You can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t do both.

Have you ever heard a comment or phrase that felt like a punch in the gut? At an online conference last week, the speaker said, “you can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.” Boom. That one stung a little.

I thought of the getting in shape, taking better care of health, etc. goals …well … nothing but excuses.

But I also thought about my clients who have been scrambling and hustling to keep themselves afloat – adapting, setting up tents in the parking lot to have “patio dining”, creating online and curbside services, changing their protocols and doing everything they can to safely serve the customers in this time, while protecting their staff. The creativity and sheer determination has been impressive. It reminded me of studies of businesses who came out of the Great Depression strong. One of those businesses was Proctor and Gamble.

During the Great Depression, unemployment soared, spending slowed down, businesses cut back (sound familiar?), many businesses were suffering, much like today. When mainstay grocers cut their orders, that hurt companies like P & G who supplied their products. But they did not just hunker down and wait it out. They got creative and decided that since people would still need soap, they would make sure they were the soap of choice. This quote below comes from an article from Mental Floss tells how they did that.

“Thus, instead of throttling down its advertising efforts to cut costs, the company actively pursued new marketing avenues, including commercial radio broadcasts. One of these tactics involved sponsoring daily radio serials aimed at homemakers, the company’s core market. In 1933, P&G debuted its first serial, Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins, and women around the country quickly fell in love with the tales of the kind widow. The program was so successful that P&G started cranking out similar programs to support its other brands, and by 1939, the company was producing 21 radio shows—and pioneering the “soap opera.” In 1950, P&G made the first ongoing television soap opera, The First Hundred Years.”

Despite the challenges of the time, the company rose up with creativity to be the soap of choice and it served them well. I know we small businesses don’t have the ad budgets of P & G, but I do totally agree that if you want to outlast this season, creativity and gumption, AND remaining present in marketing will absolutely be essential. You can’t afford to disappear, even if you’re closed at your brick and mortar. Find a way to continue relationship with your customers.

On the flip side, I have encountered other businesses who have been deeply impacted, like the rest of us, but they don’t show up when they say they will, they aren’t communicating, they open late, close early with no notice, their voice mails are full, they don’t answer requests for business. They haven’t updated their websites or Google listings or email footers or answering machines. I can’t tell you how many of my clients have said something like, “the customers are telling me they called 10 companies and no one returned a call.”

I’m not trying to be harsh, and I totally understand the impacts that have taken place, but there are many studies out there (COVID time research) that suggest that more than 50% of the consumers will leave and go somewhere else if the customer experience is bad. I don’t know many businesses, certainly not mine, that can do without half of their customer base. But even if it’s just you left. Answer your phone. Call back. Email. Update your information. Don’t shrink because of challenges. Rise up with gumption and figure out how….even on a limited basis. I know you can!

It’s tough right now – for everyone. But are you making progress during this time? Or are you making excuses? We can’t do both. I truly believe this can be a time of growth. What do you think?

A different normal – learning to do less, better.

The Covid-19 pandemic and current political tensions have not only impacted our personal lives, businesses and organizations across the globe, they have redefined how we will operate as a business. For those of you anxious to get back to “normal”, I have some bad news. I’m not so sure that world will exist again.

Customers have been changed, the way we do business has changed. For some of us, the way we view the world has shifted and that means as a business, we need to ensure we are moving with the changing world. Otherwise our marketing can fall flat and come across as tone deaf.

There are constant plays for your attention, everywhere we look. From billboards to digital ads, customers are inundated. The real asset we are seeking is attention. Customers can tell when you’re in it for them and they are looking for the companies who care about their needs. The days of just listing our great services and products are long gone. If Covid has revealed anything, it’s that customers want businesses to empathize with their needs and solve their problems for them. It’s the only way to to cut through the clutter and be heard.

Marketing great Seth Godin said in a recent conference presentation that the future belongs to those that can market and impact smaller, specific audiences. Meaning we need to overwhelm the smallest audience for our product and then let those customers spread the word about you. Bottom line, businesses can’t try to be everything to everyone. We need to focus in on who we are trying to reach and align our strategy, content, marketing and advertising to that specific niche audience. Godin calls this the “smallest viable audience”. In short, do less, but do it better.

Boss Lady Consulting has decades of experience in identifying key audiences, creating customer profiles and narrowing your efforts to the most effective content, at the right time and in the right place. Call us today to help evaluate, or create, a targeted strategic plan for your business, church or non-profit. We would love to help you make the most of your marketing budget and ensure you are getting better ROI with your budget. We look forward to connecting.

Marketing Tip #9 for Small Businesses – Tools

Tip #9: Tools and Resources

There are alot of great programs to help you create easy marketing materials… from postcards and business cards to stickers, packaging and social media posts and videos. I am a big fan of supporting local for printing, banners, etc, but sometimes cost and quantity play into that and it’s just not feasible to do so. Included below is a print option that will do as few as 50! And not at $1-2 per piece. You do you on the printing thing, but here are a few of my favorites: (not sponsored and nothing in it for me, just love the tools)

1. Canva – so easy for any online or print need. Easy to use, they can print your materials for a very good price. I love them for logo, biz cards, flyers, cards, web banners and graphics, etc. I also use them a lot for social posts and ads. No design software needed, they have it all. You find a template you like and update to your preference. So many photos, templates, colors, fonts and ideas with very inexpensive copyright for certain images ($1 each). You can upload any of your own photos as well. Biz plan is $12/mo but there is a free version as well.

2. Sticker Mule – so easy to create stickers, labels, packaging, coasters, etc. I have used them for food labels, packing, stickers, clings, magnets, coasters, etc. Never had a bad product from them….so love this business! Again, no design work needed, they do it for you and email a proof within 24 hours. Fast and great prices!

3. Animoto – awesome for video creation like slideshows or business promo videos, wedding stories, product line previews, event recaps or just for fun. Super easy to use and has libraries of templates, photos and music. Downloads in sizes for social or as links.

4. Banners or plastic signage – I love the work of Fast Signs in Auburn. Easy to use, high quality, great service. They do all the design work or you can send files over (from Canva, hint, hint).

Check them out and see what you think. These are really approachable programs/services and easy even for the non-technical user.

Questions? Have something specific in mind? Happy to recommend something else. Comment below. 💪

Marketing Tip #11 for Small Businesses – Event Marketing

Tip #11: Event Marketing
We have organized – for Fortune 500 to non-profits. From fundraisers to press briefings, product and company launches, community events, galas, music events, big activities, farm meals, fair booths, giant sponsorship events, and even smaller board retreats or meetings. The wonderful thing now is that there are SO many tools to help.

A few of my fav tools for events:
1. If you need to do tickets for your event, I love Simple Tix. It’s free to set up an account and you can customize it with your own logo, etc. It charges a small fee but delivers the tickets electronically (immediately) upon successful payment and the customer can use it on their phone or print it out. Best yet, it tracks all sales, tickets (and can add variances, so for meal selection for instance), quantity and more…. all in one report. It’s accessible by phone and computer to track and manage ticket sales, promote the event, etc. Check it out – worth the fees!

2. Facebook events are fine to get the word out but if you need to have an actual sale or commitment, they are not great as people can RSVP without any follow-through. The Facebook Events would be a great idea for open public events, fairs, swap meets, services, etc. that don’t require an exact count. It’s easy to set up, use and share on social.

3. Community Calendars – don’t forget the free resources – there are community calendars on most newspapers, radio, and TV sites. There are even some newspaper, TV and radio stations will make announcements for free, etc. Check out the calendar pages of your city and the local stations and take advantage of free publicity.

4. Facebook Community Pages – there is a page set up for every small town in the state. Post your event as appropriate (don’t forget to read the rules on the page first) and share that way.

5. Get creative and trade some promotion – if you have an event coming up – maybe a local coffee shop will let you hang posters and leave table tents for a month in exchange for promotion on your materials. Be creative instead of just asking for money sponsors. If you have partners working with you (i.e. a food truck), make sure they have some posters and event materials to share on their social accounts, in the window of the business and with customers between now and the time of your event.

6. Try something new – for one client, we needed to be seen by the staff of a business in a certain area that was pretty sparse in terms of businesses, billboards, etc. So we partnered with the closest local coffee stand and offered free coffee for the two hours up to their main shift. They let us provide stickers on every coffee cup, our banners outside and we promoted it on social media. We got a lot of attention, with the exact people we needed to reach for about $500….a lot less than the cost of an ad or billboard.

If you have a question or need help on an event idea, post your question below, we will be happy to help. Have fun!

Marketing Tip #10 for Small Businesses – Online Sales

Tip #10: Taking the Online Sales Leap?

So pre-COVID, consumer spending was up for products and services by more than 3%.

To survive, small businesses are getting creative and find themselves offering items for purchase online to be picked up, delivered or shipped. It’s a strange territory and a new path for many, but may be something that consumers could want to have available going forward.

It’s something to think about. And may be something worth asking consumers about while you’re in the middle of the situation now.

Diversifying your brick and mortar business into more channels going forward may not be such a bad idea anyway…if it makes sense.

Generating demand for items online is an art, but there are a few things may help drive action:
1. Great photos of product are essential – smart phones can do it but make sure you have good light.

2. Compel the customer’s action through great descriptions or photos that place them in the moment.

3. Free shipping if possible. The second highest reason for abandoned carts online is

shipping. Make it free shipping on orders over $25 or something if you can’t swing it on everything.

4. Create competition or moments – only one left, sales, special offers, etc. Test the audience.

5. Give an exceptional customer experience. Add a little handwritten note, a surprise, take a little extra time to make it special. Amazon doesn’t so that and it’s the little touches that can make it extra special.

There is a LOT of competition online but if you can swing it, it may be a nice addition to your offerings.

There are a lot of e-commerce sites to help if you’re interested. Leave a question below if you need help to identify what is right for your business.

Here’s a great article on online cart abandonment and offering free shipping.

Marketing Tip #3 for Small Businesses – Review Your Goals and Strategy Now While It’s Slow

Tip #3: Review your goals/business strategy and figure out what can you do to make up for lost volume/revenue. Time to get creative!

Ask yourself, what are your goals? Review what you had planned (or if you didn’t, now is the time) and get creative on how to really beef up Q3/4 and holiday sales? Maybe you will plan a “Grand Post-quarantine Re-Opening” and have people in the shop for refreshments and relationship, shopping (or hair, or whatever). Invite other small businesses on your street to join in and make it a block party.

Maybe you can put some of your items for sale online (Facebook marketplace, a simple e-commerce site, etc.) or post some items for sale on FB, buyer picks up curbside., or delivery if you have staff who need something to do (check all regulatory/rules around delivery of your items.

Do a special right now on Gift Certificates – $20 for a $25 GC, collect credit card numbers over the phone and mail the GCs…that gives you money now and helps folks plan ahead for Christmas or birthdays.

Bundle deals – buy 2 get third free or whatever.

Do an outbound call campaign to schedule folks ahead for May or summer….while you have staff who need work, put them to work to fill the funnel for in a month or so.

Consider a special Thanksgiving event – thankful for a new perspective, every customer, etc. Let’s celebrate with a SOCIAL (people will be craving in-person gatherings) Something fun for the holidays.

If you have questions or need help, post below, I’m happy to help brainstorm with you! You can do this, I believe in you.

Marketing Tip #4 for Small Businesses – Create a Content Marketing Plan

Tip #4: Build a Content Marketing Plan.
To engage your audiences, you need to have relevant and helpful information on your channels. There are so many tools to help you.
1. Use a social media or holiday calendar like this one to help inspire post ideas or fun days to celebrate for your business. For instance, because Friday is #PuppyDay, if you’re a groomer or pet store, adoption site or dog walker, you can take advantage of the day to promote your services.

2. Use free and low cost tools to schedule your posts ahead. You can do them all at once so they post automatically during the week, or vacation, or when you are busy. If you need help finding tools or how to do that, drop a note below.

3. Use tools to help you design great looking posts so you capture attention. I have lots of ideas that are free or low cost, let me know what you’re thinking below and I’ll send some recommendations.

4. Make sure you include your brand. Your goal is to visually establish brand recognition and show your brand as informative, helpful, relevant, etc.
I have a content calendar planner template I use for my clients. If you’re interested, message me and I’ll email it over for free.
What help do you need? Post below. More content ideas tomorrow.

Marketing Tip #6 for Small Businesses – Facebook Algorithms

Tip #6: Facebook Algorithms – Simply, you will see about the top 25 people you engage with online. A few tips (some from Jerry Potter online marketing guru):

1. Engagements are best in this order:
Shares > Comments > Clicks > Likes/Reaction

2. The first hour of your post is essential. If you get engagement within the first hour, Facebook will share your post to more people…same on paid – but for free. If the engagement is low or zero, it will not be shared. SO, if you are doing posts or paid posts especially, watch the early engagement and make changes if needed.

3. If people post on your content, reply to them, engage them back with a question. This is a way to improve your visibility with those folks on future posts.

4. Photos and Videos are important – don’t be afraid to use authentic photos you just took – sometimes the less formal photo is better. It doesn’t look like as much like an ad.

Marketing Tip #7 for Small Businesses – Time to Experiment

Marketing Tip#7 – It’s time to experiment!
Should you be using Social Media right now? ABSOLUTELY!

During these uncertain times, social media is your friend. Use it! Use it often to spread the word about your business – to be a salesperson for you. Let’s face it, right now you need sales, conversions, and business! If you’re an online or shopping business, you have got a captive audience bored at home – show them what you’ve got. If you are a retail or service business, educate on how to get your products. People are hungry to connect – use your social channels to be part of the solution.

Video is still the most powerful tool on social, so try it out – use your phone, it’s ok. People actually respond to the authenticity of a “real” video. Show some behind the scenes, give an update, talk about a cool new product, a new process, etc. Give it a try. If it’s working to drive calls, orders or more, then keep it up. If not, try again! The beauty of this time is we can experiment and find a way to promote your business!

If you have questions, drop them here, I’ll be happy to help!