Creating a Memorable Buying Experience This Small Business Season
What is one benefit your brick-and-mortar business has over online sellers?
This is an important question to ask to get more people to shop small or shop local this holiday season. When someone can grab their phone and purchase a gift quicker than it takes to find a parking space, why should they buy in person?
One thing you can provide that they’ll never get online is a magical shopping experience. And since we’ve all heard how important experiences are these days, it’s time you start thinking about the experience you are (or could be) providing.
Creating a Memorable Buying Experience This Holiday Season
According to American Express, 86% of customers polled admitted they would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience. So, in addition to raking in those shop small customers, you could be justifying a price increase as well.
How do you get started providing a memorable experience? At the beginning, of course.
A Functioning Website
This may seem counter intuitive but part of providing an excellent customer experience (even for in-person shopping/buying) is by creating a functional, well-updated website. Some people will still use search to find you, figure out if you’re open, what you sell, and whether they can get what they want from your business by visiting your website before they plan an in-person visit.
If your website is confusing, outdated, or doesn’t host important information critical to answering their buying question, they may skip an in-person visit.
A Welcoming Business Storefront
The holiday season is the perfect time to shine. Decorate whatever portions of your business’ exterior and road-visible interior you can (keeping municipal rules in mind, of course) to attract customers.
Just as working on curb appeal can make your home more interesting to a potential buyer, creating a welcoming storefront can bring customers in.
Delightful Smells or a Reason to Linger
You want to move people past the first few feet of your business and into the interior. After all, they’re likely not going to pull out their wallet on your doorstep. When setting up your display, or thinking about your traffic flow, give them a reason to move deeper inside. You can use delightful holiday smells (liked freshly baked cookies) or entrancing holiday lights toward the back of your business.
A Friendly Greeting and a Presumptive Close
Greet every potential customer with a smile and a welcome. Tell them what your specials are or ask them a specific question like “Do you like sugar cookies?” followed by a presumptive close such as, “We just pulled a tray out of the oven. How many should I bring you?” The presumptive close is always a good way to get engagement. Even if they ultimately turn you down, you get them talking. If you simply say, “let me know if I can help you find something,” you’re not inviting anything more than an “okay” or nod.
Ever notice how an unexpected nicety impacts your whole day? Even something small like a smile from a stranger can bolster your mood.
The same is true when shopping small. Do something more for your customers. Place their item in a colorful gift bag, package an extra special morsel of goodness with their leftovers. Look for small ways to make an impression on them.
A Big Helper
Creating an amazing experience will increase customer loyalty and customer reviews. It may even cause customers to buy/spend more. But your efforts will be more widely noticed if you partner with a larger organization to help you get the word out. Your local chamber of commerce, visitor’s bureau, or city may have a Small Business Season campaign that can make your holiday season (and marketing efforts) even more magical while also benefitting your customers.
These organizations likely have their own Small Business Season customer experience such as a passport challenge for prizes or a Shop Local bingo card. Becoming a part of their program adds to the fun experience you are creating on your own.
Don’t settle for a single “Shop Small” day. Look for ways to improve the buying experience for potential customers throughout the entire holiday season. After all, when online retailers refer to customer experience, they’re talking about ease of navigation and clicks. When brick-and-mortar businesses talk customer experience, they’re referring to making memories and creating special times for their customers.
In-person always has the potential for more fun than something that relies on an internet connection. Capitalize on that this holiday season.
Hey Guys!! Lessons from Influencers
When my friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter was approached by a major brand to be an influencer for them, I knew things were changing. Cynically, I wondered what did a thirteen-year-old or any kid have that a brand wanted? The obvious answer is a young following that can easily be led to make purchases. But just what are these influencers doing to build their audiences and how can we get a little of that for our own businesses without directly hiring them?
5.5 Epic Lessons from Influencers
No, they’re not really epic but that is your first half lesson from influencers—everything is amazing, epic, awesome, fantabulous, extreme, thick, or whatever other word describes something in a totally over the top way. Our English teachers used to call it hyperbole and influencers use it A LOT!!!!! (Along with an extraordinary amount of exclamation points. You can take or leave that lesson, but it definitely gets people excited about what you’re excited about.)
Be yourself, whoever that is. If you are the forgetful mom, let it show on camera. If you love to tell cheesy jokes, tell away. Let people into your life. Share things with them. Show your personality. Help them get to know, like, and trust you. Soon they will start caring about you and asking about more than your product or service. One of our local weathermen shares his “addiction” to a certain soda and he gets both applause (from those who agree) and comments (from those who think it’s terrible for his health). Either way, he receives a ton of engagement every time he takes a picture of his drink and shares it with his audience.
That’s when you know your brand is part of their life.
Influencers use their phones for videos, and they do quick takes, using maybe only a filter or two and a couple of quick edits. What they create is not overly produced in a studio. (But you do want good lighting and sound quality.)
Part of the fun in these videos is feeling like you’ve been invited behind the scenes and into their office or home. Don’t stress with hours of editing. Go live and embrace the experience. So what if your kid or your dog wanders into the shot. Those types of “mistakes” are endearing to most audiences.
I hate to say it, but in today’s world, copying really is the highest form of flattery. Now, that does not mean plagiarizing. That’s still a no-no. But it’s okay to copy an idea. For instance, if you see someone do a cute video with a Halloween theme and you want to do the same for your business, go ahead. (Just use your own script). Take a look at TikTok. That whole site is predicated on copying other people’s ideas. In fact, a recent Applebee’s commercial used a TikTok format, although I’m sure Applebee’s was forced to clear the rights to use the song, unlike the TikTokers. Speaking of…
One word of caution: keep in mind things like song lyrics and book passages are subject to copyright laws. While the teenager down the street might be able to get away with a moving rendition of “Let It Go” on TikTok, know that Disney won’t be as understanding when you use it as a jingle for your dry cleaning company.
Make the Ask
Every YouTuber, Instagrammer, and other video producer does one thing on EVERY video (besides saying “Hey guys” as part of their intro). They ask you to subscribe and like their videos. They are unabashedly determined to get that and will offer to do a crazy stunt when they get to a certain number of likes. Sometimes they give something away.
They ask for the like even when the videos are so bad, I wouldn’t ask my own mother for it. These influencers understand the power of the audience and most people are conditioned to do what’s asked of them, especially when it’s as easy as clicking.
Hashtags help people find you, but they can also serve as a form of entertainment and snarky comments. Use them for both. And don’t forget the theme hashtags like #TBT, which stands for Throwback Thursday. This ingenious hashtag can be used to share a funny glimpse into what you (or your business) used to be. It can be a great way to get some laughs and to educate your audience on how things have changed.
Businesses can learn a lot from influencers. While you may not be able to hire influencers yourself (it’s not always in the budget), you can use how they operate and amass large followings to make stronger connections with your audience.
Improve Your Networking Results with a Four-Point Plan
If you joined the chamber to meet new people, grow your network, and get more customers, you’re on the right track. But do you have a plan to make the most of your time investment? If not, you need one.
What Am I Doing Here? Map Out an Effective Networking Plan
There may be many reasons you’re interested in that networking event. First, ask yourself who it is you want to meet. Are you there for:
- People in your target market
- Vendors that provide services and items you need for business
- Partners or complementary service providers (partnering with the healthy juice bar when you’re a gym, can be mutually beneficial)
- Industry peers for a best practice exchange or referrals
Beth Bridges, the Networking Motivator acclaimed speaker and author of several books on networking, says “A smart networker never goes to a networking event ‘hoping’ to find a prospect. Instead, they will be ready to act on one of several very specific plans that they will have set in advance—or are ready to pivot to—if the event turns out to be something different than they anticipated.”
Here are two potential plans she suggests:
Networking Plan 1: Meet “The one.” If you know who is attending in advance, research and choose one or two people you must absolutely meet. When you walk in the door, tell the host “I am here to meet Pat Vang. Are they here yet?”
Networking Plan 2: Build social capital. Walk into the event with something to offer. An event invite (a private mastermind? an online speed networking event?), a line on a new business opening, or a great webinar (not necessarily yours!). Anything that gives value to other people so that you can build up your social capital with them for future use.
Which brings us to Beth’s third suggestion on how to make the most of your networking time. She advises:
Networking Plan 3: Get a referral or resource. If you don’t have a guest list for the event but know the audience type (i.e. CEOs, accountants, solopreneurs), hone in on a problem that type of person could solve for you with a referral or resource. When meeting someone, your intro remarks end with “I’m here to find someone who knows a good bookkeeper / copywriter / etc.”
But there might be something else you can take away from networking. How about a fourth plan of action?
There’s a group of people you might not be thinking about when it comes to networking. And yet, they may be able to shape your company culture and help you grow much faster than you would’ve expected.
The Fourth Person You’ll Want to Meet
Who are they?
Well, it’s different for everyone.
Networking Plan 4: Find a Solution. Think about the proverbial, “what keeps you up at night?” question. There’s a problem you’re likely struggling with. There’s also a professional, company, or industry out there that has solved your problem. Let’s look at an example from Henry Ford. He wanted to make cars more efficiently, so he instructed his employees to place the car parts in a line on the floor making them easy to access. While that reduced some of the time required, shaving a few hours off the original 12 it took to build a car, there were still hiccups. He thought there had to be a quicker way.
So, he studied flour mills, breweries, and meat packing plants (or maybe he went to a chamber networking mixer and talked to professionals from those industries; who’s to say?). By studying how they mechanized their systems, he used pieces/ideas from each and created the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. He reduced the time it took to manufacture from over 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes!
With that change he could afford to produce cars for less, making them available to a greater number of people. This revolutionized not only his business but car production in general. All because he spent some time thinking about other businesses and their mechanization practices!
I recently talked to a rocket scientist (yes, really) who pulled methodologies from tech companies to learn quickly and fail often. He looked outside of his company to find a way to make his business goals attainable.
At your next networking event, know that there’s someone who has already solved the problem you’re facing. They may not be in the same business or industry but the lessons they learned are likely still applicable.
So, when you’re making a list of networking interests, think about the problems you face and strike up a conversation asking other attendees if they’ve faced the same. You may be pleasantly surprised by the insights and advice they can give you. Plus, that type of in-depth beginning conversation and sharing can lead to much deeper relationships down the line.
4 Things Your Business Should Continue Post-COVID
At some point COVID will be relegated to the same level of concern the flu gets every year. It won’t shutter businesses, alter family celebrations, and be the fuel behind contentious court cases.
Let’s pretend we’re there now.
There are certain conveniences (and necessities) that businesses adapted during COVID that customers have become accustomed to. So, if you’re making plans for a “return to normal” you may just want to reevaluate what that looks like based on your customers’ newly developed expectations.
1. Delivery and Curbside Pick-up
Whether you serve food or sell non-edible items, people have become accustomed to sitting in their cars (or at home) and receiving their goods. Customers love the convenience, the fact that they can come as they are and not worry about what they look like, and can run errands more efficiently.
Delivery and curbside pick-up also save money (even with delivery fees and tips) when it comes to ordering items like groceries because it cuts down on impulse buys. To ensure they spend more, you’ll want to use an ordering system (or person answering the phone, if you take orders that way), that makes suggestions that they may also enjoy. Don’t miss the opportunity for upsells.
2. Working from Home
Many businesses that initially allowed working from home are calling people back in at the time of this writing. But in a highly competitive employment market, where there are more openings than interested applicants, you may want to think twice about requiring full-time in-office only work.
There are many cost savings in allowing employees to work from home. You may even be able to downsize your office space. And there may still be those people who want in-person work arrangements but not everyone will.
Don’t feel like you must decide between home or office. The best answer for your business may be a hybrid result.
3. Online Options
If you weren’t selling online before you probably are now. But even service providers who may have found it difficult to sell online upped their video, podcast, and content marketing strategies for greater online success.
If you embraced more digital marketing activities, keep it up. If you still haven’t, it’s (past) time. People want to interact with you at their convenience—and sometimes that’s after you’ve gone home for the day. Keep your business open (to them) with more online channels.
4. Giving People Options
We’re still working through this business lesson, but one thing that keeps surfacing throughout COVID is the idea that opinions should be respected and options should be given. No one appreciates being given orders, whether they are for their own good or not. Innovative businesses need to find ways to connect with customers on their terms. This is not a mask or no mask/vaccine or no vaccine debate. Those are details. This is about larger employment or customer rights.
Arguments over freedoms versus safety have brought up a lot of interesting discussions. Businesses should expect that while the details may change, the larger question about decisions and rights will echo well into the future. College courses will someday be taught on the subject. Innovative business owners may want to consider how these types of conversations will shape their organizations in the future from who they hire to what they request of them, from who they target from a marketing perspective to how they reach them.
COVID changed what we valued and took for granted. It has also altered business in many ways. Some ways are obvious, while others will become conversations that will continue far into the future.
What will you continue when COVID is but a memory?
15 Ideas for Increasing Your Revenue Quickly
The past eighteen months have certainly not been something they taught us in business school. It started with a global pandemic and mandatory lockdowns of non-essential businesses, then erupted in costs of goods and services skyrocketing, only to complete this craziness with an employee shortage, and rent and real estate costs going through the roof for most areas of the country.
If you’re like most businesses, you’re probably looking for ways to increase your revenue. Here are some things you can do right now as well as a few other ideas you can start implementing for long-term increases.
15 Ways to Make More Money at Your Business
- Raise your prices. Businesses of all types are being forced to do this because their costs are increasing. Most people, while they dislike it, realizing it’s necessary.
- Train your employees on upsells. It’s easier to sell to someone who’s already buying than to create a convert of someone who knows little about you.
- Keep track of what each customer buys. Use data on customer purchases to reach out to them with applicable discounts, sales, new products, or services they would probably like based on past purchases.
- Add a service to your goods or goods to your services. If you sell furniture paint, offer a paint service. If you paint furniture, sell a line of paint for DIYers or those who can’t afford your service.
- Host a class. If it’s specific and helpful enough you can charge for it.
- Become an affiliate for another business. If there’s something you buy often or a business you refer people to, ask the business if they have an affiliate program.
- Start a side hustle. There are a lot of things you can do to bring in additional revenue that have no start-up costs and can bring in more money. You can start a personal side hustle or try incorporating one into your existing business.
- Consult or coach. Tell people how to do what you do and charge them for it.
- Start a Kickstarter campaign. Okay, so this isn’t a solid stream of revenue, but it can help you create one by producing something you’ve always wanted to produce but haven’t had the time or capital to do it.
- Start a membership program. Charge people for access to you or priority service from your business or any other type of membership.
- Create a subscription or sample box. You can do this on your own or with other businesses in your area.
- Host a contest with an entry fee. Yes, you’ll need to line up a prize for winners, but if it’s a broad reaching contest, you could make money with an entry fee.
- Host a camp or overnight. Depending on your business, you may be able to turn your business into a camp over holidays or the summer or even host a special overnight. Meet with an insurance professional to understand the liability involved. You can also offer classes to homeschool students. Remember camps don’t have to be for kids.
- Create a challenge. You may be able to create a directed challenge and charge a fee for several weeks of training or services.
- Sell more items online. Or start selling online if you haven’t already.
Most of these ideas can help you bring in money right away. Another way to do that—although it doesn’t increase your revenue per se—is to change your billing structure if you’re a service provider. You can collect more upfront and less upon the completion of services. Plus, now is the perfect time to roll out these ideas as people understand the struggles businesses have these days.
5 Fun Fall Themes for Your Business
Fall is a favorite among many people. The temps are enjoyable, weather is crisp and clear, and the smell of leaves can be intoxicating. That’s what makes this season such a hit with marketers. Here are a few fall themes you can incorporate into your business for more engagement with your target audience.
Fun Fall Marketing Themes
Use these themes to inspire your newsletter, blog posts, contests, social media posts, business interior, offerings, and more.
It seems like every year it starts earlier and earlier, but people really clamor over pumpkin. From coffee creamer to cake, people can’t get enough of this colorful gourd.
Incorporate pumpkin flavoring, host a pumpkin design contest, or even make fun of the fact that you’re offering a pumpkin option (like pumpkin rinse for clogged pipes, if you’re a plumber).
Hate pumpkin? That’s okay too. Share that with your audience and invite them to ring in. You may be surprised on the level of engagement you receive.
Back to School
There’s more to back-to-school then just the first day. As students get settled in at all levels, it’s a good way to connect with students or their adult guardians.
Play up why your business is a favorite among students or their parents. Host a back-to-school bash, sale, or image contest or join in during homecoming festivities.
Harvest Time and Gratefulness
Whether you’re celebrating good harvests of local food, the hard work of the agriculture industry, or how important it is to feel grateful, there are many ways to use this theme to get your audience’s attention.
Share what you are grateful for. Ask questions about favorite foods. Tell the story of where your food comes from (if that’s what you sell). Highlight the farm-to-table story.
From tailgating to homecoming, there are many ways to celebrate this sport and the excitement that goes along with it.
Spotlight local players, ask people who they think will win, rename some of your offerings (temporarily) based on team names, be a sponsor of a local team. Run specials and discounts based on game points or wins. Give your audience something (else) to cheer about.
Fall colors are amazing. There are vacationers who plan trips around those magnificent oranges, reds, and yellows. Plus, there’s the inviting glow of the hearth. Fall makes for great decoration ideas for your business as it’s a very cozy time. Fall is an invitation to come in and you can use the same in your marketing.
Share recipes, favorite scents, favorite books, and color updates of the leaves in your area (if applicable).
Fall is a beloved season, and you can use it to get closer with people in your ideal market. There are many options under each of these themes. Brainstorm some creative uses and you’ll make a big impression on your customers and future customers.
13 Important Things You Need to Hear as a Business Owner
Our metal has certainly been tested this year. Many are fatigued and stressed juggling responsibilities, worries, and fear like they were part of the job description.
But this is not sustainable.
You may feel crushed by the weight of the world right now. Maybe your friends and family don’t quite understand what you’re going through because they aren’t a business owner. Perhaps you’ve created the perfect life on social media, and no one knows the struggles that make up your day and eat away at your confidence and security.
But your chamber of commerce does. They’ve been there. They are business owners/business professionals, and they know what you’re going through. Most people think about the business resources and networking they provide but forget that they are always looking out for businesses and the struggles of businesspeople. Being the voice of business also means understanding the internal hardships of business owners. The chamber’s vast business experience may help you feel more part of a tribe.
The chamber is also here to remind you that as a business owner, your skills, drive, and knowledge are critical to your business but so is your health and wellness.
13 Things Every Business Owner Needs to Hear
All business owners need to hear these things, especially now:
- It is okay to put yourself in time out. Use this time to recharge or think about the direction of your business. You can’t do either of these things under pressure. You are not a diamond. Schedule time away, off the grid, even if only for an hour. Focus on one area that’s not working and how you might improve things. Then create an action plan and schedule your tactics that will get you to your goal. Or better yet, take that time and decompress by doing absolutely nothing.
- Trust your intuition but weigh all sides. Discuss it with people who have experience in the area or the things you are considering. That generally means not your spouse, nor your friends.
- Take the calculated risks. No risk, no growth.
- You can make a living doing anything if you take the right approach and the timing is right. Choose what you love, and you will have a more fulfilling career. Never choose safety as a career path because sometimes the safe path isn’t safe. And if that’s the only reason you chose it, you’re left with nothing.
- If you need help, ask. But you’ll be more successful if you ask the people who are able to help.
- “No” is an acceptable answer. No excuse (or reason) required.
- Timing is important but persistence usually pays off. Hang in there.
- You set your priorities. If you feel out of control, and someone else dictates everything for you, you have given them that power (that includes your kids and pets).
- Schedule time for “oxygen” moments that provide the breath that fuels the fire in your soul. Recharge with the care that you give your cell phone.
- Everyone is on their own path. If you don’t declare them as a dependent on your taxes or you can’t be held accountable for their actions in a court of law, respect their process and respect yours also.
- You can’t make everyone happy, but you can exhaust yourself trying. Pick what you’re good at, who it serves well, and do that. Don’t be a salad at McDonalds.
- You are always in control of how you respond to a situation even if you can’t control anything else.
- If it’s important to you, find a way. If it’s not, be honest about that with others and with yourself. Admit that it’s not on your life’s “strategic plan” and move on.
Remember, mental health and wellness are not luxuries. You deserve them. Just as you take care of the tools you need to conduct business, you need to take care of yourself.
Keep this list and refer to it. There’s nothing on here that isn’t common sense but sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else.
How to Take Your Customer Relationship to the Next Level
Do you want to wow your existing customers? Are you ready to take your “relationship” with them to the next level? Then it may be time to grab your data and do some personalized marketing.
What You Need
To get your customers’ attention, you need to have tools in place to measure things like buying frequency and purchase history. You’ll also want your customers’ email addresses.
If you don’t have that, start collecting it. If you do, let’s talk about how you can use it to drive additional sales.
Selling to existing, repeat customers is one of the easiest ways to increase sales. They already love you. But even people who love you and your products/services can forget to buy from you, especially if you sell a product or service that is want based, not need based, like a restaurant.
You will find it necessary at some point to remind your customers of their love for you. A personalized email is ideal for this.
Components of a Standout Personalized Reminder Email
When some business owners think about “personalized” emails, they think of form fields that insert names.
But we’re moving beyond that.
This type of reminder email speaks to your personalized relationship with your customer, making it a whole lot more effective in driving sales than simply referring to someone’s name. In addition to using their name, you want to include:
Don’t include everything they’ve ever bought. That may be overwhelming, and they may decide they’ve spent too much money with you. Instead, highlight what they bought most often.
“You sure do like our decadent chocolate shake, maybe almost as much as we like having you as a customer. Wouldn’t today be the perfect day to order one? Mmmmm. Chocolate.”
Drive those impulse buys.
Suggest other things they may love next time they’re buying from you. Point out how convenient, popular, or valuable your other offerings are.
“You know what one of our most popular services is? Eyebrow waxing. We tame most of the brows in town and that service is the perfect complement to the highlights you already love. In fact, the waxing can be done while your color cures. That way you leave with gorgeous hair and a refined look with no additional time out of your day. Just what you need, right?”
More Ways to Love You
In the email, suggest more ways to love your services or products. End the email with a call to action. This could be an invitation to stop in, coupon for their next visit, an invitation to try a new location, sharing ways to connect on social, or a picture of their favorite item or service and a “we miss you” invitation. This message will get them thinking about you again and drive more sales. Remember to use evocative imagery in your close so that they can’t help but come see you soon.
Remaining top of mind is critical to getting more sales from loyal customers. Giving them a little “friendly reminder” email is free and will help you stay connected.
Don’t Open a Business Before Answering These Questions
These days a lot of people are considering business ownership. Whether you buy into a franchise, lease some space and start your own thing, or log onto the internet and begin building an ecommerce website, doing it on your own has never been more alluring. But just because you have an incredible skill or access to cheap goods does not mean you’re ready to open the doors to your own business.
Starting a business without a strong foundation can hinder your sales. If you open your doors prematurely, you risk making a bad first impression or targeting the wrong audience. That can be hard to recover from. Before you hang that open sign and put out your welcome mat, ensure you know the answers to the following questions.
What Makes You/Your Business Unique?
Unless you hold the patent to a never-before-seen product, it’s likely you’re opening a business that already exists. This is not an affront to your abilities or genius. You are probably doing something that is already offered somewhere. If you’re fortunate, it doesn’t exist in your town or area. But you likely have some sort of competition for what you’re offering to do or sell.
So how do you entice customers to come to your business instead of that of your competitors?
You need to identify and communicate what makes you different. Many people claim their customer service sets them apart. Spend some time watching ads or reading them in your stream on social media. You’ll realize that service is not a unique selling point. Everyone thinks they offer it.
Your unique selling point could be your sales environment, a guaranty, a pricing offer (although that’s a slippery slope to underbidding), something about how you perform your service, or what’s included with the purchase.
Once you know what makes you unique, you want to create a plan to communicate that to your ideal audience.
Who Are You Selling To?
If you just answered everyone, you’re wasting your time and money. There’s at least one group of people—hopefully several—who understand, need, and want what you’re selling. Marketing to the rest of the world is a waste of resources. For instance, if you own a yarn store and you market specifically to people who love fabric arts and knitting, you will most likely bring in new customers. However, marketing to those who prefer active, physical hobbies may only get you a handful of clicks on your ads. Those clicks likely will not convert to sales. Focus on those you know you’ll have success with (your target market) before you consider converting others.
What Problems Are You Solving and Are They Worth It?
Most marketing gurus will tell you that you need to focus on a problem and present your business as the solution.
But that advice is only the beginning.
It’s expensive to offer the solution to a problem that most people don’t realize they have or the problem doesn’t bother them enough to seek a solution for it.
Some entrepreneurs will argue that if you call attention to a problem someone didn’t realize they had (and you fix it) they will become loyal customers. But this is a magical equation.
There still must be a need that they feel bothered enough (once they know about it) to seek action on it.
I’m reminded of an episode of Shark Tank where a married couple lamented the problem of strands of her hair sticking to the shower walls (and eventually washing down the drain). To remedy this, they created a shower brush. They used it to brush the hair off the shower walls. The hair then became trapped in the brush’s bristles, and it could be disposed of easily after the shower without clogging the drain.
None of the Sharks invested. Why? The product solved a problem. Sadly, it was a problem no one was inconvenienced enough by to be spurred into action.
Who Is Supporting You?
It’s important to answer this question from a financial perspective, but it’s more important to think about this from a mental health and business resources perspective. You will be more successful in business if you have support of friends or family or someone within the community who can mentor you and help you with resources. When Jeff Bezos wanted to build a larger bed, his mother didn’t stop him. In fact, she took him to the hardware store and helped him get the pieces he needed to create the sleeping area he had dreamed of. She supported his vision when she could have just gone out and bought him a new bed. You need someone like that in your corner when you decide to become a business owner.
In addition to someone who will support your vision, you need someone to help connect you with resources and introduce you to people who can make a difference in your business. Your chamber of commerce is the perfect solution. The chamber offers learning opportunities, networking events, and advocacy for businesses. In your quest to find support, it should be one of your first stops.
If you’re looking to start your own business, answer these questions first. If you’re someone who’s already started a business, what questions do you wish you had asked before opening?
Take the Friction Out of Doing Business with You
Do you want more customers? Then you need to remove the friction behind doing business with you. Even if you have great customer service, support, and sales, you may have unknown friction that exists before you see the face of your customer. Luckily, you can smooth that out with content. Here are two problems you need to solve to take the guesswork out of doing business with you.
Problem 1: You Don’t Know They’re Interested
There are several studies out there that will tell you anywhere from 40-76% of a buying decision is made before a potential customer visits your business in person. The average person performs virtual research on your website, review sites, social media, and a host of other places before they even consider doing business with you. They’re performing this same due diligence with your competition.
Content Solution: You want to identify the potential customer as soon as possible so you can start interacting with them. The easiest way to do this is through a downloadable lead generator. The lead generator must be something they need/want because they will be providing their email to receive it and will have to agree to receiving marketing messaging from you.
If you can nurture them (with additional valuable content) and help them get to know your business, you’re more likely to entice them into wanting to buy from you.
Problem 2: The Unknown
It’s likely you have potential customers out there who may be interested in your offerings but there’s some hesitation. There’s something they’re worried about. Most people aren’t adventurous when it comes to spending money. But this hesitation can easily be smoothed over with some content.
- Be honest about who your business serves. This is not a call to appeal to everyone. For instance, I don’t want to go to an aerial yoga studio that caters to 18-year-old Olympians. None of us will enjoy ourselves. You don’t want to give the impression your business or service is perfect for everyone, and everyone is welcome. While everyone may be welcome in a legal sense, there are some types of people who will love your business and others that won’t be a good fit. Don’t feel the need to cater to this latter group because if you do–and they don’t enjoy themselves—they may give your business a bad review. If your gym caters to ninja warriors, don’t market to couch potatoes.
- Offer testers, trials, and other ways to try you out. Sometimes people need a freebie or deeply discounted opportunity to try out your offerings before they can commit to writing a check or handing over their money. Make sure that your trial or sample comes along with next steps and sets expectations for them if they choose to be a customer/client.
- Go for feeling. It’s not (just) about what you’re selling. It’s about how people feel when buying from you. The experience is as important as the good or service. It’s also (often) the differentiator or unique selling proposition. For instance, many people felt good about buying from TOMs shoes because they donated a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair sold. (It looks like these days they give 1/3 of proceeds to “grassroots good.”). People didn’t buy them because they were the most beautiful shoes, nor the cheapest. They made the purchase because it made them feel like they were doing something for someone else. But you don’t have to be super altruistic to encourage people to buy from you. However, you should provide them with some emotion or experience. “Squad shopping,” for instance, became popular during COVID. Many online merchants encouraged people to shop with their friends online giving them the experience of going to the mall together. This not only makes people feel good about your business but encourages more sales (hurray peer pressure!).
If you want to increase your sales, you need to remove the friction behind doing business with you. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think when you create content around addressing major concerns.
4 Email Marketing Ideas to Steal from Big Brands
Have you ever watched a Superbowl commercial and thought, “If I had a budget as big as that company I could make the best commercial.”? It’s easy to assume a large budget means a lot more possibilities and I won’t argue that.
Big brands can afford to hire the best and the brightest marketers out there. And that’s why you can learn a lot from them. But what they do isn’t always out of reach. In fact, there are many ways to copy what they do for very little (if any) money.
Email marketing, for instance, is a level playing field these days. It takes very little money to build an email list and begin nurturing customers and potential customers.
Here are a few ideas stolen from big brands that you can easily adopt in your business for stronger conversions.
If you have an online community, blog, or other place where exciting things are occurring around your brand, you don’t want anyone to miss the action. But none of us are online all the time. Even those of us who spend a lot of time online may miss something due to busy days or algorithms that aren’t quite in tune with what we deem important.
That’s why sending a periodic summary email of top discussions, important Q&As, or hot happenings can go a long way in engaging your audience. Keep the emails brief with headlines, 1–2-line teasers, and links back to the action.
Use your marketing software to keep track of what links are clicked and what information is important to whom. It can help you better customize future emails and create more content that your audience is interested in.
Customize Your Message
If you send emails to a lot of people, don’t send the same one to everyone unless everyone on your list is interested in the same thing. Look at your data and customize a message for targeted groups within your larger group. This type of targeting makes people feel like you know exactly what they need, and they will be more prone to act on your suggestions in the future. For instance, I live in Florida, and I recently received a weekly flyer email from Walgreens. Because I live in one of the COVID hotspots right now, Walgreens placed a red banner at the top of my sales flyer email reminding me that my area is experiencing “high COVID 19 rates” and it invited me to schedule a COVID test today.
Use More Effective Buttons
If you use buttons in your email, give some thought to the language you use on them. What is it you want the button clicker to do? What will motivate them to action?
“Learn more” is probably one of the most common phrases used, and because of this, it is no longer as effective at driving action. If you have someone who’s dying to know more, they will click the button. But if you have someone who’s not quite curious yet “learn more” isn’t going to persuade them to do anything.
A recent email I received from Mindvalley used the button “I want better health habits.” This is effective for several reasons. It focuses on my needs and desires. And it flips a switch in my mind that I am already on a path to my end goal. It causes my brain to think “Mindvalley helped me” before I even clicked on the button to learn more about their resources.
Get Into Your Customer’s Mind
Thinking about what your customers are doing in their lives and wrapping your marketing message around that can be an incredible way to increase conversions and sales.
For example, what do people often do in the summer? They go on vacation. How do they get there? Many people drive. Summer is synonymous with road trips.
Chick-fil-a used this idea in a recent email I received from them. The email reminded me that their nuggets are the perfect addition to my summer road trip and the email invited me to find a nearby location to place my order. The button directed me right to their app so I could find a restaurant and place my order.
Chick-fil-a also sends me emails right before lunch (and at the time most people are on their way home from work) reminding me how good their chicken would be for my next meal. Anticipating my needs catapults them to (my) top of mind, making me more likely to buy.
You don’t need a large budget to succeed in email marketing, but you can learn a lot from those who do.
Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.
5 Types of Effective Storytelling for Your Business
Do you watch America’s Got Talent? Or how about American Idol? The Olympics? The MLB All-star Game?
These competitions all have something in common.
They tell stories. If you watch them, none of them are solid, hours upon hours of broadcasted competition. Mixed in with commercials and the performances, the producers choose to interlace storytelling because it’s relatable. It draws people in. Storytelling can take a good performance and turn it into something we think about for the rest of the day.
You can do this for your business too. You can turn an average experience into something amazing when your audience knows where you are coming from with storytelling.
Telling your business story is not (just) about how you started and where you came from, nor should it always be about how awesome you are (highlight how you help people and how awesome they are. Check out “>Modelo beer commercials for a good example of this.).
Effective business storytelling keeps telling stories throughout your content, so you’ll need more than one story to keep people interested.
Here are a few ideas to add to your content. Keep in mind business storytelling should never be fiction. If you haven’t experienced the type of stories listed below, skip over them. You don’t want to tell your audience something that isn’t true for the sake of crafting a moving story.
5 Types of Effective Storytelling for Your Business
Americans love an underdog, a come from behind triumph. Whether it’s David and Goliath or the story of the tortoise and the hare, we want to believe that with hard work and dedication you can beat the odds. Share how you have overcome a huge hurtle to be the success you are now.
We all face heartbreak. Sometimes it’s in the form of a lost love or the death of someone close. How did that heartbreak motivate you in your business? Maybe your grandparent passed away and left you money to start a business because they believed in you. Or maybe you realized your gift after the death of a loved one forced you in that direction to support your family like writer Mary Higgins Clark did.
Whatever your heartbreak was that motivated you, people identify with heartbreak and are inspired by picking up after it and rebuilding a life. You never know who needs to hear that message.
What setback have you undergone in business? Did you have to close during the pandemic? Did you sell something like your home to open a second location? What gamble did you take in business that paid off? Or what gamble did you take that didn’t pay off, but you learned from it?
People love to know that success is not a linear path. To hear of the ups and downs is encouraging and inspirational. It helps people identify with you. Everyone assumes an overnight success but it’s nice to know when it isn’t.
The Magic Lucky Break
What happened in your life to give you the big break? Maybe you got to where you were because you hung in there but maybe there was also some magical luck that propelled you to success.
Maybe you were behind everyone else only to become top of the world later on? Even Tom Brady only got a chance to start in high school because his team’s #1 quarterback decided he no longer loved the game moving Tom up a spot. Imagine if that had never happened.
There’s no shame in admitting you got lucky because you were there. After all, you had to hang in there first before the luck could find you. That can be very inspiring for those still waiting for their break.
The Unexpected Path
There are certain paths that are accepted as the norm. For instance, a Joint Chief of Staff attending and graduating with high honors from West Point or someone attending Julliard and becoming a famous actor on Broadway.
What is not expected is a single mom living in a car writing a book that gets rejected from 12 different publishers before getting published, and going on to become the second-highest paid author and one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world.
What path to your life was unexpected? What did you do against the grain? Were you like All-star baseball player Cedric Mullins who sat on a bench most of high school and didn’t start until his senior year?
The interest is in the details. Tell your audience how you got there. Share the frustrations and the heartbreak. Try to give them the inspiration the world so needs right now.
Your story isn’t over. Keep telling it and your audience will listen.
Social Media Is Not Just for Recruiting Customers
For a while, marketers have been telling people how to build relationships with potential customers on social media. They’ve shown them how to nurture a potential customer through the sales cycle to make a buying decision.
And that’s what businesses have been focused on.
But your social networks need to be doing double duty now.
Yes, attracting new customers is important but there’s another great need right now—employees. You need to attract people to work with you and retain those you currently have.
Social media is an incredibly strong way to do this.
Consider the following types of posts to help you be seen as an employer of choice.
Social Media for Hiring and Retention
When it comes to writing posts to get people to work with you, you want to construct a story around what it’s like to work at your business. Keep in mind that every post should inspire, educate, or entertain while sharing interesting parts of your story.
- A day in the life. Take a fun photo and tell a story about what you’re doing. If you can show how you are helping someone else live their best life, even better. That sort of post is contagious.
- Showcase what your business does. That doesn’t mean that you post “we sell widgets.” Talk about how what you do helps others do something even more amazing. For instance, if you sell natural soaps talk about how you help people discover their beauty without all the harsh chemicals. That way they can feel as good about your products as they do about their exercise routines.
- Compliment others. No one said your posts had to be about you. Sometimes telling others how amazing you think another business or person is can go a long way to making people feel good about your business.
- Showcase your employees and why you are lucky to have them. Not only do people enjoy getting to know who you have working for you, this type of “bragging” about your awesome employees shows you are a good person to work for.
- Slide in some perks. If you have cool perks at your job, find a way to post about them. Show your snack cart. Create a TikTok around a parody involving your business day. Use some creativity to showcase why someone would want to work for you.
- Use hashtags. Use hashtags for areas and the types of jobs you’re hiring for.
- Illustrate your unique culture. Take pictures and post about your unique culture. People will want to be a part of it.
- Participate in conversation on places that matter. There are tons of Facebook groups and other places where people are talking on social media. Join in on the conversations and help people. Some will check out where you’re from and they’ll see your company. A community groups is also a good place to post that you’re hiring. But you’ll be more successful attracting a crowd if they already know you when you post.
- Invite employees to post about you too. Give them the parameters of what you want them to address and the hashtags you want them to use. Then encourage them to spread your message.
- Retweet or reshare what others are saying about you. Make image quotes out of reviews. Reply to people who talk about you. Others will see you’re involved in social media and responding. Check out GlassDoor and see what employees have said. Share that, if appropriate.
Social media is a wonderful way to get attention from a recruiting perspective. It helps you stand out and entices people to want to work for you. Remember these days retention and recruiting on social media are just as important as bringing in new customers.
6 Things Your Blog Should Be Doing for Your Business
Even with all the changes in technology, the increase in the popularity of videos and podcasts, and the growing disinterest in reading (for some), blogs still have a place in business.
Your business blog should be one of your hardest working marketing tools. Let’s talk about why:
No matter how many tags you place on your video, or your image, or your podcast, search engines still love words. Your blog is the perfect way to ensure the proper keywords people would use to find your business are incorporated on your website. Using these keywords in important places on your blog like headers and titles as well as peppered in through the content and image tags can help you organically place for the words that are important to you.
A New Side of You
Your business likely has a tone for its marketing copy. Your blog is a place where you can stretch that tone a little bit and help people get to know you and your employees better. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Blogs are an excellent method to help people feel all those things for your business.
Your blog can also show a side of your business that others (outside of employees) don’t normally see. This is the type of thing that people like to buy into. Customers want to support companies they believe in, and your blog is a great way to tell your story and convey other information that is not all business.
Websites can be updated instantaneously with ever-evolving content. But while you may not change out your content on your home page every day, you can add new content to your blog. That way people who visit your website are seeing something new on a regular basis.
This also shows that there’s someone behind the website. Have you ever gone to a website, saw some outdated content, and wondered if the business was still in business? If you have an active blog, people won’t wonder that about you. They will see that you are posting actively and engaging with your audience.
Lead Generation and Nurturing
If you are the kind of business that has a lengthy sales process, one where people do not make an instantaneous purchasing decision, your blog can be an excellent source of content while you nurture your future customer into making a buying decision.
You can also use your blog to introduce a lead magnet. This lead magnet can be used to create a subscriber list for lead generation and more nurturing. Lead magnets and blog interest can provide excellent insights into what your audience finds valuable.
As you build your audience, you can use your blog as another source of revenue. You can charge businesses with complementary services to be listed on your blog as advertisers or you can use affiliate links when you’re referring your blog readers to other products and services. Some bloggers make a lot of money doing these things.
Authority and Shaping the Conversation
A blog is the perfect stage to convince someone that you are an authority in your industry or area of expertise. You can use this platform to educate and inspire.
It can also be a very effective tool to shape the conversation and carve out important points of the sales process. For instance, you can write blog posts on important questions to ask during the sales process or important things to look for as they shop for what you sell. Since you are creating the blog post you can shape the most important points to your advantage. You simply must be able to point out why your product or service is superior based on the qualifications you’re suggesting they pay attention to. A carpet cleaner for example may suggest their dry process of cleaning is better than a steam clean/wet solution. The carpet cleaning company could devote an entire blog post to why dry beats wet. If someone searches the question, “which is best dry or wet carpet cleaning?,” the blog post should come up and their expertise would be made available to this person.
Blogs aren’t dead. While there are tons of media options available to you, none of them have replaced the blog yet. Some people have started blogging on social media but the problem with this is that you don’t own the property. If Facebook labels you an anarchist or your page is flagged for any other reason, you could lose all your content. Your business blog on your website, on the other hand, will continue to bring you customers if you build its content with your customers and their needs in mind.
Free (or nearly so) Training for Your Employees
Brownie Wise (the saleswoman behind the success of Tupperware) said, “If you want to build a business, build the people.” This is incredibly important but now more than ever. With the hiring shortage going on, you must do something to make your business stand out and helping potential employees understand they can have a career with you (or at least feel valued while they are there) can be the difference between going with you or deciding to work elsewhere.
But how do you “build the people”? Training can be costly and who has the time or money for that? Believe it or not, there are a lot of free resources out there. Here are just a few:
7 Avenues for Free (or almost free) Training for Employees
To the best of our knowledge, each of these options is free. However, there may be a minimal cost with some specialized trainings.
If you want to check out a subscription course offering, there’s LinkedIn Learning. After your free month trial, there’s a $19.95 per month fee for unlimited access to their courses. Courses include advanced work on popular software like Office and Google as well as technical things like learning coding languages such as Python.
Assuming you want free (or nearly so), here’s a great list of options:
The Chamber of Commerce
If you belong to the chamber of commerce in your area, those benefits extend to your employees. If the chamber offers webinars, meet and greets, or lunch and learns, you can (and should) encourage your employees to attend these free (or heavily discounted) ways to learn and get to know others in the community.
SBA and other Business Groups
The Small Business Association and other local business groups offer free training periodically. Sign up for their newsletters or check out their website to see what webinars are available. SBA also has free business counseling for you if you’re a small business owner.
You may assume that the courses on YouTube would be conducted by fame-seeking teenagers but that’s simply not the case. There are a lot of good resources available on this channel. You could create a playlist of videos and share it with your marketing team/person, for instance.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
You probably knew by now that MIT offers free online classes but what you may not have realized is that it’s not all science related. They have plenty of business courses too. Check out the ones on entrepreneurship.
You might be surprised the kind of things you can learn in a TedTalk. While they may not teach direct skills, they teach ways to think and reframe problems that can be advantageous in a lot of roles. Your employees may also learn stronger empathy through watching a few of these.
Make a list of what you’d like your employees to learn and then set them free to find no-cost instruction. For instance, there’s a course on supply chain management, corporate finance, and digital marketing. Some even come with certifications.
Lots of great courses here including SEO for Beginners (who couldn’t use that?) and several marketing courses. Good information that every business can use.
There are plenty of free training options out there for your staff. The difficulty is in giving them the time for professional development. Offering the courses won’t do you any good if they don’t take them, so make sure you communicate that this is an important part of your business. Your best employees will appreciate the challenge and the additional training. And best of all, it won’t cost you a thing!
New in Town? Tips to Help Your New Business (and you) Fit In
Starting a new business can be challenging, but it can be even more difficult if you are new to the community. In some areas being the “new business (or business owner) on the block” is a designation that doesn’t last long (in large cities with transient populations, for instance), the smaller, tighter-knit communities can feel like it takes forever to become part of the “in-crowd.”
As we reopen after COVID, many people are reevaluating where they live. Communities that didn’t have the jobs to support newcomers en masse are now seeing an influx of people who want to live where they vacation, or they want to get away from it all. Because of this, fitting in might start getting a whole lot easier.
But until it does, here are a few tips that can make you successful in your new community quickly.
How to Ensure You and Your Business Fit In
These days there’s a lot of talk about accepting everyone for who they are. But when most of the people in your new area have spent their lives together, starting a new business in these places can feel like you’re the new kid at the lunch table in middle school. It’s not that they aren’t welcoming and friendly, they just don’t know you like they know everyone else. It takes time. And no one has time for that. Here are a few tips to help you speed up the process.
Host an Event
People are interested in getting out these days. Host an open house or a class. Demonstrate your products or services. Invite people to attend for free to get to know you. If your business is virtual, find somewhere you can host in person. You want people to get to know you and that’s much easier when no one has to worry about buffering.
In the future, there may be a revenue stream for classes or other events for your business. Start building your email list with this event.
Check Out the Farmer’s Market
If your business is a good fit for a farmer’s market, craft bazaar, or artisan fair, ask around to find out if that exists in your community. If not, you might be able to work with an organization with a large parking lot to help bring one to your community.
These types of events bring browsers out. You may or may not make large sales but what you will have the opportunity to do is make conversation with attendees. Come out from behind your booth. Give away samples. Talk to everyone and give something away so they have your contact information in the future.
Join your Facebook Group
Do a quick search in Facebook. Find out if your area has a Facebook group. Many have multiple ones. Get to know the administrators of the group and ask when (or if) businesses are allowed to post.
Post when you are allowed to but make sure you also take the time to “share the sunshine.” Answer questions people are asking. Provide reviews of businesses you’ve patronized and loved. Become part of the community. The more people see you, the more often they will think about you.
Even if you are in a tiny town, there are sponsorship opportunities for you. From Little League to the PTA, band boosters to pet rehoming events, get out there and support the community. People notice. Stay in front of them. Be visible. Give back.
If you don’t have the funds to sponsor right now, volunteer some of your time and wear a branded t-shirt for your business.
Join the Chamber
Joining the chamber is always a solid move because unlike other membership organizations, the chamber is business focused. Members will naturally take an interest in the new business in town.
Even if you’re virtual, chambers can help introduce you to your neighbors, community leaders, and a network of people you might not meet as quickly from behind your computer screen.
If you’re new to town, it’s only a matter of time before people realize how wonderful you and your business are. However, most of us don’t have time to spend waiting on people to realize these things. You need the revenue now so get out there. Introduce yourself and give back to your new hometown. People will take notice and they’ll be happy to have you.
Do You Have What It Takes to Become an Entrepreneur?
Do you have dreams about owning your own business or becoming part of the gig economy? Making your own hours? Working from wherever you want?
Then you’re not alone.
There are an estimated 582 million entrepreneurs (about 775,000 of them in the US) already working for themselves. And that number is growing. According to Guidant Financial, 27% of people polled in 2020 wanted to start their own entrepreneurial enterprises because they were disenchanted/dissatisfied with corporate America. And a lot of people are rethinking their current jobs because of COVID.
Whatever your reasoning, you may be hesitating because going out on your own means leaving your comfort zone and the things you’ve become accustomed to. If you’re looking to become your own boss, here are some things you need to know.
Are You Ready to Become Part of the Gig Economy?
There are many ways to go out on your own/start your own business. This article will not give you the steps necessary to make your business operation legal in your area. We’re here purely to point out the reality of working for yourself. It’s not easy, but highly rewarding.
You Need to Want This Life
Business ownership or going out on your own means you are in command (at least initially) of everything. You will have to motivate yourself to do sales, marketing, tech, and every other aspect of your business until you can bring others on. There’s no one to check in with (other than possibly investors) and no one who will tell you next steps or give you assignments. You are in command, so you better be sure you want to be in the driver’s seat. That type of leadership is not for everyone.
You Will Question Your Motivation
To do your own thing, you need to be self-motivated but even the most self-motivated person will occasionally wonder if that’s enough. Just as a world-class athlete pushes through the pain in training, you will need to push through the self-doubt that will creep up. And it will.
Unless You Have Entrepreneur Friends, Your Friends Won’t Understand
Starting your own business is a 24/7 job, at least in the beginning. Most of your friends and family won’t understand unless they are entrepreneurs or independents themselves. They may make jokes about you being unemployed or having time to go to the pool in the middle of the day. Your friends and family may ask you to run their errands or have lunch. It’s likely they won’t see your efforts as the hard work that it is. They may even send you job listings so you can return to working for someone else. You will be tempted to give in because these are the people closest to you. Keep going.
Conquer the Excuses
Why haven’t you gone out on your own yet? What are your excuses? You don’t have time to dedicate to starting your own venture? You need the steady money from your employer? Whatever your excuse, you must want an entrepreneurial life more than you allow your excuse to rule you. We all have the same 24 hours a day. That is not an excuse. The internet is full of motivational stories about waking up at 5 so the entrepreneur could work before the family woke up. As the saying goes, “If you want it, you’ll find a way. Otherwise, you’ll find an excuse.”
Seek Like-minded People
As mentioned, it’s likely your friends and family won’t understand. You need a supportive group that understands the pressures of business ownership and the demands involved with just starting out. Joining the chamber is a great way to get the support you need to be successful. They may also have educational opportunities that are free to members. Ask your chamber about entrepreneur or single employer memberships. They may have a discounted rate.
You will want to give up, possibly several times a day. But you will never find a more rewarding experience than working for yourself…if you can overcome your own hesitancies.
Dealing with Angry Customers When You’re Short Staffed
The scene is a common one these days. Lines of people waiting to pay in a restaurant, retail establishment, or grocery store. Tempers flare. Customers yell at staff and wonder why there’s only one person checking people out. Your staff thinks, “Who needs this?” and they’re not wrong. They feel overworked and underappreciated. Customers are demanding and loud. Customers vow not to return. It makes for a bad situation for everyone.
So what can you do to ensure it doesn’t happen in your business?
Dealing with angry people during a staffing shortage is not easy, especially since one problem creates the other. People are angry because they have to wait. People have to wait because you are short staffed. No one wants to work in an environment filled with angry people.
Here are some things you can do to diffuse the situation.
Put People Where They’re Needed
As a manager or owner, when you are short-staffed you will always be assessing what needs to be done and who is around to do it. Make sure you have people in the most critical customer-facing spots and pull them from other areas as needed, even if only for a few minutes.
Ensure your employees feel empowered to help one another with overflow. If they are on rack duty, for instance, in your retail establishment make sure they know you appreciate them helping out at the cash register when a line forms. This means you will need to take the time to cross-train everyone and make sure they are comfortable working in all areas of the store/business where appropriate.
Stress That Everyone’s a Manager
Often when people are disgruntled, they will demand to see a manager. While there are some decisions that only a manager can make, help your employees feel confident enough to take the reins in these situations and insist that they are decision makers. They can reiterate that the manager issued the protocols they are following.
When they call you every time a manager is needed, the customer quickly learns the person they are dealing with is a low person on the staff chart and no longer feels the need to listen to them. You are also rewarding bad behavior done against your staff.
Achieving this level of confidence in your employees means you have trained them to make decisions and they know what freedoms they have to assist your customers. Help them understand what rules may be broken or stretched and which ones are absolutes.
Explain the Situation
While you never want to apologize for something that hasn’t happened yet, it is a good idea to remind everyone that you are doing your best. In fact, you may even want to add a “be kind message” to your help wanted posters. Explain that if they want things to be processed quicker, you would love additional help. Using a little humor can go a long way to diffuse difficult situations.
Play Good Music
If you have the right staff and it fits your business, try playing some good tunes; the type of music that gets people moving. Encourage your staff to sing or invite others to burst out into song or dance. This may sound goofy but it’s hard to be in a bad mood when the song “Walking on Sunshine” comes on the radio.
Speaking of sounds…
Soothe Them with Voice
The human voice can affect mood. A whiny voice can put customers on edge while a loud voice can make them feel more combative. With a confident, soothing voice you can make people feel understood and less prone to anger.
This hiring crisis is a challenging time for managers, staff, and owners. Just when everyone wants to get out and enjoy life again, their favorite businesses are struggling to hire. Some have had to shut down because they don’t have enough employees to operate. These tips will help you calm tempers until things can return to normal employment.
4 Spring Cleaning Data Tips for More Sales
While we are quickly heading toward the heat of summer, there’s still time to do some spring cleaning with your data. A nice clean email list can help you make the most of your ecommerce and increase summer sales.
Let’s get started.
Ways to Spruce Up Your Digital Marketing for Increased Sales
Customer data is great but only if you know what to do with it. Many businesses moved to online sales with COVID and, in turn, received a lot of good data from customers. But it’s time to get in there, do some spring cleaning of your database, and a few other things to position you for a hot summer sales season.
Did you get every name on your list the same way? Or did they get added through a variety of sources including ads, referrals, point of sale signups, and other ways? Likely, it’s the latter.
If you acquired your list members in various ways, take a moment to look into what each way tells you about them. Did they come to you after an e-commerce transaction or sign-up as part of a contest? How you got them is as important as how they continue to interact with you.
Look for ways to give them more of what they want in a personalized way by understanding what brought them to you in the first place.
You know the bounce backs you get every time you send? Look at the list and check for any obvious problems. Sometimes people hit the wrong key and you end up with .cmo instead of .com. Many bounce backs are due to key errors and are easy to recognize. Fix them. If it’s not obvious why they aren’t going through, get rid of them. You don’t want to pay for contacts that aren’t valid.
Get Rid of Dupes
Sometimes people get on lists from multiple ways, or they use different email addresses without realizing it. Take a quick scan for duplicate names. Do they share any of the same info? Could they be the same person? If so, do them a favor and merge the contacts. No one enjoys receiving two emails from you on each send, no matter how riveting the emails are.
Add Some Summer Spice
Depending on your business, you may see more visitors in the summer than during other parts of the year, on e-commerce or in-person. Since we’re talking about digital marketing here, look for ways you can add some summer spice to your website content, your newsletter, your landing page, and your email messaging. People are ready for fun times. They want school to be over and—unlike last summer—be able to do something. Play to that interest when creating or tweaking your content.
There’s an excitement in the air that has not been there for a while. Use this renewed energy to take a second look at your digital marketing. Make some quick tweaks and get ready for summer and increased sales.
Master the Basics of Good Content to Increase Sales
Writing is difficult for a lot of people. You may worry about your mastery of grammar or vocabulary. Maybe you just don’t think you have anything interesting to say. But if you have something to sell, you need to learn the basics of good copy, at least until you can pay someone to do it for you.
These basic tips can (and should) be used when writing your web copy, social media posts, newsletter, emails, or anything you’re using words to grab attention. Keep in mind that whatever you are writing you should always aim to be at least one of the following:
Copywriting Tips for Beginners
1. Get Human: share what’s going on in your life
You are interesting and someone out there can identify with you and what you’re doing. Even if it’s just that you burned toast this morning, there’s someone who is nodding their head as they read your post. These types of human connections make people want to read more and get to know you which leads to potential sales.
2. Tie Your Product/service into Your Narrative
As you are “getting human” and sharing your stories, think about what types of skills or qualities go into making a good <insert your type of business here>. For instance, I follow a writer on social media. I didn’t follow her because I read her books and loved them. I followed her because her daily life stories are so funny and mirror mine that I wanted them to show up in my stream. She never even mentions her books. But because she entertains me, I am going to buy her books because I can tell from her posts that she’s very skilled at what she does.
Look for ways you can exhibit the skills people would associate with the type of business you’re in and tell stories around those things. Don’t tell people you are those things. Show people you are.
3. Ask Questions
The easiest thing you can do to get people talking is to ask them about their own experiences. It makes them feel valued and it may help connect your audience to one another as well as to you.
Use Assumptive Agreements and “Are You with Me’s”
I know, right?
This is an example of a popular assumptive agreement. So is “Nobody wants that, right?” It invites people to agree with you and leaves little room to do otherwise. These types of phrases are also good ways to break up paragraphs, create white space to make pages scannable, and keep your reader with you.
4. Good Visuals
Good visuals aren’t words, but they draw people to read your words. In those cases, pretty pictures are nice but interesting is better. An interesting image forces people to read the text around it because they are trying to figure it out. A pretty image can stand alone; no further explanation is needed.
5. Notice What You Like Online
If you are in your own target demographic, pay attention to all the “junk” marketing you get and all the social media business posts you see. What do you like and what doesn’t work? Make a note of these things and use them to shape your own posts. The other day, just before lunch Chick-fil-a sent me a notification asking me if I wanted some of their golden nuggets. I thought about it for several hours. Guess where my kids ate last night?
6. Spend Time on the Headings and Titles
These lines are valuable. Titles will convince people to read. Headings break up text and are excellent places for keywords. Creating these is not a timed race. Since there are very few characters (you want to keep them short and punchy, for the most part), you want every word to serve a purpose. Headings and titles should:
- Tell the reader what the writing is about
- Use powerful words that are in keeping with your business’ personality (don’t use “awesome” if you’re a conservative investment firm, for instance)
- Use keywords
- Spur interest
Write your title. Then ask yourself, “so what?” or “and.” Revise to add the “so what” and ask it again. Eventually, there will be nothing left to ask. At that point cut any extra words, switch out boring words or add some exciting ones, and you have your title.
5 ways to make people like you
5 ways to make people like you during the hiring process
-So what/why should the reader care?
5 ways to make people like you so you get the job
5 ways to “win the work” at your next job interview
Writing does take time but if you think about your audience, their needs, struggles, and interests and how your own might mirror those, you will always have content topics and intriguing angles.
6 Email Subject Lines That Get Clicks
Your email content can be the best ever but if people don’t open your emails, the emails might as well be blank.
Two things make recipients click: who it’s from and how appealing the subject line is. In that order. That’s one reason it is advised that businesses send their emails from a person (or at least an email that resembles one), not “[email protected]
But how do you make your subject lines more irresistible? How do you inspire clicks and drive them to open your emails? Try these types of emails.
Think of your own inbox and how many emails you receive during the day. Most of us are on fast delete or swipe when we’re clearing out emails. You need to grab the recipient’s attention quickly. Here’s how:
Solve a Problem
What does your product or service help people do? Or what is this email designed to do for them? What value do they get from opening and reading it? Be specific and brief.
Example: Get more sleep with Comfy Blanket or
Say good-bye to restless nights with this easy solution
Or solve a problem they haven’t considered yet.
Example: Get mom’s gift yet? Mother’s Day is next Sunday.
Add the Color
While simple vocabulary is important in a subject line, that doesn’t mean you give up painting a tantalizing picture. Use imagery and appeal to their senses. Don’t hesitate throwing in an emoji or two (unless your subject or business is incredibly serious).
Example: Warm cinnamon apple pie is calling 🥧
We’re naturally curious and when you factor in the FOMO (fear of missing out), it can be a powerful motivator of clicks. If you’ve had a recent event or launch, you can use that to your advantage.
Example: Be the first to see our new spring line
See what our opening day participants did
Explain the Send
If your audience is similar to most people, they often sign up for things and forget them. In their defense, a lot of businesses sell contact info and then the new businesses claim you signed up for the list. While that may be true, the list you signed up for initially was not their list.
To differentiate yourself from these businesses, be specific when the information was (actually) requested by the recipient.
Example: Your requested newsletter from <business> or
The <download> you requested from <business>
People want to know why they should click. Tell them. If there’s a deadline, communicate that too.
Example: Today’s top deals under $100 or
Unlock access to free delivery or
How to get a FREE <product or service>
Give Them Something They Dream About
Everyone wants something but they may not feel like they can or should. They may view your product or service as a splurge or something they need to put off. Give them a reason to feel otherwise.
Example: Treat yourself to a luscious cake or
Reward your hard work with a new look
Cover the COVID grays with our newest treatment
Finally, keep subject lines under 41 characters (not words) as often as possible and consider how they will look on a phone. Figure out what words will be cut off. Sometimes the cut can make your message more evocative and interesting. Other times, it can look sordid or mean something you didn’t intend. Keep the message short and get right to the benefit. After all, that’s what people are most interested in.
Why You Need Someone in Charge of Employee Engagement Immediately
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, engagement is critical to your business. Now more than ever. It’s so important that I wish I could create a new name for it so people would pay more attention. Being told you need to engage your audience is not new, but the pandemic has created a bunch of new reasons why it’s incredibly important, especially with employees. If you don’t have the time, you need to make it or hire someone who does.
Engagement Is Important Because…
Your Employees Are Hanging on by a Thread
A few things are going on in the employment sector these days. In most areas, there are more open positions than people looking. That means successful employers of choice are paying solid wages and not making their employees feel like a number.
You might be surprised that many employees working remotely (68%) are admitting they are interested in freelance work on the side. This can be a gateway to them starting their own business or going out on their own in some capacity. Unless they are completely enamored by your company (engagement can accomplish this), it’s only a matter of time before they build up savings, clientele, or secure healthcare to take the leap.
For employees who are not remote, the number of available jobs in most industries could be causing disengaged employees to consider other options. A certain amount of attrition is not always a bad thing but when it starts affecting your top performers, your business will feel it.
If you engage them now and help them feel like they are bringing something meaningful to your business, they will be less likely to leave. And…
They’ll Talk About You
Whether it’s your employees or your customers, you want them to talk about you (in a good way) and refer others to you. Engaged groups do that. People who see you as simply meeting their expectations (or writing a check to them every two weeks) won’t.
They Could Become Your Next Competitor
Another thing COVID did was invite people to reevaluate their jobs and lifestyles. This has caused some to think about starting their own business. In fact, 63% of employees think they could quit and start their own. So, it could be only a matter of time before the proper alignment of the stars occurs and they become your newest competition.
Take Action Today
It doesn’t do you any good to hear how important engagement is without getting some tips on how you can start engaging. Ideally, you will commit to employee engagement at your business and doing so will affect every decision made. However, there’s no time like the present. While you’re working on the larger commitment to employee engagement, here are a few easy ways to start engaging them immediately:
- Ask your employees’ opinions or views on things concerning your business. Getting feedback from them can be invaluable.
- Give constructive criticism on the job they are doing. Don’t wait for an annual review.
- Review salaries to ensure they are keeping up with the recent rise in cost of living. A surprise increase can make people feel really good and valued.
- Tell them you value them for their specific achievements. Giving details on what they do well will drive them to do more of it.
- Compliment them in front of others. Correct them alone/individually.
- Find out where they want to be in the future and help them chart a path for that.
- Encourage growth and learning. Reward them for pursuing those things.
- Encourage sharing ideas for innovation, market expansion, and cost-savings. Reward employees for the ideas that you use.
- Look for ways to surprise and delight them just like you would your customers.
- Find out what work obstacles they face and remove them.
- Encourage employees to share stories and comment on social media.
- Help them understand your mission and why your company does what it does. Why is the mission important and what does it mean to people who do business with you?
- Ask your customer-facing employees to share stories of success with the rest of the business.
Employee engagement is about helping employees feel they are a valued part of something larger, seeing themselves aligned with your operation, and feeling like they contribute to the success or failure of a project or the company as a whole. You want to cultivate a culture of caring, one in that employees care about customer outcomes and they feel like you care about them.
3 Solutions to Common Hiring Problems
Some businesses are saying we are in the midst of a secondary pandemic. But it’s not the kind that requires masks and handwashing. No, this one is harder to control.
There is a shortage of people willing (or able) to work for a multitude of reasons. Employers across the country are posting signs asking for patience with their existing employees because the business is understaffed. In fact, there are hiring managers who are scheduling interviews only to have no one show up! You can’t hire people who don’t even come to an interview.
So what’s a business to do?
Some people blame the business. They believe that the average person wants to work but can’t afford to because of minimal wages and expensive childcare. But the numbers don’t entirely speak to that. 30% of US households are “married without children” in 2020. Single-person households are 23% of the population. So for over half, children aren’t a concern.
So, what can you do to combat the 3 common hiring problems these days? Here are some ideas.
Employment Hiring Challenges Post-COVID
If you brush wages aside as the main reason people don’t show up for interviews or first days for that matter, what are you left with?
Working from Home
It’s the elephant in the room. Why would a worker want to work behind a counter when they can sit at home and work (or sit by the pool or in a coffee shop, etc.). An unparalleled number of businesses created work from home scenarios, and many will stick to those protocols long after COVID. Work at home is no longer a perk. It’s an expectation and it’s hard to compete with that.
Solution: If your business is entirely in-person, it’s not like you’ll never be able to hire again. But it may take some creativity to appeal to workers. Things you might be able to do include flexible shifts (such as working around a child’s schedule) or floating start times within a window of time. The clue here is to get creative with the allowances you can make.
Ghosting Is the Norm
Ghosting has become the norm in relationships. Don’t want to deal with a difficult situation, ignore it and disappear. We’re starting to see this trickle down into our workforce. It’s acceptable to just not show for an interview, first day, drug screen, etc.
Solution: This is difficult to do when you’ve only had minutes of interaction with a candidate. However, people are more likely to ghost when they don’t feel a connection or don’t think of the employer as a person but rather a large corporate structure as in the “they won’t even notice I’m not there” scenario.
In order to avoid being ghosted, you have to do your best to connect with them in the short time you have. Share details about your life. Maybe you’re interviewing them on a special day and “fitting” them in or “clearing” your schedule. Do it respectfully and don’t force the guilt but try and make an impression. You may still get ghosted, but it will be less likely if they see you as a person with needs and feelings.
Reevaluating the Same Old, Same Old
With our forced downtime this past year, we were exposed to a LOT of marketing messaging and frankly many people are just burned out. They may find it hard to believe the claims of some companies.
Another thing people may have done is reevaluating things in their lives that just aren’t working. Some people may have decided that life is too short to work at an unfulfilling job. Others may have seen this pandemic as a kick in the pants from the universe to start their own job. Maybe they saw how being a loyal employee can still result in a lay-off or furlough. Whatever the cause of their employment ennui, people have changed, and you’ll need to too.
Solution: find out what your existing employees want by conducting an employee satisfaction survey (and what makes them stay with you). Use that in your recruitment efforts. Ask employees for referrals and reward with bonuses. Reward them for their loyalty and they’ll talk about how great you are to their friends.
Employers are facing an unparalleled time right now, finding it very difficult to recruit good people. For many businesses, it’s difficult to get interest let alone keep someone after their first day. In order to be competitive in the job market, you need to stand out. These tips should help you do that. But you’ll need to go beyond them to think of some creative experiences for new employees. While you’re at it throw a few in for your customers. You never know. A loyal customer may just want to become part of your team.
How COVID Is Changing the State of Work
Are you ready to return to normal yet?
If “normal” means life without COVID, we’re not that far away from herd immunity. But if your definition of normal is getting back to how things used to be before the pandemic, I’m afraid that likely isn’t happening. The state of work has changed. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for life on the other side of the pandemic.
Things Have Changed. Your Business Will Need to Adapt.
If you’ve ever raised a child or owned a pet, you understand that it is very hard to allow for an exception to a rule. Try telling your dog, for instance, that they can only sit on your furniture at night. Or tell a child under 5 they can skip a nap only on vacation. Rule and exceptions to the rules are difficult to enforce when they apply sometimes.
The same will be true of the changes we’ve made to the workforce. Prior to COVID, many businesses didn’t want to allow employees to work from home. When the pandemic hit our doorsteps, employers were forced to reevaluate that policy. They had to make it work. All of their reasons why it would not work were tossed in order to keep the proverbial doors open.
Post pandemic, it will be difficult to return to things the way they were. It will be the same level of difficulty one might experience trying to shove all the vacation clothes back into a suitcase at the end of vacation. Things never quite fit back in the way they did when you got there.
So how will things change and what should we prepare for?
4 Ways the State of Work Has Changed
The following things have changed, and it is likely they will impact work going forward.
- Work at home worked. People found a way to work from home amid the many distractions. They did what had to be done even when it was difficult. Employers found ways to measure productivity and hopefully dealt with situations that weren’t working.
- Productivity measures changed. Prior to the pandemic, there were many businesses that still held onto the “butts in seats” notion of productivity. People were doing their jobs as long as they were sitting in the office, even if that meant killing an extraordinary amount of time cyber shopping and surfing the internet. With COVID, employers had to look at “real” productivity. Was the job getting done? The hours mattered less because we were all juggling distractions and responsibilities from illness to childcare to home schooling. Employers were now looking at “were the business needs getting met” as an indicator of the job being performed.
- Have office will travel. Prior to COVID, the business world embraced open-office culture. Some businesses even removed desk assignments from the equation and allowed employees to work anywhere (in the office) that they felt their creative best. With the pandemic, employers are having to face that people can work anywhere and have enjoyed carving out their own creative space in their homes or in the places they’ve been allowed to frequent. Twitter and Hitachi have already announced that they will commit to more flexible working arrangements indefinitely.
- Real estate is overrated. With employees working from a non-corporate location, many employers have come to question if they need a brick-and-mortar business or if they need one big enough to house every employee. They are starting to question whether smaller buildings (or none at all) can be more cost effective. At one time, a large show of opulent office space was an indicator of success. With COVID and its effects on impressions, this is no longer the case, particularly if most of the building is empty.
We may soon hit herd immunity. And with that, there will likely be more allowances. However, the changes businesses have made during the pandemic will have ripple effects on the state of work far into the future. And just like that toddler skipping naps “only on vacation” it’s likely we will never return to how things once were.
25 Marketing Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Today
Hope seems to be a big word these days. It’s taken the place of pivot. People are hopeful about recovery. People are hopeful about things returning to normal in the foreseeable future. And people are hopeful they can soon travel and visit loved ones they haven’t seen for a while.
If recovery is right around the corner, now is the ideal time to revisit your marketing strategy and plan. Making critical changes now can bring you into alignment to make the most of recovery. Plus, it’s possible the needs and desires of your target audience have changed.
Asking yourself the following questions about your business and marketing can help ensure that you have the data and information you need to make the most of the looming recovery.
- Who is your ideal customer? Has it changed with COVID?
- What is your marketing goal in 2021? What are your objectives/tactics for getting there? How will you measure success or how will you know when you’ve reached that goal?
- What is your brand tone? Try this exercise: “We are ____ but not ____.” For example, we are informative but not boring.
- What is your reputation in your industry and your community? What do people think of when they think of your brand/product/service?
- Where is your target audience on social media (Facebook, Insta, etc.)? Are they still easily reached where you thought they were?
- Are people still reading your blog?
- What customer problem do you solve?
- Do you sell through fear, inspiration, or solving a problem? Does that course of action still work for you?
- What is the open rate on your newsletter? Has that changed with the pandemic?
- Are you using a tracker that shows you where people are clicking on your website and/or newsletter? If yes, where are they clicking and where aren’t they clicking? What does that tell you about their needs?
- Do you have an email list?
- What data are you currently tracking and what are you doing with it?
- What kind of content do your customers like best/have the most interaction with?
- How many active followers do you have on each social media platform you participate on? How has that changed with COVID?
- Do your customers enjoy a type of content you are not providing such as podcasts or videos?
- What story are you telling?
- How much does your average customer cost?
- What are your customer retention strategies and how are you implementing them?
- How has your product or service evolved over the past year? How has your marketing message changed? Does it need to?
- What’s your call to action and does it fit where it is used? For instance, you don’t invite someone to buy when they’re just getting to know you on the About Us page of your website. Speaking of…
- What are you doing to help people get to know, like, and trust you?
- What part of your business is off-putting or scary for first-time buyers? What can you do to make it less so? For instance, gyms may be intimidating for the out-of-shape first timers. How can you reach them and be more inviting? A get-fit challenge is a solution to that because participants would know they’d be with other newbies.
- Do you have a defined success metric for every campaign you implement?
- In what area(s) is your competition falling short? In what areas are they strongest? How do you compare?
- How many referrals (and/or reviews) are you getting? What vehicle/strategy are you using to get more?
These questions are easily answered but implementing the answers/solutions takes more planning. It’s a lot of work now but once you put it in, you’ll be glad you did.
4 Reasons You Need to Get Involved with the Chamber Today
Businesses join the chamber of commerce for several reasons. Years ago, it may have been expected; just something you did when you opened a business and wanted to be in good standing in the community.
But today it’s more likely a business joins because there is a direct advantage to them personally. Maybe they wanted a ribbon cutting or need the advocacy or wanted a marketing opportunity that membership allowed them.
Yes, there are many reasons to join the chamber and tons of benefits your business can receive from membership. But aside from simply writing a check and receiving a set of benefits, there are reasons why you should become personally involved with the local chamber of commerce.
Plus, the chamber extends its benefits to all of your employees so you can use chamber membership benefits as employee benefits. Share this with them as well.
Let’s place the advocacy, marketing, advertising, and public relations benefits of chamber membership on the back burner. This article is about what the chamber can do for you and your employees specifically, not the business. Yes, the chamber can bring more attention to your business, which can create more sales opportunities, but these benefits and this personal involvement are things that can help you outside of the business.
The chamber has a number of education opportunities where you and your employees can learn about important matters for free (or at a very low cost). Chamber webinar topics may include things like diversity, how to excel in social media, and economic interests in your area. They can help you become a more well-rounded professional, change careers, or get up-to-date on important topics in the community.
The chamber offers a lot of opportunities to volunteer for different committees or events. You may find a volunteer position in a subject that interests you like women leaders, diversity, workforce development, or marketing. Not only can these volunteer positions be added to your resume, but volunteering could also help you meet people with similar interests and help you grow your professional network. Speaking of…
Getting involved with the chamber can help you meet more people and grow your professional network and make friendships. Even in communities where social gatherings are still mostly virtual, chambers have networking sessions to help you stay connected.
Business Expansion and Hidden Opportunities
As you grow your network, you may learn of additional business possibilities that you could add to your business or you could use to launch a new one. You may learn of seed money, grants, SBA funding, or private opportunities.
Often business deals get made before anything is formally published or requested. Being personally involved in the chamber may help you be a part of those types of discussions and make you aware of opportunities before they become public.
The same may be true of the hidden job market. A contact may tell you they’re looking for someone before posting it on a job site, giving you the advantage.
Chamber benefits for your business are amazing. They can really help you increase your number of customers and get your name out there. But those aren’t the only benefits. If you get involved individually, there are many benefits to your professional growth and career. Plus, those benefits can be given to all of your employees too. That can be a real selling point for someone looking for a great company culture.
3 Things in Business That Aren’t Worth It
We only have so many hours in the day so the last thing you want to do is spend time doing things that aren’t worth the time. Being labeled as “not worth the time” doesn’t mean they are annoying to do. In fact, some of the things you’re doing in your business may be very enjoyable but aren’t worth the effort in that you don’t get the return out of the time you’re investing.
Every hour of your business day is valuable.
You want what you do to move you closer to your goals. But some things we do in the name of our business don’t have the same benefits of other things we could be doing with our time. As a businessperson you should always be performing a cost/benefit analysis.
The things in this list are items that are generally not worth your time, but you’ll need to do the analysis yourself before deciding whether you will continue to do these activities as part of your workday or sunset them for a more productive use of your time.
Spending Copious Amounts of Time on the Coolest “New” Social Media
Whether a social media site is worth spending time and interacting on depends largely on your audience. If your ideal customer is there and you can engage them, it’s worth it. If they’re not, it’s not.
There’s no reason to get on a social network so you can be an early adopter and wait for your ideal customer to get on the site. The only way this makes sense is when your audience looks to you to tell them what the next “cool” or techy thing is.
Spending Money on Free Things
Thanks to our giveaway economy, there are a lot of free options out there for things you use in your business every day. If you’re just starting out, there are items you absolutely should pay for. And then there are items (especially software) where a freemium item could work for you…at least until your needs grow. Using Google docs instead of Word is an example. This may seem like a small expense but every dollar you save on something you can get for free can go toward the items where your monetary investment is very important.
Staying up Late
Have you ever stayed up hours past your bedtime to finish a project? Sometimes it’s just what you have to do. However, sleep deprivation comes with a high price. You’ll likely sacrifice tomorrow’s productivity to meet your deadline today. It’s much better to chip away at the project bit by bit than it is to put it off until right before it is due and then work most of the night on it.
True, most adults don’t plan on this type of course of action. And it might feel like you have no choice but to do it at the last minute. However, unless this project was completely unexpected, each time you agree to do one thing over the other, you’re making a choice based on importance to you.
If you analyze both requirements on your time and you make a decision that one is more important than the other, and then defer the project until it becomes an urgent need, and a sleepless night, so be it. But don’t let someone else dictate that for you.
Set clear expectations. A customer who wants a timely answer doesn’t know what else you’re working on. Do your best to balance their needs and the needs of your business by letting them know when you will have an update for them. Then check back in even if you don’t have a resolution.
If you have a boss, or are otherwise not in charge of scheduling your own workload, and they give you an ASAP project clarify that it bumps everything else. Be clear about what projects are in jeopardy by doing that.
Being upfront about the demands on your time will help set expectations and minimize sleepless nights. If you fail to do this, you will be exhausted and turning in subpar work. No one wants to sacrifice sleep to make a deadline, only to turn something in that will need to be redone later. This doesn’t benefit anyone.
When it comes to your business, you need to make the most of your day. Avoiding these activities—and others that don’t provide good return on your time investment—is a solid business approach. Look for things that impact your productivity and weed them out of your schedule.
6 Signs of a Healthy Business
Many of us have spent this year concerned over the health of our businesses or those in the community. Ultimately, a healthy business has a good balance sheet. It has more coming in than it does going out. But that is not the only indicator of business health.
In today’s world, where a quick decision from a politician can radically affect your business overnight, it’s important to know the early indicators of business peril. This of these things as your business’ “canary in the coal mine.”
Signs Your Business Is Healthy (before you see it on the books)
Before you see any issues in the balance sheet, you can spot a healthy business in these areas:
- Referrals. While it’s never easy to get people to refer you even when they love you, a healthy business harnesses the power of the referral and makes it easy for happy customers to bring in more happy customers.
- Reviews. Just like referrals, reviews are the signature of a healthy, well-loved business. But they don’t happen automatically. A healthy business asks for them, makes it easy to give them, and repurposes them in their marketing collateral.
- Promotes from within and trains accordingly. A healthy business promotes from within with clear pathways to additional challenges even when the business is small enough not to have additional levels to climb. It recognizes employees who are committed to the business, doing a great job, and those that require additional challenges or training.
- Looks for needs. If your business moves in another direction, opens a new market, or branches out, you may not be able to promote from within. A healthy business is clear about what each employee’s strengths are and what they may need to obtain from outside whether that be from an additional hire, vendor, or partner.
- Builds loyalty outside of sales. Loyalty is not owned by the sales department. Loyalty is built by customer service and marketing. A healthy company looks for ways to keep customers engaged and feeling like they are part of the brand. It creates enjoyable experiences for customers at each touchpoint whether they are calling to complain, buy, or simply spend time on social media.
- Remains agile. This one is certainly a lesson learned in 2020. A healthy business must be ready to align its offerings and services with those of their loyal customers and the larger market. Small businesses may not have had a lot of operating capital when the pandemic hit but they did retain the ability to move quickly and that helped a lot of them stay in the black.
Is your business healthy outside of the balance sheet? Go through this list and ask yourself how many of these qualities your business meets. If you’re missing a few, you may want to see how quickly you can add them. After all, they are a good indicator of business health long before you begin to see signs of trouble in the balance sheets or books.
25 Ways to Become a Fun Business
Do you want to appeal to a younger demographic? Want to get people talking about you? Maybe you want to attract an ultra-cool influencer or celebrity customer? If you do, rebranding and becoming a “fun” company may be just the way to get more attention.
Why are we suggesting “fun”? With Gen Y being the largest generation in the U.S. in 2019, with an estimated population of 72.1 million, they have strong purchasing power. They also enjoy experiences and tend to tell others about products and businesses they like.
If you want more customers, becoming a “fun” business with an identifiable tone and brand, can help you build a loyal audience that enjoys talking about you.
How to Become More “Fun” in Your Business
- Clearly communicate business goals and desired content tone to your employees. Then give them a little leeway to post, share, like, and comment on social media. Point out examples of posts and comments you love so they know what voice you want for your business.
- Host contests on social media.
- Share posts and images that aren’t all business. In fact, your goal should be getting to know your audience not bragging about yourself.
- Rewrite your web copy in your new company voice.
- Invite people to post on your page.
- Create a Facebook group around your product or service. Make it a fun escape not a group to brag about yourself.
- Do more video. Help customers get to know people at your business.
- Showcase fun things about your most loyal customers.
- Encourage people to share creative uses for your product.
- Host a challenge or other form of experiential marketing.
- Create spotlights of your employees featuring “fun” facts very few people know about them.
- Invite people to decorate their desks in a manner that reflects their personalities or (while we’re all at home) ask your employees to record a quick video walkthrough of their at-home workspace.
- Start a club at work for people who like the same hobby or form of exercise.
- Record some of your online staff meeting, like the beginning icebreaker and add the video to your website.
- Share your favorite things on social media or on a blog post; create fun posts like “10 Things I Can’t Live Without.”
- Record a song parody that fits your job or industry.
- Make a JibJab video and share it in your company newsletter.
- Create a bloopers reel of flubs on video.
- Create a video about funny things that only people in your industry or state could understand.
- Ask employees to record a video of a little known/weird skill they have. Show them doing it.
- Celebrate all those zany “National” holidays like “Talk Like a Pirate” Day. Make videos of how your company is celebrating.
- Bring a really old item into your business and record your employees guessing what it is.
- Allow employees to bring their pets to work.
- Celebrate small wins and big wins. Post your video celebrations so others can partake in your joy.
- Rename your job titles to speak to the end goals like “engagement officer” for your social media person.
Culture can make a big difference in getting referrals, more engagement, new hires, more customers, and creating a loyal employee base. Some of these ideas may seem a little too much for your business. But know that whatever you decide is right for your business and industry, the point behind this exercise is to let your customers and potential customers get to know you better. After all, customers buy from those they know, like, and trust.
7 Quick Ways to Get More Upsells and Referral
Your current clients/customers are likely an untapped resource of additional revenue. After all, it is much easier to sell to someone who already likes you than it is to win over a new person. But there’s a lot of competition out there. There’s a saying in the restaurant industry that a diner who described their meal as “satisfactory” will never be back again. In order to get return customers, upsells, and referrals you must do better than just meeting expectations. You must exceed them. Thankfully, as they say, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just a little extra. In this article, we’ll give you seven quick ideas on how to create those extra opportunities that will translate into greater upsell and referral opportunities. When someone is “wowed”they will buy more and talk about you (exactly what you need for referrals).
How to Go from Ordinary to Extraordinary for More Upsells and Referrals
1. Offer samples without people requesting them. When someone is looking at something in your business, offer them samples. Don’t even ask. One restaurant brings individual samples of gelato to the table at the end of the meal. Even if the diners don’t buy any, they leave with a (literal) pleasant taste in their mouth which could yield a return visit or referrals.
2. Send/give swag. If you mail your products or bag them, consider adding something unexpected in the package. Pure Vida sends branded stickers. Some companies stick in a postcard. The surprise needn’t be expensive. The point is it’s unexpected and that is delightful.
3. Invite engagement. Make sure every purchase is accompanied with a request to engage on social media but don’t make it about you. Most people are excited when they make a purchase, and they want to show it off. Invite them to share a picture of themselves using the product or service. Give them a hashtag and perhaps some incentive to share such as a contest entry or a future discount. If you have a well-known brand sometimes simply retweeting them and being on your radar is enough.
4. Send “just because” discounts. Some companies send birthday offers but not everyone feels comfortable giving you their birthdate these days. Instead, send “just because specials” periodically and thank them for being a fantastic customer. If they haven’t purchased recently, tell them you miss them and give them reason to return.
5. Drop expiration dates. If you use coupons, don’t turn someone away because their coupon is past the expiration date. Make it well known that you will accept coupons whenever the customer is ready to use them.
6. Put everyone to work. It may not scale to have your CEO or owner answer customer support questions all day. However, giving leadership the opportunity to field the occasional question or post a response on social media or to a review can make someone’s day and get them talking about you. The customer will be in shock that leadership responded. And it will make them (and everyone who reads the interaction) think that leadership is reading every review or comment.
7. Follow and respond on social media. Don’t simply post what’s going on in your world. Learn what’s going on in your customer’s as well. Set Google alerts for mentions of your business, what you sell, and your area. Listen to conversations going on around you and join them when it makes sense and when you can add value. Also, don’t hide behind the brand. When you are posting, use your name even if you’re responding from your brand’s account. People are more likely to interact with a person than a company name.
If you want to cut through the noise and get more upsells and referrals, you want to make people feel special and valued. Think about experiences you’ve had as a customer. How can you replicate those in your business?
How to Get Backlinks and Why Your Local Business Needs Them
When I was in marketing for a tech company in the beginning days of content marketing, links were gold. Every time someone linked to our content my boss got excited. While I loved the free publicity and SEO awesomeness we acquired from links, I hated the act of actively pursuing them. It felt like we were begging people to like us and—let’s face it—we were.
But while a lot of things have changed since that time, the importance of links is still relevant. Search engines use links from other sources to your website as an indicator of quality content. While it’s not the only indicator, it is an important one.
Your business website needs links to show the search engines you’re loved by others. But not all links are of the same worth. Here’s how you can get some great links for very little effort.
Some Links Are Better Than Others
First, let’s talk about how things used to be done and what you can no longer get away with. Back in the early days of link building, there were link farms and sites that offered to link to your content for money. It was lucrative for everyone involved but that practice has ended. Google grew wise to it.
Now it ranks links by the credibility of the website. A site like CNN that linked to your website would bolster the importance of your content in the “minds” of the search engine. However, you don’t need a site like that to get good vibes from the search engines. There are a lot of easier options out there such as the following:
Good Ways to Get Great Links
If you want good quality links back to your content, try these easy solutions.
- Chamber of Commerce. Your local chamber of commerce probably has excellent credibility from a search engine prospective thus making it the perfect place to get links from. Whether it’s a listing in their directory, a mention on their website, a link to your business as a sponsor, or a guest blog post with attribution, as long as it’s not a “no-follow” link it will help you improve your credibility to Google. Ask your chamber about link options. You might be surprised by the variety of ways they can help.
- Referable Content. Very few people will link to your content if it stinks. You want to create content that people will find value in. Consider producing a reference guide that people could use when shopping for your product/service or a checklist or calculator that people would want to come back to. If you create something like this, writers creating articles on your topic may refer others to the tool you’ve created or the advice you’ve given. In fact, long form content receives 77% more links than short articles. A couple of good, well-researched long form pieces can be all you need to garner good links. If someone asks you if they can use your content or a quote from it, always ask for an attribution with a link back to it. Also, if you have a keyword alert for your business (and you should have those set up), or you come across someone using your work, ask that they give attribution with a link. Most people will accommodate you. If you read an online article that you believe could benefit from your expertise or a link to your article or resource, don’t hesitate to reach out to the author. But be specific about what your piece could add to theirs.
- Business Associations. Business associations or industry magazines are always looking for content. If you’ve created something you are proud of, pitch it to your industry magazine. Ask for the link.
- The City. During COVID, a lot of cities have created business pages to help visitors know what’s open and what’s not. Ask to be included and ask for a link. Make sure it’s not a no-follow link.
These are all easy ways to get credible links. If you want to know more about how Google and other search engines weigh links, click here.
Written by: Christina R. Metcalf
6 “Better Than Surveys” Ways to Find Out What Your Customers Think
A few years ago, a trend hit—customizing your offerings to what your customers wanted. It involved surveying every part of their experience and shaping your business based on results. Customer-designed offerings kept a lot of businesses alive during COVID. The idea is a great one, give them what they want, make them feel important, and they’ll return.
This premise was so widely adopted that we all became professional survey takers. Now every moment you spend with a business (online or in-person) is followed by a survey on your experience. From airlines to doctors, they’re all doing it. These requests are exhausting and make people regret giving out their emails.
But it’s important to ensure your business offerings are in-line with what your customers want, right? So how do you ensure this without giving them survey fatigue? Here are a few ideas that will help you get the information you need without annoying them.
Skip the Survey: Learn What Your Customers Want in More Meaningful Ways
- Exit Drop Box. If you have an in-person business, at the end of the transaction give people red and green poker chips (they can be made out of cardboard) and ask them to drop the color that best fits their experience today in the box by the door. The other one can go in the recycling box. This gives you a quick idea of whether your customer experience for a given day is as good as it should be.
- Website Pop-up. At the end of an online transaction, give your customer a single question based on something you want to know. Make it a radial button answer for a quick response. Don’t ask a generic question like “did you enjoy the experience?”. Make it something more revealing like “did you find our website easy to navigate?”. Ask different questions each week but stick with one at a time. Add a meaningful thank you message after they answer.
- Social Media. Post a customer experience or product/service question to social media but invite people to answer in a fun way by using emoticons, for instance to signify their most recent experience doing business with you. Or ask them to use a gif to describe it. It’s not exact science but it can be fun.
- Interactive menus. Thanks to COVID, a lot of businesses like restaurants aren’t using paper menus. They’re using QR codes to access online menus. If you’re using online menus in your business, make them interactive. Allow people to hover over and see pics of the items and add comments or use emoticons. These “comments” then serve as social proof for future customers.
- Remember passing notes in middle school asking someone if they liked someone else? You can do the same funny type of question using SMS. Make it creative and fun and people are likely to respond to it. You can use that same middle-school format leveraging you against your competition in an “us or them” rivalry. You may not always get the answer you want but it can be fun for you and your customers.
- Forget polls and surveys. Those things are just for your own info and other than giving you an idea to change your business for the better, they don’t really do anything for you. Reviews, on the other hand, do. So, the next time you want to put a survey in front of your customers, consider asking them to review you instead.
Surveys are great tools for learning more about customer experience but these days they’re too overdone. No one has time for them and they’re mildly annoying when they clutter up the email inbox. That doesn’t mean you should forgo asking your customers’ opinions. You just need to do that in a fun, less intrusive way
Christina R. Metcalf is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words. Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.