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The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns

Recently Yodle released a report on the top list of worries for small business owners. The report was titled the First Annual Small Business Sentiment Survey and run last quarter of 2013, meaning the data was taken from owners as they prepared for the new year. Yodle drew samples for 306 Small Business Owners from throughout the U.S.

Here is a breakdown of the sampling (for more in-depth detail, please visit Yodle’s official report).

Small-Business-Marketing

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

As you can see the samples were taken from a reasonably wide variety of owners. Most were the sole proprietors of the business and the largest number of respondents had only 1-5 employees. What was surprising was the age demographic for those polled, with over 70% over the age of 50.

Despite some common concerns, most small business owners polled seemed to be genuinely happy with their careers:

“More than nine in 10 of respondents (91%) are happy that they became SMB owners including over half (55%) who are “extremely happy.”  A majority of SMB owners (59%) also shared that they would likely not consider selling their business over the next few years, indicating optimism and satisfaction.” – Yodle.com

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

On top of that, over 50% reported being satisfied with their work to personal life balance:

“52% of SMB owners work 40 hours or less and almost three in four (72%) take at least two weeks of vacation per year.  More than one in four (27%) SMB owners actually take four or more weeks of vacation per year.  However, almost four in 10 (39%) SMB owners work 41-60 hours per week and almost one in 10 (9%) work over 60 hours a week.  Additionally, just 11% of small business owners don’t take any vacation.”

However it wasn’t all positive and many owners reported growing concerns related to both personal and professional strain.

The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns.

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Each of the concerns listed above is very real and entirely valid to the small business community. Let’s look at each one independently for a moment.

1. Finding New Customers.

It makes sense that this would top the list. For any business to succeed and to grow, they need to increase their clientele. For many small businesses the question is just “how to do that?”. The obvious “boxed” answer is through marketing and advertising, but with so many options out there, how do they know which is best and how do they maximize the bang for their buck?

There are as many different options as there are businesses. Specific business types can profit from specific marketing tools. However there are a few tools in the marketing tool box that apply for every business, regardless of industry and market.

  • Websites: First are foremost. Every business needs a website. This is in-arguable. Everything is online and that is where the bulk of consumers find thins now.
  • Social Media: It creates dialogue. It generates exposure. It breeds loyalty. It builds brands. Oh and it’s free.
  • Signage / Outdoor Advertising: This can range from sandwich boards to vehicle decals, billboards to bumper stickers.
  • Radio: An often overlooked avenue, local radio is still very much a player in the advertising world.
  • Trade Shows: Great place to network, to pass on literature and to establish yourself as a professional voice within your industry.
  • Email: E-marketing can get a bad wrap (often for good reason). However establishing lines of communication with current customs or leads via email newsletters or other materials, can generate sales and customer loyalty.
  • Printed Advertising: (including brochures, sales catalogs, posters, business cards etc.). Print advertising is, and will remain a leading tool for small business marketing. It is everywhere you look. Consumers still use and rely on it for much of their info. It is a necessary component for a well-rounded marketing strategy.

2. Affording Employee Healthcare & Benefits.

More of an issue in the United States where this poll took place (and in light of the Affordable Care Act). This is still a very real concern for Canadian business owners. I have spoken with many owners who struggle to understand and properly facilitate these items. It can range from not understanding the proper deductions and methods to simply not knowing whether or not they have to offer them.

Understanding your obligations to your workers and how best to facilitate them is a necessary step to building a strong team of employees – and a strong team of employees is a necessary step towards business success.

Small Business owners can profit greatly by hiring a knowledgeable accountant with experience in these areas. Of course there are online resources as well to assist in understanding the processes. The Canadian Government provides several pages on their site relating to small business including:

That said, we do also recommend speaking with an accountant to ensure you fully understand business obligations.

3. Keeping Current Customers.

Customer loyalty is a tough one and directly relates to competition. Why should customers be loyal to your business? Why should they choose you over the guy across the road or the big box stores? What will breed loyalty?

There are a slew of different answers and some will vary based on the type of business:

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

There are many ways to win your customers hearts, but you have to make the effort. Woo them. Treat them like a hot first date that you want to see again. Treat em right (more on “wooing” customers here).

4. Paying Business Bills.

Of course this is directly related to income, which is reliant on sales, which is reliant on customers, which goes back to 1. and 3.

Paying bills is on everyone’s mind but no one more so then the small business owner. Lease (or rent) payments, utility bills, telephone, internet, wages, stock, delivery…. it seems like a nearly non-stop flow of money leaving the coffers.

Knowing how to manage your expenses verses your income is crucial. It is about far more than keeping up to utilities. Small business owners need to plan and prepare at all times. Learning how to maintain and balance a budget on a ever-changing income is not easy (and does require a certain level of “sticking ones neck out”).

The small business owner must be continually considering:

  • Next Months Inventory: Do you have enough? what will be a big item next month? how many should you stock? how much can you afford?
  • Existing Inventory: What of the old items? Do you discount them? hold onto them? liquidate them? how much have you invested into them? will you sell them at a loss?
  • Necessary Expenditures VS Non-necessary: Gas bill and rent are important but do you need someone cleaning in the evening? Do you need that land line or is a cell phone good enough?
  • How Many Employees: Goes back to #2 understanding all of the expenditures related to having employees. Do you hire one? two? one and a half?
  • Planning In Advance: Last month you bought a new til but sales dropped this month and oops rent and utilities took it all. Now how will you pay for this months inventory?
  • The Unexpected: It happens. Water main breaks, laptop goes down, delivery van needs a new transmission, swarm of amazon moths eat your inventory. What then?

5. Hiring Good Employees.

Your employees can make or break your business. Consider the Pizza Hut manager who was recently caught on security tape urinating into the main sink in the kitchen. He obviously lost his job, but not before the video went viral online and did damage to the brand.

Your employees can work for you or against you. They can drive customer loyalty up… or into the ground. It is fair to say this is a real concern for small business owners. Hiring good employees is a challenge and when doing so one needs to consider:

  • Wages: Are they in line with what others are offering? are they fair? why or why not?
  • Benefits: Are you in a position to offer benefits or other bonuses to employees (discounts on products, flexible work schedule etc).
  • Getting The Word Out: How are you letting them know that you are hiring? Where are you putting the word out to? Who is seeing the job offer?
  • What Are You Looking For: And what type of people do you expect to apply?
  • What Is Your Business Rep: How is your business perceived in the community? Do people want to work for you?
  • Do You Know How To Hire: You may not immediately know what the tell tale signs are for a good or bad employee, learn how to filter them out.
  • Don’t Rush: Are you in a hurry to hire? How badly do you need someone? Is it worth hiring that guy with that insisted on wearing rubber gloves throughout the interview? Know when to say no.

We cover more on Employer / Employee relations in a post here.

6. Competition.

Surprisingly number six in the list, competition directly impacts almost every other concern listed her. The competition can steal your customers, your sales even your employees! 

But remember you are someone else’s competition and it goes both ways.

Competition will always exist… at least until such a time as you have enough money to pull a Time-Warner / Comcast deal to basically eliminate the concept of competition altogether. For now however competition is real.

Your ability to out-maneuver the competition is crucial and it hinges on a great number of things. You’ll notice that this list is very similar (ok it is identical) to the list we have for #3 “Keeping Current Customers”. At the end of the day, keeping customers and facing down the competition are mostly the same thing.

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

The edge you can get, is by knowing your competition. As Sun Tzu said “know your enemy and you will win 100 battles”. Understand what they offer, how they offer it and why. Reach out to those customers with better deals – with more value for their dollar – and with better service and they will give you their business.

It’s simple really. Give customers a reason to choose you. You will find it easier to do so if you know what others are offering them.

Transition-Marketing-Services

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.

What Is Your Brand Promise? (Google VS Bing)

What Is A Brand?

A Brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” [Source]

A Brand is more than just aesthetic however and it is impacted by several key things. To start out let’s quickly define three key terms. BrandingBrand Promise & Brand Reputation

  • “Branding” Defined as: The [aesthetic] marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. [Source].
  • “Brand Promise” Defined as: The primary, valued promise made by the larger institution. Also called a positioning statement or USP. The natural association or expectation (of service, product and/or quality) for a given business.
  • “Brand Reputation” Defined as: The position a company brand occupies (within the minds of consumers). How a brand is acknowledged and perceived by customers.

It is understood that any successful brand is built on these key principles. Each one is important in its own right and will impact the Brands success. Crucial to the building and success of any Brand is the “Brand Promise”. This promise is the commitment by which consumers grade the brand.

For example: At Transition Marketing our Brand Promise is to educate, equip, support and maintain the branding and marketing resources for small businesses.

The concept of the Brand Promise, is essentially a company’s commitment. It is their “philosophy” and the direction of their company. It is their promise to the consumer and their Brand Reputation is linked directly to this promise.

A brand’s reputation is just like any other reputation. It is like yours and it is like mine. It is developed slowly through the various experiences others have with us. The more we keep our word, the better our reputation is right?

Likewise it is a businesses ability to keep to their Brand Promise and to fulfill the consumers expectations, that determines how solid their Brand Reputation is. It gives the consumer the ability to “expect”.

To further use the example above: if at Transition Marketing our Brand Promise is to educate, equip, support and maintain the branding and marketing resources for small business, then it is our ability to fulfill these things, that will determine the word that goes out about us and the reputation that we develop.

Every product or service you purchase is purchased for a reason and that reason is almost always linked to the Brand Reputation & Brand Promise being made:

  • Purchasing no-name toilet paper? that is because it is less expensive, that is the brand reputation of the no-name brand. That is what is expected when the purchase is made.
  • Purchasing “Charmin” brand toilet paper? That’s because it promises a “softer experience”. It may be more expensive, but a lower price was never part of the promise. A quality “cleaning” experience, however, was.

Both brands in the purchases above will be graded on their ability to keep to their promise. That is the Brand Reputation and it will be reflected in your choice the next time you go to make that purchase.

Brand Reputation Illustrated: Google VS Bing

While recently browsing one of our favorite social sites, Reddit, we came across the image below (credit to user: /r/engineeringguy) . At first it made us chuckle, then we gave our heads a shake and realized just how serious what we were looking at truly was.

In the instance below, a user attempted to find the name of a movie based on the description: “spy movie with little girl”. The search results below speak for themselves.

Google VS Bing. The Search results tell a compelling story.

Google VS Bing. The Search results tell a compelling story.

The difference between the two search engines is night and day. I for one know which search engine I would want my children using. 

Google has long-held the title as the king of Search Engines. Other brands (Yahoo, Bing, Ask, Alta Vista) are more or less just a joke. However this is not about that. What is important to note here is the stark contrast in these companies ability to fulfill their Brand Promise. Let’s compare.

  • Googles Brand Promise: Search the world’s information, including webpages, images, videos and more. Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Fulfillment: A+. Google clearly fulfills their promise, providing clear (clean) and accurate search results that provide the user with the exact information being sought.
  • Brand Reputation: Google is well-known as the go to engine for search results. Few if any users use other engines as a primary search tool. As the go to for almost all internet user’s their “AdWords” business generate massive revenue.
  • Bings Brand Promise: Bing is a search engine that brings together the best of search and people in your social networks to help you spend less time searching and more time doing.
  • Fulfillment: F. Bing fails so miserably in the example above that summer school won’t even do it any good. I would not trust Bing’s services and would never recommend them to anyone.
  • Brand Reputation: Bing is joked about widely. It is the Search Engine equivalent of the Google+ social network and likely only used by Bing employees while being watched by their Bing employers. As such Bing generates a fraction of the revenue Google generates.

The example above is not to lambaste Bing (although it does a pretty good job). There are MANY variables to play into search engines and their ability to provide the answers we are looking for. However the example above is the perfect illustration of Brands making Brand Promises and the eventual Brand Reputation that occurs.

Your business will develop a Brand Reputation whether you like it or not. Customers will talk about your business. It may be positive, it may be negative and that is almost entirely up to you the business owner. You must take control of your business, its image and its reputation.

Every business requires a Brand plan. Business owners must take time to develop their brand and take control of their Brand Image. By carefully developing the brand, a business can go from simply surviving to succeeding.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. 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 we’re doing or if you have any questions.

KKK Teaching Piano? Or Just A Marketing Fail?

Good design highlights crucial and positive elements of a brand or business. Bad design.... well it does the opposite.

Good design highlights crucial and positive elements of a brand or business. Bad design…. well it does the opposite.

We don’t even know what to say.

  1. Why would anyone choose to take on a name with an acronym that is so synonymous with racism.
  2. What designer would possibly be foolish enough to HIGHLIGHT said acronym as a point of focus?

Now we cannot be sure that it even crossed this persons mind that “KKK” may not be the best suited acronym for piano lessons. In fact it is probably a given that nobody involved in this even realized what they were doing.

But that itself is a problem is it not?

First of all, a proper marketing consultant would have immediately noticed this issue and either advised against it, or found some means of circumventing the obvious problem with this name. That is what Marketing Consultants do, they look at the big picture with all of the variables included. They then devise an image and a strategy to project that image to consumers.

Second of all, a good designer would have worked with the consultant to devise a brand image that highlighted the positive elements of the brand/business, while removing or downplaying any negative elements. That is what *GOOD* Graphic Designers do. They create the aesthetic elements of a brand based off that brands strengths. They design a visual stimulus that evokes positive emotions and associations. Colours, shapes, concepts, font types, every possible angle of the design is cultivated deliberately. It can make the difference between drawing in leads and having to chase them down.

It is worth every penny to hire on the *PROPER* people for the job. It can make the difference between failing, just surviving or succeeding.

[View Some Great Branding Concepts Here]

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. 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 we’re doing or if you have any questions.

 

#spammers named and shamed!

Taken from the great Andrea Britton’s original article. We recommend viewing the entire post here: #spammers named and shamed!.

 

Are you spamming?

Is spamming and promoting becoming one and the same?

Know this: You are wasting your own time and others and you are not achieving anything.

The internet has opened up a world of connection and enables you to show someone on the other side of the world what you are doing which is utterly fabulous, but have you considered whether they actually want to know?

When I was ‘learning the ropes’ on Twitter I got told off for shamelessly promoting my book; “hello! read my new book at ……..” It got no attention (apart from someone telling me off), no retweets or mentions. I tweeted about an issue in the book and that was a different story.

Mashable recently reported that social media spam increased 355% in the just the first half of 2013, it’s getting out of control and we have to put a stop to it! So, to get to the root of the problem, I thought it might be helpful to offer up a list of what is considered spam, in my opinion and what is not.  Here’s what I got in just a day and my interpretation…

1. Facebook: “XXXXX link. Listen to my new track, hope you like it” equivalent to sending a tape into Sony in the 80s – it will maybe make it to the right desk then collect dust.

2. Twitter: “DM: Hi thanks for the follow, now find me on Facebook!”:  Why? Lack of personality, generic and no effort needed to send that one! I won’t bother.

3.: Email: From Paper.li.”The XXX is out! October Edition” A time saving tool, yes,  but completely defeats the object of content sharing/marketing and building relations. I’ve used this myself in the past out of curiosity, but times up. We don’t want an automatic information collecting machine. It needs to be streamlined and personal to promote conversation. Ask yourself, does anyone actually get in touch with me about it? I very much doubt it.

spam4. Website: Comment “I am fat man”.  (Yes. Really)

5. WhatsApp: “My video is now live, watch here!”. Very unlikely unless it was from Prince. That’s unlikely too. Who are you and how did you get my contact number?

6. Twitter: “You must see this link..XXXX” – Must I? Is it going to change my life? Possibly should have told me why to be in with a chance of a click through. Delete.

7. Twitter: “Watching your calories? Avoid these drinks like the plague XXX”. No I’m not on a diet and if I was, I still wouldn’t like to receive a text reminding me that I am.

8: Linkedin: “Please check out my new single released soon.” Linkedin is not the arena for promoting your latest track nor is that the way to do it!

MORE HERE

The Erosion Of Internet Explorer’s Brand

One of many jokes leveled at Internet Explorer.

One of many jokes leveled at Internet Explorer.

Agree or Disagree?

We all know that the Internet Explorer Brand has been suffering lately. It has quickly moved down the line to the bottom choice for online browsers.

There are multiple reasons for this. Some state speed, others the more intuitive tools on other browsers, and other have complained about explorers thousands of cluttering add-ons.

Fact of the matter is that ol’ IE is the brunt of numerous jokes, most rooted in truth.

Internet Explorer (as with numerous divisions of the Microsoft Brand) need to begin reconsidering their brand image from the bottom up.

Agree or Disagree?

Old Spock VS New Spock In The Greatest Car Commercial EVER!

The automotive industry and specifically that of Europe is well-known for their savvy and clever marketing. Volkswagen, Volvo and Audi specifically have regularly scored huge success with their marketing and advertising endeavors (consider the Volkswagen “Darth Vader Kid“).

However Audi very well may have supplanted all other car commercials with their latest. Their newest commercial pits the classic Spock (Leonard Nimoy) against the newly rebooted Spock (Zachary Quinto).

It is almost ineffable to describe. However commercials of this nature, that engage and humour the consumer audience, work to elevate a brand in our minds. Clever and associable advertising creates a respect for the brand, giving us a new appreciation for the minds behind the products. As one blogger put it, “…this commercial alone makes me want to purchase an Audi”.

Fun and engaging advertising such as this commercial, work to create a brand that we can associate with. One that “gets” us, one that is worthy of our attention.

Compare this type of advertising to the standard automobile ad, which is a trite cliché that includes footage of cars driving through the countryside, a handsome drivers smug smile as he shifts gears and various statistics pulled from whatever source possible regardless of context. Which do you think will resonate with the consumer more?

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. 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 we’re doing or if you have any questions.