Sunday, January 10, 2016

Using Memberships as a Small Business Marketing Strategy

Some years ago while living in Southern California I was asked to be the guest speaker at an upcoming Chamber of Commerce meeting. Turns out it was the month of January that I was scheduled for.

I remember the President of the Chamber telling me to be sure I had 100 copies of my handouts because January was their most attended meeting of the year. Sure enough, over 100 people showed up that morning to listen to my talk about Small Business Direct Marketing.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was again a guest speaker at a monthly dinner meeting for an association that was my client. Once again, it turns out that it was their January meeting and this time, more than 125 members showed up!

So, given my experiences, it seemed timely to begin 2016 with a post about how to make the most of your memberships.

Many of us belong to great organizations & associations only to find we don't get the business opportunities we thought we would when we joined. Guess what? With just a little bit of effort, you'll find that these opportunities are plentiful & yours for the taking.

Here's how:

1. Be selective about the organizations you join. In order to make the most of anything you must be an active participant & fully engaged. A mistake people make is to join too many groups & spread themselves too thin. It's better to go deep than to skim the surface.

2. Attend regularly. Every association publishes their list of meeting dates/times for the year, usually by January. Be sure to get these in your calendar NOW & schedule them in to your time so they don't get lost in the shuffle of your everyday hectic busyness. Seek out a committee member at your first meeting so they can show you the ropes, make introductions & orient you to the group so you feel comfortable right away.

3. Offer your services. This can be in the form of joining a committee, or offering your product or service as a 'give away' for the organization. You'll get a mention in the marketing collateral materials "....donated by ABC Company" & can use this as opportunity to showcase your goods to your audience.

4. Speak up. Offer to be a speaker. This is an amazingly effective way to share your knowledge, establish your credibility & gain exposure with those who are interested in your company.

5. Link up. All associations have an online membership directory. Be sure your company's listing is correct (check all spelling, email, phone #'s, etc.) & for the online portion, be sure there is a link to your website. This can be immensely helpful to add to your back-linking SEO. For those types of organizations that are consumer-oriented, this link will also serve as advertising for you.

6. Learn, grow, explore. Associations offer many opportunities to stay up to date on new techniques & industry research. Some of these can include webinars, in-person speakers, discounts to industry meetings/trade shows, CEU's, industry magazines/newsletters & even white papers. Don't forget to check out the Membership Benefits section of any association you join so you can begin to make the most of these opportunities from the start.

7. Discounts on items you need to run your business. Some of the larger organizations offer their members access to health insurance, as well the more traditional discounts to office supply stores, car rentals, even equipment & cell phone service.

8. Marketing/Advertising Opportunities. This can work 2 ways: Within the organization such as sponsoring meetings, advertising on their web pages, marketing to their member list & in the annual directory. Outside of the organization there can be opportunities such as discounts on local newspaper or radio advertising, bundled pricing on trade show participation, public relations efforts & more. Ask the membership representative when you join what may be available to you.

9. People sourcing. Being active in an organization is a great way to network your way into a new client's office, hire a new employee, or find about about a new bidding opportunity. Be friendly & bring opportunities to the table to share & they'll come back to you many times over.

10. Ready, set, go! Have your elevator pitch polished along with plenty of business cards each time you attend a meeting. Go prepared to relax & enjoy the company of other professionals. Don't forget to have fun & watch your investment pay off.

Copyright 2016 Affordable Marketing Solutions LLC. This blog uses to protect against plagiarism.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Diagram of Strategic Marketing Elements for Small Business

Often when I speak to a prospect they ask "What am I doing wrong?," or they tell me "I've been doing XYZ marketing but it isn't working."

The answer can be that you ARE doing the right thing, but not to the right segment, or your timing is off, or the tactic is being done correctly, but strategically it doesn't make sense for what you're trying to accomplish.

Take for instance this case: a telecommunications company purchased an email list. They spent a significant portion of their marketing budget on the list cost & it failed. Why? Email acquisition will almost always bomb - especially in the B2B segment because email lists are sold at a premium making break-even more difficult & because filters are often so tight, nothing gets through.

Or the entrepreneur who spent far too much on local newspaper advertising to announce a new product but his potential market was such a small segment of his existing customers, that this killed his budget & bombed too.

In each stage of the marketing process, different elements come in to play.

Acquisition - All new businesses are in acquisition mode. This is where you'll acquire customers for the first time. To do this, you must choose the right tactical marketing moves to let your target audience know you exist.

Retention - Once you have customers, you must try to keep them. It costs up to 10x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, so retention should become part of any business's marketing activities.

Reactivation - This is a sub-segment of the elements above. For myriad reasons a customer may stop buying from you. Depending on what your product is & why they stopped, a good portion can often be reactivated to become viable customers again.

During my tenure in corporate marketing departments I learned that true marketing-oriented organizations have each of these elements as part of their marketing arsenal. This is what makes them a success. Tho the numbers & budgets may be far bigger than a small business can afford, the strategies & tactics can be easily implemented by adapting them to fit your small business marketing needs.

Make marketing a priority for 2016 & you're well on your way to success.

Happy Marketing!

Copyright 2015 Affordable Marketing Solutions LLC

This blog uses to defend against plagiarism

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

During This Week of Giving Thanks Remember the Power of a Thank You

This week I did business with two new places I'd never been before. One was a restaurant; the other a veterinarian. Both of these new businesses seem to be doing most everything right from a start up marketing perspective – good locations; clear street signage (that's how I found them); appropriate pricing; and the like.

However, both sorely disappointed me. Neither place of business greeted me when I walked in; in fact I stood there for a good two or three minutes in both cases without any eye contact or even a cursory 'be right with you' (not that either place was busy).

Worst of all was that neither said Thank You upon receiving payment. Neither! When will business owners understand that those two words are the most powerful Retention tool there is? Why is "You're all set," or worse, "Here you go" acceptable to say to someone who has just given you their hard-earned money?

The small business world is doing its part. Small Business Saturday is in its 6th year now carving out a space for small businesses to tell their stories and jump on to the marketing bandwagon that is making permanent and lasting change in consumers' minds. Now, it's the small businesses turn to show their appreciation for this national effort.

Studies show that:

-Service experience is a top factor when customers make a purchasing choice – not price
-1 of 3 consumers say they'd pay more for personalized service or help
-Service is the #1 way to avoid being show roomed during this most lucrative time of year
-Giant retailers don't know the names of their customers walking in the door, but YOU do (or should) – say Hello to them using their name with meaning & intention
-Customers who have a negative experience tell 12 people, those people go on to tell a total of 72 more. That's 84 folks who won't give you their money – make EVERY customer interaction count
-Hire then train the very best Brand Ambassadors you can. Reinforcing good service habits on a regular basis keeps your employees happy; therefore your customers.

So, I will still continue to seek out and do business with locally-owned businesses and I do strongly believe in #ShopSmall #ShopLocal, I just wish the business owners and their employees did their part to show appreciation for us that show them love when everyone else is at the mall.

Remember, a Thank You is the best free marketing I know of.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Small Business Saturday

Now in its 6th year, Small Business Saturday (started by American Express) has sparked a social movement to #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal for the holiday season. In 2011 even the US Senate got on board to support the movement and now it is affecting real and lasting change on consumer shopping behavior.

Here are some highlights according to the Amex website:

• In 2012 73.9 million consumers shopped small on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday
• Nationwide, over 1450 Neighborhood Champions helped rally their communities
• Last year, it grew to a record high $14.3 billion spent at small business on that day

This year, it promises to break even more records as consumer awareness of the effects of keeping money in local communities continues to grow.

Consider this: According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for every $100 spent at a national chain store outlet in your neighborhood, $14 stays in the community; but that same $100 spent at a small business in your neighborhood contributes $48 to the community – that's a 71% increase and the difference can often mean the availability of funding for everything from the library to the parks to the schools in your community, and it has profound effects on employment, taxes and real estate values. (#ShiftYourShopping) is a national grassroots organization that 'encourages residents to take job creation and economic concerns into their own hands by strengthening their own local economies' and it provides forums with ideas and feedback for local business owners to share. Go there to get inspired for ideas to help your small business.

For even more resources to help you make the most of Small Business Saturday this year, check out AMIBA - the American Independent Business Alliance. Another nationwide supporter of local and independent businesses nationwide.

Then listen to this month's episode of Show Us Your Business, a podcast dedicated to all things small business, of which I am the co-creator and co-host along with Cliff Ennico. Have a listen at (you'll hear AMIBA's PSA too!), then tell us what you think.

This year, as you do your holiday shopping, remember that November 29th is Small Business Saturday and shifting as little as 10% of your spending to a local, small business can make a tremendous difference in your community.

©2015. All Rights Reserved. This blog uses to protect against plagiarism.

Randye Spina is Chief Solutions Officer of Affordable Marketing Solutions LLC, a small business marketing consultancy serving the needs of small and micro businesses nationwide.

Friday, October 23, 2015

6 No Cost Small Business Marketing Techniques That Work

Some of the following techniques may be obvious, but others may not. Incorporate these NO cost strategies into your marketing efforts and you will see results:

1. Business Cards - Stash them everywhere: In your briefcase, padfolios, wallet, purse, notebook, pockets - I mean everywhere! You never know when an opportunity arises to give someone your card, or to put it up at a community location. I've been told far too often by new small business owners that they don't have cards with them - this is a terrible missed opportunity. Also, include a card with every piece of correspondence you send out. It says "pass me along."

2. Articles - To position yourself up as an expert in your field, set aside time and write articles (like these) that will get people's attention. Send them out on the web and be sure to send them to your local media outlets and publications.

3. Network - Pick up the phone and call five people every day that you think will be great resources for you. Call friends and ask if they know anyone who needs your product or service. Ask everyone, everywhere you go and make time to network once a week. I like Fridays, when people are more relaxed and open to a quick (and I mean QUICK) chat. Then, ask those people for more referrals and the list keeps going.

4. Book Reviews - Go to book sites and review books you've read within your industry and area of expertise. Get your name out there and be sure to include links to your email and website.

5. Public Speaking - This has been very successful for my business over the years. I've keynoted at workshops, conferences, and association meetings. Reach out to local groups such as the Chamber of Commerce or other similar organizations. The more people who know about you and your business, the more likely you will keep your prospect pipeline full.

6. In-store/office - If you are lucky enough to have an actual location use it to your marketing advantage. Invite speakers, have distributors give product demonstrations. Then serve tea or wine and cheese and invite your customers and prospects. Tell them to bring a friend. You'd be surprised how well this can work for you.

Bottom line, be creative & always be thinking of marketing -- after all, it IS the key to your business success.

©2015. All Rights Reserved. This blog uses to protect against plagiarism.

Randye Spina is Chief Solutions Officer of Affordable Marketing Solutions LLC, a small business marketing consultancy serving the needs of small and micro businesses nationwide.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

5 Things to do Regularly to Support Your Small Business Website

Each time I receive a call from a prospect to help them with their website, I see mostly the same issues again and again. They range from a poorly done DIY site all the way up to a professionally built site that isn't producing results. No matter what the initial build was, the upkeep is usually the culprit. By this I mean:

1. Keep the content updated - Search engines love content. The way to make your way to the top & stay there is to add relevant information to your site as your business grows, your industry changes, your client list expands. Usually this is done via a blog linked to/from your site. But it can also be done by adding new services/products, creating downloadable pages, link new press releases, add new employees, etc. I often hear people say that their website is their online brochure – yes, but even better in that it can be updated frequently at little to no cost. Your site is not a static document, rather it is a living, breathing critical part of your business.

2. Look at it with fresh eyes - Every once in a while log on to your own site. You'd be surprised how this simple act can help you view your information as others do. If it's been a while since you've done this, do it right now to see what I mean. You may notice things that need adjusting, updating, rewriting or even deleting of old information.

3. Update your footer - The other day I got a call from a small business owner whose site was stale, including the footer which still had a copyright date of 2007. Oh my. This is so bad for your image as it makes you seem disconnected from your own business. As you plan your New Years' celebrations each year, put 'update website footer' on your to do list.

4. Do a logic check - A prospect who worked from home had Google maps on her site because she said someone told her it was good for SEO. Well, yes - but the map was to her business mailing address at the PO. She then admitted that over the years a couple people told her they tried to go to her office only to find out it was postal mailing address. That's bad. Imagine how many people didn't tell her? When I questioned her, she said she didn't want her home address used because she had babies at home. Perfectly understandable - just remove the tool if it isn't serving your business well.

5. Prioritize your site - Treat your website as an employee who needs to be nurtured & taken care of in order to perform well. Everyone once in a while it needs to be given direction to keep up with your business, or it may need upgrading once in a while to be the best it can be.

In a nutshell, if you treat your website well it will pay you back. It is after all your digital salesperson so give it an upgrade now & then - it's cheaper than a raise.

©2015. All Rights Reserved. This blog uses to protect against plagiarism.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Don't Let This Happen to Your New Retail Business

It happened again. I must be a glutton for punishment, but I just can’t help myself. I try and try to give my money to new small businesses that open in my area but some just don’t get it. I drove by one the other day and it was shuttered and though I wasn’t surprised, I was saddened to see it.

As a former retail business owner myself, I understand the challenges. I was co-owner of a retail store while working full-time in corporate marketing – it’s hard, it’s exhausting and after pouring a lot of money, time and effort into it, survival becomes a must because you can’t afford not to. The marketing edge is not a luxury – it’s an imperative.

Follow these easy-to-implement steps to get your retail business on the right track:

1. Keep consistent hours – Not too long ago I drove to a new business in the area. I parked, walked half a block to the storefront and it was closed. I read the Store Hours sign on the door - they should have already been open for a bit, yet they weren’t. No sign in the window nor any update [‘Closed for family emergency,’ for example.] Needless to say they lost money and credibility too.

2. Have great signage – This is NOT the place you want to go cheap. Retail businesses make it or not based on the public’s ability to see your storefront from a good distance away. In areas where parking is an issue (see #1 above), be sure the lights are on or there is some clear indicator that you’re open – or not.

3. Hire awesome people – It’s very difficult to manage a retail business solo. There are errands to run, appointments to keep and a whole host of other necessary evils that will take you away from the store now and again. So be sure you hire a great ambassador whom you take all the necessary quality time to train with customer service in mind as well as product/service knowledge. This person is the ‘face’ of your business when you’re not there and it’s critical to your success (and online reviews) that customers are treated very, very well in your stead.

4. Apply a marketing mindset – make sure your business ranks for local search, collect contact information to stay tethered to your shoppers, create and use a marketing calendar and put a plan in place to ensure your success.

With just a few well-considered marketing efforts, your new retail business will thrive.

Good luck and happy marketing,

©2015. All Rights Reserved. This blog uses to protect against plagiarism.