Advertising your business on a small budget

Many small business owners are always looking for ways to stretch their advertising dollars.  And depending on your area of industry, this can often prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Luckily, we now live in the age of social media and the Internet, so marketing your business is often much more affordable than those older practices of flyers and newspaper advertisements.

Pay Per Click

 First of all, any business owner, small or large, needs to have a professional website today in order to remain competitive.  But attracting large amounts of traffic to your site is often where we need some help.  Cost Per Click and Pay Per Click marketing is a great way to spend only what you can afford.  This is a method of getting your link “special treatment” with the search engines.  You pay them to highlight your company website at the top of the page. But you only pay if someone clicks on the link!  Cost Per Click can cost only fractions of a penny, depending on your choices of keywords, the times of day that you choose to advertise, and other contributing factors.


Email Marketing Campaigns

 Email marketing is a great way for small businesses to remain in contact with their existing and potentially interested customers.  In the early days of the Internet, many of these strategies proved rather unsuccessful as emails would get lost in the recipients’ spam folders.  But today, there are some very affordable email advertising software and autoresponder programs that can guarantee a 99.9% deliverability rating.  Use your emails to offer discounts and promotional items, or market your business by giving away free tips and advice to keep your clients interested and engaged.

 

Social Media

 Social media is here to stay.  And best of all, these sites are FREE!  Facebook and Twitter are the most popular, but don’t discount other sites like LinkedIn and Instagram.  LinkedIn is great for developing Business to Business connections, improving your brand name recognition, and building a network of like-minded professionals in your industry.  Instagram is a social media site based around the use of pretty pictures rather than text posts.  This might be the perfect choice of small business advertising if you want to show off some of your past projects.

 

Give Your Business a Makeover

Makeover

 

Want to give your business a makeover, but don’t know where to start?

Before you begin revamping your business, decide what it is you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to change your overall image to attract specific types of customers? What types of customers are you trying to attract, and what sort of image would best draw them in? Do you want to adjust your prices in order to keep up with your competition? If so, what is the average price in your community for the type of merchandise you are marketing? Can you still make a substantial profit if you decrease your price to meet the lowest price in your market?

Next, assess the current state of your business. What does your image say about your company? Check the designs on your flyers, posters, business cards, web page, etc. If you were a consumer, would you want to do business with your company?

Once you have decided what type of image you want your company to portray, it’s time to get to work! Enlist the help of other businesses or your own employees to design modern marketing materials. Vamp up your web design, your logo, your stationary and your business cards. Does your physical office-space need to be renovated as well? Choose a style that fits the vibe you would like your customers to feel upon entering your business. Check out some design websites or magazines to get a feel for what you like, and have fun with it!

Finally, direct your attention toward your employees. Is your staff educated on your business and products? Do they effectively communicate to your customers why they should choose to do business with your company or why they should choose your products over those from other local stores? Also, do they look the part? If your front-desk employees show up for work looking unkempt, no matter how much effort you put into your office renovation, they will still be the first person your customers lay eyes on. So, are your workers fitting into the vision that you have for the future of your business? If not, consider sitting down to talk with them about the image you would like to portray and ask that they comply with some new guidelines that you will put forth for all of your employees.

And try not to stress too much about your business makeover. Renovating should be a fun and exciting time! Think of this as a time for a fresh start! And remember, if possible, to take it slow. As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Big City, Small Business – How to Stand Out

As a small business owner, you sometimes may feel like you have to work twice as hard for the kind of result a larger business gets instantly. We know that struggle. If you own a SaaS business like us, you know there are difficulties around carving space in a crowded market, and these difficulties only increase when you’re trying to attract local clientele.

CyberStockroom has gathered our best tips for how to stand out in a local crowd. How many of these have you mastered?

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Make Connections

You’ve heard it before: “It’s all about who you know.” Partner with local businesses to get your name out there. Hand out business cards, give away coupons, pass out fliers, and, most importantly, make friends with well-known companies. If you’re running a new restaurant in a big city, network with some of the local bakeries or clothing stores. Ask them if you can leave business cards or coupons at their checkout counter as gifts to their customers. It brings them business by giving them something free to give away, and it brings your business traffic by getting your name out there in the community.

 

Utilize the Internet

Make Facebook your best friend. In this day and time, it is one of the best marketing tools out there for new businesses. Create a Facebook page, and invite all of your friends to “Like” and “Share” it. Use it to post pictures of your new merchandise, advertise promotions and sales and offer special coupons to your “Facebook Fans.”

 

Be open during peak hours

Let’s say you own a gym. Unless you’re running a specialized gym geared toward specific classes or personal training, it’s likely that you’ll be competing against larger gyms that are open 24/7. That said, having your gym open from 9-5 isn’t going to be your best option. If running a 24-hour gym isn’t an option, hire staff members that are willing to come in at 5am, and hire others that are willing to stay until midnight. If you want a shot at competing with the big boys, you’re going to have to go the extra mile.

 

Market Your strengths

If your price is better than your competitor, get the news out there! If your products are handmade, whereas your competitors are made in a factory, make sure everyone knows it! As explained in #2, the Internet is going to be your best friend here. Also, word-of-mouth does wonders for small businesses! Spread the news to some of your gossip-loving friends, and your news will spread like wildfire.

 

Be active in the community

This one is self-explanatory. Attend as many community events as possible and market your business, your products and yourself. If people like you, they’ll buy from you.

Your Guide to a Successful Summer Sale

Want to run a special sale for the summertime, but can’t come up with any creative ideas? Here’s a list of just a few options that don’t force you to break the bank!

Summer

Come up with a catchy Theme

Summer is known for so many things! Road trips, sweet treats, travel, beaches, nostalgia, the list goes on and on. Grasp on to one of these concepts and create a themed sale. Let’s use the nostalgia theme, for example. Market your sale prices as a “throwback” to when the products were less expensive. Or, say you decide to go with the road trip theme. Get creative and decorate your business with displays that highlight your favorite road trip destinations to create a fun atmosphere!

Giveaways

You may think that this option is more suited for an established, financially stable company, but possibilities abound. For every purchase made at your store during the promotional period that you choose, have your customers put their name into a drawing for some kind of a giveaway. Prizes can be large or small, depending on how much money you are willing and able to invest. They can range anywhere from a summer getaway trip to a free ice cream from your local ice cream shop. Check around with your local stores and see who would be willing to participate in merchandise giveaways!

Get out in the Community

Summer is the time for family trips to the pool, little league baseball and picnics in the park. Head out to your community’s favorite summer hotspots and network! Bring along fliers, business cards, coupons, free gifts, samples, etc. to market your business.

Have a Holiday Celebration

National Ice Cream Day, National Siblings Day, National Cousins Day, Fudge Day, etc. Any one of these could make for a great sale opportunity! On National Ice Cream Day, give out coupons to your local ice cream shop (or, if you are the local ice cream shop, offer free cones to your first 25 customers!). If you own a restaurant, on National Sibling/Cousin day, let one sibling/cousin eat free. You get the idea.

No matter which direction you decide to go, there are tons of options for hosting a great summer sale!

5 Easy Steps to Becoming an Environmentally-Friendly Business

Though it may seem like lightening your business’s footprint is an overwhelming task to take on, there are several small steps you can take to make your business a little bit greener without taking on more work than you can handle. This article lists some small measures you can take toward becoming a green business.

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Recycle

Never underestimate the value of recycling your used items. And it’s just as simple as throwing a piece of garbage in the trash can! Place paper recycling bins in easy-to-access areas around your office, for example, near the printer/copy room and the mail room. Be sure to place recycling bins in the break rooms and the cafeteria, if applicable. Also, if you have a cafeteria, think about investing in a compost bin and donating the compost to an employee or neighbor who enjoys gardening.

Reduce Junk Mail

Junk mail is an enormous source of waste, and it is completely avoidable. Research some of the free services that will remove your name from mailing lists you do not wish to be a part of, and remove your name from the Direct Marketing Association’s member prospect list.

Electronics Recycling

Paper, cans and bottles aren’t the only things lying around the office that can be recycled. When your old electronics no longer function, don’t just trash them. Implement a company policy that requires employees to recycle electronic waste such as cell phones, cameras and computers. Some computer manufacturers will take back programs from old computers, and the rest can be recycled for charity.

Partner with Other Green Businesses

If you’re looking to go green, it is likely that there are existing businesses near you who have already taken steps in the same direction. Do your best to network with these businesses and make an effort to use their services when needed. Look for green vendors with services such as business card creation, web site hosting or office cleaning tasks.

Make Use of Your Outdoor Space

While it may not be inherently obvious, planting trees and/or a garden near your office can make a difference in the environment. Also, if your business has a parking garage on-site, keep track of how long the exhaust fans run, and be sure to turn out the lights after hours. This will not only make a difference in the environment, but it will also decrease the amount your company spends on the electric bill.

Small Business in a Small Town

small-townSo, you’re looking to open or improve your small-town business. Where should you start? This article will provide tips on running a successful business amidst the unique challenges faced by business owners in a small town.

If you’re just starting out, take some time to sit down and come up with ideas that will sell. What types of consumers are you gearing toward? What types of services are you able and willing to offer? Try browsing the local paper, scanning the phone book or perusing the newspaper ads to see what kinds of businesses are present in your local community. Which ones are successful? Are there any services that are not listed that you feel would benefit your community?

Once you have a few options in mind, do some researching. Budget your expenses; make sure that you can afford the venture that you are attempting to take on. Are you educated or well-practiced at the services you would like to offer?

Next, create a business plan. Run it past a business expert at an educational institute or government agency to ascertain whether your plan is a viable business possibility.

Now it’s time to pick a location. Be careful not to place your startup business too close to a thriving company that offers the same or very similar services. It will likely be difficult to compete with a company that already boasts a large client base. Also, be sure to attain the proper permits for the area such as zoning, parking and employees.

Be sure to market your new business appropriately. Join your town’s chamber of commerce, which often provides low-cost advertising opportunities and even allows its members to promote their services at local community events.  You may also consider joining local merchant associations and partnering with or sponsoring local events. This could range anywhere from handing out business cards at local fairs to offering monetary support to your local sports teams in exchange for advertising opportunities.

Finally, be sure to have a system in place that will allow you to track your sales and merchandise. Bookeeping is of such great importance to small businesses. It is imperative that business owners know where their money is coming from as well as what they’re spending it on, and it is equally important for your sales revenue to keep track of your products. For easy inventory tracking use CyberStockroom – it’s Free to try for 2 weeks.

6 Ways to Bring in the “Back-to-School” Business

Create the “Back-to-School” Connection

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At first glance, your inventory management business or products may not directly relate to the back-to-school frenzy, but try and dig a little deeper. Are you marketing healthy products? Market them toward parents as nutritious, on-the-go school lunches. Do you own a gym or work at a salon? Offer special discounts to teachers and parents.

 

Make a Name for Yourself in the Community

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Design a back-to-school promotion. No matter what you’re selling, decide to donate a certain percentage of your sales to a local school, Community Theater or after-school children’s program.

 

Have a “Last Chance!” Sale

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Everything gets a little chaotic right before school starts. Put the pressure on consumers by having a “Last Chance!” sale. This strategy is especially useful for businesses that specialize in summer activities. Give families a chance to end summer with a bang!

 

 

“Parents Only” Specials

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Do you own a restaurant? Create a special lunch menu that caters to an adult appetite and present it as a “they’ve gone back to school” meal. Do you run a local fitness studio? Set up a special class during the afternoon hours. These types of specials can apply to nearly any type of small business.

Cater to Teachers

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Offer special discounts that are specifically for teachers. They will love the special attention and appreciation.

 

 

Participate in Networking Events

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Attend your community’s back-to-school events to get your name out there. And don’t forget to advertise with your new-found marketing strategies!

The Comfort Zone Exercise

via passionweiss.com

Each one of us is the proud owner of his or her own tiny circle of habits and behaviours within the enormous realm of all human activity. It is the place where everything feels good and natural and where we spend the vast majority of our time. Often what is inside my comfort zone may be totally foreign to you and vice versa. I may have a debilitating dread of public speaking while you may be most in your element as a world class orator.

Whenever we brush up against the edges of our circle of comfort, we suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. We feel that we are approaching a threshold that we are not capable of crossing and our strongest instinct is to retreat back into our circle. There is nothing inherently wrong in this behaviour. After all, this is what humans do and it seems to work well.

But some people (and if you’re reading this article, this probably includes you) have a gnawing desire to reach out of that comfortable sphere and expand into unlived life and potential. If you hear this call of the thrill of new sensation and experience and you wish to follow it, sooner or later you will come face to face with that anxiety at the edge of the circle. This exercise is designed to allow to step out of that zone in a deliberate and fulfilling way. It’s very likely that once you try this technique you will begin to treat the boundaries of your comfort zone like a game where each day you try to push them back further.

Step 1 – Draw a circle to represent your comfort zone and know that everything you feel comfortable doing is contained within it. Whenever you feel anxiety about anything, represent it somewhere on the boundary of the circle as a jagged line. For example some of the most common sources of anxiety for business people include public speaking and making sales calls. This is how you would represent them on your circle:

The boundary of your comfort zone
The boundary of your comfort zone

Step 2 – Challenge yourself to perform these actions despite your anxiety and every time you succeed draw a curve to stretch the circle at that point. The most difficult part will be the very first time you push the boundary. Once you see the circle stretched you will suddenly feel empowered to push it again.

Expanding your boundaries
Expanding your boundaries

Step 3 – As you continue to expand your circle, begin to observe the changing shape of your comfort zone. By processing this information visually, you will be making a powerful statement to your own mind about where your boundaries lie. Your most powerful adversary is yourself. This exercise will help you convince yourself about your own abilities and very soon you will accomplish things that you previously thought were unthinkable!

Your new comfort zone!
Your new comfort zone!

What do you think of this comfort zone exercise? Have you tried it, and if so what results have you seen? We’d love to hear from you!

7 Amazing Tools for Small Business Owners

toolbelt

There are thousands of websites and apps that claim to help entrepreneurs and small business owners better manage their business. I’ve compiled a short list of tools that I use regularly that have helped me tremendously. This is by no means a complete list but it’s definitely a good place to start or to add some new weapons to your arsenal!

Constant Contact / MailChimp

If you need to contact your clients by e-mail, you can’t afford not to use these services. Not only will you get some very powerful functionality with regards to scheduled mailing, autoresponders, analytics and contact management but you will also do so safely so your emails won’t end up in your clients Spam folder.

Ruby Receptionists

A virtual receptionist service like no other! Ruby provides top-of-the-line friendly and professional phone answering service with sophisticated scheduling and messaging features. CyberStockroom was recently featured on Ruby’s blog, Check it out!

Gmail+ Streak+ Boomerang

An unbeatable combination for Free and powerful CRM right from your Gmail Inbox! Read our previous Blog article about it here.

Evernote

Everyone should use Evernote – It’s an amazing way to keep all your digital ‘stuff’ organized. Do you still find yourself e-mailing yourself an article or a website so you won’t forget it? Then you’ll love Evernote!

WebEx

Need to schedule a client demo quickly? Do you want to give an online presentation over the internet? WebEx provides outstanding service at very affordable rates (starting with a Free plan!)

Vivocha / Live Chat / Pure Chat

I can’t overemphasize the importance of Live Chat for your website. Read more about these 3 contenders from our previous Blog article.

Logmein

The easy way to access your computer from any other device. Once you try LogMeIn, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!

 

I look forward to hearing which tools you love to use in your business!

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