All posts tagged online marketing

Establishing Your Online Presence

Establishing Your Online Presence

businessgrowThe internet can provide tremendous exposure for your business, when used correctly. For this reason, establishing an online presence is not a task to be taken lightly. It can be overwhelming to get started, however, especially with all the different online options to choose from. Here are some tips to help you narrow down your goals and present yourself on the internet in the best possible light.

  • Quickly and clearly let people know how you can help them with your product or service. Your main objective should be solving a problem for your potential customers.  State clearly how you can do that right away on both your website and your social networks. For example, on your company website, the home page is the first online impression (and sometimes first overall impression) people will get of you and your business. Use images and very brief text to communicate how you solve that problem, and provide one or two clear calls to action, where people can learn more and sign up for your list. Avoid too much text on your home page, which can cause people to leave your site right away. If presented effectively and visually, that initial impression will keep people on your website and encourage them to explore further.
  • Provide honest facts. Facts about the types of customers you’ve served, other businesses you’ve worked cooperatively with, awards you’ve won, or community service you’re involved in are all helpful in educating a prospect about the type of business you operate. If you’re a new business with little or no history, state realistic goals. How do you plan on contributing to your community and to your customer base?
  • Never pretend to be something else. Trying to present yourself as something you are not will only hurt you in the long run because any prospective employees or clients will be set up for disappointment. Be honest and truthful about who you are and what you provide.
  • Use real photos, not stock. Stock photos are impersonal and lack creativity. Additionally, visitors to your website or social media presence will be put off because they can’t get a realistic look into your business. Use photos of your office or retail space, employees and customers (with their written permission), and products. People want a true impression of what to expect when patronizing your business.
  • Stay current and update your site. Always keep abreast of current industry trends and product research as they pertain to your particular business. Incorporate this knowledge into your online presence. As for your company website, frequently check for broken hyperlinks, outdated contact information, discontinued products, etc. When doing so, consider asking someone else to explore the site. A fresh set of eyes can help point out something you may have missed.
  • Make your site customer-focused. Your website should be user-friendly and focused on how the customer can make the best use of it. Your site should be easily navigable, convenient to use, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Consider asking current customers to visit your website and tell you what they think of it.
  • Choose the social networks your customers use. Not sure which ones they use? Ask them! Most likely they are using Facebook, but are they on Pinterest or Instagram? By choosing the social networks where your customers and friends like them are spending time, you can more effectively communicate your message without wasting time on social networks where you’re less likely to get results. Click these links for some tips for setting up a social media presence for your business:

Also be sure to explore the online presences of your competitors to gather ideas and find out which techniques are effective, and which are not. Make sure the message and goals of your business are portrayed accurately online, and adjust when needed.

What tips do you have for establishing an online presence? Please share them below!

4 Ways Photos Can Help You Grow Your Business

4 Ways Photos Can Help You Grow Your Business

Friends Photographing ThemselvesIf you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got access to a camera, and you may enjoy sharing shots you take with your friends via social networks like Facebook and Instagram. But did you know that you can use that camera on your smartphone to help you grow your business? Here’s how:

  1. Take pictures of yourself and other people using your product. All the words in the world about your product don’t match the power of a single picture. So take pictures of yourself or your family using your products, or ask customers to share photos of themselves using it. Have a contest where people submit photos when they see someone using your product while out and about, and offer a prize your for favorites. Then share these photos through your business presences. It’s a great way to show others that your product is used and enjoyed by many people.
  2. Take pictures of your parties (with permission of course!) If you have meetings or parties where people can experience your products and learn more about them, take pictures! When people see how much fun your gatherings are, and how many folks are participating, it can encourage others to want to attend.
  3. Take pictures of things you get to enjoy as a result of your business. Have you been able to take that long-awaited vacation because of your business? Do your kids get to participate in a special program or sport because of what you do? Share photos of those things, and be sure to let everyone know that your business is the reason you get to participate. It can encourage others to want to learn more.
  4. Share photos of things unrelated to your business. Of course you want to share photos directly related to your business. But by sharing other photos, too, of things like sunsets, great meals, etc, you display your human side. Every time you share, you show up in the feeds of the people you’re connected to on your social networks. And each photo is a little reminder that you’re there, so people remember you. Then, when you share a photo related to your business, people are more likely to see it and respond.

Sharing photos as part of your marketing strategy is a great way to highlight what’s great about your business and products. It can highlight what you have to offer and connect with people when words fall short.

How do you use photos to promote your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Five Ways to Increase Repeat Sales

Five Ways to Increase Repeat Sales

Repeat sales can be the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. In order to increase the amount of repeat business you do, the most crucial thing to remember is that friendship is more important than sales. By treating your customers just as you would your friends, you instill a sense of trust in your business, and give them plenty of reasons to continue patronizing your business instead of your competitors’ business. Begin seeing your customers as friends and increase your repeat business in the following ways:

  • Create opportunities for friends to buy, rather than having sales. The main idea here is that you want to appeal to your friends. What is it they need or want? Think about their favorite products, what they’ve expressed interest in, or what they’d like to see more of. For example, a customer wants to purchase your organic hair care starter kit for several of her friends this holiday season, but is hesitant to spend so much money at once. Even though you aren’t planning on discounting this item in particular, offer a special for this specific customer at a price that works for you both. Your willingness to satisfy her need as well as the personalized service will encourage her to come back again and again.
  • Truly believe that your product/service helps your friend. If you sincerely believe in what you are selling, that will shine through to the customer. Think of the last time you ate at a fabulous restaurant with delicious food and an outstanding wait staff: Didn’t you tell your friends and family about it right away? When we experience something pleasurable, we naturally want to share it with others. Your products and services are no different.
  • Always deliver excellence. Aside from making good business sense, a commitment to excellence will give you a leg up on your competitors and big business counterparts. When something goes wrong, fix it. When something goes right, commend those involved and integrate it into your regular business practice. Whenever possible, anticipate issues before they arise. The best way to deliver excellence is to be proactive.
  • Keep your promises. Of course everyone makes mistakes, but failing to keep promises is a surefire way to drive people to take their business elsewhere. Don’t promise something that isn’t 100% guaranteed, like something you cannot control. If a customer inquires about an out-of-stock item, an honest answer such as, “We expect the shipment on Monday afternoon,” will be much more appreciated than, “It will definitely be on the shelf by Monday.” What if the truck is late or goes to the wrong address? What if the order is wrong? Always be honest and only promise something when you’re sure you can deliver.
  • Focus on conversation, not a sales pitch. Because you see your customers as friends, you should take a true interest in their lives. Strike up conversations that aren’t disguised as sales pitches. Ask about family members by name when possible, find common interests, and share something about yourself as well. Remember that friendship is a two-way street, so don’t forget to do your part.

A commitment to building relationships is necessary for increasing your repeat sales. Focus on your customers as friends and do everything you can to help them.

How do you generate repeat business? Please share your ideas below!

Build Your Brand on Your Strength

Build Your Brand on Your Strength

Building your business brand goes way beyond marketing and sales tactics. A brand must be an authentic representation of who you are and what you stand for. In order to achieve this, you must identify the characteristics of yourself and your business that embody this, and embrace them to create a long-lasting brand that people remember. Here are some steps help you do just that.

  • Define your strengths. When doing so, don’t just consider the various skills you have, but also think about the different facets of your personality. Are you witty and able to think on your feet? Do you have a knack for showing others they can trust and confide in you? Do you have a strong creative side? Any of these strengths can be used to build a business brand, so it is important that you take the time to define your strengths realistically.
  • Identify what makes you unique. What is something that people always remember about you or the experience you provide to others while doing business with you? This is a very significant question because it can separate you from the competition. If you don’t know where to start, go back to your list of strengths and figure out how you demonstrate those in way that no one else does or can. You are your business, so evaluating yourself in this way is a necessary part of building your brand.
  • Ask yourself how you can make your industry better. What is missing or lacking in your industry? In what ways can you improve it? Even the smallest things can make a big difference. For example, the photo processing industry has certainly changed since the availability of digital cameras and online services such as printing and scrapbooking. However, one photo lab owner noticed the growing trend of customers taking their memory cards and flash drives or even uploading their pictures to large chain pharmacies for printing. This is convenient, but the results are often pictures that come out underexposed or grainy since there is no longer a trained printer at the helm adjusting the prints. His solution? Offer a service where customers can bring in their pictures printed from anywhere else and he will make the necessary improvements. His small part in improving an industry weakness helped build his unique brand.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Building a brand can be an overwhelming project to undertake, so be sure to focus on only one aspect at a time. For instance, you may begin with increasing your level of engagement with your customers by increasing and engaging more with your social media presence. Once you feel you have built some great momentum, go ahead and tackle something new. This also prevents you from stretching yourself too thin and burning out. If you want to build a brand, you need to commit to it for the long haul.
  • Build on each success. Use each success to bring you to the next level. Using the example above, when you have effectively learned to engage with your customers, you will consequently have increased your following. So now give them a reason to continue talking about you. For example, you might provide an incentive like a special discount for your online community, or create a fun contest where your online customers can win free products. You should also celebrate your accomplishments to reward yourself and keep moving forward.

Taking a good, hard look at who you are and what you want your business to be is a necessary part of building your brand.

How do you build your brand? Please share your ideas below!

DSEF & CBBB: Always Getting Better: Applying Sports Theory to Business

DSEF & CBBB: Always Getting Better: Applying Sports Theory to Business

Continuous Improvement and the 2012 Olympics

Top Olympic athletes and their trainers achieve continuous improvement with constant examination and measurement. The proof of their success can be measured in seconds, inches, pounds, or, in the case of the 2012 Olympics, in personal improvements and world records:  44 new world records, 117 new Olympic records. In business, teams can adopt a similar philosophy in order to identify and confront key issues.

Kaizen vs. TQM

Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates to “continuous improvement” in English. The Kaizen philosophy points to a disciplined process of systematic exploration, controlled experimentation, and adopting new procedures.

The Kaizen philosophy is only the Japanese version of what business professionals the world over call Total Quality Management (TQM).

TQM incorporates continuous improvement though increasing quality and performance in order to meet (or hopefully exceed) the customer’s expectations. This is done by integrating key functions and processes throughout the business and examining overall quality measures used by the company.

How is this done? Lots and LOTS of data. Big Data.

BIG Data

Today’s Olympic athletes are “big data,” in that every facet of their health, diet, and performance are measured to the smallest increment.  They are the most quantified athletes in history; the so-called quantified self.

In business, recent advances in technology provide easier access to more robust data and different kinds of digital dashboard software available. You can measure your company’s health and performance too: it simply comes down to choosing the right software in order to measure your data.

The more data you have about your company, the more you can drive a culture for continuous improvement. The more you measure your business processes, the more you learn about how the customer is affected by each process.

Bring it on Home utilizes a number of different techniques for managing and improving our customers’ experience such as call center software, emails, and live chat.  Each one can be measured in terms of success and overall customer satisfaction.

Measuring our customer’s satisfaction with surveys provides customer-specific feedback and allows us to take into account specific issues that matter most to the customer and improve them to provide the best possible experience. Just like a professional athlete, we measure our success and then strive for perfection.

Record-breaking 2012 Olympics

Over the course of time, we can see that athletes who compete in the Olympics are getting better, stronger, and faster than their previous counterparts. For example,Usain Bolt’s incredible 100m world record breaking time was worlds away from any gold medal winner’s time back in the early 1900s.  In fact, today the top U.S. sprinter in the 8 year old age group, would handily beat the gold medal winner from the early 1900s’.  Amazing.

The 2012 Olympic competitors broke 44 world records and 117 Olympic recordsthroughout the games. This would not have been possible without a philosophy of continuous improvement. Every four years, records are broken and new ones are set, which means, Olympic athletes are only getting better and better.

To continuously improve your business, you must think like an Olympic athlete in terms of getting better.  Nothing is more indicative of ways to improve then measuring your own performance.

What You Need to Know if You’re New to Sales

What You Need to Know if You’re New to Sales

A career in sales can be a rewarding one. It is an opportunity to harness your enthusiasm and excitement for a great product line, and embrace all that lies ahead. If you’re new to selling, however, there are some basics you’ll need to master in order to get in the right mindset and reach your professional goals. Read on for some tips on how to get started.

  • Ask questions to quickly find out what the problem is and/or what the customer needs. The product or service you’re selling is secondary. No one wants to feel like they’re being “sold to.” Your objective should be to find out what problem the customer has that needs solving. Do this right away, and as soon as you identify it, quickly explain the solution that your product provides. Your customers will be more open to what you have to say once they realize that they could benefit from what you’re selling.
  • Use language that is simple to understand. Don’t make the mistake of using business jargon or uncommon words in hopes of impressing the customer. Speak to them in a natural, conversational tone just as you would a friend. Remember that you’re building a relationship, so choose your words carefully and make a connection with the customer. Perhaps you both follow the same NFL team, or maybe you both have a child the same age. Use easy-to-understand language when describing your product just as you would while talking about the Broncos or your 2-year-old.
  • Create and describe a picture for the customer. Tapping into your customer’s imagination can be a very effective way to demonstrate his or her need for your product or service. For example, you’ve identified that the customer’s problem that needs solving is that the family dog constantly sheds year-round. Encourage your customer to visualize the dog hair on the couch that’s nearly impossible to vacuum, the daily morning ritual of de-linting his suits before leaving for work, and the feeling that the house is never truly clean because of dog hair dust bunnies that always appear even after the floor has just been swept. Now, when you propose your solution of more consistent grooming and a complementary de-shedding tool, you can create a different picture of a hair-free couch, clean suits, and shiny wood floors. By creating pictures, you’ve helped the customer compare their lives with the problem to what their lives could be with the solution you offer.
  • Ask more questions and listen carefully to their answers. This is especially true when you’re faced with objections or hesitation from the customer. Ask specific questions that get to the heart of the skepticism and truly listen to the answers. Some salespeople call this “getting to the no.” Instead of being afraid to hear the word “no,” get right to it so you can begin to address the customer’s concerns and overcome objections. Careful listening will help you focus your discussion to the customer’s specific needs.
  • Think of yourself as a guide. As a guide, it’s your job to lead the customer to the solution. Help him or her navigate the roadblocks such as price points, time commitments, or value. Don’t get your prospect lost by losing your focus and going off on tangents about irrelevant topics. Address each concern and demonstrate the effectiveness of your proposed solution. Putting yourself in the role of guide will give you a more personable approach to sales.

The art of selling is one that is developed over time. The more experience you gather, the more confident and capable you will become.

What else do you think should be added to our list? Please share your ideas below!

Get the Most Out of Your Networking

Get the Most Out of Your Networking

Networking is a valuable tool for small business owners. Its benefits can have far-reaching effects on your business such as new clients, opportunities for growth, and professional development. Your time is precious, so you’ll want to make the most out of any networking you do by being prepared and having set goals in mind. Follow the suggestions below to get started.

  • Get background information on people you’ll be meeting and events you’ll be attending. Perhaps you’ve registered for an industry convention; plan ahead by creating a schedule of seminars you’d like to attend and/or vendors you’d like to meet. If one of those events is a Q&A session with a panel of experts, for example, research those members of the panel so you can ask them specific questions and take advantage of their individual experiences. If there’s a Twitter hashtag set up for the event, take a look at the profiles of the people using that hashtag leading up to the event. Make note of any people you’d like to connect with in person, and begin interacting online ahead of time, so you’re familiar with each other at the event, and look forward to meeting each other in person.
  • Use scripting that is natural and enhances bonding. Informal networking situations call for you to think on your feet more often than not. This can be done more easily when you have a foundation for the message you want to send to others. Create a script ahead of time, allowing for many variations to fit different situations, and practice saying the words in a natural, conversational tone. Consider role-playing with a colleague while recording the exchange to get an idea of how you sound to others. Make sure your script includes something positive and memorable, like a poignant story about why you started your business or how you’ve really connected with your community through your business. You should definitely have an idea of what you’ll say, but speak from the heart and your sincerity will shine through.
  • Listen to others in order to find ways to make introductions and help others with their needs. Listening is a large part of successful networking. Most people love to talk about themselves, so use that opportunity to learn who they are, what they want/need, and how you can help. Ask personalized questions. For example, in an informal gathering, a fellow workshop attendee mentions that he wants to find a souvenir for his young daughter while visiting the area. Ask him how old his daughter is and share some of your favorite local shops where he might find what he’s looking for. Now that you’ve broken the ice, continue with a conversation and you may have just acquired a new contact. Always have your ears open for networking opportunities.
  • Follow up and keep in touch regularly. Acquiring new contacts is half the battle, but keeping them is the other half. Implement time in your schedule dedicated to following up with your contacts. Depending on the situation, a brief email might suffice, but other relationships may benefit from a handwritten note or phone call. Keep a log of whom you contacted and when, and make a note in your calendar of when to follow up with them again. A system of regular correspondence will ensure that you never lose touch with your contacts.

You can have successful networking experiences with some research, planning, and commitment. Maximizing the time you spend networking will help you grow your business and reach your professional goals.

Do you have something else to add to our list? Please comment below with your ideas!

Four Ideas to Innovate

Four Ideas to Innovate

Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to incorporate fresh, new elements into your business. Finding ways to inject something new into your business is definitely within your reach. Tapping into your own creativity as well as reaching out to available resources are great ways to start. Consider the following four ideas to bring innovation to your business.

  1. Review client feedback on a regular basis. Sometimes, the best way to generate new ideas is to acquire a different perspective. Pursuing customer feedback allows you to look at your business through their eyes. For example, you may have an online payment system that works well on your end, but customers find it difficult to use if they just want to browse products instead of ordering something specific. Reaching out to your clients for honest feedback and taking the time to review it will help you figure out where to begin implementing new ideas.
  2. Incorporate competitors’ ideas. Who says you have to reinvent the wheel? Research your competitors and tweak their ideas to fit your own business. Of course, you want to be careful not to infringe on any copyrights or trademarks, but their logistical ideas and even marketing strategies can help you breathe some fresh air into your own business. Perhaps the competing stationary shop across town has begun offering their customers the opportunity to receive texts when their orders are ready or when certain products debut or go on sale. If you find that a good amount of their clients are taking advantage of that convenience, then it could be time for you to incorporate that as well. Staying on top of what your competitors are doing is a good idea anyway, especially to prevent customers from leaving you for them.
  3. Continually brainstorm to improve upon existing ideas. Reflect upon your own ideas. Ask yourself what works really well and what could use improvement. Don’t be afraid of some trial and error when looking to improve certain areas of your business. If something isn’t working as well as you had hoped, scrap it and try a different approach. You might, for instance, experiment with different layouts of your retail area, revisit your training process for new employees, or overhaul your professional development events for your colleagues. When you make it a habit to constantly pursue improvement, your business will always benefit.
  4. Look to other industries for new ideas. Don’t just limit yourself to what others in your field are doing; other industries or even bigger businesses can be wonderful resources for generating new ideas. If that clothing store nearby holds a monthly customer appreciation event that attracts a large amount of new prospects, begin to implement a similar idea for your restaurant, salon, or gift shop. Businesses across all industries have many common goals, so think outside the box by paying attention to what other industries do to achieve success.

Inspiration for new ideas can come from a variety of places. The key is knowing where to look and not limiting yourself to the usual and the comfortable. Take the initiative to acquire feedback, research competitors and other industries, and reflect on your own ideas.

How do you find ideas to innovate your business? Please share them with us in the comments section below!

How To Manage Your Time on Social Media

How To Manage Your Time on Social Media

As a business owner, social media marketing is an important element of your business. It’s a way to generate conversations that may attract more people to your business, and it’s an easy way to let people know what’s going on with your business in a social setting. Yet there are many activities you need to do to run a successful business, and social media is only one of them. How do you put in the time that is required to maintain an effective social media presence, while still running your business? Here are some tips:

  • Start From the Results You Want: Instead of just jumping online, spend a few minutes thinking about what you want social media to do for your business. For example, if you are hoping to introduce new customers to your business, you’ll want to spend time planning posts that encourage existing customers to tell their friends about your business. As a result, you might decide to run a contest that rewards people for sharing. If you would like to encourage existing customers to purchase again, then you might focus on offering Facebook-only specials on your Facebook Page, and creating lots of conversation with people who already know what you have to offer. Knowing what you want can help you decide what to do online.
  • Plan Ahead: Nothing is a bigger time waster than sitting at your computer wondering what you’ll post that day. Create an editorial calendar for your online business presence, writing out your main posts at least a month in advance. By writing them all at once, you’ll get the creative juices flowing so that the posts come easier, and you will also be able to get a sense of the overall flow of your content. Are you too salesy? Not enough? Looking at an entire month’s worth of posts will not only help you be more efficient, but will also make your content better. (Also spend some time looking back at previous months’ posts. Did a particular type of post generate results? Then create more posts like it!)
  • Go Mobile: Don’t limit your time on social media to the minutes you can steal away to sit down at a computer. Use your mobile device to check in on your sites regularly, and jump in on conversations often. Instead of one block of time, you might spend a few minutes several times a day. Your customers will feel like you’re more responsive this way.
  • Avoid Spreading Yourself too Thin: Ask your customers where they spend their time online, and then set up one or two social media presences on the sites they use the most. One of these places is probably Facebook, but should you also be on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter? By understanding how your customers want to connect with you, and where, you’ll use your time most efficiently instead of doing more than you need to.
  • Stay Focused: It can be very easy to get distracted on social media sites and waste time. Keep a list of the activities you want to accomplish that will help you reach your goals online, and when you’re using social media for your business, stick to the list. This will help you avoid distractions that take you away from your primary purpose.

By being strategic about your use of social media, you can use these highly effective tools in a way that helps you build your business and reach your customers.

How do you manage your time on social media? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

How To Be Better in Business

How To Be Better in Business

The conscious choice to improve the way you do business is necessary to grow your business and move it forward. It is always a good idea to focus on one small area at a time so as not to spread yourself too thin. Consider the following suggestions for improving the way you do business.

  • Always look for new and better ways to do things. Sometimes we just get stuck in our old habits without thinking of better ways to do things that might be more efficient. For instance, even though you have been paying your bills online for years, you still find yourself with paper statements and an overflowing filing cabinet that needs to be cleaned out at the end of every calendar year. An easy solution would be to sign up for e-bills through your bank’s online bill paying system and/or paperless statements through your vendors themselves. Create an online filing system that works for you, and back everything up on an external hard drive or via cloud storage such as Norton or Carbonite. New and better ways of doing simple things are becoming available all the time, so take advantage of accessible resources.
  • Think of “no” as “not yet.” Perhaps one of the hardest things about owning a business is hearing the word, “no.” It may be from a potential customer, a recruit, or an existing client. Instead of taking “no” as the final word, think of it as, “I’m not ready for this yet,” or “I need more information about why I need this.” Adjusting your mindset when wearing your salesperson hat will prevent you from giving up too easily or shrugging off the follow-up questions you should be asking. Even if you only acquire one additional sale out of 5 or 10 by adopting this approach, it will be worth it to your confidence and to your bottom line.
  • Build lasting relationships to grow your business. Relationships with everyone you work with from colleagues to clients are the heartbeat of your business. Build new ones, nurture existing ones, and always demonstrate sincerity. Make an effort to learn something personal about your customers, especially something to which you can also relate like hobbies and family life. Find out from your staff what you can do to enrich their experience working for you or help them with something they’d like to improve. When others know you truly care, lasting relationships can be built.
  • Continue taking calculated risks. When considering taking a risk, make sure you are fully informed about the pros and cons and have a backup plan ready for the worst case scenario. Don’t fear risks so much that you never take them, as that can cause your business to remain static. Use your existing knowledge and skill set, research necessary information, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your decision.
  • Develop a reputation for excellence. It is better to do one thing extremely well than to do several things at a mediocre level. Focus on one aspect of your business, and strive to be the best at that one thing. For example, your bakery offers everything from freshly baked breads to custom made cakes. Your real strength, however, is that crumb cake that everyone raves about. Promote that particular product and consider creating new ways to use it, such as in bite-sized packages for gift baskets or kids’ parties. Your customers will always be able to count on your excellent crumb cake and because of your consistently high quality, they’ll branch out to your other offerings as well.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the things you want to improve about your business. Just a few simple changes here and there can make a significant difference. What else should be added to our list? Please share your ideas below!