How to Find the Best Location For Your Business

Jennifer McCluskey

At the Small Business Development Center, we work with a lot of business owners who are looking to move into a downtown space and trying to decide the best town or location for their business. What some business owners don’t know is that through our Research Network we have access to many different statistical databases. We can use these databases to get our clients much of the statistical information they would need to make an informed decision about where to start their new brick-and-mortar business, or which location would be right to move or expand their business. Some of the statistics that can be vital for making this decision are as follows:

    Traffic Counts:  The state Department of Transportation keeps a website which can map down to very precise detail how many cars travel down a specific street or through an intersection so that you, as the business owner, can know how many vehicles drive past your potential location. The DOT traffic website is free for anyone to use, so this is information you can get on your own, or the SBDC can compile it for you.

    Pedestrian Counts:  Sometimes just knowing how many cars drive past a location is not enough, you may need to know how much foot traffic there is. Some of the larger cities may have this information, but in the north country business owners may need to develop their own pedestrian count study. The SBDC can help you with strategies to design an accurate pedestrian count that won’t require you to sit out there all day, and will help get a more complete representation of where people go over time.

    Demographic Data:  The SBDC Research Network has paid for access to several databases that provide a wealth of knowledge about the people that live in a particular area. Knowing the ages, income ranges, ethnicity and buying patterns of a community is vital information for local business owners. We can create a customized geography around your business or potential location, looking at a radius of less than a mile to up to 150 miles away, or we can explore the population of a town, county or state. These databases take information from the U.S. Census Bureau and private sources to examine how many households there are in the area, what income ranges are, the daytime population of workers in an area versus the night time population of residents, and also demographic information like age, ethnic background and more. These numbers can help you see if your target population is active in the downtown area you are examining. We can also show this data in map form, so you can get an idea, say, of which areas of a city contain residents who earn higher incomes.

    These tools can also provide information about consumer spending and behavior patterns in an area. If, for example, you sell a healthy snack product, the database can tell you how many people in a local area are trying to eat healthy and lose weight, and how much the average household spends on snacks. There are a wide range of expenditures and behaviors covered, including restaurant, food and beverage, household items and services, recreation and medical services.

    As your SBDC business advisor, we can also get general industry trends, to give you an idea of what to look for in your industry and how technology, marketing, and other changes may lead to a shift in how you do business as you expand.

                When you don’t know what you don’t know about expanding your business, consulting us at the SBDC can be a great option for free business counseling and access to market research.  To set up an appointment for confidential business counseling and support, you can contact the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312 or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262.

Jennifer McCluskey is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton. Contact her McCluskeyj@canton.edu.

New Business Advisor Advances Online Marketing Strategies

Jennifer McCluskey

Brick-and-mortar stores looking to revitalize our downtowns sometimes overlook the power of the internet in bringing in new customers. I have seen several stores in the north country that don’t have a solid website or engaging social media. If this is the case for your shop or business, it might be time to think about improving your online presence. Think about this: If a tourist drives by, will your pizza place pop up on their smartphone when they are looking for lunch? If not, your local Small Business Development Centers can help you bring in more tourists and more locals, too, by assisting you with your online marketing strategy.
     At the SUNY Canton SBDC, we have a new business advisor who is doing just that. Her name is Renee Goodnow and she is working with small businesses in St. Lawrence County to help them improve their online and social media presence. The position was funded through a grant from the Alcoa Foundation, which is looking to help small businesses in the region expand their services beyond brick-and-mortar stores into e-commerce, where they can reach a significantly larger customer base.
     Renee has a background in industrial design and has also helped run a local small business, so she comes to the SBDC with a wide range of skills that she will use to assist business owners in meeting their internet marketing goals. Renee can assist with website design, the revamping of an old website for a more modern look, and also help you learn how to market the site to reach more customers. For those of you who would like a website or a stronger social media presence, but don’t have the time to do it yourself, Renee can help you get connected with a local web developer who can be a long-term resource for your business.
     Renee can also connect your business with local resources in the community, such as photographers and videographers, who can improve the way your business communicates visually with the world. She can help you craft your message and your brand by helping you communicate what is unique about your business. She can also help with logo design, or hook your business up with a local company for logo and other branding designs. Just as with the rest of the services the Small Business Development Center provides, there is no charge for this assistance.
     Renee can meet with you one-on-one and can assess your needs. Some of the ways she is helping clients already include:

• Working with several business owners to help them develop their first websites.
• Talking with business owners about setting up and marketing their business Facebook pages.
• Helping business owners decide which social media outlets are right for them and how to maximize their presence on each.
• Logo development.
• Assistance with creating compelling photographs and videos for marketing.
• Teaching business owners how to rank higher on search engines through search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

     Renee also will be setting up free training at different locations around the county to help business owners learn how to better market themselves online. The first training in January about social media marketing, presented by Molly Williams from Railroad Productions, was a great success drawing over 30 business owners who learned how to use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets to better share their voice and their brand with customers. The second training in March, with co-presenters Nate Lashomb from the Massena Chamber of Commerce and Jason Hendricks from H3 Designs, also drew a wide variety of business customers and covered a lot of information about web design and search engine optimization.
     If you are interested in developing your social media presence, brand, or would like to have Renee assist your business in improving your online presence, you can contact her at the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton at (315) 386-7312 or via email goodnowr@canton.edu. Keep an eye on the SBDC’s Facebook page to find out about more upcoming trainings. The Watertown SBDC at Jefferson Community College also has many resources available to assist your business with your online presence, and can be reached at 315-782-9262.

 Jennifer mccluskey is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton. Contact her at McCluskeyj@canton.edu. 

Don’t forget Facebook in media mix

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

As you are planning out your business’s advertising budget for next year, you may want to consider adding targeted Facebook ads if you have not done so already.

Being able to be very specific in defining a target audience is one of the reasons many businesses are turning to Facebook for advertising in addition to their more traditional advertising methods. For example, you can set up an audience of men ages 18 to 22 who like snowmobiling and live within either a 10 mile radius of Gouverneur or a 20-mile radius of Watertown. You can be as specific or as broad as you like, depending on the certain type of customer you are trying to reach.

If you’ve never set up a targeted audience for your Facebook ads before, here’s how you do it. At the lower-left corner of your Facebook page, there should be a blue button that says “Promote.” Facebook likes to move stuff around regularly, so if it’s not there, it will be somewhere on the page. Click it, click “see all promotions,” go to the bottom of the screen and click “Go to Ads Manager.” The dropdown menu in the upper left hand corner of your Ads Manager should give you a link to set up an audience. If it does not, click “Create Ad,” and choose an objective to be able to see the audience creator.

There are several ways to develop an audience. One way is to upload information about customers, and Facebook will match that to other people who share the same demographics and interest. Alternatively, you can create an audience of people who have interacted with your Facebook page, mobile app, or visited your website. Beyond those criteria, you can target customers based on their age, gender, and location. You can also use the detailed targeting search bar to find people that match certain interests. This is where the fun part begins. Start typing a phrase and see what comes up. Some examples are parents of teenagers age 13 to 18, people who are interested in magnum ice cream, people who are interested in handmade jewelry, people whose home value is more than $200,000, and people who are credit card “high spenders.” Yes, it is pretty scary how much information Facebook has about us. The list goes on and on, so you can craft an audience that is detailed as much as you want.

You can also choose to include or exclude people who like your page, or send the ad to friends of people who like your page. You can choose to have your ad or boosted post come up within your audience’s newsfeed (it will say “sponsored” above the ad) or in the sidebar. Ads in the newsfeed are a little more subtle, but it might be worth trying both to see which is most effective. You can also choose to have your ads show up on Instagram as well.

Once you have created an audience you can save it for future use. It can be useful to test several different audiences to see which works best to meet your goal. Continue to add audiences for variety, so you won’t be showing the ad to the same people every time.

Finally, and most importantly, you want to make sure you have a measurable goal to know if your marketing is effective. Your goal may be to get more clicks through to your website, to get more emails or calls from customers, and of course to make more sales. You will want to track the results from your ad campaign. Facebook has some insights in the ads manager, but you can also use website analyzers like Google Analytics to track clicks to your website from Facebook. You can also include a coupon code with your ad so that you will know how many actual customers come in because of it. It is also good to test two different ads, audiences, etc. to find out what works the best to bring in more customers.

Feel free to get in touch with us at the SBDC if you want help designing your Facebook ads or if you want any other assistance for your business. We are always here to help. The Small Business Development Center has offices at SUNY Canton (315) 386-7312 and at JCC in Watertown (315) 782-9262.

Strengthen your brand with Instagram

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

[Read more…]

August 2016: Small Business Success

Understand options for crowdfunding

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Crowdfunding, using various internet platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter to reach multiple investors, has been increasing by leaps and bounds over the last few years. So is crowdfunding a possibility for your business?

Certain types of products or businesses work better for crowdfunding than others. New and exciting businesses and products, nonprofits that can help people connect to a cause, or anything else that could get regular people excited to donate their hard-earned money may do well with crowdfunding. [Read more…]

June 2016: Small Business Success

Selling a business takes many steps

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

At the Small Business Development Center, we work with many clients who are trying to buy a business. However, business owners who plan to sell their business can also benefit from a solid plan. If you are thinking of selling your business now, or at some time in the future, there are specific actions you can take and documents you can begin to prepare that will make this transition go smoothly. [Read more…]

April 2016: Small Business Success

Resources for small business funding

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

In our local area, there are several different avenues a business owner can use to fund a start-up or growing small business. I touched on a few resources in a previous column, but there are several others you might want to be aware of. Depending on the needs of the business, the type of business and the size of the project, one funding resource might be better than another. At the Small Business Development Center, we can help direct business owners to the best fit for a project. [Read more…]

February 2016: Small Business Success

Maximize your SEO and boost business

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Getting your website onto the first page of a customer’s online search results through Google, Bing, or another search engine is an important part of any online marketing campaign. This is called “Search Engine Optimization”, and is the best way to reach customers who are searching for your product or service online. You can pay for ad space, above and to the right of the main (organic) search page, but there are also things that you or your Web developer can do to make your website rank well in the middle of the page. Whether you do your website yourself or you have someone do it for you, it can be helpful to know about these concepts to make sure your website is performing optimally. [Read more…]

December 2015: Small Business Success

Start-Up NY partners with colleges

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Many business clients I see have questions about Start-Up NY, what it is, who is eligible and how it works. Much of the information below, along with further details, can be found at the Start-Up NY website: startup.ny.gov. [Read more…]

October 2015: Small Business Success

Grant-funding your small business

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Business owners who we work with at the SBDC are often looking for funding and ask us if there are grants available to start or grow a business. Unfortunately for a for-profit retail or service business, grant funding is unlikely. [Read more…]