Brick-and-Mortar is changing faster than most stores can handle. Competition from giants like Amazon and Ebay have been humbling even the most iconic brands. And yet, small and medium local businesses are still competing more vigorously than ever before...
If you've been out in the streets at any point in the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed people even more engaged with their phones than normal. You may also have heard or seen something about the summer phenomenon that is Pokémon Go...
It's that time of year when it just feels right to set new goals and start new habits. While most of us are jotting down "work out more," it's a great time for small business owners to set aside a moment to make professional resolutions for the coming year.We've rounded up four unexpected resolutions that can help small businesses grow in big ways.
1. Give more things away for free. Yeah, we mean it. For example, if you make artisan soaps, send some to the influential lifestyle bloggers and local journalists that you follow (don't skimp on the pretty packaging either!). If you make gourmet beef jerky, sample your new recipes in farmers markets and tasting events. These investments in the experience can grow your customer base leaps and bounds, but pick and choose them wisely. Sure, a huge annual food festival is going be great to show off your jerky to a lot of new people... but it's also very expensive and last year you were buried in the back tent with 17 other meat vendors. Hmm, but what about that smaller craft beer festival that's the same weekend? At the beer festival you won't be competing with as many food purveyors and it's common knowledge that beer drinkers and jerky eaters are exactly the same people. Plus, it's a charity event, so there are warm fuzzies and tax breaks involved too. We think we've got a winner.
2. Get rid of your social media. Wait, don't cancel your accounts just yet. Instead, vow not to sweat Facebook this year—delegate. Say you own a coffee shop and want to show off your baristas' gorgeous latte art. Instead of worrying about those posts yourself, ask your staff to take the reigns on project #latteartlove so they can share whenever they create something particularly inspired. Or maybe one of your baristas is a marketing student and particularly funny on Twitter. Give them the keys to the social media and let them run it. Delegate to your customers too. Make sure you have social media signage visible in places where people are likely to share. At that coffee shop, perhaps you set up a chalkboard near the beverage pick-up line and on the wall by the much-photographed watercolor painting of Nicolas Cage.
3. Drink more champagne. That is to say, meet more people. Go to networking events and even host some of your own event for your customers, neighborhood, fellow business owners, etc. Or choose a different person from your community to ask out for coffee. It could be a potential mentor, someone in your field who just moved to town or someone who just seems really, really interesting. It might be as intimidating as a blind date, but chatting is the original social networking.
4. Take more breaks. We've misled you with the title of this post (sorry!) because you were probably expecting this one, but it's a big one. Schedule personal time for yourself. Make a no laptops on Sunday policy. Take a real (yes, unplugged) vacation. Running a business is a round-the-clock job, but you can't do it on an empty tank. If you feel like you don't have enough hours in the day, take a personal audit. Identify the one thing about your day that takes up far more time than it is worth. If you can, completely cut that thing out entirely. If it's a necessary evil, find a way to make it less evil. Maybe that means delegating something, hiring a part-time bookkeeper or scheduling a block of time on Mondays to dedicate solely to customer service rather than trying to tackle it little by little each day and getting lost in it. Whatever you need to do, do it in January so that you can start taking better care of yourself and your business this year.
Branding is about the warm-fuzzies. It's about creating excuses for your company to always be associated on the positive end of a customer's emotional barometer. It's about story telling and giving other people the tools to tell stories on your behalf.And that's why it's not enough for a company to think that branding ends at just a logo.
Small businesses should consistently be giving "tools" which can help customers promote a company. Although there are many, we've narrowed it down to the 4 most powerful tools for small business branding.
If you don't have an email newsletter, get on it! MailChimp recently acquired TinyLetter to serve the needs of small business owners when it comes to email marketing.
"Basically, TinyLetter is for people what MailChimp is for business; we help you have engaging converstations with your followers."
MailChimp is geared toward the business side of things. You can automate your newsletters, manage customer databases, track analytics/reports, and integrate with survey tools to see what your customers' opinions are. MailChimp possesses several other features, easily accessible to its users. As your customer base grows, you won't be hindered by email limits like some email providers; MailChimp will help you get the word out.
TinyLetter adds the personal touch customers need to keep coming back. Returning to the basics of letters and conversation, TinyLetter keeps things simple and sweet. If you want to engage with your audience, as time permits, you can make the bonds between business and customer stronger by paying direct attention to their questions and comments.
With a two-in-one package, you have the freedom to choose a more personal approach versus an all-encompassing one.
When you promote to your customers through email, you want to avoid two things: making your promos appear to be spam and making them absolutely dull. This is where Smore comes in.
Smore is a service that allows you to create beautiful online flyers easily and quickly. There are templates, designs, and color options to play with according to your promotional needs--Events, Promotions, Businesses, and more. When you start, the template guides you and offers suggestions for content placement. You can keep everything clean and simple, while visually appealing and informative. View their Featured Flyers section to spark your creativity and come up with your own for your business--and personal--needs.
While it's called Smore, it is (sadly) not edible.
No matter what, business cards will always be a valuable investment, especially quality cards. You never know who you meet, and MOO Cards can give you memorable cards to keep them coming back for more.
MOO Cards provides a few options for business owners small and large. In general, MOO Cards allows you to use your own artwork or photography in designing your cards. You can also use their free designs and add your logo. With the variety in design and card types they have, you'll feel like a kid in a candy--business card--shop.
Additionally, they have an option for business with more than 10 employees and typically order to scale, which is called MOO for Business. As your business grows, this could be a helpful option.
Another idea for your business is Printify. Printify is a feature that allows you to print different photos on multiple cards. You could put pictures of your most photogenic products on your business cards and become a walking catalogue. Share you business in conversation and let them take a piece to remember.
Dabbling in social media takes so much time, and you need that time for your business. Buffer App solves this issue by consolidating your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and sharing your content automatically.
Buffer App lets you to schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts easily; your posts stack and Buffer App sends them according to the times you set. Rather than huge URL links taking up characters in your Twitter posts, Buffer App shortens them so you can add relevant hashtags and comments. And, if you are having trouble keeping up with this on your own, you can add team members to join your social media brigade.
Recently, Buffer App partnered with Feedly. If you don't know what Feedly is, it's an app and browser extension that pulls current news and content of interest to one place. Visually, it's like a sleek online magazine. You can also customize what types of news you get by following particular websites--fresh articles your way.
But how does this help your social media presence as a business?
Buffer App has integrated with Feedly, so you can easily Buffer and share the articles you come across. By following websites that create content related to your business, you can share what you believe your followers will find helpful. Plus, if you're short on time and don't have blog posts churning out constantly, these articles act as useful filler.
The more you share, the more your customers feel an active presence on your end. Providing cool content keeps your customers awake to your business.
These are just four of many useful tools for small business branding. Building your brand online and offline has become imperative for businesses of all kinds. We hope these help save you time and serve your needs well.
Have any other suggestions for branding or want to share your small business story? Share in the comments or tweet us (@Shopventory)!