About Sandra McCarty

Founder of SM Business Solutions LLC, offering inbound marketing services that are both innovative and tailored to my clients needs. I use inbound marketing media such as blogging, emails and social media to help independent professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs successfully engage their target markets and increase their revenues. I am passionate about making sure my clients are satisfied and their companies experience tangible gains. A graduate of Martin J Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, University of the West Indies and of the Royal Institute of Marketing, London. Some of my clients are; Retro Lounge & Grill, The Cybernet Place, Optic Masters, Balance & Power Inc, Long Island Entrepreneurs Meetup Group, Best Buyer's Brokers and Male Ego Ltd.

How To Determine Your Target Market

You can reduce your marketing costs and increase profits by targeting specific groups of people when you market your business. When you understand your target market, not only will you easily reach them, you will also be in a better position to provide services and products tailored to their needs. Here are 5 steps to help determine and better serve your target market.

Step 1: List the types of services or products your business provides. For example, if you run an Accounting and Taxes firm, list the types of services you provide, such as general accounting, tax preparation, notary public, eldercare accounting, and payroll services. The services  you offer will determine if your firm caters to businesses rather than individuals. If you can determine which of these markets your business caters to the most, then you can narrow your search by targeting specific industries or types of consumers.

Step 2: Create a profile for your ideal customer. A customer profile is a list of descriptors such as gender, age, industry, profession, ethnicity, education level, income and lifestyle. Understanding the types of people or industries interested in purchasing your goods and services allows you to market directly to them instead of marketing to a general group. While you should still market to those outside your target market, most of your marketing efforts should be toward this group. One way to create a customer profile includes writing and distributing a survey to existing customers via email, traditional mail, by phone or in-person when they visit your place of business. Another way is to review sales records for the past year to determine which industries or types of consumers purchased your goods and services.

Step 3: Gather information about your customers via a survey. Include questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, yes or no) to determine the average age of customers, income level, occupation, number of times they use your goods and services each year, reasons for purchasing and other places they go to purchase the same or similar goods and services. Include a comment box so customers can express their opinions about your business or ask for additional goods and services. Place this survey on your website so it will pop-up when people visit your site. Add the survey to your business social media page to gather even more information. Analyze this information to determine which age groups, income levels, industries or specific customers, such as parents, working professionals or retirees, are most likely to make a purchase.

Step 4: Research your competition. Learn what other businesses have done to increase their sales by reading industry reports, business articles or by visiting competitor websites and social media pages. Create a list of markets your competition has cornered to see if there are smaller niche markets closely related to those larger markets that could be profitable for your business. For example, if you are in the event marketing industry and your competition is profiting from doing events for hospitals, investigate the possibility of doing events for medical doctors, dental facilities and other associated niche market in the healthcare industry.

Step 5 – Determine the best ways to reach your target market. Online marketing may be the best way to target younger audiences like the Gen I, Gen X and Gen Y; while business networking events, trade shows, community networking events and cold-calling may be the best ways to reach business owners. Review your customer surveys and take note of which surveys (online, email, traditional mail, in-person) receive the most responses. This may help you determine the best ways to market to a specific group.

Do share with us if you are already engaged in these target marketing activities and how they are working for you. We welcome any comment that can enhance this process.


Understanding Lifestyles Of Your Target Market

Understanding your target customers’ demographics helps you determine exactly what your products or services will be, and what kind of customer service tactics work best. Smart marketers know there are many subsets of every group targeted and not every message will work on every person. It is still useful to get the big-picture view of your target consumers. If you know, for example, your product will be geared toward seniors, then your research will tell you the font on your website should be easy to read, with a white or light-colored background and that it should avoid excessive use of Flash.

As the boundaries between categories begin to blur, and consumers no longer like to be singled out based on income, gender, ethnicity or education, one of the keys to keeping your marketing cutting-edge is customization, and personalization–essentially letting your customer know you think of them as an individual and understand their lifestyle. If you don’t speak to their lifestyle, a customer will tune you out. Get a firm grasp on the lifestyles of the five very distinct generations:

Gen I
Also called Gen Z, the internet generation or iGeneration, they’re the children of the youngest baby boomers. Because this generation is still very young, marketing and demographics theories are still developing. One huge distinction, however, can be made: This generation is the only one to be born entirely in the internet era, and to parents who are generally more accepting and knowledgeable of such technology. This differs from the next generation, Gen Y, which sometimes dealt with tensions stemming from their parents’ lack of technological savvy or acceptance.

Gen Y
Also referred to as millennials or “echo boomers,” they are the children of boomers, ages 9 – 27. Because of higher costs of living or, in some cases, the over-protective nature of their boomer parents, many are choosing to live at home. University of Michigan economics and public policy professor Bob Schoeni told Time magazine that the percentage of 26-year-olds living with their parents rose from 11 percent to 20 percent between 1970 and 2004. They’re 75 million strong and they have disposable income because of their parents’ support. Growing up with computers means this generation is especially responsive to internet campaigns. They process information quickly and are especially brand loyal. Gen Yers like innovative marketing approaches and advertising that uses humor or is “outside the box.”

Gen X
They are perhaps the most overlooked generation, falling in the shadow of the powerful baby-boom generation. But the 44 million Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1975 are entering their peak earning and buying years. They’re tech-savvy and love to shop. They have a high value for education and knowledge. Unlike Gen Yers, brand prestige alone won’t woo this generation–let them know why your product is a good value. They are independent and like to save.

Baby Boomers
Until the boomer generation hit age 50, marketers generally forgot consumers once they passed that age mark. Today, however, they’re awakening to the buying power of this 76 million-strong group. On average boomers spend $400 billion more per year than any other generation. They’re at many life stages: empty nesters or full nesters, boomer grandparents, single or married, etc. What they have in common is exceptional drive and the ability to evaluate advertising and determine its value to them. Between 2005 and 2030, the over-60 group will grow by 80 percent–as they age, be careful not to label them as “old.” This generation has a Peter Pan complex–play up their youthfulness in marketing.

The Octogenarian/Seniors
Born between 1909 and 1945, today’s octogenarian has seen it all when it comes to advertising, resulting in a particularly savvy consumer segment. They are more careful about whom they do business with, and they want to know more about your business before they choose to patronize it. Having been born during, or lived through, the Great Depression, World War II and many economic recessions, they’re keen on value and in general don’t “shop for fun” as other generations tend to do. They have pensions to rely on that other generations won’t have as they become senior citizens, so concentrate on communicating the value of your product or services. A practical bunch, they also tend to be extremely loyal customers.

Seniors like to spend money on their grandchildren. Seventy-five percent of the over-50 crowd are grandparents; they buy 25 percent of all toys sold in America.

Today’s senior is living longer than ever before, and they’re dealing with fewer acute illnesses and more chronic ones as their lifespans increase due to science and medicine. They want products to help them stay active, learn and be independent. There’s plenty of room in the marketplace for products and services to help them achieve this lifestyle.

It’s a mistake to think octogenarians aren’t using the internet. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people over the age of 65 spend more than $7 billion per year online.


Discover Your USP and Use It To Power Up Your Sales

Discover your USP & differentiate yourself from the rest

Discover your USP and stand out from the rest

The key to effective selling is what advertising and marketing  professionals call a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can  pinpoint what makes your business unique and makes you stand out  from your competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.

 So what is USP?
USP is the reason presented by the seller that a product or service is  different from and better than that of the competition. This is the  benefit that your customer or client receives that makes your business stand out. It’s what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers.

The point is, differentiating your business is a Good Thing, whether you’re talking about the business itself, your products or your marketing. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. With tens or hundreds of potential options out there, you have to answer the question, “why should I buy from you?” If you don’t answer that question quickly and effectively, your potential customers will move on.

USP Is Not About Being the Best
Having a great product or superb content is probably not enough of a difference to make your business stand out. In most markets, having a great product is just the price of admission.

When you’re small, it’s hard to compete on product or content quality alone. You need to change the conversation. Instead of screaming “hey, look at me, I have great stuff too,” you want to confidently say, “hey, I’m all about X, we do things differently. If you’re into X, we’re the only place you can get it.” The answer is that you don’t compete at all. Instead, you become the best at something no one else is attempting.

Discovering Your Unique Selling Proposition
There are a lot of different approaches you can take to discovering your USP which might end up being a combination of things. There’s no one right answer and depending on what business you are in, even a small amount of differentiation could lead to a much greater shot at success.

Here are a few simple ways to differentiate your business. These aren’t the only ways, but it’s a starting point to get you thinking.

Use Your Personality
If you’re running a very small business or are the primary owner of your business, sometimes your personality alone can be a powerful difference. You have to have a personality that resonates with people to pull this off however. Putting your personal stamp on many aspects of your business will allow you to create something no one can directly compete with.

Explore The Intersection Of Ideas
Interesting things happen at the intersection of ideas. Mix collective buying power with the social web and you get Groupon. Mix retail buying with the web and you get Amazon. Think about the industry your business is in, and what you could add to the mix to make it more interesting and unique. It doesn’t require inventing something new, just combine two things you already know about.

Narrow Your Target Market
You can choose a narrow target market who has never had a business like yours cater specifically to it. For example, become a Financial Advisor just for Registered Nurses (RN), or a CPA just for Restaurants or an Event Planner just for large outdoor events. Think about this from the customer’s standpoint. If you were a RN and need help with financial advice, you would be inclined to choose that person who that specializes in RN.

The other benefit of specializing in a narrow market segment is that promotion becomes much easier. You know where to find your target market  and you will better know what marketing message will be appealing.

Finally, Remember You’re Not Trying to Appeal to Everyone
As you begin to develop your USP it might seem like you are leaving out some potential customers as it is a natural tendency to want to please everybody. But when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing no one. The goal of your USP is to connect more strongly with some people, and not so much with others. This is what you want because when you connect strongly with a smaller lucrative market your revenues will increase quickly.


Google Will Downgrade Websites That Are Not Mobile Friendly


Your customers are mobile, is your website?

Your customers are mobile, is your website?

Is your website mobile friendly?
 On April 21st Google rolled out a new change to its search algorithms which factor in a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal – meaning that those sites which weren’t optimized for smartphones’ smaller screens would see their ranks downgraded as a result.  Google explains that in order for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, its text has to be readable without tapping and zooming, its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device. Google also clarifies that the changes will only affect a site’s search ranking on mobile devices – and it only applies to individual pages, not entire websites. It also only impacts searches done on smartphones, not tablets.

Use this Google tool to determine if your website is mobile friendly”. 

The shift to mobile cannot be ignored any longer. According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion in 2016, and will come close to hitting that mark this year. In 2015, the firm said there will be over 1.91 billion smartphone users across the globe. And by 2018, over one-third of consumers worldwide will use smartphones.

That rapid shift to mobile has impacted all businesses, Google included. The company’s bottom line is affected by how many mobile users turn to its search engine to explore the web, which allows Google to display ads with the search results. Popular mobile properties like Facebook have been cutting into Google’s ad business. eMarketer noted that Google owned half of the mobile ad market in 2013, but that would decline to 46.8 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of the market grew from 5.4 percent of global ad spending in 2012 to 21.7 percent in 2014, the firm said.

Google’s decision to force website owners to make their sites work better on mobile devices is about making sure that Google can retain its position as a useful service in the age of mobile.

The advantages to making a site mobile-friendly is also good for business owners.  According to a study of 100 top mobile properties by Branding Brand, search accounted for nearly half of all smartphone traffic (43 percent) in Q1 2015, up 5 percent from the prior quarter. In addition, organic search produced 25 percent of all revenue on smartphone-optimized sites. And mobile traffic continues to grow – smartphone visits grew 35 percent year-over-year as of Q1, the study noted. Apple devices accounted for 59 percent of all smartphone visits in the quarter, during which time 28 percent of all online revenue was generated by mobile devices.

Google warns that if a site is determined to not be mobile-friendly, that “there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.” But once the changes are made, Google will automatically re-process the site’s pages. Google’s crawling can take anywhere from a few hours to over 72 hours – but site owners can expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index. Then pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking, Google says.


Top Social Media Trends Impacting Marketing Decisions for 2015

Social Media trends in 2015 for Marketers

Social Media trends impacting marketing in 2015

1. Social Media Marketing has become essential to content marketing

Marketing practitioners now understands that social media is key to content marketing since it is one of the best ways to amplify content. The two most important aspects of content marketing is publication and distribution with social media been recognized as the most effective method of expanding the reach and visibility of of published content.

2. Facebook ad pricing will  increase significantly increase

The reach of Facebook posts have been decreased significantly in 2014, which is a serious problem for business owners who are using this platform for marketing purposes. This steady decline in reach is what has been coined the Filtered Feed Problem.

As Facebook continues to limit the number of posts page fans actually see, the demand for promoted posts and ads will continue to increase. This increase in demand will drive up the pricing. According to an Ad Week article earlier this year, 2014 Q1 Facebook ad pricing was up 10% over 2013 Q4 pricing. This trend is likely to continue into 2015 as organic post reach continues to fall.

 3. There will sharp increase in users on Twitter’s new business advertising model. 

Twitter is now offering businesses more choices and flexibility in how they create their ads and what they pay for. The new fee structure allows businesses to pay for certain performance-based actions rather than just retweets or clicks. Check out Twitter’s advertsing platform here.

These objective-based campaigns, which are still currently in beta, will offer more flexibility including tweet engagements (retweets, replies, etc.), website clicks or conversions, app installs, new followers and leads. These campaigns will be particularly appealing to small business owners who want to pay for results, not just for brand visibility.

4. Google+ is changing to bring more value to marketers

With the failure of Google’s Authorship experiment, it was felt by some that Google + did not bring a unique value to the social landscape and after the highly publicized departure of Google+ chief evangelist Vic Gundotra earlier this year  Tech Crunch felt the platform was quickly making the descent into obscurity. Having read Google CEO Larry Page in his statement about Gundotra’s departure and the fact that there a number of newly release features convinced me Google will not kill off Google +. The social network and user data infrastructure of Google is not going away.

The Google+ team has released new features such as Google+ polls and Google My Business.  Google+ polls allows you to poll other people on Google+ and learn what they think about a particular product, service or topic . Google My Business connects you directly with your customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+. Google My Business also puts your business info on Search, Maps and Google+ so that your customers can find you, no matter what device they’re using.

5. Instagram will become essential for image-based social media marketing

With over 200 million monthly users, Instagram is the network for image-based social media marketing.  According to the Social Media Marketing Industry report, 42% of marketers are planning to increase their use of the platform this year, compared to 38% in 2013. Instagram will also continue to grow in the micro-video space. With both Vine and Instagram vying for billing as the top video networking site, the platforms have continued to differentiate themselves from the other offering different features, video lengths and editing capabilities. However, I believe we’ll see Instagram begin to outpace Vine as we enter 2015.

And with the recent emergence of Instagram’s in-feed video advertising, marketers will now have the option of paying to target their 15-second videos to users based on age, gender and country. While some have called the new video ads incongruous, the new feature is a welcome addition for marketers looking to promote their wares to Instagram’s young, affluent user base.

6. LinkedIn will widen the gap as “the” B2B social network
LinkedIn has been the top network of choice for the B2B crowd for years already, and I believe we’ll see the gap between LinkedIn and other networks continue to widen in 2015. According to the 2014 Social Media Examiner survey, 88% of B2B marketers are using LinkedIn, compared to 89% for Facebook and 86% for Twitter. I believe 2015 is the year LinkedIn will surpass Facebook for B2B marketing.


As 2015 progresses, it will be rather interesting to see how marketing professionals take advantage of these trends to build brand awareness, increase customer loyalty and drive sales. Do tell us what is working for you or share with our readers what other trends you have identified for 2015.