Rethink Your Small Business Marketing

Email marketing – Hire an expert if you feel that you are not cut out to manage databases and lists. Find a reliable vendor to work with.  Constant Contact and Vertical Response are good.

Direct Mail – How effective is your Direct Mail marketing? Are you measuring your results? Anything printed has to be carefully thought out as you may be wasting money, time and natural resources.  Maybe you could upload most of your marketing materials to your website and switch to email marketing campaigns.

Discounts – Are you offering special extras, online only content or freebies?  Consider online coupons, try Intellogy.

Viral Marketing – Are you creating compelling content that is picked up and shared person-to-person via social networking sites?
Have you considered creating your company profile on Merchant Circle or Facebook?

What Can Small Business Owners Learn From Obama

1. Leadership skills – he put together a great team for his campaign and motivated his people all the way. 

2. Never give up, believe in yourself, even if you have no reason to do so, polls did not always predict Obama as a winner.

3. Presentation skills – Obama is one of the most eloquent and self-confident speakers I have ever seen. Practice!

4. Social media marketing – get away from ads to building online communities, just like Obama did.

5. Viral marketing – get everyone talking and singing about you. Where are you now, Obama girl?

6. If you can’t get to young consumers otherwise, send them a text message or an email- speak their “love language”.

7. Go to gym and play some ball – relieve your stress, basketball plays big part in Obama’s life.

8. Buy some nice clothes and look sharp – I loved Obama’s suit on election night!

9. Supportive spouse or partner is always a blessing – keep your spouse and partner happy.  Have you noticed the smile on Michelle Obama’s face?

10. Humble beginnings don’t always mean humble lives – with hard work, passion and dedication small business owners can beat the odds, just like Obama did.

Father of Accounting

pacioli.jpgWell, bookkeeping can be inspiring…..Let’s talk about numbers before 2008 ends…

Henry Ford is often looked up to as the father of mass production; doctors have their Hippocrates, and philosophers have Plato. But who is the father of accounting?For a long time, accountants did not recognize the name of Luca Pacioli although about the same time Columbus was discovering America, Luca was writing the directions for double-entry bookkeeping. Pacioli was the first person to describe double-entry accounting, also known as the Venetian method. This new system was then state of the art, it revolutionized economy and business.  Pacioli’s directions became the most widely read mathematical work in all of Italy, and his work was one of the first books published on the Gutenberg press.

The fact that his book “Summa de Arithmetic, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita” was illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci, added needed credibility. (Where is Leonardo now when I am planning to write a book?)

Small Business Lessons Learned in 2008

1.    Not very profitable, but time – consuming demanding customers tend to refer prospects and customers who reflect their style and values.

2.    Customers who value you and what you do are the best referral sources.

3.    Set boundaries for your customers from the outset, tell them “This is how we work…”, otherwise they will create their own boundaries.

4.    Pay attention when your prospect complains about being treated badly by the rest of the world including partners, vendors, consultants and former customers – you may become the next entrepreneur they will complain about.      

 5.    If you are a coach or consultant, try to avoid customers who have never worked with a consultant, unless they show sure signs of their willingness to learn and implement new things.      

6.    Social networking is important, but prioritize – plan your activities and their frequency, otherwise social networking becomes a burden.       

7.    Get to know your associates, subcontractors and business partners before you commit to long-term projects – mavericks may be crucial to changing this world, but they may not always contribute to helping you achieve your goals.      

8.    Become a frequently improving, always up-to-date resource for other small business owners and your customers.      

9.    Reward your best customers, subcontractors and business partners.     

10.    If you are very driven, results oriented, nimble and forward looking – don’t take on customers who are not.I am sure that 2009 will be a year of re-evaluation, reinvention, recycling and repurposing as we all try to find smarter cost-effective ways of living and conducting business.  Will small business owners see a light in the end of a tunnel in 2009? 

Should You Buy a Laptop or a Netbook for Your Small Business?

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Netbooks (mini laptops) usually aren’t as capable, but are smaller and cheaper than a PC. The small netbooks are lightweight, less expensive than a PC, and can easily fit into a handbag or a briefcase. More than 11 million consumers bought one for as little as $269 in 2008, and prices may continue to fall. PC makers say notebook computer prices could be affected by the trend, possibly with a 20 percent drop from early 2008 prices by the end of 2009.

The $269 netbook is made by Asus ‘Eee PCs (Eee stands for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play.”). They are designed for basic tasks of Web surfing, email and word processing. They can do Wi-Fi but have a limited storage drive capacity. To keep costs down, some Asus models ship with the Linux operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

The keyboards are small, which could be a problem for some people, but the size is perfect for children and high school students.

Dell’s $349 – $399 Inspiron Mini 9 has an 8.9-inch LED screen. It has 512 MB of system memory and Intel’s Atom 1.6-Ghz processor.

You can order it with Windows XP operating system instead of Linux. Dell has three netbooks, all of which have USB ports, other features and four hours of battery life, depending on the applications being used.

The $309 Acer Aspire One has a bright 8.9-inch screen, a 120-gigabyte hard disk and one gigabyte of memory. It’s about an inch thick. The keys are large and separated in order to make typing comfortable for limited work.

For $50 extra, you can double your battery power.

Small Business Advice, Found at Barnes and Noble

differentiate.JPGOur family likes to hang out at Barnes and Noble.  I am happy my kids still prefer books to video games. Today we stopped at our favorite hangout again.  While my husband and kids enjoyed delicious hot chocolate and cookies, I checked out some business books I had not seen before, including Small Business Bible: Second Edition by Steven D. Strauss.

Marketing to small business owners differs from marketing to non-profit organizations, but here it was, black on white, the list of suggestions to keep in mind when dealing with small business owners:

Small business owners buy when the pains get too great to bear.

You have to put your product or services in front of the owner again and again – when the time of pain comes – you will be the one he/she remembers.

Small business owners don’t want to be bothered – so get down to business and benefits.

Small busineess owners don’t want to be sold, therefore your job is to educate them, without a heavy hand.  Lead them to the water – when they are ready, they will drink form your well.

Time and money are huge considerations – explain how your product and service saves time and money as well as makes your prospect’s life easier.

Small business owners dream of reducing the risk. Show them that your product or service carries little risk.

Rules for Good Small Business News Releases

access-to-information.jpg One of my small business clients wanted to know how to write good news releases.  Here are some suggestions:

1. Feature timely news related to your industry, staff, company or products and services.  Avoid self-promoting made-up stories.

2. Tailor messages to the audience of a specific news vehicle. Don’t create another blanket mail piece.

3. Use clear and accurate terminology.  Do not use insider lingo.

4. Focus on benefits for your audience. 

5. Make it clear how your readers can take action and why your news release is important. Otherwise – who cares?

6. Use quotes from customers and staff. 

7. Be intriguing, yet believable. Do not boast.  Add some spice.

 8. Avoid long news releases – your reader’s time is valuable too.

Holiday Eating Tips for Small Business Owners

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I received an email filled with holiday eating tips. I don’t know who the author is, so I can’t give proper credit, but I would like to share these tips with you. If you don’t like gravy and pies or if you are on a strict diet – these tips are not for you.

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a  holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact,  if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re  serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare..  You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going  to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

 3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

 4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with  skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

 5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

 6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after  circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that  vat of eggnog.

  7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa,  position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can  before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

 8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.  Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

 10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention.  Re-read tips, start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.  Remember this motto to live by:

  “Life should NOT be a journey to the  grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved  body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly  used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

 

 

Small Business is Always In a Marketing Wheel

loop.jpgwheel.jpgI was recently asked to explain the concept of “marketing wheel”.  I had to stop and think.  For a moment, I thought of a steering wheel that helps entrepreneurs stay on course, but then remembered that there was no need to “reinvent the wheel”, there is a term like “marketing wheel”.  I prefer to call it a “marketing loop” instead as it seems to be a never-ending process.

First, discover and get to know your ideal customer and your marketing environment.

Secondly, customize your product or service to address your ideal customer’s needs without forgetting your marketing environment. Don’t forget to observe and learn from your competition!

Then you create marketing messages that grab attention, motivate and move your ideal prospects towards making a purchase. This phase can be longer than expected and some “fish” that take your bait need to be thrown back into the water…

Close the sale, but don’t stop there.  Customer service starts at this point. If you do it right, the initial sale may lead into repeat business and referrals.

Talk to your customers to find out what they need and want. Use your findings to improve your products and services as well as marketing messages.

Then do the same thing over and over…..Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Loop!

Dont’ become a victim of Wheel of Marketing Misfortune.

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Skills

In tough economic times, customers may be feeling more pain than you know. They want to feel better, and you can help. Show how your product or service can solve a problem or improve their bottom line.

* Making more money for yourself should not be your goal. Making yourself the best you can be is a better choice.

* Be happy even when you can’t get an appointment or close the sale. Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, consultant to 50 of the top Fortune 100 companies, says rejection allows the game to continue. Send a gift to the one who turned you down and you will be remembered.

* Prepare. Know what your prospect will say and what your response will be. Study your prospects and their operation so you know the answers.

* Speak in a natural conversational way. If you memorize a script, you may come across as dull. Be prepared, and you will be able to improvise on the spot.

* Make a connection if there is an opportunity. Master small talk.

* Know that sales are not entirely based on the logic and intelligence of the prospect.

* Believe in the benefits your product or service will provide. Think of what the product or service will do and love it.

Best salespeople I know are all good communicators, they love people and know how to handle rejection.