It's been a few weeks since our last blog post and with good reason! We've been busy behind the scenes creating a website for our newest client, The Borten Institute for Learning Disabilities. This project was an example of where passion meets purpose. Nikita has a heart for empowering families of children with learning disabilities. In order to best serve them, we helped her create a website complete with a payment gateway for families to purchase tutoring services, along with a blog featuring a "Parent's Corner" to help educate parents on addressing tough topics with their children.
Here's what Nikita had to say about working with Elevated Communications:
This has been a dream of mine for years! You took everything I wanted to convey from my heart and mind and made it real!
In addition to creating the website, we also updated their existing logo by do a slight text change to reflect a change to their business name. Thanks to The Borten Institute for Learning Disabilities for allowing us to be part of your mission of serving families of children with learning disabilities. To view the new website, visit. www.theborteninstitute.com.
Goal planning is one of those things that's easier said than done for busy professionals and people in general.
I've tried countless planners, downloaded all sorts of templates and still found that many lack what I need, which is a high-level overview of my yearly goals, along with a prominent place for incremental goals to help ensure that what I'm spending my time on is truly moving the needle in that direction. I also prefer a section to include a weekly to-do list. There's something about being able to write down weekly goals and checking them off as the days go by.
As far as a daily planner goes, I don't need something that breaks down my every hour. For some people, that works. For me, my life is too hectic to peg down what I'm doing by the hour. As long as I achieve my goals, I'm not necessarily concerned with the hour of day it happens. I still utilize my Google calendar to remind me of appointments and meetings.
This format allows me to stay focused on my yearly goals while also checking off what needs to be done this week in order to help me get there. And since I'm also a busy mom, my life doesn't stop with the 9 to 5, so I included a back side with a grocery list and meal planning. Print these two pages double-sided for optimal use.
“I just don’t know where to start…” Karen said.
Karen was a small business owner with whom I had the pleasure of working. She knew she needed to focus on marketing her business, but she was overwhelmed. Marketing wasn’t her strong suit, she ran a restaurant. She had excellent recipes and could cater a meal for hundreds, but the thought of posting on social media and advertising in the local newspaper left her feeling a little outside of her wheelhouse.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably felt that way before too. Most small business owners are known for their craft, whatever that might be. But marketing that craft, however, might be a different story.
Here are five tips I offered to Karen that I’ll share with you. These simple steps will lay the foundation for the rest of your marketing strategy.
#1 Use Professional Photos
Karen’s food was excellent, but the photos that represented her food were amateur to say the least. Whether you hire a photographer or use some fancy settings on your iPhone, make sure you’re using quality, professional photographs to represent your business and your products. Creating a folder of stock images for your business will make advertisements, social media posts and other content so much easier to create.
#2 Establish Branding Guidelines
I’m assuming you already have a logo for your business. If not, start there. But most business owners stop after a logo has been created. Don’t. Rather, create a branding guide (also called a style guide) which outlines your company’s colors, fonts and any logo variations that might be used in your marketing collateral. This is something you can provide to vendors who are developing materials for you, which will ensure consistency across your items.
#3 Use Pre-Designed Templates
If you haven’t started a Canva account, I strongly recommend it. Canva is a web-based service that allows you to create various graphics, from business cards to brochures and flyers and everything in between. I use it to create graphics for my social media posts. My favorite part is the ability to save your preferred fonts and colors, helping you execute step #2 as well.
#4 Decide Your Tone and Audience
This is an important, yet often overlooked, component of marketing. The tone you use will shape the content you create, from the copy on your website to the context of your social media posts. Do you want to create content that uses a casual language with your audience? For example, will your Facebook posts use the phrase “Hey guys!” or would you prefer something more formal, such as “Hello to our valued customers.” Sometimes this is a matter of personal preference. Other times, it can be determined by your industry. Healthcare facilities may prefer a more professional tone while local restaurants may opt for a more casual voice. While you can be somewhat more relaxed on social media than in printed materials and TV commercials, you’ll still want to establish the general tone that you’ll use to communicate with your audience, regardless of platform.
#5 Establish a Marketing Plan
Once you have taken the other four steps, the next step is to develop a marketing plan for your business. You’ve already established your branding guide, the tone you want to use for your business, and how you’ll create marketing materials using professional photography on Canva. Now you’ll want to review your business goals and determine how your marketing efforts will help you get there. Narrow your audience if necessary and determine the best path to reach your ideal customer. If you need help creating your plan, please reach out.
COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for traditional brick-and-mortar stores to adapt to digital methods to sell their products and engage with customers, now more than ever. If you represent a business that is now attempting to keep the doors open through virtual means, here are three tips to help you get started.
Share Your Personality Through Video
Just because we’re practicing social distancing doesn’t mean we’re not longing for human interaction. Take a quick video, post a behind-the-scenes/day-in-the-life story about how your business is coping through this crisis.
Host Online Sales & Watch Parties
We’re all stuck at home - what better time to capture your audience’s attention and showcase a product or service? Promote this a few hours in advance and offer a small giveaway for those who tune in live. Offer an incentive for purchasing before the end of the night. There’s a reason an entire TV channel exists around home shopping.
Give People the Chance to Purchase Products & Gift Cards Online
This is probably the most obvious - but least utilized - method I’ve seen from small businesses. While people are hesitant to get out, they’re still likely to support your small business from a safe distance, particularly if they're already loyal customers. So why not give them the option? Set up e-commerce through Facebook or post a few products then send invoices through PayPal. Your e-commerce solution doesn’t have to break the bank. Just get started and build it from there.
We get it. Of all the possible scenarios you've planned for as a business owner, this wasn't one of them. "Social Distancing" was a phrase that most of us hadn't even heard of just a few days ago.
Yet here we are, trying to navigate through staffing shortages, supply chain challenges and drastic drops or surges in demand, depending on your product or service.
Here are a few tips that can help you run your small business during these uncertain times:
Focus on digital
If you sell a product or service in a brick-and-mortar, one way to navigate through a slow sales month is to be more intentional with digital sales. Chances are, as a small business owner, you already have a loyal following on your social media channels. If people cannot shop face-to-face, give them every opportunity to purchase via your website or Facebook page.
Host a virtual event
Have you been planning a meeting, event or big sale only to find yourself on the verge of canceling? Consider hosting the event virtually using tools like Zoom or Facebook Live. Make it a watch party, host a virtual sale, and give your audience a chance to purchase items from the comfort of their homes. If it's a service you offer, try offering a discount code or special incentive to purchase now for redemption at a later date.
Consider a subscription service
Subscription services are great ways to build recurring revenue, regardless of what's happening on a national/global scene. You may be overlooking something on your menu of products or services that you could already be offering through a subscription. Here are some examples: Florist = monthly deliveries; Restaurants = weekly deliveries or take and bake options; Clothing store = outfit of the month clothing box.
Review your delivery/layaway options
Similar to the points mentioned above, give your customers the option to purchase something now that can be picked up/delivered at a later date or paid for in installments.
Promote your gift cards
If you don't already have a way for customers to purchase gift cards online, you need this. Not only can this provide an additional way for loyal patrons to support you in lieu of shopping in person, online gift card purchases can be utilized by your customer base year-round for holiday promotions and quick birthday gifts.
Stay in touch with suppliers
If you're going to face a shortage of supplies from your vendors, you need to know sooner rather than later. Make regular phone calls to check on their business as well. The more you stay in contact with those who help keep your business in business, the better you can weather the potential storm.
Have a game plan for staffing issues
With an abundance of school closures, your staff may be forced to shift around schedules to arrange for childcare. Be understanding, but also have a game plan for how to get by if your employees can't get to work. Can they work remotely? Can you limit non-essential aspects of your business right now in order to focus solely on the things that will keep the lights on? While running this lean may not be ideal, it may be just the thing that helps you get through the slow days.
Seek advice from industry partners
Depending on your profession, there's probably a trade group or association that can be a helpful resource during this time. For instance, if you own a restaurant, the National Restaurant Association provides helpful tips on its website. Chances are, your industry has something similar.
Take note of lessons learned
This time it's COVID-19. The next crisis may bring something different altogether. By taking notes of what you learned during this experience, you'll be better prepared as a business owner to navigate any future challenges. Keep your crisis plan somewhere digitally and on paper.
When you're working with limited resources, sometimes it's hard to know where or how to spend your marketing dollars. Below are two of the most common mistakes I've seen small businesses make when it comes to their budgets.
#1 - No sales funnel or system of measurement
If you’re putting your brand out there but you don’t have a sales funnel in place, it’s pretty much the same as going fishing without plans to reel in any fish. You’ve got prospects on the hook but no plan on how to turn them into customers.
Here's an example: There’s a billboard in town and you get a great deal to advertise your business, so you take advantage of it.
Was the goal of the billboard to drive traffic to your website? If so, do you have tools in place such as Google analytics to measure the number of unique visitors to your website? After they visit your website, what do you want them to do? Sign up for your newsletter? Follow you on Facebook? Here's my point: If you’re building a funnel, what are the next steps to get them to move through your sales process?
Maybe the end goal of the billboard wasn't to drive traffic to your website. Instead, it was to increase the number of orders you sold during that time frame. If so, are you tracking new sales from month to month? Another tip is to ask customers how they heard about you. While it may have taken several impressions for the actual transaction to occur, this simple question will help you better understand the tipping point at which your potential customers take action.
If you don’t have a sales funnel or a system of measurement in place, you’ll probably look back at the money you spent on the billboard and assume it was ineffective, which is not always the case. But if you’re not aligning your advertising with a clear, concise plan, including a way to measure your efforts, then you’ll just play a guessing game at what’s really effective for your business. So, start with the end in mind and build your communications plan from there.
#2 - Equating the expense of marketing to products, rather than services
Most small businesses do not have a full-time (or even a part-time) staff member who specializes in marketing or public relations. So it falls under the responsibility of the owner, manager, or intern. (You know, that whole “other duties as assigned” part of the job description...)
It takes time to manage this effectively for a business, no matter the size. But when asked about outsourcing this work, you’ll commonly hear from small businesses that they simply don’t have it in the budget.
That's because most businesses view marketing as an expense similar to products or office supplies. So when you have this perception, it’s easy to eliminate it from the budget because it can seem expensive in comparison.
Instead, view it as an investment, because that's what it really is. Consider your marketing budget similarly to the resources you allocate for your accountant, bookkeeper, lawyer or your company’s top-producing employee. You know they're worth the investment, right?
So why would you not allocate the proper resources to communicate your brand effectively? After all, a company’s biggest asset is its brand. Don’t believe me? Ask some of the ones who have seen their fair share of negative press.
And whether you decide to outsource or to perform these tasks in-house, remember to have tools in place to measure those efforts as mentioned above.
Ready to map out a game plan for your business? Let’s talk.
A small business owner once told me about the latest advertisement she placed in a printed publication. She was hoping it would draw new customers to her business, located in the heart of the town’s business district. Here’s the issue. The magazine was a publication geared toward tourists and it was only being distributed at visitor centers.
You may be thinking, “what’s wrong with that?” Every business could benefit from a few new customers, right? But here’s the thing.
This small business, in the heart of the business district, wasn’t open in the evenings. Most days, the shop was closed by 4 p.m. And the shop was only open for a few hours on Saturday mornings.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t find myself in a new town in the middle of a workday very often, except for the occasional business trip. People are usually doing their leisurely travel on the weekends. In fact, weekend travel ranked as one of the top motivators for domestic travel in a recent study by AARP.
As expected, they didn't see much of a return on their investment.
So what could they have done differently to make sure their message matched their audience? Hindsight is always 20/20, but let's use this as an example so you'll be better prepared the next time you're presented with an advertising opportunity.
Option 1 - Research your audience beforehand.
If you’re trying to reach tourists, know their habits & patterns, then adjust your hours of operation accordingly.
Option 2 - Change your message.
If changing your hours of operation to reach your original audience is not an option, target your message instead to a group that's better suited to respond to your advertisement. In this case, it may be the other businesses within the downtown district.
If you go with option #2, make sure the content within your advertisement matches your audience. For example, mention your complimentary gift-wrapping service for busy shoppers, or other convenient offerings, such as local delivery.
Does your message match your branding? If you need to talk it through, drop us a line.
It happens to the best of us. We're fixated on a project, wanting to give it our best. But it's infringing upon a valuable commodity - our time. After all, we're the DIY'ers of the business world. The ones wearing multiple hats; one minute the receptionist - the next, the CFO. And because of that, every day is an exercise in time management.
A mentor once shared this phrase with me:
"Done is better than perfect."
He was right. How many times in business (and in life) do we hesitate or linger on a project or idea, thinking we have to get it just right before we can roll it out? Pretty soon, that project becomes the grown-up version of kick the can.
Take this blog post for instance. I created a schedule of blog posts, researched the best web host, dabbled with the graphics, and contemplated on a launch date. Then I remembered my mentor's advice.
So here's to those of you who strive for perfection but are learning that completion is not only ok, but sometimes it's even better because of the momentum you pick up along the way. I hope this post and the ones that follow will help you on your journey to wherever it is you'd like to go with your small business. And remember that along the way, if the path doesn't look quite like you had envisioned...
Done is better than perfect.