Small Business Tips

January 2017 Archive
Fair Tax Legislation

Like most small business owners, I cringe when paying taxes. It’s my duty as an American citizen, however, I question if taking such a large chunk of what I earn is the right way.

Enter the Fair Tax legislation also known as H.R.25.

The Fair Tax repeals the income tax, employment tax, and estate and gift tax. A national sales tax of 23% on the use or consumption in the United States of taxable property or services would be implemented. In other words, only the money you spend would be taxed.

1) Liberation of skilled workers.

Burns argues that income taxes fall hardest on skilled men and women who work hard in, and sometimes own, America’s small businesses. The burden of time and fees is the single largest thing that keeps these workers from accumulating wealth.

These workers are not represented by anyone in Congress, whether Democrat or Republican. Our laws are written by special interests that range from the AARP to the nameless lobbyists who tack on special tax breaks that benefit a single company or industry. That’s the way it is. It is an entirely corrupt system.

2) If you don’t spend your income, everyone benefits from it.

By not spending the money you earn, you are saving it. This extra cash flow will open up new capital for our economy. It would provide new cash for bank deposits, inventory for stores and manufacturers, and capital for equipment. Without the drain of taxation, a larger supply of capital would force down interest rates.

3) Greater equity in taxation.

The only true winners in our current tax system are the lobbyist who represent self-interest groups at the ultimate expense American small business owners like you and I. Both political parties fail to recognize that the worlds of work and entitlements are on a collision course.

Recommended Reading:

FairTax.org – Americans for Fair Tax
The FairTax Book by Neal Boortz
Thumbnail Sketch of the FairTax


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
IRS Payments by Credit Card
Alternative Minimum Tax
Managing Business Cash Flow
Reducing Taxable Income with Retirement Funds
IRS Audit Triggers

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Taxes |

Building Your Office

“The most productive office is one that is not only comfortable and attractive, but is also functional.”

Last year when I moved my home-based business into a leased office space, I needed to select a new desk setup. I chose a corner desk with a desk extension off the left side. Behind me I have a bookcase/shelf system that holds various decor and books. The ad photo above shows the desk setup that I purchased.

I love this setup not only because it looks great, but also because it’s extremely functional. The setup fulfills every need I had including a comfortable computer position, a desk for writing and stacking and even an attachment to place sticky notes.

Need a comfortable office chair? They are expensive, but I highly suggest a Herman-Miller Aeron chair. It is by far the most comfortable office chair I have ever sat in (and I’ve tried alot of chairs!). Don’t settle for a cheap alternative!

Recommended Reading:

Consider needs first in office furniture
10 Common Home Office Mistakes
How to Use Artwork to Enhance Any Room


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Standing on the Job
Cut the Clutter!
Aprils Fools Day Office Pranks
Advertising Quality in Your Product
How to Write an Effective Advertisement

By Chris Brunner
Monday, January 30th, 2017 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Ownership |

Protecting Your Clientele

Headhunting is a common practice these days.

An employee informs you that he will be leaving his positions in order to take up a new job offer. Soon you learn that this new job offer came from a direct competitor. Chances are, your employee will try to take customers with them.

How can you protect the employee/company/customer relationships that you’ve worked so hard to gain?

Restrictive Covenants – require employees who interact with customers or work with confidential information to be bound by a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement or both.

Keeping Former Employees Away From Your Customers

Recommended Reading:

Nolo.com – Non-compete Agreements
FindLaw.com – Non-compete Agreements
Business Owner’s Toolkit – Non-compete Agreements


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Preparing for a Health Inspection
Preparing Your Company for its First Employee
What Employees Want from You
Competing for Business with a Former Employer
Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service

By Chris Brunner
Sunday, January 29th, 2017 @ 12:09 AM CDT

Ownership |

Absolut Advertising

If you’ve looked at a magazine within the last 25 years, you’ve probably seen at least one Absolut Vodka advertisement.

It’s been named one of the 10 best campaigns of the 20th century by America’s Advertising Age Magazine. To date, it comprises 1,450 original ads, with more added each month.

“Why are ABSOLUT ads so memorable? Why do collectors crave them? Why are famous artists and writers enthusiastic about creating them? The concept is easy and the execution brilliant. First, two simple words — and the first is always the same — second, a single stunning, image that complements the headline. Like a couple in love.

It proves that advertising doesn’t have to be complicated; rather, advertising can and should respect people for their wit and intelligence. The most impressive, impfactful ads are often the simplest. This knowledge is key to the ABSOLUT brand’s success”

–Richard W. Lewis, ABSOLUT Worldwide Account Director

AbsolutAd.com


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, January 28th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

What IRS Auditors Look For

As an entrepreneur, you may have or know someone who has been audited by the IRS. If an audit is in your future, stay calm and understand what the auditor will be looking for…

1) Did you report all of your business sales or receipts?
2) Did you write off personal living costs as business expenses?
3) Does your lifestyle square with your reported income?
4) Did you take cash or otherwise divert income without declaring it?
5) Did you write off personal auto expenses as business?
6) Did you claim personal costs as business expenses?
7) Are you filing payroll tax and making tax deposits for employees?
8) If you hire people you call “independent contractors,” are they really employees?

What Auditors Look for When Examining a Business

Recommended Reading:

Top 20 Tips for Surviving an Audit
How to Reduce the Chance of an Audit
Audit Technique Guides by Industry


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Independent Contractors
IRS Audit Triggers
A New Way for Employees to Get Paid
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)
Last Minute Tax Tips

By Chris Brunner
Friday, January 27th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |

Marketing with Postcards

Postcards may be one of the best kept secrets of modern marketing.

They can produce a surge of traffic to your web site or a flood of high-quality sales leads. Campaigns are easy to track and almost everyone reads post cards, even the good folks who throw out all your bulk direct mail!

How can you market effectively by using only postcards? Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:

1) Ditch the Sales Pitch.
2) Get Right to the Point.
3) Send your postcards via First Class mail.

7 Tips for Successful Postcard Marketing

Recommended Reading:

10 good reasons to market with postcards
Marketing With Post Cards
Postcard Printing – Design Postcards Online


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10 Interactive Marketing Tips
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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, January 26th, 2017 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Marketing |

Defeating Spam and Phishing

An estimated 45 percent of all e-mail is defined as spam, costing business worldwide $20 billion a year in lost productivity and technology expenses, according to the Radicati Group, a market research firm in Palo Alto, California.

Following are five critical tips which will help you create a more productive workplace that is better protected against spam and phishing attacks–even if you have minimal or no IT staff.

1) Make sure your employees are aware of “phishing” attacks.
2) Educate employees on the how-tos of secure e-mail usage.
3) Protect your business from being “phished.”
4) Let your employees have some control.
5) Choose an e-mail security solution that’s right for you.

Recommended Reading:

What is Phishing?
How to prevent spam


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How Accessible are You?
Cybercrime on the Rise
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)
Leaders as Strong Public Speakers

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 @ 12:08 AM CDT

Technology |

IRS Redesigns Form 941

The Internal Revenue Service recently unveiled the redesign of Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

The redesigned form features an improved layout, plain language instructions, simplified deposit reporting and paid preparer identification. The form is also scannable, which the IRS expects will reduce transcription errors.

“… The IRS wants to simplify its forms,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “The new Form 941 will help achieve that.”

Form 941 is used to report wages, tips and other compensation paid, as well as Social Security, Medicare and income taxes collected.

IRS Unveils Redesigned Employment Tax Return


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Estimating Income Tax
Estimating Self-Employed Tax
IRS Audit Triggers

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Taxes |

3 Ways to Pay Less for Technology

Thinking of investing in new technology for your business?

Vendors have recently slashed prices for computers and other technology. “What you used to spend $2,000 for, you can get for $950 to $1,200,” says Alan Pearlman, an attorney and computer consultant. “I don’t think there’s a better time to buy than right now.”

Be on the lookout though. The prices of PC parts are on the rise and will be passed on to you, the consumer.

How can you pay less while getting more than everyone else? Follow these 3 steps:

1) Renegotiate existing contracts for consulting and network services.
2) Make sure you need whatever new technology you do buy.
3) Set up a system to keep doing it.

Finally, keep in mind that newer technology isn’t always better!

Recommended Reading
How to Buy Computer Equipment for Your Business
When Should I Upgrade My Computer Hardware?


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, January 23rd, 2017 @ 12:11 AM CDT

Technology |

Cut the Clutter!

Look around your desk right now. Feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the clutter? If so, don’t you think it’s time to loose some of that weight by getting rid of all the papers and notes you don’t need anymore?

Nancy Van Valkenburg of Utah’s Standard Newspaper, Online Edition offers the following advice:

The first step is to start making those delayed decisions. … suggests clients sort papers into three piles using the F.A.T. system. The letters stand for File, Act and Toss. … advocate positioning files and tools by proximity based on the frequency of your need for them.

… compare an office to a kitchen. A coffee maker or toaster you use every day may be kept on an otherwise clear kitchen counter.

Things to do: Get organized

Recommended Reading
Five Cures for Office Clutter
Organizing Office Clutter
Tips to Tame the Office Clutter Monster


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You Cant Replace Face Time

By Chris Brunner
Sunday, January 22nd, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Ownership |

Developing a Reputation

In business a good reputation can carry your company a long way.

Your reputation alone can actually earn new business without spending a dime on advertising. If people know you are good at what you do or that you have a superior product, not only will they come back for more, they may also tell their friends about it.

About.com offers this comprehensive five part article on what you can do to develop your reputation with clients and potential customers in a variety of ways.

1) Be Prolific
2) Be Ubiquitous
3) Be Generous
4) Be Dependable
5) Be Credible

Recommended Reading:
Do What You Say You’ll Do
How to Gain Immediate Credibility
Word-of-Mouth: The World’s Best-Known Marketing Secret


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, January 21st, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Ownership |

Independent Contractors

While running a small business, there may come a time when you need a job done, but you don’t want to bring someone on full time to do it. This is where an independent contractor steps in.

The definition of an independent contractor has recently been disputed in a Utah courtroom. Read more about this story and the results of the charge and appeal in the Salt Lake Tribune.

For more help in determining whether a person who works for you is an employee or independent contractor, read IRS publication 15a.

Recommended Reading:
Employee or Independent Contractor?
Independent Contractor VS. Employee – State of Missouri
IRS.gov – Independent Contractors vs. Employees


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, January 20th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

The Networking Boogie Man

Many business owners cringe at the idea of attending an event where you know nobody — and are expected to get to know as many people as possible. It’s a part of business, and a fear that some of us have to overcome to be successful. Like it or not, conducting business requires a little face-to-face time.

Australian author Mary Morel offers some advice on this topic in her article “Network Your Way to the Top”.

You will probably get most out of networking if you choose a few networking groups and go to their meetings regularly. The more often you attend networking events, the stronger relationships you build and the more you enjoy yourself.

As with any marketing, you will get better results if you take a strategic approach. Networking events aren’t the place for a sales pitch, though you may give someone your business card and possibly your brochure.

Network Your Way to the Top

Recommended Reading:
Get People Talking About You
Top 10 Networking Skills for 2005
Networking Strategies for Shy Professionals
8 Ways to Use Business Cards to Network and Market Your Business


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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, January 19th, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Networking |

Freelance Your Expertise

I remember the time before I started my own business. I was stuck in the rat race spending 40 hrs a week making other people wealthy.

Do you have a special talent that you could monetize? Do you have the ability to fulfill the needs of thousands (even millions) of people?

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1) Offer a service you know people want.
2) Take the time to establish yourself.
3) Don’t rush to quit your job until you save some money.
4) No matter what your field, contracts are important.
5) Establish an accounting system.

How to Freelance Your Expertise

Recommended Reading:
Making it as a Freelancer Journalist
Evolt.org – Freelancing Tips
Building Your Freelance Business on a Shoestring Budget


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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Ventures |

The Importance of a Logo

Your identity is an extension of your business that communicates visually, through appearance, and emotionally, through symbolism. Curtailing or ignoring thought, revision, and growth in the design process will hurt your finished product and corporate image.

Have a graphic artist professionally create your logo based on how you want your customers to view your company. For instance, when the GreatFX logo you see above was designed, I wanted something that would show speed, quality, and modernism. The end result was a design that only took a few revisions before we had a winner.

Having a logo created professionally may cost a bit more in the short term, but will pay off multiple times in the long run. A professional logo is one of the best investments a business owner can make!

Recommended Reading:
The Importance of a Logo
Logo Design Articles
More Logo Design Articles


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing |

What is Branding?

Many people think branding has to do specifically with product design. While product design helps facilitate the branding process, branding is actually much more intricate.

Branding starts with your consumers brains and not with your product design. Branding is not how your product looks. Nor is it how your consumer feels and perceives your product. Nope. Branding is making your consumers think that there is no other product except yours!

Recommended Reading:
Building Own Brand Important for Small Companies
What is Branding?


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, January 16th, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Marketing |

Networking with Business Cards

Are you getting maximum benefit from networking events you attend? If not, try taking a look at how you are promoting yourself. Is your business card specific or interesting enough to help make a good first impression?

Here are some tips from Vannie Ryanes of BellaOnline.com, an editorial site with a focus on women’s issues.

Make sure you have a proper business cards. You card should be:

Clean and unmarked with neat edges.
• In a business card case or clean briefcase pocket.
• Up-to-date information; no hand-written changes.
• Suitable for your line of business; simple/extravagant.
• If you have several businesses have an appropriate card.
• A double-sided card is perfect for multiple businesses.
• Readily available. You should not have to search for your card.

Recommended Reading:

Five Ideas for Keeping Business Cards Handy
Ivan Misner: Networking
Networking for Shy People


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, January 15th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Networking |

Polish Your Company Image

In business, the image your company emanates directly influences a client’s first impression. After time, a corporate identity can become worn or dated. First, research your target market and build off what you learn. Understand what your clients want so that you can deliver it via your marketing mediums.

Freshening up your business cards, brochures, postcards, stationery and web pages will help shine a different light on your company.

Supplemental Links:
M&O Marketing Consultants – How to Improve Your Corporate Image
Stelzner Consulting – Identity Makeover Examples


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Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4
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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, January 14th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

Investigate the Competition

Trade shows offer a perfect opportunity for a business owner to scope out their competition.

Think about it… all of them gathered in one place at one time displaying their latest and greatest products or services. Even if you don’t speak with a booth representative, you can still walk away with a gold mine of information just by inspecting the booth and taking a presentation packet.

Just by virtue of being at the show, your competitors are sharing the following information:

1) Who they are.
2) What their reputation and image is in the marketplace.
3) Part of their sales and marketing strategy.

For more tips on investigating your competition (including how to get juicy information) please visit the link below.

Source:
TheTradeShowCoach.com


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, January 13th, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Ownership |

What’s Your Business Model?

Quite simply, the business model is an explanation of how a company will generate revenue to meet your expenses and earn a profit. It also explains the sources of the company’s revenues, how much these sources pay and how often.

Is your sales product or service based? Based on this question, here are several types of business models that you could implement or enhance to further your income.

Fee for Service Models:
1) Day Rate
2) Project Fee
3) Monthly Retainer

Product-Based Models:
1) Flat Fee
2) Subscription
3) Bait and Hook

If you aren’t earning as much as you would like through your business, the marketing plan may not be at fault. Take a look at your business model and determine if changes are needed.

Source:
GetClientsNow.com


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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, January 12th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

How NOT to Fund a Business

How many of you have used a credit card for a business expense? With credit card companies aggressively offering easy approval with sizable credit limits it’s understandable why many people do this.

Banks put small business owners through the wringer before lending money. … if the banks want to lend responsibly, look at it from your own point of view: why would you want to borrow irresponsibly? Because that’s exactly what using your personal credit card can be.

Bottom line: be responsible and use the credit card(s) sparingly. Your business will be much stronger, and you will be much happier.

Source:
ShropshireStar.com (U.K.)


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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Money |

Preparing for Disaster

With the recent hurricane barrage on US coasts, we are reminded that natural disasters can cause more than just property damage.

The winds also can blow in armies of fly-by-night contractors and door-to-door scam artists eager to capitalize on the misfortunes of innocent people.

The California Department of Insurance has put together this preparation guide for yourself and your business in the event of a natural disaster. It focuses on hiring an honest contractor to rebuild your home/business.

Source:
California Department of Insurance


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Ownership |

How to Profit From Networking

When it comes to business, who you know is almost everything. Networking yourself is an essential business practice that everyone should take part in. Why? Because quality business relationships can turn into profitable opportunities.

Here are five strategies to make networking profitable:

1) Choose the right networking group or event.
2) Focus on quality contacts versus quantity.
3) Make a positive first impression.
4) Be able to clearly state what you do.
5) Follow up after the event.

Networking produces results. The more people that know about you and your business — and trust you — the better chance you have of gaining a new client or free referral.

Source
About.com


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, January 9th, 2017 @ 12:08 AM CDT

Networking |

What Do Your Clients Need?

When starting a new business, preparation is half the battle. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what your target clients want and you will be able to deliver it to them much faster and more effectively.

Lack of research in your target market is like playing darts in the dark. You might hit the target occasionally, but more than likely, you’ll fall short and end up with a bunch of holes to fix.

When you have a clear picture of what your target market is truly looking for, you’ll be able to package your services as a solution. Design all your marketing tools – web site, brochure, telemarketing script, sales presentation – to show how your service addresses the hot buttons you identified.

Source:
HealthyWealthynWise.com


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, January 8th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Marketing |

Stop Sitting on the Sidelines

If you are shy around new people, networking events can be an intimidating experience. How should you introduce yourself? What should you talk about?

Striking conversation with a random person isn’t easy for some, but with a little practice, you can become a master networker.

First, set a personal goal to not only talk to, say, 25 new people, but also to ask each one a few key questions. Set another goal to bring back 10 business cards. Call (your new contacts) that same day (or the next morning if it’s an evening event).

Great salespeople learn to become lead magnets, and they learn how by getting out there on the dance floor.

Source
BizJournals.com


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, January 7th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Networking |

Get People Talking About You

“DARE to be bold if you want your business to stand out from the crowd.” That was the message marketing expert Carolyn Stafford delivered at a Women in Business workshop last week.

By putting your best foot forward, your company can thrive and grow. With more and more competition joining the game, now is the time to establish your company as something different from the rest.

“People buy your personality, they buy you,”

With the dawn of the Information Age it’s important, now more than ever, to put a name and face with your company. Doing this is the first step to “humanizing” a company so that people will feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Source:
The Daily Telegraph – Australia


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, January 6th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Marketing |

Name Memorization

This article is written from an employee point of view, however, I feel that these tips could apply to any business owner who is out networking themselves.

Of course not remembering the name of someone you meet is a social faux pas. Especially if you’re attempting to gain their business. This shows lack of respect and lack of professionalism. Here are some tips to help you remember names:

Concentrate. Be sure you hear it when they say it. Say it right back to them when they tell you. Then use it again quickly.

“If people give you their business cards, read the card back to them. Ask for the correct pronunciations of their names and voice it back to them. Then at some point, turn the card over and jot down information about them, such as their hair color and what they were wearing.”

Source:
California Job Journal


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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, January 5th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking |

5 Affordable Marketing Tips

Think you can’t afford to implement any effective marketing tactics? Here are five ways to make a splash on a shoestring budget.

1. Talk to your clients.
2. Creatively package your marketing campaigns.
3. Get the word out with publicity.
4. Leverage existing relationships.
5. Commit to e-mail marketing.

While these methods make take some time and work, the potential returns far outweigh the costs.

Source:
Entrepreneur.com


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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Marketing |

The Importance of Branding

Branding is an integral part of the business building process. Large corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars building their brands, and there’s a reason:

  • Brands enable customers to remember your product-service.
  • Brands build customer loyalty and lead to repeat purchases.
  • Brands make it easier for current clients or customers to refer you to others.
  • Brands send a message as to what your customers can expect.
  • Brands convey an emotion.
  • Brands add value.

We use brands as shorthand to make our trips to the grocery store easier; we use brands to reassure us about our purchasing decisions; we even use brands to define ourselves in society.

Remember: a brand is a promise. With a brand, you set customer expectations. When someone buys your product or service, they count on those expectations to be fulfilled.

Source:
The News-Press


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Marketing |

Persuade Your Customers

Persuasion is often used to describe a derogatory action. Persuasion is not pushing someone to do something. Pushing creates resistance and resentment. Persuasion feels more like pulling them to a positive point.

Follow these steps to further entice your customers:

1) Understand your product by understanding what it can do for others.
2) Ask well-thought-out questions.
3) Persuade others to act by appealing to emotions.

Source:
BizJournals.com


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, January 2nd, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Marketing |

Barriers to Marketing Success

As a continuation from last Tuesday’s post, Benefits of Market Research, here are three common barriers to small business marketing success.

1) No clear definition of success
At what point can you call your marketing campaign a success? Will your success be based on profits, sales, or customer satisfaction?

2) Not clarifying who your ideal clients are
Before you even start your campaign, find out who your clients are and what they want. What are the demographics and characteristics of your ideal clients?

3) Not spelling out your unique value
Can you offer your clients something that the competition cannot? What makes your product or service better than the others available? Why should people choose you to do business with?

Answering these questions will give you a strong foundation of knowledge for a successful marketing campaign. Your campaign will be leaner, meaner and more efficient. Not only will you save money but will likely increase profits.

Source:
WebProNews.com


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, January 1st, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Marketing |