Your business may be the best in its class, but without customers, your reputation doesn’t matter. Even if you manage to attract customers, can you retain them while winning new ones? Customer retention and expansion are important factors when you want your small business to become successful and remain that way. That’s where marketing comes in. According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it?
But fear not. You don’t have to close up shop for three years while you study for your marketing degree at Harvard or put your home in hock to pay for a marketing department. Below are a few options you can use to increase your marketing effectiveness:
1. Hire a consultant. You’ll find plenty of former corporate marketing gurus who have been downsized or just got tired of the corporate rat race and decided to start their own businesses. Like you, they are entrepreneurs, and their success depends on providing value to their clients.
2. Hire freelancers. No matter which marketing method you plan to use, whether it’s direct mail, digital, Internet eCommerce or all of the above and more, there are freelancers available who have the expertise and are willing to take on single assignments. Again, many are corporate refugees and many are just skilled artists, designers and even idea people whose goal is to make a living by providing excellent service.
3. Outsource your marketing. This is the best option in my opinion, but it may also be the most expensive option. By putting your marketing function into the hands of a full-service outsourcer, you have access to the same expertise your larger competitors have, including performance tracking and analytics. An outsourcer can also provide you with a holistic, rather than a piecemeal approach, not to mention the benefit of knowing what will work best for your particular business.
4. Do it yourself or hire a friend or in-law. Often the cheapest and most common alternative, but the only guarantee here is that you will get what you pay for.
No matter how successful your business, you need to keep the customers you have and attract new ones. As an entrepreneur, you must spend the great majority of your time running the business and making sure the highest quality products and services are being provided. Effective marketing is a key component of success, but implementing a marketing campaign can pose many challenges for the uninitiated. By selecting the right approach for your marketing efforts, you’ll be one step closer to the success you so richly deserve.
No one likes to get fired, and very few employers like to fire people, especially owners of small businesses. Small businesses work best when employees feel as if they’re part of something and are contributing to the business’s success. No matter how many TV reality shows I watch, and no matter how scripted they seem, there’s always one thing that astounds and delights me: the dedication of the employees.
If a restaurant is failing and a restaurant “guru” flies in to save the day, we can almost always see the emotional attachment that the employees have for the business (sometimes, it seems, more than the owners). However, as true as this is, sometimes an employee has to be terminated.
Reasons for termination vary based on the standards the business owner sets. For example, one restaurateur may only require that a server shows up on time and do his or her job, while another may demand a high degree of customer empathy and dedication to service. One large Fortune 100 company had a saying: “Manage up or manage out.” In other words, if all efforts failed to improve a failing employee’s performance, they had to go. There is and should be discretion in firing people, but there are some things that are simply not allowable. Here are the top five:
1. Stealing from the business. This can cover anything from stealing money out of the cash register to stealing time by claiming hours not worked. If you allow employees who don’t have complete integrity to work for you, your business is doomed.
2. Chronic tardiness. Most employees are late once in awhile for good reasons; after all, flat tires and sick kids happen to everyone, but chronic tardiness simple cannot be tolerated. A business needs to run like a finely tuned machine. When one of the cogs is missing, the machine breaks down.
3. Lack of dependability. Simply put, when you tell an employee that something has to be done, they have to be counted on to do it–and to do it right.
4. Disregard for colleagues’ sensitivities. No small business can afford a lawsuit from an employee who contends that the business tolerated harassment, whether it be sexual, racial or simply treating a fellow employee with a lack of respect. One bad apple can poison the work atmosphere, and that apple needs to be removed from the environment before he or she can contaminate it.
5. A pattern of making mistakes. This can be difficult, as sometimes mistakes are understandable. If an employee makes mistake after mistake and those mistakes are costing you money, the employee must either improve his/her performance or leave. If you sense that the mistakes are the result of laziness or carelessness, the sooner the better.
In a perfect world, you’ll never have to fire anyone, but the world isn’t perfect and neither are your hiring decisions. It’s best to rectify them before they do irreparable damage to your business.
Recent reports show that small business lending is bouncing back, and analysts think this is happening for a couple of reasons. First, small businesses are reporting steady profits. The economy has bounced back a bit, and small businesses have booked some years of consistent growth. As a result, banks feel more confident about lending them money.
Second, home values are finally increasing. Most small business owners use their homes as collateral for their small business loans or lines of credit. After the real estate bubble burst and home prices plunged, banks wouldn’t accept underwater mortgages as collateral. Now that home values are steadily going up, more small business owners can use their homes as collateral.
To improve your chances of getting a loan for your small business, follow these four key steps:
1. Target multiple lenders. Assemble a list of up to five banks that might be willing to lend money for your business. Start at your own bank or credit union, and then consider other local banks in your area. Look for lenders who extend loans backed by the SBA, which can make them more comfortable taking a chance on your business.
2. Prepare for your meeting. Be prepared to discuss the following information when you meet with your loan officer:
4. Shop around. Many small business owners grab the first loan they can get, and they end up paying more than they should. Don’t hesitate to discuss your loan with multiple lenders. Compare terms and interest rates, and choose the loan that’s best for your company. If one lender says “no,” then ask another one. Be persistent to get the financing that you need. If you need advice, visit your local SBA or SCORE office.
America’s small business lending environment is finally improving. Don’t hesitate to ask for your piece of the pie.
When it comes time to hire a new employee it is a good idea to consider things other than their skills and experience. While these are very important it’s also becoming more common for job seekers and employers to look for the perfect match that can help them feel fulfilled and like they are leaving their mark on the world.
Inspire People to be Part of Something Bigger –
What is attracting an increasing number of young workers to careers is not just a challenging job with a high paycheck. What more and more people are seeking is the potential to make a positive impact on people and our planet, while building their career and making money at the same time. Communicate or inspire potential applicants to believe that they will be able to connect the dots between their role at the organization and the broader issues that they care about in the world.
Connect with People Through Values, Not Skills –
Utilize an initial screening tool that is designed to uncover applicants’ values and beliefs as opposed to their previously held experiences. Ask questions such as who they would invite to dinner to discuss social and environmental issues and have them rank how meaningful various factors – such as making a difference to making money – are for their careers. Evaluating a potential employees’ values and beliefs, as well as their skills and experience are critical to hiring and building an amazing team.
Build a Campaign that Lives Your Brand –
Hiring is a mix of both marketing and communication - it should be driven by cross-functional teams and not just the responsibility of the HR department. Many times a company has a stellar brand, life and personality, but their recruitment programs look like they came off an assembly line. Your company’s recruitment strategy needs to be rethought so that the brand and heart of the company are visible and it inspires people to want to apply with passion.
Make it a Wider Conversation –
The trick to finding the right candidate is engaging a wider community to nominate colleagues and friends for the position. Contact mentors, ex-bosses, ex-partners, friends, family and spouses to help you find the best and brightest for the role at your company.
Job searches in the future need to fire up applicants on all cylinders, get them out of their comfort zone and their usual thinking. Getting creative with your recruitment and interview process can lead you to the perfect person to help grow your business.