Category Archives for "marketing strategy"

Blow Your Competition Right Out of the Water

By Randall Orser | Home Based Business , marketing strategy , Small Business

No matter what sort of business you start, you're likely to face competition from other businesses like yours. You need to figure out ways to stay ahead of the competition as well as blow them out of the water.  Here are 12 ways to gain the competitive advantage that you seek.

  1. Run your business for longer hours or during times when your competitors are closed. If you run a  daycare, for example, you might extend your hours to include evenings and weekends to accommodate parents who are taking night classes or who are shift workers.
  2. Go the extra mile. It's amazing how little things make such a big difference. Send thank-you notes,   birthday or Christmas cards to your customers or clients.
  3. Offer your loyal customers special discounts or start a loyalty program.
  4. Always be honest and upfront with your customers. If you messed up, admit it and take immediate steps to rectify your mistakes.
  5. Treat all of your customers with courtesy and respect. That doesn't mean that you have to like every customer or client that you deal with, but you do have to treat each one with professionalism and common courtesy. 
  6. If you cannot perform a certain service or do not stock a particular product that your client or customer has requested, be upfront about it. Better yet, refer them to someone else who has the product or service that they need.
  7. Strive to provide excellent customer service. Customer service can make or break your business.
  8. Study your competitor's advertisements to see which products or services they are promoting.       Get your hands on all of their promotional materials and look for a way you can improve on what they have already done.
  9. Better yet, buy your competitors product. How does it compare to yours? Are there any areas that you can improve on?
  10. Do informal surveys of your target market, both online and offline. This will help you to uncover exactly what the needs of your target market are so that you can more effectively meet them.
  11. Test a product or service similar to that offered by your competition by offering your customers or clients a free consultation or product in exchange for honest feedback.
  12. Send business to your competition. This isn't as crazy as it sounds, and the payoff can be huge. If there is a service that you don't provide and you know of a competitor who does then refer the customer or client to them. Ask your competitor to so the same for you.

Pick the idea that you like the best from the ones listed above and spend some time implementing it in your business and set yourself apart from your competitors.

Do You Look at Your KPIs?

By Randall Orser | marketing strategy , Small Business

What is the purpose of your business?  What do you need to do absolutely correctly in order for you business to succeed?  What are the activities that you absolutely cannot screw up without losing significant amounts of business?

These questions are answered by examining your Critical Success Factors or CSF’s.  Critical Success Factors are defined as those activities that a business undertakes that allow it to succeed.

It’s more than just the numbers on your financial statements.  Some CSF’s relate to measures of quality, customer satisfaction, and how efficiently you are using your resources.

However, before you can do any analysis on your company’s Critical Success Factors, you need to examine your business strategy.

Ask yourself the following questions: Why is my business better than my competitors’? What do my customers tell me that they like about my business? What don’t they like? What action could I take that would make my customers go elsewhere?

Note that two of the four questions relate to your customers’ perception of your company, not your impressions on what they think.  It’s an important distinction as your customers may have a very different view on you and your business than you think.  How do you know what your customers think?  Ask them!  Set up a procedure where they are asked to fill out a feedback form when they purchase your product or service.  Ask them what they like and don’t like.  Ask why they might choose to shop elsewhere.  Ask what you are doing well and what you could be doing better. You may be surprised by the results.

The answers to the four questions above give you a list of those activities that you need to make sure your business is doing regularly and consistently.  Review your list.  You will most likely find that the items on it relate more to your customers’ perceived value in your product or service, not just its cost.  Companies that compete only on cost will always suffer in the long run as there will always be someone else that can do it cheaper. 

Now that you have defined your Critical Success Factors, you need to be able to make sure you are on track.  But how to measure them, especially when some are non-financial?

The measurements of Critical Success Factors are called Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s.  To recap the jargon, Critical Success Factors are things your company must do to thrive, and Key Performance Indicators are the measures of those things. 

Here is a typical list of Critical Success Factors:

Personal service-making sure the customer gets to speak with a staff member when the purchase is made.

Product quality-making sure the product does what you say it will do and is durable.

Quick problem resolution-making sure all customer complaints are handled quickly and in a manner that impresses the customer.

Same-day shipping-making sure that your product gets shipped out to your customer the day the order is received.

All four of these CSF’s can be measured, even though some of them are non-financial.  

Those are some of the ways that non-financial indicators can be measured and tracked.  Once the measures have been determined, it’s important to set your expectations to measure against.  For example, if your target is to ship 100% of your products same-day, then you would gauge the actual against the standard (100%).

What would happen if your Key Performance Indicators start to slide?

Let’s say you’ve been tracking your key performance indicators for months and this month, several of the indicators seem to show problems. What do you do?

When this happens (as it inevitably will), you need to discover the source of the problem.  A business could face many problems that would impact its key performance indicators including employee illness, cash flow crunch, breakdown in processes, and inattentiveness to customer needs.  If the problem is short term, such as employee illness, there is no need to take drastic action.  However, you will want to see if there is a way to make your operations less vulnerable to the illness of a single employee.

If the problem seems to be in the underlying processes, it’s time to put new procedures in place to make sure the critical success factor is being met.  Have there been changes in the external business environment?  New competitors in the industry?  Quality control problems with the inventory?  These are all situations that need a rethinking and reformulation of your business plan.  If you can see the icebergs, you will have a much better chance of being able to steer around them.

How do You Measure up on Making the Hard Decisions?

By Randall Orser | Budget , Business Income Taxes , Employees , marketing strategy , Small Business

Running your small business can be one demanding enterprise. Your dilemma is that you have control, but that is both a blessing and a curse. You have the joy of deciding how your company grows and develops, but you are also answerable for everything that happens, good or bad. If you let it, this kind of pressure can douse the flames of passion. You can make things mentally and emotionally easier for you to deal with by using the following in your approach to decision-making.

Limit Your Options

The old adage analysis paralysis can easily set in. That’s why you should look at having your offers have as few options as possible. The more choices the customer has to decide on then the less likely they are to make any choice at all.

The more options you have available to you, the harder it will be to take a path. Your best bet is to limit options is to raise or refine your standards. The more specific your needs or desired outcomes, the less options you’ll have to pick from.

Use Your Numbers

Not sure which way to go, then your best to approach the issue objectivity. Rather than just go with your gut, check your numbers. Focus on the measurable metrics and forget what isn’t quantifiable. 

While this can take more time and slow down your decision-making process, it also makes your decision more tenable as well as improving the quality. As an example, you have two manufacturers to choose from and it’s a hard choice, however, go to the numbers and which one gives you a better deal when it comes down to brass tacks.

Think Long Game

Fear is one of the biggest barriers to quick decision making. The idea that your business can be hamstrung by a single mistake is a common one, fortunately it’s not an accurate one. Although a single mistake can hurt, it’s not the death knell you may make it out to be.

Some decisions won’t always expose their true nature early on. What’s working now for your small business won’t necessarily work in the future. On the other hand, that bad decision you make today that negatively affects your business may not necessarily do so in the future. Don’t focus too much on your mistakes or their immediate effects. They’re not necessarily representative of how things will turn out.

Manage Decision Fatigue

Nothing withstands constant pressure. Exercise one muscle frequently in a short period of time, and it’ll fatigue, no matter how strong it is. The same effect happens on your brain when making a lot of decisions, fatigue. Deciding what to have for lunch, which is a simple choice, can add to the barrage of stress bearing down on your brain.

By delegating those small-impact decisions to other people can keep that stress at bay. You need to focus on the big decisions. If you can reduce something to a habit or pattern, do so. Save your energy for important choices.

Not Your Problem

You can easily miss the forest for the trees when you’re deep in the woods, and that’s where you’re at when trying to solve your own problems. Especially challenging decisions can leave you lacking perspective. Taking a step back and removing yourself from the situation can be the best thing to do. Pretend it’s not your problem.

If you had a friend facing this decision point, think about what advice you’d give them. That seems silly but pretending that it’s someone else’s problem to resolve can jar your mind enough to recover your perspective.

You must nurture decisiveness as it’s a key trait to decision making. You won’t be able to run your business if you can’t make decisions quickly. It will take a lot time, practice, and effort, but it’ll be worth it if it makes you a leader who can make choices without freezing.

Seven Things You Need to Look at for Financial Success

By Randall Orser | Budget , Business Income Taxes , marketing strategy , Small Business

You’re a small business operator, managing your business by the bootstraps -- literally! Money is tight, your expenses are on the rise and your competition is nipping at your boots.

Maintaining a thriving business is challenging enough but advancing it may seem downright impossible. One important way you can conserve your resources is by employing multiple money-saving strategies. We’re serving up seven, each designed to help you come to grips with your bottom line.

Just ask

That 13.4 percent rate you’re paying on your business credit card has you losing sleep. Get some sleep after you contact your credit card issuer and ask for a lower rate. You just might get it. You can do the same with your telecommunications company and with any other business that offers rate flexibility.

Share your office

Perhaps you have more space for your business than needed. You may not be able to get out from underneath a lease, but your landlord might allow you to sublease part of your office to someone who can share some of your expenses. An empty cubicle or back office might be desirable to a freelancer who works at home.

Freeze or cut your salary

When things are tough, cut back on what you pay yourself. Then tell your team what you did. Don’t expect your team to offer to do likewise, but they might step up their game in appreciation for you taking a hit on behalf of the team.

Get rid of your merchant account

You’re paying high fees and had to buy or lease equipment for your merchant account. Get rid of that account and use online PayPal instead. Avoid statements and monthly fees, paying a flat rate for each transaction instead.

Buy online

Shopping online can yield big savings, but you need to carefully find the right suppliers to serve your needs. Online shopping typically offers two other advantages: no payment of sales tax and free shipping.

Use independent contractors

Before you consider hiring an employee, use independent contractors to do the work for you. Keep you overhead costs low by outsourcing your accounting, advertising, website and marketing needs to people who charge a flat rate or by the hour.

If possible, barter

Exchange goods and services with a company without exchanging cash. Find a business that needs your service and likewise, developing an even plan to exchange services. Read CRA Interpretation Bulletin 490(even though it’s archived it still has good information in it) to stay within the good graces of the tax man.

There are other ways for you to cut expenses including joining a business association where members offer each other discounts, reducing your insurance costs, making use of open source software and sharing your advertising costs with another business; though stay away from ‘free’ accounting software as it’s just not worth it. With a mind to save, you’ll find savings in virtually every area of your business, money that will benefit your financial statements.

How Smart Entrepreneurs Manage Inventory

By Randall Orser | marketing strategy , Small Business , Technology

Inventory management isn't exactly made for the highlight reel. When people think of entrepreneurs, they think of bold ideas, trailblazing, and making money, not counting how much of your product you have. But inventory management is as important as accounting or securing your patents. Not enough of your big product to go around? Too bad, you just lost a chunk of your customers. The two basic things that your product needs to be are "functional" and "available for purchase". Fail the second one and it doesn't matter how good your product is - you're going to lose money.

Proper inventory management involves more than good hiring practices and keep an eye on your products. There are a couple of problems you'll need to solve.

1. Tracking Your Inventory

The Problem: So you know how much you expect to sell. The problem then becomes figuring out how much you have available for sale. Human error can put the kibosh on your finances. Inventory miscounts can occur when they're sold, when they're received, or when someone decides to use their five-finger discount. You'll also have to take scrapped items into account.

The Solution: Bar codes and electronic data interchange can help make sure that everything is accounted for. While you can count your inventory daily, it can put your employees and your finances under severe stress. A good alternative is to count a few items at a time. Pick a few of your products and see if they match your records. Put more emphasis on your best sellers - count them more often.

2. Having Too Much

The Problem: Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Making too much product can result in storage and production costs eating into what could be your profit. Anything that sits on a shelf for long enough is at risk of being stolen, damaged, or even becoming obsolete. Old product is notoriously difficult to sell, which can result in unplanned discounts or hoping that the overseas markets have room for your old stuff.

The Solution: The first thing you should do is figure out how much you need to have and when you'll need to have it. Take a look at how your sales have been over the past year. Take note of any peaks and dips and figure out if those deviations are connected to specific events or seasons. You can also figure out if you have spikes during specific times of the month, such as at the end of the month.

3. Data Loss

The Problem: Your inventory is properly marked and recorded and you're ready to turn in when your computer suddenly shuts down and refuses to turn back on. You get the repair guy to come in, and he tells you that your hard drive is gone. What do you do?

The Solution: There are a lot of things that can compromise your data, from viruses to theft. So when the inevitable "bad thing" does happen, take a deep breath. Take a look at your backup copy, which you should have. When you update your main file, make sure to update the backup as well. Software is available to both automate the process and to make sure that your data is recoverable. You can also have another copy of the file available to someone who needs it regularly, such as your accountant.

4. Skewed Priorities

The Problem: Inventory checking, for the most part, is a manual task. Someone has to visually confirm the existence of your products and note it down. This takes a lot of time and effort, both of which increase as your company grows.

The Solution: Entrepreneurs know that the first thing to do when solving a problem is to figure out your priorities. In this case, the priorities should lie in your most important products. Figure out how your best items are doing inventory-wise. Make sure that they're always in stock and up-to-date. Then take a look at your second-best items and so on and so forth. While it is possible to cover all your bases, focus on making sure that the most important products are protected. Your resources and your personnel are not unlimited.

5. Misused Spreadsheets

The Problem: Spreadsheet programs are often used as a way to easily track inventory. Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice software are used as computer lists. The problem is that computer files can be lost or modified. Changes are difficult to track, and synchronizing files across multiple branches can drive you to insanity.

The Solution: Entrepreneurs know that you have to use the right tool for the right job. Go with accounting software that has built-in inventory management systems, such as Quickbooks Online (QBO); maybe use an app for inventory that links to QBO. They'll ensure that human error is minimized and even provide vital functions such as a centralized database.

Your inventory might not be the most exciting thing in your life as an entrepreneur, but it's no less important. Mismanaged stock can easily result in lost sales, lost customers, and lost profits. Keep an eye on your product no matter how boring it gets and it will pay off.

Understanding How Customers Perceive Value is Necessary for Retail Small Business Success

By Randall Orser | marketing strategy , Small Business

Consider two scenarios. In the first a customer strolls into your shop. After having looked around she walks up to the most appealing product in the store, has a quick look over it and then picks up the price tag. She drops it like it was on fire and moves along. In the second scenario things are different. Instead of dropping the tag she holds on to it for a moment continuing to look over the product. A few minutes later you or your sales staff are working with a new customer discussing the products features and benefits and are on your way to a possible sale.

As store owners we all wish for the second scenario, but can we really do anything to control this response? After all we have costs for our goods and our supplier won’t negotiate. Add this to operating costs and apply a fair margin and there you have it. But in fact, you almost certainly have some control over how the customer feels about the price of your product.

The answer lies in understanding the relationship between Anticipated Value and Actual Value. Anticipated Value is the value expected by the customer whether consciously or unconsciously. As it implies the Actual Value is just that. The price they see when they look at the tag. Taking steps to keep Anticipated Value lower than Actual Value is the goal of the manager or store owner.

A great deal of it has to do with the context within which you place your product. Let’s say the product is a beautiful, large, cut crystal bowl. You place it in an enclosed showcase built into the wall with a small, brushed steel spotlight shining on it. A tag of superior design stands beside it in a small, steel frame, which matches the finish of the lighting. It explains the origin of the bowl, how it was made and the name of the person who did the cutting. As the customer approaches it they begin to anticipate what price it will be. Given the setting, the security which it is afforded and the effect the lighting has in bringing out its best features the customers Anticipated Value is likely to be greater than the Actual Value.

In the second scenario the bowl has been placed on top of the counter near some other items of lower value, without accent lighting and is, perhaps gathering a little dust. In this scenario the Anticipated Value is almost guaranteed to be less than the Actual Value. Yet it is exactly the same bowl.

You want customers have a perception of your store having “great” prices. What can be done? How are you able to have an effect on your customers’ perception of price?

One way to do this is to set a standard for the quality of your goods. Don’t surround a product with other items of inferior quality or appeal nor, in fact products of a superior quality. This doesn’t mean you have to be Tiffany’s but, rather that you must have a consistency within your product standards. Don’t mix goods of a wide variety of qualities or some of it is bound to come out looking bad. Let each product complement its neighbors.

As you’ve seen in the two scenarios merchandising the product effectively is one of the keys to higher anticipated price. Give the product some room. Keep it clean and present it as an item of value. If necessary, hire a merchandiser to come into your shop on a regular basis. Good merchandisers pay for themselves.

Naturally it’s not just the products relationship to other products but the store environment itself. Are the fixtures professionally built or something homemade or well used? Are they consistent with the level of value you want to convey, neither overdone nor underdone? How about signage? Is it professionally designed, manufactured and installed or is designed by an amateur, part-time graphic artist painted on plywood?

Next don’t forget the most important element. The people. Are you and your staff well groomed, polite and articulate? Above all are they highly knowledgeable about the product you carry?

Another critical factor is location. Too often when shopping for lease space the focus revolves too much around what a new business owner perceives they can afford. Instead they should consider a premium location, which will bring in a quality and quantity of customers that will lead to high sales and business success. Choose a location with an attractive frontage in an area that will lend credibility to your business. The interior should be well finished and the fixtures fresh and clean rather than well used.

An old sales adage says, “Price first. Product second.” This means you don’t offer up the price before you have fully informed the customer of what they will receive for their money. You would never call up a car dealer and say, “I need a car. How much are they?” First you need adequate information to make a value decision. This concept should also be applied to your price signs and tags. When designing price tags make the price secondary. The price should be in a smaller font than the text. The text should be very concise, easy to read and contain the key benefits of the product. If it is difficult to read, they will simple jump ahead to find the price. Each listed benefit will help to push up the anticipated price.

Look at each of these factors when developing a business plan. Examine each detail keeping in mind how it will reflect on your product and how it will affect your customers Anticipated Value. Keep in mind that moment when the guest in your store turns over that tag. How can you push up the Anticipated Value? Adequate time and effort on this key aspect of business will take you a long way towards strong sales and a healthy, profitable enterprise.

Your Marketing Budget Needs to Include Content Marketing

By Randall Orser | Budget , marketing strategy , Small Business

Managing a budget is probably the biggest issue that any business faces. Spend too little, and get nowhere. Spend too much and you may go bankrupt before building up a steady income. As a small business, you need to accommodate content marketing into this delicate balance act you call a budget.

Content Promotes Engagement

It’s pretty hard to talk back to a sale, however, interacting with a great article is much easier. Today’s internet is all about creating a community, and if your site is all about prices and sales, that doesn’t really encourage engagement or return business.

That’s not all though. Your content can help with interaction with industry leaders as it gives you something to talk about with them. By doing this, you increase your network and boost your reputation, following which makes your content marketing more powerful.

Affordability Compared to Other Forms of Marketing

Content marketing is much less expensive than say print or television marketing, and that’s good news for the small business. Even if you’re not making the content in-house, you’ll still save a lot as most of your expenses will be social media marketing costs. If you have an established page or website, you may not even have to spend that much.

Branding Through Great Content

Astute marketers believe that content marketing is like releasing business cards into the wild. Each video, article, or post that you put out there with your brand has a direct impression on how you and your business are recognized. Your content has to be of a consistent quality, and distributed consistently, for you to improve your brand.

As a small business, you can benefit from this. Getting noticed and respected in your industry is one of the most difficult tasks. Having well-researched and readable content can definitely help you get your foot in the door.

Lead Generation and Sales

The issue with advertising is that today’s modern customer is that they’re extremely aware when you try to just sell to them. Most consumers today just tune out your advertisement, except if they’re ready for your offering. Content marketing approaches the problem on two levels. First, a strong video or article can bring about the likelihood of your advertisement working. Second, it can replace your need for an advertisement by developing leads and sales on its own.

Content Marketing is Huge for Site Traffic

Creating your website is fairly easy. You can pay someone to do it for you (probably the better choice), with you focusing on setting guidelines. The hard part is getting people to your site. Even with great Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you may find it hard to get traffic.

This is where content marketing can help by giving viewers another opportunity to find your site. It’s not just search engine traffic, content allows your users a chance to discover you on YouTube or whatever social media site you share on. Actually, using Facebook Ads to share your content through targeted ads can gain you clicks by virtue of making users feel the content was created for them.

Are you ready to embrace content marketing? Are you wondering how it can improve your standing? There’s only one way to find out and that’s by setting aside some money in your budget for content marketing. You’ll want to get into it soon, before everyone else finds out just how valuable it can be.

The Holidays are Coming, Prepare Your Marketing Plan

By Randall Orser | holiday season , marketing strategy , Small Business

As the holidays are quickly approaching, you shouldn’t be doing business as usual. Want to finish the year with stronger-than-expected earnings? Then the following tips will help.

Holiday Makeover for Your Website

Your website is important, so don’t be a Scrooge about it. Are your customers families? You can rewrite your headlines to draw attention to products that are great presents for teachers, bus drivers, and coaches. Are your customers into eco-friendly products/services? Think about a ‘green gift ideas’ link on your home page. Better yet, do you have pictures of your clients enjoying using your products/services? Maybe during prior holidays? Use those along with a testimonial; a video is even better. These could be a way to generate more sales.

Use a Limited Time Offer

Is there something in your business that you could offer during the holidays? A nursery, could sell specialty greens or decorative wreaths. If you sell food and beverage items, you could sell holiday-themed kitchenware. Are you in a service business, you could host a holiday-themed even with food and music – you could tie it to a local charity and donate a portion of the proceeds. Your goal is to increase sales in a celebratory way.

Put a Bow on it

Your holiday shoppers are busy, so why not help relief their stress by offering gift-wrap services. You could include a variety of paper choices, gift bag, gift receipt, and gift card. The bonus is you may be able to make some profit on this service.

Avert Shipping Snafus

The busiest time of the year is traditionally mid-December, so it’s best to avert any shipping catastrophes. With this time comes much more mail and that means sorting and transit times take longer, or worse more lost packages. You could encourage your customers to order soon, and hopefully more, by using early bird promotions such as discounts, buy-one-get-one deals, or free shipping. By doing this, you can decrease shipments you send out during the holiday rush.

Clearly State an “Order By” Deadline

You should setup an order deadline date for those last-minute shoppers in order for them to get their orders in time. Make sure this shows up on a prominent place on your website. What shipping options are you offering? If only ground, then you may want to add an express shipping option to pick up more last-minute orders.

Get into the Spirit of the Season

Surprise your customers with a gift in their order, think of something thoughtful and useful. A tote bag, bottle openers, letter openers, are low-cost promotional items that can be used regularly. Appreciative customers may become repeat customers as well as recommend your business to family and friends. Think about branding that item as well, it’s a good economical advertising tool, too!

Reward Social Media Shares

People today want to share their life with others and social media allows them to do that. Of course, when we get a gift we want everyone to know about it. When a customer shares your product on social media and tags your business, enter them into a sweepstakes. Your lucky customer wins a prize, and you get an increase in brand impressions.

During the holidays, there are many ways to energize your online business. You can do that with a festive website makeover, have a limited time offering, giving your distressed customers gift-wrap options, use early bird options to get your customers to order sooner and more, clearly state your “order by” deadline, use branded gifts to surprise your customers, and reward social media shares. Have a merrier bottom line by using holiday marketing.

Five Ridiculously Simple Ways to Improve Your Christmas Marketing

By Randall Orser | holiday season , marketing strategy , Small Business

You’ve had a great year so far, you’re busy, sales have been solid, and you’re well on your way to a profitable year. You know your company has the holiday spirit and you want to highlight that come November and December; however, where do you start. There’s tons of ways, some won’t even cost you a penny, to tune up your normal marketing efforts to accentuate your businesses lighthearted mood. Which of the following ridiculously simple ways will attract those super shoppers to your business?

Seasonal Pinterest Board

On your board, share images of your holiday decorations, staff members in festive garb, or the latest products you brought in for the Christmas season. Festive quotes are another way to round out your collections, and you now have a holiday board perfectly poised to bring seasonal cheer to your customers. Publish local events, and use relevant keywords to attract local patrons to your Pinterest board and your business.

After Hours Holiday Event

This is a great way to thank your customers and perhaps get new customers. Have your guests register in the weeks leading up to the event by offering a drop box for their business cards or registration forms. You could even make it a by invite only event, or have a pre-party for your best customers. At the event, promote new products you’ll soon be launching or spotlight stock arrivals for spring and summer. Everyone is busy during the holidays, so ensure your event is captivating enough that they’ll make time in their packed schedules.

Local Charity Event

Is there a local charity everyone can get behind? The food bank is a great one, and they’re usually up for being part of your event. Tailor your event to what the charity’s greatest need is, and then adapt the event specially for those needs.

Create a Seasonal Video

A seasonal video is a great way to promote the business and post it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The funnier you make your video the better the chances are for social shares. Maybe find a local Santa and have him talking and laughing with you about the naughty and nice employees in your business.

Video Contest

You may not feel comfortable doing your own video, maybe think about a video contest amongst your customers. The best video can win a gift certificate from your business, maybe a basket of your products, or something else. Your customers will have fun connecting with your company, plus you get a wealth of user-generated content for your website or YouTube channel.

Marketing for the holiday season doesn’t have to be hard as long as you get creative approach. What would resonate with your customers, and still give you a reasonable ROI for your efforts. Think creatively, and you’ll be able to conjure up lots of great ideas to fine-tune your marketing plans for the holiday season.

Your Passion as a Business? Some Things to Contemplate First

By Randall Orser | Consulting , Freelancing , Home Based Business , marketing strategy , Small Business

Working from home on something you love while making enough money to thrive is many peoples’ dream. A freelance career is how many go for this ideal, and though the rewards can be grand, they can’t deny how much effort is really required building that thriving business.

Making a business or career out of your passion, can create a whole set of problems. You need to do a meaningful mind shift; however, you probably won’t recognize that when first starting out. Below are some things to contemplate before taking that leap.

It’s a Serious Business

You must treat your freelance career as a serious business because in the end how talented you are doesn’t matter. You may be very talented and that will earn you lots of money, however, the everyday concerns of running your business are the building blocks to your success. Paperwork, government filings, invoicing, customer relations, time management, and more are just some of the less exciting aspects of the freelance life, but it’s necessary to get those right if you want to build a solid business, and not just follow a hobby.

Self-discipline

Are you working in a creative field? Your passion may involve following pipe dreams and having the ability to make mistakes. However, as a business you need to keep a tight focus on what acutally makes your business run. Of course, you should nourish your creativity when you can, but don’t overlook the fact that you need to please your clients, produce work that sells, and do so as cost effectively as you can, instead of letting your creativity run too wild.

Prioritize Productivity

Maintaining a firm hold on your productivity is a major part of self-discipline. You’re going to have days where you’re just not at peak performance, and when creating something useful is just too hard. You’ve seen and heard the clichés; however, few freelancers can simply afford to pack up and head to the beach when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. It’s not just about meeting deadlines, if you don’t put in the hours, then the money is coming either. At those times that your just not brimming with creativity, what will you do to be more productive?

Workflow

It is very important to setup a beneficial and constant workflow, which means creating systems for what you do. Your talent and instinct won’t get you through your working day. You need to have a framework to ensure you meet deadlines and produce good work, even when you’re not running at your best.

Maintaining Passion

Can you keep the passion no matter what? Many freelancers fail to foresee the passion going away once they turn it into a business, as that may just kill the enjoyment you got from it. Your passion could start to feel like a chore, even if it started out as relaxing and rewarding hobby. When the pressure mounts, or the lean times come, are you still going to be as excited and assured in your skills? When you lose your pastime as your outlet, is there something else that can take its place? A crappy work-life balance is a prevalent issue amongst freelancers, and can be a big problem if you combine your hobby and business.

Don’t think that this is an argument against taking the freelancer path, quite the contrary. Most freelancers who started their own business would not want to go back to the nine-to-five grind, however, you need to begin with your eyes wide open. You can have a rewarding business if you have the talent, desire, and an enterprising mindset. Nonetheless, you must acknowledge that passion alone is never enough.