Monthly Archives: July 2012

New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses

New Year’s is a time of reflection. What went well? What didn’t? So New Year’s resolutions aren’t only for individuals, they are a great idea for small businesses too.

For individuals, a typical resolution would be to lose weight, eat healthier, save more money, spend more time with people you care about.

For a small business, your New Year’s resolutions could look something like the ones below:

Better Customer Service: Get your customer impressed with your product or service by going over the top with your delivery. Maybe this includes guarantees, some extra services, loyalty program, or better employee training.

Higher Employee Retention: Employee turnover can sap a business’ time and money, especially for a small business. With less to offer in terms of large pension plans and benefits, a small business often has to fight harder to keep its best employees. A retention plan, performance incentives, employee events, collecting employee feedback, and staying in touch with everyone are some basic ways to get started.

More Customers: Marketing awareness, sales and referrals will be the key to getting more customers in the door. If this is your plan, make sure you have a solid way to deliver consistent service to these incremental numbers.

More Customer Retention: Keeping 100% of your customers is almost impossible, as even the best financial planners lose 10% of their clients each year and have to plan for this with incremental sales. However, to focus on retention you need a solid communication plan with your existing customers, you need to get feedback to improve things to what they are looking for, and you need to never rest on your laurels.

More Margin: Focus on the customers with the highest margins today, and go after new business that is similar to these types of customers. For instance, if you find that you get the best margin business as an IT company from accountants, target more accounting firms. As a minimum, start saying ‘no’ to customers who don’t meet your margin requirements. Remember, one way to increase margin is to reduce costs, don’t overlook this option!

Do More With What We Have: Growing the business doesn’t mean that you only have to get more customers. You could just get more business from the customers that you already have. As a salon, you could be giving a customer regular haircuts, but this year you focus on getting them to use your for dyes, styling, and facials.

Work Life Balance: One of the most common reasons for a business closing its doors is that the owners have become burnt out. Make sure that you have strict guidelines to your own working hours and do things outside of work to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

The final thought….

…New Year’s resolutions are famous for not being followed and many people have the same resolution year over year. This is one similarity a small business doesn’t want to have!

To Patent Or Not To Patent

Think you have a milllion dollar idea that you want to patent?

Million dollar ideas are common. Almost everyone comes up with an idea that eventually becomes a million dollar idea.

So why not patent everything you think of? There are a few downsides.


1. Patenting is extremely expensive and you have to patent internationally due to globalization and sometimes that is simply not possible.


2. When patenting, you have to detail what is novel about your idea. Organizations including Coca-Cola and Caramilk have elected to not file for a patent as they feel their intellectual propoerty is better protected by simply keeping it a company secret.


3. Patents only work when you are willing and able to sue an organization that has infringed your patent. If you don’t have the funds or a lawyer who is willing to work with you on contingency, you aren’t able to leverage the patent.


However! Patents are extremely important where you need to protect yourself for the 20 year timeframe it supports (pharmaceuticals). Patents can be important when you need to register your idea before the competition does and blocks you out of the market. Patents are great when you have the financial backing to protect yourself.

There are other options to help protect your ideas.


1. Copyrighting.
Copyrighting applies to anything written. Copyrighting is cheaper (free) and applicable to software and code writing. You can add a copyright to anything that you have written.


2. Keep It Secret.
Follow some industry leaders and have policies that protect anything that you deem as intellectual property. This can be documentation, processes, programming, or ideas. Simply don’t let just anyone know what you know.


3. Continue Inventing.
You have to assume someone is going to find a way to copy you. So the only true way to stay ahead of the competition is to keep re-inventing yourself and stay ahead. If Apple rested on its patents, it simply wouldn’t be Apple!

Marketing No Brainer First Steps

Marketing doesn’t always have to be expensive. In fact, here are 5 simple ways to improve your brand image without spending a dime.

1. Smile.
Smiles come across on the phone, in emails, and face to face. They make people like you more and remember you and your business positively. Remember that a smile is a powerful marketing tool.

2. 30-Second Pitch.
Having a solid 30-Second Pitch / Elevator Pitch helps customers understand the value you bring to them or to others that they may refer to you. Make sure that it is easy to understand, because people will only buy from you if they understand your message.

3. Handshake.
A handshake says a lot about you, even if you don’t want it to. So make sure that you have a handshake that leaves a positive impression. It should be firm, yet not too tight. You should shake the other person’s hand, not their fingers. If holding a drink, hold it with your left hand so that your right is always free for handshaking. Plus your hand won’t be cold or wet.

4. Business Name.
Make sure that your business name says who you are or what you do. This makes it easier to remember. If you can make it have personality, that is a bonus.

5. Use People’s Names & Make Eye Contact.
Make others feel important by treating them like they are important. Make an effort to remember their names and look at the person that you are speaking with. These two tips can go a long way.

Marketing Solver at walks through another 295 marketing tools that will help your small business with even more tips & tricks of how to execute them correctly.