small business marketing

24 Reasons To Shop Small Business

Transition Marketing ServicesWe Shop Small Business & You Should As Well.

We do it whenever possible. Whether it is our coffee, the meat and produce for our summer barbecues, our gasoline or our clothes. If it is possible to support a local merchant, we do it.

Why? Because it builds community. Because these small business owners are people and these people are our neighbours, our friends and our family. They are a part of our community and a part of the local lifeblood of our cities. Supporting them is what any community minded citizen should be doing.

When you make a purchase from a big box store what is that money going towards? Corporate greed? According to a report by Bloomberg Business Week:

“…The AFL-CIO’s average CEO-to-worker multiple at big U.S. companies is 357 [x the average employee’s wage]. Bloomberg’s average ratio for Standard & Poor’s 500 companies is 204; the average of the top 100 companies on our table is 495. That is, CEOs of the companies on that table averaged 495 times the income of non-supervisory workers in their industries.”

How much do you make at your job? Imagine making 200 to 400 x that amount. In the words of Homer Simpson “that’s a spicy-meat-a-ball”.

Of course to cannot pigeon-hole all corporate sales. Obviously their profits go towards more than just Transition Marketing Servicestheir CEO and Upper Management paychecks. Profits from sales go towards their marketing, their sales, their manufacturing and the level of inventory they need to maintain to keep prices low. However consider what these companies actually invest locally – it is next to nothing. Not to mention what do they pay their employees? or worse yet, what do they pay the people manufacturing their goods? It is a pittance.

When we attempt to justify shopping at big stores in order to support their employees (and we have), we are really just supporting the concept of part-time employment on minimum wage with few or no benefits. In contrast recent studies indicate that local small businesses are the largest employer of financially solid jobs nationally in the United States.

Let's not forget that Walmart actually attempted to take donations from others to support it's underpaid staff.

Let’s not forget that Walmart actually attempted to take donations from others to support its underpaid staff.

Oh and all those big signs that corporations put up stating what they donate to charity? If their CEO is making even 200 x the average Canadian, that puts his pay scale at over 10 million dollars annually. Those lump sums that they state have been donated to charity? pretty meager in the grand scheme of things and how much of that is contributed directly from consumers at the til? We’ve all been asked to donate to the Children’s Charity or Foodbank in the midst of paying for our groceries.

All studies point to non-profit organizations receiving on average, 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

Yes I know that I am standing on a metaphorical soap box right now and no it isn’t comfortable. Do I think that everyone can shop small business every time, all of the time? No. There are certain items that one simply cannot find at local shops and I understand that. However one cannot underestimate the need for our small business community. If the purchase can be made reasonably at a local small business, it is to all of our benefit to do so.

A healthy community begins with a healthy economy and small businesses are an essential part of this.

24 Reasons To Shop Local:

Consider what shopping local does:

  1. It is Better For Everyone’s Bottom Line: Brock University research recently suggested that $3 billion would be added to the local economy if 5 million Ontarians spent $10 of their grocery budget on local foods each week.
  2. It Puts Your Taxes to Good UseLocal businesses require comparatively little infrastructure investment. They make more efficient use of public services than big corporations do when they enter the community.
  3. It Supports Local Decision-making: Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
  4. It Invests Into Local CommunityLocal businesses are owned by local people. They live in the local community, they are more invested in the local community and they are less likely to leave the local community.
  5. It Encourages Local Prosperity: A growing body of economic research points to entrepreneurs and skilled workers, in an increasingly homogenized world, being more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.
  6. It Puts Money Directly Back Into the Local Community: The more money that says local, the healthier the community remains.
  7. Long-term Benefits and Diversity: A marketplace of multiple small businesses ensures local innovation and a wide variety of products and services that targets local interests and needs as opposed to a national sales strategy.
  8. Long-term Better Prices: When a marketplace consists of thousands of small businesses rather than just a handful of large corporations it helps ensure lower prices over the long-term.
  9. It Promotes Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship fuels North America’s economic innovation and prosperity. This is a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.
  10. It Supports a Local Business Owner and Their Family: It provides food and clothes. It means dance lessons for their little girls and a soccer jersey for their son.
  11. It Supports The People Directly Around Us: People we pass on the street everyday. People who could easily be you or I.
  12. It Supports a Livelihood Not a Lifestyle: This isn’t another yacht, summer home or additional stock options for some CEO you’ll never meet. This is the needs of the people who live next to us.
  13. It Boosts Environmental Well-being: When sustainable local foods are grown utilizing humane animal practices and environmentally responsible methods we have assurance that our food is healthier and is making minimal impact on the environment. Likewise purchasing locally made products and services reduce the carbon footprint related to freight and transport needs.
  14. It Generates Environmental Sustainability: Local stores create a vibrant, compact, walkable town center. This reduces economic migration due to businesses expanding outside of the city centre. This in turn reduces automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.
  15. It Creates an Increased Number of GOOD Jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and within our community. These small businesses create a healthy economic work force by generating REAL jobs.
  16. You Get Better ServiceLocal businesses hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling. They know or get to know the local customers. Small businesses employees are generally more invested and happier which translates to better consumer experiences.
  17. It Promotes Cultural Diversity: Varieties of products, foods & services are based on the local shopping habits, creating an “culturally diverse” marketplace.
  18. It Supports the Future of Farming: Strong local farming ensures local goods can be grown and raised in the future.
  19. Local Food is More Nutritious: Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients. Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.
  20. It Promotes Bio-diversity: Increased demand for local food creates greater variety.
  21. Local Food Growth Keeps Taxes Down: Governments spend approximately $1.17 on services for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, which increases taxes. Conversely for every $1 in revenue raised by a farm, a forest or open space, a government spends approximately $0.34 cents on services.
  22. It Supports Local Community Charity Groups: Studies point to non-profit organizations receiving an average 250% more support from smaller businesses than they do from corporations.
  23. It Reduces Chance of “Dead” Zones in Cities: Local stores make use of existing business spaces. This creates a lively, compact, walk able town center. This reduces economic migration related to big businesses expanding outside of the city centre.
  24. It Keeps Our Community Unique: Our local small business are a distinct part of what makes our community home. These one-of-a-kind businesses our OUR one-of-a-kind businesses. The create the distinctive character of our communities.
Supporting local businesses and start-ups creates a healthy local economy.

Supporting local businesses and start-ups creates a healthy local economy.

When we make a purchase at a local small business we are setting into motion a series of events that can generate support and sales to several small businesses within the community. Several studies indicate that purchases made from independent, small businesses significantly increase the amount of money used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers etc.

This creates a domino effect of sorts which further strengthens the economic base of the community.  Summaries of a variety of economic impact studies can be found here these include case studies showing that locally owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact to the local community and our tax base.

  • It supports the property manager of the building.
  • It supports the LOCAL trades people who maintain the building.
  • It supports the LOCAL students who work there (as opposed to outsourced workers through questionable recruitment agencies like Actyl)
  • It supports local product and service providers related to the manufacture and sales from that business.
  • It supports the LOCAL print companies that handle the flyers and posters and print ad’s (as opposed to the large corporate marketing companies).
  • It supports LOCAL tourism. Diverse small businesses are more attractive to tourists and vacationers.

This post came across my Facebook feed a week ago and honestly we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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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15 Tips For Effective Email Marketing & Distributing

Transition-Marketing-ServicesEmail Marketing.

Email marketing comes with a bad reputation. We have all been on the receiving end of spam. Unsolicited emails can range from a minor nuisance to an outright danger to your hardware’s integrity. Proper email marketing however, is a useful tool in the world of marketing and communications. Note that we do not endorse the use of spam lists or sending unsolicited emails. Rather these tips should be used for recipients with whom you have cultivated a relationship with or who have chosen to sign on to your distribution list.

Increasing Your Open Rate.

The first thing one needs to understand are the steps to an effective email campaign. Whether you are sending out sales notices, newsletters or thank you notes, none of it will matter if it does not a. reach the recipient and b. get opened by the recipient. Those are the first two challenges one needs to consider and learn to overcome. In this post we will discuss the means to ensuring you first make it through those spam filters and second, get read.

15 Email Marketing Tips.

1. The Subject Line Matters.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. The content of your subject line will determine how the spam filter reacts.
  2. The subject line will determine whether people are intrigued enough to open the email.

Consider your subject line carefully. It needs to avoid specific trigger words in order to get through the spam filters, but it also needs to be relevant and interesting enough to warrant the recipient opening the email.

  1. Unless it is dealing specifically with a topic you have already discussed with the recipient, it should be short. No more than 3-5 words.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be creative, but be clear and be concise.
  3. Don’t use the subject line as a sales pitch.
  4. Be relevant. The subject line needs to have relevancy to the recipient.
  5. Avoid spam trigger words.

The subject line is your battering ram. It is the first breach into the fortified walls of your recipient. It will determine if you land in the inbox and it will determine what happens from there. This is the first thing anyone sees when the email hits their mail slot. It has to be good. Think of it this way: it won’t matter how great the offer is in your email contents if no one opens it to read them.

2. Timing Your Email.

Believe it or not, there is actually a science to sending out email blasts. Timing can be everything. Remember that your open rate is crucial, it determines your overall success. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Promptness of email opens:
    1. 23.63% of all emails are opened within the first hour of receipt.
    2. 9.52% within the 2nd hour.
    3. 6.33% in the third hour
    4. 4.8% in the fourth.

It is most important then that you time your email to be opened immediately. (Source: socialmediaguerilla.com)

  • Number of messages sent by time of day:
    1. 5.9% of emails arrive between 12am – 6am.
    2. 38.7% arrive between 6am – 12pm.
    3. 25.8% arrive between 12pm – 6pm.
    4. 29.6% arrive between 6pm and 12am.

Most emails land in the inbox in the morning. Therefore it is less likely yours will be opened at that time. People are getting started, they are digging through the email pile and will disregard the less important ones. (Source: socialmediaguerilla.com)

  • Best click & open times:
    1. Top hours for “clicks”: 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 3:00 pm, 8:00 pm.
    2. Top hours for “opens”: 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm.
  • Best days for sending:
    1. More emails are sent during the week than on weekends.
    2. Tuesday and Thursday being the highest volume days.

Changing which day you send your emails may improve your open and click rates. (Source: mailchimp.com)

Timing is indeed everything. Try sending out your blasts at different times. See for yourself which works best. Remember that every opened email could result in a sale.

3. Use Your Name & an Authentic Email Address. 

Would you open a random email from an unrecognized email address?  People are suspicious for good reason, so use your name and business and suggest your recipient add your company to their email to help you avoid an awkward visit to the junk folder.

4. Build a Reputation. Transition-Marketing-Services

Earn your recipients trust. If you are embarking on a sustained emailing campaign, such as a monthly newsletter, this trust will be crucial. As you begin to email recipients more frequently you will find yourself developing a reputation for either good content or bad. Keep the content of your emails on target relevant and interesting. Don’t send out emails for the sake of emailing. Don’t waste people’s time. Once your recipients have opened a few of your emails and benefited from them, your reputation will grow and the opens will happen more easily.

5. Keep It Short.

Your email does not need to be your entire sales catalog. Short emails can be the most effective. Interestingly enough it can be the most difficult to whittle down your emails content. It may require time and possibly a lot of it. Pick a single point and focus on it. Whether it is a sale, a new product etc. If you find yourself off topic, erase and start over.

6. A.P. Style Writing. 

Familiarize yourself with the principles of A.P. style writing (Associated Press). A.P. Style is defined in purpose as:

The content of newspapers and other mass media is typically the result of many different writers and editors working together. AP style provides consistent guidelines for such publications in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation and language usage. Some guiding principles behind AP style are:

  • Consistency
  • Clarity
  • Accuracy
  • Brevity

AP style also aims to avoid stereotypes and unintentionally offensive language. (Source)

Transition-Marketing-Services7. Do Not Send Out Spam.

First off what is spam? Spam mail is not just for male enhancement companies and Nigerian princes. Spam is any form of unsolicited email sent to unknown recipients who did not ask for it. You would think this would obvious, but even reputable companies can be tempted to spam. Do not send out spam emails.

8. Be Consistent.

Depending on the purpose of your email campaign, consistency can be key. If you are developing a newsletter campaign the stick to it. Weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, whatever frequency you choose, stick to it. When developing the campaign, be realistic about how much you have to say and how often you want to say it. Set yourself a schedule and then stick to it. If the schedule dictates once a month, schedule your time properly to allow for it.

9. Non-Formal.

It is ok to be semi-formal and it is ok to have fun with your emails. Keep the tone professional and keep it clean but don’t shy away from having a little fun. Recipients are receiving countless formal emails a day, having a little fun on occasion can be ok. Don’t be afraid to show your human side. Be creative, by humorous, just don’t be boring. The more relational you come across, the more likely they are to follow-up with you. Be courteous and be clean though.

10. Be Fresh. Transition-Marketing-Services

Avoid old news or worn out ideas. Avoid repeating previous content – it is ok to reference it – but do not replicate it. This could (and should) put pressure on you from time to time to send your email out sooner. If yours is the first email in the inbox with new, important or timely information, you will reap the reward of being read. If you are reiterating similar info to previous emails, re-write it. Cast a new light on it, present it in a different away.

11. Engaging Content.

Daily I received about 60 – 70 emails. Most of those are formal and stuffed full of information. By the 3:30 in the afternoon I am beginning to open emails, size them up and then either mark them as unread to be dealt with the next day or dumping them after the first sentence. Try to incorporate content that will draw the viewer in. Keep that in mind when developing your emails Subject and content, and when scheduling it for send off.

12. Begin At The Beginning. 

Create your distribution list from scratch. People do not take kindly to unsolicited emails. Build trust. Ask them for permission.

  1. Provide opt-in opportunities.
  2. Offer different delivery options.
  3. Promise privacy.
  4. Provide a means for them to discontinue from the email.
  5. Provide links to connect on your website and social media profiles.
  6. Mention it when visiting them or on the phone and ask if they are interested.

13. Avoid Spam Trigger Words.

There are specific words that trigger spam filters. Familiarize yourself with them and avoid them.

1. !!!2. $$$

3. 100% free

4. Act now!

5. ALL CAPITALS

6. All natural

7. As seen on

8. Attention

9. Bad credit

10. Bargain

11. Best price

12. Billion

13. Certified

14. Cost

15. Dear friend

16. Decision

17. Discount

18. Double your income

19. E.x.t.r.a. Punctuation

20. Eliminate debt

21. Extra income

22. Fast cash

23. Fees

24. Financial freedom

25. FREE

51. Guarantee

52. Hot

53. Increase

54. Join millions

55. Lose weight

56. Lowest price

57. Make money fast

58. Marketing

59. Million dollars

60. Money

61. Money making

62. No medical exams

63. No purchase necessary

64. Online pharmacy

65. Opportunity

66. Partners

67. Performance

68. Rates

69. Satisfaction guaranteed

70. Search engine listings

71. Selling

72. Success

73. T e x t w i t h g a p s

74. Trial

75. Visit our website

26. #1

27. 4U

28. 50% off

29. Accept credit cards

30. Additional income

31. Affordable

32. All new

33. Apply now

34. Apply online

35. Be your own boss

36. Buy direct

37. Call free

38. Cancel at anytime

39. Cash bonus

40. Cheap

41. Click here

42. Congratulations

43. Direct email

44. Direct marketing

45. Don’t hesitate!

46. Drastically reduced

47. Earn $

48. Full refund

49. Get it now

50. Gift certificate

76. Great offer

77. Home based

78. Incredible deal

79. Information you requested

80. Insurance

81. Investment

82. Limited time offer

83. Message contains

84. No age restrictions

85. No experience

86. No gimmicks

87. No hidden costs

88. No questions asked

89. Offer

90. Online degree

91. Online marketing

92. Order Now

93. Passwords

94. Please read

95. Risk free

96. Save $

97. Serious cash

98. Special promotion

99. Urgent

100. Web traffic

14. First Impression

Do not make the mistake of assuming you are interesting. You have three seconds to make enough of an impression to last an entire emails length. Remember the rule of the “firm handshake” you may only have one chance to make this impression, so do it right the first time (you may not get a second handshake).

15. Format Your Email to be Readable.

Don’t make people “click-to-download”. Keep it short, focus on your one point, remove clutter and make it readable. If this sounds a little labour intensive, it is because it can be. There are many template sites and examples to be found online with a simple Google search. Coming up with even just one good subject line can be tough and is not always guaranteed to spark the rest of the emails contents. Doing it right requires massive creativity, passion and inspiration. It also requires focus.

Summary.

If you find yourself forcing it or are running out of time and rushing it, then you are likely better off to not do it at all. Your emails content will showcase you and your business image, for good or for evil. Make sure you are doing it right. For many companies that lack employees with either the time or the skill set it can make more sense to hire a copy-writer or a marketing firm. Get past the viewing pane. Get opened and be read. No one said this was going to be easy, but it can pay off big. 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.

Titanfall: Marketing Like A Boss.

titanfall-marketing

Titanfall Does Marketing Right.

Here have some sweet guerrilla marketing courtesy of Titanfall.

I imagine this is guaranteed to grab attention (which is exactly what marketing should do!).

Apparently this monumental piece was built to replicate the actual size of the mechs in-game, which is also very cool.

Now if only they had a couple of guy parkouring around it…

Titanfall.

Titanfall for those who don’t know, is one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. It was developed by several of the same minds that worked on the original Call of Duty Modern Warfare series. They parted ways with their previous software company “Infinity Ward” and began anew under Respawn Entertainment.

Published by Electronic Arts as an exclusive for Microsoft, Titanfall has drawn enormous attention from the gaming community. It breaks several current traditions for games of this genre, including keeping play to 6 vs 6, burn cards and of course adding in the ability to “parkour” or free-run around the maps.

From a marketing standpoint the Respawn / EA crew has done just about everything right:

1. They included open-ended Beta trials which engaged the gaming community (2 million players in 1 week!) and increased excitement to a near fever pitch (I know because I played!).

2. They maintained a clear strong presence at all of the big game conferences. This included winning “over 60 awards at its E3 2013 reveal, including a record-breaking six E3 Critics Awards, and Best of Show from several media outlets. (It also won official awards at Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show)”.

3. They pushed for a strong online presence through web design, advertising and maintaining conversations on various forums.

4. They went hard to the paint on their print advertising, including ads in many mainstream magazines.

5. Then they developed this great guerrilla marketing campaign.

QUICK EDIT: We just came across this addition to their guerrilla marketing: Respawn had Titanfall pilots wandering the streets in the UK

Titanfall

Perhaps the biggest feather in their cap however has been the level of trust that they have developed with the gaming community. There has been a great deal of politics behind the scenes, including the reasons for their departure from Infinity Ward (Activision fired Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March 2010 for “breaches of contract and insubordination”. Their departure resulted in a series of lawsuits and a staff exodus. Later that year, West and Zampella founded a game development company, Respawn Entertainment, with many of the former Infinity Ward staff). Respawn already had a lot of gamer confidence for what they brought to the CoD franchise. Now with the release of their first big game, they have increased trust through their community engagement, their policies and their innovation.

Many have touted the developers as “for the gamers”, innovating and creating the next new style of shooter much in the same way they did with the original Modern Warfare. Many reviewers predict Titanfall to be the next step for the first-person shooter genre. This in stark contrast to many of the current first-person shooters which have been condemned as cliché and churned out copies of previous games.

We're not sure if this ad placement was intentional... but it was hilarious!

We’re not sure if this ad placement was intentional… but it was hilarious!

What can we learn from all of this?

Respawn paid attention to what gamers wanted, they also stayed true to their vision and created the game that THEY wanted. The result has been an innovative new addition to the gaming community, one that very well may affect future games in the genre.

Takeaway 1: “They were innovative.” and “they paid attention to what [their customers] wanted”. They developed a product that would generate excitement and would sell.

Takeaway 2: They marketed hard, but they also marketed smart. They went to where their customers were. Advertising online on key sites, in specific media and magazines and through forums dedicated to their marketplace.

Takeaway 3: They engaged their market. The involved the players in Beta testing (which saw 2 million players!), they created open-ended discussion through online forums and they took part in trade shows that included interviews and one on one dialogue.

Summary.

Yup it looks like an awesome game and the marketing follow suit. That’s about all we have so enjoy some of the fan-made content and quotes regarding the game. This should give you an idea of the fervor that has been generated:

“I used to love BF4. Even with all of its glitches. I just tried to play and I found the game so dang slow. Nothing matches the adrenaline rush from rodeo-ing titans and finishing them off. This kinda blows for me as i am premium, but oh well. Guess ill have to stick to AC4 until Titanfall drops. xoxo gossip gurrrrl”

“It’s just COD with mechs? [Nope] Well, one single word sets it apart. Fun.”

“I’m done with Titanfall!   ….I’ll be back after I grab some food. This game is awesome! I love capping me some flags!”

Oh Titanfall... why can't I quit you?

Oh Titanfall… why can’t I quit you?

Meme created by a Reddit user titled: "going from Titanfall to Battlefield 4"

Meme created by a Reddit user titled: “going from Titanfall to Battlefield 4”

Dubbed the "Call of Duty Killer". Some say the original development team for CoD are the only ones who can end the endless churning of CoD games.

Dubbed the “Call of Duty Killer”. Some say the original development team for CoD are the only ones who can end the endless churning out of CoD games.

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.

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.

Selling A Book By Its Cover

A Book By Any Other Cover…

They say you cannot tell a book by its cover but do not ever doubt that you can sell a book by its cover.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell pile of them though.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell a pile of them though.

This screen shot depicts the overall sales of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on five different cover designs and spanning 20 years. This provides a clear look at the power behind design, marketing and understanding the current market.

Sales for this literary classic hit a small peak of sorts in 1995, but overall remained fairly low until 2009 when it surged in popularity netting more than double the sales in a single year.

Why? What happened in 2009?

The Great Pride & Prejudice Surge Of 2009

The Pride & Prejudice film was released in 2005. Which means that this probably did not factor largely in to the 2009 releases success. If anything one would have expected a surge in sales to occur within the next year.

Instead we see that four years later, in 2009, demand for this novel more than doubled within twelve months. What was it about 2009?

Every market surge has a history. There may be many contributing factors to a sudden sales onslaught but one can always trace the reasons. This can often be a complicated process and one may wind up with many dead ends before coming to a reliable conclusion as to the cause, but there is always a cause.

In the case this surge in 2009 it is not so complicated. Have a look at the cover that sold so well.  The cover couldn’t be the sole reason could it? Design doesn’t make that much of a difference right?

Wrong. It is all in the design. The 2009 release happened to coincide with another novel series which just happened to be gaining steam at the time. Perhaps you have heard of it. It involved an angst ridden teenage girl and her love affair with a vampire and a werewolf.

The Twilight Saga had recently become a huge hit. It had been hitting the theaters and was discussed everywhere.  Low and behold if we look at the cover design of the re-release of the Twilight series what do we see?

Okanagan-Marketing

Well now look at that. Something familiar about those colours and the overall feel isn’t there? What an odd coincidence…

Make no mistake. This was 100% intentional and from a marketing and sales standpoint, it was brilliant. The brains behind the 2009 publication of Pride & Prejudice knew their market. They knew the consumer zeitgeist. They knew what people were reading and they moved on it.

Does Pride & Prejudice share any similarities with Twilight? Well the lead character is a girl and Mr. Darcy is a bit of a wolf… but otherwise to lump these two into the same category would likely cause Mrs Austen to roll in her grave. Yet the design of the book managed to subtly do just that. The four books published in the Twilight series used three key colours and several basic design elements. This is obvious when comparing the four of them side by side as we do in the image above.

The demographic that Twilight was marketed to had, had their eyes trained – trained to look for this specific colour combination and style, thus any other book with similar traits would automatically grab their eye. What is more, the design team behind the 2009 version of Pride and Prejudice increased its book size to match the size which Twilight was published in. The result was a book that looked, for all intents and purposes, like it belonged to the Twilight series – one that could sit beside them and not look out-of-place.

Customers would be looking through the shelves of books and their eyes would automatically flicker what they knew and recognized. Perhaps some of them even thought this was a fifth edition to the series.

This is the essence and foundation behind branding and that is exactly what went on. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was branded with a very obvious aesthetic look. 2009’s Pride and Prejudice printing simply hopped on that band wagon and rode its coattails to success.

Design & Sales.

All too often there appears to be an underlying disrespect for solid design work. Few people – especially in the small business market place – realize the increase in sales that good design will get them. Instead the see the price tag that comes along with it and they balk at it. They cut corners, call in favours, hire rookies or try to do it themselves with all the “free online tools”. The result is shoddy and unprofessional design.

Graphic and Web design needs to be rooted in technical and artistic ability as well and an understanding of what is working in the industry today.

As we see in the example above, knowing the market and understanding design trends play a huge role in design success.

It is simple and it is truth. Good graphic design increases sales. Good design is worth the price. 

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.

Facebook Ad’s For Small Business

Facebook Ads: Not really worth the money.

Facebook Ads: Not really worth the money.

Chances are if you are a small business owner, you have taken your business to Facebook… and why not? It is free, it is online and it has over 1.11 billion registered users (more than the population of Canada).

And chances are, if you are on Facebook with your business, you have either used, or contemplated using the “Facebook Ads” tool, their built-in targeted advertising tool. The question is, how effective was this advertising option. The tools are simple to use, they can be set to target specific ages, demographics and geographic regions and you only pay for the # of “Likes” you get. Seems like a good deal right?

We recently came across some startling information about the Facebook Ads option. Information that may change the way you look at it as a resource. Veritasium recently published this short, engaging and highly informative video that takes a close and scrutinizing look at Facebook Ads and the legitimacy of what they claim to do.

We at Transition Marketing have run similar tests on the Facebook Advertising options and come to similar if not identical conclusions. Facebook Ad’s are probably not the best fit for small business owners. Why? YOU MUST View Veritasium‘s video:

As you can see, it is not necessarily that Facebook is intentionally “screwing” its users. Rather it is that the system behind Facebook Ads is broken and Facebook seems to either be oblivious, or blatantly ignoring the issues at hand. The crime here is that they are publicizing their ads as a profitable option for businesses on Facebook and many of these businesses are small time owners like you and I who cannot afford to waste even a single advertising dollar.

We actually really like Mark Zuckerberg, his companies advertising options just aren't very good.

We actually really like Mark Zuckerberg, his companies advertising options just aren’t very good.

The way we see it? Facebook Ads are presently a dead-end proposition – specifically for small business owners who net zero profit from the audience they tend to gain. If you are a small business on Facebook and are looking to increase your audience, don’t risk what advertising budget you have. We recommend alternative tools and options:

Facebook Contests: Run monthly or even weekly contests that include draws once you reach a certain # of “Likes”. For instance, draw for your next prize at 200 “Likes” This encourages your current audience to get others on board in order to facilitate the next draw. (Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Facebook Terms & Conditions for contests).
In Store Advertising: Make sure the customers coming through your actual place of business know that you are on Facebook. Post it up on your signage, have a decal on you window and put a link on your website. You want to engage consumers at every turn so help them find you.
Encourage “Shares”: In a recent post we described how asking your audience to “Like” and “Share” your posts is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. When you post something on your page do not be afraid to ask your audience to spread the word.

There are many other tools for increasing your audience on Social Media. It is our professional opinion however that the Facebook Ads tool requires a great deal of further tweaking before it becomes the tool that small businesses turn to.

What about you? What have your experiences been with Facebook Ads? Good? Bad? Ugly? Comment here and share your story!

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

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.