Should you offer new products or services?

graphic image of a rocket that crashed

Recently, we’ve been privy to a lot of conversation from small business owners who are trying to come up with new products or services…. some even considering startups.

No surprise.  The ongoing disruption small businesses are experiencing (Thanks, Covid) has left owners looking for new income streams to replace those that haven’t come back.

An obvious example is restaurants and bars. But any business catering to a downtown corporate market…. or convention trade…. or travel and hospitality industries…. is also scrambling to replace lost income as many workers continue to work remotely.

Over the years, we’ve seen more than a few startups crash and burn before they even got started. Since offering new products or services is not all that different than starting a new business, we want to share what we’ve learned.

Why do businesses fail?

Usually, there’s a simple reason behind a business failure and it’s generally one or more of these 3 things:

You haven’t identified your target market.

I always cringe when someone tells me “everyone” is their target market. Rarely is that the case.

OK, maybe for something like toilet paper…..or water. Necessities that all humans need. And even then, the target market for pricey high-end bottled water like FIJI is not the same as that of generic brands in the flimsy plastic that you pick up in the grocery store. FIJI customers are willing to lay out far more money than someone who shops by price.

For most ventures, there’s a specific audience. Luxury products are geared to different audiences than mass market offerings. Think Versace vs Walmart or Tesla vs Ford. Whole Foods vs Aldi.

The marketing you develop to sell your products —  the language, design and messaging — will change based on who you’re marketing to. That’s why FIJI’s water is “artisan” and comes in a sleek, beautifully designed square bottle. It’s aimed at customers who are willing to pay up for a premium product, not someone looking to save money.

You haven’t verified the need for your product or service.

This reason always makes me sad because I see it far too often and it’s so easy to avoid. You come up with a “great” small business idea — an idea, not a concept because a concept usually involves significant reasoning — and an idea…..not so much.

A doomed-from-the-start startup, on the other hand, usually is the result of someone falling in love with their idea. They’re so sure that everyone will love their product that they neglect to do market research.

The most egregious example I’ve seen was someone who quit a well -paying job (with benefits) to launch a business selling something that not only did not fill a need but few people would buy.

I was astonished.

Had I been able to say something……which I couldn’t because it was a personal relationship and my feedback was not requested….. I would have opened my (rather big) mouth because it pains me to see an eager entrepreneur fail.

But I had to keep quiet while the startup launched, burned and crashed….taking thousands of dollars with it. A pricey lesson that didn’t have to happen.

You haven’t set aside a marketing budget.

We’re website design and developers. We love creating custom sites, and nothing makes us happier than happy clients. But every once in a while, we turn down a project because while the potential client might be able to pay for a custom website, they hadn’t set aside any money for marketing.

Long ago when the internet was in its infancy, you could launch a new business on a website and get away with word-of-mouth marketing or a small public relations campaign to promote your company.

But today there’s no way in hell that can happen. There’s far too much noise….. online and off. We’re bombarded with advertising from a multitude of channels.

That’s why there are influencers on TikTok and Instagram and social media experts to manage your campaigns. Add in email marketing, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, trade shows (yes, they’re coming back!) and other content development and you’re looking at a marketing campaign. And campaigns cost money!

If you stand still and stop promoting, you can be sure your competitors will be waiting in the wings to overtake you. So putting all your money into a website is a really awful idea.

Recently. we turned down a lucrative prospect for reasons 1 and 2. So even though there was a marketing budget, we just couldn’t stomach the idea of participating in a project that was doomed to fail.

Instead, we suggested that they hire us for a few hours of consulting to review their idea and see if we could help create a more feasible option. Because as much as we like making money, we also want to help our clients succeed. 

Next time a colleague or friend tells you about an idea for a new product or service and you’re feeling iffy about it, do them a favor. Share this blog post with them. They might be very grateful.

Resources

Some interesting post-Covid business opportunities.  13 Post-Pandemic Businesses You Can Start Now

Here’s a book to read for more prep work. So when you come to us to build a new website, you’ve already qualified your business concept. 5 Books to Read Before Starting Your Business by Ken Dunn.

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Clients.

Read this if  you’re already in failing mode. 5 Tough Steps to Save Your Failing Business by Doug and Polly White.

And if you’ve had to close up shop. Before you beat yourself up, see  what good company you’re in.

One failure does not make you a failure.  It makes you a little bit wiser for the next opportunity. Just ask Mark Cuban.  13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded by Lynn Truong.

If you’ve been mulling over starting a new business or launching a new product and having second thoughts, call us. We’re happy to brainstorm with you. Maybe we can save you some money. And grief.

 

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  5 reasons why you should add visuals to your marketing.

woman pointing to the 5th of 5 yellow stars to signify successful marketing

We know that social media posts with visuals outperform text-only posts. 

But visuals enhance other forms of marketing as well. As visual creatures, we enjoy reading or skimming material which contains graphics and images.

In fact, according to this post in Polls Everywhere, visuals increase the desire to read content by 80%. With a reach like that, can you afford NOT to use visuals in your marketing? Hardly.

Get Creative.

Smart marketers employ a variety of different types of visuals to spice up content — photos, graphics, banners, Infographics, charts, videos, clips or gifs.

The type of product or service you’re selling will generally inform the type of visuals you use. But as long as it helps clarify your copy and grab the reader’s eye, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative and try a type of visual you haven’t used before. Play with colors and shading. Do something none of your competitors are doing.

Head over to Content Marketing Institute to see some excellent examples of companies that have nailed visual content.

Since we also like material laid out in an easy-to-scroll format, here are 5 reasons why you should add visuals to your marketing.

  1. Readability.
    Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website.Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website. Your content might be groundbreaking, but that’s irrelevant if people don’t read what you’ve written. Adding visuals breaks up copy making it more compelling to read and easier to scroll.“Every aspect of your website must account for each user’s wants and needs at a given moment in time.” Alan Smith, Usability Geek
  2. Reach.
    Some people really don’t like to read. And with the success of YouTube, they don’t have to. They prefer to learn via video. Others respond better to visuals than to text.What to do? “People are 80% more likely to read content if it’s paired with colorful visuals.”  Tara Johnson, “How Visual Marketing Works”.So if you want to reach the broadest audience you can, make sure you incorporate visuals (and videos where appropriate) into your copy.
  3. Retention.
    According to this post titled “7 tips for using visual content marketing,” from Social Media Today, people remember visual information 6x better than the information they have read or heard.Since you’ve taken the time to write your content, why not make it as easy as possible for people to absorb it.
  4. Impact.
    Ideally, you want your copy to have an impact on your readers. You want them to follow you, refer you, quote you, or  hire you. Or share how terrific you are on social media.  Adding visuals to your content helps make that happen.In this article from eLearning Industry titled “Visual Learning: 6 Reasons Why Visuals Are The Most Powerful Aspect of eLearning,”  author Dana Jandhyala states ““Powerful images and visual metaphors create strong impressions and lasting memories in learners.”
  5. Interest.
    Illustrations or photos support your content and enhance copy so it’s more interesting.  From PR Daily, “visual content gets viewed 94% times more than content without any visuals” according to a 2018 Social Media Examiner report. May 24, 2018

    Ready to mix up your marketing?

If your marketing efforts haven’t resulted in sufficient new business, try putting some of these tips into play.  And start to pay attention to how and what YOU read (and react to). Odds are that visually void content is not something you’re really reading either.

Learn more about how to make your website compelling.

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Is your website ready (and healthy enough) for Google’s algorithm update?

a stethoscope laying on a laptop keyboard

Earth Day is April 22nd. Yes, we relegate one day to focus on keeping our planet healthy.

Anyone else think this deserves an ongoing commitment? Or at least a month?

Here’s a link to Earth Day Live which runs from April 20 -22nd. Learn about some events you can participate in and get involved.

But we digress…..back to your website.

What Makes A Healthy Website?

A healthy website performs well. It doesn’t just look good.

It works well. It loads fast. Fonts are legible. You don’t have to squint to read the copy. Papers and pdfs download quickly. Finding information is easy and intuitive.

Links work….both external and internal. And the site is responsive. It looks good on any size screen — mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop. It’s also secure and uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). More about that here.   

The health of your website should never be negotiable. A healthy well-run business has healthy procedures in place. And that includes your website, your face to the world.

Here are 6 things you can do right now to make sure your website is indeed healthy.    

  1. Don’t fall behind.
    Make sure that platform updates and plugins are up-to-date. Staying current is important to keep your site functioning properly and securely. New releases generally take care of any pesky issues that developers have found since the last update.
    Note:  we manage and monitor all client websites and send monthly reports. Your web team should handle this for you. If not, find one that will.
  2. Get rid of old plugins.
    A bloated website doesn’t perform well. Outdated or no longer used plugins can slow down your site. We once inherited  one with 62 plugins, most of which were not being used. The site was super slow to load, something you do not want.
  3.  Fix sluggish load speeds.
    According to Google, people will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Don’t be a Google fail. Here are 20 free tools to test your website’s speed.
  4. Make sure you’ve addressed any ADA (American Disability Act) issues. Google will punish you if your site isn’t accessible for people with sight or hearing disabilities. Learn what you need to do in this Business News Daily article titled Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
  5. Update content.
    If your copy hasn’t been updated in a while, it probably needs a refresh. If you cite a lot of statistics or references, they’re probably dated. Maybe you’ve added new products or services that never made it onto the site (yes, we’ve seen that)!
    Ideally you update your site on a weekly or monthly basis. But we know that sometimes stuff gets in the way. So do it now.
  6.  Make sure your website is easy for visitors to navigate.
    A healthy website allows people to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. Referred to as UX (user experience), ideally this is a factor that was built into your website in the design phase. But if you have a do-it-yourself site, it’s likely that navigational ease is not a feature.

Why NOW is the time to make sure your website is healthy.

Google has a new and highly anticipated algorithm launching in May of this year. It will include something called Page Experience which addresses what we’ve talked about above. If you have a business website, you need to know about it.

Search Engine Watch explains it clearly in this post titled Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 – Webmasters, hang in there!

Hopefully, we’ve given you some tips you can use to make sure your website is healthy and working efficiently. So you won’t be blindsided when May comes around.

As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Shoot us an email info@whatagreatwebsite.net and we’ll help you out.

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6 workarounds to get out of a creative rut.

upset woman holding her head in her hands

We’ve all been there.

A project due. Deadline looming. And bam! You’re stuck.

The words (or layouts or designs or insert-your-own-noun) are simply not coming. You’ve hit a creative rut and you need help getting out.

In his article in Wired Magazine, What’s Up With That: Your Best Thinking Seems to Happen in the Shower, author Nick Stockton talks about random thoughts and “eureka” moments.

Stockton interviewed psychologist John Kounios who studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Kournios refers to the random thought/freewheeling type of problem solving as “aimless engagement in an activity…and a great catalyst for free association”.

I’ll expand on that. I think that creative ruts are based in neuroscience. Our brains are wired in such a way that we get stuck on repeat. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fresh new thoughts to filter in.

Neuroscience and Creative Thinking

Our women’s advocacy group (shoutout SBAC Women In Business!) hosted a panel a few months ago on how to move forward in business after the devastation of 2020.

Doreen Petty, an inspiring business coach who uses neuroscience in her practice, shared that 95% of our behavior is based on what we’ve done in the past. What we need to do is learn how to use the remaining 5% to build new pathways.  Applying this to creative thinking makes perfect sense.

Trying to work with the same old- same old content results in what I call “dam jams”. The stream stops moving quickly when it reaches a dam.  Getting past the dam jam is how I now think about writing ruts. So what do I need to do to move past the dam?

Blasting Through Creative Dam Jams

Here are six easy workarounds we’ve found helpful:
Get up and get out.
A change of scene can help get your creative juices flowing. Head outside…..ideally somewhere green. Being out in nature is an excellent way to clear your mind and make you more receptive to fresh ideas. And walking gets your blood moving and heart pumping faster. It’s a win-win.
Stop! 
Close your laptop. Give yourself a 30-minute break. Something distracting. Arrange some flowers. Rearrange your closet or drawers. Call someone you’ve been meaning to call just to say hello. Get out of your own head and the vicious circle of “ it’s not happening”. You’ll come back refreshed and hopefully with a clean slate of possibilities.
Try the water trick.
If you’re not near any waterfalls or water features, jump in the shower. There’s something soothing and cerebral about running water. Even better if you add a few drops of lavender essential oil in the corners of the shower and make the water super steamy. The lavender is calming and relaxing. And being relaxed is much more conducive to the creative process than stressing over why you’re stuck!
I’ve written some of my favorite articles sitting near a water feature in a backyard in Palm Springs. I’ve also come up with some great ideas in the shower.
Do a brain dump.
Take all that stuff that’s whizzing around in your head and driving you to distraction and put it on paper. Write it or draw it or record yourself. Whatever your preferred method of screaming quietly.
Better yet, draw a mind map.
If you’ve never done one, it’s sort of like an organized brain dump. Get a clean piece of paper. In the center, draw a circle and write the topic or name of the project you’re stuck on. Now draw smaller circles (or squares) around it with some of the things you want to include in your project (yes, I know. This is like an outline but in visual form!).
As I was attempting to write this post……over several days…. and still wasn’t happy with it ;(  I finally used the mind map method. After walking away from my computer several times and distracting myself using some of the techniques mentioned above, I knew I was still overthinking.
Getting my key points down on paper and adding supporting points underneath made it so much easier to move forward. Doing it in color made it fun. Here’s what that looked like:
The power of music.
In a time,com article “Does Listening to Music Stimulate Creative Thinking, or Stifle It?”, Markham Heid says: A 2017 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that listening to “happy” music—defined as classical tunes that were upbeat and stimulating—helped people perform better on tasks that involved “divergent” thinking, which is a core component of creativity.
As I was mind mapping, I was also watching a Facebook Live recital by my friend Sara Su Jones, an accomplished violinist whose music introduced me a number of years ago to the beauty of classical music. The pieces she played (today’s recital all pieces by women composers) were joyous and happy and elegant. I mind mapped with ease. Check out Sara Su’s schedule for upcoming performances. 
What works best for you?
I’m partial to drawing rather than mind mapping digitally because I find that the tactile sensation of paper and pen works better for me.
mind map drawing showing things to do to break out of a creative rut
But if you’re a digital person, here are a few places to check out mind mapping software….some free, some premium.
Some other good resources for getting unstuck:
 (Note: I don’t agree with all of these suggestions but that’s just me ;)
The focus is on photography but the suggestions are good and could apply to writing and design as well.

Why yes, it would be lovely if you want to share this post.

If you’re so inclined, we’d love you to share how you get out of a creative rut. There’s always something new to learn. And if you’d like to share this post on social media, that would be lovely.
Addendum
After this post was finished, I found this article in Entrepreneur that is spot on topic and “endorsed” by Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.
They both  used a concept called “No Time” which is the time they left unscheduled for self-care — in this case, for doing nothing. Because “neuroscience shows that disconnection time blocks have a large influence on creativity.” Read the rest here. It’s well worth your time.
If you’re having productivity issues, this blog post might help.
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5 traits that successful businesses use to engage customers.

figures reaching out to help a man climbing up a mountain

Successful businesses connect with customers. And they do this via 5 traits that are critical for client engagement: believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability.

Let’s see how this works. One of the easiest ways to do this is by asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. Think about your favorite businesses. What is it about them that makes your favorite list?
  2. How do you FEEL when you interact with those businesses?
  3. Why do you keep going back?

What we’re doing here is identifying engagement triggers. Those traits that keep you engaged with vendors, shop owners, and service providers.

I’ll start…..

We count on certain colleagues and small business owners for various services we need — IT support, accounting, video production…..to name a few.

If we look at the commonalities of these vendors, we see a recurring theme.

They’re all dependable and believable. Believable because they’re transparent. What you see is what you get. It makes us feel confident that they’ll deliver on their promise and we’ll get what we were ordered. And then some.

Since we like working with people we like, we also hire people who are sincere and authentic. These traits are part of being a trusted provider. And that’s one of the things YOU need to do to build your client base.

Examples always help. We learn from others who’ve gone before us. So let’s look at some companies that have done a really good job of engaging their clients.

Successful Client Engagements

NetflixNetflix logo
The name Netflix is synonymous with offerings that no one else has. And what you see is what you get.

Can you think of the last time you heard anyone say something bad about their service? I can’t. What I DO hear is only raves about the latest hits that “you have to watch!” And the service is always dependable.

Per this article in Forbes,  “While the company hasn’t been without the occasional controversy, a report in the Wall Street Journal going so far as to describe its corporate culture as being “transparent to the point of dysfunctional,”

TargetTarget's logo
If you shop at Target, you know their stores are uniformly clean and well-stocked and the service is outstanding. You rarely have to search far for assistance. So you can get in and out quickly and generally find what you need. Their mission is to “provide Target shoppers a hassle-free experience” and the effort starts with making sure inventory is available in stores and on its online site. They nail it.

Read more about Target’s outstanding customer service n this article in Retail Customer Experience.

Trader Joe’sTrader Joe's logo
Trader Joe’s is another company that delivers on customer care with impeccable service. Jolly check out people, helpful shelf stockers, and easy returns make shopping there enjoyable. Well, other than the Covid lines outside the stores. But the lines are there because Trader Joe’s wants to keep you safe. They are precise about the number of people allowed in their stores at any given time. So you feel like they really care about you as a customer.

Warby Parker
I love Warby Parker! They take customer engagement to a whole new level. For one thing, it’s fun to go into one of their shops. It’s like going into a wonderfulwarby parker's packaging bookstore but instead of books, there are glass frames. Which you can touch. And try on. At your leisure. You can browse…..

as much as you want. And when you’re ready for help or have a question, there is always a knowledgeable and friendly sales associate to help you out.

Their make-shopping-fun branding is outstanding. “Nice to see you” is printed on the inside of your glass case. It’s fun and charming and makes you feel good. Like they really care about making you happy with your purchase. And they include a bright colorful lens cleaner that makes you smile every time you clean your glasses. Super marketing. Super company.

QuinceQuince
Familiar with Quince? They embody all of the traits I mentioned at the start of this post — believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability. Plus one more, sustainability.

Their tagline — “Everyone should be able to afford nice things.”

An online retailer, they offer top quality clothing and organic bedding at remarkably low prices. Think beautiful quality $59 cashmeres and washable silk items that would cost triple that at a traditional retailer. Their secret? No middlemen, they sell “Factory direct to your doorstep.” Low-cost minimalist packaging. And what they call “specialist factories” around the world that pay sustainable wages.

Add in a commitment to green manufacturing, reducing carbon footprints and a beautiful clean website designed for accessibility, and you have a company that truly understands millennials and probably a lot of their parents as well.

Bottom line: you feel good shopping Quince. You feel like you’re helping others receive living wages and not hurting the planet. And their Mongolian cashmere sweaters are yummy soft.

What can your small business learn from companies like Quince?

How do you build trust into your client relationships?

We offer 5 key takeaways:

  1. Believability – Make honesty a part of your culture.
  2. Transparency – Let clients get to know you. This is how you engage them and build relationships.
  3. Authenticity – Be genuine. Whether you sell products or services. Quality counts.
  4. Sincerity – We like doing business with people who are sincere. It makes us feel good.
  5. Dependability – Without this, you can’t have much of a business.

Companies that don’t deliver what they promise don’t stay around long. Especially with social media that enables anyone to share your lousy products or crappy customer service with half the world.

From a consumer standpoint, the internet affords us a multitude of ways to buy. If your company doesn’t make customer care a priority, there are plenty of others that will.

Read more about keeping your customers happy..

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How to craft engaging web content.

hands typing on a keyboard

So you’ve got a brand new website, and it looks great. Well designed. Smart use of color. Smarter use of white space. Reasonably intuitive navigation. A business owner’s dream website.

But there’s one significant problem. Your website simply isn’t engaging.

It looks good, loads fast and seems to work well. But the copy is bland. No, it’s boring. It’s not written to entice the viewer but simply to provide information.

So visitors to your site just don’t buy in to what you’re selling. They don’t sign up for your newsletter or your blog. They don’t opt for your special offer. They just leave. And they certainly don’t share your site on social media.

How good is that website now? Not very.

If you think that site could be yours, it might be time to rethink your web strategy.

Think strategically. What do you want your copy to accomplish?

When we build a new website or revise a dated site, we don’t write a word of copy without a clear roadmap. We consider your goals — what you want to accomplish, the tone and voice of the content (sophisticated,  scholarly, serious,  irreverent, fun.) and what you want site visitors to do. The product or service you offer drives the content.

If you know your site could use some help but writing new content sounds daunting, here are six easy tips that might make it easier:

  1. Think about the problem your products or services solve. Are you telling visitors to your site how you can help them? Don’t make them guess.
  2. Have you defined your target audience? The way you “speak” to Millennials is not the way you should “speak” to Boomers. Your copy style is important.
  3. Never  “assume”. If you want visitors to your site to do something, tell them. Sign up. Click here. Order now. Call now. Tell your friends. Short little sentences. Easy to write.
  4. Make it easy for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video or hire an illustrator or animator to create original cartoons to get your point across.
  5. Be relevant. Do you offer services for a serious issue…..for example, one that’s health-related? Easy-to-understand charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are smart ways to share important or detailed information.
  6. Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet points 4 and 5, this should be a piece of cake. People share what they think others in their world will like. Content that’s interesting, amusing, informative, exciting, compelling. But don’t forget to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this with your friends” is just plain smart. Here’s an article from OptinMonster that shares some great CTAs (calls-to-action). 

Your content needs to engage visitors.

Your website may look good but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Make sure your content is clear, well-written and speaks to your audience in language they understand and can relate to.

If you can’t write engaging content yourself, hire a professional copywriter. It’s well worth the investment.

Do you know what you want your content to accomplish? If your answer is “not really”, maybe you need to tighten up your positioning.

 

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What are you really selling?

table for 2 in a seaside setting

Businesses that know exactly who they are and what they provide have a leg up on the competition. They have a deeper understanding of their value. Smart business owners incorporate this into a positioning statement or brand positioning statement.

If your marketing is looking a little dull or you don’t have a positioning statement, here’s an exercise that might help. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What are you known for?
  2. Why do customers come back? 
  3. What do they say?

Then add a 4th: Are you satisfied with who and where you are? 

If the answer is no, keep reading. 

Let’s say you’re a (fill in the blank) company. Maybe a service provider. Or a manufacturer. Or perhaps you have a retail location or e-commerce website where you sell products. So that part is clear.

But what you’re really selling is probably far more. Let’s look at some examples.

Suppose you own a restaurant – one that’s upscale, sophisticated, and pricey. Maybe a prix fixe tasting (or degustation) menu. The kind of place you’d go to celebrate an occasion……or WILL once the pandemic has passed.

Alinea comes to mind. In fact on their home page, it doesn’t say “make a reservation”, it says “book your experience”.

Or Everest offering “exquisite wine and cuisine.” I’ve been to neither but from their marketing copy and website, I know these are very special places.

What Alinea and Everest are providing is far more than just food. They’re offering an experience, in this case, a fine dining experience….white linen on the tables, heavy gleaming flatware, subdued lighting, candles, gracious and attentive service. Designed to impress the diners. And hopefully have you recommend them to your friends or share on social media.

In another instance, you might be a service provider. Maybe a health and wellness business. COVID-19 seems to have launched a bevy of them as we struggle to stay fit and sane. Some are doing well. Others are, no doubt, struggling.

Let’s look at Peloton – as in “super success.”

Peloton took a product — a stationary exercise bike, made it state-of-the art and set off on a mission to “bring the community and excitement of boutique fitness into the home”. In eight years, they’ve added “addictive” real-time classes and morphed into a lifestyle, a platform, an app, and a way of life.

Peloton is providing far more than an ability to exercise at home. They’ve created a fitness platform and community that has transformed the way people exercise. Of course, a pandemic helped them become the success they are. But they knew when they launched that they were providing something different. And they made sure their marketing made it clear.

The examples above are not typical success stories. They’re the crème de la crème. The exceptions. So how does this relate to your small business?

Build Your Brand

Simple. If you want to build your brand, really make an impression on potential clients and become more successful, you need to focus on exactly who you are and what you provide.

And to do that, why not learn from the best – the companies that are knocking it out of the park. Yes, you’re probably on a much smaller scale, but so what? Most of us are.

Which takes us back to the beginning of this post and the question: What are you really selling?

Whatever product or service you offer needs to positively impact the potential customer. It needs to add value to someone’s business, bottom line or life.

We think one of our clients does this really well. (Full disclosure: we had something to do with that ;)

Tulip Tree CBD is an e-commerce company with product distribution in some brick and mortar retail shops. Their positioning is clearly stated on their website home page:

Founded by a nurse with decades of clinical experience in critical care, hospice, cardiology, and natural medicine, Tulip Tree is the culmination of a lifelong passion to help people relieve pain and suffering.

The value? The support of a knowledgeable and experienced healthcare provider in helping to relieve pain and suffering. The opportunity to live pain-free. To ease anxiety, stress, PTSD and insomnia.

So while Tulip Tree sells premium quality hemp-based CBD,  that’s not what they really do. What they really do is enable people to live better lives.

If you’re not happy with your company’s positioning, go back to the start of this blog and work on the questions we shared. If you come up with a positioning statement you’re happy with, share it with us. We’d love to see what you really do.

Read more about positioning and branding:

Branding News: 6 examples of brand positioning to inspire

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7 Things You Can Do Now to Get A Jumpstart On 2021

5 professionals jumping up in the air with joy

2020 has been a difficult and crazy year. Understatement ;).

We’re all looking forward to a fresh and hopefully healthier year in 2021. So rather than waiting to do a goals list for January, let’s get a jumpstart on 2021 now.

Here are 7 things you can start implementing in your small business right now.

  1. Finalize your 2021 marketing plan.  Don’t wait til year end. Do it now so you’re ready to rock’n’roll on January 1.
  2. Shake up your marketing. Try something new.  If your tactics-to-date have been soft sell, try being more forceful. This article from Click Z has some good hot-to tips.
  3. Focus on relationship building with your clients.  One way to do that is committing to being more authentic and being relatable. Let customers know there are real people behind your brand.
  4.  If you have products or services that have been sorely affected in our Covid-impacted world (think restaurant buffets, movie theaters or anything that doesn’t allow us to social distance), replace them if you can. Or pivot. There are certainly enough examples of companies doing that successfully. Like these three small business success stories in Inc Magazine.
  5. Cut yourself some slack. Most of us are too hard on ourselves. Learn to lighten up and appreciate the things you’re good at. This article in Medium has some smart advice to help you.
  6. Hire a business coach or a sales development consultant to help build your business. Getting fresh input can be the difference between blah sales and soaring numbers. If you need some suggestions, call us. We’re happy to recommend someone.
  7. If you don’t already have a robust email program, put your database to work.  Ramp up your email marketing with fresh offerings and enticing copy. Read this article from Campaign Monitor for some great tips on how to build a cult following.

Hopefully, these tips resonate with you and give you some ideas on how to jumpstart your own marketing.

The small businesses that will survive these shaky times are the ones that are being proactive about moving forward.

We think that’s a really good group to be part of.

 

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If your website isn’t functional & secure, you’re losing business.

happy website client

September signals the start of fall. A time of new beginnings — change of season, a new school year, for some companies a new fiscal year.

For small business owners, fall is often the time to think about ramping up business. Maybe you need to refresh dated marketing material. Or spruce up your website with fresh content.

It’s also the perfect time for a digital tune-up to ensure that your website is performing efficiently. Is your site’s backend functionality where it should be? Is current content? Are plugins up-to-date?

To help you assess your site’s performance, we present 5 ways to make sure your website is functioning efficiently right now.

  1. Keep your SEO (search engine optimization) up-to-date. If you’ve been writing blog posts or adding new content without optimizing that material, it’s like forgetting to tell customers you’ve got new merchandise they’ll be interested in. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
  2. Check that all images have an alt tag or alt text. Aside from helping with SEO, this enables visually handicapped visitors to “read” images via screen readers. Learn more about alt tags here.
  3. Is your content current? Dated content not only makes it look like your business may be suffering (not surprising in this time of COVID-10 closures, but also something you want to avoid). Keep your content fresh and compelling if you want visitors to return regularly and refer your site to colleagues and friends.  Here are some quick and easy content development tips.
  4.  Is your site loading quickly? There are several things that make sites sluggish and slow to load — overly large or high rez images, plugins that are no longer being used but are bloating your site, or your ISP (internet service provider) to name a few reasons. Whatever the cause, the result is not one you want. Slow loading sites mean lost visitors. When we’re so used to speedy connections and quick downloads, few people want to wait more than a few seconds for a site to load.
  5.  Is your site secure? If your website url starts with https://, it’s secure. If it still says http://, it’s not. And it’s not SSL (Secure Sockets Layered) encrypted so it may be vulnerable to hackers. Something you definitely don’t want! Getting an SSL certificate is something your developer or IT person should do. It’s something we handle for all the sites we build.

Of course, there are other things you can do to keep your website secure and functioning smoothly. We’ve just highlighted the “musts”. Most of these are best left to professionals who work with websites on a daily basis.

We’re happy to chat with you about whatever’s keeping you up at night keeping — whether it’s making sure your website is secure, how to give your site a fresh new look…..or any marketing issues you might be having.

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Smart small businesses come up with solutions.

graphic image of the word create

Many thanks to Lum3n for use of this Pexels image.

A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal jumped out: Target Posts Record Quarter.

Really? Month 6 of a pandemic. Life is anything but normal. Shops still closed. Restaurants going out of business. And Target can’t get out of their own way.

What’s Target doing that others aren’t?  It’s simple, really. They’ve listened to their target market. And provided solutions.

Their customers want to be safe. They want to shop from home and pick up purchases without getting out of their cars. Or get deliveries. They also want convenience and to save time.

Smart small businesses come up with solutions.

Target ramped up their online presence and made it easy to shop their website. Don’t want to go into stores to browse back-to-school items? Their robust website has everything your kids need online. So you can easily shop from home, then pick up at a dedicated pickup location or get your items delivered.

No, it’s not the same back-to-school experience we knew. No browsing the aisles so your kiddos can find the right color glittery folders. No picking that perfect pencil case and backpack. No trying on new clothes.

But this is a new school year unlike any we’ve seen before. And these are the realities. The retailers who GET it……like Target….are seeing sales soar. And they’re not alone.

What can you, a small business owner or an entrepreneur, take away from Target’s example?

Here are five things you can do right now:

  1. Pay attention to what keeps your customers up at night. Then find a solution that you can offer them.
  2. Let them know. Share those solutions/new services on your website, in emails and newsletters and on social media. And ask people to retweet, reshare and tell their friends.
  3. Reach out. As soon as you’re aware that your clients are having trouble, let them know you’re there to help.
  4. Make it easy for them to contact you. Everyone has different ways they like to connect. Give them options — phone, email, text, Facebook Messenger.
  5. Research new products or services you might provide. Can you offer free delivery? Extended payment terms? (Be careful about that one). You might discover some new income streams, and that would be a win-win for you and your customers.

These are challenging times but that doesn’t mean your business can’t survive…..or even thrive. These are conditions that smart entrepreneurs look for.

What opportunities for growth do you see?

Now is the time to figure out exactly what you can do to move forward. Need more inspiration?

Read about some companies that are household names that successfully launched during wretched economic times:  13 Massive Companies That Started During a Recession by Kelly Bertog. You might be surprised. You’ll probably be inspired.

And if you end up coming up with some ideas, let us know. We love small business success stories!

Read some of our other articles to help you market smarter:

Small Business Marketing in the Throes of a Pandemic

Why Marketing Matters More Than Ever

Marketing Morsels: How Clear is Your Brand Voice?

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