2018 Small Business Tips for Success

2017 is coming to a close and businesses are gearing up for what is to come in the new year. A new year means a clean slate and a chance for new opportunities. As a small business, you’re probably reflecting on the successes of the past year and thinking about what you’d like to change as you move forward. We highlight four ways you can make 2018 your best year yet.

1. Evaluate your brand:

What do you want consumers to say about you (to themselves or to their friends) after their next visit to your business? Your brand defines how consumers perceive you, so you want to make sure it is still relevant to your business goals in the new year. Are your strategies still the same as they were in 2017? Do you still want to convey the same message about what your business is and what you offer to customers? The term “brand” doesn’t only include your logo design and color scheme, but how you tell your business’ unique story. With the increasingly influential presence of technology, it is key to make sure your brand is consistent across all channels and mediums. And first impressions matter! With a new year just beginning, you’re sure to want to attract even more customers than the year before. First impressions are incredibly important to develop loyalty; 48% of consumers report that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand during the first purchase or experience.  If you start the new year with a consistent brand message and feel, your business will be more likely to gain trust from consumers.

2. See the significance in being social:

In today’s world, where millennials and Generation Z have the most purchasing power, you simply need to keep up with their fast-paced, tech driven demands. Do you have a strong social media presence? Are you interacting with your client base online and on different social platforms? 62% of millennials saying that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. A consumer may reach out to you via direct message on Twitter to ask a question about a daily menu special, and you’ll want to be able to respond in a timely and helpful manner. You may even want to post a survey to Facebook to find out what new services clients want to see at your salon. Knowing that their opinion matters will show consumers that your business goes the extra mile.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity to gain loyalty from this generation. After all, they’ll be spending an estimated $3.39 trillion by 2018. Putting in the extra effort to build your brand presence online and on social channels can significantly help your business not only be recognized, but be trusted for years to come.

3. Stay on top of trends:

Consumers are fueled by trends and are often looking for the latest and greatest products and services. Being knowledgeable about what currently attracts crowds can come in handy for brand acknowledgement. As a restaurant owner, do you have a new recipe that has the potential to receive recognition from bloggers? It’s no secret that food videos are viral on social media and inspire people to visit restaurants just to try that buzzworthy dish. I’ll admit, I’ve driven far out of my way just to visit a pizza place I discovered on Instagram. As a salon, are you prepared to keep up with the latest in nail trends? 2017 gave way to geometric patterns and metallic polish, but 2018 spring trends predict a more natural and pastel approach. Having what your clients are looking before they walk through your door is sure to impress.

4. Keep it current:

A new calendar year is the perfect time to reevaluate your products or services. Have you thought about making changes to your menu? Are you running any holiday specials that you didn’t last year? You want to make sure that you’re clearly communicating your current offerings both in-house and online. If a returning customer comes in for their favorite burger that you removed from your menu, but is still showing as available online, they’ll probably be extremely disappointed. Utilize the power of technology to make your job as an owner easier and the customer experience better. With 3.74 billion internet users in the world, your online presence matters. You want to be easily searchable and accurate. Start the new year off right by having the correct business listings and information available to consumers. Keeping up with consumer demands and the trends of the times is key when entering into a new calendar year.

With 2018 quickly approaching, it is the perfect time to evaluate your business and prepare for a successful year ahead. Utilize these tips to make sure you have a competitive edge moving forward. To get more content like this, subscribe to our blog!

How to Build Your Small Business’s Brand Authority

Developing and communicating an identity for your small business is important, but building on that identity to reinforce your brand authority is just as essential. Consumers’ standards are higher than ever, and they want to interact with businesses they feel are value-oriented, real, and plugged in. There are a variety of ways to develop these attributes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Invest in Quality

Every part of your brand, from the products and services in your store to your company’s website, contributes to customers’ perception of your business. If you pursue the highest quality in every aspect of operations and marketing, it will show—and will also lend credibility to your brand.

Develop a Unique Selling Point

Differentiating your business with a unique selling point or perspective can have as much impact on brand authority as investing in quality. Think about what you can do to go above and beyond the competition in both your main business and in your ancillary services and benefits. The more value you can add, the more you’ll appeal to consumers.

Engage on Social Media

Connecting with customers where they spend time online is an easy way to build your business’s authority. If you have things to say or share that are relevant to your audience, consumers are more likely to take you seriously—and to engage with you in return.

Create Useful Blog Content

Publishing engaging, memorable posts on a company blog is a great way to increase your site traffic and strengthen your brand’s authority. Guest blogging on other sites can also help you get your brand in front of a larger audience and establish your business as a reliable source of information (or entertainment, depending on what kind of business you have).

Be Consistent

Leading brands got to be where they are today by being consistent in terms of value and quality, but also in terms of their product positioning and what they stand for. From communications to design to service, it’s important that your business offers a standard experience that customers can get familiar with quickly.

Commit to a Cause

If giving back to the community is something near and dear to your heart, consider what your business can do to support a cause. Tying a personal passion into your business will contribute to your brand’s authority and appeal to consumers who are socially conscious.

The Bottom Line

The best thing you can do to build brand authority is to be genuine, engaged, and consistent in your business’s products, services, support, and communications. We’ve covered a few ways here, but the possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

For more tips and tricks follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

2014 Marketing Trends for Small Business

As 2013 winds down, we not only look backward to take stock of all that has happened, but also begin to look forward to the new year and all that awaits us. It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and set goals for 2014. You may already be done with the bulk of your business planning for next year. However, there’s still time to nail down a marketing strategy that will set you up for success. Here are 6 key trends to be thinking about as you develop your plan.

Trend 1: Visual Marketing

People in the social media industry have been talking about the merits of visual marketing for the past few years. In 2014, it’s primed to take center stage. If you’re not already incorporating images and videos into your social media channels and marketing campaigns, now is the time to try your hand at visual content.

Trend 2: Inbound Marketing

Historically, businesses have focused their marketing efforts on outbound marketing—that is, marketing efforts aimed at a large audience with the goal of converting a small percentage to paying customers. Examples of outbound techniques include advertising, trade show attendance, purchased email lists, and cold calling.

In recent years, marketing has been shifting away from a traditional outbound model to an inbound model, which focuses on helping your business get found by people already interested in your industry. This type of marketing aims to make your business visible on search engines, social media, blogs, and listings sites as you create and share compelling content for consumers to interact with.

In 2014, the shift away from outbound marketing to inbound will be even more pronounced. Make sure to budget for the time, personnel, and money needed to invest in developing solid inbound channels.

Trend 3: Mobile Marketing

In October, we discussed the growth in mobile device usage for local search and mistakes to avoid when developing mobile marketing campaigns. Numerous studies conducted in the past year all point to the importance of mobile search for local businesses. If you’re not already present on mobile, make sure to plan for it in 2014! (Pro tip: SinglePlatform can help you with this.)

Trend 4: Brand Authority

In today’s saturated market, it’s not enough to merely say that your business provides products or services worth using—it’s up to the business owner to prove their brand’s authority over time.

This process is not something that happens overnight. It involves investing in a number of areas, including messaging, service, and content. We’ll cover the specifics of how to build brand authority in another post later this month.

Trend 5: Personalization

In November, we covered a few different ways that you can personalize your communications. Personalization is hot right now, and will remain so in the new year. This ties in with the aforementioned inbound marketing and brand authority trends. Today’s consumers want to interact with businesses that are relevant, engaging, trustworthy, and include a human element in their business marketing.

Trend 6: Less Is More

Consumers deal with a growing amount of virtual noise every day. As a small business, you may be tempted to try and stand out from the crowd by being bigger, more extravagant, and flashier when it comes to marketing. But the success of campaigns from Apple, Google, and other major brands has shown that simplicity is often the best tactic when it comes to messaging.

The Bottom Line

There’s no secret formula when it comes to creating a successful marketing plan. However, it is important to incorporate current trends into your efforts to make sure your time, effort, and budget are spent wisely.

Have specific questions or exciting ideas when it comes to small business marketing? Share them in the comments!

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Reputation – 4 Management Tips

As an entrepreneur, you work hard day in and day out to manage various aspects of your business: inventory, finances, quality, service. But one of the most important factors in success is one that you have limited control over: your reputation.
While you can spend lots of time and energy creating a solid brand image and telling your story to potential customers, the truth is that they’re more likely to listen to their peers—even anonymous peers online—than you when it comes to forming an opinion about your business.

It’s daunting to consider how much influence the public has over your reputation. But although some things are out of your control, you alone have the power to manage your reputation—both the positive and negative aspects.

Here are 4 tips to help you get started with reputation management:

1. Create a Forum for Direct Feedback

Want to avoid seeing rage-filled posts about your business on a public forum? Make sure that it’s easy for customers to come directly to you to share their grievances. If it’s impossible to reach you by phone, email, or social media, a customer may go from mildly dissatisfied to seriously unhappy. And unhappy voices tend to make the most noise.

2. Ask Customers for Feedback Soon After a Purchase

To encourage positive feedback online, ask customers to write a review or share their experience on your social media channels shortly after a purchase. Patrons are more likely to take the time to gush about your business if they have a positive interaction fresh in their minds.

3. Monitor Key Review Sites

Keeping abreast of both positive and negative comments means monitoring the websites where customers are writing reviews. Identify a few top sites to look at on a frequent basis; you can also set up Google Alerts to see where your business name appears on pages across the web.

4. Respond Quickly to Negative Feedback

No matter how great your business is, there will always be some people who write negative comments and reviews. While you can’t prevent them from airing their complaints, you can be proactive in responding to them.

Investigate each piece of negative feedback to see if there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed. If so, contact the customer promptly and take whatever steps needed to rectify the situation. If not, then decide whether or not to engage with the person. Each case is unique, and only you will be able to discern the right response in a given situation.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to reputation management, being proactive is essential. If you help cranky customers resolve their issues quickly, you can turn potentially damaging feedback into a big win. Likewise, if you encourage happy customers to review your business when they’ve recently interacted with you, you’ll be able to build up a collection of positive feedback to offset any negative reviews that others share.