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3 Tips to Make Facebook Work for You

In June, Facebook announced a change to how content makes its way to the top of your news feed. This new algorithm measures the amount of time users spend looking at posts. 

In other words, even without liking, commenting, or sharing a post, Facebook will detect which posts capture your attention longer than others and will incorporate that preference as a factor in determining which posts become “Top Posts” for your feed. With these changes, business owners should consider how to capture someone’s attention – and how to hold someone’s attention – in such a way as to maximize their exposure through Facebook. 

With this in mind, helping you increase your Facebook effectiveness is the focus of this week’s #TuesdayTip. Here are 3 ways your business can capture attention on Facebook:

1 – Videos Work

Facebook auto-plays videos which encourage your followers to spend more time engaging with your content, and in turn, directly registers with the network’s new algorithm. Since Facebook natively enables video on their site, content of that type has yielded amazing engagement results. Posting Facebook videos and monitoring their performance can also help your business determine content for future video posts. Instead of reposting from YouTube, or other video hosting websites, utilize the built in Facebook video function to 1) collect video view count analytics and 2) enable videos to automatically play. To maximize the effectiveness of the videos, use text or subtitles so that you can capture viewers attention without enabling the audio. 

2 – Content is Key

If Instagram is a platform to feature images, and images increase engagement on Facebook, should businesses repost all of their Instagram photos automatically on their Facebook page?

Yes! But there is a caveat. Even if it may seem like a time-saving technique to automatically post the same update to multiple networks, it might cost your business reach on both networks. If you want to reuse a photo, make sure to provide content making it a meaningful and valuable Facebook post. Your photo post may draw them in, but the commentary included will keep them engaged longer. Include captions. An anecdote will make your post that much more personable, encouraging more likes, comments, and shares. Content will compliment your image. Use both to better engage your audience. Facebook encourages content creators on the network to provide stories that add value or provide more history for a business’s products and services. These kinds of posts have a higher likelihood to be seen by bigger audiences.

3 – Titles Say It All

Effective headlines work. There’s a formula for headline success, and it is one content creators can easily implement when posting on Facebook. When creating and posting content on Facebook, deliberately invoke a reaction in the reader which will subsequently tempt them to click on the article to read and/or share your post. This cycle can quickly escalate (going “viral”) increasing the reach of your post exponentially. If your content is key, then your title has to be the Barnum-like key holder ushering Facebook users towards your business’s post.

Here are a few examples from blogging.org on formulas for creating an effective headline:

  • Numbered Lists (10 social media mistakes everyone makes)
  • How-To (How to write a blog post that drives 10x more traffic)
  • Case Study (How we grew our Pinterest followers 10 times in one week)
  • Lessons Learned (Top lessons learned about marketing from watching Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Reasons Why (Why you can’t afford to ignore blogging)
  • Provocative Questions (Are you making the 10 biggest mistakes in digital marketing?)
  • News Headline (Announcing new Blogging for Business training this September)
  • Direct and Specific (Free Google+ Report)
  • Command (Get better results tomorrow by reading this post)
  • Irresistible (How Google changes may be destroying your email strategy)

Maximizing the effectiveness of your Facebook posts and understanding how the network uses its algorithms to increase your post’s reach is important for all business owners to understand.  Stay up to date with how social media and digital marketing is evolving. At Sproutling Marketing & Consulting we would love to meet with you over coffee and discuss a strategy on how to keep your business up to date with this evolving digital world. Contact us today!

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Why Your Personal Brand Matters

Creating, maintaining, and promoting your personal brand in today’s world is more important than ever. Tom Peters, in his 1997 book The Brand Called You, had this to say:

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Establishing your personal brand is the process of developing a mark that is created around your personal name or your career.  This mark is used to represent your brand by communicating your skills, personality and values. The uniqueness of your personal brand draws people to your product, your services, your message. Creating your personal brand is about who you are and what you have to offer.

Your personal brand allows you to sends a clear, consistent message about you. This is a very powerful marketing tool. Having a strong, authentic personal brand helps people to identify:

  1. What you’re good at.
  2. What sets you apart from everyone else.
  3. What establishes you as an industry expert. 

Keep these 3 things in mind as you begin to create your personal brand:

Your personal brand is YOU:

Your personal brand includes everything you say, post, write, pin, photograph, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, like, tweet, think, and do. People are watching. What message are you wanting to send to potential customers, employers, or any other individuals in your network with each action you take? Always consider what it is you want to represent before making that decision. It’s reported that 89% of 18-29 year-olds are active on social media, as are 43% of adults 65 and older.* Your digital presence and how you maintain your personal brand is more important today than ever.

One of the most important aspects of branding is consistency:

Forbes has reported that it takes on average 5-7 brand impressions before someone will remember your brand.* You should be living your brand each and every day. You should not have to over think about what your brand stands for, what your brand promise is and how you can be a contributing and positive part of your brand story on a daily basis. Using social media to promote your personal brand provides you with an amazing opportunity to get a consistent yet dynamic and real brand message in front of hundreds and thousands of people each and every day. When you begin building your personal brand make sure to clearly define your goals and define your values and passions. Without having to overthink each action take, the message you send to your audience should authentically and sincerely reflect back on those defined goals and values every time.

Make yourself approachable:

Earning trust is imperative in business and life. One of the best and easiest ways to earn trust is to personally connect. Build relationships and understand that these relationships are going to take time to nurture. Consider this: would you hire a consultant, coach, or assistant that you’ve never heard of, worked with, or seen? Most likely, that answer is no. In today’s digital world, consumers have the luxury of getting to know and trust the person or company behind each purchase. This means you must go the extra mile to consistently make sure your personal brand is accessible. To do this, it is important that you are consistently active with your social media platforms, website, and offline networking. When it comes to social media, make sure you welcome new followers, reply using the commenter’s name, and create relevant content that is both educational and entertaining.  Always seek feedback and encourage others to engage in a two-way conversation.

Lisa Quast from Forbes outlined these 6 essential steps to develop your personal brand:

  1. Define your overall aspirations.
  2. Conduct Research.
  3. Determine your brand attributes.
  4. Assess your current state.
  5. Create your game plan.
  6. Manage your brand.

Here at Sproutling, we’re all about connecting with you and helping you cultivate your personal brand in order to grow that brand into a healthy and stable business venture. We would love to meet with you over a cup of coffee to discuss where you are on this journey.

*Social Media Growth Statistics

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Trade Names: Should you pay?

Guest post by Noel Bagwell
for Executive Legal Professionals, PLLC

Should You Pay for DBA Registration?

In this article, I am going to give you the opportunity to save $99.00.†

A great reason not to use services like “LegalZoom” is that they charge you (often a relatively large amount of money) for stupid things. One example is LegalZoom’s “DBA Registration” service. I’m picking on LegalZoom because they go so far as to say, “If you’re a sole proprietorship, you need a DBA to register your business name.” [1] That is misleading, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Nevertheless, LegalZoom is happy to collect your $99.00 + State filing fees (as little as $20.00, in Tennessee*).

LegalZoom’s process is simple. You fill out a form. Legal Zoom will then “complete, file and publish (if required) your DBA application”… Wait a minute! “If required”?! Didn’t they just say “you need a DBA to register your business name“? Maybe they meant if you want to register your business name, you do so by using a “DBA.” That seems misleading, because, upon first reading, it sounds like they’re telling you that you need a “DBA” if you want to operate your business as a sole proprietorship. LegalZoom will, of course, “mail the approved DBA application to you.” So, in summary, you are paying LegalZoom $99.00 to use their “DBA Application” form and to mail you your DBA application upon approval.

Now, let me save you $99.00. You can do this yourself; in my opinion, this is especially easy if you live in Tennessee. The process is more-or-less the same in most jurisdictions, as far as I know.* Here’s a simple 5-step process for filing your own “DBA Application” in Tennessee:

  1. Visit the Name Availability Search page on the website for the Office of the Secretary of State in your state;
  2. Perform a search on the name you want to use, and determine whether or not it is currently in use;
  3. If it is in use, choose another name, or, if it is not in use, you may use that name on the form you’re about to complete;
  4. Download Form SS-4264 from the website for the Office of the Secretary of State;
  5. Follow the provided instructions to fill out the form, and mail the form to the address provided on the form, along with the fee indicated on the form.

It’s that easy! If you’re going to be filling out a form on LegalZoom, you might as well just fill out the form LegalZoom would be filling out for you, and mail it in along with the state filing fee, which you would have to pay anyway. Save yourself the $99.00 by cutting out the middle man.

If you are purchasing a larger package of business legal services, it makes sense for your business attorney to include “DBA Application” in that package for which you are paying. As a stand-alone service, however, it makes little sense to pay anyone else to complete or file your “DBA Application.”

But What Is a “DBA,” really? Do I really need to register my DBA?

There is no legal requirement that you register your “DBA.” Also, it’s not really called a “DBA”! “DBA” stands for “Doing Business As” and is also written “d/b/a.” Any name which follows d/b/a is your trade name. So, proper usage of this trade name might be something like: “Jack Porter d/b/a The Stowaway,” if your name is Jack Porter and you are the sole proprietor of a bar called The Stowaway.

A Trade Name is a name that has the status of a trademark. A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. “A trademark is any word, name, symbol, device or combination thereof used by a person to identify goods made or sold and to distinguish them from the goods made or sold by another person. In general, you use a trademark to identify a product or goods that are sold.” [2] Service marks are just like trademarks, but identify services, rather than goods.

A trademark, like a copyright, is established or created by use. So, it is not necessarily true that you need to register a trademark or trade name (i.e., a “DBA”) in order to use it or in order to create it. It is certainly not true that you need to register a trade name in order to create a sole proprietorship. If Jack Porter wants to call his bar The Stowaway, all he has to do is operate a bar and call it The Stowaway. As long as no one else in his market was already operating a bar called The Stowaway, he is on firm legal footing.

So, what value is there in registration, you might ask? Registering a trade name–which, by the way, requires you to demonstrate you are using the trade name–has certain benefits; there are even different kinds of registration. One kind is registration at the state level. Another is federal trademark registration, which is entirely different.

“Owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several advantages, including:

  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;
  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration;
  • The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court;
  • The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries;
  • The ability to record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods;
  • The right to use the federal registration symbol ®; and
  • Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online databases.” [3]

For more information about trademark registration in Tennessee,* click here.  Of course, if you have questions about using a trade name, you are always free to contact Executive Legal Professionals. One of our friendly, helpful attorneys would be happy to answer any questions you might have, or suggest legal services which may enhance the protection of your brand or otherwise benefit your business.


Endnotes

Assuming you would otherwise use LegalZoom to register your trade name

Regulations and fees vary from state to state. If you are not in Tennessee, please check with your state’s Office of the Secretary of State or ask a business lawyer about what regulations and fees apply in your state.

Citations

[1] File for a DBA or ‘Doing Business As’ (2007, September 14). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.legalzoom.com/legal-dba/dba-doing-business-as-overview.html

[2] Hargett, T. (2009, June 22). Tennessee Department of State: Business Services. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.tn.gov/sos/bus_svc/trademarksFAQ.htm

[3] Trademark FAQs. (2015, March 10). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/trademark-faqs


CC BY-NDThis article may be freely reprinted or distributed in its entirety in any e-zine, newsletter, blog or website. The author’s name, bio and website links must remain intact and be included with every reproduction. View general information about this license; or view detailed legal information about this license.

BWW

Buffalo Wild Wings & Why Nice Companies Finish First

Customer service, yo. It’s important.

Maybe you’ve seen the latest FB post that’s gone viral about Buffalo Wild Wing’s response to a beer bought for a fallen solider? If not, check out this article from The Blaze:

A Buffalo Wild Wings in Washington state has become the focus of a viral Internet post — all because of single beer.

Brian Avey, a server at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Tacoma, Washington, said a “military woman” came into the restaurant around lunchtime and attempted to order one Blue Moon and one Corona at the same time. But there was a problem: You can’t do that.

When Avey explained the state’s law of only allowing one beer at a time, the female vet said that the Corona she ordered wasn’t for her; it was for her brother who had died serving in Iraq.

Avey wrote on a now-viral Facebook post that the beer simply sat next to her at an empty place setting during the entirety of her lunch.

Buffalo Wild Wings picked up the tab for her brother’s beer, but that wasn’t the end of it.

“After she left, I didn’t have the heart to dump the beer out and throw it away, so I put it on top of the cooler next the American Flag,” Avey wrote. “When I showed my boss his response was Amazing… He said ‘That’s Fine, just do me a favor, put a fresh Lime in it Every Morning.’”

According to KIRO-TV, the store has been receiving calls of gratitude from all over the world.

“Thank you. An act of kindness goes a long way. It means a lot to me. Have a great rest of your day,” the woman, “a grateful soldier” wrote on the receipt before leaving the restaurant.

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This is a great example of how Nice Companies Finish First–a great read by Peter Shankman & Karen Kelly so if you haven’t picked it up, you should.

The employee and manger of this Buffalo Wild Wings deserve a pat on the back for going beyond great customer service and actually seeing their customers as people–not just a means of generating revenue. They will most certainly see the benefit of their kindness through an increase of revenues–as they should! Companies that go above and beyond–or as Peter Shankman says, “one level nicer than crap,” deserve to see the growth due to those efforts. Check out Peter’s TED Talk here…you won’t regret it!


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Trademarks & Branding – What NOT to do!

Searching for the perfect trademark? Your brand identity usually begins here and it’s the first connection you have with prospects so it’s worth investing some time and brain power to find the perfect name and mark. Through this process, it’s important to avoid some common pitfalls that could have disastrous consequences for your business down the road. With that in mind, here’s a list of what NOT to do in your branding process!

1. Say Nothing.

What does your trademark say about your business? Does it evoke a feeling, a mission, a description?

Too often, businesses choose names that sound “corporate” without conveying anything at all about their brand. For instance, Andersen Consulting had to ditch their name due to the departure of Andersen from the company and promptly rebranded as Accenture.

accenture

It was meant to be a play on “Accent on the Future,” but really? Who got that? Time’s editors called it “one of the worst rebrandings in corporate history.” According to Frankel, it sounds like the quintessential, meaningless, “big corporation” name. “It tells the customer nothing” she said.

Blackwater is a private security firm that also attempted a rebranding effort, but failed miserably. After a public relations nightmare where Blackwater contractors were accused of murdering Iraqi citizens, executives attempted to rename the company Xe (pronounced Zee) because it had no previous connotations. Unfortunately, this nonsense name (and the fact that many didn’t know how to pronounce it) meant that people still referred to the company as Blackwater. They eventually went on to rebrand a second time, becoming Academi.

Lesson learned? Say SOMETHING with your name. What a waste of an opportunity to do anything otherwise.

 


2. Neglect the Research.

So you’ve narrowed the list to a few possible trademarks. Have you done the research? Have other companies claimed that name or mark? Perhaps a variation of the name? A different spelling? All of these things could lead to the rejection of your name by the Secretary of State or USPTO. If you do business in more than one state (or you plan to expand territories) have you performed a national search for your selected trademark?

laputaEven if your trademark is available, be sure to check how it relates to the consumer’s culture. Many issues can arise, especially if your brand is international. For example, Mazda made a serious misstep in naming their SUV crossover LaPuta. (Spanish translation: “the whore.”)

Oops.

syfy

You may have also seen the recent change made by the SciFi network to SyFy. The reasoning is because SciFi is a genre and therefore, not trademark-able. The unique spelling of SyFy allowed the network to trademark the name; however, someone failed to point out that syfy is slang for syphilis.

Oops again.

 

3. Ignore Feedback.

Everyone has an opinion. Some are valid. Before moving full speed ahead, consider taking a poll and gaining valuable insights into the way potential customers will view your business based on your trademark. Of course not everyone will approve. Almost everyone will have an alternative opinion. Just remember that it’s your business. You have to live with the brand identity so you’d better love it!

If you are considering rebranding then consumer feedback is particularly important. In 2010, Gap decided to release a brand new logo design and the backlash was intense.

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Loyal Gap customers were outraged and let them know via social media (including this parody Twitter account). After the logo release, it took only six days for Gap to reverse that rebranding decision stating: “Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback,” the company said on its Facebook Page. “We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowdsourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”

Smart decision on their part. Unfortunately, Tropicana’s rebranding debacle didn’t reverse quickly enough and they only learned their lesson when revenues dropped 20%!

Most recent rebranding debacle? Have you seen the new state of TN logo?

TN_state_gov_logo

A huge hubbub was heard when citizens learned that it cost $46,000 to design this simplistic logo. It was recently rejected from the USPTO as a registered trademark due to the fact that the logo is “primarily geographically descriptive.” It appears that Gov. Bill Haslam will continue to defend the rebranding effort and offers no sign that the rejection of this design by the people of Tennessee will be taken into consideration.

 

4. Fail to Protect.

Finding that perfect trademark is a process. A long process. You may go through hundreds or thousands of ideas before finding one that is both desired and available. Once you find that perfect mark it’s definitely worth the time, effort, and investment to protect it!

Read our next article about how to register your trade name!

 

LUNCH & LEARN: THE PLAN FOR PROTECTING YOUR BRAND

Join Executive Legal Professionals on August 6, 2015:

Copyrights, Trade Marks, Patents, and the Plan for Protecting Your Brand. 

Protecting trade secrets, copyrights, trade marks, and other intellectual property is essential to the innovation and growth that are vital to small businesses. Noel’s talk will focus on using Preventive Law to strengthen such protections.

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5 things I’ve learned as the wife of an entrepreneur…

PASSION.

They have it. Don’t squash it.

True entrepreneurs have passion. Alright, that’s an understatement. Entrepreneurs have an OVERABUNDANCE of passion. That idea that hits them during dinner can easily turn into an all-nighter—sketching out an idea and fleshing out the plan to make it happen. When an idea is in its infancy it is like looking at a mouth-watering chocolate fudgy brownie. The entrepreneur’s mouth waters and they highly anticipate taking that awesome first bite. So, no matter how well-intentioned, the first negative comment or objection can be like replacing all the sugar in that brownie with salt—sapping all the moisture from their mouth and drying up their motivation like a mouth full of sand. Love them, support them, and push them to answer all the questions, but keep the negativity off the table. If there is an objection that must be answered, be sure your presentation is constructive and encouraging.

 

PATIENCE.

Yeah, they don’t have it.

There are so many small steps that one must take to reach the summit. But when you can already see the top, it’s hard to slow down and keep from tripping over the rocks at your feet. Help them keep their eye on the summit – that is what makes their passion rise and they will in turn, inspire everyone else around them.

 

DETAILS.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

As I said before, entrepreneurs see the summit. They have a bird’s eye view of the product/service/business that they want to gift to the world. There is great value in this zoomed out perspective. A great leader must always have a destination in mind. Details will come later and may be something you have to take on in order to keep the passion alive. No worries- just learn to surround yourself with people who specialize in what you or your spouse don’t want to do. Delegate and keep reaching for the summit.

 

RESULTS.

Just start.

Me? Oh yeah, I’m a planner. Business plan? Yes please! Let’s figure out all the possible scenarios and run the numbers. To the entrepreneur, that all-nighter where he sketched out his idea was his planning session. He’s ready to hit the ground running and reach that summit before anyone else. To his credit, my husband is the most logical man I know. He thinks things through and focuses on the big things. Even if everything isn’t all planned out and all the answers haven’t been found, he’s ready to start. Start with the big things, the things you know have to be done. Figure out the rest as you go, otherwise you’ll waste valuable time and someone else will beat you to the punch.

 

LOVE.

Through it all.

No matter what successes or failures may come our way, no matter how much money is (or isn’t!) in the bank account, he must always know that he is the light of my life. He’s my inspiration and motivation to keep going even when I don’t see the finish line. That’s not to say that there won’t be times when I chase him with a frying pan and other times when we (read – “I”) cry it out, but we are partners through it all. Our successes and failures are met together.

 

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The Four Cornerstones of Growth

1. Intentionality

Everyone has heard it, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Being intentional with your desire to grow and creating goals on how to do so is absolutely essential to your business’s sustainability. “Accidental” growth doesn’t happen. Or if it does happen, it doesn’t last. Sit. Think about the current trajectory of your company. Think about where you want your company to be in 5, 10, 20 years. Is the path you are currently on going to get you there or do you need to turn around or branch off to create a new path? Put it on your to do list. Make a plan and don’t wait. Just start.

When you become intentional about achieving your company goals, be sure to keep going. Communicate with your employees (and not just your managers!) about expectations and milestones you want to reach. Put them in writing and set hard and fast deadlines.

Be sure not to forget about your personal goals along the way. Why did you start the business? Wealth creation? Social justice? Saving the environment? Succession planning and exit strategies are important to keep in mind as you plan for your company’s future.

TIPS:

  • Count your beans. No matter what metrics are used in your industry, identify the top 5 company stats for your business and measure and monitor them regularly.
  • Set at least one extremely ambitious pie-in-the-sky goal.
  • Work on the business, not in it!
  • Read, read, read and then read some more. Know your industry, your competitors and what is important to success in today’s marketplace.
  • Don’t be afraid of change.

 

2. Organization

Growth necessitates change. As your company grows, your organizational structure may have to evolve as well. The way you recruit, manage and incentivize employees should be closely reviewed and adapted as needed. Control systems that ensure efficiency, but don’t stifle productivity, may need to be set in place. Technology upgrades are sure to be an essential part of scalability and reducing hidden costs and problems that are associated with old technology.

Additionally, you should consider the evolution of the legal organization of your business. Changing from a sole proprietorship to a partnership, LLC or even an S-Corp can make sense over time.

TIPS:

  • Communicate with your accountant and lawyers to ensure your business structure is most appropriate for your company and that it allows your business to receive the best tax benefits available.
  • Give Gen Y the latest technology. Use tech to connect with your employees and ensure they have what they need to perform their duties.
  • Educate yourself on the systems used by your business and how to run them. Don’t allow technology or processes to outpace you and make you irrelevant.
  • When developing systems, keep future growth in mind. Build in scalability so they will work with your business instead of becoming a hindrance.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in touch and keep your staff focused. Hire people smarter than you and empower employees you feel are experts and great managers. Trust them to see the vision and grow the business. Invest in their professional development.

 

3. Marketing

While working on my MBA at Samford University, I heard marketing defined in a myriad of ways. However, the compilation of those lead to my current definition: Get the right message to the right people at the right time and in the right way. Every aspect from the message to timing and audience is essential to your marketing. Evaluate each one with future growth in mind.

Right Message: Research how your audience is perceiving your message/product/service. Is this how you want to be viewed? Growth can occur by changing your message or simply by changing the presentation of your message. What problem are you solving for your customers? Are you speaking directly to the needs of the marketplace or promoting gimmicks to get people in the door? In today’s market, perceptions can easily change (for better or worse) through online reviews, testimonials, and media attention.

Right People: Who are you reaching? Depending on your industry, growth can occur by limiting your customer base or by expanding your customer base. (I know- helpful right?!) Explore your current clientele. You may discover that only 20% of them are bringing in 80% of your revenue. If this is the case, find ways to market to that 20%. Fire the customers that are wasting your resources and holding you back. Expansion of your market can occur geographically or demographically. Consider expansion of your territory or market to a different audience that may also have a need for your service or product. Find what works and work it.

Right Time: Timing is essential to great marketing. Social media has not only changed the level of interaction customers expect, but expected response times as well. Responsiveness to opportunities and threats can make or break your business. Know your competitors, develop multiple strategies, and put processes in place to respond to possible scenarios whether good or bad.

Right Way: You’ve settled on your message, identified your audience, and are awaiting the prime time to market your business. So, how will you do it? Use all of the above (message, audience and time) to identify the how. This may mean a website, blog, TV or radio spot, social media blitz, direct sales, or big sales event. Sponsorships or networking may work for your industry or maybe you want a skywriter to leave a message in the clouds during rush hour. Think outside the box, try something different as long as it makes sense for your industry and growth strategy. Maximize your ROI by focusing on the right audience and putting your marketing dollars where they are most effective. Just remember—if you are willing to invest in marketing for growth, be double damn sure your business processes are ready to keep up with the demand!

TIPS:

  • Develop, believe in, and understand your elevator speech!
  • Understand your target market. How do they communicate? How do they consume goods or services? Meet them where they are.
  • Do everything with excellence. Don’t half-ass it and be disappointed when it didn’t work.
  • Never assume the relevance of your products or services. Evaluate and evolve your product or service if necessary.
  • Keep asking your customers what they want and or need. Never stop getting feedback and using that to determine your path.

 

4. Finance

Cash flow. It’s important. Especially when you want to grow your business. Ensuring your business has the financial strength to grow means that you should know exactly how much cash flow you have, how much you need and when you need it. Taking a hard look at your cash flow may mean that you need to revisit business processes or establish new control mechanisms in order to maximize the amount of cash you are able to reinvest in the business. Explore external funding for major equipment or property purchases. Don’t forget the non-traditional funding sources such as crowdfunding. (Check out Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, gofundme, Peerbackers.) There are also numerous organizations that assist you in finding investors for startups such as Grow Venture Community, MicroVentures, Angel List, CircleUp, and so many more.

Not only should you have a handle on your own financial strength, but you should also be aware of your competitors. Evaluate and compare pricing models, suppliers, as well as asset and inventory management. Take the time to develop your relationship with the bank – it’s worth it! Also, consult experts if this area is not your strength (for entrepreneurs this is most often the case!). Ask about tax efficiencies and ensure the proper controls and regulations are in place for future growth.

TIPS:

  • Make sure your metrics are relevant to your decision making. (For example- don’t stop selling a product just because your margins are slim. Examine your cost of goods sold including suppliers, delivery systems, and production costs. Any one of these could make the difference between a best-seller and profit-sucker.)
  • Manage your collections and creditors.
  • Everything is negotiable. Well, almost everything. Consider negotiating vendor/supplier payment terms based on performance criteria.
  • Be aware of fraud risks. Implement segregation of duties and put controls in place for accountability.
  • Always look for ways to boost cash flow, but be mindful not to inhibit production, quality, or customer experience by pinching pennies.

 

 

 

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Four Essential Steps to Grow Like a Weed

Here at Sproutling, we get it. Small business is hard. Sometimes it’s seasonal, sometimes start-up costs are more than expected, and sometimes growth requires sacrifice that is painful to the pocketbook. But trust us, it’s totally worth it. With steady and healthy growth of your business comes the achievement of your long term goals and dreams. Whether that’s financial security, traveling the world, or creating a legacy—growth is how you get there.

A solid marketing strategy for small businesses is absolutely an essential part to stable growth. Here are four simple steps to begin building your strategy:

Evaluate.

Take a step back. Revisit your business plan. (You have one, right?!)

– Think about your current target market. Are they bringing in enough revenue? Don’t forget the 80/20 rule: about 80% of your revenue probably comes from 20% of your customers.

– How can you focus on this high value market? Fire existing clients? Move locations? Expand your marketing efforts?

Prioritize.

Examine potential marketing efforts and prioritize by effectiveness and achievability.

Can you expand your digital presence? Revamp your printed materials? Begin advertising in a new channel? Each area of marketing comes with it’s own expenses. Take time to prioritize what works best for your current budget and determine which efforts will give you the greatest return on your investment.

Measure.

Set specific goals. Don’t just think about them—write them down! Make hard deadlines and determine how you will measure the effectiveness of each marketing effort. If you don’t measure you won’t know what works.

Just start.

Pull the trigger. Meet those deadlines. Reach for the stars…and all those other cheesy motivational poster quotes. Don’t put it off. Another dollar earned today may lead to ten more tomorrow. Build. Go. Do. Now.

Seriously, why are you still here?!