Month: March 2016

Things Successful Small Business Owners Do

If you’re stuck wondering how to be a successful small business owner, know this: running a small business often simply means making good use of successful small business ideas. Successful small business owners face many ups and downs throughout their work. They know that small business ideas cannot turn out successful unless they use the proper approach and strategies.

If you want to be one of the few successful small business owners, remember that having a good strategy is crucial. Without the right strategy and a proper approach, you are not likely to achieve your goal.

Some small business owners manage to overcome their everyday challenges, while others seem to give up after a while. So, let’s find out what successful small business owners do differently from the unsuccessful ones. Let’s turn their experience into your success through your small business ideas.

1. MAKE ANNUAL REVISIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET

Every business goes through changes every now and then, including your small business. For this reason, your business plan and budget should be somewhat flexible to bear such changes along with your business goals. Without revising your business plan and budget, you shouldn’t expect your business to flourish and expand.

The flexibility of your business plan will help you avoid and overcome the eventual unpleasant surprises on the market. Also, such flexibility will give you some time to adjust to certain changes you may experience on your way.

Every business experiences both success and failure points each year. In order to detect and estimate these points, you should revise your budget and business plan every year. While revising, you should check if you are still going in the right direction. If not, you may need to make some changes and adjustments to achieve better results in the upcoming period.

Successful small business owners don’t hesitate to reallocate funds, if that is what it takes to achieve success. In order to increase profits, after they conduct a business revision, smart business owners define and implement the necessary changes immediately.

2. UPDATE YOUR OFFER AND ADD VALUE TO IT

People change, as do their needs and habits. As soon as you notice that you aren’t selling as much as you used to sell before, it is time to make changes. If people aren’t purchasing what you currently have to offer, that’s a clear hint that something needs to be done.

A simple price cut may be the first thing that comes to your mind. As much as lower prices may seem more appealing to your customers, they also point to a devaluation of what you offer. Devaluation of your products or services is never a good thing, so try doing just the opposite – add value to your offers.

The best way to update and add value to your products and services is by developing new offers. If possible, try to offer something completely new to your customers. You could offer product bundles, training programs and workshops, and so on.

3. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Most successful small business owners believe in daring to be different. They know their target consumers. Trying to target everyone and anyone as a consumer will get you nowhere fast. Instead of trying to make products for the masses, focus on a clearly targeted community and grow with it. Once you target your consumers, it is easy to understand their needs.

Understanding your consumers is the secret to a successful business. When you know their needs, you can modify your products and services in order to satisfy them. Satisfied consumers will not only become your regulars, but they will also spread the word about what you offer. This may become the best marketing strategy for your business.

Spreading the word about your products or services is called a referral marketing strategy. It’s been proven that most of the faster growing small businesses turn to this kind of marketing rather than relying on traditional advertising.

4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION

Successful small business owners know their competition. They know that keeping an eye on the competitors and understanding their policy and pricing is crucial to the business. It is wise to consider your direct competitors in your area, as well as indirect competitors.

A direct competitor offers the same primary services to the same target group as you, and they are easy to follow on the market. However, an indirect competitor company offers the same or similar products as a segment of a wider product or service offering.

In some cases, the indirect competitor may offer a product that is an applicable substitute for the original product. Successful small business owners know how to position their company against the indirect competitors. They take both types of competing companies seriously and they account for them in their annual business plan.

5. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Even though hiring the right people for your business sounds obvious, it can be a really tough job for small business owners. Also, not hiring the right people could be a huge downfall for a small company. People who don’t share the concept of your business approach and goals are not the type of people you want to engage in your business.

Candidates who don’t have the right temperament, skills, or talent for the job position that you offer can be too pricey for your company. Having the right people in the right job positions can make your company outstanding. Exceptional companies recruit exceptional people.

6. ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY CHANGES

Technology changes on a regular basis nowadays. Successful business owners are very well aware of that, so they change accordingly. Doing things the way they were done years ago will not provide the same success nowadays.

Accepting technological improvements can help your company become more effective and efficient. Keep yourself informed about the latest in new technology, and the improved solutions it brings. Choose the most appropriate ones for your business and adopt them. Your customers will be grateful and you’ll experience great benefits.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you believe your intuition has been serving you well so far, listen to your inner voice carefully. Your instincts can lead you a long way. If you still feel strongly about something, regardless of the lack of facts or data – act on it. What seems right for other businesses doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Relying on intuition is often the first step out of your comfort zone, and the first step towards becoming a leading company on the market. While you watch your business grow and spread, remember that having faith in yourself and the business you are running is crucial. Being aware of your inner voice can lead you to making business decisions with more confidence and a greater success rate.

Big Data and Small Business

Let’s start with the definition. When the term “big data” is used, what does it really mean? Jon Miller, co-founder and CEO of Marketo, calls big data a catch-all term for very large and complex data sets that exceed the processing capabilities of the typical available computer software. In general, big data refers to the compilation of everything that takes place over the internet: transcripts from Twitter comments or call center conversations, online videos, podcast uploads and visits, webinar broadcasts, all blog postings, all website visits, all credit card transactions, all ATM activity, all online purchases, online advertisements, music downloads and photo uploads.

As regards marketing, big data refers to all information that details retail sales, online sales, market share, website visits, blog and newsletter reads from your website, responses to online customer surveys, online responses to special offers and online advertising, plus all marketplace and industry data about global, national and regional business conditions.

Whatever you need to know about your customers, the industry and the business conditions in which you operate is buried within big data. But in the avalanche of information, deciding which data to access and deciding how to interpret it is the marketer’s challenge. Determining the right questions to ask is the primary imperative, as the late management guru Peter Drucker pointed out.

If you want to use big data in your marketing plan, then propose questions that will elicit the answers you need to fine-tune your marketing mix. Maybe you’d like to become more effective in converting website visitors into customers? A list of the names of prospects who visited your website, spent more than one minute reading your blog or newsletter, forwarded your post to someone and then tweeted some content about what s/he discovered would indicate a serious shopper for your products or services. Big data can help predict which marketing activities are most likely to convert a prospect who has reached that level of engagement.

Google Analytics can reveal part of the game plan, but only big data can get seriously granular. For example, algorithm-based predictions can forecast the expected impact of marketing campaign activity on those who surf your website and suggest who should receive special offers via email or who should be invited to join a focus group. Algorithm-based predictions can also forecast the likely impact of marketing activity on revenue that will be generated in upcoming quarters.

Based on what is learned through big data, marketers can make highly specific and informed decisions about customer groups that have the most sales potential, strategies intended to build brand awareness and loyalty, advertising choices and budgets, social media choices that are likely to create the most buzz, the ROI of that buzz and the marketing message that drives sales.

Who will become your best customers, why will they become your best customers and what will be the average amount of money they will spend in your business? What amount of brand loyalty can you expect from those customers, what types of advertising will resonate with them, which social media platforms do they prefer and will those customers create good word of mouth for your products and services (still the best form of advertising)?

So how can small businesses and Solopreneurs access big data? It can be done by hiring a marketing firm that we most likely cannot afford, I’m sorry to say. At this time, big data is the playground of big businesses. If it’s any consolation, marketing firms are still trying to get arms around big data themselves. For now, traditional marketing analytics will have to suffice for the 99%.

Traditional marketing analytics remain useful and certain data we already own: sales data from our basic financial records, customer zip codes, popular service packages, pricing data and the number of Facebook and Twitter followers, for example.

Market testing is expected to remain a vital part of developing a marketing strategy, even when big data is used. Business owners and marketers will continue to measure the impact of their promotional strategies. Finally, whether big data or marketing analytics are used when devising a marketing plan, proposing the right questions is the starting point.

Dos and Dont For Your Business Website

Dos and Dont For Your Business WebsiteThe DOs

• Having a video on your home page can be an innovative point of difference in your industry and show you as superior to your competitors. It may be a short sweet explanation of your product, a call to action such as why they should make an appointment or answer a commonly asked question.
• It is important to have a picture of the business owner to build trust. This is also very important if you are targeting women as women psychology is they like to see who they are dealing with.
• Your website should reflect who you are targeting.
• Show testimonials on your website with pictures and name and where they are from. Visitors may recognise some of them.
• Check your website does display well on most browsers and smart device platforms.
• Check the performance of your website regularly, just as you do your profit and loss statement.
• Have a website update or overhaul at least every two years. Your business will change and keep your website in fashion.
• Have a blog on your webpage. It is a way to give away great information, educate and gain trust leading to a conversion your website. It will also help your long tail keywords SEO which is usually easy to rank, These keywords will assist your primary keyword ranking too. It may also give your whole website ranking a lift if you do update your blog regularly.
• A good website should have one simple objective such as to gain an appointment time, contact or sale.
• It should be easy clean and easy to navigate.
• Have a good website developer. Make sure others have referred them and can verify their good work practices
• Use your website for business efficiency, if you are getting a common query then put it on your website, then flick out the link to the next enquiries. Use it as a digital catalogue.
• Align it with other social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Disperse your website content through all social media avenues.
• Have all the right things done to your website to assist it ranking on search engine websites such as keywords, sitemaps. Outsource this and get a professional if you know nothing about this.
• Target the correct keywords. Do the research on something like Google keywords tool and then use the best ones consistently throughout your website pages and post.

The DON’Ts

• There is nothing worse than a dated looking website that was last updated ten years ago.
• Try not to cram everything you do on, reduce the focus on key target message. Remove low value or non-core targets.
• Try not to waste money on a bad web developer. It is a critical purchase, so make sure you feel they are the right person. Check their previous work or testimonials. Easier said than done as most business owners have probably wasted some time and money on a poor or ineffective website.
• Many young businesses over rely on their website. They think it will automatically generate new business, but it may not. Make sure you have other marketing efforts to combine with your website.
• Avoid broken links, spelling mistakes, not working yet features or “under construction pages”

• If you have poor conversion, Be aware of it for starters. Do something if your website has poor conversion
• Don’t be a business who doesn’t regularly back up your website. Hacks and damages can occur.
• Never be a website with only words. Add pictures, links and videos.
• Don’t forget to get offline leads too, they can have more traction than online leads. They say a referral will always be a better lead than an online lead who tends to want a quick and cheaper quote without even meeting you.
• Avoid legality issues. Make sure you meet consumer guidelines and your industry guidelines.
• Don’t build your website before you clearly identify your target client
• Don’t spend money attracting traffic to your website such as Facebook ads or Google AdWords until you have a website that works and converts.
• Lastly don’t spend a fortune on auto-responder software which delivers automatic email series to prospects. More often than not the conversion

Small Business Marketing From Finish to Start

“Maybe the start line was supposed to be your finish line. Don’t be afraid to walk backwards.” Author:Tablo

Normally whenever we think of taking on a project, we lay out the plan and define the tasks necessary to accomplish the goal. Consider something as basic as building a house. The builder and the buyer agree on the basics – number and size of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen layout – the eventual “footprint” of the house. It then becomes the responsibility of the architect to develop blueprints which will be submitted to the town or local authority for approval. Once approved, the builder will assign a project manager to move through the steps to completion.

Here’s where small business marketing works best, when the parties work in reverse order. The client (the internal marketing manager or the external business decision maker) needs to embrace the idea of where they want to end up. And unlike the house building example, there are many different choices to define success.

For example, success could simply be defined as a growth in revenue from an existing run-rate to a run-rate with a higher number. For example, lets say the business has been growing 10% a year for the last 5 years, and the goal and purpose of marketing is to improve that growth rate to 20% a year over a reasonable period of time.

Success can be the launch of a new product, a new service, a new solution with a return on investment higher than other launches of the past.

Now to achieve those goals, marketing begins to work, for lack of a better word – backwards. The marketing professional starts at the finish line, incorporating one or more goals that need to be achieved. Marketing looks holistically at the various components that can be engaged in order to handle those project steps similar to the building project manager. However, since marketing activities (also known as the marketing mix) can have varying costs, and different choices require more or less time to check it off as complete.

Here’s an example of a small business marketing process and plan.

Let’s begin with a goal: Grow the revenue by 20 percent over the next 18-24 months.

Why not a firm date? It’s foolish in an ever shifting set of marketing tools and popular formats to set a hard date. Imagine building a plan before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn took off. Odds are good that the completion date would be considerably impacted by these “new” mediums of communicating with buyers and influencers.

In this author’s opinion, the center of the marketing universe is a good website. A great website is better, but should be a living tool that adapts to changes in the way people choose to search for information. So a good website will suffice as long as it provides slightly more than basics about the company, the product, the brand, the solution, and a place for visitors to go for information.

Landing Pages must be Clean and Simple (and Device Agnostic)

Inside the website is our landing page(s). A landing page is where, when someone does a search, and finds your ad (more about that later), clicking the ad link brings them to a specific page directly. Thus, they should not have to plow through the history of the principals, the location of offices, awards, past downloadable PDFs, webinar replays, etc., etc., etc. by bringing them to the home page.

Instead, they should go directly to the page on the website that speaks to the topic via keyword(s) that they searched for, and the “bait” used in an ad to get them to click the ad. Most people are smart enough to roam around the website on their own, to learn more about the company if they are interested. But the goal of that landing page is to respond to the SPECIFIC need, and the SPECIFIC solution, which brought them there to begin with.

OK. Let’s assume we’ve got that solid landing page (quite likely several for each of the solutions, products or campaign being run). How did people get there? In a world of literally MILLIONS of pages, how did they find yours?

The magic word is CONTENT.

Content should not be confused with advertising. In fact, advertising posing as content is quickly discovered as such, and harms the brand deeply. Content is education. It is sharing opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas, successes, and without an obvious goal of getting something in return beyond an acknowledgement that the author is a subject matter expert, and is willing to provide information without a hidden agenda. The altruistic motivation is what buyers crave far more than clever jingles, surveys, puzzles, or quizzes.

Think about your Competitors

Now we move back some more. Who are your competitors and what do they know, do, offer, profess or otherwise claim that whether real or not, is intent in casting their goods in a more favorable light then your own. Often these claims (real or otherwise) are unchallenged, simply because they are crafted by expensive marketing research companies, whose lipstick is more attractive that the pig that’s wearing it.

Look back at who your competitors were not so long ago. Have they truly created something far better than yours, or have they simply done a better job of convincing buyers that you are yesterday’s news. Having been in the IT sales and marketing business for more than 25 years, there are some companies that come to mind that seemed to never be knocked from their throne – WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Digital Equipment, and many other – gone or just consumed by other companies. So while others were innovating these companies rested on their laurels eventually being a footnote in the early days of PCs. And one need not go back 20 years to think about MySpace, the Zune, even Napster.

Take the time to evaluate your competitors and create a simple but honest SWOT analysis (S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, T-Threats) so you the marketing efforts can identify the weak spots and attack them.

Putting it all together

The singular most important foundation a business has for marketing is its database. The database (whether in a sophisticated CRM tool, or an excel spreadsheet). In addition to current and/or former clients, it needs to be constantly fed, updated, parsed, and managed or every other dollar or hour spent will be sub-optimized. The database provides not only the contacts, but a history of business/client experiences – both good and bad. And it is the starting point to uncover any real or perceived “warts” potential clients might find, and an opportunity to address them before going live with campaigns.

Now we have all the parts, we need to converge all the actions to drive buyers and influencers to the landing page(s), where we can generate the dialogue and begin to turn clicks into customers. Addressing all of the nuances of email marketing, snail mail marketing, content marketing through blogs, and distribution through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and (especially) Google+. Tie in a moderate budget to generate visits by using Google AdWords and follow up with participation in industry events where subject matter experts are sought out for their knowledge and ideas.

Summary: There are specific steps for small businesses that don’t require an excessive budget or an onboard staff. Instead, a marketing professional whose personality matches your business, with expertise in driving measurement results, can add value, improve business results, and help act as a virtual partner in achieving both short and long term goals.