advertise

Having Fun & Engaging Customers

Small-Business-Marketing

So impressive!

Incredible chalk art that plays off of the well-known Legend of Zelda games.

“Content is King” and that is exactly what this chalk sign exemplifies.

Such care and thought was put into this board that it will certainly grab attention.

What is more, they have used a hip, pop culture reference that their target consumer base can easily relate to.

The most interesting part about this, however, is that an outside talent was NOT sought to do it. This was the pure artistic talent of one of the regular employees.

Businesses must learn to embrace and nurture the talents of their employees. Find out where their passions are, where their hidden skills are and then permit them to use those to bolster your efforts.

It will build loyalty with your employees and your business will profit from it.

Advertisements

Small Business: Canadian Business Structures Explained

Four Common Canadian Business Structures Explained

When starting a business it is important to adequately explore the options available. Will it be owned and operated by one or by many? Will it be incorporated or not?

The process can be a little unnerving, for that reason we have provided a detailed summary of the various Canadian Business Structures available:

 

Canadian Business Structures Dissected:

1. Sole Proprietorship (Single Owner)

In this structure, you as an individual own 100% of the profits created. However responsibity for all business related obligations including debts, are also yours.  A creditor can issue a claim against not only your business assets, but also your personal assets, in order to fulfill a debt.

Pros:

  • This is the easiest form of business to begin, you simply need to register your business name provincially (note that this does not apply for Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • It is quite inexpensive in comparison to other options.
  • You have sole control over the direction and decisions of the business.
  • The number of regulatory commitments is minimal.
  • The amount of capital required is greatly reduced.
  • All of the profits belong to you.
  • There are tax advantages, including deduction of losses from your personal income and a lower tax bracket.

Cons:

  • No limit to liability, in other words ALL of your assets (including personal) can be taken to pay off your business debts.
  • If your business is profitable you may find yourself in a higher tax bracket (income is taxable at your personal rate).
  • The burden of start-up capital is carried solely by you.
  • As sole owner, vacation time and absenteeism may affect your business.

Partnerships are a second option for business start-ups

2. Partnerships (Two Owners)

Partnerships allow the benefit of multiple owners, without having to incorporate your business. Partnerships allow for combined financial support. Partnerships mean you will be splitting profits. Keep in mind that you may not always see eye to eye and a business agreement is highly recommended.

This business agreement should be drawn up with the aid of a lawyer in order to ensure:

  • First and foremost to ensure you meet the requirements for a partnership.
  • That your interests are protected.
  • The terms surrounding profits, growth, job details and absolving of partnership etc. are clearly defined.

The option exists to form a limited liability partnership, wherein you or your partner can choose to not take part in the control or management, but remain liable for debts.

Pros:

  • Partnerships, again, are relatively easy to start-up.
  • Work load and requirements are split up.
  • Tax advantages in that the income of the business is split between you and your partner when submitting your individual tax return.
  • Financial requirements, including start-up capital are shared.

Cons:

  • As with Sole Proprietorship, your personal assets can still be seized to pay of business debts.
  • There is no legal separation between you and your business.
  • Finding a suitable partner is difficult.
  • Business can result in many conflicts between partners and can result is damaged relationships.
  • You are responsible for your partners business actions. Their broken contracts, unfulfilled orders etc. are your issue as well.

3. Cooperatives (Multiple Owners)

The least common of business types, a cooperative is owned by an association of members.  This type of business is appropriate in situations where three or more people or businesses are determined to pool resources. They may choose to do this in provide access to common needs. Things like product deliveries, services, sales, employment, marketing etc.

Pros:

  • Liability is shared
  • Multiple resources.
  • Work load and requirements are split up.
  • Democratic decision making.

Cons:

  • Member conflicts based on business.
  • Member conflicts based on personalities.
  • Decisions can take time to make.
  • All members my play an equal part to succeed.
  • Thorough records and reports must be kept.
  • Additional capital is less likely to be offered.

More information

Want more information on this? Check out these links:

4. Corporations (Legal Separation Of Personal & Business)

Incorporating your business at either a provincial or federal level  is a third option. By incorporating a business, you are creating a legal separation between it and its owners (or shareholders). This means you are not responsible, personally, for business debts, business obligations, or corporate actions.

This is not a decision to take lightly and should be made only with proper legal counsel.

Pros:

  • Financial liability is limited.
  • The business becomes a separate legal entity.
  • Transferable ownership.
  • Continuous existence.
  • Capital is far easier to raise.
  • Incorporated businesses can be subject to lower taxes.

Cons:

  • High regulations on corporations.
  • Incorporating can be expensive.
  • Paperwork. Corporate records must be kept. This includes shareholder and director. meetings, and annually filed documentation with the government.
  • Issues with residency of director.
  • Shareholders and director conflicts.

More information:

Thinking of incorporating or simply want to know more? Visit Guide to Federal Incorporation

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

From Brand To “Being” – Humanizing A Brand

Humanizing A Brand.

It is a common problem. All brands face it, although many of the larger brands, and those that have been in existence, longer seem to struggle with it the most.

Establishing humanity within a brand image – also known as “humanizing” a brand.

Humanizing is literally defined as:

hu·man·ize  [hyoo-muh-nahyz or, often, yoo-]

tr.v. hu·man·izedhu·man·iz·inghu·man·iz·es 

1. To portray or endow with human characteristics or attributes; make human.

Humanizing your brand

Image Source: Socialfish.org

The concept here is to create within the customer, an acknowledgment or association of a Brand with relate-able, human, ground level understanding. Essentially it is a matter of making certain the customer can relate to and trust a brand.

Humanizing is considered an essential part of modern day branding success. Examples of it abound in businesses like Coca-Cola, Apple, Transition Marketing 🙂 , Nike and Google.

There are many different avenues a business can take, whether in initial branding or re-branding campaigns. The key is to position (or re-position) your brand as one that is for the people, one that is engaging and REAL, one that wants to know its customers. One that is more than just a cold-corporate automaton.

Having Fun Is Human.

One sure fire method of creating human emotion, reaction and association with a brand, is to have fun.

Seriously.

Have fun and make sure your customers have fun (Gamify anyone?)

The more a brand can portray itself as fun, carefree, and humorous even, the more relate-able it becomes. This does not mean supplying the plant floor with Super-soakers (although an argument could be made for it’s YouTube worthiness), but it may mean rethinking everything that has been done to date.

Humanizing a brand, like any branding campaign, is about more than image. It needs to be rooted deep within the core of the company.

Where Is More Profit To Be Had?

It may mean letting go of certain preconceptions. For instance, is their greater overall brand and business profit in running your Customer Service Team lean and reducing head count, or could an argument be made for hiring that extra person to create a more relaxed environment where your CSR reps can dialogue with customers and promote brand integrity?

My years working with the Customer Service team for a leading Western Canadian Brand taught me that, by creating relationships with your regular customers through more relaxed communications, a brand can soar above it’s competition. When your CSR team has the time and motivation to get to know your customers by name, and when they can take a few minutes during a phone call to talk about non-business topics, they are developing your brands humanity – they are humanizing your brand.

Focused hiring, training and leadership are required for this. It is shameful when a brand contracts out their service department to the lowest bidder, or hires employees with the wrong caliper and skill set. Doing this ensures their brand will suffer.

Have Fun Or Else!

It is important to note that “fun” cannot be enforced. Too often we see Human Resources, Managers and Leadership attempting to force smiles and relaxation through faulty training exercises, well intended (poorly executed) mixers and events, or mis-directed communications (office space hawaiian shirt day anyone?)

There are a number of reasons that these “enforcement’s” fail:

  1. The training may be (or may be seen as) another “flash in the pan” from corporate. Often these training modules are mandatory programs, which get zero buy-in from employees. They often lack realistic application to brand specific scenarios and seldom last more than a few months. The more modules you go through, the more jaded your employees will be.
  2. Mixers and Events are typically well intended. However employees do not want to attend after-work functions if there is not already a relationship with their colleagues. Similarly after work functions, where spouses etc. are not invited, or the employee is even remotely financially responsible,  is seen as an intrusion.

Humanizing is a delicate procedure. Creating a fun “human” spirit within a brand begins within the bedrock of the business. As with all aspects of a brand campaign, it must be rooted in every aspect of the business. Consistency is crucial.

Humanized Brand Success Stories.

We will wrap up with a handful of “humanized” brand examples.

1. Google:

Google continues to dominate many key markets. Their brand has become so well known that they can get away with “altering” their logo at will.

Google employs top notch minds to develop and innovate, they have the leading search engine algorithm and have generated a great deal of talk with their “super-empire” and more recently their consolidated privacy policy.

Yet at the base of this behemoth business, there is a spirit of fun. While not all of tech savvy, in-the-know types would agree with Google and all of their practices, the basic consumer is easily sold when greeted with a sense of camaraderie and of fun by many of Googles tools.

A Handful Of Google Easter Eggs:

Get your Google page to speak “Pirate”, “Swedish Chef”, “Hacker” and many more.

Try searching Google Maps for directions to “Mordor” under the “Walking Category”.

Try plugging in “Find Chuck Norris” using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” option.

More Easter Eggs Available Here:

Many of these Easter eggs are mainstream now, widely shared on social media platforms and amongst friends. It is this type of “inside joke” and the subsequent dialogue it creates, that has positioned Google, one of the largest brands in existence, as buddy-buddy with so many people.

2. Apple:

Apple has succeeded beyond all other brands before them, due to their acknowledgement of what truly matters to consumers. They have built a brand that is associated with care, quality and fun and they have gained their customers trust by standing by their products and being about more than just the bottom dollar.

A large part of this success can be summed up by one of there credo’s “We are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences”. 

Apple is (or projects a brand image of) being about people, about service and about products that go beyond the standard.

“Their Customer Service department excels thanks to careful interviewing, training, and a willingness to hire relate-able people. Mohawks, tattoos, piercings are all acceptable among Apple Store employees. Apple hires people who reflect the diversity of their customers”. – Taken From 14 Things Brands Can Learn From Apple

Apple’s success in humanizing their brand through light-hearted marketing is exemplified nicely in the Apple VS. PC Guy, ad campaign:

The campaign challenges you to decide for yourself, who you would rather hang out – who belongs by your side and in your social group? who is most relate-able?

3. Nike:

Nike has recently been seeing a lot of spotlight with their social engagement campaigns. They have been very successful in their efforts to reach out to consumers. Here are just a few examples:

The “Extra Day to #makeitcount” Campaign.

Nike launched the campaign in conjunction with the leap year. Based around a live 24 hour countdown broadcast on in-store screens and XTP screens through-out the London tubes. For 24 hours on February 29th they encouraged consumers to tweet about the extra day and how they were going to #makeitcount.

She Runs The Night -> She Runs…

Nike engaged its female audience with the she runs the night campaign, a 13km event that took place in Sydney’s Centennial Park on May 3rd. The race took place at the Royal Hall of Industries in the Entertainment Quarter. The course was fully lit underneath a halo of light.

Nike took that one step further hosting a Facebook page specifically for its female running market. The page, “Nike She Runs” is dedicated to creating a dialogue and engaging this very specific market.

4. Coca-Cola:

Coke is one of the all time best branding success stories. They hit some waves in the early 80’s but regained their stride and have since been batting them out of the park with their Social Media and engagement efforts.

Take for instance the Coca-Cola hug machine. Simply put, you hug it and it reciprocates with a free Coke.  Check out the video:

In a similar move there was also the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine, which dispensed multiple bottles to several surprised college students who then shared the Coke products with their friends.

Coke has also been involved in all manner of guerrilla street advertising, with non-traditional bill boards and signage geared at grabbing the eye.

Of course there is the whole Coca-Cola “My Coke Rewards” campaign as well. Purchasing their products gives you points that can be used to redeem online coupons and perks. Imagine the number of customers at any given moment clicking through to a brand controlled webpage. The customer gets their perks, and Coke gets their attention.

Humanization and Social Engagement are the key to brand success in the new millennium. These are achieved through creative,  fun content and reaching out to the consumer base. It is not enough to advertise it though, Branding, and the Humanizing of a brand must take root in every aspect of your business model. Your employees must take an active role in it, if it is to succeed.

Ben Erickson is the Specialized Services Manager with Transition Marketing Services Contact us anytime for questions, conversation or for a free consultation.

Small Business: Partnering For Success

Partnering For Success.

One key concept we attempt to convey, both to our clients, and to the public: “Small Business Relationships are Key to Success”. Relationships with your consumer base and relationships with the local small business community. Both are intrinsic to business growth and brand development.

Developing Business to Business partnerships can make the difference in overcoming obstacles.

Business to Business (B2B) Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local suppliers, retailers and even competitors can be profitable for the small business owner. Relationships help us to overcome hiccups. They create goodwill and understanding. By taking the time to create these relationships, one positions their business and brand more positively in the eyes of the surrounding market.

By developing mutually beneficial relationships with surrounding local businesses, the small business owner creates a community in which he or she can thrive.

Relationships help foster partnerships. Partnerships take your business and brand to the next level. For example, partnering with suppliers can help a business to develop programs for more accurate inventory management (FIFO, reduced inventory, faster turn-around). These programs can reduce costs for both parties, thereby increasing profitability.

Partnerships can take on a myriad of different forms based on your business and your partners. As an example, we recently teamed up with a local web-host to offer a special promotion to our local small business community: A contest with a free customized website awarded as top prize.The contest is based solely on meeting the local business owners and it offers an ideal segway into further conversations, a relational stepping stone.

The website is in itself, a great prize, however we took it one step further. By partnering with this web-host, we were able to also offer free registration, and a year of free hosting. This partnership wins on three levels:

  • For any small business on a budget, this is high value prize. A little good will spread into the community.
  • This creates a deeper partnership with our web-host. Providing them with the opportunity to grow and promote their business at minimal risk.
  • Most importantly (to us) a dialogue is developed with the local business community.

The areas for partnership are there for any small business, they just need to be explored.

Business to Consumer (or Customer). Developing relationships gains repeat business. Image source: designzzz.com

Business To Customer (B2C) Relationships.

In many aspects the marketplace is changing. In order to communicate the social necessities for brand success, terms like B2C are making a come back . B2C is all about business to customer communications – relationships essentially. It is the means by which a business supplies goods, services and brand information directly to its consumers.

This term became far more frequent with the advent of online business – during the height of the .com period. It fell into obsolescence when that bubble burst, but has been making a comeback recently – more specifically since the initiation of what we now know as Web 2.0 – which encompasses such phenomena as Social Media. Some have even said that the B2C policy of the .com period is what helped usher in the new era of Web 2.0.

It could be said that business to customer relationships, is the primary purpose of Social Media Marketing. B2C is all about engaging your customers directly, supplying them directly and building your brand association and business with them directly.

Developing relationships with your consumer base is invaluable. Engage a customer, provide them with a memorable experience, create an association between a brand and a quality, and you will have them for life. Apple understands this – in fact their credo states “we are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences”.

Big Brands will spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting to “humanize” their brands – to make them accessible, to provide their consumers with a relational experience. The attempt to humanize a brand, is to do away with “cold corporate” image and create a brand that comes across as understanding to the individual customer. What is ironic is that many of these brands will spend money on advertising and marketing – when the money would be better spent on hiring and training support and after sales staff.

Small businesses however, are already perfectly positioned to take advantage of this brand aspect, to develop relationships one on one and create a brand image that cares about its products, services, people and end users.

Brand Power is built not directly on sales – but on quality products, services and relationships. Relationships create a powerful consumer bases, they create an atmosphere that is conducive to sales, thereby achieving the sale WITHOUT souring the consumers mind. Put another way, by giving the customer a positive experience, they will COME TO YOU to make the sale and they will return for subsequent sales.

To paraphrase “Build relationships and they will come”.

Build it and they will come so get active and build your business relationships.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.

Small Business: Why You Need To Be On Twitter

You Belong On Twitter.

Every small business does. It is a tool of engagement and brand development. It is the means to find and learn from your market targets and it is quickly becoming a linchpin to modern marketing.

Consider the following points in regards to Twitter:

1. Twitter shrinks the world. Your brand instantly becomes apparent to both, the customer down the street and across the globe. “Twitter is a place where one person can help another person anywhere in the world” – Dave Larson, @TweetSmarter

2. It is budget friendly, easy to learn and easier to use. Here are a couple of quick Twitter references you should know:

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less.
  • Retweet (RT): A reposting or sharing of someones else’s tweet.
  • @johndoe: The means by which you directly address another Twitter user within your tweet.
  • #Hashtag: Placing the hashtag (#) in front of any word or sentence turns it into a search reference for the Twitter search engine. It can also be used to accentuate the point behind your tweet.
  • “Via”: Source or author of the content being shared.
  • OH: Overheard. The means by which you share a rumour or story.
  • #FF: The Hashtag (search reference) for Follow Friday. The means by which you share people you follow with your followers, “paying it forward” if you will.

Bu utilizing simple tags like this, you literally have the world at your fingertips (whether they listen to you is another story).

3. It is here, it is now, it is real time. Ask a question, expect an answer. The power behind this as a market research tool is enormous. Not only do you have the tool to find your targets, you have the means to speak with them. If you doubt the power Twitter possesses to consolidate an effort – then consider the recent political uprisings that have begun to change the middle east.

4. There is no limit to what you can do with Twitter. Advertise, research, dialogue. build goodwill or address issues.

5.Twitter is a research tool – monitor competitors and other industry relevant parties to see what the latest buzz is from your consumers. This is a great way to see where your brand may be succeeding or failing, but it also works the same way for monitoring your competition.

5. You can spot trends and hop on board. You can spot fails and move out of the way. Twitter hosts communications on everything that is going in the world. You can monitor issues, big and small, relevant or not, and speak to them as you need to.

Twitter can act as a megaphone for your brand successes

6. It is flexible.The speed at which it moves, the nature of limited 140 character posts, and the speed on replies make Twitter the perfect medium to test the waters. Change message types and communications as needed based on real time feedback from sources that matter.

7. Twitter is a great way to spread goodwill. Position your brand on Twitter as an expert and proprietor of helpful industry tips and info. Be helpful and enrich others – the efforts are appreciated and can quickly build brand reputation.

8. Customer Service. Twitter efforts can play a huge role in partnering with your Customer Service and After Sales Service efforts. The speed with which you can address concerns, comments or questions is incredible. Use Twitter to address customer comments and build your brand at the same time (or use it to move them to a less “public” avenue such as email, in order to address more volatile concerns).

9. Immediate information spread. Why does this matter? If you have a sudden issue, crisis or concern – Twitter possesses the speed and wide range communication capabilities to get your message out asap.

10. Connecting. I have been thrilled time and again, with how useful Twitter is for searching out new and relevant contacts. By city, by industry, by name – no matter the parameters, I can seek out those I need to network with.

11. It builds your small business future. Your tweets are entirely public, they are being seen by not just your current customers, but potential ones as well. This positioning of your brand within the eyes of the consumer base, can translate into future sales.

12. Use Twitter as a megaphone for your successes. Don’t brag, but if you get a compliment, favorite, Re-tweet it, and/or reply to it. Doing so spreads the word that, “hey! someone thought you were pretty great!”

Going Viral: Twitter spreads information widely and quickly.

13. Build your brand. We have already addresses this briefly, but Twitter is an ideal medium for establish your brands philosophies, morals and standards within your consumer base. Use Twitter to reinforce your brand message, stay consistent and you will see positive brand growth.

14. Twitter provides a tool to humanize your brand. It is B2B and more. It is B2C (business to customer). You can dialogue directly with the people purchasing your products and services. You can avoid the cold corporate image and show your small business is human just like them.

All that being said, there are pros and cons to all things. Likewise their are correct ways to go about it. Some businesses and Social Media Specialists would purchase follows, but the best and most appropriate use of Twitter is to develop your audience through organic relationships – communicate, speak to them, ask questions and monitor results. Go to your customers and build your brand B2B and B2C.

If you do find yourself on Twitter – drop by and tweet “Hi” – @MarketingTMS

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

20 MORE Tips For Pinterest

Our last post provided 20 easy tips for getting the most out of Pinterest. We enjoyed the tips so much, we added MORE!

Pin Your Way To Success (Part 2)

  1. Commandeer the Pinterest Search function in the top left hand corner to find new images to pin/repin/like.
  2. When describing your pins, operate on the same primary basis as SEO and enter key words that will matter to those searching on Pinterest.
  3. Include a “Pin-It” Option in your blog posts, emails and web content to ensure easy sharing by your viewers. “Adding To Email” Walk Through Here:
  4. Got a WordPress site? Feature your recent pins in a widget in your WordPress sidebar by using a Pinterest widget.
  5. Encourage contribution to your boards via staff and customers. This will build engagement and grow your profile.
  6. Check out your followers and keep tabs on which of your pins are being shared. Stay on top of trends, then supply more of the same and adjust other content to make it more “re-pinnable”.
  7. Price your Pin’s to create your own little Pinterest shop. Simply add the $ or £ symbol and then the price. This price will then be neatly displayed across the top corner of your pin.  Adding prices to your pins, may mean they will be featured in Pinterest’s “Gifts” section and offers a heads up for viewers who may want to purchase products from the links you are displaying.
  8. Share a board that tells your businesses story – a synopsis of your company if you will. A timeline and a snapshot. Share who you are, what you are, what you do and your market philosophy.
  9. Your boards are only limited by your creativity. Create a board of thank-you’s or to share in client successes. Create one to display new projects you have completed with your customers and another to showcase your staff. The sky, as they say, is the limit.
  10. Pin tips, tricks, FAQ’s and tutorials for your products, services etc.
  11. Clicking the “Popular” link on your Pinterest home page allows you to view what is trending. You can then use that to re-direct your efforts and hop on board the “trend-train”
  12. You want to remain consistent to your brand image and message, however remember to keep it fresh and fun. Pinterest is all about creativity, use that to your benefit.
  13. Be the source for up to date information relevant to you industry. In other words, create boards and populate them with the newest and most relevant content available.
  14. Link up your Pinterest and Facebook Timeline accounts to ensure your updates on Pinterest blast over to Facebook as well.
  15. Take a look at any archived and existing content you have. Add photos and images into the content where necessary to encourage and facilitate pretty pinning.
  16. Go beyond just checking stats and trends for content. Monitor the best times for pinning, check the site traffic stats and adjust to accommodate.
  17. With the explosion of users on Pinterest, companies are searching for the best means of utilizing it.

    Social Media is all about engagement. Connect not just yourself, but your clients, customers and followers with each other.

  18. Confident in the feedback you are getting from customers? Create a board geared at client testimonials.
  19. Create boards to showcase events, conferences and trades shows that you have attended. It will breed goodwill, community and associate your brand with expertise.
  20. Use boards to host and share coupons and deals. We suggest creating the pins specifically for these boards to capitalize on Pinterests beautiful display. You can also utilize the “price” addition (tip 7) within these coupons.

Three Bonus Tips!

  1. As is often the case with Facebook, create Pinterest only promotions to increase awareness and engagement.
  2. Host contests. Invite viewers to post the best pins relevant to your product, content or services and award prizes.
  3. Create boards to showcase your clients. Spread the love and pass the goodwill, they may just share the favor!

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.