Category Archives: brand bulidng

Small Business Saturday: How To Generate Buzz and Attract Customers

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Small Business Saturday, the Saturday that’s after Thanksgiving and on the heels of Black Friday, falls on November 26 this year. As one of the busiest shopping days of the year, it presents a wonderful opportunity to springboard your business into a successful holiday season.

 

Are you preparing to make the most of it?

 

If you haven’t given it much thought, there’s still time! The American Express Shop Small® website has numerous ideas and resources to help you make this Small Business Saturday the best ever.

 

Here are some additional tips to help you gear up for the day and build excitement that will last into the weeks that follow:

 

  • Craft a Small Business Saturday promotional offer to draw customers to your business that day. Shoppers are always looking for great deals around Black Friday, so make yourself stand out with an offer they can’t resist.

 

  • Create flyers to advertise your Small Business Saturday offerings and drop them into customers’ shopping bags in the weeks leading up to November 26.

 

  • Partner with other small businesses to promote each other’s products and services. Share each other’s marketing materials and talk up your fellow merchants to customers. Small business is all about mutual support. Everyone in the local business community wins when that happens!

 

  • Use social media aggressively to promote Small Business Saturday and your special offers. On Facebook, consider paying to boost posts so they’ll have greater exposure. On Twitter and Instagram, use the hashtags #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall in your updates so people looking for participating businesses and special offers can find you.

 

  • Run an email marketing campaign to raise awareness of Small Business Saturday and the special deals you’re offering to customers that day.

 

The Shop Small website has free customizable Small Business Saturday marketing materials (for your website, social media, and your storefront) that you can download and print to help you in your efforts to promote the event and your business.

 

And don’t forget to tap the knowledge and experience of a SCORE mentor as you formulate a plan for driving sales this Small Business Saturday. SCORE volunteers offer expertise in all aspects of starting and running a small business. Who better to help you make this Small Business Saturday a success?

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Blog Brainstorming Tips

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Ask nearly any small business owner and you’ll find that most struggle with keeping their company blog up to date. Although it may be tempting to forgo maintaining your blog in the midst of all else you need to do in running your business, research shows blogs boost business. Companies that blog regularly experience 97% more inbound links to their websites, and, according to HubSpot, marketers who have made blogging a priority are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment.

 

While writing and publishing posts requires time, half the battle of blogging consistently is finding ideas for what to write about.

 

Here are some quick tips to help you land winning blog topic ideas:

 

Tap into FAQs

What types of questions do you often field from prospects and customers? Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be a virtual goldmine of potential topics because they’re undeniably centered on services, products, and processes your audience has interest in.

Check out what’s trending on Twitter

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account or actively engage with customers on the social network, you can still use it as a resource for discovering what’s hot in your industry. Search various hashtags related to the products and services you provide to see what others are writing about. Of course, you never want to steal anyone else’s content, but you can get inspiration and ideas for what you might give a fresh perspective on.

Think about how industry-related news affects you and your customers

Whether your industry is undergoing regulatory changes, supplier difficulties, or other developments that affect your company, you have a prime opportunity to share your insight to inform, educate, and sometimes put customers’ minds at ease if they’re worried about how the changes might affect them.

Talk up technological advances

Readers love to know what’s new and cutting edge. As with other industry-related news, improvements in technology that make your products, services, or processes better serve as worthy blog post topics.

Go behind the scenes

Prospects and customers love to get the inside scoop. Consider sharing an insider view about how you create your product or deliver your services.

Get personal

Brands that connect with prospects on a personal level are generally more likely to gain customers when all things otherwise are equal with competitors. To create stronger customer relationships, allow readers an opportunity to get to know the people in your business. Consider sharing about their unique interests or hobbies (with their permission, of course!), their volunteerism efforts, or distinctive aspects of their professional credentials.

 

There’s plenty to draw from as you brainstorm topics for your blog. The key is to become more attuned to recognizing ideas when they present themselves—and taking the initiative to write them down before they escape your memory.

If you struggle with thinking of creative and relevant blog topics, we have SCORE mentors with marketing know-how and a broad range of industry experience who can help. Contact us to schedule a free mentoring appointment today.

 

 

Professional Development Benefits Your Business

Whether you’re a brand new entrepreneur or a small business owner who has been in business for years, expanding your knowledge and fine-tuning your skillsets are crucial for sustained success.

Professional development never goes out of style, and if you make it a priority, it can set your business apart from your competitors. Dedicating time and energy on a continual basis to honing your talents and learning new things will show your customers that:

  • You’re dedicated to providing them with the best products and services.
  • You can provide them with more value than your competition can.
  • You have a grasp on the bigger picture and are better able to propose solutions.
  • You’re worth every penny they’re paying you.

Finding Opportunities For Professional Development Isn’t Difficult. Finding Discipline To Follow Through With Professional Development Can Be.

As you explore how you might boost your knowledge and improve your skills, consider these effective and affordable options:

  • Reputable industry or topical blogs—Look for blogs that specifically address topics related to your types of products and services and for those about managing a business.
  • E-books—Ditto on what we said about blogs.
  • Business podcasts—With a vast selection of podcasts about leadership, marketing, business, and industry trends out there, you have plenty of options. To stay productive when you sit down to listen, consider hitting “play” while you’re taking care of “no brainer” busy work.
  • SBA online training center courses—In addition to a wealth of informative articles, the SBA also offers a number of free online courses to guide you through different aspects of starting and managing a business.
  • Local lunch & learns, seminars, etc.—Chambers of commerce often offer these types of programs to help their members manage their businesses better. They also provide the opportunity to network with other professionals in the community.

To make the most out of any of the above professional development tools, also consider signing up for free face-to-face or email mentoring with certified SCORE mentors. They have knowledge of and experience in every aspect of starting and running a business, so they’re well equipped to guide you as you navigate the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship.

Ready to get your small business off the ground or take it to the next level? Contact us to get started!

Is Email Marketing Worth the Investment?

With social media, texting, and other instantaneous ways of marketing your products and services, you might be wondering if anyone really pays attention to emails anymore.

Statistics say they do.

  • According to eMarketer, 69.7 percent of internet users say email is their preferred method of communicating with businesses.
  • And Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s 2015 State of Marketing report shows…
    • Seventy-four percent of marketers believe email produces (or will produce) ROI.
    • Seventy-three percent of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business

How Could Email Marketing Help Your Small Business?

You can use email marketing to fulfill a number of objectives. For example you can…

  • Introduce new products and services.
  • Announce special offers, promotions, and contests.
  • Provide tips to help customers use your products and services more effectively.
  • Share industry news that will affect your customers.
  • Share event highlights.
  • Introduce new team members.
  • Highlight recent awards or press coverage your business has received.

You can get the most from your email marketing efforts when you integrate them with your other online marketing strategies. For instance, you can share links to your blog posts and other pages of your website in your email marketing messages, share your email marketing message links on social media, and incorporate links to your social media accounts in your email marketing messages. All of those things will boost the visibility of each platform you’re using.

Small Business Email Marketing Platforms

Several small business email marketing solutions exist. Some are free, and some have fees (which typically start out small and increase as you increase the size of your mailing list).

As you explore the options, consider these things:

  • Your budget
  • The frequency at which you’ll be sending email marketing messages
  • Your level of comfort in using technology tools (some platforms are more user-friendly than others)

Most importantly, know the rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission for email marketing. There are laws in place to protect people from unwanted solicitation emails. Fail to comply with them and you could find yourself paying a hefty fine. No small business owner needs that!

If you’re considering making email marketing part of your business marketing strategy but don’t know where to begin, talk with a SCORE mentor. At SCORE, we have a team of dedicated volunteers who can help guide you in your marketing efforts and help you with all other aspects of growing your business.

Can I Use that Image from the Web?

The use of images in your marketing efforts can help draw attention to and build interest in your products and services, and it can make your brand more memorable.

But unless you are a photographer, pay one to take professional photos for you, or are satisfied with solely using amateurish pictures from your smartphone, you’ll likely find yourself using images created by someone else who has shared them online.

No problem, right?

Actually, it could be a big problem if you’re not careful.

Most Online Photos Aren’t Fair Game

Just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game to use in your own online communications. Using images without permission, without attribution, or without paying for them (or some combination of the three), could land you in trouble for infringing on copyright law.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”

Photographs are protected by copyright law, and that gives creators the right to determine whether or not they can be re-used—and how they can be re-used—by others.

Creators of images don’t have to file anything legally to be protected by copyright law. While registration is needed to fully enforce rights of ownership, the creator doesn’t have to go through the process of registration to legally use the © to indicate an image is copyrighted.

And it’s important to know that if an image doesn’t have the copyright symbol associated with, it doesn’t mean it’s not protected.

 Do Your Homework Before Using A Photo That You Found Online

Before you use an image on your website, blog, social media, or in other marketing and advertising materials, it’s important to find the original source and find out if you can have license to use it. Some will allow you to use it for free with attribution (explicit credit given to the artist/owner of the work), while others might only allow use if you pay for it.

It’s well worth finding out the requirements before you download or save the image and use it for your own purposes. Penalties can be steep for copyright infringement, depending upon the particulars of a situation. They can range from $200 to $150,000.

Willful infringement typically results in higher penalties than unknowingly infringing on a copyright, but ignorance doesn’t get you off the hook.

That’s why it’s so very important to play it safe and ensure you know whether or not an image is OK to use.

Use Reputable Image Sources With Clear Guidelines

Luckily, there are a number of stock photography websites where the rules are clear about what you need to do to legally use the images available on them. Some allow you to download digital images on a transactional basis and others require you to subscribe to a plan.

Several that you may want to check out include:

Canva (Not only can you download professional images for $1 each, you can also create your own designs sized for blog graphics, various social media platforms, presentations, and posters.)

Freedigitalphotos.net (The Standard License allows you to use photos for free with attribution presented and placed according to their terms and conditions. Or you can purchase images in various sizes to use them without attribution.)

BIGSTOCK (Subscriptions for image plans start at $79 per month.)

Shutterstock (Options include “Pay As You Go” starting at $29 for two image downloads and monthly subscriptions for those with more robust needs.)

Morgue File (Provides photographs freely contributed by artists to be used in creative projects by visitors to the site. The site advises that before using images for business purposes, you should contact the photographers to ask permission and find out if and how they want attribution made.)

A Reminder

While it’s easy to download or copy images from any website or from Google Images, resist taking shortcuts. Remember, you could get slapped with a lofty fine, and even legal fees. When there are websites like those mentioned above and others, you have plenty of options to allow you to find and use images ethically and legally.