COVID-19 Creativity!

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly derailed 2020 for a whole lot of folks. For business owners, staying afloat while people are staying at home is a primary concern, reflected by a downturn in the economy and a rising unemployment rate. For a small business, the key to surviving a crisis like a pandemic is an ability to pivot from its current offering to one that’s easily provided and highly desired given the circumstances.

COVID-19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark
Covid -19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark

We’re seeing examples of this everywhere right now. Businesses are resilient in light of the challenges COVID-19 creates, finding creative opportunities to not just survive, but thrive. In our “COVID-19 Creativity! How to Pivot Your Business” we’ll discuss:

  1. Government programs – Which ones are available to you? Which make the most sense to pursue?
  2. Cash flow – How can you make sure that you stay afloat?
  3. Getting online – Will “going digital” open new markets for you?
  4. Virtual services – Can you provide your product or service online while you can’t offer it face-to-face, or add products or services that are available exclusively online?
  5. Manufacturing Pivot – Can you pivot to manufacture products that are in high demand during the pandemic?
  6. New supply chains – Can you create new supply chains to get products to customers?
  7. Customer loyalty – How can you use your time to strengthen relationships with your customers?

Government Programs

Most governments have infused money into the system during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist struggling businesses. Assistance includes:

  1. Wage subsidies – Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Summer Jobs
  2. Rent support – Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
  3. Loan programs – Business Credit Availability Program, Canada Emergency Business Account, BDC Co-Lending Program
  4. Export support – Grants

Speak to a representative at your financial institution to see if your business fits the criteria for any of these programs!

COVID-19 Cash Flow

Cash is still king! You must have enough money left in the bank account to cover expenses each month, even if your storefront is closed to flatten the curve. Here’s how some businesses do it:

  1. Gift cards – $25 is $25, whether you’ve sold someone a meal or a gift card for a meal. The restaurant doesn’t need to be serving food in order for you to sell a gift card for a meal, though. The gift card’s allure of giving people money to spend (so to speak) in your restaurant when lockdown is over may keep revenue coming in while lockdown is on.
  2. Memberships – Use your creativity to keep your membership program going while you can’t offer the services you regularly do. Maybe the members at your gym get online classes while they can’t access the physical gym, or their money refunded at a later date for every day that the gym was unavailable to them. What matters is that the cash you get from memberships remains available to you now, when you need it.
  3. Reduced Operations – Sometimes consolidating operations saves time/money in the long run and lets you plan better. There’s a good example of this involving an irrigation company in the webinar. As a social media manager, I like to schedule as much posting as I can in advance so that I have to spend a minimal amount of time on it each week.
  4. Getting Online – Plenty of businesses have shops on their websites filled with their products, but you don’t even have to get that specialized if you don’t want to – Etsy, Yahoo, and Amazon are all existing online markets where you can sell products. However, some companies that already have an ecommerce presence chose to use it to meet a need created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, GoJava.ca opened a website to take grocery delivery orders in addition to their primary service of helping offices operate in an environmentally conscious manner.

Virtual Services

Speaking of getting online, some businesses pivoted during COVID-19 from offering face-to-face services to offering services online through video-teleconferencing once lockdown began.

  1. Mental Health – Counselling services delivered online help people to deal with the mental health stressors that come with the lockdown situation
  2. Exercise – Classes and/or personal training delivered via Zoom let people work out at home and gyms continue to collect money from memberships.
  3. Education – What can you teach over Zoom? Art classes? Writing seminars? Computer skills? Quilting or sewing? Depending on the popularity of your classes, perhaps you won’t even have to charge that much to make them profitable!

Consider what services you already offer and how you can adapt them to offer them online – the work could be minimal for significant reward!

Manufacturing to Meet COVID-19 Demands

If you’re in the business of making things, consider whether you’re equipped to pivot at this time to make vital supplies for dealing with the pandemic that are currently in short supply.

  1. Masks – More and more, people want masks to wear when they’re out in the community, and retailers can’t keep up with the demand. We need to be sure that masks are available for them, so that they’re not buying up the more specialized masks required by front-line workers who put themselves at risk all day, every day. Businesses that work with fabric materials for which demand has dropped have pivoted to making and selling cloth masks.
  2. Disinfectant – Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and cleaners (household and industrial) are very difficult to find right now because people have been hoarding them. Some companies that specialize in handling and mixing chemical have pivoted to making hand sanitizer, to help out with the need.
  3. Other PPE – The World Health Organization has said that the global stockpile of PPE, or personal protective equipment, is deficient – there are not enough gloves, gowns, and N95 respirators to protect front line medical staff treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Is it feasible for your business to do a manufacturing pivot at this time? What can you provide? If you’re a Canadian business, let the government know that you can help.

New Supply Chains for COVID-19 Times

Being in lockdown sometimes makes it difficult to get what you need, whether you’d like a bottle of wine or some beer after a hard day of Zoom meetings or you’re out of something that you need for the evening meal or you shouldn’t be in grocery stores because you’d be a high-risk case if you got infected with COVID-19.

Can your business create new supply chains that make products easier for people to get?

Examples:

  1. Wine and beer delivery from Toronto restaurants to customers became available through third-party company soon after the pandemic began, making it unnecessary for people to have to leave the house to buy alcohol.
  2. Pop-up grocery trucks that visit food deserts and communities low access to food help people meet their nutrition needs while keeping them out of the grocery stores.
  3. While libraries are closed in Ontario due to the pandemic, food banks have been using the buildings to store donations.

What else might people need during the pandemic to which they might not want to dedicate a trip to the store? Is there a way that you can create a new, safer supply chain for them?

Customer Communications

Customer loyalty can see your business safely through a crisis. Stay in touch with your customers and let them know what you’re doing to ensure their safety during this time.

In general, after any sort of social crisis, focus on the following in your communication strategy:

  1. Connection – Touch base with your customers as soon as possible and reassure them that you’re there. You cannot over-communicate at this point.
  2. Safety Updates – Tell people the measures you’re taking to preserve their safety and give them clear instructions about any measures regarding your products or services that they must take. Depending on your business and what products and/or services you offer, you may be required to offer information in multiple formats. Consult the accessibility laws for your province or country for more information.
  3. Loyalty – Think about how you might build loyalty even if you can’t offer your customers all the services during lockdown that you can face-to-face. How can you demonstrate to them that you’re thinking of them and the challenges that the pandemic creates for them, that might set you apart from other businesses in your community offering the services that you do? Customers remember companies that treat them as more than numbers and are more likely to become and stay return customers.

Steer into the COVID-19 Skid

When Sarah took Driver’s Education, many years ago, she learned that the best way to get out of a skid on a slippery road is not to slam on the brakes, as people reflexively do.

To increase your chances of getting out of the skid safely, you must keep steady pressure on the gas and steer in the direction that the skid. If you slam on the brakes, you’ll lock them, and lose control of the vehicle.

Ask yourself how your business can steer into the skid of COVID-19 – pivoting your business to take advantage of potential opportunities it creates – to increase your chances of safely getting out of it. Don’t slam on the brakes and lose control of the direction in which the pandemic takes you!

If you enjoyed the COVID Creativity Webinar watch our other webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Social Distancing and Small Business Coaching? No Problem!

Business coaches like to use face-to-face contact in especially their relationships with their small business clients, to help them fully realize their potential and set and work toward goals. Reliance on in-person contact in a time of social distancing and physical isolation creates a significant challenge!

But not one you can’t overcome, business coaches.

Use Small Business Solver to Coach While Following Social Distancing Protocols

Social Distancing theme with surgical medical face masks

Small Business Solver is built for business coaching in the age of social distancing. Watch our “Small Business Coaching During Physical Distancing” webinar to learn how to use Small Business Solver’s ecoaching platform and your favourite web conferencing tool (Zoom, Skype, or whatever you use) to meet with clients and coach them without either of you having to leave your home or office.

Together you can:

  1. Evaluate the client’s training needs based on the stage in which their small business currently operates.
  2. Assign them Small Business Solver training modules to complete for your next meeting. You can even email them the links to the modules and instructions on how to create an account (or our emails so that they can email us for instructions) so that they have no excuse for not doing their homework!
  3. As they complete each module, have them download the Put in Practice worksheet, complete it, and email it to you. Not only will you keep tabs on whether they’re doing their homework, but you can also review their sheets and see if they’re grasping the material! These modules and Put in Practice worksheets are available for hundreds of topics, so your clients can learn a lot this way – check out the video for an overview of what’s available!
  4. With the Small Business Solver plan for business coaches, you have access to a Coaches’ Corner in over 100 of the modules that helps you with your 1-on-1 coaching sessions. Your clients get more out of the platform and out of their coaching relationship with you, and they’re happier with the service you provide…win-win! Check out the video for more details and contact Carla at carla@smallbusinesssolver.com to talk about accessing Coaches’ Corner.

Face-to-face interaction during coaching is nice, and getting back to it will be great. While social distancing is necessary, it’s not a possibility.at the moment. But you have options for providing support to small businesses that need desperately support to stay on their feet, and we’re happy to help.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Enjoy this webinar? Check out the others on our YouTube Channel!

Eco-Business is for Everyone!

Eco-business graphic

Small Business Solver brings you an unexpected treat with our Live Webinar for March 2020! Not only is our topic, All About Eco-Business, which is both awesome and super-cool, but we have Peter Miller of the Community Innovation Hub hosting with Carla!

Peter and Carla wrote The Giveback Economy together. They teamed up on Friday, March 13 (yikes!) for a discussion about what business owners need to know about eco-business.

In All About Eco-Business, Carla and Peter discuss:

  1. A definition of eco-business and ways in which it’s changing the way the world does business.
  2. Ways that small business owners can make their business operations more environmentally friendly
  3. Opportunities for entrepreneurs waiting to get into eco-business – both umbrella opportunities and specific examples

Eco-business is good for everyone! Let’s talk about it.

What is Eco-Business?

Eco-businesses are companies that make a positive impact on the natural environment. The owners of these companies realize that corporate social responsibility that includes attempts to address environmental concerns benefits the consumer, the business and the supply chain.

However, attempts to address environmental concerns must go deeper than the consumer-facing business in order for a company to truly do eco-business. The commitment to addressing environmental issues must flow through the business, from the start of the supply chain to the moment the customer receives the product. People can tell when they’re being “green-washed” – social media and technology let them catch quickly when businesses aren’t authentic about a desire to help the environment.

How Is Eco-Business Changing the Way We Do Business?

People are concerned for the future of humanity if we don’t start treading more lightly on the Earth. Many of them will switch businesses over a company’s low degree of eco-friendliness. Millennials in particular are less likely to work for or buy from a business that’s having a negative impact on the environment.

Do consider that if your business isn’t taking steps to be eco-friendly that your brand image, customer relationships, and eventually your sales may suffer.

Corporate social responsibility in the eco area affects whether particularly millennials will want to work at or buy from a business

Eco-business requires companies to look beyond their bottom line, because the well-being of the Earth requires decisions that take more than finances into account. For example:

  1. A decision to build a coal mine becomes more than one about profit than loss, but a total impact calculation that includes factors like the usability of the land after processing finishes.
  2. Carbon tax now needs to be considered

Making Your Business Eco-Friendly

All businesses impact the environment. What can you say about the impact that your business is having?

  1. Is your business having a positive impact or a negative impact?
  2. If you are having a positive impact (or would like to), are you being reactive or proactive about it?

Our webinar talks about these reactive strategies for making your business more eco-friendly.

  1. Following Regulations
  2. Reducing Waste
  3. Carbon Offsetting

Being reactive with your eco-business strategy isn’t necessarily bad. However, a reactive strategy to address an issue that’s already occurred isn’t as effective as a proactive strategy that ideally keeps the issue from becoming a problem at all, so the webinar also discusses these additional proactive strategies:

  1. Make Your Eco-Friendly Strategy a Priority
  2. Social Procurement
  3. Reverse Logistics
  4. Giving Back

Integrated Model

Once you’ve put a plan together that includes reducing waste and following regulations, as well as some more proactive strategies, consider a professional evaluation of the social and environmental impact of your business. The webinar discusses the advantages of being evaluated by:

  1. BCorp
  2. Green Sacred Spaces.
  3. Your Hydro Provider

To do the most good you can as an eco-business (and benefit the most you can!), assess where you can employ green business management in all aspects of your business.

What Are the Opportunities?

Small Business Solver sponsors the Social Innovation Challenge, a pitch competition for social enterprises and social innovation. Watch the webinar for information on these umbrella opportunities in eco-business and past Social Innovation challenge winners who have won within them!

  1. Sustainable Water – Building Up. Hires marginalized youth to retrofit bathrooms in apartment buildings to decrease water waste.
  2. Sustainable Food – Growing North. Builds greenhouses in Nunavut to grow affordable vegetables.
  3. Waste Management – Binners’ Project. Support staff help Vancouver’s homeless population to improve their economic opportunities as they divert garbage from the landfills.
  4. Transform Waste – Genecis. Converts food waste from restaurants into energy and biofuel.
  5. Replace Single-Use Plastic – Candy Cutlery. Hard candy utensils designed to let you enjoy your dessert or drink and then be enjoyed as a second treat.
  6. Reverse Logistics – London Drugs. Not a Social Innovation Challenge winner, but one of the first Canadian companies to put in a program where people could return used batteries and old cell phones. Ahead of their time!
  7. End-of-Product Life Cycle – Datawind. When computer companies upgrade their product, Datawind takes the components of the outdated models and makes them into computers to be distributed in developing countries.
  8. Extend the Life – Repair Cafes let people get their broken items fixed while they learn the skills to do their own repairs. Textbooks for Change takes donated textbooks, recycles the damaged ones, donates some to developing countries, and resells others to students at reduced rates.

Make the most of your opportunities and use your imagination! Eco-business is about being creative.

Bottom Line

Eco-business benefits you, your customers, and the Earth – why not consider how you can incorporate it into your business plan? Contact us for more information!

Strategic Planning, Small Business Planner-Style!

We’re six weeks into 2020 and everyone is doing strategic planning for their small business! Which is a great thing…because, as we all known, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail…but as we were preparing to do this year’s strategic planning for Small Business Solver, we noticed that there were no good resources or tools out there to help small business owners through this process.

White 3D figure with a black necktie examines the word "Plan" in large, red, 3D block letters with a magnifying glass. Keyword: strategic planning
Time for Strategic Planning!

So we created a strategic planning process of our own! We used it to do our own planning, and have since used it with 50 small businesses, non-profits, and large associations! We’ve been so excited by the results that we’ve made it a training module on the Small Business Solver Website! It was also the subject of a recent webinar:

In this webinar, you’ll learn about:

  1. The importance of defining your vision
  2. What makes an effective mission statement
  3. How to do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Weaknesses) Analysis
  4. SMART goals
  5. Strategic Activities and getting them done with a Workplan

Defining Your Vision

Your vision tells you and the people involved with your business where your business is headed – it is your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal! For strategic planning purposes, this goal is set for 5 years, although you’ll define goals for the 1, 3, and 5 year marks. Keep your mind open, because you’ll be setting Impossible Goals as well as Possible Goals! (As the webinar explains…)

An Effective Mission Statement

You’ll want to write a strong mission statement as part of your strategic planning. The webinar gives you a formula for writing a mission statement that is:

  1. Memorable
  2. Personal and inclusive
  3. A description of your daily activities
  4. Focused on your target market
  5. A description of the ideal result of your actions for your target market.

Your mission statement should motivate you and your staff!

Strategic Planning and SWOT!

A SWOT analysis forces you to take both internal and external inventory of factors that will affect the success of your business:

  1. Strengths – What do you have going for you?
  2. Weaknesses – What perceived gaps are holding you back?
  3. Opportunities – What are the possibilities or opportunities you can leverage
  4. Threats – What do you need to watch out for?

Your strategic planning will be much more effective when you have a clear idea of what you have to work with!

Strategic Planning Includes Strategic Goals

At this stage of strategic planning, you must define 3 – 5 critical areas for your business that are related to your Unique Selling Proposition. You’ll learn in the webinar that most small businesses list Revenue and Communications or Marketing as critical areas, and you’ll also see examples of other areas. Once you’ve defined your ctitical areas, you’ll write a strategic goal for each of them.

Your strategic plan really starts to take form once you’ve set these goals.

Strategic Activities and Workplan

You now need to list the activities required to make your strategic goals a reality create a workplan so that the work gets done! Ask yourself:

  1. What tasks need to be done so that the goals you’ve set are achieved?
  2. In what order should these tasks be done?
  3. Who is responsible for each task?
  4. What is the deadline for each task?

Keep your workplan and the strategic tasks in view so that they stay on the radar of everyone involved! See the webinar for some suggestions on how to do this.

Strategic Planning – Bottom Line!

Strategic planning lets you take a large amount of data about your business and the areas within it and reduce the overwhelm around what to do next. You’ll end the process with a manageable number of goal, a plan for getting them done, and (hopefully!) a commitment to repeat the process the next year!

Check out the webinar…and then check out our new Strategic Planning Training Module and get your strategic planning done for 2020! And be sure to let us know what you think (here, or on Facebook, or on Twitter, or by email at sarah@smallbusinesssolver.com)…because we love to hear from you!

Twitter Mastery, Small Business-Style!

Cartoon blue bird sitting on rope, singing - "Tweet" comes out of its mouth in a bubble. Keyword: Twitter

Twitter – love it or hate it, you can’t get away from it. So why not learn how to use it? We asked Allan Pollett, social media consultant and the “SEO Guru”, to talk to us about stragegies for entrepreneurs to make Twitter work as hard for their small businesses as they do…and he didn’t disappoint!

Beginning with the Twitter Basics

Twitter is great, Pollett explains, because it lets us communicate with anyone in the world at any moment – no phones, no wait times for mail delivery, no need for even formal introductions. Twitter has a billion accounts, and you can send out messages, or tweets, to each of them from your Twitter account, with no charge per tweet.

You can put links, images, gif files, and videos in a tweet.

You can Like and Retweet tweets that other Twitter users have made.

You can track views of your tweets, engagement with them, and other analytic information.

Hashtag #Madness!

When you send a tweet, it shows up on the timeline of each person that follows you. You won’t have any followers when you join Twitter, and most people don’t have followers (although some do!) However, you can increase the potential audience for a tween by using hashtags. A hashtag looks likes this: #. When you add it to a word or phrase (like #ThursdayThoughts), then anyone who searches the #ThursdayThoughts hashtag, even if they don’t know you, will see your tweet and maybe interact with it. You’ve expanded your reach and joined the conversation about Thursday Thoughts!

Hashtags are a great tool for businesses, and Alan talks about a few great ways to leverage their power.

The 60-40 Rule

Because Allan is such a Twitter rockstar, he actually figured out that Twitter works best for businesses when 60% of their tweets are business-related (tweets about products, offers, sales) and 40% are other information that your customers might find useful – articles, resources, relevant humour. Great tip: People really like quotations by famous people, and tend to share them with others.

Growing Your Twitter Following

Call a tweet to someone’s attention by tagging it with @ and their twitter handle:

Hey @businesssolver! Love your webinar series!

(I guarantee that if we saw this, we would like it, retweet it, and follow you! Just saying.)

When you tag someone in this way, you leverage not only your audience, but theirs too. If their audience is very big, that could be very good for you!

Alan has a technique for finding and growing an audience that’s truly interested in you and what you have to say. Check out the webinar to see what it is! (Here’s a hint: Follow your competitors’ followers!)

Final Things to Consider…

  1. Keep your tweets engaging.
  2. Use hashtags that reach a large audience (3 or 4 per Tweet)
  3. Jump right in and make yourself part of the conversation! It’s not that scary…really!

Thanks so much to Allan Pollett for helping us out today! You can learn more about Allan and the services he offers at his website.

This is our last webinar for 2019! We’re busy getting the line-up for 2020 together, so please let us know if there’s a topic you’d like covered. Happy Holidays!

Sales Funnel Optimization

Your sales funnel drives sales. Can it get easier than that? Make sure you set it up properly so that it creates as many sales as possible for you.

In this webinar you’ll learn about:

  1. The importance of your sales funnel
  2. The purpose of a sales funnel
  3. The parts of a sales funnel
  4. How to optimize a sales funnel

Let’s get started!

The Importance of Your Sales Funnel

When you understand sales funnels, you’re best equipped to observe your sales process and see what areas need improvement. You can identify bottlenecks, or areas in the funnel through which customers are moving slowly compared to the rest of the funnel.

Once you know what’s wrong, you can fix it. You can examine the bottleneck areas, develop and implement strategies to move customers through them more smoothly and quickly. Optimizing your sales funnel in this way ensures that you can move more customers through, with a shorter sales cycle.

That’s good for business!

Purpose

A sales funnel is a numbers game.

Every potential customer enters your sales funnel unaware that your business exists. Your job is to move them through the funnel, converting them from potential customers to people who have bought from you.

A large number or potential customers start a sales journey with you, and people fall away at each stage, for a variety of reasons. Usually it’s a small percentage that move through all the stages of the funnel to become customers. This is where the funnel shape comes from

Parts

A sales funnel has four basic parts:

  1. Gain their Awareness – Use marketing to let people know you exist
  2. Gain their Interest – Get people interested enough in your offering to want to find out more about you
  3. Make them Ready – Convince people of benefits and address doubts and concerns so that potential customers can become paying customers.
  4. Close – Close the sale

Some sales funnels break these basic parts into many more, but the funnel shape holds across all of them: A lot of potential customers start the first stage, some drop away at each stage, and a few finish as actual customers.

When you know at what part of your sales funnel bottlenecks are happening, you can start to optimize your sales funnel.

How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel

In order to identify bottlenecks in your sales funnel, you need to:

  1. Know the stages in your sales funnel
  2. Know the conversion rates between each stage – the goal is 10% or higher.
  3. Make note of whether each of those rates is 10% or higher.
  4. Know the lowest of the these conversion rates – even if the lowest rate is over 10%, this is a bottleneck.
  5. Figure out why this area is a bottleneck
  6. Develop and implement a plan to resolve the bottleneck.

Small Business Solver has a tool to help you figure out where your bottlenecks are and what you need to do to resolve them, but here are some general strategies, linked to Small Business Solver modules to help you learn more:

  1. Finding Prospects – Make sure that you understand your customer, that your customers are qualified, that you’re using a lead list, and that you’re making use of referrals and seeking channel partners.
  2. Improving AwarenessIntegrate your marketing campaigns so that you’re presenting the same message everywhere. Prioritize this work – it’s important!
  3. Improving InterestControl your message by representing your brand wellhone your presentation skills and always leave a great impression! Learn how to address common objections to doing business with you.
  4. Improving the Close – Learn how to gauge interest so you’re not misreading whether people are ready to close. Reduce risk so that people are more inclined to close. Make sure that your closing tactics actually work for you and not against you!
  5. Improving Follow-UpCreate a follow-up plan for customers, so that you can improve retention and create opportunities for upselling.
  6. Improving Delivery – Continue to get to know your customers and build relationships so that you consistently provide a positive experience for them. Set expectations wisely by underpromising and overdelivering.

Small Business Solver can help you do all these things. Sign up today for a pay-what-you-can account to view any of the modules in the above list.

We hope that the the webinar was useful for you! Visit our YouTube channel to view more of our webinars.

Small Business Marketing Tools to Boost your Likeability

People buy from people they like, so remember to congratulate yourself once you’ve made the sale! You connected with the customer and appealed to them on the emotional level at which people ultimately decide to buy. You now need to make this transactional customer who’s made one purchase a lifetime customer. Using small business marketing tools that boost your likeability can help with that. In this webinar you’ll learn about:

  1. The Value of a Customer
  2. Likeability as one of the 3 Tenets of a Sale
  3. How Brand affects Likeability
  4. Marketing Tools that Boost Likeability

The Value of a Customer

Getting existing customers to spend more money on your products is less expensive than spending money on the marketing and onboarding required to continually bring on new customers. You’ll also generate more revenue over a customer’s lifetime. Build personal relationships with your customers, increasing your likeability, and revenue from a given customer will increase as:

  1. Average size and frequency of a sale increases
  2. Purchases become more routine
  3. You become the business that the customer always shops with
  4. The customer not only does business exclusively with you, but refers you to other people.

The sales cycle for a referral is much shorter than for a customer you bring in fresh off the street!

Likeability as One of the 3 Tenets of a Sale

Need a reminder about the 3 Tenets of a Sale? Here they are:

  1. People Must Know You (Visibility)
  2. People Must Trust You (Credibility)
  3. People Must Like You (Likeability)

We are (obviously) examining Likeability’s role in the 3 Tenets of Sale today, and how boosting it through small business marketing and building personal relationships wih customers increases your sales. We’ve examined previously how boosting credibility boosts your sales and also how boosting visibility boosts your sales, so be sure to check out those webinars as well! Small business marketing works!

How Brand Affects Likeability

Your Brand Promise lets customers know who you are and what they can expect from you. Branding choices give your customers information about your business that they use to evaluate your Brand Promise, and all ties into likeability.

Consider how these aspects of your branding will be perceived by your target market:

  1. Your business’ name
  2. Your business’ voice
  3. Visuals
  4. Values
  5. Personality
  6. Characteristics that make it unique from other companies will be perceived by your target market.

Remember that in small business your personal brand as the business owner is part of the business brand. Be both authentic in both!

Small Business Marketing Tools That Boost Likeability

You can use Small Business Solver’s Marketing Solver Tool to learn about a whole bunch of marketing tools that help with the “Like You” part of the 3 Tenets of a Sale. Here are a few the webinar talks about:

  1. Volunteering –> You and/or a staff team
  2. Sponsorships –> Community events or local sports teams
  3. Rebates and Coupons —> For existing customers, not just new ones
  4. Lunch & Learns –> For potential and existing customers
  5. Online Service Tie-In –> Use an online platform to provide value to your offering (such as access to an information website or web community)
  6. Pick Up the Phone –> Call customers instead of emailing them
  7. Employees –> Stay engaged, let them express their personality
  8. Mentors —> Leverage the power of your champions!
  9. Food –> Face-to-face over food can build powerful relationships
  10. Be Helpful –> Share articles, news, events
  11. Birthday Cards –> Note customer details that are potential touchpoints in your CRM
  12. Online Portfolio –> Showcase your business and your brand promise
  13. Networking –> Really listen to peoples’ stories and offer help without expectation of return
  14. Smile! —> People can tell, even if they can’t see you.

The numbers show that you really only need one hundred loyal customers to flourish, bottom line. They will keep coming back to you, over and over. They will refer new customers to you. One hundred loyal customers changes the nature of your business.

Something to think about, right?

Was this useful? Watch our other webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Small Business Wisdom: What To Expect in Your First Year

What can you expect in your first year as a small business owner? After tracking our first year as a business and following thousands of others on the journey, we can tell you that you’ll go through several ways of looking at your business, or paradign shifts. Here are the main ones covered in our video of what to expect in your first year:

You’ll also hear about the milestones you can expect to reach in your first few years.

Weeks 1 – 4: The Fake Start

The Fake Start paradigm shift occurs when you first jump into the idea of starting your own business. Get ready to do some serious talking and planning! You’re putting your business together during this first month and making sure that everyone around you knows it.

Weeks 5 – 8: Small Business Realities

You’re making a paradigm shift to Small Business Realities thinking when you start to realize that small business is different than every other type of business. This four-week period is about testing things out and learning the rules of small business (“”Cash is King” and “Personal Brand is Small Business Brand”, for example.) You’ll concentrate on getting some cash into your business, assess how long you can wait for cash to start coming in, and determine what prices you’ll need to charge in the future to keep your business running.

Weeks 9 – 12: Getting to the 2nd Ring

In Week 8, at the tail end of the Small Business Realities paradigm shift, you may still be only selling to friends and family. That’s okay. But during Weeks 9 to 12 you need to make a third paradigm shift.

Getting to the 2nd Ring thinking forces you to consider how you can sell to strangers. You’ll need to:

  • Assess who you know outside of the circle of friends and family that could be potential customers.
  • Learn about networking
  • Get business cards so that you always have a way to quickly and conveniently give people your contact information. .

Weeks 13 -16: Unlearning (Relearning)

At Week 13, four months into your small business journey, the Unlearning (Relearning) paradigm shift begins. This is a time to go over your progress so far and tweak your plans and processes for the future to include what you’ve learned.

Maybe you need to do more definitive goal-setting. Maybe you need to examine your revenue streams and determine whether they’re all working optimally for you. Maybe your marketing plan needs some changes. Maybe you need to consider a potential referral partner who take on work that people who want you to do that’s not a service you offer.

This paradigm shift is about asking, “Is this real? Did what I try during the first 3 months work, or do I have to change things up?”

Weeks 17 – 21: Asking for Help with Your Small Business

In Month 5 you’re going to start adding people to your team, shifting your business paradigm from one where you work alone to one where Asking for Help is healthy and encouraged. Finding someone to talk to about your business (not family or a significant other – they’re sick of hearing about it by now), who can offer a second opinion about issues you face and help you keep your energy up, will keep you from waking up at night with business concerns stuck in your head. Mentors are ideal for this.

Weeks 22 – 25: Cash-O-La!

This month’s paradigm shift is around money. You will learn:

  • Why “cash is king”
  • Why reducing costs is important
  • How you may be able to benefit from bartering
  • How attention to all the things mentioned above raises your profit margin.

Still with us, business owner? Good! You’re doing great!

Weeks 26 – 28: Breath(ish)

You need to make the Breath(ish) paradigm shift now because at this point you’ve been going full-speed for six months! You need to slow down and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well as well as your business.

Put a self-care plan in place if you don’t have one, to avoid burn-out. Be sure that your plan is something that you can keep doing over the long-term.

Week 29 – 33: Think Bigger about Your Small Business!

As you shift your business paradigm to Think Bigger, you’re looking for an elephant. Not literally, of course, but an elephant of a new client that brings in a lot of money with consistency, or a current client to whom you can sell more services. You can look for elephants in a couple of ways:

  • Reconnect with contacts you made when you launched. Let them know that you’re still around, offering services and welcoming referrals.
  • Consider making your business your full-time job if you haven’t already. Give some thought as to how you’ll structure Accounts Receivable when the time comes to do so.

Can you think of any potential elephants right now?

Weeks 34 – 37: Graduate

As you start making the Graduate paradigm shift, you might feel to need to move on from your mentor – you’re having some success, you’re feeling confident, and you’d like to go at it alone. Take a couple of weeks to consider your decision, trying to stay humble and realistic as you evaluate where you are with your business and whether you can keep up the momentum on your own. At the end of Week 37, make the decision about whether to graduate from your mentor.

Weeks 38 – 41: Do Bigger for your Small Business

Now the business paradigm shifts to Do Bigger – you’ve thought about how you’d like to make your business grow, now what structure do you need to put in place to make it happen? As you make this paradigm shift, you’ll think about:

  • Action plans
  • Scalability and processes
  • Re-investment
  • Whether you need employees or partners

Guess what? You’re almost there..

Weeks 42 – 52: Sustain Your Small Business

In Sustain, the the last of the paradigm shifts for your first year, you’ll focus first on strengthening your business through its customer service and its branding, and then on you. You’ll ask yourself:

  • Is this making me happy?
  • Do I want to continue?

Hopefully you do! Congratulate yourself for making it through your first year…you did it!

View What to Expect When You Are Starting to learn about the Small Business Solver modules that are the most useful for small businesses in each paradigm shift. And view more of our webinars on our You Tube Channel!

Contact us at smallbusinesssolver@gmail.com if you have any questions…

Social Enterprise – Making Money While You Make A Difference!

Our “Make Money & Make a Difference” webinar is all about how you can do just that in your organization! Social enterprise is on the rise, and why not? It feels good to give back, and it’s a good business move to do so, as 60% of customers want to support companies with a sense of corporate social responsibility. How can you lose?

If you need more convincing, the webinar examines even more of the business advantages to operating as a social enterprise, including:

  1. Improved public perception
  2. Direct recognition for your efforts
  3. Increased sales
  4. More opportunities for partnerships
  5. Increased employee satisfaction
  6. Opportunities to team build
  7. Increased opportunities to network. Statistics show that almost all small business owners want to give back to their communities – over 99%!

What Social Enterprise Looks Like

There are many ways that companies can be social enterprises. Check out these businesses that are making a difference.

Hungry Heart Cafe – “Hungry Heart Café is much more than a great place for food. We help vulnerable adults access careers in the food service industry so that they can achieve independence and realize their dreams.”

Virgin Unite Foundation – “non-profit foundation…to unite people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world.”

Tim Horton’s Smile Cookie Week – “Your full $1 goes to over 500 charities and organizations in communities across Canada ”

Making a difference feels good. It can make things a little more complicated for a small business, yes. The webinar addresses these issues, and also talks about what goes into making a social idea a social enterprise:

  1. Starting with the problem to find the solution
  2. Validating your idea
  3. Marketing your idea
  4. Developing your team
  5. Determining your financing options

Does the idea of social innovation and social enterprise appeal to you? We’re here to help! Reach out to us at smallbusinesssolver@gmail.com and tell us how we can help.

Sales Presentations: How to Own the Room as You Sell Your Stuff!

Our live webinar series is motoring through summer, with the fast-paced and information-packed “How to Give a Great Sales Presentation, Small Business-Style!” This webinar focuses on 4 key areas of giving sales presentations: Audience, Content, “The Nerves”, and Was It Good?

The Audience

Tailor your sales presentation’s message for different groups. You need to know who your audience is and what they care about so that you can present useful information. If you don’t know about your audience and what’s useful for them, find out:

  1. Attend the event yourself (if possible)
  2. Ask the organizers about the people who will be attending and what they’re likely to want to hear about.
  3. Show up early talk to people prior to your presentation about why they’ve come and what they’d like to hear from you.

A sales presentation should signal to your audience that you understand their core values and that your own core values align with theirs. If you can’t connect with your audience on that emotional level, your audience is unlikely to buy from you. Remember – sales are emotional!

Sales Presentations and Content: The Beginning and the End

When you’re planning sales presentation content, pay special attention to the beginning and the end – they serve important functions! The beginning of the presentation should contain the ” hook” that catches peoples’ interest. An effective hook:

  1. Is very clear and simple
  2. Has some sort of number or return on investment (investment being time spent watching the presentation.) 
  3. Draws people in by asking a question or telling a story.

Your hook may be your only chance to get peoples’ attention, so make it a good one!

The end of a sales presentation should invite the audience to take a concrete, reasonable next step. The step should be a gesture their interest in what you have to offer. Don’t ask them for the world! You might invite them to:

  1. Pick up your business card on the way out
  2. Schedule a phone call or coffee date with you to chat about their needs
  3. Stay after for a few moments to see a quick demo of your software or website.

Pro tip: You should never have to say “Thank you” to indicate that a sales presentation is over. It should be clear to the audience!  

Sales Presentations and Content: Benefits versus Features

You’ll feel compelled to tell your audience all about the features that make your product or service is the best on the market. Resist that urge. Instead, tell your audience why it *matters* that your product can do what it does and why it’s important that a job be done just the way that your company can do it. Convince them to hire you by telling them the benefits of doing so!

Consider how you might use the following as you present benefits:

  1. Emotional words to further capitalize on the power of talking about benefit.
  2. Vocal intonation and body movements to break up the conversation
  3. Moments that “pop!” to emphasize points that you want your audience to remember.

You want to make an emotional appeal with your sales presentations because (say it with me!) sales are emotional!

The Nerves: No Big Deal

Everyone gets a little nervous about speaking in front of groups. There are ways to work through it! Use these techniques when your nerves start to get the better of you:

  1. Be sure that you’ve practiced enough before your sales presentations. Most people need to practice a presentation between 7 and 20 times. 
  2. Show up first. Be in the room as everyone arrives and even talk to people a bit if that’s possible. You’ll feel in control of the room and the audience will see you feeling confident and ready. 
  3. Don’t take a deep breath just before you start presenting, as you may start to hyperventilate. Instead, exhale and force all the air out of your diaphragm and allow it to refill. Then go in and own it! You’ve got this!

Was Your Sales Presentation Good? How You Can Tell

You don’t need a lot of training or a fancy post-presentation audience questionnaire to evaluate how your sales presentations go over. You can monitor the standard indicators of audience interest and engagement as you’re presenting:

  1. Are people interrupting you to ask question as you’re presenting ?Questions about implementation and logistics are an especially strong sign of interest. 
  2. What is the body language saying? Engaged people will lean in, maintain eye contact, nod and smile. Bear in mind that body language in a business-to-business sales presentation can be trickier.
  3. Are people taking even small actions after your sales presentations? Even if someone just takes a business card from your display table, congratulate yourself. You caught their interest! Now you need to follow up and move them along your sales funnel!

We have lots of information about presentations on our website, and all our resources are available to small business owners on a pay-what-you-can basis! Sign up for an account and check us out!

You can also see more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel.