One of the biggest dilemmas in any business is time management. This is especially crucial with small businesses looking to balance running the business while also branding and marketing the business at the same time. At times the focuses shift and more time is allotted for one area over the other – which can cause problems.
While it may seem like you can never market yourself enough, over marketing can actually cause you problems with keeping your business in the black. According to Webster’s Dictionary, marketing is a noun meaning:
- the exchange of goods for an agreed sum of money [syn: selling]
- the commercial processes involved in promoting and selling and distributing a product or service; “most companies have a manager in charge of marketing”
- shopping at a market; “does the weekly marketing at the supermarket”
In his post earlier today, Dawud Miracle notes that when too much focus is put on marketing the business, Read more…
Online businesses have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the past 5 years, with companies selling virtually anything and everything online nowadays. And while many of these online businesses have become successes, they also sometimes find themselves only reaching a certain audience and demographic – those people that shop online and are “Web savvy.”
So what about those customers that might still harbor fears about shopping and eventually buying online? Many are not even aware of the products and offers that are available, as well as how easy it can be. For those online businesses that are looking to diversify their marketing strategy outside the usual Internet channels, a product catalog can be an effective marketing tool as you can visually display your products and services by placing it in front of customers. Some examples are direct mailing, inserting into a box when fulfilling an order, or e-mailing your customers to advertise the catalog). Read more…
We recently received an email from Carol who wanted to know how she could generate more customers to her business. Certainly this is a popular question that all business owners ask themselves at one point or another. Let’s face it; during these tough economic times we all could use a few more customers to help feel secure about the health of our businesses future.
When looking at different avenues of attracting new customers many business owners ask two simple questions: “what’s going to attract my target customer base?” and “how can I attract customers without breaking the bank?” While your resources may be thin right now, this is not the time to cut back on your marketing efforts. Marketing is the source that will keep customers coming through your doors (and logging onto your website). Even if you are in position where you need to cut back on promotional efforts, make sure you know what marketing efforts are working for your small business and make cuts strategically.
Here are some other cost effective tips you can implement to help generate customers:
- Business partnerships: Develop partnerships with businesses that complement your own business (i.e. find a local pet store to partner with as a dog walker). Some partnership benefits could include offering a joint promotion or simply sharing advertisement space. This will help cut your marketing expenses in addition to opening your business up to a potential new pool of customers.
- Network, Network, Network!: Get involved with local community and industry events if you are not actively doing so already. Local organizations such as the chamber of commerce can provide you with access to an array of potential customers as well as introduce you to other businesses for a possible partnership. Before attending networking events, make sure you have plenty of updated business cards to share.
- Host a class/group in your store: Depending on your business, you may want to consider hosting a class or other type of gathering in your store. This will help build a relationship with your existing customers as well as potentially attract new customers. A few simple examples include a bakery hosting a series of cooking classes or a hardware store demonstrating a variety of do-it-yourself projects. Be creative and think about what classes or events could work for your business.
- Free Publicity: If your small business is doing something that garners attention, don’t be afraid to pitch your story to the local papers. Perhaps your business is doing something environmentally friendly or you are involved in a community outreach program. Whatever it may be reporters are generally interested in local angle stories.
- Social Media: As my colleague Jeff wrote a few weeks ago, Twitter is one of a few great social media tools any business can use to help connect with existing customers as well as attract new ones. Other popular social media sites include Facebook and LinkedIn. These can be used as a way to really connect with customers and develop a following for your business. Oftentimes word of mouth marketing is the most effective way to drive business, and these social media tools can increase your potential.
What are you doing to drive business? Have you tried anything unique in the last few months?
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Readers of this blog know that we encourage small businesses to do some business online, or at the very least, have an online presence that customers can go to to find out more information. Recent studies have shown however, that if you’re not currently selling online, you could be losing business to the competition. Today we look at a recent blog post by Daniel Kehrer from business.com, who cites a recent study by the Opinion Research Corporation. This study shows that 36 percent of shoppers surveyed recently said they made more online purchases last year. An additional 22 percent plan to increase their online buying this year.
But the study also dives into the pitfalls and “ouch points” that make the shopping experience less than pleasant for web surfers. These touch points and quirks are more than likely going to hurt your relationship with the customer, as well as your ability to convert and subsequently retain them. A few of these include: receiving an item that doesn’t look like it did online (11%) and Websites that malfunction as the payment is being processed (9%)
So as you continue to map out your online strategy, make sure you test your site to ensure that it works through the entire transaction process, is easy to navigate, and has all the things that customers who are buying are looking for. While this may take time and testing, getting a streamlined, easy to use and understand site will be a key to driving business in the future.
Have you finally decided to sell online and create your own site? How has it been working out for you?
Welcome to the final installment of 10 Great Ways to Promote Your Business (Part 1, Part 2). Today we will go over the final three tips on our list.
8. Brochures-Customers like to review information from home. Clear and easy-to-read brochures with product or service information are important. Skip photo-copied fliers on colored paper and shoot for full color glossy materials. Hand them out in the store or at shows and conferences.
9. Great Giveaways-Give your customers a useful and appreciated gift that they will actually use. Stay in front of them all year long with seasonal professional sports calendars.
10. Email Communication-Communicate with your customers via email in addition to regular mail. Match your e-signature to your business card with unique e-business cards-electronic versions of your business cards that are included in every email. Encourage customers to forward contact information, an excellent way to increase customer base.
No matter your budget, these simple tips will enable you to keep your company’s name in front of your customers.
Earlier today I came across a piece on the Wall Street Journal‘s Independent Street from Simona Covel. In the piece, she offers insight into the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s analysis of the best and worst states when it comes to taxes for small businesses.
The “Business Tax Index 2009: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business,” ranks the 50 states and District of Columbia according to the costs of their tax systems for entrepreneurship and small business. The index pulls together 16 different tax measures and combines those into one overall tax score. Among the taxes included are income, property, death/inheritance, unemployment, and consumption-based taxes like gas and diesel levies.
Here are the Top 10 states with the best tax systems for small businesses.
- South Dakota
Click here to read her full article. For the full SBE’s report, click here.
It’s April 15, and as we all know, it’s Tax Day (insert scream here). If you haven’t filed as of yet, you have until midnight to get your taxes filed. We also searched the Web and found some last minute tips to help out even the biggest procrastinators out there.
One of the best lists on tips that I found on came from Denise O’Berry over at AllBusiness. She has links for everything from last minute words to the wise to tips for an economic slump and common errors.
Alice Gomstyn of ABC News’ Business Unit also has a number of useful tips as well including:
File for a tax extension but get ready to pay. If you just can’t get your returns finished in time, file an extension. Everyone is eligible for an extension, which allows taxpayers six more months — until Oct. 15 — to file returns and millions of Americans take advantage of extensions every year.
The bad news is that, like tax returns, extension requests are also due April 15, and filing one doesn’t mean you get more time to pay your taxes. It just means you get more time to finish your paperwork. Taxpayers filing extension requests must still estimate roughly how much they owe the IRS (if anything) and send a check for that amount by April 15. Click here to read the full article.
While these tips and lists may be helpful, if you have questions that you can’t find the answers to, check out the IRS’ small business tax center for a number of valuable resources and FAQs.
Have you filed yet?
Welcome to the second installment of 10 Great Ways to Promote Your Business, CLICK HERE if you missed part one. Today we will go over tips 4-7.
4. Reinforce Your Brand-Stay in front of your customers every day. Look for cost-effective options that have staying power. Business card magnets are a great way to ensure your customers will place your business and contact information in a frequently viewed location like the refrigerator. Read more…
Now more than ever it is important that your small business forms and maintains relationships with customers to ensure their experience with your business is positive. Establishing a connection with your customers keeps you top of mind and can also increases the chances customers will recommend you to their family and friends. Referrals are one of the most important ways of acquiring customers. The overall goal of customer relationship management should be to improve your business service and to use customer information for target marketing initiatives.
Simply put, you need to build a relationship with your customer before somebody else does.
Here are a few tips to help build and maintain relationships with your customer base:
- Suggestion cards: Suggestion cards (created from a business card) are a great, inexpensive way for customers to share feedback with you about their experience with your service. These cards should include contact information, a comment section and maybe a quick rating system on service, cleanliness (if applicable for your business), and things they would want to see. Whether customers are offering ideas to improve your business, general comments about their experience or simply to say “hi,” these cards can offer a wealth of valuable information. Using these cards at our family restaurant, we are able to connect one-on-one with customers while also gathering valuable information such as email and home addresses. This allows us to send direct marketing materials to their homes, letting customers know of offers and specials we are running. We also noticed these cards were helpful to customers who did not feel comfortable voicing their opinion face-to-face. They allowed them to be truthful about their experience and give real feedback. Suggestions from customers have helped us make some key changes to the restaurant. Read more…
It’s clear that as more and more people move online, small businesses will have to do so as well. Even if it’s just a small basic website that allows people to see what you offer, where you are, and how to contact you, an online presence isn’t a luxury anymore, it’ s a must have. But once you do have that page up and start to drive traffic to it, either through online or offline means, it’s important to also monitor your competition. For example, if you’re one of four pizza shops in the town you operate in, you have to assume that your competitors also have a site, and are working to drive traffic to it. If you’re not monitoring your competition, then you’re doing your business a disservice. Even customers going to a competitor’s site to check a phone number could be business that you might have gotten otherwise.
But how? Well that’s the subject of a recent post by Bridget Ayers on the “Get Smart” blog. Ayers lays out three tools that you can use online to not only monitor the competition, but also identify the competition’s search marketing strategies to better understand what you should be doing to keep up and get out in front. It might be a scary proposition to have to not only run your business but also manage your online marketing and search efforts, but it’s something that must be done. Sites like compete.com and tools that Google offer can make all the difference.
By using these online tools to better monitor your competition to see how they’re doing, you can truly succeed and begin to reap the benefits of your website in ways you didn’t think were possible.