Most Recent Posts
|// by Anissa Starnes / Apr. 30, 2015 0 comments|
Spring is finally here and, customers are emerging from their cocoons as small business traffic picks up. “Spring specials” are everywhere and there’s a land grab when it comes to attracting your customers’ attention.
To stand out and inspire them to engage with you, you’ll need to “spring clean” your marketing efforts. Ideally, you’ll want to do this from the inside out by first analyzing your email and social media campaign results.
Let’s start with email. In reviewing the last three to six months, take a closer look at which articles were most popular in terms of being clicked on, forwarded and shared on social media. While you’re looking at your results, take the time to clean up your contacts list. Clear out the duplicates and bounced addresses and add the names from that stack of business cards you’ve been collecting.
From a social media perspective, take advantage of Facebook Insights to better understand the demographics of people on your page and their interactions. Similarly, Twitter Analytics measures engagement and gives you insight into the effectiveness of your tweets.
Along with analyzing how your customers respond and react, you’ll also want their direct feedback by issuing a survey. Be brief yet specific to learn what works and what you can improve.
Lastly, look at what your customers aren’t saying or doing. Which content and offers are they bypassing? Are they referring their friends to your business? Also, when it comes to their online engagement, what are they talking about in general and what specifically are they saying about your business?
Based on this insight, you’re ready to spruce up your marketing campaigns through the following actions:
When you take the time for spring cleaning, you’ll spot trends that inspire new ideas and you’ll be able to proactively respond to potential issues. This leads to more engagement and enables you to stand out among the competition.
|// by P. Simon Mahler / Apr. 29, 2015 0 comments|
“Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant, and having your business mentioned first is the most important in quenching that thirst for expertise.” –Mitchell Kapor
Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have under performed or failed entirely because customers didn’t know about them. The same is true in the online era of business. Unless your business appears on the first page or two of Google, Bing, or Yahoo search result, connecting with prospective customers will be very difficult.
That’s not the fault of the search engines; they simply respond to whatever search terms the user enters. It’s up to you to make sure your website content includes keywords that people in your target markets are most likely to use, thereby making your website pages more “visible” to search engines.
According to a recent survey, websites ranked in the top ten of a Google search result page obtain as much as 91.5% of the search traffic for a keyword or term. Then 4.8% for page 2, 1.1% for page 3. This is why almost all of companies that own their own website are keen about being first on Google.
So how do I become a recognizable small business on the web? Start with these ideas…
A good first step in finding the right combination of keywords for your content is to brainstorm words that you think your potential customers might use. This includes your product names, generic names for those products, locations, specialties, and words that searchers might use when they need your product (including words about the problem that it solves).
Author and digital media consultant Mike Moran cautions that because keywords represent your market segments, the best matches for your site may not necessarily be the ones that are the most popular.
“Rather than trying to think of ‘everything’—that is, words that almost no one uses, look for a middle ground of words that are at least somewhat popular and are very strong matches for your site,” Moran explains.
Here are some tips for finding good keywords for your small business website:
Search engines also tend to give low rankings to web pages that are rarely changed, so be sure to update your content regularly. “Photos and video can be huge drivers of search results,” Halligan adds. “Be careful with your title and tags, and include a link in the caption.”
Get Focused. Get Busy. Get Launched. Sprout & Grow.
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 28, 2015 0 comments|
It’s 86 degrees outside in Southern California as I write this—but for many of the nation’s small businesses, the past few months have been a time of unrelenting snow, ice and storms. Some 77 percent of small businesses in a new survey by OnDeck Capital were hurt by the severe winter weather; almost 73 percent closed their doors for up to five days, and 14 percent closed down for 10 days or more. No wonder that two-thirds (67 percent) saw slower-than-normal customer traffic, while almost half report sales dropped by 50 percent as a result of bad weather.
Severe weather is just one of many factors that can bring your business to an unexpected slowdown or halt. Long-term construction that keeps customers from visiting your location, problems with suppliers, fire or theft are a few of the other unpleasant surprises that might hit your business at any time. Are you prepared?
Almost 70 percent of the entrepreneurs in the OnDeck survey made it through their business slowdown or closure. Here are some tactics they used, and other ideas you can implement to protect your business.
Your SCORE mentor can help you ensure your business is ready for anything. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor now.
|// by P. Simon Mahler / Apr. 27, 2015 0 comments|
Perseverance will give you a major edge on competition, but the problem is, you can sometimes be so absorbed by your business that you miss the opportunities and the simple solutions that exist for growing it. Solutions and ideas that, are blindingly obvious, once you acknowledge them –but are amongst the best kept secrets on the planet if you’re not tuned in.
An interesting statistic is floating out there that suggests if you were to visit 100 potential customers who could find value in your fulfilling need you provide, that only two would purchase that same day. People in business often hope and expect to do business the first time when meeting with a potential customer. Sadly, the sale doesn’t close and the potential customer is often ignored.
For the two that would buy at a first meeting, the tendency is that those people already took the time to understand the subject matter, and already knew what they were looking for. If they meet someone who hits on all cylinders and the relationship is mutually beneficial, then business very well may occur. But that is far from the norm and small business owners need to take notice. How often have you purchased a product without having that void filled called ‘trust’ from someone you just met?
Any small business owner who believes that they can just flip around their open sign and head into a sales situation armed with the “Top 100 Sales Close Techniques” and actually close the sale is seriously anchoring for a misfortune of swing and miss. Small business owners need to get to know their potential customers. There are links to research that quantify the reason(s) behind relational marketing and the extreme importance of it for any business, let alone a small business, struggling or not. A successful small business owner will solve real world problems for their customers, not just with the products they sell but with the resources and tools they have to help their customers succeed in their individual or global quests. They build relationships and trust by engaging in ongoing dialogue, (otherwise known as follow-up). The successful small business owners don’t just peddle their products or services with an armory of closing techniques. They go beyond those levels and use perseverance to establish a relationship.
“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise,” says Professional Sales Coach Patricia Fripp. People and companies who don’t follow up, who do nothing to build up that trust and relationship, cannot succeed, especially in today’s tough economic climate where 84 businesses across the U.S. close permanently every single day of the year. Your customer wants to be sure they’re making the right decision before they commit to a purchase of any kind with your business, and that is where perseverance and tenacity can result in sales.
Different studies carried out over different times, in different places, by different market research firms over a number of years all reveal that 80% of non-routine sales occur only after at least five follow-ups. Think about that for a moment. It takes five continuous follow up efforts after the initial sales meeting, before a customer will say yes. FIVE! So how do you change that outlook to better benefit your business?
Be the 56% of the small business owners who are selling products, services, or expertise to NOT give up after the one “no” at the initial meeting. Let’s go a step further shall we? Did you know that after a second time of trying to convince a customer that they need your product, service, or expertise, that the odds tip in favor of those small business owners who continue to dust off their knees in rejection and get back up to swing the bat of success, because 66% will never come back again after a second rejection. After the fourth attempt, 94% of all small business owners will quit on that potential customer, period. This puts you as having strong potential to succeed because only 6% will fight for the deal after the fifth encounter, and that is the degree of separation from those businesses who become one of the 84 that close and the one that grows on forever becoming a staple in their community.
What meaningful communication strategies do you have in place right now to maintain that top of mind awareness once someone has either contacted you, walked-in to meet with you, or shown interest in your product, service, or expertise via some sort of web platform? How do you nurture your clients so that they can begin to trust you and see you as a true professional business eager to succeed?
Here are some ideas to consider for your small business that I have implemented in my own campaigns to create opportunity and success with every customer I meet:
Perseverance and tenacity could be critical to your survival of your small business. Be the difference-maker that customers find as unique, important, and knowledgeable, and you will live a long healthy life as a small business owner.
Get Focused. Get Busy. Sprout and Grow.
|// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 24, 2015 0 comments|
This month’s SCORE infographic shows the best techniques for making business to business (B2B) sales calls. Making these calls is a time-consuming task, so we hope these tips will help point you in the right direction.
The best sales leads originate from the following:
Even after dozens of calls, not all leads become sales.
To achieve successful opportunities, good sales practices are critical.
|// by Hal Shelton / Apr. 23, 2015 0 comments|
Business plan mistakes can result in anything from small setbacks to fatal errors for your business.
Especially for businesses seeking funding, it’s crucial that your information is correct and none of your ideas are misrepresented. To help you avoid future stumbling blocks, here are seven critical business plan mistakes to be wary of:
1. The opening message does not succinctly describe your idea and why it will be successful.
First impressions are important — a plan is often judged by its two-page executive summary. Bankers, investors, and key vendors are busy people, so if a quick read of this opening section does not provide a clear and persuasive overview, they will likely move on to the next proposal.
2. The business plan is all about you and not what you are doing for potential customers.
Businesses are successful when they provide products and services that profitably satisfy a customer need. You start a business because you are good at what you do and are passionate about it; however, you always have to come back to what you are doing for the customer.
3. There is no focus on specific products and services.
Getting customers and cash flow can be hard at the start. To appeal to a large audience, many businesses try to take a broad approach when describing their products and services. This is not a smart strategy. Your business plan needs to show what you can bring to the market that is unique and different from your competition.
4. There is no clear statement on how you will generate revenue.
Understanding how you will generate revenue — sometimes called the business model — is crucial for your own planning. It’s also important to communicate this clearly in your plan when applying for bank loans and asking for approval from credit committees.
5. The sales forecast is not believable.
The sales forecast needs to be supported by data and analysis, a marketing plan that will find prospects and convert them into customers, and an analysis of competitor reaction to a new market entrant. Unfortunately, a good product or service will not sell itself. The problem with unsupported, robust sales forecasts is that the reader discounts them and moves on, and you are not in the room to defend your plan.
6. The funding amount you’re asking for is not supported by the financial statements.
There is a natural conflict between asking for money and wanting to demonstrate that you have a highly profitable business. Sometimes entrepreneurs show robust sales projections, which masks the funding needed. Or they request larger funding than they need since they feel it is a negotiation and they need to ask for $100,000 to get $75,000.
Yes, there is a negotiation, but the requested amount must be supported with at least a three-year monthly cash flow projection.
7. The funding you’re asking for primarily goes to your first-year salary.
Banks and investors prefer to provide funding for assets or activities that will make money like buying a building or equipment, designing and building a website, or funding a robust marketing program. They are more reluctant to fund employee salaries. Taking a modest pay until the business generates sufficient cash flow is often seen an indicator of your commitment to your business.
|// by Rochelle Robinson / Apr. 22, 2015 0 comments|
As a small business owner, you’re often juggling so many tasks that you may not find the time to expand your professional network. Developing and maintaining a strong professional network can be key to your business success.
Expand your professional network to access decision makers and identify new business opportunities.
1. Tap Into Your Existing Network
2. Use Social Media to Connect
3. Join a Professional Group
4. Offer a Free or Low-Cost Seminar
|// by Rieva Lesonsky / Apr. 21, 2015 0 comments|
Have you ever had to give an elevator pitch about your business to an investor, banker, or potential partner? While presenting an elevator pitch sounds easy—after all, you’re just talking, right?—it’s actually quite an art. And if you ever hope to get beyond the elevator stage to presenting a more detailed pitch, you’ll need to make sure your elevator pitch skills are stellar.
To get the scoop on how you can craft a winning elevator pitch, I asked Deirdre Bolton to share some tips. Bolton is the host of Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton, which airs daily at 1 pm ET on the FOX Business Network.
On her show Bolton has a regular feature where someone pitches her in an elevator—and when the elevator lands, several judges weigh in on the pitch. After participating in so many pitches, Bolton has put together her five must-do elevator pitch tips.
1. What does your company do? You need to have the answer and be able to communicate it in one sentence. Craft a phrase at the beginning of your pitch that describes your purpose. That will get all listeners and viewers on the same page quickly!
2. Practice your timing. The Risk & Reward elevator pitch is 30 seconds flat. Practice your pitch at least 10 times in your living room with a stopwatch. Know the elements you want to include, whether it’s more details or an example of your product or service.
3. Be flexible. Write and memorize the two or three elements of what you want to cover in your 30 seconds. You may want to change your pitch around a bit [after you’ve done it a few times]. We tell people who are pitching on Risk & Reward to be flexible until after they’ve talked to the producers. It’s easier if you don't memorize the speech as one big block.
4. Get constructive criticism. Have some friends who don’t know your company well listen to your pitch and tell you what they understood and what is clear or not clear to them about your company and what you said (or how you said it). Clarity of message is key.
5. Make it personal and have fun! Did you establish your company because you were solving a problem you personally encountered? If so, bring that element to the narrative. For example, “As a former sales executive, I knew how difficult it was to generate good leads, so I founded ‘Connect’ to make it easier for other sales executives to increase sales.” An effective elevator pitch is personal and energetic.
After you follow Bolton’s advice, the best way to perfect your pitch is to start pitching. The more you pitch, the more relaxed you’ll be, and the more natural your pitch will sound.
Your SCORE mentor can help you hone your pitch and act as the perfect sounding board for your practice. Don’t have a SCORE mentor? Visit www.score.org to get matched with one today.
|// by Jeanne Rossomme / Apr. 20, 2015 0 comments|
Spring is in the air (finally!) and with the change in weather, the inspiration to prune those old, dead files that are cluttering your computer.
“But”, you say. “Storage is cheap. Why bother cleaning up my digital files?”
So let’s get started! The above calendar from SingleHop https://www.singlehop.com/ helps break this task into manageable chunks.
|// by Aliana Marino / Apr. 17, 2015 0 comments|
The SCORE online workshop “Identifying Your Sales Strategy” details how to reach, talk and sell your business to customers. This webinar allows you to step back and analyze what works and what needs improvement.
First, focus on the basics and think about these factors:
Choose a Distribution Channel
One of the most important decisions that can determine success or failure is choosing your distribution channel--how to get your products or services to customers. Your decision will be influenced by your industry, business size, resources, target market and competitors’ methods. Two basic strategies are direct sales and indirect sales.
Prepare a Sales Forecast
This is an estimate of your sales for the next fiscal year. You will look at past buying patterns, current sales efforts and customer indications of future purchases. A sales budget includes salaries and commissions, advertising and marketing expenses, administrative costs and is usually between 5 to 10% of total revenue. If you have a new company without any sales, base your estimates on market research.
Sales forecast = Total number of customers x Frequency of purchases (per year) x $ amount per purchase
Choose a Structure for Your Sales Team
Consider these important questions to determine your selling approach: