This is part two of a three-part series on Facebook opportunities for franchisors and businesses with multiple locations.
In part one of the series we discussed Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality and the significant benefits it provides for franchisors and multi-location businesses. In that article we touched on a few of the reasons why companies should consider implementing local Facebook pages for each of their locations. This article outlines how multi-location businesses can translate the tremendous reach they have through their physical locations into social media dominance. We also discuss the ramifications of social media on mobile (in particular Facebook’s “Nearby” functionality) and social search (specifically Facebook’s new Graph Search).
Translating offline reach and brand strength into social media success
Franchises and other multi-location businesses often have tremendous reach and brand strength through their physical network. They may interact with hundreds or even thousands of people a day in their stores. However, in most cases that interaction is only for a brief window of time – usually just long enough to complete a transaction. Once the customer leaves the store, the relationship ends until the customer (hopefully) comes back.
Social media, particularly sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, offer a powerful opportunity for companies to engage in direct conversations with their customers after they leave the store. Using strong social strategies and engaging, relevant content, companies can create ongoing interaction and repeat business through:
- Information sharing
- Branding strategies
- Relationship building
- Customer retention activities
- Targeted offers and incentives
Realizing the benefits of social media, many organizations have already implemented a single “national” Facebook page for their brand, which they use across all of their stores. In many ways this makes sense, as a single page enables the brand to:
- Control interactions with consumers on one page as opposed to managing multiple pages
- Aggregate all “likes” from across all geographies to show scale
- Manage the brand personality and creative directly, as opposed to relying on local stores and risking off-brand messaging
However, for companies with multiple locations this approach does not take advantage of their existing offline reach and brand strength. In fact, by de-emphasizing their bonds within local communities and delivering only national, centralized messages, they are artificially limiting their social media heft. In order to effectively translate their offline strength to social media, these organizations must implement local pages for each physical location.
What is the big deal about local pages?
There are many reasons why implementing local pages are superior, many of which were outlined in part one of this series. When you boil it down though, there is really one core reason why individual local Facebook pages are a must-have: they each have a local street address.
For a company looking to translate offline strength into social media dominance, there is no better way than to literally replicate your store network address by address through social media, particularly on Facebook and Google+. Google+ deserves its own blog post and has different approach than Facebook, so we will leave that discussion for another time. For now, let’s focus in on the behemoth that is Facebook.
A local address is critical because it is the centerpiece for local customer interaction, mobile exposure and social search visibility.
No matter how well-managed a national Facebook page is, a network of pages will typically have a larger audience than a single national page can achieve. As described in part one, this is in large part due to the fact that local pages can tailor relevant content to their local community (i.e. local news, local people, local promotions, etc.). Locally-relevant information, photos, videos and other content will generate local engagement. Although the level of engagement on each individual page may be smaller than the national page, in aggregate across many local pages, the level of activity can be quite large.
In addition to local content, a major reason for increased audience size and engagement is the fact that the page has a local address. The reason this works is because a page with a local address is:
- Viewed as more locally / personally relevant by local customers, increasing the likelihood that they will become a fan of the page
- Easier to find when searching for local businesses (via maps and other location-based searches)
- Visible when someone is looking to check-in locally
What this means is that if you do not have a local address, you will not be found when someone is looking for a local business on Facebook – in this instance you are essentially invisible to potential local customers. This is critically important as we discuss mobile and search in the next sections.
Mobile & Facebook Nearby
Facebook owns mobile – period. The Facebook app dominates all other apps by a wide margin. According to a recent report from comScore, the Facebook app was the #1 downloaded app for both Apple and Android in 2012. Even more impressively, the study found that 23% of time spent across all apps is spent on Facebook’s. Think about that for a minute – of all the apps out there, Facebook commands a staggering 23% of all time spent.
With that type of mobile dominance, the Facebook app is something all businesses need to pay attention to. In particular, the “Nearby” functionality built into the app is something all companies with a local footprint need to be thinking about.
In December 2012 Facebook made some significant improvements to its “Nearby” functionality which will greatly benefit local businesses. Widely seen as a step towards Facebook’s grander vision of social search (as discussed in the next section), “Nearby” allows people to use their phones to find information about close-by businesses such as restaurants, retailers, hotels and others. This type of consumer discovery is very different that a Google search or other type of local exploration because:
- “Nearby” results are very personal. Facebook prioritizes results based on where a person’s friends have been, what they have liked and what ratings / reviews have been completed. This means that everyone’s results are different based on who they are friends with. It also means that businesses with few “likes” or “check-ins” are at a major disadvantage in showing up versus their competitors.
- The information people receive on a business via “Nearby” comes from the company’s local Facebook brand page or place page. Meaning that when a consumer is viewing a business’ information on their phone via the Facebook app they don’t see the company’s information from Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare or any other source – they see the company’s Facebook address, phone number, timeline, number of likes, check-ins and Facebook user reviews. So, if your business does not have a local Facebook page with a local address, it will not show up when someone is looking for someplace to eat, shop or visit. A national page alone simply will not cut it.
So the long and the short of it is that if you do not have a local Facebook page, you are missing out on a major opportunity on the #1 downloaded and used mobile app.
As discussed in part one of this series, social search will have significant ramifications on how local businesses are found in the future. Facebook’s new Graph Search (announced on January 15, 2013) enables people to search across Facebook’s vast database of information, but in a very different way than a conventional search engine. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook employees explain Graph Search in the video below.
In simplified terms, a Google or Bing search is meant to return the most “relevant” answer to a question based on the inter-relationships of webpages across the internet and the billions of searches performed on a daily basis. What that means is, other than some “light” personalization that Google and Bing perform, your search results and the next person’s are more or less the same. This is not to say they are exactly the same – but they are based more on the inter-relationships of content across the internet as opposed to you personally.
Graph Search is very different. Rather than attempting to provide results based on inter-relationships of pages and information across the whole internet, Facebook looks at your personal relationships on Facebook and provides information that should be relevant to you based on who your friends are, where you live and what you like.
This is significant for businesses because it means that people using social search are finding companies, services and products based on personal relationships and affinity, as opposed to who is linking to whom across the internet. This changes the game for businesses, because it means that companies who have no Facebook presence or an inactive presence (meaning few likes, comments, ratings, etc) will be less visible than businesses that have a lot of activity on their pages. This is because a social search is inherently based on activity. Some examples:
“Restaurants my friends like”
“Restaurants in Toronto liked by chefs”
“Most popular stores in my neighborhood”
“Favorite music of my friends who live in Toronto, Ontario”
“People who like things I like”
Looking at the above list, the common denominator is activity – businesses that have more likes, visits or other activity will rank well in these searches, whereas those are not active will not show up.
So – bringing this back to the point of the article – how does a multi-location and/or franchise organization generate more local activity? Through a strong, relevant local presence, which includes:
- Local content that people care about. Don’t just shovel out marketing messages – interact with people as a member of the community. Talk about the local sports team, the weather (people love to talk about the weather), local events and other topical items.
- Local address & contact information. Make it easy for people to find you when looking for things to do or buy in their neighborhood or city.
- Local people checking in to your location, liking your page, commenting and rating your establishment.
There are, of course, challenges to this approach. The implementation alone of all those pages is a daunting task, but tools such as Facebook’s Parent-Child framework and the support of an agency that knows what they are doing can make the job much easier.
However, the implementation is actually the easiest part – it is the ongoing management of those dozens or hundreds of local pages that is truly the challenge. The most difficult task is in publishing timely, relevant content across all of those pages. Without content to engage with, people have nothing to like, comment on or share – which is the whole point in creating the local pages in the first place. In many ways, an empty Facebook page is actually worse than no Facebook page at all.
In a perfect world, all of the franchisees or local store managers would create local posts to engage with their communities. However, experience shows that only about 20% of locations will be effective in consistently maintaining their pages. Nonetheless, it makes good sense to provide training and support to your local teams, as there is no better source of local information (and therefore local engagement).
In addition to a strong local training approach, there clearly needs to be national content support for franchisees / store managers. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to automatically publish content to a multitude of pages. If your company only has a dozen or so pages then a 3rd party publishing tool such as Hootsuite or Social Sprout can be helpful, however, these tools are not designed to manage hundreds of pages. And unfortunately, Facebook’s Parent-Child functionality does not include content sharing capabilities.
Despite these challenges, it is imperative that multi-location businesses pursue a strong local strategy. There are absolutely solutions to the challenges outlined, which we will cover in our third instalment of this series.
For franchisors and multi-location businesses, translating offline reach and brand strength into social media dominance means implementing local pages within social media, particularly Facebook.
Implementing one corporate (or national) page may seem simpler in the short term, but it limits the organization’s ability to capitalize on local engagement opportunities, which is critical for effective customer interaction, mobile visibility and social search relevance.
Quitting process, not hiring process
How companies hire people is largely broken. We turned our hiring process into a quitting process. It works a lot better that way. We believe great people stay for what they GIVE and Industrial Age “employees” stay for what they GET. So we make them give a LOT before we hire them to ensure we have givers, not getters.
Problem: The Industrial Age taught people to get jobs, not do work.
Effect: BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Report 2011 says only 31% of employees are engaged – want to be there regularly, while 17% are totally disengaged. Another report said it more clearly. Companies would make more money if they paid 1/5th of their work force to stay home every day!
I believe only about 20% of possible employees are saying “Bring it on. Where’s the work? I want to be and do something significant. I’m having a blast here.” We have to find THESE people. Or get them to find US. To do this you have to weed out the 80% who largely just want to go to work, by making them quit before you ever hire them.
1) Stop interviewing. OK, not really, but almost. Stop doing the traditional 1st round, 2nd round, 3rd round interviews where you sit around and talk with people about their resumes, which I call tombstones – edifices that tell what we used to do in the most glowing terms possible.
Why do we think TALKING to people about work, and looking at a tombstone full of their own opinions on their past, actually tells us anything about how they would work for us? NEVER LOOK AT RESUMES IN THE FIRST ROUND, ALMOST NEVER IN THE SECOND ROUND!
2) Design unique hiring processes for each job. Don’t sit across a desk from a boiler tech talking. Go to the boiler room, break something and have them fix it.
3) Hire for culture, never for skills. That’s why you don’t need a resume in the first few rounds. The first rounds should ONLY be to answer the questions 1) does this person fit in here 8-10 hrs a day? and 2) do they really like to work? Until you answer those two questions a resume is worthless, and will actually improperly color your interviews (I WANT this person to fit because I like their resume). HISTORICAL BIAS is very strong when you’ve already looked at their resume before the 2nd or 3rd round.
4) Make them work HARD before you hire them. Create whatever environment they will work in (stressful, customer-oriented, phone work, sales, etc.) and have them do projects instead of interviews. If they need to be highly independent, create a hiring process that gives them very little guidance and see what they do with it. If they need to be highly detailed, hide details in the process and see if they catch and follow them.
Now is the easiest time to fire them or have them quit – before you hire them. And people who just want to GO to work will drop out very quickly in this kind of process.
How we did it
For our last hire (Chief Results Officer – half marketing, half administrative, half event management, and half leadership), we did a four and a half page ad on Craigslist (where the hiring folks said we should never try to find someone). We told them all about our culture, the result we would want from them (not the “processes” they would do), and asked them not to send a resume, but answer seven questions about culture, life, ambitions, motivation, fun, etc.
We were told we would get 300+ resumes in an hour, but most people quit just reading the ad (we were clear in offering no benefits, no work hours and no vacation time – be adults and take off when you’re work is done). These quitters saw they would have to WORK to answer questions instead of clicking and sending a resume. We only got 135 responses in one month. And we were able to delete 45 of those immediately because they didn’t pay attention and sent their resume along, too.
We had them do two rounds of projects, which made another 50+ quit, and then we asked for resumes from the final 40. We asked 18 of them to do another project and come in for a 10-minute interview, and that made another 7 quit. I did 10-minute interviews with eleven people and the final three were sent to others in our company for 30-45 minute culture-fit interviews (to answer the question, “Can you guys see yourself working with any of these folks?”)
Results? We found the pearl among the pebbles – a life long keeper who finds work extremely fulfilling, is self-motivated and fits in like she’s been with us from the start.
Put them through the wringer – throw everything at them they will experience when working with you. Make them work hard before they are hired so you know it’s not about the money, but because they find it incredibly fulfilling. Look for perfect cultural fits who have a passion for what you do.
Make your entire “hiring” process into a “quitting” process and you’ll get the right people.
When you are building a business, you are also building a brand. Some entrepreneurs, typically consultants and coaches, choose to build their personal brand (examples for people-brands can be Oprah or Donald Trump). Other business owners, who produce and sell physical products or provide services, may prefer to create a brand around their offerings (think Swiffer or Progressive). Yet others, usually entrepreneurs who want to build large businesses, put most focus on building their company brand (think Apple or Starbucks).
Brands are, in many ways, similar to people. A brand has a personality, a voice and a look. A brand builds a reputation and creates expectations. We become fond of some brands when we get to know them and when we like what they stand for.
Building a brand is a challenging task. It requires focus, clarity and consistency. In the vortex of an entrepreneur’s busy life, it’s easy to lose sight of these principles and compromise the brand you’ve worked so hard to build.
Here are three common branding mistakes that any business owner would try to avoid
1. Trying to be too many things.
To create a strong brand, you need to be courageous and to position it categorically. For example, your cupcakes can either be sinfully indulgent, or healthy. Your fashion line can either be wholesome, or sassy and daring. You, as a speaker and consultant, can either be outgoing, or reserved. It can rarely be both in one. Businesses who position their brands at the intersections of multiple claims do it out of fear that if they don't, they won't please everyone. Remember: pleasing everyone should not be your goal! As long as your brand appeals to your chosen target market, your business should be rock-solid.
2. Sending mixed messages.
All your Marketing efforts should reinforce your brand positioning, otherwise you will confuse your customers and will compromise your brand. For example, if a brand that claims to be high-end but sells for a low price, or has an average-looking website, it will be a while before it establishes its desired classy reputation. It's even worse when an established brand "does" something that doesn't fit its identity. A good example of damaged brand identity is what happened to Netflix a couple of years ago: A hip and fun brand, known for its convenience, Netflix launched Qwikster - a service that was anything but convenient. As a result, 800,000 disappointed customers took their business away in one quarter alone.
3. Repositioning too soon.
Unlike promotions, price discounts and ad campaigns, which you can turn on and off any time, your brand positioning is “on” for good. Your website design, logo, copy, marketing materials, and events you choose to associate your brand with all need to support your chosen brand positioning. Changing your positioning means rebuilding your brand from scratch. Because of the massive effort required to rebuild a brand, before you reposition, which is a valid option in some cases, make sure you've given your old brand positioning your all.
Did you know the laws around the late payment of commercial debts changed on 16 March 2013? If not, you need to read this article – it could save your business money by helping you avoid interest and other charges. The changes will affect all business transactions entered into on or after 16 March, so you need to act now and take any necessary actions to protect your business from avoidable costs, if you haven’t already.
The Late Payment of Commercial Debt (Interest) Act 1998 has been changed to help protect the interests of suppliers and combat the so-called ‘late payment culture’ amongst commercial purchasers.
Here is a summary of the changes:
- If you don’t specify payment terms in your contract with a supplier, you have 30 days to make payment. This 30 days commences on the date you receive the goods or an invoice, or on verification of the goods or services – whichever is the later – which, for the purposes of this article, we’ll call the Due Date. 30 days after the Due Date, interest will start to accrue on the debt. (This isn’t a significant change to the previous situation. Note, however, that a need to ‘verify’ of the goods can’t be used to extend the payment terms unreasonably – the verification period can’t be longer than 30 days unless agreed with the supplier and not grossly unfair).
- If you do specify payment terms in your contracts, these should be no longer than 60 days from the Due Date unless you can show that a longer period isn’t ‘grossly unfair’ to the supplier. If you insist on longer terms and these are later found to be unfair, interest will accrue after the first 30 days.
- If you are a public authority, you cannot extend your payment terms beyond 30 days from the Due Date, except for very specific circumstances where 60 day terms are allowed.
- Suppliers are now entitled to reclaim ‘reasonable recovery costs’ for late payments, on top of their pre-existing rights to charge a set fee that depends on the amount of the debt, as well as interest at the current Bank of England base rate plus 8%. This means that suppliers can now recover the true cost of enforcing their rights – including the costs of using a debt recovery agent where appropriate.
The key message we can gather from this is that it’s obviously in both parties’ interests that payment terms for business to business transactions are set out clearly in the contract.
What the changes mean for suppliers
The revised legislation is basically designed to preventsuppliers from being bullied into accepting payment terms that are longer than 60 days, unless there’s a really good reason for this. It also puts them in a stronger position when it comes to recovering sums owed to them.
What purchasers need to do
If you’re in the habit of paying late every now and again, you need to change your ways straightaway! Suppliers now have more reason than ever to pursue late payers, and because they can now reclaim recovery costs as well as interest and set fees, withholding payment without good reason could cost your business more than under the previous rules. Remember also, that suppliers can delay claiming for interest and compensation retrospectively for up to six years – so paying late could be building up a huge problem for you in the future.
If you haven’t reviewed your Terms and Conditions recently, it might be worth revisiting your approach to payment terms. As already noted, it’s in both parties’ interests for payment terms to be clearly set out in the contract, so start including them if you don’t already. And if your standard payment terms are longer than 60 days, consider whether you need to reduce these to 60 or 30 days. Remember, if you insist on longer payment terms and these are later found to be grossly unfair, you will be liable to pay interest and other charges.
As always, clarity is key for both setting out your payment terms within the contract and for justifying them if necessary. What is ‘grossly unfair’ is not defined in detail in the regulations – although there are guidelines – so it’s in both parties’ interests not only to to be fair and reasonable, but also to be seen to be so!
How Making People Smile, Think Or Even Dislike You Can Be Good For Your Brand.
Someone told me a long time ago that “people buy from people” and so when selling your products and services you should be yourself. So what if you are a quirky individual with a wicked sense of humour who runs a shoe shop, restaurant, flower shop, etc.? Well traditional views would have you acting in a friendly, professional demeanour at all times, which of course is correct, but that same view would strip you of all your personality too.
Those old enough will remember a very famous ad that Apple ran on television. It was based on Orwell’s book “1984” and it’s only daytime airing was on Sunday 22nd of January 1984. The ad portrayed the then leading partnership of IBM and Microsoft as the soul-crushing Big Brother, stifling creativity and individualism.
Back then this was seen as an incredible advance in advertising and branding, but it barely touched the approach taken by modern companies like Google, Facebook, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s and T.G.I. Friday, to name a few. These companies don’t just portray themselves in a quirky and unique way, they are the total embodiment of thinking and acting differently. They even interview differently in order to hire the right type of person that will help them to maintain their quirky eco-system. Imagine going for an interview at Google and being asked “You have a closet full of shirts. It’s very hard to find a shirt. So what can you do to organize your shirts for easy retrieval?” or “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” or famously “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?”
So you are wondering whether this kind of thing can apply to any company, large or small. The answer is yes. The only difference is the amount of quirkiness involved. Obviously if you are a funeral director or investment bank, your opportunity to be quirky will be somewhat curtailed (although it’s still possible); but for everyone else you can explore the realms of possibilities in order to make people laugh or think.
And yes, even making people dislike you can work, but you have to really know what you are doing. Ryanair is a prime example of this with CEO Michael O’Leary going out of his way to reinforce the no-frills nature of his cheap flights ethos. There is no denying that the approach of (and I am paraphrasing here) “if you want the cheapest flight book with us, if you want anything more f*** off!” has certainly worked. But remember that they also have the deep pockets to pay for the times when their ads or statements back-fire.
But as much as I am advocating for you to be quirky, witty or controversial, remember that you can’t force this. If you are a conservative individual/company that tries to be quirky you’ll get found out and ultimately it could damage your business. It has to be you or you have to fully embrace the change for it to become a successful strategy.
I had two really good examples of this where I was once asked to review a website for a potential client. They sold printer cartridges and toner. Their site was pretty conservative and basic, but one of the menu items was “Humour”. On that page was a series of rather risqué jokes. The whole thing was simply inappropriate and executed badly. There was no reason for it, it was just there, like a guy standing at the back of a funeral in a Spider-Man outfit! Furthermore, the owner of the business was not a funny guy, if anything he was rather dour, which made the disconnect even more jarring.
The second example, on the other hand, was an email I received from a business coach. It was around Valentine ’s Day and he closed off the email with three Valentine related jokes. They were innocent but very funny. However, the whole email, including the business part of it was written in a familiar and disarming way, so that by the time I reached the jokes I was kind of “ready” for them. There was no disconnect. I had also previously met this person and although he was very professional, he did his business with a glint in his eye and a wit that had you laughing as much as thinking.
So, embrace you quirkiness and free your humour. It doesn’t have to be about full-page ads in national magazines. It might just be a single line on a product label, an image or tagline on your vans or a daily witty comment on your street sign. It can all work to make you memorable.
You never get all three.
Building a business is 20% science and 80% art, and yet all the business schools, the SBA, and the gurus that want to sell us Business Plan software tell us we should treat it like a controlled science experiment in a lab. Business doesn’t work that way.
My next book is called “Bad Plans Carried Out Violently”, and tells the stories of successful start ups who understood clearly that every plan is a Bad Plan because the world is going to interact with it and mess it up.
And “violently” isn’t always bad. It actually means – “with full and total COMMITMENT – great force and motion, extreme intensity of conviction.”
Life itself is a Bad Plan Carried Out Violently. Anyone who has raised kids will tell you that it takes full and total commitment to have a child, great force and motion to raise one, and extreme intensity of conviction to get them to move out.
But we want a tight and tidy process all along the way.
Traditional business planning has taught us that the most important part of planning is to plan the “middle” of the process – the “how”, in great detail, then follow that plan slavishly. Successful parents and business owners don’t do that. Instead they both plan using 2.1 very simple questions:
1) Where am I?
2) Where do I want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps?
We always want to have the full third question answered. That question looks like this: 3)How do I get all the way from #1 to #2? Good luck with that.
There are too many variables in business to accurately plan all the way from where I am to where I want to end up. It’s fortune-telling to say exactly how you’re going to either raise a kid or build a Mature Business. All you know is 1) where you are, and 2) where you want to end up. Then all you get is 2.1) the next few steps.
Successful business owners make a decision and get moving. Then they ask the same 2.1 questions to cover the new known problems that have come up since they moved forward. They are more focused on “taking soundings” than on planning every step of the voyage.
What happens when we try to answer the whole third question and plan the entire middle of the trip?
A $1 Billion Woops
Webvans, Inc. had a brilliant idea – use the home delivery model to bring you groceries. Just call and we deliver. They created a classic Business Plan on exactly HOW they were going to get from point A to point B, and then they shipwrecked without taking any soundings.
Webvan built a detailed plan based on assumptions about how things would turn out, then executed on that plan without wavering. Rather than patiently building and adjusting flexibly as demand grew, Webvan ignored how people were responding and moved forward with giant warehouses and huge infrastructure. The company ran through $1billion and went under with a death grip on it’s commitment to the same “HOW” that had been wrong since the day they started.
A Better Way – The 2.1 Planning Process
FreshDirect, a competitor, decided to grow into business as demand rose, and then change with the demand as it became clear what they needed to do to create success. They’re doing fine. They focused on two things 1) Where are we? and 2) Where do we want to end up?. Then they asked 2.1) What are the next few steps?
Focus a lot less on HOW you are going to get where you are going two years from now, and focus more on what you need to do this quarter and this month to get there. Every quarter ask yourself the same 2.1 questions:
1) Where are we?
2) Where do we want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps to get there?
Stop building complex, detailed 12 month and three year business plans. All you get is the next few steps. The rest is fortune telling that can put you out of business.
I was talking with a colleague recently and he mentioned an article he read in the Boston Globe about email marketing… “Do you think email marketing is dead? “he asked me. “Social media is the thing, now? That’s what people pay attention to, right?” Without skipping a beat I said, “No, email marketing is still alive and well. People will pay attention to what is relevant to them.”
Yes, it’s important to include social media as a component of your marketing plan. What! You don’t have a marketing plan!? Check out my previous blog post – Do I really need a marketing plan?. Now where was I… Yes, getting your message out to your audience. Getting our message read by our (primary) audience involves using appropriate communication channels, such as social media, but it also includes creating relevant content.
What does that mean? That means putting yourself in your customer’s (or client’s) shoes and creating content from their point of view. You are problem solvers. And, focus on your benefits, not your company’s features. Okay, let me give you a couple of examples.
Does the following sound familiar?
XYZ Wedding Photography studio specializes in weddings and portraits … award-winning … specialize in artistic weddings … boutique wedding photography studio. Blah blah blah.
What does all this even mean?
Potential brides want to know that you care about them. What can you do for her (the bride)? She wants to know that you will capture her wedding day flawlessly for her to reflect on and share with her family, now and in the future. She really doesn’t care about all of the awards you’ve received. Really. All the bride wants to know is that you will take care of her and help make her day a day to remember. And, your portfolio should be exceptional, too.
Professional printers. I’m sure you have seen a message like this before:
As a professional printing company, our services include Booklet Binding, Collating, Cutting, Design & Document Creation, Die Cutting, Digital Output of Files.
Blah blah blah.
Okay, so what does this mean?
Instead of starting out listing your services, why not talk about what you can do for graphic designers (freelancers) and agencies. Do you meet with clients to learn about their design challenges and brainstorm with them about how to identify effective solutions? Do you ask about what their needs are when working with a professional printer? Do you ask what they need?
I guess my rambling is the long way of saying that, yes, your audience will still read your emails or whatever you are sending them, if the message is relevant (from the customer or client’s point of view). Let them know that you understand their problem and can provide a solution.
And, once you create that relevant message, re-use your content as much as possible. You may need to re-format the message depending on how you use it, but you can use the same message when doing social media (e.g. Facebook), on your web site (writing in chunks and using good headlines and bulleted statements) or direct mail.
Just remember when developing your message, you must be customer focused and always ask WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Your Small Business Home Page – 7 Points You Need to Have
As a website and business owner, you have only a few seconds to answer the most important questions about your business and yourself. Your homepage has to make it instantly clear what the site is about.
Here are 7 points you need to have on your small business homepage:
1. Information About Your Company
A clear description of what is your business and summing up your products or services right on the homepage.
Help your visitors understand that they are in the right place and that you will provide them with any item/service they are looking for. This will also encourage them to stay on your website longer.
2. Easy to Find Contact Info
Make it easy, fast and visible; don’t let your visitor’s waist time looking for your contact number. You should include more than one way to contact you: phone, email, contact form and address.
Make it visible on every page, not just on home page.
Your contact info is crucial, your potential customers will leave your website if they will not find your contact info within 2-3 seconds. Wouldn’t you?
On your contact page it’s a good idea to add a Google map with a direction link.
3. Reasons for Doing Business With your Company.
Tell people why they should do business with you, and what are the benefits doing business with your company. Give them reasons to pick you, and what will they gain by choosing you.
You can use points such as: experience, pricing, and performance.
This is not the place to be modest.
Use 2-3 pictures to show the work that your company is doing. If you are a hairdresser, use some hairdo pictures, and if you are a frozen yogurt store, you can use flavors or topping pictures. Whether It’s commodity or services that you are selling, remember: A picture worth a 1000 words.
I never go to a new restaurant without checking its reviews on Yelp, City Search or Open Table. Do you? If the reviews are awful, will you go there? Of course not. Same with your business. Honest reviews from other customers will help establish your company’s credibility and trust.
Consumer feedback provides a new level of trust that your visitors can connect with.
Use 1-3 testimonials on your website homepage and have a page dedicated for the rest. If you have a Yelp page (or any other social networking user reviews) make sure to link it to your homepage or testimonials page.
6.Call to Action
Tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do. If you sell something, have a “Buy the Product Now” button or to “Call Now for Free Quote”, and if you have a blog and you want visitors to register to it, let them know where they can sign up for your next post. Don’t make them have to look for it.
7. Credentials and Social Proof
You can show a list of awards you’ve won, certifications you’ve received, praises and other mentions in the news, and so on.
If your business is on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…. your homepage is the place to ask people to connect and follow you.
Just remember, your website is the place to show who you are and how your company can help. Give your users the exact information they want and nothing more. Search your higher-ranking competitors on Google and find out what is popular, and improve and add to it. Get feedback from your customers and do not be afraid to make changes if needed.
People decide to sell their businesses for all kinds of reasons – whether readying for retirement, raising revenue for a new venture or to spend more time with family.
Sometimes it’s not a decision at all, but foisted upon the business owner for financial or legal reasons or through ill health. Alternatively, an unsolicited offer might simply be too good to turn down.
Irrespective of the reason behind the prospective sale, it is vital to get an independent business valuation to ensure you get the right price. This article will help you to find a professional adviser with expertise in valuing businesses in your sector and outline the three levels of business valuation generally offered by professional intermediaries.
Choosing a broker
EM&F, a nationwide network of UK business brokerages, offers the following criteria to judge business brokers by. They apply equally to the U.S. market:
- How long have they been established?
- Are they totally independent?
- Do they have experienced and competent personnel at all levels?
- Do they provide a national network of offices?
- Do they ask prospective buyers relevant financial questions to ensure that the funds are available to buy the business?
- Can they introduce good sources of finance?
- Have they got the expertise to value businesses and inventory?
- Have they got a successful track record in selling your type of business?
- Do they advertise extensively on a national basis in the relevant trade magazines & do they have a website facility?
It helps if a broker has experience not just in your sector, but also in selling businesses of a similar size to your own and in the same region. For example, a broker with a sterling track record in selling large businesses in the Californian IT sector would be perfect if your business fits a similar profile.
Although businesses tend to be valued according to a profit multiplier and other measurable variables, brokers also use similar businesses in the same locality as a benchmark. If the broker knows the market inside-out then great – it’s not always easy to transfer knowledge across sectors and geographies.
Check their credentials carefully. If the broker provides customer references, you could follow them up to ensure they are genuine.
Do this discreetly, however, to avoid alerting the competition to your intentions.
In addition, check out any qualifications, memberships and affiliations that the broker claims to have. For example, look out for brokers who are certified business intermediaries (CBIs) or members of the American Business Brokers Association (ABBA) or International Business Brokers Association (IBBA).
Seek referrals from trusted professional contacts, such as your accountant or solicitor, as they’re often well placed to recommend candidates.
Types of business valuation
Establish the reason you need a valuation, as this will inform the type of valuation you need.
In general, there are three business-valuation categories. A business appraisal (sometimes known as a full report) is the most detailed and in-depth type of valuation. A business appraisal can provide litigation support should the IRS or courts need to review the deal.
In cases where litigation is not involved a business valuation (or short report) will usually suffice. As the name implies, this is a shorter version of the business appraisal and provides the level of detail necessary to establish a sale price and arrange the sales agreement with shareholders or partners.
Finally, the broker’s opinion of value (often abbreviated to BOV) provides the most probable selling price (MPSP). This value is reached on the basis of three factors: income, cost/assets and market data.
If you sub-contract, it is most likely for one of two reasons: either the project requires specialist expertise which you can’t (or don’t) offer (e.g. a web developer outsourcing the branding and copywriting aspects of a new website); or because you simply need extra resources to cope with your workload.
This type of collaborative working can be beneficial to all of the parties involved – but it is not without its risks. This article looks at the risks of being ‘piggy in the middle’ and offers some practical advice to help you sub-contract successfully in the future.
The risks of being ‘piggy in the middle’
As the supplier, you are the only person liable to the client for the work that has been ordered. Quite simply, this means that it is you who will be in the firing line – even if it is your sub-contractor who is at fault. You are the one who will suffer the hassle, the potential loss of reputation, and perhaps even finish up having to pay for the work to be re-done.
What’s more, unless the sub-contractor is in breach of their contract with you, you will not be able to withhold payment from them. It is therefore vital that there are no ‘gaps’ between your obligations to the client and the sub-contractor’s obligations to you.
Hints and tips to help you sub-contract successfully
- Enter into a proper written agreement with the sub-contractor, and bear in mind that even if you have a standard sub-contractor agreement, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and it may need to be adapted to suit.
- Ensure that the sub-contractor's obligations to you are at least as tight as those you owe to the client, e.g. in respect of timescales, confidentiality etc.
- Look out for clauses in the main contract which require you to ‘ensure than any sub-contractor….’, and ensure that these too are reflected in your contract with the sub-contractor.
- Reduce the risks and stay in control by only outsourcing specific tasks rather than the whole job. This way, the sub-contractor may not even need to know the identity of the main client and you may be able to keep their work more administrative than strategic.
- Carefully consider quality control – there’s no point outsourcing work if you have to check everything yourself! Where appropriate, include set quality standards or a checklist for your sub-contractor to follow, and then oblige them to actively confirm that their work meets these standards when it is submitted to you.
- Put arrangements in place to ensure good communications between you and the sub-contractor. You don't want the project to fall over because the sub-contractor only received half the information they needed to fully understand the client's requirements. Equally, if there is a problem or delay, you need to be made aware of it as soon as possible, so that you can decide how to handle this with your client.
- Make sure your sub-contractor has appropriate insurance cover.
- Make sure you include the sub-contracting aspect of the work in your costings, as even if the client knows you are sub-contracting, you still have an obligation to use appropriate skill and judgement in selecting and managing your sub-contractors.
- Sub-contract work without checking that your contract with the client doesn’t prohibit this. If the client’s consent is required, ensure this is obtained in writing.
- Assume that just because your sub-contractor is an old friend or longstanding business associate, everything will be fine. Whilst it’s crucial to use sub-contractors whose work you know and trust, you also have an obligation to your client to appoint the best and most suitable sub-contractor to work on their project.
- Assume that any contract with your sub-contractor will suffice. Ideally, you will be working under your standard terms and conditions with your client and under your standard sub-contracting terms with your sub-contractor. If this isn’t the case though, look for the gaps.
- Put yourself in a position where you have to pay the sub-contractor before the work is completed to the client's (reasonable) satisfaction. And make sure you manage cash flow by ensuring that you have longer payment terms in your arrangements with your sub-contractors than the client has with you.
- Ignore the risk that the sub-contractor might approach the client directly for more work (work you could, perhaps, have done yourself) in the future, behind your back. This should be dealt with in the contact in a fair and reasonable way.
- Rely on your general contract wording if your client insists that any sub-contractors are bound to comply with specific provisions from the main contract. The wording might be similar, but the differences could be important, so ensure that the exact wording is replicated in the sub-contract (there's a nice easy way to do this which I often use). Make sure you discuss this with the sub-contractor and that he or she understands these obligations.
- Take responsibility for the standards of a sub-contractor that has been specifically chosen by the client. The client should remain accountable for their own choice in this situation.
- Forget to protect yourself against financial loss should the client be entitled to cancel the main contract. If you don’t provide for this, you could be liable to pay the sub-contractor the full cost of their services even if their work is no longer required.
Not sure about sub-contracting?
Sub-contracting isn’t the only way to pass elements of your work on to a third party. If you’d prefer not to be ‘piggy in the middle’, why not ask your client to enter into a direct contract with the sub-contractor, if appropriate? E.g., a web designer might introduce the client to a graphic designer for the purpose of creating a new logo, but let them enter into a separate contract rather than sub-contracting from the main website agreement.
This approach may not be as commercially attractive as sub-contracting, unless you can negotiate referral fees, but you’ll be protected from many of the risks.