Friday, June 18, 2010

Small Business Success Tips - Promotion

Promotion is not the same as marketing. Promotion of a small business encompasses all methods of getting the word about your small business out into the community. Marketing, public relations, networking, advertising, press releases, and many more actions all are forms of promotion.

The purpose of promotion is name recognition, without negative association. Famous criminals are not sought out for business relationships. Positive association is best, but even neutral or no opinion association is valuable. The objective is to get the most people possible saying "I've heard of them" when your business name comes up.

The reason name recognition is important to your success is because people are more likely to approach something they are familiar with. When they need the product or service you offer, and are looking at their alternatives, they are most likely to call the business whose name they recognize (unless they have heard bad things about it).

Part of promotion has to do with presentation. Negative association is more likely to come from poor presentation than from enemies whispering unflattering things about you. Therefore, a great deal of your promotional energy should be devoted to the quality of your promotion. Amateurish, error-ridden promotional work will turn people off, and once they are turned off, it is very hard to again make them receptive.

Presentation reaches beyond the quality of your printing or advertising. Every single contact your business name makes with anyone reflects on their impression of your business. Every email, every conversation, how you dress, how quickly your website loads, and any other interaction between you or your business and people are all promotional actions, and are affected by the quality of their presentation. So be professional at all times, and project competence and other positive qualities to the best of your ability.

Books have been written full of promotional ideas, and many can be found for free on the internet, by searching for "inexpensive promotion" or "promotional ideas" or the like. Many of them are impractical or inappropriate to your business, but some of them will make sense to you.

A fifteen-dollar table at a church flea market might result in 500 new people hearing of you or seeing your name. High school event programs are seen by hundreds of parents and are cheap to put a small ad in. Always having a business card to hand to anyone who will take it is a basic of promotion. There are hundreds of ways to promote a local business, including on the internet.

If your business is not local, but internet-based, promotion follows the same rules: keep the quality of presentation high, and seek out ideas with a search for "internet promotional ideas" and similar words. Beware anything that says "free" except downloadable ebooks. There are ways to effectively promote for free on the internet, but most of them are not advertised.

Look for bloggers with many followers, and make intelligent comments about their blogs. Get your website included in specialized directories (not the huge directories that no one uses or even sees). Offer a free ebook on free ebook sites. Probably the best inexpensive way to promote on the internet is with an ezine that you email out regularly, but that route is time-intensive and requires a firm commitment. You will find many more ways if you look for them.

You can measure the success of your promotional efforts in a local setting fairly easily: each month, ask 30 or more strangers if they have heard of your business, and keep track on a graph of the percentage who have. If the graph line isn't going up, you need to promote more or with better presentation or both.

On the internet, promotional success is clearcut: keep track of the number of unique visitors to your site.

One final warning: promotion is not marketing. Do not neglect actual marketing actions, as they are what will produce actual leads and actual sales. Promotion plows the field; marketing sows the seeds; salesmanship tends the crop and reaps the harvest.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.

Small Business Success Tips - Persistence

A ridiculous claim has repeatedly been made for the value of persistence in a small business, which boils down to, "If you persist, you will succeed." The problem with untrue claims is that when they are rejected, any related truth is rejected also. So let us sort out the truths and untruths about persistence.

Starting a small business usually turns out to be harder than the owner anticipated. Almost all small businesses go through financial strains, especially when beginning, and take far more of the owner's time than he imagined he could supply. Frustration and discouragement are common. If your business does not fit this mold, but is succeeding easily, good for you, and keep on doing what you are doing. Otherwise, read on.

The two obvious truths relating to persistence are 1) if you give up, you lose, and 2) you cannot give up and win. The only other two possibilities are persist and lose, and persist and win. Logically, then, there is only one way to win, and that is to persist. Persistence does not guarantee success, but it provides the chance.

How does a small business owner turn persistence into success? One major action will do it.

Keep improving.

Every aspect of your business, from production to sales to finances, can continually be made better, as in more efficient and more effective. In short, quality can be increased. All the principles of quality come into play in every area, but the most important is the first: Quality is an Attitude. You have to want and intend improvement, across the board.

Persistence without improvement is spinning your wheels until you have dug them into a rut too deep to drive out of.

Two other principles of quality are Learn and Fix. Here is where the bulk of your persistence time will be spent.

The more you learn about the various aspects of your business, the better you will be at them. No matter how busy you are, your future success depends on spending some time every day on learning. Most of your learning can be from articles and ebooks on the internet. Some will be from books and audio or video tutorials. We are not talking about learning from experience; that falls under the next section. We mean learning the theoretical and practical information about what to do and how to do it for every function in your business.

Then there is the School of Hard Knocks: learning by experience. You make a mistake, or you do not get the results you expected from an action, and you learn from it. First you fix it, to keep overall quality up, and then you figure out why it happened, and how to prevent it in the future.

What is the enemy of persistence? Discouragement. Whether you feel discouraged by how long it is taking to make progress, or because people are actively discouraging you, the best answer to discouragement is to acknowledge its presence, then spit in its face. Persistence almost always takes longer than you want it to. Discouragement is just a temporary reminder of that fact.

Persistence alone does not guarantee success. Persistence with continual improvement does.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Small Business Success Tips - Networking

Networking: Two-way word-of-mouth advertising, repeated many times.

The above definition may seem oversimplified, because a large part of networking is more active than just advertising, but essentially, you are exchanging information.

What makes networking effective is an understanding that good actions beget good actions in return. When you can help someone fulfill a need, doing so is a good action. That good action toward them makes them not only willing, but eager to provide a good action toward you.

Networking bears a striking resemblance to a barter system. You earn credit by helping as many people as you can to fulfill needs, and then when you have a need, all those people in your network(s) will help you fulfill it.

Of course, the needs we are talking about are products and services. If you are an accountant, you cannot possibly locate everyone who needs accounting services all on your own. Nor, if you need an air conditioning repair service, can you find the best service for a cost you can afford just by calling a half-dozen and asking them. Networking solves both these problems.

Everyone networks. All it means is you know someone, he mentions he needs a mechanic, and if you know a mechanic you can recommend, you tell him. You say you need a plumber, and he tells you the plumber he used and liked. See? Two-way word-of-mouth advertising. The more people you know and share information with, the bigger your network.

Networking companies go to lengths to formally bring people together, giving them a chance to get to know each other and potentially help each other, in exchange for dues or attendance fees or both. As with any kind of business, some of these companies are more successful than others. Should you join a networking company, and if so, which one?

It depends on your business. If your business has a widespread local market, then yes, you probably should attend an introductory meeting (the first one or two are usually free to newcomers) and find out what it is about. You might want to try several local networking groups to find out which you are most comfortable with.

The owner of a very specialized or technical business with a specific and known potential clientele (e.g., airplane electrical system repairs) can probably spend his promotional time and money more wisely than by joining a networking company, but he should definitely make an effort to widen his network within the whole airplane repair community. Which brings us to social or internet networking.

Social networking for promotional purposes is a high investment of time for a low return, if you do it yourself. There are companies that specialize in running social network campaigns for businesses, and some of them have proven to be very effective in generating leads. They have the time and know-how to focus on building a social network specific to your potential clientele. But such social networking is not two-way, except when someone contacts your business with an inquiry. So social networking as a promotional activity is more like advertising. Useful, but a topic for another time.

Internet networking, however, is extremely useful when there is a fairly focused industry spread across the country. Say you have started a small winery. You would be well advised to join internet groups, not only of potential direct clients, such as restaurateurs and wine societies, but related industries, like tourism and exporting. Make intelligent or appreciative comments on posts in their forums, start discussions, and build your own groups, mentioning your website with your signature whenever possible. You will meet people whom you can help and who can help you.

Networking, whether in person or on the internet, does not (usually) produce overnight results, but the results grow steadily and are long-term, so the investment is worth it if you are in the game for the long haul.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.

Small Business Success Tips - Marketing

A definition of marketing: presenting your product widely in a way that makes people want it.

Whether your business is new or well-established, the very first step to marketing is recognizing it is necessary. Marketing is not a luxury; marketing is a vital part of any business.

For a small business, marketing is crucial. It is also very expensive if done badly. Not only does poor marketing cost valuable time and money, but the lack of results for weeks or months represents lost sales, which add up to actual lost income.

The most money a small business will ever lose is the money it didn't make because of preventable errors and wasted resources in bad marketing.

If you can afford it, hire a person or a marketing firm that has a proven track record of helping small businesses grow. (In theory, a good marketing person or firm will pay for itself in increased sales. Some do and some don't, so get references.)

A small business owner just starting out should take two primary marketing steps simultaneously, whether or not he can hire marketing help:

1) Get some kind of personalized marketing going, even if it is just an hour on the phone cold calling every day, or sending out letters, to individuals or businesses that might be interested in your product. This action works because you are the boss, and people like talking to the boss. It also helps you learn what people need and want, how much demand already exists for your product, and what approach gets people to respond best.

2) Start learning as much as you can about marketing, both in general and specifically as it relates to your field. Look at, watch, and listen to as much of your competitors' marketing as you can find. Even more important, read books about marketing. You can find out which are the best by searching for "best marketing books" on a search engine, and see what most people agree on.

Neither of these steps has to take a long time, if you actually do them. Each book will give you ideas and increase your understanding, which will help your ongoing marketing efforts. Within a week or two, you will feel much more confident about what needs to be done to market your product, and that confidence will grow as you learn more.

It is worse than pointless to start a marketing campaign without having some idea of how to make people want your product. The principles of quality apply to marketing as much as to any other endeavor: average or below average marketing does not stand out and will not succeed against high quality marketing.

An established small business needs to market as much as a new one if it wants to grow. While word-of-mouth is powerful, it is not sufficient, and it usually is self-limiting. In other words, word-of-mouth won't help you market to specific targeted markets, and it won't help market new or improved products.

The approach for an established small business is different from that for a new business.

1) Your previous and current customers are your best market. Most small business owners never really grasp that, and let their customers fade away. Retention of customers is a major key to growth. If your retention is poor (less than 95% of "retainable" customers), do whatever it takes to find out why, and fix it. Usually, some principle of quality is not being applied.

2) Learn more about marketing, as described above. Compare what you are learning to the marketing you have done in the past, both that which was effective and that which was not. This exercise should help you build even more effective campaigns in the future.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.

Small Business Success Tips - Dependability

Small business owners looking for a way to distinguish their business from their competition have many ways to do so. They can charge less, or advertise more, or fly a huge red weather balloon over their store. None of these choices lead to small business success.

Yes, short-term campaigns can lead to short-term success. The secret to long-term success, however, has two parts and two parts only: retaining customers, and generating customer referrals (also known as word-of-mouth). And the way to do both of those parts is to give the customer what he wants and needs.

If a customer only sometimes gets what he wants and needs, he will look elsewhere. If he gets it late, or it's not quite right, he will look elsewhere. If you miss an appointment, or a deadline, he will look elsewhere. Customers need dependability.

This is a fast-moving world, and people work hard to keep up and get ahead. They come to you because you say you can help them: you can provide a product or service they need. You can fix their car, or paint their wall, or balance their books, or train them to succeed in business. They don't have time to waste waiting for you, or even worse, waiting for your errors to be fixed.

Lack of dependability will destroy your small business success faster than high prices, or mediocre quality, or slow work. Customers will spend more for dependability. They will put up with mediocre (but sufficient) quality if they can count on you. They will allow for the extra day or week if they are confident you will deliver at that time.

Dependability is a rare quality. It is valuable because it is rare. Think of all the times you have been disappointed by lack of dependability, and you will find they are very frequent. Every time you have had to wait in a waiting room; every checkout clerk who has needed to call for a price check; every check that wasn't in the mail; all these and more have made you wish you had a choice. Or when you have had a choice, you have taken it.

Your customers feel the same way about your business when the transaction is not smooth and easy and what they were expecting (or better). You can almost build your whole business on dependability! McDonald's did.

A survey the author did in 1990 of his clients, with over 600 respondents, asked them to place speed, quality, price, and dependability in order of importance. Over fifty percent named dependability as most important. Quality came in second, then speed, then price. There is no reason to think that the responses would be any different today.

Do whatever it takes, is the lesson here. Be on time, meet your deadlines, keep your word, even if it means working all night, paying overtime, losing money on the job, or missing your golf tournament. Be dependable.

If your customers can count on you, they will.

Small business success depends on dependability.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic: Survive and Succeed In Any Economy, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the Principles of Quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales.

Small Business Success Tips - Delegating

One of the leading reasons that small businesses stay small – or fail – is that the small business owner is unwilling or doesn't know how to delegate, according to many business coaches.

Why should this be surprising? Many first-time small business owners don't know how to do a lot of what they have to do in a small business. Those who learn new skills quickly have a much better chance to succeed than those who don't. Delegating is a skill like any other, and can be learned.

The first step to learning any skill is to recognize it as a skill that can be learned. So what is delegating, and how is it a skill, rather than an intuitive action?

People who are very capable in several or many areas understand this saying: "I can do anything, but I can't do everything." Beginning small business owners have to do everything at first, until they can hire help. So the question really becomes, how do you hire, and what does the hiree do?

Most people would agree that hiring is a skill which can be learned. The trick is to learn the skill before you hire, not by trial and error. Understanding the following principles of hiring will start you on learning the skill.

1) Hire in order to reduce your workload. After an initial training period, the new employee should be able to do some of what you are doing now, with minimal oversight. The point is that the new employee should not just do more of what you are doing, while you keep on doing the same amount. Example: hiring someone to handle accounts receivable does not mean the collection actions increase because you continue making collection calls also. It means the new guy handles all of that, and you don't.

2) Know in advance what qualities are needed in a new employee, and test for them. If they will be on the phone, put them on the phone and see how they do. If they will be on a computer, give him a computer problem and watch as he solves it. If they have to schmooze, bring in a client and see how well the prospect schmoozes him.

3) Hire by reason, not emotion. You never "give a guy a chance" to see if he can cut it. You have to have good reason to think he can cut it before you hire. Can he really reduce your workload, or are you going to have to babysit him?

4) Hire with a very specific probationary period. If your new hire turns out not to be able to do what he says he can, and even more important, if he cannot learn to do what you are training him to do, let him go by the end of the probationary period and start over.

Example: you are an experienced auto mechanic with a small shop, and you are an expert. You can hire another mechanic who can do many of your routine tasks. Occasionally, a job will come along that requires your expertise. Do not do it. Tell your mechanic how to do it, advise him, teach him, but let him do the work. If he cannot learn how, get someone who can. The same principle applies for any function.

The major thing a small business owner must understand when delegating (hiring): the new person is not going to be as good as he is, not at first, and maybe not ever. Yet you don't want the quality of your business to slip. Therefore, as soon as you start hiring, institute quality controls in that area.

The two most important quality controls are regular reports of activity and results, and final approval. These quality controls should take you minimal time but be comprehensive enough to keep you on top of the area.

Reports are a weekly list of what was done, what problems came up that were handled or still need attention, and predictions about the following week (known jobs, upcoming expenses, etc.).

Final approval means that when a job is reported as done, don't take his word for it, but give it a look. A second set of eyes is critical for quality assurance. As your confidence in him grows, only the larger jobs may need this look, but never drop this action out entirely.

Delegating does not mean abandoning. Delegating means letting other people help your business succeed. If you don't let them, it won't.

Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic: Survive and Succeed In Any Economy, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the Principles of Quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Small Business Success Tips - Carefulness

Almost every printing company has this sign on its wall: "Why is there never enough time to do it right, and always enough time to do it over?"

This ironic, even cynical statement can be applied to almost any business, large or small. In some industries, up to two-thirds of working hours are spent on correcting mistakes. In a small business, wasted hours and materials can easily make the difference between success and failure.

Yet almost all mistakes can be prevented. The secret to preventing mistakes is in being careful.

Carefulness usually takes a little longer. Note this: a "little" longer. Being careful does not mean doubling the time it takes to do something. It means twelve minutes instead of ten, or seven hours instead of six and a half.

Two simple actions will eliminate almost all mistakes made in your business:

1) Pay attention. When your mind is elsewhere, mistakes happen. If you get interrupted, stop what you are doing, handle the interruption, then get your mind back onto what you are doing. If you start daydreaming, it is time to take a break. Go take a short walk, get a glass of water, and come back when you can concentrate.

2) Check your work. This unbelievably effective procedure is overlooked by almost everyone, every day. Small business owners particularly are so full of self-confidence that they just assume they have done something correctly. Maybe nine times out of ten they have. Then the mistake in the tenth time costs them all the profit from the first nine.

Every action in a business deserves carefulness. Misspellings in emails and on websites project an image of ignorance and lack of quality. Incorrect invoices don't get paid. Unswept floors and dirty windows can repel customers, especially the ones you want most: the wealthy, well-bred ones.

Then there are the products or services your business sells. A nick here, a scratch there, a form not filled out correctly or completely, a missed spot in the painting, little mistakes that could have been prevented by being more careful, will make a customer look elsewhere the next time he needs that product or service.

As a small business owner, the burden is on you to insist that both you and your staff follow a firm policy of carefulness. When an error is made, figure out how carefulness could have prevented it, and make sure everyone knows, so it doesn't happen again. This doesn't mean to make someone feel bad for making a mistake; it means to make them feel better and more capable in the future. Probably all they have to do is slow down and be more careful. Don't worry: as they get more experienced, the speed will return, but without the mistakes.

Above all, do not, repeat do not, let mistakes go by with a careless phrase like "Don't worry about it. Mistakes happen." If you don't do something about it, the same mistakes will continue to happen.

Carefulness results in higher quality at lower cost. It is worth your investment.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.