Keeping a small business small requires work and a consistent set of behaviors. Not everyone can do it. For some small business owners, these behaviors come easily, and they have no trouble staying small. Other business owners need some coaching. If you’re struggling to keep your business from growing, here are the top five ways to market your business to cap your current revenues. Practice some or all of these habits, and your business can stay small for years to come.

Keep Trying Things

One of the best ways to keep your business small is to keep trying different marketing tactics. (Marketing tactics are things you use to promote your business like your website, online advertising, email, social media, radio commercials, etc.)  When you hear about a marketing tactic that someone is having success with, jump in and try it.

For example, when you learn that your brother-in-law is getting leads from social media, initiate a Facebook business page and start posting. Getting on the social web is fun. Dive in. Once you realize that social media requires daily attention, assign the Facebook effort to someone else. When that person gets too busy to keep posting, make sure they forget about it and abandon the effort. That way, when a prospective customer finds your business on Facebook, and there hasn’t been a new post since 2016, they’ll wonder if you’re still in business. Yes! Revenues maintained.

Hold On To Your Old Website

Your aging website may look a little dated, but it still works. Your name and logo are on it, and visitors can find your location and phone number. They don’t need anything else. A website is an expense and a big undertaking. Put it off as long as possible. It’s always best to save yourself some money and keep your website as-is.

If you feel you absolutely have to update it, you probably know someone–your nephew or a neighbor who build websites on the side who can do it on the cheap for you. Ask them to help you out. It may take several months longer than expected, but you’ll likely get the website that is perfect for keeping your sales and leads exactly where they are now. Thumbs up!

Assign Marketing Tasks to Staff With No Marketing Experience

Another reliable way to ensure that your revenues stay small is to assign marketing tasks to employees who have no training or experience in marketing. An employee who can type and Google information can figure out how to market your business. Do not invest in any marketing experts. Experts will implement strategic marketing that is efficient and measurable. They will not help you keep your business small. Always assign marketing efforts to people who have little to no background in marketing.

Avoid Tracking and Measuring

This habit is easy to maintain, so you have no excuse for not cultivating it. Google Analytics (GA) allows you to see where web traffic is coming from, and what visitors do on your site. When possible, don’t connect Google Analytics to your site in the first place. But if it’s already installed and tracking your site traffic, ignore it. Don’t ever log in to the dashboard, don’t analyze the data, don’t learn anything from it. Not analyzing your web traffic is probably the easiest way to keep your business small.

The same goes for call tracking and customer relationship databases. Don’t install any means to discern how someone found your business or how much the lead cost you.  

Rely on Referrals and Word of Mouth

Referrals and word of mouth have gotten you this far, don’t try to improve on this tactic. Your sphere of influence likely doesn’t go past your friends, family, and coworkers. Keep it that way. Internet marketing can expand your customer base, but that won’t keep you small. Stick with personal networking and relying on your salespeople to find new leads.

If keeping these habits up seems daunting to you, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of other small business owners who are successfully practicing these habits. With a little practice, you will be on your way to limiting your success in no time!

 

Last month, we talked about the value of a brand evangelist to your company. This month, to ensure that you don’t spurn the affections of your fans, here are seven ways to show them you care and keep them loyal advocates for life.

Give them a Surprise Discount

It’s always nice to receive a discount on your bill, no matter what the reason is. Let your customers know that you value their loyalty and give them a 15% discount on their purchase for being a regular at your business. They’ll appreciate your generosity and remember the gesture when they return in the future.

Make Your Social Media Worth Following

Ask customers to follow you on social media, and when they do, send them a personal thank you. Then be sure to fill your social media feed with non-salesy content that would be of interest to them. For example, if you have a gym, post fitness tips. If you have a professional service, post about best practices. Think about delighting and inspiring them rather than selling them and create posts that do that.

Write them a Handwritten Thank-You Letter


The art of letter writing has all but died, but a handwritten note still carries a unique value. Getting a hand-addressed envelope in the mail is unexpected and delightful. Write your customer a thank you note that is specific and personal and focuses on the reasons why they are important to you and your business. Your customers will appreciate the time you took to write them a meaningful note and will remember the sentiment when they come back to your business.

I received a card in the U.S. mail from my bank with original signatures from all the tellers on my birthday. It was a pleasant surprise and made me feel valued by them.

Send them a Special Gift

A great way to make your customers’ day is to send them a gift that reflects their interests. Maybe you know your customer is a wine connoisseur or an avid traveler: Gift them a nice wine glass or a fun luggage tag. Your customers will appreciate that you pay attention to their interests. If you’re not sure of your customers’ interests, you can always send a gift card or a basket of fruits or chocolates.

Let Them Know You Value Their Feedback

A simple yet significant way to acknowledge your customers is to let them know you care about their comments and opinions. Keep track of customers and their requests so that you can respond to each one you receive. It’s a great way to let your customers know you value their feedback and that you’re listening.

Highlight Their Achievements

Call out customers on social media just because! Highlighting their attributes and personal achievements make customers feel important and recognized. Having a “customer in the spotlight” section on your social media pages is an excellent way to call out customers and acknowledge their talents and accomplishments. Pick one customer a week and put together a short post about them, what they do, and why they’re essential to your business.

Send a Donation in Their Honor

A unique way to show your customers how much you value their business is to donate in their name to their favorite charity. If you know your customer is an animal lover, donate to a local animal shelter. If you know your customer works in the medical field, consider donating to a non-profit specializing in healthcare, like Doctors Without Borders or St. Jude’s Foundation. It will show your customers that you pay attention to their interests and care about their personal lives.

There are dozens of ways to show your customers you appreciate them. In a world of fast transactions, slowing down to say, “You matter to me” will ensure that your business matters to them.

Branding has become so much of a buzzword it’s teetering on the realm of cliché. Before it goes the way of marketing jargon like “best-in-breed” and “world-class,“ let me break down what branding really is. At its core, branding is the communication of your brand’s value. That’s as simple and as complicated as it is.

Your Brand Is More Than Your Logo

It’s not just your logo or your business cards or your slick trade show booth, though all of those things contribute to your brand. Your brand is what you say it is, what your employees think and say about it, and what your customer and the public discerns it to be. That last part is vital because often the public’s perception of your brand is different than what you intend in large and subtle ways.

How Does The Public Perceive Your Brand?

Last month, when I covered positioning your business in an overcrowded industry, I mentioned that analyzing your brand was worthwhile. As I outlined in that blog, if you want to get more attention than your competitors, you have to clearly and compellingly convey your value proposition and differentiators. You also need to know how your business is coming across to prospects and customers, and the best way to achieve that is by performing a brand audit.

The Value of A Brand Audit

While you may be very good at crafting messages and delivering them through various channels like advertising, social media, email, brochures, etc., if you don’t ever analyze how those communications are landing on your target audience, you’re likely sending inadvertent messages. An unbiased brand audit allows you to see the gap between what you want your brand to transmit and what it is communicating.

Often, when a business can pinpoint where those gaps are, they can then become more focused and deliberate in their brand communications, and their marketing spend gets a lot more efficient.

Perform A Brand Audit in Four Steps

A brand audit begins with an assessment of your brand elements, includes an appraisal of your products and services in relation to competitors, continues with a deep dive into customer perceptions, and concludes with analyzing the findings.

  1.    Assess Your Brand Elements

Enlisting an unaffiliated expert is critical to a brand audit, especially for this first section. You’ve seen your name, logo, colors, website, and brochures so many times; they are all old friends to you. You won’t be able to look at them anew, from a completely unbiased perspective, so don’t try to. The longer you’ve had these elements, the more you will believe they are perfect for your business. They may be, or they may be generating what’s called a brand disconnect of which you are completely unaware.

Uncovering A Brand Disconnect

Let’s say, for example; you have an electronics manufacturing business. Your brand colors are black, red, and silver because when you founded the business thirty years ago, those colors looked high tech. Your logo resembles a circuit board because that also looked cool back then.

Between the time you founded the firm and now, computer technology has exploded, the Internet happened, and foreign competition has increased ten-fold. Your customers have many more supplier options, are more technologically savvy, and are far more price-sensitive. In response to these and many other market shifts, the number of products you make has increased 1000%.

When you started your business, your colors and logo accurately signaled what you make. Even though your offerings have changed, you can’t imagine your business without these brand elements. From an expert’s view, however, your logo and brand colors look dated, low-tech, and do not accurately convey what your brand is today. More importantly, these elements are subtly communicating to your audience that you are behind the times. When a company’s branding does not portray what the brand stands for, that’s called a brand disconnect.

Often, the brand disconnect doesn’t end there. It usually filters down to all brand communications, so things like brochures and email newsletters don’t just look old, the messaging isn’t completely conveying the current brand’s value either.  

Your brand elements include:

  • Brand Colors
  • Logo
  • Tagline
  • Website
  • Print & Electronic Communications
  • Business Cards
  • Stationery
  • Email Signatures
  • Newsletters
  • Brochures
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Social Media Posts
  • Advertising

Examine each of these elements against the brand’s value proposition, and in the context of the marketplace to discover where the gap is between what you want to be saying and what you are saying.

  1. Appraise Your Products and Services

The second part of the brand audit involves appraising your products and services against your top competitors. You have to look soberly at how your offerings are positioned in the market in terms of the packaging, pricing, and features and benefits when compared to challengers. Here again, this is as difficult as asking you to provide an impartial assessment of the beauty and intelligence of your children. You will have a bias in your judgment of how your business stacks up against rivals, especially if you are service-based, so leave this to someone who has experience in brand assessments and no ties to your business. A finished product and service appraisal should provide a clear view of where your business offerings lead and where they fall short, as well as options for improvement.

  1. Examine Consumer Perceptions

Now that you have scrutinized your brand elements and appraised your offerings against your competitors, it’s time to look at what the consumer thinks of your brand.

Consumer Reviews

Consumer reviews are the cheapest market research you’ll ever find. Review sites like Amazon, CitySearch, Consumer Reviews, Google, Yahoo Local, Yelp, and many more aggregate what people think of your brand. Use consumer review sites to gain insights into how people perceive your value.

Keep in mind; there’s always a few cranks in the crowd. For this kind of analysis, you want to look at the overall sentiment consumers have towards the brand without getting too hung up on the people who are overly exuberant or menacingly unhappy.

Social Media

There are many social media listening tools available that will alert you when anyone posts something about your brand on social media. And you can set up a Google alert that will email you when your business name or product comes up on the web.

Monitoring social conversations and Internet mentions will help fill in the picture of your brand. Even if there are thousands of social mentions, you can track sentiment as either positive, negative, or neutral. These conversations can also be analyzed in more depth to find the subtle brand perceptions that are influencing buyers.

Consumer Research

There are any number of market research tools available to discover what customers and prospective customers think of your brand. Customer surveys, focus groups, and interviews are all useful in different situations. Any one can help you discover how aware of your brand the consumer is and what your brand’s image is in their eyes.  

  1. Analyze the Findings

The last step in a brand audit is putting all your findings together to create an action plan. It’s not enough to see where the gaps are between what you want to be communicating and what the consumer is perceiving. You have to take action to decrease those gaps.

For example, let’s say when you analyzed your consumer reviews and measured the sentiment in social media, you discovered that many people are frustrated with your website. As an electronics company, technology is the last thing you want causing friction in your customers’ experience. (That’s a brand disconnect.)

With this information, you then have the opportunity to fix the problems on your website that are hindering the shopping experience. (You should be analyzing your web traffic’s behavior on your website, but that’s a subject for another day.)

A brand audit will uncover many gaps like this example. The value to you is that you gain a clear picture of where your brand sits in the marketplace compared to competitors and where it is in the mind of consumers. Without a brand audit, you’re guessing and assuming and it’s probably costing you money you don’t even know you’re misspending.

Is it time for a brand audit? Contact us and let’s discuss it.

If you’re breeding and selling white alligators, you don’t have many competitors. Unfortunately, there aren’t many small businesses who share that same advantage. In fact, most small businesses are in highly competitive industries.

If You’ve Seen One Accounting Website, You’ve Seen Them All

I look at hundreds of small business websites, and I can count on my shop teacher’s right hand how many do an excellent job of differentiating themselves from their competitors. One real estate website is the same as the next. Every law firm website looks similar and says the same things. They’re so homogenous, you’ve forgotten the website as soon as you navigate away from it.  

How Do You Stand Out In An Overcrowded Industry?

So how do you stand out in a sea of competitors? Well, good news. There’s so much mediocre marketing out there, making your brand attract attention is simple. (Notice I didn’t say it was easy.) Being distinctive requires messaging your value proposition clearly and highlighting your differentiators consistently.

 

Your Business’ Value Proposition

What value does someone get by doing business with you? Do you make their life easier? Do you help them earn more money? Do you keep them safe? Hydrated? Healthy? Amused?

You know your business’ primary value off the top of your head. For example, “We make great dog beds.” But dig a little deeper. What does your business uniquely provide that other dog bed makers don’t? “We make comfortable, durable orthopedically-designed dog beds that give the owners peace of mind that they are providing the best care for their injured and elderly pets.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Because now we are connecting what you provide to the specific value the buyer receives and including the emotional benefits too.

But talking about your value proposition isn’t enough.

 

Your Business’ Differentiators

With so many dog bed makers, why should someone do business with you? Defining differentiators is where knowing your competitors and their value propositions come in handy. Things like price and quality are easy to talk about, and that’s why everyone does. It doesn’t take much effort. But when you understand that your competitors are saying their dog beds are light and easy to move, you can then talk about your heavier cushion and fabrics which make your beds far more durable.

Your differentiators need to be specific and they are informed by deep knowledge of the competition.

 

A Little Competitive Sleuthing Goes A Long Way

If it sounds like I’m suggesting that you study your competitors’ value propositions, I am. If you want to stand out, you need to know how everyone else in your industry is portraying themselves. Take a look at your top five competitors’ websites, brochures, business cards, uniforms, fleet vehicles, brick and mortar locations–anything that conveys their brand. What are the direct and indirect messages the brand is conveying to their prospects and customers? Figure out where your brand is similar and where it’s different.

 

Examine Your Own Brand

While you’re analyzing your competitors’ brands, how about taking an unbiased view of your own? Just as you examined your competitors’ brands, take a look at your brand communications. There is usually a gap between what you think your brand is projecting and what the audience is seeing.

 

When you examine your brand and pinpoint those gaps and then combine that with concise statements of your value proposition and your differentiators, you have the tools to make your brand stand out, and not coincidentally, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.


In March, I’ll take you through how to perform a brand audit> so you can discover what your brand is communicating to your prospects and customers.

 

Need help figuring out your value proposition and differentiators? Contact us.

You have made your 2018 sales goals, and you are revved to go! Not so fast there, Sparky. Have you turned your sales goals into strategic marketing plans? The answer to that question is usually a resounding, “Huh?”

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many business owners are comfortable handing out goals to salespeople, but translating those goals into marketing efforts will make them run to their office to watch Star Trek reruns.

The thought process usually goes something like this, “Um, should we do something on social media? Maybe we’ll send out some emails. No, wait, there was a marketing vendor here who said we needed marketing automation. Yeah, that might work.”

What ensues is either no marketing or badly-conceived marketing. Either way, failure to connect your marketing efforts to your sales goals will hinder your success faster than you can say, “Captain, we’ve lost power.”

Connect Your Marketing Efforts to Your Sales Goals

Many small businesses don’t join their marketing efforts with their sales goals because they don’t know how. They hope their marketing vendors will figure that out for them. Or, if they have a full-time marketing team, they assume the team will do that work. Why hope and guess? Why not make sure your marketing efforts are empowering your sales goals? Lemme ‘splain you how this works.

Turn Your Sales Goals Into Strategic Marketing Plans

First thing, we have to examine your goals. Let’s say your 2018 sales goal is to “Increase revenue by 10%.” That is specific and measurable, but it’s missing the steps that lead to earning that additional revenue. That’s where marketing comes in.

Put thought into what you need to do to achieve that increase and what has kept you from achieving it before. After thoughtful consideration, you might realize that you’re not increasing revenue because not enough potential customers know about your brand and what you offer, so you need to increase awareness of your brand. Perhaps people know about your brand, but your reputation is not that of an industry-leading expert, so you have a trust obstacle to overcome. Perhaps people know you and trust you, but they don’t know everything that you offer, so you rarely expand upon what you’re selling them.

See where I’m going with this? You have to figure out what is in the way of increasing your revenue. Usually, it’s several different issues. (In the graphic, I included five marketing objectives, as that’s usually closer to the truth, but for our discussion, I outline just three of these objectives.) Once you nail them down, you can make very specific marketing goals to address these obstacles. Below I will map out how increasing awareness, being perceived as an industry expert, and educating customers gets translated into marketing objectives.

Marketing Objective 1: Increase Awareness

You might say to yourself, “To increase my revenue 10% this year, I’m going to have to get my business more out there.” “Get my business more out there,” is not actionable or specific enough. Out where? To whom and to what end? Instead, try this on for size:

“Increase awareness of my services among Millennial homeowners aged 25 – 36 within a 25-mile radius, so that they search for my business more frequently.”

That is much more specific as it includes a measurable action you wish to see. This goal includes the campaign objective, the audience, and the desired result. (A marketing campaign is a coordinated series of steps to promote a product or service using any number of different tactics such as social media, email, online and print advertising, TV ads, radio spots—you name it.)

The Campaign Objective: An increased awareness

The Audience: 25 to 36-year-old Millennial homeowners in a 25-mile radius

The Desired Results: Increased number of online searches.

Now that you have the goal specified, you can put a marketing campaign in place to meet the goal. Choose campaign elements based on your budget, the audience, and the message you are conveying.

Marketing Objective 2: Be Perceived as an Industry Expert

Let’s say you want your brand positioned as an authority, the go-to expert in your industry. How does that filter to actionable marketing goals? Well, again, you must begin with a very specific objective. Try this:

“Raise our brand profile with mechanical engineers aged 40 to 58 working in the Colorado Aerospace industry so that they view us an industry leader and fill out the contact form on our website.”

The Campaign Objective: Raise brand profile to that of an expert in the field.

The Audience: Mechanical engineers aged 40 to 58 working in the Aerospace industry in Colorado.

The Desired Results: More form fills completed on the website.

With a clear-cut goal like that, you have the means to begin putting a marketing campaign in place.

Marketing Objective 3: Educate Customers

Maybe you want more share of wallet from your current customers. You want them to use more of your services. Instead of saying, “I want our customers to use more of our services,” try, “Educate Customers who spend less than $1,500 a year with us about all our services so that they understand our full value proposition and order more services.”

The Campaign Objective: Educate current customers to the brand’s full value proposition.

The Audience: Customers who spend less than $1,500 a year.

The Desired Results: Current customers contract for more services.

You might decide that your education campaign consists of customers telling their stories about how they use your services. You might think of some other way to get the message across. Once you have a clear marketing goal, then you can choose the best tactics to help you achieve it.

Connect The Dots

There are plenty of marketing objectives that can propel you to your ultimate sales goal. The trick to figuring out what those marketing objectives should be is understanding what your sales goals require and what’s currently standing in your way of achieving them. Often, a good situation analysis of your business is required to thoroughly grasp what opportunities you can leverage and what obstacles you have to abate in the process of achieving your sales goals.

A situation analysis consists of examining your businesses’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (a SWOT analysis) and it’s enormously informative to this process. Last month’s blog on market research can help you further understand how to make strategic marketing goals, so give it a read as well.

Not sure how to make this actionable in your business? We can help. Contact us today.