Tag Archive | "Small Business"

Small Business Wisdom from Five Business Visionaries

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Small Business Wisdom from Five Business Visionaries


In today’s world of instant gratification and ‘seeming’ overnight success it can be very tempting to get caught up in the hype and hyperbole. Truly successful businesses have been built over time.

Take Wal Mart for example, whether you love them or hate them, it was a slow and steady process of twenty years, yes, twenty years before Wal Mart really took off. Today they are the world’s largest retailer and Sam Walton would be twice as rich as Bill Gates.

The Facebooks and Twitters of this world have experienced phenomenal growth and success in very few short years. Twitter has now reached 50 million tweets per day up from 3.5 million in 2009.

For most business owners, that’s not usually how it works though. Solid and successful businesses take time to build and the people behind them work diligently and persevere until they reach the tipping point.

Here I present the nuggets of wisdom of some of the world’s foremost business visionaries and thinkers.

1. Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Billionaire

It’s one of his famous sound bites he says you must be ‘fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful’.
It’s very easy to be fearful these days. The business climate is still shaky and the world’s most powerful economies still not out of the woods. I believe though and history has proven it that many successful businesses were born in times of recession, depression and even repression. Many have thrived because when the competitors zigged they zagged.
I’ve said it many times, but it’s bears repeating. Smart businesses should become more aggressive with their marketing efforts in times like these. Now is not the time to eliminate yourself from the game by being absent. Now is the time to tackle the game head on and get greedy.
If Warren Buffet says it, then it must be so. After all he has the goods to prove it. Therefore, go get greedy when others are fearful.

2. Jim Collins, Author, Built to Last and Good to Great. Management Consultant

In one of my recent readings I was struck by an answer Jim Collins gave to the question of what was the one single philosophy he swore by more than any other – in business, life or both. His response was a nice reminder, when he said ‘ “Don’t be interesting – be interested”.

A lesson he said that changed his life in literally 30 seconds in one of his encounters with John Gardner, the great civic leader. He goes on to say ‘if you want interesting things to write about, be interested. If you want to meet interesting people, be interested in the people you meet – their lives, their history, their story. Where are they from? How did they get here? What have they learned? By practicing the art of being interested, the majority of people can become fascinating teachers; nearly everyone has an interesting story to tell.”

When was the last time you were truly interested in your customers and prospects? Not interested in selling you’re your product or service to them.

3. Simon Cooper, President and CEO, Ritz Carlton

Under Simon Cooper’s leadership the Ritz Carlton Hotel has won many accolades and awards including Best Luxury Hotel Company and Most Prestigious Luxury Brand. In 2007 and 2008, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company won #1 ranking in the J. D. Power and Associates North America Hotel Guests Satisfaction Index Survey.

Simon Cooper believes ‘He Who Says It, Does It’. He goes on to say that execution and commitment are absolutely essential to any strategy or initiative in an era of plans, processes and procrastination. He Who Says It, Does It. Small businesses are you listening?

4. Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and former CEO, Xerox

Mulcahy believed in ‘face time with the customer’. During her tenure as CEO at Xerox, Mulcahy says the mantra around Xerox was to ensure that the customer was connected to everything they did. So every senior leader, from the head of human resources to the general counsel was assigned a customer account to cover. She, herself made hundreds of customer calls each year so she could hear firsthand from customers about their relationship with Xerox.

5. Carol Bartz, CEO, Yahoo!
Her wisdom is simple – you’ve heard it many times over. Bartz has a core belief that says – if you think you can’t you’re right. She feels you can do anything if you try, sometimes you just don’t know, so the goal is to learn how.

Sounds simple enough – right? Simple isn’t always easy. As small business owners, we tend to talk ourselves in and out of why we can’t be as innovative or creative as our medium to large size brethrens. I agree with Bartz, it’s all in the mind. Anything is possible for the small business.

Do you have any small business wisdom you’d like to share?

By: Dorothy Vernon Brownsmallbusinesswisdom2

Posted in Small Business MarketingComments (1)

Part 4 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series

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Part 4 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series


Keep ‘em coming; I am always delighted to get feedback from my clients and prospects on what they find useful and what works for them.

Along with this five part series blog, I also created an easy to read 50 Small Business Marketing Ideas desk card. Many of you told me you found the information very useful and have even implemented a tip or two. Thank you for the positive feedback.

So, in the spirit of usefulness and relevance let me offer you some more marketing insights.

16. Join credible networking
I’m sure we’ve heard the old saying “It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know what you’re doing and talking about that’s not the entire equation. In today’s business world, the opportunity to do business with someone is directly connected with who you know. Think about it for a minute.
To fast track the quality and quantity of business you do, it might be worth the time and money to become part of a credible networking group. Offline groups like Business Networking International (BNI), the largest networking group in the world, your local chamber of commerce or an industry professional group might just be the place to start. Ensure the fit is right and you feel comfortable within the group. A word of caution – go with a ‘Givers Gain’ mindset and not a ‘Take More Than I Give’, for in doing so you’ll win and build lasting relationships.

Bob Burg in his book Endless Referrals, suggests that forty (40) per cent of new business comes from referrals or word of mouth. It’s who you know and who they know. He refers to it as the sphere of influence.

In the online world, social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Diggs and so on are great places to start. LinkedIn is the leading and most credible social network for professionals; it has over thirty five (35) million business professionals in two hundred (200) countries across one hundred and seventy five (175) industries. Best of all it’s free and easy to set up.

17. Network your business by volunteering
Doing good is good for your small business and that’s why performing community service can be a great way to enhance your business profile. In so doing you can establish important professional relationships, build brand identity, gain new customers while at the same time strengthening your community.

Don’t ever believe you’re too small to make a worthwhile contribution or support a cause that’s near and dear to you and/or your business mission. When considering volunteer opportunities be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is this cause closely aligned with or related to my company, industry, product segment or business goals?
2. Will the volunteer effort deliver high impact results?
3. Is the volunteer schedule flexible and convenient to facilitate my participation?

Being recognized by your peers, community leaders and the media as a good corporate citizen is good for you and your business. There are many local non-profit and charitable organizations that recognize outstanding community volunteers and small businesses. In Canada, one such leading organization is Imagine Canada (www.imaginecanada.ca).

18. Create an email signature for every email you send out
How many email messages do you send daily, monthly or yearly? Do a check. You’d be surprised how many messages you send out and perhaps how many missed opportunities to inform your ‘community’ about any special news or happenings.
Without question, your email signature line is a low cost, highly visible, high-return and powerful marketing tool. It is your online business card or classified ad. It might also be considered the most missed marketing tool.

As a rule of thumb, your signature line should be four to six lines and never more than eight. Here are some ways you can creatively use your signature line:

• A quote that represents your business or your values
• An invitation to a special event, conference, or to subscribe to your organization’s email newsletter.
• An announcement of a new program, award, service, company specials, blog or website
• A call to support a cause or contribute to a campaign or fundraiser
Keep your signature line updated and never miss another opportunity to use it as your classified ad.

19. Use your voicemail to promote an event, special offer etc.
Your telephone voice mail is another great, low cost, high impact marketing tool; often overlook; often underused. If you want to pull more customers in or announce something special, your business and cell phone voice mail are two good places to start.
Use your voice mail to describe what you do and how you can help your customers and prospect. Instead of saying ‘ Hello, you’ve reached Ann’s voice mail, sorry I missed you, please leave a message’ etc etc. Consider tweaking it to say something like this:
“Hello, you’ve reached Ann with AKB² Small Business Marketing. We help small businesses attract new customers and increase sales revenues. For more information on how we can help you , visit us at www.akbsmallbusinessmarketing.com.” etc. etc.
Ensure there is some call to action, whether is to visit your website, sign-up for your newsletter, announce an upcoming event or any other call to action.

Be creative, there are many ways you can use your voice mail as a marketing tool. Be sure to keep it reasonably short so customers and prospects do not become impatient or frustrated.

20. Ask your customers, colleagues, friends and family for referrals. Put a system in place
Referrals are one of the best ways to grow your small business. Earlier, we established that forty (40) per cent of new business comes from referrals. The key to building a steady stream of referral business is to build it into your sales system. Here are a couple of ways to get started.

Ask regularly and make this a habit. Do it ALL the time and not just sometimes. If you do this infrequently your results will be less than stellar. Ask frequently and you’re more likely to get many valuable leads. Dedicate a day or even a couple hours a week for the purpose of seeking referrals only.

After the close of every sale or delivery of great service ask for referrals then. It’s a good time, having just established yourself as a good service provider, your customer will be more likely willing and ready to pass on a good referral.

Think creatively and look beyond your usual customers. Consider complementary businesses which might have some of your ideal customers. Form a power team and watch your referral list grow.

Until Part 5…keep going; keep growing your small business.

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

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Part 3 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series

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Part 3 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series


If you have been following this series, I sincerely hope by now you would have tried at least one of these ideas.  If you have, let me know what’s been working for you and the results you have seen.  Who to tell, you might just inspire another small business to do something or try something new.

  

For now, let’s keep it moving with more insights.

 

11. Write articles and submit to your local newspaper or internet syndication

When your marketing and advertising dollars are scarce to non-existent and you have a talent for stringing a word or two together sensibly, writing articles for your local newspaper or trade publication could be your ticket to low cost advertising.

 

Local newspapers or trade publications are always in need of good articles, so if you are a wordsmith, start putting pen to paper.  Typically, in exchange for your article you get a byline or author’s bio. This is worth its weight in gold and a good way to promote your business.  In addition, you establish yourself as a subject matter expert.

 

Consider, as well, submitting your articles to a variety of websites and article directories.  It’s a good way to be found online.

 

Many small businesses overlook the value of a good press release; it’s publicity you cannot buy.  So if you’ve just received an award, opened a second location, celebrated a significant milestone, innovated the most sought after eco-product or established a new charity – these are all newsworthy reasons to send a well crafted press release to your local media. The editor could be all over it. 

 

 

 

12. Put your company name, logo and first name on your winter and spring jackets.

This strategy isn’t novel but sure is underutilized by small businesses. This practice can prove to be successful. It tends to a real ice-breaker and can lead to an interesting conversation with a prospect.  

 

A real estate broker once boasted that this is one of the most effective promotional strategies he’s used over the years.  He says it breaks the ice all the time, whether he’s at his son’s hockey practice or simply up and about his daily business.  There’s a reason why more established companies have logoed garments for their employees – any guesses?

 

13. Plan a contest. Contests are a great way to get noticed

Want to create some buzz? Creating a contest is surefire way to do so. Who doesn’t like a contest especially if the prizes are great? It’s a tried and tested strategy that works.

 

You can create any contest you wish – your dream job, dream kids, dream spouse….you get the picture. Be sure that the contest and prize fit with your business. After all, you’re looking to create buzz for your business.

 

Plan your contest carefully. How long will your contest run for? Will you offer just one grand prize or several? How will you communicate your contest and how will you communicate with your entrants.

Once the contest is over and there’s a winner be sure to publicize the happy recipient (ensure your winner signs a release) with photos and announcements in the local press, in your e-newsletter, on your Linked In, on your Twitter and so on.

 14. Send Thank You notes or letters to your customers or people who have been helpful to you

 How much is fifty words and a fifty cent stamp worth to your business? How about:

 

  • lifetime customers
  •  sendless referrals
  • new business
    more frequent purchase
  • Improve vendor relations

 The list goes on.

 

Do you realize that a simple thank you note is the most powerful and cost effective relationship tool you can use in your marketing tool box?  If not yet a practice, be sure to include Thank You notes, cards or letters in your arsenal. This simple act has been proven must do.

  

15. Network with your IDEAL Client type and/or connectors. Join a gym where they hangout

 

In order to hangout or network where you find your IDEAL client type and/or connectors, first you need to establish who they are.  You may begin by creating an Ideal Client Profile – ask yourself (better yet, document your answers to) questions like these:

  • What business or career are they in?
  • What demographics do they fit? (age, sex, race, religion, income, marital status, etc.)
  • What’s important to them in business and in life?
  • What do they value most about you and your business?
  • What personality characteristics do they have?
  • What do you get from them (besides payment)?

What’s the nature of the relationship (transactional, relational, customer for life, friend, family etc)With a better understanding of who they are, now think about where to find them – in civic groups, particular professions or industry, professional or other kinds of associations, gyms or an ‘old boys club’.

 

Armed with the ‘where’ next, get in the game and join, hangout or become a part of their network.  Be strategic.

 

Until part 4, do something. Anything, worthwhile.

 

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

Posted in Small Business MarketingComments (1)

Part 2. Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series

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Part 2. Small Business Marketing Ideas You Can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series


I hope Part 1 got your creative juice flowing. As the holiday season barrels along fiercely, let me introduce you to some more simple and cost effective small marketing strategies you can implement right away. Of course, the Christmas season is the Holy Grail for marketers, and as I suspect as a small business owner, the marketing responsibility falls squarely in your lap.

If you have not yet planned your marketing initiatives, I urge you to consider doing so now. If you find yourself too busy, it might be worth your while to farm this out to a small business marketing consultant whom you trust. It would be a shame to miss out on the upcoming opportunities. Remember, you cannot not market.
Here goes. No excuses.

6. Create your own holiday. A Whacky Hair Day or some other holiday relevant to your industry
Who said that holidays and special occasions were reserved for religious or civic observances only? Where did the idea of Valentines Day or Family Day or Get Out of the Doghouse Day originate? Outside of the religious holidays, many of the other special occasions were created by some government body or opportunistic entrepreneur. Many companies these days have created their own special day as a marketing tool.
What would stop you from becoming another creative entrepreneur creating a holiday just for your business purposes? As you consider doing this, it’s important that you ensure your holiday has something to do with your product or service then proceed to build a buzz around it. Alert the media, your current customers and prospects. Make it fun and interesting, and you will have more business than you know what to do with.

7. Handout Referral Cards
Do you ask your current customers for referrals? If this is not a consistent practice of yours, you are losing out; leaving half your lunch in the plate. By now, you must realize that referrals are one of the top ways to grow your business. If you assume every satisfied customer will automatically refer you, you are wrong. Your customers have their own concerns and growing your business is not a top priority for them.

So if you want to grow your small business, it’s time to get over your fear and develop the habit of asking for a referral from every satisfied customer. Here’s one way you can do it – hand out referral cards. A referral card is simply a card that entails various discounts and promotions when the customer adds a new name to it. You may also combine your referral cards with a referral contest if you want to.
Distribute a supply of your referral cards to your loyal customers, family and friends. Your referral cards can be your business cards with a pre-printed message or rubber stamp on the back that could say:
“Refer a prospect, family or friend and you will get a 20% discount voucher for each new customer who brings this card in.” Who doesn’t like incentives?
You may also include a grand prize for those customers who send in the most referrals. There are lots more creative ways to use referral cards – it’s only limited by your imagination. Think creatively.

8. Make a custom t-shirt with your website and tagline and wear it to the gym or mall

If you’ve been putting off a gym membership or simply hate walking the malls – here’s an excuse to do either or both with an ulterior motive. A good quality custom t-shirt with your website and other company coordinates is a really cost effective way to promote your company and services. It’s also a real ice-breaker and might just be your ticket to strike up that conversation you’ve been thinking about.

Many converts swear by it and says it really works. So now that you’ve found yourself another great advertising opportunity jump on board and get the most out of the upcoming holiday season.

9. Organize a Happy Hour (not pay for) and invite complementary businesses, customers, connectors, referrers etc.
Who doesn’t like to get together for drinks, munchies and chat? Take the initiative and organize a Friday evening happy hour. Not only is it a great way to unwind after a long week but it’s an opportunity to get to know your ‘community’ in a more intimate way. The more you know them, the more you can serve them. Think strategically and invite complementary businesses, customers, prospects and other people within your ‘community’. You’re sure to be seen as a leader.

10.Trade advertising with local businesses (complementary) – offer an online ad on your website in exchange for a link on theirs

In these challenging economic times when marketing dollars are scarce, it’s time to think creatively. It’s the era of swaps and barters and it’s time small businesses cash in on the trend.

Expand your reach by tapping into the connections of other local (complementary) businesses and offer an online ad on your website for a link on their or co-promote in some other way. You’d be surprised how you could tap into their network and vice-versa.

The former US Senator Bill Bradley and 2000 US Presidential hopeful once said:

‘When you’re not practicing, someone somewhere is, and when you meet they will win’.

As a small business, I encourage you to take some of these ideas and put into practice; if you don’t your competitors will…. and they will win.

Until next post. Just do it. Do something.

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

Posted in Small Business MarketingComments (1)

Part 1 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series.

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Part 1 – Small Business Marketing Ideas You can Steal Now. A 5 Part Series.


It’s a common dilemma for small businesses – more customers required but little to no marketing dollars available. It’s a classic chicken and egg case – spend marketing dollars and they will come or have customers then spend marketing dollars. It’s a challenge I see over and over again in my small business marketing practice.

 

The great news is – it doesn’t need to be so. Small businesses can still market on a lean budget. If you’re open to new ways, sometimes out of your comfort zone ways…have a dash of creativity and even a small dose of discipline you can begin to attract more customers on the cheap.

 

This five part series will outline some real cost effective and simple marketing ideas you can steal now.

 

Marketing has a beginning but never an end, so determine your short, medium and long term strategies as you implement these ideas.

 

One last thing, as a small business owner you cannot not market.

 

1) Start a Blog

With the era of social networking in full throttle mode, getting found online is imperative. Period. If you fail to embrace Web 2.0, prepare for a slow death.

Many of your customers and prospects are doing most of their search online before making a purchasing decision. Blogger.com or WordPress.com are free tools and a good place to start.

 

2) Create an email newsletter

Creating an email newsletter is another cheap way of connecting with your customer base and prospects on a regular basis, whether weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Include information they want to hear and will read, forget the sales pitch. Start with the What’s In It For Them mindset – great content, the latest and greatest in your industry, a special discount, a not to miss event; something your customers and prospects will value.

There are many email management systems out there – eMarketer by SoftEdge, Constant Contact, Emma, Mail Chimp to name a few.

 

3) Set up a Linked In or Facebook Account

More freebies- Linked In and Facebook are becoming useful marketing tools for small businesses; they are easy to set up and get you connected with other businesses quickly. Use them to invite people into your community. While some small business owners might not see the value in Facebook, its gaining traction as a compelling business tool especially when you use the Fan page right. Linked In is a hands down winner as a business tool. Many success stories abound as to its usefulness. Proceed quickly.

 

4) Start Tweeting

A tweet is a short message or entry post on the micro blogging site Twitter, another social network medium. You can begin your free account at Twitter.com. According to them, it helps you share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world. Why in the world would a small business care? Twitter evangelist, David Spark, feels that Twitter gives you an opportunity to connect in a way that isn’t possible with any other communication tool. David’s Sixteen Great Twitter Moment article explains its usefulness perfectly. (Respond to me for article)

 

5. Create a Signature Event

Quality face time gives you an unparallel opportunity to have a conversation with your customers and prospects. So whether it’s a networking event, a workshop, a seminar, a fireside chat, a conference – consider something you can create to add value to your customers and prospects.

Until part two, just do it. Do something.

 

Like this post? Share it with others

 

 

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

 

 

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Say What! Brand New Second Hand Marketing, Anyone?

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Say What! Brand New Second Hand Marketing, Anyone?


Say What! Brand New Second Hand Marketing, Anyone?

 

All this buzz about the latest and greatest web 2.0 marketing strategies is making my head spin.  I suspect I’m not alone. Maybe it’s the very same for many other small business owners grappling with growing their customer base and adding to the bottom line.

 Email campaign this. Blog that. Twitter now. Facebook later. Un-conference tomorrow. Community today.

 

It’s a similar question I find I’m asking myself as a small business marketer – where did the tried and true marketing strategies go; ones that got you connected, really connected with your customers and brought you before your ideal prospects.  Were they banished forever in the kingdom of ‘ole skool’.

 

Are these new practices just the flip side of the coin- connection, community, care and consistency?

 

Truth be told, marketing to customers is the same as it was yesterday, today and forever. The packaging might be different, the distribution fast as lighting speed and the players less tolerant but as I see it -what is old is new again.  There is nothing new under the sun the good book says.

 

When you peel away the layers, the packaging, the lingo, the medium -  it boils down to the tried and true concept  of  building strong relationships, establishing trust, solving problems and understanding what customers want.

 

Isn’t this what we’ve been doing our entire life?  Amy, your best friend forever (BFF) did not earn that spot because she followed you on Twitter or begged for the spot on some blog; neither did Ashley, God mother to your first born won this sacred place because she connected with you on Facebook.  

 

I also suspect your significant other didn’t sweep you off your feet with a string of mass email campaigns or banner ads.

 

These relationships were built over time, laughter by laugher, tear by tear, fight by fight as you listened, understood, cared and shared.

 

Suddenly, the enlightenment comes – the top experts, the gurus, the stars, the mega marketing ministers are now echoing with one voice – build relationships, build community, listen to your customers, treat them like family, and solve their problems. 

 

Do all this and more and you’re bound to create raving fans, evangelists, referral partners, customers, followers, call it what you may.

 

I believe we’ve come full circle – these seeming new marketing ideas are not so new after all.  It’s what many small business owners and other companies have been practicing for eons and eons.

 

I admit, the packaging is high tech to boot, compelling even. It’s connects like never before, it’s instant, real time and online but at the heart of the crux of the matter isn’t new. To me, it’s what I call brand new second hand.

 

Am I alone or am I alone? What are your thoughts?

 

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

Posted in Small Business MarketingComments (0)

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