November 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
- Small Business Saturday popular with state’s main streets (thedailyrecord.com)
- How To Make The Most Of Small Business Saturday (openforum.com)
- How to Thrive On and Beyond Small Business Saturday (smallbiztrends.com)
- 6 Easy Marketing Ideas for Small Business Saturday (attention-getting.com)
- 4 Things Your Business Must Do Before Small Business Saturday (business2community.com)
Plenty of business owners are making resolutions and marketing plans right about now. And that is a worthwhile endeavor — provided you can follow through.
But wouldn’t it better to do one thing well, rather than plan several things you don’t complete? Here’s a thought:
If you feel overwhelmed by the effort involved in planning your marketing activities, then pick one, easy-to-do, simple-to-remember goal for your business.
So, is it time to makeover your business? What single goal could you focus on for a full year? Think how your business would change if you
- Wrote one blog post a week.
- Took photos of yourself with your clients.
- Added a video to each page of your website.
- Spoke at one workshop or conference.
- Invested in print or radio advertising.
What are some “one-goals” that could improve your business?
Sometimes all you need to create an actionable plan are the right tools. I like to use a large erasable wall calendar that shows the year at a glance, myself.
Marketing Calendar Templates
Fletcher Prince Helpers
Monthly marketing ideas will be featured throughout 2012 on the Fletcher Prince Blog. We’ll publish ideas for creating marketing content that your company can produce and distribute online, via email, and in print.
As you plan now for 2012, be sure to add your company’s milestones, special events, and conferences.
Share your yearly marketing planning strategies in the comments.
Check out These Resources
- Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: Invest in the Basics; Refine What You Have (fletcher-prince.com)
- Your Marketing Strategy for 2012 – Avoid 10 Common Pitfalls in the New Year (fletcher-prince.com)
- Set up an editorial calendar for your website content (marketing.yell.com)
- Step Eight: Plan Your Calendar and Budget (chipmacgregor.typepad.com)
- 3 Steps to Your 2012 Content Strategy (personalbrandingblog.com)
- Top 15 Content Marketing Predictions for 2012 (junta42.com)
Part of what I do at Fletcher Prince is create affordable websites for clients. I also build them for my own projects. I use website solutions marketed to small business owners, so I can focus on the content and design.
You know, often I find simple is better. Most businesses and nonprofits I work with need a website that does the job, looks attractive, is easy to update, and gets found in search engine results. In my experience, no other website content management and hosting system does that better than Yahoo Small Business.
I have experimented with the offerings from Yahoo Small Business, Network Solutions, and Verizon Small Business, as well as WordPress.com and WordPress.org (for blog-style websites with Page navigation).
Hands down, the best solution I have tested is Yahoo Small Business. It works well with Macs, it offers terrific SEO, and is quite affordable. It’s perfect for individuals, nonprofits, small businesses, and anyone who needs a simple website.
For about $10 a month, you get these features
- Hosting, including a domain URL for a year (you can renew the URL when the year is up).
- The ability to add meta tags and descriptions to each page.
- An easy-to-use web content management system, with several customizable templates.
- Up to 100 email addresses for your domain.
- A WordPress blog hosted on your domain, should you choose to use it.
- Facebook and Twitter links.
- Easy YouTube video integration.
- E-commerce features (I don’t use these, myself),
I’ve used it for years, and I really like it. The one drawback is that your blog does not appear in the navigation when you use the Mac version of the content management system, and I would prefer that option.
Check out the websites I have built with Yahoo Small Business and please let me know if I can build an affordable website for you.
I’ve recently graduated from college and I want to start my own business. What advice do you have for me?
The job market is so challenging for recent college graduates that some young people are considering starting their own small business, instead of working for a company. While I think this would be an exciting proposition for any ambitious young person, I have some words of advice that would apply to them, or anyone thinking about starting a truly small business (staff under 10).
A Small Business is a Major Commitment
To me, making the decision to start a small business is not unlike the commitment you make to have children. It truly impacts your life in every way. There are some who say they can separate their personal and business life. But most small business owners I know spend more time on their business on a daily basis than their 9-to-5 job, and their families are also more invested in making the business a success.
If your family had an established small (or large business) before you started college, and you worked for them, and wanted to continue to do so, then this advice wouldn’t apply to you, of course. But if you are not working for a family business, I would advise first getting to know other small business owners and talking to them about the sacrifices they have had to make to determine if you have realistic expectations.
Give Your Small Business The Best Possible Start: Get Experience First
I don’t think it’s wise to start a small business right out of college. You lose the valuable opportunity to learn while getting paid by someone else! I advise obtaining at least five years (preferably more) of solid work experience in your field or industry before starting your own business (in that same field or industry).
Developing a support network while you are still employed is also important. Now is the optimal time to join professional associations and network with people who can help you now and later. At this stage in your career, more experienced people are most willing to help you learn the business and make valuable contacts. Foster those important connections with vendors, clients, and partners while you are still employed. They will be important resources — and possibly your first customers and testimonials — as you start your own business.
The Importance of Savings
Starting a small business involves financial sacrifice. When you are first starting out in life, frankly, you have a lot of stuff to buy, from dishes to work clothes to a reliable car. Saving money is always an admirable goal, but not a lot of young people are thinking about creating a substantial nest egg while they have college loans to pay. Also you may find it easier to save while you are employed, while large companies offer attractive employee benefits programs to make that easy for you to do.
Having a healthy amount of savings is recommended before you start a small business. Some say you should have at least a year’s worth of living expenses saved. This means that while your other friends are going on fun vacations and out to eat, you may be scrimping and passing up on on social opportunities. Do you really want to do this now? You can start a small business anytime, but you are only going to be in your young twenties — and have all the liberty that goes along with that life stage — once. You can’t really turn back the clock.
The Impact of a Small Business on Life Experiences
It’s also important to recognize that running a small business when you are under thirty (versus working for a company) will impact your other life decisions in many ways.
For example, you may sacrifice valuable, career-building job opportunities by striking out on your own. Also the risk of small business failure is fairly high. This is a lot of risk to take on when you factor that those first ten years of independence generally also involve
- Moving a few times before you settle into a community and long-term home
- Major purchases, such as a car or home
- Paying off student loans
- Becoming seriously involved or married (or even divorced)
- Obtaining an advanced degree
- Becoming a parent
- Aging parents, with changing needs
All of these major life activities demand tremendous resources of money and energy. Consider postponing starting a small business, perhaps even for a decade or so, until life is more settled and established (e.g., when kids are in elementary school and you have a wage-earning partner with good health insurance for the family). If you foresee that these kinds of life experiences may be probable for you, down the road, as they are for many people, then it may be a better to wait ten years before you take the risks that are involved with starting a small business.
When To Take The Leap…
Still, there are situations when the idea is too good, the opportunity is too wonderful, and the timing is too right to pass up. If this is true for you, if this is your dream, and you have your eyes open about the risks, then you might want to go ahead and take a chance. But make sure you have plenty of support, as well as a Plan B.
There are many successful young people who are running small businesses. This might be the right time for you.
Good luck, graduates!
As I move into my fourth year of business, I’ve developed a schedule that works around my lifestyle. A typical work week “at Fletcher Prince” is not a typical work week for many people, but it works for me. I thought I would share what my work is like, and I would love to hear what your work week is like.
David and I (and most independent consultants we know) work out of our homes, and around the schedules of our families (which means I had to get a special permit from the County to work in my house!)
The nature of our wired business means that I rarely get a full day off, even on weekends and when I’m traveling on vacation, but so far, that’s been okay. And my son has been understanding when I need to put in a few hours here or there.
I try to be available during most business hours for my clients. As an independent consultant, I have to take the work that comes along when I can get it. But Monday’s a short day in Fairfax County schools, so I like to spend that afternoon spending quality time with my son, and I use my morning for errands or catching up on small projects. And there are a lot of school holidays and teacher planning days on Mondays. So that’s the reason why I almost never schedule meetings or video shoots on Mondays.
Tuesday through Friday, I’m generally on the clock from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Even if I don’t have a client project, I’m working on Fletcher Prince promotions, paperwork, or pro bono work. But closer to 4 p.m., I’m clocking out to spend time with my son. Being there for him is — for me — the best part of working at home.
Many Tuesdays, David and I meet and have a production meeting over lunch. He also has his own clients, so we don’t always meet. But if we’re working on a big project, we do try to have face time so we can work it all out and coordinate schedules and deadlines. But usually, he works in his home office in Bethesda and I work in mine in Falls Church, and we keep in touch by email and phone.
Then, to make up for the time in the afternoons that I spend with my son, I usually put in a few hours every Wednesday night. That’s also when I try to attend networking events.
Every other weekend is usually a crunch weekend for me (when my son’s with his dad). Remember in college when you were trying to finish a paper or cram for an exam? Those weekends often feel like that. A lot of work in a short period! I try to schedule projects that require intensive attention — like setting up blogs or editing video — on those weekends.
Working at home is convenient, especially if you are balancing the demands of family and work. And I love being able to work in a space that feels just right for me, with my paintings, and messy desk, and photos everywhere.
I wonder if working at home will become more of a trend, even for employees of other companies. My sister works for a major corporation. She travels a lot for her job, but when she’s not on travel, she works out of a home office, and she loves it.
There are some downsides to working out of your home. For me, I think the biggest downside is knowing when to quit. The work is always there (so is the laundry). Meetings can also be challenging, and I have to be more proactive about networking opportunities.
The biggest drawback for me about working at home is the isolation. Most days, I don’t mind having the quiet time to work. But sometimes, I do get lonely. I wish I had a dog or cat to keep me company sometimes. I play the radio when it feels too quiet.
That’s why I will make it a priority this year to attend the IPRA (Independent Public Relations Alliance) luncheons. Not only is it fun for me to touch base and eat lunch with a great bunch of people, but the speakers have also been terrific. I have also obtained some of my favorite clients through my connections with this organization.
If you work out of your home, what tips do you have for me? What have you found that works well for you?
- Working From Home: A Survivor’s Guide (mint.com)
- Tips on Managing Time While Working in a Home Office (brighthub.com)
- Seven things you need to know about working from home (theglobeandmail.com)