Tag Archives: small business ideas

Why Do Startups and Small Companies Need to Attend Trade Shows

Many people who are running a one man show businesses or even a small business believe that exhibiting at a tradeshow is out of their league because of financial considerations, because the large companies have large marketing departments with large budgets, because a tradeshow booth is not affordable, because they just don’t have the vision on how to design a booth, how to transport and assemble one, how to work a tradeshow, etc.

Except for the budgetary considerations of renting space on the tradeshow floor, everything else is untrue. In this article, I will show you why are tradeshows so important. I am writing this from my own experience, as someone who worked on designing trade show booths, set up trade show displays, worked the tradeshow floors as an exhibitor and as a visitor.

Here are some of the reasons why it is important to attend and exhibit at trade shows, even if you are just starting your business or running a small company:

1. Get competitive intelligence

As an entrepreneur running a small company, it is very hard to get competitive intelligence, that is knowledge on how do you compare to your competitors, how do they do things, what makes them more successful that you or less successful than you. Don’t forget to put some focus on the less successful scenario also, because you also want to have a list of all the mistakes others make, so you can avoid them.

At a trade show, the easiest possible thing you can do is gather hands-on competitive intelligence. It really does not get more hands-on than that, as you have your competition at the tip of your finger. On the surface, they all seem to be extremely confident through their sales pitches and the flashiness of their marketing gimmicks, but they are in a tremendously vulnerable position, as they are giving everything they got and are also worried about *their* competition, which believe it or not… is you!

Take advantage of this incredible position. The best thing to do is to walk the trade show at the very beginning – that is, before everybody gets to know everybody among exhibitors – and ask questions, ask many, many questions.

Here are some of the things you can get from a simple walk around the exhibit hall:

– A four pound synopsis of your market that you can review at your leisure, from the comfort of your couch that most likely includes a sacksful (literally) of literature on suppliers and distributors in your very targeted and unique field, the trade press.

– New market concepts.

– You can also have yourself put on mailing lists, participate in market surveys, and earn complimentary subscriptions to a handful of journals.

– More coffee mugs, promotional mints, candy, pens, laminated business cards and free golf balls than you will ever need.

2. Learn about what your competition thinks about your product or service

Again, this is something to be done at the very beginning of a trade show and works best in larger exhibiting halls.

Introduce yourself as someone else, interested in the product or service offered by you and your competitors. This is a perfect time for you to use your flirting techniques. Get creative, remember you have nothing to lose, you are in control and the ball is in your court.

Get a complete review of your competitor’s product line. You can then ask what they think of your company’s products and services. Since they do not know who you really are, they will tell you what they really think. It is quite enlightening to hear what your competition really says about you to prospects; remember you are acting as one of their prospects.

This is competitive research as its grittiest and the trade show floor is the best place for it. Studies show that companies are more eager to open up and talk about their competition at a trade show than in any other environment (sure you could just call, but you will not get the same effect).

At this point, if you are still reading this, you are probably wondering why, in the name of everything rational, I am talking about spying on your competition instead of the obvious reasons why trade shows exist, which is promoting a product or a service? Well, analysts and trade show gurus say that investigating the competition is what these shows are about.

3. Meet your buyers

Show your product or service to people who are hyper-qualified as buyers. Why? Well, because these are the people who have gone through the trouble of attending the show and are really interested in your type of business. You also get to meet current and potential customers and get real feedback and a feel for how is your product or service perceived, how it is really performing and what you can do to make it better, that is, more appealing and more useful for your customers.

4. Meet the press

Meet with people from your industry’s trade press. They always attend those events, and you will probably never get a better chance to speak one-on-one with the top editorial staff.

You also have a great opportunity to connect with distributors, with wholesalers, with brokers and others in your distribution channel.

5. Sell

You can also sell your product or service, right there, on the spot. Just make sure you have everything you need to do so in place.

Plan and allow for the opportunity for serious business. Most people who come to your booth will be tire-kickers. They will grab a handful of pistachios, check out your promotional pens (or USB memory drives loaded with your marketing multimedia presentations – hint, hint), cherry pick your printed materials and move on to the next booth. But occasionally, you will bag a live one. Know how and where you will talk to this person at length. Will it be a spot in the rear of the booth, a nearby conference room, a table in the concession area, a later meeting at your company suite? Folks trust me on this, a wishy-washy “we’ll get back to you” attitude will lose the sale. You have to be prepared, if they see you are not ready to close the transaction right there, on the spot (even if in this day and age the trend continues to move away from on-the-spot order writing on trade show floors), they’ll leave.

6. Generate leads

This is the meat of attending a trade show – creating a follow up mailing list. This is what could (and should) potentially bring return on the major investment you made by attending the trade show. Whether you just collect business cards, write names down on a piece of paper or use the more modern trade show techniques such as scanning people’s tags, you must build your mailing list and actually follow up immediately after the show is over, while your marketing effort is still fresh in people’s minds.

It really makes a good second impression if you follow up promptly, whether by just a call or sending additional literature and information. Your handling of requests for additional information will show potential clients you value their time and provide quality customer service.

How to Find A Business to Buy

You dream of owning a business and experiencing its many benefits freedom, power, wealth, and fulfillment. But you do not want to start a business on your own.  There is too much risk and uncertainty.  Plus, you do not know what you would want to do that could be successful. 

Instead, you want to find an existing business or a proven business idea that you can operate successfully.  But the million-dollar question is: Where do you find it?

There are several methods of finding a business to buy, and each has its own benefits.  Here are some options to consider:

Word of Mouth

This method of finding the perfect business to buy is very much chance-based and consists of someone telling you about, or you drive around and seeing, a business that is for sale.  Due to its nature, you are exposed to a limited number of businesses.  And unless you are lucky that one of the few discovered in this fashion is exactly what you want, this method is not highly effective at finding the perfect business to buy.

Classified ads in the local newspaper

The old-fashioned method of finding a business to buy is to look in the classified ads in the local newspaper and see if any catch your eye.  This is a difficult way to find a business to buy for several reasons.  One, the number of businesses-for-sale listed in the classifieds is small compared to the overall universe of businesses that are for sale at any time.  Two, classified ads typically present you with only three lines of cryptic text to give you background on the business.  And three, classifieds do not have a search function, so you must spend a lot of time looking through all of the classifieds to find those businesses that interest you.  While classifieds can serve a purpose in buying a business, they are not very efficient or effective.

Business Brokers

Business brokers are typically very professional and knowledgeable in the art of buying and selling a business.  Plus, they are skilled at helping sellers sell their business.  But therein lies the rub they are contractually obligated to help the seller sell the business. They are not obligated to you as the buyer.  Therefore, brokers will usually look out for the seller’s best interests first, which means they will often only show you businesses that they represent.  This severely limits your exposure to the number of businesses that are available for sale at any one time, which makes it an inefficient method of finding the perfect business to buy.

However, more common these days are Buyer Brokers.  These business brokers represent you, the buyer, in your efforts to buy a business.  This can be remarkably effective because the broker knows how to navigate the process of buying a business.  However, you often must personally pay the broker to help you buy a business, which increases your costs.  Therefore, it is often best to conduct a search for a business on your own, and then hire an attorney or experienced broker to guide you through the purchase process.  But where do you search for businesses on your own?

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces typically contain an exhaustive list of businesses that are for sale.  Plus, it is easy to search these thousands of businesses instantly to find only the ones that meet your criteria.  This makes online marketplaces the most effective, efficient and comprehensive method of finding the perfect business to buy.

There are many online marketplaces to choose from, but they are far from equal.  Some have inadequate search functions, others are just interested in collecting listing fees from business sellers, and others do not offer the buyer tools to help make your search process easier.  As a result, selecting a good business-for-sale marketplace is critical in your search for finding the perfect business to buy.

You want a site that allows you to search its listings for free and has a strong search function to help you do it effectively.  In addition, you want a site that allows you to save your searches and be alerted via email anytime new businesses are listed that meet your search criteria.  This saves you the time and effort of continuously searching sites everyday looking for the right business.  Instead, the site does the work for you and presents you with businesses that are of interest to you.

Finally, you want a site that puts its money where its mouth is, one that charges sellers based on performance and not on a pre-set monthly fee.  These sites are dedicated to helping match business buyers with sellers while lowering the cost of selling a business.  As a result, these sites are highly effective for both buyers and sellers.

15 Ways to Start Your Small Business

Yeah, sure it is easy, and of course, that title is a little tongue in cheek. It takes a lot of hard work to get a business off the ground. But it’s worth every hour I’ve spent getting to where I am now.

When I decided to start my communication and image consulting business, I tried hard to find a good startup guide. I could not find any that had all the steps. So, I decided to write one. So far, it is mostly just the bare-bones outline (which is long enough as it is) you see in this article.

 I will be adding to it every week or two, and writing more detailed articles on all the steps, so try to stop by and check it out from time to time. Let me know how I am doing. Shoot off an email to me if I have forgotten something or you have questions.

Before you spend so much as a dollar, talk to a few experts.  Go to the library or get on the internet and research, research, research.  Take a little time to make sure entrepreneurship is right for you. 

Make a pro and con list of business ownership and evaluate yourself honestly.  How many characteristics do you have in common with successful entrepreneurs?  Is your financial position strong enough?  Do you have the necessary technical and management skills? 

You are not going to be the perfect entrepreneur.  Nobody is.  But to make yourself the best entrepreneur you can be, consider ways to compensate for any weaknesses you might have. 

I am from Canada, so the government agencies I have mentioned in this guide are Canadian, but really, it can be used by anyone. All you must do, if you are from somewhere other than Canada, is find out where you need to find some of the things I will talk about. Some of the steps might be slightly different, and you may not have to worry about things like GST for example, but I am sure you will find this discussion helpful all the same.

These steps to starting a business are in reasonably good order, but you might find yourself varying from it under your circumstances. That really is not a big deal if you get most of it done. There are some steps you will be able to skip as well, but please do not skip any of the big ones, which I’m sure you’ll pretty much figure out from taking a look at the list.

So, assuming you have done your evaluation and you still want to start a business, take a deep breath, and let us get started.

1.       Conduct a feasibility study of your business.  Describe your typical customer, your product, and your competitors.  Who will your suppliers be?  What will you charge for your product?  How will you market your product?  These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.

2.       Write a complete business plan for your company, using the information you gathered from your feasibility study.  This vitally important, often overlooked step needs to include a description of your company, its goals, competitors, market, financial information, and of course, how you intend to meet your goals. 

3.       Get your financing in place.  There are many ways to finance your business, from your own savings to personal credit cards to bank loans.  If you need credit, know your business plan from front to back and maybe even sideways. 

4.       Decide what kind of structure your company will have.  From a legal standpoint, there are three basic choices, sole proprietorship, partnership, and incorporation, each with advantages and disadvantages. 

5.       Choose a name for your company and check on name availability. Naming your company is highly individual, but it is the first thing associated with your business, so choose your name carefully.  You will need to do a NUANS (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search) report, which checks your name choices for uniqueness against a database of other business names.  A reserved name is valid for 90 days.

6.       Decide whether you want to register federally or provincially and register your company.  If you register federally, you will also have to register provincially, which almost doubles the cost. You do not have to have a lawyer process them for you, but it might be a good idea to at least consult with one.  You can get the forms from your local government office, have them faxed to you or download them.  You can fax or email printed copies, or complete the forms online

7.       Contact Canada Revenue Agency Business Window for your business number, and to register for GST/HST, payroll, corporate income tax and import/export (if applicable).  You can also contact the CRA if you need general information about business expenses.  Chances are you will have to collect GST, but you may want to register for a GST number even if you do not have to collect it because of input tax credits.

8.       Decide whether you need to collect PST.  If you do, you need to submit Registration as a Vendor documents with your province. 

9.       Determine whether there are special permits or licenses in your municipality.  It is highly unlikely that your municipality does not have special permits or licenses.

10.     Develop the marketing materials you decided on in your business plan.  They should include at least a company identity package, press kit and website.  Your identity package is your logo, business card and letterhead.  A press kit can include letters of introduction, biography sheets, press releases, articles, and a brochure.  In today’s electronic age, printed materials are not enough.  You need a website that looks professional, matches your printed material, and has great copy.  You will also want to make sure it optimized for search engines.

11.     Set up your business bank account and record-keeping system.  Your banker will need to see your incorporation documents, and you should probably set up more than one account so you can keep track of your finances better.  Record-keeping is required and can be done manually or with a computer program. 

12.     Purchase insurance.  There are many different types of insurance, but most probably your company will need at least one.  For example, if you are going to have employees, you need to contact the Workers Compensation Board.  Depending on your type of business, you might want to contact them even if you do not have employees to insure yourself.

13.     Contact potential creditors and set up credit terms.  You should have researched suppliers when you were doing your feasibility study.  Now is the time to contact them.

14.     Decide where your business will be located.   Lease your business space.  Alternatively, you could choose to start your business from home if it is feasible.  There are advantages and disadvantages to starting your business from home.  You have tax write-offs for example, but sometimes your image suffers.

15.     Purchase supplies and office equipment.  You will need too many things to list here, and of course, each business has different needs.  You might need a fax machine and printer.  You will probably need a computer.  You will need paper, pens, pencils, and a calculator.

Congratulations! Go out, buy yourself a bottle of champagne and celebrate. You are about to embark on a most exciting journey. And may I be the first to wish you good luck and prosperous times in your business venture.

As promised, here is my email address so you can ask questions, make comments, or add steps to my list. Or, if you want, you could just drop me a line to let me know how your small business is doing. I would really like to know.