Make a Referral - Jump Start the Economy

As you all know, our economy needs all the help it can get right now. In my opinion and that of many thought leaders that I read, small business is the answer to solving the problem. Therefore I was very intrigued when I read about a program currently being promoted throughout the web, Make a Referral Week: A Small Business Stimulus Program sponsored by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

'Make a Referral Week' is an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small business economy one referred business at a time. The goal for the week is to generate 1000 referred leads to 1000 deserving small businesses in an effort to highlight the impact of a simple action that could blossom into millions of dollars in new business. Small business is the lifeblood and job-creating engine of the economy and merits the positive attention so often saved for corporate bailout stories.

During the week of March 9-13, we will do everything in our power to get everyone referring leads to small businesses. A whole bunch of small business experts will share ideas, tools, information and resources to get you started. Look at the educational events happening during the week here.

You may think that this effort won't have much impact, particularly if it doesn't benefit you specifically, but I would ask you to remember that every effort to benefit small business in general will benefit every individual small business in some way. Your referral might hit someone's business right when they are considering shutting their doors, or they may be behind on their mortgage and staying up nights worrying about paying the bills. This economy impacts personal health, families, relationships and communities. It's something that can be fixed, one small business at a time; or in this case – one referral at a time.

For my part, I'm pledging to make a referral to a business I want to help as part of the national campaign to make 1000 referrals March 9-13. What a great small business stimulus plan - won't you join this effort? http://www.makeareferralweek.com/pledge

Here are other ways to participate:

  • Sign up at the Make a Referral Pledge Page
  • Spend the week referring the heck out of trusted friends/partners/colleagues
  • Promote 'Make a Referral Week' in your blogs and your social networks

Do your part to stimulate the economy by telling your network about making referrals and 'Make a Referral Week' - you'll be in good company AND you'll be doing your part to help the economy.


What Social Media Marketers Can Learn from Email Marketing and In-person Networking

Are you still trying to figure out the “do’s” and “don’ts” of social media marketing? Be assured, you’re not alone. As the social networking community continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, marketers and small business owners are challenged with learning how to apply standard marketing principles to this new medium.

One of the challenges of social media is that it doesn’t respond well to “advertising”. Social media marketing needs to be more subtle. It’s about networking to build a reputation as an expert, and then having your expertise sought out. To give you a relevant example, many of you attend networking meetings for your Chamber of Commerce or various trade associations. When you attend those functions do you walk in wearing a sign that says “buy from me”? Or, do you take a more subtle approach by trying to meet new people, learn about what they do, offer a free bit of advice here and there, and build relationships that down the road will result in new business? If you’re like most people, you follow the second option and with that being the case, why would you not apply that same strategy to social networking? You would – and you should!

Additionally, since email marketers have already traversed a path similar to that now being explored by social media marketers, there are a great many lessons that can be learned by reviewing email marketing strategies and the results which were achieved. A recent article by Stephanie Miller, published in MediaPost online publications, explores the email media / social media comparison and provides some interesting lessons to help you improve the results from your social media marketing strategies. This article can be found on our website.


Grow Your Business by Building Your Credibility as an Expert

In today's world of 5-person or less small businesses, oftentimes building demand for your business requires building demand for your expertise as the owner and a subject-matter expert in your field. With the many resources available today, online and elsewhere, the opportunities to showcase your expertise and build your personal "brand", as well as that of your company, are almost limitless. On our website find an article that will provide you with tips to utilize some of these opportunities to your best advantage for growing your business. Learn how to maximize the opportunities presented by blogging, social media, public speaking, teaching, portfolio presentation, and publishing in your efforts to grow your business.


The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/.


IRS May Give Some a Break

Review a recent interview with IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, discussing his plan to authorize front-line staff to be easier on those currently in financial hardship. The article also discussions his plans for increased enforcement efforts on high net worth individuals, U.S. businesses with international operations, and large corporations.

But Shulman quickly added that they won’t get a “free ride,” just a break, and that such grace is directed toward people who have been tax-compliant in the past. “We want to help people who have always been upstanding,” he said. There’s not just an altruistic goal here. This is still the IRS. Shulman said his goal is to keep “compliant taxpayers in the system.”

Could this benefit small business? Time will tell, but I would venture to say that we’ll all be watching! Read the complete article via our website.

Get FREE Weekly Business Growth Tips

Can your business use a “shot in the arm”? Do you need some “outsider perspective”? If so, register on our website to receive our weekly Business Growth Tips via email.

These weekly quick-tips are designed to offer quick, easy-to-implement ideas that can have positive impact on the growth of your business. Sign up today!


How Small Biz Will Benefit from the Stimulus

Finally found an article that details how small business will benefit from the stimulus package. You can find it on our website. Would be interested in hearing opinions: do you agree, will it benefit small business? Did it go far enough? What else would you have added?


Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses

As we have become more and more technology-oriented in recent years, one of the trends I've noticed is that small business owners seem to assume that any task needing to be done to run their business requires a software package to facilitate it. Customer Relationship Management is no different. The multitude of CRM software packages available today, such as ACT, Outlook Contact Manager, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, FreeCRM, SalesBoom.com and many others, have encouraged this trend. Unfortunately, what frequently occurs is that the programs are so complicated, or so work-intensive, that the already over-worked small business owners eventually stop using them; and then assume that they can't proceed with a CRM program since they don't have time to manage it with the software program.

I would like to propose that small business owners go back to the basics as listed below:

  • A database of your customers, in Excel, that can be sorted and updated and includes a comments section.
  • Follow-up steps, including "Thanks for your time/business" letters or e-mails.
  • An inexpensive e-mail vendor such as ConstantContact, SwiftPages or any other similar online service that can cost as little as $15 per month to manage up to 500 contacts.
  • A solid communication schedule, with a customer feedback loop that captures and logs in the customer contact history.
  • Buy-in from every employee in your company to execute the strategy.

The list of basic tasks above comes from an article that recently ran in Forbes.com that discussed CRM from a similar standpoint (the complete article can be found at: http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/services/Business-Information-Articles_I33/Article-Managing-Customer-Relationships_A42.html ), the premise being that CRM programs don't need to be complicated to implement to be effective. Nor do they need to be costly or time-consuming. Make a plan, have a basic database to track your efforts, some simple tools, and you're on your way to increasing business from the most cost-effective and profitable customers you can have – the ones who already know you and have done business with you. Try it and see if it doesn't have positive impact on your business!


Use History as a Guide to Grow Your Business

One question that seems to be most prominent when talking to small businesses, or reading the social networks, today is 'what should I be doing to market my business effectively in the down economy?'. There are a multitude of answers to this question, but the one I like the best is to keep functioning in business-as-usual mode with an added dose of aggressiveness when it comes to advertising/promoting your business. In today's Web 2.0 environment, that doesn't necessarily translate into spending more money, but it does mean you have to get more creative and aggressive with your promotional strategies.

However, as I've had discussions with a variety of small business owners on this topic, I find that they are not convinced. They are less than confident that increased marketing in today's economic environment is the right choice. In my state of frustration at not being able to convince them of the soundness of this strategy, I elected to find evidence to back me up. In the course of that evidence search I came across the article below which was published in iMedia Connection. If this well-written article doesn't convince a small business owner of the viability of self-promotion in today's economy, then, I'm certain I don't know what will. Please read the summary below and follow the link to the complete article, then let me know if you agree with me.

Published in iMedia Connection: October 17, 2008
How brands thrived during the Great Depression
By Dave Chase

Companies can and do prosper during times of economic turmoil. Take a lesson from brands whose Depression-era advertising strategies were key to their survival.

To begin, not all was doom and gloom during the Great Depression. It was a time when those who knew what they were doing made great economic strides, and the very nature of the Depression was an economic boon for them. It was a time when several companies benefited from aggressive marketing while their rivals cut back. A good example of that would be Kellogg besting C.W. Post during that time. Consumers didn't stop spending during the Depression; most just looked for better deals, and the companies providing those better deals came out stronger after the Depression ended. When spending picked up, consumer loyalty to those companies remained.

Generally speaking, those companies that not only survived but also thrived during the Great Depression were those that continued to act as though there were nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend. In other words, they advertised. These are industries that didn't wait for public demand for their products to rise. They created that demand even during the most difficult of times.

The complete article can be found HERE.


No Time Marketing Truths: 10 Things to Remember That Will Improve Your Marketing Results

Adapted from "No Time Marketing: small business-sized steps in 30 minutes or less", By Alyssa Dver, www.NoTimeMarketing.com

1. Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. Plan, test, execute, and measure, but never be surprised by uncertainty and change.

In our eagerness to measure and declare return on investment for all marketing spends, we often forget that humans are unpredictable. As such, we can't always predict a market reaction or group think. Testing helps minimize the chances of this but historically it is like the weather. We can predict some things but often not with precise timing or impact. While we must embark on programs we feel have a high likelihood to generate results, don't be stuck doing what everyone else does. Can you be the Apple of your industry?

2. You usually need to bang on the same prospect door four or more times before someone answers. Make sure that you have the right address.

Be sure you have a target list and target profile that you are confident represents qualified leads BEFORE you spend money on any program. Just because you gave out 1000 pens at the tradeshow doesn't mean you have any real leads. Know who and why people will buy your products or service and not someone else's.

3. You are not your customer. Never assume you know them that well.

Just because you buy products or even buy your own product, never assume that you are a typical customer. Don't even assume there is such a thing as a "typical customer". There may be types of customers at best. Learn your customer demographics and psychographics. Once you "get" them, marketing "gets" much easier.

4. Restricted resources represent an opportunity to embrace creativity and revisit comfort.

Economic downturns force us to look within and find ways to improve productivity and reduce waste. It's hard to readjust the way we work but it's a great time update business processes and marketing assumptions. Use the opportunity to revitalize your perspective and take the lead away from dormant competitors.

5. Don't confuse prospect enthusiasm for purchase authority.

I love your product" doesn't mean "I will buy your product" in any language. People will say nice things out of courtesy, lack of confidence, politics and for many other reasons that don't require them to take out their wallet. Asking prospects directly who and how purchase decisions are made could save you enormous efforts. If you just want perpetual positive feedback, get a dog.

6. Motivate don't manipulate.

Find reasons why people want to work at your company or buy your products such that it improves THEIR lives, not their company's. People don't do things usually unless they get something of clear personal value in return. Figure out what that is and then use that as your currency. How will your product or service make them look better at work or home? Will it increase their revenues or reduce their expense? Nothing else matters. Just ask Maslow.

7. Quality precedes quantity.

More leads and more sales may sound great but only if you can support and follow up with them. Damage to your reputation and costly repairs will be the result when customers or prospects are left hanging. When identifying leads, save your sales team the pain of sifting through hoards of simply breathing prospects and provide them a list of really qualified leads. This saves everyone – your sales people, the prospects and your marketing team - a ton of time, money and aggravation.

8. The best teachers are students.

Your best weapons are your ears. By listening more so you can understand other people's needs and desires. A defensive posture is never welcoming and it is incredibly attractive to your prospects when you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Build your own bandwagon by inviting other opinions and input to gain buy-in and team membership. Exercise your intellect and creativity by asking questions, trying new technologies and reading a broad variety of information. An open mind closes more deals.

9. Confidence sells. BS smells.

Say to yourself: "What would Barack do?"

10. Spend only if you would be willing to pick up the tab.

It's easy to spend company money so next time you approve a marketing expense, think about it coming out of your own potential bonus or salary increase. While you do need to spend money to do marketing, make sure you are being responsible with assets that really are yours even though you don't balance that specific check book. Be responsible with your marketing spend as well as your impact on the earth and society. We all can make a difference.


About the Author

Formerly a CMO for a public company, Dver now consults for companies ranging from large multinationals to small startups. In 2007, BusinessWeek recognized Dver as one of 8 female entrepreneurs to watch. She authored the well-endorsed books, "No Time Marketing" and previously, "Software Product Management Essentials". A featured columnist for Software Magazine, she has also been published in Forbes, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, Promo Magazine, and dozens of others. Ms. Dver regularly presents at venues including The World Diversity Leadership Summit at the UN, The Women's Congress, The American Marketing and American Banking Associations, and Strategic Management Institute. A graduate of Wharton Business School, she is currently working towards her PhD at the University of East London.


The Stimulus Bill, the Economy, and the Effects on Small Business

Many of you have responded to my recent posting about the Obama Stimulus plan, and there have been a wide diversity of opinions on its potential effectiveness. However, one comment that was prevalent in a large percentage of the responses was a question with regard to the actual content in the latest version of the plan. Most of you are interested to find out whether or not the bill currently being debated in Congress resembles the plan that was originally presented. Therefore, I am providing you with a link to an article that appeared in a recent issue of the New York Times entitled, 'Small Business Critical of Stimulus'. http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/services/Business-Information-Articles_I33/Article-Small-Business-Critical-of-Stimulus_A31.html . This article gives a good overview of the content of the bill as it currently stands and its potential affect on small business.

Additionally, I am also providing a link to a report recently issued by the SBA entitled, 'Fourth Quarter 2008: The Economy and Small Business' http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/cm/dpl/downloads/content/13/Q4%202008%20-%20The%20Economy%20and%20Small%20Business%20Quarterly%20Indicators.pdf . This report summarizes the current economic trends and discusses their specific effect on small business, as well as providing a grid of economic indicators for the last 5 years and the last 5 quarters which you may find of interest.

Those of you who had additional questions on the bill and the state of small business will likely find the answers you are seeking in these documents.


Innovation Lessons from Small Business

As I've attended networking events and various meetings in the last 6 months, one theme has been consistent among most of the small business owners I've met, the majority are frustrated by the downturn in today's economy and the effect it's having on their businesses. However, the reasons for this frustration appear to be many and varied. Some blame the economy for a lack of customers/sales, others blame the economy for a lack of credit which is affecting their ability to maintain short-term operating capital, and others insist that this Summer's exorbitant gasoline prices put them so far behind in other expenses that they can barely stay afloat. None of this frustration, nor these comments, have been unexpected.

What have been unexpected are those businesses I've met that have seen this economy as an opportunity. These businesses have chosen to look at this situation as a "glass half full" and seek new ways to take advantage of the situation to grow their business. For example: the small independent technical college who decided to expand their training offerings when the layoffs started to happen – and guess what, the supply of extra funds from the government for training programs for laid-off workers has continued to expand, resulting in increased enrollment – and the need for even more training classes. Another example is the small technology company that has re-prioritized its' research and development schedule (and budget) to meet the increased demand for green technology.

These companies did not have large amounts of capital to make these changes; in fact, they barely operated on a shoestring. What they did have was a small company that was able to review their circumstances and their marketplace, and in a short period make a decision to re-align their resources in a way that would provide better opportunities for their firms. This is called Innovation, and if utilized often enough by small business within the next few months, it could be the one thing that saves America from experiencing another Depression.

In keeping with this theme, below please find an article recently run by Forbes.com that gives a broader perspective on Innovation and the ways it can provide small businesses with an advantage – even in this economy. Once you've read the article, I challenge you to meet with your team to find ways that your company can take advantage of today's economy with a "glass half full" mentality, thereby positioning yourself to be in a very positive situation when the economy stabilizes.


Small Business owners are highly innovative but don't realize it. The reason: They need to better understand their customers.

Many people have come to think wrongly of innovation as a separate activity, walled off from their regular course of business, something they have to pursue intentionally. We saw this firsthand recently while participating in a workshop on small-business innovation. One small-business owner disavowed the notion that anything his business did could be classified as innovative, saying, "We're not creating the iPod."

Our recent experience showed that many small-business owners are highly innovative but not aware of it. The notion that you have to be creating an iPod to be innovative reveals that people are very confused about what innovation is.

In fact, iPod wasn't Apple's sole reason for success in the digital music space. This innovation went well beyond the technology. Apple understood that some customers wanted to buy MP3s, not steal them. Thus the combination of iTunes with the slick iPod device proved a winning business model that upended digital music.

Understanding your customers is required for successful innovation. Small-business owners, with their intimate knowledge of their customers, actually are incredibly well-positioned to innovate. One example is a story told at the workshop by a man we'll call "John" who owns a pool-service business.

John started out in the traditional way, servicing equipment and maintaining pools for residential, commercial and government customers. The pools that were controlled by the municipalities and some of the very large commercial installations were required to maintain strict water quality standards. These customers invested heavily in monitoring technology that ensured the water quality was up to local standards. The rest of John's pool customers were certainly interested in maintaining pool quality but viewed monitoring technology as far too expensive for them to reasonably deploy.

At a local trade show some time later, John was taken by new technology that would provide remote monitoring services at a much lower cost than the systems deployed in the large pool installations. Recognizing this enabling technology, John developed an entirely new business model for his customers. He purchased a limited number of the devices and then offered monitoring to a group of small to mid-sized pool owners as a service. Overnight, this entrepreneur evolved his business model from a fee-for-service model to a leasing business.

However, John did not consider this change to his business model to be highly innovative for his field. When asked about the innovation, John explained he felt the decision to expand into leasing equipment was an easy one. He didn't need a business plan to evaluate this innovation. He pointed out that, in fact, he hasn't had a plan for a number of years. He started out with a business plan but stopped updating it years ago. He said, "I know in my mind by how much I want to grow and what I need to accomplish each month at achieve my target."

What John didn't realize is that he does in fact have all the elements of a business plan. Instead of the annual, stagnant planning process that characterizes many large businesses, John and other small-business owners have clear metrics, a clear direction and the ability to change course immediately if they need to.

There are lessons here for small-business owners. Small companies should realize that their close customer connection provides a great springboard for innovation. The small businesses we talked to were incredibly market-connected. To them, a customer problem is an opportunity to sell that customer another solution. They are responsive, iterative and flexible.

Further, small-business owners might think they don't have the resources to innovate. In fact, constraints are a friend to innovation, not a foe. More promising innovations have been killed by too much time and money, and too many people, than have been killed by lack of any of these.

Big companies can also learn from the way small companies approach innovation:

* Connect with your customers in order to truly understand them; pay particular attention to framing the conversation around the problems the customer has rather than the problems you think your current product or services could solve for that customer.

* Be iterative in regards to strategy and planning, in order to maintain flexibility and be most responsive to outside change.

* Be open to experimentation with new business models.

* Be wary of the curse of too much capital and resist the temptation to throw resources at innovation efforts.

Above all, businesses of all sizes need to remember that innovation is not limited to products, services, technology or creative thinking. Creating a new iPod isn't always the goal--rather, focus on understanding why the customer can't adequately solve important problems and develop an innovative business model that does the job in a new, novel fashion.

The last six months have certainly taught us that all businesses need to be open to change. If there was ever a time to start thinking like a small, nimble business, 2009 is it.


Written by Andrew Waldeck, a partner with Innosight and Renee Hopkins Callahan, editor of Strategy & Innovation. This article was excerpted from a recent online issue of Strategy & Innovation by Innosight, a consulting firm co-founded by Clayton Christensen and Mark Johnson specializing in innovation and disruptive strategy.

Surviving an Economic Downturn

The author of this article is unknown; it was sourced from an online repository called 'Small Business Notes'. Given today's economic climate, and the prevalence I have seen recently of small business owners tending to "bury their heads in the sand" and blame their woes on the economy, I thought this article was an excellent opportunity to provide an alternative thought process. In tough times the best thing a small business (or any business for that matter) can do is to go back to the basics. If you actively run your business every day, think thru the issues so you can make smart decisions, and utilize the ideas in the following article, you should be well on your way to insuring that your business survives today's economic challenges and is set up to thrive when things turn back around.

The belief that small businesses fare poorly in economic slowdowns is a common misconception that is not generally true. Solidly run small businesses actually hold their own during downturns. While we all like to believe our businesses fit the definition of "solidly run", let's take a look at what are some commonly cited best practices for all businesses to be following during a time of economic downturn.

Revisit Your Business Plan
The number one recommendation, across the board, is to re-examine your business plan. Your business plan should be the working base for your company. Have you strayed from it in any way? Does it need revision in light of new information? Should you be considering whole new directions that are not included in it? Sit down and read it from the perspective of someone about to invest in your business - and make any revisions that seem appropriate. You may even identify additional information you need to know in order to make decisions about the future of the company.

Seek Supporters and Advisors
If ever there is a time to network, this is it. Many companies set up advisory boards that include a wide spectrum of professional expertise that they can draw on for advice. Such board members often are attorneys, certified public accountants, civic club leaders, owners or managers of businesses similar to yours or whom you do business with, and retired executives. The latest jargon for these types of boards is "Power Circles." An apt name because the members should be power connections for you - knowledgeable about the environment in which you do business and able to connect you with the information you need to make good decisions. The purpose of the board is to offer you objectivity. They should be people you can be truthful with and who will keep your disclosures confidential. Most groups like this discuss specific business problems you have, using the meeting to brainstorm possible solutions.

If you don't belong to civic and professional organizations, do it. Here are groups of people facing similar challenges to you. Their joint expertise and resources can be a powerful support mechanism when times are tough.

Make Customer Satisfaction Your Priority
Your customers are your lifeblood in any economic climate. In a downturn they are what keep you in business. Treat them very well. Spend time listening to your clients to hear what they like and do not like about the services you offer. Change those things that you can. Take time to be innovative in meeting your customer needs. Perhaps taking the time to computerize customer information would allow you to more easily access their particular preferences and respond quickly to their needs. Perhaps taking time to call special clients to discuss how you can serve them better would be productive. Maybe an extra telephone line would speed the service time. Do whatever you need to do to keep your current customers loyal and to position yourself to win new customers.

Expand Relationships with Existing Clients/ Sign More Long-term Deals
Given that your customers are satisfied, they should want to do more business with you. Find out if there are ways you can expand what you do for them, perhaps by offering more products or services or fulfilling other needs that they have. Long-term deals add to your security. So, if you have happy customers, offer a discount to those who are willing to sign a long-term contract or who are willing to pay cash up front for a contracted set of services. Cash up front is particularly attractive because it makes you look good on paper and can allow you to lock in favorable financing from financial institutions.

In a downturn one of the first places many businesses cut expenses is in advertising - a real mistake. As part of the philosophy of expanding your base and recruiting more customers, you need to advertise and sell more than ever. People are looking for better ways to do business. If you have established strong customer satisfaction, this is the time to get the message out.

Seek New Business Opportunities (Diversify)
A downturn sounds like a terrible time to diversify, doesn't it? But there are opportunities out there to be taken. And given that you have done your homework in establishing yourself on a solid financial base, this is an opportune time to broaden your base. Diversification gives you more stability because a down market in one product may be compensated for by another product. The tricky part is, of course, finding complementary products that face differing market challenges. You don't want to stretch your expertise by producing totally different products, yet you do want to target different types of markets so that softness in one may not be mirrored in the other. A simple example of a way to seek new opportunities is to establish an internet business for a retail store. You have provided a new way to service your regular customers and expanded the audience you reach.

Form Alliances
Alliances with your vendors or with closely aligned types of products is always a good way to strengthen your customer base. With the right alliance you are reaching a broader spectrum of possible customers and you have more to offer each potential customer.

Diversify Your Customer Base
It may be possible that you have been selling to a limited sub-group within the community and you can expand the appeal of your product to a wider audience. For instance, you may be primarily selling to a specific age, ethnic, or gender group and with different advertising or a slight modification in the product; you can reach a broader spectrum of the population. Simple things like instructions in another language or wording advertising slightly differently can have a major impact in who your business attracts.

Find Ways to Save Time and Money
Collections are a great place to start in tightening your belt. Not only do you need to be providing incentives to your customers to pay on time or even early, but you need an efficient collection system that gives you advance warning of problems as they develop. Similarly, you need to be paying your bills on time and taking advantage of every possible discount that you can.

Look at fixed and variable costs. What among the variable costs can you cut back on or put off for later? What among the fixed costs can you find a better deal on or negotiate more favorable terms for? And, pay attention to your banking relationships.

Keep in touch with your banker, apprising them of any company developments. If you face a tight situation, having your banker knowledgeable about the positives of you and your business will make them much more amenable to helping you through difficult times.

Watch for Signs and Act on Them
Look for changes in psychology and behavior in your clientele. They may be spending less or putting projects on hold. They may not be paying their bills as quickly. If you are in touch with your customers, you will be aware of differences in buying habits. Contact them before they contact you about what the problems are. Can you help them in some way? You can gain a long-time relationship with a customer by approaching them pro-actively with the view of being there to help them through their own hard times.

Mobilize Your People to Save Jobs
Economic downturns are scary times for employees. Many firms cut personnel and add to the workload of the remaining employees. Involve them in cost cutting. Let them know they are important to you and that you are committed to keeping them. If they know that they are perceived as an active part of the solution, they can identify sources of savings that never occurred to you.

Find rewards that are not costly yet acknowledge their efforts. As hokey as it sounds, one successful businessman placed post-it notes on the restroom mirrors every evening noting positives that had been reported about various individuals during that day. It became a delightful, early morning ritual for the employees to discover each morning what the CEO had noted from the day before.

Whether or not the economy is in a recession, any of these methods can strengthen your organization - and your bottom line. This is what makes a "solidly run" business. It means returning to the roots of your business and making certain that everyone is healthy. All of these principles are worth revisiting at least annually, in good or bad times.

The New Basics of Marketing

What you need to know about: websites, email, mobile phones, social networks, viral video, and blogging.

By: Leigh Buchanan, Max Chafkin, and Ryan McCarthy

Inc. Online, February 2008

The world of marketing is radically different than it was only a few short years ago. From viral video to text-message campaigns and avatar sales reps, marketing tools that only recently seemed rare and futuristic are quickly becoming commonplace.

They're the New Basics.

Mainstream marketing was invented by big companies to convey simple messages to the masses. New marketing, in contrast, is about complexity and individuality. There are, for example, 100 million blogs worldwide. No matter how small the market for your products or services, one of those blogs probably serves it.

But though today's marketers have more choices in terms of the tools they use to reach customers, their jobs aren't getting any easier. With an explosion of new offerings, it's hard to know when and how best to spend your marketing dollars. In compiling this report, Inc. looked for developments that are new and creative but also effective and affordable--and, of course, well suited to nimble, entrepreneurial companies. Use them creatively, and you just might transform your business.

Related Content

Survey Indicates CMOs Not Tracking Social Media Well. How About Your Company?

As most of you are likely aware, the use of Social Media Marketing is on a tremendous upswing today, particularly among small businesses that typically have minimal marketing budgets – and even less staff. This being the case, it seems prudent to provide information that small businesses can use to understand the pros and cons of using social media, as well as how best to effectively measure ROI to insure that monies available are put to the best use.

A recent article in Advertising Age reviews a study conducted by the CMO Council which indicates that companies overall are not yet doing an effective job of tracking the results and impact of social media. The article further discusses who in the corporate environment should be charged with this responsibility, as well as providing examples of how some of today's largest companies are beginning to implement social media tracking strategies. This article is shown in-full below.

Since the majority of people who will be reading this blog will likely be somewhat social-media-aware, I thought this would be a good audience to ask to review the article and then provide commentary on what your company is doing to insure the effective tracking of your social media strategies and the monies being spent on that endeavor – from a small business perspective. I would ask readers to provide Comments in this blog on the following questions in order to assist other small businesses who will read it and who have not yet addressed this issue:

  • Do you currently have in place a social media tracking mechanism for your company? If so, please provide a brief description of your tracking methodology.
  • Who in your organization (by title) is responsible for implementing/monitoring your tracking mechanisms?
  • Are you measuring ROI as part of your tracking? If so, what is an appropriate social media ROI per your company?
  • Please provide any additional input you believe to be relevant to the discussion

After reading the article below about social media tracking, you might have interest in going to the following link http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/marketing/Marketing-Information-Resources_I12.html to learn the basics about An Introduction to Social Media Marketing and how to put it into effect.

Few CMOs Think They're Effectively Tracking Social Media, Word-of-Mouth

Survey: Marketing Execs, Not Other Departments, Should Be in Charge of Monitoring Customers' Conversations

by Jack Neff

January 26, 2009

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Who in corporate America owns the consumer relationship, the customer experience, word-of-mouth or social media? The answer appears to be nobody.

For all the talk about listening to consumers, few marketers think their companies are doing so effectively and even fewer are monitoring what people say about their brands in social media, according to a new survey by the CMO Council.

The survey of 400 executives found that 56% said their companies have no programs to track or propagate positive word-of-mouth; 59% don't compensate any employees based on improvements in customer loyalty or satisfaction; and only 30% rated their companies highly in their ability to handle or resolve customer complaints.

Few have a system in place
Despite all the hype about social media, only 16% of respondents said their companies have any routine system in place for monitoring what people are saying about them or their brands online.

The survey comes, however, as big marketers are paying growing attention to monitoring and leveraging social media. Procter & Gamble Co. has a Social Media Lab that's about 18 months old, and Unilever last month hosted a word-of-mouth summit at its U.S. headquarters dedicated largely to understanding how social media affect its brands.

Another big marketer, Johnson & Johnson, became acutely aware of the trouble social media can cause when complaints on the micro blogging site Twitter led it to pull the plug on an ad campaign for Motrin in November.

One problem for marketing executives is that they're not clearly in charge now of managing the customer experience, customer loyalty or social media today, given that public-relations, sales, consumer-affairs and research-and-development departments all have a stake in those areas now.

Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, said marketing should take the lead in overseeing the customer experience and satisfaction. And he said addressing deficiencies in tracking and analyzing consumer feedback and buzz may be the key way CMOs can stake a claim to leadership.

Buck stops with CMO
"From our standpoint, if there's anybody who needs to be accountable for the customer experience, it's the CMO," Mr. Neale-May said. "Clearly what marketing needs to do to cover a lot of ground we've lost in the organization is more analytics, predictive modeling, and data integration and aggregation."

How three big package-goods marketers are addressing social media, however, shows just how varied functional ownership even of that aspect of the customer experience can be.

P&G's Social Media Lab has been led largely by corporate digital-marketing specialists. Unilever's word-of-mouth summit last month appeared to be spearheaded by market research. And J&J last fall appointed corporate-public-relations executive and part-time corporate blogger Marc Monseau to focus full time on social media, both monitoring how J&J is faring and reaching out to help exert corporate influence.

Regardless of who's in charge, the CMO Council survey suggests "companies generally still aren't very sophisticated at capturing or managing either positive or negative word-of-mouth," said Laura Brooks, VP-research for Satmetrix, the company behind the "Net Promoter Score" and a sponsor of the study. Aside from the leadership vacuum, she said corporate silos mean that disparate data streams are never brought together in a way that could help identify and solve problems.

But Pete Blackshaw, exec-VP of digital strategic services for Nielsen Online, isn't sure separation of duties is such a bad thing.

"You could argue that tension is positive," he said. "It's probably a good thing that the consumer-affairs department is freaked out that the digital-marketing team is doing listening. It's probably a good thing that the research team is kept on its toes by the social-media team."

Database problems
He also said marketers, even those with extensive customer-relationship-marketing programs, are hamstrung by databases that don't take into account the word-of-mouth potential of consumers by asking whether they blog, participate in social networks or post to message boards. One exception, he said, is beauty marketer Coty, which does ask consumers about some of those things.

On the social-media front, while Ted McConnell, P&G general manager for interactive marketing and innovation, generated controversy late last year with his dismissal of Facebook and other so-called consumer-generated media as places for P&G ads, the company remains intently focused on tracking and working with social media.

P&G's Social Media Lab has worked with 15 P&G brands and 70 external partners in an effort to better understand and leverage social media. Among the more interesting projects has been working with Ripple6, acquired last year by Gannett, to develop tools for monitoring social-media buzz and building online communities. Among other things, Ripple6 is helping P&G Productions' soap opera "The Guiding Light" develop a new online community.

To be sure, wherever there's consumer data, P&G will try to mine it.

"Aside from technology, it's almost been a natural thing for P&G to [listen to consumers]," said Stan Joosten, innovation manager-holistic consumer communication. "What technology does for us is truly extend what we can do. For the first time ever with this technology, conversations are visible to us. ... You cannot start in social media without knowing how to listen."

Mobile Marketers Target Receptive Hispanic Audience

In keeping with our recent review of mobile advertising, and our goal to keep you apprised of marketing information that will provide value to your business, we thought that a recent article from Advertising Age Magazine would have particular value to those of you who are marketing to consumers rather than businesses. In this article we are advised that Hispanics are the country's largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority, and as a result, major brands such as "Continental Airlines, General Mills, Sears, Kmart and Tag Heuer will be working in the first quarter to launch Latino-centric mobile campaigns".

Making the case to utilize mobile advertising to reach this hot demographic is research that suggests "U.S. Hispanics are more engaged with their mobile phones than Americans overall. Some 71% of Hispanics consume content on their cellphones, compared with the market average of 48%, according to ComScore M:Metrics. Why? Many don't have subscriptions to internet or landline service, so wireless phones are their sole communications tool. Additionally, the median age among Hispanics is 27.6, compared with 36.6 in the population as a whole, so that may also help explain their propensity toward mobile".

Read the article at the following link to help you determine if mobile advertising can help your company grow by reaching this hot demographic target group. http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/marketing/Marketing-Information-Resources_I12.html

Sam Walton – Rules for Building a Successful Business

In today's challenging economy small business owners are looking for inspiration to help them travel the road to success, and examples of the best ways to achieve that success. As part of our company's promise to provide information and resources to small business, I thought the article below about Sam Walton's 'Rules for Building a Successful Business' would provide some needed insight and the motivation to keep going in spite of today's economic hardships. Whether you're among those who love Wal-Mart, or those who despise them, there is no disputing what they've achieved by becoming the nation's #1 retailer less than 30 years after they started and maintaining that position yet today.

I urge you to review the '10 Rules' below and think about how they may apply to your business. Sometimes all it takes is standing back and looking at your business from a different perspective to enable you to "kick-start" your positive attitude AND your business. Can you be the next Sam Walton? Can your business be the next Wal-Mart? The answer lies in your hands!


Sam Walton grew up poor during the Great Depression

, yet rose to start the biggest retail store Wal-Mart. In Sam Walton's "Running a Successful Company: Ten Rules that Worked for Me," learn Walton's winning formula for business.

Excerpted from "The Book of Business Wisdom"
Edited by Peter Krass


Sam Walton: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Business

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, grew up poor in a farm community in rural Missouri during the Great Depression. The poverty he experienced while growing up taught him the value of money and to persevere.

After attending the University of Missouri, he immediately worked for J.C. Penny where he got his first taste of retailing. He served in World War II, after which he became a successful franchiser of Ben Franklin five-and-dime stores. In 1962, he had the idea of opening bigger stores, sticking to rural areas, keeping costs low and discounting heavily. The management disagreed with his vision. Undaunted, Walton pursued his vision, founded Wal-Mart and started a retailing success story. When Walton died in 1992, the family's net worth approached $25 billion.

Today, Wal-Mart is the world's #1 retailer, with more than 4,150 stores, including discount stores, combination discount and grocery stores, and membership-only warehouse stores (Sam's Club). Learn Walton's winning formula for business.

Rule 1: Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. I don't know if you're born with this kind of passion, or if you can learn it. But I do know you need it. If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you — like a fever.

Rule 2: Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations. Remain a corporation and retain control if you like, but behave as a servant leader in your partnership. Encourage your associates to hold a stake in the company. Offer discounted stock, and grant them stock for their retirement. It's the single best thing we ever did.

Rule 3: Motivate your partners. Money and ownership alone aren't enough. Constantly, day by day, think of new and more interesting ways to motivate and challenge your partners. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Make bets with outrageous payoffs. If things get stale, cross-pollinate; have managers switch jobs with one another to stay challenged. Keep everybody guessing as to what your next trick is going to be. Don't become too predictable.

Rule 4: Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners. The more they know, the more they'll understand. The more they understand, the more they'll care. Once they care, there's no stopping them. If you don't trust your associates to know what's going on, they'll know you really don't consider them partners. Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.

Rule 5: Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. A paycheck and a stock option will buy one kind of loyalty. But all of us like to be told how much somebody appreciates what we do for them. We like to hear it often, and especially when we have done something we're really proud of. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free — and worth a fortune.

Rule 6: Celebrate your success. Find some humor in your failures. Don't take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm — always. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song. Then make everybody else sing with you. Don't do a hula on Wall Street. It's been done. Think up your own stunt. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools competition. "Why should we take those cornballs at Wal-Mart seriously?"

Rule 7: Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them talking. The folks on the front lines — the ones who actually talk to the customer — are the only ones who really know what's going on out there. You'd better find out what they know. This really is what total quality is all about. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.

Rule 8: Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want — and a little more. Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses — apologize. Stand behind everything you do. The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." They're still up there, and they have made all the difference.

Rule 9: Control your expenses better than your competition. This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. For twenty-five years running — long before Wal-Mart was known as the nation's largest retailer — we've ranked No. 1 in our industry for the lowest ratio of expenses to sales. You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you're too inefficient.

Rule 10: Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you're headed the wrong way. I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: a town of less than 50,000 population cannot support a discount store for very long.

The Small Business State of Your State

For those of you interested in working with other small businesses in some capacity, or needing small business knowledge to help with the development of a business and/or marketing plan, some very useful information has recently been issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The data is provided in a national and state-by-state format. A brief overview of the report is shown below. Click on the "compiled data" link and it will take you to a PDF document which provides you with that state-by-state information. Additionally, the links at the bottom of the article will take you to additional small business resources that may be helpful to you.

The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy has compiled data for each U.S. state and territory, giving an excellent snapshot of each region's small business activity (in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available).

For example, California had 718,220 small businesses in 2006 and created 87.6 percent of the state's net new jobs from 2004 to 2005. (The SBA defines small businesses as employing fewer than 500 people.)

The health care and social assistance industry was Louisiana's largest small business employer in 2006, while the construction industry was Virginia and Maryland's biggest small business employer that year.

The report pulls together information on each region's number of firms, demographics of business ownership, small business income, banking, business turnover, industry composition and employment gains and losses by business size.

It's worth a visit to check out that status of small business in your state.

By Sharon McLoone, The Washington Post January 27, 2009; 8:00 AM ET Data Points
Small Business Resources

The Value of Social Networking – An Example at Work – and a Challenge for Social Network Members

Since joining the LinkedIN community I have often made note of postings in many groups I belong to about the members' frustration with the "self-serving" type of postings that don't appear to meet the criteria of networking. As someone who has been a strong in-person networker throughout my career, I acknowledge that my opinion has been in agreement with this frustration. However, I found myself absent of an idea that could serve to change things – and then came along a posting by J. Michael Warner of Genesee Crest Ltd.

Michael has started a small business in which he provides online marketing services to help his clients build their brand on the Internet. Because his company is fairly new, Michael put his marketing skills to work and developed a promotional idea he posted on LinkedIN. His promotion involved offering his skills at auction for LinkedIN members – even if the bids were nominal; his thinking being that he could use the auction winner's marketing campaign as a high-profile way to prove the value of his services, thereby serving as a marketing campaign for himself as well.


When I saw Michael's posting I was immediately struck with the thought that this was an opportunity for the type of networking I'm used to seeing – networking that can benefit both parties involved in a very useful way. I responded to Michael's posting with a proposal of my own – if he would select me as the winner of his auction and use his expertise to help me build my company's brand, I would also use my tools (my website, my blog, my LinkedIN postings, my webinars, and my clients) to help promote his services.

I'm happy to report that Michael has accepted my proposal and we will begin immediately helping each other grow our respective firms – all this being done without any exchange of cash in an effort to help each other, and thereby, help our own businesses - the ultimate in effective networking, and the essence of small business in America, in my opinion.


In today's economy it is critical for small business to take up challenge of creating jobs to help, in the words of our new President, "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of re-building America". Given that the largest percentage of small businesses are started on a shoestring, networking plays a vital role in that revitalization. Therefore, I'm issuing a challenge to the members of LinkedIN – and every other social network – I challenge you to come up with a way to utilize these social networks to develop a means by which you can help another small business that then results in helping your own business grow. If each of us does this just once, think of the tremendous impact this could have on our U.S. economy and that of our global community!
Will you meet this challenge? If you decide to take up the challenge, please send me your stories so I can share them with others in the online community. I look forward to seeing the impact of small business and social networks on re-building our nation's economy and hope that the members of LinkedIN will play a pivotal role in this endeavor! Let's see the REAL power of small business and social networks!

5 Tips to Maximize the First Appointment with a Prospective B2B Customer

It's often said that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. It's definitely true when it comes to B2B sales. When you set up an appointment with a prospective customer, you should leave no details to chance.

1. Research:

Know your customer and their needs as much as you can prior to the meeting. It personalizes your customer service, and your potential customer will be pleased that you took the time to find out about their business.

2. Have passion and confidence:
Remember that every appointment is like a job interview. You may be invited back or eliminated from the competition. Remember to show your passion for the business and your confidence in your ability to fulfill their needs.

3. Ask qualifying questions:

Have a list of "qualifying questions" prepared to take with you. Some of these should be specific to their industry, and some to their specific business, so you can identify the problems they are having and come up with solutions to solve them.

4. Sell solutions and benefits, don't push product:

Don't try to "sell them" at the first meeting. Use this as an information-gathering session. Take a "consultative" selling approach. Your job is to pull information out of them and then educate them on the solutions and benefits your company can provide.

5. Offer to hold the meeting at their office:
Be on time, well-researched and prepared for any questions. Meet the client at their business location. They will appreciate you taking the time and saving theirs.

Forbes – Entrepreneur’s Guide to Public Resources

Interesting article in Forbes magazine recently about a wide variety of resources for entrepreneurs. Includes information about gaining access to Angel Investors, programs from the SBA (Small Business Administration) that can assist you with loans and other services, a group that can direct you to the best Venture Capital firms, and information about city and state grant and tax incentive programs. Also links to 11 sectors of business still being invested in by Venture Capital firms and 9 ways to make money online. Click on this link to go directly to the article

http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/09/small-business-sba-ent-manage-cx_mf_0109publicresources_print.html or get a PDF version of the article on our website at http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/marketing.php?info=Marketing+Information+Resources_I12

Learn to Use Mobile Advertising for Your Business

Given the high level of interest in, and reader commentary on, this week's earlier posting about Kroger's new mobile coupons, I thought I would continue our exploration of this exciting new media opportunity. Based on my review of the many comments made in the LinkedIN groups where I posted a reference to the Kroger article, as well as the many direct messages I received, it appears to me that there is a strong level of interest in mobile messaging – as well as a distinct lack of information, and a hunger for learning everything possible. Therefore, I did a bit of searching to locate materials that can provide some basic information and resources.

Attached to this posting you will find a link to a white paper written by IDC Information and Data entitled, "Common Short Codes: The Time Is Now for Mobile Marketing and Outreach". This document provides a good overview of mobile advertising opportunities, explains the technology, and gives excellent examples of how the technology is being utilized effectively. http://www.usshortcodes.com/docs/Mobilize_with_CSCs.pdf

The second link you will find in today's posting is to the Common Short Code Administration which has engaged a firm called Neustar to operate the Common Short Code Registry on behalf of the CTIA – The Wireless Association®. Follow this link and you can learn all the steps needed to register a Common Short Code (CSC) for your firm's use, as well as gaining a broad range of information on the technology and the industry. http://www.usshortcodes.com/.

Take the time to explore mobile advertising; along with all things web-based, mobile advertising is another great technology to give small businesses the same advantages as larger firms. It's a way to level the playing field to provide small businesses access to customers and opportunities they would not have been able to access just a few short years ago. Make sure you learn how to use this technology to YOUR firm's best advantage!

If you like this article and this topic and would like me to continue to provide additional information and resources about it, make sure to let me know by leaving a comment on this blog or sending me a message via my LinkedIN profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/lindadaichendt.

Kroger Offers Mobile Coupons Nationally

As someone who has worked within the mobile industry, I have been fascinated to watch the continuing evolution of wireless technology applications. I have long felt that the wireless equipment manufacturers and retailers have not been doing a very good job of educating consumers about the applications available, how to utilize the applications, and how the applications can benefit them. I'm a strong believer that in the not very distant future our cell phones will be as useful to us as our laptop computers in that they will have all sorts of software on them that we use as part of our everyday lives. Today, this is simply not the case; while consumers are purchasing increasingly high-function cellphone devices, most have no idea how to use that functionality.

However, at long last a major national grocery retailer is making available a mobile coupon program and since everyone needs groceries, I believe if enough people find out about the program it can go a long way toward increasing the awareness of consumers on this convenient, useful application for their cellphones. In the following link you can read about Kroger's new mobile coupon program. http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/commerce/2417.html

Once I read the article, I decided to try it out to see how well it worked and I have to say, I was quite impressed! It took about a minute and a half to register for the program, about 30 seconds to download the software into my phone, another 10 seconds to register my Kroger card into the program, and VOILA! I began receiving coupons that were valid in my zip code! I then scrolled thru the offers, selected those I wanted and opted to save them. Once saved, they were automatically loaded onto my Kroger card and I saw photos of the product selected on my phone. Now when I go to the grocery store this weekend and purchase those products, the discount coupons will automatically register from my Kroger card as I am checking out! In this economy where every penny counts, what could be easier?

As you read this article, do yourself a favor and start thinking of ways that your company might be able to start utilizing mobile technology to your advantage – and your customers!

Five Ways to Fail at Attracting and Retaining Customers in 2009

Earlier this week I offered an article written by Paul Segreto which focused on ways to overcome your fears of business failure and not let them paralyze you to inaction. Today I thought we would explore business failure from another perspective – those business owners who choose to believe that they have all the answers, that the customer should learn to properly appreciate them instead of the other way around, and that their business is so successful that it's not possible for anything to cause its' failure. Do you know any of these business owners? Have you worked for any of them? How many businesses do you know that are (or were) successful until the owner's ego got in the way?

For those of you who can relate to these questions and are right now thinking of a certain business that you are currently aware of (or one that used to exist), you are likely to enjoy the irony of the article I read in a recent issue of the MarketingProfs newsletter; the article was entitled, "Five Ways to Fail at Attracting and Retaining Customers in 2009". This article takes a sarcastic approach to trying to help you understand the actions you need to take to insure that your business continues to grow and achieve success. I know as I read it I was reminded of several companies in my history that could have been case studies for the article. Read for yourself at the following link and see how many companies you know that could use this reminder – hopefully you're not one of them! http://www.marketingprofs.com/9/ways-to-fail-at-attracting-retaining-customers-difrisco.asp?sp=1

Facing the Fear of Business Failure

Recently on LinkedIN I posted a request in my groups to receive submissions for various topics of interest that group members would like me to write about in this blog and elsewhere. One of the topics that had a high level of interest was 'what to do if you think your business is in trouble', likely a topic of wide-spread interest given today's economic climate. However, before I could even start thinking about what I would write to address this request, one of my networking friends sent me an article that he had written which I believe to be a very strong first step to saving your business. This particle article is directed toward franchisees, however, it equally applies to any small business owner and I think all will find it of value.

Facing Failure

I can personally relate to the trials and tribulations of owning a small business as I have "been there and done that" and have experiences on both ends of the spectrum from achieving overwhelming success to dealing with bitter failure. I have definitely come to understand the fine line between success and failure in trying to nail down the American Dream.

I know it is sometimes counterproductive to even mention failure which is why the subject is always avoided and never discussed. Yet, it's out there and it's real. Once business owners face the possibility of failure and its very real consequences they can be motivated to understand that failure is not an option and commit 100% to a plan that addresses immediate problems and provides solutions accordingly. Even if it's necessary for the plan to be quite drastic or aggressive due to prevailing circumstances, business owners that unequivocally realize that failure is not an option are prepared for immediate action.

Let me emphasize one point. Business owners (entrepreneurs) should not view poor sales and disappointing profits as either potential or immediate failure and stick their heads in the sand. I made that mistake in the past and suffered the consequences. Instead, they should build upon the courage it took to become a small business owner and recommit to success as they did when they first took the entrepreneurial plunge.

They need to remember their wishes, hopes and dreams that prompted the decision to own their own business? They need to remember the admiration of family and friends when they heard about the new venture? They need to remember the excitement when they actually signed their first lease?

Let me clarify something. I failed in business ownership as a franchisee. Not because of anything the franchisor did or didn't do but because I put and kept my head in the sand and did not face reality. I could go on and make excuses about things that happened around me but at the end of the day I could have turned things around if I got my own head out of the sand, made some difficult decisions and took full, immediate responsibility.

Unfortunately I was scared of failing. I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed at what other franchisees, ones I put in business, would think of me. I couldn't even think of facing my family. All lame excuses for not taking responsibility. Maybe a hard swift kick you-know-where would have helped.

Did I mention that I previously ran the franchise company where I failed as a franchisee? Did I mention I was elected by fellow franchisees, President of the National Advisory Council? Did I mention that I owned and operated five franchise units?

If I had clearly understood the implications and consequences that were looming on the horizon and if I was able to get my big ego out of the way and address things head on, maybe I could have survived. Maybe I could have at least implemented an exit strategy that would have, in some small way, paid back the loyalty and support of my employees, family and friends.

In the end, I may not have survived because it may very well have been too late when and if I finally took action and responsibility. But maybe I could have at least exited with some dignity. Also, I could have saved many innocent people a great deal of hardship, embarrassment, wasted effort and ill-spent resources if I did face reality. This includes my family, my employees and yes, my franchisor; all who believed in me. Yes, it was a tremendous learning experience but not one I would bestow or wish on anyone.

As we've entered 2009 in the realms of economic uncertainty, I'm certain already difficult situations have been compounded but I'm confident a snap back to reality could only help. By facing the failure head on, the path to success will be clearer than it's been for some time. I once read "the greatest achievement in life is to stand up again after failing." How very true.

Paul Segreto is Founder and President at 21st Century Franchise Coach with over twenty years' senior level management, marketing and development experience exclusively within the franchising industry. Paul can be contacted by email segreto.paul@gmail.com. Company website can be viewed at www.21stCenturyFranchiseCoach.com.

eMarketer’s Predictions for 2009 Online Spending

I read a very interesting article today from eMarketer regarding their predictions for 2009 online spending. The article examines trends in various online advertising strategies such as search, video, display, lead generation, and email. It also examines the viability of targeting demographic segments by age and cultural diversity in online advertising. Lastly, it examines online purchasing trends in retail, and expected trends in eCommerce on social networks. Some of the information contained within the reports may surprise you.

For those that are working on final revisions of their 2009 marketing plans, this article can be helpful in guiding you in your decisions regarding your online strategies and budget allocations. For those that have either concluded your planning for 2009 or don't yet have extensive knowledge on web strategies, this article can serve as a good overview to insure that you have basic knowledge on trends in this channel.

The link to the article follows: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1006813

After reading the article, I would be interested in seeing comments from you which identify your thoughts regarding the article's content and/or any resulting changes you may initiate in your 2009 Marketing Plans as a result of this information.

Mobile Marketers Guide to Mobile Commerce

I read an interesting article recently in the Mobile Marketers trade association newsletter regarding the use of Mobile Commerce as an advertising channel. The article provided examples of firms that had used Mobile advertising quite effectively, made reference to the fact that consumers took awhile to warm up to eCommerce as an advertising/purchasing channel and that the same was likely with Mobile Commerce, and it also contained links to excellent Mobile Commerce educational tools. Among the tools available via this article is a PDF copy of the Mobile Marketer's Classic Guide to Mobile Commerce, an excellent overview of this emerging industry. The link below will take you to the article on the trade association's website.


While you're there, I also encourage you to review the website for additional industry white papers and educational materials, as well as a section where you can sign up for a free educational newsletter. I have found this site to be quite full of very useful information and refer to it often.

Now is the time to learn everything you can about Mobile Marketing and Mobile Commerce as it's becoming obvious that this is likely the next big advertising/purchasing channel. Though this channel is still in its infancy, due to the high penetration of cell phone users in the U.S. (approximately 85% market penetration) and higher-still penetration in Europe (140% market penetration – meaning that users have multiple devices), it is highly likely that Mobile Marketing/Mobile Commerce is not going away but rather will become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Let me know if you find this article link of value; if so, I will continue to seek out similar educational tools and opportunities to make available to you.

The Art of Selling at Full Price

Below is an article written by Lawrence Dawood, the Director of Training for Wireless Toyz, a franchised cellular retail chain. The original audience for this article was the Operations Field Staff for the chain who were experiencing significant hardship in weaning the franchisees away from "bargaining" for customers.

As I read this article again recently, it occurred to me that the issue is not limited to the cellular industry, and that Lawrence's thoughts could provide assistance to many business owners in many industries. Throughout my career I've worked with companies and clients in a wide variety of industries and have found this issue to exist in most of them – sales people are afraid of the difficulty of selling "value" so they resort to selling "bargain" to achieve a closed sale, which ultimately harms the business financially. In previous training that I've conducted on consultative selling, this "value" proposition has typically been enthusiastically received, but rarely implemented once they're back in their home environment. I've come to believe over time that the reason is because we haven't started the change in the thinking process where we need to – at the top, with the business owners.

So my thought in making this article available to you is to bring the dilemma to the forefront if it exists in your organization, and to provide you with some "tools" to help eliminate the issue. Therefore, when you read the article below, substitute your industry and product into it wherever it references the cellular industry and products, and I believe you will find benefit in it as well.

Selling Value, Not Price

"Our products have become commoditized and our customers only care about price."

This was the opening volley at a recent sales training session when I introduced the idea of Selling Value Over Price. The salespeople's resistance to the idea was strong and quite predictable given what's gone on in our marketplace over the last 5 years. Far too often in the cellular market, we have degraded our value proposition to the point of offering our products for "FREE!" The wireless industry has taken one of the true "miracles" of communication - the cell phone - and systematically stripped the value from it to the point where customers "expect" to get a new "FREE" phone almost every year.

Cellular Agents are looking at their bottom lines wondering where it will end and how they can slow the degradation of their business.

While we can't sell every customer and prospect at list price, there is still a large percentage open to a well-defined value proposition that begins with the following 3 Steps.

1. First, you've got to BELIEVE!

I asked the sales team a question. "Do you believe that YOU and what you offer are worth more than the other guys?" They all chimed "YES!", except one guy who probably should change the title on his business card to "Giveaway Expert". We then set out to answer the following questions.

  • "Why should a customer pay us more than the other guy who offers a similar (or the same) product?" and,
  • "How do we convey this to the customer?"

They listed about 2 dozen reasons why the customers should pay more for their services than their competitors.

The next key was to transfer these "added values" into a tangible part of what they offer to their customers. If your sales team (from the Owner on down) doesn't believe that you're "worth more" than the competition, then you're not. Game over. Play the discount game and good luck.

However, if that isn't where you want to be, then try the above questioning exercise with your sales team and then read on.

2. Define your Value Proposition

Building a Quantifiable Value Proposition for your customers begins with the understanding that "value" often comes in the elements that we wrap around the product, and not in the product itself. Products have become so similar, that the focus must shift from the product to "the relationship." Here are some of the elements of value (beyond the product) that can add tremendous value over the life of a customer Relationship:

  • The "expertise" of your personnel at uncovering problems and helping the customer to solve them.
  • The resources and special services of your company on the sales and service sides of the business.
  • Knowledge of Applications-how other customers creatively utilize your products and accessories to improve their efficiency and profitability.
  • Your ability to demonstrate ROI (Return-on-Investment) in terms of how our products, expertise and company resources can help to increase our customer's revenues, decrease their costs, and/or impact their bottom line.
  • Your ability to quantify all of the above in dollars and cents for the customer.

3. Improve Sales Competencies

As an industry, the wireless business (at least on the cellular side) has transformed itself from being "problem solvers" to being "promo-pushers." The average cellular salesperson would go into withdrawal symptoms if you took away his/her promo's for the next quarter. Hiring people after they've been in this business for any length of time is almost a guarantee of lower margins. Therefore, upgrade your sales team by hiring reps who are "Problem Solvers" vs. "promo pushers." Hire people who understand Step 2 - how to define and sell "value" beyond the product and a potentially lower cost.

For existing reps, it is critical to increase their competency at uncovering what customers will pay extra for and conveying this during their presentations. This takes training and on-going role play on a weekly basis. Look at the deals you sell for the largest margins and dissect the reasons why customers purchased from you vs. going to a cheaper alternative. Selling "Value" is not an easy transition for most salespeople, but an essential one if they want to boost their income... and if you want to boost the profits at your company.

So the bottom line is to focus on creating a value proposition for your customers and training your team to package and present along with the product. You'll find this to be the most profitable sales decision you can make... and it'll show up on the last line of your Profit and Loss at the end of each month.

Funding Your Company in Today’s Tight Economy

We've all heard the stories and read the articles in the media – well-established businesses with solid track records can no longer get funding to keep their businesses going thru tight spots or to expand, or stories about people with almost perfect credit scores who can't even get a bank to talk to them about funding their new business – even with collateral. If you read enough or hear enough, it might make you think that now is definitely not a good time to be in business for yourself. That being the case, I am always on the look-out for information that tells a different story – that it IS possible to obtain funding for your business – and it is possible to be successful in business for yourself, even today. So I was very happy when I came across this article on LinkedIN written by Internet technology blogger, Kevin Flood. Kevin offers a wealth of information about sources of potential funding for early-stage businesses that may be of value to you, so I am happy to make that information available via this posting. I encourage you to follow the link below and read Kevin's article. Happy hunting!


Personal Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

  • An overpowering need to achieve, as opposed to a need to be liked, or to exercise power.
  • The trait of following through on a commitment, not quitting half-way through when the going gets tough. In short, perseverance.
  • Positive mental attitude, or the ability to remain optimistic in difficult situations, which essentially grows out of being self-confident about one's abilities.
  • Objectivity. The ability to accurately weigh and assess risks associated with a particular course of action, as well as being realistic about one's own abilities and limitations.
  • A respectful attitude toward money, but a tendency to look upon money as a means for accomplishing things, or a way of keeping score in the game of business, rather than as a thing to be sought as an end in itself.
  • The tendency to anticipate developments and to make things happen, rather than constantly reacting to problems as they arise.
  • Resourcefulness. The ability to solve unique problems in unique ways, to be able to handle things that come up for which the entrepreneur has no previous experience to rely on as a guide.
  • Personal relations. The successful entrepreneur usually has an emotionally stable personality, is cheerful, cooperative, and usually gets along well with (without necessarily being close to) employees and associates.
  • Communication skills are well developed, both in oral and written presentations.
  • Technical knowledge is usually well-rounded, and the successful entrepreneur generally is knowledgeable about the physical process of producing goods and services, or at least can effectively utilize information regarding the physical process.