#small business tips
6 Smart Budgeting Tips for Small Business Owners
If you run a small business, it s likely that you re operating on a relatively limited budget. Whether you bootstrapped your business or are trying to pay back loans you took out to cover your startup costs, it s in your best interest to conserve money wherever you can.
Without a thorough budget plan, however, it can be difficult to track and manage your finances. This is especially true for any unexpected business expenses that may come up, as they often do. A 2015 survey by small business credit provider Headway Capital found that although 57 percent of small business owners anticipated growth this year, nearly 19 percent were concerned about how unexpected expenses would impact their business.
If you want to keep your business operating in the black, you ll need to account for both fixed and unplanned costs, and then create and stick to a solid budget. Experts offered their advice for small business owners looking to keep their finances in order. [4 Tips for Reducing Startup Costs]
Define and understand your risks
Every business venture has a certain degree of risk involved, and all of those risks have the potential for a financial impact on your company. Paul Cho, managing director of Headway Capital, said that small business owners need to consider their long- and short-term risks to accurately plan for their financial future.
How will changes in minimum wage or health care requirements impact your workforce? Cho said. Do you operate in a geography at high risk of a natural disaster? Do you rely heavily on seasonal workers? Understanding the potential risks facing you on a short- and long-term basis is important for all small businesses. Once you ve mapped out the threats to productivity, a clearer picture can be built around emergency planning, insurance needs, etc.
Overestimate your expenses
If your business operates on a project-to-project basis, you know that every client is different and no two projects will turn out exactly the same. This means that often, you can t predict when something is going to go over budget.
Every project seems to have a one-time cost that was never anticipated, said James Ontra, CEO of presentation management company Shufflrr. It usually is that one unique extra item [that is] necessary to the job, but [was] not anticipated when bidding the job.
For this reason, Ontra advised budgeting slightly above your anticipated line-item costs, no matter what, so that if you do go over, you won t be fully unprepared.
I go by the cost-moon-stars theory, he said. If you think it will cost the moon, expect to pay the stars.
Pay attention to your sales cycle
Many businesses go through busy and slow periods over the course of the year. If your company has an off-season , you ll need to account for your expenses during that time. Cho also suggested using your slower periods to think of ways to plan ahead for your next sales boom.
There is much to be learned from your sales cycles, he said. Use your downtime to ramp up your marketing efforts while preventing profit generation from screeching to a halt. In order to keep your company thriving and the revenue coming in, you will have to identify how to market to your customers in new and creative ways.
Plan for large purchases carefully and early
Some large business expenses occur when you least expect them a piece of equipment breaks and needs to be replaced or your delivery van needs a costly repair, for instance. However, planned expenses like store renovations or a new software system should be carefully timed and budgeted to avoid a huge financial burden on your business.
Substantial business changes need to be timed carefully, balancing the risk with the reward and done with a full understanding of the financial landscape you re operating within, Cho told Business News Daily. An up-to-date budget and data-driven financial projections are important components that help guide when to make large investments in your business.
Remember that time is money, too
One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is forgetting to incorporate their time into a budget plan. Ontra reminded business owners that time is money, especially when working with people who are paid for their time.
Timing underestimation directly increases costs, Ontra said. For us, the biggest underestimation is allotting time for client feedback. It is a Herculean effort sometimes to meet a deadline with lots of people focused on a single task. Then, the client needs to give feedback for us to proceed. If the client is distracted with other issues, feedback planned for a three-day turnaround, can become a week or longer. Not only do you start to lose time to the delivery schedule, your team also loses momentum as their collective thought shifts focus to another project.
Ontra recommended treating your time like your money, and set external deadlines later than when you think the project will actually be done.
If you believe the project will finish on Friday, promise delivery on Monday, he said. So, if you finish on Friday, deliver the work early and become a star. If for some reason time runs over, deliver on Monday and you are still a success.
Constantly revisit your budget
Your budget will never be static or consistent it will change and evolve along with your business, and you ll need to keep adjusting it based on your growth and profit patterns. Cho suggested revising your monthly and annual budgets regularly to get a clearer, updated picture of your business finances.
Regularly revisiting your budget will help you better control financial decisions because you will know exactly what you can afford to spend versus how much you are projecting to make, Cho said. Take into account market trends from the previous year to help you determine what this year may look like. Once you have a clear understanding of your business s budgetary needs, you can accurately forecast what can be set aside for an emergency fund or unexpected costs.
Nicole Fallon Taylor
Nicole received her Bachelor s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email. or follow her on Twitter .
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September 24th, 2012
We ve updated this post for 2016. Check it out here.
While many of your potential customers search Google for information on local services, inevitably a large portion of them find their way to a local business directory. Many of these directories not only have substantial brands/marketing budgets to drive traffic, but they also do well in organic search rankings for important search terms. So even if you can’t get your site ranked high for a specific search term, you can appear on the local directory site that ranks for that term. Perhaps even more important is that links to your site and mentions of your business (aka “Local Citations”) can help your site rank well in both “national” organic search as well as in the Google Places results (I still can’t bring myself to say the “Google+ Local” results).
So with this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to provide a list of the best local business directories for your SEO efforts. While other sites have put together similar lists, invariably they focus on a grab-bag of sites, many of which are irrelevant. We wanted to go for only those that are truly important and worth spending time on.
We have divided them into two lists:
- The Largest Local Business Directories in the US
- The Top U.S. Local Citation Sources
The 55 Largest Local Business Directories in the US
These local directory sites, according to Compete.com, have the largest amount of traffic and are listed by size largest first. In cases where the site is more than a directory, such as Mapquest, we have tried to estimate what % of their traffic goes to the directory. Improving your presence on these directories means your business will be exposed to a wide audience of local searchers.
Top U.S. Local Directory Citation Sources
GetListed.org and Whitespark.ca recently released some amazing data on the top local citation sources by city and by category. We thought it would be interesting to take that data and determine which directories on average had the most citation influence in the entire country. While it’s good to focus on your service area and category for citation building, in most cases, regardless of your location or industry, these are the sites you should almost always include while citation-building.
While a number of expected brands made the list, Facebook and YouTube are perhaps the two biggest surprises here. Then again, they are two of the biggest sites in the world and each has local business content, so perhaps it’s no surprise that they would emerge as important citation sources.
How does your business appear on all these sites? Click here to scan your business. It s fast and free.
Andrew Shotland is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide. a SEO consultancy focused on enterprise search engine optimization for local media properties and multi-location businesses. He also has a new blog about Apple Maps .
#small business crm
Compare Small Business CRM Software
With the growing number of affordable, Web-based products on the market, more and more small businesses are looking for customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage interactions with both current and prospective customers.
Many are seeking to upgrade from basic email marketing or contact management systems. However, the capabilities of CRM systems can range widely, with varying levels of functionality for sales, marketing and customer support. We developed this guide to help buyers understand exactly what these products can offer, so they can select the solution that best meets their needs.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Common Reasons Small Businesses Shop for a CRM Solution
Thousands of small businesses contact us every year, looking for advice to help them select the CRM solution best suited to their company. Some are just getting started, while others are looking to replace an outdated or problematic system.
Small businesses most commonly look to purchase a CRM system because they are:
- Hoping to consolidate customer records and reduce double-entry.
- Seeking to automate functions (alerts, follow-up emails etc.).
- Looking to generate, track and manage leads more efficiently.
- Needing specific features (e.g. trouble ticket management).
- Frustrated with current CRM software (too complicated or not enough features).
- Experiencing transition or company growth.
Core CRM Applications for Small Businesses
The core component of any CRM solution, contact management systems consolidate critical customer data (e.g. names, addresses and company info) into a single database, as opposed to scattering it across many individual inboxes or address books.
Most small businesses; any business that needs to organize contact information or associate notifications, tasks, notes, files etc. with specific customers.
Basic sales management applications allow businesses to track deals at different stages of the sales pipeline, integrating sales activities and appointments with the general contact database. Some may also include limited automation (e.g. automatically sending follow-up emails or setting up reminders) and reporting.
Any small business with a dedicated sales team, or that needs to organize a high volume of leads and automate follow-up (e.g. real estate agencies).
Entry-level marketing automation applications allow small businesses to quickly set up landing pages, Web forms and email templates that inspire potential customers to take action. They may also offer some degree of automation to send targeted, personalized messages based on prospects behavior.
Small businesses with a dedicated marketing team, and/or looking to attract potential customers through email marketing or Web traffic.
Customer service management
Simpler customer service applications typically focus on basic trouble ticket management, which allows small businesses to document, track and resolve customer issues.
Small businesses with a dedicated customer service team, or any business that needs to resolve a high volume of customer inquiries and/or complaints (e.g. software companies).
Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise CRM
Most small businesses should consider hosted, cloud-based CRM solutions. Because these systems are hosted by the vendor, they eliminate the need for you to have a dedicated IT team for managing and maintaining your own server. They also drastically reduce upfront investment and installation costs.
In addition, they typically offer monthly subscription pricing, which makes them scale well for fast-growing companies that need to add additional user licenses or features down the road.
However, small businesses with sufficient IT resources and capital may still benefit from on-premise CRM systems. These solutions usually require purchasing an expensive perpetual license up front, but they may become the cheaper option if you use the same system over an extended period of time.
You can see how pricing for these two models compares to figure out what works best for you using this tool. However, keep in mind that with on-premise solutions, you might also pay additionally for upgrades, customizations or maintenance.
Key Considerations for Small Businesses
With so many options and feature sets to choose from, selecting the right CRM for your small business can quickly become an overwhelming task. To narrow things down, here are four key factors for small businesses in particular to keep in mind as they evaluate different products:
Which Applications to Prioritize?
Because CRM encompasses so many functions (e.g. sales, marketing and customer service), many entry-level products are actually best-of-breed solutions. This means they focus on only one of the core applications listed above (although all CRM systems will provide some level of contact management functionality). Integrated suites, meaning solutions combining multiple applications in one software package (often billed as professional or enterprise editions) are much more expensive.
So before you begin shopping, start with a clear assessment of exactly which functions you need. The Best for. column in the chart above provides recommendations as to which types of companies may need which applications.
System Complexity and Ease-of-Use
Many small businesses we speak with say they re replacing their CRM system because it s too complicated or difficult to use. And if your employees find it too burdensome to input data into your program, you ll wind up with a spotty, incomplete customer database, which defeats the entire purpose of having a system in place.
As a result, small businesses should pay particular attention to ease-of-use as they evaluate CRM software options. Consider solutions with smart, intuitive interfaces. Also, take advantage of the demos and trials offered by many companies to get a real sense of how user-friendly a system is.
While small businesses may not have as many integration requirements as larger companies, you should still consider CRM solutions that integrate with programs that you and your employees already use, such as email clients, calendars and accounting software.
For instance, integration with email clients such as Outlook and Gmail will make it much easier to import contacts and conversations into your new system. It also allows your employees to continue using the programs they re comfortable with, while ensuring your contact database remains comprehensive and up-to-date.
Similar software categories
21 places to find the best free images for your business
In the age of content marketing. high quality images are becoming increasingly important.
But for many small business owners, taking top-notch photos, or even paying someone else to take them, is too costly.
One alternative is to find beautiful images that can be used without a fee and that’s where the numerous online collections of free images come in.
We’ve rounded up 21 places to find free images to give your business’s marketing an edge.
But first a quick reminder: always check to make sure that the image you are downloading is available to use and whether you need to attribute the source.
If the photo is in the public domain, it is no longer under copyright and free for public use. Alternatively, if an artist has shared their photos under a Creative Commons license, there may be restrictions on how you can use the image, for what purposes and if you need to provide attribution.
Unsplash has one of the best collections of free, high-resolution images going around and 10 new photos are added every day. On Unsplash you’ll find beautiful photos of architecture, landscapes and flora and fauna.
All photos and videos on Pixabay are available under a Creative Commons licence and can be used for commercial projects. The database is searchable by category or content type.
At Crow the Stone, you’ll have access to beautiful images that wouldn’t be out of place in an exhibition at an art gallery. No attribution is required for these images and you can sign up to receive new images in your inbox each week.
If it’s culinary imagery you’re after, try FoodiesFeed, a database of realistic images of a wide variety of food. Paid subscriptions to premium images are available and you can sign up to receive 20 foodie photos a month.
For businesses in the professional services field, Startup Stock Photos could be worth a look. This database is made up of completely free technology and startup themed photos.
Death of the Stock Photo is a membership-based photo library that aims to be “just like coffee for the modern creative”. Once a member, you’ll have access to high-quality photos that you can do with whatever you please.
Cupcake is the creation of photographer Jonas Wimmerstrom and all the images on the site are available under a Creative Commons licence, including for commercial projects. No attribution is required, although this talented photographer says people are welcome to let him know where his images are being used.
Does your marketing project have a particular colour scheme? Negative Space is one of a number of free image databases that can be searched by colour. All images are available under a Creative Commons licence with no copyright restrictions.
Find A Photo combines free images from a range of other photo libraries, including Unsplash and Startup Stock Photos. Similar to Negative Space, this database is also searchable by colour.
The images available from Freerange Stock are created by an in-house team as well as contributing photographers, who can earn income from advertising on the site. All images are free to use, however, you must sign up to the site to get access.
Get Refe’s aim is to “help organisations and individuals bring ideas to life in a memorable way” by providing high-quality, natural images of people interacting with technology. You can browse through the site’s collection of free images or pay a small fee to receive monthly packs of curated images.
A favourite in the SmartCompany office, Pexels offers more than 5000 free images under a Creative Commons Zero license – which means all images are completely free for personal and commercial use. Around 600 new images a month are added to the database, which includes high-quality images of work environments, people, animals and nature – and just about everything in between.
Does your project need a vintage image? Try New Old Stock. This site is a collection of vintage photos that are in the public domain and therefore free of copyright restrictions.
Another great source for free historical images are public libraries. For example, the State Library of Victoria maintains a pool of around 200,000 photos, illustrations and maps that are either out of copyright or available for use.
For free colourful and quirky images, try Gratisography. All of the photos on this site were taken by photographer Ryan McGuire and are free to use. However, McGuire says he takes better photos when he is caffeinated and so will happily take PayPal donations to his Creative Coffee Fund.
ImageFinder started out as a search engine for images on Flickr that are licensed under Creative Commons, however, the site now also searches Creative Commons licensed images from other stock sites. Think of ImageFinder as directory for free images; you’ll need to download the photos from their original source and check if attribution is required.
PicJumbo is home to 15 categories of completely free images that can be used for both personal and commercial projects. Like many sites that provide free images, you can sign up to receive notifications when new images are available or pay to access premium image collections.
IM Creator not only provides a curated selection of free images – you’ll also find other free marketing tools on this site, including website templates, icons and buttons.
MMT is a collection of vibrant photos from photographer Jeffrey Betts, which are all available for commercial use under a Creative Commons Zero license.
If you’re looking for high-quality, creative images of a New York street scape or European landmarks, Picography may be for you. All photos are available under a Creative Commons Public Domain license.
As its name suggests, Public Domain Archive is a repository for public domain photos. The photos are divided into modern and vintage photos and new images are added each week.
#business email address
Tips for choosing your professional email address
Andréa Coutu wrote recently about 7 terrible secrets revealed by your email address (and how to fix them). Her advice is good, and I recommend reviewing each of her points before you decide on your “official” email address.
If you’re in business as an IT consultant, you have no excuse for not having your own domain name. If domain registration and hosting breaks your bank, then you shouldn’t be in this business. Even if your niche has nothing to do with the Internet (as unlikely as that’s becoming), nothing says “I’m not really serious” like an account on hotmail.com, yahoo.com, especially aol.com, and even gmail.com (unless you’re a Google employee). Not that you can’t also have one of those addresses (except aol.com, what were you thinking?! ), but don’t use it professionally.
When choosing your domain name, you should use the name of your business. If your business doesn’t have a name, get one. Even if it’s just “your name here Consulting,” you should present yourself as a commercial entity. If you feel that your business name is too long for a domain name, you should make sure your abbreviation seems natural and obvious. For example, my business name is “Camden Software Consulting,” and my domain name is “camdensoftware.com”. If I had chosen something like “camdenswcnsltng.com,” then my contacts would always have to look it up to remember how I abbreviated it. Also watch out for unintended words that arise from combining abbreviations. You wouldn’t want to abbreviate “Megara Associates, Inc.” as “megastinc.com” for example.
I’ve seen some independents who treat their domain name like an 800 number: they make it into an ad. Domains like “peoriacomputerwiz.com” may be cute, but unless it’s also the name of your business, your client will have one more thing to remember when they want to contact you. “Was it peoriacomputerguy.com, or peoriapcguy.com? Or wait, isn’t their office in Pekin?”
For the top-level domain (TLD), I think “.com” is preferable. It means “commercial” (you’re in business here, aren’t you?) and despite being US in origin, it has international applicability. It’s also what flies off people’s fingers automatically when they’re typing a domain. If you limit your business to one country or region, then a nation-specific commercial TLD could also be appropriate. The “.org” TLD says “I’m a non-profit!” even though you don’t have to use it for that. The “.net” TLD is a little better, but people tend to infer some sort of online community instead of a business. You should avoid “.biz” and “.info” — the spammers polluted that space years ago, and your emails will get filtered for that reason alone.
There’s nothing wrong with registering the same domain in several TLDs and redirecting them all to the same address, though. In fact, it’s a good way to keep other people from using your business name.
So, how does your email address compare with these criteria?
#free business advertising
FreeIndex for Businesses
Free advertising that really works!
Get found online and win new business
FreeIndex receives over 2.5 million page views every month.
Every UK business regardless of size or budget can win business and gain new customers for FREE by advertising on FreeIndex. You’ll get your own page and your own traffic.
Yes – it really is FREE, and over 1,500 testimonials shows you that it really works. For more info on how it’s free click here .
Free Business Leads
The ONLY site in the UK to send you FREE business leads
Once you’ve registered. we’ll send you genuine business leads by email and text message for free.
You can choose which types of leads you want to be notified about.
Every month, around 2 million worth of new business is generated through the FreeIndex MultiQuote system.
No one else provides businesses with FREE leads.
Create an amazing business profile
Your FreeIndex business profile is your shop window to the world, giving potential customers all the information they need to choose your business.
You can add all kinds of information to your profile including photos and videos and you can make changes whenever you want.
You also get a free web address, and so if you haven’t got a website yet, your FreeIndex profile will do the job perfectly.
Collect and manage your customer reviews
80% of consumers check online reviews before making a purchase
FreeIndex provides a perfect, independent platform for collecting and managing your customers’ comments.
Good reviews not only provide you with a powerful selling tool, but also boost your business up the rankings on FreeIndex.
You can also display your reviews on your own website using a range of tools we provide.
Optional Premium Membership
As requested by our members we have developed an optional Premium Membership package which gives you a highlighted listing, priority on business leads, no 3rd party Ads and other benefits helping you win more business.
Premium Membership is entirely optional and costs as little as 27p a day.
We will never hassle you to upgrade.
There really is no competition.
Free local and national business advert
Free business leads
Free to add photos / videos
Free review management
Free website address
Free to respond to leads & no success fee
Free social media integration
No spam, no cold calls – guaranteed
No selling of your company data
No credit card required
Free local listing
Your own business page
Pay for page features
Pay for local and national coverage
Sales calls to upgrade
Sells your company data
Other Lead Gen Sites
Initial registration fee
Tie in to minimum contract
Charge for new job alerts
Charge to quote for work
Charge for access to contact details
% success fee of your profit
#small business investors
Funding for Small Businesses
Where does someone look for funding if they are a small business? Business loans are only possible if the company has been in business for some time, but most young businesses are looking to expand and so they need other options to raise business capital.
Government grants are another possibility. However, the process of obtaining funding this way is notoriously difficult. The UK government has claimed that this is a sort to test to see how much they need the funding, but the reality is that it is regulated by EU legislation. On the other hand, the EU itself does not fund anything beyond public sector ventures.
There are also sites that offer local grants to small businesses around the UK, including local councils and large companies such as BT and O2, but the latter are usually competitions. Sites such as Business Zone UK list various business grants and awards available to UK entrepreneurs, but the number of proposals and funding amounts are usually quite limited.
More common options for business funding are Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists, both of which will invest significantly higher amounts in your start-up or small business. However, both Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists will want some control of your business and guarantees of a good return on investment in exchange for their money. But at the same time, they offer the experience which could be that factor which allows your business to succeed in the first place.
Remember, the investor is looking to make money just as you are, and so it will be a venture that both sides enter together as a partnership. This means that anyone who invests in a small business will do everything possible to ensure that they are making a sound investment. They will check your business plans thoroughly, and make sure that they themselves believe in your business idea and future plans.
Finding funding for your small business or start-up can take a long time, but the Angel Investment Network can help you make vital contacts with experienced angel investors who are looking to make an investment.
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5 Tips for Starting a Successful Business
When you start your own business, you re certain to hear a lot of different advice. Most of it will come from people who don t know the first thing about running a successful company. Turn to the internet, and you ll be overwhelmed by a multitude of articles and lengthy lists on the subject. Don t make the mistake of overthinking and overanalyzing it all. A few simple steps now can start your business down the path toward success. Here, we outline the five basic tips we ve followed to help us run our company.
1. Begin with a detailed plan.
This one is a must: Develop an in-depth plan that fully details how you ll attack the challenge ahead. Your plan should define any opportunities you ve identified, clearly state your mission, describe your target, establish measurable goals, and set deadlines for each milestone along the way. Remember that while it s important to have a plan, it s equally vital to be flexible enough to pivot when needed.
2. Get out there and network.
Our business would not be where it is today without all the professional networking we did when we first started. We continue to emphasize networking today. Until you ve established your business, you ll need to create your own word-of-mouth. Be your own brand ambassador, touting the benefits of working with your business and showing why people should give you a chance.
Start your own momentum. A wealth of events, trade shows, and networking groups exist to connect you with other professionals. These initial connections can lead to future business prospects, mentors, and strategic partners with the capacity to help grow your business.
3. Surround yourself with the right people.
The right mentors and strategic partners aren t the only people with whom you ll need to align. Surrounding yourself with a great team is equally important. Build your staff with smart, talented, and driven employees who share your vision. They can not only transform your business but also accelerate its growth. Hiring positive, can-do employees helps create a culture that encourages teamwork. Foster an environment in which everyone participates, so you can collectively celebrate your company s successes.
4. Stay ahead of the curve.
You can t afford to be rooted in the present and solely focused on the day-to-day. It s crucial to keep one eye focused on the future, including upcoming movement in your industry. If you aren t anticipating the next big thing, you re destined to fall behind. Successful business owners study trends and anticipate what s coming around the bend. This allows them to nimbly adapt and evolve.
Stay current on emerging issues in your field by faithfully reading trade magazines and websites. Keeping pace as your industry changes assures you ll have your finger on the pulse to predict what customers will want — and which direction your competition might move.
5. Find a healthy work-life balance.
Running a successful business requires an inordinate amount of time and energy. It s paramount to find a healthy work-life balance, even though it can be a challenge to do so. It s easy to let work dominate your life. Don t. It could result in your losing touch with those whom you consider most important. It s also crucial to take care of your own health and well-being. Your business can t run without you. You might believe you need that perpetual hustle to stay sharp and succeed. But that pace can and will burn you out, ultimately limiting how much you can achieve if you don t take time for yourself.
Find ways to maintain perspective and preserve healthy relationships outside of work. Set aside time to get your body active in ways that energize and invigorate you, and schedule catch-up time with friends and family. They ll help recharge your batteries and inspire you to persevere as you dream even bigger.
Copyright 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
The 6 Best Advertising Strategies For Small Business
Small business owners need to be realistic about their advertising campaigns. Typically, of course, they ll be looking for effective, low-cost solutions, but typically, too, you can have just one or the other; you re unlikely to find a simultaneously effective and inexpensive channel for your ads.
That s why you absolutely must budget for advertising, not just play with the money you have left over. By assigning the right amount of money to the right channels, you can get the results you want, or at the least, improve the results you have, based on the data you gather along the way. Since your monthly spend will be consistent, you ll be better able to measure overall efficacy, too.
Given your need to optimize your advertising efforts, then, here are the best advertising strategies for small businesses.
1. Target your audience.
Sorry, but that particular product or service you re touting does not match the needs of anyone who currently walks the Earth. Many small businesses don t run adequately targeted campaigns, despite the fact that targeting is one of online advertising s primary advantages.
Indeed, you should be able to create an accurate target customer profile based on the data you ve collected. With this information in hand, and what you know about your current clientele, you can begin to target similar demographics and psychographics with your campaigns to attract more customers.
Whether you re advertising online or off, make sure your copy and imagery reflects the kind of customers you want to work with. This is key to targeting well.
2. Measure and track your advertising.
Many small businesses simply have no idea whether their advertising is actually working. This simply won t do.
Online advertising platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook provide you with extensive stats related to your ads, and will help you determine what is working and what isn t. This doesn t mean that you won t need to test and experiment, as it can take time for you to create an ad that resonates with your target customers, but it does mean that you can make faster decisions about what to try next.
If you re advertising offline, and you have to set up a specific email address or phone number to gain a clearer understanding of how your leads are finding you and what s working, then that effort is worth the hassle. Stop making guesses.
3. Know when to advertise.
At first glance, advertising year-round and spreading out your budget equally month-to-month may appear to be a wise and commonsense approach.
But if you think back to your business launch, odds are you did a lot of things that can t be scaled. There s no way for you to sustain a similar marketing and advertising initiative throughout the entire year.
If you sell seasonal products, you should be advertising in your highest-performing seasons. You may even want to start a little bit early and hold some of your advertising until a little after.
Black Friday and Christmas tend to be high-performing seasons, depending on the type of business you re running. It may be advantageous to set aside some extra ad money for these days and/or other holidays.
Finally, it can also be worthwhile to keep an eye on when your competitors launch their own big promotions. If you have an advertising budget set aside, you may be able to keep pace or even outmaneuver them.
4. Brand well.
Can your customers immediately identify your ads based on your copy, color choice, imagery, logo or typeface? If that question seems absurd, just look at what the major brands and companies are doing. Oftentimes, you can recognize their ads just from the colors they re using.
Over time, your customers will come to identify with and respond to your ad layouts. The temptation may be to change your branding every time you create a new ad, but that could be confusing and ineffective over the long haul. Your goal should be to show up in expected places, with familiar-looking ads that consistently resonate with your target customers.
Bottom line: Brand well, and stick to your image. Build loyalty through resonance.
5. Use your resources well.
You know the importance of ranking well in search, but you may simply not have the resources and time to consistently create new, informative content for your website.
In an instance like that, your best bet is to take advantage of services like Google AdWords and Bing Ads, so you appear higher in SERP results without having to optimize posts for your chosen keywords. If you have the budget to advertise, but not the time to create content, this is a good use of resources.
If you only have a small budget to allocate to advertising, it may not make sense to take out an expensive magazine ad. A Facebook ad campaign would be much more practical, since you can control your daily spend.
Make an honest assessment of the resources available to you, and leverage them in a way that helps you grow your business.
6. Show up in the right places.
It s dangerous to make too many assumptions about your target customer. For example, if there s a certain radio show that you like, and you assume that your customers like it too, you may be misinformed about the wisdom of spending money on a radio ad there that could prove expensive and ineffective.
If your advertising dollars are going to the wrong place, you re wasting your money. Instead, you need to get to know your customers. So, survey them. Get a sense of where they like to hang out online, what books and magazines they read, what podcast and radio shows they listen to and so on.
When your advertising is matched with the right understanding of your customers, you ll begin to attract more worthwhile leads to your business.
There are plenty of opportunities to monetize through advertising. The key is in knowing who your target customers are, where they like to hang out — and thus where to find more people like them — and allocating your resources to those specific channels.
Advertising is not set-and-forget. You need to be strategic in the way you approach it, and amplify your marketing at the right times.
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