entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship: Little Things To Make You Stand Out

Jerky

Came across this on Reddit (Original Link Here). This guy started a jerky company (PDA Jerky)and in a simple move of pure genius, decided to make his company stand out with one simple little inclusion – A flossing stick.

I know I’ve been camping many times with a nice big bag of jerky. You spend the rest of the day sub-consciously picking at your teeth. This little addition is brilliant.

Amazing how a small thought can make such a big difference. This entrepreneur took a pretty basic business idea and made himself stand out. This is an example to follow no matter what your business model is. Take actions to make yourself stand out from the pack.

What do you think?

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Communications Within The Workplace

Communication is a small yet enormously important aspect of running any business. The ability to communicate and understand tasks, goals and concerns within the business environment is crucial. Failure in communication is one of the root causes behind employee anxiety, work place conflicts, leadership failure and brand damage.

Communicating expectations to staff is step one to brand success

Communicating expectations to staff is step one to brand success

Employee Expectations.

Your staff need to clearly understand what is expected of them.

Two different corporate bodies that I worked for failed to provide proper verbal or written job descriptions either upon time of hiring or upon later request. One of the responses I received to my request was that “they didn’t trust an employee to go above expectation if they needed to know what their job entailed”. Another was far more succinct: “It is whatever the F*** I tell you to do”. Keep in mind that both of these responses occurred within professional corporate office environments. One was while working with one of the largest independently owned corporations in the world.

While job descriptions can be a double-edged swords to a few employers, they can be an excellent source of communication for most others. Whether you are hiring a Barista, a Graphic designer or Vice President, thoroughly outlining your expectations is step one to success.

There will always be an existing level of expectation from new hires. Nothing about that should change. As an employer, however, you should ensure that new hires will be clear on what is required long-term, to walk the road to success with your company.

This equips them to move forward and it equips you as an employer to terminate them if they are clearly not meeting the described expectations.

But My Business Is Evolving Constantly, Job Requirements Change.

Changes to jobs occur. That is a fact of life that we over at TMS are all too familiar with. Companies grow and shrink, new needs develop and old ones disappear. Having a job description in place does not mean that it cannot change. It simply means that you as an employer need to be accountable for those changes. Many businesses find it advantageous to set up an annual review of staff positions to determine whether they still meet a necessary criteria, or if they need to evolve. This is a highly effective practice and it benefits your business as a whole. It ensures that you are annually reviewing exactly what your business does, what it used to do and what it should be doing.

If an employees job has changed in nature, or needs to adjust, then set up a meeting with the employee to discuss the changes. This won’t necessarily be easy, especially if more will be required of the employee. However it creates a transparent and accountable work place and that is the type of workplace that the best employees flock to and grow.

Employees need honesty. Creating a transparent workplace, creates healthy employees.

Employees need honesty. Creating a transparent workplace, creates healthy employees.

I May Lose Employees If I Ask Too Much.

This is true. You may lose employees, or you may have trouble finding them if the job entails too much. It is a balance and it should help you as an employer to grow. You need to realize if you are asking too much. This should be readily apparent during prolonged staffing issues and should prompt change on your part. However do not be too hasty to reduce your expectations.

Several years ago I worked with one corporation that had massive staffing issues. However in this case it wasn’t that the job positions required too much, it was because of an ongoing building boom that had drained the available workforce. This particular business wound up having to temporarily add perks and reduce some of their requirements just to get the bodies to get them through the season. Just one year later, when the boom bubble burst, we had a flood of resumes and were considered one of the top job options in the area.

It is give and take depending on your business, your social and economic climate, and your desperation. At times you may find yourself forced to lower expectations temporarily due to situations beyond your control. However learn to recognize temporary hiring shortages and long-term ones. Staffing can be a tumultuous thing – as an employer you need to be fair to your employees, but also to yourself.

Outlining clear job expectations acts as an immediate sieve for potential employees. Some will decide of their own accord that what you need is not what they want to give. Gauge their response and make the educated decision. Having expectations is necessary to ensuring you hire the right candidate for the job.

Specifics About Tasks & Goals.

Healthy expectations are required and even desired by employees

Healthy expectations are required and even desired by employees

Specifics are imperative. How many employers expect their staff to stay busy during slow periods throughout the day? All of them. But what does “staying busy” entail? Sweeping the floor? Organizing the shelves? Cold calling?

Ensure that staff have a clear understanding of their job goals, what they are meant to achieve daily, weekly, monthly etc – and how best to do so.

When I worked as a free-lance Graphic Designer, I often worked with clients who didn’t know what they wanted, but were VERY CLEAR on what they didn’t want. It was in this business that I quickly learned the importance of “specifics”.

Early into my career I worked with one client who ran an organic pet food business. They wanted something that conveyed their love of nature, purity and pets. I designed what I thought was a lovely mock-up with a minimalist styled Beagle embedded into a single leaf. I ran it past a few friends and they immediately connected it to organic and animals. It was classy, in trend and frankly just awesome.

The client hated it. They wanted a specific type of dog (but not a Beagle) something larger like a Doberman, or maybe a cat. They didn’t like the green colour but thought that maybe an orange or a terracotta red would be nice. Also they wanted the font to look more “fun”. The mock-up was too cold and professional.

The point here is not whether they were wrong in hating it, after all they were the client. The point is that they had no specifics, no details, nothing to start off with. I spent hours working on something that they immediately dismissed. The time spent on the mock-up was wasted. This waste could have been avoided had they provided specifics at the outset (or had I known the need to ask for them). There was resulting frustration, more work and they wound up with a higher bill than they anticipated.

The same goes for any employee and any job. Ensure they have specifics so that they can do their jobs well. Communicate with them. As an employer you are the leader and this is your job.

  • Explain WHO needs to do what. Make it clear whose job it is and use specifics. Passive aggressive behavior and work place conflicts often arise as a result of employees thinking that a specific job or responsibility should belong to someone else.
  • Explain WHAT they need to do to accomplish the task. Don’t assume they know what the task entails.  Explain exactly what is required for this task to be completed. If you come in tomorrow what do you as the employer expect to see?
  • Explain HOW to do what they need to do. A common mistake is leaving employees to fend for themselves. Not every task is obvious to every worker. If you ask me to change a tire – sure I can do that! If you ask me to change the spark plugs… I may need some directions. Whatever task it may be, may seem simple to you – but don’t assume! Be redundant if you want it done right. 
  • Explain WHEN. Make it clear to them what the deadline is. Sure certain workers will have good time management skills, others however will not. Explain exactly when a project needs to be done and make it clear that there are no excuses. If you do not explain the required due date thoroughly, then you have less foundation to question their delays.
  • Explain WHY. Not enough emphasis is put on this. Good employees are invested in your business. If you take the time to explain why a task is important for the company and to them individually, you will see far greater effort on their part. It creates a sense of ownership and it brings them on as a part of a “team”. The more interest an employee shows in the “why”, the more engaged they are with the business.
Scott Adams presents a sarcastic (but frighteningly accurate) picture of many modern workplaces.

Scott Adams presents a sarcastic (but frighteningly accurate) picture of many modern workplaces.

Your Concerns.

As an employer your concerns are many. Some need to be addressed immediately, others can wait. Knowing how to designate and deal with concerns is key to successful leadership and management.

Specific concerns with staff should be prioritized properly according to severity, but all should be dealt with promptly. Delaying simply creates more difficulties down the line. If an employee is not performing properly or is doing something incorrectly, the longer you delay correcting it, the more damage is done and the harder it will be to correct later.

Communicate your concerns in a work-place proper manner. Be polite, be positive and be specific. Start off with what they are doing correct and then address the things they need to do differently. Every employee will respond differently to correction but the fundamental rules are:

  • Treat them respectfully.
  • Be clear on what is wrong.
  • Explain why.
  • Explain how to change it.

Every employee is going to react differently. Remember that, as an employer, you are entitled to have certain expectations for how a job is done, however you are also responsible for ensuring your staff understand and are equipped to do it. Take responsibility for your own short comings in equipping staff and learn how to do it better.

Don’t be a bully and do not nit-pick. Be respectful and choose your battles. But in all things COMMUNICATE. Be clear. Be thorough. Be a leader.

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.

A “Want To” – The Hidden Propellant of Small Business Success

Small-Business

Start-Up and Shut-Down

Too many small businesses start-up only to falter after a year. Some of this is related to budget, some of it is related to economics, some of it is completely out of our control. However, there is an even more common reason behind this failure.

Lack of “Want To“.

Lack of passion.

The fact is that many entrepreneurs start their small businesses because they want to own a business, however they are not necessarily interested in the industry that they are starting up in. They do not want to do what the business CONSISTS of.

I recently chatted with a coffee shop owner whose partnership is dissolving as a result of this very thing.

Her partner in the business was interested in business ownership, however was not interested in the least, in coffee shops or any of the atmosphere that goes with it (good coffee beans, conversations, art, baking) or any of the other elements related to coffee shop success. They wanted to own a business, to be self-employed, but they hated coffee shop routines.

FACT: You can be self-employed and not want to go to work.

And that is a serious issue.

“Want To” is almost always hinged on “Passion”. If you want to start a business, ensure that it is in an industry you are passionate about, then your desire to succeed will be propelled by your natural enthusiasm and reinforced by your need to stay in the business you love.

Start a business, but start one you are passionate about, and be wary of partnerships with people who do not share that “want to”.

Okanagan-Small-Business-Marketing.jpg

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.

 

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.

Small Business Supporting Small Business

Small Business Needs?

Shop-local-support-okanagan-small-business

First rule of small business: Shop Local.

Recently there was an ad on the local radio for the UPS Small Business Store. According to this advertisement, this is the store you go to for all of your small business needs.

I found that interesting. I also found it a little conflicting. It may be an old fashioned notion, but it is our belief that small businesses need to stick together, support one another and keep it local whenever possible.

This notion was reinforced this past weekend as I stopped to chat with Randy Derksen of Sunridge DeSigns in Armstrong, BC.

Sunridge DeSigns embodies everything we love about small business. Made up of a husband and wife duo, Randy and Debi have built Sunridge from the ground up. They are involved in local initiatives and charitable groups and they are active members in the local Chamber of Commerce (supplying signs ranging from print to sandblasted, to the local small businesses). What is more, their work is good – VERY GOOD.

Randy and I spoke at length about the local community, the support and the overall zeitgeist of local business in the Okanagan, BC.

Obviously the last few years had been a challenge.  As the economy tightened, so had advertising budgets. Yet what was interesting to note, Randy pointed out, was that throughout all of it, a change in mindset had begun to appear. More small businesses were returning to sourcing their work locally, instead of purchasing online or from big box stores.

Image source: Hyperlocal101.com

Small Business Supporting Small Business.

There has been a push for businesses to save money via online sourcing. They are encouraged to source their designs, print work, web work, and advertising materials from online sites that promise monetary savings.

Saving money is a good thing. Small Business budgets are often… well, small.

However there are costs to sourcing work out this way. You may save a few pennies per card or get a logo dirt cheap, but consider these points.

  • Small Business is built on relational and community business. Spend money locally and it will always find its way back to you. Source work locally and they will return the favour.
  • On the flip side, source work and spend your budget online, you will never see that favour returned.
  • Source locally and one enters a conversation, the beginnings of a relationship, with that business. Relationships develop repeat business opportunities. Sourcing online provides no such opportunities.
  • Source a logo online for cheap and you will get what you pay for. Branding is not something to leave to chance. A logo speaks about your business, it defines you, it is the visual stimulus that will remain in the consumers mind. Should this be sourced out to the lowest bidder?
  • Keep in mind that just because it is online does not necessarily mean it is cheaper. Always source pricing locally to compare.  Unless the savings are significant and cannot be beaten, supporting local is always the way to go.

As Randy pointed out, it has been encouraging to see a return to the “100 mile” mindset, of supporting local. Small businesses need to support one another, build community and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Small Business thrives off of community, it thrives off of the local population. There is a different manner of thinking for small business owners, and it is that manner of thinking that defines small business as a whole.

We support local and are pleased and proud to do it.  What are your thoughts about sourcing locally?

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

9 Twitter Tips For Small Business

Twitter provides a channel for brand communication with customers.

Twitter has become the primary platform for brand expansion and customer engagement. While tweeting is an excellent tool for promotion and dialogue, it in itself does not necessarily translate into leads, sales and traffic. A high volume of Twitter followers will not guarantee a high volume of sales.

To succeed with Social Media you need to do more than simply tweet. You need a strategy, you need to know your target audience and you need to measure, measure, measure (measurement provides the impetus to your forward movement). Above all else, however, you need to understand what Twitter is and why you are on it. Here are a few things to consider.

1. …Your Homework, Do it!

Twitter offers and unprecedented medium for dialogue with your customers. It offers insights, trends and direct communication channels with the people purchasing products and services. Use it to to garner Market Research. This market research will quickly multiply your success potential. Speak with your audience, search out your target market and begin the conversation. Ask the questions – what matters to them? what are they looking for? how do they feel about your brand? how do they feel about your competitors?

Twitter offers an enormous opportunity to accumulate the feedback necessary to build your brand.

2. Make A Plan.

Don’t dive into the deep end with your water wings! Every business, big, small, wide and tall needs a strategy. This strategy should address key concerns such as:

Have a plan before jumping into Social Media head first.

  • Who is handling your monitoring and communication?
  • What are they posting?
  • How often are they posting?
  • Who (market target) are you chasing and engaging?
  • What is your brand goal once you have followers?
  • What message do you need to communicate?
  • How do you communicate this?
  • What is your contingency for customer feedback?

For tips on sourcing a good specialist, or for what is required to succeed in Social Media we recommend checking out: TIPS TO FINDING A GOOD SOCIAL MEDIA SPECIALIST and IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OPERATOR QUALIFIED?

Before you roll out your tweets we recommend taking part in the Twitter community. Log on and follow some tweets, get a feel for what people in your industry are doing. Understand the general zeitgeist surrounding your target market

Think about what you plan on posting – is it relevant and interesting?  Be realistic about how often you can post, schedule less if you need to, in order to remain consistent. Social Media is all about consistency and creative content.

3. Make Your Brand Known.

Get out and spread the word. Pass along to clients, industry partners, and relevant contacts that your brand is on Twitter. They may not be on Twitter yet, and partnering with them in your efforts can often be beneficial.

Begin engaging others on Twitter. Follow relevant feeds (IE experts, competitors etc). Begin conversing with established brands. Create content that will position you as an expert in the minds of your audience. You want to develop credibility and build your reputation. The more of a presence you make the more people will take notice.

Remember that you want to remain consistent to your Brand message. Your Social Media efforts should never appear fractured from the rest of your business.

4. ENGAGE.

Small Business success hinges on relationships and customer service. It is not often that the small business can compete on price point alone. Success is almost always determined by the brand loyalty one develops through nurturing their customers.

This is seldom easy, however it is highly rewarding (and profitable). Despite its online nature, Social Media is a great platform for developing these relationships. It is all about engagement, communication and dialogue. If your Twitter feed is a monologue then you are doing it wrong.

Talk to your customers, seek them out and begin the conversation. Doing so shows integrity and can instantly earn appreciation. Customers want and need to feel that they matter, by going to them you are reinforcing this association with your brand.

5. Be Human.

Be human. Be Authentic. Be Honest. Be Real.

Remember in all of your engagement to be real, be honest and be human. Brands spend thousands of dollars annually, attempting to “humanize” themselves, to make themselves accessible to “Joe Consumer”.

Be human and authentic, create a friendly banter and enjoy a good conversation. Don’t take offense to their feedback, but use every opportunity provided to show your customers that you are a customer as well, and your brand understands.

This is one perk to being a small business. It often comes more naturally and requires less red tape.

6. Build A Following.

This is achieved through three key steps.

  • Build relevant and creative content. Give your audience a reason to want more.
  • Post on a consistent schedule. Maintaining an active presence is absolutely key to building and KEEPING a following.
  • Post a consistent message. Whatever your content, ensure that you maintain a consistent brand message and meet the expectations of your followers. If you are plastics manufacturer, do not suddenly post LOLCATZ. You can change things up every now and again to keep it interesting – but always keep it relevant.

Keeping an active presence will ensure you build and retain your following. The value here is three fold:

  • It allows for quicker spotting of unhappy customers – which you then will engage.
  • It allows for more thoroughly spread updates to your audience.
  • “Viral Spread” – The more people are talking about your brand, the more are people hearing about your brand. The bigger your following, the quicker your content will be shared en mass.

7. Know Your Lingo!

Make sure you know how and what to communicate on Twitter. Here is a quick beginners breakdown:

Know the lingo and make waves on Twitter.

  • 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.

8. SEO.

Search Engine Optimization is fairly easy to utilize on Twitter. First of all make a list of industry relevant key words. Implement them into your Twitter handle, your profile description and as often as possibly into your tweets. This will ensure that these key words are being associated by search engines, with your Twitter efforts (Further Info Here:)

9. Measure, Measure, Measure.

Hurrah! You have begun tweeting, you have followers! What does that mean? How do you measure the value? There are a number of tools to helop you do this. Consider Social media tools likeTweetdeck and Hootsuite. Both are easy to learn, easy to use, and can be downloaded free (Hootsuite also has a paid service).

You may also want to investigate Klout.com which can link into all of your Social Media efforts and using a series of algorithms and measurements, provide you with an “influence” score between 1 and 100.

Summary.

Small business owners face many challenges, the world of Social Media has, in effect, provided us with a wide array of tools – free tools – to engage and build our brand. By utilizing platforms like Twitter small business owners can engage and develop their client base.

Use Twitter to build your brands association with expertise and service. Dialogue with your customers one on one and as a group. Broadcast your small business and brand and you will not be disappointed.

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

16 Tips For Marketing On A Budget

Image Source: smallbiztrends.com

Clever Marketing Does Not Need To Always Be Expensive.

Small Business owners seldom have the budget for glitzy or high profile marketing and advertising. Small Business marketing often needs to be as unique and specialized as the business it represents. Here are a few tips for Marketing on a budget.

1. Get On Board With Your Local Press. Most local news outlets have resources available for the local small business community:

  • 1. You can go with a standard ad.
  • 2. A classified ad (billed per word).
  • 3. Issue a press release. A press release is a great way to get free exposure in the local media.

Check with your local papers and see what they have in place.

2. Support A Local Charity Or Campaign. This is something businesses should do either way, however by getting on board with community initiatives you can get a great deal of (positive) free exposure.

You gain terrific PR, build relationships within the local community and lend support to those in need. This is the type of Marketing that truly builds a brand.

3. Sponsor A Local Sports Team. This refers back to supporting local charities or campaigns. It is an excellent way to boost community relations and branding. Just about any amateur team would be glad to don your logo for the cost of a jersey.

It can be a great way to build contacts and good will with parents, athletes and athletics supporters.

4. Local & Online Business Directories. The Yellow Pages are still a consistent resource for most local consumers. Many communities will also have their own local business directory. These can be inexpensive means with which to ensure consistent exposure, primarily to people looking for local and specific services.

There is an slew of online directories available as well, however these should be researched and explored according to their relevance for your industry, your geographic region and their results in search engines.

Bulletin Boards are a free place to post your advertising. They should be utilized with thought towards how they will portray your brand.

5. Use Free Cork/Bulletin Boards. The one caution with this, is to be mindful of how an ad and its placement portrays a business and brand. One can place a printed ad on almost any community cork board – typically free of charge – however they need to be mindful of how it represents the company.

  • Make sure it is a professional and clean ad – it should portray professionalism and associate the business with experience.
  • Place it nicely – square it up, fasten the corners, keep it neat. Don’t slap a thumbtack off centre and call it a day – that looks shoddy.
  • Make it catchy – corkboards fill up fast and typically wind up cluttered. The ad needs to stand out and grab attention.
  • Monitor it – It will eventually wind up behind other posts and ad’s. If this happens it will look dated. Cycle it out with new ad’s to keep it fresh and ensure it is at the top. Many billboard owners like a date placed somewhere on the ad to indicate it’s age (this enables them to clear dated posts) work with them and help them maintain the board.

6. Hand Out Business Cards To Everyone. In the age of online and social media, printed mediums are still highly relevant and nothing reinforces your word-of-mouth campaign like business cards. They are inexpensive and easy to keep on your person at all times.

Typically they print in groups of 250, 500, 1000, 2000 – with costs being reduced with each increase in quantity. Keep in mind that 250 cards can last a long time, so do not be afraid to hand them out and hand out more than one. When we meet with clients we will typically hand them three or four cards, this provides for their misplacing them or handing them out to colleagues.

Business cards are one of those items you want to revise every once in awhile. Hand them out while they are fresh and you will not have a bunch of obsolete cards when you revise your information.

7. Let Fly The Flyers! Going back to the relevance of printed materials, a flyer is a great (inexpensive) way to draw attention from the local community. Included in papers, door to door, or exchanged with other businesses along with business cards – they can increase brand awareness and draw attention to your services.

This ties in nicely with posting free Corkboard ad’s as flyer’s can be utilized also for this purpose.

8. Product Placement / Venue Exchanges. Brand yourself publicly at events and venues with product and logo placement.

Example: If you are a DJ make sure you have a banner, flyers, business cards and wear a shirt with your logo – brand yourself to the public. The amount of business that can be procured at a wedding, by a good photographer or DJ is incredible. Don’t ruin the wedding by networking, but be prepared if guests come to you for information.

9. Hand Out Branded Swag! Whatever your budget may be, there is a Merchandising manufacturer out there that can accommodate, so get some merch’ and hand it out! Useful items like pens, shirts, hats, mugs etc. will get used and make their way around.

As with all other materials, put some thought into type of “swag” that matters to your industry and have some fun making it. The more creative and relevant the merchandise, the more likely it will see use.

People love gifts, it is a great way to establish relations and create a positive experience for your clients. As with business cards, hand them out frequently and freely.

(Hint: Make sure the pens are decent quality – shoddy pens quickly find their way to the bottom of the bin)

Drive your marketing! Vehicle decals and wraps are cost effective and guarantee exposure. Image Source: indepthwraps.com

10. Decal Your Vehicle. Hank Yarbo of late Corner Gas fame exemplifies this concept in a rather unique way with his “Hank Board

A personal vehicle is literally a moving canvas. Brand it with decals and graphics and it effectively becomes a billboard wherever you find yourself. There are a number of businesses that offer this service – the price versus the advertising exposure makes this a top value option.

11. Advertising On Public Transit. Depending on the communities mass transit infrastructure, there can be many advertising spaces available in buses, taxis and trains. Check with your local transit authorities, these spaces can be surprisingly inexpensive.

12. Join Online Networking Communities. LinkedIn is likely the top source for these type of groups. By connecting with groups relevant to specific industries and the local community, one can gain both, an audience and dialogue opportunities.

13. Trade Shows. Local trade shows can be a great way to boost both, customer awareness and client engagement. For the price of a booth or table, one gains the opportunity to network with relevant, and local, small business groups and individuals.

14. Socialize With Media (Social Media). Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, there are numerous online avenues that (at no charge) provide the opportunity to increase online presence and engage customers, both current and potential.

(Hint: Visit blog posts on “Social Media Engagement” or “How To Find A Good Social Media Specialist” for more information on this)

15. Reward Your Current Customers. Build goodwill with the current customer base and the word of mouth campaign will pay back the efforts a thousand times over. Offer incentives, “swag” (see tip 9) and insider info.

16. Web Updates. Basic web updates can be a great, cost effective way to keep customers interested and coming back. Fresh content, news and designs are the means for consistent engagement. One should never underestimate the value of increasing online traffic and engaging the online audience.

No matter what size the business, customers need to be communicated with. There are many inexpensive and effective marketing avenues available – if you know where to look.

Small Businesses have several key advantages over their larger competitors. Recognizing and leveraging them can drastically impact success.

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