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The Leading Edge April 2015
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

Make Yourself a Local Media Star

Planning and Working a Trade Show

When One Customer Praises You - Others Follow

The Great Wired North

Cartoon

THE LEADING EDGE - Logitech Unveils Portable Videoconferencing Solution for Small Business

Small Business News:

PM announces support to open new markets for small and medium-sized businesses. - Read more...


What small business means to big-city mayors - The Globe and Mail asked the mayors of Canada's four largest cities about their challenges, big wins and why small business matters to them and the cities they represent.Read more...


Canada Small Business Financing Program Improving Access to Financial Funding for Small Businesses - To assist small businesses in accessing financing, the government is making changes to the Canada Small Business Financing Program to allow more small businesses to apply to the program to purchase or improve their land or buildings. Read more...


Amazon Opens Store for Unique Products from Small Businesses - It may be the biggest online marketplace in the world, but a new store on Amazon will now support the little guy. The e-commerce powerhouse is opening an online store that will offer exclusive electronics, toys and other products created by inventors and small businesses, including products featured on the ABC reality show "Shark Tank."Read more...


 
    Make Yourself a Local Media Star
 
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Guess who's company made the local TV news last night - and it wasn't you. If it was your competitor, you may be scratching your head (or banging it) since you know that you are much more knowledgeable about the industry and you're sure you would make a better interview.

It could be that the reporter or producer knew her from a previous program but the most likely case is that she has worked a strategy to get to know those in the media, making them aware of her product and her knowledge of the industry.

So, build your own strategy.

Social Media

  • Building a relationship with the media, as with all basic networking, is a matter of targeting reporters and editors in advance and finding where they hang out online (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook).
  • Monitor their Twitter hash tags; often reporters chat with the public on Twitter and you can respond to comments they make.
  • Compliment a reporter via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail on a story he or she did.

Networking

  • Introduce yourself to reporters at chamber of commerce mixers. Just be friendly and don't be too obvious. Any good reporter can smell a pitch a mile away.
  • If you can write and you live in a small town with a newspaper, be aware that the editor is always looking for material. See if you can submit a guest editorial that isn't overtly self-serving. This is a great way for them to get to know you.
  • Write a positive post on your blog highlighting a story by a local reporter and e-mail them the link.
  • Visit city council meetings in your town. Typically there's a reporter sitting around bored, who you can build a relationship with.
  • Treat journalists with respect. You'll set yourself apart just by being friendly and uncritical.

Become Indispensable

  • Never say no if a reporter wants to interview you that day, even if you're on vacation.
  • Offer occasional suggestions of angles you think would make great follow-up stories, and they don't have to be anything to do with your business. Most stories are ongoing aspects of long-running issues, so reporters always need additional story follow-up ideas.
  • Offer to connect reporters to experts you know (and who might say good things about your company).
  • Be a source for stories that fall within your expertise by letting reporters know you're available when they need a source.

Leverage Your Advantage

  • If you've created a YouTube video where you're talking about you company - use it as resource by including the URL in your blog and sending the link to a reporter you've met.
  • Never put-down your competition; rather, say something like, "We've got several good companies in this area in the marine industry; our firm has concentrated on serving one segment of the business..."
  • Frame your story as a local example of a national or international issue currently in the news. If the government is debating education and you've developed a unique program for schools, you've got a pitch.
  • Be prepared to answer the obvious questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How - and rehearse your answers.

Plan Ahead

  • Pre-write tweets and a blog post, so you can immediately tell friends, family, clients and supporters when the story runs. The bottom line is: reach out, be helpful, and activate your strategy. The publicity is there for the taking. All you have to do is ask.
 
   
Planning and Working a Trade Show Top

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Tradeshows like TV zombies are re-appearing from the dead. A few years ago many marketing specialists were predicting the demise of the tradeshow in an age of YouTube, expensive websites and webinars, which they saw as the trading booths of the 21st. Century.

But instead they've flourished, in spite of the cost of travel, accommodation and out-of-town per-diems for staff. It would appear that people still long for personal contact in an age of digital detachment.

However, it is a significant financial commitment and one that calls for serious consideration along with some creative thinking and guerrilla marketing to gain the most advantage.

A Checklist Before the Commitment

  • The most important criteria of all is one that's often overlooked; are attendees likely to be your market?
  • Will other exhibitors be potential leads and prospects? If not, it's the wrong show for you, no matter how attractive the venue.
  • Check out the seminar list. What are the topics? Ideally the subject and the speaker should both be in your purview.
  • Review the speaker list. Are these thought leaders you respect? Pick the ones you would love to spend time with one-on-one. Are any of the speakers among your businesses prospect hit list?
  • Schedule appointments in advance. If there are important people to see, don't wait until you get to the tradeshow. Contact them ahead of time.
  • Portable display booths are horrendously expensive to buy or rent. Ask colleagues if any has a portable one to loan you. Check with your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a booth rental program for members.

At the Show

Remember you're never off duty. Work the lunchroom and any hospitality suites you can get invited to. While the seminar room is filling up, start conversations with the people around you.

Spot the trade media and go armed with a 60-second 'stump speech' that will get them interested in your story. Keep in mind that's why they're in attendance and your tale just might intrigue them.

If you book a booth a whole new set of considerations kick in. First go in person, rather than just sending an employee. Nobody can show the passion for your business the way you can. Secondly take as much stuff as you can; things like tables, fold-up chairs are charged out at ridiculous rates. Use your laptop to show your video and have it running on a continuous loop.

Tell People What You Do - Take along a banner stand or a sign - and on it make sure it tells people what your company offers. It's amazing how many booths think it's cool just to show a logo and nothing else. How many attendees do you think will take the trouble to ask you what you do in a room full of a hundred booths?

Never, never, stand behind a table or a counter. Don't have a barrier between you and a prospective customer.

Follow up and connect. Every business card you collect deserves a follow-up contact with a small personal note that shows you remember them. Make notes on each person you meet as soon as you can - and before you forget those valuable tidbits of information that will be so useful when you reconnect with them after the show.

 
   
When One Customer Praises You - Others Follow Top
 

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Many businesses share a similar life cycle in regards to their customer base. From the time of launching their business they push for new patrons using word of mouth and advertising. After a time they find they have a stable base which is sufficient to sustain the business. Too often the business becomes stalled at that point, and even paid advertising may not be sufficient to stimulate growth. One effective way to move forward is to use the process of client referral and endorsement. It has been said that one referral will bring ten more customers.

With today's technologies it's easier than ever to gain testimonials using sites like Facebook, Pintererst and Linkedin - but to be effective these sites require careful management on your part; checking them regularly to see that people are saying good things about you and moving quickly to address a negative comment.

Building a following on Twitter or a Blog will also lead to a sense of familiarity that if you harvest it right will lead to referrals and even written testimonials. By producing your own story and content on a regular basis you're going to get noticed in the digital world.

Pay it forward

There's a good argument for establishing a strong presence on LinkedIn, which includes recommendations from colleagues and clients. But don't just wait for people to recognize you. Give three or four LinkedIn referrals first, without being asked; it's kind of like once we receive a Christmas card we're compelled to send one back.

Get People Talking

It's one thing to do good work - but another to have people be aware of how good you are, so tell your story, share it with customers and don't be afraid to ask good customers to spread the word through their Facebook site and click the 'thumbs up' (like) on your Facebook page. One of the most effective tools is also one of the simplest - word of mouth. The higher standard of service you deliver the more likely clients will share their experience with friends. "I was blown away by my accountant this week. She went out of her way in the evening to deliver my updated file to my home office."

Consider a focus group.

Ask six or eight of your customers to join you for a sandwich lunch where you seek out their views of your company and what additional services they might recommend you offer.

First off, they will be flattered to be asked and as they see more of your passion they will be motivated to say good things. And don't be afraid to ask them directly to endorse you.

Asking them to participate is best handled in person, or at least on the phone, rather than via electronic means - it adds the personal touch. And since you don't want either of you to be embarrassed, you need to have a pretty good idea that they will agree to your request before you ask.

Take the long view

Sometimes, testimonials happen almost organically, but often, nurturing referrals is a long process. Staying in touch with customers is critical. Like any good business strategy, it's important to be patient. Building good business practices over a period of time and gaining the trust of customers will more likely result in them recommending your services.

Most of us like to say good things about the people with whom we do business. Sometimes we just need to be asked.

 
   
Infographic Of The Month Top

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CFDC of North & Central Hastings and South Algonquin
PO Box 517 (26 Chemaushgon Rd), Bancroft, ON, K0L 1C0
Toll Free: 1-800-465-4119 | Phone: 613-332-5564 | Fax: 613-332-5628
mlrutledge@community-futures.ca | www.community-futures.ca


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