Tag Archive: Tags: small_business

5 Innovative Ways to Generate New Business

In his great book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber says that many small business owners spend too much time working in their business and not enough time working on their business. Why is working on our business so important?

Because clients and customers leave.

They leave for all sorts of reasons – maybe they don’t need you anymore, or they found what you do somewhere else that is more convenient or cheaper, or they moved, or whatever. Working on your business means it is not a crisis when a customer leaves.

Here then are five innovative ways to work on your business – to grow your business – without breaking the bank:

1. Tap into the Power of Testimonials: Satisfied customers can be one of a small business’ best marketing tools. A testimonial impresses potential customers because it is an independent third-party validation that a business really is as good as it claims to be.

So get out there and ask some of your best customers to write you some letters of recommendation on their stationary. Then you can take these testimonials and:

Put them in your shop window
Add them to your website
Add them as an email tagline
Use them on your blog or e-newsletter
Use them in sales presentations

What about adding a video testimonial to your website? Talk about making an impact.

2. Boost Your Word-of- Mouth Advertising: We all know that word –of-mouth is the best sort of advertising there is. But aside from just waiting or hoping that a customer passes your name along, you can:

Create a referral reward system that gives customers a discount when they refer you business
Encourage comments on your Facebook page, blog or website
Ask your best customers to recommend you

Finally, check out the organization Le Tip; a group whose purpose is to foster word of mouth referrals.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

3. Stay in Touch: One way to make a one-off customer into a loyal, repeat customer is to remain top of mind. If you want to get repeat business, your customer has to think of you when he or she has a need. They will more likely think of you if you gently, consistently (but not too often) stay in touch with them.

Here are two ways to do this:

Social media is all the rage for a reason: It works. Creating a Facebook page for instance is easy, and through contests and great content, you can get people to “like” it. Thereafter, that page becomes a friendly place to stay in touch. Tweeting can also be used.
Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch because it is permission marketing, that is, by signing up to receive your e-newsletter; customers are giving you permission to stay in touch with them.

4. Sell gift certificates and gift cards: You see gift cards for sale everywhere these days – at the market, in department stores, heck, I even saw some for sale recently at my car wash. Bottom line: Gift cards sell, it is estimated that up to 10 percent of all holiday sales now are in the form of gift cards.

Gift cards cannot only be used by large businesses. Any small business can and should create them as well. Also, if you currently accept debit and credit card payments, check with your card processor to see if they offer a gift card program.

5. Up-sell, but do it right: As you likely know, up-selling is the art of having a customer buy more than their initial purchase. Up-selling, when done wrong, is annoying, but when done right can help both you and your customer. The key is to offer the item in a helpful, non-aggressive way, i.e., “Did you know that if you buy two more gift soaps, we throw in another one for free?” If they say they are not interested, don’t pursue it any further, or you may be seen as overbearing and pushy.

What types of approaches do you use to get new business? What have you found that works/doesn’t work? Share your tips with the SBOC community below.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

The New Face of Incubators: A Faster, More Focused Road to Small Business Success

Organizations that help launch successful start-ups were hot during the dot-com era when there were tens of thousands worldwide, according to statistics from the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA). Since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the number of business incubators has dropped to 7,000 globally and 1,400 in North America. However, they still serve more than 27,000 companies and are responsible for more than $17 billion in annual revenues (also in North America).

Following the economic downturn, there are small business incubators that are hoping to fill the gaps created by widespread job losses with local film and video production companies, design firms and other creative-sector industries. These types of incubators typically offer small businesses the access needed for resources, ranging from strategic business counseling to development support.

How to Start

evergreen industry.pngIf you are a new or start-up small business seeking incubator support, you need to prepare a detailed business plan a comprehensive start-up marketing plan and assemble a qualified staff. These employees should include a CEO, CFO, IT Director, and marketing and sales directors, as well as experienced external resources in areas such as accounting and legal counsel.

Industries of particular interest to incubators are green tech, clean tech and alternative energy. While the technology sector remains the focus of 39 percent of incubators, evergreen industries such as food and the arts can still find a receptive audience.

The Details

In the dot-com heyday, only some incubators took an equity stake in the companies they developed. Typically, incubator services focus more on “acceleration” –helping find senior leadership, securing venture capital, structuring financial plans and building a board of directors – and, in exchange, seek as much as a 70 percent stake. Additionally, they provide client assistance with such basic but time-consuming services such as marketing, sales, IT, finance and administrative staff development. There are more than 1,200 U.S. business incubators housing tens of thousands of entrepreneurial companies that help startups of all stripes take root, providing resources to turn them into thriving, growing companies. Not bad for an industry that saw such a tremendous decline following the dot-com bust.