What’s Your 2017 Small Business Marketing Strategy?

Marketing StrategyAs the new year begins, are you thinking about how to market your business? Developing a small business marketing strategy requires an introspective look into your current customers. How did you attract them? Does does that apply to new customer acquisition?

According to a Borrell Associates survey of nearly 4 thousand local advertisers, the top six ways to attract new customers are a blend of online and offline activities. So let’s hear from an expert in small business marketing strategy about how to attract this year’s customers.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM CHARLENE BURKE, OWNER SEARCH BY BURKE

WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A MARKETING STRATEGY?  (1:27 in)

In Charlene’s words –   Most small business owners think a marketing strategy is all around how much money am I going to be spending this year to make more money. It isn’t the bulk of your strategy.

Tip – Identify how you get your business today. Is it through referrals, your website, social media, advertising, email, events, or all of the above? It is always easier and less expensive to generate business from existing customers instead of new customers.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN MARKETING THROUGH A SMARTPHONE VERSUS A PERSONAL COMPUTER OR TABLET? (4:10 in)

In Charlene’s words –   Think about what the user is doing.

Tip – The size of the device, the environment in which it is used, and the nature of the user’s activity is important. Size of text, size of buttons, speed of playback, length of content, interactive functions, and simplicity of navigation are key.

WHAT SHOULD I REMEMBER ABOUT MY WEBSITE? (7:00 in)

In Charlene’s words –   Please make it mobile ready. Add a click to call option.

Tip – You can use your website as a research tool to figure out whether a new product can be sold successfully. Dig into your analytics to discover how people are using your website. This data can be extremely useful in creating your marketing strategy.

WILL BUSINESS CONTINUE TO BUY ADVERTISING ON SOCIAL MEDIA? (10:45 in)

In Charlene’s words –   Yes, they can get in front of their ideal customer. If you want to get your message in front of a buying customer, you are going to have to pay for it.

Tip – Know where your customers hang out on social media.

HOW CAN YOU GET NOTICED THROUGH PUBLISHING CONTENT? (12:43 in)

In Charlene’s words –   If you want to make money with your efforts online, go back to what we used to call education marketing. Write something that is useful to the user.

Tip – Narrow your focus. Don’t write for everybody. Solve their problems. Give them something they value.

WHAT IS A MASTERMIND GROUP?  (14:30 in)

In Charlene’s words –   Members helping members. It’s peer to peer. Business or personal issues. It’s people talking about ways to get your business on focus again, on track. You leave with some solid ideas you can put to use.

Tip – Regardless of the size of your business, consider joining some kind of peer group to get feedback, advice and counsel from others who can see you’re your business, your marketing strategy or personal situation in a way you can’t.

What Accountants Know About Business Survival and Failure

Business Survival
Business Survival

Eight out of ten entrepreneurs crash and burn within the first 18 months of starting their business according to Bloomberg News. On the other hand, 51% of small businesses are surviving after 5 years.  The federal government’s Small Business Administration says this is the highest rate since 1994. Here’s the difference between business survival and failure according to two long time CPA’s who work with small and medium size businesses.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM CPA’s MARK REDER & SCOTT WIESNER

WHAT ARE SOME COMMON CHARACTISTICS OF CASH FLOW PROBLEMS?  (2:03 in)

In Scott’s words –   Without sales no cash is going to come in the door. The business owner has to monitor collecting receivables.

In Mark’s words – A lot of businesses don’t do budgets when they get into business. They have to be prepared, some clients won’t pay them.

Tip – Prepare for the lag time between the period to generate the sale, complete the work or produce and deliver the product, invoice, and be paid. Business survival requires that you make sure resources are available to handle the lag time and receivables that you may not collect.

IF A COMPANY USES QUICKBOOKS TO DO ITS BOOKKEEPING, WHEN DOES IT NEED AN ACCOUNTING FIRM? (3:15 in)

In Scott’s words – A business owner needs to determine how much time he is spending doing the work. It doesn’t generate sales.

Tip – Use an accounting firm to teach you QuickBooks and streamline the process so it doesn’t hinder running the business. With access via the cloud, an accountant can collaborate on any journal entries that need adjustment and compiling statements.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES OF RECORDING FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS IN THE CLOUD?  (5:15 in)

In Mark’s words –   Being in the cloud hopefully offers some better backup.  

Tip – Having financials in the cloud allows for easy accessibility while travelling. Assistance from your accountant is faster. If your server or in house backups fail, you have an additional safety net.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW IN CLASSIFYING SOMEONE AS AN EMPLOYEE VS. AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?  (10:25 in)

In Scotts’s words –   They (the IRS) is going to look at control, control over the employees.

Tip – Check out the IRS 20 factor list at IRS.gov that defines the appropriate business relationship to have with an independent contractor.

WHAT ARE SOME TRAITS OF SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES?  (11:54 in)

In Mark’s words –   You have to have goals set out and budgets in place. What you can measure you can manage.

Tip – Monitor the financial picture according to what impact changes in staff, products and prices have on how the business performs. Use your accountant to model business variables like price changes, inventory changes, impact of new hires, etc. Business survival is much more likely implementing these practices.

WHAT SHOULD BUSINESSES NOT IGNORE FOR TAX PURPOSES BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR?  (14:54 in)

In Scott’s words –   Take the 179 Section tax deduction on equipment purchases. Defer income, accelerate expenses.

Tip – Don’t forget retirement contributions too.

WHAT RED FLAGS WOULD TRIGGER AN AUDIT?  (16:05 in)

In Mark’s words – (The IRS) They have such a large database. They are comparing you to industry norms. Any category that is out of the norm, the more of those you have the more likely you are to be audited.

Trend – Fewer numbers of small businesses are being audited.

Wake Up Small Business – Stop Cyber Thieves!

Cyber ThievesCyber crime is an epidemic. Cyber thieves prey particularly on small business because their computer, network and WiFi security measures are often vulnerable. IBM Chairman Ginni Rometty states – “We believe that data is the phenomenon of our time. It is the world’s new natural resource. It is the new basis of competitive advantage, and it is transforming every profession and industry. If all of this is true – even inevitable – then cyber crime, by definition, is the greatest threat to every profession, every industry, every company in the world.”

Yet computer, network, and WiFi security options are more cost effective than breach recovery. Listen to how you can protect your business from cyber thieves.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BENSON WRIGHT, STRATEGIC NETWORKING CONSULTANT AT BRIGHTISYS.

HOW SECURE ARE OFFICES CONNECTED THROUGH WI-FI?  (1:27 in)

In Benson’s words –   These systems are low lying fruit for cyber criminals.

Tip – Determine whether your Wi-Fi network is open, connected to your server, and can be easily accessed by an unwanted outsider.

WHAT SHOULD BUSINESS DO TO MAKE THESE WI-FI NETWORKS MORE SECURE? (2:07 in)

In Benson’s words – Look at a new type of threat management solution that is comprehensive to your entire network, one that includes PCs, laptops and smartphones.

Tip – Look for a system that will do anti-virus scanning and malware scanning and be able to be customized to fit your business activity needs. These systems can protect remote as well as in house traffic.

DO COMPANIES DO ENOUGH TO EDUCATE EMPLOYEES ABOUT POTENTIAL HACKING THREATS FROM CYBER THIEVES? (5:59 in)

In Benson’s words – Most people don’t understand the level of sophistication of these threats.

Tip – Have a policy that requires periodic changing of passwords. Have an IT tech check the employee’s personal devices for anti-virus and malware software. Block certain categories of sites from access to your network.

SHOULD ALL BUSINESS BE MOVING DATA TO THE CLOUD? (9:10 in)

In Benson’s words – Businesses should have a cloud footprint somewhere, somehow at this point.

Tip – Double check that being in the cloud doesn’t compromise privacy regulations.

HOW SHOULD A COMPANY RESPOND TO A DATA BREACH? (10:28 in)

In Benson’s words – Make sure it is documented for HR (human relations) purposes. Then the authorities can be notified if necessary.

Tip – Be able to track logins, IP addresses, capture communication packets and isolate the cyber threat. Compare the cost of purchasing a unified threat management router with protection software to the hours of time and dollars that would have to be spent to restore a compromised network.

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE STEP UP TO PROTECT THEMSELVES? (14:53 in)

In Benson’s words – Most of it is the standard old – it’s not going to happen to me. People don’t know what to do.

Tip – Compare the cost of purchasing a unified threat management router with protection software to the hours of time and dollars that would have to be spent to restore a compromised network.

Turn Yourself into a Better Public Speaker

Public Speaker Stage FrightWhat do people fear more than spiders, darkness, heights, flying in airplanes, confined spaces and even death? It’s glossophobia – public speaking or stage fright. An effective public speaker knows how to overcome the anxiety of presenting and deliver the right message.  Listen to how to do it.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM SHELLEY BAMBERGER, COMMUNICATION EXPERT

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD PUBLIC SPEAKER?  (2:26 in)

In Shelley’s words – The best communicator connects with his or her audience.

Tip – Do your homework to understand what the audience needs and is looking for from you. Then adapt your message to fit those needs.

WHAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS NEED IMPROVING? (5:07 in)

In Shelley’s words – What is it about my message that matters to the audience. The second issue is the overuse of filler words (you know, like, uh, basically, etc.) is only part of the equation.

Tip – Record and critique your presentation to become more aware of filler words. Assess whether your message resonated with the audience. Focus on  “You” rather than “I” in the presentation.

WHAT IS IGNORED IN MAKING PRESENTATIONS? (8:50 in)

In Shelley’s words – Practice. You have to do the hard work that’s needed to do well.

Tip – Practice in short spurts, several times before your presentation. You’ll retain more in long term memory.

WHAT MAKES PRESENTATIONS STAND OUT? (10:42 in)

In Shelley’s words – Ask questions. When the audience answers a question the information goes into their long term memory. Tell stories. By telling stories you are in sync with your audience.

Tip – Figure out which kind of question styles and stories may work for the audience you’re addressing.

IS HUMOR NECESSARY? (12:36 in)

In Shelley’s words – I think humor may be over rated. It’s not critical to deliver a message but it can provide an avenue to connect with the audience.

Tip – Don’t tell jokes. Interact with your audience to listen for when they laugh. They may provide a humorous anecdote or story you can capitalize on.

HOW CAN YOU OVERCOME SPEECH ANXIETY? (15:15 in)

In Shelley’s words – An element of fear is good. To control it the answer is square breathing.

Tip – Learn how to increase your oxygen to calm the nerves.

 

Small Business Healthcare – High Wire Act

Healthcare High Wire ActPwC the international accounting and consulting firm, projects that healthcare costs in the U.S. will rise 6.5% next year, the same as this year. That is more than 4 times the estimated rate of inflation according to Statistica, a quantitative research firm. Nevertheless, PwC says healthcare cost inflation could escalate further.

So what is an employer to do? We’ll talk with a group benefits consultant about how small business is coping with healthcare costs for their employees.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM FRANK LOPEZ, GROUP BENEFITS CONSULTANT AT SAXON FINANCIAL

PRIOR TO THE ELECTION, ARE COMPANIES APPROACHING HOW TO HANDLE HEALTHCARE IN 2017 DIFFERENTLY? (3:26 in)

In Frank’s words –   Not really. Most employers are frustrated with the costs and forced penalties.  But a lot of people are relying on their employer to provide and guide them.

Tip – Having healthcare benefits is becoming more important for hiring and employee retention.

WHO IS SEEKING TO CREATE MORE PART TIME JOBS TO LIMIT THEIR HEALTH CARE COSTS?  (4:50 in)

In Frank’s words – You’ll find that strategy being put into play with retail and service industries.

Tip – More important than part-time / full time is the total number of employees in the company since the government healthcare requirement begins at 50 employees.

ARE EMPLOYEES BEING ASKED TO CARRY MORE OF THE HEALTH COST BURDEN?  (6:28 in)

In Frank’s words – For the small business, it’s inevitable for them to be able to sustain a benefits plan. For those businesses between 2-50 employees, they may have to cut out their dependents. 

Tip –Companies see having less or more than 50 employees as the most important factor.

FOR COMPANIES UNDER 50 EMPLOYEES THAT ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE HEALTHCARE, WHY ARE THEY OFFERING HEALTH BENEFITS?  (8:30 in)

In Frank’s words – The employee is demanding it. They are coming back after the exchange not being as successful as they had hoped clamoring for benefits.  

Tip – Not offering health benefits makes it a lot easier for employees to look elsewhere for a job.

FOR EMPLOYERS WHO ARE DIRECTING THEIR EMPLOYEES TO THE EXCHANGE, IN WHAT WAYS ARE THEY EQUIPPING THEM TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS?  (9:30 in)

In Frank’s words – I don’t think the employer is taking on the responsibility of educating and hand holding their people. 

Tip – Outsourcing this responsibility may be the best approach.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP THE ESCALATION OF HEALTHCARE COSTS  (11:23 in)

In Frank’s words – Congress has to start working together. In the immediate future I expect to see what we’ve been seeing. To stabilize the system, it will need to control costs of the hospitals, physicians, and pharmacies.

Tip – Look into a multiple group, self funding health pool.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS A BROKER CAN PROVIDE? (15:44 in)

In Frank’s words – Show the employers what the options and costs are for individuals and as a group. It’s eye opening.

Tip – Push your broker for all the options and impartial information.

How to Make a Family Business Last

Family Business
Tina & Dale Engdahl of Exciting Windows by Apollo

Family business is the bedrock of the American economy. More than half of the national GDP comes from them. However, when the reins are transferred from the first generation to the second, 70% of them perish. How do you make a family business last?

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM DALE & TINA ENGDAHL, OWNERS OF THE FAMILY BUSINESS EXCITING WINDOWS BY APOLLO

WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS WORK WELL?  (2:38 in)

In Dale’s words –   We treat our customers in the way we want to be treated. We do what we say and say what we’re going to do.

Tips – Have a clear division of responsibility. Have a definite plan for paying yourself and employees. Make sure all bases from client contact to project completion are being executed reliably and on time.

AS A HUSBAND – WIFE TEAM, HOW DO YOU HANDLE COMMUNICATION ABOUT THE BUSINESS IN RELATION TO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE? (4:34 in)

In Tina’s words – We talk about it until one or the other says, I’ve had enough. Because we’re so different we don’t think alike. A lot of thinking takes place before anything is accomplished.

Tip – Respect and understand each other’s position. Seek common ground.

WHAT ARE THE TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISIONS? (9:12 in)

In Tina’s words – During a recession when you have to decide what you can’t spend money on anymore. In Dale’s words – on a personal level and a business level.

Tip – Saving ahead to withstand tough times is very important.

DO YOU TAKE VACATIONS SEPARATELY OR TOGETHER? (10:45 in)

In Tina’s words – It’s important to get away alone and together.

Tip – Take a break to stay strong!

HOW DO YOU RETAIN EMPLOYEES? (12:32 in)

In Dale’s words – Listen to them. Be flexible with their schedule. Pay them well. Treat them the way I would want to be treated.

Tip – Praise employees for a job well done.

HOW DO YOU INVOLVE & MANAGE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE BUSINESS? (13:40 in)

Tip – Let your kids decide whether they want to be involved in the business. If they participate, teach them to assume the responsibilities as if they were just employees.

WHAT SHOULD YOU REMEMBER TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS? (16:00 in)

In Tina’s words – Your client will always be your boss.

Tip – Realize that while you have the freedom to re-arrange your schedule for personal reasons, time away from work will have to be made up.

 

Using Business Attorney Keeps Wolves Out of My Hen House

Business AttorneyAlthough small businesses face legal dilemmas or issues periodically, the majority of them are reluctant to contact an attorney. Maybe cost is a perceived problem or they’re unsure as to whether using an attorney is necessary. But as a business attorney reminds us today, it’s often lack of preparation for unanticipated issues that get a business into legal trouble.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM WILLIAM MITCHELL, BUSINESS ATTORNEY, CERTIFIED MEDIATOR

WHAT ARE SOME COMMON WAYS BUSINESSES GET THEMSELVES INTO TROUBLE?  (2:45 in)

In Bill’s words –   Failure to incorporate. Failure to have contracts in place. A handshake deal is not always the best approach.

Tip – Have documents in place for the formation of the business, how the business will run, work contracts, real estate, and what responsibilities each owner will have if there is more than one business owner.

ARE THEIR LIMITATIONS WITH USING ONLINE FORMS? (4:29 in)

In Bill’s words – You need to understand that documentation is only part of the equation.

Tip – Consider issues that may come up related to hiring practices, marital status, previous business relationships, bank loans, required operating records, etc.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A COMPANY WITH EMPLOYEES TO HAVE WORK AND BEHAVIOR POLICIES? (7:30 in)

In Bill’s words – It’s critical that an employer have a well written employee handbook. The person that employs 7 to 15 people may need this more than a large company because the large company is sending out email reminders and annual updates. For small business, the employee handbook may be the only communication they receive.  

Tip – Make sure you review your handbook annually or bi-annually. Have a signature page to acknowledge that the employee has received it. Changes in government regulations, use of employer provided equipment like cellphones, and the use of social media demand it.

WHAT ARE COMMON MISTAKES WITH HOW BUSINESSES HIRE EMPLOYEES? (11:40 in)

In Bill’s words – Not establishing clear expectations for work, pay, vacations, personal time, use of company equipment. You have to be careful when you’re asking an employee to not do something that may be a constitutionally protected right.

Tip – Consider whether a non-compete agreement with an employee is appropriate.

HOW CAN A COMPANY AVOID LITIGATION WITH A DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE (15:12 in)

In Bill’s words – Having things in writing. One of the things that sometimes puts employers in hot water is not paying their employees when they terminate their employment. 

Tip – Have two people from the employer’s side involved in separation conversations.

WHAT’S THE RECOURSE FOR TROUBLE IN COLLECTING PAYMENT FOR SERVICES? (16:17 in)

In Bill’s words – After 60, 90, 120 days a simple letter from an attorney reminding them of what is owed may provide the right amount of motivation. 

Tip – Small claims court is available up to $3,000. Ask yourself how much of your resources do you want to spend to collect payment if going to court appears to be the only option.

IF I’M LOOKING FOR A BUSINESS ATTORNEY, WHAT DO I WANT TO FIND OUT? (18:31 in)

Tip – Inquire about how the attorney works and charges. Can the work you need done be completed on a flat fee basis? Decide on who you feel you’re comfortable with and can trust.

005 – What’s Missing in Business Management?

Business ManagementFrom an executive coach, mentor and peer to peer adviser we hear about where business owners, managers and entrepreneurs should focus their energy in business management. Pick up a tip on how to determine priorities and manage time better. Then ponder what is the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM DAVID HABISCH, EXECUTIVE COACH, VISTAGE PEER ADVISORY GROUP CHAIR AND MENTOR

WHY DO SOME BUSINESS OWNERS/MANAGERS SUCCEED WHILE OTHERS FAIL?  (2:47 in)

In David’s words –   Those that get on top of the business are generally much more successful. Work on the business instead of in the business.

Tip – Have a vision, be able to revise that vision when necessary. Be comfortable in stepping outside of day to day activities to move the business forward.

WHAT SHOULD AN ENTREPRENUER HAVE IN STARTING A BUSINESS? (3:43 in)

In David’s words – Set down 1 and 5 year goals. Lay out a plan. You have to have a low risk tolerance because you’re willing to put it all on the line.

Tip – Have plenty of capital to start. Be fully committed. Seek advice in running a business if you haven’t done it before.

IS THERE A BETTER WAY FOR CEO’S, MANAGERS TO ORGANIZE THEIR LIFE? (8:15 in)

In David’s words – Do a to do list the night before you go back to the job the next day. Don’t open your email (first in the morning). Be proactive rather than reactive.

Tip –  Give first priority to handling those things that are important to grow the business.

WHAT BUSINESS MANAGEMENT STYLE IS MORE EFFECTIVE WITH TODAY’S WORKFORCE? (9:30 in)

In David’s words – I believe in the participatory oligarchy. 

Tip –  Don’t let fondness for your employees get in the way of making hard decisions when they need to be made.

WHAT DON’T MANAGERS / OWNERS DO WELL? (10:53 in)

In David’s words – We don’t fire the right people.  

Tip –  Firing underperformers will make you and your employees happy. In the long run it will help the person being let go as well.

 

WHAT SKILL IS MANAGEMENT NOT PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO TODAY? (15:49 IN)

In David’s words – Leadership. You need to be knowledgeable about how to lead $15 an hour employees as well as a $100,000 employee.  

Tip –  Determine and define what leadership means to you.

HOW IMPORTANT IS A MANAGER’S PERSONAL LIFE IN ACHIEVING BUSINESS SUCCESS? (17:54 IN)

In David’s words – Take the vacation. You will think more clearly.  

Tip –  Don’t end your business life in regret for not spending enough time with your family.

004 – Referral Selling is a Gold Mine

Referral SellingWhat is the most effective method for selling? Many people swear by word of mouth selling. But like anything that has value, it requires a particular mindset and dedication to the process. Listen to a referral selling expert on why it pays to be more selfless and less selfish.

 

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRENNAN SCANLON, OWNER OF ASENTIV REFERRAL INSTITUTE & AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF (BNI) BUSINESS NETWORKING INTERNATIONAL

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REFERRAL SELLING?  (5:20 in)

In Brennan’s words –   The quality of the business you receive will be far better and less monetary injected, meaning you didn’t have to pay for that. It came to you through a relationship, not an ad.

Tip – Understand where people find trust – via reviews and recommendations from people they know.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEADS, TIPS, AND REFERRALS? (8:10 in)

In Brennan’s words – It’s network. I am willing to work for other people in the hope that they work for me. Leads and tips are not work.

Tip – Evaluate the value you derive from leads, tips and referrals to see where you ought to be spending more of your time in selling.

WHAT’S THE MINDSET YOU NEED TO DO REFERRAL SELLING EFFECTIVELY? (9:58 in)

In Brennan’s words – You have to be a selfless person. You have to be willing to invest in relationships.

Tip – Figure out whether your mindset is relational or transactional.

WHAT MISTAKES DO PEOPLE MAKE IN REFERRAL SELLING? (13:30 in)

In Brennan’s words – People forget to look at things from other people’s perspective.

Tip – No one cares about what you do or what you offer until you care about their needs. Think of networking as planting seeds for tomorrow, not for sales today.

HOW SHOULD I RESPOND TO GOOD REFERRALS AND BAD REFERRALS? (16:42 in)

In Brennan’s words – Acknowledge the person who gave you the referral. Give your referring partner some feedback on how it went.

Tip – Guide people as to what is an ideal referral for you.