First Rural Business Accelerator Workshop Held

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DMI-MainBy Terry Rogers

The first workshop offered through a program developed by Downtown Delaware, a program sponsored by the Delaware Economic Development Office, was held on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at the Milford Library. The workshop focused on Target Market Training for local businesses.

Led by John Childress, owner of Childress Business Consulting, the workshop allowed those in attendance, most of whom were downtown Milford merchants, to learn various ways to identify target markets for their business and develop innovative ways to reach that market. In addition, the program offers businesses the option of working with mentors, local downtown business leaders who possess various skill sets that can help other business owners build their business. Mentors for the program include Bryan Shupe of Milford Live and Chuck Stanko of Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop, with extensive marketing knowledge; Sherry Shaffer of Fur-Baby Boutique and Doggie Daycare, with extended knowledge of merchandising, design and employee relations and Lee Nelson, with more than 25 years experience in finance.

During the workshop, Childress asked business owners to complete questionnaires designed to identify their target markets, ways to reach their target market and methods they currently use. One suggestion Childress made was that businesses identify how many customers they need to make a profit each year and quantitfy those numbers into monthly and daily goals. He stated that business ownerswill need many more prospects to reach that goal, as not every contact will become a customer. Childress suggested that using the mentors is a good way to develop new ways to engage new prospects.

“The problem is that it can’t be just any five people that you need to approach,” said Scott Angelucci, part-owner of the Angelucci Gallery. “You have to identify the right five people who will become long-term customers.” In addition, Angelucci pointed out, during the discussion of the types of marketing tools used to reach the target market, that many types of advertising are cost prohibitive, especially in his own target market.

“We are seeing some growth through social media, but it is difficult to focus on such a time sensitive method of advertising and build the business, too,” Angelucci said.

Business mentor Sherry Shaffer commented that one thing that has helped her is information she obtained through a target market analysis of her own downtown pet boutique.

“When I began this business, I felt my target market was for people my age, or even younger, and I developed my advertising accordingly, using mostly social media and email,” Shaffer explained. “My target marketing analysis, however, showed that my market was actually a completely different demographic, and that many of these people were not open to email and social media ad campaigns. I am now branching into different marketing campaigns, with the help of mentors like Bryan, while continuing the social media and email campaigns I have used since I opened.”

Program Director John Childress also explained that other business owners are an excellent resource, especially those who are not competitors. For example, because Chuck Stanko owns a successful coffee shop and bakery, Angelucci could contact him about methods he used for success since they are not competing for business. Anne Jenkins says that she doesn’t see the competition issue as a problem.

“I feel that, as artists, none of us should feel we are in competition with each other. The type of art that the Angelucci’s do is much different than mine, and I feel that the more artists we bring into town, the better it is for all of us,” Jenkins, who owns the Anne Jenkins Art Gallery, explained. Shaffer agreed and even offered another suggestion for local businesses helping each other.

“Cross promotion is very important,” Shaffer explained. “Cross promotion has brought me some of the best success I have experienced. We are currently offering pet photos in conjunction with Little Posies Photography, and some customers have used Little Posies for other photo shoots because of our promotion.”

The Rural Business Accelerator is funded by a grant through the Department of Agriculture. Milford was chosen to be part of the program due to their vibrant downtown and active Downtown Merchant’s Association. The subjects of the workshops were determined by surveys completed by businesses in Milford earlier this year. Seventy-four percent of merchants indicated that identifying and reaching target markets was the top training request in the city. The subject of the next workshop is “Does Your Customer See the Value in Your Product or Service?” and will be held at the Milford Library on March 27. Workshops are limited to 45 minutes, from 6:30 to 7:15 PM. Workshops are free and open to any local business. For more information individuals are encouraged to call 302-577-8477.