May Business Tip

10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand

presented by Suzanne Gottlieb Calleja, Palmer Trinity School

Written By Caron_Beesley, Contributor

The United States loves small businesses – it’s official! That’s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation (reported here on SmallBizTrends (link is external)) which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.

Why is this? Well, small businesses are seen as a positive influence “on the way things are going in this country.” But it’s more than that.

Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition – and are the lynchpin of your brand.

But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand – without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:

  1. What is Your Brand?

First, it’s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. As I mentioned above, it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.

  1. Stand Out

Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Read 5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand (link is external). Don’t forget to weave your differentiators into your company’s messaging and marketing. Here are some tips for doing that: 7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right.

  1. Have Great Products and Services

Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business.  Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don’t lose sight of your product – keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.

  1. Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product

One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Tabatha Takes Over to witness what can go wrong if a business is left to run itself. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it’s important to strike a balance – find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.

  1. Get Your Name and Logo Right

This is essential to brand recognition and it’s important to get it right the first time (changing your name and logo can be costly down the road). Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market. I’m a dog owner, and two of my absolute favorite small businesses cater to pet owners – Woofies (link is external) (my local provider of dog walking services) and Doggone Natural (link is external) (a healthy pet food store). The names and logos of both these businesses reflect the personality of their brands, what they stand for, the products they offer, their market (people and their pets) and the overall tone of their businesses. When I see their logos, it makes me feel good; I feel an affinity with them – and that’s what you need to shoot for.

  1. Have a Distinct Voice

A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers – in-person, on the phone and on social media. Not sure what your “voice” should be? Look to other brands. What do they do that you’d like to emulate? How do they greet and interact with you? What is it that they do that makes you feel good about doing business with them?

  1. Build Community Around What you Do

A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers – building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, many successful brands concentrate almost exclusively in online and offline community building as opposed to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you’ve earned to your brand.

  1. Be an Advocate for Your Business – Not Just a Salesman

You don't have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. Selling takes many forms – and being a brand advocate gels them all together. For example, many small business owners strive to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, and the number one fan of their own business (you’ve got to be excited about it if you want others to be excited too). If you are passionate about your business, be an advocate for it. Use many of the tips in this blog to make sure people understand what you do, the story behind your products, what your products have done for people, your methods and mission, and all that good stuff. Invite people in!

  1. Be Reliable

Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service – a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren’t making promises that you can’t keep – whether you run a pizza business and pledge to deliver within 30 minutes, or are a painting contractor who promises to start a job on a Monday at 9:00 AM sharp. Stand by your promises.  

  1. Have a Value Proposition

Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. This goes back to my second point about standing out. What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? What are the emotional benefits of what you do? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers – it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.

April Business Tip

Family Affect on Business

presented by Ralph Geronimo - World Brokers

The family is the lynch pin of our society. Peace and harmony there can mean good things happening elsewhere.

Skipper Chuck, Capt Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers were wholesome children’s shows sent into our homes electronically. Today, we fight to keep negativity, pornography and violence from coming into our homes.

What’s this all to do with business?

I have found during 50 years of marriage that when there was not peace & harmony in our home, it was difficult for me to concentrate on being productive in the market place.

In essence, today my message to us, moms, dads, grandparents, is to defend your homes from this electronically delivered negativity and violence which affects adults and children alike. Peace at home can allow you to experience the sweet fruit of success in your work endeavors.

I leave you with this axiom of business success:

  • Come out of your comfort zone
  • Do what others are not willing to do
  • Play in the workplace arena where your passion leads you

This will allow you to be successful and become the best version of yourself. 

November Business Tip

Why Should Someone do Business with You?

Presented by Pamela Mayers, EWM Real Estate

Someone in my office had an aunt looking for a 3 million dollar house.  If she sold them the house, my associate could then afford to have the surgery that would let her have a baby. The aunt went with a different realtor.  I thought that was harsh but my manager questioned why the aunt should do business with her niece.  What had the niece done to make herself the Expert in the area her aunt wanted to buy?  What do we do to make ourselves the best in the business.  Your at the meeting networking so that’s a start!  How do you make your self the expert-Read, network, spend the extra hours working, learn more about your business than your competition. 

Next you need to let people know you are the best choice.  What are doing in regards to marketing.  I love to get referrals but you still have to advertise-just ask Grant Miller. My uncle Jack use to tell me people like to do business with winners.  Convey to prospects and your customers your successes without sounding like you are bragging.  Marketing is in social media AND what you say to every person you meet about your business. 

Next you will be the expert if you give 150%.  Yes, we all like to make money but it you must prove to your customers it is about them!  University of Miami’s slogan “ its all about the U is a great one.”  It is all about our customers knowing what we do for them-------making them feel lucky they have bought from your business. 

Do these simple things and you will be the expert and very deserving of your customers business.    

September Business Tip

Batch your time to become ultra-productive

Presented by Marcell Hetenyi, CPA, CTRS, MACC (Forensic) - Scheckner & Hetenyi PL

Managing your time for maximum results can be a challenge for most, especially for successful business owners. Juggling all of the duties of being a business owner, a spouse, a parent and a friend is usually a struggle and many times results in not accomplishing what you set out to do which leaves you feeling stressed and frustrated at the end of the day. The following 10 tips can help you manage your schedule better, creating more time for yourself and become ultra-productive.

  1. Set up scheduling systems to support you and allow your business to run efficiently.
  2. Focus on revenue-generating activities first and support activities second.
  3. Delegate the tasks you don’t have time to do to an assistant or other team members or perhaps even outsource them altogether.
  4. 4. Batch your time by scheduling your day in different time blocks. During that time focus on nothing else but the designated task at hand. Do not get distracted by emails and phone calls, but instead schedule a time block for addressing those as well.
  5. Use tools to help you with scheduling or documenting dates or information. This could be the calendar in Outlook or something as simple as an old-fashioned weekly planner.
  6. Include Family events in your scheduler or calendar integrated with your business activities to ensure that you do not miss important family events.
  7. Designate time for workout and relaxation.
  8. Pre-plan your meals to ensure you do not end up eating fast food and other unhealthy meals regularly.
  9. Get plenty of sleep.
  10. Schedule down time to take a break from everyday life and go on vacation, spend time with the family, or just have a few days with nothing scheduled and nothing planned. It is important to take time to enjoy your life…you deserve it!

June Business Tip

How To Answer Your Phone

Presented by Zac Hall, Minuteman Press

Your marketing efforts paid off. Your phone rang. Now make your register ring.

  • With a smile on your face, identify your company and yourself.
  • Get the name of the caller, their company, and their phone #
    • Write it in a notebook, not on a scrap of paper.
  • Listen carefully to what they’re asking.
  • Instill confidence with your response.
  • Make the process easy & don’t overwhelm them with too many detailed questions.
  • Talk about similar jobs you have done for others.
  • Mention your location and business hours.
  • Attempt to set an appointment with them at your location or theirs.
  • Politely find out where they heard about you.

Now, don’t be late for the appointment you just set .

May Business Tip

Learn and Meet Every Day

Presented by Hal Feldman, RE/MAX Advance Realty

When you have a spare moment, find something new to learn, whether business-related or not. And also find a way to meet one new person a day.

Better yet, combine the two! Simply stop a customer or a stranger at lunch and say "I'm [your name] and I [insert your line of work]. You look great today, can I ask you who you are and what you do?"

You'll be surprised how much richer you'll be at the end of the day.

 

February Business Tip from the PBBA

Presented by Joie Walker, Trinity Air Conditioning

Great Managers Do 3 Things Every Day

Most new managers find that they rarely end a day having done what they planned to do. They spend most of their time solving unexpected problems and making sure work gets done.

But there are three essential things that managers should be doing every day: building trust, building a team, and building a network. These are not discrete tasks for our to-do lists; you can accomplish them through the ways you assign, review, and guide your team's work.

Build trust by asking questions, offering suggestions, and expressing concern for your employees. Build a team by using problems and crises to remind people of the team's purpose and values. Explain your decisions in terms of what's important for the team. And build a network by using routine activities to involve other leaders and to maintain relationships with people outside your group - and encouraging your team to do the same.