Promoting Your Small Business on a Budget

The goal of starting a small business is to earn money, not to lose it. And while all businesses have a start- up cost, the goal is to keep that cost as low as possible. So when small business owners think about business promotion, they often stress out about their budget. Luckily, in today’s world the World Wide Web makes it easy for businesses to promote themselves without spending a penny!  Here are a few ways that you can utilize the internet to attract customers and build your brand:

Social Media

This one should be obvious. Social media runs the world. It seems that everyone (or almost everyone) is on some type of social media platform. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or some other platform, if you are a small business owner, you need to be on social media. Why? First off, if you’re not, your competitors are! And if your competitors are on social media, then they are already 5 steps ahead of you. In addition, social media does more than just get your name out there. It also helps to build relationships.

Social media makes it easy to interact with your target audience. With the help of social media you can communicate with someone across the globe, answering any questions they may have or addressing any comments that they may leave. This type of interaction can lead to relationship building, which (as we all know) is the key to a successful business. Through online interaction you can build trust and lasting relationships with potential or existing clientele. And one of the best things about social media? Everyone is connected. Social media creates a snowball effect where the more people you connect with, the more people that see your brand. Thus, you are targeting and re-targeting without doing anything at all!

Blogging

Blogging has become another popular way for business owners to connect with their clients and is a great way to give back to them.  Blogs can be used to communicate information, give advice, or simply entertain your audience on topics related to your business. If your blog content is strong enough, you can quickly develop a devoted following that will come back week after week to read your content (which will ultimately help to drive sales).

Aside from communicating with your audience, blogs can also create interaction and dialogue about your product or service. They can also help you establish your expertise and build trust in your relationships with clients. And again, if you can develop trust and interest, then you can develop long-lasting relationships that will lead your business to grow.

Multimedia Websites

If you have the resources to do so, make some videos! Multimedia websites like YouTube and Flickr generate millions of visitors each day, so they are a great way to get noticed. Businesses around the world are creating unique and entertaining videos and gaining millions of views by doing so.

Remember, people are looking to be entertained and it is your job to entertain them.  If you can think of something extremely creative and unique then your video has the chance of going viral – and if your video goes viral, well, that’s great news for your business!

Social media, blogging, and multimedia websites are three of the best ways to promote your small business online. With that said, there are many other methods that you can use in addition. Add your business name to local listings such as Bing, Yellow Pages, or Google Places, send out a press release, or join and contribute to an online community.

If you’re a small business owner, don’t spend a fortune on business promotion. Use the internet as a way to promote yourself for free, and once you start to see an income, then consider branching out into other avenues of marketing. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be seen – so don’t!

How to Brand your Small Business with Printed Materials

There’s no doubt about it, online and social media marketing is a trend that is here to stay. Using the online world as a tool for marketing yourself is a great way to promote your business and should be of top priority for any small business owner. With that said, print marketing is not something that should be forgotten about!  Here are just a few of the many reasons that you should not skip adding print marketing to your small business promotion campaign:

1) People who read print are more focused

The online world is a great place to capture the attention of someone, but it’s also a great place to lose it. Online reading comes with a lot of distractions. No matter where you look you will find distractions from online advertisements, pop-ups, messages, notifications, and other sources. As soon as your viewer sees something they are more interested in, you can quickly lose their attention.

In addition, most people who are online are skimming through pages looking for something that captures their attention. With print materials, attention is more focused. If a viewer is looking at your material, it’s probably because they want to know what it says and they are likely to read (instead of skim) the entire thing.

2) Print material lasts

When scrolling online, your advertisement can quickly be seen and just as quickly passed by. Print marketing gives your audience something concrete to hold onto. Let’s use the example of offering a discount or free sample. If you offer this online, your audience can see it and hopefully they will retain it in their minds. But let’s face it, today is a fast paced world and most of us have trouble remembering what we ate for dinner yesterday let alone an offer we found online. Print marketing, on the other hand, gives your audience something physical to keep. They may choose to cut out the offer and put it on their fridge as a reminder. As such, they are much more likely to use it.

3) Not everyone uses the Internet

While 1/3 of the world’s entire population uses social media on a regular basis, that still leaves 2/3 that don’t. In return, if you choose to only market your business online, you are missing out on a large part of the population. This is especially true if you are marketing your business towards older generations that aren’t as computer savvy as younger ones. Print marketing allows you to reach all ages of audience from young to old.

4) Print marketing can often be seen as “more credible”

The online world can be a great way to find businesses and deals, but it can also be a great way to find scams. Many of the online pop-ups that appear are simply overlooked over because they are seen as less credible. In addition, many people are afraid of clicking on pop-up ads for fear of viruses or malware.  Print marketing doesn’t have this problem. People who see print advertisements generally see the business as more trustworthy and reliable.

In conclusion, we cannot downplay the importance of online and social media marketing – it is crucial in building awareness for any small business. With that said, the benefits of print marketing should not be overlooked. Print marketing helps you to target a niche market and can help you reach those who do not use the internet on a regular basis. In addition, once seen by a potential client or customer, print marketing is often deemed as more credible and can produce more sales by avoiding distractions and giving the reader something concrete to hold onto.

Why Profit and Non-Profit Marketing are not so different after-all

If you Google “Profit vs. Non-Profit marketing,” you will probably find many websites claiming that they are two completely different types of campaign. This is simply not the case. While profit and non-profit companies are very different in many ways, their goals when it comes to marketing are very similar.  Let’s take a closer look:

Goal: Making a sale

The main difference between profit and non-profit organizations are their end goals. For-profit organizations are generally looking to make a sale and generate a profit. Non-profits are also interested in generating revenue, but instead of these revenues going to individual people they are used in ways that work towards the benefit of society as a whole. With these differences in mind, both types of organizations still use marketing in the same way - attempting to raise money and generate profits.

Goal: Creating relationships

While profit and non-profit organizations each have different end goals, both types use marketing as a way to gain attention and (hopefully) raise money. The best way to do this is through creating trusting and long lasting relationships. Both types of organization can use similar methods of marketing to do this. Social media marketing, online communities, and in-person demonstrations/talks are all great ways to market your organization and develop more personal relationships with your “customers.” If managed properly and regularly, these personal relationships can lead to long-lasting clients for both profit and non-profit businesses.

Goal: Connecting Emotionally

For any business, the best way to attract a customer is to connect with them on an emotional level. If you can appeal to someone’s emotions, you are much more likely to make a sale. This is called “emotional branding” and is often used by many large and small businesses alike. Both profit and non-profit organizations can benefit from emotional branding, but it is specifically important for non-profit organizations. Most non-profits often raise money through donations, and people don’t tend to give up their money easily. Emotional responses allow us to connect with one another – and if you can connect your “customer” with your purpose, you are much more likely to achieve your end goal of raising a profit for societal benefit. Luckily, this is a much easier task for non-profit organizations than it is for profit organizations because most social causes generate an emotional response on their own. With that said, it is your job as the organizational leader to push that emotional response as far as you can and lead your viewer to make a final commitment.  

Goal: Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is the key to any long-lasting relationship. The way in which profit and non-profit organizations achieve this goal is very different. For-profit organizations may create this relationship through providing a quality product or service. Non-profit organizations can do this by showing donors how their donations are making a difference. In both business types, customer communication is essential. Emails, social media interactions, and regular updates are all essential forms of marketing that can help you to keep your customers interested and involved.

As you can see, strategies for profit and non-profit marketing are really not that different after all. Even though money is being raised for two different purposes, the end goal of both types of organizations is to generate a revenue. Regardless of what type of business you run, the best way to raise funds is by creating lasting relationships, connecting with your audience on an emotional level, and providing your clients with customer satisfaction. If you can do this, than you are on a good path towards successfully marketing your non-profit organization.

Promoting your Business through Print Media

With the onset of social media and online marketing, the benefits of print advertising are often overlooked. This is a harsh mistake that many business owners make. While online marketing is a great advertising tool, the benefits of print marketing should not be forgotten. In fact, a recent research study by TrueImpact (a neuromarketing firm) showed that print marketing is easier to mentally process than online marketing. It was also more likely to lead to brand recall.

So, how can you market your small business with print marketing? Here are a few outlet ideas:

1) Your Business Card

A business card is one of the most important things that a small business owner can have. This is your personal calling card that is small enough to carry around with you anywhere and that can be handed out to anyone. Why are they such an important marketing tool? Business cards are personal. There is nothing better for your business than handing out your card personally with a handshake to lead the way.

You should put a great deal of effort and thought towards your business card. It should look professional, but interesting, and should represent your personality and brand. Remember, your business card is going to be someone’s first impression of your business – and we all know what a difference first impressions can make!

2) Newspaper Advertising

Newspaper advertising isn’t for everyone, but if you are trying to target a specific audience, it can definitely be a great advertising tool. Older generations still read newspapers frequently, and those who read newspapers tend to read articles and advertisements more in depth than those who read the news online. One of the biggest benefits of newspaper advertising is that you can often choose the size of your advertisement. Advertisements can range anywhere from a small square to half or an entire page.

3) Brochures and Guides

The biggest benefit of brochures is that you can pack a lot of information into a small package. Brochures can include business photos, business information, and even stories to generate interest. They are small enough to carry around, but large enough to include all relevant information and play to your audiences interests at the same time. Many businesses will let you display your brochures in their offices or on their bulletin boards, which is a great way to attract attention. They can also be sent through the mail to a large number of households.

 When making a brochure, you may also want to include coupons or discounts. This can encourage your reader to hold onto your brochure, ensuring that they will refer back to it again at some point.

4) Magazine marketing

Like Newspaper marketing, magazine advertisements can help you target a specific demographic. There are thousands of different magazines out there, each directed at specific age groups. Almost everyone reads some type of magazine, even if just skimming through. As such, they are a great way to attract large numbers of viewers within your intended audience. In addition, magazine images tend to be higher quality than those in newspapers or mail advertisements. Their higher resolution makes it more likely that you will capture the reader’s attention and hold it for a longer period of time.

Other forms of print marketing can include banners, directory advertisements, flyers, and even postcards.

In today’s fast paced world, print advertising can often go overlooked by small business owners. Don’t make this mistake. Your best marketing campaign would be one that combines the benefits of both online marketing and print advertising together.

Marketing to Today’s Hipsters – Knowing Your Audience

Rule number one in marketing – know your target audience. If you don’t know the characteristics and traits of your target audience inside and out, you can’t develop a campaign that will appeal to their emotional senses. And when trying to market to a hipster audience, nothing becomes more important than targeting their emotional needs and interests. Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics, interests, and values of today’s hipster audience to give you a better idea of how you can target your marketing campaign towards them.

Hipsters don’t follow the conventional rules of society

One of the most important things that a small business owner can know about hipsters is that they don’t follow the traditional rules of society. Mainstream clothes, music, and trends? No way! Hipsters are all about creating their own personal identity and being uniquely their own. As a business owner, if you want to appeal to this need, you need to create a brand and marketing campaign that is also unique. Seek to do something that no other company has done before. And as a general rule of thumb? The more shocking, the better!  

Hipsters are well educated

Despite popular belief that most hipsters are “too cool for school,” most are actually quite the opposite. In today’s society, hipsters tend to be well educated and enjoy expanding their knowledge base regularly. They can often be found in the nearest coffee shop or under the coziest tree reading their newest book or catching up on recent news. In addition, hipsters are usually very creative thinkers. It is not uncommon to see them working in the fields of art, music, or fashion.

Because hipsters are so smart, it’s usually more difficult to market towards them. Typical advertising techniques simply won’t work on this type of audience. Your best bet? Connect with them on a more personal level. Hispters don’t want to feel like consumers, they want to feel like partners. They have the goal to break and set trends, and it is your job as their “partner” to give them the avenue to do so.

Hipsters spend a lot of time on Social Media

While hipsters are unlike mainstream society in many ways, one way in which they follow societal norms is by regularly using social media. They often use social media outlets as a way of showcasing their creativity and uniqueness and displaying it to the world. This makes them an attractive target group for small business owners for two reasons:

1)      They get your brand name out there:

Social media is an extremely helpful way of getting your brand name out there. If you can get people on social media wearing or displaying your brand, you can gain attention from more potential consumers quickly

2)      They are trend setters:

Any type of exposure on social media is good exposure, but when a hipster is exposing your brand, this is even better exposure. Hipsters are often seen as the trend setters of society, so if a hipster likes your product or business, it can quickly catch on in the mainstream. In addition, hipsters tend to attract a lot of followers and, as we all know, the more followers you supporter has, the more attention they will attract.

To hipsters, Cool is Uncool

If something is defined as “cool,” it is uncool to a hipster. They like to wear and use things that are seen as “uncool,” and their goal is to look like they are never trying too hard. The contradiction here, of course, is that hipsters actually put in a great deal of effort into making it look like they aren’t trying at all. And in an even more contradictory turn, by trying to look “uncool,” hipsters actually end up being the coolest of them all.

So here is the job that you face as you create a marketing campaign to hipsters:

·         Appeal to their emotional needs, as well as their likes and dislikes

·         Educate your hipster

·         Make your hipster feel like a partner instead of a consumer

·         Make your campaign shocking and uncool (in an attempt to actually be cool, of course)

·         Try hard, but make it look like you are not trying hard at all!

This is not an easy task, but if you can appeal to today’s coolest, uncool societal group, than promoting to the masses will easily follow.  

Top Five Killers of Small Under Capitalized Businesses

Let's talk about shoe-string businesses; brick and mortar businesses started with almost no capital.  The type of businesses that I really love working with. On-line businesses are a lot easier to start with less capital but not so with businesses with a physical location. I once knew a hobbyist photographer that made almost $50,000 in extra income a year working from his basement and on location at schools and sporting events. He wanted to quit his job and open a full fledged photography studio. I advised him that if he wasn't properly capitalized he would have to have a good plan, and if he could not see how to increase his photography income to well over $100,000 a year by opening his doors, then he should just keep it a hobby. The rent alone would sap his profits. He quit his job and opened the studio but closed his doors in his second year.  He went from a healthy extra income to not being able to cover all his obligations.

 

If you're foolish enough to try and start a business that's under capitalized, let me share some of the insights that I've garnished through the years. Most of these businesses are usually started by technicians such as a chef who opens a restaurant or an accountant that opens an accounting firm - people who are experts at a craft that they have been using for other owners and now want to work for themselves.

 

My top five killers of small under capitalized businesses are; 1) Taxes 2) Not knowing how to run a business 3) Personal expenditures 4) Lack of a plan, and 5) Personal habits.

 

Let's take the "killers" one at a time.

 

1) Taxes

Taxes are always surprising to a new business owner and tricky for someone under capitalized. Taxes can be accumulated daily but are paid monthly or yearly.  It's the handling of the money between owing it and paying it that usually gets the owner in trouble, and often the interest and penalties are enough to tilt a new business into disaster. It's tempting to use monies collected for the State or Federal to pay a bill due now and try to earn enough to pay the Sate and Federal taxes later - never a good idea.

 

The best advise for a new business concerning taxes is hire an accountant. However, most small businesses can't afford one right away.  If that's the case you should seek advice and do as much research as possible on the taxes that pertain to your business. There are resources out there and it's literally your job to locate and utilize them.  Most of all, use extreme discipline when handling money owed to taxes.  Always remember that those monies owed to taxes do not belong to you. Mistakes are costly and the only eraser is capital. If you are under capitalized, make sure you make no errors with your taxes.

 

2) Not knowing how to run a business.

This is an area that most people get upset with: when they're told that they don't know enough about their business. Technicians are experts at creating their products but running a business is a separate skill set from creating a product. Interestingly enough, a study was done on small business owners with new start ups. They found that women owned businesses survived better then the men. Further broken down, they found that when confronted with a tough decision, the women owners sought advice from experts more often while most of the men considered themselves experts and sought only their own council.

 

A great way to deal with this knowledge gap is to set up a Board of Directors for your business. You'll be surprised by how many really successful people are willing to help a small business.  Try not to waste their time or obligate them too much. An agreement that they would take your call or answer your e-mail when you have a tough decision to make is plenty, and then try and buy them lunch periodically one at a time to glean knowledge and update them with brief e-mails. The things you don't know will cost you the most. If you don't have the capital, you have to find a way to make better decisions. Other than your Board, you should try and make friends with other business owners and even competitors not in your immediate market. I found that having fellow business owners as friends was very valuable. Always keep your support system and family informed on what you're doing as well.

 

3) Personal Expenditures

This is a big one for small businesses as your personal income gets tied into how well the business is doing.  If you live a high life style then no matter how well your business does, it may still not be enough. I've seen many good businesses close because of the owner's lifestyle.

 

One of the best things we ever did when we started our small business was to reduce as much of our personal debt as we could. In the early formative years, we could survive our business down cycles because we literally could skip a pay check until things improved.  We even bought the smallest house on our block -we call it our 7 Eleven house because if the business failed we could get jobs at the local 7 Eleven and still pay the mortgage.  A good thing about being under capitalized is that you get creative and strive to make fewer mistakes since mistakes cost money that you don't have. Running lean is really great when you start to do better. Keeping your expenditures low is never a bad thing.

 

4) Lack of a plan

Lack of a plan is like taxes in that it doesn't really hit you immediately but it can be deadly in the end.  You could open and run your business for awhile before you realize that you needed a strong direction or a costly course correction. A lot of small businesses open with a general plan usually kept in the owner's head. Never start a business without researching your market and creating a business plan. Most small business owners will write a business plan in attempts of getting a loan, but it's a necessary road map for your entrepreneurial journey. You can just hop in your car and drive without a plan or map, but you may not like where you end up. Shooting from the hip now can cost you serious capital later - never start a business without a business plan.

 

One advice that I can give about business plans that I only recently started including in my plans is an exit strategy. After owning a business for over twenty years, I realized that when I was younger, it never crossed my mind that I would eventually want to move on to other projects and may want to get out of the business.  Your business often will look and operate better if you build it with the intention of making it attractive enough to sell one day - you tend to make different choices.

 

5) Personal Habits

In a large company, your personal habits don't effect the business as directly since there are usually more layers. If you're sloppy then your business will tend to be sloppy.  For the most part, your business will take on your personality and habits. The great thing about it is if you train yourself to have just a few good habits performed daily you can actually set your business on a great path without having to think about it. Of course, if you have bad habits, you can easily ruin your business without thinking about it - not thinking about it is how habits work.

 

It's difficult to make a small business work, but with little cash reserves or available credit lines its very difficult but not impossible. You just have to avoid the major business killers. In the end, there are very few things more satisfying than making one of your dreams come to life. That fact that it is hard won makes it even more enjoyable.

The Importance of Emotional Branding in Non-Profit Marketing

Non-profit organizations have a difficult goal – to gain money from donors without giving them anything physical in return. Unlike for-profit organizations who can satisfy their customers by providing them with a quality product or service, non-profit organizations have to find unique ways of satisfying their donors by making them feel proud about the service they are doing for society. As such, one of the best marketing techniques for non-profit organizations to gain and retain donors/volunteers is through emotional branding.

What is emotional branding?

“A diamond is forever” – this is a common slogan that was originally branded by the De Beers Company to sell their jewelry products.  The slogan is simple, easy to remember, and has lasted for years. How has something so simple lasted so long? Because it works! And why does it work? It appeals to the emotions of its audience.  The slogan, “a diamond is forever,” is a suggestion of everlasting love and sentiment – something that every woman desires to achieve.

 

This is a great example of emotional branding – a technique in marketing that refers to building campaigns and brands that appeal to the emotional needs of an audience. You see these types of campaigns everywhere, especially in non-profit marketing. Think of the ads you see on television for homeless children around the world or abused animals in shelters. These ads play to our emotions and are very successful at doing so. These ads typically result in one of two responses: either the viewer changes the channel because the advertisement is too difficult to watch, or the viewer calls and makes a donation. Generally speaking, the more you can appeal to a viewer’s emotional side, the more likely you are to gain their support through donations or volunteer work.

How do you create an emotional campaign?

Luckily for non-profit business owners, most non-profit organizations make it easy to appeal to the emotions of the audience. With that said, it is your job to push the emotions of the audience as far as you can. The more you can impact them, the more likely you are to reach your end goal. Once you have generated your first emotional response, you must demonstrate how your viewer’s contribution will make a difference. Remember, as a non-profit organization you are not providing your donor with a physical product or service, so ensuring that they feel good about their donation is an essential factor that cannot be overlooked.

Maintaining relationships

Once you have attracted a “customer," you want to ensure that they will continue to give to your cause. The only way to do this is to create lasting relationships. Again, generating an emotional response will be essential in maintaining these relationships. You have already told your donor how their contribution will make a difference – now it is time to show them. It is important for non-profit organizations to keep communication with their donors. Send regular updates, photos, or videos demonstrating how their donations are changing the world. Giving your donors that “feel good feeling” will be essential in maintaining an on-going relationship with them.

 

In sum, if someone believes in the goals of your organization, you are likely to gain their support. With that said, it is your goal as a business owner to make them believe in those goals. The best way to do this is through appealing to their emotional senses. People respond more to their emotional responses than they do to the content of an ad, and it is your job to evoke that emotional response.