2014 Top Ten Resolutions for Women Business Owners

  1. Follow Up.  New for 2014.  If you want to set yourself apart from the competition then follow up.  If you promise information to someone, provide it in timely manner.  If you meet a potential customer/client, send a note or email within a week.  If you gave information to a prospect six months ago and you haven’t heard from them, send them a note, card or email to remind them you are still around and would like their business.  If you find out that your competition has a contract with a prospect, contact the prospect three months (or whatever is reasonable) before the contract expires.
  2. Follow the money.   Carried over from 2013.  Know what your customers/clients are spending their money on.  If your customers/clients are medical be sure you understand how the new health care laws and trends effect their spending.  If you sell clothing or jewelry, be sure that you know not only what people like, but what they are spending their money on.  No matter who your customers/clients are they are effected by laws, trends and other issues, so you must follow the money (their money) to see how your products and services fit in.
  3. Learn a new language.  New for 2014. Learn the language of your customers/clients.  Be sure your marketing message and materials speak in their language.  What you sell or provide is not important to them.  The benefit of your product/service to them is what is important and what must be conveyed in what you say.  Do not describe your product/service.  Tell them what it does for them.
  4. Determine if you have (or need) a niche.  New for 2014.  Do you ever try to please everyone in a group of people (office, family, organization, etc.)?  Never works, does it?  So why would you attempt to sell and provide your products /services to “any”, “all”, “every” of a group.  If you provide dog walking services, is every dog owner a potential customer?  No, only the ones who need and are willing to pay for the service.  If you do not find your niche – the people who will actually pay for your products/services – then you are spending time and money on sales and marketing and hoping you reach the ones who will spend money with you.
  5. Put it on your calendar.  New for 2014.  If you don’t put plans on your calendar you haven’t made a commitment and the plan rarely converts into an action.
  6. Ask.  Carried over from 2013.  Resolve to ask for the sale, the contract, the opportunity, the loan or whatever will make your business successful.  Often people feel uncomfortable to actually ask the question.  We tend to layout the “story” and wait for the prospect, banker, etc. to offer the purchase, contract, opportunity or funding.  Asking makes it clear what you want and shows strength.  Asking gets an answer.
  7. Network with customers, not your peers.  Carried over because it is so important.  Networking with your peers may be comfortable and it may produce a lead now and then, but it will not produce as many opportunities as networking with your customers or prospects will.  This means you must first find out where your customers/clients/prospects are – professional organizations, industry specific online discussions, trade fairs, etc.  You only have so many hours that you can network, be sure you are spending them in the most productive places and ways.
  8. Evaluate your current practices for effectiveness.  Carried over from 2013.  If you haven’t figured out how to measure the effectiveness of the things you are doing for and in your business then you do not really know if you are getting the results you need.  Remember that measurements should be results oriented, not a list of efforts.  For instance instead of measuring by the number of people who like your business on Facebook, find out how many people made a purchase or at least an inquiry because of your business Facebook page.
  9. Put it in writingCarried over from previous years.  Don’t fall victim to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation – put everything in writing.  By doing so, you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships.  All partnering or subcontracting arrangements should be spelled out in an agreement and signed by all parties.  Any contract with a customer/client should include a Scope of Work/Services that clearly states what you will do, what the customer/client will do and the amount and schedule of payment.  Do it even if you know or are related to your partner, trust your prime contractor, think you understand the project/product requirements or believe in handshake agreements.  Things can happen that will alter the original circumstances – people leave, new factors arise, funds are delayed – and if you are not protected by having terms in writing, you could jeopardize your revenue and/or reputation.
  10. Don’t waitNew for 2014.  Stop finding reasons to wait.  Do, now, the things that will make you more successful.  If you do not feel ready, then make a plan (and put dates with the actions) to get ready.

2013 Top Ten Resolutions for Women Business Owners

  1. Follow the money.   New for 2013.  Know what your customers/clients are spending their money on.  If your customers are government agencies or funded by government sources watch closely to see where the new laws or trends are causing them to spend their money.  If your customers/clients are medical be sure you understand how the new health care laws and trends affect their spending.  No matter who your customers/clients are they are effected by laws, trends and other issues so you must follow the money (their money) to see how your products and services fit in.
  2. Start at the end.  New for 2013. When you have a big project or an important goal, a plan is absolutely necessary.  To make the plan viable start with an end result and time.  Then work backwards to determine the activities necessary to reach the end.  Develop time-frames for those activities and put them on your calendar.  Think of it as your GPS system to ensure you know where you are going and that you have the directions to get there.
  3. Ask.  New for 2013.  Resolve to ask for the sale, the contract, the opportunity, the loan or whatever will make your business successful.  Often we women feel uncomfortable to actually ask the question.  We tend to layout the “story” and wait for the prospect, banker, etc. to offer the purchase, contract, opportunity or funding.  Asking makes it clear what you want and shows strength.
  4. Keep raising your hand.  New for 2013. If you want to be sure buyers (even existing customers) remember you at the time they are ready to buy, you have to keep reminding them that you exist.  This means you must have a plan to send out periodic reminders that you are still around and ready to take their order or meet their need.  You can do this with a newsletter, periodic emails or post cards, and many other ways.  Be creative, but be visible.
  5. Be certain you know who your customers/clients are.  Carried over from previous years.  Bankers and small business consultants say the biggest obstacle for all small businesses, especially woman-owned, is that they do not really know who their customers/clients are.  If you are too general in the description of your customers (using words such as “all” or “every”) you will likely be too general in your message and not stimulate actual purchases.  If you do not bore down to specific customer/client types you will probably spend some of your time, effort and money marketing to the wrong people.  Look back at the misses and successes of the last two years and use that data to help you reassess your idea of your real customers/clients and prospects.
  6. Do not try to be too many different things. New for 2013.  If you have clearly defined your business and truly identified your customers/clients then you should concentrate on these things.  If you see a need or desire and you try to fulfill it when it doesn’t fit in with your core business, you will confuse your customers and frustrate yourself.  When you try to be too many things or offer too many unrelated products/services, customers assume that you are not expert, or even competent, at anything.
  7. Network with customers, not your peers.  New for 2013.  Networking with your peers may be comfortable and it may produce a lead now and then, but it will not produce as many opportunities as networking with your customers or prospects will.  This means you must first find out where your customers/clients/prospects are – professional organizations, industry specific online discussions, trade fairs, etc.  You only have so many hours that you can network, be sure you are spending them in the most productive places and ways.
  8. Understand that what you sell/provide is not what is important Carried over from previous years.  Remember that you are not selling your products or services; you are meeting the needs or solving the problems of your prospects and clients/ customers!  Speak in the language of your customers/clients; it will get you a lot farther than clever slogans and colorful logos.  Show how your product meets their needs or solves their problems.
  9. Evaluate your current practices for effectiveness.  New for 2013.  If you haven’t figured out how to measure the effectiveness of the things you are doing for and in your business then you do not really know if you are getting the results you need.  Remember that measurements should be results oriented, not a list of efforts.  For instance instead of measuring by the number of people who like your business on Facebook, find out how many people made a purchase or at least an inquiry because of your business Facebook page.
  10. Put it in writingCarried over from previous years.  I still see so many people suffer from not putting important things in writing.  If you put the specifics of every agreement and arrangement in writing you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships.  Any partnering or subcontracting arrangement should be spelled out in an agreement and signed by all parties.  Any contract with a customer/client should include a Scope of Work/Services that clearly states what you will do, what the customer/client will do and the amount and schedule of payment.  All of this applies even if you know your partner, trust your prime contractor, think you understand the project/product requirements or believe in handshake agreements.  Things can happen that will alter the original circumstances – people leave, new factors arise, funds are delayed – and if you are not protected by having terms in writing, you could jeopardize your revenue and/or reputation.  If you are working with or for friends or relatives, putting conditions and stipulations in writing is just as important and sometimes even more so because it may save a relationship.

Open Letter to Politicians and Candidates

Dear Politician/Candidate,

As a representative of and a consultant to Small Businesses, especially woman and minority owned, I have some advice that will help you get elected, re-elected and, even more importantly, serve effectively.

 

First say what you mean and mean what you say.  Here are a few tips to help you with this:

  • Don’t cushion your statements with silly works such as “I would tell/say to you that I..”  Instead have the courage to say “I will”, “I believe”, “I want”, etc.
  • Don’t speak in the third person.  Instead of saying “My campaign/office/etc.”, just say “I”.
  • If you are going to talk about someone else (another candidate, elected official, business leader, etc.) don’t put an “a” in front of his/her name.  For example, don’t say “A Joe Biden” or “A Paul Ryan”.  If you use the “a” instead of just saying the name, you appear fearful, condescending or elitist.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary words.  Why has it become necessary to say “The American People”?  What other people would a politician/candidate be talking about?

We run businesses, we use jargon like this when we are unsure or feel the need to be evasive.  So when you use this language that is how we see you and we do not really want to elect someone who is unsure or evasive.

 

Be direct.  Small Business People like to get to the meat course very quickly.  So, those of you who focus on the What and How will keep our attention longer and be more likely to get our vote. Here are some phrases that raise our suspicions or cause us to tune you out:

  • Small Businesses are the backbone of the country
  • Small Businesses are vital to our economy
  • Women need more voice, a seat at the table, etc.
  • Minorities deserve more opportunities, fair share, etc.

We know these things and we’ve heard them before.  What you can and are willing to do to make them more than phrases is what we are interested in.

 

We want revenue.  Tax breaks are nice, but what we really need are opportunities to get revenue.  Revenue will help us:

  • Stay in business
  • Hire employees
  • Have something to pay taxes on
  • Support your campaign

 

Small Business Owners/Entrepreneurs must have certain capabilities and do certain things to be successful.  We are looking for candidates that have the political equivalents.  We want to see:

  • An actual plan
  • Courage
  • Proof of concept
  • The financials
  • How you will get others to cooperate/participate/fund/etc. (a marketing plan)
  • Exit strategy (justification to let you stay for a long time and/or what will you do to ensure things keep going if you don’t get re-elected)

 

Sincerely,

 

Small Business Owner

 

 

But That’s Not What I Meant

Words can persuade.  Words can hurt.  Words can calm.  Words matter.

Whether it’s selling, providing customer service, managing a project or anything else in business words matter.  Here are 3 ways to use words to your advantage.

 

Know your customer’s/client’s language

Words do not always mean the same thing to everyone.  Take the word superficial as an example.  To someone in the medical profession a superficial wound means something not very serious, a surface injury.  If we describe a person as superficial we think they are shallow.  If we think a situation is superficial we consider it insignificant.  So to an ER doctor a wound that is superficial is good; to an employee called superficial by a co-worker it is an insult.  If you do not understand the lingo of your customers/clients you run the risk of insulting them or being misunderstood.  It does take research and listening to know the language of others, but the effort can set you apart from the competition.

 

Use language your suppliers understand

If you believe the premise in the previous paragraph then you probably think that your suppliers should make the effort to know your language and you would be right.  However, if they don’t you will suffer.  Here is an illustration:  You are on the road and almost get hit by another car.  You think, if we wreck it will be the other person’s fault.  You may be right, but you will still be in a wreck.  If you are the purchaser and your supplier doesn’t understand your need, time-frame or whatever you could suffer if you do not adjust.  A good truth to remember is that just because someone should doesn’tmean they will.

 

Speak softly and carry a big stick

Or as my Grandmother used to say, sugar catches more flies than vinegar.  If you start out using kind words you are likely to get cooperation.  If you do not get cooperation then you can resort to stiffer language.  If you start out with vinegary words you may get cooperation or at least action.  But if you do not get what you need, you are at a disadvantage.  Do you use tougher language or do you try to drop back and use nice language?  The typical tactic is to get tougher.  Then even if you get what you want, you usually don’t feel like a winner.  And what happens next time, because if you started our with vinegary words there will likely be a next time.

 

In closing let me give you an extreme example to help you remember that words matter.  In South Carolina, my home state, and in some other Southern states the word “Shag” is a dance done to beach music.  In England the word “shag” is a slang expression for sex.  I’ll let you think of ways this word could cause embarrassment, confusion, insult or amusement.  But you get the point — if you don’t understand the other person’s language the outcome will not likely be what you want it to be.

Timing Is Everything

“The difference in a good life and a great life is timing.”  That’s what my former business partner used to say.

Timing is the difference between success and failure, agony and defeat, yes and no.   Whether it is in your personal life or in business, timing can make a huge difference in an outcome.

Here are some examples that illustrate just how important timing can be.

When my daughters were children they knew not to press me for a decision.  They still remember me saying, “If you want an answer right now, it is No.  If you give time to think about it, it might be yes.”   I have often seen that practice in business.  If you press a prospect or customer to make a decision before they are ready, you might not get the answer you want.  If you push for a commitment on a raise or promotion or a privilege and your boss is not ready, the result may be negative and you may have used your one chance.

My nephew, JT, recently had some tough instruction on timing.  For years he had been planning to hike the Appalachian Trail when he graduated from college.  On May 29 JT and his father flew from Atlanta to Maine to start the trip.  They had plane delays and missed flights and got to Maine a day later than they planned and because the flight they could get landed them in a different city than they planned, they had to drive 3 hours after landing.  The Appalachian Trail actually begins at the top of a mountain and that part of the trial is closed when weather is bad.  Well, since the weather was stormy my nephew and brother-in-law had to hike the second leg first and the first leg second.  (Nothing like not starting at the beginning to get you disoriented).   When they did hike the first leg, JT hurt the tendon in one of ankles.  Of course he hiked on.  A few days later he was attacked by the dog of another hiker while in a camping site.  The dog tried to take a piece of his leg, but my nephew fended him off.  However, the dog was persistent and finally clamped down on his arm.  JT left the camp site and got to a lodging area where the owners helped him clean and bandage his wound.  The next day he went to the emergency room and had both the ankle and dog bite checked out.  The wound wasn’t bad and the doctor gave him antibiotic ointment.   They x-rayed his ankle and found that it wasn’t broken, but was sprained; the doctor said he needed to rest it.  So, JT rested for a couple of days, not the way he wanted to start his 2,180 mile journey.   After a few days, he got back on the Trail, but compensating for his injury made his other leg sore and caused blisters on his feet.  When he got to the next “stop” on his trek he found that the food he and his dad had sent to be held for him was not there.  (When someone is hiking the Appalachian Trail they make arrangements for food to be held for them at “stops” along the trail.  There are very few places to purchase supplies along the trail and most hikers do not want to or have the means to get off the trail and visit a grocery store.)  JT was about to enter one of the wilderness sections of the trail and had to have the food.   At this point he finally decided that his timing might be off.  He decided to go back home and fully recuperate from his injuries.  He still plans to do the hike in a few months when he has healed.   But he learned a lesson about the wisdom of timing.  He also learned that when there are signs that the timing is not right, you must heed them or suffer consequences.

Sometimes you have a good idea for a new product/service.   But if the timing is wrong your good idea may look like a bad idea.  If the timing is off, you just cannot make up for it with determination, passion and hard work.   You have to do your research before starting something new, but research is preparation.  You also have to be prepared to take another path if the first one is blocked or maybe even delay when you see the signs that the timing is not right.

One last illustration about timing.  In 2001 I attended a meeting.  I felt compelled to later contact the speaker and ask to meet him.  He agreed and we met a week or so later.  Soon after, he put me in touch with the head of economic development of a county in a neighboring state.  That man ended up hiring me and my then business partner for a project.  I met people involved in that project who hired me for two other projects.  Since that time I have done 14 other projects and taught 5 workshops in that area.  I just began the latest one in April.  All of these projects and workshops would never have happened if I hadn’t gone to that meeting and hadn’t acted.   There is luck, but luck does not drop contracts, revenue, prizes or anything else in your lap.  Luck comes when you act.  It is very difficult to be in the right place at the right time, if you are not some place.  It is also difficult to get an opportunity if you do not take action.

Timing can be friend or foe.  Pay attention to it so you can reap the benefits.

Customer Relationships Must Be Cultivated

Following is an excerpt from my book 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses.

Action #18

Recognize that relationships are the heart of buying and selling.

People still buy from people; Purchasers and Buyers are people.  The best way to market and sell to people is to build a relationship with them.  You and all your staff need to do business on a relationship basis.  This will not only insure that you provide the highest level of customer service and increase the probability of repeat business, it is a pleasant and rewarding way of conducting business

A basic relationship can be built very quickly by concentrating on the needs and situation of the Prospect, Customer or Client.  A relationship can be built over time by continuing the focus on the Prospect, Customer or Client and by doing things to show that your focus is.  You really cannot expect to introduce yourself and your business to a Prospect and have them remember you a year later.  You must make the effort to build the relationship by reminding them that you are out there waiting to meet their needs.  You must find ways to show your willingness to meet their needs in the manner that they expect and maybe even require.

Being  a Small, Woman/Minority/Veteran Owned or Disadvantaged Business is not who or what your business is, it is an aspect of your business.  It may open the door or give you a competitive advantage, but you and your staff must develop a relationship and show how your status and your products/services provide benefits to your Prospect, Customer or Client.

Summarize your relationships with some Clients you were successful with and some Prospects that never turned into a Client/Customer.   Look closely at the summaries and see what the commonalities and differences are.  Use that to guide you toward more success.

Graduation from Business Ownership University

If owning a business was considered the equivalent of Business Ownership University, what lessons and credentials would you gain?

Since this is graduation season pretend that the first five years of business ownership is the time it will take to earn your bachelor’s degree in Business Ownership.  Five years gives you enough time for one change in major, which happens to many college students.

Following are some of the likely things you would have learned.

  • Working for yourself is not the same as being free to do what you want to do.
  • It is possible to work 20 hours a days.
  • Winning a bid or getting a contract is the beginning not the end.
  • The buck (blame, revenue, cost, whatever) really does stop on your desk.
  • Customer Service is action, not philosophy.
  • it is suicidal to rely on one, or even one type, of customer.
  • Everyone in your business must always be marketing.
  • Size (and capability) is in the eyes of the beholder.  [i.e. you must demonstrate to prospects that your business can handle their needs.]
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • That a customer’s or prospect’s perception is more important than your mission statement.

During your time at Business Ownership U you will have acquired some very important skills, here are some likely ones.

  • How to plan ahead and anticipate the unexpected.
  • How to keep good records or at least copies of all receipts, bids, contracts and agreements.
  • How to include your business in any conversation (always marketing).
  • How to tune everything else out and focus on the task at hand.
  • How to juggle the many hats of business ownership without dropping any of them.
  • How to delegate and/or outsource.
  • How to analyze an opportunity and decide if R to E + E = $  (Revenue to Expense plus Effort equals Profit).
  • How to distinguish between true networking and just plain socializing.

And just like graduation from college or high school you have good and bad memories, triumphant and scary experiences and rewards and scars.  There is no marching down an aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance”.  There is no cap, gown and tassel.  There is no diploma or degree.  But just the same you know you’ve graduated, you’ve made the five year mark, or eight or ten, and you’ve beaten the odds of business failure.

CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATE!!

Small Business Lessons from Garage Sales

This past weekend I helped my parents conduct a garage/yard sale.  They needed to clean out, so they decided to see if they could make some money on their “stuff”.  Watching and interacting the shoppers was very interesting and I enjoyed comparing them to traditional business customers and clients.  Here are a few of my observations.

First there were the early birds — the ones who come before your advertised start time.  These are usually dealers.  They buy stuff at garage sales and then mark it up and sell it elsewhere — flea markets, junk shops, online, etc.  They often come the day before, hoping they will get the cream of the crop in merchandise and deals.   The early birds remind me of the folks who ask you for proposals or ideas and then buy the product or service from someone else or do it themselves.  They gain understanding, design, costs and other pertinent information from you and then use it to advantage while you get nothing or little in return.  Garage/yard sellers have to be cautious they don’t “give away” things to the early birds instead of getting the full potential profit.  Business owners need to be careful that they do not “give away” too much and cheat themselves out of revenue.

Next there were those who must have been looking for something specific.  They would park, get out and come over to the display of “stuff”.  They would either walk between the tables, quickly scanning the wares or stand in one point and kind of look things over.  Then they would quickly get back in their vehicle (often a pick-up, van or SUV) and drive off.  It was obvious that we didn’t have what they needed.  I have seen the garage/yard sellers try to engage these people in conversation, I guess hoping they would get them to stay and look around.  But that is usually a waste of effort.  If people know what they want and you don’t offer it, then don’t waste your time and theirs by trying to convince them other wise. This is true for garage/yard sales and in business.

And there were those who like to bargain.  No matter what the price, they feel compelled to ask you to lower it.  I’m not sure if they enjoy haggling or if they assume you are willing to lower the price and they want to get the rock bottom amount.  I told my sister, “If I wanted to bargain I wouldn’t have spent so much time putting a price on everything.”  Of course, you haggle anyway so you can make the sale.  In traditional business their are always people who ask for discounts — quantity, because they are non-profit, because their business has been suffering, and just because.  It is often tempting to give a discount so you can make the sale.  But in my experience and observation, if you give them an inch, they want a mile —  If you give them a discount once, they always expect it.  Another consideration is that you devalue your product or service.  At the garage/yard sale ff you give them a discount on one thing they want it on everything.  In traditional business, if you give a discount they think you do not value your products/services enough to stand firm on the price.  If you feel the need to do discounts, develop a policy that very specifically lays out the conditions for a discount, i.e. non-profits get a discount of 5% or customers spending over $500 are eligible for a $25 credit on future purchases within the next 3 months.

Of course at a garage/yard sale the ones you hope for are the browsers.  Now do not confuse the browsers with the curious.  Curious will be discussed in the next paragraph.  Browsers are people who want to spend money.  Typically they walk through the whole display area and look at most everything and pick out a few things to purchase.  Often they go back through a second or even a third time through the whole display or to some specific areas and usually pick up a few more items.  These are the customers/clients we all want at our garage/yard sales and for our businesses.

Now the curious are exactly what the word says.  They may be shoppers, too, but they are primarily curious.  They ask “what’s this?”, they look with their hands and they peek at what other people are buying.  There is nothing wrong with having curious shoppers at garage/yard sales or in business, but it is important to identify them and develop a way of handling them or they will take up all your time while only spending a small amount of money.  When I first started selling telecommunications equipment in the mid seventies a wise sales instructor shared a phrase with me that not only helped me close sales, it also helped me administer a test to determine if someone was serious or curious.  He said that if someone asks “Does it come in XXX (blue, larger size, wireless, etc.)?” to respond with “Would you buy it in XXX?”  The answer, obviously, gives you key information.

Unfortunately there is another category that we sometimes have to deal with — the selfish.  Here is an example.  About the third potential customer that came to my parents sale pulled into their long driveway and stopped just barely off the road.  Even though there was not enough room for anyone else to pull into the driveway they left their truck there and got out.  My sister said, “Would you mind pulling your truck down onto the grass so other people can pull in?”  The people stopped, then turned around and went back to their truck.  They got in, backed out of the driveway and drove away.  First we all looked at each other and then we laughed.  Of course, we all told my sister not to talk to any other customers.  But the truth is that those people were self-centered enough to think it was fine for them to park in a place that made it difficult or impossible for others.  These people probably would not have bought anything or they likely were looking for something specific.  But regardless of the likelihood that they would spend money with us, they would not have been a good customer because they made it difficult for other customers.  In business we sometimes need to not take on customers/clients that are so selfish they make it difficult for us to do other business and get other customers/clients.  It is okay to fire these customers, just be professional and don’t let them rub off on you.

Often at a garage sale the things you sell are things you thought were long shots and the things you were sure would sell, don’t.  You cannot do research on the people who will come to your garage/yard sale, so you have to do research on garage sales in general.  Then you try to display your “stuff” in ways that will attract the typical garage/yard sale customer.  For your business, you can increase your opportunities for revenue by doing more specific and detailed research.  For a garage/sale you are at the mercy of chance; in your business you want to eliminate as much chance as possible by doing research and paying attention to the purchasing patterns of your actual customers/clients.

One of the biggest rewards at a garage/yard sale or in business is that you get entertainment.  Seeing lots of different people and getting to interact with them can provide chuckles, out right laughs and a few incredulous head shakes.  Seeing what people buy and/or ask for can be very surprising.  In traditional business, it is important to find humor in the things that prospects and customers do.  This makes it easier to keep your sanity and your positive attitude and, certainly, makes running a business more fun.

Put Some Spring In Your Marketing

Have you noticed all the pinks, yellows and whites that Mother Nature has painted across the landscape?

Did you notice that the trees are green again?

Are there robins building nests in your eaves?

Then you realize that it is Spring.  But do you realize what Spring can mean for your Marketing efforts?

 

Here are two ways that Spring can help you market you products and services:

  • Spring means new beginnings so people tend to feel hope and are therefore more likely to spend money, make decisions, develop plans and move forward.  Be sure you are there when they are ready to do these things.  Now is the time to make some calls or send some postcards to remind existing customer/clients that you are still around.   It is also a good time to introduce yourself to new prospects.
  • If government agencies and schools are your customers or prospects now is a good time to make contact with them.   The fiscal year of most local and state governments, state supported colleges and school districts ends on June 30.  That means they must spend the money in their yearly allotment or they will lose it.  Normally they cannot carry over money to the next year which starts on July 1.  Sometimes they are even willing to pay in advance for work you may not complete until after July 1.  Having sold products and services to these entities for at least 25 years I have many times been the recipient of a purchase or contract because my client did not want to lose the money.  Usually they purchase something they needed anyway, but weren’t sure until the end of the fiscal year that they had the money.  Just be sure they do not forget about you when they have to spend it or lose it.
  • Spring means tax refunds, which translates to money to spend.  Show them that your products/services are a wise investment for their refund dollars.

 

Find a way to capitalize on Spring Cleaning.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Do some Spring Cleaning yourself and have a clearance sale.
  • Offer a discount on your products/services if your customers will “turn in” something from their own Spring Cleaning to you.  If you can’t use what they turn in you can donate it and get a tax discount.
  • Do a promotion using words such as new and improved and focus on replacing things they are cleaning out.
  • If you do cleaning or organizing or sell products related to these areas, then this time of year is made for you.  Capitalize on it.

 

One other way to incorporate Spring into your Marketing is with visuals.  Most people have a positive reaction to all the blooming, even if it makes them sneeze.  So splash some Spring colors around

  • in your place of business
  • in your booth at a trade fair
  • on a special brochure or mail out
  • in your email signature
  • on your website

It is always good to utilize what is on people’s mind when you are trying to market something to them.

Guard Your Professional Reputation

As Social Media continues to grow in reach and scope it is very important to represent your business and yourself as professional.  It is important to keep your business and professional interactions separate on Social Media websites such as Facebook and YouTube.  Much has been said said about how the wrong postings on can hurt your chances for employment.  The same advice applies to your business.  Any posting you, or anyone who represents your business, put online reflects on your business.  The easiest way is to keep them separate — have a page/presence for your business and one for yourself.  You may also want to make the personal one available only to friends, while the business one can be open to the public so that you can use it more effectively to promote your products and services.

 

Keeping your reputation and image positive is important everywhere.  Here is one of the Actions in my book 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses.

Action #93  Keep your reputation positive.

If you do not live up to the promises and claims you make, you will lose existing Customers/Clients or never really have a chance with a new Prospect.  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the moment and say yes when you should not.  Be sure that you do not sign the contract unless you know you can do everything promised and required in the manner it must be done according to the specified schedule.  Remember that word-of-mouth is the best or worst friend of a Small Business; if you do fall victim to over promising or committing, people will know.  Also, many government agencies and businesses can, and may, exclude you from future bidding and consideration if you fail to meet your commitments.

 

Remember that it is better to be known well by a few than to be known widely for the wrong reasons.

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