Your mother was right. You shouldn’t try to be something you’re not. This is an important lesson for small businesses, as well.
Many small businesses believe that in order to be successful, they need to do things like much bigger companies. However, the companies they try to emulate usually have much deeper pockets.

When it comes to successfully marketing your small business the key is to accentuate the fact that you are a small business. By capitalizing on this fact you will be much more successful than if you try to be something you are not!

What follows are five ways to make the most of your status as a small business!

  1. Dive into direct mail. With more and more big companies using email marketing, consumers’ regular mailboxes aren’t as crowded as in the past. This means your direct mail campaign will stand out more. Further, research shows that direct mail has a higher response rate than email marketing. Combine your direct mail with email marketing and your response rate will increase even more.
  2. Implement a customer loyalty program. Customer loyalty programs are easy to set up and are a great way to track and reward your customers. Further, since retaining current customers is more cost effective than finding new ones, these programs pay off in more ways than one.
  3. Purchase Facebook ads. Facebook allows you to target your ads to reach an audience based on a variety of demographics, including age, gender, interests or geographic location. These ads are a cost-effective way to get your small business in front of those most likely to do business with you.
  4. Engage the media. Establish a relationship with your local media outlets so that when reporters are looking to do a story on holiday shopping, for example, they turn to you. You also can send a press release to media outlets to announce new product launches or other events that the public may be interested in.
  5. Engage in complementary advertising. Joint promotional campaigns allow you to partner with another business to boost sales for both of you. For instance, if you own a pet boarding business you could partner with a local pet shop and each of your businesses could give away coupons for the other’s products or services. The possibilities are endless and by adding another business to your marketing mix your reach can be dramatically increased!

Instead of trying to compete with national companies that have resources you can’t match, take advantage of your status as a home-grown and local business. After all, this is something much bigger companies will never be able to do as well as you!

The holidays are just around the corner and if you are like most business owners, you are scrambling for ideas on how to thank your customers for their patronage. Sure, you can send them a tin of cookies or a desk calendar, but are you really going to stand out from the crowd that way?

Instead of the usual (and, frankly, boring) holiday thanks-for-your-business gifts, we’ve come up with a few ideas that are sure to get you noticed and make your customers thankful to be doing business with someone who really gets them.

1. Make a charitable donation. This is an especially good idea if you know a charity near and dear to a client’s heart. If they support a particular cause, for example the local animal shelter, send a donation in their name to that particular charity.

2. A handwritten note. When was the last time you received a handwritten note from someone you do business with? The fact that such notes are so rare is why this gesture makes such an impression.

3. A funny, festive video featuring you and your staff. Shoot a short video thanking your clients for being the best of the best, upload it to social media and tag your clients. All you need is a smart phone and some creative staff members to produce it. The best part is, if it’s especially creative or funny, you might find yourself with some free publicity if it gets liked and shared by the recipients!

4. A bottle of wine from the year their company was founded. A bottle of wine is always a nice gift and the year on the bottle shows you did your homework. Add a note saying what a good year it was for wine and business!

5. A credit with Uber or Lyft. Include a note saying something along the lines of ‘tis the season to be jolly and safe! This shows you really care for them and want them to be safe!

Whether you use one of the ideas listed above or come up with something different, the key is to make it as personal as possible. After all, the best way to build strong relationships with your clients is to make sure they know you understand and value them. Therefore, if you take the time to choose a gift that really speaks to them on a personal level, you will accomplish much more than just thanking them for their business!

Everyone knows the importance of running an efficient business. Small businesses know this better than most because of their limited resources that must be used as wisely as possible.

No matter what the size of your business, however, efficiency is always a good thing. It leads to higher productivity and increased profits. Although it is easy to talk about creating an efficient workplace, implementing one is much more difficult. What follows are seven ways a business can ensure it is always running at peak efficiency.

1. Make communication count. Nothing slows down workflow more than miscommunication. Miscommunication also means work has to be redone—wasting even more time. Before any project or task is assigned, employees should have a clearly defined plan of action which includes who is responsible for each task.

2. Update technology. It may cost a little more at the outset but investing in the latest and best technology will pay for itself over and over. When you cut corners on technology you will experience slow response times, problems with data, and a variety of other issues.

3. Meet less. Unless a meeting has a clearly defined (and necessary) goal, don’t hold it. Often sending out a detailed email can eliminate the need to gather a number of employees in one room. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out how many hours a business wastes each year holding unproductive meetings.

4. Talk to one another more. Have you ever sent several emails back and forth to a coworker sitting down the hall? We all have. While email and instant chats have their place, many times an issue or question is resolved much faster by picking up the phone or popping into a colleague’s office for five minutes.

5. Go green. When you go paperless, you will save more than money. The speed at which you can share work-related information and other important data improves drastically, as well. You should also request that those you do business with—your bank and vendors, for example—send statements and invoices electronically.

6. Allow employees to telecommute. Many businesses are leery of embracing the remote employee but studies show that people who work from home are actually more productive than those who come into the office each day. This can be attributed to a wide range of factors including the fact that working from home is often quieter than working in a busy office, there are less distractions and two-thirds of people who work from home report working longer hours.

7. Put your money where your mouth is. If you are really committed to running an efficient business, consider rewarding employees who come up with innovative ideas to make your workplace more streamlined.

Making your small business as efficient as possible is critical to its success. The key is to gradually implement procedures that will help you to get the most out of your people and processes.

No one goes out of their way to lose a client. However, it is surprisingly easier than you might think. What’s worse, you may be undermining yourself without even knowing it.

If you want to keep your clients (and unless you have a really troublesome client, we know that you do), it is important that you avoid certain behaviors that you may not even realize are driving customers away. Here are the five biggest customer faux pas:

1. Talk about yourself (all the time). Sure you want your customers to know what a great business you have but it is much more important that you concentrate on their business and what they want and need from you.

2. Communicate exclusively by email (unless that is what they want). It is important that you communicate with clients in the manner that they prefer. However, if you don’t ask and only use email, most customers will pick up on the fact that you are avoiding taking the time to have a real conversation with them. Picking up the phone and meeting them face-to-face shows that you value them enough to take time out of your busy day to talk with them.

3. Only get in touch with them when you want their money. Nothing will alienate clients faster than only approaching them when it’s time for them to pay a bill or when you want to sell them a new product or service. Avoid this pitfall by periodically checking in to see how business is going or pass along something you read that might be of interest to him or her.

4. Always be billing. If you bill clients every time they call you, you can bet they won’t reach out to you very often. And soon they won’t reach out to you at all! While you should be paid for your time, don’t go overboard. Instead, see these communications as ways to build a personal and professional relationship—something that is sure to pay off in the long run.

5. Ignore problems. Ignoring problems that have already occurred or that may occur, is an excellent way to lose a client. Clients are surprisingly understanding if something goes wrong provided you take responsibility for it or alert them to it beforehand. While it is a difficult conversation to have, it always pays off. It also helps to build trust.

We all get busy. However, if you don’t treat clients the way they deserve, they probably won’t be your clients for very long.

a-step-by-step-guide-to-creating-a-compelling-infographic

Infographics are all the rage these days and it is easy to understand why. The simplicity and straightforward nature of this marketing technique make it appealing to consumers and marketers alike.

Infographics work on a variety of levels and are perfect for today’s online marketplace where visuals are often preferred over long, complicated copy. Infographics are an outstanding way to get your point across without losing the attention of an individual who doesn’t have the time or interest in digesting a large block of copy.

Unfortunately, sometimes creating the simplest things can take the most time and effort. One of the reasons it can be difficult to develop an effective infographic is that there are so many options available. These options include everything from charts, graphics, color schemes, illustrations and more.

What follows is a (somewhat) step-by-step guide to the creating the perfect graphic but is no by no means all-inclusive. The free-form nature of infographics means that you can—and should—add your own personal touches.

Step #1: Pick a Theme

Before you begin creating your infographic you must decide what you want it to communicate to your target audience. What are the most important points you want to emphasize and how are those points best conveyed in a visual way?

Step #2: Write a Compelling Headline

Without an interesting or catchy headline, no one is going to bother looking at the rest of your infographic.

Step #3: Develop a Simple Design

If your infographic is too crowded or visually overpowering it will turn people off. Avoid copy overload and don’t use too many colors, instead opt for a few powerful, contrasting ones. And never forget that blank space is your friend!

Step #4: Remember that Simple Doesn’t Equal Boring.

You can have a simple design and still add small, impactful details. Infographic on pet food? Add some cute paw prints, for example.

Step #5: Cite Your Sources

If you are using data or statistics, make sure to note where you found that information. This adds credibility to your infographic and lets people know that it is more than just a pretty face!

Even the most well thought out and expertly designed infographic won’t do a thing for your business if you don’t heavily promote it and encourage people to like and share it! Make sure you publish it on a variety of platforms to garner it the attention it deserves!

Finally, monitor how often your infographic is being viewed and shared. If it isn’t getting the response you had hoped for, keep tweaking it until it does. If it still isn’t making an impact you may have to go back to the drawing board.