Tag Archive: small business marketing

Promoting Your Independent Small Business

Promoting Your Independent Small Business
If you own your own independent business, there are two organizations that hopefully your are already aware of. They are doing great work promoting small, locally owned independents by promoting community and government involvement. It takes all of us, working together, to improve our communities and the local business environment.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses helps individual business owners with planning, taxes, and legislative matters. They have representatives in all 50 states and in D.C. I visit their site often for advice and articles. I guarantee that you will find several useful items of information within their site.

The American Independent Business Alliance, based in Bozeman, MT, promotes independents buy helping business owners form IBAs, or Independent Business Alliances. These alliances in turn promote community involvement, the best example being the annual America Unchained Day, which takes place every November, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. They show their communites the power of “putting your money where your house is”.

I urge all independent business owners to join NFIB and look into starting an IBA. I am in the process of doing both. We need to team up for our communities and independent business owners.

Make a difference as a consumer as well. You do have choices. A good place to start is by watching Independent America, a documentary about a married couple searching for Independent America and filming the results. It’s a real eye-opener.

Steps in Getting Your Company Set Up for Networking

Steps in Getting Your Company Set Up for NetworkingSteps in Getting Your Company Set Up for Networking

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, feel like you have the gift of gab or just don’t know how to make small talk, networking know-how is very important for your business success. There is a notion in business that I believe most of us subscribe to that says “all things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those they know, like and trust.” And the key to this is obviously being able to develop relationships.

Think of networking as the cultivation of mutually beneficial, win-win relationships. In order to be win-win, there must be GIVE and take (notice the emphasis on give). Networking shouldn’t be viewed as “events” where you go to sell your business. When effective networking is taking place, the parties involved actively share ideas, information, resources, etc.

Ok, so you know that you should be networking because it is one of the most cost-effective lead generation activities when used wisely, appropriately and professionally. But, maybe that seems easier said than done. Here’s a seven step plan to really get going with networking for your business.

1. Check out several groups to find the best chemistry and perceived value. Most groups will allow you to come and visit at least a couple of times before you have to join. Go and ask around to find out why others have joined and what value they get out of belonging.

Resist the urge to just go join the Chamber of Commerce simply because everyone tells you that’s what you need to do. If that’s not where your target group can be found, then you might just be wasting a considerable amount of time (and money).

I’m not telling you not to join the Chamber. Just be clear about what you’d like to get out of this or any other group. If it’s to find prospective clients or referral sources, then you need to be networking where those resources can be found.

2. When you find a group or two, join and go to all the meetings you can. Don’t go just once or twice expecting things to happen and then if they don’t quit. Building mutually beneficial, win-win relationships will take some time.

The contacts you make need to constantly see your face and hear your message. Continual contact with others over time will open up opportunities for you to go deeper and learn more about each others thoughts, ideas and capabilities in regards to your respective businesses.

Know, like, and trust generally only happens over time. Being regular and persistent will pay off.

3. Get involved – be visible. Do as much as you can to make yourself more visible within the organization. Volunteer to help with meetings, be on committees, or become a leader or board member.

Being involved does a couple of things for you and your business. First, you’ll get more opportunities to establish connections and get to know some of the contacts you’ve made even better. Secondly, the higher the visibility you have in the group, the less you’ll have to work to make new connections. Instead, as new people come into the group, they will likely seek you out because they view you as a leader within the organization.

4. Keep your circles of contacts informed. Don’t just assume that running in to someone once a month (or even once a week) will cause them to start doing business with you or sending it your way. You need to let them know what’s going on when you’re not at that particular group in order to inform and educate them.

Send them invitations to your events or open houses. Send them email or letters to share big news or success stories, especially anything of relevance to them or those in their networks of contacts. If you believe that you have valuable ideas, information and resources to share with others, then doesn’t this just make sense?

5. Work at GIVING referrals and sharing valuable information. That’s right, you need to be willing to GIVE before you get. That means you need to get to know other members and what makes a good prospect for them. What kinds of information might you have access to that could be useful to them?

You may initially think you don’t have much of value to share with others (besides your business and what you provide). Part of the key to getting good at giving is to not make assumptions. For example, don’t assume that some basic resource (e.g., a web site) that you’re aware of is familiar to someone you might be talking to just because they are the “expert” in that field. Be willing to ask if they know about the resource and ready to share if they don’t.

Want to get better at actually giving referrals? Here’s a simple question to ask someone you’re connecting with. “How am I going to know when I meet a really good prospect for you?”

Just the fact that you are willing to explore giving will elevate your know, like and trust factor.

6. Focus on Quality, not Quantity, Quantity, Quantity. It’s not necessarily about the number of connections you make, but about the quality of the ones you do make. Are they mutually beneficial, win-win relationships?

Quality connections will be identifiable because all involved parties will be actively sharing ideas, information, and resources. Yes, it is true that you need to spend some time and effort getting to know the other person(s) and what’s important to them. But, you also need to be clear and actively thinking about what information or resources you want and need.

Staying in touch with and following up with a smaller number of quality relationships will generally be much more productive than trying to follow up with a larger number of superficial contacts.

7. Be persistent, but be patient. The goal of a networking event shouldn’t necessarily be to come away with prospects every time you go out, but to come away with great connections. Networking usually takes time to get the relationships developed and nurtured.

Don’t approach networking as a scary proposition or a necessary evil for being in business. Take the pressure off yourself and really focus on how you might be able to connect with someone you meet. Focus on them first and look for ways to be useful to them. As you become known as a connector you’ll eventually be ready to reap what you sow.

Top Marketing Secrets for Small Businesses

Top Marketing Secrets for Small BusinessesTop Marketing Secrets for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably wondering where you can get the biggest bang for the buck with your marketing dollars.  As a veteran marketing professional and small business owner myself, I understand the importance of making the most from a limited marketing budget.

The good news for today’s small business owner is that the Internet and local advertising can provide targeted reach at a reasonable cost.  In particular, email, Internet marketing, and classified advertising, can generate huge returns for your business.

•    Email Marketing.  Each year, nearly 20 billion emails are sent to consumers and businesses.  As many as 60 percent of these emails are considered SPAM and about 20% are automatically tagged as such – making their way into the SPAM mailbox of your everyday email client.

However, what most email marketers fail to tell you is that the most productive email solicitations don’t come from businesses, they come from word-of-mouth or viral marketing.  Viral marketing is the practice of telling others about a positive experience with a brand, product or service.

As a small business owner, you can take advantage of email marketing by simply encouraging those who receive your emails to forward them to a friend.  Also, tag your web pages with a “tell a friend” button which allows for easy emailing of a web page, URL, PDF, or related document.  These features cost little or nothing to implement and can generate impressive results.

•    Internet Marketing.  Often the topic of Internet marketing scares off small business owners.  However, Internet marketing itself can be an effective tool if leveraged appropriately.  There are a variety of Internet marketing mediums. These options include “pay-for” Internet marketing options such as Google AdSense, the Yahoo! Directory and so on as well as free or cost neutral options.

In Internet marketing, there are a couple of techniques that are highly effective and cost little or nothing to implement.  The first and most popular is article marketing.  Are you a subject matter expert?  If you are, provide articles to other well known websites that can get your company name and URL out there.  This can be done for free and provides the added benefit of having other sites link to your website, increasing your site’s link popularity scores.

The second Internet marketing strategy that can drive you business is an affiliate program.  At its most basic level, an affiliate program allows other website or companies to sell your products and receive a commission.  Explore affiliate programs that can help distribute your products or services.

•    Classified Advertising.  Still one of the best and most affordable ways to sell your product, classified advertising can be effective if you run your ad for multiple weeks.  For as little as $30 per week or less, you can get your company name, product, website, or other unique identifier in front of a local audience.

Weekly papers are especially good if you are targeting a small area.  These local papers are also well read – often cover to cover.  So, if you want to advertise, forget the large display ads, magazine ads, or anything that costs more than $100.  Spend your money on classified ads and measure the response.

Marketing doesn’t have to break the bank for the small business owner.  In fact, it should be seen as an important way to drive revenue for your business.  If you have little or no money to spend on marketing, be sure to take advantage of email marketing, Internet marketing, and classified ads to drive the success of your business.  Also, make sure that everything you distribute (letters, invoices, business cards, and even your voicemail) mentions your company name and website.


Building Referrals Builds Profits and is The Best Customer

Building Referrals Builds Profits and is The Best Customer

Referrals are the key to exponential and cost-efficient business growth.

Supply a topnotch product… let your customers know how advantageous your brand is… and provide exceptional service.
Do that and you’ll encourage customers to willingly send their families, friends, acquaintances, and business associates your way.

There’s no easier sale than the sale made to a “pre-sold” prospect. This kind of favorable condition can only arise as a result of the shared enthusiasm from another delighted buyer. Word-of-mouth advertising generates top quality referrals. As a marketing tool, it simply can’t be beat. Word of mouth promotion cannot be purchased for any amount of money… it can only be earned.

Referrals happen when one friend willingly shares information with another. What makes referrals so effective is that no true friend would recommend a business, service, or product that they didn’t completely approve of themselves.

The foundation for building your business with referrals is a solid product or service — one that not only meets, but exceeds your advertising claims. One way to achieve customer satisfaction is to “under promise” and “over deliver”.

It doesn’t mean you should weaken your advertising materials. Simply focus on providing more for you customers – more than you promise. That’s another formula for success. People are always thrilled to get a little something extra with a purchase they’re already happy about.

Write powerful sales copy that clearly positions your product as the overwhelming favorite. Make a huge promise… and deliver even more.

Treat your customers as the most important component of your business. Customers are vital to your success – even to your very existence. People want to be treated fairly, with respect, and courtesy. The golden rule still applies – treat people the same way you like to be treated. Remember, nobody likes to wait beyond a reasonable amount of time for an order to be filled.

When you get in the habit of delighting customers, you’ll find that people are only too happy to tell others. As word spreads about your product or service, you’re business is propelled to new heights.

Your success in business is predicated on your ability to satisfy customers, and to continuously grow your customer base. In all your communications with customers, you need to encourage them tell others about all the benefits your product or service offers.

Let loyal buyers know that you’re always seeking new customers. Remind readers that you’ve built your business by thoroughly satisfying customers and having those customers tell others in turn.

Ask buyers if they know anyone who would like and could benefit from your catalog. As soon as a name is provided, fire off an information package… and send a thank you note to the customer who fed you the lead. Referrals make it easy to grow your business.

Provide discount cards for new customers. Offer a 10% to 15% discount on their first purchase and then make these available to your existing customers for distribution to others. Give them an extra reason for handing these discount coupons out.

Offer points towards free gifts, free premiums, for each discount coupon redeemed, or simply acknowledge them as a “builder” of your organization, complete with their picture and certificate, proudly displayed for all to see.
The best way to get customers to refer others is “in the moment” — when they’re still enamored with your product or your high level of personal service.

While customers are enjoying these positive emotions about your company, that’s the time to ask for a little favor. Ask… “Is there someone else you know, who might want to… grow their business by 37%this year? … get that older car looking showroom-clean? … transform any weed-filled lot into a lush green lawn and garden?

Simply fill in the end of the sentence with the big benefit you’ve just delivered on. Plant the seed of referrals and referrals will come your way.

Tighten Up Your 30-Second Introduction

Tighten Up Your 30-Second Introduction

I went to a networking event the other day where the meeting leader said, “We’re going to skip doing the 30-second introductions today because mine’s so bad and it doesn’t work that it nauseates me.” I thought to myself, WOW! I’d skip the next networking meeting until I’d worked out a new introduction.

Do you get attention with your introduction? Are you prepared to introduce yourself at your next networking event or for when someone ask, “What do you do?” Consider these tips for developing an attention getting introduction.

1. Start With The First 10 Seconds. What if 10 seconds is all you get? Does your first sentence tell your listener enough so they understand what you do and inspire them to want to know more? Here’s the simple, but effective approach. “I work with [type of clients] who have [these types of problems, issues or challenges].” That’s it. Don’t try to sugar it up or make it real catchy.

2. Avoid the What You Are Approach. “I’m an accountant” or “I’m a marketing consultant” or “I’m a financial planner” or “I’m a growth coach”. You’ve heard them time and again. You’ve probably even done it yourself. The problem is your listener(s) may not understand what the title means or even worse they may fill in an incorrect definition.

3. Avoid the What You Do Approach. “I do small business accounting including sales tax and payroll” or “I provide business owners with mentoring and training in comprehensive strategies to improve bottom line results…” Tends to be boring and doesn’t help the listener(s) understand what they get as a result.

4. Say How You Solved a Problem or Served a Client. Reinforce your first 10 second sentence with a second sentence that shows how you solved a problem or overcame a particular issue or challenge. “I help mid-sized accounting firms plan big conferences on a small budget. I just recently lined up free live entertainment for a firm that hosted 500 people in town last week.”

5. Tell Them Why You Are Unique. What makes you stand out from the crowd? Maybe it’s a unique model or approach for better results, focus on a specific niche, a guarantee, or extras that others don’t provide. There are many ways to define your uniqueness that will help gain attention and make you memorable.

Make your introduction an attention getter. Start with the first 10 seconds. You can always build from there once it starts getting attention. Actually write it down and practice out loud several times until you can just say it naturally.

Marketing Magic: There Two Little Words Can Make A Difference!

Marketing Magic: There Two Little Words Can Make A Difference!
In his classic best-seller, How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie’s second chapter is entitled The Big Secret of Dealing With People. The secret is summed up in this principle: Give honest and sincere appreciation.

Carnegie said there is only one way to get anybody to do anything — by making the person want to do it. How can you encourage customers to say good things about you and give you referrals? By giving them what they and all human beings crave: honest and sincere appreciation.

The Two Magic Words

The big secret of dealing with people (or customers) is often overlooked or forgotten. It’s simply saying “thank you” consistently, personally and, above all, sincerely. These two words work marketing magic because customers want to feel important.

Saying “thank you” is an act of kindness, besides. But don’t say “thank you” for the sake of flattery. It must be sincere. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “You can never say anything but what you are.”

“Thank You” Promotes Referrals

The uncertainty of referrals can be disconcerting. Can you control them? No. Can you influence them? Absolutely.

First you must provide a valuable product or service for customers. (You’re already doing this, right?) But perhaps you can make an even bigger difference in their minds by your continued interest after you’ve delivered the product or service.

Each customer has a different level of satisfaction with your products and services. However, all customers to whom you say “thank you” are satisfied that they’re important to you. This can determine whether you’ll continue a relationship with them and get referrals.

“Thank You” as Direct Mail or E-mail

If you’ve never used direct mail and are considering it, start a thank-you correspondence program. If you’ve used direct mail or e-mail but haven’t sent thank-you letters or e-mails, start now.

The thank-you letter or e-mail to your customers is targeted (you know them, they know you), personal and effective. It’s guaranteed to receive a positive response.

Furthermore, it’s a pleasant surprise if it’s snail mail. They see your envelope. They think, this must be something for me to review, to sign, or worse a bill. Surprise! They’re appreciated; they’re important. And you’re the one telling them so.

Write a thank-you letter or e-mail at every opportunity. But don’t send one with an invoice or other correspondence. Always send it separately.

Writing the Thank-You Letter or E-mail

The thought behind a thank-you letter or e-mail may seem simple, but writing one can be tricky. Here are 9 tips for writing a winning thank-you letter or e-mail:

1. Keep it brief. A half dozen lines (or fewer) are sufficient.

2. Make it sincere. This is crucial. If you aren’t careful, it can sound awkward, even when you’re trying to be sincere.

3. Start with “thank you.” Dear Ms. Johnson (or first name, if appropriate): Thank you for …

4. Make the tone warm, but professional. Be friendly, but keep it businesslike.

5. Reinforce a positive. Jog their memory of a positive aspect of the relationship.

6. Offer your continued support. If I can help, please call …

7. End with “thank you.” Thanks again for …

8. Use an appropriate closing. Sincerely, Best regards.

9. No ulterior motive. Make it a pure “thank you,” otherwise sincerity is jeopardized.

Remember: Saying “thank you” is part of building strong customer relationships over time. Use these two magic words consistently and watch your repeat business and referrals grow.

(c) 2005 Neil Sagebiel

Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies

Getting the most out of summer marketing strategiesGetting the most out of summer marketing strategies

Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies. Few things bring a smile as readily as thoughts of summer. Warm days, a relaxed pace, and fun-filled excursions with family and friends help us rejuvenate ourselves and enjoy life more. But summer is also a unique time for small businesses to market, make contact with their hard-to-reach audience, and take stock of goals and progress. In fact, using the hallmarks of the summer season can be a springboard for creative, light-hearted, and surprisingly effective business-building strategies.


Be more social

Some small businesses—both consumer and B-to-B—cut back or refrain completely from marketing in June, July, and August in the mistaken belief that no one is around: clients and prospects are on vacation, other companies may have shortened hours, or buying decisions will be put off until after the season is over.


“The advantage is you can get in and see people and build relationships in the summer differently than you can the rest of the time [precisely] because the pace is a wee bit slower,” says Sue Clement, a Vancouver-based marketing strategist. “They’re more open to having conversations with you. It’s a perfect time to leverage those contacts.”


Not just leveraging contacts, but taking advantage of the light-hearted mood, too. For example, taking a client to an outdoor ballgame or a round of golf are typical seasonal activities for strengthening relationships. But Clement urges businesses to look at more playful event marketing, too. “If you’re a brick and mortar business, having an ice cream social in your parking lot has a more perky, summery fun feeling to it,” she says.


After one of her clients moved to a new industrial complex, he set up a tent with music and hot dogs, and invited all the surrounding businesses, as well as his own clients, for his own little networking event. “It created exposure and visibility for him that let him connect different populations and stand out,” Clement explains. “People still ask him if he’s going to do it again this year.”


Summer is also the time to do inner marketing, Clement says. For example, why not try going to the park or beach to do a mid-year review of your business goals and set new objectives for the rest of the year. Or solicit testimonials from clients to find out what they like about your product or service. “Because it’s quieter, you can actually chisel out more time for your business and all those back burner projects that don’t get done in the regular fast pace of life,” Clement says. Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies


Leveraging holiday metaphors

Small businesses that keep their marketing budgets up in the summer will have a decided edge over their less active competitors. strategies


“The amount of messaging people are sending out is lower, so your opportunity to get recognized is equal to or greater than other times of the year,” says Eric Rabinowitz, CEO of New Jersey-based Nurture Marketing, a B-to-B marketing company.


Using seasonal metaphors in marketing messages is a powerful way to capitalize on summer and, at the same time, help to differentiate your products and services, Rabinowitz says. For example, since Nurture does a lot of work with IT companies, they created a campaign that talks about cloud computing—but with a twist that made it especially appropriate for summer.


“We sent a gift box with a very small crystal umbrella on a piece of cotton as you would see with pearls,” Rabinowitz explains. “Our messaging was around cloud computing, the umbrella being the cloud sometimes produces rain. We’ve been able to hone that into a very positive message.”


Gamification—using games and game techniques—seems especially appropriate for the playful summer season, Rabinowitz notes. The games can be elaborate, such as hosting a real treasure hunt for your clients at an outdoor location, or simple, like rewarding them with badges, points, or other exclusive tokens for responding to your direct mail or email messages. Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies


Rabinowitz also tells companies that the end of summer is a great time to plan for their upcoming sales season beginning in the fall. Taking his own advice, he would send a packet of forget-me-not seeds in a direct mail package to Nurture’s clients to ask for referrals.


“The message talked about planting seeds and growing relationships, where we can do the same type of work for [referrals] as we do for existing clients,” Rabinowitz says. “It was a very effective program.”


Target your audience

James Wong, co-founder of Empowered Ideas, a business, marketing and communications consulting firm in North Carolina, believes that segmenting a business’s client list and then tailoring a specific message targeted to each segment will reap better results than sending the same message to the entire list. While this is something they recommend year-round, it proved invaluable during a recent summer campaign for Hands on Health, a massage therapy and wellness firm that specializes in medical massage.


“We helped them with campaigns that specifically targeted segments of their clientele—triathletes, athletes, and sports enthusiasts—during the spring and summer season when their clientele is most active,” Wong explains. “Right around the spring season, we started promoting massage packages that are targeted to pre-competition training,” he notes. “We said how medical massage—not relaxation massage—can help prepare your body in the days before and make a huge impact on your performance. The campaign worked very well for them.” Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies


Instead of slacking off on marketing your products or services, summer can be a turning point in the life of your business. But find some time to have fun, too. Getting the most out of summer marketing strategies

11 Ways to Earn More, Work Less, and Enjoy Your Summer

11 Ways to Earn More, Work Less, and Enjoy Your Summer

you start looking forward to summer as soon as the calendar flips to a new year. Take advantage of summer’s slower pace and people’s more casual attitudes and plan to not only take time off but to make some money while you do!

1. Commit to your vacation time.

If you haven’t already scheduled a break for this summer, stop reading this right now and do so! Even if you don’t have plans to go away or if your budget is tight, I strongly encourage you to put at least a long weekend break into your calendar now – and then make sure you do anything you want for those few days – EXCEPT work. You’ll come back to your business refreshed and recharged. You know you will and you know you need it.

2. Have a summer sale.

Are there some products or programs in your funnel that you could offer a summer discount on? I’d be willing to bet there’s at least one. Kick off the summer season by offering your prospects a special deal on one or more of your offerings.

3. Make a special offer to your current clients and customers.

Summer’s a great time to give your current clients and customers a special deal. For example, if they’ve already purchased something from you at the first level of your funnel, offer them a special deal for investing in an additional offering of yours, maybe at the next higher-priced level of your funnel.

So, if they’ve already spent $50 on one of your products, offer them a $50 discount towards another of your offerings.

4. Trim your expenses.

Are there some business-related expenses that could be put on hold for the next few months, without a negative impact to your bottom line? There are probably at least two or three things that you could eliminate for the summer, and you may find out that you can eliminate them completely come the fall.

For example, I’ve stopped my monthly subscription to the screen-sharing software I use because I know I won’t be using it for at least the next three months. That’s $150 in savings for my business!

5. Create summer hours.

Start later in the day, take a mid-day break for a few hours, or end your day earlier. Take one day a week off. Work half days. Take four-day weekends. It’s your choice, but by creating summer hours, you’re not only giving yourself some time to enjoy the fleeting days of warmer weather, but you’ll also find that you’ll be much more likely to focus only on your priorities, which means you’ll actually move ahead much faster!

6. Repeat a previously profitable product.

Do you have a product that when you first launched it, it sold really well? Maybe it just needs some new life and a new promotion. Don’t re-invent the wheel and simply repeat what’s already worked for you in the past.

7. Republish your best articles in your newsletter.

For the summer, consider giving some of your best articles (the ones people commented on, or were reprinted most often) an encore presentation in your ezine. If you’ve been publishing for awhile, your readers most likely will appreciate the reminder the articles will bring, while it will be new content to your newer subscribers.

8. Declutter your office.

I simply can’t think when my office falls into chaos, and I’m always amazed by how much better I feel and how much more productive I immediately become once I get rid of the clutter.

Summer is a great time to declutter and reorganize. Enlist a friend to help, or hire a professional organizer to really get you geared up for the summer (and the fall!).

9. Declutter your mind.

When you started your business, did you write down your vision for it? If you haven’t, or if you haven’t visited your vision in awhile if you have, the next few months are perfect for reflection, dreaming, and planning what you want the rest of your year to look like.

I’ll be dreaming up mine on the dock at the lake. Where will you be dreaming up yours?

10. Plan some fun stuff.

Even if you don’t have plans to travel this summer, you can still plan some really fun things to do near your home. Having something to look forward to will help you enjoy some time away from your desk while the sun is shining.

Believe me, I know how hard that can be. I love what I do, too. But one main reason we work for ourselves is so we can enjoy our lives, right?