Monthly Archives :

March 2022

36 Creative Ways to Bring More Attention to Your Business

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Do you need more attention? Do you feel like your business isn’t top of mind in your community? People won’t buy from you if they don’t think of you. While the easiest way to increase sales is to upsell existing/current customers, the second-best way is increased exposure. These days—to stand out—you need to get creative. Here are a few ideas to help get your business the attention it deserves without breaking your budget.

  1. Host a contest on social media.
  2. Sponsor a chamber event or provide a donation in exchange for recognition.
  3. Sponsor a youth sports team.
  4. Start a Facebook group in an area that interests your ideal target market. Real estate agents, for instance, might start a group based on community happenings.
  5. Write an eBook showcasing your talents, special knowledge, or expertise. Give it away.
  6. Host a class at your local library.
  7. Host a drop in Q&A in a public spot in your town.
  8. Celebrate a national day with a giveaway (like a free drink with every slice of pizza on National Pizza Day).
  9. Advertise at your local movie theatre.
  10. Be a guest on a podcast.
  11. Write a guest blog for a site that is popular with your target market.
  12. Set up your Google My Business page.
  13. If you are a service provider, look for ways to attach your company name to your work. For instance, a painter may ask the homeowner if they may place a sign in their yard while the work is completed. Some companies offer discounts for that.
  14. Place an advertising wrap or window cling on your car.
  15. Advertise in a program for a large graduation or popular community event.
  16. Apply or be nominated for a “Best Of” contest. They may be hosted by your city, chamber, or a local group.
  17. Speak at an event and ask if you’re able to provide brochures or ask for sign-ups for your list at the end.
  18. Email past customers and those who have shown interest in you. Send them deals.
  19. Create a VIP group that receives special benefits for a minimal investment (like free shipping).
  20. Become part of a monthly subscription box.
  21. Pay for search results.
  22. Use targeting on social media ads.
  23. Host a party or open house at your place of business. Offer door prizes, swag, and/or free food.
  24. Use retargeted ads.
  25. Purchase a chamber banner ad, website ad, or directory placement.
  26. Advertise with your local CVB or get your business added to the local tourist map.
  27. Look for online directories in your niche and add your business information to them.
  28. Ask for referrals. Answer reviews on review sites.
  29. Create cool swag and give it away to employees, partners, and vendors—walking billboards.
  30. Post to local Facebook groups. Be solutions oriented.
  31. Tie what you do into current concerns. For instance, if you work in cyber security, now is a good time to talk about the current concerns. Educate your audience through the production of free resources aka content marketing.
  32. Get into video. Bonus points if you can entertain your audience, not just provide good information.
  33. Trade website space with other businesses.
  34. Advertise on a restaurant menu.
  35. Use Messenger ads.
  36. Create a text offers list (with your customer’s permission, of course) and text out flash deals.

Marketing needn’t be expensive. If it provides good return on investment by bringing in more money than it costs, it’s invaluable. With these ideas you can play around with the right mix to find what works for you and provides good return and conversions.

5 Wellness Ideas for Your Business

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Whether your team works from home or in an office, whether you are a business of one or one hundred and one, taking care and making time for wellness is becoming increasingly important. Stress levels because of what’s going on in the world around us are increasing. You may not even be aware of the outside stress someone is under.

Making sure you create an atmosphere where wellness is stressed and made a priority is critical to successful performance. Stressed-out employees make more mistakes and have difficulty making good decisions.

5 Wellness Ideas for Your Business

Host a Walking Zoom

If your team is working from home, encourage them to get outdoors for your next meeting. Ideally, they could walk and get some exercise with you but if not, encourage them to take the meeting outside (or if weather doesn’t agree, encourage them to try a new spot away from their desk). A change of scenery can be a pleasant uplifter and spur on conversation before the call.

Host a Sleep Challenge

Create your own 8-hour sleep challenge where you ask employees to track their sleep and challenge them to get 8 hours of rest every night. Deduct points if someone sends a late-night email. Reward them at the end for those who improved their sleep.

Most people have a competitive side. If a sleep challenge doesn’t work for your group, challenge them to something else like a movement challenge to become more active.

Bring in a Stress Reliever

Whether you bring in a masseuse or someone to talk about making mental health a priority, a professional stress reliever is a good idea to help ensure everyone has coping mechanisms in place when things get stressful, or they feel themselves getting overwhelmed.

Set Expectations

If your employees face the public, they could be under a lot of stress and may not always be treated well. Make sure they know you support them. While you never want a customer to be verbally assaulted by an employee, the same should be true for your staff. Make sure they know that while customers should be treated with respect, that is a two-way street.

Clarify Sick Days and Establish Protocols

Many people come to work when they are ill because they either need the money or they don’t feel like anyone is doing their job when they are out. The thought of the pile of work awaiting them when they return makes taking time off seem like a burden and stress inducer.

You can talk about wellness all day but if someone who is sick feels unable to take time off to recover, you run the risk of increased stress prolonging recovery, not to mention their contagion infecting your team. Make sure everyone in your business has a backup person for their work or at least the most pressing part of what they do. If someone comes in with an obvious illness, send them home. Don’t make them feel like their health is secondary to the work. That won’t end well for either of you.

If you want your team to be more productive, you need to make wellness a priority. This does not happen purely by saying it’s true. You must lead through example in showing wellness is also a priority to you as well.

 

It’s Time to Really Start Talking Cybersecurity

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written By: Christina R. Metcalf

At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little (you know the one who runs around talking about the sky falling) the current global “go-ings on” are the closest we’ll ever get to advanced warning that cybersecurity is something every business needs to worry about. Big or small, selling globally or just in your tiny town, if you do anything online, your data is in (potential) jeopardy.

Here are the things you need to do now. Seriously.

 

Invest in Protection

While there are many articles out there that will tell you small ways businesses are at risk, it’s important to know that cybersecurity is something you will now have to consider as part of your business’ annual budget. Running updates as soon as they come out isn’t enough protection. Storing data in the cloud, isn’t enough if those cloud companies get hacked. Making sure your virus protection is in place…while all these things are good, they aren’t enough anymore.

You need to speak with a cybersecurity expert. Rest assured a good expert will offer a customized plan for your business and work within your budget. But cybersecurity is now something you will have to budget for as a line item. Move toward that now.

Don’t Ignore Warnings

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and FBI have issued warnings over the past two months about the imminent threats of destructive malware aimed at organizations with dealings in the Ukraine. However, the agencies believe it is only a matter of time before American businesses (with no connections to that area of the world) are targeted too.

The actions that CISA/FBI urge companies to act on as soon as possible (meaning today, start these things today) include:

 

  • Set antivirus and antimalware programs to conduct regular scans.
  • Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching end users.
  • Filter network traffic.
  • Update software.
  • Require multifactor authentication.
  • Use strong passwords, single use only (not the same ones across every site you access), and change them often. Set your machines to require it.
  • Regularly backup data offline. Yes, a few years ago we were told cloud was everything. Now we stress redundancies. Do both.
  • Implement network segmentation. You don’t want to give access to everything through one “door.”
  • Work with a professional to draft a recovery plan.
  • Require credentials to install software.
  • Configure access controls with “least privilege” in mind. If your employee doesn’t need it, don’t give them access.
  • Consider a VPN. Over the last several years, it’s become increasingly easy to access machines and log in to work from home. It was essential to work during COVID. But now that easy access can cause big problems.
  • Disable hyperlinks in emails.
  • Train your employees on cybersecurity and potential threats. Even savvy employees can be tricked by coincidences. For instance, an email from “Federal Express” when they’re expecting a package can cause a lapse in judgment. While they may not normally click on something suspect like an attachment in an email, in this example it seemed legitimate because it fit into their world/expectations at that moment.

If you’re not sure where to turn to start working on these things—and you don’t have an IT department—check with your local chamber. They often know of resources in the area and cybersecurity experts who can walk you through what you need to know. Also, read the Cyber Essential Resources for Small Business from CISA. It will help you decide where to start and how to begin cyber security implementation to keep you and your customers safe.

Don’t wait for something terrible to befall your organization (and this goes for nonprofits, too. Your lists could be very valuable). If you conduct any sort of business online or have any lists or data on your computer or in the cloud, you need to investigate the necessary level of protection and begin a plan for implementation. Once malware strikes, even large companies with huge budgets are helpless.

This is a business threat that you need to be proactive about. Being reactive to this threat is the same as doing nothing and that just won’t do.

20 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

March 8, 2022, is International Women’s Day when the world celebrates the many contributions of women everywhere. If you’re not sure how to celebrate, we have some ideas for you and your business.

For the ideas in this article, think across multiple mediums to add content on your blog, in videos, reels, podcast episode, audio quotes, social media posts, etc. The same content can be repurposed in different formats to ensure everyone can find their favorite way to enjoy it.

20 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Here are a few ways you can show your support for women:

  1. If you’re a woman-owned business, tell your story and the challenges you overcame to open your doors.
  2. Share a story about a woman who inspires/inspired you.
  3. Tag women who inspire you in pictures on social media (but make sure you know them personally). Tagging someone you don’t know—while flattering—is like interrupting a conversation. It’s just not considered polite.
  4. Talk about your experience with bias or gender inequality either something you’ve experienced or something you’ve heard of.
  5. If you’re a woman working in a non-traditional field for your gender, help someone who’s thinking about doing what you do.
  6. Review your business policies to see if they are fair. Do you offer flexibility? Is there a job in your business that could fit the hours of moms whose children are in school?
  7. Have a tough conversation about why people have left your employ. Were any of them women or moms who felt uncomfortable in their surroundings or felt like it was difficult to work in your business/industry?
  8. Read a historical piece giving advice about women or to women. How has that advice changed? Share your findings with your audience.
  9. Be thankful for the opportunities that exist now and share words of gratitude.
  10. Talk about how you’re a progressive employer or how you intend to become one. Use specific examples.
  11. Host a flash meetup or plan an event for next year honoring women or strides made by them.
  12. Visit a nursing home or retirement home and speak with women about their memories and the challenges they faced. Use what you’ve learned there to develop a newfound appreciation of the struggles faced by women.
  13. Research the first women in your field or industry and talk about their experiences and history.
  14. Call a few of your female peers and invite them to breakfast or lunch that day.
  15. Create a resources for women page on your website (if it makes sense for your business).
  16. Challenge yourself to buy from female business owners for a day (week, month, season. etc).
  17. Volunteer at a women’s shelter, girl’s group, or women’s business association.
  18. Ask women what advice they wish someone had given to them about the workplace or industry they work in. Put their suggestions together and share it with your audience.
  19. Share a favorite recipe, way of doing something, or advice from a woman who was influential to you.
  20. Read a book or article about women across the globe. How do their experiences differ from yours or the women you know?

 

International Women’s Day is about celebrating women and their accomplishments whether those accomplishments involve starting what becomes a Fortune 500 company or raising a kinder generation. Women of all walks and educational levels contribute to our society. How will you honor them?

TikTok Basics for Business

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Are you on TikTok? Maybe you’re just figuring out video and livestreaming and you have written off TikTok as a site for kids.

While you aren’t wrong about that (32.5% of users are between 10 and 19, while 41 percent of TikTok users are between 16 and 24 years old), the TikTok adult audience has grown at a rate of about 5.5 times in just 18 months.

The app now boasts 1 billion active users. TikTok videos are becoming a way to pass time for many people and the average user spends about 52 minutes per day on the app. It also has huge reach. 167 million TikTok videos are watched in a minute on average.

So, if you’re looking to reach an under 35 audience in your business, TikTok might be the avenue for you. Here’s what you need to know as a beginning user:

TikTok Basics for Business

If you’re new to TikTok or are considering it for your business, it’s a little different than other social media platforms.

Premise

TikTok is a video platform. Some people lip sync, act, create short video blogs, or showcase their products. Humor is a popular driver for likes on this platform.

Before creating anything, think about visuals and short, punchy ideas. This is not the place for a long diatribe. The audience is constantly swiping and liking. Comments will tend to be shorter and emoticon driven.

There are lots of editing options in app, but some people still prefer to use other programs (like Canva) to create videos and then upload them to TikTok. Going viral on this platform seems a little easier than Facebook or YouTube.

Business Accounts

Like most social media platforms, you can—and should—create a business account, instead of a personal one. The main reason for this is that it will keep you out of trouble. A creator account is a copyright infringement waiting to happen because the app allows users to attach music (and not the safe royalty-free kind either) to their videos. While Kenny Chesney may not sue a parent for adding his latest song to the background of a video of their kid’s first step, you can be certain he’s not going to want people associating his music with their product (not that he has anything against your product, of course. It’s just that he—and any other music creator—is going to want to be compensated for his music. While I don’t speak for Kenny, proving me wrong about how he feels regarding your product by using his music without permission could be quite costly for your business). It’s just too easy to get yourself in copyright troubles with a creator or personal account.

Business accounts have music available as well but none of it will get you in trouble with rights holders. The music available on the business side is royalty-free. A business account also has analytics that personal accounts don’t.

Links

Like Instagram, website links are a bit of a challenge at first. TikTok doesn’t let you have a link in your bio until you reach 1,000 followers. It used to allow businesses to add a link before the 1,000-follower mark but that changed in January. These days, you must meet the follower threshold for links and the ability to go live.

Hashtags

TikTok is another hashtag driven site. There are very specific hashtags used here. For instance, for writers there’s #BookTok, #writertok, and #authorsoftiktok. There are hashtags for business like #biztock and #smallbiztok. Take some time to research these. They are very specific but will help you find your ideal audience.

Filters and Film-Ready Face

If you’re like me, you may have some hesitancy being in front of the camera. Heck, most of us barely make it out of pajamas these days, let alone put on makeup or look presentable on camera. To this challenge, there are several solutions:

  1. You don’t have to show your face. People do a lot of things with babies, pets, products, etc and subtitles.
  2. Use a filter. You can alter the way you look using filters. I understand there’s even a perfect skin and makeup filter (I’m still looking for that one.).
  3. Record your videos on “shower day.” You can make yourself camera ready and record several at once.

Sponsored Toks

TikTok, like other apps and social media platforms, allows for sponsored videos. They appear in a user’s stream marked as sponsored but they blend in quite well. Most businesses that pursue this option also use either influencers to record the video or create their own. This is not the place for a formal commercial. You want to think about fun entertainment, not a salesy pitch.

Video

The best way to figure out TikTok is to go in and start playing around. (Here are the app’s directions for video creation.) If you’re older than 40, you may feel like you’re crashing a kid’s party at Chuck E Cheese at first. But stick with it. Scroll through until you find a video you like. When you do, you can use the same effects they use by clicking on the links in the video.

On TikTok, imitation is the sincerest compliment. No one thinks anything of copying someone else’s Tok (unless that someone else is your competitor. You might want to avoid that.)

You can create, like, and share content on this platform. If you entertain and are true to yourself and your business, you’ll quickly amass followers and likes (they are counted separately as are your video views). Keep in mind the social rules you use on other platforms should be used here too. When people comment on your Tok, respond back. Don’t simply publish. Like other people’s work and comment on their posts as well.

If you want to learn more about using TikTok for your business, check out TikTok’s business page.