Local Business Marketing Trends 2018

A recent study conducted by BrandMuscle found that for local businesses messaging and search engine optimization are the most effective digital tactics in 2018 for marketing local businesses. The study also concluded that Snapchat  the social media network was the easiest to execute when it comes to social media marketing…

The report captures marketing and ad-spending trends among US small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The study covered small businesses that participate in co-op or MDF funding programs…

Via MarketingLand

The report offers a snapshot of tactics and attitudes among US small business marketers as a whole.

Interesting Findings

The report found that the vast majority of small businesses are doing their own marketing in-house. 64% of small business owners apparently are doing all the marketing themselves. According to the study authors this generally means poor execution – in other words the business owner gets poor results as a result of doing their own marketing.

local business marketingThe study discovered that only 3 percent of the small businesses surveyed were employing an outside agency or vendor, and only 7 percent had a dedicated marketing person on staff.

The study also finds that in  2017, small business owners adopted a range of new tactics, with the majority – the 63 percent – having tried 3-6 new marketing tactics.

The lessons for 2018?

Top Three Local Marketing Tactics for 2017

The top three tactics used by all the surveyed small and medium businesses were websites, Facebook Marketing and either email or direct mail. It was found that for the smallest businesses, direct mail substituted for email marketing as one of the top three tactics.

When businesses were asked where they intended to add or decrease budget — digital, traditional media, social and (offline) events — majorities in each case were holding the line. However, substantial minorities (40 percent and above) intended to increase budgets for events, digital and social.

It was also discovered that most small and medium businesses were a little confused and uncertain regarding the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.  Many business owners for example considered messaging to be the most effective digital tactic on the list, followed closely by local business SEO (search engine optimization), partly because these are also some of the easiest to implement…

And while most business owners see Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram as similarly effective, Instagram and Snapchat (in particular) were seen as less difficult to use.

How are you marketing your small business n 2018? If you are doing it yourself you need to realize that you can get phenomenally better results with the same amount of effort and ad-spend you are currently using – simply by learning how to do it like the pros. We have compiled the stealth marketing power pack DIY specifically to help small and local business owners supercharge their local business marketing – all quick and easy.  Read more here.

Facebook for Small Business Owners

Facebook is as an extremely powerful networking medium for businesses and it can help grow your business. But it is important to remember that Facebook, for business, is all about building relationships, not business transactions. Recently, in early 2018, Facebook has in fact announced that it will be suppressing business and promotional content in newsfeeds in favor of social content. They want to go back to what it originally was in the “good old days” – a “fun-with-fans” social platform.

facebook for businessThat said, here are some reasons why you want to leverage Facebook to grow your business:
Great exposure. If you use it strategically and consistently, Facebook will significantly increase your company’s online presence and visibility. You can use the platform to post comments, to provide insights, advice and tips. This earns you respect and credibility in your network, and ultimately gains your business leverage.
Facebook can help drive visitors to your website and to generate more interest in your products/services. The links you get from your Facebook pages help build your website’s ranking and visibility in the search engines.
In Facebook you have a powerful marketing platform all for free that allows you to reach out to hundreds, even thousands of people with a host of user-friendly applications and tools you can use to market your products and services.
Facebook, for businesses, offers targeted ad space you can use to promote your products and services. For a reasonable fee, you can create ads and target them to reach specific gender, location and age group, as well as track the performance of your ad campaigns.
You can use Facebook to provide regular updates. It’s a convenient way to update your network on new products, promotions, and to pass on general information about your company to your customers and prospects. Your brand therefore stays fresh and relevant in the minds of your market.
You can use Facebook to facilitate online discussions that will give you valuable inputs and insights into your processes, the customer experience, etc. You can – and should – use the platform to discuss and respond to comments and inquiries. Facebook is a great source of constructive feedback to help you enhance your products or services.
Facebook enables you to stay connected and to nurture relationships with your customers. You can use the platform to engage your customers and fans by giving them useful information regularly. Content can be helpful how-to videos and other relevant content which your market may enjoy.
Facebook enables you to enhance customer service. Consumers today prefer real-time response to queries and concerns. Your business Facebook page offers you a convenient and accessible option for your customers to reach you.

All of this means work of course, and big businesses have employees dedicated to managing their business Facebook pages. If you are a small business this is out of the question. I suck at social media myself and I can imagine lots of small business people out there don’t have the time or the skills to use Facebook effectively.

My advice is to do the tasks you absolutely have to do in as the business owner, and to outsource the rest. You should respond to queries and comments – this isn’t something you can outsource.

But you can outsource the setting up of the Facebook fan page for example, and maybe posting some of the content, generating fans, etc. Your Facebook profile must be impeccable, because this is the first thing most people visiting your Facebook page will want to see. Businesses today are judged based on their Facebook profiles and so your profile on Facebook is that important.

Remember, you can get outsources on Fiverr to do these tasks for you for as little as $5.

Don’t get trapped into a skills trap, trying to do-it-yourself and become a Facebook expert!

How to Reap the Benefits of Facebook – Tips for Small Business Owners

When it comes to small businesses, the greatest advantages of using Facebook is the opportunity it gives you to engage one on one with your ideal clients. I’m a big believer in referral marketing and building great relationships with your customers is where it’s at. Use Facebook to ask questions, to encourage conversations, and to create personal engagement with your customers and prospects. Using Facebook and email marketing you can build relationships with your customers in a way that you could never do before.

Big businesses with big marketing budgets can attract millions of followers on Facebook and they have invested lots of money to study the platform and they know how it works. Study these big-brand giants on Facebook and turn their success into an opportunity for you to model the best and learn from them.

This is called creative emulation. Well, here are four key strategies that these big brands use in their Facebook marketing to help them stand out from and succeed:

Acknowledge your fans. The big brands are great at spotlighting their fans. If your fans feel that they are appreciated, they’ll continue to engage with your business’s Facebook page

Know your audience. Once you know who you’re communicating with on Facebook, this gives you a good insight into what content to use to give them a good experience – because you know what interests them, and what they like.

Mix up your media. Use photos and video besides written content. It has been shown that Facebook strategies that use a variety of media draw a bigger crowd.

Have fun when using Facebook. The fact is most people log on to Facebook to have fun and connect with friends. As I said at the beginning, this is the experience Facebook wants to emphasize and they are rolling back their algorithms to enhance this experience in their newsfeeds.

Interacting with brands and businesses is not the No. 1 reason why people get on Facebook. Still, you can captivate this same audience even now with Facebook giving precedence to the fun factor and the social experience. The key is to infuse fun into your Facebook activity whenever it’s appropriate. Facebook for businesses isn’t about marketing, promotion, and more marketing.

Use photos a lot because they are viewed more than anything else on Facebook. Photos can go viral quickly because when you post an interesting photo you could get hundreds of thousands of potential new fans seeing it in their newsfeeds..

Implementing these strategies can be done at little cost to a small business owner. Like I said you should outsource the mundane stuff. Model the best that’s out there, outsource where you need to and make these strategies work for your own business.

6 Ways Your Business Can Win With Facebook

Here are six ways you can model your Facebook efforts after the successful campaigns run by big businesses, and some ways you can even get a leg up on the big brands.

Have a plan and a strategy

Big businesses have plans for their Facebook campaigns. They’re focused on strategizing, plotting and forecasting. They have goals in mind and they know the hurdles they’re going to have to jump to get to those goals.

Small business owners, on the other hand, often create Facebook pages with no real goal, just that they know they should.

Think about what you want out of your Facebook presence. Is it more foot traffic? More sales? Or is it just more contact info to populate your newsletter mailing list? I recommend leveraging Facebook to build great relationship with your fans and customers, with referrals in mind.

Use custom tab applications

You’ve probably seen those sharp, shiny customized page tabs that big businesses have. Years ago, companies had to hire designers to build these sorts of tabs at great cost. Today you can get an outsourcer on Fiverr to do it for you for as little as $5. Or you could use services such as www.ShortStack.com and many others to create your own custom tabs with relative ease.

Custom tabs will help you increase awareness and maximize social media potential.

Emphasize interaction

Facebook users want interaction and attention, and this is where big businesses blow the little guys out of the water.

From contests and sweepstakes to virtual gifts and sharable content, big businesses know how to give Facebook users what they want.

Unfortunately, it seems most small business owners missed the trick. If your business pages consist only of a couple of pictures, a short bio and perhaps a map, this sort of static content will not hold the attention of your fans. If you want to be effective on Facebook, you’ve got to buy into the ideals of Facebook, and that means embracing engagement and interaction.

Consider using a custom tab app to create engaging content and be social.

Be available

Facebook for businesses is still about the individual – your customer. Don’t forget, today consumers expect companies to respond to the concerns and queries they have posted within the day or within the hour. Additionally, today’s consumers want to have their say on every product and service they invest in and they expect to be heard.

Don’t be the small business owner that checks your business Facebook page once or twice a week, responding only occasionally. Look at it this way: Would you feel comfortable knowing customers were in your store with no one to ring up their purchases or answer their questions? Make it a point to be available online. Use apps to get alerted anytime someone interacts with your Facebook page. Integrate your Facebook on your website, etc.

Your being available online and how you engage with your online community could be what motivates your next customer to come in and make a purchase. So, check your business Facebook page often, and respond when your fans post to your wall.

Take action

Your advantage as a small business owner is you can gather feedback instantly from your Facebook interactions to make appropriate changes when customers complain. You can quickly resolve issues and even enjoy compliments. Big businesses are slow to react. This gives you an edge when it comes to improving the customer experience process and making your business more referable. Take advantage of this.

Be flexible

As a small business owner you can afford to be flexible. So, if you want to get a bunch of people to your restaurant tonight you can just let your fans know via a Facebook post that everyone who comes in and mentions the post gets two-for-one drinks.

If you have too much inventory you need to clear before the next shipment arrives, you could post a today-only 25% off coupon for your fans to print and bring in. Creating a sense of urgency and offering your fans good deals is a great way to get a strong community response. This is where Facebook for small businesses rocks.

Small Business Marketing: 4 Inexpensive Ways To Ensure A Steady Flow Of New Customers Into Your Business

Marketing a small business used to be straight forward in the past when business owners had just a few technologies to use. Depending on your advertizing budget, you advertized in the yellow pages and in magazines and newspapers, or radio and TV, and of course by word of mouth. All that changed with the internet. Today, glitzy advertising and elaborate marketing campaigns is on the wane; Google and social media rules, and word of mouth marketing or referral marketing is back in vogue…

Today’s customer trusts the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague, or even a stranger on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest who has similar tastes, over anything thrust at them by a faceless company, or even you the small business owner at the corner store.

In this guide I will list a few of the most popular ways how to market a small business, look at the pros and cons and the return on investment, and lastly I will give you my recommendations on the best systems with the highest ROI – and how to implement them. The training is a little over 2,000 words. If you are in a bit of a hurry, you can download the pfd version here to read at leisure when you have the time.

But first… the days are long gone when a business owner could afford to start up a business and then sit back, and expect the business to grow without any marketing input on your side. If you are selling physical products, you have to compete against online giants such as Amazon. If you sell used stuff, there is EBay.

If you offer services, hundreds of other companies are just a click away as far as your prospects are concerned. This is why today a very high percentage of small businesses fail within months, and why small business marketing is so much more important.

Here’s what marketing legend, Dan Kennedy said:

[yellowbox]“For most small business owners their number one job should be chief marketing director. Because almost nothing else matters if that is screwed up.” … Dan Kennedy [/yellowbox]

Dan Kennedy is known as “the millionaire maker” in some circles, and he knows what he’s talking about…

Here’s why you want to get good at small business marketing:

When you learn how to market your business, you take control of your income (because you know what to do to ensure a steady flow of customers), which will enable you to live the lifestyle that you know you deserve. No longer will you be at the whim of economic downturns, bad reviews of your business, or the tough competition in today’s marketplace, all of which may have impacted your bottom line in the past.

If you put the information I’m showing you in this training to good use, when you’re finished you’ll be able to look at your bottom line, when you achieve the small business marketing success which is sure to come, and say to yourself…”yeah, I did it. I’m my own boss,” or “I’m a successful business owner.” The other option is to fork over a big chunk of your profits running ineffective marketing campaigns – and making the owners of websites such as Groupon, LivingSocial and GiveAwayOfTheDay.com or FatWallet.com rich.

Or you could become one of that obnoxious statistic that gets thrown around… you know, the massive percentage of small businesses that fail in their first year?

I for one, I’m counting on you! So, let’s get started…

Back to marketing, small business style, most small businesses can’t afford TV and radio advertising. Even advertizing in the newspaper classifieds is beyond the reach of most small business owners. Let’s look at some popular ways to market small businesses that most business owners can leverage for free or very cheaply.

Marketing and Small Business: Some Popular Marketing Methods

Facebook Marketing for Small Business: There is free Facebook marketing for the small business and then there is paid Facebook marketing. Free Facebook marketing is when you set up a Facebook page for your business or a fan page to promote your business. This is a good way to bring in more business, Facebook being such a traffic giant.

Pros of using Facebook to market your business – Once you have set up a profile for your business on Facebook, the customers you get from your Facebook pages are, shall we say, free? But there is a caveat…

Cons of using Facebook to market the small business – You have to work at keeping your Facebook properties up to date, you have to work at getting more and more followers, likes, etc so that your business ranks in the search results when people search for businesses like yours on Facebook. You also need to know that people don’t normally go to Facebook looking for businesses. They are on the platform to chat and catch up on the news about their friends, etc.

One workaround to this is to use targeted Facebook advertizing. This enables you to catch the attention of casual surfers who happen to need your service or product. But of course it costs money, and I can’t recommend it for everyone.

Search engine marketing for the small business – Search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc provide a great facility for the small business owner looking to advertize his or her business for free. There is Google My Business, Yahoo Local and Bing Business Portal, etc.

These services not only give you the small business owner the opportunity to list your local business free of charge, they also operate a rating system, because they also give your customers an opportunity to review and rate your business. This is a great opportunity if you know how to use it right. I have prepared a guide on how to get terrific reviews on Google for your business and drive new business and sales. The same information can be applied to Bing and Yahoo and indeed any other business search engine.

Pros of using search engine marketing for a small business – Most people today search online for reviews before making any buying decisions, and so, if you get your citations right and get good ratings in the search engines; this is free traffic (read customers and buyers) to your business for years. Great ROI!

Cons of search engine marketing for the small business – Anybody can make reviews about your business on the search engines, including people with malicious intent. And so you have to constantly respond to these reviews, both the good and bad. There’s an upside however to this – responding to these reviews gives you an insight into your processes and gives you the opportunity to take remedial action to provide a great customer experience. I have prepared another guide to show you how to respond to negative reviews of your business so that you can win over new customers who have read the bad reviews – and grow your Google listing at the same time.

The other downside to marketing your business through the search engines is that if you decide to do it yourself long-term you are going to have to learn how to do search engine optimization, SEO – and SEO is a constantly changing landscape. You have to learn the basics of small business search engine optimization because search engine marketing has more scope than simply optimizing your business listings, although that is a critical first step.

You can also market your small business through your website, your Google Plus pages, your profiles in niche directory sites, etc. Properly optimized, these too can bring in a steady flow of customers to your business.

The other option to doing heavy SEO for your small business is to resort to paid search engine advertizing, or PPC.

Paid Search Engine Marketing – Most search engines have pay-per-click or PPC marketing programs. Anybody can advertize on there, including businesses. PPC is highly effective, but if you are a small business owner there is a steep learning curve before you can get it to work for you. The best option if you decide to use PPC to market small businesses is to hire someone or a company that specializes in PPC advertizing. You have seen PPC ads… they look like this:

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business – I mentioned Facebook before, which is a social media network, because it is in a class of its own. There are many other social media platforms – far too many IMHO. Let’s see… you have Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, MeetUp, etc, as well as smaller, “niche” social platforms such as IBO Toolbox (the Independent Business Owners Tool Box), which is great for business owners.

My recommendation is that you shouldn’t waste too much valuable time signing up at any and all social media platforms. Get in there, explore and decide if the platform will work for you, and pick one or two of these platforms and specialize in making it work for your business.

IBOToolbox.com is great for networking with other business owners, as also is Meetup.com, which is great if you specialize in referral marketing. Twitter and the others are better suited to driving new business your way.

Social media marketing can get to be a big time suck, so tread with care… or you could outsource it on Fiverr. There are service providers on Fiverr who are available 24/7 to do all sorts of social media tasks for you for $5.

Word of mouth or referral marketing in small business

If you are getting dizzy and confused with all the marketing being done online, and all these hundreds of options, so are your customers… Research shows that more and more, customers prefer the recommendations of their friends – call it word of mouth, or referrals, or refer-a-friend marketing.

Science in fact has shown that people can’t help recommending products and services to their friends – it’s an instinct that’s wired deep in our brains. And as a smart business owner you can tap into that hardwired desire to set up a system that brings in new customers almost on autopilot.

This is by far the best ROI marketing for small businesses, marketing that harnesses the power of referrals to ensure a steady flow of new customers into your business. Because, if you can concentrate on keeping your customers happy (and being great at your business), your customers will refer your business to even more customers, who will also refer you to more customers – a virtuous cycle.

Pros of referral marketing for small businesses – It’s easy to set up, with zero or very little investment. You also end up attracting your ideal customers, who have been pre-sold on what you have to offer – hence no hassles with pricing, plus you get more qualified customers/clients for the products or services you offer.

Cons of referral marketing for business – You have to get good at customer relations, you have to educate your referral sources, you have to network with your referral partners, you have to do some marketing research for your small business, you have to provide great customer care, which invariably means among other things, motivating your employees (or yourself) to provide stellar service; and you have to get better as a person. Except that… none of these things is a negative in my opinion! J

Download this bonus guide, “How to Double Your Profits with Referral Marketing for Small Businesses,” but only if you are ready to get customers such as these:

small business marketing

Apple Inc has avid fans such as those in the picture, who will camp outside the retail stores to be among the first to buy Apple’s new releases. Want to learn their secret? Download our bonus referral marketing guide here.

In closing…. We have looked at 4 popular free or cheap marketing methods for a small business – Facebook, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and referral marketing or word of mouth. Each of the first three methods has its advantages and disadvantages, plus some of them work better for some businesses than for others.

Facebook marketing and marketing on other social networks, for example, works great for businesses with products/services that are “visual” – for example cake makers, florists, hairdressers, landscaping, fashion, and design. Facebook may not be all that great for say, plumbers and electricians.

Referral marketing and search engine marketing work well for any business. So, the take away here is you have to spend time and your efforts wisely, even with the free marketing options in this list, especially social media. See what is working well for small businesses like yours, and take it from there. I highly recommend referral marketing as it has the best ROI, and it offers the small business owner a cheap and reliable long-term marketing solution.

Search Engine Optimization for Small Businesses

When you want to get 1st page listing in the search engines when customers search online for businesses like yours, then small business SEO is where it’s at…

But before I even define what small business SEO (search engine optimization) means for small businesses, here’s why this information matters to business owners. If your business has any online components, for example a website or a listing in Google for business, then SEO is crucial to your business.

You can develop the biggest and most expensive website in your industry, but without web traffic (visitors) to that website, your website will essentially be useless to the business.

Secondly, it is not just traffic that you need but targeted visitors to your website. Having a lot of irrelevant visitors to your website is as useless as no visitors at all. Good business search engine optimization can provide relevant, consistent web traffic to your web properties – and from there into your offline business.

Download report as pdf

What is Small Business SEO?

Search engine optimization basically means optimizing content you post on the internet such that it will be easy to find by the search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc – when people search for similar content using specific keywords or search terms. The content can be website content, images, audio content such as podcasts, videos you post to Youtube or your website, documents, etc.

Here’s an example. If a prospective customer types into Google, “restaurants in Atlanta” the search engine will bring back thousands of results. This would include websites that have that search term in them, as well as restaurants in Atlanta that have listings on Google My Business, plus the paid ads, etc. Every restaurant, big and small in Atlanta wants to appear on the first page of Google for this search term, and many of the big players will have invested lots of money to be on the first page.

So, as you can see it will be very hard for a small restaurant in say Buckhead, Atlanta to appear on the first page when searchers type “restaurant in Atlanta” or “Atlanta restaurant” in the search engines. But the same restaurant stands a much higher chance of appearing on the first page when searchers type “Buckhead restaurant” in Google, assuming they have optimized their web properties for that keyword – “Buckhead restaurant” or “restaurant in Buckhead.”

SEO for the small business is always a trade off. You can’t afford to go for the big, high search volume keywords that would bring lots of visitors to your web properties. The better option is to target smaller relevant keywords that you have a much better chance of ranking for in the search engines.

The “big” keywords are not everything. As a small business you’d rather be on the first page for a few smaller keywords, than try to rank for bigger keywords and not be on the first page at all. Because the first page is everything! How many times have you navigated to the second page of Google’s search results? Here’s the sad fact of the day: Google is so good at being a search engine that people blindly trust Google’s ability to deliver the most relevant results on the first page.

You should therefore go for the smaller relevant keywords where you have a chance to rank on the first page of search results. For example, an accountancy business in Atlanta may not rank for the highly competitive keyword “accountant” (unless they have a lot of SEO budget and time to wait for rankings); but the same business could conceivably rank highly for the keyword “chartered accountant Atlanta”.

What are the best keywords for small business SEO?

Search engine optimisation is a complex and always-changing science, and I hesitate to advise small business owners to “do-it-yourself.” You are probably better off outsourcing this stuff, because there is such a thing as bad SEO: ineffective SEO that does not produce the desired result and that can damage the reputation and, ironically, the long-term SEO of your website or other web properties.

At the end I will give you a link to a guide to hiring a good SEO provider. But you need to understand that SEO services are quite pricey. For small business owners on a tight budget, the option for affordable small business search engine optimization is to learn as much as you can and then outsource the “techy” stuff to service providers on Fiverr, where you can get micro jobs done for you for as little as $5. Just make sure you hire only highest rated providers.

Back to keywords you should target for small business search engine optimization, a good SEO provider should research the keywords that your business could realistically rank on page one for, that also have enough search volume to be worthwhile for your business to try ranking for.

For those who may want to have a go at it themselves, one good way to come up with keywords to target is to ask your customers this question: “What would you Google to find a business like ours?” I cover this and other strategies in the Referral Marketing Crash Course.

How to Search Engine Optimize for Your Small Business

Anytime you put up a website or spend time listing your business in services such as Google for business, this is a form of small business search engine marketing. The purpose is to have prospects that need your services or products to find you when they search online.

It begins by coming up with a list of relevant keywords that your prospects are known to use when searching for businesses like yours. One way, like I mentioned above is to ask them. Another way is to do research and find these keywords in databases kept by the major search engines. It is important to understand that many people use non-standard phrases and all kinds of abbreviations because (nobody wants to type a lot in a search bar).

So if your business or service uses short forms of words, or abbreviations, make sure you use them in your web content.  Use your location a lot, use your phone contacts and email on all your web properties. If you offer emergency services, use the word “emergency” in your content, for example “24 hour emergency locksmith in Buckhead”. These words and variations of them get used a lot by online searchers. Use your area code in your content. Searchers have learned that you get more targeted results in the search engine when you search using zip and area codes.

Consider this search: “emergency water removal Tampa” or “broken sewer pipe emergency repair Tampa”. Now, someone whose home is drowning in water and they are looking at thousands of dollars in water damage restoration, so that every second counts; such a person will want fast service and they are looking for a company that can get to them ASAP. A better search term will be something like “emergency water removal 33673 Tampa” or simply “emergency water removal 33673.”

This restricts their search results to emergency water removal services within just a few miles of their home, without regard about which neighborhood, which suburb, etc the company is located.

Business search engine optimization is a specialized branch of SEO and you really want to get an expert that knows their stuff. So far in this guide I have only mentioned what’s called on-page optimization. There is optimizing your website for mobile devices, and for some businesses these days it pays to use schema markup or rich snippets that are all the rage SEO-wise, etc. And then there’s link building and off-page optimization – and these are best left to people who know what they are doing.

Your best option if you are a small business looking to optimize your website for the search engines is really to concentrate on being great at your business – and outsource the SEO. I couldn’t begin to try and teach you in a simple guide such as this one a topic that takes experts years to learn and master.

As a matter of fact there are many bad so-called professional SEOs! So, below I’m giving you the link to a guide that will show you what to look for when you go out to hire an SEO consultant for your business, what questions to ask, and what to expect from their services. A good SEO provider is an asset to your business, and your decision to hire should not be made only on the price of their services, but rather the potential return on your investment. Here’s the link to “The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Hiring A SEO Provider

Customer Relationships Blueprint for Small Business Owners

Where a customer is concerned, all business owners need to be expert “relationship builders.” What’s more, all business owners need to be expert “relationship managers.”

Your life as a good business owner is defined by the relationships you keep, because relationships is where it’s at, if you want to grow your business. One of the most important relationships in business is the relationship you have with your customers.

If you’re in business, you know that without the customer, however your group may define that term (clients, patients, accountholders, constituents, buyers, callers, owners, renters, for example) your business will cease to exist. Without the customer, your business becomes nothing. The customer can fire you, at anytime, merely by taking her or his business somewhere else.

As a business owner, if you don’t do a great job of giving your customers something they are interested in, you end up losing them.

And so, whether you are in financial services, automobile sales, bookselling, or any of the thousands of other businesses out there, the customer is king – or queen.

Where your customers are concerned, you need to be an expert “relationship builder” and a you need to be great at managing that relationship.

Your success in your chosen business will greatly depend on how well you deliver value to your customers – and how well you cultivate your relationships with your customers to keep them coming back as repeat buyers.

If you prefer you can download this guide in pdf format

There are five steps to developing and maintaining successful relationships with your customers…

One: Show respect to the customer.

Right from the initial contact, be it a new customer walking in at the door, or the customer calling you on the phone, or hitting your website – you have to treat this customer as if he or she is the most important person in your world.

Here’s an all too familiar scenario (maybe something similar has happened to you?):

You stop in at the counter of some retail outlet. The woman behind the counter doesn’t even greet you. She waits until you speak. She doesn’t suggest any items you could be interested in, doesn’t ask many questions. So you “help yourself.” And when the amount due comes up on the cash register, she lets the register display do the talking – because she can’t even be bothered to tell you how much you need to pay. It’s as if you are a piece of scrap paper that blew in through the door…

This “salesperson” or “shop attendant” hasn’t shown you any respect. Most people are sort of used to this treatment and it rarely bothers them. But look at it from the profits point of view: This shop attendant or sales clerk, or whatever you want to call her could have made a bigger sale by suggesting things to you, smiling at you, and carrying on a conversation. And if this was your first time at this particular location, it’ll likely be the last.

Here’s how she could have done a better job:

  1. She should have greeted you as you entered the building.
  2. She should have engaged you in a little conversation.
  3. She should have suggested other items. If this was a fast food takeaway, she could have suggested cookies, a larger drink, a different kind of sandwich, or the shop’s “2 for 1” special.
  4. She should have been pleasant with you (or any of her other customers).
  5. She should have thanked you for your purchase, and asked you to call again.

Now, all of these things don’t cost a dime, and so it’s not that difficult to show respect to a customer – any customer.

Small things such as addressing your customer by name can do a lot to cement your relationship to your customer. In general, businesses do better when they show respect.

There’s a local café I used to frequent some years back to get some writing done. The owner knows my name – and she has my coffee ready whenever I walk in the door, such that I don’t even have to go up to the counter. She delivers my Arabic coffee just as I like it; she chats me up some, and then she leaves me alone, because she knows I like it that way. I continue going to this café, even though it’s no longer as convenient for me as it used to be, when I lived in a different part of town. Why? Because I feel I get respect from the owner.

People feel they deserve respect – and they do. Customers are our bread and butter – and they deserve our respect.

Some businesses treat customers well only to get their money – and they aren’t interested in anything but a “one night stand.” Those businesses usually don’t see the customer again.

Two: Deliver what the customer wants

Has this happened to you? You go to a car salesman and he spends a lot of time and effort trying to sell you a car that you don’t want, a car you won’t be buying from him or anyone else for that matter. It’s always annoying, and if it wasn’t for decency I think we should tell off people like that!

Imagine going to a bakery to buy a doughnut and having the baker try to sell you a hamburger bun, instead…

Forcing your customer to buy something that he or she doesn’t want, through hard selling practices, is altogether a bad idea. Your customer may be temporarily placated, but sooner or later, he’s going to figure out that the hamburger bun isn’t a donut after all. Guess who just lost a customer…

Lots of businesses try to sell people stuff that they really don’t want – just because that’s what the business happens to have in stock.

You’re far better off learning what the customer wants – and selling them that.

If your customer doesn’t want what you’re selling, whatever that is, or if they don’t want it at the price you’re selling it at, you’re a lot better off learning how to offer what they want, at the price they want, than resorting to hard-sell tactics to get them to buy something they have no real interest in.

Third: improve the relationship with the customer.

Websites such as Amazon actively work to improve their relationship with their customers. I’m an Amazon customer; they’ve never seen me or met me, but they are constantly improving their relationship with me, by suggesting other items that I might be interested in, and in many other ways.

If you bought a new Smartphone off Amazon, they will get in touch to recommend a charger for the same phone. If you buy a book on Abraham Lincoln, they’ll get in touch to recommend a book on Thomas Jefferson. You may not buy the books Amazon recommends to you, but you would appreciate the email…

Now, these recommendations from Amazon are obviously a form of selling – but they are also helping the customer. This is state of the art customer relationship building in other words.

Other companies do this as well. A bank will suggest other services to you, and they are also constantly developing new services that will be helpful to their customers. Car companies have learned to listen to their customers – and to put their customers’ needs into the next car design, etc

For the small business owner, reaching out to your customers could be as simple as giving your customer a call when something they would be interested in comes through the door. You want to deepen the relationship – by learning what the customer needs, and then actively working to fulfill those needs.

Fourth: make your relationship with the customer a “win-win” relationship

In order for your relationship with your customers to deepen, you need to give as well as take. In other words, both you and the customer should win from the transaction. You give them value, they give you patronage. Whenever the cost of maintaining their relationship with you or your business exceeds the value that your customers are getting from it, you’ll lose their patronage.

You therefore need to deliver, or be perceived by the customer to be delivering, more value in the transaction than they receive in return.

In order to get the customer to keep a relationship with you, you have to practice win-win in all you do – in other words you have to give more value than you get.

Fifth: you need to maintain the relationship.

A great relationship with your customer isn’t something that just happens – you work at it. You need to work on maintaining it. We have seen how to develop it in the above steps. This step is all about the drive to keep contact with our customers. You can do it by special mailings, the occasional phone call (if your line of business makes that appropriate), or by ensuring that you protect and empower your customer.

How are you maintaining contact with your customers? What way should you be using?

Finding, developing, and keeping a customer relationship is sometimes a pretty tricky dance, but it will work to your advantage in the long run (the Return on Investment is very high!)

Incidentally, if you are not emailing your customers, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table – and failing to maintain your relationship with them. Email is the new way to keep in touch with your customers, whether it’s marketing to them or educating them.

I will be covering emailing marketing in a later guide, but if you want to get a sneak preview on how email marketing automation works, I would recommend you grab a free trial here for one month.

A lot of the emails you will use in your customer engagement (for example follow up emails, welcome emails, customer education emails, etc) are best automated, with an autoresponder.

“It takes more than capital to swing business. You’ve got to have the A. I. D. degree to get by – Advertising, Initiative, and Dynamics.” – Isaac Asimov

Here are some of the ways how emailing your customers can help develop and maintain your relationship with them – and grow your business in the process. You can use email to:

  • Welcome new customers or clients and then encourage them to upgrade their experience by purchasing from you again.
  • Introduce new leads to you and your brand, and turn strangers into friends.
  • Educate your customers about your product or service.
  • Inform your existing customers about new products, improvements in service, or promotions you are running. This is effective in driving new sales.
  • Deliver marketing materials to customers. When you use email marketing as a way to advertise your business, you can eliminate some of the high costs of advertising.
  • Deliver follow up content to customers who bought from you. Whenever someone buys a product or service they should also be taught the proper way to get the most from that product or service. This is a great way to transform your customers into fans of your business. You could create an automated email series that teaches lessons and tips, or send them links to a how-to video, or a getting started guide, etc.

Ever heard of the “holy trinity of repeat sales”? Here it is – upsell, re-sell, and cross-sell.

Your best possible source of revenue is your existing customers. This is a fact you can take to the bank.

Your existing customers are your best possible source of revenue! Which means you should have a regular program to stay in contact.

What are you doing about repeat customer sales? When was the last time you contacted each customer, and made them an offer of some kind? … What – you’re waiting for them to call you?

You’ve got to contact your customers. Under any pretext, for any reason. Why? To solidify and maintain your relationships, and reconfirm why you want to do business with them. To understand your value from their perspective. And lastly, to make sure they are being served properly and to sell them everything they need.

If you are not using email marketing in your business, get a free trial today with this feature-rich email marketing solution for the small business.

How To Motivate Your Employees in 7 Easy Steps

Employee motivation is one of the primary drivers of business growth and the success of any business. How motivated your employees are depends on many factors, some of which may be beyond your control, but for the most part, as the business owner, manager, or boss, there is a lot you can do to motivate your employees and cultivate a culture of success for your small business, or indeed any organization.

Why should you go all out to motivate your employees – aren’t you paying them?

You want to have motivated employees for a number of reasons:

  • Motivated employees are more productive.
  • Motivated employees are more creative.
  • Teamwork thrives when employees are motivated.
  • Customer care thrives when you have motivated workers.
  • You need motivated employees to sustain a positive business heritage (or call it growth-oriented company culture) – a business where employees actually like to come to work and provide great customer care, fast service, a great customer experience.
  • All of these things drive job satisfaction, and higher profits for your business.

How this Employee Motivation Guide is Organized

In the first section of this guide I have listed the top 10 common reasons why your employees could be grouching behind your back – and not contributing to their full potential. These are the reasons why your employees may be looking to quit the organization, and why you probably don’t enjoy the loyalty you desire among your staff or workers/co-workers.

In the next section after that I will show you 4 ways how to inspire loyalty in your business; and then in the third section of the guide I will give you 7 steps you can take to motivate your workforce for a boost in productivity, job satisfaction, and higher profits for the business…

how to motivate employeesDon’t worry; it’s just over 2,500 words… easy as pie! But if you prefer, you can download the PDF version here and read it anytime at your convenience…

The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Employees Aren’t Motivated (or Want to Quit)

From an employee’s perspective, management (or the boss) often conducts itself in ways that make no sense to them. During days of recession when the economy is slow and jobs are few, workers/junior employees will tolerate many of the “nonsensical” or harmful behaviors and policies listed below.

But when your employees get together for lunch and they start critiquing their bosses or the management of the business, these are the top 10 reasons behind their lack of motivation and why they could be thinking of leaving the company.

  1. “My boss is arrogant and believes his own press clippings.” As a result, staff feels taken advantage of.

The Point: “Pride is an admission of weakness; it secretly fears all competition and dreads all rivals.” – Fulton J. Sheen. Are your employees seeing you as a rival? If they did, this will drive a different kind of motivation, not the enthusiasm you are looking for to grow the business!

  1. “My manager micromanages rather than trusting staff to perform.”

The Point: Your staff probably hates you and they are looking for ways to resist being over controlled. According to business management gurus, not only are hyper-controlling managers irritating, they are inefficient too!  This is a big de-motivator for employees. You have to believe in your team.

  1. “My manager is crushing my drive and desire.”

The Point: Hired because they were smart and energetic, the manager is afraid that he/she will not be seen as the shining light (the reason for success) and crushes the very qualities that made the new employee attractive to hire in the first place – and highly motivated and desirous of joining your company/business!

  1. “My boss guesses what is needed without resorting to data or facts.”

The Point: Maybe as the manager you have the facts, but you sure aren’t communicating your position, which leaves the impression that “It’s my way or the highway.” Your staff will choose to leave rather than be abused. And if they stay, you will have employees who are unmotivated and unsure how to contribute to the growth of the business.

  1. “I’m treated like a child.”

The point: Look, there are often generational differences between how you the manager/owner of the business work, and how your employees work. Younger workers in your business may have a “know-it-all” attitude, or unfamiliar techniques how to use technology to get things done. If you insisted on getting them to “conform” to your way of doing things, your employees could feel misunderstood and resent you the manager or boss. Of course this would impact employee motivation.

  1. “Manager promotes someone from a different function who does understand the job and how to be successful.”

The Point: If you did this, your employees probably do not believe they can learn from this person, they judge him/her to be an anchor around their department and they resent that they were passed over for promotion. And if an employee feels that his/her chances of a promotion are gone, of course motivation suffers, resentment sets in and you have a dysfunctional team.

  1. “My boss is extremely critical.”

The Point: It’s not good for the organization if the only way your employees interpret that you are pleased is when you are not nagging and nit-picking. There are even bosses who hold everybody else in the organization at fault when things go wrong – but never themselves.

As a leader you have to learn to juggle compliments and complaints like a master magician. Leaders who pass the credit along, and who use mistakes as a learning experience, always seem to be the ones who are most successful. They become successful because they know the value of their employees, and they stay successful by earning the love and loyalty of these employees.

  1. “I get ideas lobbed at me with little clarity and I have to figure out what is really wanted.”

The Point: Your employees can find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place if they don’t know the target of the task or you haven’t given them a clear idea of what needs to get done. Otherwise you will create frustration, and frustration kills motivation most of the time.

  1. “I don’t have sufficient resources to get the job done.”

The Point: Employees often believe they have inadequate resources to get a job done, leading to frustration and loss of motivation.

And the number one reason employees may be so stressed they may even be considering to quit:

  1. “My company is grossly underpaying me.”

The Point: Employees can read job ads online and learn what their real value is. As much as they may love you, the business, and their work, eventually people realize they need to pay their bills and if they feel squeezed their motivation to work will nose-dive – or they may start to think of leaving.

The short summary…

Your staff, the ones you could be mistreating or taking for granted are your competition’s staffing solution (just as theirs is for you). Rather than taking their continued employment for granted, motivate them, excite them, coach and encourage them and they will go do anything for you (at almost any price).

Effective Management – 4 Ways to Inspire Loyalty in Your Business or Organization

Today as people become increasingly conscious of their worth, they are no longer willing to stay in a job that has become intolerable and impersonal to them.

This means that in the corporate or business world, it’s not enough to have a system in place and expect people to perform and deliver.

Relationships between you and your employees are as important within the organization are they are in your personal life. How you interact with your employees impacts the level of commitment to the business and how motivated they will be to work for the growth of the business.

Whether you’re an executive or a small business owner with employees your biggest asset is the people you employ, and the number one key to ensuring that your business runs smoothly is to secure the loyalty and trust of the people on your payroll.

The days of people working for altruistic reasons have long passed. People want to feel appreciated and emotionally connected and without loyal people at your side, your business will go nowhere and die.

Below I have listed 4 very simple ways to keep the loyalty of your workers and co-workers. When you implement these practices, you’ll reap substantial benefits for yourself – a loyal team that works to advance the interests of the business, more productive employees, and satisfied customers.

  1. Make an effort to know the people who work for you.

When you find a way to get to know your workers and to approach them as individuals, people feel appreciated and become devoted to you.

Too often, many top managers forget too quickly where they started from. Don’t be like that. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Maybe you once had to slowly work your way up the corporate ladder yourself. How did you feel, working persistently away in less than optimal conditions? Maybe you sometimes ached to be noticed and get an encouraging word from your former boss! Well, if you did, you’re not alone… other people also long for the same things you once yearned for.

It’s easy enough to think, well I ‘m not a psychologist, plus, I’m paying them a salary. Just think again. If you want dedication, you certainly won’t get it by refusing to pay attention to those who work for you. And if that’s what it takes, then it’s wise to become proficient at it.

  1. Be open and straightforward with people.

Show people you care, and tell them what you expect of them. Be upfront and clear about your position in relationship to them and their work. Let them know exactly what they can expect from you in return.

Here are 2 very important things to learn about people and how to get along:

  1. a) Humility: No matter how high you may get, without people you are nothing. This is because it’s people who made you what you are.
  2. b) Ingenuousness: When you hide your true self from people, you end up not knowing yourself.
  3. Encourage and support your employees.

In order to encourage people, you need to know their strong and weak points.

Many people have great gifts and talents, but feel timid and are self conscious as a result of their pre-dispositions or the environment they grew up in. Do yourself and the society a favor and support people to grow and you’ll be greatly rewarded in return.

Also save yourself and your business a great deal of unnecessary suffering. Find out what people are truly good at and place them in the position where they feel nurtured and can fully implement their abilities.

When people know that you care and that you have their interests at heart, they will naturally strive to apply themselves. This is because people want to belong – to find an identity with the business, the organization, etc. But if they don’t find their care and love reciprocated, if you are the owner of the business or the boss, they will start to back off – from you and the business.

  1. Go the extra mile, show interest in your workers’ families, insinuate yourself in their lives.

This serves two purposes: it is a good way of keeping the path of communication open, and it shows you care for them as people. People trust someone who takes the time to ask after them and really listen to what they have to say. One reason why psychotherapy flourishes so well is the attention people get.

I know of some business owners, who make it a point to seek out their employees on their birthdays. These days you could even install apps that remind you of things like that…

People have natural needs which include acknowledging their existence. If you as a small business owner or CEO forget to cater to these needs, you may end up scratching you head when the business stagnates or fails, wondering what went wrong. If, on the other hand, you make time for your employees, you’ll be rewarded with great gratitude through, relentless and undying loyalty.

How to motivate your employees – 7 great tips

How do you motivate your employees?

First: Motivate yourself.

Are you being all you are capable of becoming? Are you as good a leader as you should be? Are you actively working to become a better leader – learning, reading, trying to understand your business and how to approach it?

After all, more businesses have been killed by bad leadership than by poor employees!

If you’re not motivated, you can’t expect your employees to be motivated themselves. If you’re not actively working to grow, improve, learn, you really aren’t setting much of an example for your employees to follow. Example is a powerful motivator. Here’s a great quote:

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” – Mark Twain.

It’s almost funny, eh?

Second: Help your employees see what benefit they will gain. It may be money, it may be fame, it may be recognition – whatever they want, it’s up to you to help them understand how to gain it. As Dale Carnegie wrote, in order to motivate others, help them to understand how it serves them, and what they will gain from it. In fact I have prepared a complementary guide to this one to help you do just that, where customer care is concerned: “5 Reasons Why Employees Should Concern Themselves With Providing Awesome Customer Care.” The report shows your employees what’s in it for them to provide excellent customer service.

Download the pdf version and give it to your employees, or give them the link. If you don’t, business owners who give this report to their employees will steal your customers! J

Third: Get to know your employees. Learn what makes them tick; learn what makes them think the way they do. Talk to them, get to know their names. Obviously, the bigger the company, the bigger this challenge will become – but at least get to know the people you see on a day-to-day basis. A byproduct of this can be that you will learn more – as you learn to see the world and the business through their eyes, you’ll learn different, possibly better ways to do something.

Many companies lose their way because the CEO is only listening to himself – and to the yes-men he has surrounded himself with.

Here’s another great quote: “If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.” – Gen. Patton.

That someone could just as easily be you.

Fourth: Help your employees to understand your point of view. And motivate them to contribute by teaching them about the financial challenges that face the company. Help them to understand how they can make a difference. Co-opt them into helping you solve those challenges.

Fifth: Set a path they can follow, and help them see the vision you possess – assuming you have a vision. The best leaders help their followers to see their vision – and they have so much enthusiasm about that vision, they light a fire within their followers (infecting them with their vision).

Sixth: A good way to motivate your employees is to ask great things of your workers/co-workers. Show them what great goals you have set for the growth of your business/company and motivate them to contribute to their fullest potential.

Seventh: Remain positive, and expect others to do so, as well. Too many managers try to motivate through fear. Although fear is a powerful emotion, and a big motivator under the right circumstances, its results are only temporary. Using fear as a motivator only encourages more fear – until your employees are so afraid that they refuse to move.

Always remember that fear breeds fear, courage breeds courage.

This is how you motivate your employees. None of these steps above are hard to implement, but some of them may require a few changes/improvements in your personality – but that’s the whole point. If you want to be great at your business and to become a better boss and a happy business owner, you have to become a better person. Only shortcut that I know! J