Small Businesses Have a Big Reach

A cheerful small business owner with open sign

A tiny, Ohio-based Vita-Mix corporation has been grinding and blending for 70 years.

Known for its high-powered, durable blending machines, “Vita-Mix” was coined with an emphasis on “vita,” meaning “life.” The company was born in 1921 when founder William Barnard, after helping a friend through a significant illness, realized the tremendous impact whole-food nutrition had on health. Simple Vitamix products evolved to industrial strength mixers that could puree raw foods, blend hot soup, grind grain, or knead bread dough.

Vitamix rarely sold products internationally before the late 1990s. But as sales slowed in the U.S., the third generation of Barnard family owners decided to go global. After hiring international sales manager James Smith, exports soared to 20 percent of yearly profits, growing hundreds of new jobs in the outskirts of Cleveland. “Exporting is the salvation of our standard of living and the security of our workers,” said Smith. “It makes me proud as heck.”

A Growing Reach

Vitamix is just one small business with a large global reach.

According to 2017 statistics from the Small Business Association, nearly all of U.S. exporters are small businesses. Small businesses exported $440 billion in 2015, from nearly 288,000 firms representing 97.6 percent of all exporting firms in America. Forty-eight percent of businesses said it took them just a few months of research before they started exporting, while 36 percent said it took them a month or several months to get started.

Small businesses that export report increased sales, diversified markets, and increased long-term stability. Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg said Vitamix now exports at award-winning levels to Europe, Asia, and Australia. But before that could happen her team had to disrupt a stable business plan with a new, global vision. Does she see herself as an entrepreneur who took risks?

“I don’t,” Berg said. “To make big things happen, you have to make big moves. But big moves don’t have to be risky. If you describe a risk taker as someone who takes big moves, I’ll be that. But we did our homework.

Four Remarkable Small Business Facts

While big business often dominates headlines, small businesses play a vital role in exporting products, creating jobs, and producing wealth for thousands of families.

Here are four remarkable facts about the big impact of small businesses:

1. Nearly all are small.

Small businesses make up the vast majority of companies in America, comprising 99.9 percent of all firms. Out of 29.6 million businesses, all but 19,000 are small!

2. Half are home-based.

A home-based business may have activity outside of the home, but it is operated primarily from the home.

Industries where home-based businesses dominate include information (70 percent), construction (68.2 percent), and professional, scientific, and technical services (65.3 percent).

3. Involve family and personal financing.

About one in five small businesses are family-owned, and 21.9 percent of small firms have used personal or family savings (versus business or banking loans) to resource expansion.

4. Durable.

The one-year survival rate for businesses hit 79.9 percent in 2016, the highest level since 2006.

About half of small businesses survive five years or longer, and one-third survive 10 years or more. The longer a company is in business, the more likely it is to stay in business.

According to the National Association of Small Businesses, entrepreneurs say economic uncertainty, health insurance costs, and a decline in customer spending or cash flow are the biggest challenges they face. Still, most business owners are fairly optimistic: 75 percent say they’re confident in their own business and its future.

Call Patti today, we need cash flow too!

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4 Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

Writing note showing Your Culture Is Your Brand. Business photo showcasing Knowledge Experiences are a presentation card Coffee mug with black coffee floating some white texts on white paper.

Branded products are everywhere: featured in movies, professional sports, and even on your favorite jacket or thumb drive.

These products bring pleasure and familiarity while sending a message of brand support to friends and casual observers. And these ideas carry substantial weight.

Another Washington First

The first known example of distributing promotional products was in 1789.

Commemorative buttons, created to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration, featured a crisp, stamped profile of Washington and the Latin phrase “Pater Patriæ,” meaning “Father of his Country.”

Sported by patriotic Americans, the buttons celebrated American democracy and support for the first president. The passion behind this message continues to live on: in February of 2018, one of the inaugural buttons was auctioned for $225,000!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Washington’s buttons fueled momentum, and your customers are wired to respond to promotional products too.

Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years! If those stats don’t speak for themselves, here are four reasons that branded merchandise will work for businesses of any size:

1. Free Stuff Grabs Attention.

Like candy at a parade, free stuff draws people.

Promotional gifts catch their eye and make them wonder what the hype is about. When you give gifts, people are attracted to you. Whether its curiosity, playful interest, or eye-catching designs, giveaways generate interest and ignite conversation.

2. Product Giveaways Pave Pathways for Loyalty.

Once you have their attention, you open the door for further interaction.

This happens, in part, as new customers warm in their perception of your brand. According to Tourism Consumer Insights, 52% of those who receive your product are more likely to think highly of both you and your business. As affinity increases, so does their interest in your business, because it’s human nature to want to give back to someone who has given to us.

In a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study, 85% of consumers who received a promo product said they ultimately did business with the advertiser.

3. Brand Recognition Peaks Through Repeat Exposure.

What is the ultimate goal of branded products? To engage and influence buyers.

Tangible, useful products offer your business endless opportunities to distinguish itself and to do it repeatedly! According to PPAI, 73 percent of those who receive a promo product said they used it at least once a week.

Offering free items to consumers is an incredible marketing tactic that will keep your company on their minds anytime your product is in use.

4. Giveaways Extend the Life of your Message.

How long does it take you to forget a text message or delete an e-mail? Seconds.

But tangible products (especially stylish or fun items) are much harder to toss aside. As you weigh your best product option, consider the interests and needs of your target customers and create the kind of products they’ll actually want. If 75% of your prospects use public transportation, tasteful branded umbrellas might become a constant companion during their morning commute.

People love stuff. It’s just a fact. And while only 28 percent of people are able to recall a TV ad, 57 percent are typically able to recall an advertiser on a mug.

While promotional pieces bring upfront expense, the longevity and brand recognition they create is an investment that keeps on giving. Give Patti a call. She can get you started.

 

Reel in Prospects by Adding Print to Your Content Marketing

Content is king in advertising and communication concept, colorful arrows pointing to the word CONTENT at the center with chess king on black cement wall, creativity of brand website and social media

Researchers estimate that in 1984 a person saw an average of 2,000 ads per day.

By 2014, they saw about 5,000. With the explosion in spam and social media ads, that number increases daily. But consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising that seems disruptive or manipulative. Instead, they’re attracted to authenticity and friendliness in a brand.

How can you build that kind of culture in your business?

It’s All About Content

Narratives and content marketing can bring fresh life to your marketing mix!

Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It shifts your team away from a “message” focus to a more optimal “people focus,” building trust and driving more profitable consumer action.

Content marketing generates stronger leads, increases sales, and enhances customer loyalty. Consider these facts:

  • 77% of internet users read blogs
  • Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without blogs
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times the leads
  • A 2014 Brandshare survey found that the majority of consumers are suspicious of brands’ intentions, but 87% said they would like a more meaningful relationship with their preferred brands

Why Print + Content Marketing = Success

When people consider content marketing, they typically think of digital media.

However, true diversification means thinking bigger. The Content Marketing Institute suggests two out of three marketers don’t include print in their content marketing, but there is strategic value to including printed content elements.

Why?

1. The Information Factor

Nielson found about 56% of consumers rely on printed matter for sales information, and:

  • 56% preferred mailed or delivered circulars
  • 52% relied on newspaper circulars
  • 37% relied on in-store printed pieces or store-generated e-mails
  • 27% relied on store websites

Print is seen as a concrete, reliable source, especially by prospects nearing a decision. If you neglect printed content marketing you may minimize your chance of landing a valuable client.

2. The Trust Factor

With today’s “fake news” paranoia, trust in digital media has decreased.

A 2017 study showed that printed news magazines are the most trusted news source (72% rated them positively) while only 33% believed social media provided honest information.

Even print versions of national newspapers were regarded as more trustworthy than the websites of that exact same publication!

Because of the physical nature of the medium, print is naturally viewed as more informative and trustworthy than digital media.

So how can you add print to your content marketing strategies?

  1. Use embedded QR codes in game-style promotions or in-store displays. Check some inspiring examples here or here.
  2. Look for ways to get your business or product featured in magazine or newspaper articles.
  3. Employ printed “how to” postcards or maintenance checklists with online coupon discounts included in the text.
  4. Print inserts for invoices or point-of-sale kiosks that highlight an excerpt of your blog to lead them online.
  5. Consider generating your own quarterly or bi-annual niche publication.
  6. Print custom thank-you notes with a snippet of your brand story or the first paragraph of your blog on the back.

Printed content marketing should be used as “bait” to generate nibbles from your potential customers.

If you don’t have a place to reel them in (like a “get started today” link) or a way to keep them in the net (a defined sales funnel or a customer retention program), all your time and energy will be useless. So be strategic, be customer-focused, and get out there and fish!

Leaving a Legacy with Your Small Business

In the 1950s, a young boy named John was enthralled by every chance to visit his best friend.

This family owned a soda pop bottling plant, which sparked a lifelong love for exotic flavors in John Nese. Years later, Nese brought soda to his family’s Italian grocery store in Los Angeles, known today for its 600 soda and beer flavors from around the world.

The variety wasn’t always this broad. Nese said the change came 20 years ago when independent grocers were being squeezed out by chains. One soda dealer offered a profit of $30 a pallet if Nese would streamline shelves and eliminate variety. Nese wouldn’t bite:

“Nuts to that,” he said. “A light bulb went off (and I said), ‘You know, John, you should be happy you own your shelf space, and Pepsi doesn’t, and you can sell anything you want.’ So I went out and found 25 brands of little sodas.”

Nese says this “freedom of choice” philosophy defines his family and his business, and customers can even make flavors of their own at the store. Rows of cane sugar syrups line the wall, along with bottles, caps, and carbonated water dispensers. “Whatever you think of, you can make!” Nese exclaimed.

This passion has fueled the Galcos’ grocery for over a century, and the Galcos plan to continue this legacy.

Successfully Passing Down Your Business

Small businesses make up around 99 percent of U.S. companies and 20 percent of these are family owned.

These businesses play a crucial role in creating jobs, exporting products, and generating wealth. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, 4 million of them will be handing off their privately-owned small businesses; in the next 15 years, we will see the largest transfer ever of private business to the next generation!

What are the keys to successfully navigating these transitions?

Preparation and communication are essential. Here are a few steps businesses are taking to pave the way for a smooth handoff:

Think decades in advance.

Small business owners often wait too long to start planning a transition, and typically only half of those planning to retire have identified a successor.

Justin Goodbread, a certified financial planner and exit planning advisor says the process is especially weighty for families:

“Families will most likely also have to cope with emotional and psychological issues that surface during a generational transaction. I believe a 10-year period is needed to successfully navigate a family business transaction.”

Sketch out clear successors and exit strategies.

A strong mission statement and business plan, a clear exit strategy for senior leaders, and an early commitment from successors are important hallmarks to longevity.

Build the right team.

Many businesses believe they can manage their transition independently, but this assumption is costly.

Healthy handoffs will require input from lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, business valuation experts, and a family business planner to shepherd the process. Though senior leaders may wish to gift the business ownership, experts believe financial buy-ins allow successors to get some “skin in the game,” as they emotionally double-down in commitment, maturity, and vision.

Be flexible as you exchange roles and responsibilities over time.

The gap between generations requires effective communication and an organized structure for each person involved.

This should be reviewed regularly to adjust the roles or time commitment of each team member. Goodbread recommends younger successors earn more responsibility on a day-to-day basis:

“It has to be earned or merited,” he says. “The problems start when a junior takes over a senior’s position in the company without earning it or wanting the position.”

Use Great Body Language to Speak with Success

Communication concept

Ramona Smith, a 31-year-old Houston teacher, has faced many challenges, including coaxing her son through cancer and struggling through a divorce.

But Smith believes life is about more than what knocks you down, it’s about the lifelines people offer to help you back up.

One of Smith’s lifelines was the mentorship she found in Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. In her 2018 speech, “Still Standing,” Smith posed as a fighter on stage and talked about surviving round after round with life but bouncing back again. Her accomplishments include dropping out of college four times (before graduating at the top of her class) and, most recently, being crowned the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in Chicago.

Smith outlasted 30,000 other competitors over six months of competition before being named the champion in August. Her success comes not only from her will to fight but from one speaking technique that helped her connect:

“If my hands are open to the audience, and my fists are not closed, and my arms are not too tight toward my body, it just makes the audience feel more connected, like I’m really open,” Smith said. “I’m vulnerable, and I want to give you all of me. And it makes me look relaxed and comfortable.”

Dananjaya Hettiarchchi, a human-resources specialist who won the Toastmasters competition in 2014, broke down the effectiveness of this technique:

“If you really concentrate, when you look at the inside of your palm, your eye relaxes,” Hettiarchchi said. “And a lot of great speakers, they open their palms towards the audience, showing more openness. And that allows the audience to connect with the speaker better, as opposed to showing the back of your hand.”

Best Body Language for Effective Presentations

If a simple gesture can have such an impact, what other nonverbal communication can increase our impact? Check out these tips from some of the world’s most personable communicators to increase your own credibility.

DO:

  • Open your hands toward the audience to relax and connect.
  • Use facial expressions with purpose. Sometimes when we’re nervous our face freezes up. If you don’t have an expressive face, work with a mirror to see how your expressions reinforce your message. Give your entire talk silently (while forming each word) and let your face do the communicating!
  • Maintain intentional eye contact. Leaders who speak over people’s heads or get buried in their notes seem impersonal or insincere. When you speak, move from face to face, making eye contact with one person at a time to ensure your audience is engaged. When answering a question, use extended eye contact to convey sincerity.

DON’T:

  • Hide, clasp, or fidget with your hands. This implies you don’t believe what you’re saying, or shows meekness that fails to command attention. Instead, keep your arms forward in an open manner. Use your hands to explain your point through confident, concise movements.
  • Plan your gestures in advance. Physical expression in presentations should arise spontaneously. Though body language is important, planned movements will seem awkward or inauthentic. Instead, plan key moments where you might take a different position in the room or how you will use visual aids to keep communication transparent.
  • Roam aimlessly or exhibit poor posture. Body language communicates a lot about your character, so pacing can make you seem jumpy or slumped shoulders may convey discouragement and apathy. Instead, move with purpose in your presentations. Aim for a neutral position, sitting or standing tall like a string is connecting your head to the ceiling.

Remember, the most important visual you can show your audience is yourself! Sharpen non-verbal communication skills and reap the benefits of credibility and respect!

4 Tips for Authentic Photography in Marketing

Leisure Photos

In a digitally saturated generation, today’s marketer’s need great stories and striking, memorable images.

Regardless of your business or your market niche, powerful visuals can make all the difference! Consider these statistics:

  • Articles with relevant images average 94 percent more views than text alone and a press release with photos increases online views by 15 percent.
  • Sixty percent of consumers who use online searches prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image.
  • 70 percent of e-commerce shoppers say the product image is very important for purchasing decisions.

Your viewers crave expressive images, so photography is crucial in marketing. Photography offers a slice of life view that communicates authenticity and value to your customers. How well do your images translate the nature of your business? Are you using drab photos or bland stock selections? Three benchmarks to evaluate your images are:

Engagement and Emotional Response

What emotions do your photos evoke?

How does the atmosphere of the photo connect with your viewer’s passion or life experience? Does it compel viewers to lean in or linger?

Brand Story and Context

What is the bigger brand story you want to tell?

Excellent photography adds credibility to this message because visuals increase the detail you bring to your message. Do your images hammer home your story?

Momentum and Shareability

Photographs can send numbers skyrocketing because people love to share captivating images!

As you employ vibrant photos, you increase your chance of people passing along your name, chatting about your product, or returning for a purchase. How much momentum do your images create?

4 Tips From Photography DIY-ers

What if you want to use more realistic photos but can’t afford to hire a professional?

By pairing modern technology with a few photography guidelines, even an amateur shutterbug can make photos pop! Here are four tips from the pros to get you started:

Rule #1: Avoid Low-Resolution Shots from Your Phone

While a casual snapshot can work for social media, if you are planning to share photos regularly, invest in a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and check out an online tutorial. Even small investments will ensure the quality of your photos reflects the excellence of your business.

Rule #2: Use the Rule of Thirds

Most DSLR cameras can display their grid, which includes nine even squares. If your subject is directly in the center of the grid, the image will be more static because the eye is drawn to the image but has nowhere to travel from there. When your subject is positioned closer to the edges, the eye is forced to track toward it or be “drawn in” to the bigger message.

Rule #3: Think Slice of Life

What do you want to tell your clients about your business? Say it in photos! If social media or reality TV have taught us anything, it’s that people love following the ordinary activities of others. Casual photos of your team doing business are perfect for showing off your identity and featuring your unique competitive advantage.

Rule #4: Make Use of Natural Lighting

Ever think you’ve captured the perfect photo only to find the sun has wrecked it? On a sunny day, most photos will be compromised by shadows or overexposure. Overcast hues are better because the light is softer and more diffused. For best results, place your camera in a position where the light is coming from behind you and shining directly on your subject.

Marketing is all about communicating value to your clients. For more tips on putting photography to grow momentum and authenticity, give us a call at 410-574-0780.

Start Mouth-Watering Conversations Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Business Acronym WOMM as WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING

Karen Weber-Mendham was a part-time librarian and mother of three when she turned her family’s propensity for garlic cheesy bread into a cool million.

This northern Wisconsin family often ordered cheesy bread while waiting on pizza. Weber-Mendham said the kids’ appetizer passion was so strong “they would arm-wrestle each other for a piece!”

Cheesy fever inspired the family to enter the 2013 Lay’s potato chip competition, “Do Us a Flavor,” challenging customers to create a new chip flavor to hit store shelves that year. Lays was swamped with 3.8 million submissions as the contest winner was given the better of two options: $1 million or 1% of the flavor’s net sales over a year. Beyond fame and fortune, Weber-Mendham was given the opportunity to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was flown to Los Angeles for the big reveal with Lay’s endorsement celebrity Eva Longoria.

“Eva was so genuine and happy for me when I won,” Weber-Mendham said. And yes, “She’s as beautiful in person as she looks on TV.”

Catalysts for a Great Conversation

What was Lays up to in this fun-loving campaign?

Were they desperate for creative ideas? Hungry for the inspiration only average citizens could bring? Or did they strike gold by tapping into a conversation with everyday Americans?

Word-of-mouth promotion has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing, tagged “the original social media.” According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, and trusted referrals are most likely to drive sales for your company. But in an American Marketing Association survey, 64% of marketing executives say that, though they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, only 6% have mastered it.

As you seek to generate good gossip about your company, here are three action points to keep in mind:

Engage

Make a commitment to listen.

What would that truly look like in your context? Allow your customers’ space to be heard and to contribute to the company as a whole. Engage with clients through e-mail surveys, online question and answer boards, social media service options, or by highlighting customer success in your printed newsletters. When customers are heard, they feel connected and valued.

Encourage

Allow people reasons or avenues to talk to each other or to talk about you.

Like a common chalkboard with a fun question in your favorite coffee shop, invite clients into the conversation and give them tools to chat. Encourage people to talk about your services and products with you and with others by creating helpful, shareable content, including icons to your favorite apps that will make it easy for your fans to spread your name around!

Equip

Give your fan base tools to become brand advocates.

Let them know their opinions are important and look for fun ways to spread the word. To create buzz around the Ford Fiesta, Ford gave away a number of cars and asked ambassador “influencers” to test drive and share their experiences.

During “Do Us a Flavor,” Lays received over 1.4 million Facebook and Twitter votes, one of its biggest marketing campaigns ever. While you may not give away a car, give away tools to get your fans advocating: ask clients to pass coupons to five of their friends, to give you an online review, or be part of a fun selfie or Snapchat contest to boost your reputation.

Get the conversation started and pave the way for new growth!