So Happy Together

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Think how much more you could get done if you shared marketing tactics with your fellow businesses? Here are some tips to make the most out of group marketing:

Cooperate. Forget competition—the marketing buzzword today is “co-optition.” Co-optition means teaming up with complementary businesses to market your companies together. For instance, if you own a pet products store, you could let a local dog groomer or dog-walker leave their brochures at your checkout counter. In return, they could pass out discount coupons for your store to their customers. Co-optition exposes your brand to a whole bunch of new customers, multiplying your marketing reach. And because prospects are getting information about your business from a trusted source (the other business that they already patronize), they’re more likely to buy from you.

Make marketing a group effort. Consider uniting with other businesses near yours to host a special event. For instance, every summer, all the restaurants on one street in my neighborhood host a monthly “Stroll and Savor” night where each eatery sells samples of their cuisine outdoors for a dollar or two. A group event like this is a great way to attract new customers who might not otherwise try your business. In an outdoor shopping center or downtown district, all the stores could join forces to have a “Sidewalk Sale” or similar event. The more businesses get involved, the more clients the event can attract.

Start a buy-local campaign. A marketing campaign encouraging shoppers to buy local has a built-in edge because it helps not only your business, but the community’s tax base and local employment. One study showed that even during the recession, businesses in areas with buy-local campaigns had smaller sales declines that businesses in areas without those campaigns. A good buy-local campaigns educates consumers about the value of independent businesses; promotes shopping at independent businesses through ads, coupons, shop-local weeks and similar marketing tools; and promotes local independent businesses in the media. The American Independent Business Alliance and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies are two groups that can help you start a buy-local group. Their Web sites offer lots of advice on getting members, promoting the concept to consumers and market your buy-local campaign.

Next Steps for Your Small Business

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Congratulations if you’re one of the plucky, gutsy people who’ve set up a small business!  It’s a huge step. You probably haven’t had much capital so you’ve been working out of the corner of your living room, or garage. Day by day, though, you’re taking up more and more space and seeing increasing evidence that your business can work. So, do you take the next steps? And if so, what are they?

People

However amazing you are, you won’t be able to do everything yourself for very long, particularly if you plan on growing your business.  New people will help you to sell more, produce more and deliver more. All of these are much more valuable to a small business than a new office is. So, for most companies, this should be the first ‘next step’.

Premises

Your next thought is probably that you need to find some ‘proper’ working space. There are many options, and considerations, such as:

  • Do you want to buy or rent?
  • How long do you think the offices will last before you need bigger ones?
  • If you’re renting, how long is the lease and how flexible is it?
  • What services, if any, do the office providers give (such as security, parking, refreshments)?
  • How close would it be to your home and your customers?
  • How easy would it be to recruit to those offices?

There’s no right or wrong here, and it’s difficult to forecast your future needs for space. But, by asking yourself these questions, and answering them as realistically as possible, you’ll give yourself a good chance of making the best decision you can.

Processes

With new people, you also need to invest in processes. These don’t have to write manuals, but you do need to find a way to ensure that everyone knows what needs to be done, how and by when. What’s more, with clear processes in place, you’ll feel confident about letting other people contribute, without fearing that they are doing it wrong.

Sales and Marketing

The final ‘next step’ is to set up and establish a working sales and marketing ‘engine’. Your company will go nowhere unless you’re able to market it and your USPs effectively, and have a mechanism to sell to your target market. For some companies this means employing sales people. For others it means investing in a website that can take orders. And for others there are different requirements again. The most important consideration, though, is to establish a way for your ideal customers to hear about you and to buy from you.

In 1975, two young men set up a small business in a garage, and started working on the prototype of a computer.  In order to raise the capital, one of them sold his VW microbus, and the other sold his HP calculator.  Each step in your small business will feel daunting. But remember, you’ve taken the most difficult step already: to start up your very own company.  Be inspired by Apple, who showed that even a start-up-in-a-garage can become a multi-billion dollar industry!

Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com

 

Get Ahead with Tech: How to Revolutionize Your IT Department

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By Anica Oaks

Nearly every computer user needs IT support at some point. From hardware repair problems to networking issues, there are many reasons why the average person needs these services. If you are running an IT department, learn how to retain your client base and compete with all the other companies. Follow these steps to improve the way your IT professionals communicate with their clients.

Categorize the Company’s Services

Most IT companies provide a wide range of services. To create less confusion for customers, sort your services into different departments. For instance, have one department for data retrieval, another department for data storage, another one for Internet networking and so forth.

Open the Communication Lines

Improve the methods of communication you use to reach out to customers. Nowadays, more people are relying on websites to retrieve information. Consider promoting your IT services on a website or blog. A blog is not the same as a website. On a blog you can post helpful guides and information articles for people to read, whereas a website should offer your products and ways to contact the business in case of any issues.

Find New and Improved Talent

Sometimes, it works best to replace certain members of your work team. Some individuals may neglect their duties and slow down the rest of the group. Other people are not qualified to carry out the work of IT professionals. These people must be computer experts and not just call center agents. Every business leader should know when to fire old employees and hire the new ones.

Experts at Search Group Partners state that acquiring new talent for your company should be a top priority. Learn more about the right qualifications to look for in IT professionals by visiting BLS.gov.

Include More Customer Input

Too many companies ignore the importance of customer feedback. Know exactly what people think about your company, its employees, the products and the services. There are numerous ways you can collect customer responses and concerns.

After a client deals with your company, send out a customer satisfaction survey. Include questions that ask how customers feel about the company and how you can make improvements. Another tip is to include quick polls on the company’s website. Many people do not like filling out long surveys, so creating a series of polls is the second best option.

Technology is advancing in every industry known on the planet. Information technology is the field that helps people understand the basics of computer and Internet usage. Without the availability of IT services, businesses fall behind the competitors. Since IT professionals are so important and high in demand, they should know how to remain competitive and stay in tune with their customers.

Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.

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