Breaking The Chains!
Everyday, customers and business owners are bombarded with billboards, logos, print and electronic ads from huge corporations. With annual ad budgets that are more than our businesses' SALES in an entire year, our small independent businesses are getting squeezed out of consumers minds (and wallets) more and more each year. But the good news is, there are ways to fight back and "break the chains":
The Internet is one place where, compared to print and other forms of electronic media, the playing field is relatively level. A website filled with loads of great content will be loved by the search engines like Google and Yahoo!, and because of that, customers that may not even know where you are can find you and buy online. If you own a retail store, start an e-store. If you own a restaurant or a service-related business, offer a gift certificate or printable coupon. Starting a mailing list on your website with the latest news, events and special offers is a great way to get (and keep) loyal, regular customers. The options are endless, and best of all, content is the Internet king, not slick, flashy, repetitive advertising. If you aren't comfortable with all things Internet, there are many companies that are, and can help you with web design, web hosting, search engine optimization, and web marketing.
"Strength in Numbers" is more than a catchy phrase, it is becoming a necessity in our current business climate. Trade organizations can purchase products together to get better rates and buys, they can advertise together with direct mail coupons and newsletters (another big money saver), and they carry more political clout by appointing representatives to call on state legislatures or even Congress in order to promote legislation favorable to small independent businesses. If your area doesn't have a trade organization, or does but you feel it doesn't meet your needs, start one! The National Federation of Independent Business is a great resource with representatives in all fifty states and Washington D.C.
Advertising is not cheap, because the prices that the large corporations are willing to pay for it have priced it out of the reach of most small businesses. This is not necessarily a bad thing; let them have all of the cold, impersonal, beat you over the head repetitive advertising! People only care about this on Super Bowl Sunday anyway! Always go for the personal touch. If you own a restaurant or retail store, introduce yourself. Let them know you appreciate them coming by, and you can't wait to see them again. Always offer coupons or incentives, and be as unique, creative and memorable as you possibly can. Remember that "word of mouth" advertising is so great you can't put a price tag on it. Put yourself in the customers shoes, and stay there! Don't ever do what you want; do what they want. Don't just market your business, market yourself. It leaves an impression, and with the sorry state of customer service today in most (chain) businesses, people won't forget it!
Remember, you are an independent business because you wanted to do something new or different, so promote yourself accordingly. Here's to you "breaking the chains" and becoming successful with your chosen endeavor.
Jason Gober is the owner and founder of Independent Business Online (http://www.myibol.com & http://www.shopindies.biz), providing web design, hosting and web directory resources to independent businesses. He can be reached anytime at email@example.com.
Feel free to reprint and distribute any articles from Independent Business Online in their entirety, including email and website links.
Community Relations Strategy for Small Business
Does your company have a community relation strategy? Have you even considered it? It is essential to have policies in place. Having run a small business for years which eventually turned into a multi-state franchise system, I realized early on that a business who is part of the community it serves can survive the ups and downs of the business cycles, making it somewhat recession proof. Nothing turns off the community more than a business which refuses to give back a little and gives some ridiculous excuse of; "It is our corporate policy, sorry!" Many times a volunteer for a club or organization will come in and ask for a hand out. Rather than giving them an excuse, talk with them about what you can do, have a policy which helps them too. Do not just tell them sorry; "No can do" offer them other assistance instead. For instance if they come in a are looking for a donation, you might say. We are not able to give a straight donation, but we are allowed to give you an item or two on the discount rack for a door prize or silent auction.
You Are Invited
Business card size works well for invitations to special events.
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Washing the exterior of a truck. Sounds easy right? Well, it's not really. When you soap a truck, it is very important that you are careful to soap around all the handles, turn signal lights, steps, and wipers. You want to soap all that stuff by hand. Use a one-foot by one foot lamb's wool square-not a mitt, they don't work well. You can use a brush for the rest of the truck, but you have to get in around the handles and stuff by hand. There is no shortcut if you wish to maintain quality.
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Do I Have to Do EVERYTHING Myself?!
The air in my client's office nearly crackled with her irritation. A scheduling snafu had left a client without important services. "I guess I just have to do everything myself," she ranted.
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Why Small Businesses Fail (or Fail to Thrive)
Tammy, a skilled and gifted horticulturist, called me to discuss what she needed to know to start her own florist and landscaping business. She had been in the horticulture industry for 10 years and was incredibly skilled at working with flowers and plants ? one of the best. She also had great design skills, as well as good customer service skills. But she had little business management experience and less self-employment experience.
Most Franchises Are Small Home Businesses
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The Step Zero Effect
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Small Business Marketing Secrets: Look Like Sizzle, Be The Steak
You've heard marketing and advertising gurus quip, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Advertising initiatives best reach their target audience with benefits and the "wow" effect, not the value or features of their product or service. This may work well to get customers in the door. But once they're in, you better have some substance. How can you ensure you uphold the integrity of your business and still maintain the "Wow Effect"? It just takes well executed strategic steps for business AND personal development:
The Perilous Franchise Agreement: What Did You Sign?
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Small Business No How - Dont Give Away the Farm
You're pretty proud of yourself! After all, only four months ago you came up with the idea of opening your own business - "Jenni's Interior Design" Your friends have always said you were gifted when it came to arranging furniture and picking out colors, and you love to do it, so you decided it was time to get serious.
Questions to Ask as Your Business Grows
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Pressure Washing at Golf Courses
There are many potential niches for pressure washing companies that often go unchecked. Some are quite lucrative and are worth investigation if you own a pressure washing business. One such niche is the pressure washing of golf courses, clubs houses, golf carts and facilities. To target this specialization of services you will need to slightly modify your sales approach.
Loose Lips Sink Ships - The Fastest Way to Put Yourself Out of Business
I agree that knowledge should be free, but the next person I see revealing their hard attained business practices in a public forum, I am going to feel the need to approach them, make them choose their own switch from an outside tree, then whip them with it.
SBIR - A Nice Add-on Business
If you are a small business and qualify to participate in the SBIR program, it is a natural enhancer to your existing business. If you are small enough you may be able to start a company using SBIR funding, but you will soon come to realize that if your sources of income are not diversified (with SBIR being only one source) you might fall victim to funding cycles and no income. Although the Government provides funding to spawn technology its dual mission is to help that technology grow into viable commercial technology. If you can not bring your SBIR funding to fruition via commercialization, then you may find yourself receiving less and less funding as the years unfold.
A Small Business Must Have a Solid Foundation
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A Day in the Life of a Self Employed Professional
It's Monday morning and Connie the Consultant sits in her executive office chair overseeing her business empire. Her desk is strewn with half finished projects, several weeks worth of to do lists (none of them completed), scribbled post it notes, and a permission slip for her daughter's field trip to the Planetarium that should have been turned in last week. Somewhere, buried deep in the rubble is Connie's business plan. The last time she saw it was during the Clinton Administration.
11 Things Small Business Owners Can Learn From Rudy Giuliani
1. Leadership Is Learned ? While many people appear to have an innate ability to lead, most learn from their life and business experiences, then put these lessons into practice. Giuliani wrote, "The greatest leadership you ever have is the ability to lead your own life."
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