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Friday Small Business Roundup: Email Marketing and More

July 12th, 2013 ::

Is your email marketing getting the results you want? Read Monika Jansen’s Top 7 Takeaways From the 2013 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmarks Study to learn how to pump up your ROI.

Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes…Most Small Businesses Aren’t Prepared for Disaster. Is Yours? Read Karen Axelton’s post to get ready.

Does your business slow down in summer? Check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post 5 Ways to Make Downtime Productive Time and get the most from your slow season.

If you’re feeling frazzled by all your mobile devices, check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post, Can Unplugging Make You More Productive?

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Make your blog posts, social media efforts and all your marketing outreach work better with the tips in 6 Effective Ways to Improve Your Visual Marketing, by Monika Jansen.

If you’re running a business without health insurance, you could be putting more than your health at risk. Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s Could Ignorance About Health Insurance Cost You Your Business? to find out more.

Make sure you’re marketing to customers and prospects the right way. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s How Tablets Are Changing Online Behavior to learn what consumers want now.

Did you know writing a book can be a great marketing tool? Read Monika Jansen’s post How to Self-Publish and Market a Book to learn more.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Marketing With Google + and More

June 28th, 2013 ::

Are You Giving Online Shoppers the Customer Service Essentials They Expect? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to find out.

Are you making the most of Google+? Read Monika Jansen’s 5 Steps for a Successful Google+ Hangout.

How Can Home-Related Businesses Market to Millennials? Discover how this generation is different from any other in Karen Axelton’s post.

Trying to reach new B2B customers? Don’t miss Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post How Content Marketing Helps Make the B2B Sale.

Speaking of new customers, did you know This Hidden College Market Could Be a Gold Mine? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to find out what you could be missing out on.

Struggling to make your B2B marketing compelling? Read Monika Jansen’s 3 Examples of Engaging B2B Infographics From Non-Visual Companies.

You’re always trying to get new customers–but what about the ones you already have? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post Customer Service Tips to Keep Your Most Valuable Customers Happy to keep them coming back.

Become a brand customers love! Read Monika Jansen’s 9 Great Tips on Creating Lovable Marketing From Industry Experts.


Friday Small Business Roundup: The Secrets of Happy Customers and More

June 21st, 2013 ::

Want to Improve Your Customer Service? Do a Customer Survey. It’s easy–Rieva Lesonsky shows you how.

Want your marketing to go viral? Monika Jansen’s post How to Combine Viral Content to Really Turbocharge Your Marketing will help.

Maria Valdez Haubrich has some surprising news: The Greener Your Business, the Greener Your Sales, a new survey says.

Keep your customers happy. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s 5 Steps to Using Twitter as a Customer Service Tool.

Make sure your marketing efforts fit your target market’s technology. Read Karen Axelton’s Who’s Using Smartphones and What Does It Mean to Your Business?

Are You Driving Customers Away With These Common Customer Service Mistakes? Rieva Lesonsky’s post tells you how to avoid the errors and keep customers coming back.

Your PR efforts finally landed publicity! Now how to ace the interview with that reporter or blogger? Read Monika Jansen’s 6 Tips for Giving a Great Interview to find out.

Have to interview someone? Check out Monika Jansen’s 5 Basic Tips for Conducting a Great Interview to handle it like a pro.

8 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client

April 23rd, 2013 ::

Buh-byeIn a recent blog post, I wrote about how to turn difficult clients into customer success stories. Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, it is just not working.

Here are 8 signs it’s time to fire a client:

1 – Your client undoes all of your work

Have you ever delivered a project to a client, only to have them dismantle it piece by piece and then rearrange it so that it makes no sense? For me, this is a sign that they don’t recognize or appreciate your expertise and have decided that they are the true expert. If that’s the case, well, good luck to them!

2 – Your client is never available

If your client is very slow to respond to emails and voicemails – or doesn’t even bother to respond – and is constantly cancelling and rescheduling meetings, then the project you are working on is not a priority for them.

3 – Your client withholds information

At the beginning of your project, you told your client what resources and information you need from them in order to do your job and meet their goals. If they withhold that information, it might be literally impossible for you to complete the project.

4 – Your client does stuff behind your back

This is always a fun one to deal with: clients who hire another consultant without telling you, shift strategies, or ignore your recommendations (for a graphics firm, manufacturer, etc.) and go with someone else instead (who turns out to be, oh, not very good).

5 – Your client asks you do something unethical

Thankfully, I have never had a client ask me to do this, but I did work for a company in which the CEO asked a colleague to do a whole list of unethical things. Going to jail for someone else’s hubris is not a good idea.

6 – Your client doesn’t pay

I just got paid for a small project 8 months after the work was complete. This client had the audacity to brush it off and then ask me to work on another project with him. Um, no.

A corollary to this is if a client balks at the price and tries to negotiate it down or push it back. You might never get paid (this happened to me on a big project).

7 – Your client constantly changes scope of work

Changing the scope of a project happens often, and it is usually not a big deal. What is a big deal is when the client expects you to do more work for free.

8 – Your client is never satisfied

Some people are literally impossible to please. Maybe they ask for one tweak after another, thus dragging out the project. Maybe they take one look at what you did and say they hate it – and refuse to pay. The stress of trying to please a negative Nelly is just not worth it. Save your sanity, and say good-bye.

Have you ever fired a client? Why?

Image courtesy of zainjoyce.com

7 Timeless Pieces of Advice for Small Business Owners

March 28th, 2013 ::

7 pieces of advice that lead to successI have been reading a lot about what makes a businessperson successful lately, and the following pieces of advice really struck a chord with me. Of course, many different factors contribute to success, some of which you can control, and some of which you can’t.

One thing you can control is your attitude, and I think attitude plays a big role in success. Here are 7 timeless pieces of advice I always try to follow:

1 – Have a great product first

Before you have a company, you have to have a great product or service that people want. Doing market research is great, but what’s better is getting out there and talking to people. Run your idea by people you trust, potential customers, mentors, and people in the industry. Stay open to their suggestions, and make changes that will improve your product.

2 – Don’t have a back-up plan

I recently read this, though I can’t remember where, but it stuck with me. The premise is that if you have a back-up plan, you won’t go all out to achieve your goal. You’ll start making excuses for why Plan A isn’t working, and then it’s a downward spiral from there. Have one plan, and go for it.

3 – Never judge a book by its cover

CEOs, company founders, venture capitalists, millionaires, royalty, United States Senators – they look like you and I. Just because you don’t recognize the person sitting next to you doesn’t mean they’re not worth knowing. I talk to everyone, and I have met some really cool people simply by reserving judgment.

4 – Be resourceful

Learn to solve problems quickly so you can take advantage of any opportunity when it arises. I have taken on clients even though my roster was full; I simply pulled in contractors to help out.

5 – Be passionate

If you are enthusiastic and passionate about your product or company and project confidence, people will respond. I know a lot of startup founders who are bootstrapping it and making huge sacrifices to launch their company. You know what keeps them motivated? A strong belief in what they are doing.

6 – Focus on what you’re good at

There are two big mistakes any business owner can make: 1) – trying to do everything, even the things you are not good at (I have been guilty of this, which is why I now have a CPA), and 2 – deviating from your core competency rather than being really good at that one thing.

7 – Be honest when you mess up

We all make mistakes; sometimes they’re huge. When the founder of Zipcar realized her pricing was way too low just as they were about to launch, she emailed her customers and told them she had to raise rental fees by 25% or the company wouldn’t survive. She didn’t lose one customer – they all loved the concept and appreciated her honesty.

What other pieces of advice have served you well?

Image courtesy of binauralbrains.com

Economy: Thumbs Down; Entrepreneurs: Thumbs Up

October 3rd, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

“I can’t get no satisfaction,” Mick Jagger wailed in one of The Rolling Stones’ biggest hits. Maybe Jagger should try owning a small business. The results of a recent Gallup poll found that despite economic challenges, U.S. small business owners are thoroughly satisfied with their businesses.

The percentage of small business owners saying they are extremely (17 percent) or very (38 percent) satisfied with being a small business owner—a 12 percent jump compared to the third quarter of 2010. Another 29 percent of owners are somewhat satisfied—meaning that overall, a whopping 84 percent are satisfied. In comparison, just 16 percent of small business owners say they are not too (10 percent) or not at all (6 percent) satisfied with their businesses.

Since you could expect satisfaction to relate to a small business’s success, Gallup also asked the entrepreneurs how successful they believed their businesses were. Thirty-nine percent report feeling extremely or very successful, and more than half (51 percent) say they feel “somewhat” successful. That means 90 percent of small business owners think they’re successful to some degree.

Interestingly, in separate Gallup polls, small business owners have been expressing growing pessimism about the economy in general. This quarter’s Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index showed small-business owners’ overall optimism had declined; Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index dropped too; and another Gallup poll found limited capital spending plans among small business owners.

Given these attitudes, why are entrepreneurs feeling so positive about their businesses? There are a couple reasons I can think of. First, small business owners are natural optimists—we wouldn’t start businesses otherwise. And even when we think the economy is in trouble and the government isn’t much help, we’re confident in our own abilities to get through the tough times.

Second, this attitude isn’t just braggadocio—it’s reality. We have gotten through tough times, and four years after the Great Recession hit, any small business owners who’s survived and thrived has a right to feel extremely proud of what he or she has accomplished.

However, there’s still a lot of ground to gain back. In 2007 (before the recession began), 47 percent of small business owners Gallup polled felt their businesses were extremely or very successful, compared to 39 percent today. But like the small businesses in Gallup’s survey, I’m confident that no matter what the coming months (and the presidential election) bring, America’s small business owners will stay positive about their futures.

Image by Flickr user openpad (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Google for Entrepreneurs (Programs and Partnerships for Small Business)

October 2nd, 2012 ::

Google for Entrepreneurs

Not a company to think small, Google has launched a new website, Google for Entrepreneurs, to bring all things entrepreneurial under one umbrella. Use the site’s search feature to find workshops, networking events and mentoring sessions around the world that support startups and entrepreneurs. Programs and online tools to grow your business are highlighted, plus Google-led programs will bring experts and tools directly to entrepreneurs. Some of the current projects include partnering with business accelerators and incubators and teaming up with Women 2.0 to bring their Founder Friday events to more cities.

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day (Mentoring Event)

October 1st, 2012 ::

National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day

Are you an entrepreneur over 50 who could use some expert advice? In May 2012, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and AARP launched a strategic alliance to provide American entrepreneurs over the age of 50 with real-world, actionable information to start or grow a small business. Through this alliance, the two organizations have jointly committed to train 100,000 “encore entrepreneurs” over the next year. October 2 (that’s tomorrow), you have a chance to meet mentors from the SBA’s network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), and SCORE chapters, who can help you take your business to the next level. Click on www.sba.gov/mentorday to find an event near you.

The 7 Home Trends Consumers Crave Most

April 27th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your business involved in homebuilding, home remodeling, interior décor or home accessories or furnishings? If so, you’ll want to know about a survey by Better Homes & Gardens, reported in MarketWatch, that reveals the top seven things consumers want most when buying a new home or remodeling an old one.

  1. Separate laundry room. A laundry room doesn’t have to be glamorous or even especially spacious—the key is that it be convenient to the rest of the home. With aging Boomers having more trouble getting up and down stairs, having the laundry room on the main floor or near the bedrooms—instead of in a garage or down in the basement—is a big plus.
  2. Storage space, built-in shelving and walk-in closets. The days of consumers shelling out for more square footage are gone. Instead, people want to maximize the space they do have by organizing it properly. Floor-to-ceiling shelving, hidden cabinets and bigger closets are all on the wish list.
  3. Outdoor living space. The showy outdoor kitchens, built-in grills with pizza ovens and outside fireplaces are less popular in the recessionary fallout. But consumers still want outdoor spaces that connect to the home, giving them more room for entertaining. Front-yard living areas are gaining in popularity too since they often add curb appeal.
  4. An extra bedroom with attached private bath. This can be used as a master suite, mother-in-law suite or even a place to stash a teenager, but whatever it’s used for, it’s one of the most-wanted add-ons today.
  5. Home office/workspace/computing space. With more people working at home at least part of the time, an add-on home office is in high demand. But many consumers simply want ways to make their existing spaces more work-friendly by adding docking stations, more outlets or places to use computers in the existing kitchen or family room.
  6. Multiple eating spaces in or near the kitchen. An eat-in kitchen or bar area isn’t enough today. At the recent International Builders Show in Orlando, Florida, MarketWatch reports, many displays featured  three or four eating areas in the extended kitchen/family room area. Why? More and more, we’re multitasking, which means the whole family might gather in the same general area but not be doing the same thing. Everyone wants to be able to eat, work or do whatever they want, wherever they’re sitting.
  7. Bathroom upgrades. Kitchens and baths are always been the most popular ares to remodel, but until recently, kitchens were the hotter project. However, the survey found bathrooms are taking the lead. Maybe it’s the economy making us seek de-stress havens at home—or maybe it’s boomerang children moving back home and hogging the shower—but 31 percent of consumers this year are focusing remodeling efforts on baths and just 25 percent are concentrating on kitchens.

Whether you build homes, remodel homes or just sell home furnishings and accessories, these trends can point you in the direction of bigger sales.

Image by Flickr user James Thompson (Creative Commons)

Is Cause-Based Marketing Helping—or Hurting—Your Small Business?

August 3rd, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Cause-based or socially responsible marketing has been a hot trend for some time now. The practice of affiliating your business or your products with a “cause,” such as fighting breast cancer or helping hungry children in Africa, can garner attention, customers and sales…or it can backfire.

How? According to the 2011 MSLGROUP Social  Purpose Index, a growing “disconnect” between the causes that businesses support and what they sell is leading consumers to become more skeptical about cause marketing in general—and less likely to buy.

Seventy-four percent of respondents in the survey said there is often too much of a disconnect between the causes companies support and the brands and products they sell. And almost as many (67 percent) were skeptical of companies’ motives, saying that companies only support causes to sell products.

Perhaps that’s the reason why, although the majority of Americans (96 percent) say they can identify two to three causes that are important to them personally, the survey found that just 37 percent of Americans have actually purchased a product associated with a cause in the past year.

What can you do to ensure that your cause marketing efforts make sense for your business?

  1. Consider what causes you and your employees care about. Ask your staff if there are organizations they personally would like to see your business support.
  2. Find out what causes matter to your customers. You can conduct a survey online or using social media tools like Facebook or Twitter to see if customers respond to issues like hunger, homelessness, health or other areas of concern.
  3. Decide what ties into your business mission. Your cause should flow naturally from your business’s goals. You might care passionately about raising funds for Alzheimer’s, for instance, but if your company sells gourmet pet treats, focusing your cause efforts on Alzheimer’s research isn’t the best fit. Supporting the ASPCA, spay and neuter efforts, or guide dog training is a better match with your business and lends itself to publicity and marketing efforts.
  4. Decide if you want to go local, national or global. You could support a local charity, a national organization or even a global group. Again, you’ll want to match this to your business and to where the bulk of your customers come from. A small local sporting goods shop would probably want to support a local charity; a national chain could support a nationwide charity; and for an ecommerce company with substantial overseas customers, it makes more sense to focus on a global organization that all of your customers have an interest in supporting.
  5. Narrow down your options. Once you’ve selected some top contenders, be sure to investigate each organization. Contact the Better Business Bureau, do an Internet search and visit CharityNavigator to make sure the funds are used for their intended purpose.

Done right, cause marketing can benefit both your cause, and your business. Take the right steps to get your cause marketing effort off on the right foot.

Image by Flickr user GrowWear (Creative Commons)