Category Archives: small business marketing tips

Small Business Saturday marketing trends

SHOP_SMALLNovember 30th marks the fourth annual Small Business Saturday, a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country. Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 in response to small business owners’ most pressing need: more customers.

Why Shoppers Are Shopping Small

The trend for shopping small is increasing, with 35% of consumers stating that they like to shop at local small businesses, up from 27% last year. New research indicates why shoppers are drawn to small businesses for their holiday shopping

  • 57% believe it’s important to support local businesses
  • 49% are attracted to unique merchandise
  • 39% say local businesses offer personalized service and suggestions
  • 25% say area businesses typically offer good prices

Retailers Get Ready for Small Business Saturday

With five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013, many small business owners say they’ll be pulling out all of the stops to get customers into stores during the holiday shopping season.

For many of the small business owners who are aware of Small Business Saturday, the day will be a part of their promotional calendar. Of those small business owners incorporating Small Business Saturday into their holiday plans, 70% say Small Business Saturday will be helpful in attracting new customers. Additional findings from the surveyed owners reveal

  • 67% will offer discounts
  • 39% will collaborate with other small businesses to promote Small Business Saturday
  • 36% will offer coupons for future offers or discounts
  • 33% will offer a gift with purchase
  • 33% will rely on social media most to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers
  • 32% are starting their holiday promotions earlier than last year
  • 21% will increase the number of employees working on Small Business Saturday
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A great business card is a powerful budget marketing tactic

Business cards on bulletin boardI’ve asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest blog and provide us with some of their favorite creative and affordable marketing tips. 

Check out what Deborah Brody has to say about making the most of your business cards.

In this age of smart phone bumps and cloud-based contact lists, it may seem a bit old-fashioned to advocate for the business card.  But the business card should be the ace player in your budget marketing arsenal.  A business card is cheap (relatively speaking), portable and useful. It gets your information right into the hands (and hopefully, databases) of the people you connect with. Done well, a business card keeps you connected with your prospects and brings you business.

However, not any old business card will do. You should spend time (and money) to get this little piece of marketing real estate done right. If someone picks up your business card from a pile of cards, it should be immediately obvious who you are and what you do. Following are some tips to make the most of your business cards.

Spend the money to get professional graphic design. You could do this as part of a letterhead and/or logo package, if you are just starting out. You aren’t like everybody else, so why have a non-customized card? Make sure to use your colors, logo and maybe even an image.

Print your cards professionally, on good paper stock. Nothing says unprofessional more than flimsy cards printed on your ink jet printer. There are many online, digital printers that will do your cards for a fraction of the price you would pay a traditional offset printer, while making them look spectacular.

Make the best use of the space you have. This means using the back of the card, perhaps to list your services, provide your bio, offer a discount code or even have a version of your card in a different language.

Include as much information as possible, thinking of what would be relevant to someone looking to do business with you.

Information that must be on the business card includes:

  • Your name and title
  • Organization or business name
  • Website
  • Email address
  • Phone/Mobile
  • Address
  • Tagline and/or short description of what your organization does (if not obvious from the name)

Other items you may consider adding:

  • Twitter handle
  • LinkedIn information
  • Testimonials from clients
  • Skype information

Finally, a word about design: Some folks get uber creative with their business cards, and in some cases, that helps to bolster their brand or show off their design chops. However, weird card shapes may be a conversation starter or be more memorable, but they are less likely to fit in conventional card holders or card scanners. Keep that in mind. Same goes for the layout. I prefer a horizontal layout, since that is how most cards are read.

Deborah Brody, principal of Deborah Brody Marketing Communications, is a marketing writer and consultant. Read more at www.deborahbrody.com and follow her on Twitter at @DBMC .

December Content Marketing Ideas

Saturday, December 1: Have you organized your December editorial calendar?  The 12th month of the year is a fantastic time to connect with your clients and engage with your followers.

Sunday, December 2: The weekend is primetime for Facebook Page updates.  Upload your seasonal Facebook Page timeline cover today.  Try a different look each week!  Holiday versions of corporate logos are fun, too.  Ask Fletcher Prince to design these assets for you.

Monday, December 3:  Time to mail holiday cards to clients and supporters.  If you are having a special holiday invent, mail invitations now, too.  Fletcher Prince can design your company holiday cards for you.

Tuesday, December 4: Today is National Cookie Day.  Can you create a cookie with your logo?  Try it — and post the photo!

At 5 p.m., the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit by Speaker of the House John Boehner.  Follow @USCapitol on Twitter.

Thursday, December 6: President Obama and the First Lady light the National Christmas Tree today at 5 p.m.

Friday, December 7: Inspired by all these Washington, DC Christmas trees?  Have a tree decorating party in your office today!

Saturday, December 8: Wish your followers a Happy Hanukkah!  Tonight, Hanukkah begins and is celebrated through December 16.

Sunday, December 9: The lighting of the National Menorah takes place tonight in Washington, DC.

Monday, December 10: What does your company do for good in the community?  Publicize a story about your community involvement or support of a local nonprofit organization via your blog, or even an online press release.  Send a short note and photos to your local newspaper.  Fletcher Prince can help you with public relations efforts.

If you haven’t yet started a company goodwill effort, the holiday season is a good time to start!  Consider a food drive in your office to benefit SOME (So Others Might Eat).  You can follow them on Twitter @SOME_DC

Wednesday, December 12: Today is National Poinsettia Day.  Why not gift your clients with pointsettias to show your appreciation?  Or offer them to followers as an online give-away.

Saturday, December 15: People will be tweeting about Santarchy today!  Join in the fun by posting photos of your employees in Santa hats.

Monday, December 17:  Today is a good day to upload your company’s previously recorded holiday greeting video to YouTube, and send it to clients and customers via email to your permission-based contact list.  Post it on your Facebook Page, Pinterest account, Twitter profile, and Google+ account to wish your supporters happy holidays.  Fletcher Prince can record your holiday video.

Monday, December 24: Today is Christmas Eve.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks his progress each year.  Follow on Twitter through @NoradSanta.

Tuesday, December 25Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 27: Time to look back at the old year as you get ready to ring in the new! Discuss with your staff what marketing tactics worked well and what should be continued in 2013.  What were your most popular blog posts?  Which of your videos got the most views?  Talk to Fletcher Prince about developing an actionable marketing plan for 2013.

Friday, December 28:  After Christmas is a great time to blog your company annual report.  Chronicle the achievements of the past year.

Sunday, December 30:  Most people are in New Year’s resolutions mode.  Ask your Facebook Page followers about their resolutions for the new year, throwing in your industry-specific suggestions.

Monday, December 31: Today is New Year’s Eve.  Be sure to wish your clients and supporters a Happy New Year, and offer them plenty of helpful suggestions for success in 2013.  This is also a good time for brave thought-leaders to make their industry 2013 predictions.

Congratulations to all of you for a successful year, and thanks for reading our blog posts and supporting Fletcher Prince.  Happy New Year!

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Small Business Saturday finds in Falls Church

A couple of years ago, American Express created the promotion “Small Business Saturday” as a way to encourage consumers to frequent independently owned small businesses during the busiest holiday shopping weekend of the year.

Supporting local businesses helps you keep your community economically healthy, and sometimes you can find unique items.

This is especially true in Fletcher Prince’s diverse community in Falls Church, VA!  As we encourage you to support small businesses this weekend, check out some of our favorite small business retailers.

The holidays include lots of cooking and sweets.  Those are two good reasons to visit Aphrodite Greek Imports 5886 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.  Among the many Greek specialty items, Aphrodite sells bulk cooking and baking spices at terrific prices, plus delicious pistachio nougat candy (similar to Torrone). A generous bag of this individually wrapped candy is about $2.50; plenty to include in stockings.  You’ll also find Turkish coffee, dried fruit and nuts, olives, an assortment of feta cheeses, phyllo pastries, delicious breads, and more.

From there, head to German Gourmet on 5838 Columbia Pike in Falls Church.  This German specialty shop sells a delightful number of must-haves for Christmas, including Advent calendars, nutcrackers, chocolates, gummy-everything, Stollen, and Lebkuchen.  The candy would be beautiful in a stocking.  If they offer it, buy the Bratwurst lunch (with Bavarian potato salad and red cabbage).  You will also find a wide variety of sausages, meats, cheeses, wine and beer.

If you’re looking for quality toys this holiday, skip the big retail chains and visit Doodlehopper 4 Kids, 228 West Broad Street (Rt. 7/Leesburg Pike), instead.  This toy store has a fabulous selection of toys, stocking stuffers, and books for children of all ages.

For antique items, including nostalgic toys, collectibles, barware, dishes, souvenirs, and Christmas ornaments, browse through the Falls Church Antique Annex, located at 250 West Broad St. (Rt. 7/Leesburg Pike), Falls Church.  The store features offerings from 20 vendors and the prices are reasonable.

The origins of Black Friday and a tale of holiday marketing

Children waiting for the Thalhimers Christmas Parade.  Photo by Bill Lane (Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center)

Reading the Examiner yesterday, I discovered some interesting facts about the origins of Black Friday.

Back in the day, department stores used to lure parents in for shopping the day after Thanksgiving by having downtown Christmas parades.  They hoped the parents who brought their children to see the parade would decide to go shopping in the stores afterwards.

But the combination of street closures and influx of cars caused such traffic problems, the local police started calling this day “Black Friday.”  And the name stuck.

Now retailers call it “Black Friday” because this is usually the weekend they begin turning a profit — or move into the “black.”  Retailers bring in an average of 40% of their revenues between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When my sister and I were young children, we got to ride the toy train in the Thalhimers Toy Parade because my mom worked in the special events office for the Richmond, VA department store and helped plan the Christmas parade (see video below).

She was also the first “Snow Bear.”  I still remember wondering where my mom was in that big suit as she handed out lollipops to children in the department store.  Here’s a nostalgic video peek at Snow Bear.

And here is my mom’s recollection of what it was like to work for one of the city’s largest department stores during the holidays, and be the first “Snow Bear.”

 

(May Link Inside) For Your Editorial Calendar: April Events and Content Marketing Ideas PLUS Hashtags

Newsletter readers: LOOKING FOR MAY EVENTS? I accidentally linked you here 🙂  Click here to see May

April

Sunday, April 1 Today is April Fool’s Day.  Not kidding, it really is.

Monday, April 2  Today is World Autism Day.  Please place a blue light bulb in your workplace today — a lobby lamp will do — to show your support for the millions of families living with autism.  We also encourage you to wear blue to work!  Blue light bulbs are available for sale at Home Depot, or contact us before April 2 and we will deliver one to your workplace.  Follow Autism Speaks @autismspeaks on Twitter and use hashtags #LightItUpBlue or #liub or #autism

April 2 – 6  Spring Break for many schools.  Be kind to the tourists.  It’s not their fault that they don’t know to stand to the right on Metro escalators 🙂

Saturday, April 7  Passover begins this week.

Sunday, April 8  Today is Easter.  It is traditional to wear new clothes on Easter; a spring custom that goes back to pre-Christian times.  A good excuse to buy a hat!  Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 13  Today is opening night for the Washington Nationals, playing the Cinncinati Reds.  Follow the home team on Twitter @Nationals

Saturday, April 14  The Cherry Blossom Parade takes place today in downtown Washington, DC.  Learn more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival and follow @CherryBlossFest on Twitter.  Use hashtag #cherryblossom

Sunday, April 15   Ooh, tax time.  Don’t worry; you have until April 17 to file.  How much revenue did your business make in 2011?  Did you spend enough on marketing?  You should be spending between 5% and 10% of your revenues on marketing expenses.  If you didn’t spend enough on marketing your business (or nonprofit) in 2011, refine your marketing budget so you don’t make that mistake this year. Fletcher Prince can help.

Sunday, April 22  Today is Earth Day.  What are you doing in your business activities to preserve and protect the environment?  Talk about your workplace recycling program! This could make an excellent YouTube video or blog topic, or even a press release (with photos, of course).  Follow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Twitter @EPAgov and use hashtag #

Tuesday, April 24  Join your Fletcher Prince friends for networking and lunch at Jaleo in Bethesda, Maryland today!  Cost of lunch is on your own (about $15-$20, including tip); please register in advance.

Wednesday, April 25  Did you know there are more than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants working in the United States. Admins are the “pulse of the office” and today is the 60th anniversary of Administrative Professionals Day!  Follow the International Association of Administration Professionals on Twitter – @IAAP – and use hashtag #APW

Thursday, April 26  Today is the 20th anniversary of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day (can you say “photo op?”) and is recommended for children between the ages of 8 and 18.  How will you educate and motivate young people in your workplace today?  Why not promote your efforts?  It’s good community relations.  Take photos and write a blog post.  Or videotape the kids 🙂

Friday, April 27  Today is Arbor Day.  Follow USDA Forest Service @forestservice on Twitter and use hashtag #  Follow the Arbor Day Foundation on Twitter @arborday and use hashtag #arborday

Check back next month for May events and content marketing ideas!

For Your Editorial Calendar: March Engagement Themes PLUS Hashtags

Mark these events on your March editorial calendar — there’s lots to tweet here!  Folks are already tweeting about this content, so when appropriate, use these themes in your Facebook updates and blogs, tying to your branded content in ways that make sense.

Using popular themes and topics that people are talking about can help increase your Facebook Page’s Edge Rank, get more views for blog posts, and score more retweets.  Contact us if you’d like help you with your social media outreach.

Thursday, March 1: The National Park Service makes their highly anticipated Cherry Blossom “Bloom Watch” predictions today.  Follow them on Twitter @NatlParkService and use Hashtag: #blossompic or #bloomwatch

Saturday, March 3: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in Old Town Alexandria, VA today.  Lots of dogs, lots of step dancers, and LOTS of bag pipes!  King Street will be closed until 12 noon.  Follow the parade organizers, the Ballyshaners, on Facebook.

Thanks for following Fletcher Prince on Facebook

Friday, March 9: Today is the first day of the Washington Home and Garden Show, taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention CenterFollow the organizers @HomeShows

Sunday, March 11: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in downtown DC today.  It’s a hoot!

Sunday, March 11: The 67 games of March Madness begin with Selection Sunday today.  Follow the official NCAA basketball Twitter account @marchmadness

Sunday, March 11: Daylight Savings Time begins — “Spring forward.”  This is a good time to remind people to change the batteries in their home smoke detectors.

Wednesday, March 15: Elephants, horses, cowboys, and clowns from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will parade through downtown DC near the National Mall this afternoon.  Follow @RinglingTweets on Twitter.

Thursday, March 15: The DC Ad Club presents the ADDY Awards tonight.  At this event, you’ll see a display of the best advertising examples in DC.  This is a good night for networking and maybe even finding an advertising agency for your business or nonprofit organization.  Follow @dcadclub – Hashtag: #DCADDYS

Friday, March 16: It’s my birthday!  Wish me a happy birthday on Twitter – follow @MaryFletchJones – Hashtag: #HBMaryFletcher (hey, why not? 😉 )

Saturday, March 17: It’s St. Patrick’s Day and everyone is Irish today.  Talk about how your business is going green while wearing green!  Video and photo opportunities abound today — post them on your company Facebook Page.

Tuesday, March 20: Today is the first day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, a very special time for DC.  The festival runs through April 27.  Follow the official Twitter account @CherryBlossFest and use Hashtag: #blossompic

Tuesday, March 20: Today is the first day of Spring.  Check out Free Digital Photos Net for free spring images for blog posts and Facebook Page updates.

Monday, March 26:  College students will be coming home for Spring Break soon.  Schedule interviews with potential summer interns to help you with your marketing efforts.

Tuesday, March 27: Network-and-Lunch at Teaism with Fletcher Prince.  The March event is sold out but please join us for the April event at Jaleo in Bethesda.  Follow @FletcherPrince and use Hashtag: #networkandlunch

Did you like this content?  Do me a favor and retweet and Google + it.  Thanks!

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: Invest in the Basics; Refine What You Have

You ever open your closet and think: oh, god, I hate ALL my clothes!

Yeah, me too.

Who among us couldn’t benefit from updating our look?  Or even a makeover?  You’d still be the same person inside, but the packaging.  Ah. Packaging is powerful.

Wait a minute, are we talking about clothes or marketing?  Well, maybe there are similarities.  Just like you need to have a fantastic “networking” outfit that makes you feel like you can do anything, you also need to have a website that reflects your success.

You need the basic pieces, but you also need accessories to bring life to those pieces and show your individuality.

Get the idea?  Same concepts apply to your business…or nonprofit.

These are the basics you need to have in your marketing closet.  Most clients I see who do not have all the basic elements they need in place.  That, or they could benefit from refining those vehicles.

We did a lot of “makeovers” in 2011 and expect to do even more in 2012, as clients resume their goals for positioning themselves competitively in the gradually improving economy.

Regardless of company size, most business owners and nonprofit managers should be considering an investment in most or all of these basic marketing elements…

  • A marketing audit and plan for your business ($1500).
  • A suite of professionally designed logos ($1500) in various sizes for your website, business card, letterhead, and for your business presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Yelp.
  • A public relations kit that includes executive bios, company fact sheet, and launch press release (starting at $500).
  • For proposals, mailings, and speaking engagements, you may also want to invest in a corporate brochure ($1500) and custom presentation folders ($350).
  • Professional headshots and corporate photography ($ call for estimate).  At the bare minimum, you will need professionally taken, recent photographs of the principal and top managers, as well as photographs of your company headquarters, signage, products, services in action, staff, and community participation.
  • A website that is searchable and easy to update ($850-$1200) that integrates social media features.
  • A branded YouTube Channel, and at least three videos ($2500 ) YouTube is the third most visited website on the Internet and there is no better way to tell your story than with video.
  • An email marketing plan and calendar of communications.  So important, and so easily neglected.  Email has been shown to be the most effective form of marketing there is.  If you have a B2C business (and even some B2B businesses),  it is not optional.
  • Some form of strategically scheduled direct mail outreach ($ call for estimates).

And here are some recommended accessories.  They’re not right for every single client, but for those who can pull it off, it can make those basics sing…

  • A blog ($850 for set-up and training)
  • Additional videos throughout the year ($750 to $1200 each)
  • Facebook Page ($300) – for some clients
  • Twitter Profile  ($300) – for most clients
  • Flickr Photo Sharing – for all clients

The service fees above are for fixed-fee projects are estimates only, based on 2011 published rates, and are subject to change in the new year.  Fees do not include affordable printing fees.

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: How Much? How Often?

Every marketing scenario is different but it can be helpful to have some “frequency” rules of thumb that you can consider and adjust for your needs.

  • Blog Posts: Once per week, or more frequently.  No less than 12 per year (once per month).
  • YouTube Videos: One per month, or more frequently.  No less than 6 per year (every other month).
  • Facebook Page Updates: Monitor daily and update once or twice a day, max.  Try every other day.  Schedule updates during evening hours and on weekends and holidays.
  • Twitter Updates: Monitor daily and update one to five times a day (space tweets an hour apart).  Suspend unrelated tweets during emergencies and disasters, breaking news events.
  • Email Communications: One newsletter and one announcement/postcard per month, or no fewer than 6 email communications per year (every other month).
  • Radio Advertising: Read this blog post on frequency and effectiveness and consult your ad rep.
  • Newspaper Advertising: Run at least 6-8 display ad insertions, at minimum, over a 2 month period, and measure results. Consider weekly ads, and consult your ad rep.
  • Postcard Mailings: Tie to events, which you may have every 4-6 weeks, for example.

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012 — Avoid 10 Common Pitfalls in the New Year

When prospective clients ask me how to achieve visibility for their new or existing business, I generally make similar recommendations.  My advice would also apply to managers with nonprofit organizations, associations, and government agencies, as well.

Although my advice is sound and practical, I struggle with convincing some people of the value of my recommendations.

When planning and executing marketing strategies, the biggest and most preventable mistakes I observe are

(1) Skimping on needed marketing and public relations activities, even when the resources are available and the services are affordable.  I have never seen a client who spent too much money or too much time on marketing.

(2) Failing to create or stick to even the most basic marketing and public relations plan.  Being disorganized in their business practices.

(3) Postponing sales-generating marketing tactics when their business is doing well.

(4) Neglecting to update their websites, social media platforms, and public relations and marketing materials — sometimes for several years.

(5) Procrastinating until the last minute to launch promotions or public relations outreach. Not understanding the amount of time it takes to build a campaign.

(6) Abandoning marketing efforts before they have a chance to obtain results.  Having unrealistic expectations.

(7) Fearing to make a change, or try a new tactic.  Refusing to consider new options that are working well for their competitors, from a lack of familiarity with those options.

(8) Omitting the important step of reviewing and measuring their past efforts, a step that would help inform their goals and decisions.

(9) Disregarding the value of informed, external opinions and constructive criticism, even from customers.  Clients can’t always “see” that their website looks disorganized, or that their marketing materials are outdated and ineffective. They are too “close” to it.

(10) Assuming too much.  Taking on too many projects at once, or attempting too ambitious a project.  It’s better to keep it simple, and sustained.

No one is perfect.  Everyone lapses on following through on marketing plans sometimes.  The important thing to identify now is: reviewing these pitfalls, can you see whether you put obstacles in the way of your success?  Can you identify any patterns?  Did you do the best you could do, or did you let fear, disorganization, or unrealistic expectations hold you back?

Looking back at 2011, what could you have done differently?  What can you do differently in 2012?

My message for sole proprietors, businesses and nonprofits as we move into 2012 is this: you can’t complain that no one asked you to dance if you didn’t bother to put on your best clothes, or even come to the dance.

You have to make an effort if you want to see results.  And that effort usually involves an investment of resources.  It will cost something, but if your business model is sound, or your nonprofit organization is worthy, wise marketing choices will make a difference.

Marketing works when you work it.  There is no magic to marketing or public relations, and there are very few shortcuts.  Marketing your business or nonprofit takes effort and dedication, over time.

The end of the year is a time to regroup and plan.  Now is the time to analyze your position, look at what your competitors are doing, and measure the results of your past efforts.  It is time to set actionable goals, create a plan, and dedicate a budget to making that plan happen.  You need to decide what you will handle yourself, what you will delegate to staff, and what you will contract out to smart, hard-working people who can help you.

Best wishes to you for a prosperous new year.

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