Question: Brandi, I attend a lot of events in which I am a vendor throughout the year. Over the past year I have been burned several times, showing up, setting up my booth, only to find that there were more vendors than actual attendees. It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of my resources to vend at these events. These need to be profitable for me. I know everything is not always going to be a win. But what tips can you offer to help me to select the right events to vend at that will be profitable for my business. Read more!
Question: How do you re-brand your business from faith based to a general non-religious business?
At its core, this question seeks advice on how to make a shift in a small business. As we learn and grow as small business owners we often discover new things about our target audience, our industry, and ourselves. These new discoveries often take us in new directions. When you need to make a shift in your business you must first re-evaluate and then revise. Watch the video below for my full response to this question. Read more!
The Super Bowl is about more than just the game, it’s a time to gather with friends and family to watch the game, fellowship, and mourn the end of the NFL season. It is also all about the commercials and the half-time show. Advertisers spend millions, and devote their most creative resources to coming up with the absolute perfect Super Bowl ad. The price tag on ads hit a new high this year, CBS charged between $3.8 million and $4 million for every spot shown during the game. Today, it is likely that more people will be discussing their favorite commercials than the outcome of the game. One example is YouTube prompting visitors to vote for their favorite.
A Perth, Australia, teenager Matt Corby posted an image of a less-than-a-foot-long Subway Footlong. The image that circulated around the web last week showed a Subway FOOTLONG® measuring only 11”. The article posted on BuzzFeed.com suggests that legal action could be possible for false advertising; I will leave the legalities of the less-than-a-foot-long sandwich to the legal people. But the lesson that I take away from this situation is the importance of delivering on promises that you make to your customers.
Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 29, 1963 Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The 17-minute public speech called for an end to racism in the United States. The speech, delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.1 At the end of the speech Dr. King departed from his prepared text to deliver the most memorable portion of the address. Read more!
Brandi, I have been working on my website for what feels like forever. The countdown to the launch ended more than two months ago because I’m stuck. I have chosen my theme, I have my logo and colors, and I know what needs to go on the site but I’m struggling to get the content written. What’s crazy is I just completed my educational program and my school provides a website template for us. Although, I don’t want to use it because it is cookie cutter it is at least a starting point. I know how important my site is, where do I start? I really need to get this done so that my business can move forward.
Thank you for your question, website copy can be a challenge for a lot of small business owners. Here are my top 3 tips to getting started with the copy. Read more!
Startups and growing businesses in the one to five year range normally have their own set of challenges to contend with. Here are a few simple but powerful tips to grow and sustain a small business.
1. Setting Smart Goals
Goals are the invisible force that can keep a business moving forward relentlessly. Without goals, a business would lose perspective and motivation. By setting the right goals, a business can be given laser sharp focus, which would then move it closer to achieving that goal every single day. However, it is important to set the right goals. The goals would have to perfectly align with the vision of the organization. The goals should also be achievable and realistic. Unrealistic goals, how much ever noble they are, can discourage employees and instill a sense of defeat. Read more!
As an entrepreneur we wear many hats and are stretched thin daily in addition to family and other outside commitments. Often we find ourselves spending too much time working IN our business as opposed to working ON is.
Administrative tasks and client projects are examples the day to day tasks that keep us working in our business. However, generating new business and taking steps to meet your business goals is what will allow your business to thrive and flourish.
In order to free up some of your time to work on your business you need to outsources some of the day to day. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be costly; there are resources available that can help. Here are a few tips to outsource without breaking the bank. Read more!
Increasing your website conversion percentage is one of the most significant things that you can do to drive revenue in your small business. Your small businesses website should not just be an online brochure; in fact it should be the hub of all of your marketing efforts and lead to revenue.
So what is conversion? By definition website conversion is the percentage of visitors who take a desired action. Those actions could include completing a form, purchasing a product or service, download something, signing up for a free consultation or trial, or simply visiting a series of web pages. Whatever actions you feel will lead to capturing visitor’s information or generating sales can be measured as a part of conversion. Read more!
Life happens online, whether sharing key milestones on Facebook researching answers on Google and ‘How to’s’ on YouTube or searching for the best deals or the right restaurant the internet has become an integral part of our everyday life. We search and engage online both from home and on the go. According to Internet World Stats, there are over 215 million people using the Internet in North America alone. Having a website for your small business is no longer an option it is a MUST!
Whether you offer a product or service your consumers are using the internet to research and purchase the products or services that they need. The simplicity and convenience of online shopping has led to 73.9% of all Internet users shopping online, according to emarketer.
So if you are pondering whether or not to join the world wide web, stop and instead evaluate how you will effectively represent your business online. Here are a few things to remember:
- Your website is often the first interaction a potential client has with your business, first impressions are lasting.
- Your website should clearly articulate your product or service, be easy to navigate, and make it clear to your site visitors how to buy from you.
- Don’t forget the contact information, a form is not enough nor is just having a phone number. Every person’s preferences are different, I recommend including a form, a phone number, and an email address.
- Your website is not an online brochure; write concisely in a way that connects with your target audience, make it as interactive as possible, and encourage visitors to connect with you.
To learn more about making your website work for your business I invite you to view the recorded webcast “Is Your Website Just Another Pretty Face or a Lean Mean Marketing Machine?”
P.S. Sign up for web hosting through HostGator and receive your first month for only 1 Penny!
Blogs are an effective way to establish you as an expert and build relationships with prospective and existing customers. Blogs are generally easy to set up and maintain. However your blog is useless if no one sees it. Your marketing strategy has to include ways to drive traffic to your blog. Here are a few tips on increasing the traffic to your business blog.
Use Social Media
Social media sites are great places to promote your blog. In fact, your blog can be the primary source for your social media content. For every blog post that you write aim to develop at least 10 (yes TEN!) social media posts for it to be shared over time. Remember, your followers and fans are online at different times of day and different days per week. Carefully crafting different messages that drive to the same blog post increases the number of people who are exposed to your blog. In addition, by sharing via social media over time you give each blog post longevity. No one says you have to only post about your most recent post. Dig back in the archive and share the best posts.
Guest Post on Other Blogs
Every blogger eventually gets burned out with his or her blog or desires varying subject matter or opinions. Most bloggers won’t turn down the opportunity to have someone else write high quality content on their blog. Seek out bloggers with similar target audiences, become a frequent reader/commenter and then reach out to them to pitch your idea. Make sure that you your post includes a link back to your blog. The incoming link help with search engine optimization (SEO) and promotes your business by spreading the word about your business.
Submit Your Content to Discovery Engines
Circulate your content via discovery engines like Stumbledupon.com, Bizsugar.com, reddit.com, and Delicious.com can be very effective in getting readers to your blog. In fact, according to a July 2011 article StumbleUpon now drives more U.S. web traffic than Facebook. So take advantage of these sites, although it takes a few extra moments to submit they will help you to get found.
Your blog is a very powerful marketing tool for your business, spending time ensuring your target audience is regularly reading can pay off big for your business. Don’t just hope that visitors will come, drive them there.
What techniques are you using to drive readership of your small business blog?
Following up with potential clients is crucial if you want to succeed in business. I am sure you have heard people say, “The money is in your list.” when they talk about getting clients. However, if the people on the list don’t know what you do or how you can help them, having a list is meaningless. The money can only be in the list if you communicate with your list. You have to constantly be in touch with the people on your mailing list or they will forget about you and your business. People get inundated with marketing messages. It’s important to be in constant contact with your ideal clients.
Don’t Make All Your Communications About Business
Not all of your communications with your prospect have to be business related. A personal touch goes a long way. Send your potential clients hand written thank you notes or greeting cards for key milestones such as birthdays or accomplishments. When you see articles that you know will interest people you are networking with, share them; forward the link to the article with a note as to why you thought this would be valuable information for you. And don’t forget picking up the telephone is a great way to stay in touch with your prospects. A quick phone call to see how things are going in their business and how you could potentially help can go a long way in building lasting business relationships.
Vary the Methods You Use To Stay In Touch With Prospects
Don’t just limit yourself to email communication. Social media is a great way to engage on a day to day basis with your prospects. Make sure that the people on your mailing list know how to reach you on social media. Include the links to your social media profiles so you can have another way to keep up with your prospects. If you are a Gmail user install rapportive to give you greater visibility into all of your contacts (prospects and customers). Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox.
Also, never pass up an opportunity to meet with the people you want to do business with in person. Your potential client will always do business with someone they have met in person instead of someone that is just a name and an email address.
Don’t Give Up, It Takes Time
It is very rare that people will buy from you on the first try. You have to stay at the forefront of your potential clients’ mind. Ideally you want to be the first person that your client thinks of when he or she is ready to make a purchase. You can only accomplish this by following up and staying in touch with your prospects. Your blog and social media content is a way to keep your customers engaged during the early stages of the buyer cycle in addition more personalized follow up periodically will go a long way in closing sales.
There was an article in Huffington Post titled “Should Women Be More Arrogant?” that was a follow up to a Wall Street Journal article. The article was written after Steve Job’s passing as Apple began its quest for a new CEO. The gist of the original post was that the characteristics that make for a successful CEO are “unbridled confidence” and some degree of arrogance and narcissism. All of these traits when exemplified by women are often viewed negatively. So the question was posed beyond the boardroom and into the living rooms and shops of small business owners. In order to be successful entrepreneurs do women business owners need to be arrogant and a bit narcissistic?
Narcissism by definition means extreme self-love, and simply if you don’t have extreme love for yourself how can you expect others to?
Some would argue that arrogance is not only unnecessary but undesirable that simply being confident in your abilities and your business is enough to be successful. However, I do believe unbridled confidence and a touch of arrogance and narcissism is a piece of the success puzzle that allows you to take your business to THAT level. Not just existing, not just making it, not just lukewarm success but to take your idea turn it into a business and to nurture it to the level of the women business owners whose stories grace the pages of leading business magazines and top 25 lists. To get THERE success is an expectation not an option.
Let’s for a moment discard the negative connotation associated with the word “arrogant” and approach the term from a different perspective. Confidence is knowing you can do the job, it is believing in yourself and your abilities. Being confident in your business is knowing that you can stand tall against your competitors, that you can provide a quality service or product, that you can provide value to your customers. But arrogance is knowing you can take over the world! Arrogance is believing in yourself beyond your abilities. It is believing that there are no competitors on your level, that you provide a superior product or service, that you change your customers worlds.
Steve Job’s and what he has done with Apple is an example of that. Although there are other similar products Apple products are in a class of their own, they are priced at a premium and customers willingly pay the high price tag, and from the original The Apple I to today Apple’s products have revolutionized technology. Steve Job’s took over the (technology) world!
That level of unbridled confidence is infectious, people are drawn to it. People want to be a part of something big. Here are my five tips to embracing a little arrogance in your business:
- Toot Your Own Horn: Don’t be afraid to share your successes and accomplishments. Your past achievements can be the leverage that you need to move your business to the next level.
- Be Essential: Be the product or service that your customers can’t live without. Over the years customers have stood in line and sometimes camped out for iPhone, Air Jordans, Tickle Me Elmo, and Michael Jackson concert tickets. These brands, although not necessities, have become essentials. Position your brand as the ‘thing’ they can’t live without.
- Establish Your Prices & Stick to Them: If you know that you offer a premium product or service don’t be afraid to attach a premium price tag to it. A part of pricing is the buyers perception of the product or service they are purchasing.
- BE YOU!: So often as women business owners we adapt ourselves to fit into the mold that we believe the business and consumer communities expects of us. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are confident enough in who they are to adapt their world to who they are. S. Truett Cathy chose to not open his Chik-fil-A restaurants on Sunday’s based on his Christian beliefs. People said he was crazy and that the restaurant would never succeed not being open on Sunday. Forty-five years later there are 1 ,606 restaurants in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- Push the Envelope & Raise the Bar: When you truly believe that you can take over the world the possibilities are limitless. There is no “can’t”, no hesitation, no uncertainty, no glass ceiling. There is only the next step in the quest for greatness.
I am but one entrepreneur growing an empire that is still in its infancy but I AM taking over the world, one small business owner at a time, creating a new norm, influencing our countries economic environment, touching the lives of mothers, wives, daughters, men. I am building a legacy.
If you don’t already, every morning when you get up take a long look in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye, believe in yourself beyond your abilities. Believe that you have no competition, that you provide a superior product or service, that you change your customers worlds. Be arrogant, and love every minute of it! Life is too short to be mediocre!
Over 30,000 eZines are available online and that number grows daily. Chances are your eZine subscribers are also on tons of other lists that flood their in boxes with content. So how to you garner the attention of your target audience? Having timely relevant content is key, but before your readers have the opportunity to consider the value of your content you must first get them to open the email.
When subscribes to your list they know that they will be receiving updates and news from your company. However, that does mean that all of those who subscribe will read everything that you send. It is likely that a large portion of your subscribers signed up for the free offer that was attached to providing their information (that is if you are using strong list building techniques).
Because it was the offer and not the eZine that they desired some of your subscribers aren’t really interested in receiving your eZine and just treat them as waste of cyberspace and delete without so mush as opening the e-mail and scanning them.
Fortunately, you have the power to change that (cue the superhero music). You don’t want to waste all the time and effort expended putting together your eZine, insteas you want people to read your communications and have their interests piqued. Interested enough to go to your website and look around and ideally purchase your products or services.
A well thought out and attention grabbing subject line is one of the numerous ways you can persuade your subscriber to open your email. The subject could easily be regarded as one of the most important aspect of your promotional e-mail.
Your subject line must be short and concise. They should provide a summary for the content of the e-mail so that the recipient has an idea what is inside. This is really vital in grabbing the attention of your readers and subscribers. You want your subject to instantly grab the attention of your subscriber and get them to be intrigued to open up your mail.
A good subject must always be tickling the curiosity of your recipient. It must literally force the recipient to open the mail. A certain emotion must be ignited and get them to open the mail. It is essential to use specific words to get the reaction you need. Keep in mind that your subscribers spends only a few seconds looking at the subject before deciding whther to open or delete. You must grab your reader’s attention right away.
You can also use a subject that creates a sense of urgency. Statements such as “Act now and get this once in a lifetime opportunity”, or “Double, triple and even quadruple what you are earning in one year”. This type of subject deals with the benefits your company provides with your product and services. You may also use breaking news as your subject to intrigue your subscriber. For example, if you deal with car engine parts you can write in your subject, “Announcing the new engine that uses no gasoline, It runs on water”. This creates curiosity with the reader and will lead them to open the mail and read on.
There are many forms you can use for your subject. You can provide a subject that says your e-mail contains content that teaches them tips and methods on certain topics. An example of this is using keywords and keyword phrases such as, “How to” , “tips”, “Guides to”, Methods in and others like that.
You can also put your subject in a question form. These may include questions like, “Are you frustrated with your job?” Or “Do you struggle with acne?” By getting your reader to answer “yes” they are likely to open the email. This form of subject is very effective because they reach out to your recipients emotions. When they have read the question on your subject, their mind starts answering the question already.
Last night I was I have having a conversation with some women business owners and I used selecting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in an example in our discussion. My explanation was met with blank stares as most of the ladies were unfamiliar with the concept of a CRM. Sadly the majority of small business owners are unaware of a tool that can be tremendously beneficial to growing their small business.
Wikipedia defines customer relationship management as:
“Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service. Measuring and valuing customer relationships is critical to implementing this strategy.”
In a nut-shell a CRM system is effective tool to enhance your marketing, generate more revenue, and increase business profitability. In talking to small business owners the most common response I receive is “I’ve never heard of it, if I have run my business this long without one I probably don’t need it.” I relate this to a cell phone; most of us can remember when cell phones didn’t exist. You were able to communicate just fine with friends, family, and business contacts. Although most of us at one time or another has been running late and felt bad because the person we were meeting was waiting for us at the rendezvous spot. We wished we had a way to reach them to give them an update but never truly felt a void because cell phones had yet to be invented.
The same can be said about CRM systems except they HAVE already been invented. Whether you realize it or not your business will likely benefit from using a CRM system. Using a CRM system gives you a 360 degree view of your customers, partners, vendors and other business contacts. All of the data you need regarding your business performance and history stored in one place.
What Does a CRM Offer? Contact Management, Sales Tracking & Forecasting, Marketing
At the most basic level a CRM system is a contact manager. You can tract all types of people you come in contact with such as prospects, partners, vendors, customers, and those you meet at networking events. Most CRM systems allow you to add custom fields or pick lists so that you can track all of the attributes that are important to you. Having all of the relevant data about those you interact with allow you to engage in the most effective way.
For example, if you are a boutique owner and you attend a networking event and jotted down notes on the back of business cards with body shape, estimated size, and style you could create those three fields in your CRM system and the next time you have a new item that is perfect for that trendy pear shaped women you could easily send an email to just those women who fit that criteria offering them a discount on that item for a limited time. Because what is being sent to them fits their style and taste they are less likely to ignore your communication, especially if you include a personal note in the email.
Another example, you are en event planner. You track all of your leads (proposals) and customers in your CRM system. You have a customer whose wedding you plan, you can then set up a report to see when that customer’s anniversary is and send them a note 3 months prior with your “Night Out” planning details. You plan their first anniversary which leads to their first baby. You then can reach out to get her best friends contact information and email them your article “Top 10 tips when planning a baby shower” with a note that lets them know that you are there if they need professional assistance. The snowball effect kicks in and you become the official planner for the couple. All of this data tracked in your CRM system you know their key milestones; you have all of your notes, photos, budgets, etc from past events. Each time making planning their even easier and therefore less expensive for them; you are their HERO!
These examples go far beyond contact management, as does a CRM system. Through your CRM system you can manage your marketing, track your leads, proposals, and sales, forecast your revenue, log emails, phone calls, notes and so much more. All in one place, that you can filter, report on, and analyze to help you make sound business decisions.
What is the biggest challenge in using a CRM System?
There are really two challenges that most small business owners have in using a CRM system. The implementation and the discipline to create and follow processes.
- Implementing a CRM System: To someone unfamiliar with CRM systems and how they work setting the system up in a way that works for your business can be challenging. Although the technical component of most CRM systems is easy to configure it’s thinking through the business processes and aligning that to the set up that can prove challenging.
- Discipline: Unlike Corporate America which is riddled with processes most small business owners lack formal processes. They just go with the flow. In order to truly reap the benefits of a CRM system you must allow process to become your friend.
Top 3 Benefits of Using a CRM System:
- Extraordinary Customer Service: When you track the relevant data points for the various contact types you are able to provide the highest quality customer service. From having notes on when a client celebrates their anniversary their history of purchases with you having that information at your fingertips is key to creating a positive customer experience.
- Sales Management: Any business that isn’t making money is just an expensive hobby. Using a CRM system allows you to track the various revenue streams you have coming in, when you are likely to realize that revenue, shows you what you are winning on and in what areas you are losing business and allows you to forecast your revenue.
- Business Analysis: By implementing a CRM system you have all of the data your business needs in one place. You are able to then evaluate what is happening in your business to make better decisions. For example, if you see that you are losing deals of a like kind then that may be an indicator or poor pricing or a misaligned target market.
Are you using a CRM system? If so which one? How do you like it? If not, do you think you could benefit from a CRM?
Customer Relationship Management selection, and implementation, as well as sales process development are among the services offered by Cassius Blue Consulting. If you are interested in discussing how a CRM system can benefit your small business do not hesitate to give me a call 678.590.5952.