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Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

Savvy Marketers Learn To Think Like Entrepreneurs

By Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

S yndicated columnist Rhonda Abrams is the author of several books including "The Passionate Entrepreneur." Most of what she writes about and travels the country speaking about targets smaller business owners and would-be business owners. But Abrams business and marketing practices can apply to any company searching for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

What makes Abrams so enlightening is that her advice is always practical, real-world and full of common sense. She often reminds us of the business basics we tend to dismiss when the competition heats up, markets go soft or the economy takes a downturn. While were busy "overthinking" the situation, crafting complicated and philosophical marketing plans to try to outmaneuver the competition, she reminds us to simply "think like an entrepreneur."

If companies small and medium-sized businesses and corporate giants alike would think more like entrepreneurs, the road to marketing success would be a lot easier.

For example, entrepreneurs always have their eyes and ears open to discover the next great business idea. Some of these ideas come from market research and an analysis of market trends and consumer needs. Others come from happy coincidence. Keeping up with current events and industry news is one way to help you identify trends and fads, and sometimes just find a new idea that has business possibilities. If youll read or watch the news regularly with the conscious intent of finding business or marketing opportunities, youll be amazed at how many ideas will surface.

The Internet a constant subject in the media has created a huge demand for new products and services including Internet service providers, website developers, anti-virus software, wireless routers and on and on. Since the World Wide Web starting gaining steam in the mid-1990s, more than 100 million websites have launched. There are 1.1 billion people around the globe with access to the Internet.

Internet sales are growing at a rate of 28 percent every year, with e-Commerce sales in the United States alone expected to have exceeded $100 billion in 2006. There are more than 200 million Internet searches performed every day in the United States, with 85 percent of Internet traffic getting to websites via search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and America Online.

Most of us read these stats and find them interesting, but do we think about how to apply this trend to our own business Heres an example: A 2006 study by Harris Interactive showed that 90 percent of home buyers are beginning their new home searches on the Internet. But, newspapers and other print publications remain the two largest mediums used by residential builders to market their services.

Are builders simply continuing to operate in their comfort zones Do they continue to put marketing money into print because thats where their competitors are Perhaps they are doing some of both, and theyre not thinking like entrepreneurs. Builders should be encouraged to break from the pack. The one who does surely will reap the benefits.

Adding value to an existing product, or improving an existing product or service are other forms of entrepreneurial thinking. If you manufacture a product, but you dont offer service for that product, why not consider it Some might argue that it is too costly, but is that an argument that has been researched based on return on investment You can add product value by adding service, or by combining the product with complementing products.

Another powerful byproduct of the Internet is that it has made researching the competition a fairly easy process. With a simple Google search, you can investigate other markets domestic or foreign, your competitors and surf the Net for great marketing ideas and business opportunities.

There are hundreds of examples of entrepreneurs who achieved success by building a better mousetrap. There are very few products or services that cant be improved. Start generating ideas by looking at the products and services in your industry. Where are the gaps, and is there a certain problem or issue that needs a solution?

As the story goes, a woman thought hula-hooping would be a fun thing to do with her daughter, but she found the commercially available product too flimsy and hard to control. It was too much work to be a fun exercise. So she created an improved version of the hula-hoop of all things. Its bigger and heavier, so hula-hoopers can control it more easily and do more tricks. She found the gap and filled it.

Finally, entrepreneurs tend to get on the bandwagon. Sometimes markets surge for no apparent reason read "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell for a fascinating look at this phenomenon. Consumers suddenly want something, and the resulting demand cant be met right away. During the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, for example, there was an incredible demand for facial masks around the globe, and many entrepreneurs cashed in on it.

The bandwagon effect also is created by social trends. For example, there presently is much greater demand for home health care services for the elderly than is currently being supplied. The latest statistics show more than 18 percent of Americans aged 65 and over require some type of special equipment and care to manage a health condition. With a baby boomer population turning 60 at an estimated rate of 8,000 people per day, the numbers can only increase.

Entrepreneurs continually look at existing businesses and the products and services they offer to determine if theres a need for more of those products or services. A study of your industry, your offerings and the offerings of your competitors can quickly tell you where the opportunities lie. And if youre thinking like an entrepreneur, youll set about developing business ideas to fill the market gap.



May/June 2007



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