Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small business owners often don’t have big marketing budgets to work with, which can make promoting products or services a challenge. The good news is that there are many ways to market your company that cost little or nothing but can still significantly impact your bottom line.

Below are our top small business marketing strategies.

1. Set Up a Google My Business Listing

Having a Google Business profile is one of the most effective and free marketing strategies available for local businesses. This allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches. 

For your business profile to show up higher on Google Maps or local results, you’ll need to optimize it by claiming verified ownership—which can be done through your Google My Business account.

With a Google My Business profile, you can share details and photos of your business, including its location, contact information, and services and products offered. Whether you’re looking for foot traffic or web traffic, Google is the ultimate search referrer and helps people find your business when looking for products and services like yours in their area.

Your Google Business profile also allows customers to share reviews and ratings about their experience with your business, which helps attract potential customers through their Google search results. Be sure to share your Google My Business link with your customers and encourage them to leave reviews.

You can set up your Google My Business profile here

2. Make the Most of Social Media Marketing

Having a prominent social media presence is no longer optional for small businesses—it’s a marketing must. Social media helps define your image, promote your business, gain clientele, and build relationships.

It’s best to start with one or two social channels that cater to your target market and ideal audience instead of trying to master all the different platforms at once. Once you learn one and do it well, add another. Be sure to leverage the latest trends on your platforms, like posting Facebook Stories, Instagram Reels, etc.

Some ideas on what to post include promoting your blog posts to drive traffic to your website, running polls and requesting feedback, and sharing client testimonials. 

While it’s OK to post recycled content once in a while, be sure to publish original content, too, including your own videos and photos, and share valuable tips and information. 

Tagging your loyal customers, partners, and vendors on social networks can broaden your business’s organic reach to a new potential audience, help you grow your following, and potentially attract new customers. 

When creating the “About” section on your business social media pages, make sure you get it right. This means creating a compelling description and optimizing the text by utilizing keywords that boost its SEO rank.

Managing multiple social media accounts, creating engaging content, posting consistently, responding to user comments and questions, and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job. Consider hiring an experienced social media manager or outsourcing the work.

3. Engage Your Audience Via Email and Text Marketing

Sending messages about your products or services via email and text is a powerful way to turn leads into customers and foster loyalty. Building successful email/SMS marketing campaigns is critical for any company and is the most effective method for reaching people interested in what your business is offering.

As a small business owner, your email list, including current and prospective customers, is one of your most valuable assets. That’s why building a customer contact list should always be a top priority. 

For customers, it’s easy to click “Follow” on social media, but they aren’t always eager to give out their email address. To get more emails and phone numbers, offer an email/text opt-in on your website, start a monthly email newsletter, and offer discount codes in exchange for providing their contact information.

When it comes to email and SMS marketing, prioritize quality over quantity. An inbox flooded with promotional messages is likely to annoy a customer into unsubscribing, while a small number of messages with valuable content can boost engagement. One of the best ways to do this is to place a coupon in your messages.

Still, great content doesn’t guarantee that recipients will open your message. To improve audience engagement, open rates, and conversions, put thought and effort into the subject line, call to action, and the email’s design. 

Before sending out a marketing email, always send a test email to yourself to preview what it will look like from a customer’s perspective. This ensures that any formatting issues get caught and addressed before the email goes out to your entire list.

4. Deliver Promotions Through Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct mail may be more costly than email marketing, but if you have a targeted list and promote appealing offers, it can be very effective—and profitable. Direct mail also has a longer life span than email marketing, which has a life span of just a few seconds. RetailWire reports that direct mail’s average life span is 17 days.

Some marketing ideas for direct mail include sending a postcard or brochure promoting your business, discount coupons, a gift card, or small branded items with your company’s logo. People hang on to things they can use, so putting your logo on items like magnets, pens, notebooks, and stress balls means more exposure for your business.

You can also time your direct mail campaigns around your customers’ birthdays. Send them special coupons or promo codes to acknowledge their big day. You can send both email and direct mail birthday coupons and compare the results. You may get a better response from an email campaign, but promotional emails often get lost in people’s busy inboxes.

5. Reward Existing Customers and Create a Referral Program

Your current customers are your most valuable resource, especially as they are your primary source of referrals and reviews. A referral from a current customer is the best kind of lead you can get, and a positive review from that customer can pay dividends for years.

One of the best ways to source new leads is to tap your existing network. Reward your repeat customers with loyalty programs that incentivize referrals and discounts. 

To encourage current and past clients to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers, offer them an incentive, like a gift card, free product or service, or another reward that will motivate them to send referrals your way. 

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most trusted and powerful strategies for growing your small business.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners throughout the state. Visit OregonSBDC.org to locate a Center near you and access our no-cost advising services today!

Small Business Benefits of Using Customer Relationship Management

Small Business Benefits of Using Customer Relationship Management

Wouldn’t it be great to have one tool that can host your customer database, act as a sales funnel for your website, send follow-up customer emails, and aid in structured marketing campaigns for your business? There’s good news: This tool already exists! 

All this marketing can be done under one platform called a CRM, which stands for customer relationship management

In this article, you’ll learn how a CRM tool helps companies manage their interactions with customers at all points during the customer life cycle; keep them engaged from discovery to education, purchase, and post-purchase; and improve the overall customer experience. 

What Is a CRM?

The goal of customer relationship management is to improve business relationships to grow the business. When you hear the term “CRM,” it usually refers to a CRM system, which is a tool that companies use to manage all their relationships and interactions with current, past, and prospective customers. 

A CRM helps companies stay connected to their customers and streamline processes and touchpoints, including providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.

Who Is a CRM For?

There is a CRM system for every business type. A CRM helps organize customer information and stay connected to customers at different milestones before, during, and after your sales or purchase process. 

If you’re a product-based business, you’ll want to pick a CRM that’s specific to product sales, and service-based businesses should choose one specific to services. There are also CRMs that are specifically designed for industries, so you’ll want to do your research upfront. 

Having a CRM system gives your sales, customer service, business development, recruiting, marketing, and other roles in your company a better way to manage the external interactions and relationships that drive your business’s success.

CRM systems allow you to see how customers have interacted with your company, milestones in their journey, what they purchased, when they last bought from you, how much they’ve spent, and so on. 

It also stores their contact information, which helps you identify sales opportunities and manage marketing campaigns more effectively, while also making this data accessible to anyone else in your company when they need it.

The right CRM can help companies of all sizes drive growth, but it can be especially beneficial to a small business that must find ways to do more with a much lower budget.

How Does a CRM Add Value to Your Small Business?

Implementing a CRM system for your business offers a lot of value. Below are some of the benefits that a CRM solution can provide your small business:

  • Improved customer service: Customers don’t have to repeat their stories over and over each time they contact your company. With a CRM system, you can address issues more quickly and effectively, leading to better customer support. 
  • Increased sales: Using CRM to improve and streamline the sales process, build a sales pipeline, automate tasks, and analyze sales data leads to more sales. A CRM allows you to have all your customer-facing voice, chat, and email touchpoints accessible in one place and deliver the right message on the right channel at the right time in the sales life cycle.
  • More customer retention: CRM tools can show you when customer churn happens, which is when customers stop using your company’s product or service or stop subscribing, so you can identify and address those pain points.
  • Analytics you can use: CRM tools make your data accessible, understandable, and relevant to your business needs. All your sales data, finance data, and marketing data flow into the CRM to become metrics that help you make sense of everything and use it to your business’s benefit for customer acquisition and retention.
  • Better business efficiency: Having all your day-to-day business functions in one place creates a better workflow, improved project management, and enhanced team member collaboration. CRM automates tasks to eliminate menial, repetitive work. 
  • Improved knowledge sharing and transparency: Collaborative CRM tools help you build a knowledge base, establish best-practice workflows, and facilitate frictionless communication among team members. A CRM platform allows everyone in your organization to gain visibility on your business processes, fostering better collaboration. 

Types of CRM Systems

CRM software compiles customer information in one place. Having this data handy helps your employees interact with customers, anticipate their needs, record customer updates, and track sales performance goals.

CRM solutions can be categorized into three primary types: collaborative, operational, and analytical.

1. Collaborative CRMs

Collaborative CRMs, also referred to as strategic CRMs, centralize customer data where your marketing, sales, and service professionals can all access it. 

They provide visibility into all customer communications, purchase history, service requests, notes, and other details, so customer support reps are better prepared to solve customers’ problems. Collaborative CRMs can also act on this information automatically to expedite service.

As this data is shared across the organization, each department can act on it as needed. For example, at a car dealership, the service department can use sales data, like when a car was sold, to automatically contact the customer to schedule their service appointments.

2. Operational CRMs

With sales and marketing, operational CRMs automate processes related to identifying prospects, keeping tabs on customer interactions, forecasting sales, evaluating marketing campaigns’ performance, and more.

This way, your sales team can spend more time cultivating relationships with customers, while your marketing team can target specific audiences with personalized messaging.

3. Analytical CRMs

Analytical CRMs aggregate customer information from various sources to identify patterns relating to customer trends and behavior. 

These insights can be used to generate and convert more leads, develop smarter marketing campaigns, and enhance customer service. They can also help with sales forecasting, budgeting, and reporting.

What Is the Best Free Small Business CRM Software?

Many CRM services offer free plans hoping that you’ll eventually upgrade to a paid plan.

Free CRM systems allow you to try out the platform with your team to see if it provides value that makes sense for your needs—especially if you’re a small business or a startup on a small budget. Since it’s free, there’s really nothing to lose. 

Below is a list of some CRM providers that have tools for product- and service-based businesses. We recommend that you explore these and other CRM services to see which features align best with your company’s CRM goals.

  • Freshworks: Features basic contact and deal management functionality, but remains competitive with in-built calling, webform lead generation, and allowing unlimited users.
  • Zoho CRM: Features workflow automation and can work with Zoho Campaigns to send up to 12,000 bulk emails a month.
  • HubSpot CRM: Offers contact storage of up to 1 million records, custom data fields, website marketing, and up to 2,000 bulk emails a month.
  • Insightly: Has advanced project management tools, including post-deal tracking, as well as customized reporting and bulk email marketing. 
  • Agile CRM: Includes customizable data fields, one workflow automation, and bulk email marketing.

Finding the best CRM solution for your business will require some comparison shopping. But whichever CRM product you choose, your small business will quickly see its advantages, and you may wonder how your company operated without a CRM in place!

Need Assistance?

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses.

Our 20 regional Centers assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. 

If you have any questions, connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

Having a presence on social media can reap big rewards for your small business. Social networking sites allow you to reach your target audience in a cost-effective way while engaging current and past customers and attracting new business opportunities.

Social media users span all demographics, but the key is identifying which platforms your customers are using and how best to promote your product or service through those specific channels.

Let’s take a look at the benefits small business owners can gain through social media marketing and dive into the differences among the top sites, so you can determine which ones are the best fit for your company.

Top 3 Benefits of Using Social Media for Your Small Business

Social media offers free access to a vast audience of potential customers, providing endless opportunities to spread brand awareness, increase traffic to your business website, and generate sales.

If you’re a small business owner on a tight budget, or if your business is brand-new, having a presence on one or more social media platforms is a marketing tactic that makes sense. While there are many benefits to leveraging social media, we outline the top three benefits for small businesses below:

1. Boost Brand Awareness

When it comes to marketing, social media has a massive advantage over traditional media platforms like TV, radio, and print. With one social media post, you can immediately spread information about your business and potentially reach millions of people.

If you’re an online retailer or service-based business, you can expand your audience to people all over the country who could potentially be buyers of your product or services. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, you can target people who live in, or travel through, your specific Oregon location. There is no other form of advertising that can give you this type of reach for the cost.

2. Bring Traffic to Your Business Website

Another benefit of social media is that it’s easy to direct traffic to your own website by simply including a call to action in your posts, like “Visit our website to sign up now!” or “Get 10% off when you purchase online today!”

Encouraging social media followers to visit your website can improve the quality and quantity of your inbound traffic. Also, it’s an effective way to generate traffic without having to rely on SEO and Google Search.

3. Gain New Customers and Increase Sales

Another significant benefit for small businesses using social media is the ability to target your posts. You can take advantage of advertising tools that get your posts directly in front of your target audience and gain exposure to potential customers. With retargeting ads offered by most platforms, you can make sure your content is being seen by those who are most likely to patronize your business, based on demographics like age, gender, location, personal interests, and more.

Targeted posts are considered paid advertising on social media, but the good news is that on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can choose between CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) models and set your own daily budget. It’s a great tool to attract new clients and help grow your small business.

Social Media for Small Business: 5 Major Platforms

One of the struggles small businesses have with social media is figuring out which platforms are right for the business and will provide the most value. Not every social networking site is a good fit, and trying to master each one is too time-consuming. Instead, it’s best to consider which one your target audience uses and focus your efforts there.

Facebook

Facebook is the world’s largest social media network, with over 2.9 billion active monthly users in 2021. Having a presence on Facebook is a must for every small business, regardless of what products or services your company offers.

Facebook statistics:

  • 200 million small companies are on Facebook.
  • 63% of Americans over 12 say they have a Facebook account.
  • 78% of consumers have found a product through Facebook.

Creating a business profile page is free, and you can customize your page with images and list your website URL, contact information, hours of operation, and the products and services your company offers. Once your profile is set up, you can create posts that share information, photos, videos, infographics, company news, blogs, and more. And with a Facebook Business account, you’ll gain access to advertising tools and in-depth analytics.

Instagram

Instagram is incredibly popular, with around 1.1 billion active users in 2021. What sets Instagram apart from other social media sites is that it is a visual platform dominated by photo and video posts. Therefore, it’s best for small businesses that have appealing visual content to share. Just ensure that your images and video are high quality.

Instagram statistics:

  • More than half of the global Instagram population worldwide is age 34 or younger, and it is especially popular with teens.
  • Instagram is also one of the most influential advertising channels among female Gen Z users when making purchasing decisions.
  • 90% of people on Instagram follow a business account.

From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, small businesses can use Instagram’s tools to promote their offerings. It’s important to note that this platform is almost entirely mobile. It doesn’t allow you to take photos or create new posts on the desktop version unless you use a special social media management tool.

Twitter

Twitter currently has 396.5 million users and is best for sharing brief updates, engaging with followers, and sharing links to blog posts. You can share tweets—which are posts containing 240 characters or fewer—photos, videos, links, and more. You can also interact with others on the platform by mentioning users in your posts and liking and retweeting tweets from other users.

Twitter statistics:

  • 206 million users access Twitter daily.
  • Twitter is most popular among users age 25 to 34.
  • Worldwide, men use Twitter more than women.

If you have engaging content to share and can voice that content in a captivating way, Twitter can be a valuable platform for quickly spreading the word about your business. To boost your tweets, you can use hashtags, and when users retweet your posts, your content could go viral. When using Twitter, it’s essential to strike a balance between sharing your own content and retweeting relevant content from other users.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has 260 million monthly users and is the prime platform for professional social networking. This is the best social media channel to find and recruit talent for your company, position yourself as an industry leader, and promote your business to other professionals.

LinkedIn statistics:

  • Women account for 43.1% of LinkedIn users, while 56.9% of LinkedIn users are men.
  • The age group with the most LinkedIn users is between 25 and 34 at 60.1%.
  • 50% of internet users with a college degree or higher use LinkedIn.

Users on LinkedIn create their own profiles that showcase their skills and professional experience, similar to a resume. Businesses can create a company profile that showcases their offerings. LinkedIn is effective for posting job openings, information about your company culture, blogs related to your industry, and other content that would interest professionals. You can also join industry-specific LinkedIn Groups, which can help with brand recognition and introduce others to your company profile and website.

TikTok

TikTok is relatively new to the social media arena. On this platform, its 100 million active users can create and share short videos. It is mainly dominated by Gen Z users, and as it skews toward a younger audience, it may not be the right fit for your small business.

TikTok statistics:

  • 53% of TikTok users are male; and 47% are female.
  • Roughly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under 34, with 32.5% between 10 and 19 years old.
  • TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021, with 656 million downloads.

TikTok is known for posting memes, dance challenges, and viral moments. It can be a successful marketing platform for small businesses, but only if used properly. The good thing about TikTok is that it doesn’t just show you videos from those you follow. Instead, it offers a continuous stream of content, including videos from people you don’t follow but that the app thinks you might like. This means potential customers can see your content without going directly to your profile.

Get Started with Social Media for Your Small Business

Learning how to leverage social media for your small business can set you up for success.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need to help your Oregon small business grow and thrive by visiting OregonSBDC.org.

Small Business Development Center Approved for Columbia County, Oregon

The Center will be the Oregon Small Business Development Center’s 21st location in the state

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network (Oregon SBDC) announced the approval of a new Small Business Development Center in Columbia County, Oregon. The Columbia County Small Business Development Center (Columbia County SBDC) is the first new center formed in Oregon since 2013. It marks the network’s 20th Center offering core business advising services in the state of Oregon.

The Columbia County SBDC will combine with a newly formed Business Resource Center (BRC), co-locating small business advising and coaching with economic development, business retention, recruitment and expansion, and tourism. The Center and staff will have access to all programs, protocols, systems, training, and software within the Oregon SBDC to enhance its already considerable capacity.

In addition, the new Columbia County SBDC will collaborate with BRC partners to conduct outreach and client recruitment that will serve every community throughout Columbia County. The advising services provided will be consistent with the other Oregon SBDC offerings, which include—as mandated by the federal Small Business Administration—no-cost advising and coaching to any business.

The Columbia County SBDC will be operated under the direction of Columbia Economic Team (CET) Executive Director Paul Vogel.

“This exciting development really is all about timing, and the timing is just right,” said Vogel. “Historically, our county has been difficult to serve by the Portland Community College SBDC due to geography and population factors. We’ve been experiencing significant growth, however, and the COVID pandemic both underscored the glaring need for business support and provided funding sources to make it possible,” Vogel added.

The Columbia Economic Team, a private/public membership organization serving Columbia County launched an initiative to form the Business Resource Center and SBDC after filling grant making and other small business assistance gaps during the pandemic and economic downturn.

“On the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Columbia County SBDC is a much-needed and anticipated resource for local small-business owners,” said Mark Gregory, state director for the Oregon SBDC. “With the new SBDC’s presence in Columbia County, there will be opportunities to expand and create new businesses, and provide business support solutions for the many challenges Oregon’s small-business communities face as they emerge from the pandemic in 2022.”

The Oregon SBDC would like to thank several state and local partners and investors. These partners include:

  • Columbia County Board of Commissioners
  • Columbia Pacific Economic Development District (Col-Pac)
  • The City of St. Helens
  • The City of Scappoose
  • The City of Clatskanie
  • The City of Vernonia
  • The City of Columbia City, Oregon
  • Sen. Betsy Johnson
  • U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici
  • The Columbia Economic Team
  • CET Executive Director Paul Vogel
  • Tammy Marquez-Oldham, PCC SBDC Director

For all press inquiries please contact Paul Vogel at paulvogel@columbiacountyoregon.com.

Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Small Business

In order to become a successful entrepreneur in Oregon, it’s important to first understand how to start a small business.

While some of the steps to bring your small-business idea to market will depend on the type of industry you choose and the products or services you will be providing, every business will need to follow these essential steps:

  1. Identify your business idea.
  2. Research your idea.
  3. Refine and test your idea.
  4. Set up your business.
  5. Write your business plan.
  6. Get your finances in order.
  7. Choose a business location.
  8. Build your website.
  9. Find your customer base.
  10. Prepare for challenges.

Read on to learn more.

Identify Your Business Idea

When considering how to start a small business, it’s important to remember that a great business starts with a great idea. However, even in the ideation stage, there are several approaches you can consider.

When developing your small-business ideas, you can take something you’re passionate about—like a hobby—and turn it into a business. For example, if you love puzzles and care about quality and design, you might consider manufacturing your own brand of puzzles. If you love to bake, perhaps you have a dream to open your own bakery.

Another way to approach your small-business idea is by solving a problem. Perhaps your area is growing in tourism but doesn’t have enough accommodations. If you have extra space at your home or can buy an investment property, this may be an opportunity for you to explore hospitality as a business venture. Finding a need in your community is a fantastic place to start.

You can also generate small-business ideas through brainstorming. Write down any idea that comes to mind—big or small—and refine your idea in the next phase.

No matter how your business idea comes to mind, remember to be realistic about the demand and scalability of your potential business.

Research Your Idea

The next step in how to start a small business is to do some market research and take a hard look at the demand for your business idea in order to ensure that it’s viable before you spend time and money developing your business.

Questions you should seek answers to during this phase include:

  • Is there a need for this product or service?
  • What is currently available in the market?
  • How competitive is this industry, and who are my top competitors?
  • What is needed to turn my idea into a reality?

Conducting market research for your small-business idea will be helpful when you begin writing your business plan.

Refine and Test Your Idea

Testing your idea is a crucial aspect of starting your business. You can provide your service to a few people and get valuable feedback on how it’s working. If you are manufacturing a product, you can create a prototype and learn what works—and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. You can also find out how much potential customers might pay for your product or service. From there, you can refine your business idea.

Set Up Your Business

Next, it’s time to set up your small business, which has several steps within this phase.

You will first want to choose a business name. It’s important to choose a business name that is available for use in Oregon, which you can check through the Oregon Secretary of State’s website. Businesses can also obtain a federal trademark, so it’s a good idea to search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for similar business names to yours.

Next, you will need to choose your business structure. Your business structure will influence your registration requirements, your tax responsibilities, and your personal liability. Choosing the right business structure will provide the right balance of legal protections and benefits.

Common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • C corporation (C corp)
  • S corporation (S corp)
  • Benefit corporation (B corp)
  • Close corporation
  • Nonprofit corporation
  • Cooperative

Once you have identified your business name and business structure, you can apply online for your business’s federal employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS and register your business in Oregon. This will allow you to apply for the necessary business licenses and permits.

Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a crucial step to starting any business. It’s a foundational tool that helps to map out your plan for success and guides you through the stages of beginning and operating your business.

There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan—it simply needs to meet your needs and the needs of your business. It can cover anything from high-level overviews about various aspects of your business to more detailed information such as your operational plans and finances.

Topics you may consider including in your business plan include:

  • Executive summary
  • Overview of the company and its objectives
  • Market analysis
  • Company organization
  • Overview of services or products
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Logistics and operations
  • Financial projections

You should think of your business plan as a living document, designed to be reviewed and adjusted over time.

Get Your Finances in Order

Being able to manage your finances well will be critical to the success of your small business. One way to get off to the right start is to ensure that you separate your personal and business expenses.

Open a separate business checking account, which can be used to receive payments and to pay for business-related expenses and overhead. LLCs, partnerships, and corporations are required by law to have a separate bank account for business. While sole proprietors are not legally required to have a separate account, it’s highly recommended, and your future self will thank you come tax season!

You may also want to consider opening a business credit card and will be required to do so if your business structure is a corporation or an LLC. Building credit is important for having the ability to secure future funding should you need it.

You’ll then need to develop a bookkeeping system and set up important processes, such as how you’ll get paid by your customers.

At this stage, consider your knowledge, skills, and abilities to:

  • Keep accurate records
  • Analyze timely financial reports
  • Prepare sales forecasts and budgets
  • Track and analyze key financial indicators
  • Structure debt effectively

If you’re unsure about how to manage the day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting responsibilities for your business, you should know that the Oregon SBDC offers resources and ongoing classes for small-business owners to get a handle on their finances and accounting basics, including the Small Business Management Program, which provides a combination of a classroom setting and one-on-one coaching to help make you and your business more successful.

Additionally, businesses will need to secure external business financing through a line of credit, a small-business loan, or other means. The Oregon SBDC’s Capital Access Team can help you access the funding your business will need through specialized business advising.

Choose a Business Location

If you are planning to operate a brick-and-mortar business, choosing a business location is one of the most important decisions you will make before launch, because it will determine the taxes, zoning laws, and regulations your small business will be subject to.

Consider your business’s target market, your personal preferences, and the costs, benefits, and restrictions of different government agencies.

Costs that can vary significantly by location include:

  • Standard salaries
  • Minimum wages
  • Property values
  • Rental rates
  • Business insurance rates
  • Utilities
  • Government licenses and fees

Additionally, local zoning ordinances, taxes, and government incentives will also vary.

Build Your Website

Regardless of what type of small business you’ll be operating, having a website as part of your online presence will be important in building your credibility with your customer base.

As you prepare to build your business website, the first step is to obtain a good domain name. That means finding a URL that is easy to spell, as short as possible, and memorable. Be sure to research the domain name to see if a similar web address already exists. Additionally, check with the USPTO to ensure that you haven’t included any registered trademarks.

Your website should clearly showcase your business products or services in an memorable and engaging way that drives results. Beautiful graphics that are compressed and optimized for fast loading, easily accessible calls to action (such as “Buy now” or “Call now” buttons), and an intuitive navigation system should all be considered as you create your site. Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) practices to ensure that search engines index and rank your website will also help with your business’s visibility.

Find Your Customer Base

Now that the groundwork of how to start a small business has been laid out, it’s time to find your potential customers.

Before you can build your customer base, you will need to know who your ideal customers are. Develop a plan for acquiring customers by understanding how your typical customer would find a product or service like yours. This may include building a presence on social media, using email marketing, working with local newspapers, or finding in-person networking opportunities.

It’s also helpful to research successful competitors to see where they advertise and other strategies they use, as those may be beneficial for your own business efforts.

Prepare for Challenges

When you’re learning how to start a small business, one thing to keep in mind is that there will always be unforeseen obstacles. The market and technology are constantly changing, and the most successful entrepreneurs are ones who are flexible and willing to adapt to their customers’ needs.

As a new business owner, you may also learn that there are aspects of your business that you aren’t sure how to manage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The Oregon SBDC is here to support entrepreneurs as they prepare to start their own businesses and can provide crucial business advising at no cost.

No matter the type of challenge you may be facing with opening your small business, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network can help you turn your small-business idea into a reality! Connect with your local SBDC to learn more at OregonSBDC.org.

How to Use SBDC Small-Business Mentoring to Start or Grow a Business

How to Use SBDC Small-Business Mentoring to Start or Grow a Business

Advising and mentorship at the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network

A business mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser who can provide support and advice when it’s needed. Whether they’re starting or growing your small business, entrepreneurs can benefit from small-business mentoring and can put a small business on the right track toward success.

Luckily, finding an experienced small-business mentor is as simple as connecting with the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network.

Free advising services

Our mission at the Oregon SBDC is to provide expert advice, training, and resources for small-business owners through 20 conveniently located centers throughout Oregon.

One of the many benefits of connecting with your local Small Business Development Center is the free advising services for business owners.

Tap into the insight of our knowledgeable team of advisers, and receive valuable small-business mentoring through this no-cost service.

Advising is confidential and can cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Strategic planning
  • Business support
  • Understanding and analyzing business financials
  • Hiring and scaling your operations
  • Intellectual property concerns

Our advisers understand how to start a small business in Oregon—and how to scale it when you’re ready. They can support you with individualized advice at every stage of your small-business venture.

Starting a company

It’s one thing to have a great business idea and another to actually start a business. Often, first-time entrepreneurs are unsure where to begin.

The Oregon SBDC has several tools available that help to streamline the process of creating and running your business, and one such tool is LivePlan.

This business planning software can simplify:

  • Creating your business plan
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Tracking performance

With customizable functions, hundreds of sample plans, and the ability to connect to other accounting software like QuickBooks, LivePlan can help you plan, fund, and grow your business.

As part of our small-business mentoring services, small-business owners can access this valuable software through their adviser.

Growing your business

If your small business is ready for growth, the Oregon SBDC can help guide you through the process of expanding it to the next stage.

GrowthWheel is a visual toolbox for decision-making and action planning for start-ups and small businesses, designed to build your business in a simple, action-oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work.

It tackles the ongoing challenges that businesses across industries face in each stage of their life cycle and helps to map out business decisions.

The best part? It’s available at no cost to clients who work with our advisers as part of the benefits of small-business mentoring through the SBDC.

Understanding your market

When you work with a small-business mentor at the Oregon SBDC, their expertise in your local area will help you understand the market in which you operate.

For a more in-depth look, the Network’s Market Research Institute provides customized research reports and market intelligence for established businesses that anticipate growth.

Small-business owners will have access to data that will help them:

  • Identify opportunities
  • Better understand the competitive landscape
  • Refine business plans
  • Make smarter, more informed business decisions.

Based on your individual needs and goals, the institute’s market research report will encompass a range of topics and market analyses for a customized marketing plan with no direct cost to you!

Your adviser can help you understand and create a plan around your custom report, from industry trends and statistics to geographic analysis and supply chain information.

Finding and securing financing

When it comes to funding for your business, you want to ensure that any advice you receive is relevant to you and will help you succeed.

The Oregon SBDC’s Capital Access Team (CAT) is made up of specialized advisers located throughout the state who provide expert advice on accessing capital to foster economic growth and resilience.

When you connect with the CAT, you’ll be mentored by experts to help you:

  • Assess readiness for funding to determine next steps
  • Advise on business planning and projections to be “funder-ready”
  • Discuss and advise on different finance strategies
  • Provide financial analysis and feedback as needed
  • Advise on funding package documentation
  • Assist clients with funder relations and connections

The Capital Access Team has helped Oregon businesses successfully access more than $255 million in capital since its founding in 2010.

Small-business mentoring is available at each of our 20 Centers. To learn more about our network and how we can help you start a business or grow your existing small business, visit www.OregonSBDC.org.

What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur in 2021

What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur in 2021

For many, the American dream includes owning a business. At the Oregon Small Business Development Center, our mission is to help entrepreneurs realize that dream and their full potential by providing services like small business advising, business planning, and a variety of specialty programs that can help entrepreneurs in every area of business. But the first step in creating a profitable and thriving business is understanding what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in 2021.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Fundera, approximately 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of the second year, it’s 30% of businesses, and by the end of the fifth year, about half will have failed. That’s why it’s smart to think through your business plan and consult with professionals who can help guide you before you start your business.

So what do you need to know before you set out on your first, or next, business venture?

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is crucial to the success of any small business. Whether you are a freelance graphic designer who contracts with different companies or a brick-and-mortar store with 15 employees, having a written plan for where you’re going and how you’re going to get there is a MUST!

At the Oregon SBDC, we use a tool called LivePlan to help business owners from start-up to scaling. LivePlan breaks the business planning process down into simple steps with instructions and examples and is fully customizable. LivePlan also makes budgeting and forecasting easy. All you have to do is enter your projected sales along with your anticipated expenses, and LivePlan will automatically create your financial statements.

SET S.M.A.R.T. Goals

The art of goal-setting doesn’t just take into account the end goal. It’s about breaking down that end goal into small, actionable steps that you implement daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. A common goal-setting method for small-business owners is the S.M.A.R.T. method (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).

S.M.A.R.T. goals help you clarify your goal, focus your efforts, and use your time and resources productively to increase your chances of success.

If you’re having trouble achieving your goals by the time frame you’ve set, make sure to go back and review them. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this goal too broad?
  2. Does the goal need to be broken down more?
  3. Do I have the capacity to achieve this goal?
  4. Is this goal still a focus for my business?

As your business grows and changes, so will your goals—and that’s OK! There is nothing wrong with adjusting your goals as you move throughout the year.

Do Your Research

Market Research Institute to help with this process.
The Market Research Institute provides customized research reports and market intelligence for established businesses that anticipate growth. This data helps businesses identify opportunities, better understand the competitive landscape, refine their business plans, and make more informed business decisions.

Secure Funding

Although you can start some businesses on a scrappy budget with very little overhead and cost, having funding in place is a strategic move for businesses that require more capital to get off the ground. This is where small-business funding can help. Resources like business loans and crowdfunding can help alleviate the stress of startup costs. There are a range of options for accessing capital:

  • Government-funded small business loans (SBA)
  • Private business loans (banks, credit unions, etc.)
  • Angel investors
  • Crowdfunding
  • Income from a 9-to-5 job
  • Grants
  • Lines of credit

Each of these options will have its pros and cons and different requirements. Figure out which are best for you at each stage of your business and entrepreneurship journey.

Leverage Your Network

How can your network affect your net worth? Whether you’re launching a product- or service-based business, tapping into your network is one of the best ways to get it off the ground.

You never know what opportunities will come out of connecting with the people who already know, like, and trust you. Here are a few ways to leverage your network:

  • Attend networking events (virtual and in person) to meet potential clients.
  • Get the message out about your business by email.
  • Share about your business venture on social media.
  • Join organizations that complement your product or service.
  • Ask acquaintances for introductions to others in their network.

Be sure to be genuine and professional in these business relationships. Also, don’t forget that you need to add value to the lives of the other people in your professional network as well!

Seek Advice and Mentorship

Seeking professional advice and mentorship can help cut down on the hard lessons small-business owners often have to learn and help get your business started on the right foot. Connecting with the right business adviser or mentor can be an invaluable move for your business.

Oregon SBDC advisers are knowledgeable business professionals experienced in a variety of topics, including writing a business plan, analyzing cash flow, marketing, hiring, and intellectual property concerns. Our advisers understand how to do business in Oregon, and they can support you with valuable, relevant advice at every stage of your business venture.

Each of our 19 centers provides confidential, no-cost business advising to help you succeed. Advising requires filling out our online intake form and, at some centers, attending a free introductory workshop to see if advising is right for you.

Now that you understand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s time to put the wheels into motion. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of planning your business, ready to launch, or a few months in, the Oregon Small Business Development Center is here to assist you. To learn more about our services, click here.

Oregon Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses (2021 Guide)

Oregon Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses (2021 Guide)

Our nation shows its appreciation to the men and women who’ve worn the uniform of our armed forces in many ways. From the wide range of discounts for military families to free grub on Veterans Day, your selfless military service has earned you some perks and assistance. If you happen to be a veteran who owns an Oregon business—or is thinking of starting one—you should be sure to take advantage of the state, regional, and national resources that apply directly to you. Here are some of the best Oregon resources for veteran-owned businesses.

State, Regional, and National Resources for Veteran Business Owners

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal

Easily access the resources you need to help your business succeed via the VA’s Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP). With a layout that’s simple to understand and use, this website should be one of your very first stops as a military veteran looking to start a business in Oregon.

Veteran Business Outreach Center

From pre-business planning workshops to classes on how to expand into international exports, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) offers training and expertise to those at every stage of getting a company off the ground. Whether you’re a vet long out of uniform, a reservist, or a military spouse, they’re here to offer help in building, maintaining, and expanding your business.

Vets First Verification Program

An initiative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Vets First Verification Program is more than just a certification system. Any enterprise that qualifies as a veteran-owned small business (VOSB) or service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and receives certification through Vets First will be considered first for contracts with the VA. It’s a great way to make sure you get priority access to any VA work your company may be able to carry out.

Business Impact NW

A nonprofit dedicated to helping people in traditionally underrepresented communities—including military veterans—to successfully create and run small businesses, Business Impact NW is a great resource for veterans in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest. It provides both training and advice for entrepreneurs, as well as technical and financial support, and it works directly with the VBOC, serving as their regional partner. So while this is a regional organization, it has national support and connections to help Oregon veterans build businesses.

Oregon COBID

Oregon’s Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity is a statewide initiative that mirrors parts of the Vets First Verification program, providing those who qualify with special access to government contracts. It also shares Business Impact NW’s goal of helping business owners from underrepresented communities. For a veteran-owned business to qualify for assistance, the owner must have a VA disability rating letter demonstrating any percentage of disability, between 0% and 100%. Learn more about the application process and get yours started at Oregon’s Service Disabled Veteran (SDV) Certification site.

Make the Most of the Benefits You Earned

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are many other organizations and resources, both national and regional, aimed at helping small-business owners succeed. Some are targeted at veterans or other specific communities like these; others are available to anyone with that quintessential American dream of running their own business. So take these tips as just a starting point to seeking out all the Oregon resources for veteran-owned businesses—and remember that you’ve earned this assistance through your selfless service.

How to Get a Business Loan in Oregon

How to Get a Business Loan in Oregon

Oregon is packed with over 320,000 small businesses. Many of these ventures started with a great idea. But to turn a concept into reality, you need money. An Oregon small-business loan can help you get your business off the ground or take an existing one to the next level. Keep reading to learn how you can get lines of credit for the working capital you need to make sure your company is one of the strongest small businesses in the state.

How to Use an Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

If you’re starting or expanding a small business in Oregon, you don’t have to go it alone. Both new and existing business owners can approach an Oregon Small Business Development Center for guidance and resources. Even if all you have is an idea, a Small Business Development Center can help you get everything in place so you’re ready to approach lenders about getting a loan.

An Oregon Small Business Development Center can help you transform your business idea—no matter how well-developed it is—into a solid plan designed to secure the funding you need.

For Existing Businesses

If you’re applying for funding for an existing business and you need your first loan, a Small Business Development Center can help ensure that your plan has the right content and structure. For example, they can make sure it emphasizes your current earnings—and those you will get as a result of the new funding—in a way that’s honest, realistic, and compelling for a lender.

Also, as a seasoned business owner, your organization may have some qualities that can make it more appealing to a lender. An Oregon Small Business Development Center can help you identify attributes that can enhance the appeal of your business.

For New Businesses

A business plan is essential, and many new business ideas may not have one already in place. But don’t worry: SBDCs specialize in helping you formulate thorough plans that can get you the funding you need.
A strong business plan outlines several key elements of your business model, marketing strategy, product or service development, and structure. A plan needs to include the following:

  • A detailed description of products or services, including their strengths, weaknesses, and plans for upgrading or adjusting them
  • Profiles of your target customers
  • Marketing strategies for each kind of customer
  • Sales techniques and tools you will need
  • Product development life cycle plans, including future phases of development for each product or service you provide
  • A plan for how you will spend the money you borrow
  • A financial plan outlining when and how you will repay your funds
  • Your business structure (LLC, corporation, etc.)
  • A detailed outline of each principal’s responsibilities
  • A description of the physical resources, equipment, inventory, and other items needed to support your business
  • Any real estate requirements, such as a shop or office space rental

Once this is accomplished, you can approach a lender with the kind of plan that inspires confidence in your success. Oregon SBDCs have access to LivePlan, an online business plan resource that makes sure your plan is complete and suits your kind of business.

Options for Getting Loans

To get a loan for your business, you have a few different options, including:

  • A Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. While the SBA itself doesn’t lend money, it works with lenders and has standards you have to meet to qualify for the loans its lenders offer.
  • A private lender. A private lender can be anyone from a friend or relative to a venture capitalist. Regardless, you will need to have a business plan in place before approaching any private party about funding.
  • The Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund (EDLF) from Business Oregon. This organization provides direct loans for start-ups and small businesses that made less than $1.5 million in the past 12 months or are owned by a severely disabled individual.
  • An Economic Development District entity set up by the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA has districts across the country that support the development of economies in those areas. In some cases when a bank can give you only some of the funds you need, the EDD may be able to help you find the rest.

Does the Government Hand Out Business Loans?

The short answer is “Sometimes”—but only to people who have strong business plans that address a pressing need the government has. Generally speaking, unless your business solves a specific problem the government is facing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get a loan from any state, local, or national governmental entity.

With a strong business plan in hand, you have plenty of options for securing a loan to fund your new or existing venture. To locate an Oregon SBDC near you, visit our website.

Small Business Tips for 4th Quarter Planning

Small Business Tips for 4th Quarter Planning

Time flies when you’re running a business—it’s hard to believe we’re heading into the 4th quarter! To ensure business success through the end of the year, NOW is the time to prepare if you’re a small business owner. Here are some small business tips for 4th quarter planning:

  • Check in on your inventory and operations.
  • Organize your 4th quarter marketing strategies.
  • Plan your year-end client and customer appreciation.
  • Review your year-to-date goals.
  • Get your financials in order for tax planning.

Check on Your Inventory and Operations

Small business owners should ask themselves these questions NOW to build their 4th quarter plan and to save time and money in the long run:

  • Do you have the inventory you need?
    Supply chain issues are causing delays across the board, regardless of industry, so it’s important to plan ahead for your inventory needs.

  • Is your online store ready?
    Review your website and ensure the user experience is simple and in working order. Having an online store is one way to pandemic-proof your business as we move into the winter season.

  • Have you factored in your staffing needs?
    Many industries in Oregon are experiencing labor shortages at the moment, making it important to think ahead about your labor needs.

Organize Your 4th Quarter Marketing Strategies

The holiday season offers many opportunities for small businesses to amp up their promotions. Planning your marketing strategies ahead of time will help business owners make the most of 4th quarter sales.

Some specific days small business owners should consider taking advantage of in the 4th quarter include:

Black Friday, November 26, 2021
Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Last year, consumers reportedly spent $9 billion on this day alone! Plan ahead, and be prepared for an influx of business.

Small Business Saturday, November 27, 2021
Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. Think about how you can participate and encourage your community (and beyond!) to support your small business.

Cyber Monday, November 29, 2021
Consumers are increasingly going online to shop for items big and small, and Cyber Monday has gained popularity over the years for online sales. If you have an online store, think about ways your small business can participate on this day.

Ideally, your holiday marketing strategies should encompass all of your communication channels, including your website, social media, and public/media relations.

If you have an email marketing list, think about how you might nurture your current and potential customer relationships through holiday messaging as part of your marketing strategy. If community engagement is a focus, consider partnering with a local charity to spread the holiday cheer! Just be sure to plan ahead, as these types of initiatives can take time.

It’s always a good idea to map out your marketing strategies in advance.

Plan Year-End Employee and Customer Appreciation

Speaking of the holidays, the 4th quarter is a great time for small business owners to show employees and customers your appreciation for their support throughout the year.

If you’re planning to give holiday gifts, set up a holiday function, or provide bonuses, be sure to plan well in advance so that any gesture of appreciation is well thought out and doesn’t feel rushed to the recipient.

As mentioned earlier, inventory is being impacted and delays can be expected, so if you’re planning to give physical gifts, it’s especially important this year to order these gifts ahead of time.

Evaluate Your Year-to-Date 2021 Business Goals

Small business tips for 4th quarter planning wouldn’t be complete without checking in on where your business stands:

  • Have you met your goals?
  • Does something need to shift to stay on track?
  • Set aside some focused time on your calendar to review your business plan and check in on your goals year-to-date.

This is the time for small business owners to finish up any business projects in progress. You might be in the middle of redesigning your website, or maybe you’re integrating a new point of sale system.

Whatever the task, this is a great time to wrap up any projects that may be lingering in the background so that you can take time in the 4th quarter to focus on setting yourself up for business success in 2022.

Get Your Financials in Order for Tax Planning

Tax planning takes place year-round, but it’s especially important in the 4th quarter if you plan to make investments in your small business before the year ends.

Here are some small business tips related to tax planning:

  • Be organized
    It’s key that your receipts and all important documentation you’ve collected throughout the year are neatly organized for tax season. It’s a good idea to use accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks) to track your finances.

  • Be ethical
    Report all income and business expenses. Do not mix your personal expenses with business expenses.

  • Plan ahead
    Learn of any recent tax code changes, and find out how these changes will impact you and your business. Now is the time to get your finances in order and set an appointment with your trusted bookkeeper, accountant, or CPA.

Following these small business tips for 4th quarter planning will help you finish the year strong and set yourself up for business success in 2022.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners plan for success throughout the year. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need for your Oregon small business to grow and thrive by visiting OregonSBDC.org.