HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (3/5/13)—Running a small business in the modern, technology-bound age is no easy task; but then again, it really is. Sound confusing? Well, truth be told, a new-age, multi-edged business sword has encroached upon that dated, two-sided blade, and those who choose to wield it are faced with two approaches: let the different sides become overwhelming and alien, or simply realize that the added edges allow your blade to easily cut into all sides of the vast, contemporary market. To put it plainly, there are a multitude of user-friendly venues available to business owners today, many of which are completely or nearly free. In fact, all it takes to really get your name out there in a relatively big way is some creativity, a unique product people want or enjoy, and some new-age know-how. From social media like Facebook and Twitter, to online reviews, smartphone apps, and QR codes, the options business owners now have at their disposal is seemingly limitless. And while the thought of carrying your business into this ever-growing, electronic marketplace can be startling—especially to those who are new to the concept—it’s really quite easy once you look at some of your options.
Of course, we at the Sugg Street Post are keen to a number of the online tools that are available, yet we don’t claim to know everything—and few newly established small business owners do. Fortunately, members of the Sugg Street Post were able to pick up some valuable tips from experienced business advisor and consultant, Marc Willson, during his recent visit to Hopkins County.
A seasoned retailer and restaurateur who re-established The Willson Company in 2010 to serve as a business advisor to small towns and merchants, Marc Willson has served a variety of national retailers in many capacities. In addition, his know-how and experience also led to his employment as a multi-state STAMP (Small Town & Merchant program) representative for Virginia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
From his work with bicycles, Earth Shoes, and Circuit City early on, to his co-development of Virginia’s StoreTracks.com, his management and marketing of eCampus.com in Lexington, KY, and beyond, Marc has played a vital role in a multitude of successful online and brick and mortar retailing situations.
So, what are Marc’s secrets, and what has he learned after all these years?
After over four decades of experience, Marc’s central battle cry for small businesses is, “Get found and be open,” and he says there are five central elements and/or tools that entrepreneurs need to embrace to make this happen in the modern world:
1.) You must have a website.
2.) Your business must have a Facebook page.
3.) Your business website has to be mobile enabled.
4.) You have to be aware of and involved with review sites (i.e. Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, etc.).
5.) You should create and utilize smartphone QR codes.
In correlating the connectivity of QR codes, maintaining a home website, and a business Facebook page, Marc notes that, “Business owners need to place a QR code on the window of their business that can direct potential customers to the business’s home website. According to statistics, 70 percent of the money spent in America is spent after five o’clock and on the weekends, and if businesses in small towns are closing up at five o’clock and on the weekends, they’re missing out on this action. The QR code gives them another chance to garner interest through their website or to make an online sale. Business owners should also have a QR code that takes customers to their Facebook page on the counter inside their location…because customers are more apt to like your page on the spot than they are to remember to do it when they get home.”
With these easily accessible and free electronic tools at nearly everyone’s disposal today, Marc believes that all retailers and entrepreneurs should take stock in the power and usefulness of smartphones as well.
“Smartphones are the wallet of the future,” says Marc. “Businesses are found with these devices and they will be paid with these devices, and this relates back to my battle cry for small businesses today: ‘Get found and be open.’ Businesses have to have a website. Google is a verb today. If someone types in Madisonville, KY on Trip Advisor, it will tell you where to eat, where to stay, and what to do based on reviews, and if you’re not on there, you’re missing the boat. That’s how people that are visiting a new town find out what there is to do.”
Marc explains that there’s another element currently at play in the modern market, too: a change in people’s buying habits due to unmistakable downswings in the economy. As a result, there are several new breeds of customers out there.
As he notes, there was a recent Harvard Business School study done on the results of a recession, and it basically showed that consumers will fall into three categories, which are as follows per Marc:
1.) Paying But Patient—This is most of America. A consumer in this category has “slammed on the brakes” financially speaking, because they’ve lost income and are trying to support a household. As a whole, we know we’re going to get out of this recession, but, in the meantime, we’re a lot more careful when it comes to spending money.
2.) The Comfortably Well-Off—The top five percent of this nation is as rich as it’s ever been. The stock market is over 14,000 points again. So, some economists will tell you that we’re going to end up like the rest of the world: there are haves and have-nots. The rich are rich. If you can get ahold of the rich in your store—if you can tap that market—they will spend.
3.) Live For Today—These are people that are making money, possibly from dual incomes, and they usually don’t have kids. They aren’t saving yet, and they don’t care about retirement yet either. The people in this group tend to spend the money that they make.
From these recessionary consumer groups, each has a focus on different spending habits, which can include the purchase of essentials (water, food, shelter, etc.), justifiable indulgences or treats (gifts, restaurants, etc.), “postponables” (new tires, gas stove instead of electric, etc.), and expendables (things that have no real purpose).
While Marc explains that many avoid the realm of “expendables” in this day and age, he also believes that many still take the time to treat themselves with nice food, pricier clothing, and other relatively extravagant “necessities” every now and then.
“The good news is that we still reward ourselves for a job well done,” says Marc. “We’re born and bred to buy. From your first breath up into older age, spending is ‘good’ and it makes you ‘feel good.’ As a matter of fact, Americans are beginning to move out of the ‘new normal’ into the ‘new abnormal,’ which is basically like saying, ‘We’re tired of saving money; we’re tired of tightening our belts. We want to spend money again,’ and that will happen even more as the economy continues to improve. Interestingly enough, 75 percent of the gross domestic product in the United States is a result of consumers spending their money. It’s all based on consumer spending, so if people don’t get back out there spending money again, this economy won’t correct itself.”
For all these suggestions and tools at the modern business owner’s fingertips, though, Marc says it’s ultimately all about margin rather than actual revenue.
“These small businesses need to know where they are making their money,” explains Marc, “because 80 percent of retailers move their volume from 20 percent of their inventory. With that in mind, these small business owners need to ask themselves, ‘What is that 20 percent? How do I get more of it? How do I get rid of the 80 percent? And more importantly, how do I sell more of what’s really making me money?’ At the end of the day, a small business is all about cash flow. You’ve got to make hay while the sun is shining and you’ve got to sell the products and services that are making you money.”
In trying to get a better grip on these ideas and tips, with especial regards to a better business plan and cash flow, Marc encourages business owners to get in contact with their local Small Business Development Centers. For business owners based in Kentucky that are interested in learning more about the organization, click here to visit the official Kentucky SBDC website.
If you would like to know more about the SBDC’s Small Town and Merchant Program (STAMP), please take a moment to watch the informative video attached below this article or visit the link above.
If you're interested in taking your small business to a whole new level, please contact the Sugg Street Post via Facebook or by email at
. In addition to website creation (which comes mobile ready), we also offer professional graphic design, professional photography, and professional writing services. What's more, we want local businesses to succeed without having to break the proverbial bank in doing so. With that in mind, don't be surprised if we can offer you some of the most affordable rates in the region.
To learn more about The Willson Company and Marc Willson, visit their official website by clicking here.
Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short