Own a Small Business? 4 Advantages of Exhibiting at a Trade Show

Every small business owner should invest time and energy in exhibiting at trade shows. The cost setting up a booth is minuscule compared to the payoff. Attending and participating in trade shows is an intimate and effective way to boost almost any business. The following are four advantages of exhibiting at trade shows.

Face-to-Face Interactions with Customers

Exhibiting at trade shows gives small business owners an excellent opportunity to interact with potential customers in person, building rapport and establishing a connection between the business and its customer base. People are far more likely to invest money in a business that they believe cares about them and their communication. Never underestimate the value and importance of connecting with customers in person. This will help customers feel as if they are an actual part of a small business’s operations. The goal of any small business owner should be to build a community around their business. This can be achieved by showing up and personally meeting the very people who comprise your collective of customers and target audience. But if you don’t have time to do this yourself, consider investing in promotional modeling, or assign one of your assistants or employees to be there.

Gauge Customers’ Needs and Interests

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, getting to know the people you are trying to sell products or services to will help you to better gauge their interests, desires, and individual needs. Your customers are far more likely to give you feedback in person rather than take the time to respond to survey questions. When you’re visiting with them, be sure to actively listen to their responses. Take note of the things they tell you, and implement their ideas where possible.

Effective Platform to Launch New Products and Services

Trade shows are perfect places to try out new products and services. As a small business owner, you will be able to see, in real time, all reactions to your new products and services when you test them out at a trade show, rather than jumping straight into marketing and selling them. This method of previewing what a business has to offer is time-tested and will allow you helpful analytic data before investing time and money into innovations that won’t work so well.

Networking

Trade shows are attended by people from all facets of business, marketing, and various other industries. Making friends at these events opens opportunities for your small business to reach more people than ever, and the friendships made at trade shows will, undoubtedly, supply you with fresh resources and means to market and sell your business more effectively and on a larger scale. No small business can succeed alone. It takes an entire team to reach any real level of success.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Business Behind the Times? 4 Pivotal Steps to Rebranding

If a business is losing market share or if it is falling behind in customer satisfaction or favorability surveys, then it is time for that company to rebrand. Done correctly, a rebrand can completely turn a company around. One compelling rebranding case study is the amazing turnaround story of Domino’s Pizza. The company had become known for low-quality pizza and service; however, after hiring a new ad agency and completely rebranding, Dominos began to gain market share. In fact, Domino’s stock has gained an astounding 5,000% since its rebranding in 2008. Companies that are looking to become the next great turnaround story should follow the four rebranding steps below. 

Determining the Purpose of the Rebrand 

Before a company begins to rebrand, the company must agree on why it needs to rebrand itself. Since all departments will be affected by the rebranding efforts, the heads of marketing, budgeting, product, research, and sales must all be on the same page. From here, the company can move on to the second crucial stage of the rebrand. 

Researching 

Once the company heads have agreed on rebranding, the company must do extensive research on all fronts. This includes getting feedback from the current employees and stockholders of the current brand, surveying customers about the current brand and observing competitor brands. From there, the company and the outside consultants can have a better idea of where the company is, in terms of its brand, so it can create a clearer path forward with the rebranding effort. 

Being Sure to Rebrand on All Fronts 

Once management has agreed on the rebranding message, this message must be communicated to every aspect of the company. That means that every employee, manager, customer, potential customer, stockholder, and third-party vendor must be aware about the new brand. From there, the rebranding should be deployed through advertising, marketing, social media, public relations, and internal communications. Consistency in key. You will, for instance, need to create new signage, and relying on a plastic vacuum mould manufacturer may be useful.

Staying Steady and Strong Once You’ve Rebranded 

Once the company is rebranded, the branding message must stay consistent for at least several years. According to the widely accepted Rule of 7, a consumer will usually need to see an ad or a branding communication at least seven times before they remember it. Therefore, it is important to understand that rebranding is a multi-year project. 

Rebranding can give the company the momentum it needs to recapture lost market share and entice new investors. This multi-year project should be embraced by every member of management, involve deep research, and be deployed through every piece of external company communication. With the right rebranding strategy, today’s struggling company can be tomorrow’s great turnaround story.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Packaging Considerations For All Businesses

Developing an effective and beneficial product is only part of the process. You then need to market it and sell it in the best possible way. This involves packaging the product in an attractive and informative manner. With that being said, continue reading to find out more about important packaging considerations for all businesses.

Practicality comes first -We often tend to get wrapped up in the process of looking for vibrant and striking designs. While it is important to create packaging that looks amazing,this should never come at a sacrifice of practicality. After all, at heart, the primary job of your packaging is to make sure the product is protected physically. It can also act as a security aid, protecting against theft,depending on the nature of the product. You should never lose sight of this. Don’t ditch resealable plastic bags for bags without a seal simply because they look better.

Find a way to add some pizzazz – Once you have dealt with the practicalities, you need to make sure that your bag has the wow factor. After all, packaging needs to stand out from all of the other packages used. So, you need to choose something that makes your product seem better. Not only this, but the packaging you select can have a massive impact on the perceived retail value. This is something you shouldn’t overlook. You could easily add a dollar or two to the price with good packaging. All businesses need to consider the value when it comes to the packaging they select.

Make sure your packaging is informative – Aside from the points that have already been mentioned, you need to remember that your packaging is essentially an information-delivery system. It needs to tell the prospective buyer exactly what the product does and what it is for. While you need to keep things concise and ensure you don’t write anything unnecessary, living out imperative details is even more criminal. Moreover, think about where the eyes divert to first.

Telling a story– Last but not least, the final consideration you have when it comes to packaging is the story it tells. We don’t merely value products. We value the stories that go with them. This is something you really need to keep in mind when you are assessing different packaging options for your products. This is something that Apple do really well with their items, so it’s worth looking at their efforts for some inspiration.

As you can see, there are a number of different considerations when it comes to product packaging for your business. If you contemplate all of the pointers that have been discussed above, you should be able to come up with something that is right for your brand and your products.

Defending Your Reputation When The Knives Come Out For You

When you own a business of your very own, your reputation is everything. It’s what makes your clientele choose you over your nearest competitor. It’s what engenders a sense of trust in the brand you have created and in you; the guiding hand behind it. Thus, when the knives come out for you and others seek to besmirch your good name it can have disastrous consequences for your brand and your business. You must defend your good name with every ounce of might you can muster. This is a battle on several fronts. You must not only be reactive and deal with threats to your reputation as and when they appear, you must also lay a firm foundation to limit your liability and protect your reputation from damage. Here are just a few of the measures you can take…

Hire a lawyer with a sterling reputation

No matter the size of your operation, it behoves you to find a sterling legal team. If someone accuses you or your business of malpractice, the outcome in court is more than likely to spill over into the court of public opinion (which can be notoriously unforgiving). A good legal team will mount an aggressive defense on your behalf and ensure that the truth comes to light. See Brian Zeiger for more information. Of course, prevention is always the best cure, which brings us to…

Make sure that you have the right insurance

If you have a physical place of business, it goes without saying that you need some form of public liability insurance to protect you if a customer or client injures themselves on your business.However, businesses are increasingly investing in reputation insurance to insulate you against a wide range of risks to your reputation and to help employ potent damage control measures. While entrepreneurs can be gun shy when it comes to the prospect of more overhead costs, the right insurance is absolutely essential in protecting your operation and your reputation.

Deal quickly and decisively with social media complaints

Every customer service policy should have a comprehensive and effective customer complaints policy at its core. However, in the social media age, people are much more likely to air their grievances in the public forum of social media than submit an official complaint.

The longer a complaint is left undealt with on social media, the more potential damage it can cause to your reputation. It’sup to you to deal with these types of complaint quickly and decisively. Set up a Google alert to help you to respond quickly. Address the complaint publicly. Be sure to apologize and demonstrate your willingness to make amends.

Know the needs of your target market

While you may enjoy the regular custom of your target demographic now, make no mistake, they will turn on you if they feel that their needs are being neglected. Lose focus and you may find yourself the focus of negative buzz which will almost certainly result in a loss of sales.

Take the steps to guard your reputation and you will not be pushed off the path to prosperity.

Losing Focus? How to Identify Your Marketing Audience

Effective marketing is essential to getting your business the exposure it needs to bring in new customers, and to retain old ones. Without careful planning and execution, not only will you fail to increase your business’s exposure, you will also be wasting money on ineffective solutions. One of the greatest pitfalls of marketing is catering to the wrong audience. A skateboarding equipment brand may find sales dropping if their marketing solutions are geared toward the elderly, whereas an in-home care service may find a disinterested audience in younger generations. Your target audience will determine if you should be marketing through newspapers, television ads, YouTube and social media, billboards, and so forth. The following are some tips to help you better identify your audience so that you can focus your solutions into only the most effective campaigns.

Surveys

Putting out a survey can help you gather important demographic information about the types of consumers visiting your website and the kind of products they are interested in buying. Knowing who is already following your product and service will help you better cater to them as well as reach out to more within their demographics. Surveys like these can also help you measure how satisfied your current customers are with your products, and if you need to make changes to better suite their needs and interests. Many television producers, for example, are often surprised to find that the demographic they are marketing toward is very different from the one that is actually watching their content, often resulting in changing the content to better satisfy their majority fan demographics.

Read Visitor Reviews and Comments

Your website should contain areas for product reviews and user comments. While surveys give valuable feedback to you, potential customers are also interested in knowing what works for what demographics. Reviews and comments work both to give your customers an open-ended medium to convey their experience with your company, and to give you insight into what your customers think that interested parties should know before purchasing your products and services. Once you understand the typical customer experience with your company, you can better convey that in your marketing campaigns to paint a satisfyingly accurate preview to future customers.

Customer Profiling

One way to gain significant insight into the audience you are reaching is to do background research on the customers you have. What else are they interested in? What other companies are they looking at within your industry? How is your product or service being used? What other companies are taking an interest in your products and services? This can be difficult to determine when companies and consumers are answering surveys and leaving comments with ambiguous internet personas. Name matching services are available online to help you identify the individuals behind acronyms, usernames, and even foreign characters. It is much easier to build a clear picture of your current demographics when you know who is interacting with your company, and a little research can help you find everything you need to crack the mystery caused by online pseudonyms.

Run a Market Analysis

While marketing to your current customer demographics is very important, it’s also important to seek to expand your audience if you want to bring in greater sales opportunities. Finding new audiences to reach can be difficult, however, because some audiences will be receptive to the sort of thing you provide, while others will be entirely disinterested. Once again, a skateboarding equipment brand won’t find much luck trying to market towards an elderly demographic, but they might be able to reach a greater audience by targeting teens, children, and based on current YouTube trends, even pets. While common sense plays a large part in deciding on a new target demographic, you can also gain great insight by doing a market analysis. Look around and see what audiences are being targeted by other companies in your industry, and see how effective or ineffective their methods of reaching them are. Following current market trends will help you keep your marketing campaigns relevant and on top of the industry, and allows for greater opportunities to expand your customer base.

You cannot have an effective marketing campaign if you don’t know your intended audience. Knowing what demographics you are already reaching, as well as what audiences you could be reaching based on current market trends, will allow you to make educated decisions for your marketing solutions. Don’t let your promotional content fall on deaf ears. Find your audience, find out how to reach them, and maintain awareness to continue to meet the needs of your customers.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.

5 Actionable Tips for Scaling Your Small Business

Do you know how to scale your business? Starting your business took a lot of hard work. Now that you’re ready for expansion, you will likely face an entirely new set of challenges.

Already, as part of your routine, you must serve customers, supervise your staff, keep the books and fill other administrative roles. With so much to do, scaling your business might seem impossible. Where do you start? How do you find the time?

Use the following actionable tips for scaling your small business to do the job without becoming overwhelmed or busting your budget.

Embrace Success

Already, you’ve overcome the odds by building a successful small business. You know what failure looks like and you probably don’t like it. So, as you scale your business, think big and approach everything you do with a “success” mentality.

You can probably find thousands of fantastic ideas that can help you scale. Prepare yourself right now to say “no” to most of them. You have limited amounts of time and money, so stay focused on the things that matter the most.

Always keep the big picture in mind. Make every decision with an eye for the future. If you don’t, you could incur unnecessary expenses. For example, if you skimp on your data network or software applications, you may have to replace them if they can’t grow with you.

So, when you invest in systems, make sure they can scale with your business. Take a similar approach while assembling your team.

Get Help

Find someone who can serve as your mentor and advisor. Such a person could be anyone with experience either in your industry or your type of business. An investor, business owner, or someone with similar experience can fill this role.

In addition to getting advice from peers, you should learn to depend on your team. Rather than trying to do everything yourself, try delegating responsibilities. By letting other people share the load, you can have more time to plan and execute your growth strategy.

Of course, as your business grows, you will need to expand your team. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts with your team. You need well-qualified people who can deliver a high level of performance. To do this, you’ll need to offer competitive wages, perks, educational opportunities, and other benefits.

Use Technology

As you scale, look for ways to work smarter rather than harder. Here, technology can play a vital role. For instance, you can use a cloud-based collaboration app to unify remote workers with your traditional employees.

When done right, your entire team can work together on documents, share files, and hold group brainstorming sessions. Tools that support instant messaging, live chat, video conferencing, and virtual whiteboards can also help your staff become more productive.

Automation offers you additional ways to scale your business. Thanks to technology, you can eliminate redundant data entry and automate many routine tasks. In the end, you can substantially improve productivity while eliminating opportunities for making errors.

Other opportunities for improving your business’ performance include analytics tools. These can collect and analyze multiple data points from your organization and provide insights into its performance.

Get Online

Your website and social networks are assets that you shouldn’t ignore. Spend time assessing their current state and then develop a plan for moving forward. Remember that a fresh and active online presence can grow your sales.

Now is a fantastic time to refresh your market research. First, identify the type of customers that need what you offer. Next, learn about the problems and challenges they face. You should also learn about their desires and aspirations.

Based on your research, create a persona that represents your ideal customer. As you create content, keep this person in mind. Create value by addressing the real-world issues that your persona faces.

Most of all, be consistent. On social media, share your brand’s personality. Socialize with your followers and share content. Do more than pitch sales. Become part of the community.

Encourage Feedback

In your quest for growth, never forget about your current customers. For starters, you can dramatically reduce your selling costs by closing repeat sales. In other words, by expanding your base, you can boost your profitability.

Your customers can also provide you with feedback that can support your ongoing success. They can provide you with answers to important questions:

● What new products and features should you sell?
● How can you create a better customer experience?
● What factors limit their frequency and volume of sales?
● How can you deliver more value to the marketplace?

Consider sending customers a survey after every sale. This gives them a chance to express their level of satisfaction and share their opinions. To encourage participation, keep your surveys short and simple. Additionally, offer an incentive such as a discount on a future purchase.

In conclusion, rest assured that you can successfully scale your business. However, to avoid the mistakes that have doomed other business, you should apply the above tips. Start by thinking big. your winning attitude will help you overcome failures and mistakes.

As you make progress, avoid distractions, get the help you need, leverage technology, and build your online presence. In the end, scaling your business requires a lot of work and some risk. What do you think about this topic? Share your comments or experiences that may help small business owners rise to the next level.

Joe Peters

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about the latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters

Unique Marketing: 5 Ways to Increase Sale for Your Business

Gone are the days when you could drum up business just by putting an ad in the paper. Today’s consumers expect a lot more flash and bang than the kind offered by old-school advertising. Here are just five ways to give it to them. 

Host a Challenge

Let your customers choose your new mascot by submitting pictures, videos and drawings. Ask them to snap selfies of themselves using your products or employing your services. See who can create the best hashtag for an annual event. Challenges are a fun way to engage your customers with your brand, and in addition to boosting your sales, they can also bring positive media attention to your company if they go viral. 

Participate in Social Media Trends 

Speaking of viral, you never know when that #ThrowbackThursday photo will get thousands of retweets. Don’t be afraid to hop on the bandwagon of whatever is currently trending. Businesses have gotten a lot of press from things like Gangnam Style parody videos, and the more that you put yourself out there, the more likely it is that you’ll strike a chord with the public someday. 

Hire Promotional Models 

You don’t have to run a clothing line to employ models for your brand. Promotional modeling can be a benefit in many different industries, and it’s something found at expos, conferences, trade shows and launch parties around the world. These men and women can do everything from promoting a specific product to bringing general attention to your brand. 

Offer Freebies 

Everyone loves a freebie, especially when it’s something valuable and not just a pen or key chain with your company’s logo on it. Think about offering doorbusters at your next big sale, or hand out high-quality gifts with the purchase of certain products. You might also choose to distribute prizes and rewards to completely random customers. Intermittent reinforcement is a powerful psychological tool. 

Consider Local Collaborations 

Sponsor a youth soccer league. Pair up with a non-competitor to offer mutual discounts on your services. You’ll find more customers by expanding your reach, and you’ll also establish yourself as a local, trusted brand by becoming a regular part of the community. People will think favorably of your business because they see your name every time that Junior hits a home run. 

Say goodbye to traditional marketing campaigns. Today’s businesses need to have innovative, forward-thinking ads that can capture hearts and minds despite the increasingly short attention span of society. Think outside of the box with your marketing efforts to ensure that people still notice you within the noise.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley