Archive for the ‘marketing’ category

2 Concepts for Improving Your Brand

July 19th, 2014

Improving, or repositioning, a brand has a direct impact on the financial performance of a business. Companies that are successful in building their brands enjoy higher customer loyalty and are more likely to attract new customers. An improved brand has a positive impact on profit margins and allows a company to raise its price without becoming less profitable due to a reduction in business. A stronger brand leads to increased market share, revenues and profitability.

Understanding the two concepts of actual value and perceived value, and applying them to your product or service’s brand can help you increase margins for your business and make more money.

Soda sells for 75 cents at the grocery store or $8 at an amusement park. Steaks are priced from $18 at a casual restaurant to around $40 at a fine dining establishment. A cup of coffee can range from one dollar to well over $5. The vast difference in these prices is a result of brand positioning and the value that the brand represents in the marketplace.

If you want to increase prices in your business and make more of a margin on each sale, analyze your brand to see how you can reposition and improve it to be more valuable in the minds of your current and potential customers. Do this by boosting actual value or perceived value.

1. Actual Value

Increasing actual value likely will cost your business more money but will enable you to charge more too if your customers care about the improvements. For example, in the auto business, a sunroof, leather seats and chrome wheels are considered upgrades. It costs manufacturers more to install these, but since car buyers think these features make a car more comfortable, sporty, luxurious, durable or attractive, these add-ons increase the value of the car, and customers will pay more for it.

In your business you are adding actual value when you are paying more on a continuous basis for the cost of materials or labor to improve the customer’s view and desire for your product or service. In the case of the cars, the sunroof, leather and chrome wheels must be added or available every time in order to offer the increased value and capture the added profits that result. Using premium or preferred materials or skill sets rather than just good or good enough materials and labor will allow you to have higher price points if your add-ons are desirable to your customers.

2. Perceived Value

Increases in perceived value are generally more profitable than increases in actual value because you do not necessarily have to spend more money, or any money at all, to achieve increases in perceived value, but you can still charge more for the added value.

Consumers will pay higher prices for attractively packaged products. Making a product package more attractive may not cost more. It can be as simple as using a brighter or darker brand color, a more commanding or refined font or a different shape of bottle. These changes can make a product appear richer or of higher quality, yet the inside product may be the same as a lower priced competitor. It’s all about the perception.

Associations, affiliations and trust also boost perceived value. For example, two identical products may sell for vastly different prices if one is associated with higher professionalism, expertise, style, or just plain fun. For example, if a product is worn, used or favored by celebrities, then it suddenly achieves higher perceived value.

Professional certifications work the same way. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) may be able to charge a more for bookkeeping and services than an accountant with a degree but no certification. If the CPA is better at the work, it isn’t necessarily due to the certification, but the perception is there for the CPA to leverage.

Protect, build and analyze your brand to figure out ways to boost value for your customers. Whether it is actual or perceived the added buzz and sales can help you reach your annual profit goals faster.

6 Myths About Starting a Business

July 17th, 2013

Lots of people decide to take the entrepreneurial path and start their own business. The idea of being your own boss, making it big, and having a company that you can point to as your life’s work is very appealing. But the realities of starting up a small business are sometimes overshadowed by myths which make it difficult to deal with the real challenges that arise in those first few years, resulting in unreasonable expectations, frustrated entrepreneurs and potentially a failed business.

Here are some small business startup myths that might keep you from realizing your vision:

1. You should spend a lot of time preparing a detailed business plan
A client of mine in Gardena believed, as many business owners believe, that they should spend a lot of time preparing a detailed business plan, and that the business plan needs to include lots of what-ifs and elaborate financial projections. A grain of truth obscures a much larger point here. Yes, it’s smart to have an overall strategy in mind before diving into a business of any kind.  However, it’s very possible that by the time you finish your do-all-end-all business plan, the market will have changed so much that it will be about time to start on a new one. Business plans are especially important in the initial phases, as it is essential your businesses road map includes your goals. It is also important that you refer back to your plan every few months, check these goals, and add or change them accordingly.

The problem is that detailed plans work best when you are pursuing a fixed goal, such as losing weight or sticking to a budget. In these cases, a planned sequence of steps will best accomplish the goal. In business however, the goal is meeting consumer demand, which is often a moving target. Look at all the businesses (like Google) that are now doing something radically different from their original plan. So create your business plan, and then get busy developing a product and trying to sell it. Then resolve to be open-minded and react to opportunities as you see them emerge.

2. You have to develop the coolest, most innovative product
Many entrepreneurs think they have to develop the coolest, most innovative product. Entrepreneurs are often creative-types, dreamers and inventors, and they get so caught up in the coolness of their product that they forget that they need see if anyone will actually pay money for it.

What you do need to do is get your product to market as soon as possible, to start generating revenue and gain customer feedback. All companies, large or small, need to be more customer-oriented than engineer-oriented. You have to take into account customer demand, and develop products based on that feedback. Too many entrepreneurs so endlessly improve their products before starting to sell them that by the time they finally do, they’ve run out of capital and have to shut down.

Get a workable product out the door and fix the bugs as you go along. That way you also get valuable feedback about its strengths and weaknesses, for the market doesn’t necessarily agree with you about what’s perfect.

3. You’ll have more time to do what you want
Yes, you do own your time. By, ironically, you will find yourself using more and more of this time to run your business. Whether this hoped-for scenario actually pans out, is largely a function the business you are in and how much time you devote to it up front. Early on, you will almost definitely not have more time on your hands.

As a client of mine in Manhattan Beach found, there are many benefits (personal and financial) to having your own business, but plenty of free time is not one of them. You will probably have a little more flexibility, as many small business owners choose to work late at night so that they can spend time during the day with their families; but there are still some major sacrifices, such as sleep. Starting up a small business requires that you work until the work is done, without exception. Those fantasies of taking long vacations while your business grows itself are just that, fantasies.

None of this is to say that you will not ultimately have more freedom as a result of running your business. However, to expect a lot of it in the early days would be an exercise in self-delusion. So prepare yourself for immense demands on your time.

4. You’ll be able to write everything off
Absolutely not, unless of course, you have a desire to get audited. I can’t tell you how many clients have come to me over the years for help getting their books in order only to have to be told that even with a complete set of transactions and reconciliations, their books won’t be clean until we remove all the personal expenses they’ve burdened their profit picture with. Personal expenses should not be expensed to your company, and the business expenses you do incur should be clearly connected to the business you’re running. While it’s true that business owners can write off more than employees can, there is great risk in taking this too far.

Typical real expenses can include your computer and business operating and account management software, rent, employee salaries, money paid to independent contractors, advertising costs, and your business phone bills. You probably will not get away with deducting 100% of your car payments, nor gas and repairs. You can write off the portion of auto expenses that you can document as being essential to your operations. The key word here is “document”. Keeping good records is critical. Basically, if you cannot document it and cite a clear connection between the write-off and the operation of your business, your attempt at a write-off could trigger audits, fines or worse.

5. If you build it, they will come
Despite the Field of Dreams reference, setting up shop and getting your startup ready for business, doesn’t mean that the world will beat a path to your door. A former client in Torrance found out the hard way that today’s consumers have an endless array of choices, meaning simply “building it” will not cause customers to walk through your doors and snap up your products. No matter what type of small business you choose to start, it will rarely, if ever, be sufficient to open up shop and idly wait for business to start pouring in.

You still need to market and advertise your business strategically. That means having a plan and a budget.  It also means researching the most effective methods for marketing and advertising. There is no shortage of ways to waste money in advertising, as a client in Lawndale discovered, and it can end up being a huge financial drain on a fledgling company. No matter how good you are, there is lots of competition and your small business has to establish a presence and reputation to go along with your talent.

Consider your number one priority after opening your doors to be spreading the word about your product to your target market as much as possible.

6. Starting a Small Business is Rewarding
One other common myth about starting a small business is that it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But unlike the myths presented above, this one has great potential to become true.

The independence and the satisfaction of turning a business idea into a successful enterprise are probably what most small business owners find the most rewarding. And there are all kinds of other satisfactions, including creating a successful new product or service as a result of solving unforeseen problems, or from customer feedback. So don’t let the myths of starting a small business put you off; the reality is so much better.

Small business is one of the most exciting arenas for earning a living.  There is plenty of creative potential, and a chance to really make something tangible for yourself and your family. But doing so requires more than just the vision and determination of a bold risk-taker. You need to be intelligent about how your business is framed in the marketplace, and what obstacles there are to overcome. You also need to be aware of the tools and support that you have at your disposal. Staying focused on these realities, and avoiding the myths that many fall prey to will only increase the chances of success and longevity in your small business.


10 Ways to Grow Your Business

February 12th, 2013

Is your business already as big and profitable as you want? Then read no further. For those who realize that growing your business is a never-ending necessity for its survival, as well as for your own economic well-being, this list is intended to help you focus on that task. What can you do to get your business beyond the sustenance level? All of the ways of growing a business outlined below have been successfully used by others and, with some planning and investment, they’ll work for you too.

1. Sell more to your existing market The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of growing your business is getting new customers. But the customers you already have are your best bet for increasing your sales; it’s easier and more cost-effective to get people who are already buying from you to buy more than it is to find new customers and persuade them to buy from you.

2. Know how to ask for referrals Getting new customers is the obvious approach to growing your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. But notice the verb. Doing a great job and just assuming that your customers are passing the word about your business isn’t going to do much to increase your customer base; you have to actively seek referrals. During, or after, every job or sale, ask your satisfied customer who they know who has a use for your products or services. Notice I didn’t say, “who they know who would be interesting in buying your products or services”. Don’t make your customer have to decide who wants to do business with you, just who could use what you’re selling.

3. Reduce your costs Keep in mind that the point to growing your business, is to grow your bottom line. And the difference between pre-tax and post-tax money can make this a very effective growth strategy. There are two main approaches to cost cutting; liquidating your “loser” products, and improving your inventory turnover.

4. Innovate your product or service Discovering and promoting new uses for your products or services is a great way to both get existing customers to buy more and attract new customers. Think duct tape, and how little would actually be sold if people thought it was only for ducts.

5. Extend your market reach There are several ways of growing your business by making your product or service available to a new pool of customers. The most obvious is to open stores in new locations, such as opening a store or kiosk in a new town. A new location can also be a website with an online store. Another approach is to extend your reach through advertising. Once you’ve identified a new market, you might advertise in select media that targets that market.

6. Capture a niche market Remember the analogy of the big fish in the small pond? That’s essentially how this strategy for growing your business works. The niche market is the pond; a narrowly defined group of customers. Think of them as a subset whose needs are not being met and concentrate on meeting those unmet needs. A nursery, for instance, might specialize in roses.

7. Diversify your products or services The key to successfully growing your business through diversification is similarity. You want to focus on the related needs of your already established market or on market segments with similar needs and characteristics. An artist might also sell frames and framing services, for instance. Or a mountain bike rental business might switch to renting skidoos in the winter season.

8. Participate in trade shows Trade shows can be a great way of growing your business. Because trade shows draw people who are already interested in the type of product or service you offer, they can powerfully improve your bottom line. The trick is to select the trade shows you participate in carefully, seeking the right match for your product or service.

9. Franchising The stories of entrepreneurs who have become both well-known and well-heeled due to franchising their small businesses are countless. If you have a successful business and can develop a system that ensures that others can duplicate your success, franchising may be the fast track for growing your business.

10. Exporting Expanding into international markets can also be a powerful boost to your business’s bottom line. Like franchising, this is a way of growing your business that requires quite a commitment of time and resources, but can be extremely rewarding.

Don’t let this list overwhelm you; pick one or two of these ideas that are suitable to your business and your circumstances and get your plan for growing your business underway. While you probably won’t experience growth right away, whichever way of growing your business you choose, you will see progress if you keep at it, and will successfully transform your business into all you want it to be.

Networking for More New Business

May 11th, 2012

Definition: Business networking = The process of meeting other people and exchanging resources for mutual gain.

I’m not talking about social media networking; I’m talking about face-to-face networking for business contacts that will help you grow your business. The kind of networking that builds concrete relationships, trust, and inevitably, results.

In the past several years networking as a marketing strategy and business development tool has really come into its own. Many good networking events are available to attend throughout the month. And great Internet sites like can help you easily locate the ones in your area that will best serve your needs.

Small businesses can leverage effective networking practices to win important customers, vendors, investors and partners. Networking forms the basis of many business relationships, and the ability to network well is one factor that may not only differentiate a business, but also ensure its survival.

It is easier than ever to network, especially if you keep the following best practices in mind:

1. Present yourself well. Business networking is often about first impressions, and first impressions are often about presentation. At face-to-face events, dress well, polish how you speak, make eye contact and generally present yourself to impress others with your professionalism and charisma.

2. Don’t overwhelm, but rather, interact. If you approach business networking solely as an opportunity to talk about yourself and your business, you’ll bore people. Make networking more enjoyable by limiting how much (and how repetitively) you talk and by seeking out chances to listen to and interact with the business networking group. Networking is not prospecting, so don’t treat people as prospects. Your goal is to develop at least some degree of relationship with each person you meet.

3. Network with Networkers. Business networking enables you to meet people whom you don’t already know. Many of the people you’ll meet won’t have the inclination to share their networks with you. Don’t try to overcome this attitude. Simply move on because you’re looking for networkers.

4. Any group might just be a business networking group. People define themselves as members of groups such as one’s profession, religion, gender, language, favorite sports team, and others. List the affiliations that matter to you, and then consider them as networking possibilities. Subsequently, you can network through such events as church picnics, support groups, tailgate parties, environmental causes and gender-specific professional organizations.

5. Be selective and diligent. Thousands of official networking events take place every day, and the Internet offers access to millions more; unfortunately, the availability of all of these opportunities leads some business people to take a shotgun approach to networking, which results in the failure to pay sufficient attention to any one opportunity. Identify and act on the highest-value opportunities rather than chasing every possible audience. Narrowing down opportunities will allow you to focus more.

6. Always network. Without turning yourself into someone who is prepared to collar all passersby with your spiel, treat social events; a party, a ball game, a play or any event, as an opportunity to meet new acquaintances who can later become part of a more formal network. Don’t waste time with overly skeptical people. Preach only to the choir. If someone doesn’t get it, don’t try to make them get it. Just talk to somebody else.

7. Help others. While your ultimate goal may be to find clients, customers, investors or to otherwise improve your own business chances and conditions, you are also in a position to help others. Offer whatever resources you can; advice, contacts, support, partnership or investment, in order to increase your value to your business network. This kind of enlightened altruism will eventually rebound to your advantage.

9. Be yourself / Be cool. The best way to network is to be unconscious of the fact that you are networking. Don’t let your mind dwell on the purpose or mechanics of networking. When you spend time with your friends, do you constantly have the purpose of maintaining your friendship in mind? No, you lose yourself in the moment. That’s the kind of approach you should bring to business networking.

Good networking requires you to balance a methodical approach with the ability not to take yourself too seriously. One way to achieve this balance is to keep your methodical self behind the scenes. Plan the events you’ll attend, define your purpose and immerse yourself in your own mini-infomercial. But once you start interacting, maintain a casual and friendly demeanor. You’ll be pleasant to be around and pleasant to listen to, which will differentiate you from the crowd and increase your chances of success. And in business networking, success is defined by becoming known by more and more people. The increase in business you desire will be a natural result. Remember that a key point to networking is that it’s not who you know that counts, it’s who knows you. So get out and network and become known by more and more people.


Cool Product: Constant Contact

May 3rd, 2012

email marketing made easy

I’ve been using Constant Contact to give my emails a professional look for almost a year and a half. I’ve now put out 17 issues of my newsletter, The Small Biz Bulletin (get it free – see the Join Our Email List link to the right —–>), and have noticed that dozens of businesses on my emailing list have adopted this product for their use too. So, it’s high time I did a Cool Product Review on it.

Constant Contact email combines your email campaigns and your social networking efforts into one easy-to-use service. It’s intuitive and easy to use for all skill levels. It breaks down the set-up process into three easy steps: “Create the look, select your audience, then schedule and send.”

Email Campaign Creation

You start by picking one of over 400 templates as the basis of your email, or create your own. The templates come in a variety of layouts, colors and patterns, are easy to customize as well as to insert text, images, documents, blog content, links, surveys, polls, videos and more. There’s a social-share toolbar and buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others to send readers directly to your various social media properties.

Campaign Reporting

You’ll get comprehensive reports on your campaigns, including bounces, spam complaints, opt-outs, click-throughs, forwards and more. And Social Stats reporting tools tell you the number of Facebook shares and likes, tweets from Twitter and more, that your messages receive. You can also see the number of total social shares and page views your email campaign has generated.

Contact Management

You can add customers to your list by typing them in, importing a spreadsheet list or your address book from Gmail or Outlook. Contact fields are customizable so your contact database can hold all the info you need to keep on each contact.

Help & Support

Support includes a searchable knowledge base, tutorials, FAQs, a user manual, a blog, user forums, recorded demos and webinars. And the phone support is the best I’ve ever had for any product I’ve ever needed help on. They will even edit your email directly to fix a problem.

Try Constant Contact for Free!

You can try Constant Contact for free for 60 days to see if it fits your needs. If you do want to try it, click on the link below (or the logo at the top) and you will also receive a $30 credit when the free trial is over. Full disclosure: Yes, they will be kicking me back a $30 credit too, but if a couple hundred of you stick with it, well it could be sweet! Thanks!

Click here to get your 60 day free trial and your $30 credit if you continue beyond the trial period.