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All About Small Business
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A Strong Brand Can Grow Business Value

Thu, 08/04/2022 - 16:48

Having a strong brand is a path to growth.  Yet, many small businesses do not take advantage of the vast amount of opportunities a strong brand offers.

You may think that branding is only relevant for large corporations with an international customer base, but that is not true. Branding for small businesses is just as important. Any business can benefit from a strong brand.

Your brand is the way your customers (as well as suppliers and partners) perceive you.  And how your company perceives itself. 

Let’s explore both externally and internally why branding is important to your business.

Externally

Your brand represents you and your promise to your customer.

It is important to remember that your brand represents you…you are the brand, your staff is the brand, your marketing materials are the brand.

What do they say about you, and what do they say about what you’re going to deliver (promise based on your business’ mission) to the customer?

Shapes how people think of your company.

You’re in charge of creating the story, why not write it the way you want? Identify a clear, concise message (this is your mission statement) so others can quickly and easily understand who you are, what your values are, and why you do what you do.

Your mission statement is a personal promise to each and every prospect that comes across your business. Use your mission statement to set yourself apart from your competition! Give your target audience a reason to choose your small business.

Differentiates you from the competition.

In today’s global market, it is critical to stand apart from the crowd.  You are no longer competing on a local stage, your business now competes in the global economy and competition is fiercer than ever. Technology allows customers to easily compare all of their options. Brands must compete with more than other businesses; they have to compete with an exponentially increasing amount of noise just to get the customers’ attention.

Buying decisions often occur in split seconds instead of long, drawn-out processes, and are based on memories, images, and feelings. Telling them what makes your company different saves time in the sales cycle, so don’t make your customers dig around to figure it out. Have your brand be quickly and easily understood. Every great brand should be easily explained with a few solid descriptors. 

Increases brand recognition; becomes memorable.

Gaining the attention of today’s customers is no easy feat. You can’t just “buy” customer attention anymore, you have to earn it. To earn it, your brand has to be loveable. Customers don’t fall in love with names; they fall in love with the entire brand experience.

Customers enjoying a positive experience with your product or service is great, but this has to be married with recognizable branding. If your branding does not effectively differentiate your business from the competition, highlight what makes your business amazing and capture the minds of the audience, then your hard work delivering an experience can be undone. You need to be memorable and for all the right reasons.

Branding creates and builds trust; customers know what to expect.

Trust from your audience is one of the most important things you can have as a business. Therefore, it is critical to have strong branding in order to establish a level of trust in your business from the get-go.

As customers get to know your business they will begin to trust you. Trust in your branding works two-fold. Not only does a trustworthy brand put first-time customers at ease, also, customers who go on to have a positive experience with your brand will be far more likely to repeat business and become regular customers. A brand is effectively a promise to customers that they can know what to expect every time. Exceptional customer service, experience with the product/services and positive online communication on social networks will keep them coming back for more.

Improves customer loyalty to your brand.

Branding allows you to build relationships with your audience, which can eventually turn them into loyal customers. You can create a brand that people actually care about and puts your business ahead of other businesses that are not using branding to their advantage.

Good branding will create customer loyalty. Loyal customers will continue to support you in good and bad times. They will spread a positive message to people they know. Their influence will introduce new people to your company. And, a humanistic connection that makes it harder for customers to leave. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive) to keep a current customer than it is to acquire one.

Enhances Pricing.

If a small business can establish and grow a brand that customers believe in, then this increased trust and loyalty can be reflected in higher pricing.

Strong branding can add a huge amount of value to your product or service. This should provide the motivation to focus on branding, get it right, and maintain consistency.

Drives positive word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.

People wear, eat, listen to, and use brands; and they love to tell others about the brands they like. Customers who believe in your brand and are emotionally invested are far more likely to recommend your business. 9 out of 10 people trust suggestions from their friends and family over any advertising. Word of mouth can be an excellent, cost-effective marketing tool for small businesses to create buzz about their businesses.

But on the flip side, if the business customer can’t remember or have a less than favorable experience then that doesn’t help the business; so ensure the brand experience is favorable.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals are only possible if your branding is clear, strong, positive, and memorable to accompany their great experiences.

Facilitates effective marketing and higher advertising effectiveness on customers.

A strong brand has to be consistent. This goes back to the “promise” and “trust” we mentioned earlier. Consistent brands are far more trustworthy to customers. If a brand is inconsistent with its messaging then this will confuse the audience, leaving them uncertain of your offering.

So, when putting together a marketing campaign you must ask yourself, “Does this convey what we want to represent as a brand?”

Giving time and attention to maintaining your business’s brand will allow you to connect with your audience and promote your brand message, helping to achieve marketing goals. Crucial for a small business. Without a strong and consistent brand, it is highly likely that your marketing will fail.

When you are advertising your business, you want everything to be cohesive and represent your business’s identity and values. Incorporating branding into your advertising will help increase recognition of your brand when it’s all tied together.

Your brand helps you connect with your customers emotionally.

Branding helps create an emotional connection in that a brand reflects your company’s deepest values and guidelines. If a person connects with these values on a deeper level, your brand will serve as a constant reminder of this connection. 

With a good emotional brand connection, people feel good when they buy the brand. Purchasing is an emotional experience and having a strong brand helps people feel good at an emotional level when they engage with the company.

Customers can get attached to brands and become huge advocates for them throughout their lives.

Branding gives your company social influence.

If you remain unknown, customers may not pay you any attention. That will spell doom for any business. But with a brand name backing you up, your business can become a force in any field. All it takes is some gritty, day-to-day effort to build your brand.

Internally

Your brand helps you create clarity and stay focused.

It’s very easy to wander around from idea to idea with nothing to guide you; it doesn’t take long to be a long way from your original goals or plans.

Whatever your brand may be, make sure there are goals and meaning behind it.

A clear brand strategy helps you stay focused on your mission and vision as an organization.

Your brand can help you be strategic and will guide your marketing efforts saving time and money.

It’s very easy to wander around from idea to idea with nothing to guide you; it doesn’t take long to be a long way from your original goals or plans.

Whatever your brand may be, make sure there are goals and meaning behind it.

A clear brand strategy helps you stay focused on your mission and vision as an organization.

Your brand can help you be strategic and will guide your marketing efforts saving time and money.

More applicants that want to work for your brand (and business).

Top candidates want to work for known companies. Having a brand attracts highly skilled workers. Branding creates an impression of financial stability. This attribute attracts mostly security-minded, highly skilled workers. You would want them on your side because they can generate even greater value for your business. When you make an effort to build your brand, you will also attract many people willing to support you along the way.

Creates culture, builds teams, and engages employees who are proud to work at your company.

Branding provides value inside of your company as well. Of course, you want your employees to love working for your company and feel like they’re a part of a team. A company with great branding will have an easier time getting employees to feel like they’re involved with something more than just a job.

A clear brand strategy provides motivation and direction for your staff to be successful.

It tells them how to act, how to win, and how to meet the organization’s goals.

When employees understand the mission of a business and its reason for being, it creates a focal point for emotional investment and something staff can really get behind and believe in.

Organizational culture is an extension of the brand which has been created.

Adds value to your company.

A strong brand will provide value to your organization well beyond your physical assets. A strong brand increases your business’ shareholder value. 

Products and services have life cycles, but your brand will be around forever. By creating a strong foundation, you’ll be setting your company up for success for years to come. A strong brand allows you to have the flexibility to expand the offering or make it easier and less risky to diversify, often guarantees future business.

Whether a company is in the position to borrow funds for expansion or roll out to an IPO, being perceived as more valuable will make the process advantageous for the owner. The greater a company’s devotion to building its brand value, the better the financial return from its efforts. A unified, consistent brand means your business is well-positioned for any future expansion it wants to make.

When you invest in your brand, you invest in your company’s future. The earlier you do it, the better it will go for your business and the people who depend on it.

In conclusion

Your brand has the potential to generate a lot of power and attract new prospects, connections, and growth to your small business. Think about what a powerful brand can do for you and how to start creating one right now to add value to your business.

Remember, the best branding is built on a strong idea, an idea that you and your staff can hold on to, can commit to, and can deliver upon.

Your brand represents all that you stand for as a business, it makes a promise to the consumer, celebrating what makes you different from and better than your competition.

Your brand needs to permeate your entire organization. When your organization is clear on the brand and can deliver on the promise of the brand, you will see tremendous fruit while building brand loyalty among your customer base. 

It can add a huge amount of value to your product or service which vastly affects profitability. So, any business owner concerned about their bottom line (which in reality is probably everyone) should without a doubt be thinking about investing in their brand.  Investing in your brand is investing in your future.   

A solid brand guarantees client loyalty, repeat business, public trust, and an important place in society. You must, therefore, invest early and consistently in your brand as it provides value to your business.

P.S. Your brand is a valuable asset that needs protection.

One way is to trademark it. A trademark is a legal protection that prevents others from using your brand name or logo without your permission. Without a trademark, anyone could start using your brand name or logo, and you would have no legal recourse. So, if you’re serious about protecting your brand, make sure to trademark it as soon as possible. The best part of this process is that you can write it off as a business expense. Also, you can charge whatever fees you want if anyone wants a franchise.

Selecting Additional Revenue Streams

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 16:24

Generating revenue is essential for your business. 

Revenue streams are varied, and choosing the best one(s) is critical to your business’s success. 

Having multiple revenue streams gives you the ability that if one source is suffering, others are stronger, and you will not run short of cash.

Let’s explore the different revenue streams and consider which ones you should select to diversify your revenue sources.

Product Sales – Customers buy your offering outright and own it. Some examples are a carton of milk, a toothbrush, and a folding mattress. Brick-and-mortar retail companies and/or e-commerce companies use this revenue stream.

Plusses include: lower ticket items are easier to sell; higher ticket items provide excellent revenue all at once.

Minuses include: every product demands that it be produced, stored, and shipped; products often have lower profit margins; and there are limits on how inexpensively you can produce it, even with higher volumes.

Services and Consulting – Talent and expertise are saleable. Examples range from computer geeks that help you with your technology needs to hair salons that improve their customers’ appearance. 

Businesses can provide various services, each providing revenue to the company. Services are a great way to add revenues without creating new assets, but as the billable hours mount, you need to add people. Survey your customers on their needs and wants to identify what services to add, then use your existing in-house expertise to deliver the service(s).

Benefits: you can charge more as the services are personalized, and you need fewer customers to reach your revenue goals.

Drawbacks: services are not easily scalable, and you may pay for talent not being used as services are based on billable hours; customer service has a more significant role; and finally, you are more responsible for the outcomes your customers get.

Subscriptions – Customers pay a recurring fee regularly (monthly, quarterly, yearly) to access a product or service. Some examples of subscriptions are Amazon Prime and gym membership, enabling customers to have access as long as they pay their subscription fee.

Pros include: if you can accurately estimate your customer churn rate, new customers, and monthly recurring revenue, you can calculate how much revenue your business will generate next month; if your marketing and sales efforts slow or stop, you can still generate revenue from existing subscribers; and it is often easier to close subscription sales as customers perceive the upfront cost and risk is low.

Cons include: if your customer acquisition cost payback period is more extended than you retain your customer, you will lose money; you may need to invest resources in customer service and other areas to avoid high cancellation rates, and revenue can be uncertain during the start-up phase.

Advertising – You can sell advertising space via your customer channels, especially if you have a large and loyal customer base or audience. For example, you can generate advertising revenue if you have a podcast or Twitter handle that millions of people regularly follow and engage with you, especially if they retweet.

If you have a sizable email list, you can partner and charge other brands seeking your target audience to advertise. It does not have to be online; high-traffic areas like buildings and event venues charge for advertising to be placed for people passing by or in attendance to see.

In your favor: ads can be highly lucrative if you have a large customer base or following, and this revenue stream is easy and inexpensive to start and maintain.

Potential disfavor: if your audience is small, the revenue will be small; ads can distract from your offerings, and you will be associated with the brands you advertise, so choose carefully.

Usage fees (based on consumption) – How much a company charges for using its service. The customer pays you based on the amount they use the service. Some examples: a phone company charges customers for a certain number of minutes and per month of data; a car rental company charges the customer based on miles traveled; and a postal carrier charges you to deliver a parcel from one location to another.

Essentially, with usage fees, the more customers use a service, the more they pay. 

+ +: pay for what you use appeals to many customers; a low barrier to entry; provides the agility and flexibility to respond to changing business and customer needs quickly; enables businesses to grow faster with price points that are attractive to a more extensive customer base; eliminates or shortens purchasing cycles; higher net dollar retention that a more traditional subscription-based model.

– -: sticker shock can cause customer dissatisfaction or churn; low switching costs; creates revenue (and cash flow) insecurity; and the metric used for scaling is not always well understood by customers. 

Licensing – Income generated through customers’ approved usage of your company’s products, services, or intellectual property. An example is software licensing, such as for Microsoft Word. You can also grant a customer to use your company’s copyrighted material (such as images, characters, songs) or trademark.

Some advantages: licenses run for the longer term, so there is less churn, and your business gets more money upfront from purchases of its license(s) products.

Some disadvantages: customers usually buy once unless you create or improve the product, such as movie characters or software releases; and if you do not make sales, your revenue will be nothing.

Renting and Leasing – When you rent or lease assets as a revenue stream, you give exclusive usage rights to the buyer for a specific length. Some examples of rental companies are designer clothing company Rent the Runway, moving truck company U-Haul, and vacation rental company Vrbo, as well as real estate leasing companies. You could rent it out to freelancers and/or other businesses if you have unused office space. Renting and leasing businesses often have other revenue streams such as subscription fees and product sales.  

On the positive side, you can generate significant revenue from a single in-demand asset over time, and customers do not need to justify long-term purchases, so making sales easier.

On the flip side: it can take a while to make back your money after investing in your asset, especially if it is not in demand (think rental cars during the early days of COVID); you will need to account for the depreciation of your asset, and over time wear and tear will happen, so maintenance is essential.

Brokerage Fees – Involves a business that connects buyers with sellers and collects a commission on the resultant transaction. Advances in eCommerce allow this brokerage business model to thrive since virtually any product or service can now be ordered online, and Amazon brings buyers and sellers together and collects a fee from sellers. Companies like Fiverr and Upwork make money (a percentage of the fee) from matching freelancers with clients who need their help; in this case, as the matchmaker, it collects a fee from the buyer who gains access to a multitude of qualified professionals and the freelancers matched with clients.

Upsides include: once you can match parties together, it becomes a relatively low-effort revenue stream since you do not have to deliver products or services, and there can be less friction for sales as customers do not have to pay upfront, you take a cut from their transactions.

Downsides are: setting up matching can be expensive and time-consuming, you have to be willing to put forth the resources to make it work and then get buyers and sellers to use the matching service, and brokerage fees are currently only used in a few industries.

When selecting revenue streams for your business, a few factors to consider: your revenue stream should connect with your value proposition, and the value that your product or service delivers should align with your revenue streams; and analyze how your competition generates revenue, study their strategies, mistakes, and wins to help you determine your revenue streams. 

Further, you want to consider who your customers are, what your assets are, and how you can and want to make money.  

Think about your customer and market fit; consider how you interact with them and their preferences. Is another revenue stream additive to what you are already providing? Survey your existing assets and judge the most effective way to add income; the best revenue streams add the least complexity to your current business structure.  

Also, consider if you want to expand your assets to bring in revenue; but make sure it will provide what your customers want/need. 

Finally, think about whether the revenue stream is something you can and want to provide. Ensure the revenue stream(s) are in sync with your business purpose.

Consider new revenue streams for your business today to add income and make your business more resilient to tough economic times.

P.S. Sponsorship: If you are a non-profit, sponsorships can benefit organizations of all types and sizes. Advantages include: additional revenue in the form of contributions; in-kind donations of items and/or services; partnership with a company whose brand and values align with your organization’s; both parties get exposed to each other’s audiences; and partnering with a well-known company can add credibility to your organization. When identifying and securing potential sponsors, do the following:

  • Look for companies who serve a similar demographic as your organization.
  • Identify who has sponsored similar organizations or events in the past. 
  • Ask your staff, volunteers, members, donors, and board members if they can think of any potential sponsors. 
  • Examine your significant donors – do any of them own a business or work for a company that would be a good match. 

Before approaching a company about a potential partnership, think about what you can offer them in return, such as increased awareness and exposure to members of your community or public recognition as a socially responsible, purpose-driven company that supports a worthy cause.

Return to Work Hurdles

Wed, 06/01/2022 - 14:44

Identifying the reasons workers do not want to come back to the workplace is challenging.

Often the reasons your employees and staff tell you are not the underlying cause(s) for their reluctance.  As owner, manager, and/or leader it is your responsibility to identify and address the hurdles your workers have.

We have identified some reasons for their resistance, but there may be others.

From around the nation, employers reported on some of their workers’ responses to directives bringing them back to the workplace, they include the following.

In big cities, long commutes have surfaced as a major impediment to giving up working from home.  As a most given reason, it was followed by added food costs for lunches and snacks plus finally, unsureness of office wear mores.

An added factor is many workers have changed body shape due to the long idleness. Ironically, many workers have actually trimmed weight and find office wear too big rather than too small.

The emotional cost of renewing relationships on a personal basis after months of zoom-like meetings is sometimes a hindrance to workplace returns.

The savings in child-care costs along with the time to bond with children have led many parents to question the sacrifices they are making in leaving their offspring with others.  Many parents report renewed closeness they are reluctant to loosen.  Plus, some had other caregiver responsibilities.

Better work-life balance was also reported by many employees.  Workers spend more time with family but also believe they provide improved performance to their company by concentrating on the job needs rather than workplace distraction.

Being away from the workplace enabled them to better sort out their goals within the company.  They also indicate their life goals have changed, making them less desirous of career advancement over personal achievements.

Other employees say they have better communications with senior management through direct contact required by dispersed workers.  They report improved understanding of company goals with improved communications with senior leaders.

Perhaps you can add to this list.  The important task is to listen to what workers reply when asked to return to the workplace.  Then ask follow-up questions to understand each individual’s hurdles for returning and think about how you can help them soar over them.

The Power of Words

Sun, 05/01/2022 - 10:22

Words matter.  Your customers also think words matter.

So be cognizant of how your staff speaks internally as well as externally, the words and pictures on your website, the phases found in your promotional material, and even what’s printed on product wrappings.

Since words color all our perceptions, it is important to listen and hear closely what words are used when anything referring to your company is brought up.  Your current and future success depend on the repetition of favorable words and the silencing or careful handling of negative phrases.

You as a business owner and/or leader set the tone.  Consider how you refer to your business.  Is it positioned as a place you would want to be and/or do business with?  Are you clear and positive about your priorities?

Next, listen and look at how your employees refer to your business.  What words are used in their conversations and posted online in reference to your business?  Often their actions back up their words; do you have tenure employees or a revolving door?

Then consider partners, stakeholders and investors, you want to hear positive words from all; preferably similar words to how you refer to your business.  If significantly different words are used, find out why.  Then take steps to address where you are and where you want your business to be.

Finally, consider your customers, present and former.  What do they say about your business?  Customer opinions are significant, and you want favorable thoughts and endorsements both word-of-mouth and online.

What words or phrases should you consider using to have a favorable for your business?  An accurate description of your business is most important.  You might strive to be described as:

     Having quality offerings (product and/or services)

     Providing superior customer service

     Nurturing happy, long-time employees

     Achieving business longevity

     Fostering a good customer experience throughout their journey

     Fun, conservative, irreverent, ethical, etc.

Now is the time to think about words used to describe your business.  Are they favorable?  What can you do to make a positive impression that results in the best word selection when referring to your business?

If negative words are used, find out why.  Respond as favorably as possible, perhaps with planned corrective action.

Words matter.  Start listening, looking, and acting today.