Sitting at the Grown-Up’s Table

Sitting at the Grown-Up’s Table

Ever feel that sometimes, people are unable to accept you as a serious business because you work from home, or run your business out of a Starbucks?

Well, it seems we’re conditioned to think this about small businesses. We associate professionalism with business that have offices in towers, or staff to manage various tasks, or a huge phone tree. It does not help that so many small business die each year instilling insecurity about collaborating with a small fry.

But it does not have to be this way.

Consider any small business that started in a garage: HP, Apple, Google, Harley-Davidson, and Yankee Candle Company. Each started from nothing. Cash strapped to start, but with sweat equity, perseverance, determination, creativity, and a little luck, each are some of the largest companies in their respective categories.

How can you appear to be a Goliath when you are a lowly David? Try some of these suggestions on for size.

Branding Consistency

Keep your branding consistent across all of your digital and offline marketing offerings. This will go a long way to help visitors and customers know they are dealing with the correct business.

If you run a direct marketing campaign, make certain that any postcards or letters carry the same branding, and use the same colors, as your website and be certain that your logo is the same across all of your social media accounts.

A small investment in business cards and letterhead will also go a long way toward maintaining brand consistency and improve your image in your customer’s eyes. Check out Moo for some exceptional business cards.

Check Your Mail

Nothing screams unprofessional more than sending out email from ‘[email protected]’, ‘[email protected]’, or ‘[email protected]’. These are great for personal email accounts, but not for business email.

If you already have a website and you are not sending email from ‘[email protected]’, then you are not taking advantage of the opportunity to present your business in the best light. Sending email containing your domain will increase your open rate. The reason for this is your email appears as a legitimate message to those who receive it. This increases trust and confidence to your recipient.

Those without a website have numerous options available to claim a domain-based email. Know that almost every web hosting company from a1Hosting to Zoho offer email as a standard feature when you purchase a domain or hosting package. There are also several email-only services that will host your domain and email without a website if you so choose.

If you love Gmail then you can have your domain-based email using Gmail with Google GSuite. With GSuite you not only get all the benefits of Gmail along with Google’s suite off business apps including Docs, Sheets, Presenter, Calendar and Drive. Pricing starts at $5 per user pre month.

Be Social

Managing your social media accounts can be like herding cats. Each one has a different image size, each has what I refer to as a “Optimal Posting Window”. These are the times users on a given platform are most likely to interact with the service and therefore, more likely to see your post.

To wrangle all of your social media accounts into one unified platform I suggest using Buffer. For the price of zero dollars a month, Buffer allows you to sift through up to 15 RSS feeds letting you locate shareable posts, basic analytics (but can be tied into Google Analytics), and the ability to schedule your posts so they are delivered at the most opportunistic time.

Another great way to increase your business footprint is to engage with bloggers and vloggers. Reach out to them. Offer them a free post about their site or channel. Interact with their posts. The purpose of this is to leverage their audience to augment your audience. Cross-promoting their site with yours is a win-win. You both get the chance to grow.

Relationship Advice

Not only should you be building relationships with social media, I strongly urge you to build relationships with potential and existing customers. The best way to do this is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Hubspot. For the Wonderful low-low price of zero dollars, you get an excellent solution to manage email lists, send trackable email so you know when it has been opened, website marketing pop-ups that allow you to harvest email addresses from site visitors, and the ability to create email templates that allow you to build a semi-automated email threads.

Other Solutions

You may not know that many services offer low priced or free versions of their service. These are perfect for those flying solo or have fewer than five employees. Here is a short list of tools you may want to consider to streamline other parts of your small business:

Summary

You may be a small business, but that does not mean you need to act like one. Perception is key. Putting one or all of these tools to use may help you convince a prospective client that you mean business and make you more efficient in the process.

Do you have any favorite solutions that help you appear larger than you are? If so, let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning about them.

And if you need any of the services mentioned, please drop me a note to learn more.




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Do You Have Plans for the Holidays?

Do You Have Plans for the Holidays?

As small business owners, we are straddled with more than just our family holiday plans, we also need a plan for our business. While many business owners start planning around June and July, it is not to late to get started.

Here are a few things you will want to check of your list as the holidays approach.

Plan a Marketing Campaign

Do not allow the crunch of the holidays overwhelm you. Keep your marketing campaign simple and focused on the uniqueness of your business. Is it your ability to offer local delivery for harried shoppers? Maybe you make the best Minced Meat Pie? New shipment of snow chains in stock? Whatever it is, promote it!

Be mindful that November 25th is Small Business Saturday! According to American Express, 112 million shoppers spent over $15.4 million dollars. How much of that will be yours? Use the link to get marketing materials and tips on how to organize your town’s small business community.

Whatever you do, utilize your email lists to notify your best customers of the new items, discounts, and other offers. Check with your web developer to work out an email campaign.

Update Your Website

What ever you do, make certain that your website visitors are aware of your holiday specials. Maybe a refresh of the images to include holiday bling to match your personal beliefs or just a fun javascript that makes your webpage display snow falling.

Make certain that your holiday offers are available online with downloadable coupons.

Be sure that your shopping cart is ready to go. Check with your web developer to get your changes uploaded. If you don’t have an online store, now is a great time to set one up. juliuslopezcompany has some great pricing to get you started.

Offer Gift Cards

The holidays is a fantastic time to introduce or expand gift cards to your business. According to a 2014 survey by the Mercator Advisory Group, 56 percent of U.S. adults purchased some kind of prepaid card. Gift cards are great and increase user spending. Of those purchased, shoppers spent 38 percent more than the face value of the card.

Check with your web developer or POS provider for ways to offer gift cards.

Set Holiday Hours & Staffing

You will be stretched to expand your hours with everyone wanting to visit family over the holidays. Look to hiring part-time help to augment, or cover vacation time for your regular staff. Be mindful that some time will be required for training on your POS system!

Order Extra Inventory

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this should have been taken care of during the summer, but hey, better late than never! While you might not be able to get the hottest products in your store, you can find similar items that can be offered at a discount. Keep in mind that many suppliers have hard deadlines to ensure product reaches you in time for the holidays. Mark these on your calendar!

Also, check with your suppliers for more than wrapping paper and ribbon, also consider things like extra bathroom supplies (if your business has one).

Deck the Halls

Finally, what are the holidays without some festive decorations? Show your customers some love by spraying a little fake snow in your windows. Share your spiritual side with others by lighting a menorah, or Christmas tree, or other symbols of the holidays enjoyed by your culture or religion.

Pipe in your favorite holiday playlist with iTunes, Pandora, or Spotify. Make it fun!

Sure, this all may seem like extra work, but hey, you are a business! Yes the goal is to make a profit, but why not have fun while you are doing it! And because you now have a plan in place, you will be able to relax and enjoy your holiday just that much more.




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