Sunday, November 9, 2014

Marketing Seminar to be offered in Perry County

Small business owners today have many marketing opportunities facing them.  With opportunities ranging from traditional to internet to place based to “Johnny” advertising, many owners feel overwhelmed at the choices and delivery options. A class being offered by the University of Missouri Extension Small Business Technology Development Center addresses this concern.
The class is called “Marketing – Think Before You Spend” and is part of the curriculum of the Missouri Small Business Technology Development Program core classes. The class will be held on Wednesday, November 19th at 6 pm at the Perry County Extension office.
The class will help small business owners define marketing and provide the tools necessary to ensure their advertising message is delivered to the right audience. 
Richard Proffer, business development specialist for Extension in the Southeast Region, said, “It is important for small business owners to realize marketing is not an overnight fix.  This class will help them use their time wisely in deciding what their message should be, how to communicate that message and then measure the results of that effort.”
The class will cover the basics of marketing research, competitive analysis, customer service, pricing and promotions.

Proffer is a twenty year veteran of the marketing world.  He has worked in advertising agencies and then in media helping small business owners maximize the resources available to them. He has worked for companies like Comcast, Gannett, and AT&T handling activities in the advertising, training, research, competitive analysis and marketing fields for them.
The Extension office is located at 321 North Main in Perryville, MO. Anyone interested in the class are encouraged to register early by calling 573-243-3581.  The fee is only $40 for early registration and $50 for late registration after November 12, 2014. Seating is limited.

SBTDC/Extension business programs are also sponsored by the Small Business Administration and University of Missouri and are open to all interested residents. Requests for special accommodations will be considered if made two weeks in advance by calling 573-243-3581 and asking for Richard 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Who Really Are Your Customers? A 4 Step Process

When I was in the advertising business, I would always ask my clients “Who are your customers?” I would quite often get the common response of “Everyone.” Even if I would question further, I got the same response. I finally would start to talk about categories like most frequent customers and those that only came in around specific times of the year and we started to get a better picture.

Those retailers were not unlike many other small business owners. They want to claim everyone as their customer, when in reality, there is only a certain percentage of people who would use that business’s product.

One of the ways to look at segmenting a business’s customers is break them into the users or choosers. Quite often it is not the users who are buying the product but rather the choosers. Both audiences need to be marketed to but in different ways and the business owner must know the motivation to buy or recommend behind each segment so the marketing efforts can be successful. Realize by knowing these motivations, the business increases its ability to drive sales up.

A business owner starts a customer profile by letting go of the myth of “everybody is my customer” and really thinking who are my most frequent buyers. The owner should also know what motivates them to buy or the product’s benefits and features. Here you want to learn about client’s values, attitudes and lifestyles.

The second step in profiling customers is to learn their buying habits. Where do they shop, spend money, spend leisure time or even more important, where are they using your product? Knowing where they are using the product allows marketing to be not place but time specific which increases the results of the marketing the business is doing.

The third step is to determine how many of the ideal customers are really out there in the marketplace. Knowing age, marital status, home-ownership and other descriptive criteria will help in rounding out the picture of the top customer.

The final step is to start using this new found information to better target the marketing being done. Ask the question – “who is my marketing currently reaching and do they look anything like my ideal customer?” If not, then revise your plans and change up a few things so the message is reaching the right audience.

Your local small business technology development center is available to help you in determining the correct audience by calling 573-243-3581. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Pricing is one of the hardest activities an entrepreneur can do because of the ever changing market. What an entrepreneur buys today may not be the price he pays next week. How can a business owner stay on top of the roller coaster?

With pricing affecting almost everything, the entrepreneur has to know key pieces of the pricing puzzle. The first piece is the “ceiling.” This is the highest price possible where the product or service can still be sold. Customers will clearly indicate by their pocketbooks if the price is too high by not buying it. The second piece is the “floor” where the cost of doing business sets the lowest price. This is usually determined by the breakeven point of a business. The range in between the “ceiling” and the “floor” is where the ideal pricing exists. As the business owner, price experimentation may occur to find the ideal one that still covers the costs and provides a profit.

There are three general pricing rules an entrepreneur needs to keep in mind. The first is the price can’t go below costs. The old saying “you will make it up in volume” is never true and if followed, the business is doomed to experience cash flow shortages. The second one is the price can’t go above competitors or the business’s position in the market. This means if the business has an image of a store catering to blue collar workers, then the pricing can’t the highest in the area. If the store is appealing to a more affluent person, then the pricing could be higher than the competition if the audience will pay it. The final rule is the customer decides if the price is right compared to the perceived value and benefit of the product. The better the customer sees your product as a solution to their need, the more they will pay.

Pricing plays an important role in any business. It influences the business’s cost of goods, demand, competition, overall market pricing, customer perceptions and margins. Price goods and services too high and demand goes down, but the same can be said if the product is priced too low. Consumers may perceive the product to be of little value or not provide a solid solution to their needs.
But pricing is not the controller of everything. The entrepreneur has some control over pricing in the areas of sales volume and revenue, market share of the business, the competitive advantage of the business, company image and profitability.

Three simple ways to look at pricing strategies are EDLP ("every day low price"), market parity and high dollar high value. EDLP was made famous by Wal-Mart with its every day low price strategy in which the price will be the lowest of any competitors. Market parity is where pricing is in line competitors and not excessively above or below the market price. Finally, high dollar high value is where the price point is set where the business has an image of quality compared to the competition.

For more information on pricing, contact your local small business development counselor by calling 573-243-3581and asking for Richard Proffer. He can be reached also by email at

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is Your Business Ready for Growth?

Most business people want to grow their business but a question often comes up: am I ready to grow or can I afford to grow? Those are big questions for small business owners because of the time, commitment and financial resources it takes to successfully grow a business.

The first step towards growth is to take inventory on your business. I am not talking about physical inventory where you count your product, but a more mental and financial inventory to see if you have lined up the right resources to grow.

For this inventory, the business owner will need to invest time in analyzing the current situation and work on redefining the business’s goals. This analysis will allow the owner to make smarter decisions, be more accurate in the financial projections and move faster into growth when it happens.

Many business owners face the Red Queen paradox where they feel the constant strain of working and working and not getting anywhere but where they started. This feeling is typical of entrepreneurs who have not done a good job of planning their business’s future. Simply doing more of the same thing is usually not the answer for growing the business.

The first step in planning for a business’s growth is taking that inventory and defining where you want to be in the future with the business. As the owner you must plan out what needs to happen with the business either in sales, employees, financials or marketing to reach the desired goal. The third step is to start putting into action processes to reach the goal in the stated time. Finally, goals need to be set so progress can be measured and the owner knows the right path has been chosen for success or where to make corrections to the plan.

If business growth is part of your plans, feel free to contact me at the local MU Extension office at 573-243-3581 or email at I am available to answer questions on small business and help you work towards success!


Friday, May 16, 2014

How to Protect Your Valuable Business Ideas

Every business has ideas it has developed to do things more efficiently. Or the business owner has come up with a way to produce his product in a manner his competitors cannot copy. Better yet, the owner has devised a variation on an existing product that makes it more durable in the marketplace. A business customer list is also an example. These ideas or innovations are important to a business’s success and allows them to gain competitive advantage over their competitors. 

But how can an idea be protected? They first must be tangible and able to be seen, read, touched or in some other physical form.  If a business owner has no way to protect these new ideas then the chances are they will never see the light of day. The rest of society will not benefit from these new opportunities. There are four legal ways to protect your idea: patent, copy right, trade secret and trademark.  

The first one – patent – is the most common way. Here the inventor files a disclosure on the invention with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ( to review. This office is responsible for making sure the idea is able to patented.  There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant.
With an utility patent, you obtain protection on how a product is used and works. 
The design patent then only pertains to the way the product looks.
Finally the plant patent is aimed to protect new species of plants that are bred.  There are some types of plant creation that is not covered so make sure you check into the possibility if you invent some new types of plants.

The second type of protection is a copyright. These protection devices are also managed by the Federal Government at the Library of Congress ( This method protects an author’s rights to original creative works. An interesting website on copyright is where they have an article on the top ten myths of the topic.

Next, we have trade secrets which are handled entirely differently.  They are not protected through Federal registration but through the legal system on all levels – federal, state and local laws. Some factors that determine if your idea is really a trade secret is:
1)      How many people  know it outside the business (hopefully none is the answer)
2)      How many people, within the business, know the secret (hopefully few)
3)      How is it be safeguarded
4)      How important would it be to competitors
5)      How much did it cost to create this idea

If a business wants to protect information, it should keep in mind the above five questions as those efforts will help a court realize you are serious about this idea. As you can see from the questions above, a trade secret deals with the operations of the business and not information dealing with payroll for example .

The final way to protect your idea is through a trademark. These protection techniques are registered at the state level (usually at your secretary of state office of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ( Here you are dealing with a recognizable sign, design, or expression that clearly identifies the product or service of a particular company.  An easy example is the Coca-Cola trademark for Coke. Trademarks have their roots as far back as the Roman Empire where blacksmiths would mark their swords. 
So even if you are a small business but have creative ideas, you can gain protection for your ideas. Please contact me with any questions. I am here to help!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is Your Business Ready to Grow?


It is the goal of any business to grow that is a fact. But the big question is when is the business ready to grow? Many small businesses try to grow before they are ready and end up in cash flow problems. Others keep waiting and never work on growing to maximize their potential. Knowing that key moment in time is vital to the success of a business growing successfully.

For a business owner to know when it is right for growth, the mission, vision and values of the business must be in line with each other and with each part of the business from sales to production. If the owner’s eye is not on analyzing the current situation to make the smartest decisions for the future, then growth will be a struggle for the business.

One of the first steps an owner has to do in preparing to grow is to define what success means to him. Kauffman, the world’s leading foundation for entrepreneurism, says, “you need to define success in three ways: personal, professional and financial.” Only the business owner/partners can say what the goals for success are when you talk about those definitions.

The second step, according to Kauffman, is to evaluate your business. Here owners need to take an internal assessment of their business where they look at operations, sales, employees, and trends. Also seeing what is happening in the industry and in the local area to make sure the growth plans are capable.

The final step is to finalize your goals for growth and start to work on them. While these goals are focused on the future, they affect decisions made daily because the daily operation is what allows the future to happen. The goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Departmental, sales, production and other areas of the business needs to have the goals set for the future so the business owner can see the movement towards them and the future growth.

The local Small Business Technology Development Center of Cape Girardeau County serves the Southeast Missouri area. If there is a question on small business, feel free to call Richard Proffer at 573-243-3591 or email him at