Small Business Solutions by Jamie

helping small business owners achieve the success they deserve

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3 Small Business Solutions

What is the single biggest problem you face as a small business owner?

Over the holiday weekend, I asked this question to a few of my fellow small business owner friends and here are the three most common answers.

1. Not enough customers.

What are you doing today to bring new customers to your small business?  Seriously.  Start tracking every effort to market your business whether it is your monthly networking breakfast, that hour per night you spend on Pinterest or optimizing and promoting and your new blog.  Quantify it and come up with a rough cost per new customer for a given period.  New customers are the cornerstone of new revenue that puts you in charge of your decisions.   More revenue makes it easier to make advertising decisions.  Now perhaps you can afford to pay for a phone list of the neighborhood where you just spent all that money on that 5×7 mailer.  Maybe you can even afford to pay someone $10 an hour to telemarket for you with an optimal script.  Turn those leads into enough revenue to buy a bigger list.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Takeaway: If you are reading this blog, you are quite likely the best possible Brand Ambassador for your small business.  Work it like it’s your job.

2. Not enough good help.

This rings true for every small business to some degree unless you’re a sole proprietor and lone employee. We aren’t all lucky enough to find interns or apprentices that come free or at a discount and have the added bonus of usually being quite eager and industry specific.

If you can’t really afford a paid channel, the options beyond word of mouth aren’t as slim as you may think. Craigslist ads might cast the biggest net, but we all know what kind of time it takes to sift through 50 to get 1 maybe. Indeed, Job Seeker, CareerBuilder aren’t cheap, but may be the best approach if you need folks now.  One alternative we’ve found successful is reaching out to local colleges (squeeze your connections who are alumni) to see if you can get some real estate on a job board specific to your industry. Alternatively, if your website gets a good amount of traffic, why not make a quick Jobs page with a concise description of areas in which you need help?  (When you’re not hiring, just switch this up a little so it is vague enough to convey that there are no open positions.)  Track how many visitors the page gets.  Post a link to it on your Social Media channels.  Put a $5 targeted boost on the Facebook post and ask your friends to spread the word.

Takeaway:  Stop dreaming about another “you” walking in the door with his or her resume.  (And if it does, don’t talk about it!)

3. Not enough money to fund any growth.

This goes right back to number 1.  Borrowing can be a slippery slope, especially if you make any moves tainted with desperation.  You have an operating budget.  Rewrite it.  Find ways to make forecastable cuts and use them to fund a new expense: Growth Strategy.Develop a plan on how to best use that money by attaching a detailed Growth Strategy to every dollar.  Whether it is investing more money or time into your website’s content, your website’s SEO, your business’s off-page SEO or any other marketing avenues, track your actions and your directly associated results to come up with a real ROI.  I guarantee more customers will result, followed by more revenue to sponsor growth.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of your P&L.  No matter how much you hate those numbers, think of it as an opportunity to improve your business every time you recrunch them. There might be a Gamechanging idea hidden in there somewhere.

I hope you appreciate my unscientific survey.  I find immense pleasure in talking to other small business owners to hear about their challenges because some of them are my challenges. Or were.

Let me know if you’d like to have a conversation.

As always, I appreciate any comments or insights.  We’re all learning.

Cheers!

Jamie Campbell
jamie@sbsbyjamie.com

website small business solutions by jamie www.sbsbyjamie.com

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6 Ways to Grow Your Business For Free

1. Evaluate and expand your web presence.

  • Use Yext to find out where your business is currently listed on the web.
  • Correct any addresses or otherwise incorrect listings.
  • Register with the major search engines and verify your business location, phone number, website and whatever you can at no cost.
  • Don’t waste your time with any service that promise to list you with umpteen search engines or directories and definitely do not pay for anything.
  • If you come across any pages offering links like “Is this your business?” “Claim this listing/page” or “Are you the owner?”, do it so long as it passes the sniff test.

Currently, the Big Three are Google, Bing and Ask. (Yahoo is powered by Bing.)
Bonus points if you have the time and ambition to explore all that Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) and Bing Webmaster Tools have to offer. These can be invaluable resources, but be careful how much discretionary time you are spending.

2. Take your social media seriously.

Depending on your business or industry, different social media channels may or may not work for you, but you need to investigate them all. Not on Pinterest because your client base is mostly men? You may be missing out on the 4th largest source of social media traffic. Men are pinning at a very impressive rate, like here, here and here. It will take a little homework, but you owe it to your business to find out if it is worth your time to Tweet and Tumble if only to expose your brand and drive traffic to your website. It may be hard to put a definitive ROI on your valuable time, but considering what you would have to pay even the most inexpensive marketing expert, you’re a relative bargain. When in doubt, take a look at your competition: if they’ve got a profile page on LinkedIn or Instagram (owned by Facebook) or they’ve got a YouTube (owned by Google) channel, you might need to follow suit just to stay in the game if not win it.

3. Embrace the power of email marketing.

You may very well have a database of customer email addresses in a database somewhere, perhaps a notebook or even a spreadsheet, just waiting for the right time to use them for something.
That time is now.

  • Sign up for MailChimp and import or add 100 email addresses.
  • Create a simple yet snazzy newsletter that contains some special offer/discount/value-added service available only to subscribers and a call-to-action.
  • Track the responses, tweak the design, change the offer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.newsletter sbsbyjamie.com

Continually try to build your database by capturing leads through your website and manually.  Monitor the unsubscribers.  While you probably don’t want anyone on your list anyway who doesn’t want your product or service and isn’t going to be a customer, if you’re dropping folks too quickly, you may have to adjust the frequency or the content of your emails.  There is a lot of help out there on how to fashion your mailings and this is an excellent start.  Remember, the only goal of your Subject line is to get the reader to open the email and take the next step.

(When in doubt, look at what companies like Staples are doing, because I promise there are quite a few people and a good sum of money ensuring that it is as effective as possible.)

4. Optimize your website.

I won’t spend much bandwidth on this, because too much has been wasted already.  Everyone’s an expert on SEO.  Just Google it if you don’t believe me.  Lots and lots of folks would love to charge you north of $200 a month to get you organically ranked at the top of the SERP.  There may be some value to that for certain budgets, but the ROI is questionable at best and 80% of the companies pitching any kind of Search Engine Marketing or Optimization are going to rip you off.  That said, this is a great primer and it is provided by, who else, Google.  They’re the ones that make the rules and they tell you almost exactly what to do to please their spiders.

5. Start a blog.

This may well take the most time of any of these actions because, if you have an artistic bent whatsoever, blogging can consume you.  It is fun, gratifying and everyone is doing it!   No one knows more about your business than you do, so write about it.  It costs you nothing but your time and the rewards in traffic and brand awareness could pay off ten-fold.  Wait, you’re an amateur photographer as well?

6. Search out testimonials.
Potential customers are looking for social proof of your company’s reputation and your existing customers can provide it. Seek them out. Offer an enticing discount or a $10 gift card to a local coffee shop. People have no problem sharing a good experience, but submitting a review to Yelp or Google or Facebook isn’t always the first thing on their list. Remind them. Great reviews are like gold. (As well as the only practical way to combat any bad reviews.)

 

I sincerely hope that you find any or all of this information helpful and accurate.  I welcome any comments or corrections.  Please visit my website or find me on Facebook.  Thank you and Happy Holidays!

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