okanagan valley

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.

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Understanding Successful Advertising.

We continue our look at “advertising for dummies” by taking a look at how quickly careless advertising can backfire.

Argentina VS Brazil… Fails To Perform.

Anyone who follows World Cup Football (Soccer) knows that tensions run high and rivalries are deeply ingrained. These rivalries almost always spill over and out of the arena and are often reflected in the various advertising campaigns.

Past rivalries have seen some very “interesting” ad campaigns between rivals. Consider this little exchange between Argentina and Brazil. The top ad was Argentina’s opening shot, the bottom was Brazil’s response after Argentina “failed to perform” in such a way as to “stick it to” Brazil.

Oops, looks like Brazil had some performance issues.

Oops, looks like Brazil had some performance issues.

France Throws A Few Stones At Ukraine, Forget They Live In A Glass House…

For the upcoming Ukraine VS France Football match French fans were creating various posters of their chicken mascot showing dominance over other teams (in France the Rooster is one of France’s national animals… yes we know the irony and humour in France being represented by a chicken). Needless to say the campaign chucked a few stones towards the Ukraine who responded quite quickly with their own little ad.

The left is one of the French ad’s the right was the Ukraine’s response.

France VS Ukraine... Oh and they are playing a football match also!

France VS Ukraine… Oh and they are playing a football match also!

We have one word: “Owned”.

Consider The Backfire.

When advertising, one needs to always consider the various angles and possibilities of a backfire.

Consider it like this. When a parent is choosing names for their newborn, they often consider the many nicknames that can go along with it. “Ben” for example will 99% of the time result in such nicknames as: “Bendover, Benjamin Franklin, Bent, Bender, Bendy etc” (no none are very original). Guarding against nasty nicknames is a very common thought process for new parents.

Any instance of communication with the public (advertising, PR etc) must ponder things in much the same way. Angles need to be considered, public perception of events and materials need to be understood and the overall message being communicated must be honed appropriately. What could go wrong? What leverage may it provide your rivals?

History is riddled with ad campaigns that have backfired violently, damaging the brand they are meant to build up. This is only amplified by the wide-spread use of Social Media to share and spread the failure.

A campaign can start with good intentions but spiral quickly out of control if not properly researched and planned. Try as we may however, we cannot always plan for every possible outcome. To illustrate this, let’s return back to the metaphor of naming your child. I knew a young man whose parents named him Michael Hawk. Not so bad right? Until you start calling him Mike…. and then say his full name out loud, Mike Hawk. Go ahead and say that (quietly) to yourself.

Not exactly the name you want called out when stepping out onto the field for the first time or during role-call in a small high school. Let’s just say the rest of his first year was very good for “character development”.

The point we are trying to make is that one can only do their very best to plan for every possible outcome of an advertising / marketing campaign. You can only do your very best but YOU MUST DO your very best. Careless advertising can quickly backfire (as we see in the Football ad’s above). Consider your audience, consider what is appropriate and what is taboo, consider your wording and then polish your message.

Then fire away.

Just don’t use a chicken as your mascot.

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.

The Marketing ToolBox: Advertising In The “Loo”

Great... now I am craving toast!

Great… now I am craving toast!

Minding My Business & Taking A Pee. But There Was This Toast Staring At Me…

Alright we’re no mother goose so we’ll stop with the rhymes and get down to business.

Consider the ad on the left. It makes a valid point. Arguably a weird one… but valid nonetheless.

This ad was positioned over the urinals in a men’s bathroom.

Now let’s face it you are likely going to be standing in front of this ad for a minimum of 30 seconds (longer if your chugged that “team pitcher” all by yourself). You are either going to be staring at a blank wall, this piece of toast, or a carefully thought out and targeted advertisement.

Advertising works.

Consider this. If you had just finished a pint with your mates and found yourself taking a much-needed bathroom break, what ads might appeal to you?

  • A Taxi Service?
  • A Late Night Pizzeria?
  • A Reminder That Next Week is Fight Night?
  • A New Mobile App?

Advertising works and the options for ad placements are limited only by the imagination. If there is a venue on which to place an ad, then there is a niche market that it will appeal to.

What are some ideas for ad placement areas that would work for you?

Avoid Sneaky Marketing Tactics

Bad-Marketing-Advertising

Always read the fine print. If an ad seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Does anyone else find it odd, that the fine print more or less contradicts the large print above it?

What is worse is that this ad targets consumers with eye sight issues.

That seems a little dirty Vision Express. If someone NEEDS an eye exam, are they even going to be able to read that fine print? We would love to presume that in the example above that this is part of the joke, but frankly it seems more like a bad ad execution.

“Always read the fine print. If an ad seems to good to be true, it probably is. This type of marketing is one to be avoided. It will tarnish your brand image.”

This is on par with the big box stores that proclaim an item to be just “$0.99” but then have a little font size 6 statement at the bottom that says “when purchasing six or more”.

It is legal and it is common for big businesses to use these type of tactics to sucker customers in. Legal it may be, however that doesn’t make it right,

We would mark this little piece of marketing as a fail. It comes off as underhanded and sneaky (and in fact the original poster of the image above, posted it to make this very point). It may sucker a few consumers, however it is morally questionable and savvy consumers will quickly learn not to trust you or your brand.

Those are our thoughts, what do you think?

TMS 2012 ROCK THE SMALL BIZ PROMOTION!

okanagan-transition-marketing-small-business-promotion

We love small business…truly…madly…deeply.

We Love Small Business!

Some say it, we show it. Actions speak louder than words after all. Small Business is full of challenges, and not a lot of us have much in the budget (or a budget at all!). We get it! It is a challenge, one that is more easily overcome when we work together. Therefore we are giving one very lucky small business, something extra special, check it!

Rock The Small Biz Promotion:

Are you a Small Business owner or representative? Do you live in the Okanagan Valley in sunny British Columbia? Do you like wicked-awesome-free-stuff? Transition Marketing Services is offering the chance for one Okanagan, BC Small Business to win a free CUSTOMIZED website courtesy of our design team. The free website comes with free registration and one year’s free hosting courtesy of Raptor Integration. Get that? So that is a free CUSTOMIZED website at your disposal for a year. Interested? Here are the details:

Contest Rules:

Eligibility:

Any small business owner (or representative acting on behalf of the business within an ocial capacity), whose business is located in Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong, Vernon or any surrounding community within 100 km radius.

Entry:

Entries will be accepted beginning July 12, 2012 and will run until August 30, 2012.

  1. “Like” Transition Marketing on Facebook (www.facebook.com/transitionmarketing)
  2. Message our admin with the following info: Contact name. Business name. Telephone number. Email address. Business address.
  3. Your business will then be entered. Contest ends Monday, August 30. A name will be drawn August 31. Winner will be notified directly by Transition Marketing.

Prize Details:

Prize worth is estimated at $1200.00 CDN. A custom website, consisting of a maximum of ve pages, will be built by Transition Marketing. Note that any specific logo, artwork, or images (such as product photos) must be provided to Transition Marketing upon request for website completion. Domain registration and one years hosting will be provided by RAPTOR INTEGRATION (annual renewal aftera one year period will be the responsibility of the winner).

Legal Disclaimers:

Transition Marketing Legal Disclaimer: Any and all information provided to Transition Marketing for the purpose of this contest is condential. No information passed directly to the Transition Marketing Page admin, will be disclosed, sold, or provided to any parties whatsoever. Entrants must demonstrate ownership (or representation) of actual business to be considered. Transition Marketing holds the right to refuse contest entry, communications, prizes and associated materials, at their judgement to any business involved (or perceived to be involved) in any illegal or questionable activities. Website will be built to the best of the customers specications. Website will be considered completed upon customer approval or upon completion of 16 billable hours of design time.

Facebook Legal Disclaimer:

By entering this contest, via direct message to the Transition Marketing Services Page admin, the entrant releases Facebook, from any and all legal implications. Entrant acknowledges that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Entrant understands that any and all information being provided is specically to Transition Marketing for contest puposes. It is not and not will not be disclosed to or by Facebook. Entrant absolves Facebook of any legal repercussions whatsoever.

Visit Us Directly Right Here To Enter.

small-business-marketing-transition-okanagan

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