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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: Running a recommendation outreach program isn’t something that will just happen. You must take the right steps. Here’s how to get customers gushing about your services.

A stamp of approval is hard to come by, but when battling for customers it can really make the difference at the time of purchase. There’s a number of ways to get this approval, like speaking at industry events or having your business profiled by the local media. But there’s no better way than customer recommendations.

Having an enthused client gush about the quality of your services can do wonders for your marketing and advertising. By utilizing that recommendation on your website, marketing material and maybe even wrapping it into your advertisements, potential customers can now see that others approve of what you can do or offer. That serves as a convincing argument that you’re not just marketing to them, but can actually solve their problem.

Yet, getting these recommendations isn’t just a set it and forget opportunity. After all, if online community forums have taught us anything, it’s that a customer is much more willing to jump on and complain about poor service than regale readers about a wonderful experience. Instead, you need to go out and actually find the customers who are willing to positively discuss your business.

How do you accomplish this? Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Your Business

Synopsis: Every business experiences them, but how do you react? We discuss the best parts of the business to focus on when your company sees a little downtime.

Sometimes when the business is booming, the thought of downtime seems almost appealing. But then when it finally slows, and it usually will at some point, there’s nothing more scary for a business owner. The natural instinct is to throw up you hands and scream, as the fear that a new customer or new project will never come around again.

But that’s usually not the case. And managing those emotions can better position your company when this downtime occurs. It can also give you a much needed boost in other areas of your organization that haven’t received as much love and care, in the rush to fill customer orders or provide the best service.

Before we discuss where you should focus attention during the downtime, you should also make sure you’re tracking your year. Most businesses have cycles. And if you’re in a down cycle for your company, it could just be the natural tendency of your organization during that particular month. If you know that, then the shock of suddenly slower sales, will not be a vice grip on your sanity. You can also prepare financially, to ease the concern.

10 Parts of the Business to Focus On During Downtime:

 

  1. New Business – You know that idea you’ve been thinking about for awhile, you just hadn’t had the time to really look further into developing that new product? Now’s the time. And you might just find a solution to your yearly downtime in the process. Read more »
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Posted by . In topics: Startup

Synopsis: A barista in New York City decided to up the coffee experience by creating portraits of celebrities in the froth. Talk about a customer retention tactic to replicate. Here’s why.

It’s not easy to stand out in the coffee business. The lure of high-quality, rich espresso has brought thousands of new coffee shops across the country. Then you also have the large franchises, littering the roadways. So to stand out, you must do something truly unique, besides just make coffee.

This past week, the cappuccino-world suddenly found their newest barista-star Mike Breach. Instead of just serving up delicious hot lattes, he turns a customer’s cup of Joe into a beautiful piece of art. He picks someone famous, then draws portrait of that person into customer’s coffee. So not only do the patrons get a warm mocha, they also find a sketch of Salvador Dali or Hilary Clinton. Most importantly, customers love it.

That’s the value of adding something extra to the table when developing a customer base. Showcasing your company’s true purpose is important. But other people can do what you and your company does – usually. How do you stand out? That’s the little extra incentive that you provide to convince the customers to come back again and again.

What does this little extra incentive look like? Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: The San Antonio Spurs is one of the best franchises in the NBA. But here’s why you can’t use them as an example to help your business grow.

If there’s one sport I love above all others it’s basketball. I’m particular fan of the college game, but I’m still a strong follower of the NBA. And that meant, growing up in Dallas, I cheered hard for the Mavericks. But before Mark Cuban entered the city, there wasn’t much to cheer for. So, I would often root on the Houston Rockets. For some reason, the one team in Texas I never could get behind was the San Antonio Spurs.

Yet, in many ways, the Spurs are the best sports franchise in the U.S. They’ve had longevity, championships, All-Stars, a rabid local fan base and a number of international players (meaning large reach). Still, the Spurs never got the limelight. You can almost feel the NBA collectively cringe when they head to Finals. Two of their championships, 2003 and 2007, are two of the lowest viewed NBA Finals in history. It’s not a coincidence.

SportsNation’s Pounding the Rock blog lamented this fact, writing:

“Ultimately, the importance of an athlete in our society plays a significant role in achieving the status of commercial giants. The Spurs brand is effective. The Spurs franchise produces players who embody a lifestyle and characteristics that athletes should represent. But, a “flashy” player like Kobe or LeBron wouldn’t fit into the Spurs culture, so does that mean the team won’t ever produce a marketing giant?

I always want to see the San Antonio Spurs respected and recognized on a national level, but maybe while the importance of an athlete in our society determines their level of “giganticness”, Spurs fans are satisfied with what they see on the court and, like the team itself, don’t need or want the media attention. We have superstars and giants, defined in our own way, here in San Antonio. Our players are respected and admired by millions of fans for their athletic performance and upstanding character.”

I think this passes the buck too much on the culture and not enough blame is given to the San Antonio franchise itself. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: Has marketing become a job for everyone in the company? One business owner says ‘yes.’ We take you through how you can ensure your employees can actually handle that.

How do you deal with the challenge of marketing your company to your target market? Do you take on all the responsibility – something that many small business owners do. Or do you silo that function in a part of the organization called the “Marketing Department” (I imagine a deep, dark laugh at that moment)? Or do you just ask people about ideas as you need them?

There’s a wrong way and right way to market your company. Do it right, and the marketing materials and ideas will flow. Do it wrong, and it can become the bane of your existence. And just like, seemingly, all other parts of the company, marketing has gotten more complicated, as the ability to easily grab someone’s attention has been cluttered with all the options of entertainment online.

So just how important should you place the managing of marketing initiatives? Business2Community.com spoke to Chris Herbert, the creator of a social media and reputation management agency, and he had an interesting take on how to manage marketing. Here’s what he said:

“Marketing is the responsibility of all employees because it’s purpose is to get and keep customers. It is that simple. Marketing is not a silo, it’s not a department and it’s definitely not supposed to be creating communications materials that buyers consider “fluff”! Marketing is not the group that provide sales reps with “leads” that they never follow up with because they’re “no good”. Marketing covers: Product, Promotion, Place and Pricing. It has and should always be the case. But for some reason sales has been separated from marketing (sales falls under direct promotion) and product management has been severed from marketing.”

Basically, Herbert doesn’t uncouple the marketing function from the rest of the business. That’s because, if you’re going to market a product or service, you better understand what customers will want from the company and what personality a strong lead will have. Sales is marketing. Product development is marketing. Customer service is marketing. All of it, especially when it involves someone within the company reaching out to someone outside the company is in a position to market the firm. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Your Business

Synopsis: There’s always something to improve, but have you ever actually set out to turn a weakness of your company into a strength? We outline a few ways how, in 5 steps.

We all have that one thing that keep us up at night. As a business owner, this often centers on a weakness of your company. “I’m not as big as my competitors, how can I offer the same prices? I’m terrible at marketing, but I need more customers. I wish my company was more cutting edge.” Any of these sentences might have been uttered by you at one time or another.

These weaknesses become a constant headache. If you’re like me, you probably try to avoid them as long as possible (a weakness of mine). But instead of ignoring the problem, why don’t you turn it into a strength?

That’s what many companies have done, sometimes even creating an entirely new line of cash flow through the upturned shortcoming. But it’s not easy. Here are five steps so you can turn that weakness into a strength:

1. Analyze Your Weaknesses

Understanding where your company is strong and where it’s weak, is vitally important – not just for this exercise, but for the long-term health of your business. Compare yourself to your competitors. Where are they stronger than you? Where do you have a competitive advantage? But don’t stop there. Also compare your industry to other industries? What are some shortcomings of your peer group? Know them, as they can be used to turn into a strength as well, differentiating you from the rest of the sector.

2. Can Your Weakness Be Exploited?

Ask yourself: “Is this a weakness that can be changed?” If not, then can you exploit it, in order to stand out among the crowd? A perfect example of this, as author Mike Michalowicz outlined for Open Forum, is Dick’s Last Resort restaurant. They turned an industry weakness – rude waiters – into an art form, allowing them to stand out in front of a crowd. It has become a strong marketing technique for the restaurant, using a surly waitstaff, which the company has created by exploiting a weakness in the industry.

3. Outline Steps For Change

If it can’t be exploited, how can it be changed? Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: With the crowded world of news, social media and other online content all vying for your customer’s attention, how do you break through the noise? A strong content strategy is one way; here’s how the experts use one.

Does the world seem louder today? With television, a 24-hour-a-day news cycle, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., etc., there’s so much content that it’s impossible to catch everything. And if it’s difficult for you, it’s easy to imagine that your customers feel the same way.

That creates a problem because somehow, you need to break through all that clutter, and catch the eye of your target audience. But you can’t spend every dime on ensuring that your content – or all your social media, some marketing material and even recorded seminars or conferences you speak at - achieves that goal. So what’s a new or independent business owner to do? It’s simple, come up with a plan that not only guarantees you’re sharing great information, but also targeting that information to the person you want to reach. Not easy. Come on, these problems are the things that business owners strive for!

One way to do this effectively, alongside a unified advertising plan, is a strong content marketing strategy. In order to offer a little help, we wanted to show you how some of the experts suggest you break through that clutter with your content marketing. And with these strategies in place, you’ll be able to get the most people reading your material, at the time when they’re in a position to buy. That’ll keep costs down, something that’s understood no matter what platform you publish on.

Make It Relevant

Social Media Explorer:

“As organizations today are getting smarter, adopting governance models, empowering their employees to blog and tweet; they are now relying on their owned media channels to share and release information. An owned media channel is a company owned community where they have more control the messaging i.e. corporate blog, Facebook fan page and corporate Twitter account. The result of this approach is that allows a company to communicate directly with the community rather than through a third party. And, it makes sense that most consumers interested in a product or brand will want firsthand knowledge about a release date, future enhancements about a product or service and other corporate communications.”


Use Everyone At Your Disposal

Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: According to reports, a reality show star is blaming TLC’s portrayal of her for the demise of her business. We talk about what you can you learn from her mistakes.

Advertising or promoting your business on new platforms, when you embrace it, can do wonders for your business. However, not always, especially if you go at it wrong. And an example of such techniques is reality television. Sometimes, getting a chance to go on a cooking show can make a chef’s career, it can also lead to their business’s demise.

We saw an example of that this past week, when a TLC’s “Next Great Baker” star had to close up her bakery due to backlash from the show. That’s because in the latest season, Gretel-Ann Fischer was portrayed as possibly sabotaging her co-stars’ ovens and hiding baking sheets all in an effort to win $100,000. It didn’t work (she got second). And she’s now blaming TLC’s portrayal of this as one of the reasons her company is shuttering the doors, according to Vermont station WCAX.

While the initial buzz of the show brought nearly 67% more customers, they quickly dried up once they saw her scheming, Fischer said. And while she faced financial difficulties before the show, the wrong type of notoriety eventually did her company in.

So much for that extra publicity. Of course, reality television can lead to that sudden exposure – whether you wanted it or not. And we see contractors, designers, restaurant owners – to name a few – all use this medium to grow their business. While not many of us will jump at this type of promotion, it does give some solid lessons in your own campaigns on new platforms. Here are a few that pop out: Read more »

grow2

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Startup · Your Business

Hello, and welcome back to TheGrowthWire.com.

My name is Ryan Derousseau. I’m a business owner that has also worked as a journalist for the last seven years, writing for a number of national publications, including Inc.com, FastCompany.com, Fortune, Money, Forbes and many others. Cumulus Media asked me to revamp their online space for business owners like yourself. And that’s why we’re re-launching TheGrowthWire.com today!

My goals for TheGrowthWire.com are to provide you with regular and reliable information about running your business. It will also serve as hub, so you can interact with your peers from across the country, who are all trying to do something similar: Create a successful and sustainable business. It’s a big goal, since I am – like all of you – extremely busy growing my own company. As the lead of RMD Media, I work with organizations to build content strategies and understand how to connect with journalists. It gives me the unique situation of having the experience of writing while also understanding the uphill battles I face while starting my own company. That said, I’m extremely excited to tackle this challenge.

So whether you run a company with one employee or 100, you’re welcome to come here, discuss issues facing your business and hear from others who have tackled similar challenges to you. Hopefully, I’ll offer up some information, lead a conversation or moderate an exchange that will help you to navigate the ever-changing business landscape of the 21st Century.

That’s why I’m here. Why is Cumulus here? That’s because they have listened to what their customers want. With 550 radio stations in 110 cities, nationwide, Cumulus has the opportunity to hear what their customers want like no other company. And at a time when marketing, social media, advertising, the way we run businesses and the way we launch businesses is changing faster than ever before, the need for a serious, welcoming, inquisitive and intelligent conversation on what impacts you is more vital than ever.

Here’s what you can expect from The Growth Wire blog moving forward. We will cover a range of issues, that touch on what’s impacting your company. These include:

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Raising Money  
  • Hiring
  • Getting Started
  • Tools to help you work more productively
  • How news or changes in Washington impact your business
  • And much, much more

But this isn’t a lecture. Conversation is a two-way street so I’ll be delving into issues that impact you every day and bringing you guest commentators to provide expert opinions. Let us know what you think. Give us your insight and share your experiences so we can all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to receive some extra insight delivered to your inbox, then please sign up for our newsletter on the right. You can also find us on Twitter at our brand new Twitter feed, @GrowthWireBlog and please share when you see something helpful.

Finally, good luck growing your business! We hope you join The Growth Wire on our journey to grow as well.

-Ryan

153464696

Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: How does social media, advertising and marketing work together, intersect and diverge? We take a look at what makes them different and how it all works together.

Clearly, whoever created the old adage of “two’s company, three’s a crowd,” never had to build a customer base. Because with the advent of social media, businesses have had to figure out how to manage it along with advertising and regular marketing efforts. It has become a triumvirate of responsibilities.

And that has led to some decisions internally at companies of all sizes in how to allocate time, energy and money for all three efforts. Early on, many jumped at the “free” notion of some social media. That has changed, now that social media has become a crowded space, that also needs investment via time and sometimes money, in order for it to sell your product.

So what should your company do? Well only you can solve that puzzle. In order to do so, first you need to understand how social media, advertising and marketing work together, intersect and diverge.

First, let’s talk about the new kid on the block: Social Media. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc., etc., businesses have the opportunity to connect with customers on a one-to-one basis like never before. But you have to question whether you’re actually connecting with customers when you’re on such feeds. If you are able to connect with your customers on one or two platforms, then it’s worthwhile to look into. But often, social media for businesses, especially B2B and small businesses, it’s more about PR aspects, customer service and connecting with industry insiders. This is how word-of-mouth marketing is done. This often means it’s a slow process as you need time to build a network. Read more »