The 15% growth reported around Small Business Saturday in the US provides independent business owners with some encouraging news at the kickoff of the busy holiday shopping season. Contrasting with an 11% decline in Black Friday sales, it seems like an indicator that consumer feelings towards small businesses are warm in comparison to attitudes around corporate big box retailers, and that the efforts to promote the day on the part of American Express are beginning to pay increasing dividends as social media and word of mouth have contributed to year over year growth. Not just a US phenomenon. As Small Business Saturday has grown, it is following in the footsteps of other commercial days of significance, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, days where retailers and e-commerce players respectively slash prices in bids to entice high volumes of customers. According to a Forbes article, these shopping season promotions have already been embraced in the UK, and now Small Business Saturday is following suit in the second

Branding is one of those concepts that is theoretically simple, yet more difficult to effectively put into action. The way that your brand is perceived on a number of factors coming together, from customer service and the quality of your marketing to the shape, color and sizes of your packaging or functionality of your services. Branding is an area that small business owners might associate more with larger corporations, but the reality is that business owners are able to pursue branding just as, if not more effectively than larger companies because of the higher degree of intimacy they can create in their customer relationships. Business owners can build their brand by internally promoting the values that they stand for and encouraging their employees to serve as brand ambassadors, but ultimately when they want to know how their branding campaigns are being perceived, they need to turn their lens in on themselves from the outside. Gather outside perspective on your brand from customers. If you aren’t sure

If you aren’t already familiar with what a QR code is, it is essentially a design made up of dark and light boxes that can be placed via a sticker or printed, or even painted directly onto an object or service that acts as a link when scanned. Common applications for QR codes include ticket verification at sporting events, scanning shipped packages and any other application where the physical world meets the digital. QR codes are interesting in a small business context, especially for those who are in the midst of financing their businesses with bad credit, since they have a lot of different application and are very cost effective. What can you do with a QR code? A QR code can be used to open a website in a mobile browser, create and save a contact, track an ordered item, and essentially perform any task a digital link could while existing as a two dimensional object in the real world. Places to put QR codes include

Small business Saturday, falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is the small business answer to slashed prices at big box stores created by American Express in an effort to boost awareness of local businesses and their contributions to the economy. Local business owners should take advantage of the social media campaigning that Amex invests in to promote Small Business Saturday, which continues to grow nationally. When combined with a positive forecast for this year’s holiday spending, both in brick and mortar locations and online, business owners would do well to remember the date, November 29th this year, and prepare for it by rallying their neighborhoods and other local business owners to get on board. Plan a promotion. A discount is what your customers will be expecting, so get ready now preparing a door-buster that will bring business to your location. Think of something that is popular and can be discounted without your business taking a loss, since this item may be the purchase that inspires your

The first impression that you make is an incredibly powerful and long lasting thing. Whether for good or for bad, people will arrive at assumptions in a short period of time that can be hard to shake going forward, making it much more practical for a business owner to try and take charge of the first interactions they have with clients through a smooth onboarding process as opposed to possibly fighting an uphill battle after a rocky start. While a first impression is a major factor in creating a relationship, the follow up is also highly important. Did you make a great impression on your client, and now they are excited to work with you? Great, then you need to actively take steps to preserve that goodwill so that it has the potential to ripen into more business, positive reviews and potentially ever referrals for more business. The ability to gain referrals is especially important for your business’s ability to continue growing. Having a stable client

To educate someone is to pass on knowledge that they can own and apply for their own purposes. In the context of a business, educating customers means providing them with insight peculiar to your own experience, as well as informing them of ways that they can use your products. The more that your customers are able to learn from you, the further you provide them with value and can effectively win their loyalty. Appearing as an expert in your field can create a large amount of value over time, allowing you to leverage the value of your perspective in many ways. Uses of your products. While your customers already have uses for your products and services, they may not know about everything that you can provide for them unless you take the time to educate them on the full range of offerings within you business and their various applied uses. White papers are a common way for businesses to provide information on their products to clients

Mobile web traffic has continued to grow as a percentage of all online activity, as reported by smallbiztrends.com, and currently 60 percent of internet traffic is now occurring on mobile devices. This figure includes internet use by mobile apps, with organic traffic created by handheld devices including smartphones and tablets clocking in at around 35% of the total number. Regardless, if small businesses rely on digital, they need to be aware of the increasing importance of mobile and position themselves to take advantage of the implications. Mobile ads. Mobile marketing is one way for business owners to take advantage of the traffic taking place on mobile devices. This type of advertisement is particularly powerful for businesses trying to create calls, since a mobile ad can allow for a conversion to a call with the touch of a button. Some apps also host ads, which can potentially be strong places for businesses to advertise depending on the demographics that they serve. App development. Apps offer an unprecedented level of

A troll in the context of social media refers to a person who is out to cause problems, confuse people, and generally make lives difficult for their own amusement. Argument for the sake of arguing is a troll’s bread and butter, and the more nonsensical they can make the situation, the better. For businesses that embrace engagement on social media who may also be using it as a supplement to other customer support, dealing with an internet troll can quickly become a huge time sink, as well as create the potential for their business to lose face, which may in fact be the endgame of the person who is playing the antagonist. For this reason, it is important that small business owners understand what the idea of trolling is as well as how to identify when it is happening to them. Differentiate between a real complaint and one that is fabricated. A real, upset customer may post their comments in a way that seems antagonistic, but

Moving into different marketing areas and strategies, business owners can often discover powerful ways to leverage technology for their benefit. Direct marketing, word of mouth and online marketing are all methods that most business owners put to use. Increasingly, mobile marketing is becoming important as well, and the better that small businesses are able to use a combination of mobile and local SEO, the more likely they will be able to benefit from customers being directed to their door by their smartphones. Often a mobile marketing campaign will serve as a complement to a local tactic, such as guerrilla marketing. Seeing an interesting ad or art piece may prompt potential customers to take out their smartphones to capture a picture or learn more, which will in turn expose them to your mobile website or the listings you have managed on local directories. The value of mobile lies in its potential for immediate follow through. As more and more people use smart phones to surf the internet,

A marketing budget is a truly delicate thing. Handled roughly, it will evaporate without yielding any ROI, while if it is finessed, it can create a huge amount of return on investment. Small business owners, in particular those with bad credit, can’t afford to invest in marketing strategies that don’t bring them a return, but at the same time, many small business owners are early adopters of new marketing techniques and make them work for them with reach comparable to what corporations are able to achieve with much larger budgets. Starting out your digital marketing, many business owners first choose social media, using the fact that basic services are almost always free as a license to experiment and fine tune their message. Business owners who are looking to create leads through digital marketing will often gravitate towards PPC, or pay per click advertising through services like Google Adwords and Bing Ads. Since these ads have the potential to be highly targeted based off of locations

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