Small Business - Duct Tape Marketing

Tag Archives for " Small Business "

46 How To Talk To Small Business

small businessI was recently asked to share some insights (opinions) about small business at a conference attended primarily by large enterprise B2B marketers charged with growing their organization’s small business segment. (My friend Anita Campbell helped me on this one)

I found myself slipping out of my supposed expert role and instead talking to them more as a long time small business owner.

And this is what I shared:

Small businesses owners do business with companies and people they know, like and trust. While you can buy a great deal of know and like, trust is earned over time and where were most of you ten years ago when we started our businesses?

When it comes to word of mouth about your organizations we talk about businesses we know, like and trust, who also give us something remarkable to talk about. When was the last time you talked about a perfectly adequate experience? Give us something to talk about.

When you want to get inside our heads and try to figure out why we are such irrational beings when it comes to your value propositions understand this – an enterprise buyer considering a purchase may be juggling between two line items on a spreadsheet, a small business owner may be making that same consideration by juggling between your proposal and their daughter’s braces.

Create engagement with your content, not your metrics. If you’ve produced white papers, webinars, ebooks, and research that we can use, put it out freely in the social space. Don’t make us give you 27 data points before we can see the goodies. I know you’ve got a VP somewhere whose benchmarking registrations, but if you put that content where we can have it, where we can engage with it and find value in it on our time, I promise you we will trust you more.

Create connection by proving you know who we are. Gather up some of your small business customers and ask us what we think, what we Google when we look for your kind of solution, what we don’t understand, what else we need, why we don’t trust or get your message. Understand that you must change your language when you market to us. You can’t strip features, repackage and reprice your enterprise solution and call it a small market offering. We won’t get it. It’s not that small business owners aren’t sharp, we just don’t have time or use for corporate speak and jargon.

Create community by investing in ways to help us get more of what we want. No matter if you are trying to sell us credit services, printers or mobile devices if we can come to understand that you want to help us succeed and grow our businesses in ways that are related, or even unrelated, to your core offerings, we’ll get closer to you. Create ways for us to learn from trusted advisors, bring us together in peer to peer sharing environments, and every so often do something that surprises the heck out of us.

I hope this doesn’t come off as a personal rant, it’s meant to help any B2B marketer struggling to understand the small business beast.

Two asks today
1) Please, let me know if this seems on target and add your thoughts
2) Tell me about brands that you think get the above

Image credit: eschipul

22 Are You Really Online?

small business webinarsWas a time a few years back when I would tell audiences of small business owners that “if they did not have a website, they weren’t really in business.”

Fortunately, small business owners have taken heed and now most concede they must indeed embrace the Internet – of course, now that’s really not enough is it? My soap box speech these days has evolved to something more along the lines of “if you’re not participating in social media and building a total web presence, you’re not really online.”

Even though you may think you have one of the world’s coolest websites, if you aren’t constantly adding educational content, finding new ways to connect with your markets online, building community around your ideas, and ultimately using your website as a tool to convert know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat, and refer – then you stand little chance of competing in your chosen industry these days.

I know you’ve heard plenty of late about social media, but this is really a bigger idea still. What I’m talking about is the total integration of your online and offline activity through the use of a primary web hub.

Want to learn more about this notion? Join me Wednesday, September 23rd at 2pm EDT for a free webinar, sponsored by Verizon, titled – How to Get More from Your Small Business Website. Enroll here. Looking forward to expanding your view of the web!

26 What's So Scary About Marketing Strategy?

dart board strategySmall business owners resist creating marketing strategy like many resist getting their teeth cleaned.

Over the years, I’ve discovered why this is:
An effective marketing strategy requires understanding who you are, choosing to be different than everyone else, and committing to one simple way of doing, acting and creating – to the exclusion of all other ways of doing, acting, and creating. Now, that’s some scary stuff!

The above set of requirements may seem difficult to accomplish, but accomplish them and you will set your business free from the tyranny of making up the idea of the week over and over again. However, that’s the crutch that keeps business owners from ever taking strategy head on. It’s far too easy to just grab another tactic, this week’s twitter, and run with it. If this week’s tactic fails, no harm, no foul, find next week’s thing. (A bit of a dart board strategy approach.)

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18 The Three Natural Phases of Successful Small Business Growth

growing a businessI’ve owned a small business for many years and have worked with thousands of small business along the way and I’ve come to sense what feel like natural states of successful small business growth.

A common small business plight is the frustrating cycle of expansion and contraction. I believe this not simply due to the cycle of markets, but more often due to the lack of strategy and proper expectation around planned growth.

I think business owners need to think about growth a lot like a parent thinks about the growth and maturation of a child. But, many simply dive in and try to do things they are not ready to do, lacking the proper foundation of an ideal market, core message and systems and processes necessary to deliver a thrilling customer experience. Now, depending upon a series of what I like to call “success factors,” things such as experience, resources, and networks, some business owners are able to move through these phases much more rapidly, but successful, long-term growth comes from moving in this same fashion no matter what.

Every business should look at progressing through as least three phases (although it’s never quite this linear)

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21 Health Insurance Reform and Small Business

Many issues swirl around the topic of health insurance when it comes to small business. It’s a subject that plagues small businesses and threatens to slow the real growth needed to pull out of the recession. Small business owners have long been penalized in the effort to offer insurance to their employees and those with pre-existing medical conditions don’t have the option of jumping in and starting a business for fear they won’t be able to acquire insurance they can afford.

The Council of Economic Advisers in the White House released a new report on the impact health insurance reform would have on small businesses. In an interesting use of social media the White House solicited feedback on the report from LinkedIn members using LinkedIn’s popular Question and Answers feature. CEA Chair Christina Romer answered some of the most penetrating responses in a live video online discussion at WhiteHouse.gov on Wednesday, July 29th.

I was asked to help select a handful of questions that represented the most pressing issues from the hundreds that were submitted and I can tell you this issue is an emotional hot button for business owners.

Here are some highlights of the questions from LinkedIn members.

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27 The Power of the Embedded Entrepreneur

teachingJust the other day I did an interview with a columnist working on a story about people starting up a business venture while still employed. My take as an employer is that those individuals have a moral obligation to perform to that best of their ability for their current employer, however, my view is that every business should look at their employees as entrepreneurs, embedded in their business.

And by this I mean that they should encourage, teach, and empower them to act entrepreneurial, even as they perform the functions of their given job title. My belief is that entrepreneurial thinking and action leads to making decisions that are about getting results for the customer and the business in ways that traditional job training often stifles. (It might help to review my article – 7 Uncommon Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs)

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13 Sometimes the Secret to Marketing is Just Being There

newsletterEvery time I speak to groups of small business owners I tell them that, when it comes to marketing, I would just as soon see them do something ordinary, day in and day out, than something that seems spectacularly great every once in a blue moon.

I believe one of the absolute truths about marketing is those who stick with it get results, even if they could do every thing they are doing better. Now, don’t immediately interpret this as an invitation to do crappy marketing. Obviously, the best combo is spectacularly great marketing done day in and day out, but, short of that, I lean towards showing up and staying top of mind in ways that you can do routinely.

The main thrust of this post is to suggest that if the need for perfection or even clear direction is causing you to hold back on any marketing then I would like to urge you to find what you can do, will do, and do it.

Maybe you remember the Peter Sellers role as Chance the gardner in the fabulous movie Being There. The movie is actually a very deep portrayal of how, even when simply being authentic, people can interpret what you do and say in ways that they need to meet their wants and desires (there’s certainly a marketing message in that), but from a story standpoint Chance, later Chauncey, falls into much of his elevated status by just showing up, or Being There, when someone had a need.

I think marketing of a small business can be a little like that. One of the tasks of your marketing is to devise ways that your messages can be the one that is there when a prospect decides to finally scratch an itch. In this vein systematic consistency usually trumps the every so often wow.

Build your being there machine with

  • a monthly newsletter featuring great finds from around the web
  • a monthly planned customer and network contact of varied type – article one month, customer success story one month, holiday theme one month, etc.
  • drip marketing via autoresponder offering advanced product application tips
  • a monthly press release announcement – offer organizational news via a press release format and send to network
  • quarterly survey data sharing sessions
  • quarterly trend topic webinars
  • annual success summits and user conferences

By planning and executing an ongoing number of annual contacts you will find that not only will you be first in line when your customers have a need, you’ll also be first in line when they stumble upon a referral.

Image credit: PUBLISYST Communicaciones

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5 USA Today’s Ask an Expert Steve Strauss on Duct Tape Markting

Marketing podcast with Steve Strauss (Click to listen, right click and Save As to download – subscribe now via iTunes)

Small business owners have lots of questions, particularly it seems, as business gets harder to come by during lean times. So, for this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I thought I would go to someone who spends a lot of time answers small business owner’s questions – none other than USAToday’s Ask an Expert Steve Strauss.

Steven is one of the country’s leading small business expert. An internationally recognized lawyer, columnist, and speaker, Steve is also an author of 15 books. Steve’s business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly at USATODAY.com

I asked Steve a lot of questions including:

  • How he chooses questions to answer for his column
  • Is this a good time to start a business?
  • Best ways to approach starting a business?
  • What “shoe string” ideas should you be using?
  • What’s the value of social media for small business?
  • What is the best use of time and effort for your small business?

36 9 Hidden Benefits of Blogging

hidingI’ve been writing this blog for right at six years now and the benefits I’ve realized from doing so are very tangible. Without much hesitation I can say that it’s the single greatest business I asset I own. It’s led to countless interviews with national publications, my first book deal, and interaction with hundreds of thousands of small business owners. My blog is an incredible source of search engine traffic and exposure for my products and services, but even if none of that were true, knowing what I know now, I would still write a blog.

Some of the most profound benefits of the blog writing practice are available to anyone, with or without any substantial following. It’s not that we call it a blog or that the software used by bloggers possesses some magical power, it’s the act of writing something, something about my business and passion, something that I observe that touches me, something I learn and can’t wait to share, that activates the many benefits of blogging. I did not start blogging for these reasons, but they are some of the many reasons I continue to advocate blogging for everyone. So, these benefits aren’t really secrets I guess, but they are often overshadowed, powerfully under appreciated, and real.

  • Blogging makes me a better thinker – (understand that better is relative!) In an effort to create content for a blog that is succinct, reveals new ways to look at common things, or apply simple solutions to seemingly complex problems, I believe I now think about business much differently.
  • Blogging makes me a better listener – When I engage in conversation or listen to radio interviews, I listen with a writer’s ear and often find my head filling up with blog post ideas by simply listening to others discuss sometimes unrelated subjects.
  • Blogging makes me a better writer – The fact that I practice writing daily has made me a better writer. It doesn’t mean I’m the world’s greatest writer, but doing something makes you better at it – hard to deny that. Of course writing publicly like this also allows for community reaction to help you get better faster.
  • Blogging makes me a better salesperson – I write like I speak and often I write to sell an idea or even a very specific tactic. It’s amazing, but I find that clearly stating idea pitches in writing has improved my ability to quickly articulate them in selling or interview setting. It’s like you build up this reserve bank of preprogrammed discussion points.
  • Blogging makes me a better speaker – This one falls nicely from the previous point but I’ll also add that working through blog posts on meatier topics, those that readers weigh in on has produced some of my best presentation material to date.
  • Blogging keeps me focused on learning – The discipline required to create even somewhat interesting content in the manner I’ve chosen requires that I study lots of what’s hot, what’s new, what’s being said and what’s not being said in order to find ways to apply it to the world of small business.
  • Blogging allows me to test out ideas – I’ve made some incredible discoveries about some of my ideas (okay, and had a few flops too) based on the immediate and sometimes passionate response from readers. I’m currently writing a book that reveals a business principle tested out here.
  • Blogging makes me a better networker – I have developed hundreds of relationships with other writers that provide me with ideas, tips and resources to share and who willingly pass on my ideas, tips and resources. Some of these relationships remain professionally on the surface, but some have evolved into very strategic and fulfilling personal relationships as well. (Sharing a beer at a conference helps that along)
  • Blogging allows me to create bigger ideas – This one is related to testing out ideas, but the habit of producing content over time also affords you the opportunity to create larger editorial ideas that can be reshaped and repurposed for other settings. I’ve taken a collection of blog posts on a specific topic and turned them into an ebook more than once.

My hope is that, if you’re one of those business folks who has been blogging, but doesn’t know if it’s worth it, or you’ve held off because you don’t think anyone wants to read a blog written by you, this post will give you the leverage of long-term benefits sufficient to keep at it.

Image credit: Stuart Pillbrow

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14 Teaching Business Behavior

business teachingThere is a well-worn truth that goes something like – if you want to learn something teach it. I think this certainly applies to many aspects of business. If you want to learn something at a much deeper level then write about it, speak about it, and create and conduct workshops and trainings on the subject. You can and should be doing all of these things as a routine part of your business growth.

However, I want to suggest that you take this concept to another level. I believe that there is a powerful layer to this teaching notion that is rarely accessed by small business. If you want your customers and partners to behave in certain ways then teach them how to do it. Now, I’m not simply talking about teaching them how or what to buy – I mean teach them a behavior that clearly has a benefit to them, but ultimately may benefit your cause.

Here’s what I mean.

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