Small Business Shoutouts #2

Super Small Business Service Providers

Last month, we shouted about some fun things to do during this odd Chicago summer.

This month, we’re focusing on three small businesses offering services that can help you grow your business.

Video Production
Robb Emmett is the owner of WinWin Productions, Inc. and an excellent small business pivot story. When Covid-19 hit and he couldn’t shoot videos on location anymore, he put his videography skills to use virtually. Today, he patiently guides clients through the production process to create professional quality video for small business budgets. We’ve worked with him on four and couldn’t be happier with his attention to detail and easy manner.

Business Development
Big companies have in-house sales teams. Small businesses need a Reid & Co. Owner Nancy Reid has 30 years of experience in business development and sales training for clients in a variety of industries. She does the things you don’t have time for (or can’t do) — identifying new markets, finding potential clients, reaching decision makers and closing deals. She’s tenacious, smart and well-connected. I’ve seen her work. You want her on your team! Find Nancy on LinkedIn.

Public Relations
You might be the best in your field but if no one knows about you, it won’t help pay the mortgage. Flanagan Communications to the rescue! Dyana Flanagan is a Chicago-based public relations expert with solid media contacts in a variety of industries and super pitching skills. She’ll help get your message out where it needs to be seen and heard. And she’s a delight to work with — which is why some of her clients have been with her for years.

Strong business relationships are one of the best ways to build your businesses. We’ve culled many through networking including Robb, Nancy and Dyana, all of whom we trust to do what you need them to do.

Please help us spread the word about these excellent Chicago-area small businesses. And if you know of any exceptional providers, let us know. You can’t have too many outstanding contacts.

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How to Market During Troubling Times

young man with his head in his hands

Building a business is challenging enough when the economy is strong. But we’re currently in the throes of a pandemic and on the brink of a recession and this is something none of us have ever seen before.

Small business owners don’t know if they’ll be able to survive the next few months. So what can you do when you can’t open your retail business or restaurant or office where you meet with customers face-to-face?

This is a time to be super proactive. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to turn around is not an option. Rather, use this forced quarantine as a time to get creative with your marketing.

Here are eight easy-to-implement tips designed to stay in touch with customers so you don’t lose them.

  1.  Market consistently. You want to maintain visibility. It’s important to keep your name out in the marketplace – even if it’s only virtual. Never give your customers a chance to forget about you.
  2.  Focus on your customers’ needs. Some of them are obvious now – food, shelter, business support, and the personal services we can no longer get (anyone need a haircut?). But never assume. Ask your customers what they need and how you can help. Let them know you’re still there for them.
  3. Make customer care a priority. A positive customer experience may be the difference between keeping a customer or losing her to a competitor. Vow to make every customer experience a positive one.
  4. Keep your marketing message consistent. Don’t keep changing who you are. Not only does that muddy your brand, but it confuses your customers.
  5. Don’t ignore what’s going on and pretend it’s business as usual. Nothing is as usual right now. Acknowledge that. If you’re a brick & mortar shop and can offer e-commerce, do it. Some sales are better than no sales. If you can’t sell online, what CAN you do? Could you offer online seminars or webinars? What about coaching? Get creative about alternative ways to bring in money.
  6. Find a WOW” about your business. If you can’t find one, create one. It’s the reason customers talk about your shop or your services. One-of-a-kind products. Custom designs. Styles that are always a few steps ahead of the current trends. Consistently outstanding customer service. What makes your company special?
  7. Read Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. It’s a great book that explains what triggers peoples’ “need that” button.
  8. Don’t get discouraged. Well, try not to. Our economy is cyclical. The stock market always comes back. Yes, even from devastating losses like we’re seeing now.

Hopefully, your business will come back as well. But in the current economy, you need to hustle to make that happen.

If we can help, let us know. In the meantime, stay safe.

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4 Top Tips to Better Content

Today’s small business owner faces a big challenge. Digital noise surrounds us online — offers, freebies, surveys, endless articles. Getting your content read is more and more difficult. What can you do to make sure people see and share your content?

Here are 4 easy tips to make that happen:

  1. Focus on the benefit. How does your company help your target market? Think about the problem your products or services solve. Then tell visitors to your site exactly how that works. Don’t assume they’ll “figure it out” by reading your copy all the way through. That’s a crap shoot. In a noisy online world, you need to cut to the chase and tell people exactly what you want them to know.
  2. Identify your target market. Far too often we see business owners with wildly disparate target markets. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. The tighter you can define your market, the more you become a specialist. If you break your arm, would you want your internist to operate on you? Hell no! The same goes for selling your products and/or services. Focus on a particular segment of the market and target your copy to reach that segment in language they can relate to.
  3. Make it easy (or better yet, fun) for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video to get your point across. Or use images that convey humor. Cute fuzzy animals always seem to engage people. Cartoons haven’t been overused yet so that’s another option. If you offer services for a serious issue, like one that’s health-related, present content that’s easy to understand. Charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are all good ways to share important or sensitive information.
  4. Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet point 3, 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 or unusual. But be sure to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this” or “don’t forget to share this with your friends” is just smart!

Your website may rank high in search, but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

Need help with your content? Work with us.

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4 Tips to Building a Better Brand

What do people think when they hear your company name? Ideally it’s something positive that reflects your brand vision.

If you’re not sure, it might be a good time to do a brand audit. If you’ve never done one, let’s start from square one.

What is a brand?
Your brand is your company’s identity. It’s the impression your company makes in the marketplace and in the minds of current and potential customers. Visually, it’s the look and feel of your logo, font, graphics and color palette. Emotionally, it’s your voice – the tone of your communications. Overall, it’s your messaging.

Does your tagline set you apart? How do you want your product or service to make people feel when they see it? What makes your product better than the competition? What is it about your company that inspires loyalty among your clients?

Good branding doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully created and nurtured and maybe occasionally tweaked. Then it’s disseminated far and wide. Consistently. Solid brands stand the test of time.

Let’s look at a few examples. See what comes to mind when you hear these company names.

Starbucks
No other coffee house in the world has the brand recognition of Starbucks. Even the rich coffee aroma outside a Starbucks is instantly recognizable. Your experience in a Starbucks will be consistently excellent around the world.

Mercedes-Benz
Luxury autos with price tags to match. Drive a Mercedes? You appreciate elegance, soft rich leather interiors and finely-tuned engines.

Chanel
Elegant, chic and sophisticated. When you wear apparel with the Chanel logo, it says you value quality and can afford it.

Subaru
Where Mercedes is all about luxury, Subaru’s marketing says “we make cars to keep your family safe”. Their commercials tug at your heartstrings — parents watching their child leave for college in the “old” family Subaru, young drivers avoiding horrendous accidents thanks to Subaru’s breaking system, a family heading on a car trip. The music is soothing, the emotions are strong, and the message is reassuring. If you care about your loved ones, buy a Subaru.

 

 

Amazon
Have you ever looked closely at the Amazon logo? It’s clean and simple and unassuming. And clever! The arrow below the company’s name goes from “a” to “z”. Just like Amazon’s huge range of products.

Big companies have big marketing budgets to build their brands. Your small business no doubt has a communication budget to match, but you still need brand development to grow your company.

So what can you do to build brand equity on a small business budget? Start by doing a brand audit. Ask yourself what people think when they hear your company’s name or see your logo. Is your logo recognizable? Does your messaging say “ we’ve got your back” or “we give a damn”? Is your tagline memorable?

If you answer no to any of these questions, the following tips should come in handy.

4 tips to build a better brand.

  1. Have a logo that’s relevant, unique and appealing. And use it in every bit of marketing material that comes out of your company – your website, newsletter, brochures, business cards, premiums, packaging.
  2. Have a style guide to make sure your brand identity is consistent across all marketing channels. This includes a clear color palette, a font guide and an overall look and feel. Memorable brands have solid style guides.
  3. Build a strong brand voice. Your marketing material should always sound like it came from your company, not a competitor. Your company’s personality should be consistent even as you target different markets. Is your company voice warm, fun and friendly like Southwest Airlines? Serious and knowledgeable about healthy eating like Whole Foods? Reassuring about environmentally safe products for your children like The Honest Company? Or quirky and fun like Dollar Shave Club?  Your brand voice sets you apart from the competition. It’s your promise to your customers.
  4. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. The language you use to appeal to Millennials is not the language you use to reach Boomers. It may also change as you add new products or services. But the company voice should not waiver.

Communicate clearly and relevantly to each market segment so they know you understand exactly what they want or need.

Need help with your branding? Find a reputable firm to help you. Like ours ;).

Reach us here.

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