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What can Social Media Really do for Your Business?

Guest Post by Matthew Piggott from Community CarShare

We live in an online world where Facebook is your town square, Twitter is a local group of opinion leaders, and LinkedIn is your virtual Rolodex. Many platforms exist and your business is trying to find out what works best. At Community CarShare the majority of our growth still comes from word of mouth and traditional forms of promotion, but an increasing amount of sales are coming from online marketing driven by social media. Every business should be monitoring whether, and to what extent, to be part of social media.

A common question asked is, “what is the return on investment of social media?” Any responsible business should be asking that question, but ultimately the question is best answered with your gut rather than your head at this point.  Sites like Klout.com, Google Analytics, and the ad section of Facebook will give you lots of data, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the true worth of social media. When your BIA sends you an invite to this month’s networking meeting, do your rush to quantify the value of attending? I’m guessing not, so base your decision to get involved on Twitter, or other platforms, based on questions such as: Will this help improve my brand? Can I get better customer engagement? Etc…

I can best illustrate the benefits of social media involvement with an example. For years we have been working with our insurance company to lower our minimum driving age and this summer succeeded in having it lowered to 21! This was great news for us but, in the rush of our summer, business expansion only had a chance to compose one tweet about it in the first few days of receiving the news. A few days later a prospective member approached me at an event; turns out the message had spread so fast that it went beyond our immediate network and was being repeated back to us in a very short time frame.

In the end, that one tweet was re-tweeted over two dozen times and has been our most broadcast message of any we’ve composed. If you compare what we invested (the time to compose a 140 character phrase) with what we received then you can understand why we’re enthusiastic about the ROI that social media can bring to your business.

That being said, Facebook likes and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sales.  So while you’re working to build your platform, don’t be afraid to branch out and tap into other established networks. We’ve used online deal sites like Groupon and WagJag, and have considered others like Living Social. Those deals have offered great returns because they give access to an already established network of several hundred-thousand people depending on which site you choose.

As always make sure you know your target audience and do some research on the particular demographic of each site and its potential successes/failures to avoid disappointment. Is your business based on a membership service? Then these deals are a no-brainer because you’ll have an easy chance at a repeat customer. Pick a site that works best for you and go for it.

Our experience at Community CarShare is that social media has helped drive word of mouth advertising, allowed us to engage with a community of interested people, and brought in new business opportunities that would not have been possible before. Studies show that social media adoption is currently in the “early majority” so it’s not too late to jump in. Define your goals, pick a few platforms, and follow us @GrRiverCarShare  or on Facebook if you’d like!

Matthew Piggott is the Member Services Coordinator at Community CarShare. He enjoys using social media to find new CarShare members, and also to ensure they have good service once they join.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Solutions, Social Media Tips

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Steps Toward Better Selling

Selling today might be more casual than ever before, but it’s still the most essential part of your business. As Michael Lewis aptly stated during his selling skills workshop here at the WWCFDC office, “without revenue, you just have an expensive hobby”. At the end of the day, it’s not enough to have your doors open daily or be engaged using social media, it’s about generating sales.

That said, the following are some of the steps Michael shared to help small business owners become better salespeople:

Be better prepared – Before you encounter a potential customer, you’ll want to be well acquainted with the features and benefits of your products and services. Online shopping makes it easy for a customer to shop around and you don’t want to underestimate what your customer already knows. Some won’t necessarily want or need specifics, depending on your industry, but the more info you’re prepared to provide, the better.

Establish trust – Initial contact with the customer is your chance to smile, use an approachable tone of voice, and create a powerful first impression. Some customers won’t feel comfortable buying anything until they feel like they know you. Whether it’s offering a friendly greeting upon entering your retail space or being genuinely enthusiastic, make the effort to generate positive customer perceptions.

Engage the customer – Start asking open-ended questions to determine what the customer needs. If you notice a customer is spending an extended time in your retail space, or seems to want a never-ending chat about the construction going on outside, gear your way towards business-oriented dialogue asking something like: “so what brings you to my business today?”

Diagnose needs & offer solutions – After discussing the needs of your customer, reiterate what you think the customer is looking for, and start recommending your business’ solutions by stating the benefits. Always consider that the customer operates on the “what’s in it for me” principle; essentially, you have to pitch considering incentives from their perspective.

Address objections – There will almost always be sales resistance, so pre-consider your response to typical concerns.

If the customer is concerned with:

Price: emphasize value or offer credit if possible.
Quality: support your value proposition by providing testimonials, product reviews, demonstrations, warrantees, and possible guarantees. Time: If the customer needs “more time to think about it”, assure them you understand, but ask if there is anything you can clarify further or what exactly it is they’re concerned about so you can refine your pitch.

Close the deal – If you’ve addressed the customer’s needs, you may never need to chase the sale because the customer will state their purchasing intentions; however, even after stating the benefits, you’ll likely have to ask if they’re interested in a purchase. Remember that silence is golden at this stage. You’ve pitched and now it’s the customer’s chance to take advantage (you don’t want to talk yourself out of a sale).

Overall, selling is the transference of enthusiasm; excitement about value makes you want in on the deal. Becoming skilled with the above steps, along with incorporating both follow-up and thanking your customers, will help you to increase sales in no time.

 

 

 

Posted in: Sales, Small Business Solutions, Workshop Summaries

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Workshop Summary: Time Management with Tina

Couldn’t make it to Tuesday’s workshop? Here’s what you missed…

As a business owner you’ve likely discovered that there’s just not enough time in the day to get around to everything you need to do.

According to feedback from Tuesday’s workshop participants, every entrepreneur has unique time management challenges and most business owners struggle with the following issues:

-Determining priorities
-Eliminating distractions when working from home
-The guilt associated when you don’t finish your entire daily task list
-Taking on too many projects or being unable to say no
-Adapting to unexpected tasks and the art of delegation
-The trouble with not being a ‘morning person’

Based on our discussion, here are some tips for organizing your time effectively:

Communicate your scheduleLet folks know the time periods when you’re actually available versus when you’re at your desk with paperwork to do. That is to say, you might physically be around from 9-5, but your first couple of hours might be dedicated to specific daily tasks, so consider stating availability accordingly. This frees you up to manage your day as required.

Break a daunting project into smaller tasks – You probably haven’t even looked at a seemingly massive project because it is the most intimidating item on your list, but it might be more manageable if broken down into smaller tasks. When focusing on more defined to-do items such as “write page one of proposal” or “create appendix A”, you’ll tackle the project piece-by-piece and reduce overall anxiety.

Prioritize and “eat the frog” – When compiling a task list, prioritize according to importance or even difficulty. You can choose to “eat the frog” on the list and accomplish the task you least enjoy first (as famously recommended by Brian Tracy) or you can complete the tasks you enjoy the most first to gain the momentum you need to motivate you early in the day. Overall, which strategy works for you will depend on the type of person you are.

Learn to say no – You can’t be everything to everybody, and while you may feel guilty about turning down your clients, friends or family for other priorities, you need to stand by what’s best for you and your goals. Depending on where work stands on your priority list, you’ll have to say no to those making demands on your free time and, if your family or social life is important, you’ll have to consider how many clients you take on.

Delegate tasks It’s important you’ve hired those you can delegate to. As Tina advises, don’t fall victim to the “warm body syndrome” where you hire a person who merely exists as a space-filler without being able to take on any of your responsibilities when you’re strapped for time. If you staff correctly, hiring those with diverse skills and initiative, it’ll really pay off when you need others to step up.

Other quick tips:
First things first– if you’re most focused between 8:30-noon, get to important projects in this chunk of time. This may mean scheduling a different time to skim your inbox and answering urgent emails only.
Don’t Sweat it – Remember it’s a revolving task list. Sure there’s things you need to do today, they’re #1, but don’t stress out if you can’t get everything crossed off the page.
Be Realistic – if the same three tasks are always on the bottom of your to-do list, determine their significance and whether you can delegate them to someone else.

Thanks to all of our workshop participants; if you have some time-saving tips of your own, let us know in the comments below!

Posted in: Small Business Solutions, Time Management Tips, Workshop Summaries

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Brewing Better Signage Perks up Local Café

Robin Hansford & Marty Curry pose with the finished product outside the Robin’s Nest in Elmira.

With its warm colours, deep wood accents, and the smell of fresh, organic coffee wafting through the air, the Robin’s Nest Café is perfect for those looking to unwind or work away with a latte. But until recently those driving by might not have known to drop in and discover the inviting space. Although the Nest has dedicated patrons who rave about the lemon cilantro chickpea salad and open mic nights on Facebook, Robin Hansford faced an obstacle common to many business owners; the café’s outdoor signage needed a boost.

When allocating funds for advertising, small businesses naturally want the most value for their money. What’s more is that outdoor signage needs to be eye-catching, fairly large, and accentuate the business’ offerings to be effective.

When looking into options available, it seemed a horizontal banner or A-frame boards were going to be the best choice to attract attention; however, these mediums can be pricey and may not deliver on impact. Fortunately, as an innovative entrepreneur, Robin took advantage of her space in a resourceful way and serves as an example to other business owners. When looking to spruce up your signage, evaluate what you’ve already got. Facing a major intersection in Elmira, the café’s building wall was a huge empty space, or rather, as Robin realized, a huge empty canvas.

With a few calls to organizations such as the Kitchener-Waterloo Society for Artists, as well as the Elora Centre for the Arts, Robin was able to connect with Marty Curry, a skilled local painter with plenty of experience creating defined designs on a large scale.

The two created a mock up of the design and Marty got to work at the end of August to create impactful signage that combined business savvy with the underlying creativity that is fundamental to the atmosphere at the Robin’s Nest.

Overall, this case of café connection between artist and business owner really paid off and Robin recommends the strategy to others: “I was tired of trying to figure out what would work best, the associated costs, and possible by-laws involved, but the mural was a simple solution with a reasonable cost and BIG impact. Best of all it utilizes what we already had. My advice: don’t be scared to be bold and choose bright contrasting colours to get the attention of your customer, and be careful about putting up any content subject to frequent change. We’re already planning mural number two! It is kind of like getting a tattoo… addictive”.

If you’d like to get in touch with Marty to discuss collaboration, let us know and we’ll send you his contact information.

Posted in: Small Business Solutions, Success Stories & Connections

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