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I recently finished a course from SF State extension that was called Market Research Basics.

Now I will admit that this is one of the less interesting aspects of marketing to me, and yet I did get some valuable insights from it that I will share with you.

Creative types can tend to lean away from super analytical methodological practices and approaches to business. But just like the analytical could learn a thing or two from the nonlinear creative, we can learn a thing or two from the analytical.

Conducting market research makes a lot of sense:

  • When you are starting a biz or deciding between a few biz ideas
  • When deciding on which product to produce or before launching a product
  • When you feel like you have ‘lost touch’ with your market or are ‘missing the mark’ and need some input and insights to guide you back into a sweet spot
  • When you want to gauge satisfaction or improve a product or service

Some Subsections of Market Research:

CUSTOMER RESEARCH- Who are our target customers anyway? What dot they need and want? What wording do they use to describe their wants and goals?

COMPETITOR RESEARCH– Who are our closest competitors and how do they compare with us? What can we learn from them and do do to clearly distinguish ourselves from them? What is our competitive advantage? (this informs your value and positioning statements and your USP- unique selling proposition)

TREND ANALYSIS– What trends are currently impacting the need/demand of our market? What trends might impact us in the future? Which trends are beneficial to our work and how can we best align ourselves with the existing momentum?

Also PRICING Research, SEGMENTATION Research, CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, and ADVERTISING/MESSAGING Research

As strategic of a thinker as I may be, I had to admit that I hadn’t really thought of either of my businesses in terms of trends. I hadn’t done any real substantial research into my market before starting a business to serve their needs. I just thought they were good ideas and suited me, so I created them. If I had identified and surveyed my market, I could have saved myself a lot of guesswork and accelerated my profits.  But it isn’t too late.

MAIN MARKET RESEARCH TOOLS:

SURVEYS- be clear about your objective in conducting the survey, use an online service like survey monkey, use a variety of question formats, and give people an incentive to complete it. (perhaps a coupon or a free download after completing it) ALTERNATIVES include Questionaires and Polls.

FOCUS GROUPS- A roundtable discussion of 6-10 carefully selected people with a facilitator. You can get more in depth information and feedback and thus insights. The role of the moderator/facilitator is very key in quality of results. Costs can be high.
ALTERNATIVES to Focus Groups include Interviews, free workshops with a question and answer portion at the end, and creating a ‘marketing persona’, which is basically a fictional ideal customer that guides all your decisions.

Whichever option you go for, you will need to know WHAT you are trying to find out, then GATHER DATA, then sort, filter, and ORGANIZE DATA and then ANALYZE the Data so that it can be applied to actual improvements.

A good baby step is to create a poll on your blog. Here is one I created in 5 minutes via poll daddy. Please take a second to add your vote into the mix.

To your Success,

Audette

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I am a big believer in looking at the bright side of every situation, and seeing the opportunity in every challenge.

What to do when you lose your job or freelance work slows down and you suddenly have time on your hands?

Unemployment and underemployment can be very stressful. It is tempting to freak out and spin your wheels with hours of Craigslist searches and submit your resume to everything under the sun that you could conceivably do. And when this ‘strategy’ fails, to get depressed and catch up on your sleep, eat/drink too much, and watch a lot of TV and movies to distract you from the state of your finances, career, and general self-esteem.
Stop! Don’t do it!

Instead, try some of these worthwhile endeavors:

1.) CATCH UP ON READING

No, not reading novels or magazines. Catch up on the key periodicals, books, and blogs about your industry. (If you are sick of your industry and can’t find any motivation to read about it, then find one that is compelling and bring yourself up to speed about it) This way you will feel up to speed on new developments, and be able to dazzle people at dinner parties and job interviews.

Some tips to ensure that this reading time is strategic:
* Capture key bits of information and advice in files. Extract the best information out of any and every book/newspaper/blog and put it in a place that you can find it again. [for hardcopy texts, use my highlighter tips from my most popular blog post of all time- Ode to the highlighter]
* Write up a summarizing book report after you finish a book. May feel dorky at first and send you back a decade or two, but there is a reason our teachers gave us this assignment—so we would better integrate the information.

2.) TAKE SOME COURSES

To succeed in this competitive job market, it is smart to adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner.  Always seek to expand your skills and keep your brain and job skills toolbox in good shape. When you suddenly have time on your hands, it is a great time to sign up for a couple courses at the local community college or a university extension program. Take a marketing, writing, or computer class.
Or learn a whole new software application in your bathrobe through cool video tutorial programs like Lynda.com.

3.) STRENGTHEN YOUR NETWORK

Use some of your spare time to nurture those friendships and professional relationships that have been withering from lack of attention. Sure, build up your facebook friends and your linked in profile, but don’t stop there. Virtual community only goes so far. Pick up the phone and call people, send friendly emails or letters, and attend parties and networking events. Try to be positive and not needy in your interactions. When people ask what’s new- don’t gripe about being underemployed, tell them about the cool courses you are studying or the volunteering you are doing. (see tip 5) Take people who could give be helpful to your job search or career advancement out to tea/coffee. Have a potluck dinner party at your house. Make sure you are socializing for genuine reasons, and also some for strategic reasons. Be generous with your network and it will be generous to you.

4.) POLISH YOUR SKILLS & YOUR PACKAGING

Work on your resume. Rewrite your bio with the help of a couple people who know you/your work well. Get a new headshot. Update your social network profiles. Work on your portfolio or promo kit if you have one. Upgrade your personal branding.

Research jobs related to your previous positions and ideal jobs. Do you get excited at the prospect of any of them? What skills do they require that you don’t have? How can you attain these skills? Spend time looking at the web sites, bios, and portfolios of people whose careers you admire. Emulate some of their best practices in your own promotional materials.

5.) VOLUNTEER—-Strategically

Find one or two local organizations doing inspiring work on causes you believe in. Think of how your specific skills and experience could be beneficial to them, and then contact them to volunteer these services.

This will have multiple positive effects: It feels good to work for a good cause, it takes your focus off you and onto something larger, it can be included in your resume, and it could even result in a paid position down the road. If you see a perfect job for yourself in their organization, volunteer to throw a fundraising event to pay for your salary.

1.) DEVELOP YOUR WILD IDEAS

Do you have some crazy idea for a business you want to start? A creative project?
A community project?
Maybe this extra time is the universes sign to focus on it.  Sketch out your project; draft a business plan, work on that book you always wanted to write. Use this as a brilliant excuse to work on that thing you have been wanting to work on for years. If Plan A isn’t working out so well, might as well develop your Plan B.

Who knows? That sketch or book proposal or 1 page business plan may lead to a whole new exciting direction in your career. Even if they don’t seem ‘practical’ give your wild ideas and harebrain schemes their due and develop them out of the idea phase.

To Your Inspired Success!

Here are some BASIC and FUNDAMENTAL Concepts of Marketing.

Definitions of Marketing-

The super basic definition- Managing profitable customer relations.

“Broadly defined, marketing is a social and managerial process by which individuals and organizations obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging value with others.”

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

What is a Market?

The set of actual and potential buyers of a product.
These people share a need or want that can be satisfied through exchange relationships.

2 of the most important questions to ask before you can create your marketing strategy:

What is our target market? (What specific customers will we serve?)

What is our value proposition? (How can we serve these customers best?)

A company’s value proposition is the set of benefits or values it promises to deliver to customers to satisfy their needs.

This is also referred to as a USP- unique selling proposition. This forms the core of your marketing message. Sometimes you can encapsulate your usp into your businesses tagline. This should also be what is conveyed by the headline you use on your web site or in any ad campaigns.

5 Steps of the Marketing Process

1.) Understand the marketplace and customer needs and wants
2.) Design a  customer driven marketing strategy with the goal of getting, keeping, and growing target customers
3.) Construct a marketing program (4 P’s) that actually delivers superior value
4.) Build profitable customer relationships and customer delight
5.) Reap the rewards of these strong relationships by capturing value from customers

* Notice that the first 4 steps are all about value for the customer.
* The 4 P’s are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion

The Marketing Process

Situation Analysis
|
V
Marketing Strategy
|
V
Marketing Mix Decisions
|
V
Implementation & Control

I will write future posts going into more detail about many of the above elements.
This is just an overview.

– Credit for many of these general concepts goes to the book
MARKETING- An Introduction By Armstrong & Kotler

_____________________________________________________________________

For a Great Free Online Course on the Fundamentals of Marketing– Go to:
http://www.smallbizu.org/m101/

A funny video about SEO, blogging, marketing, tweeting, etc… Creative delivery.

So many new inside jokes for tech savvy geeks. Gotta give it to Hub Spot for being creative in its gorilla marketing tactics. 🙂

I’m gonna give the link love song some link love…

Sometimes a book jumps off my bookshelf and says look at me again- Now!
Being that I am currently studying marketing, when I picked up the book ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’ By, Richard Florida again, I had a whole new appreciation for its contents.

This national bestseller written by a professor of economic development, makes many key contributions to the discussion about the central role of creativity in the economy, and specifically highlighting a growing class of society he calls the creative class.

HERE ARE SOME Gold NUGGETS  or KEY QUOTES to chew on:

“Many say that we now live in an “information” economy or a “knowledge” economy. But what’s more fundamentally true is that we now have an economy powered by human creativity. Creativity– “the ability to create meaningful new forms”, as Webster’s dictionary puts it- is now the decisive source of competitive advantage. In virtually every industry, from automobiles to fashion, food products, and information technology itself, the winners in the long run are those who can create and keep on creating.”

***

“The economic need for creativity has registered itself in the rise of a new class, which I call the Creative Class. Some 38 million Americans, 30% of all employed people, belong to this new class. I define the core of the Creative Class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content. Around the core, the Creative class also includes a broader group of creative professionals in business and finance, law, health care and related fields. These people engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital. In addition, all members of the Creative Class– whether they are artists or engineers, musicians or computer scientists, writers or entrepreneurs– share a common creative ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.”

***

“Given that creativity has emerged as the single most important source of economic growth, the best route to continued prosperity is by investing in our stock of creativity in all its forms, across the board. This entails more than just pumping up R&D spending or improving education, though both are important. It requires increasing investments in the multidimensional and varied forms of creativity– arts, music, culture, design and related fields– because all are linked and flourish together. It also means investing in the related infrastructures and communities that attract creative people from around the world and that broadly foment creativity.”

***

The Creative Class  has 3 FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES TO ADDRESS:

1.) Investing in Creativity to ensure long-run economic growth.
2.) Overcoming the class divides that weaken our social fabric & threaten economic well-being.
3.) To build new forms of social cohesion in a world defined by by increasing diversity and beset by growing fragmentation.

This book shows how codependent and increasingly connected are the worlds of finance/business/economy and the worlds of the arts/creativity/culture.

It also really broadens the scope of what we may usually categorize as “creative work” and illuminates the integral role that creativity has in many of the jobs central to our economic health.

We all know how it feels to fumble our way through a vague jumble of to-do’s and get distracted, get some little things done, and at the end of the day wonder what we actually accomplished.

In contrast to that, how good it feels to be crystal clear on your priorities, have all tasks organized and listed, and to blaze through the list with efficiency.
Since time is a very precious resource, can we afford to be disorganized and ineffective?

SOME POINTS about EFFICIENCY

* PRIORITIZATION IS KEY for acting efficiently. Take the time to assess your list and determine an order of priority. Use Color coding, Stars, or a special box on your To Do List page to indicate which items are to be acted upon first. Tackle the most important and/or most difficult tasks first thing in the morning when you are sharpest, and it will set a great tone for the rest of the day.

*Have a MAP or MASTER PLAN. In visual or written form this big picture document can be a reference point to return to when we get distracted and veer off track. I have a vision board in my home office that I can look at, as well as my mission statement and a Master Plan word document on my computer.

* Your ability to GET STUFF DONE is strengthened by working your  ACTION and DISCIPLINE MUSCLES. To support this, I highly suggest developing and maintaining a daily practice (could by physical like running or yoga, spiritual like mediation or creative like writing). Even 15 minutes a day of any practice can help us greatly to get used to taking action weather or not we are ‘in the mood’. This is also a way to balance out our do do do work orientation with a non mental practice, and the byproduct is that we are practicing discipline which will spill over into the mental sphere too.

* STREAMLINE OPERATIONS by clearing space and getting rid of unessential objects, projects, and clutter. Clear and organize files on your computer every couple months.

* Being a sleek effective person who knows what they want and gets stuff done not only leads to more Success, but hey… its SEXY!

THINGS THAT ENHANCE EFFICIENCY:

* Good Systems

* Good Time Management

* Clarity and Planning

* Delegating & Teamwork

* Focus w/out distractions

TOOLS and SOFTWARE RESOURCES
that have been helping me streamline and up my time/task management game.

RESEARCH– R&D is a big part of the initial phase of almost any project. We need to research when exploring career options, getting a new apartment, writing an article or book, or looking for places online to promote our work.

Microsoft Word Notebook Documents-
This template is in all MS Word from 2004 on. To find it go to Project Gallery under File and then click on ‘Word Notebook’. You will get a blank document with multiple tabs on the right side. This way you can gather a lot of varied information related to your topic into one document. For EXAMPLE, I am writing this blog post in my Blog Topics notebook, and there are tabs for “Topics & Ideas”, “In Progress”, “Already Posted”, and “Radar Screen”. It’s easy to add, delete, and rename tabs as you go along. Using notebooks for any topic that is more multi-dimensional than flat leads to more streamlined virtual filing systems and less overwhelm.

Evernote- http://www.evernote.com
I absolutely love this tool and have been using it a lot lately. (It was tool #9 in my inspired productivity tools series.) Once you download it for free, its small icon lives at the top right of your screen and you can use it to get screenshots of sites relevant to your research. You can also add tags to keep it organized, and put the source url so you can easily return to that site (easier than bookmarking). For EXAMPLE, I am developing an educational branch to Catalyst Arts and exploring local organizations to partner with to bring the program to low-income youth. So here is a screenshot of my evernote notebook with c.a. education program tags.

Evernote_EducationProgram

What Else?? What helps you to act efficiently?

flower_barter

I have always thought that barter is a great thing. Recently it has been highlighted in my experience in such a way that I now see it as one of the big keys to a sustainable personal economy. Developing sustainable mini economies that don’t rely on cash, credit, banks or loans is a huge, healthy, and proactive step towards reinvigorating or replacing our current economic system. (which is a pretty attractive prospect these days, is it not?)

It is ironic that barter is referred to as an alternative economy, since it has been the norm for most of human history. So we are returning to our roots by nourishing the natural impulse to exchange value for value.

When money is tight, we feel a disempowering sense of our options being constricted. Bartering is a great way to take the cash factor out of the equation and maintain or expand your options instead of minimizing them.

AFFORD MORE than you ‘can AFFORD’ VIA  WIN-WIN EXCHANGES

Some Personal Examples:
I used to work as a massage therapist in spas for many years, and I still have a trade running with my hair stylist. I get great coloring and cuts in exchange for her getting a much needed massage.
WIN WIN

Problem: As much as I love/need massage, it isn’t in my budget right now to get regular bodywork. Solution: I find massage therapists who need help with their career strategy and do a coaching/consulting trade. WIN WIN

Distinction-
With so many people out of work right now, many are asking themselves “How can I make money?” That is a practical question, but I propose that we also ask ourselves “What can I offer that is of service and value to others?” Then use these skills as barter currency and also to bring in money.

SOME REASONS WHY BARTER IS GREAT:

  • It builds connection based on real world value and service
  • It expands our options for products & services we can enjoy without maxing our budget or undermining long-term goals
  • It is a sustainable exchange model with a very long history and is not subject to the ups and downs and whims of the money based economy
  • It feels good

The Way of the Future?
I just read a really great time travel book called ‘The Accidental Time Machine’ by Joe Haldeman.
At one point he goes as far as 2,100 years into the future, and I was so curious to see how the author would portray the people alive at that time. One of the main things about their society was that its economy was based on barter! Here is a conversation excerpt about it:
“But if you just wanted to buy some women’s clothing?
“Buy?” the woman frowned. Matt gestured at the vault. “Money is one thing we have.” She looked at her husband. “Money?” He smiled at her. “You didn’t pay attention in school, Em. That’s what they had before bee shits.” “Oh, I remember. Like dollars.”   ….”So what’s a bee shit?” Matt said, thinking the answer should be “honey.”
Arl pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket and fanned them. Several different denominations, different colors. They all had the word BARTER ornately printed all over both sides. “A barter chit,” Arl said.

They go on to explain how everything is done via barter and the money is smart and imprints to the DNA of the one who holds it.
It’s a fascinating book that I really recommend. And supports the point of this post- to encourage you to bring more bartering into your life.


INTEGRATION EXERCISE

1.) List services that you really want or need but Shouldn’t justify spending money on right now. (web designer, personal assistant, life coach, massage, etc…) Then Prioritize them by attributing numbers to them.
2.) Write a List of all the Skills, Resources or Services you could potentially offer in a barter exchange. Put a star next to the most viable and attractive.
3.) There are many ways to go about manifesting an ideal exchange. Here are some of them: Actively research service providers and call or email them with the proposal, put a post on a listserve or social network you are on, post something up on Craigslist or a local bulletin board, ask your angels or the universe and wait for it to magically happen without work, or ask your super networked friend or colleague if they know of anyone who does ______.

gifteconomy_ricardo

Would love to hear comments, feedback, personal experiences and any resources you have along these lines…

At first glance at the proposition of making money from a creative passion or hobby, it would seem that there are no Cons. After all, being creative is better than doing a boring day job and having money is better than being broke. I do encourage creative people (especially committed artists) to monetize their skills and transition into making their livelihood from their art. Yet I am not quick to suggest people quit their day jobs or push their passions into businesses without consciously weighing it all out. In some cases, it is best to keep the job and let the art be about passion and self-expression, and not about making money.

Here are the top 2 pros and cons of turning an artistic talent or creative hobby into a significant income source.

PROS

  • You have a great excuse to do more of what you love to do and less of the unpleasant or unrelated things you do purely for money. (who wouldn’t love that?)
  • You become identified with your artistry in a professional context which can lead to more opportunities, heightened self-esteem, amazing connections, and a greater sense of fulfillment in the career sphere.

CONS

  • Some of the innocence, fun, and magic will be lost when the hustle of commerce comes into the equation
  • You could lose passion for something once it becomes a job. Things like comparison, competition, & sales can dampen the pure creative fire and take the spark out of the work. Once you  no longer feel passionate, it is tempting to drop it, thereby losing a perfectly good creative love affair.

So, I advise you consider both sides of the equation with any decision about a creative enterprise.

I am thrilled that I make good money doing the performance work that I love, and yet I am really glad that when I do any musical or collage project that it isn’t about making money, so there is a sort of purity that thinking through a commercial mindset can diminish.

INTEGRATION
Journal thoroughly about both what excites you and concerns you about any new enterprise you are considering.
Which of your talents are ripe to get developed into new revenue streams? Which ones would it be wise to just keep hobbies and art for arts sake?

Here is a link to an article I wrote about CREATIVE PROCESS vs. CREATIVE PRODUCT

What about your experience? Others pros or cons? I welcome your comments. 🙂

Rounding out this Series of 10 ‘Inspired Productivity Tools’

TOOL #8-
STICKIES or POSTICA

A great freeware tool that I use regularly is the computer equivalent of those little colored Sticky Notes. You can download it for free for mac or PC and then create as many notes as you want for various little snippets of info. You can color code the notes too. With Postica you can add images into the note and email them to yourself or others.

http://www.posti.ca/

TOOL #9-
EVERNOTEwww.evernote.com

This is a really great meta tool for keeping all the little snippets of interesting content in one place so you can remember it, organize it and utilize it in the future. You can email a note to yourself or someone else. Good when you stumble across a site you really want to keep tabs on, but you kow just bookmarking it won’t do the trick (how often do we really go through all our bookmarks?) Evernote it.

EXAMPLE Below is a screenshot clip taken in Evernote of my Evernote User Window.

evernoteclip

TOOL #10-

TA-DA LISTS– http://www.tadalist.com/

For those To Do List Junkies out there… here is an easy online to do list that helps you keep track of your List or create multiple lists. When you check something off your list, you can still see it in a lighter color, so you can track your progress.

FABULOUS BONUS  TOOL-
(this one is more about enjoyment than productivity)

PANDORA FREE INTERNET RADIO
http://pandora.com

Create a Radio Station based off of any favorite song, artist or album! It will introduce you to similar music and is a great way to get exposed to new artists. Great for people addicted to discovering new music. I play my pandora radio stations lately more than my own Itunes!

pandora

Both of these tools from Google compliment one another and greatly inform any process of branding research, marketing copy creation, and SEO, among other things.

FIND YOUR KEYWORDS-

This free tool is really great for choosing what keywords you will seek to emphasize and optimize for ‘Search Engine Optimization’ for your web site.  Also deciding on article titles, Ad copy, Brand Positioning, and endless other uses. For example, with Catalyst Arts and our spotlight artist section, I have been using the wording of ‘conscious hip hop’ to explain the sort of hip hop we promote. When I type that in and click ‘get keyword ideas’ I learn that my phrase only gets 1,900 searches on average a month, whereas ‘underground hip hop’ gets 8,100 searches per month. So if I make that slight adjustment, there are over 6,000 people more who may stumble upon our site.
https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

CUSTOM GOOGLE ALERTS-

This tool is great for efficiently and easily Keeping Up on Areas of Strongest Interest. Also great for keeping  an Eye on your Competition. Once you have chosen the juiciest keywords or key phrases from the keywords tool, you can keep easy tabs on them via this free alert tool.

HOW IT WORKS:
You can set up a once a week email alerting you to any online action related to your key phrase (such as your name, biz name, or your topic of expertise) Just type in your search term, how comprehensive of a report you want, your email, and how often you want the report delivered. Very easy and very cool.

For example, a few of my alerts: ‘Catalyst Arts’ and  ‘creative entrepreneur’ and ‘creative career consultant’. This collection arriving in my inbox every week saves me the effort of going out and researching what sites, blogs, etc… are using similar keywords, and keeps me updated on the collective radar screen related to these phrases.

http://www.google.com/alerts