Monday, March 30, 2015

Defining Your Target Audience

Tips for Performing Effective Market Research

target audience
As a small business owner, you already know how important market research is to the overall development of your business. With the large amount of information out there, one can easily become overwhelmed with trying to figure out exactly was research they should be doing and what information is crucial to their unique operation. Since doing market research and defining your target audience is so important to your business’s success, there are some tips available to help make doing research easier.

What is Your Objective?

Before beginning to collect information, it is important to think about what the overall objective of your research is. Are you looking to better define who your target market is? Are you aiming to drive more traffic to your store front or online store? Or are you simply trying to increase your overall sales? Defining what your desired end result is will help you to better choose what data you need to collect while also helping to eliminate doing research on items that will not take you to the finish line.

What is Your Competition Doing?

Part of doing market research is looking at your direct competitors in the industry. When doing research on other businesses both in-store and online, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. If possible, visit your competitor’s stores as a consumer and see what your experience is – make sure to take note of what worked, what you liked and of course what you didn’t like. By doing this, it can help to provide your customers will a better experience when they shop with you.

Who is and Who is Not Your Target Audience?

While it is important to define your target audience in order to market your business successfully, it is also important to know who is not your target to help cut down on using resources to market to the wrong people. It is okay to say that certain people are not a part of your target market – for example, if you own a dog grooming business, people who are not pet owners would obviously not benefit from your services. There is nothing wrong with defining this “non-market” and simply not marketing to them – if they do not have a need for what you’re offering, advertising would be lost on them.

Are Your Surveying Current Customers?

As we all know a happy, loyal customer is one of the best resources. Because of this, there can be a lot of value in surveying customers about their experiences and thoughts with your business. Creating this type of survey is very simple – ask customers what they like, what they do not like and what they think you could be doing better. Remember, opening up a survey gives consumers the opportunity to tell you how they really feel – make sure you are prepared for tough criticism as well as positive feedback.

Do you need help targeting your small or home business? Maybe it is time you called Stacy O’Quinn! To find out how Stacy can help you, click here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Establishing Your Brand

Essential Legal Question You Should Ask Before Choosing a Brand Name

brand, brand building, establishing a brand
When entrepreneurs are starting a new business or launching a new product, one of the most crucial things to the launch is choosing a brand name. This name will help define your business and, in many cases, can become very valuable. While picking a great name is important, it is not enough to position the product or business for success. In order to make sure the path is clear to move forward with the name you choose, it is vital to answer some important legal questions to avoid getting into trouble.

Is Your Name Already in Use?

With so many businesses and products out in the market today, finding a truly unique name that no one else is using can be tough. In many cases, even if you started using the brand name first, if another company or product trademarks the name, it now belongs to them. When thinking of brand names, make sure to do a comprehensive, thorough search to see if the name has been trademarked. Using a trademarked name can get you into deep legal trouble and cost enough to bankrupt your business.

Does Your Brand Name Accurately Describe Your Business or Product?

Brand names that are overly descriptive and obvious can sometimes be very difficult to protect under trademark laws. Although this may seem the opposite of logic, it is more beneficial to choose a brand name that is less descriptive and less obvious – doing this will provide you with stronger protection when you decide to register and trademark the name. For example, The TV Store would be a very hard name to trademark for a business who sells televisions – an alternate name, such as Moving Pictures is much easier to protect under a trademark for the same business since it is much less obvious.

Will Your Name Give You an Advantage in the Market?

When business owners consider using brand names and want to trademark them it is often because the name gives them a competitive advantage in their industry. For example, products using the brand name Apple often have a large advantage over other electronics. Even if your brand does not have a reputation when developing a brand name, it is important to keep in mind that choosing a brand name is an important step to building that reputation and establishing your business and brand in the market.

Will You Protect Your Brand Name?

Just as others have trademarked names to protect them from being used by others, you also may want to consider protecting your brand name. If two companies have the same name, or products with the same name, it is possible for consumers to be confused. In order to keep your brand name unique and untouched by other businesses, you must register the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. This will stop others from using your trademarked name on their products.

Answering these critical brand name legal questions is a great first step in developing and choosing a great name. By following these guidelines, and using the expertise of legal professionals, it is possible to find an amazing brand name that will help to distinguish your business or product and help to build an amazing brand and reputation that can lead to amazing success.

Are you ready to start your own brand? Did you know that Stacy O’Quinn has helped dozens of individuals create their own small business that generate six figures every year? To learn more about Stacy and the opportunities he can offer you, please click here.

*Photo Courtesy of Brett Jordan via Creative Commons License

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is Your Small Business Ready for Tax Time?

Information You Should Know About Filing Small Business Taxes

small business, home business
Is your small or home business
ready for tax time?
Not everyone is a tax professional when it comes to filing for themselves and when the sometimes complicated process that goes along with filing taxes for a new business is added to the mix, it can be easy to make mistakes. Even though making mistakes is human, the IRS does not take slip-ups lightly, even if they are honest mistakes. Before filing taxes for your business this year, it is vitally important to ensure you are using and correctly filling out the right forms to stay off the IRS’s naughty list.

Know Your Small Business Type

Depending on who or what you are filing for, there are different forms that will need to be filled out. A great resource for finding the paperwork you need is the IRS website – the site also includes information on choosing the right tax preparer and exactly what forms will need to be filed for you small business. You will also need to determine what type of business you have in order to define what forms should be used. Some of these business types include partnership, corporation, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

In addition to determining your small business type, you will also have to decide whether or not the IRS will see your small business as a hobby. The best way to accomplish this is to compare your business against a number of different criteria that help separate hobbies from small businesses such as the company’s profitability margins over the last three to five fiscal years. After review, if your small business holds a “hobby” status, there may be a different form you need to complete.

Filing for Freelancers

Many freelancers make the mistake of filing their taxes as a small business. Since these professionals do not require a legal structure to do business or hold any liability they do not have to file their taxes in this manner. Since this is a common misconception among many freelancers, the best course of action is to work with a tax professional – ideally one who understands the type of work you do and industry you work in – in order to ensure your taxes are being filed correctly and for the maximum refund.

Filing for Proprietorships or Partnerships

Most small businesses are considered by the IRS to be either proprietorships or partnerships. Once your business type has been determined, the next step is to identify which tax forms need to be completed in order to file correctly. Since choosing the correct forms is often determined by the type of taxed you need to pay it is important to know and understand what business taxes the federal government levies – these include self-employment tax, excise tax, income tax, and employers tax.

There are a number of forms that will need to be completed in order to file taxes correctly as a small business, and these forms are broken down into five specific categories. These categories include general forms, general business expenses, starting and operating a new business, employee benefits, and specialized forms. All of these forms are downloadable from the IRS website, along with detailed instructions to help ensure they are completed correctly.

If you found this information useful, you may also want to follow Stacy O’Quinn on his personal blog. Stacy has helped dozens of individuals create their own work from home business and he would love to help you too! For more information about Stacy and to visit his personal blog, click here.

*Photo Courtesy of Tax Credits via Creative Commons License