Sound confusing? Don’t worry. In the next couple of blogs, we’ll talk about what numbers and Big Data mean, and get you on the road to a more profitable 2016.
If we haven’t met, I am an entrepreneur and business growth authority who built several successful businesses. Now I consult and run business groups to help other small business owners learn how to work smarter—not harder.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to take stock of what works—and what does not work—for your business. It is not a good time to throw money at whatever marketing method catches your eye. As I talked about before, shiny object syndrome can cost a lot of money, without offering much in return—especially when you are determined to make a change in your business.
What am I talking about? Let me tell you about the most common ways people lose money trying to find new clients or customers:
You don’t get the customers because you threw your marketing budget at the crowd. There are at least two ways to make money. One is putting the right plan in place to ensure your service or product is continually reaching new potential leads. The other is making smarter use of the money already present, or already being spent to run your business.
We’ll talk about getting new leads first.
How does data get the customers you need?
A lot of entrepreneurs recoil at the word “data.” What is it? It is knowledge. Knowledge of who might buy your product or service, and what they will pay for it. It is knowledge of the economics and geography of where you are trying to do business—whether it is local, or on the web. It is knowledge that gives you the edge as you cultivate a lead into a converted, long-term client. You need data.
Data-driven organizations make more money, because they have the knowledge of where to place their confidence—and their marketing budget—to generate business. There are a couple of different kinds of data, including:
You also need a way to manage and cultivate your data. You can use any of a number of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. I have a lot of success with Infusionsoft.
When you want to put the right plan in place, or develop better marketing and business process—call me at (585) 633-7563, or check out one of my groups. Starting this year, my goal is to make you a millionaire.
Yours in profit,
I talked before about the importance of reputation management. For the small business owner, the word on the internet can make or break your business. You have to be on top of it. That means vigilance. While there are a number of tools to help you track comments made about your business or brand, Google Alerts is easy and free. If you are not using it—you should.
Let’s say you do all the right things. You are using CRM software, you have a great business plan, and a tight storefront with well-trained, engaged employees. Super. Things will never go wrong—right?
That is incorrect. No matter how well you run your business, there are going to be mistakes, a customer or client is going to get left out in the cold—and they are going to complain. Trust me. As an experienced small business owner, I know the pain of mistakes that just should not have been made.
Sometimes, though, there was no mistake. You just have an unhappy client, or someone trying to stir up trouble for your business. Does it happen? A lot.
Take advantage of a poor review
We already know that online reviews are important. People believe what they read, often without considering the credibility of the reviewer, or the circumstances behind a complaint. So let’s take a look at how to turn a profit on a bad situation:
You cannot please all of the people all of the time. But when you treat people who complain with respect, courtesy, and generosity, they usually respond in kind.
After you resolve the situation, take advantage of the feedback to take a hard look at what you could do to avoid a similar complaint or mistake. Complaints are just outside interests helping you troubleshoot your own business—take advantage of the information, and the opportunity.
As a small business owner, I know how to turn the tables on hard times to help you earn your first million. Get a super start on the New Year by attending one of my free webinars, or give me a call at 585-633-7563 today.
Yours in profit,
For more than five years, the job market has undergone change. Severe contraction during the Great Recession threw a lot of people out of work, and many small business owners had a tough time staying afloat. Entrepreneurs that did hire enjoyed a deep talent pool available at rock bottom prices.
Today? Not so much.
As the economic engine heats up, more jobs are created and labor markets are tighter. Early in 2015, small business owners stoked a five-month trend of job creation, snapping up talent, and struggling to hold on to key employees who drive their profits.
By November, that trend slowed, but a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey reports more than 55 percent of small business owners are still trying to hire for positions where there are few, or no, qualified applicants.
With the shoe on the other foot, small business owners have to find new ways to hold on to employees who could be at risk of being hired away.
I talked earlier about why it is important to keep your employees engaged. Now we’ll talk about ways to do it.
Seven tips to keep valuable small business employees on board
So how do you keep your best employees working for you—and not your competitor?
Engagement is a great but overused word. You put time, energy, and money into training the people you hire. Depending on your business, that could mean specialized training, an emphasis on service skills—or whatever combination keeps your business humming.
It used to be easier to hire and keep good talent. Switching jobs every two years, or even every year, looked bad on a resume. Today, steadily switching out one job for the next is a routine way to gain benefits, better working conditions, and higher income. For talented employees—it works.
Many small business owners operate on a tough edge—just balancing revenue and payroll. As I work with my clients to increase their revenue, we look at the whole equation. My goal is to create wealth for my clients—in the million dollar range. While most entrepreneurs believe exhaustion and slim profit margins eventually lead to success—I can tell you, working harder will not make you wealthy. Working smarter does.
Because your workforce is critical to your success—it pays to retain key personnel. Let’s take a look at some positive steps to safeguard your investment in your employees—and your business:
Hire the right people, and create a winning workplace. Inevitably, even highly engaged employees move on for their own reasons. Just don’t lose them for reasons you could address.
When you are ready to bring in more profit, I hope you will call me at 585-633-7563. Make 2016 the year that you break out and earn more by working smarter instead of harder. I can help.
Yours in profit,
People joke about the weather all the time. Wait a few minutes, it will change. This year, El Nino is giving more people reason to talk about the weather. Basically, El Nino, which means Little Boy, is the name that describes a warming of ocean currents in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It lasts about a year, but can go on longer. But usually, it occurs every five or seven years.
In North America, El Nino causes warmer than average temperatures, making it drier in some places, and wetter in others. It affects the oceans, fisheries, and global weather patterns—it’s a big deal.
In November the weather service at the United Nations warned that the current El Nino event is contributing to extreme weather patterns, and it could get worse. So you don’t need a heavy coat, and you are watching the rain fall, instead of the snow. Does that affect your business? You bet it does.
Change in the weather means a change in sales and service
I talked earlier about how changes in weather systems could impact your business. That is what is happening this year.
If you think about it, the weather has a huge impact on small and big business. Temperatures, or extreme weather, affect a lot, including:
Planning for the weather is important. From anticipating weather trends, to altering your product line, weather instability is another factor to consider in your business plan. Let’s talk about some ways that you can weatherproof your revenue:
Down the road, predictions say rain from El Nino will increase the corn crop this year. While water has been lacking lately, it could mean lower corn prices. That is good news for those who use raw materials from corn. It is bad news for farmers and anyone who sells to them.
Weather is a business factor that matters. When you are ready to take a hard look at business planning in this unstable climate, I can help. Let’s put plans in place to make you the revenue you want and deserve. Contact me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
While a crystal ball is always handy, business success is really no mystery. In the current economy, it takes more than hard work to succeed. By succeed, I mean earning enough revenue to really thrive, not just survive.
To me, putting my clients on the road to becoming millionaires is my definition of success. It isn’t luck—it is having the smarts and experience to take advantage of opportunities, and efficiencies that could be right in front of you.
Here are my top six picks to boost your success in the 2016.
Depending on your product or service, sales could go up or down. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) predicts mild economic improvement in the next few months, and into 2016. At present, employment rates are expected to continue to improve through the end of next year. Even without robust growth, this improving economic picture bodes well for small business owners.
Notes one analyst, “So what’s the differentiator at this point? It’s selection. It’s service. It’s convenience. It’s how easy it is to use their interface. And Amazon’s got all this stuff already. How do you compete with that?” Your differentiator drives your business—know what makes your product, or your service, worth buying. Plus, tech—like your ordering interface, marketing automation, and CRM—is going to improve and make your life easier if you know how to exploit the capabilities. Use marketing automation tech to target and personalize—a practice I think is going to get even bigger in 2016.
Resolve to earn the revenue you really want in 2016. When you have questions about how you can earn more for doing what you do best—call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
Throughout my career as a small business owner, I had the same marketing and productivity questions that my clients ask me today. I have been there—and I know what you are going through. You work long hours, have a great product, but your revenue just isn’t enough.
To correct this situation, inbound marketing is a must—and it doesn’t end there.
Marketing process—what’s in a word?
What do I mean by inbound and outbound marketing? A lot of small business owners are confused about web lingo. Conversions, lead generation, inbound and outbound marketing are all terms used to discuss getting more customers for your business, and increasing your revenue:
The importance of positioning
For you to allocate resources to marketing strategies, it is important to know your position—in the market, in the business lifecycle, and in your industry. A big part of my work with clients is helping them see their position, as well as what direction they need to go to achieve their revenue goals.
Once you have the bigger picture, you can drill down into techniques to help your bottom line. A super report from Hubspot offers marketing strategy information from the last half of 2015. Some key points of the report include:
You have a lot of leads—and then what?
With the rush to generate leads, some entrepreneurs forget to close. I am a big fan of marketing automation and CRM software, to identify, nurture, and convert leads. When marketing and sales teams are coordinated, the same software helps me maintain those clients and fine-tune my services to better obtain and serve customers. Internal service level agreements (SLAs) define responsibilities and outcomes for both groups.
Whether your marketing and sales teams are sizeable, or small, cooperation is fundamental to business growth and success. I work every day with entrepreneurs that have misaligned marketing and sales priorities. We explore ROI on all marketing efforts, and create the right plans to make sure your inbound marketing ultimately brings in the revenue you want.
When you have a question about marketing automation, or you need someone to reboot your marketing strategy, call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
Okay—everybody loves a sale. But if you are depending on deep discounts to sweeten your business bottom line this season, think again.
Black Friday sales are legendary. Did you fight crowds to score a big screen television from Walmart for a 75 percent discount last week? “Black Friday” used to refer to a blockbuster shopping day that boosted business owners into the financial safety zone. But now there is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—and a whole lot of discounting in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and after.
Consumers now expect super sales throughout the holiday season. So everyone expects to pay less for whatever you have to sell. As an entrepreneur, does this sound like a great way to make money?
My business is doubling—if not tripling—the revenue of my clients. I work with entrepreneurs in all kinds of businesses. Some are well-established, while some are start-ups. As a small business owner several times over, I have seen my own businesses struggle and then thrive. So I know what it takes to succeed—and it is not the magic of the holiday discount shopping season.
Can you buck the holiday discount trend?
Outdoor outfitter REI did not open on Thanksgiving—or on Black Friday. Instead, the retailer closed all 143 of its stores and put a “gone fishin’” banner on their website that read, “We’re not here. Today we’re closing our doors…We hope you’ll join us outside today. You can still shop our site. We’ll start on your order first thing Saturday morning.”
While other stores pushed back on Thanksgiving openings, REI took it the extra mile. But consider this:
While only overall holiday sales numbers will tell—it is possible REI may have found a way to market its lifestyle message in a powerful way.
Black Friday, for most retailers, is about dropping prices on inventory low enough to attract bargain hunters. For many small business owners, if you do not offer rock-bottom prices, shoppers shrug and go down the block to another store, or big box that does. REI opted out of that traffic. Black Friday, or holiday discount—cutting your profit to bone is not going to boost your revenue.
What kind of customers are you looking for?
One of the first mistakes made by a lot of small business owners is to try and compete on price. Sure, you might get a few more customers, but they are the wrong kind. Bargain hunters are not loyal, and you cannot make a living—let alone a million dollars—offering bargain basement prices, unless you have an unusual product, or a high volume business.
In a LinkedIn blog post, Michael Silverstein, Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) writes, “Black Friday shoppers are your worst customers. Fire them and concentrate instead on your best customers.”
What does he mean?
He means you need to attract loyal customers—not high volume foot traffic looking for close-out prices. Your target is the client or customer who shops your business, or uses your services, throughout the year, not just when you are running a promotion. How do you identify these customers and keep their business?
Plan now and stay ahead
Thinking ahead helps you stay ahead. How can you make your business easier to find? What tech is right to manage client communications and promote your product? How can you meaningfully connect with your customer base to learn their needs and meet their desires?
Stay ahead of the curve to ensure your customers feel good about paying a price for your product that keeps them happy—and you earning the right revenue.
Constant stress and a minimal income keep you from the success you deserve. When you want to kick-start your business and marketing strategy, I hope you will call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
Whether you sell products or services, the holidays are a good time to show existing customers you care—while you spread the word about your business to new leads.
Throughout the year, I work with entrepreneurs to improve business processes and increase income. Those who know me, know my goal is to make a millionaire out of each of my clients.
I help small business owners understand their business and offer a value proposition that makes them money. Knowing the desires, and behaviors, of customers and clients is important—especially during the holiday season.
The economic picture this season is dicey. Both Price Waterhouse and Deloitte predict consumers are planning to spend about what they did last year, with a lot of room for variation. There is increasing growth at the premium—and bargain—ends of the spectrum, with both groups looking for creative ideas and decent deals.
Top Eight Tips for Holiday Marketing in 2015
During the holiday crush, try these tips to boost your client base—before and after the holidays:
1. Watch your channels: Omni-channel marketing means using multiple channels to attract, engage, and serve your customer. Across screens, from corded computer to mobile app, entrepreneurs offer convenience, rewards, discounts, coupons, and information to ease the shopping experience, whether online, brick and mortar, or both. According to the National Retail Foundation (NRF), just about half (or 46 percent) of all browsing and buying this holiday will take place online. Buy buttons and links between e-commerce and physical stores give customers a super way to find what you have to offer.
2. Delivery options: Free shipping is offered by many retailers, and free is tough to beat. If not waiving, or deeply discounting shipping costs, consider online purchase and in-store pick-up. This offers your customers the convenience and pricing they want, and improves in-store sales when additional items are purchased when a product is picked up, or returned. Shoppers in the 18 to 35 year old range are more likely seeking same-day or two-day shipping—giving you an opening to provide premium service.
3. Discounts and self-gifting: With consumer confidence slightly higher, the average amount of money shoppers intend to spend on themselves has gone up. Consider discounts like buy two, get one free, and other variations to appeal to shoppers looking to take home a little something for themselves. Many retailers, like Walmart and Macy’s, already started price-matching or discounting earlier this year.
4. The gift everybody wants: Gift cards continue to be sought after and appreciated. In plastic or digital form, make it easy for your clients and customers to buy gift cards for products or services. Gift cards are a great way to reach beyond your current client base
5. Subscriptions: Subscriptions are not just for magazines anymore. From flowers, chocolate, wine, coffee, socks, and snacks—subscriptions for full, or sample-size products are a great way to showcase and introduce products, build loyalty, upsell—and convert new leads. Subscriptions are a gift that continues to give—and thrill—recipients throughout the year.
6. Location, location, location: Online, big box, and malls are expected to be profitable locations this holiday season. A holiday survey from Deloitte reports 30 percent of respondents are planning to shop at pop-up stores, festivals, flea markets, swaps, and other non-traditional retail opportunities. Think about “invitation only” events, or target client segments for special events.
7. Service, service, service: From web to store, offer value to your customer or client by making their buying journey easier. Use marketing automation on your website to encourage sales, offer bundled products, and close the deal. Whatever your product or service, be sure your website is easily browsed, gifts are categorized, and your shopping cart tech is fast.
Websites with an “Under $50 or $100” page could attract buyers who may stay longer and buy up. Use your client list and visitor information to send countdown Tweet and email gift ideas, discount offers, and surprise perks. Be clear about shipping dates and deadlines—and do your best to help last minute shoppers, even if they are outside your posted shipping deadlines. Have a store “open house,” plan an event with nearby merchants, and feature a product, or service, on a weekly or daily basis. Use social media to get the word out. Make the value irresistible.
8. Don’t forget the fruit basket: As the holiday nears, use automated tools to ensure your established client base hears from you. Fruit baskets, cheeses, cookies, cards, and discount coupons are all great ways to let customers and clients know you remember them—and that you hope they remember you in the coming year. If you have a physical location, show your spirit on the shopping days prior to the holiday—offer cookies, candies, or other treats—to all those who take the time to check out your store or service. The kindness is appreciated—and may be returned.
As time to the New Year ticks down, make a resolution to boost your income, and spend more time doing what you love—not worrying relentlessly about business survival. When you are ready to earn more money and a better life from your business, I hope you will call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
My job is helping entrepreneurs create strong business plans, work smart, and use tech efficiencies to market in a way that makes them money. It is no secret that my goal is to make my clients millionaires.
So why talk about employee engagement? That’s just a human resources issue, right? On the contrary, as a small business owner, employee engagement should be near the top of your list of priorities.
An engaged, satisfied workforce creates profit for you, and reduces budget spend from employee churn. The hiring and training process takes time and money out of your pocket, while a valued employee is an asset.
An engaged workforce helps your bottom line
Engagement is the measure of commitment and satisfaction your employee feels for your small business. The smaller your business, and fewer your employees, the more essential it is that the people you hire want to grow your business with you.
We have all known co-workers, and maybe employees, who hate their jobs, scraping by with minimum effort to collect the paycheck. These types of characters bring others down, and can impact your revenue. Let’s look at four engagement profiles developed by Quantum Workplace:
Are your employees engaged?
You might employ only hourly or salaried workers, or a mix of both. Although compensation and time spent on the job may be different, the aim is the same—engagement.
Companies that make employee engagement a high priority build a stronger workforce, improve client and customer service, enjoy better communication, and see better productivity. All these measures are the result of top-down efforts by owners to maximize their profit by valuing their employees.
Whether yours is a large or small shop, consider these tips to create a workforce better aligned with the overall goals and success of your company:
While the last five years has seen many small businesses struggle to survive, more companies are now investing in growth. One of the best ways to assure growth is to ensure engagement of valuable personnel.
Profitable companies are no mistake. When you need a hand with improving your bottom line, call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
Consider the story of Payam Tabibian, a small businessman who built a chain of hamburger restaurants called Z-Burger. As detailed in The New York Times, Mr. Tabibian created a distinctive retro-look trademark before he had even opened his first restaurant. After he drew the design, he registered it as his trademark in 2007.
By 2008, his restaurants, operated with partners, had grown to six locations. Business was good until the relationship between Mr. Tabibian and his partners soured. His partners—who are brothers—locked him out of his business, claiming he was an employee. The brothers filed suit to prohibit Mr. Tabibian from starting new restaurants with the Z-Burger trademark, and insisted he turn his trademarks over to them.
In August, 2015, a federal judge preliminarily ruled in favor of Mr. Tabibian. While awaiting the outcome of a forensic accounting report, Mr. Tabibian has opened new restaurants and a food truck with new partners.
Business relationships between small business partners often go south. For Mr. Tabibian, the outcome is good so far, primarily because he took the time to protect the trademark which became the calling card of his business. Many other entrepreneurs are not so lucky.
Take the time, pay the money, and register your trademark
Today’s marketing strategies intensely support definition and promotion of your brand. Your brand begins with your business name, word, design, or symbol. Without registering your trademark, you have almost no protection if another entrepreneur wants to use your name—and the good will and credibility you have built around your business.
If you are thinking about starting a business—or if you are already underway—here are important facts you need to know about registering your trademark:
Registering your brand name establishes the identity of your brand beyond common use. Money and time spent developing your product or service could be lost if you choose not to protect it. Litigation of any kind is expensive, especially if you are up against a competitor with deeper pockets aiming at your customer base.
Your trademark is not only your brand name or logo, but important intellectual property. Work with a knowledgeable intellectual property attorney to ensure your trademark is registered properly and enforced.
Know your rights—and how to protect those rights from unscrupulous competitors, or business partners who may want out of the deal. Launching a start-up, or pivoting your established small business toward greater success is not easy. When you want to shift from struggle to success, think about giving me a call at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,