Tips, Ideas and Info

Business Matters Blog: 6 Signs of a Healthy Business

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By Christina R. Metcalf

Many of us have spent this year concerned over the health of our businesses or those in the community. Ultimately, a healthy business has a good balance sheet. It has more coming in than it does going out. But that is not the only indicator of business health.

In today’s world, where a quick decision from a politician can radically affect your business overnight, it’s important to know the early indicators of business peril. This of these things as your business’ “canary in the coal mine.”

6 Signs Your Business Is Healthy (before you see it on the books)

Before you see any issues in the balance sheet, you can spot a healthy business in these areas:

  1. Referrals. While it’s never easy to get people to refer you even when they love you, a healthy business harnesses the power of the referral and makes it easy for happy customers to bring in more happy customers.
  2. Reviews. Just like referrals, reviews are the signature of a healthy, well-loved business. But they don’t happen automatically. A healthy business asks for them, makes it easy to give them, and repurposes them in their marketing collateral.
  3. Promotes from within and trains accordingly. A healthy business promotes from within with clear pathways to additional challenges even when the business is small enough not to have additional levels to climb. It recognizes employees who are committed to the business, doing a great job, and those that require additional challenges or training.
  4. Looks for needs. If your business moves in another direction, opens a new market, or branches out, you may not be able to promote from within. A healthy business is clear about what each employee’s strengths are and what they may need to obtain from outside whether that be from an additional hire, vendor, or partner.
  5. Builds loyalty outside of sales. Loyalty is not owned by the sales department. Loyalty is built by customer service and marketing. A healthy company looks for ways to keep customers engaged and feeling like they are part of the brand. It creates enjoyable experiences for customers at each touchpoint whether they are calling to complain, buy, or simply spend time on social media.
  6. Remains agile. This one is certainly a lesson learned in 2020. A healthy business must be ready to align its offerings and services with those of their loyal customers and the larger market. Small businesses may not have had a lot of operating capital when the pandemic hit but they did retain the ability to move quickly and that helped a lot of them stay in the black.

Is your business healthy outside of the balance sheet? Go through this list and ask yourself how many of these qualities your business meets. If you’re missing a few, you may want to see how quickly you can add them. After all, they are a good indicator of business health long before you begin to see signs of trouble in the balance sheets or books.

5 Ways to Communicate Difficult Business Messages

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by Christina R. Metcalf

If there’s one thing 2020 has shown us, it’s how to bolster our communication skills. We’ve had cause for a lot of really difficult conversations with our customers. Nobody ever wants to give bad news but 2020 seems like the year we have to keep reiterating and sharpening our communication skills with difficult messages.

But if you feel like you’ve had challenge after challenge and you’re still wondering the best way to deliver those difficult messages, let’s take a look at a few tactics you might use.

Set Expectations
This is the easiest way to communicate on difficult conversations. Often with those types of conversations you don’t have all the answers in front of you. When faced with that, many businesses make the mistake of assuming that since they know very little at that moment, they should wait until they have something conclusive to tell their audience. This is rarely a good idea.

Instead, explain what you do know in a very simple way without judgment or accusations. Explain what you still need to figure out to the best of your ability. Then let your audience know when you will have the information they want.

This type of communication is often used when an investigation is warranted. If something has happened in your business that is unsatisfactory but you don’t know all of the details you would likely use this method of communication. Never wait for more info. Start shaping the conversation as soon as you are aware of an issue and assure people when you will know more. Then check back in with what you’ve uncovered.

Personalize it to Your Business
Instead of using a broad general message that you stole from Starbucks or some other large brand, tailor what you’re saying to your audience by tying it into your business or your customer base in some way.

Do it Quickly
Nobody wants to read upsetting news in novel form. They want to know immediately what’s going on, how it will impact them, and what will happen in the future. If this information that you’re putting together may change, tell them that. However, if you know that what you really need to tell them is unavoidable, don’t give it to them in baby steps. For example, don’t say you’re shutting down because someone tested positive for COVID if you’re really planning on shutting down for good.

While you may not be ready to deliver the true information, a lie can impact your ability to connect to your customers in the future. Be as honest as you’re able to be given the circumstances.

If you’re communicating this announcement through email list, get right to the point. Don’t spend 20 paragraphs talking about all the good things you remember. There’s plenty of time for that later. If you’re delivering bad news to someone, just give it to them.

Use Humor
If what you’re communicating is merely unpleasant, but not devastating, you might consider using a humorous approach. A lot of businesses have adopted this form of communication when it comes to delivering messages about asking customers to wear a mask.

Put it Everywhere in Multiple-media Formats
“I didn’t know that,” is a common complaint when someone has been told bad news. That is why if you’re delivering difficult information, you want to put it on every avenue you can think of such as:

• The top fold or banner of your website. You may even consider adding a pop up. If you choose to do a pop up, you don’t want that to be your only choice since some people use very sophisticated pop-up blockers. But it is a good way to get the attention of most people.
• Live stream your news on Facebook.
• Add the video to Instagram.
• Place an announcement on LinkedIn if it’s a formal announcement like a business closing or merger. If it’s simply that you are shutting down for a few weeks due to COVID exposure, LinkedIn is not necessary.
• Notify the chamber of commerce. You should let them know because the chamber may refer people to you or may be able to help you navigate the difficulties you’re communicating.
• Add it to your Facebook and Instagram stories.
• Send the information to your email list.
• Give a gift that reinforces the message.

2020 has been a communication challenge with many of us having to express feelings and News we hope to never talk about. but communicating with your audience is one of the most important things you can do to instill Trust and build a relationship. never withhold Disappointing information or a difficult message. In today’s hyper social world, it is difficult to keep information to yourself. If your customers hear about it from another way, the trust you’ve built with them will suffer.

Get More Customers with Facebook Ads: Pandemic Version

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Article by Christina R. Metcalf

Have you been hesitant to pay Facebook for your content to appear in your audience’s streams? Maybe you still remember the days when you could get good reach through just normal, consistent posting.

Those days are long gone.

If you want your audience to see you–and you really need that especially now–then you’re going to have to “pay to play.”

But just handing over the money to Facebook won’t bring you the traffic and sales you want. You need to learn how to write effective social media ads. And during the pandemic, the most effective content has changed a little. Here’s what you need to know in order to create ads that drive sales while most businesses are shut down.

Your Audience Is Online Now More Than Ever
It doesn’t take a marketing guru to figure out that people are online more these days. Many of us are working from home and need the distraction from our daily lives. While we probably see more people riding their bikes and walking then we have in the past, most of us are still spending a large chunk of our days on social media.

And even though we are consuming more content, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook and the like have become more Democratic in how they feature content. If anything, more people are creating it so there’s more competition for your audience’s attention. In order to get in front of the people who can make a difference in your business, you’re going to have to use ads.

Learn the Technology
The first thing you need to do in order to be successful with Facebook ads is to learn the technology and process of creating them. Here are some solid resources on how to do just that:

How to Advertise on Facebook in 2020: the definitive Facebook ads guide
Facebook Ads Directions (from Facebook)
Successful Facebook Ads on a Small Budget

Create Content That Attracts
When most people think about ads they probably think of a clever jingle or an enticing offer. But the most effective Facebook ads also aim at connecting you with your audience. This is incredibly important during this time. Here is how you create ads that help you connect from a content perspective:

1. Make the ad look like a post. You don’t want the ad to look like an ad. While Facebook will attach the word “sponsored” underneath your name on the post, when people are skimming their streams that word won’t always pop up to them. If your ad resembles a normal post, people will likely click through and read it. However, if it looks like a blatant act of self-promotion, they’ll likely skip over it.
2. Play the small business card. People are incredibly tuned in to the plight of small business right now. If you operate a small business, tell them how important it is to support small businesses during this time. If your audience understands your small business is keeping local people employed, they will likely try to help by buying from you.
3. Show appreciation. Your social media ad doesn’t have to be about an offer you’re extending. You can put money behind a post that thanks your community for their efforts during this trying time. People like those who appreciate others.
4. Use creative offers. One local restaurant that had a surplus of vegetables, created raw veggie take out boxes. Social media is the ideal marketplace to help you sell a creative offer. Think about ways you can bundle your goods and services with things you may have extras of including toilet paper or paper towels.
5. Sell gift cards. You can use an ad to remind people they can buy gift cards too. However, in order to save yourself some headache, if you are questioning your business’ financial solvability, it’s best not to drive your gift card business if you’re concerned you won’t be able to honor them.
6. Make a sacrifice for others. If you have the means, create an offer that benefits others as well as yourself. Maybe you give a part of the profit to your furlowed staff or maybe you host an event like a car wash to help them. People love for their money to help as many as possible. It also builds community.
7. Highlight the efforts of others. You’re not the only ones who need help and are trying to do amazing things these days. Use your social media to highlight what others are doing in the community such as showcasing businesses that have even given discounts to those who are helping. Keep in mind that while the content isn’t about you, the offer or call to action should be. The content promotes good will and gets attention but the call to action should direct them to something you’d like the viewer to do.

When creating content and ads during this time, work hard to build the trust factor. Be a good steward of the community. Help people and your audience will be more likely to help you as well. And always be thankful.

Remove Friction
The final thing you need to do to create effective Facebook ads is to remove the friction from the buying process. You want your audience to take action. So you need to tell them what you want. Examples might include:

Stop by today
Order online
Select your favorites online or discover new ones

After you tell them what you want them to do, make it easy for them to follow up. Buttons and URLs that go directly to buying or an online catalogue or even a targeted landing page are ideal to drive action.

Directing them to your homepage is not a solid choice because it gives them an opportunity to get lost or may overwhelm them with information that is not what they’re looking for.

Social media ads are a strong method to get in front of your audience on a platform you know they’re already on. While the suggestions in this article work for non-pandemic times as well, it is especially important right now to carefully create ad content that connects you and portrays you as a good neighbor.

We’re all in this together and if you fail to give that kind of message, fewer people will feel the need to support you. Right now people are looking to be kind. They want to help. That needs to be a strong focus in your marketing message in order to improve sales.

Finally, even if your business isn’t currently open you can still be a good neighbor. Highlight the work of others and thank those who have helped you. Staying top of mind will assist you in your recovery once you’re allowed to reopen your doors.

How to Build a Tribe for Your Business

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by Christina R. Metcalf

Have you ever noticed that there are influencers on social media who mention an item and no sooner than they do it sells out? The cynical side of me believes there are certain people out there who could talk about how chic dust bunnies are and suddenly there’d be a host of people growing their own dust bunnies like they were chia pets.

But it takes a special personality, doesn’t it?

Maybe when all business dealings were in-person. But now that a lot of them are online, it doesn’t take an over-the-top personality to cultivate a tribe. In fact, you cannot only do it easily for yourself and your business, but the pandemic is the perfect time to start building your tribe if you don’t already have one.

What Is a Tribe? Why Do You Need One?
If you have a lot of time on your hands–and you don’t even need that much, it’s a quick read–you need to look into the book on the topic by Seth Godin. But assuming you want the abbreviated version…

A tribe is your group of people that you have influence with.

A tribe is not a specific number of followers. A tribe is measured by level of activity. For instance, if you know a preteen on Instagram they may shout excitedly every time someone follows them or likes their picture. In fact, you may be surprised at the amount of emotional energy they can spend caring about an emoji. For most preteens, this is proof that someone likes them and they get validation from that. As a business owner, you should be past that type of ego enforcement. Instead, you want sales.

After all, likes aren’t going to pay your rent.

So for you, a tribe is an active group of people who are interested in what you’re posting and will act on suggestions you make. Tribes are the basis for influencer marketing. If you want more sales, you need to develop a tribe. When you do, they will help you with word of mouth marketing.

Ways to Build Your Tribe
COVID has prevented us from doing a lot of things recently. But hopefully what it has done has helped you become more engaged with your audience on social media. Ideally, you’ve used this time to start connecting with customers and potential customers. If not, here are a couple of ideas you could be doing to build your tribe:

• Go where your audience is. Figure out where they are on social media. If you don’t have accounts on those platforms, create them. If you have accounts that are no longer working for you and helping you connect, spend your conversation time elsewhere.
• Start following and commenting. You can post really incredible stuff on social media but you’re assuming that the platform is showing your content to the people you most want to see it. Unless you’re paying for the views, that’s not always happening. However, if you comment on posts, you’re guaranteed the owner of the account will see it. Just make sure that when you do you are adding to the conversation and not simply trying to sell.
• Be transparent. Don’t lie about who you are. Be open and honest.
• Be friendly and encouraging. People are drawn to a positive attitude and will avoid those who constantly complain. Be a bright light in the darkness. However,…
• Be real. While being positive is a good thing, you don’t want to appear fake. Share your struggles. But also share your plan for overcoming them. Show people that you’re human and ask them if they’ve ever had the same struggles. You might be surprised by the kind of way people open up.
• Listen and interact. When people do open up, do a little more than just liking their comment. Look to continue the conversation by asking them a question or reflect on their feelings and show them the empathy they are likely hoping for.
• Be you for the business. People find it easier to interact and connect with other people. Whenever you’re interacting on social media or posting blog posts, do so as an individual, not as a logo. If you want to use your business logo and name that’s fine. But make sure when you’re doing so that you give them your name too.

If this type of advice sounds familiar it’s probably because building a tribe for your business is similar to being a good friend. You want to be yourself and share the challenges and joys you have in life. Share your stories. Ask to hear theirs. These types of actions can have a very solidifying effect on your budding relationship. And a strong relationship will mean more revenue through word of mouth marketing in the future.

11 Ways to Make Money From Your Website

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by Christina R. Metcalf

If you have a website for your business, you may have an untapped treasure chest at your disposal. Even if you don’t make large amounts of money on your website, you can be bringing in something. This article will show you how.

Get a Website

If you don’t have a website and you think social media is enough, think again. Several businesses have had their social media pages/accounts shut down for no determinable reason. Even if your website is a one-page landing page for your business at least you have something that is yours. After reading this article, you may also decide you need a website for revenue reasons.

Making Money on Your Business Website

There are several ways to make money on your website but many of them require proof of a large, active audience. We’ll get to those in a bit. For now, let’s talk about how you can begin getting some revenue while you build your audience.

  • Produce something of value that you can charge for. What’s your area of expertise? Would people pay you for it? You can create a virtual product that you sell online. Examples of this include: an online course, an e-book, a worksheet or workbook, or virtual consulting or input as in the case of offering to review a submission from a client such as a resume review.
  • Accept donations. If you produce good, worthwhile content that your audience loves, you can add a donation or contribution button to your website. Some businesses have done this for their furloughed employees during COVID. Asking people to support what they love is an easy sell and often results in more revenue than placing a price on something like a downloadable offer. “Pay what you think it’s worth” is also a viable option.
  • Set up an E-commerce site. If you don’t have one already, consider selling things on your website. Your ability to do this will be largely based on the type of business you’re in but you can sell gift cards, consulting time/coaching classes, branded goods, products, how to classes, etc. Some businesses will even try a new item online before they bring it into their brick and mortar location. Selling online can also help bring in revenue while your actual store is closed.
  • Create a subscription service. Is there something you sell that you could create a subscription service with? You can use your expertise to create valuable content there’s disseminated on a regular basis or create an online community with the membership component people will pay to be a part of.

If you have a large audience and an active following, you have additional opportunities to make money on your website. You can do this through:

  • paid sponsorships
  • advertising
  • sponsored blog posts
  • affiliate links
  • job board postings
  • selling your email list
  • hosting webinars

Monetizing your website can be a strong course of action in these turbulent times. While many states are beginning the first stage of opening business at the moment of this writing, it is possible businesses will be closed again if case numbers escalate. If that happens, having the ability to sell products or services virtually can be the difference in you having a stream of revenue or not.

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