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Lauren Finamore

5 Professionals You Need on Your Small Business Team

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written By: Christina Metcalf

If you’re a small business owner without the resources to hire a large full-time team, you can still meet your business needs through freelancing or turning to independent business professionals. This can be an economical way to accomplish your goals without having to cover the cost of full-time employees.

5 Professionals Every Small Business Needs

Even if your budget is strapped, a successful business requires the services of the following types of professionals. These professionals do things that you don’t need to (or shouldn’t be doing on your own). They’ve spent years learning their trade and can help you avoid that costly learning curve or even costlier mistakes.

If you are ready to hire one of these people but you’re not sure where to find one, your chamber of commerce can help. The chamber knows a lot of professionals and can introduce you.

Lawyer

You don’t need a lawyer as part of your full-time staff in the beginning but there is legal set-up and structure required in a business, not to mention ongoing questions you may have on employment and hiring (especially if you don’t have an HR person on staff). Having someone you feel comfortable with and trust before you need them is a good idea.

Accountant

No one wants to overpay or underpay taxes. A good accountant can save you the cost of their fee in tax deductions. Sure, you could do it yourself, but your time is best spent elsewhere (like bringing on more clients and increasing sales).

Insurance Guru

Risk. It’s something you need to know about if you’re running a business. Find someone who can tell you what your liabilities are and how you can cover them in the most affordable—yet business smart—way.

Graphic Designer

If you have a good eye for color, understand the psychology behind palettes and branding, and are adept at graphic design software, you might be able to do this on your own. Since most of us aren’t, you should at least get someone to create a “brand” for you with a logo, color palette, and an easy to stick to website theme.

You may also want them to create a few flyers for you. As a note of caution, with a designer you will get what you pay for. There are people who will do a logo for you on Fivrr and then there are designers who will create an entire branding package for you. Your brand is what will catch a potential customer’s eye so you want a gifted professional in this role.

If you have a little extra money in your budget, hire someone to write your website content. There’s more to it than simply matching nouns and verbs. There’s SEO and the art of persuasion. In a limited space like a website, you need every word to count. A writer can also help you with a tagline, mission, or vision statement, as well as your business plan, business blog, and marketing.

Business Mentor/Coach

Most business professionals skip this important contact. They’re so excited about their new business, they often overlook the importance of coaching or mentoring. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a family member or friend who’s an entrepreneur or business owner, you likely won’t get the information and feedback from your closest people that you would from a coach or mentor. Whether you consider a formal paid arrangement with a business mentor/coach or you meet someone at a chamber function who agrees to answer questions as they come up, having someone who understands business and has paved the path before you can be very helpful.

No matter if you’re just starting out in business or you’ve been working for years, it’s critical you surround yourself with a smart team. If you want to meet professionals in the area, the chamber networking events are an excellent place to do that. Check out the events calendar so you don’t miss the next one.

150 150 Lauren Finamore

6 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out During a Local Event

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Does your town host a Wine Walk, Holiday Stroll, First Friday, or other downtown event where they close off streets and encourage people to get out and support business? If so, you may know that those events often bring the crowds but also bring “tire kickers,” people who are just out for a stroll, not really interested in what you sell. They’re just going into each business, poking around, and usually leaving empty handed.

The hard part of that is that you likely brought in full staff to ensure you had enough coverage only to deal with a lot of “lookers.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few suggestions on how to transform your looky-loos into looky heres.

6 Ways to Help Get the Sale

If you have an event that will bring a lot of commerce “tourists” to your business who do a lot of visiting and not much buying, you need to change that with these ideas.

  1. Tell a story. While you may not have the time to do this for everyone in the store, if you see someone eyeballing one of your items in a loving way, go up to them and tell them something interesting about the piece. You’d be surprised what may inspire a sale.
  2. Give a taste. If you sell food or drink, offer someone a taste before they buy. This works to create a sale in two ways: they’ll (hopefully) enjoy it and want more and/or because you kindly gave them a taste (and did something for them), they will feel obligated to buy from you.
  3. Teach a quick skill or use for your product. Draw the crowd into a quick presentation that features a product you sell. Have several products to hand people who want to buy right there. Alternately, have a pro available to answer questions. For instance, a store that sells painted furniture might have an expert on hand to walk people through how to do it themselves. Don’t worry that it will discourage them from buying from you. When they realize how hard it is, they will beg you to take their money.
  4. Get people on your mailing list. You never know when a “tire kicker” may see something in store and decide later that week they must have it. When people are in your store, ask them to join your mailing list. A few days after the event, follow up with a coupon, special offer, or sales notification. That call-to-action will likely send them your way.
  5. Offer a freebie for that night only. If it’s a special night or event, give away a little something to anyone who buys from you or offer specials for that night only.
  6. Create a singalong. In a crowded store, it’s hard to talk to everyone but you want to make sure people have fun and feel the energy of your business. You want them to remember you. A good way to accomplish that is by queuing up the tunes and encouraging people to sing with you. There are certain songs people just can’t help but sing along with—”Don’t stop believing.” You know what I mean. If you don’t, just put on Sweet Caroline and see what happens.

5 Great Lessons from Customer Service Mistakes

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

A cruise ship captain once said, “There’s always a weird person at your dinner table. If you’re sitting with several couples and you can’t figure out who the weird one is, chances are it’s you.”

The same can be true of customer service.

Every business is convinced they offer stellar service but if you can’t think of a company in your area that offers bad service, it might be you. It’s statistically impossible, not to mention an abuse of a superlative, for every business to offer “the best” service. One is better than the other. We aren’t all 5-stars all the time.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the experience.

5 Great Lessons from Bad Service

If you’ve recently received some bad reviews or customer service complaints, here’s how you can learn from them.

  1. Listen and respond. Most people will give a business another chance if they feel heard and if something was done to remedy the situation. The remedy may be offering a free service, discount, coupon, or other incentive to try your business again. A florist that missed a delivery deadline for a special occasion and failed to communicate the error, credited the customer 125% of the order and guess what that customer did? They gave the florist a second chance. This time their delivery and product were flawless. Mistakes happen. Most people understand that.
  2. Under promise and over deliver. It’s always good practice to build in a buffer of time (or cost) on a project or delivery. The customer will be pleasantly surprised when it takes less time (or money) than expected. A doctor’s office admin shared that they tell everyone a specific series of testing will take three hours, but it usually only takes two and a half, although it can take three. She said that way everyone is pleasantly surprised and not upset. When they used to tell patients two and a half hours, any minute over that meant angry patients yelling at their staff. Now everyone is prepared and expects three so if it takes less than that, they’re thrilled.
  3. Turn a complaint or bad experience into an FAQ on your website. FAQs are a great way to help people get the info they are most curious about, not to mention bring some good SEO your way with a page that ranks highly in important keywords. When you have a misunderstanding with a customer on a process, procedure, sale, or return, ask yourself if other customers could benefit from that understanding. If so, add an FAQ about it.
  4. Set a tickler and make a new friend/loyal customer. If you have an incident of lackluster customer service, follow up with them before it is resolved, once it is resolved, and a few days or weeks after it’s resolved. This kind of attention will make your customer feel like you care. It may also be a good reminder to order/buy from you again. Some businesses create a special email campaign to earn trust back again. In the email campaign, they look to reengage the customer. A handwritten note checking in can also be very effective.
  5. Be preemptive. Reaching out after someone uses your services can be an effective way to make an impression. A pet border sends an email to every pet who stays with them thanking them for vacationing there and reminding the pet parent to let them know if they have any questions or concerns. It’s a nice touch and makes pet parents feel like the business cares. This can quell any concerns they may have over the stay and places a friendly face on the service.

Disappointing experiences don’t have to be the end of the customer relationship. There are many ways to salvage the relationship and help reestablish trust.

27 Engaging Ways to Use Mother’s Day in Your Marketing

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Mother’s Day is an ideal way to honor the women in your life who have helped you become the person you are today. In recent years, it has surpassed the celebration of one’s own mother and encompassed grandmothers, women we think of as second mothers, mother-in-laws, fur moms, best friends, and even female mentors. Mother’s Day is also a great way to honor women in our world who have made a difference.

Broadening the definition of mother also allows for a more inclusive celebration on a day that can, for some, be a sad occasion. While everyone may not have a mother living or a good relationship with one who is, everyone has a special woman in their lives who they can celebrate.

Mother’s Day can now be transformed into a time to honor those women who have nurtured us and helped us grow, whether they gave birth to us or not. Keep that in mind in your marketing.

27 Ideas to Celebrate Mother’s Day at Your Business

Here are some engaging marketing ideas to celebrate this heart-warming holiday:

  1. Host a contest by inviting people on your social media page to share stories about the special women in their lives. Allow people to vote on the best and award prizes.
  2. Offer a Mother’s Day discount. Offer a discount to your audience and invite them to share with their favorite moms out there.
  3. Give away a Mother’s Day flower (or other free item). Provide a flower to every woman who walks into your store (or buys something from you) and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.
  4. Record a video of your staff telling stories about women who influenced them.
  5. Share your mother’s best recipe.
  6. Create a gift guide. Work with other businesses to list their items and services as well.
  7. Offer last-minute, e-delivery of gift cards.
  8. Send reminder emails counting down the days until Mother’s Day with gift suggestions or ways to honor their mom.
  9. Create a video of a DIY project for mom.
  10. Host a special event moms would enjoy.
  11. Create kits of things moms can do with their kids.
  12. Create a taster or tester bag, free with purchase to all ladies in your store.
  13. Offer a free consultation or roll out a new service for busy moms.
  14. Create a page (or landing page) dedicated to Mother’s Day shopping.
  15. Create a themed board on Pinterest of gift ideas, places to take your mom, or activities to do together.
  16. Offer a “Tell your story” session or memoir writing for moms class.
  17. Create a special wine-pairing or tasting event in honor of moms.
  18. Host a tea at your business. Encourage people to dress up. Offer prizes for best hat or outfit.
  19. Post mother-related quotes on social media in the week leading up to the big day.
  20. Hold a Mother’s Day selfie or funniest video contest.
  21. Host a photo contest of moms with your product.
  22. Offer chair massages for moms while people browse or wait for food.
  23. Run a “Caption this” picture contest with an endearing picture of motherhood.
  24. Invite people to share pictures they think epitomize motherhood.
  25. Encourage people to share generational pics of mom, grandmoms, great grandmoms, etc., or post about how much you miss your mom if she has passed on. You might be surprised how many people identify with this sentiment on Mother’s Day.
  26. Host a “Tag your mom (or a special woman)” for a chance to win contest.
  27. Post funny questions on social media. Categories could include “hardest working mom in the animal kingdom,” “Who has it harder—boy moms, girl moms, both?”, “Sign you’re a mom”, or “This or that” questions “like which would your mom like more as a gift—chocolates or jewelry?”.

This year, have some fun with Mother’s Day and use it to get more engagement with your audience while also bring smiles to many faces.

Do You Have These 10 Things on Your Business Website? You Should.

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

If you’re a small business, you probably bootstrapped your website content, picking it up here and there, copying what you like from other sites (hopefully not word for word), and adding as you go. That’s the way most small businesspeople do it unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who offered their writing services or have it in your budget to have it written for you.

But do you ever wonder if you have the type of content that will transform the casual web visitor into someone who buys?

Here are the components you need on your website to ensure more sales conversions.

Top 10 Most Critical Website Content

Don’t let this list overwhelm you. While it’s extensive, you can check these things off as you go or work with a copywriter and designer who can accomplish most of this quickly.

If you want more sales, you need these things:

  1. Keyword rich content. You need people to find you, but you also want them to read your content. It takes finesse to write for humans and search engines. Make sure you have plenty of keywords in your text for SEO but that they work in a way that will also be appealing for your audience.
  2. Mention of where you are. Your website can be seen all over the world and you’re not the only “Columbus” out there. Somewhere you need to mention your area. This not only tells visitors if they can come take a look in person but also helps with SEO and local web referrals. Many businesses incorporate the mention of the surrounding areas in their content, not just in the footer.
  3. Call to action. People are spending time with you. Give them a next step with a call to action. Make sure your CTA matches the page the visitor is on. “Learn more” linking to additional resources is a solid choice for introductory pages. “Work with us” is better for more in-depth content.
  4. Links to social media. Most people won’t continue to return to your website to interact with you, but they will check to see what you’re doing on social media since they are already there. Make sure you only include the sites you are active on. There are no prizes for listing the most social media profiles.
  5. Things you’re doing. If you host events or are participating in a festival, make sure people know. Tell them where they can find you outside of your business.
  6. Your personality. You don’t want to look (and sound) like everyone else. Let your personality shine through in your content. Even if someone else is writing it for you, make them aware of what tone you want and give them examples.
  7. What your audience wants. This may sound like broad advice, but good content reflects what your customers and potential customers want from you, whether that’s information/education, entertainment, or inspiration. A hardware store, for instance, may find DIY project content gets a lot of engagement or visits than straight text, while a florist may find that an album of floral designs is its most visited area of the website. Experiment with different types of content and media to see what gets the most action.
  8. Internal and external links. You want people to spend time on page, that means you want them to “hang out” on your website and get to know you. You do this by keeping them interested and giving them things to do. That’s where internal links come in. Use them throughout your content to help visitors explore in-depth. For SEO, you also want external links to high-ranking websites (always have these links open in a new window/tab so visitors can get back to your content easily). High-ranking websites like industry or news sites can be beneficial, linking to your next-door neighbor, less so.
  9. Visitors want to feel safe. Talk to a cybersecurity person to find out not only how to achieve it, but what assurances you can give your audience that they are safe with you.
  10. Affiliations, awards, and testimonials. If you are affiliated with any community groups (like the chamber) or have won awards, add them to your site. If people are saying amazing things about you or you have excellent reviews, post them. These things will all serve as a testament to your value and improve your trust rating among new visitors.

 

These things are just the beginning of what you need in a high conversion website. There’s a lot more you can do but start off with these basics and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.