Lucky is the community that gets a large event to come to their neck of the woods. It doesn’t have to be as big as the Olympics: Any big event, from a business conference to a music festival, can potentially bring in hundreds of thousands of new visitors—and thousands of new customers to your business. What can you do to get involved and handle the large crowds? First, check with your city’s business development office to see what opportunities may exist because of the event. Usually, a big event in your town means subcontracting opportunities for many local businesses. Then, check with the event organizers to find out about sponsorship, volunteer or exhibition opportunities. Finally, consider hiring more employees, updating your technology, and using new apps to handle crowds in your store or restaurant if you expect increased traffic.
No matter what industry or field you look at, you will find specialties. There are small animal vets, and there are equine vets. There are fashion designers who specialize in baby ready-to-wear and ones who produce haute couture. There are business coaches who only work with women, and psychologists who only counsel children.
As you can see from the examples above, specializing within an industry or field helps you stand out – and it can help your small business stand out, too. Specializing has many benefits, but for marketing purposes, here are 6 reasons “going niche” will improve your marketing strategy:
1 – Stronger brand
Trying to be everything to everyone is not easy – or feasible. By specializing, you can create a brand that stands out for its focus on doing one or two things well. Your visual identity and content will be stronger as a result, making it easier for customers to connect with you.
2 – Clearer messaging
When you focus on a specific niche, your value proposition and overall messaging will be clearer. You can speak directly to your customers and explain the benefits of working with you in a way that resonates with them. Additionally, by being clear about what you do and for whom, the quality of your leads will increase.
3 – Fewer products or services
I learned in a Forbes article that Starbucks locations in the U.S. serve over 20,000 drink choices – 20,000! While that might sound impressive, it’s not. More choices makes it harder for people to make a decision. When you specialize, you will automatically offer fewer products and services, thus making it easier for your customers to find what they want and buy from you.
4 – Highly developed expertise
When you specialize in a niche area, you will, by default, develop specific expertise around products or services. That expertise can be spun into thought leadership via the content you create and share.
5 – Better SEO
Because of your niche, the keywords that are most applicable to you will have less competition – think “trompe l’oeil fine art interior painter” versus “painter” – making you easier to find online.
6 – Less competition
This is alluded to above, and it may be obvious, but by being specialized, you will have less competition, thus increasing your business’s potential for growth and revenue – as long as there is demand!
7- More focused target market
A vet who specializes in household pets has a much different target market than one who only works on horses. When you specialize, your target market becomes much more specific and smaller, making it easier for you to find them online and reach them through online advertising.
What other ways does being highly specialized, or niche, benefit your business?
Image courtesy of famousbloggers.net
Did you know that in 2012, the federal government acquired over $90 billion of goods and services from small businesses? How you can get your share of the pie is probably your next question. Before you begin the lengthy process of bidding for government projects, you’ll want to get all the information you can. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), located all over the country, offer many services at little or no cost to help you determine whether you’re eligible (or ready) to do business with Uncle Sam. Once you’re ready, your local PTAC will also help you register and research past contracts and small business set-aside opportunities.
By Karen Axelton
As you’re planning this year’s marketing strategy for your small business, don’t forget to consider radio. Both online and traditional AM/FM radio boast powerful reach, and the number of Americans who regularly listen to online radio is growing rapidly, according to a new national survey by Arbitron and Edison Research. Here’s some of what the study found:
- One out of three Americans age 12 and up listen to online radio at least weekly.
- Those weekly online radio listeners listened for an average of nearly 12 hours per week—an increase of more than two hours compared to last year.
- Much online radio listening takes place on smartphones. More than half of Americans age 12 and up own smartphones; among the 18-to-34 age group, three-fourths own smartphones.
- Traditional AM/FM radio has grown to 243 million weekly listeners.
- Those weekly traditional radio listeners spend about two hours a day listening.
- Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of Americans age 18 and up say they turn on AM/FM radio in the car “almost all of the time” or “most of the time,” making in-car AM/FM radio far more popular than CD players (15 percent) portable MP3 players (11 percent) or satellite radio (10 percent).
The ubiquity of devices that can allow consumers to listen to radio whenever and wherever they want—in their cars, on the go or on their phones—is a big factor in the growth of online radio, the report states.
What do these trends mean to you?
Cover your bases. If radio is a good o Consumers today don’t want to listen to their favorite stations just in the car—they’re plugging into them on headsets using their smartphones or tablets. If radio is a good option for your business, consider using both online and traditional AM/FM outlets to advertise.
Consider AM/FM music stations as your ad venue of choice. Of the 45 percent of Americans who believe it’s important to stay up-to-date with new music, three-fourths (78 percent) say AM/FM radio is the best way to do so.
Be cognizant of your audience. The most important factor in any online or traditional radio ad campaign is to know where your target customers spend their time. The radio station should be able to tell you their audience demographics and, if the station is a good fit, can direct you to the times and shows that will best target your exact audience–whether that’s the drive-time news hour or the 2 a.m. electronic dance music show.
Image by Flickr user Marcin Wichary (Creative Commons)
A gift shop’s success is based on the visual aspect of what they do. People need to see the items to buy them. So how do you get them interested in your gifts when they’re not in the store, but without spending a lot of money on advertising?
There are three social media tools every gift shop owner can use to build interest and traffic to their stores.
Start a Facebook page for your store, and invite your customers to like it. Then, communicate with them on a regular basis, but for more than just promoting your store’s items. Ask questions, like “what was the best gift you ever received?” or “what’s the funniest gift you ever gave?” to keep people coming back and interacting with your page. It will teach them to check out what you have to say on a regular basis.
Instagram is a mobile app that lets you take photos, apply creative filters, and share them with your Instagram network, as well as Facebook. Take photos of some of the cool stuff in your store, especially as it comes in, and share it via Instagram.
Pinterest is another app that works on your laptop or your mobile phone. See a picture of something you like, and pin it to your “board.” While most people use it to pin pictures of things they find on the Internet, you can also use it to pin the Instagram photos you shared on Facebook. Pinterest is also a good way to take photos of stock items you’re thinking about bringing in to the store and asking your customers for their opinion.
Tumblr (no ‘E’) has been embraced especially by Generation Y who wanted something more informal and easier to use than a regular blog. While a regular blog is just as effective — if you have one, don’t abandon it — there’s something hipper and funner about a Tumblr blog.
The first thing to do is claim your Tumblr blog. Go to Tumblr.com, and set it up using your gallery name — StevesGallery.tumblr.com — and set the background theme the way you want it.
Next, download the Tumblr app to your mobile phone. Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with how it works. It’s pretty easy. Just take a photo on your phone (or choose one from the gallery), type in some text, and upload it to your Tumblr blog. Unfortunately, you cannot send more than one photo at a time this way.
You can also email several photos and copy at once to your Tumblr blog. Each account is given its own special, secret email address. Put that in your phone’s address book. Then, when you take a series of photos, attach them all to an email to your Tumblr account, add in the text, and then send it off.
And of course, you can also upload a series of photos to your Picasa or Flickr account, and then copy the embed code for a slide show into your email and send that off, or just go to Tumblr.com on your laptop, and write the post like you would any other blog post.
Then promote the posts via your social network and use it to build both search engine traffic and foot traffic to your gallery.
Are you familiar with the term “mastermind group?” You may hear it called other things, but basically, it’s a group of people who are closely aligned to your business’ success and growth. These are people you meet with on a regular basis, so you can contribute to each others’ success.
A mastermind group can be built around a certain industry or niche, like residential real estate, which includes a Realtor, a mortgage broker, an attorney, a handyman, and anyone else who might be related to that specific niche.
The group could be built around a certain type of people, like small business owners or marketing directors. People who want to share new information and ideas with each other, so that they can take it back to their own jobs and do them better.
Or it can even be based on geography, like all the retail businesses in a particular neighborhood. While some of them may compete, they instead focus on the general health and prosperity of the neighborhood, and share ideas on how to run their businesses better.
The idea is to find people who share a common business goal and can work together without competing. They come together once a week or once a month to share knowledge, share ideas, and even share leads with each other.
The Realtor can refer new clients to the mortgage broker. The marketing directors can bounce ideas off each other, and give advice. A small theater and a restaurant can team up to sell special dinner-and-a-show packages.
Whatever you do with your mastermind group, leave yourself open to the possibility that some very creative and beneficial ideas can grow out of it.
We’ve talked about the importance of online social networking for the last several months, but we don’t want to ignore the importance of meeting people in person. This kind of networking is just as important to growing your business as online networking is.
Here are three benefits of doing real-world networking:
1. Networking events lets you meet more than one person at a time.
We like networking events where you get to meet a lot of people at once. Not only does it increase your odds of meeting people who can have a positive influence on your life, it lets you be more visible within your community. Your Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups, and even local industry groups are all places to network.
2. Read nonverbal cues, and learn about a person’s passions.
Sitting down and speaking with someone face-to-face lets you hear the excitement in their voice when they tell you about the things that excite them. It’s a bonus when that passion is their work. It helps you understand why they love what they do, and helps you make connections for them later on.
3. Create deeper relationships than you can online.
It doesn’t matter how well you get to know someone online, you will never have as deep a relationship as you can by talking to them in person. You need to see their face, hear their voice, and see their nonverbal communication to get to know them. You’re creating, in a loose sense of the word, a friendship, and you just can’t do that through a keyboa
Let’s say you own an ice cream parlor, along with three other parlors within a five mile radius. You can win a search any time someone looks for “ice cream shop” or “ice cream parlor” when they do a search while they’re in your city, or do a mobile search on their phone.
The biggest trick that will help you win this mobile search is registering your business on Google Places.
Claiming your Google Places spot does one very important thing for you: it tells other people how to find you on Google and on the maps. And if you’re the first ice cream parlor in your neighborhood to do it before your competitors, you appear higher in the search than the other ice cream shops.
Log in to your Google account with your Gmail address and password (register for one if you don’t have one yet), and then enter in the necessary information. You’ll enter your business address, hours of operation, methods of payment you accept, any photos and videos, and anything else you want customers to know (free parking, specialty flavors you offer, etc.).
While Google typically wants you to list a mailing address, home-based and mobile businesses can also participate. Just put in your home address, and when you get to the section on Service Areas, select “this business serves customers at their locations.” Google will hide your address from the map, which means you can maintain your home’s privacy, and/or avoid any confusion with customers who may want to find you in person.
In yesterday’s post, we started talking about how important content is, but we didn’t want to include it in the list of three blogging SEO tips. Not because it’s not important, but because it’s very important.
One thing Google wants now is high-quality content, and they ignore content that was poorly written.
In the past, content writers did everything they could to cram as many keywords into their copy, often at the expense of the writing quality. Now, bloggers need to focus on making their content the best it can be. The keywords should almost be an afterthought — not something you ignore completely, but don’t spend any more than five minutes on them.
Since Google looks at things like time on site (they assume people spend more time on a page reading well-written content), it makes more sense for you to focus on making each blog post or web page the very best it can be.
If that means hiring a professional, consider it money well-spent. If it means writing and rewriting until it’s just right, then take the time. And if it means having a couple of friends tell you what they really think of the writing, then steel yourself and ask them to look it over.
As long as the end result is well-written and interesting, people will read it. If it’s not, your web traffic and search rankings will suffer.
One online guerilla marketing tactic is to write blog posts and other content that capitalize on the hottest trends going on that day. But how do you practice this real-time communication and real-time marketing, and find out what’s going on locally, nationally, or even internationally as it’s happening, rather than after the fact?
Start with Hashtags.org, which keeps track of the different Twitter #hashtags. If people are talking about it, it’s on Hashtags.org. To see how popular a topic is, visit the site, and either look at the most popular topics on the front page, or do a specific search for a topic of your choice to see what kind of traffic it’s generating.
We also like TweetLevel, a Twitter monitoring and ranking tool. You can find people who are influential about a certain topic (which you found on Hashtags.org), and start interacting with them, or place them in a Twitter list so you can follow them more easily.
With this information, you can now create your own content — blog posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, you name it — and capitalize on the popularity of the subject. Write your post, then tweet out the URL, using the same hashtag.
Next, find the influential people who are talking about a particular topic, and respond to their comments and questions. Share your own content with them. They may share your stuff with their own networks, where it can be seen by tens of thousands of people. Do this often enough, and you can be recognized as a voice of authority within that field or topic as well, and become your own influencer.
With Google Analytics, the free analytical package that shows you your web traffic performance, you
can see what’s working and what’s not.
For example, let’s say you published your post on “Five Fun Sandwiches for Kids” on a Monday. By
Friday, you’ve sold 100 of your sandwich cutters. How can we find how many of those sales came as
a direct result of the blog post?
First, we check out the Google Analytics page, and see that the post has generated 1,000 visits this
week. We can see how long everyone spent on the page, where they came from, and even where
In our hypothetical case, of the 1,000 visitors, we can see:
- 600 of them came from Facebook, 300 came from Twitter, and the other 100 came from a
variety of other sources.
- 80% of them spent 1 – 2 minutes on the page, 10% spent 5 minutes on the page, and 10% spent
less than 1 minute.
- 100 of them clicked a link that took them to another page on the website (we can even find out
which page), 800 of them left as soon as they read the page, and 100 of them went straight to the
sandwich cutter catalog page.
By switching over to the Google Analytics for the sandwich cutter page, we can see that 50 of our
visitors actually bought the $15 sandwich cutter.
Based on all this, we can determine that 1) our blog post resulted in 50 sales this week; 2) it
generated $750 in gross revenue; 3) it has a 5% sales rate.
Without Google Analytics, we would never know what a particular blog post, or even a week of
traffic, has done for our business.
There are several social media review networks and apps where people leave reviews about their favorite (and not-so-favorite) restaurants, businesses, doctors’ offices, and retail clothing stores. Sites like Yelp, Foursquare, UrbanSpoon, FoodSpotting, and OpenTable all encourage users to leave comments and reviews of the restaurants.
Back before we had social media, people would frequently complain when they were unhappy, but rarely give public compliments. These days, people are more willing to share when they’re pleased, and are more likely to leave positive reviews.
Restaurant owners can help encourage these reviews, and using them to their marketing advantage, by trying these quick tips:
- Remind people to check in on Foursquare, and ask them to leave a tip about
their favorite appetizer. If you have a free wifi network, name it [RESTAURANT NAME]
- Hold a weekly or monthly contest where people send their Foursquare checkin as a tweet with a
#hashtag with your restaurant name.
- Leave a tablet tent that says “Love us? Hate us? Leave a Yelp comment” and a QR code that
takes people right to your Yelp page.
That last tactic is a bit of a calculated risk, because you’re showing people the exact path they need to take to complain too. But if your staff is on their game, this won’t be a problem. And if people do complain, we’ll tell you how to fix the problem tomorrow.
Restaurants need to keep track of what’s being said about them, but it’s not enough to watch each
and every review site — at one count, we saw over 10 of them, and that didn’t include networks like
Twitter, Facebook, or anyone and everyone’s personal blogs.
You could spend all day online looking for mentions of you and your restaurant, and you’d still miss
That’s why we like Google Alerts as our brand watchdog.
The search giant indexes millions of websites a day, looking for any and all important keywords,
including yours. So why not put that to work for you?
Go to Google.com/alerts, and enter your
restaurant name. “Use quotes” around the name if it has more than one word; that tells Google to
find exactly that phrase. Otherwise, it returns all instances of all the words, regardless of where they
appear on the page.
Set the Result Types to Everything, How Often to Daily,
and How Many to All Results.
This way, you will receive a once-a-day email of any and every time someone mentions your
restaurant name in a blog post, news article, or restaurant review. Then you can respond accordingly,
either thanking the person for the compliment, or offering to fix any problems.
There are other tools to help keep track of your restaurant brand and name (i.e. setting up a search
column on your favorite Twitter client), but Google Alerts will save you time while still keeping a
watchful eye on your brand.