By Dania Mahmoud
Success in business might start with an innovative product or reliable service, but only a loyal customer base can sustain longevity. This is especially true for small businesses. Establishing a tight-knit community that will look to you to meet its needs will give you an edge over bigger companies.
So how do you convert one-time buyers into long-term customers? With a marketing plan that is true to your brand, tailored to your target audience, and in-tune to your followers’ needs and interests.
Marketing can be a time-consuming process, which is why for a lot of entrepreneurs who have their hands full maintaining their business’s regular operations, outsourcing makes sense. At Small Business Innovation, we help our clients build a company brand that marries its product with its mission and values. Then we express that brand so that customers will relate to it and eventually commit to it.
Interested in how we do this? Check out these 5 strategies that are sure to strengthen your business’s marketing plan:
1. Think of your business in story terms.
Your business might still be in its beginning stages, or maybe it has a long family history behind it. Either way, your business has a story, and your target audience wants to hear it!
Think about how your business was founded, why your mission and values were born, and what you want your business to be doing years down the road. Defining your business’s beginning, middle, and future will allow your audience to feel it has embarked on your journey with you. That means your followers will be more encouraged to play an active role in your story, whether that means interacting with your business on social media, recommending you to friends, or becoming customers themselves.
2. Decide what makes you shine above the rest.
What gives you an edge over your competition? Is it your customer service? Your game-changing product? A history of satisfaction? Your business has something that’s better than anyone else in the industry can offer. Zero in on it, then don’t let your target audience forget it.
Integrating your stand-out factor into your campaign will help your audience understand what you can do for them that no one else can. If what you’re bringing to the table meets a big need your audience has, you’re on your way to building a loyal community of customers.
3. Have a website that wows.
Once you’ve put together your story and understand which stand-out factors you want to emphasize, you’re ready to build a website that is consistent with your brand.
You will make your first impression on many of your prospective customers through your website. That means you need to make it stellar. Telling your story well is important here, but don’t forget that a sleek, eye-pleasing design is just as crucial to capturing attention. You also want your site to be straightforward and easy to use; too many clicks or long pages that have involve a lot of scrolling will turn off time-sensitive users.
Don’t forget to cross-promote your website on social media and vice versa so that your followers don’t miss any of the material you’re putting out for them.
4. Remember the 80-20 rule on social media.
While you’re composing your 140 character masterpieces, keep in mind the 80-20 rule. Only 20% of your content should be promotional material that is specific to your business. The rest of your content--80%-- should be about investing in your followers’ interests and figuring out their needs
People who constantly talk about themselves can be annoying. Don’t annoy your followers; show them that you are paying attention to their interaction and feedback, and that you’re branding your business accordingly.
If you’re constantly promoting your product or service by throwing prices on your social media, your followers are not going to feel a sense of community. They’re going to feel like they’re being sold to, which can cause many to put their defenses up. Creating a community is more nuanced than straight selling. The process will take time and patience, but it will also win you a loyal set of customers, which is something you can’t put a price on.
5. Put a personal touch on emails.
Large scale emails have their purpose, but if you want to take the sense of community you’re building a step further, try personalizing your emails.
You can use tools like MailChimp to group your target audience based on their previous interactions with your emails. Then, send each group content that you think would resonate best with them. MailChimp even allows you to address your emails to individual recipients, further personalizing interaction with your customers.
And if you want to be even more personal, send out individual emails to customers who have made a particular impact on your business. You’ll let them know that their patronage is important to you, and that you want to continue meeting their needs efficiently and effectively.
Want to learn more about Small Business Innovation can take your business’s marketing campaign to the next level? Fill out our contact form or call us for an initial consultation at (832)887-7634.
By Dania Mahmoud
Being an entrepreneur allows you a lot of leverage over how you spend your time. You get to bring your ideas and innovations to life, and because this process feels so organic, you might not feel the need to formalize it. Sitting down and writing a business plan feels like homework, something that’s out of the realm of being your own boss.
Is there a point to writing a plan for your business when you’ve already been operating several years? And if your startup is in its early stages, do you really need to be thinking about a formal plan when you’re busy putting the gears of your business in motion?
Yes and yes.
If you’re the brains of your operation, your business plan is the heart. It pumps focus, productivity, and accountability into your business. That means you, your employees, and your future successors are going to enjoy a solid framework around which your business can grow and thrive. Up to this point, your business might have operated just fine without a plan, but as all entrepreneurs know, any step towards further improvement is an opportunity that should be seized.
Still not motivated to open a new Word document? We can help you there! Contact us, and we'll talk about what you hope to achieve with your business plan, then produce a document that maximizes your energy and productivity.
Before you pick up the phone for an initial consultation, it’s a good to have an idea of what you’re looking for in a business plan. Here are 4 tips to keep in mind:
1. Focus on your ultimate business goal.
A business plan is comprehensive; it should detail your business structure, revenue requirements, marketing strategy, and competition in the industry. With all that information in one document, it can be easy to get lost.
Keep your plan focused by having a purpose in mind: your ultimate business goal. What impact do you want your product or service to make on your industry? Once you have a specific, concrete goal in mind, make sure everything in your business plan can be tied back to your ultimate purpose.
You can stay focused by writing your goal in one or two sentences on a post-it note. Stick the note on your laptop or notebook as you brainstorm your plan. Now you have a visible reminder of what you’re working towards!
Still stuck? Our consultant will narrow your focus by helping you understand your ultimate aim in your industry.
2. Understand your target audience.
Now that you know what you want your business plan to be about, you need to figure out who is going to read it. Knowing your target audience will help you keep your business plan focused, but it will also allow you to better connect with your audience and get the reaction you’re hoping for.
To figure out who your target audience is, refer back to your business goal. Who are you trying to share this goal with? Do you want to raise funds or recruit new talent? Or do you want to propose a new system within your own business?
Knowing whether your plan will be read in-house or by people outside your business is an important factor in the language you will use. If your business partners and staff make up your target audience, you’ll be able to use jargon that they are familiar with. An outside audience might not be as comfortable with phrases used around the workplace. Don’t alienate potential investors by using too many industry-specific words; try to keep your language inclusive.
3. Choose a template.
If organizing a plan seems like a difficult task so far, don’t worry; a free online template will take away some of the tediousness.
Templates keep your business plan clean and organized. They also give you an idea of the topics you should be addressing and the amount of information each topic requires. However, keep in mind that these are just suggestions; ultimately, your business plan is a very personal reflection of your goals, and you should customize as needed in order to effectively get your message across to your audience.
4. Plan for your plan.
Once your business plan is complete, print it out, admire it, show it to your friends. Then put it in a drawer and let it collect dust.
That’s what you might do if you were the average business owner, but as an entrepreneur who’s ahead of the game, you’re going to get as much usage out of your business plan as possible. You can “plan for your plan” by scheduling regular reviews to make sure you’re hitting the goals you established.
You should also be aware that your plan is not static; like your business, it’s always going to be evolving. Along with reviewing your progress, be sure to schedule time with our consultant so that you can update your business plan, making revisions and adding or erasing information as needed.
If you keep up with the process of reviewing and updating your business plan, it will become a tool that will help structure your business and ensure its longevity for generations after you.
By Dania Mahmoud
There are many benefits of owning and operating a business with your family. You are working alongside the people you trust the most to build a legacy you will be passing down to future generations, so your career is probably more fulfilling than average.
However, just like in any workplace, you are bound to experience conflicting opinions and work styles. The difference with family-owned businesses is that these conflicts can be emotionally-charged, causing an increase in hostility. The people we love the most somehow have the ability to make us angrier than anyone else can, too.
Luckily, it is possible to manage and minimize conflict by taking preventative measures that will keep emotion from getting in the way of your business. Here are five tips for keeping drama out of the workplace:
1. Decide who’s going to carry on your legacy.
Choosing a business successor can be one of the touchiest sources of family conflict. You don’t want your family fighting over who deserves to take over once you’ve stepped out of the business.
Making a succession plan is extremely important for a family business’s longevity. If you want your business to continue thriving in your absence, you’ll need to decide whom you’re going to pass it down to, especially if you want your business to stay within the family. This is one of the most important business decisions of your career, so you’ll need to go through the process carefully.
Observe potential successors in the workplace, taking note of their competency, leadership ability, and passion for their work. Talk to outside sources for objective perspectives-- your business partner or employees can give you insights into family members that you might not have noticed since you have an emotional attachment to them.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, talk openly about your plans with your family. You don’t want your decision to come to a shock; address any concerns family members may have, and make sure your chosen successor is enthusiastic about carrying on the family legacy.
After everyone’s on board, you can begin slowly transferring ownership to your successor. The sooner you start this process, the less the estate tax on your business will be after you pass.
2. Create a compensation plan.
Family members might expect a salary that you’re not on board with, so make sure the compensation of each job you offer is predetermined.
Conduct research on average salaries for the positions you are hiring for. Then, match your job descriptions with a fair, reasonable range of payment. If your positions are already filled, you might consider speaking to a consultant to help you determine the value you should be attaching to each employee.
Draw up a path that will lead to bonuses and promotions, and make your expectations of your employees clear. That way your family members will understand the work that needs to be demonstrated in order to climb towards a raise.
3. Treat every investment professionally.
If a family member chooses to invest money in your business by buying a share or offering a loan, do not treat the process casually. Conflicts can quickly arise if your family investors decide they want their money back sooner than you anticipated, or if you choose to bring outside investors into the mix.
Avoid this stress by communicating with your investors from the get-go. No matter how close you are with your relatives, you’ll want to make sure they fully understand your business, its structure, and your plans for their investments before they give you any money.
Draw up a written agreement so that your family will understand when it will receive return on its investment as well as have an idea of where exactly its money is going to.
4. Don't blur business time with family time.
When you work with family members and you’re all passionate about what you do, it’s natural that you’ll want to talk business all the time.
However, turning every family dinner into a board meeting will cause relatives who are not working with you to feel left out. Plus, you’ll miss out on building connections and sharing experiences that have nothing to do with your entrepreneurial ventures.
So even though it might be tempting to discuss a business project at the breakfast table, make sure you draw lines between where business time ends and family time begins.
5. Hire a mediator.
No matter how many preventative measures you take, conflict is bound to show up in the workplace. When family is involved, workplace drama can get messy, so you should consider hiring a mediator to help you and your family members communicate solutions to the problems you are facing.
Mediators will help your arguing family members understand the underlying reasons of their conflict. They will also prompt their clients to vocalize possible solutions until a valuable resolution has been agreed upon.
A mediator might not be necessary for every argument that springs up around the water cooler, but when both family relations and the success of your business are at risk, mediators are a non-intimidating and affordable option.