7 Tips for Marketing Your Business During the Holidays

christmas baubles and computerIn theory, most of want to wait until after the Thanksgiving tryptophan wears off before we start thinking about holiday shopping, but the reality is that shops were stocking candy canes before the clock struck midnight on Halloween. And you probably noticed that, on November 1, your inbox was already swamped with red and green holiday shopping guides, sales, offers and more. So what does that mean? If you own a business and you’re not already talking about the holidays, you’re behind. So, here are 7 quick ways to get on the holiday marketing train. And fast.

Decorate Your Store – Brick and Mortar AND Online

If you want people to be thinking about holiday shopping, you have to set the mood. That means decorating your story – both your brick and mortar store AND your website or Etsy shop, etc. Find ways to make things festive and put great gift ideas right by the door, in the windows, on your landing page, as checkout… whatever products or services you think would make great gifts. By decorating your shop, you’re letting people know your business is in the holiday spirit and they can find a unique gift by shopping with you.

Play Christmas Music

We’ve all stopped, listened and groaned once or twice when we catch holiday music playing in October, but just like with decorating your store, if you want people to feel like shopping for holiday gifts, they need to be in the holiday spirit. Just try to keep it from being too obnoxious – maybe skip the Alvin and the Chipmunks album this year. It’s a classic, but it makes it hard to have fun shopping.

Invite Santa and Offer Giftwrapping

If you have youngsters, you might have noticed that many of the local breakfasts with Santa are already booked… And no one wants the A Christmas Story mall Santa line. If you have a location that makes sense – or if you can partner with another business who does – invite Santa to your shop, offer free gift wrap on items purchased from you that day, give out cookies and hot chocolate and promote like crazy. Everyone wants a chance to see Santa and snap a photo, especially if they aren’t paying $20 a piece or $40 a photo to make it happen. Just make sure you have awesome gift items displayed front and center and have plenty of staff on hand to keep things (like purchases!) moving along throughout the event.

Gift Card Discounts and Bonuses

Whether you decide to give a $5 thank you card to people who buy a gift card or you offer a discount on gift card purchases, people love free money. Just be sure to make it clear that those thank you cards or bonus gift cards are for use on a FUTURE purchase. You want happy customers – not confused ones.

Prepackage Gifts

People are busy and everyone has someone on their list who is impossible to buy for. If you have items in your store that can be sold together as a gift, go ahead and pair them together as gift items. If you can package them together, great, but if not, just displaying them side by side is fine. Make it as easy as possible for people to find your best gift ideas without a lot of time or attention. Get creative on this one!

Entertain the Kids

Families are always overbooked, which means, at some point, they’ll be stopping by your store at a time that might not be ideal for their schedule. No parent wants to drag their kids through your shop when they clearly don’t want to be there. Combat this problem by making coming to your store its own activity. Consider creating a space in your store where kids can color, decorate cookies or make their own holiday cards. If you don’t want to do this every day, think about hosting family days. Even if parents don’t buy something that day (although they probably will now that you gave them two minutes to think), they’ll appreciate the gesture and hopefully come back another day.

Cross-Promote

Your business has friends – the coffee shop up the street, the antiques store around the corner, the pizzeria next door. Find ways to cross-promote with the people in your business network. Even something as simple as a coupon on each other’s registers can get people to walk across the street and see what your business is all about… and what amazing gifts you have displayed in the front window.

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Managing the Growing Pains of New Leadership

Fitting a new leader into an existing team is always hard. Even when you promote from within, there are growing pains as the team adjusts to a new management style, new goals and new expectations. But how you deal with employee complaints about a new manager? And how do you support your new leader in their new position and how do you help them through the growing pains?

As with so many things in business, it’s all about the right kind of communication – with your new hire and with your team. Here are three tips:

Talk to Your Team

New management always makes people nervous, especially if the job had internal candidates. Talk to your team openly about why you hired the person you did, what they’ll bring to the team and how they can help your new hire get settled and be successful. After all, it’s always better when the ships can rise together.

Don’t Run to Your New Hire with Complaints

There are certain to be at least a few growing pains as the new leader gets settled, makes adjustments to the day-to-day, etc. When team members come to you with complaints, take them seriously, ask for specific examples and keep track of those issues. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of getting used to the new order, but you don’t want to lose good employees in the process. However, don’t immediately run to your new hire with the issues. Unless it’s an urgent situation or problem that needs corrected, taking the complaints directly to them will undermine their confidence in the new position. Wait until the dust has settled and then go back to those complaints to start a conversation with the new leader about things that could be improved.

Don’t Undermine Progress

As new management works out the kinks they see in your team and starts to implement their normal way of doing business, you have to learn to step back and let the pieces fall into place. In some cases, you may have been in that position or you’ve filled in while you hired someone new, so it can be especially hard to step away, but you have to create that separation. Be sure your subordinates subordinates understand that you hired the new leader because you trust their abilities and you’re ready for them to take the reins.

See additional tips on this topic from Growth Coach Ingar Grev in this article published in the Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/human-resources/2017/06/how-to-field-employee-complaints-about-new.html.

 

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Use Your Story to Boost Sales

boost-salesWhen people are researching a product or service, they don’t just want to know how much it costs. They want to know why it’s the best option and how it’s going to fit into their lives. People these days don’t shop from a catalog and take product descriptions as gospel. They are educated buyers, they do their research and they want to know why they should do business with you.

That means, now more than ever, if you want to be successful in sales you have to be good at content marketing. So how do you focus on content marketing online rather than just sales and advertising? It’s about creating a dialogue between your business and its representatives (your sales team, president, etc.) on your social media channels, your website, your blog and any other medium you have access to. You have to find ways to engage your audience. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Your business has a story. Your products and services have a story. And every time you meet the needs of a customer, there’s a story there too. In a recent Entrepreneur article, author Mike Wood said “Storytelling marketing is one of the best techniques you can use to keep people’s attention. It also helps with the overall quality of your articles, and it leads to more shares and engagement.” Be honest and let that story sell your product or service without a direct sale. If you need a little inspiration to start thinking about your business through a storytelling lens, this article from Huffington Post has some great tips and examples. Forbes also has a great explanation of storytelling in business available here.

Just remember your story doesn’t all have to be in long-form blog posts – you can tell a story with a photo, video, quote, snippet or infographic… And, once you’ve created a great piece of storytelling content, you can get quite a bit of mileage out of it on all your social channels, your website, your advertising, and your print materials with the right strategy. The key here is that, once your audience starts to connect with your story and your business, they are more likely to buy your product or pay for your service.

If your business or your sales team needs more than content marketing to get in the groove, your local Growth Coach can help! With our group sales coaching workshops, one-on-one coaching sessions and other services, we can help you find the right solution for your business. Find your coach at http://thegrowthcoach.com/.

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Crowdfunding – It Means More than Money

crowdfunding-v5b-2016When entrepreneurs turn to crowdfunding to help them jumpstart their next venture, it’s usually because the need the capital to get their product, service or business off the ground. But by asking for people to support the development of your business, you’re also inadvertently asking them for feedback on your product or project. It’s a bit like market testing before actually hitting the market.

Back in 2016, Smith & Bradley, Ltd., used Kickstarter campaigns to decide which of their seven watch designs to take to market. Two of the campaigns didn’t make the cut. Now Smith & Bradley uses crowdfunding to validate the market for many of their products before going into product, Forbes reported in December of 2016.

Although it’s not a business, you can also look at the success of the crowdfunding efforts to create a Veronica Mars movie. While many in the industry thought Veronica Mars had more of a cult following, the crowdfunding campaign almost tripled its $2 million fundraising goal with a final total of $5.7 million from more than 90,000 backers, according to the campaign page.

Of course not every project is a Veronica Mars movie or watch from a reputable company. According to Kickstarter’s Stats on August 7, 2017, for the 129,375 projects that were successfully funded, another 231,714 were not successfully funded. The report also shows that most successfully funded projects raise less than $10,000 and that many campaigns struggle to get the promotional support they need to find success.

So what does this mean for your business venture? If you’re on the fence about what you’re doing and you want to try to a new way of market testing, crowdfunding might be a unique solution. It won’t be right for every product, service or business, but it’s a trend that’s getting stronger every year and, last year, was projected to surpass Venture Capital investing for the first time, so it’s definitely something to consider if you can support the promotional element of building a campaign.

If you’re thinking about taking the crowdfunding route, this guide might help: http://crowdfundinghacks.com/is-your-idea-right-for-crowdfunding/.

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Supporting Women in Business

shutterstock_84555940Small business owners are the backbone of the American economy and, according to a report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, about 29 percent of those businesses are owned by women. That’s up from 26 percent in 1997, the report says. However, the increase in the number of businesses doesn’t inherently solve all the problems. A report from the Economic Policy Institute found that women-owned businesses make only about 25 cents for every dollar earned by a business owned by a man, a much bigger gap than the labor market.

So what can we do to help women in business be even more successful? At The Growth Coach, we think that all starts with having the right support and training. In fact, The National Bureau of Economic Research found that, when women lean on peer-to-peer relationships and receive business training with friends, they are more likely to report higher business activity and household income. So grab a friend and check out these seven women-in-business resources we find especially helpful:

National Women’s Business Council: This organization was part of the Women’s Business Ownership Act to identify the barriers to success for women-owned businesses. Since then the council has evolved to be a support system for women business owners, addressing issues, providing fact sheets and breaking research down to the nuts and bolts of what matters and how it will impact the future.

National Association of Women Business Owners: The NAWBO is a “one-stop resource to propelling women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide”. Their website is packed with resources, an e-learning series, advocacy information and more, and their local chapters host events, help with networking and are excellent local resources.

The Bringing Out Successful Sisters Network: The BOSS Network was founded by Cameka Smith to promote and encourage the small business spirit and career development of women. This is “an online community of professional and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking” and they have an especially powerful blog and success stories section.

The US Small Business Administration: This might sound obvious, but the SBA has a whole section dedicated to women-owned businesses. They have easy-to-find articles and information on financing a business, starting a business and growing a business as well as mentoring and training. They also have information and recommendations on SBA Loans, business and education centers, the women-owned federal contracting program and more.

The American Management Association: Although this organization is about women in leadership – not necessarily in business –their resources and training and are on point for business owners as well. Their Women’s Leadership Center offers webcasts (some free), training courses, workshops and a blog, all of which are specially-tailored for women.

Chic CEO: This website was built as a support network for women in business. They have tips, how to information, business plans, a blog, ways to connect with other women and more. The site says they provide the ground level information to get you started on the path to being your own boss and the rest is up to you.

SCORE: SCORE has been around for more than 50 years and they have a proven track record of providing small business advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners, including women. Although they aren’t specifically working with women, you can find a woman mentor through their mentoring service and they do have resources aimed at women.

Of course you can always contact your local Growth Coach for support.

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Turning Happy Customers into New Business

When you’re building a business, happy customers are more than good business, they’re also great marketing. People in this ever increasingly social world are happy to spread the word about your business when they have a great experience, but you have to ask for their help. So, when was the last time you asked someone for a referral, review or recommendation? Does your business have a process in place to do that? Have you considered offering incentives for customers who help you increase your business? Here’s a little about referrals, reviews and recommendations, suggestions on how to ask for them and links to other blog posts where you can learn more:

Referrals

Referrals are incredibly powerful – whether your business is 6 months old or 60 years old. People are much quicker to trust a personal referral from a friend, family member, coworker or acquaintance and, chances are, they’ll feel better about working with when the connection came through a referral. It never hurts to ask a happy customer to consider providing referrals, particularly if they are an ongoing client or they have a vested interested in the success of your business. You might also want to think about other people who can provide referrals, like your friends, family members or connections on social media, including smaller, localized sites like NextDoor. Learn more about asking for referrals witht his blog post: https://growthcoachblog.com/2012/02/02/referrals-all-it-takes-is-a-question/.

Recommendations

If you have a business that revolves around you as an individual rather than a product, commercial service or retail store, recommendations, especially on LinkedIn, can be powerful marketing tools. First, make a timely connection on LinkedIn and thank that person for doing business with you. Then, once you’re connected, you can use LinkedIn’s system to request a recommendation. Although anyone you’re connected with can write a recommendation for you, more often than not, you need to ask. Keep in mind that the person may also ask you for a recommendation too, particularly if your work together was in professional services. Learn more about the power of referrals with this blog from 2014: https://growthcoachblog.com/2014/01/23/the-power-of-referrals-and-recommendations-and-how-to-ask-for-them/.

Reviews

In a world where social media rules, people are used to leaving reviews on their preferred website, whether that’s Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List or something else. Of course people are often much more motivated to leave reviews when they’ve had a bad experience than a good one… it’s easy to encourage people to leave good reviews by asking them personally, sending a follow-up email when the work is completed, offering a future incentive for reviews, putting information about leaving reviews on your business cards, etc. However, just like with referrals or recommendations, you usually need to ask if you want someone to go out of their way to help you grow your business. Learn more about the power of reviews with this recent blog post: https://growthcoachblog.com/2017/05/01/the-power-of-reviews-in-the-digital-age/.

We’re curious to know… how are you working with your happy customers to build your business? What’s working? What needs improvement? What suggestions on this topic would you offer other business owners? Tell us in the comments!

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Coaching is for Managers Too

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times – a great business starts with having great people. You can have an amazing business concept, a full-octane marketing plan and a fool-proof manual, but if you don’t have a solid staff, you won’t have happy customers and you won’t grow your business in the long-run.

Some of the most important people in your business are your managers. Assuming you aren’t running the day to day operations of your business – and if you are, start here – then your managers are doing everything from keeping your customers happy to making sure the business is running efficiently. And, of course, not every great employee is a trained, off-to-the-races manager.

We started our Strategic Manager Coaching group coaching program because we saw that many of our clients either (1) had managers who were committed to the company, but who really needed professional development or (2) had great employees who could be managers, but we’re up to speed. Offering those staff members the right kind of coaching can make a huge difference in the performance of your entire team AND help with employee retention.

Whether or not you work with The Growth Coach, having your managers work with a coach can help them on multiple levels – starting with the big picture. Unlike technicians or lower level employees, managers have to wear a lot of hats, including sales, marketing, planning, development, operations and more. Although not every coaching program will be specifically tailored to the work your managers do, we’ve found that working with a coach can have a major impact on what might be the most important aspect of a great manager – leadership.

Great business leaders understand how to run a business, but also how to empower employees to be their best, encourage innovation within the company and find efficiencies in the day-to-day operations. They are emotionally intelligent, can handle conflict and understand how to work with people – both customers and employees. Most people can learn those skills through experience, but that’s not something every business can wait for, especially when you find the right managerial candidate who just needs some training.

At The Growth Coach, our Strategic Manager Coaching is done in a private, group workshop setting on one day per quarter, which means it’s affordable and you aren’t losing valuable employee time. We know it can be stressful to pay for training for an employee who can leave at any time, but investing in professional development is a worthwhile endeavor that can help your business grow and take the stress out of owning your business. Learn more about our program here: http://thegrowthcoach.com/strategic-manager-coaching/.

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The Power of Reviews in the Digital Age

Everyone looks at reviews. Whether we’re trying to find a new restaurant or we’re looking for a contractor for a major project, most of us don’t go out on a limb without doing some due diligence. So what is your business doing to (1) make sure your happy customers are leaving good reviews and (2) manage sub-par reviews online? When was the last time you googled your own business to see what people are saying? If you’re not managing your online presence, you’re missing an opportunity.

Focusing Your Efforts

There are dozens of review sites out there and many of them come up when you search for businesses, so you’ll want to decide which sites are most important for your type of business. Reviews on your own website, on Google and on Facebook are important to start. If you’re in the restaurant or entertainment business, perhaps add Yelp, OpenTable or Foursquare. In a trade? Think about going after Angie’s List, Home Advisor and the BBB’s website. Focusing on a product? Look into Epinions and, if you sell on Amazon, then the feedback section of Amazon. Customers will review your business in whatever space they like best, but sending them in the right direction is the first step on your end.

Asking Your Customers

Asking for a review is a little like asking for a referral, except easier. You’re not asking them to stand up for you or put their name on the line with a friend or family member. You’re just asking them to tell the world about the positive experience they had with your business, often even under an online pseudonym. You can ask for reviews in a multitude of ways, but before you ask them to review, encourage that you and your business would appreciate a five-star review and ask if there’s anything you can do to ensure that they have a five-star experience. Often the difference between a four-star review and a five-star review is something pretty small.

You can ask customers to leave reviews when you’re working with them in person, through a note card on the counter or with their bill, but some of the most effective review asks come via email or social media. You want your reviews to be online and, by asking people while they’re already online, you’ve already won half the battle. If someone does leave you a physical note or calls with a compliment, it’s worth asking if they are willing to leave a review online OR if you can put their review on your website, where you can control which reviews are posted and what’s said. Just be sure to ask for permission!

Managing Negative Reviews

Of course, when you ask customers for reviews, you have to be ready for less than stellar comments. Some people are just tough customers and a normal-quality experience will come in at three-stars, but you have to be prepared to mitigate negative comments and complaints online. This does require some effort, but it’s worth it. If someone leaves you a terrible review, but people see that you’ve replied with a polite explanation, apology or way to make it right, they see that you’re focused on customer service. Negative reviews that are left unattended – or even worse, replied to in an angry or snarky way – are negative all around. Many review sites will notify you when you’ve received a review, but you may want to check on the review sites you’ve chosen to focus on a couple of times a month. Also, if you have a connection with someone who left a great review, this is a perfect time to thank them and maybe request a referral!

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Bridging the Gap with Millennials

Whether you call them millennials or young professionals, the younger members of today’s workforce want different things from their careers than their parents or grandparents did. For many, work isn’t just about clocking in, clocking out and taking home a paycheck anymore. Sure, they need to make money, but they want jobs they enjoy at companies that are invested in helping them learn, grow and give back. Since bridging the gap in the workforce all comes down to understanding each other, here are three important things we’ve learned about millennials. And remember, sometimes working with a new group of people means changing your mindset and reevaluating your policies.

Flexibility

Millennials don’t want to have to clock in and clock out. It’s not about accountability or time tracking… it’s about flexibility. Many of today’s young professionals don’t stop working when they leave the off – they check emails 24/7, work on projects in the evening when they’re inspired, they take calls on the weekends – and they want to know their time is being appreciated. Let’s face it: we don’t all do our best work between 8am and 5pm, so having some flexibility is essential. If your millennial employee is doing great work and not being unreasonable about hours or time, allowing them that flexibility will encourage them to do their best work and keep them happy.

Culture

A great workplace isn’t just location, parking and pay. It’s about having a great group of people to work with every day at a company that appreciates you and that shares your values. Thanks in part to social media, Millennials have a heightened sensitivity to social impact and political alignment. They want to work for (and do business with) companies that share their values, give back to the causes they care about and empower them to make a difference. They also want a business that shows they value their employees with benefits like family leave, donation matching and volunteer days.

Growth

Ambitious employees of any generation are going to be hungry to learn, but millennials really want to work for companies that give them opportunities to grow, cross-train, be mentored and, eventually, be promoted. However, they also don’t want to be singled out as millennials for special trainings or events. They want to be included, trusted with important tasks and given an opportunity to shine. If you want your young professionals to be happy and productive, they need to be challenged.

Millennials are some of the most creative, innovative and resourceful employees companies can have, but you need to understand what they’re looking for in an employer if you want to keep them around to make your company bigger and better in the future. If you are having trouble bridging the gap with your younger employees and keeping fresh talent at your company, it might be time to talk to a business coach. Our programs – including a new Bridging the Gap program – can help you and your millennial workforce find a happy medium that helps everyone succeed.

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Want to be Wealthy? Pick Up a Book.

Successful and wealthy people come from all walks of life and their individual experiences have shaped who they are, what they do and how they do it. But most of them have something in common – they read. A lot.

In Steve Siebold’s book How Rich People Think, he points out that a packed library is something many wealthy people have in common. And they’re not usually picking up mystery novels. They’re focused on reading non-fiction books – especially biographies and autobiographies – to learn and build knowledge.

“Walk into a wealthy person’s home and one of the first things you’ll see is an extensive library of books they’ve used to educate themselves on how to become more successful … The middle class reads novels, tabloids, and entertainment magazines,” he says in his research.

Many of the world’s wealthiest people aren’t quiet about their reading habits. Warren Buffett has regularly said that he spends 80 percent of his day reading. In a 2013 interview with The Week, Buffett said the key to getting smarter is reading. In fact, he challenged people to read 500 pages a day.

Obviously Warren Buffett isn’t the only bookworm – Bill Gates’ dad told Forbes that Bill was a huge bookworm and, in a 2016 article, said “Just about every kind of book interested him–encyclopedias, science fiction, you name it. I was thrilled that my child was such an avid reader, but he read so much that Bill’s mother and I had to institute a rule: no books at the dinner table.” In a 2016 New York Times article, Gates said he reads about 50 books a year. Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg are also self-proclaimed avid readers.

Here are just a few of the books you’ll find on our shelves:

Business Adventures by John Brooks

The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

The Pumpkin Patch by Mike Michalowicz

Think and Grow Rich by Andrew Carnegie

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

What books would you recommend your business colleagues read? Are there books or publications that have had a dramatic impact on your life or how you do business? Tell us in the comments!

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