Monday, September 29, 2014

Grassroots Networking – A Tip from Creative Vision

As savvy small business people, we know that marketing is critical for the overall success of our business. It’s critical that you spread the word about yourself and your business and begin to build your reputation.  You may have your advertising in place, dipped your toe into social media marketing and have even joined the local Chamber of Commerce or the local civic organization to network – all excellent steps. But for many business owners, one of the most important networking opportunities is often overlooked – our families and friends!

Sounds simple, right? But whether we already assume they know about our business or we “don’t want to ask anything of them,” or we don’t know how to ask, this should be one of the first pools of influence we dip into.

People know people, plain and simple. And generally if you ask someone close to you for help, they will gladly respond. They are already invested in your success. We suggest that you send a note to a variety of family, friends and former business colleagues, letting them know about your new business (or your old business for that matter). Invite them to an informal coffee chat to brainstorm ideas for you to create new business connections – your treat. At the “meeting,” let them know the type of customers you’re trying to engage and ask for their help. Perhaps they have a cousin, a friend or a neighbor who would be an ideal contact, or they might be able to put you in touch with one of their business associates that may be a good fit. You never know. But asking people for their help puts you and your business in the forefront of their minds so that when they happen to be in conversation with someone who would be a potential customer or contact for you, they will remember to make the connection and be well versed enough in your business to speak intelligently about you.

You can hold a series of these coffee chats with varying mixes of people. And after each one, remember to send a “Thank you” note with a small supply of your business cards and/or brochures. Keep them informed on an ongoing basis about any of your successes or business news so that you remain top-of-mind.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How You Say it Matters

It’s been said that “the worst distance between two people is misunderstanding.” Agreed. Be careful how you say things, especially when it comes to social media forums. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences with simple emails where our message was taken the wrong way, simply due to an ill chosen word or the fact that email doesn’t allow for inflections or tone. What one person reads is often different from what another person reads. It may be our mood, a previous conversation, or whatever else we bring to that particular moment upon reading that email comment. In other words, it’s very easy to miscommunicate.

The same goes for Facebook or Twitter. Actually, this holds especially true for Twitter where word count is an issue. We already need to keep it to 140 characters so finding just the right wording is of added importance.

We’ve all been hit over the head with the idea to read over your content before hitting the “send” button, but mostly that’s been to alleviate grammar or spelling errors. But I think it’s a great idea to add “tone” into that proofreading list. Step away from the content and read it again, thinking about all the various ways your words or sentiment may be misconstrued. Only after you’ve examined it that way would I suggest hitting “Tweet.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spelling Counts

Ever read a menu and find misspelled words? Or a business with a sign in the window where the words are spelled incorrectly? What does it say to you about that restaurant or that business? Like it or not, we are judged by how we present ourselves and if that presentation comes in the form of the written word, spelling counts.

As a business owner, would you hire an employee whose resume contained poor spelling and typos? You’re far more likely to gravitate to the candidate who has taken the time to proof their work, or at the very least, use Spellcheck. The point here is that good grammar and good spelling tell the person you’re writing to that you’re intelligent or diligent; that you care about the quality of the product you put forth.

In the age where we’re all guilty of keeping everything abbreviated to suit the number of characters in a tweet or to be concise in a text, we still need to read things through for errors. We all make them. As Mom always says,” it’s always important to put your best foot forward.” Oh, and she also said “Spelling counts.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fake Friends

You know how many people say, “I’d rather have one real friend than a million fake ones?” This goes double for social media.

Pay-for-friend services are now a dime a dozen on Facebook, each one clamoring to get you a thousand “friends” for $10 or whatever low price they’re quoting. And they will deliver. You’ll get those thousand friends. You’ll also find out that these people are not your potential customers. In all likelihood, they will never purchase a thing from your business. Other than making your competition believe you’re incredibly popular, these contacts are essentially worthless.

When it comes to social media and Facebook, in particular, “friendships” need to evolve organically for them to be at all meaningful. Don’t settle for “friends” masquerading as true contacts. You need to know that the people who “like” your business, LIKE your business.

A 20/20 Business View

To be an effective marketer, you need to become a solid partner in your client’s business. You need to understand their product, service, core philosophies, and their corporate climate so that you can build strategies to move them forward. As you go through the Getting-To-Know-You phase, you begin to see some of the patterns and habits that the company has, which may be working against them. And as you identify these patterns, you need to plug in new approaches that can help to shift the corporate focus and allow for some fresh thinking.

We’re all guilty of doing things “the way we do them” without trying to mix it up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But being stuck in a rut and doing things the same old way because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” may be precisely what is keeping your business from taking things to that next level. And chances are if you’re the one who’s been spearheading this company or team for a number of years and has implanted this corporate mentality, you won’t be able to see where the trouble spots may lie.

The marketing team needs to help the client to back up and examine the company from 30,000 feet – to view it as a whole and not just a close-up look at the individual parts. The business owner can take a guided tour of his/her own corporate culture and see where there may be communication or organizational breakdowns that require fixing. Marketing strategies and programs can be plugged in to address these hiccups, fill in the potholes and pave a smoother path to growth.

The marketer needs to be clear about the changes that are needed and the business owner needs to be open to possibilities. That’s what a good partnership demands.

The Lean Season

Summer can be a lean season for some service businesses and in many cases, business owners are prepared for it. Customers are vacationing, perhaps putting off some purchases or services until September when life’s routine returns to normalcy. But if you’re a small business and this comes upon you unexpectedly, what can you do to make good use of that skimpier time?

Get your marketing in order! Set things in motion so that when customers have their heads back in the game, you’re ready for them.

Here are some ideas:

Look at your physical space. Can it use some updating? If you’re a shop owner, use this as a time for merchandising where you can invigorate your product layout. Take inventory of what’s selling and what products may be discounted to move them off the shelves and make way for the next season of items. If you’re in the service industry or in an office, this is a good time to get to all of that filing or to even put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Whether your customers see it or not, it’s motivating to keep your workspace organized and refreshed.

Review your marketing materials. Are your print materials outdated? Can you create an inexpensive palm card to send out to draw new customers? Is your in-store signage looking good or could it be updated and brightened?

Go through your address book. Make a list of those people you want to target in the coming months. Don’t wait for your phone to ring; get out there and make new contacts or re-energize older ones.

Update your website. Websites need to be kept up to date. Some businesses don’t look at them again after they’re launched but realize that every time you make a change to your site, it goes up in the SEO (search engine optimization) ranks.  Besides, you want to make good use of your site and have an online platform that informs people about your business, so make it the best it can be.

Network. While business is slower, use the time to meet with local business networking groups. It’s an opportunity to get with like-minded people and brainstorm ideas or just make new contacts. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce.

Educate yourself. No matter what your industry is or how long you’ve been doing it, all of us can learn something new that will help our business. This is a perfect time to take an online course or attend some webinars to increase your knowledge. That will only serve to help your business.

Creative Vision is a boutique marketing form that works with small businesses. Give us a call (845) 988-8858 for a free consultation.

Educate, Don’t Sell.

Don’t focus on selling, focus on educating.

Think about it. When someone comes at you with a heavy sales pitch, you tend to tune them out. They haven’t developed your trust or established any basis for a trusting relationship. However, if someone talks to you about a product or idea, purely from the perspective of disseminating information or their viewpoint, you are automatically more engaged; more open to listening.

For this reason, we’ve found time and time again that a slow and steady email drip campaign is preferable to an advertisement. At each interval, you’re touching the person with new information in a creative and informing approach that they can choose to retain and act upon, or not. Each touch is a reminder that you’re there, your product is there, and there are additional benefits. You’re building awareness and encouraging a relationship. Every email adds another piece to the overall picture.

It doesn't matter if you’re selling insurance, financial services, or cookies. Email campaigns get results.