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Workshop Presented on Growing a Business

Allen, Shirley, and Patterson
Kaitlin Allen, Renee Shirley and Mary Patterson presented education on ways to grow a business.

On August 13 the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network (AERN) and its Marion County partner, C3 of Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance (C3), held a one-day workshop in Winfield. The workshop focused on teaching business owner participants many ways to grow a business.

During the catered lunch, a roundtable discussion was led by local business owners Paula Reeves of CIS Financial Services in Hamilton and Wayne Christian of Shop 'n Save Groceries in Vernon and Caledonia, Miss. The business owners spoke intimately about their companies that began small, but with persistence and hard work, grew to expand and prosper. They both provided insight on strategies that both failed and succeeded over the years and the lessons learned.

Kaitlin Allen, a recent graduate of The University of Alabama with a Master’s degree in marketing, presented information on using social media as a major marketing strategy for business. Allen talked about how to tailor an organization's social media marketing to its target market online. "Social media is a good way to spread a business's message among a younger audience who is mobile specific," Allen said. "Social media can greatly emphasize what a business or organization can do for its consumer." Allen's presentation had four basic focuses for social media marketing: monitoring, amplifying, responding and leading.

Workshop attendees
Business owners attending the workshop take notes on ways to increase sales.

Renee Shirley, marketing director of C3, added to the message by presenting on customer service. "People use social media to talk about their experiences, good or bad," Shirley said. "Customers want to be remembered and to be addressed by name or at least with 'Hello, how are you?' or 'Can I help you with something?'" Shirley also notes that 86 percent of customers quit doing business because of poor customer service.

Mary Patterson, director of the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network, shared Dr. Gorman Houston's presentation, "Small Businesses Marketing for Success." In this presentation, Houston outlines the progression of target marketing. "There are many segments by which businesses can target their marketing to reach the best demographic for their product," Houston's presentation said. "The strategies used will lead to delivering what the customer wants."

Patterson also presented on USP-Unique Selling Proposition. Patterson indicated the four "P"s of marketing: product characteristics, price structure, placement strategy and promotional strategy. The presentation focused on teaching organizations to learn what motivates customer behavior. "Put yourself in your customer’s shoes; think about why they chose you," Patterson said. "Do you know why the customers chose you over your competitors?" She also presented a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis template and discussed the procedure and resources for using this valuable tool to analyze a business and the opportunities that might exist.

Reeves and Christian
Business owners Paula Reeves of CIS Financial Services and Wayne Christian of Shop 'n Save Groceries lead a round table discussion on business strategies.

The workshop was well attended by members of the business community. Businesses represented included an herbalist, a representative for a senior living establishment, jewelry and pottery craftsman, as well as a number of other organizations who realized the value of growing their business.

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