Archive for October 2019

5 Small Business Tips for Trade Show Success

5 Small Business Tips for Trade Show Success

Heading to a trade show is a great way to put your business in front of plenty of foot traffic — but you’ll also be one of many different businesses trying to catch customer’s attention. Standing out at a trade show involves some planning and a few tactics to get the most out of the show. Here’s what small businesses need to know before heading out to the trade show floor.

Get the word out ahead of time.

Trade shows can be great for customers that have been wanting to try your business but haven’t gotten the chance to — if they know you will be there. Use your social media platforms and email newsletter to spread the word about the show and where you’ll be during the show. You’ll encourage more visitors and create some visitors that seek your booth out directly.

Don’t ignore the other booths.

Sure, attending a trade show is a great way to get new customers — but what about networking? If you don’t visit the other booths, you’re missing out on one of the biggest perks of going to a trade show. Take some time during the slowest part of the show to visit other booths, chat with other business owners, and find potential new allies in the business world. Be sure to have another person attend to watch the booth so that it’s possible to wander the show floor for a bit to network.

Plan something fun to attract more visitors.

Trade show visitors will see several dozen, if not hundreds, of booth displays that day. Give them a bigger reason to stop at yours. Host a giveaway. Plan a fun demonstration. Create a social media photo contest. Brainstorm a reason for visitors to stop at your booth. Even better — share that reason in your social media posts and email newsletters leading up to the show as well.

Be approachable.

During the show, it’s important to make attendees feel welcome to come and start a conversation. Creating a booth set-up that has the exhibitors mixed with the attendees instead of behind a formal table can help. Standing instead of sitting in a chair can also encourage more conversation. And of course, the old go-to like a smile and a handshake go a long ways too.

Don’t let the trade show be your last conversation.

A trade show is a great time to meet potential customers and chat with them, often more in-depth than you can through the normal course of a day. Don’t let that conversation be both the first and the last with that customer. Strategise ways to keep the conversation going after the trade show ends. Host a giveaway so that you can gather email addresses, for example, or encourage booth visitors to like your social media pages. Plan ahead, and you’ll be able to keep talking to those customers long after the trade show is over.

Trade shows can be great for small businesses — but a bit of planning and strategy can help the time and financial investment go even further.

6 reasons small businesses should consider hiring students and interns

6 reasons small businesses should consider hiring students and interns

As a small business owner, when you look for new hires, you likely look for candidates with experience. But the youngest generation finds themselves in between a rock and a hard place when they can’t get a job because they have no experience, but can’t get experience because they can’t get a job. Hiring students and interns isn’t just good for the younger generation, however — it can help your business too. Here are six reasons to consider hiring a student or intern.

Hiring young employees helps pass on the skills of your best employees.

Young employees need training, yes — but who better to train them than your current best employees? By starting with young employees now rather than later, you’ll be able to create a workplace mentorship, where your top employee can pass down advice and tips to the youngest generation. Employing area youth is a great way to help continue to offer what your business does best, while maybe even generating some new ideas with a fresh pair of eyes.

Interns are often affordable.

Interns don’t expect to earn what a full-time employee earns — and many internship positions are unpaid. By adding an intern or student to your staff, you can increase your manpower without drastically increasing your budget when compared to hiring an older full-time employee.

Hiring interns and students help build the skills for your existing employees too.

Training another employee is a leadership skill — by hiring a student or intern, you are providing a learning opportunity for your current staff. By gaining experience training an intern, your current staff can develop their leadership skills. Leadership skills can benefit your current employees long after the internship is finished.

Interns have the potential to become valuable long-term employees.

It’s not uncommon for an intern to stay long past the internship has officially ended. Consider an internship as an extended job interview — after an internship, you’ll know if that person is a good fit for your company, well beyond what you can gauge in a one-hour job interview.

Interns can help tackle your “some day” list.

Most business owners are so swamped, they have a list of “some day” items that they hope to tackle at some point, but seldom actually get to work on. Interns can be great for tackling some of these projects, or freeing up some of your time for you to actually get to that list.

Interns can help you understand what younger customers are looking for.

Every generation has differences — but bringing on a member of the younger generation can help spark new ideas for your business. A post-millennial may have a better grasp of social media, for example, or emerging technology than a Gen Xer. Younger employees can also help identify the pain points of younger customers that could soon make up a large portion of your business.

While looking for experience is important when hiring new staff, small business owners shouldn’t ignore the potential of a young applicant either. By working with interns or students, you can find new ideas for the youngest customers, tackle more projects and even grow the leadership skills of your current staff.

5 Retail Sales Tricks for Getting Over a Slump

5 Retail Sales Tricks for Getting Over a Slump

In the business of retail, the slump is inevitable. But what you do during that slump can determine just how long your business is struggling, or whether that simple is interspersed with a few good sale days to keep business humming. By upping the marketing efforts or brainstorming unique ways to draw people into your store, you can keep that slump from spelling disaster. Here are five retail sales tricks for getting through the slow season.

Try a sidewalk sale or tent sale.

Potential customers drive by your store every day, which probably makes your storefront so common, they don’t even give it a second glance. A sidewalk sale or tent sale, however, creates something different that catches the eye of all those people driving by that never thought to come into your store before. When something is out of the ordinary on your ordinary drive, you tend to take note — and the same thing will happen when there’s something catchy outside your store.

Donate to charity.

I know, probably the last thing on your mind when money is tight is to actually give away money — but a charity drive can help bring in new customers while helping out a local non-profit during a season that’s probably slow for them as well. Create a donation drive that rewards donations with a discount on their purchase. You can create a food drive and offer a donation for canned goods, or you could instead donate a percentage of every sale to charity. Brainstorm different charities and potential drives — bonus points if you find a charity or drive that has ties with your brand and product offering. Advertise the event, and ask the charity to spread the word on their social media too.

Up the outreach.

Use the extra time during a slow season to run more outreach to potential customers. Ramp up the advertising and brainstorm new ways to reach your target customer. Create a social media campaign that’s above and beyond the usual, consistent posts. Build a mailing list. Try sending out a press release to local media outlets. Reach out to non-competing businesses in the same general category and share cross-advertisements in each others’ stores.

Create an event or holiday.

Sales slumps usually happen during seasons when there isn’t a major holiday boosting sales — so why not create your own reason to boost sales? Celebrate the obscure holidays, like giving out free chocolate cake on chocolate cake day, free pie on Pi day, or hosting an ice cream party on Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast day. If the obscure holidays on the calendar don’t catch your eye, try creating an event like a 5K race, a lecture, a cooking demonstration — the possibilities are nearly endless.

Tackle the business-boasting tasks on your to-do list.

The slow season is a great time to re-evaluate and tackle those projects that you’ve been meaning to get to. Consider jumping on tasks like re-designing or re-arranging the store layout, analyzing your pricing, expanding your social media, or updating your budget.

Slow seasons shouldn’t be a time for panic, but a time for creativity and looking for new, innovative ways to get more customers through the door.

6 Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses

6 Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses

More than half of all business-focused cyber attacks target small and medium businesses — because while large businesses may have more to steal, small businesses tend to have systems more vulnerable to attack. Protecting your business and your customer’s data from a cyber attack is something every small business owner should take seriously — but how? Here are six cyber security tips for small businesses.

Hire an expert consultant.

Chances are, you know more about business than cyber security. Consider contracting a cyber security expert to review your system and make suggestions for improvement. While hiring an expert isn’t cheap, it’s one of the best ways to create a secure system that works best for your business, instead of a one-size-fits-all solution that may have some loopholes.

Consider cyber insurance.

Unlike regular business insurance, cyber insurance protects your company in the event of a security breach. Cyber insurance can help cover the cost of an attack if one occurs — which on average can cost $275,000. Besides the actual loss from the hack, a security breach can create costs in fines and remediation, as well as notifying and assisting affected customers.

Work with your employees.

Employees can create vulnerable points in any security system simply by trying to create a password that they will remember. Work with your employees to ensure they understand best practices for cyber security, such as using a password that includes both upper and lower case letters as well as numbers — and that doesn’t include an easy-to-guess phrase or word. Sharing cyber security tips with employees is an easy way to avoid potential weak spots in cyber security.

Store information safely with a VDR.

Businesses have plenty of sensitive data — a virtual data room is a secure way to handle that data. With a VDR, you can share information with employees, yet VDRs are much harder to access by hackers than more basic storage solutions. If you need to store and save lots of data, a VDR is a good idea.

Keep your security software — and other software — up to date.

Security software, like antivirus programs, is a simple, affordable way to help prevent cyber attacks. Keep antivirus programs up-to-date, without a lapse in your coverage or subscription. Similarly, keep your computer software and operating system up-to-date — as software companies find security vulnerabilities, they release updates to fix the problem, so make updating your computer — and smartphone — regularly a habit.

Protect your internet connection.

Wi-fi can easily be a vulnerability. Protect your business by setting up a firewall, a straight-forward process done by using firewall software. Check with any employees that take work home with them to make sure their home network is also protected. Along with a firewall, encrypt your router and hide the name of your private wireless network from anyone that may come within range.

Small business owners have a lot on their plates — but ignoring cyber security could be a disastrous mistake. With a few simple changes, however, you can better protect your business against attacks.

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5 Tips on Managing Interruptions for Small Business Owners

5 Tips on Managing Interruptions for Small Business Owners

Interruptions are inevitable, but as a small business owner, they can be more than disruptive. Besides cutting into valuable time, interruptions can loose that train of thought and make it tougher to get back into that task. But what can small business owners do about interruptions? Here are five tips for cutting back interruptions and making the most of your time.

Be honest with self-imposed interruptions.

How many interruptions are you responsible for, and not someone else? Be honest with yourself and make a mental note of how often you check your phone, get lost on a web page or unnecessarily check your email. If you find yourself getting lost on Facebook when originally working on social media marketing, try scheduling only a certain amount of time for social media marketing, setting a timer, and getting off the web when that time is up.

Take note of the typical daily interruptions.

What are the usual interruptions during your work day? By answering that question, you may be able to prevent some of them. If employees are always asking the same kinds of questions, maybe a mini training session can help curb repeating the answer over and over again in the future. Other interruptions, rather than being curbed, could be scheduled — a brief meeting with staff, for example, won’t curb the interruptions but will get them all out of the way at the same time.

If interruptions are disruptive, schedule an interruption-free time.

If you have some tasks that are just impossible to tackle with constant interruptions, set up a “do not disturb” time and make sure your employees know when that is. Designate another staff member to manage questions and phone calls, and make sure staff knows not to interrupt unless it’s a true emergency. Make sure to turn off your own distractions too and silence your smartphone during this time.

Don’t be afraid to schedule a different time to handle the interruption.

Some interruptions are issues that need to be dealt with immediately, but if that’s not the case, don’t be afraid to schedule a time to get a handle on whatever that interruption is. Acknowledge the employee, then let them know you’ll have more time to work on the issue if you chat later, set a time, and get back to work.

Schedule intentional breaks.

Research suggests that many people work better with scheduled breaks. While managing interruptions is important, stepping outside for five minutes of fresh air may boost your productivity and speed when you sit back down at your desk. When looking at interruptions, it’s important to recognise which ones are really disruptive, and which ones actually have you eager to work when you return.

Interruptions can break up the flow of the day and make a big impact on time management as a business owner. While you can’t prevent all interruptions, you can put some tips and tricks in place to help manage those interruptions more effectively.

5 unique, affordable marketing ideas for small businesses

5 unique, affordable marketing ideas for small businesses

Traditional marketing like radio, TV and newspapers can be great for boosting business, but sometimes, the best marketing campaigns stem from unusual, outside-the-box ideas. Getting creative with marketing can often help stretch the marketing budget a bit further too. Here are five non-traditional marketing ideas to try for your small business.

Mix with another business.

When small businesses work together, both of them win. Consider working with a non-competing business in your area that caters to the same audience on a special or gift package. For example, as suggested by Vertical Response, a spa and restaurant could work together to create a Mother’s Day package. The restaurant’s regular customers would hear about the spa, and the spa’s regular customers would hear about the restaurant. Advertise the package, and both businesses could see new customers from the partnership as well.

Send out birthday wishes and other greetings.

Don’t always think of marketing as direct selling. Establishing a relationship with customers is part of that, even though the message may not be hard hitting. When customers sign up for a loyalty program or subscribe to your emails, gather a few basic pieces of information. Then, send out a note on their birthday or a thank you after they make a purchase. You can try including a coupon, but make a majority of the message about them. The same idea goes for in-store relationships, and learning the names of your regulars.

Share advice on a blog.

Do your customers know the best ways to use your product? Share advice on how to use your product, or more general tips that reach out to your target audience on a blog or social media. You’ll help build authority in your field, while helpful information is also more likely to get shares on social media and clicks in the search results over a traditional marketing message. A dairy company can share recipes, for example, a print shop tips on design and photography. You likely won’t see results right away, but you’ll build an audience over time without spending much besides your time.

Send out a press release.

Is your small business hiring new leadership, hosting an event, or adding a new product? Take advantage of these big changes by sending out a press release to local news outlets. The bigger the news is and the more unique, the more likely that press release is to gain traction. News coverage isn’t pushy marketing, but gets your name out there in a positive manner.

If at first you don’t succeed, then, try again.

Don’t quit a marketing campaign after the first run — customers are more likely to buy from brands that they’ve heard about more than once. That means you may not get results the first time, but your odds increase with a second run. If you can, try a marketing campaign idea at least twice between determining if it helped grow your business or not.

Marketing is essential for small business, but the options extend well beyond the traditional, go-to, big-budget ads. Try a few unique marketing ideas to reach new customers on a budget.