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!

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Small business insurance, also commonly referred to as commercial insurance, is designed to protect the business you’ve invested your time, money, and effort into building. Having insurance assures small business owners that they’ll be safeguarded against claims and lawsuits.

Why Do You Need Small Business Insurance?

Business insurance is highly recommended for all businesses. In fact, it is required by law for certain professional fields, such as healthcare, which also requires professional liability coverage. This is also known as malpractice insurance. In other professions, a contract may require that businesses be insured.

Unfortunately, businesses can be sued for almost anything, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. For instance, if someone slips and falls in a place of business, or if a client feels that they were not provided the services committed to them, a business could find themselves facing an insurance claim or possible lawsuit.

Without the protection of insurance, a small business owner would likely have to pay out of pocket when facing insurance claims. Should your small business not have the resources to be self-insured or the capital to cover such claims, it could lead to business failure.

The good news is that business insurance may cover the majority of these expenses, including legal defense for the business owner. This is why small business insurance is an important and necessary investment to protect a business and its assets.

What Kind of Business Insurance Do You Need and How Much Does it Cost?

The business insurance a company needs depends on the type of business it is. Most businesses need general liability insurance. If you offer professional guidance, you may also need professional liability insurance. If you own equipment to operate your business, like computers or machinery, you may consider a business owner’s policy (BOP) which combines general liability with business property coverage. Small business insurance costs depend on the business type and size, the policy and coverages selected, and many other factors.

The 10 Most Common Types of Small Business Insurance

These are the top 10 types of insurance coverage to consider for your small business, some of which may be required by Oregon state law:

1. General liability insurance

General liability insurance helps protect businesses from claims relating to bodily injury or damage to someone else’s property. For example, if a customer gets injured in your store, this coverage may help to pay for their medical costs.

Many small business owners get a general liability policy that includes product liability insurance. This can protect your business against bodily injury or property damage claims caused by your company’s products.

2. Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance or E&O insurance, can cover claims on mistakes made in the professional services your business provides. Doctors, accountants, lawyers, and architects are often targets for these types of claims.

This is because the errors made by these professionals end up being quite expensive for their clients to resolve. If a client or customer sues your business, professional liability insurance can help cover your legal costs.

3. Business income coverage

Business income coverage, also known as business interruption insurance, can help replace lost income if your business becomes unable to operate due to property damage caused by a fire, storm, or theft. For example, a florist whose flowers die after their refrigerator malfunctions may be able to recoup lost income with this type of insurance.

4. Commercial property insurance

Commercial property insurance, also called hazard insurance, can cover your owned or rented business space and the equipment used to conduct your business. For instance, if someone breaks into your office and steals your business computers, commercial property insurance can help cover the costs to replace this equipment.

5. Workers’ compensation insurance

Many states, including Oregon, require businesses with full-time or part-time employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. This kind of insurance can cover medical bills for on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses and provides disability benefits to employees. Many policies include employers liability insurance, which may help to cover costs when an employee blames their employer’s negligence as the cause of their injury.

For business owners who do not have employees, you may need to self-insure for worker’s compensation depending on your industry. Be sure to address your individual needs with an insurance professional.

6. Commercial auto insurance

In Oregon, all business-owned vehicles must have a commercial auto insurance policy, which covers the cost of accidents involving work vehicles. Oregon has minimum requirements for auto liability insurance, which include:

  • Bodily injury liability
  • Property damage liability
  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Personal injury protection

The minimum requirements may not suffice, though, so be sure to get the right amount of coverage for your individual business needs. Trucking companies may need additional coverage to comply with state regulations.

If a business owner or their employees use their personal vehicles for work purposes, you may also consider hired and non-owned auto (HNOA) insurance, as personal auto policies usually exclude business use. This coverage can be added to commercial general liability insurance or business owner’s policies (BOPs).

7. Data breach insurance

Data breach insurance, also called cyber liability insurance, can help your business respond to a breach of personally identifiable information getting lost or stolen. It helps cover costs for actions such as notifying impacted customers or clients, running a public relations campaign to repair your business’s reputation, and/or offering credit monitoring services.

8. Commercial umbrella insurance

Commercial umbrella insurance extends the limits of certain liability policies that your business already has. For instance, if a claim’s cost exceeds your policy’s limit, a commercial umbrella policy can help cover the difference.

9. Employment practices liability insurance

Employment practices liability insurance, also referred to as employers’ liability insurance, helps cover the costs resulting from employment-related claims, such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination.

10. Business owner’s policy

A business owner’s policy (BOP) is one of the most common types of business insurance. It combines general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and business income insurance into one policy.

Do I Need Insurance for My Oregon Small Business?

The short answer is yes. Most small businesses may need some type of coverage that protects against:

  • Bodily injuries
  • Property damage
  • Car accidents
  • Lawsuits

Your home and your business are likely your largest investments, and having the right business insurance is just as important as protecting your home with homeowners insurance. Without insurance, you risk financial losses or even the shutdown of your business.

How to Get Small Business Insurance

The following steps can help you find an insurance policy that best meets the needs of your business:

1. Conduct a risk assessment.

Determine what kind of accidents, natural disasters, or lawsuits could damage your business. Once you assess your risks, it can help you determine what aspects of your business need the most protection.

2. Find a licensed insurance agent.

Commercial insurance agents can help you find the coverage that best matches your business’s needs. Remember that insurance agents receive a commission from insurance companies they sell policies for, so it’s essential to find a licensed agent who keeps your best interests in mind. It’s recommended that you meet with your insurance agent on an annual basis to review your policies and find the right coverage as your business continues to evolve and grow.

3. Shop around.

Insurance quotes can vary significantly from one insurance provider and policy to the next. You should always compare the rates, terms, and benefits of various policies from multiple agents. If you choose not to work with a licensed insurance agent, it’s recommended that you get at least three business insurance quotes to find the best rate for the coverage you’re seeking.

4. Reevaluate each year.

The more your business grows, the bigger your liabilities become. If you have purchased or replaced equipment or expanded your operations, you’ll need to inform your insurance agent of these changes and how they may affect your coverage and insurance costs. Be sure to include this as part of your annual business plan review!

Need More Advice?

Having small business insurance is a crucial aspect of protecting your business. Be sure to seek expert advice from your licensed insurance agent for any questions relating to your unique needs as a small business owner.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center 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. Connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

Financial Literacy Month

By Noah Brockman, Oregon SBDC Network Capital Access Team

There are several steps small business owners seeking funding should take to prepare for acquiring capital. In this article, you’ll find a checklist of “to-dos” for accessing capital. If you have questions or need support, the Oregon SBDC Capital Access Team is here to help!

Revisit Your Household Budget

Consider your monthly income and expenses. Have there been any changes recently? Think about how business income contributes to your household income, and make sure to review your personal and business credit. With these factors in mind, consider whether your financial profile will be acceptable to prospective lenders.

Get Clear About Your Funding Needs

Having clarity about how much you need and how funds will be used is vital as you prepare for business funding. How much cash do you already have available, and will you have sufficient personal and/or business cash reserves after your cash injection? It’s also important to think about the time frame for funding.

Create a Startup Budget

If you’re just starting your business and need funding to launch, this to-do is for you! If you haven’t already, make a startup monthly budget that indicates all revenues, cost of sales, and expenses. It’s helpful to prepare a list of any new business assets you need to get started, such as inventory and equipment.

Create a Project Budget

For those who are already in business and require capital to grow, make a project budget to outline your funding request by asset type—such as inventory, equipment, tenant improvements, and/or permanent working capital.

Evaluate Your Current Situation

Already in business? Need cash for working capital? Take a look at your business to see where you might already have some cash tied up, such as A/R or inventory. Review your fixed overhead expenses to assess any cuts you can make to reduce your cash expenditures. You may also want to look at your gross profit margin to see if it’s on par with your industry average and determine if you need to make any adjustments to COGS or pricing.

Determine Your Financial Projections and Cash Flow

Whether you’re starting or growing your business, it’s a good idea to put together at least a 12-month financial projection/cash flow budget showing anticipated revenue, cost of sales, expenses, profits, owner draws, and debt service payments to share with funders. If possible, a 24-month projection is even better. Try to be conservative, and make a list of your underlying assumptions.

Understand the Types of Funding Available to You

Familiarize yourself with different types of funding and how they fit with different scenarios. For an overview of traditional and nontraditional funding, click here.

Assess Your Position for Debt or Equity

Are you in a position to borrow? What collateral will the lender use to secure the loan? How will you pay it back? Pull your credit report to ensure that there are no hidden surprises. Consider whether you have owner equity (cash) to put in. Having at least 10% is a great start.

If you’re already in business, is the business profitable? If you’re not interested in taking on debt, are you seeking an equity investment? Ask yourself what return on investment you can offer to investors.

Develop or Update Your Business Plan

Whether you are starting or growing your business, it’s vital to develop a business plan to share alongside your financial projections to help funders understand your vision. At the Oregon SBDC Network, our business advisers can help you create a comprehensive plan to move your business forward.

Organize Your Business Documents and Paperwork

For existing businesses, make sure your financial statements are up to date, and gather past year-end business financials, as well as personal and business tax returns. For new businesses, gather your organizing documents, any industry-specific licenses, and any insurance or lease documentation.

If you are seeking guidance on the best path forward, the Oregon SBDC Network can provide assistance. Connect with your local Center and register for confidential, no-cost advising on your funding options and in all areas of your small business.

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.

How to Prepare a Small-Business Marketing Plan (2022)

How to Prepare a Small-Business Marketing Plan (2022)

What a SWOT Analysis Is, and How Best to Utilize It When Creating Your Marketing Strategy

One of the most valuable tools for Oregon entrepreneurs is a comprehensive small-business marketing plan. Why is it so critical to your success? Because without potential customers having awareness of your offerings, even the best product or best service will languish.

An effective small business marketing plan is not about having a big marketing budget—it’s about determining the right marketing strategies for your business, understanding your competitive advantages, and developing tactics to support your visibility and marketing goals.

In this guide, we’ll share some tips on preparing your small-business marketing plan, including how to:

  • Evaluate your business by creating a SWOT analysis
  • Determine your small-business marketing budget
  • Identify the target audience for your small business
  • Set marketing goals and build your marketing strategies
  • Finalize your small-business marketing plan

Evaluate Your Business by Creating a SWOT Analysis

The first step to creating a small-business marketing plan is to understand where your business stands. An honest assessment of internal and external factors will help you put together a strategic direction for your business.

One way to begin is by creating a SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

For Strengths, consider what your business does well. What qualities separate you from others in your industry? What internal resources do you have that serve as an advantage? What tangible assets do you have, such as intellectual property, capital, or proprietary technologies?

Under Weaknesses, write down what challenges you have, whether they are something your company lacks, limitations in resources, or advantages your competitors have over you.

Identify Opportunities for your business, such as underserved markets for your products or services, favorable market trends for your products or services, and other external factors that may have a positive impact on your business and industry.

For Threats, take a look at what factors can negatively impact your business and industry, such as emerging competitors, changes to laws and regulations, and changes to customer sentiment.

Generally speaking, strengths and weaknesses should speak to internal circumstances, and opportunities and threats will focus on external factors that affect your small business.

Determine Your Small-Business Marketing Budget

Marketing costs money, so once you have a clear understanding of the circumstances of your small business from creating a SWOT analysis, it’s time to set a budget for your marketing plan.

As you begin to determine your marketing budget, be realistic about what you should invest. If you own a new business that is working to establish itself, you might consider allocating a higher percentage of your gross revenue as compared with an established business.

In addition to setting a monetary budget, consider the amount of time you plan to spend marketing your business each week. Oftentimes, busy entrepreneurs put their marketing efforts on the back burner as they get bogged down by day-to-day tasks. It’s crucial to apply enough time and resources in this area to move the needle for your business.

If marketing is not your forte and you don’t have time to focus on executing marketing strategies on your own (or don’t have a dedicated staff member to help you), your budget might include hiring specialists to assist with your marketing efforts.

Identify the Target Audience for Your Small Business

With your SWOT analysis complete and a marketing budget in mind, the next step in how to prepare your small-business marketing plan is to identify who you will target through your marketing efforts.

A small business’s target market is determined by many factors. You can consider specific demographics such as:

  • Geographic location
  • Business type
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Marital or family status

You can also consider the psychographics of your target audience, which include:

  • Values
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Lifestyles
  • Behaviors

When you know who your target is, you can then determine which channels you will focus your marketing strategy on.

Set Marketing Goals and Determine Your Marketing Strategies

You’ve conducted a SWOT analysis. You know who your ideal customers are. Now it’s time to determine how you’ll reach them and set some benchmarks.

Some common examples of marketing goals include:

  • Increasing website traffic
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing social media followers
  • Growing an email list
  • Improving conversion rates

While setting specific goals is a vital aspect of the strategic planning process, it’s just as important to break down each objective into small, actionable steps to help you reach your goals.

Many small-business owners implement the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based), which can clarify each goal, focus your efforts, and efficiently allocate time and resources.

Consider these questions as you create your goals:

  • What is the goal? Be Specific.
  • How can my progress be Measured?
  • Do I have the skills and resources for this goal to be Attainable?
  • Why is this goal Relevant to my business needs?
  • What is the Timeframe for achieving this goal?

Once you have your goals in place, you can determine the best channels and marketing tactics to reach your target audience and make progress toward reaching your goal.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal, and some marketing tactics that can be employed:

Goal:
Increase unique website visitors by 10% in 2022.

Marketing Tactics:

  • Create a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
  • Create a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to drive new users to your website.
  • Implement a social media advertising campaign to create awareness and increase traffic.
  • Review progress on a monthly basis.
  • Finalize Your Small-Business Marketing Plan

The final task in the planning process of your small-business marketing plan is to prioritize the tasks you want to accomplish. Having a to-do list to reference takes the guesswork out of deploying your marketing initiatives while running your business.

As you finalize your plan, you may wish to have a mentor review your small-business marketing plan, particularly if you are a new business owner. The Oregon SBDC Network offers no-cost, confidential advising services in all areas of business to help Oregon entrepreneurs succeed.

For established businesses that anticipate growth, the network’s Market Research Institute provides customized, data-based reports to help business owners build a customized marketing plan based on their needs and goals at no direct cost.

Contact your local Center to get started!

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.

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

Running a small business is never easy. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your own company for years, whether you have a few loyal clients or a whole lot, whether your overhead is minimal or substantial, running a successful and profitable business takes a lot of work—rewarding work for sure, but hard work nonetheless.

Luckily, there are some ways to make it easier. While the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has loads of resources—some we’ll tell you about here—that can help small-business owners, the best step you can take to improve your odds of success is to plan properly. In this article, we’re outlining six strategies you can implement for successful business planning.

1. Start Planning Early

It’s never too early to start planning. Never. Whether you have an idea you want to turn into a business, you have a business ready to launch, or you already have a successful business and are thinking of what to do next, a strategic plan is crucial.

The Oregon SBDC is here to help with your business planning at any stage. From startup to scaling, our advisers have the tools to help you build a solid foundation for your business. Tools like LivePlan simplify business planning, budgeting, forecasting, and performance tracking for our clients.

GrowthWheel is another tool our advisers use that provides a visual toolbox to help business owners make better decisions and take action in their businesses. Both of these tools are offered free of charge exclusively to Oregon SBDC clients.

2. Set Your Goals

Your strategic business plan needs to include more than just ideas. While the vision of a business is an important component, a key factor to success is setting SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Oftentimes a big goal is tied to several smaller goals you need to achieve along the way. For this reason, some business owners set goals by month or quarter, while others set goals for the year. The right timeline to choose depends on you and your business goals.

3. Identify Your Staffing Needs

When people think about goals for businesses, they typically think about financial targets they want to hit, potential physical expansions, new strategies for upcoming product launches, and the like. But another factor that merits consideration and forward planning is your business’s future staffing needs, especially in today’s climate.

If your business goals include expanding your operations, the number of full-time, part-time, and/or contracted workers will likely change. The cost and time it will take to hire for your staffing needs requires planning.

4. Understand Your Financials

Awareness of your business and personal finances is a vital part of successful business planning. Even if you’re “in the black” and seeing profits, understanding your finances is important when making decisions and planning for the future of your business. And this means knowing more than just what’s in your bank account.

Understanding how much money is coming in and going out each month, product costs, the cost to manufacture, the cost of goods sold, labor costs, fixed and variable costs—these are all numbers you need to know so you can make decisions for your business. Your financial indicators are the drivers of your business, and if you don’t understand them, it can be easy to make a costly mistake.

5. Put Together Your Marketing Plan

A marketing plan may sound like the kind of thing that only big businesses with their own massive internal marketing departments need to do. But small, local businesses need a marketing plan, too. And just like any other part of running a business, your marketing requires a carefully thought out and meticulously detailed plan.

From the channels you will use to the creative you want to deploy to your monthly marketing budget—write it down. Building and implementing a successful marketing plan can help your business grow exposure and revenue.

6. Evaluate the Previous Year

When you’re running a small business, there are times when you’ll need to look back in order to move forward. Looking back can be fun, especially if you’ve experienced growth in your business and can count your wins over the year. It can also be hard, if you’ve experienced a challenging year that didn’t live up to your expectations.

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Oregon Startup

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Oregon Startup

If you’re not sure how to write a business plan for your Oregon startup, it’s pretty simple once you know the general structure it should have. As for why you should take the time to write a business plan, well, think of it as a framework to guide you through the stages of beginning and operating your business.

Plus, a business plan shows people that you’re prepared with a plan for the future of your business, and that’s important for everyone from potential investors to employees to partners.

A well-written business plan is just one tool for building a successful business, but it’s a really important one for the foundation of your business.

There’s no right way or wrong way to write a business plan for your Oregon startup. The most important thing is to craft a document that meets your needs and the needs of your business. Here are some things you might consider including in your plan.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is an eagle’s eye view of the company—think of it as the CliffsNotes version of your business plan. It should include:

  • An outline of the company’s goals
  • An outline of the company’s goals
  • A summary of the products and services the company offers
  • A brief description of the market the company serves
  • A projection of the company’s potential growth
  • Basic info about your leadership team and employees, as well as the business’s owners
  • Any plans related to asking for financing or pitching the company to investors

Overview of Company and Objectives

Now, it’s time to dive in and talk about the problem your company solves. Who do you serve and how do you meet their needs? What advantages do you have that will make you a success? It’s time to boast about your strengths and what makes your company a valuable addition to the business landscape.

If you’re already in operation, it’s a little easier to talk about what you do and how you do it. If not, summarize what you hope to accomplish and how you’ll get it done. This is where you should talk about goals, listing milestones with specific steps you’ll be taking in the future.

Market Analysis

Here’s where you let all that market research shine to show you understand what businesses similar to yours are doing. What are their strengths, and why do their businesses work? What are you doing better, and what are you bringing to the market that doesn’t already exist?

Summarize your market demographics and talk about how those demographics fit into what your business sells. Give an overview of your target market’s purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services. What is the trajectory of your target market—is it growing, stable, or in decline? Quantify your market with as many details as you can.

Ideally, you’re focusing on segments that can support the growth of your business. It’s much easier to serve a market you can define than to have nothing but a vague idea of who your market is.

Company Organization

Describe your type of business—are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company? Mention your registered agent here, as well (if you have one).

Next, create an organizational chart that shows who holds each position in the company and how their experiences are a key part of the business. If you want, you could include resumes or key stats for each member of your team (this could be helpful if you are presenting the business plan to a possible investor).

It’s also helpful to include a breakdown of what each member of the team does—a basic job description works well here.

Overview of Services or Products

What is your service or product? What is the lifecycle of that service or product? Discuss how what you sell benefits your customers. How is it different from what’s already on the market? If no market for your product or service currently exists, define the opportunity for entering the market and explain why you believe people want what you will sell.

Do you have any research or development in progress? If you’re planning to offer new products or services, give an overview of the timeline and implementation needed to make that happen.

Last, list any trademarks, patents, or copyrights the company owns.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Your business’s marketing and sales strategy will evolve to fit the needs of your business and your offerings as you grow and as marketing trends change, but it’s good to have a starting point. This section should discuss how you’ll attract customers, retain them, and upsell them. Here are some important talking points when discussing a marketing and sales strategy:

  • What’s your budget for marketing?
  • How will you know if your marketing is successful and how will you adapt if it isn’t successful?
  • What platforms will you be on and how are they relevant to your audience?
  • What will you do for advertising and how will you get the word out?
  • How will you measure return on investment (ROI)?
  • Do you need people to promote your products? How will you form these partnerships?

Logistics and Operations

Provide an overview of the workflows you need to run your business smoothly. Cover all the components you think you need for your planned business operations (or document them, if you’re already in operation), including things like:

Facilities: Where will you work? Do you have actual retail space, and where is it?
Suppliers: For products, where do you get the materials you need for production (if you produce them yourself)?
Production: How are your products produced? How will you handle spikes in demand?
Equipment: What equipment do you need to run your business?
Inventory: Do you have an inventory management system?
Shipping: Do you have a fulfillment process for shipping products to customers?

This section of your business plan shows that you have a solid understanding of your supply chain and have a plan in the event of any spikes in business or sudden growth.

Financial Projections

Here’s where you talk about the projected financial success of your business. If you’re already up and running, include income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow documents. You may also want to include any relevant information about capital expenditures.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have historical information, you may want to get more specific with your projections. You could project quarterly or even monthly information for your first year after starting the business.

A Final Note

Know that although a business plan is an important map, it isn’t meant to be perfect or permanent. It’s designed to be reviewed and adjusted regularly so you can stay on track. Without this baseline, it will be much more difficult to adjust and have a historical reference for making decisions. A business plan shows you where you’re going and where you’ve already been, and that’s key for building a successful business.

If you have any questions about how to write a business plan for your Oregon startup, get in touch with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

Must-Know Information About How to Register Your Business in Oregon

Must-Know Information About How to Register Your Business in Oregon

Do you know how to register your small business in Oregon? If not, you’re in luck! It’s not a complicated part of creating a business, but it is important to know what you need to do in advance to make sure you have everything you need to get the process rolling.

Decide on a Legal Structure for Your Business

First things first—it’s time to decide on a legal structure for your business. The most common legal structures for small businesses are a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), and a corporation. There are some variations on these structures, but those are the main categories you can choose from.

You’ll want to think about which type of business gives you the liability protection you want, as well as the tax and financial benefits you need. We recommend speaking with an accountant and an attorney before deciding on a legal structure for your business.

Pick a Name for Your Business

If you decide to go with a corporation or an LLC as your business structure, you’ll need to make sure your business name is different from other names already on file with the Oregon Secretary of State. That just takes a quick business name search on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website.

You may also want to do a trademark search at both the federal and state levels to make sure the name you want to use for your business is not the same as something that is already trademarked.

Partnerships and sole proprietorships generally use the names of the owners and do not require a unique name. If you want to operate under a different name, you’ll need to file a DBA with the state.

Register Your Business in Oregon

You can file your business formation documents either online or by mail. How you register your business in Oregon looks a little different depending on the legal structure you choose.

Partnerships and sole proprietorships do not have to register as a business at all. But corporations and LLCs are required to register with the state. Registering is how you’ll get a business identification number, which you’ll need for tax purposes.

For a Corporation: You’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Oregon Secretary of State. You also need to appoint a registered agent in Oregon, and you should prepare bylaws to establish operating rules, though this is not a legal requirement and does not need to be filed.

For an LLC: You’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Oregon Secretary of State and appoint a registered agent. You may want to establish an operating agreement, though this is not a legal requirement and does not need to be filed.

About Articles of Incorporation

Articles of Incorporation should include a corporate name and address, the registered agent’s name and address, information about the number of shares the corporation can issue, the names of the president and secretary, and the incorporator names and addresses. You can file this paperwork in person or by mail.

Register your business online through the Oregon Business Registry. It’s important to know that when you do, your business’s information will become public record, and for that reason, we recommend that you don’t use your home address to register the business.

See forms and a complete fee schedule for registering your business with the state here.

Licenses and Permits for Your Oregon Business

The state of Oregon doesn’t have a general business license.

However, many businesses and occupations require a license, permit, or certification. This license search can help you get started on applying for any licenses you might need in the state of Oregon.

Local jurisdictions may have their own requirements. Check with your city office to see if anything further is required for your business. You’ll also want to check that your location is zoned for your business activity or if there are any restrictions on home-based businesses. Your city or county planning office can provide this information for you.

How to Change Oregon Business Registry Information

If you need to change information about your registered business, the process depends on what you need to do.

To update your office, officer, registered agent, and address information, you can submit an online information change form (or do it via mail or fax).

To change your business name, you need to file articles of amendment with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

To change your business structure, you must cancel your assumed business name registration and file your new formation document. Under certain circumstances, the fee is waived.

Do you have any questions about how to register or amend your business’s information in Oregon? If you do, get in touch with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org. We’re here to help!