Small Business-Where Can You Put Your Name?

Here’s an interesting story from Irish Central about how one entrepreneur is getting a lot of publicity from a charitable donation.  Paddy Power, Ireland’s legal bookmaking organization, has donated more than $15,000 to sponsor the confessional in a local church.  When a church fundraiser contacted Paddy Power for a donation, the man himself answered the phone.

“Paddy Power was captivated by the thought of a new confessional box,” said Father Michael Griffin, a priest at the church.  The location of the church, in the heart of horse racing country seemed like a perfect fit.  The first person to visit the new confessional, which features a small plaque reading “The Paddy Power Sin Bin” was  jockey, Frankie Dettori.  Paddy himself attended midday mass at the church.

This story has obviously gotten world-wide attention.  What can you do to promote your business in a unique, creative way?  How can you give back to the community in a highly visible way that puts you in a favorable light with your target market and that could generate free publicity, just because it’s unusual enough to be of interest to your local (or even national or international) media?

Mr. Power certainly got his $15,000 worth, and then some.  Not to mention earning himself more than a few prayers from the grateful parishioners.

Isn’t That Special?

According to the AP, Fidel Castro is praising the new US health care plan.  In that case, I guess it must be OK!  http://tinyurl.com/yhued88

Business Building Lessons

Thanks to Sandy Berkshire of Stuart’s House of Vacuums, Billings, MT for pointing out the following article.

Consultant Stacy Karacostas has written an excellent article called “Business-Building Lessons Learned in 2009: What Highly-Successful Small Business Owners Are Doing that You Can Do Too”. The title’s a mouthful but the article offers some very good advice on surviving and even thriving in our current economy.

The article promises ten things that successful entrepreneurs are doing but delivers only nine.  I guess that’s further evidence that the economy’s a mess.  Maybe the government’s imposed a 10% tax on internet lists.  Yeah, I’ll bet that’s it.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the article for the details, but here are the bullet points with some added commentary from yours truly.

1.  Forget about the state of the economy. I’m not sure you can entirely forget it, but don’t dwell on it, especially the emotional, mental part.  You have to look and act successful to be successful.

2.  Offer something new. People need something exciting in their lives.  Make your business exciting by adding new products, or just remerchandising your product line-up.

3.  Stop guessing. Ask your customers what they want.  Then give it to them.

4.  Embrace technology. More on this later.

5.  Build your list.  Use your customer list to build up your business.

6.  Provide value. I would add to this one, let your customers know about the value you provide.  Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn.

7.  Embrace mixed media marketing.  You can’t build a house with just one tool.  Use the whole box!

8.  Keep learning. Your customers are getting smarter every day.

9.  Stop doing it all yourself. If you haven’t already, read Michael Gerber’s “The E Myth Revisited.  If you’ve already read it, read it again.  Focus your efforts on what only you can do.

I’ve highlighted numbers 3, 4, 7, and 8 to create  MTS’s number 10.   Get out there! Get online.  Get on Facebook.  Get on LinkedIn.  Use all the tools at your disposal to find out what your customers want (3).  Use Facebook, or the brand-new Google Buzz to create a community of people who are interested in what you sell and then talk and listen to them every single day (4, 7,8).

You hope your customers are talking about you in a positive way.  If so, they’re probably doing it through social media.  If they’re talking about you in negative terms, they’re using the same social media.  Either way, you must be part of that conversation.  (See Retailers, What to do About the Internet.)

I guess I’ll add a number 11 and a number 12.

11.  Under promise and over deliver.  Nuff said.

12.  Keep on keeping on.  If you’ve been watching the Olympics you’ve seen stories about athletes who keep coming back even though they’ve failed many times in the past.  It’s called persistence and it’s the difference between a gold medal and a long, lonely trip back home.

Happy New Year!

Bring on 2010!

Happy New Year!

Arthur’s Day

arthurs day header

OK, after three days of swine flu talk, here’s something more fun.  It may be a bit of a stretch to connect this with small business, but I’ll give it a shot.

250 years ago a Dublin small business man, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000 year lease on the St. James Gate brewery and began production of a dark stout.  You have to admit, 9,000 years is quite a commitment.  The cost of the lease?  45 pounds per year.

There’s a huge celebration planned today at St. James Gate and at pubs around the world to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sir Arthur’s accomplishment.  All Irish and Irish wanna-bes are encouraged to lift a glass in a toast to Sir Arthur today.

As I write this it’s still before noon in the heartland, but here at MTS, we will be participating later in the day.

Slainte!

Sidebar:  Some studies have indicated that Guinness contains antioxidants that may actually keep your arteries free of plaque.  Hopefully any new health care legislation will include a daily pint for every citizen of legal drinking age.  I’m just sayin’…..

Here’s a six minute montage of Guinness commercials.  Enjoy.

20 Beginner Twitter Tips for Small Business

twitter logoMaybe you’re a veteran Twitter user.  Maybe you’ve tried Twitter and think it’s stupid. (Been there!) Or, maybe you’ve heard of Twitter but have never given it a look.  If you fall into either of the latter two categories, there’s a post on the TwiTip blog that you might want to check out.

Personally I’ve found that Twitter can be a great tool for your business or a gigantic time-suck, depending on how you approach it.  If you’re goal is to garner hundreds or even thousands of followers, you’ll be spending a lot of time for minimal results.  On the other hand, if your goal is to find smart, interesting people who can point you to important/interesting information in your field, then Twitter is a great tool.

I’m not going to repeat all twenty of TwiTips tips, you can read them on the post.  But I would like to point out a couple that I find particularly good.  For example, tip number 2, “Define your goals”, is a good one.  Don’t just jump in and start telling everyone that you’re going to lunch.  If your goal is to learn more about your business, do a twitter search of important key words.  Identify the tweet leaders in your field and follow them.

Number 10 says, “Always follow Jeff Pulver’s rule of giving 95% of the time and asking only 5% of the time.” Some folks will follow you just because you follow them.  But if you really want to exchange meaningful tweets, you have to post some good stuff yourself.

Finally, you might want to put tip number 20 on a Post-It Note and stick it to your monitor.  “It takes a long time to build up a following and develop trust, but it only takes one tweet to alienate every one of your followers.

By the way, Twitterer @EFranz13 posted a link to the TwiTip post via Twitter.  She doesn’t have a picture on her Twitter home page  (Tip # 6)

Also, if you’d like to follow me on Twitter, I’m @MichaelBuckley.

Small Business Owners–I Need Your Help

A shameless request.

I’ve never done anything like this before, but I need your help.  Hopefully those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis find some value in it.  If it makes you think, or moves you to action, or occasionally makes you laugh, then I think I’ve done my job.

Over the years, from Mine Your Own Business and Mining the Store, we seem to have developed a pretty loyal, albeit small, following.  It’s that small part that’s the problem.

Although the blog is mainly a labor of love and generates no revenue, (notice, there are no ads) I would love to see it grow.  Frankly, at some point, given the current state of the economy, I would like to/might have to create some positive cash flow, either through consulting, speaking, or publishing a book.  To do that, I have to get the word out.

What I”m humbly asking of you is to mention MTS to your small business friends.  If you find a post to be especially relevant, share it with them.  If you have a blog or web site of your own, a link to MTS would be greatly appreciated.  Let me know and I’ll be glad to link back to you.

If you’re a social media user, a mention on facebook, LinkedIn, or Friendfeed would be wonderful!  And, if you’re a twitterer, a tweet would be great!  You’ll notice that I’ve added a “Share This Blog” button to the top right of the page to make it easy for you to share MTS.  Just click on the word “more,”  select the appropriate social media site, and you’re good to go.

That’s it.  I don’t ever expect to be an A-List blogger and don’t really care to be.  I’d just like this blog to be helpful to as many people as possible.

Thanks for your help!

What’s Really Up with Retail

Yesterday I took Forbes.com to task for assuming that all retail is big retail in spite of readily available numbers to the contrary.  I found their assumption that as Wal Mart goes, so goes retail to be far off the mark.

Today I had lunch with a friend who is a sales manager for a well-known manufacturer that sells to independent retailers.  He told me that his business has been amazingly good.  In spite of the dire numbers we’re getting from the news media, his dealers are doing fine, thank you very much.

My friend’s assessment of the retail landscape is right in line with what I’m hearing from independents.  They may have to work a little harder and a little smarter, but the results are worth the effort.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times in the future:  Big business, whether it’s retail or anything else, doesn’t have the flexibility or the human contact with customers to respond to a crisis as well as a locally-owned business.

Sadly, we’ll never go back to the days when all business was local, but the current economy is certainly a huge opportunity for independent business to study the bad examples of the chains and to provide the customer with what whe really wants and needs.

dilbertBTW, this is slightly off today’s topic but, the Dilbert comic strip has been poking fun at MBAs this week.  If you haven’t been following the strip  in your local paper, you can catch up at the Dilbert web site.  Start with Monday, May 18.

Mother’s Day

Those of us in any kind of business tend to think in demographic terms.  We talk about various age/gender groups and how we can approach the right ones to sell more stuff.  Nothing wrong with that.  That’s what we do.

But today, I’d like to look at a particular demographic—Mothers.  This may be the one group that rarely, if ever, does things for their own benefit.  Dads buy things for more utilitarian purposes.  We buy tools and toys that either make us happy or more productive.

On the other hand, moms often buy things just because they make someone else happy.  They pass up the new dress in favor of a Barbie doll house.  They skip the trip to the beauty shop to pay for the dance lesson.  Moms are….well, they’re just moms.  Self-sacrifice is part of the job description.

And it’s a job they do willingfully, even gratefully from the time we’re conceived until the day they draw their last breath.  They’re the model for unselfishness.

Of course, we pay them back by giving them one day a year, a day called Mother’s Day, when we buy them a card and maybe take them out to dinner (or expect them to fix dinner for us).  Somehow it seems like we should do more.

But they don’t mind.  Their reward is to see their kids to grow up to be fine upstanding men and women.  The thing is, though, that whether you’re the Pope or a prisoner on death row, you mom loves you just the same.  In their eyes we can do no wrong.

So, for all you moms, have a Happy Mother’s Day.  Spend it with your kids (and grandkids) if you can.  But even if you can’t, know that we appreciate you and love you for all that you do for us.  I guess I’d better head for the Hallmark store.

It’s All About the Image

My wife and I belong to a local winery’s “club” which gives us a number of priveleges including an automatic quarterly shipment of wine and invitations to special events.  Over the weekend we attended a “release party” for their new line of upscale wines.

According to the owner, people were having a hard time justifying the spread of prices between the vintner’s low price and high priced product.  So, they’ve re-branded the more expensive wines with a more exclusive-sounding name and a new label.  While the original line is sold in grocery stores in the area, the new brand will only be available at the winery.

Guests at the party were the first to taste the new wines (remember, the only thing that’s changed is the label) and, of course, to be the first to purchase said wines.  It looked like everyone in attendance did leave with one or more bottles.

This is brilliant strategy!  A simple label change has added exclusivity to the winery’s high-end product which will allow them to charge a higher price.  Differentiating their winery-only items from the ones sold in supermarkets gives them a lot of flexibility in marketing through both channels.  The “release party” gave them a chance to stroke their best customers and to make sales that they wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Give this some thought.  What can you learn from this that you can apply to your own business?  Rebranding and event marketing are two excellent ways to keep your margins up, generate extra sales, and turn customers into advocates.