Basic Marketing: Creativity Counts More than Cash

Guerrilla Marketing Is a New Term for an Old ConceptAny small business owner who neglect the opportunity to build relationships may be missing a big opportunity to boost profits. If so, it’s time to take a new path to alter marketing tactics in some old-fashioned ways. It’s all about effective follow-up, according to Entrepreneur magazine, and it’s the new marketing rage, even though it’s based on old principles. It might require an attitude adjustment, however.

Build On Existing Relationships

Guerrilla marketing relies on time-tested methods to court customers, seek referrals from satisfied buyers, consistently boost the dollar amount of individual sales, and increase the number of transactions per customer. Why? Because the primary rule of marketing is that getting a new customer costs six times as much as keeping an existing one. When the budget is tight, it follows that the way to increase profits is to start with the customers that already exist.

The basic rules of guerrilla marketing are:

  • Put aside competitive tactics in favor of cooperation
  • Focus on dialogue instead of monologues
  • Build relationships rather than counting sales
  • Address individuals, not groups
  • Perfect and practice follow-up strategies

Guerilla marketing provides value by focusing on the “you” rather than the “me,” by offering interesting information, new insights, additional services and pertinent advice rather than simply promoting products and advertising prices. In short, it’s a way to connect with the customer in a world where much of that connection has been lost.

Strive for a Personal Touch

No matter where you spend your marketing dollars, the approach should be multi-level and targeted. But it’s vital to understand what really drives sales.

There are numerous ways to to modernize marketing efforts, but first consider this: Seventy-five percent of small companies place at least part of the blame for ineffective marketing on data that isn’t current. Making decisions with outdated data undermines those important marketing efforts. And overloading customers with email blasts and unwanted discount offers is counterproductive.

If the budget is limited, resort to old-fashioned means. Use the telephone; write a blog post; post a picture. Get personal. Send a letter or send an email, but keep it conversational. Consider holding an informational class, workshop or demonstration; participate in a street fair or charity project; create a simple brochure; revamp your existing website. Always direct traffic back to your website so that potential clients can find all the necessary information to make buying decisions on their own time and in their own way. Assure that those decisions can be based on facts and good information rather than hype and impulse. It works!

Audio, Visual and Action-Packed

Social media tends to be graphic and far-reaching, and boosted posts that are easy on the budget can be used to great advantage. Promoted posts are deemed effective by more than 60 percent of the B2C content marketers who say they use them. Branch out into infographics and, if appropriate, think about videos, tours, “how-to” demos or “expert” discussions. Become social media savvy if you’re not already.

Customers appreciate being involved in the afterlife of the products and services they purchase, and most customers appreciate hearing from other buyers about their experiences. Ask for referrals and testimonials. Post them on your website. Respond to all questions, complaints or criticisms you receive. Keep your word; stand behind your promises.

Marketing may be different in today’s fast-paced world, but basic principles are the same. Treat customers with respect, and they are likely to become customers for the long term. That’s the basis of guerrilla marketing.

How to Promote the Right Company Culture in Your Small Business

How to Improve the Culture of Your Small BusinessAs more and more conglomerations spring up across the nation, it can make small businesses feel like they have to play an awful lot of defense to keep up in a competitive world. But it’s clear that too much fear in a business will force people to make decisions based on self-preservation or even desperation in the worst of circumstances. To keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive without over-stretching the workforce, it may be time to shift gears to a healthier culture.

Encourage Balance

No matter how many studies emerge about the importance of taking breaks or about how flexibility can be a boon to workers, there’s not nearly enough of it being practiced in offices today. Tech start-ups are often laughed at for having cases of beer in the fridge and a virtual reality room for developers who want to take a break. But they haven’t necessarily jumped the shark as much as onlookers may think.

If employees feel chained to their desk, they may get a lot more done in the short-term. But in the long-term, company owners are only setting themselves up for a higher turnover rate. Both the direct and indirect costs of hiring and firing an employee can far outweigh the disadvantages of giving employees a lot more freedom in how they do their jobs.

Cut the Negativity

Think negative coworkers just need a few pep talks to get back on track? Owners may want to rethink this assumption if they’re trying to deal with a negative but otherwise productive co-worker. Negativity has a tendency to spread to co-workers at a high rate—even crossing departments or echelons of power. Chronic bad moods not only affects other people’s mood, they also affect the overall productivity of the office. Because negativity is a core trait, owners may be better off separating the employee than they are keeping them around.

Letting people work from home has become a much more viable option today as technology continues to improve, and some studies suggest that it actually helps people get more done on a regular basis. High-productivity workers are far more likely to leave a small business than they are to be dragged down with the negativity around them.

Define the Culture

Workers today want to be connected to the ideals a business espouses. In fact, they may put this priority higher than that of their salary and benefits. Small businesses who have a mission and who stick to it can make it far easier for employees to keep a sense of perspective of what they’re trying to do. Rather than feeling as though they’re on an island, they can actively connect to a much larger purpose.

Owners can do this by telling stories that illustrate how the company is demonstrably meeting the original goals they set. Accountability and better leadership have a way of improving as everyone gets on the same page. This shift can make those late nights feel a lot more like a get-together than hard work.

No matter how an owner goes about creating the right culture, they need to commit to the underlying principles immediately. Implementing any type of change in an office will never work if the leaders themselves don’t believe in the actions. While it may be difficult to get everyone to agree on everything, there should be a general consensus before ever moving forward.

Financing Options to Fund Your Startup

Practical Funding Options for Your StartupInspired entrepreneurs may not realize how important funding is to the success of a startup or small business venture. According to the Small Business Association, the second reason business fail is due to “inadequate or ill-timed financing.” Issues with cash flow can make it hard for a business to stay in the game long enough to take advantage of a future opportunity.

No startup owner wants to shut their doors because they failed to take into account operating expenses or the realistic costs of running a business. It is necessary for any startup to determine how much funding they will need to achieve short-term and long-term goals, how they will use the funds and what they may need to do in order to secure a loan or provide investors with an attractive return.

Understand a few of the options available for entrepreneurs and startups who need financing today.

Business Financing

Depending on the situation, it may be better to secure either debt financing or equity financing. Debt financing allows for individuals to cover the costs of specific needs and often comes in the form of bank loans that will need to be paid back within a certain time frame and at a given interest rate. There are debt financing options outside of bank loans, but this continues to be a funding alternative for startup owners.

On the other hand, there is equity financing. In this situation, a startup trades part of the ownership of a company in order to receive cash from investors. Risk is shared and startup owners have less to lose if a company fails and investors have more to gain if the venture is a success. Make sure that long-term goals of all major parties are in alignment when partnering with investors as they are often highly involved in the company.

Approaching Family and Friends

This may be one of the easiest ways to get money for funding. However, put a plan in place and create a legal documents to spell out the terms of an agreement to safeguard the interests of everyone involved. Formal documents and a business plan can help keep financing agreements professional and may be used when looking for other sources of financing.

Bank Loans or Private Lending

When applicants are not approved for a bank loan, they may want to investigate private lending. This alternative asks for similar information as a bank but they may be more willing to approve applicants for a higher-risk loan. In addition, such lenders generally have more knowledge about the industry.

Angel Investors

Those looking for relatively small amounts of capital may seek out the attention of angel investors. Venture capitalists are generally looking to invest $1 million or more. Angel investors can provide an infusion of a smaller amount of capital to a startup or small business.

Plan for Growth

How much money is needed to start and maintain the startup? Can it be operated on a lean budget and what funds will be needed once it takes off? A business plan and assessment of expenditures related to operating expenses, salaries and marketing efforts can help startup owners get a better understanding of the financing they will need to open and grow their business. Some research finds that premature scaling can lead to startup death. Staying lean may be a pragmatic approach to take until significant funding is secured from lenders and there is a need to expand operations.

Starting a Small Business? Here’s What You Need to Know About Networking

How To Network When Establishing A Small BusinessSmall businesses rely on networks of people to sell their products and services. By building a relationship with other people in your community, you can attract people to your small business, increase your profits and build up your business’s reputation. Of course, many people don’t know how to network, or if they do know how to network, they only know a few ways it can be done. These tips will help you build a network within your community.

Networking Can Happen Anywhere

Networking can happen inside and outside business hours, on lunch breaks, in lines and during random, everyday encounters. Get used to striking up conversations with strangers. If you’re able to mention your business during your conversations, all the better. Find creative ways to mention what you do, where you do it and who your customers are. The more people that know about you, the better.

You’ll Need an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a 30 second pitch that you can use to grab someone’s attention on the go. Your elevator pitch should inform people who want to know about the most important aspects of your business. Practice your elevator pitch many times until you can repeat it more or less from memory. If you produce a product, have pictures of your product always ready on your smart phone to be shared with anyone who is hearing your elevator pitch.

Your elevator pitch should be around 80 or 90 words, and should include a call to action at the end. What are you hoping to get out of your elevator pitch? Contact information? An appointment? A promise to call? Whatever it is that you’re trying to get from your pitch should be included at the end of the speech.

Carry Business Cards

Always have business cards on hand to hand out to people who you meet and people who solicit your information. Keep your business cards up to date with your title, cell phone number and office phone number. If your business card wasn’t designed by a professional, consider having it redesigned with your logo prominently displayed on the front of the card.

Become Active In the Community

People like to support businesses that support their community. Give back to the community by sponsoring events at local fairs and get-togethers. Attend town hall meetings in case something comes up that will affect your business personally. Donate money to local charities and participate in fund raisers for local groups like the band or social clubs.

Becoming active helps get your name out in the community. The more people have heard of your business, the more likely they are to stop in and buy products when they see your business location in the community. If your community has a local business owner’s association, consider joining. Not only will you have the chance to network while you’re participating in the group, but you’ll also get the added benefit of meeting other business owners who will also want to discuss what it’s like to own a business.

Keep At It!

Networking is something that most people get better at over time. Keep practicing while you’re out in the community to ensure that your business name is out there among your fellow citizens and peers.

The Ultimate Business Startup Checklist

What Small Businesses Need to Start a BusinessWhile no two businesses are alike, they all follow certain guidelines when it comes to getting them up and running. A new startup is going to come with more than a few uncertainties no matter how well a person prepares, but preparation will still play a major role when it comes to success. Use this checklist as a way to address the biggest hurdles that need to be overcome.

Name and Plan

Companies can be either a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or an S-Corp. From there, choose a valid name and website domain to establish a presence for the company. Complete a business plan as soon as possible and ensure it lists the following information:

  • The mission of the company
  • How income is generated
  • Who the ideal customers are
  • Why the company has a competitive edge
  • Starting resources/necessary funding

Tax IDs, Permits, and Bank Accounts

Business owners should obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS based on the type of business they are (e.g., LLC, S-Corp, etc.) This number is used to officially establish a payroll. Companies will also need an official commercial bank account as well, which may be tricky to open. Some banks are notoriously lax about their requirements while others may need more specific information, such as company minutes, signatures, and notarized financial information.

The next step is to obtain either a federal or a state permit. These permits are required based on the type of business and the rules of the state. A gun dealership will need a federal permit while an insurance company may or may not need a state permit. If owners sell physical goods and live in a state with sale’s tax, they’ll need to obtain a Resale or State Seller’s Permit.

Licenses, Insurance, and Accounting

A business license isn’t typically governed at the state level but at the county or city level. Even the most basic of home-based businesses may need a license stating the owner has permission to conduct official affairs. Owners may further have to register with a State Agency to hire part- or full-time workers. Owners may need general business insurance, including workers’ compensation, to protect themselves against major liability claims.

Most insurance agencies can make recommendations based on the most likely threats against the owner’s industry. Finally, set up a record-keeping system that will make auditing financial details easier, as well as keep track of where income is going. Small businesses may want to start with general software like QuickBooks to keep records simple.

Tie Loose Ends Together

Preparing means having all the tools in place to do everything from pay employees to ensure permits are renewed on time. Owners can either delegate these tasks or design a system that ensures nothing slips through the cracks. Once owners have taken care of this minutiae, they can start focusing on how to distinguish their company from their competitors. Establishing a brand is the precursor to deciding on a market strategy. Once an owner has the right angle, they can decide if their business will benefit more from traditional advertising or if they need to expand to social media, GoogleAds, etc.

Each checklist will vary based on who is opening the company, what they’re planning to do, and how they plan to secure the necessary permissions. However, this list should be able to give everyone an idea of what needs to get done before launching their official enterprise.