Does Your Small Business Have a Contingency Plan?

In preparation of the 2016 election, I recently attended my second year of Precinct Election Official (PEO) training by the local Board of Elections (BOE). In addition to keeping up with new developments, it’s helpful to review the massive amounts of information prior to each election.

What are the massive amounts of information? In addition to job duties and how machines work — contingency plans. The BOE has contingency plans for nearly any situation. Does your small business have contingency plans?

Does your small business have a contingency plan?

Why does your small business need a contingency plan?

  • You lose your largest client. Will you be able to stay afloat while you work to bring in new customers? Or is your business spread out enough to absorb such a hit?
  • Your niche market runs dry. Some markets are more volatile than others, but this could happen to nearly any industry or vertical market. (For example, look at how hard the Great Recession hit the construction industry.) It’s always a good idea to diversify your clientele enough to withstand market fluctuations.
  • You experience a medical emergency or illness. Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals. (NASE) Will your small business be able to run without you? For how long? Do you have an exit plan?
  • Your area is hit with a natural disaster or extended power outage. Would you be able to continue to serve your clients? Is your business included in your emergency preparedness kit/plans?
  • You see an unexpected opportunity in the marketplace. How quickly can you add a product or service? Perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in demand for one of your key products or services. Can you switch your focus while still staying true to your brand? Agility is a valuable asset in the small business world.

Related Reading: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

You need to be prepared to handle unexpected obstacles in your business, from marketplace changes to health issues. While none of us can be prepared for everything, having a contingency plan for your small business will ensure a smoother ride when you encounter a future roadblock — or  a black hole.

Your Turn

What other situations should your small business be prepared for?

Have you switched the focus of your small business or changed businesses?

What other advice would you give to small business owners regarding contingency plans?

Still a scout at heart,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about contingency plans, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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4 Retro Ways to Connect with Modern Audiences

Everywhere we look lately, from entertainment to business, what’s old is new again. Well established franchises are selling out movie theaters, the toy aisle is straight out of the eighties and businesses everywhere are turning back the clock to stand out in this fast-paced, digital world.

Clearly Conveyed Communications -- We give you a voice.

How can you go retro to connect with customers and grow your business today?

Make it personal with a handwritten note. When you receive a handwritten note, card or letter, it feels more personal. The recipient will appreciate that you took the time to put your thoughts on paper. The next time you want to thank a loyal customer or employee, don’t send an email. Jot down why you appreciate the recipient and how much you value the relationship, job he’s doing, etc. A little writing will go a long way!

How House of Cards is Winning the Marketing Game

Develop long-term relationships. Relationship marketing is a buzzword today, but the concept is straight out of a bygone era. Take the time to get to know your clients and employees, business partners and vendors. Let them know you’re in it for the long haul, not just a short-term sale. People want to do business with people they trust and that takes time to develop.

Give your audience your undivided attention. Viewers loved the alcohol carts in offices on Mad Men, but many of them missed the point. The ad men (and few women) would sit down and spend time with their clients when they stopped in. They weren’t too busy running from meeting to meeting to listen to their clients’ challenges and concerns. Many creative solutions were born over Old Fashioneds with no outside interruptions.

Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era

Embrace paper in the digital age. In an age of email and the cloud, using paper is one way to grab recipients’ waning attention. Feature direct mail in your next marketing campaign, and reorder your physical business cards. In fact, go old school — embossing, engraving, bold lettering and colors set off with white space — to stand out from your competition. Going all digital removes your audience’s sense of touch, which limits their sensory experience while interacting with your brand.

In Summary

Handwritten notes, developing long-term relationships, giving your undivided attention and embracing paper will help you connect with today’s audiences. Don’t be afraid to be different, even if that means being inspired by a bygone era.

We’re grabbing our fedoras to head out for Old Fashioneds and Vodka Martinis with clients. Care to join us?

Embracing the future with help from the past,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about building relationships, your communications needs or otherwise):
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Want Your Business to Flourish? Kill Your Sacred Cows

What’s holding your business back? Probably a sacred cow.

Death to all Sacred Cows: How successful businesses put the old rules out to pasture

Death to All Sacred Cows is a business book worth reading, no matter what business you’re in.

A what?! You’ve heard them before — those magical sayings in the business world that savvy businessmen and women everywhere regard as sacred.

The customer is always right. 
Teams create the best solutions. 
Always trust your research. 

Here’s the problem with sacred cows: always and never are rarely a good idea in the business world, a place which is constantly moving, changing and adapting.

“Businesses that only look to the past to guide their futures can be doomed to failure. In a rapidly changing world, anything dated tends to be dangerous.”

We’re not saying to forget your traditions or roots; they shouldn’t be the sole decision makers within your walls. You need to make decisions based on the current situation by looking at all of your options. Making decisions based solely on past successes can cause a company to be afraid to take risks or try new things. Success breeds success, until it doesn’t.

“The point is, in order to prepare for the future you need to unchain yourself from the strictures of the past. Let the past help and inform you; just don’t let it hold you back.”

Here’s one of our favorite sacred cows: the customer is always right. Don’t get us wrong; customers are critical to the success of your business. You need people to buy your products and services. We’re lucky to work with some great customers at CCC, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right. (Neither are we.)

Unless your business operates in an industry we’re not aware of, your customers are human beings. Human beings are fallible (yep, all of us), so customers are not always right. Of course, you want to provide the best customer service and experience in the world. You need to review each situation and understand when a customer is being unreasonable or is just plain wrong. (It happens, but if you work with great people, it doesn’t happen often. 🙂 )

“We’re just saying that slavishly kowtowing to the idea that the customer is the ultimate authority on how your business should operate is a surefire way to wind up with an inoperable business.”

In conclusion, use your brains. If you’re smart enough to run a business or be a successful businessman/businesswoman, trust your gut and decision-making skills. Don’t hide behind a sacred cow; it will kick you in the face eventually. (And read Death to All Sacred Cows for sound business advice and pure entertainment.)

Your Feedback
What is your favorite sacred cow to kill?
Have you read Death to All Sacred Cows? What’s your feedback?
What other business books would you recommend?

Eat, Pray, Love — In Business Too
Blink: The Power of Snap Decisions & First Impressions
Winning as the Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

p.s. I’m not being paid to recommend this book. I just enjoyed it that much!
p.p.s. No real cows were harmed while writing this article (or the book, to my knowledge).

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about sacred cows, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Specialized Services to Help You Run Your Small Business Smoothly

There are a variety of skills involved in running your own business, and so many to-do’s that it can get a little overwhelming. By using specialized services, I free myself up to concentrate on what CCC does best — help brands communicate with their target audiences.

Specialized services take care of the nitty-gritty and let me focus on being my own boss. I would recommend you try to do the same as much as you can. Here are a few services that can help you run your company smoothly.

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Copywriting

Content marketing is all the rage these days, and this popular (and effective) form of marketing requires a lot of quality content. If you’re not a writer, then you’re going to want to use copywriting services, which are essential for producing excellent content and running a successful blog. You need to make sure that everything you produce is of the highest quality and originality, which can be difficult to achieve if you’re working on your own. You might not have the necessary skills required to be able to keep up with the content demand for your company, or you’d rather spend your time on what you do best. Either way, CCC would love to help with your writing needs.

The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Affiliate Marketing

At any stage, it’s essential to spread the word about your company and the products or services it offers. If you have recently started your company or are going through a rebranding process, it’s even more important. Most small business owners want to bring in more targeted leads and increase their client base, but this can be difficult to achieve while juggling the daily demands of running a business. One solution is to use affiliate marketing services. They allow you to gain exposure on other people’s websites and attract targeted leads, while still focusing on other areas of the company, such as wowing current customers.

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”  -Jim Rohn

Appointment Reminders

As a business owner, you have to deal with a lot of appointments and meetings, some business-related, some not. One misstep and you can destroy your schedule for the day and a relationship for much longer. That’s why it’s important to use a service to help keep track of your appointments. Appointment reminder services send alerts directly to software that you already use. That way you never miss a meeting or appointment because you receive constant reminders of what you need to remember.

Jumping Off a Cliff: My 1st Year as an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur or small business owner is a labor of love. Like you, I have poured so much into my business over the past three and a half years that it’s important to me that it succeeds. Succeeding in small business requires a lot of time, effort and money, but it’s worth it when you create a successful and professional brand.

Your Turn

What services help you run your business on a daily basis?

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs or small business owners?

“There’s nothing small about small business.”

Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business services, your hopes and dreams or otherwise):
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Boosting Sales 101: 5 Marketing Tips You Should Know

No matter what industry you work in, you need to make sure that you get the most out of it. Sometimes, it can feel as though your business is stagnating. Are you ready to boost your sales? Here are five marketing tips that can help.

"Handy Man" by Frankie Leon via CC BY 2.0

1) Come to grips with conversion rates

At first, the idea of conversion rates may sound a little tricky. It may surprise you to know that you can easily learn how to improve your conversion rate optimization. If you get help from an expert, you’ll see that it’s pretty straightforward. You don’t just want people to visit your site; you want them to (eventually) buy something! If they are just browsing, they are not making you any money.

2) Boost your social media presence

Social media sites can be excellent tools for businesses, yet many neglect them. If you want to make the most of your website, you need to share it on social media. Take a look at some of the best social media sites for online marketing. Once you have familiarized yourself with them, you can start to reap the rewards of using them. If it all seems a little confusing, don’t panic. It’s a lot to take in at once, so you need to take things slow. One step at a time, you will learn how to make them work for you.

3) Try direct marketing methods

Direct marketing is not as simple as it sounds. It means that you reach out to people in a face-to-face way. It might seem a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You could run a marketing event or attend a networking session. When you get into the habit of attending these types of events, you will see that they can make a major difference.

4) Chase repeat sales

When someone buys something from your company, the process should not stop there. You’re not looking for one-off sales; you need repeat sales if your business is to succeed. So, what should you do? Well, it’s all about building a relationship with your client base. They need to see you as more than just a vendor — you need to be part of their lives. Understand their biggest challenges and figure out how you can help them overcome these obstacles.

5) Research your market

How much do you know about your buyers? If you don’t do market research, you’re going to have a problem. There are always different business trends that you need to consider, and you need to understand who your ideal customer is. Spend some time each week doing a little research. When you get into this habit, it will pay off for your business in the long run.

It’s time to start putting these ideas to good use. If you change the way you approach your business, your business will change too.

p.s. Did you know CCC is Inbound Certified? Let’s talk about how we can help you attract the right customers, not more empty leads.

All about Inbound,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Inbound marketing, conversion rates or otherwise):
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Awesome Marketing Concepts Your Small Business Shouldn’t Overlook

Cleary Conveyed Communications business card

Marketing a new company can be tough. You don’t know the best ways of reaching your audience in the beginning, and discovering the best promotional ideas involves a process of trial and error. While the digital landscape is a hot property, traditional marketing vehicles can still work in today’s high-tech world.

Business Cards

As the infographic below shows, business cards are (still) effective marketing tools. They help you make a good first impression, and ensure you stay top of mind with clients and prospects. Most people keep business cards they receive for future needs. While it’s tempting to go all digital, a well designed business card printed on quality stock can open up a world of possibilities.

Billboard Advertising

Admit it; we all look at billboards on the side of the road. Most people think advertising on one is expensive, but billboards (or outdoor advertising) is surprisingly affordable. In fact, you can usually get one for a few hundred dollars or less. Thousands of drivers could encounter your brand who otherwise would not, and it’s a great way to expand your local reach.

TV Advertising

Ten years ago, only the largest companies could afford to pay for TV ads, but changes in the industry have forced networks to lower their prices. Businesses can now advertise on TV for less than $5,000, depending on your market. The drop in price, additional time slots and regional availability have opened the door for small businesses to compete with larger companies in this popular arena.

These marketing concepts could provide a boost for your company if you give them a shot. If your business serves a niche market, remember to target your marketing campaigns accordingly. Think big, and your company will do amazing things.

Enjoy this Business Card Must-Haves for Effective Networking infographic, and feel free to share with your clients, co-workers and fellow business professionals.

Do you carry physical business cards?

What traditional (or old school) marketing technique has worked for you?

What’s your favorite way to network?

A (business) card carrying small business owner,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about marketing, business cards or otherwise):
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Infographic Designed By http://www.allbusinesscards.com/

Inbound: Not Your Father’s Marketing

CCC is Inbound Certified!

Sometimes you have to slow down to get ahead. You may have noticed that the CCC blog went dark between September 4th and September 18th, missing three posting days. We were busy getting certified — in Inbound methodology. I’m proud to announce that CCC is now Inbound Certified, and we’d love to help your business achieve success.


What is Inbound?
Inbound marketing is a different way of thinking. Here’s two scenarios; let me know which one you find more enticing.
You walk down the street toward a bar. People on the sidewalk are aggressively approaching bypassers, shouting at them through megaphones to come into the bar. The aggressive bar promoters have interrupted your conversation and made you want to vacate the area as fast as possible. Your happy mood has soured, and you have no interest in going in the bar. 
You walk down the street toward a bar. Jazz music spills out into the street punctuated by a saxophone solo that makes you break into a smile. Your stomach rumbles as you breathe in the enticing aromas. As you approach the door, you notice a sign promoting a free drink tonight with dinner. You’ve never been to this bar before, but you decide to go in, have dinner and enjoy the atmosphere, while texting some friends to join you.

Which scenario is more appealing to you? If you said the second, you were drawn in by Inbound marketing, a process that uses compelling content to pull people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.

How Inbound Works

The Inbound Methodology: Attract, Convert, Close & Delight

  1. Attract strangers to visit with compelling content that aligns to your customer’s interests.
  2. Convert visitors into leads with attractive calls-to-action that resonate with your customer’s interests.
  3. Close leads into customers by providing value with compelling content, offers and solutions.
  4. Delight customers with products (and services) that solve their problems, outstanding customer service and an excellent relationship. In doing so, they’ll be happy to promote your business for you.


How can Inbound help me?

No matter what you do for a living, you’re probably looking for customers. That’s where Inbound comes in. It helps you attract the right customers, not more empty leads. As with any marketing, Inbound isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme and probably won’t shower you with qualified leads overnight. It’s a process, one that takes time but produces results. It’s what happens when you publish the right content in the right place at the right time.

The Inbound Methodology: Publishing the right content in the right place at the right time
At CCC, we make marketing that people love. Coincidentally, that’s what Inbound is all about. If we can help you, let us know. Because the only thing we love more than espresso is helping people.

p.s. Interested in becoming Inbound Certified? Learn more about the course, certification and who it can help.

Officially Certified,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Inbound, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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3 Ways to Encourage More Referrals (From Santa or The Grinch)

What’s on your list for Santa this year? A new computer? Fancy office digs? Or new business? Let’s go with the latter.

Referrals. We all want them, but how do you encourage your clients and supporters to provide them?

The Grinch Brings Back Christmas!

How can you entice more referrals from Santa (or the Grinch)?

Gift Cards – It’s no coincidence that gift cards are the top gift year after year. Starbucks, iTunes and a plethora of other options are available, including local spots. Be creative, and deliver with a hand-written note of appreciation. A cup of joe for referring Bob Smith. Referrals are music to my ears.

Freebies – Free trials, add-on services and swag can all entice folks to keep your business top of mind. Offer a free design consultation, month-long trial membership into your VIP Club or imprinted promotional items. It’s amazing how you can tie a product into what your company does, so you come to mind immediately when needed.

Loyalty Program Points – People are familiar with loyalty programs and enjoy ‘earning’ prizes. Reward referrals with points — more points based on how much business the referral does — that recipients can redeem for cool prizes. Make sure to offer a decent selection of prizes and point levels. If participants have to earn an unreasonably high number of points, they may not feel motivated. You can also tie other actions into your loyalty program, such as reaching specific milestones (i.e. 1 year as a customer, $1,500 in business).    

Join the Referral Conversation

How do you encourage and/or reward referrals?

What would encourage you to refer qualified prospects to a business?

Gift cards or swag: what do you prefer?

p.s. CCC appreciates all of our clients, customers and supporters. Thank you for working with us in 2014, and we look forward to doing more business in 2015. If you’d ever like to refer someone to us, check out the contact us page.  

Cheers,
Jaime

Writing, social media, marketing and more! Join the discussion:
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Should You Work For Free?

Anyone who’s ever owned a business (or freelanced or done work on the side) has come across this issue. I’m talking about working for free, whether for ‘exposure,’ often vague potential future business promises or for a worthy cause. Should you do it?

Should I work for free?

Screenshot of shouldiworkforfree.com
Site created by Jessica Hische

I’ve run into this issue numerous times since starting my business, Clearly Conveyed Communications, last year. It’s amazing how many people want to help you by asking you to work for free. Of course, they usually don’t come right out and ask you to work for free. They’ll talk about how limited their budget is, or how they wish they could afford this type of marketing project or that social media management program. Then they may even come out and say, “I don’t expect you to do this for free. I’m just trying to figure out how to fit this in the budget.” And then they’ll randomly talk about all of the future potential business this could lead to from themselves, or more often from others, via the tremendous amount of ‘exposure’ your work will receive.

I’m a fan of the Say Yes to the Dress shows where consultants help brides find the wedding dress of their dreams. Why is this relevant? The #1 rule is that you never put a bride in a dress she can’t afford. It only leads to trouble. That’s why I’m willing to work with prospects and clients to find something within their budget that will still help them achieve their objectives. If they absolutely cannot afford anything that will help their business, I would rather walk away than take any amount of money from them for projects that won’t make a difference. That rarely happens.

Work for free or a full price but never work for cheap

Do you follow this mantra?
Pic credit: Nataniel J. Rosa

But I have walked away from situations where I was asked to work for free, either outright or not so directly. I always look at the big picture, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. It seems to me like working for free for people who don’t value what you do only leads to more offers to work for free — not paying work.

I came across a great quote on this subject while reading a post entitled, Giving it away just don’t pay, on one of my favorite blogs, Campari & Sofa.

“[My parents] also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.”     –Tim Krieder

Should you work for free? I would love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences on this hot topic.

Have you ever worked for free and benefited from it? Or regretted it?

How do you handle it when people ask you to work for free — either directly or indirectly?

Always affordable but never cheap–
Jaime

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Winning As The Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I’m only 30 pages into Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, and I’ve already learned much.

David And Goliath bookcover

Pic credit: Gladwell.com

This highly publicized new book starts off with a bang, taking a closer look at the ultimate underdog story: David vs. Goliath. Upon further review of this epic confrontation, David wasn’t nearly at the disadvantage we all thought he was. Therein lies the answer; oftentimes, the very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable. Make sense? Read the book; it’s definitely worth your time.

The very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable.

Next, Gladwell moves on to discuss how a small army and an inexperienced basketball team are successful by not going toe-to-toe with their much better, highly favored opponents. That’s noteworthy and can be applied to your business. Do one or two behemoths dominate your industry? Don’t worry, you don’t have to beat them head-to-head. Target a different demographic; offer your customers a different experience.

Target's bulls eye logo

Bulls eye? Target’s famous logo.
Pic credit: Target

Who’s a perfect example of this philosophy? Target. The discount retailer never tried to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart, who has dominated this landscape for years. Instead, Target aimed for a slightly more affluent, design-conscious consumer who still liked to be money-savvy. From the beginning, the discount chain aimed to be invested in its stores’ communities, donating to local charities and giving back to local schools. It also was into being green before being green was cool. Target was a leader in its industry with pushing reusable bags (by offering a 5% discount on each purchase bagged in one) and offering in-store recycling centers.

The irony is now that Target is very competitive with Wal-Mart’s pricing (its calling card), and is even less expensive on some items. In keeping with its philosophy, you’ll never hear Target advertise this fact specifically though. The company is staying true to its vision and will not directly confront Wal-Mart, even when it proves to be superior.

Take a tip from David, Target and all of the other underdogs out there. You don’t have to be big and mighty to win. Sometimes your ‘weaknesses’ turn out to be your biggest strengths, when you use them to your advantage.

How have you outmaneuvered a favored opponent?

How have you turned a supposed weakness into a strength?

Who’s your favorite underdog in history?

Always the underdog,
Jaime

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