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Small Business Success August 2012
Small Business Success
Fresh ideas for your Small Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

The Six Truths About Selling to Baby Boomers

What Do Boomers Buy?

Become a People Magnet

Writing Skills: The Tricky Capital

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Small Business News:

CFIB calls for enhancements to credit/debit card Code: Competition Tribunal soon to rule on similar issues in US Visa, MasterCard settlement - The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) calls on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to strengthen the government's landmark Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in Canada. This follows a $7.25 billion US settlement with Visa and MasterCard which will allow US merchants the power to surcharge for accepting credit cards. Read more...


More Canadian small businesses put succession plans in place: BMO - More than one-third of Canadian small business owners have a succession plan in place, according to a study released Thursday by BMO Financial Group. Read more...
BMO report:
Also see Blue Beetle Book's eBook Succession Planning 101


The Harper Government: Working for Small Businesses - VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA-(Marketwire - July 27, 2012) - The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Cathy McLeod, today met with members of the local business community to discuss a number of initiatives the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced to reduce the burden placed on small businesses. She was accompanied by representatives from both the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia (CGA-BC) and the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada). Read more...


Small business confidence sinks in June: CFIB - Confidence among small and medium-size businesses continued to fall in June, according to the latest survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Read more...


 
    The Six Truths About Selling to Baby Boomers
 
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The most common definition of baby boomers in North America is those born between 1946 and 1964. For those marketing to other countries, the dates differ slightly, especially in Australia where the boom occurred several years later.

There are 90 million people in North America between the ages of forty-six and sixty-four, with a disposable income of $2 trillion (yes, I said trillion!). In Canada, roughly one-third of us are boomers, so marketing to us makes sense; but first we have to understand our target market.

First, let's define this demographic in terms of what type of people they are; as one of them myself I feel I can be honest here and say we're wonderful people but, as J. Walker Smith and Ann Clurman say in their book Generation Ageless, "For decades, baby boomers have been chided for being self-absorbed, self-confident, and utterly self-centered, even narcissistic. There's no argument here. Guilty as charged." I agree, it is who we are, for better or worse, and sales and marketing strategies better take these traits into consideration, or they will fail miserably.

Here are my half dozen truths about marketing to boomers to get you started selling and marketing to this fascinating market.

First Truth

We may age but we will never get old. Don't ever call us seniors, not now when many of us are still in our 50s, and not when we're in our 60s or 70s - in fact never call us seniors. I know lots of people eligible for reduced transit fares, who still pay rather than admit they're seniors! And, don't call us sir or madam, either! Market to us as if were young and vibrant - that's how we see ourselves.

Second Truth

We are not stupid, or out of touch. Don't ever, ever treat us as if we are stupid - that is just going to tick us off big time. I went into a local car dealer recently and couldn't believe what rubbish the young saleswoman was telling me. Heck, we invented some of those lines! I stormed out, and even though I had a cheque book in my pocket and planned to purchase a car that day, there was no way I was going to buy from her!

Third Truth

We like to be treated like Royalty. We boomers think we're special, we want and expect extra attention, if we were a personality type (check out our June edition for more about styles) we'd be "expressive" or "type A." We like applause, we like companies to treat us as if we're special. It's all about delivering exceptional customer service.

Fourth Truth

We're not boring. Focus on what we like and what keeps us young. Remember we may be aging but we're still out to have fun, and to seek new experiences. The keys to our youthful attitude are: adventure, fun, vigour, novelty, rule-breaking, and individuality. Build these into your promotional campaign and you will find boomers beating a path to your door. The key is: promote the experience, not the product or service.

Fifth Truth

Many of us are free of some, if not all, of our responsibilities and want to play. Remember, many boomers are not close to retirement, and they may never completely retire. Currently most are in the empty-nest period of their lives. They are looking to spread their wings after shedding some of their more immediate responsibilities. Market products and services that emphasize this new freedom, but do it quickly before their adult children come back and bleed them dry.

Sixth Truth

Boomers want quality. Boomers are sophisticated and highly discriminating. When downsizing homes they may look for something smaller, but it has to be high-quality; when trading in their minivan they look for a vehicle that's smaller, but more luxurious or sportier. Whatever they buy, they want the highest quality they can afford, even if it stretches them financially.

If you'd like to learn a little more about Boomers check out the article below and find out more about what they like to buy.

 
   
What Do Boomers Buy? Top

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In the previous article, we looked at how Boomers think - now let's take a look at some of their buying habits.

The subject of marketing to boomers is a massive topic; for anyone wanting to delve deeper I thoroughly recommend the book I mentioned in the previous article, Generation Ageless. It's the seminal work on selling to boomers - Walker Smith is president of Yankelovich Inc., which has been studying boomers since 1958, and Florence Skelly, one of the co-founders, coined the term baby boomer - they understand this cohort better than anyone.

Boomers like to express themselves and create value through experiences, not necessarily through material possessions, which they have a habit of taking for granted. They are a generation that got almost everything they ever wanted since childhood. That's not to say that they don't like to buy things, but they are looking for things that are special, that offer more. Boomers are smart buyers and look for intangible benefits over and above the norm.

As consumers, what are boomers buying? It all comes down to lifestyle; boomers consider travel a necessity, not a luxury, and spend a good percentage of their disposable income on vacations. As they are aging, but heaven forbid, not getting older, there is a disconnect between mind and body so anything to do with fitness - from gym memberships to home fitness equipment - is on their radar. Health is an increasing concern, and technology is doing its part to bring boomer-oriented products to market, such as home defibrillators, and wristwatches that automatically transmit health data from patient to doctor.

Products aimed at younger markets are being "boomerized," such as cell phone ringtones. Booseytones, for instance, offers classical music truetones and wallpapers to drown out the hip-hop or pop tunes of the following echo generation.

As millions of boomers age, the number that become single, through the death of a spouse or divorce, is going to soar. Online dating is going to be big with this demographic. Helping these new singles meet their potential new soulmate offers great business opportunities.

What about the economic downturn, you may ask? Isn't that going to trim the sails of these profligate spenders? Well, it didn't in the late '70s, through rampant inflation, the oil crisis and unstable markets. During that period boomers refused to downgrade their expectations, they continued to demand, and get, what they wanted, and so it will be in 2012. The boomer market is nothing if not resilient.

Some people think that Boomers are a niche market, and perhaps give it little attention, but let's put this "niche" into perspective. Yankelovich's study shows that 27 per cent of boomers surveyed purchased a pet after becoming empty nesters - this is an incredible 6.2 million people, worth an estimated $3 billion. That's a niche market that anyone should be eager to market to. The big thing is that there are hundreds of boomer "niches" just choose one and count your profits.

 
   
Become a People Magnet Top
 

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Some people have the ability to put us at ease, so that we immediately relax in their company, and even open up to them in a way that we might not do to anyone else. We are drawn to these people as if by some magnetic force. Harness this type of power and it will help you in every aspect of your business.

What we're talking about is the ability to communicate well. The primary skill in communication is conversation, so being able to converse easily and effectively is a business skill that is often overlooked. Putting people at ease and being easy to talk to is important for any businessperson no matter what business they are in. A conversation requires two things talking and listening. On the face of it, it sounds easy, but there are many ways a simple conversation can alienate the other person if not handled well. On the other hand if you can develop your skills as a good conversationalist people are far more likely to listen to what you are saying and trust you.

Let's take a look at listening first, as it is more important than speaking and far more difficult to do for most of us. Take a look at the four ways we listen to people below and think about which category you fall into - be honest.

1. Non-Listening

Think about all those times you've met someone at a networking event and almost immediately tuned them out. Perhaps you are thinking about who else you should be talking to, or perhaps they don't look like someone you'd like to talk to. Whatever the reason, you are nodding and appearing as if you are listening, but in reality you can't even remember their name.

2. Selective Listening

Our children are often excellent at this, as are customers at times. How often have you had a conversation and provided a person with several pieces of information, some of which is in their best interests and some not. Which do they remember? This is selective listening, and we are all guilty of doing it at times.

3. Attentive Listening

This sounds as if it is a better form of listening, but it's often a case where you are listening, but really thinking about what it is you want to say, what point you want to make. In this case you are not really listening to the speaker's point of view.

4. Empathetic Listening

This is where you not only listen attentively, but you ignore everything else and focus on what the person is saying rather than what else is going on around you, or what you would like to say next. In fact, you should be reading between the lines, or rather hearing between the lines, looking for the deeper meaning of what is being said. A skilled empathetic listener also reads the speaker's body language and "feels" what is being said. Empathetic listening is very hard to master, and takes a great deal of practice, but is well worth the effort if you want to become a people magnet.

Being There Physically and Mentally

One of the most off-putting, not to mention darn right rude things someone can do in a conversation is look around the room, or over your shoulder at what else is going on. You know the scenario, you are telling them something that you feel is important, or perhaps even answering a question they have asked and you see their gaze drift away. Even worse, they may say something like, "Go on, I'm listening" when blatantly they are at best only selectively listening. How does that make you feel? It would appear that what you are saying has little value. The thing is, we are all guilty of this at times, so we have to be careful to actively listen, even if we haven't completely mastered empathetic listening.

How you can do this is by asking questions to confirm what they are saying, or by making gestures that demonstrate you are listening. Nodding, or shaking, you head, uttering affirmative sounds all show that you are actively listening.

Training Your Memory

The better you concentrate on what people are saying the more likely you are to remember it. In general, people are very impressed when you remember their name, or mention a point they made when you last saw them. Demonstrating that you listened to what they said makes people respect and trust you, and builds strong bonds. There are many ways to train your memory and many sites on the Internet that can give you memory tricks and strategies. One easy way to remember someone's name when you first meet them is to say it a few times in the conversation. For instance, "So Betty, what you're saying is..." or, "That's a good point Jim..." Once you've done this a couple of times the name will almost certainly stick, plus you have demonstrated that you are actively listening.

After the conversation, you can always make a few notes to remind you of key things about the person and what they talked about. This can be very useful at things like Chamber of Commerce networking events where you have a good chance of meeting the same people at every event. This technique is even more important when meeting regular clients, when you can use the points you have recorded to start a conversation by talking about something that is relevant to them.

If you think about your favourite conversations, you probably remember those where you talked the most, and that's natural. So, if you want to be a people, or customer magnet be the one that listens the most and you will find people opening up to you and putting their trust in you.

 
   
Writing Skills: The Tricky Capital Top

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This month we thought we stray just a little from out normal business topics and start a new occasional series to help our readers with their business writing. So often we see advertisements, flyers, brochures and reports with all sorts of unusual punctuation, spelling and grammar. In this edition of Writing Skills we'll be dealing with when to use capitals, and when not to. It's a great deal trickier than you might expect!

Everyone is faced from time to time with the temptation to emphasize the importance of something by using capital letters. However, in reality, tests have shown that they can distort the message. Reading something correctly is based on our expectations, which have been built up over time; any graphic deviance, such as capitalization, can be confusing. Unfortunately, so are the conventions governing when to use it and when not.

Your first consideration should be for the audience you are writing for, and its traditions. Business publications are more apt to use capital letters than a film-and-video trade publication for instance. In referring to the presence of a politician at a meeting, a business newsletter might say, "a Cabinet Minister was on hand," whereas the film-and video publication might talk about "a cabinet minister."

A second consideration is aesthetic. What will the text look like if the writer uses capital letters consistently throughout? It might end up being very difficult to read. And then there is fashion. Currently, the trend is, whenever in doubt use lowercase; capitals are considered old-fashioned and conservative.

But capital letters obviously have a place, and that is in the names of things, people, and titles. The difficulties are in determining what is a title and what is not. It is definitely the Ministry of Agriculture, but the ministry, without a specifying element, is a generic term (could be any ministry). It's the writer's choice, governed by the traditions of the organization, to refer to a specific ministry as the Ministry or the ministry after it has been first identified. B.C. ministries tend to favour no capitalizing in this instance.

If the title strays from its official form, the writer must decide whether or not to capitalize; it could be the agriculture ministry or the Agriculture Ministry. The same choice presents itself with plurals. It is the Legislature of British Columbia, but it could be either the B.C. and Alberta Legislatures or legislatures. People's titles can be confusing as well. It is definitely Prime Minister, Stephen Harper but it is Stephen Harper, the prime minister of British Columbia (one of a whole line of prime ministers). If a modifier is added before the title, it usually signals use of lowercase: The former premier Jean Chretien.

A title standing alone that describes a role, rather than the person fulfilling it, is not a true title and therefore is lowercase: The lieutenant governor represents the monarch. Difficulties arise, however, with titles that are also job descriptions, such as principal, headmaster, and the like.

Directions are normally lowercase, east, west, north, south, as are seasons, spring summer, fall and winter. But when a direction refers to a specific group of provinces, for examples, the West (B.C., Alberta, etc.), it is capitalized. This holds true for the distinction between the west coast of the island but the West Coast (referring to B.C.).

And just to make things totally arbitrary, there is mine and yours. Elizabeth is Canada's Queen, but Juan Carlos is king of Spain.

As with all such ambiguities in writing, the author, in using capitalization, should study similar publications as a guide and, above all, be consistent.

 
   
It's All a Matter of Perspective Top
 

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