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Is Your Small Business Ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?

You might feel like a real underdog with all the major retailers slashing pricing and offering FREE shopping this holiday, but fear not. There are numerous ways that small businesses can maximize their profits during the holiday shopping season too, you just need to be prepared. In this article, we’ll talk everything Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. I’ll give my top tips on remaining in the black this holiday. Thanksgiving is November 22 this year. So game time is Friday, November 23th, Saturday, November 24th and Monday, November 26th. Small Business Saturday is held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage holiday shoppers to support their communities by shopping at locally owned businesses. It’s common for the sales to begin before Black Friday starts and extend beyond Cyber Monday, so the time is now to finalize your plan. Often the majority of the deals are available both in-store and online, but as a small business it might make sense to mix things up a bit. Here are a few ideas to get ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Figure Out Now What is On Sale. Don’t be afraid to bundle a popular item with slower moving inventory. For online retailers, you might want to develop a code for an extra discount, and at holiday time FREE shipping is a must. Charging shipping fees is one of the biggest causes of shopping cart abandonment. If you sell professional services, consider offering a deal for services paid in advance. My cleaning service offers 10% off for 6 months of service bought up front, and that’s a deal. I’ve seen professional speakers offer a discount for speaking gigs booked in advance too. Develop a Marketing Plan & Budget for Holiday Promotions. If 4th quarter is your Super Bowl, you need to get together a marketing plan and a budget. How will you get the word out about your special holiday offers? Will you do mobile/text ads? Email blasts? FB ads? Direct Mail? Holiday discount cards? Etc. Run a contest encouraging followers to answer questions like, “What’s…

How to Develop a Business Strategy – Part III

Developing a business strategy is all about looking at where you want your company to be in the next 3-to-5 years and figuring out what you need to do now to get there. If you spend your days constantly putting out fires in your business, it’s doubtful that you have much time for developing a new business strategy. But if you ever want to stop living like that, you need to make time. Strategic planning can reignite your passion for what you’re doing. By reconnecting with your “Why” story, you can reclaim your original business dream. The daily stress of a business is tough. It’s easy to flip into survival mode and lose sight of that dream that you set out to accomplish in the beginning when you started your business. But you can always hit the reset button. By clearly identifying your niche target customer, validating your value proposition and setting sales goals, you’re no longer winging it. In my series on developing a business strategy in Part I, we discussed how to create a strategy and in Part II, we focused on why strategy fails for small businesses and the criteria for good business strategy. In Part III, we will focus on the benefits of a business strategy. Just consider this, developing a long-term business strategy will increase your chances of business success by forcing you to develop strategies and tactics to address any identified problems. Here are the 7 Main Benefits of Developing a Business Strategy. 1)    Minimizing Risk: One of the main benefits of developing a business strategy is that it reduces risk. Once you’ve envisioned your company’s future over the next 3 to 5 years and done a thoughtful analysis of current state, resources, strengths and weaknesses, competitors and the business environment, you will be better equipped to make decisions and therefore to minimize risk to achieve your company’s potential. 2)    Cost Savings: Once you’ve defined your long-term goals, you will have significant cost saving because you will not waste any marketing resources or time on business appointments or opportunities that are not a fit for your core expertise, focused on your…

How to Develop a Business Strategy – Part II

Your business strategy is your roadmap to business success, but it needs to be adjusted annually. You and your team should take a look at your business strategy every fall to plot out your sales objectives and goals for the new year. 2019 is just around the corner, and you should start your planning process now. When evaluating any business strategy your top concern should be what will help you accomplish your financial goals the fastest. In part II of the series on how to develop a business strategy, we’re going to discuss why strategy fails for small businesses and criteria for good business strategy. Any growth strategy must be measured based profitability, customer satisfaction, conversion rates and retention rates. Why does strategy fail for many small business owners? Chasing too many types of opportunities. Lack of specific targets and time frames means you don’t have an organized sales process. If everyone can use your product or service, no one will. Focus on specific targets and set goals to hold yourself and your team accountable. Make emotional decisions about business opportunities If you shoot from the gut, and make business decision based on how you feel instead of using data to drive business decisions, you’ll make the wrong decision. Instead use careful research, analysis, an experience to make business decisions. Lack of market intelligence We are in the information age. there is an abundance of information about anything online. As small business owners we need to take advantage of market intelligence. Consistently focus on the problems in the business If you are always stressing over your problems instead of doing your daily business development activities. If you turn yourself into a horse with blinders on, you won’t see opportunities right in front of you that might be readily available to you. The criteria for a good business strategy is gathered below: Consider multiple scenarios to evaluate alternative strategies. No small business owner should be wedded to just one strategy. Instead, take multiple approaches into consideration. Factors to consider include cost to pursue a new market, risk, and aligning any strategy…

Blogging for Business Part II – How to Promote Your Business Blog

When building your brand online, it’s all about great content that engages potential and existing customers to keep your brand top of mind. Blogging has become very common, and there’s so much noise online. People are being bombarded with content and images on all their devices making it more challenging than ever to drive traffic to your website. Today I’m releasing Part II of my Blogging for Business series. Today we’ll address how to promote a blog. In Part I, we focused on how to create content strategy. If you want to drive visitors to your blog, as well as get them to come back again and again for more great content, you need a plan.  Below are a few strategies that will help you tell the world you are ready to help. Have a Content Promotion Plan If you simply publish a blog post and then wait around for people to find it online, you’ll not be happy with the results.  Whatever your style of content, it’s only going to be successful if it’s promoted. Use social media to get your brand out there and get people talking about it. Extend your reach by mentioning and linking to others who are influential in your field, and ask them to do the same for you. You can schedule shares of every new post on your blog through sharing tools like SproutSocial, to share your newest posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube and Twitter. Vary the wording with the blog link and changing the artwork to pique interest will maximize the number of people who click to read the post too. Join the conversation on other industry blogs and social media posts to increase your audience. Mention relevant information in previous articles and link to them when creating new pieces. Send email newsletters to highlight informative pieces you know your customers will be interested in. Take a little time to get your content promotion strategy together, build your brand with strong content and be ready to follow through with top quality service. Have a Unique Point of View There are so many blogs…

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

I’ve been in business nearly 20 years and in that time many people have called me asking for advice about what they need to know to start a business. After being about asked how to transition from employee to entrepreneur over a hundred times, I was inspired to write my bestselling book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.  Over the years, surprisingly my answers have stayed fairly consistent.  Here are the 7 Questions to ask yourself before starting a business. Why do you really want to start this business? Often people decide they want to go into business, because they have a terrible boss or they are really tired of corporate politics. That is not a good enough reason, just get another job. It’s hard to start a business, you will take on 10-12 jobs all at once including CEO, Secretary, Payroll Clerk, Chief Salesperson and social media manager to name a few.  You need to make sure that you have completely considered what it takes to put of a sign that says you are open for business. How are you going to finance your dream? Here’s the deal: The money to start your business is going to come from your right or left pocket. Banks do not loan money to start-ups. At best you may be able to qualify for microloan of $10K-$35K from a CDFI Community Development Financial Institutions or Women’s Business Center as a start-up, but that’s only if your credit is decent (650 or higher) and you have a well-researched business plan.  We could also participate in pitch competitions around the country, but it’s expensive to travel and register for events to pitch. What skills do you have and need to run your business? It takes a lot of different skills to run a business including sales, marketing, HR, IT, social media, managerial accounting, project management, vendor management, etc. Are there any skills you know that you don’t have? You may be able to get your current employer to pay for some training before you leave your current company, so maybe you need to invest…

How to Avoid a Brand Disaster

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Deb Gabor, who is the CEO of Sol Marketing, brand expert, and investor pitch whisperer.  She is the author of Branding Is Sex and assist clients in increasing revenue at her 8 Hour Brand workshops.  For more information:  www.SolMarketing.com. SmallBizLady: DEB, NAME A BRAND THAT HAS RECENTLY COME UNDER FIRE? Deb Gabor: Sure, there are several that have come under fire.  Here are a few: Starbucks Facebook Nike Wells Fargo United Airlines SmallBizLady: WHAT DO MOST BRAND DISASTERS HAVE IN COMMON? Deb Gabor: That’s a good question.  I find that most are failing to align the company’s actions with their brand values, beliefs and mission. SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU PREVENT A BRAND DISASTER? Deb Gabor: Ensure your brand is a magnet that attracts to its customers, employees, and vendors who share beliefs and values similar to the organization and people behind the brand. SmallBizLady: AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE TO AVOID DISASTERS? Deb Gabor: Here are two steps as a small business owner you should take to avoid disasters: Be clear on what your beliefs and values are as an organization. Make sure those beliefs and values inform everything you do and say as an organization throughout the entire course of doing business. SmallBizLady: WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE AFTER A DISASTER HAPPENS? Deb Gabor: Accept responsibility. Apologize. Show concern for health and welfare of the people.  Illustrate detailed explanation of what the company is going to do to prevent a similar situation.  And, create a deadline for reporting back to customers. SmallBizLady: HOW SOON SHOULD YOU RELEASE A PUBLIC APOLOGY AFTER A CRISIS? Deb Gabor: As soon as humanly possible.  Hopefully, under 24 hours from the incident. The sooner the better. If you don’t control the narrative, the media will. SmallBizLady:  WHO OWNS YOUR COMMUNICATIONS IN A CRISIS? Deb Gabor:  The business owner and leadership team are responsible for…

How to Avoid Confrontation and Manage Conflict

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dr. Susan Harrison, who is an award-winning thought leader, change agent, speaker, trainer, and author. She speaks and writes about stress management, leadership, personality styles and assertiveness. For more info: www.DrSusanHarrison.com. SmallBizlady:  WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO AVOID CONFRONTATION IN THE WORKPLACE? Dr. Susan Harrison:  The easy answers are:  don’t work, live on an island, and if that is not an option, the best way is to prevent the need for it. Put time into developing good relationships.  Also, it is harder to be annoyed with someone you like. SMALLBIZLADY:  ANY TIPS ON BUILDING GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIPS? Dr. Susan Harrison:  Yes, here are some tips: Become a really great listener. Ask people about themselves and then remember what they said. Example, I have animals and when people ask about them, I love it. Be a team player and help others. Also, ask for help on occasion. Helping someone bonds you to that person so when you ask for help when you need it, you are forming stronger relationships SMALLBIZLADY:  WHAT IF YOU CAN’T FORM A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE? Dr. Susan Harrison:  Then, you accept reality.  Despite another’s bad attitude, keep positive and cordial.  Sounds harsh I know, but true. SMALLBIZLADY:  SUSAN, DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER TIP ON PREVENTING CONFRONTATION? Dr. Susan Harrison:   If we deal with people according to who they are we will have less confrontation.  People have different personalities and quirks.  Oftentimes, we don’t get along with others because we communicate the way we like to communicate instead of the way others respond best. For instance, some people like to have small talk before business discussions and others want you to get to the point quickly.  Or, some people don’t want much communication before they have had their coffee. If we pay attention to others, we will get along better and have less confrontation. SMALLBIZLADY:  WE KNOW ISSUES CAN’T BE PREVENTED…

How to Develop Content if You Hate Writing

Creating original content is the best way to demonstrate your expertise and build your brand online, but you need to find a content area that works for you.  We tend to think of content in terms of blogs or written words. Writing how-to articles, check lists and informative blog posts are certainly an avenue to pursue, but it’s really hard work to do it consistently, so you need to make sure you love it. I wanted to be a writer since 8th grade, so writing is truly my thing. But if you detest writing there are other things you can do to build your business’s social footprint. Content marketing has exploded, with 89% of B2B marketers currently using content marketing. The recent shift to being a mobile first world has created audiences that are consuming content in new and savvy ways. People want to learn from you and become your customer. Here are a few suggestions for developing content if you hate writing. Alternative ideas for Content Marketing While written articles aren’t going anywhere, people are looking for more engaging content. Options for content beyond traditional blog posts include video, Images, infographics and podcasts. Yes, images are amazing content. We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. If what you sell has visual appeal there are social platforms just for you. We’ve seen a flood of visual social media sites and tools in the last few years. Each has its own benefits, and can help you connect in meaningful ways with your audience. Here are ways to leverage other kinds of content Facebook LIVE Facebook LIVE is one of the best ways to leverage live video marketing. It gives you a way to create an authentic connection with your target audience and build a following. It provides live streaming through its mobile app of you doing anything: talking to fans, building your product, conducting interviews. I recently wrote an article about the 17 ways you can leverage a Facebook Live video event Instagram Instagram’s got over 800 million users, with 500 million daily users, so they’re…

How to Drive Profitability, Productivity, and Accountability in your Small Business

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Neen James, who is the author of nine books including Folding Time and her most recent, Attention Pays.  In 2017 she was named of the top 30 Leadership speakers by Global Guru.  For more info: www.NeenJames.com. SmallBizlady:  EVERYONE THESE DAYS IS DISTRACTED, WHY IS ATTENTION IMPORTANT TO BUSINESS OWNERS? Neen James:  That’s a good question.  People need to understand that attention is all about connection. Oftentimes it’s forgotten that we need to connect with our customers in unique ways to not only get, but to keep their attention.  Here’s one thing I know for sure, distraction decays, attention pays. The costs of distraction are personal and professional.  Unfortunately, personally – 9 people die every day because of distracted driving and professionally, $588B is lost every year in business because of not paying attention. SmallBizlady:   WHAT BENEFITS WILL BUSINESS OWNERS GET BY PAYING ATTENTION? Neen James:  There are several benefits: Attracting and retaining top talent, Increased profits, Increased add-on sales Top of mind for customers, Increased accountability of team members, Higher brand recognition Increased customer experience, and Higher customer satisfaction scores. SmallBizlady:  WE ALL THINK WE ARE PAYING ATTENTION, BUT YOU SAY MAYBE WE ARE NOT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? Neen James:  Think back, we have been told since childhood to pay attention.  Teachers told us to pay attention.  Parents told us to pay attention.  We even tell our kids to pay attention.  Yes, it’s quite annoying. However, we think we are paying attention.  Often, we are multi-tasking, distracted in conversations, not listening intently and frustrating those we are with.  When you are truly paying attention, it means listening with your eyes.  I learned this lesson from a 5-year-old.wo reasons. SmallBizlady:  WHAT STRATEGIES CAN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS USE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR CLIENTS? Neen James:  Oftentimes, many small business owners fail to look for opportunities to turn it from transactional to intentional.  Ideally,…

7 Ways to Improve Your Work Environment in Your Small Business

Do you have a formal workplace? Do people laugh in your workplace? Do you see lots of collaboration in your office?  If you are not sure how to answer these questions, chances are you might not have a work environment that is optimized for people to do their best work.  Work can be stressful, and in order for you to allow your employees to flourish, you need to build an environment that fosters collaboration and openness. Here are my 7 best ways to improve your work environment in your small business. Stay Approachable Stay visible to your team. Always have an open door policy. Certainly you don’t want to undermine your managers and make people feel like they can work around the rules, but you do want to weigh in on staff meeting, big decisions and ask for feedback publicly. Too often business owners disappear into their offices, and do not seem approachable once the first layer of management is hired. It’s also important to share the vision, mission, sales goals with the entire team so that everyone knows what you’re working toward and how valuable their role is in it. Encourage Everyone to Take Breaks No one’s whole life should take place in front of their laptop. Everyone in your business should take a break every hour or so, including you as the business owner. People need to step away for lunch, a water break, a phone call, or even a walk. The clearing of one’s head is important. It allows employees to recharge so that they can stay fresh and on top of all the tasks in front of them. Keep it Social When you have a small team, you want to do things to help everyone get to know each other. The goal is to help everyone build trust and find common ground, especially if you have a multigenerational team. Once a month, organize something social for the team such as a book club, monthly birthday celebration, a happy hour, a bowling night or a potluck feast. If you have a virtual team, look for an opportunity…

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