Archives for August 2013

Attracting Consumers To Patronize Your Small Business

It is always important for small business owners to reach out to their customers. It is important to get their attention and give them information about the small business owner’s products and services. Of course, when more people hear about these products and services, there are more chances that they will buy it. There are different ways on how to reach out to customers. The effectiveness of each method depends upon the target market, the nature of the business, and the products or services itself.

Add some ads

adsPaid advertisement is still one of the most effective advertising methods. It involved TV, radio, newspaper and magazine, and even web advertising.

  • TV. TV advertising is definitely expensive so it depends upon the target reach of the small business owner as well as their available resources for advertising.
  • Radio. In case of radio advertisements, it depends upon a small business owner’s connections and the status of the radio station wherein their ad will be played. There are some radio stations that would charge a lot while some radio stations are willing to make deals. Some would accept gift certificates from the small business owner that the radio station can use for some of their contests in exchange of a few minutes airtime for the small business owner’s advertisement.
  • Newspaper or Magazine. This advertising medium is also expensive. Still, there are free newspaper classified ads that can publish a few lines of advertisements or a bigger one at a small cost. Even if small business owners are not interested to spend too much on advertising, they can still take advantage of the free ones since they do not have anything to lose anyway.
  • Web Advertising. Paid web advertising do not cost that much but it depends upon the traffic and the PR ranking of the website. The bigger traffic and the higher ranking also means higher advertising fee.

Small business owners can also advertise with what they already have such as their products, their store, and their website.

  • Products. Small business owners can include some product or business information in the packaging of their products. Some small business owners add surprises such as a small prize inside some randomly chosen products- usually in a form of a toy. Information may also be spread through recordings play using the office phone system’s RingCentral VoIP.
  • Store. The small business owner’s store may be used to put up posters about specific products and services that they want to tell the customers about. They can also offer free taste for food and drinks or free trial for appliance and gadgets.
  • Website. Small business owners can do a lot of things with their websites. They can post advertisements, trivia bits, and promotional events on it. They can even use it to hold contests. They can use the website to announce a sale or special offer and even offer special discounts for website visitors.
  • Social Media. Social media accounts or pages are effective advertising medium. It may be used just like the small business owner’s website. However, social media content is known to reach a lot more people than products and services’ official websites do. Mostly, this is because when they go online and log in on their social media account, the customers are doing a lot of things. They are getting in touch and getting updates from people that they know. At the same time, they will be getting interesting information from products and services that they like. The best thing about social media is that the users’ actions and posts are easily shared and the same goes for small business owners’ posts and activities. This will help them broaden their reach.

What Entrepreneurs Wished They’d Known Before

I especially agree with points #1 – that was smart to put it up front because it is the key to everything that follows. Also happy to note great points about hiring right which I wrote about briefly.

What do YOU wish you’ve known before starting up?

Failure IS An Option

While walking the hallway in my child’s school one day, a poster caught my eye. In huge letters, it said, “Failure Isn’t An Option”.

At that time I thought it was good. After all, that’s what we tell ourselves too. It’s an old message and you see it often in different places. We understand it to be good because we’re essentially saying – aim for excellence and we should always shoot to win.

It isn’t until recently that I’ve begun to take a different stance on that. In fact, I’ll be watching myself so those words will never be uttered to my children. The reason is simple. It is confusing for our young ones.

Imagine, here we are drilling into them year after year that failure is not an option. They get stressed out over their performance and when they do fail – even ever so slightly – they give up. What’s the point? Since failure is not an option, I’ve failed. I’m not good enough. Most schools fear the word Fail. They fear it so much you won’t find it on a report card. The problem isn’t with the word the problem is what and how we teach our children to respond to failures.

Fail Forward

When these kids grow up and if they are extremely lucky, they find mentors and are surrounded by people who tell them “Fail forward, fail fast”. If they are resilient, they will get it and change their thinking about failure, but not all our kids turn out that way. Besides – it’s a waste of time! Why would anyone tell their child something that they have to unlearn (hopefully) 20-30 years later? Wouldn’t it make sense to equip our young ones with the right mindset to begin with?

Personally, the concept of failing forward is something that I’ve only learned in the recent decade myself. Before that, my fear of failure was often paralyzing because it’s always been taught “Failure is not an option”.

This is when I decided to start teaching my kids – Failure IS An Option.

You see, we have just started homeschooling. A huge responsibility in addition to running the business. However, the goal here is not just to school our next generation but to grow entrepreneurs. Do we really want to teach our young entrepreneurs that failure is not an option? I think not.

Instead, we shall take care to choose the right words. To get that same point across, I much prefer “Shoot To Win” and if you don’t win… let’s “Fail Forward” and figure out where we went wrong, then fix it if it can be fixed because not everything can be.

Your Turn…

Is failure not an option? Why? Why Not?

How To Keep Your Stress Levels From Going Off The Rails

Stress concept - angry man with exploding head

There’s this guy named James. He runs a pretty successful business. It’s obvious James has a lot of responsibilities and is a busy man. Regardless, when you talk to him, he’s always positive, smiling and easy going.

Do you have a person like James in your life? It’s like no matter what he’s faced with in his business, he always seems to be calm and reasonable.
How do they do that and more importantly how can you?

The Eleventh Hour Should Be Spent Resting

For starters, don’t leave projects till the last minute. Some people claim that the pressure of a short deadline helps kick them in the butt. That may be true for a handful of short term smaller projects but in general, if you’re tackling anything large that affects your company for years to come. You’ll need all the time you can get.

Similarly, if you are planning a project, remember to build in some creep time. In everything you do there will always be creep time. People get sick, families pass on, computers crash, nature unleashes its fury. I always like to plan for 20% extra creep time just in case. It’s not a scientific amount. Just what works for me.

Take Care of Yourself

Eat well. By this, I don’t just mean eat good (but unhealthy) foods. This is a challenge for even the best of us. Let’s be frank, some of the most unhealthy foods are so good! Yet, our bodies are designed to function best with good fuel. You might have to change your habits. What you gain on the other hand would be much more than reduced stress.
Along with eating right comes exercise. It is rather amazing how much a mere 20 minutes of exercise can do to clear your mind – and you’ll sleep better too.

Distractions Not Allowed

Do what you can to reduce distractions like gossip and toxic people. If you have staff who are constantly negative or vicious to others it is probably best you have a good chat with them. Hire only people who fit with your company culture. This isn’t always apparent in someone so take your time it’s easier to hire well than to fire someone.
Don’t take part in any gossip – at all. As a leader it is not acceptable. If you hired well in the first place, this shouldn’t even be an issue.

Being Realistic

Are you realistic with your expectations? If you know you have company coming and have a long list of things to prepare, don’t schedule a major launch right before. It’s not fair to your visitor for them not to get your full attention.

If you or your team don’t have enough knowledge to complete the project well, consult an expert or hire contractors. It’s a good thing to learn new things but only do that when you have time on your side.

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Listen to music that lifts your mood. It sounds bizarre but it works. Music can invoke powerful emotion and some swear by classical music to help them focus. No matter what your taste, if you are tackling a particularly unpleasant task, load up your music player with the music that makes you want to get up and dance.

Your music might be distracting for others who don’t share your tastes so one way is to simply put on your headphones. This is even better as it signals to others you are unavailable and can help drown out other noises.

Your Turn

What would you do now? Hopefully more than leave this page and move on to the next juicy article. Pick one – any one – of these suggestions and try it. You owe it to yourself and your family to be more relaxed and happy.

How Graphic Designers Are Missing The Boat On Branding!

$caredGraphic design firms have for years neglected a key space that can bring them a significant new stream of revenue. Most of this missed opportunity is due not understanding the opportunity of branding. For far too long, graphic designers have called developing logos “branding.” Re-branding is being marketed as simply changing the logo of a company. This mis-information is then picked up by the media and the mis-conception breeds on itself. I cringe every time I see in the media that a company is re-branding, and on investigation, see that they are simply changing the logo.

You have to ask yourself, “why are clients seeing a need to re-brand?” and what-ever the reason, why did they feel that a logo change would solve their problem? My guess is that this concept was sold to them by graphic design and advertising firms. After all, that is usually all they understand that branding entails. If the reason to re-brand was a flattening of sales activity, the company wanting to raise the bar and reach to higher levels of business or even to strengthen a brand for a potential sale – how is a pretty new logo going to address those and many other serious reasons to re-brand (properly)?

To graphic design firms: If you’re not getting twenty to fifty-thousand dollars for branding projects BEFORE you even start designing, then YOU’RE NOT BRANDING! In many cases there’s no design included in a re-branding. Many of you are doing aspects of branding for free. Many graphic designers see themselves as artists when they should be seeing themselves as problem solvers. You’d be wise to get a handle on how to sell branding properly. What is really exciting is that branding, when done properly becomes a catalyst for additional graphic design. It may surprise graphic designers, but many brand process elements are not even graphic design functions. It is not a visual solution, but a strategic solution.

Logo re-branding isn’t the graphic designer’s fault entirely. It’s just that they have been sold a bill of goods by peers who see low hanging fruit and don’t have the tools and capability to do branding properly. Keeping the myth alive benefits them. Designers gladly grab the immediate opportunity, not realizing the real money eludes them. Designers should do themselves a favour and investigate embracing a branding process that allows them to not only position their practices as branding leaders but also allows them to change the conversation within their markets. Lift the veil on branding and watch your clients take you more seriously and in an entirely different light.

Sadly, re-branding by logo will in many cases have your clients revisiting issues in the short term. Why, because it won’t (and can’t) solve the problem that brought it about. There’s only so much a visual can do to change perceptions. It’s what we call putting lipstick on a pig – at the end of the day it’s still a pig!

Are you in the design industry and want to learn more about driving profits by building brands for clients? Find out more here:  http://www.mydesignshop.com/common-mistakes-designers-make-with-branding-webinar

5 Steps To A Better Brand

brand buildingOne:
Determine your brand values and be sure that they accurately reflect your brand. One way to be sure is this scenario: if you took away any one of the values would your brand cease to exist as that brand? If not, then the value wasn’t a true value.

Two:
Determine or develop a positioning strategy that makes your brand a leader in your category. This is not some fluffy slogan that merely inspires but is something that potential customers can resonate with and in many cases pay more for.

Three:
Own your color palette. Look to your competition and establish color as an icon that represents your brand exclusively. Think UPS.

Four:
Talk with stakeholders to be sure that their perception of your brand accurately reflects the reality of your brand. It is a good opportunity to validate your values as well.

Five:
Is your brand logo in sync with your brand culture? Does it need updating etc? Many graphic design firms and ad agencies believe branding starts here – pity. Your brand logo should reflect your values and also help to differentiate you. Your logo is essentially the face of your brand. It’s how the public is able to identify with you visually.

Naturally there is so much more to branding. But, if you are able to build these five steps into a cohesive message you will be well on your way to strengthening your brand and make it easier for you to sell your products or services.

The Power of Anecdotal Differentiation

What sounds better during a sales pitch:

1. We help businesses improve their bottom line.
2. We helped XYZ company increase revenue by 19%.

Quantifiable_TestimonialsObviously number 2 is the clear choice, and the reason is because it includes quantifiable data that validates the value the company claims, which helps differentiate the company and its offerings. This type of anecdotal differentiation comes in many flavors, regardless of the type of organization you run, e.g.:

A. Tree removal company – We helped ABC park district remove 26 trees so it could finish its new park on time.

B. Law firm – AAA Law Firm saved BBB company $457,000 in erroneous liability claims.

C. Technology company – Our ABC product increased staff productivity by 26% within the first three months following installation.

D. Ice cream shop – Eight out of every 10 of our customers surveyed state they would gladly refer a friend or family member to our shop because of the taste, variety of flavors and cost of our ice cream.

E. Insurance company – Following Hurrican Sandy, we helped 45,000 people in the Northeast rebuild their homes will full replacement value payouts.

F. Tire company – We helped John Smith and his family save $145 (versus the competition) on their set of new tires for their minivan.

G. Web development firm – ABC Web Development gave RRR Recreation Company a professional-looking online presence in just three days.

Regardless of the type of business your work for or run, and irrespective of the size or industry, you have the ability to dig into your performance and pull out such anecdotal evidence of the value of your products/services. In the worlds of sales and marketing there really is no more valuable data that this. Having worked for over 15 years in both B2B and B2C marketing environment and for sales teams, I can atest to this fact. Whenever we were able to uncover such testimonials for the sales team, they were estatic, to say the least.

Ways to Secure Anecdotal Performance Data

Quantifiable testimonials and return on investment (ROI) data such as this is worth its weight in gold and it can unfortantely be a little challenging to get your hands on at times. There are, however, many proven approaches to securing this invaluable data. Here are a few of those methods:

1. “We want to showcase your success” – Contact your most successful customers and tell them you are so proud of their success with your products/services that you want to highlight them in your outbound communications. Many clients will simply say “okay” because of the free, positive publicity you are offering.

2. Offer an incentive for helping – Offer your most successful customers a free month of service or 15 percent off their next purchase or six months of complimentary support, e.g. in exchange for giving you a quantifiable testimonial. This method has proven the most successful for me in the past.

3. Put a clause in your contract (primarily for B2B) – Put a clause in your sales contract that states the company will serve as a testimonial for your business once they have ROI to demonstrate. Many times the client won’t even notice it in the contract or if they do may simply disregard it at the time of purchase.

Branding and differentiation today can sometimes come down to inches – meaning a few dollars here and a few dollars there in terms of selecting you over a competitor. You need to do everything you can to stand out from the competition, and there are few better ways than with anecdotal evidence. Take the time to amass a number of these types of anecdotes – whether simple quantifiable bullet points like above or embedded into full-blow case studies. Case studies put the substance and color around the metric to help bring its full value to life.

Either way, anecdotal evidence will go a very long way toward distinguishing you and your offerings from the next guy, and that is what successful business is all about – offering something people want and demonstrating its value with real, quantifiable data from past customers.

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