Developing a Location Plan

The importance of the location decision differs depending on the type of product or service provided by the business. For retail outlets location is the key. Service providers such as hair salons and shoe repairs services also largely depend on the location to drive traffic to their stores. Location is also important to manufacturers who need to be in proximity to the suppliers. However, if it is small manufacturing business which does not have to be in proximity to suppliers and which sells its products over the internet than location may be not very important. The costs of securing good locations increased significantly over the last decade. However, the internet allows many businesses to establish proximity to customers at a very low cost.

Factors to consider when selecting a business location

Selection of location is often a once-off decision. Relocation is usually very costly and time consuming but sometimes is necessary if the choice of location was incorrect.

The importance of location differs depending on the type of product or service provided by the business. However, there are number of important factors that should be considered by entrepreneurs when selecting a location for the business. Depending on particular business and situation, each factor may be more or less important but all of them should be considered.

The first factor that should be considered is proximity to customers. The importance of proximity to customers depends on the type of product of service provided by the enterprise. For retail outlets location is the key. Service providers such as hair salons and shoe repairs services also largely depend on the location to drive traffic to their stores. However, if it is small manufacturing business which sells its products only over the internet than proximity to customers is not very important, if important at all.

Site-selection software can be used by businesses to help select a location with good proximity to customers. Such software is relatively sophisticated and allows evaluating such information as demographic information, traffic flow and businesses which are located in the area when choosing a location with good proximity to customers.

Proximity to customers is also a very important consideration when businesses supply product which is very expensive to ship, especially if shipping costs are high compared to the value of the product, such as soft drinks. Such businesses need to be located as near to customers as possible to decrease shipment costs.

An internet presence allows good customer accessibility to many types of businesses and should be considered.

Proximity to employees is also very important. Business need to be located in the area where employees of the right calibre, skills set and education are available. Requirements that business have to employees depends on the type of the business and may include wage rates levels, history of relationships between employees and employers in the area, general labour productivity in the area, certain type of skills and availability of surplus labour which refers to the situation when supply of labour is higher than demand and therefore many workers are searching for a job.

Proximity to suppliers is also can be important consideration. For example, it may be very important for a manufacturing business to be close to the raw materials’ supplier. In this case, the cost of shipment or the need to maintain close relationships may be critical.

Proximity superior transportation facilities: Availability of transportation is also very important. For example, a retail store may require a good highway, roads and public transport services nearby to ensure that customers can access the store. For manufacturing businesses it may be important to ensure that good roads are available to transport its products. When considering cost of the location it is also important to consider whether target customers will be able to afford this location. For example, the cost of parking and transportation to access the business location should be considered.

Cost of te location is also an important factor. Generally, it is better for new businesses to first rent a location. This allows business to refine its understanding of its location needs before purchasing a location as well as saving its available funds for necessary operating expenses.

Leasing also reduces risk as it means businesses will have less debt. Risk rises as the debt of the business increases because businesses can be forced into bankruptcy by lenders if debt obligations in terms of interest and principal payments on debt cannot be met. Since sales and other income sources of the new business are usually uncertain during establishment phase of the business, it is much less risky not to have large debt obligations.

If the leasing option is selected, it is important to ensure the insurance policy is adequate for the business’s needs and it does not expose the business to unnecessary risks due to confusing clauses. It is advisable to have an attorney to review the agreement before signing it.

When considering cost of the location it is also worthwhile to consider taxes. Some areas of the country may offer lower tax rates and this could be very helpful for a new business.

If entrepreneurs have very limited funds, and if type of product or service permits, it may be a good idea to initially locate the business on the internet and operate it from home. This will significantly decrease the operational costs required to start a business.

Facility requirements are also important to consider. Entrepreneurs need to consider if the business has any particular facility requirements such as high power consumption.

Competition is another factor to consider when selecting location. For example, if the business is a coffee shop than selecting a location where there are no other coffee shops are currently located can be advantageous, especially in the start-up phase.

Specifics of the community must be understood. It is important to investigate the community in the locations considered. Entrepreneur can do research at almost no cost by reading local press, watching local television, speaking to other business owners in the area and understanding the background of the area.

Entrepreneur’s preferences are another factor that must be considered when choosing a location for the business. Many entrepreneurs give this factor the most attention. Entrepreneur may wish to locate business in the area in which he/she is a resident of and which he or she knows well.

This can have many advantages such as better understanding of the target customers, including their needs and preferences. Other advantages include established relationship that can be utilized for the benefit of the business. An example of this could be a relationship with the local bank manager which can be helpful in obtaining a loan. Another example is the relationship with other business owners which can be helpful in obtaining general advice and guidance.

Entrepreneur’s family and friends may be the first customers of the business and may recommend businesses to other people, which would make it easier to jump start sales of the business.

Entrepreneurs also may choose the location they are comfortable with due to the specific life style that they wish to maintain. For example, certain individuals may prefer to live near the ocean and would want to locate the business in such an area.

However, it is vital to keep in mind all other important factors that must be considered when choosing a location and do not allow just personal requirements to be a sole reason for locating in the specific area.

Entrepreneurs may even consider locating at home. This has a number of advantages such as lower costs, saving time that could be spent on the commute and ability to spend more time with the family. Entrepreneurs, however, need to consider if it will be possible to maintain a professional image by being located at home. Establishing special and non-special boundaries may help to achieve this. It also needs to be considered if the city in which entrepreneur resides allows to locate this particular type of business at home in this area and if there are any restrictions on activities of the business that apply in case.

Prestige of the location will be more important for some types of businesses. For example, if business targets an elite customer than prestige of the location is an important consideration.

Entrepreneurs should also consider sharing facilities with other business. Business incubators offer facilities for the new businesses. Such facilities usually allow new business to become operational right away. Business incubators generally provide businesses with building space, clerical assistance, general equipment such as phones and fax machines and management advice. Such choice will result in lowering operational costs and therefore decrease the risk of business failure due to insufficient funds.

Generally such business incubators are sponsored by governments or universities and their purpose is to help new businesses get established before such businesses become strong enough to move to their own locations. The main benefit of business incubators is management advice that they provide. This could be especially beneficial to inexperienced entrepreneurs.

Other considerations when choosing a location is economic and (business) environmental factors. This refers to such factors as tax structure, legal requirements, crime levels and weather. Safety is an important consideration when choosing a location. Therefore, location at a high crime rate area may not be very suitable, especially if this is a type of business where customers will need to visit the location.

Some areas of the country may offer location incentives such as enterprise zones. Enterprise zones are established to entice businesses to locate in the areas which are economically deprived and in need of job creating by offering businesses lower taxes.

However, many cities also place certain restrictions on businesses. For example, it is common for cities to have zoning requirements which place restrictions on businesses which operate from home. This is a problem especially over the last few years since more and more businesses consider locating at home and home based business are no longer considered to be “second grade” businesses in the eyes of both consumers, business partners and owners.

 

The Importance of Customer Relations Management

Whereas in the past companies could afford to ignore consumers’ needs and preferences, this is no longer the case. With options available to consumers due to such factors as increased competition and drastic changes and improvements in technology, consumers become increasingly more educated and demanding.

For example, Portia have to work really hard to keep consumers of Pearlparadise.com satisfied and to build long lasting relationships with them. Otherwise they will move to a competitor.

Since Portia’s business is a small business, Portia has an advantage compared to large competitors. This advantage arises because Portia can address each customer personally and superior higher customer service which will lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

It is crucial for Pearlparadise.com to keep current customers satisfied since acquisition of new customers is very costly. It costs about five times more to acquire a new customer in comparison to keeping an existing one. Current customers also tend to buy more from the enterprise and may refer their family and friends.

On average, businesses keep between 70-90 percent of customers each year. However, if retention of customers could increase by 5-10 percent per year, than businesses could double their profitability.

This statistics highlights how incredibly important it is for Portia to keep current customers satisfied. So think about this for a minute. While Portia wants to spend money on advertising, that is really a small part of the battle. Once people see Portia’s advertising, she needs to convert them into paying customers. Once Portia converts them into paying customers she then needs to ensure they are repeat clients, otherwise she needs to spend even more on advertising. If she does a poor job serving existing customers, they may write poor review of her business which will lead to even less effect from her advertising.

Moreover, customers are often willing to pay a premium for excellent customer service. Therefore, Portia could even increase her profit margin by providing higher customer service than that of her competitors.

 

Customer Relationships

Whereas in the past companies could afford to ignore consumers’ needs and preferences, this is no longer the case. With thousands of options available to consumers due to such factors as increased competition and drastic improvements in technology, consumers become increasingly more educated and demanding. Organizations have to work really hard to keep their consumers satisfied and to build long lasting relationship with them. Otherwise they will move to a competitor.

It is also crucial for businesses to keep current customers satisfied since acquisition of the customer is very costly. It costs about five times more to acquire a new customer in comparison to retaining existing customers. Current (older) customers also tend to buy more from the enterprise and may refer their family and friends.

On average, businesses keep between 70-90 percent of customers each year. However, if retention of customers could increase by 5-10 percent per year, than a business could potentially double its profitability. These statistics highlight how incredibly important it is to keep current customers satisfied.

Small businesses have an advantage compared to large business when it comes to customer satisfaction. This advantage arises because small businesses can address each customer personally and provide higher customer service which will lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This is relevant especially when it comes to addressing customer complaints. Addressing customer complaints is important because it increases the chance for repeat purchases as well as increasing the chance that a complaining customer will recommend the company to the friends and family instead of complaining to them about the company.

Generally, in large businesses only individuals with certain title have authority to make a decision regarding customer complaints. This leads to inefficiency and often results in a situation where customers have to communicate with various employees before their complaint can be addressed. This often leaves customer dissatisfied.

In comparison small businesses are more flexible where each employee may be given power to assist customers and customer complaints could be potentially handled faster and to greater satisfaction of the customer.

Customers are often willing to pay a premium for excellent customer service. Therefore, if costs increase due to attempts to increase customer service than it most likely will be offset or more than offset by the higher premium that customers will be willing to pay for superior service. However, ensure you are tracking this.

To ensure higher customer satisfaction, an enterprise needs to address complaints in a timely manner, provide basic products according to a customer’s expectations, provide adequate customer support and try to customize products or services for the specific needs of the customer.

Businesses can monitor customer service levels by playing customers’ roles anonymously. That is sending in employees to anonymously pose as customers and record their experiences. It is helpful to observe how customers are treated by employees and how complaints are handled as well as directly asking customers about their experiences via such methods as surveys, comment cards or questionnaires.

Further ways to improve customer satisfaction and customer service include addressing customers by the name, respecting their time, contacting customers who no longer use the  products/services to find out the reason why they have discontinued dealing with the company and trying to win them back. It is also helpful to remember what customers preferences are, which is increasingly possible due to technology.

Technology may be used to build a positive relationship with customers. Relationship may be supported by connecting with customers via email, a website, phone calls, mail, videos, twitter, face book or other social networking sites. There is customer relationship marketing (CRM) software available for fostering this relationship.

Web based companies have specific software available to help them build relationships with customers and improve the company’s performance. An example of such software is Enterprise Miner. Furthermore, sometimes it may be cheaper for a small firm to outsource certain media tools for customer interactions such as call centers or live chat support.

An entrepreneur also needs to have a good understanding of the customer profile. Customer profiles usually include demographic characteristics of customers, such as their age and gender. It can also include psychological, behavioural and sociological information. A customer profile also includes information regarding transactions history, responses to marketing stimuli and historical contacts with the customer.

To understand customers, entrepreneurs need to know the stages of the consumer decision making process. They include:

  1. problem recognition
  2. search for information
  3. evaluation of alternatives
  4. purchase
  5. post-purchase evaluation

Businesses need to take these stages into account when approaching a customer. The stage of the consumer decision making should influence the way customer is approached.

To compare different alternatives (the third stage of the consumer decision making process), a consumer selects evaluation criteria which are the variables that the consumer uses to compare one brand against another.

An evaluative criterion is used by consumer to generate an evoked set. An evoked set refers to the set of brands that consumer is willing to consider to purchase from.

After a purchase is made and the customer has moved into the post-purchase stage of the consumer decision making process, the post-purchase dissonance can occur. It refers to manifestation of the cognitive dissonance. Post-purchase dissonance occurs when customers have doubts or second thoughts regarding whether or not the purchase was a good idea or whether a different product/service would have been a better fit.

If businesses would like to have repeat purchases from such costumer, it is helpful to attend to such problems by softening or removing post-purchase dissonance. An adequate return policy can be helpful to correct this problem. Another idea is to send an after-sales letter which will again highlight the main benefits that this particular product or service brings.

For example, if the customer purchased a white car, an after-sales letter can highlight the fact that based on some research white cars are the safest colour for a car. This benefit of buying a white car could be included along side with general benefits of buying this specific car. Such an after-sales letter could be very valuable if the customer had second thoughts about buying a white car or buying this specific car instead of another.

To improve product/service acceptance and performance in the market, an entrepreneur can benefit from knowledge of psychological factors that affect consumers. One such factor is perceptual categorization. This refers to perceiving dissimilar objects as members of the same category.

It can be used to the business advantage. For example, for a start up introducing their brand to the market it will be helpful to make a product look similar to the same product sold by successful brands. This way a consumer can easier perceive it as another alternative during the consumer decision making process. This obviously has some disadvantages so needs to be carefully considered. Other psychological factors to consider include consumer needs (physiological, social, psychological and spiritual) and motivations.

Certain sociological factors also affect customers’ choices and, consequently, the success of the enterprise. Such factors include culture and social class of customers. Culture is very influential on consumer decision making and is changing. It is important for an entrepreneur to undertake a culture analysis to ensure understanding of influences which culture brings to the business’s particular target markets.

Social class refers to the divisions of people into particular groups within society based on such variables as their income, education, social status and wealth.