Tag Archives: local business marketing

Small Business Conquers The Corporations

Article first published as Small Business Conquers the Corporations on Blogcritics.

Little Dudes and Divas is going head-to-head with the likes of Nordstrom, Macy’s, Babies “R” Us and even Diapers.com.

This small business does 90% of their sales through the internet and the rest through their brick-and-mortar store in Rockaway Park, N.Y. Even with the bulk of their business being done online, the founders of this company say their greatest strength is relationships with customers.

Steve and Susan Karasanti founded Little Dudes and Divas seven years ago. They sell clothes and accessories for infants and toddlers – everything from diapers and stroller blankets to diaper bags car seat covers – and now have 3 employees. They ship around the world and are always ready to help a customer find what they need.

The Homepage for LIttle Dudes and Divas

When a call comes in from a customer wanting to know how to pack a particular bag in a certain way, the staff at Little Dudes and Divas makes a video. They walk through how to pack each item, special tips for preventing leaks or breakage, and then make it available to everyone on their site.

I spotted the Karasanti’s and their business in Gabriel Shaoolian’s column (You’re The Boss) in the New York Times. There are two things in particular that he’s looking at with Little Dudes and Divas – the trust factor, and reasons for buying. In addition to what I share here, you can listen to this week’s episode of Social Media: Cheap and Easy to discover the one mistake Gabriel is making that will truly make the difference between massive growth and stagnation in any business.

Competition has certainly stiffened since they started seven years ago. Mr. Karasanti says “It’s very hard to compete with the bigger online companies on price, but we can compete by giving our customers personal attention.”

That personal attention is a key element in business success at any time, and it’s becoming increasingly important in today’s marketplace. We’re experiencing a crisis of trust – everyone is sceptical of everything (even this statement) – and business owners are feeling the pinch.

Here are 3 strategies for to make your customer relationships stronger, and help your business stand out from the competition:

Show Appreciation

One of the simplest things to do is run a birthday program in your business. Simply ask customer for the month and day of their birth so you can give them special attention on their birthday.

The same thing can be done for anniversaries, customers who bring in referrals, frequent shoppers or any other criteria you care to use. The key to all of these programs is choosing the behaviour you want to reward then building a program to reward that behaviour.

Encourage Communication

Restaurants do this all the time. I’m always spotting comment cards at the table in restaurants, and you can use the same approach in your business. All you have to do is make the cards available and give customers an anonymous way to drop them off.

Blogs and social media can be good ways to encourage communication if you actually listen and respond. Like a comment card, you have to be seen to be taking action on what people say.

Reward Referrals

Your existing customers are the easiest people to sell to, and the person they refer is the second easiest. This alone is a great reason to encourage referrals.

When someone refers another person to your business, they’re also increasing their commitment to do business with you. Now that they’ve told someone else how great you are, part of their personal credibility becomes wrapped up in continuing to do business with you. For this reason, you also want to treat referrals very well. As easy as a referral is to turn into a customer, getting it wrong just as easily means losing the referral as well as the referrer

Another way to strengthen your customer relationship is through cross-promotion. This one takes a little bit of time and effort. It also yields multiple benefits to your business.

No one business can satisfy every need of their customers. So to help you be more important to your customer – and more appreciated by them – connect with other business owners who fulfill your customers’ needs. Whether that be a hair salon, landscaping, or dentist, the objective is to make your customer’s life easier.

For example, I know a painter who advertises on a local pizza joint’s boxes. They both serve new-movers, and this cross-promotion has paid off handsomely for both businesses.

In the case of Little Dudes and Divas, they could easily cross-promote with another shop that sells strollers and car seats. That’s an obvious one. What other businesses can you think of that would make good cross-promotion partners for Little Dudes and Divas – or for your own business?

Real World Lessons For Why Less Is More

Sounds like a load of crap, doesn’t it? “Less is more…”

86 people paying $97/month equals $100,104 per year. Small number of people paying a fairly small sum.

Groupon says 80% of people actually redeem their daily deal coupon. And retailers hope that’s true because when that number goes up, they really start losing money. Now we have a lot of people getting a big discount and it’s driving business owners out of business.

This week, the whole show is focused on getting the real meaning of phrases such as “Go Big Or Go Home,” and “Bigger Is Better.” There are good uses for these phrases. The problem is that we’ve forgotten what they are.

Hear the solution on Social Media: Cheap and Easy.

From LinkedIn to Facebook to Google and Yahoo – everyone is enraptured with the idea of having access to a huge audience.

Open Networkers on LinkedIn think they’re making a value statement when they declare having thousands of first level contacts. The gurus and pundits declare there’s inherent value in advertising on Facebook and Google because of their massive audiences. But how many of those first level contacts do the open networkers actually have relationships with? And just how many people seeing your ad on Facebook or Google are going to do business with you?

The answers to these questions are clear in our first story. We look at specific reasons why people WON’T click on your ads, and just how much value is in someone having thousands of first level contacts on LinkedIn. These are real world lessons for why less is more.

In our second story, we look at the trend toward mobile computing. “Everyone” has a smartphone (actually, smartphones account for around 37% of cell phone usage), is getting a tablet, or has an Apple device, right?

Well why should that matter to you and your business? It’s corny, I know, but just like our mom’s always said: Just because your friends jump off a bridge, does that mean you jump, too?

There are a lot of folks screaming about one of the many new and shiny objects. They’ll tell you each one means the difference between life and death for your business. Right. That’s pure poppycock.

Get the straight story now on Social Media: Cheap and Easy.

I have said from the beginning that business have survived quite nicely without the internet and social media, and they can go on surviving without using them. Can these things bring in new customers, create new sales, and make for a better customer experience? Yes, they can. And I agree that you should give serious thought to using them. But they are a long way from determining the success or failure of your business.

Listen in and hear what the trends are with mobile computing among consumers. More importantly, hear just how simple it is to tune in to these trends and benefit your business.

Then we wrap up the show with some resources you can use – online resources – to get inexpensive office space, book events and even sell physical products.

And most importantly, we close this week’s show with a few choice words about what “bigger is better” really means. And you hear how you really should “go big or go home.” It all revolves around the Value Of One.

Hear it all in one place: Social Media: Cheap and Easy. Then start the conversation here with your viewpoint, agreement, criticism or comment.

Local Business Marketing Case Study

Applying Business Sense to Fundraising & Social Media

We just finished an interview for Social Media: Cheap and Easy with Bill Garlough.

I know, you’ve never heard of Bill Garlough. That’s okay. We’ll be meeting a lot of business owners we’ve never heard of. That’s because it’s important for all of us to see examples of people – people just like us – being successful. Then we know we can do it, too.

Here’s the success:

Bill and Karen Garlough founded Soup’s On – a fundraiser – 3 years ago. In 3 years, they went from 750 attendees to 1,200 in the first 90 minutes. And they’ve skyrocketed to raising more than $110,000 with a 5 hour event.

Not bad, right?

Their success is definitely impressive. But the best thing about the whole event is that they’ve followed good business practice in developing it. In fact, what Bill and Karen have done is nearly textbook perfect. So much so that Soup’s On is going to be one of the case studies in the 2011 version of the Business Owner’s Guide to Social Media.

Now let’s look at how they applied good business sense to this fundraiser. Continue reading

3 Content Tips for Local Business Marketing

Are You Smarter than a Highway?

Ever hear the phrase “Dumb as a post?” Or “Dumb as a box of rocks?”

How smart is the typical roadway? Right. Not very. And that may be about to change.

Here’s a video I saw this morning on a Rotary e-Club site:

Nice video, yes? And how, you may be wondering, does it fit in with my mission of transforming advertising from an expense to an investment? It doesn’t even mention social media!

Well, aren’t I lucky you asked… 🙂 Continue reading

Hubspot’s Mike Volpe Agrees with Me

Mike is hosting a Hubspot webinar tomorrow titled “Social Media is B.S.”

Imagine that.

Here’s the first paragraph from the sign-up page:

In this webinar Mike discusses how much the marketing power of social media is exaggerated.  Social media is not magic, and fundamental marketing strategies shouldn’t be thrown out the window and replaced by new social media techniques.

So go sign up now.

Because anyone who has listened to me speak, or read Friends, Followers and Customer Evangelists, knows I’ve been saying the same thing since August 2009. They’ve even paraphrased my exclamation that social media is not a magic wand.

And check out Mike at his site – MikeVolpe.com

Social media can’t fix what’s broken, but it can sure take up time, scatter your focus, and make you feel real good by keeping you busy.

You can imagine how good I feel to be joined by the folks at Hubspot.

Just as I’ve cleared the air around social media – and you know the cow-patty gurus have been smelling the place up – I have always recommended Hubspot as a solid source for information and learning. They’re recommended repeated in FFCE, and I use their grading tools all the time. For myself, and for clients.

So seriously, go sign up for their webinar tomorrow. Even if you can’t attend, they’ll have it available as a recording. Hubspot is huge on doing everything they can to deliver reliable, relevant content.

And if you like what he has to say (I’m sure you will). Send him a note asking him to do a segment on Social Media: Cheap and Easy. He’d be a great guest for the radio show.

4 Tips on Direct Mail for Local Business Marketing

I just had a conversation with the Executive Director about building the list for her non-profit with direct mail. It was interesting, and there are some good points to share.

First, she’s under pressure from her Board to increase the number of names on the mailing list. Now, this is just “let’s get it done” pressure rather than “do it or you’re fired” pressure. In fact, the Board is also willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on renting a list to see what results they get.

Which brings me to the first good point: Never buy a list.

When Judy (not her real name) e-mailed me, she said they were looking at buying a list – what did I think. Well, I was headed to the bank anyway, so I stopped into her office afterward.

Direct Mail Marketing Tip #1

If you can BUY the list, then it isn’t worth having.

Direct mail lists are always rented. You send your mail piece to the list broker, or printer, and they address the envelopes. You only get the names of people who respond to you offer. And you get their names through their response. (I know…killer obvious.)

Okay. So Judy and I are going through the list criteria because Continue reading

Splitting the 2010 Social Media Guide

We’re in the “thrashing” period for revising The Business Owner’s Guide to Social Media.

There’s even a possible title change. What do you think of “Facebook Sucks…And Other Social Media Truths.”

A big change we’re looking at is splitting the guide into 2 parts. A basics section and one that’s more advanced. The section with the basics gets delivered completely online.

This is the part with all the information about creating profiles, the illustrations and graphics, and even the lists of sites. It’s almost half of the current guide, and there is more information we want to add. The idea is to make it a resource for anyone getting started with social media, and who needs to incorporate it with an existing local business marketing strategy.

The fun part about this piece is that it is Continue reading

Linchpin by Seth Godin

This started out being a hard read, but now that I’m over halfway through I’m liking it.

The concept is simple. Imagine there are 3 circles around you. Inside the first circle are your friends and family. The second circle holds clients, and the third circle is everyone who likes what you do. Seth doesn’t talk about it, but obviously there is also a group outside the third circle.

The folks on the outside are those who don’t know about you, aren’t particularly interested, or who maybe want to throw stones. They are a pool of potential admirers and customers as well as a source of learning and growth. (I’ll come back to this.)

Seth’s proposition is that you grow the second circle – paying customers – by being generous to the first and third circles. Now, that’s the proposition. That’s different from the idea he’s Continue reading