Are Your Ads Working?

Let’s face it, advertising is a necessary evil of being in business…but are these ads really doing the trick?

They might not be…here’s a quick way to evaluate your ads to see if you are setting yourself apart from your competition, or merely falling into line with everyone else, giving all potential clients and customers heartburn when it comes to making a choice. Let’s be really, really honest here…if you were to take your competitor’s ad, remove their name and/or logo and replace it with yours, would your ad look pretty much the same?

*********

ABC Sales

Come in and check out our special rates

We have flexible financing, friendly sales personnel, and are open weekends.

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Are you surprised to find that you’re pretty generic…you both are making the same claims? Many people are.  They really, truly believe that they’re different from their competition, but they’ve really given their clients and customers no way of discovering that for themselves.

If you haven’t managed to set yourself apart with your advertising words, why would anyone choose you over your competitor?  Think about it, if your prospect can’t find anything to distinguish you, a way to tell you apart, the only criteria they will use at that point is who has the lowest price, or who answers the phone first.

Are you willing to let your business be subjected to such flights of fancy, or just dumb luck?  I hope not, because if you do, you’re traveling on a dead end trail. You’ll never reach the level of success you probably deserve.

Remember, people want to know about the product of service you offer.  They don’t want to know how great you are initially, they want to know if you can deliver.

If you have the product or service they need, then when they come in to your business you will be able to persuade them to believe in what you say about your quality of service, superiority, pleasure of business experience.

Not before!

Figure out what your clients want and need,

answer that in your ad,

and then make sure you deliver it.

How Do You Know You’re Playing for Keeps?

Whether we’re talking business or life in general, are you playing all out, giving everything you’ve got, or are you holding back, conserving resources for that “someday” idea you have at the back of your mind?

If you’re holding back, what’s return? When will you use your resources, whether they are cash, time, energy, knowledge, or ideas? Seriously, if not now, when?

As T.S. Eliot says:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

I used to hold back, thinking, “I’ll just wait until the time is right to make a change.” And folks, YEARS went by before I realized that I might spend the rest of my life just waiting. I had a life-changing experience, experienced the loss of several people close to me, and a very close call with my husband.  I realized that I might not have tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.

All I have in this moment…in this life…is right now.

If I am going to make a change, make a difference, I MUST begin now. There is no time like the present, cliche, I know, but so true.  Live in the present. Stop regretting what you haven’t done in the past.  Stop worrying about you might have to do tomorrow. Focus on what you’re doing right this minute, and spend every ounce of your energy, strength, time, and ideas on what you’re doing right now.

If it’s NOT what you want to be doing, then I guess it’s time to make a change, isn’t it?

Start today.  Do something, ANYTHING!  Even if you only do one single, tiny thing, at least that is one step in the right direction. And, it’s usually not enough to alarm you!

What’s the smallest thing you can do today to prepare for your greatness tomorrow?

What can you do today that will make a difference in your business tomorrow? Are you still conserving resources? Or are you ready to play for keeps?

Matt’s Big Breakfast – Phoenix, Arizona

Matt’s Big Breakfast – One of the most amazing breakfasts I’ve ever eaten!

Recently I was on a phone call with a client back in New York, and he asked if I had ever eaten at Matt’s Big Breakfast.  Not only had I not eaten there, I’d never even heard of it.

This meant that a field trip was in order, and yesterday we waited 45 minutes in the hot Phoenix sun (actually, we were lucky enough to sit on a shaded bench) for our chance to sit down for breakfast inside this tiny little restaurant.

Yes, when I see a line, I shudder…”maybe not today”, but I thought, “If not today, then when?” and I had no answer for that. So, we waited, and met some interesting people, some of whom had never eaten at Matt’s Big Breakfast, and others who eat at Matt’s at least once a week. That was enough for me.  I wasn’t leaving until I tried it.

And it was amazing.

How do I define amazing? The food was fresh, the whole wheat toast was thickly sliced, lightly toasted and served with home-made raspberry preserves.  We ordered the two most expensive meals on the menu and our bill was slightly over $20.

The coffee (roasted in Cave Creek) was hot, strong, and not bitter. The meats were grilled perfectly, eggs cooked to perfection, hash browns were freshly shredded (no frozen stuff here), the home fries (Yukon Gold potatoes) mingled with grilled onions and rosemary made me want to weep. They use only cage-free eggs, grain-fed pork and beef, and local organic produce whenever possible.

This is not your typical “eat out” breakfast.  This was an experience!

We met Erenia, Matt’s wife, who told us they have been in biz for seven years, of which the first three she kept her corporate job, but after that she had to jump in and join the fun.  The restaurant supports about 20 families (this is the point of shopping and eating locally folks!) a fact she was very proud to share.

“Call me Ernie, or Mama,” she invited.  As busy as they were, Erenia took the time to chat with us, tell us about the organic produce they were using, how the bread is bought fresh daily, and if they run out before they close for the day how her customers get upset.  What a problem to have!

Shop Local! Eat Local!

This is how we support our community, by supporting businesses who make a significant contribution the way Matt’s BIG Breakfast has done.

Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs

What’s the point of blogging, or Facebooking, or Twittering?

For some, it is merely a way to get something off their chest, it is an outlet designed for people to vent, share, announce, or comment on something funny in life.

For others, it is a way to connect with people around the world, to join in conversation, to share information, to announce a new event/product/idea…in fact, it’s very much the same for everyone.

Social media makes it possible to connect with people all around the world.  What can that do for your business? If you don’t participate, it won’t do anything.

If you DO participate, and stay active, and get involved in “virtual conversations” you will begin developing relationships with people you have never met in person in your life.

And what is business, especially small business, if not relationship business? People want to do biz with folks they “know”.  This doesn’t mean they have to meet you in person, it means that they have to begin the process of knowing you, liking you, and eventually trusting  you.

So, when you decide to add Social Media to your business marketing ideas here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use your Personal Profile as your main hub on Facebook.
  • Do create Pages linked to your Personal Profile on Facebook.
  • The same goes for Twitter.  You don’t want to alienate your friends and family by bombarding them with posts and tweets that they really may not be interested in.  They probably love you, but not THAT much!
  • Your blog for your business should be about business.
  • Can you add some personal interest stories in your business blog?  Absolutely! Especially if that story works somehow as an analogy or metaphor for something going on in your business, much like my post The Best Boss Ever! just the other day. It was a personal story, but it most definitely related to business, didn’t it?
  • With social media, stay connected on a regular basis. Obviously, the more often you post, the better, but it is better to get on a regular posting schedule so that your followers know when to expect something new and exciting from you.

Is that it for Social Media?  Absolutely not!  But this is a good place to get started.  We will be covering more detailed information about Facebook, Twitter, and blogs in future posts.

For now, consider your biz, your brand, what you want people to think about when they hear about you.

Shop Local – Just Smile and Say “Hi!”

I read a post today that there are more and more people who aren’t sure how to “shop local”.

At first this puzzled me, until I took into account the fact that it is very, very easy to shop in a big box store or at the local mall. You don’t have to talk to anyone if  you don’t want to. You don’t have to feel guilty for just window-shopping. If you’re not interested, you don’t have to explain yourself.

Shopping locally means, however, that you might be in a store with just you and the shopkeeper inside. Oops!  This could begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Where do you go?  What do you look at? You almost feel as if you have stage fright!

We really have gotten accustomed to a plastic and artificial society. Kids talk to each other through their cell phone…even if they’re sitting side by side.  Kids…what am I saying?  I was talking to an engineering manager the other day who said that his engineers would prefer to IM or text one another about a problem rather than getting up, walking five feet and having a face-to-face conversation.

I think that the “shop local” movement is also a movement to return to the idea of relationships.

You don’t have a relationship with the e-commerce shopping cart on that website where you just purchased some air-soft ammunition, do you?

While it might seem easier, developing relationships is important. When you shop locally, you recognize that something that you are doing will directly impact a specific individual. You might even begin to, (gasp!) care about people who used to be perfect strangers.

You might actually be concerned when your barista tells you that her daughter had a fever of 102.5 last evening, and she’s worried about her today.

Talking to your local dairy farmer makes you realize that there are people who are on duty 24/7 and they really don’t seem to mind it.  They milk cows and/or goats twice a day, every day of the week, every week of the year. Isn’t it wonderful that there are people who do that so that we have fresh dairy products every day?

What about the people who are picking your turnips and kale this week at the organic farm you support. Do you follow them on Facebook so that you can get to know the farm and their employees a little better?

Personally, I love stories. I hate watching television programs or movies that ignore the human/interpersonal relationship factor. If there’s a touch of humanness to the story, I’m more willing to watch it. You see, humans are not meant to live in a vacuum.  We need one another, even when we don’t realize it.  We’re much more powerful as a collective force rather than as just individuals.

The next time you step into a local shop, look the owner in the eye and say, “Hello!”

Most of the time, they’re very happy to just have a conversation with you.  Most shopkeepers never expect every person who comes in their store to actually make a purchase.  Try it.  Just one time.  Come back and comment on this post about your experience.  I’d really love to hear it.

Kathleen Birmingham

Customer Service – Ladies’ Night Out

The very best way to get some new blood into your business is to have an event.

One of those events is to host a Ladies’ Night Out.

In our case, our customer profile is 99.9% women. But, as I have interviewed other business owners around the country, I have discovered that a few of them who run businesses that are typically male oriented have found that hosting a Ladies’ Night Out or Ladies Only type of event has been very profitable.

The idea is this:

You want to make women feel like they’re special. Every human being needs to feel special and if you host a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to have that opportunity to reach out to your female customers and treat them differently. You want to treat them well. Give them that chance to ask some questions that maybe they wouldn’t have asked otherwise.

Especially if you’re a predominantly male centered service, say an auto parts store, or a woodworking store (not that I am discriminating against women who are in these industries) but when you look at the client base, you are going to establish that generally speaking, most of your customers are going to be male.

By hosting a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to cater to a portion of the population, in your case, that you don’t typically reach. BUT, speaking as a woman, I know that I feel really good when someone extends that hand of friendship and says, “I’d like to give you the opportunity to come in and ask any question you want to ask about whatever it is you want to ask.

So, this works both for male-oriented products and shops as well as those that target women specifically. Remember, we’ve tried the Guy’s Night Out and it just didn’t work for us. We are a women’s gift shop and we even tried to host a night when the men could come in and it was men only who were shopping for the women in their life…they didn’t bite. It didn’t matter that we had football/tailgate type party snacks. Unless we were turned into a sports bar, it wasn’t going to fly! We drew in just a handful of men, and even they were very uncomfortable. This is something we’re going to have to work on.

Whenever we host a Ladies’ Night Out we had so many women respond, so this tells me that women really enjoy an invitation to something special and if you treat them like they are special, then they will come back. AND they will remember that you did this.

So, the idea is that you treat them well. Offer refreshments. Remember, because you’re going to have women, it would be nice to offer something that is not a football snack. Get things that women like. We’re talking chocolate, sweets, maybe some nice individual quiches, a bit of fruit…anything that women are going to feel that they’ve been singled out as someone important and you’re making an effort to please them.

One night we hosted a Mojitos and mashed potatoes night. The mashed potatoes were offered with anything you could visualize on them. The mojitos were served by an attractive young man (we kept the rum to a minimum) who had a lot of personality. The women loved it!

As long as you try to please the women, you’re going to reach a good number of them. For the Ladies’ Night Out you can run specials. You can hold a workshop. There is one man I know who runs an auto repair store and on several occasions he has hosted a Ladies’ Car Care Clinic where it is women only and they can ask any question they want.

By the end of the clinic, most of the women provide feedback that they were so happy to have had that opportunity to ask any question they wanted to ask and not be made to feel stupid, not to be made to feel like a fool, not to be made to feel like anything that was derogatory. Women are sensitive creatures.

When you host a Ladies’ Night Out you are going to solidify a relationship with a portion of your customer base that you probably didn’t have a very strong relationship with before.

Let me tell you. The ladies are going to remember this!

THE BEST BOSS EVER!

These are the words my daughter just shouted from the kitchen. She should know, she works 7 days a week, two jobs, going to college, and she has two bosses who are as different as night and day.

One boss can only criticize, find fault, reprimand, and continually asks for more without ever giving anything back.

The other boss found out it was her birthday, posted it all over the coffee shop where she works, and we suspect that she has ordered a specially made cake from a cake designer to help celebrate her birthday next weekend.

In addition, this boss tells her all the time what a good job she’s doing, how valuable she is to their business, and invites her periodically to have coffee, go to an event, or randomly texts her to see how she’s doing.

Which boss would you want to work for?

Which boss ARE you?

Sure, we’re really focused on getting our businesses into that healthy place where the bottom line isn’t red…but when you focus ONLY on money, you forget that your business is built on your employees and they depend on you for quite a bit.

Obviously they need money, we all do.  That’s probably the primary reason they’re working for you.

But did you know that people choose to stay at a job more for how they’re made to feel, rather than the paycheck. If they feel like they’re a valued team member, they have a lot of reasons to smile when they talk about you or their job, and they feel that they have opportunities to grow, chances are good you’ll have a really stable work force.

If you want a stable work force…make sure any serious conversations and/or reprimands are followed by a session where the employee is encouraged, coached, and made to feel empowered to make the change required.

There is a right way and a wrong way to be an employer.  Make sure you’re doing it the RIGHT way!