suggestion is to keep moving forward. 

One of my SCORE clients owns a well established business with several employees. She and her team provide therapeutic services, but they don’t qualify as “essential.” 

Continue reading