Seasonal Planning: For More Than Just Seasonal Businesses
15 October

Seasonal Planning: For More Than Just Seasonal Businesses

You may think holiday marketing doesn’t apply to your particular business niche, but the truth is, seasonal planning is for all businesses, no matter the goods or services provided. If your business is hand-crafted toys or candies, it’s quite obvious the holiday season is peak time for sales, but it’s also the same for practically every other form of business out there.

Know Your Angle

If you’re struggling to come up with an angle for your seasonal strategies, start by looking at your books. Find out what your customers have been interested in the most and use that information to anticipate what they may be needing shortly.

Remember that holiday planning isn’t all about retail sales and shopping. Consumers also have needs for specific services, practical items, and unique finds as well. Figure out what you can offer them and plan to highlight that for your campaign.

Begin to Prepare

Understanding that seasonal planning begins well before the holiday season begins, is the most important aspect of your process. It’s recommended to begin your planning months in advance – some even beginning as early as mid-summer. Why?

By allowing yourself ample time to research your top performers, study customer habits, and brainstorm with your team members for campaign ideas, you’ll give yourself the best chance at a highly successful campaign. You should always allow plenty of time for changes, new ideas and stocking any necessary supplies for the season.

Take Stock

Seasonal planning is more than simply finding the greatest marketing campaign to put out there this year. It also entails making sure you are fully stocked on any anticipated items, well-staffed for an influx of customers, and prepared for all your basic needs as well. How do you do this?

Start by taking inventory on your stock. Determine what items you’ll need to order if you are in the retail business. Plan for any additional stock items like shopping bags, receipt paper, shipping supplies for online orders, and any seasonal items like specialty flavors of coffee or printed fliers to hand out at purchase time.

Plan Your Schedule in Advance

Another key seasonal planning step is to make sure you are fully staffed to cover any potential increase in customer activity. It can help to make up schedules well in advance to allow employees time to plan for working hours around the holidays, as well as note any potential scheduling issues before they become problematic down the road.

Get Festive

Even if you’re not big into the holiday scene, getting festive at work is part of the seasonal planning process and your customers (as well as employees) will appreciate the gesture. There are a number of ways you can accomplish this – from simple decorations to planning events for employees and/or clients.

If you need ideas on how to get festive, include your team members in a brainstorming session to get their input – this is especially helpful in coworking spaces where members come from all walks of business (and all walks of ideas!). Not a coworking space? No problem – do some online research on local events to see what fun things are going on around you that you could include in your seasonal planning.

The best thing you can do is understand that seasonal planning takes time, and it’s not something you want to miss out on. Start planning early and get those festive ideas flowing to set your plan in motion!

Why You Should Have Already Begun Your Seasonal Planning
1 October

Why You Should Have Already Begun Your Seasonal Planning

It may seem like Summer is still lingering on (and in some cases, that’s quite true), but like it or not, the holiday season is just around the corner. Though it probably feels strange to be thinking about Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas decorations when it’s still warm enough for that swim suit, now is actually the perfect time to go full-swing into your seasonal planning.

Holiday Seasonal Planning, No Matter the Reason

Whether your business is full-blown retail toys or a small research firm with a streamlined consumer base, you need to prepare for the holiday season. No matter what service or product you have to offer, there’s a holiday angle for you to help drive seasonal business and you need to be planning for it – yesterday.

Why You Should Care

If you think your specific firm or business is unaffected by the holiday influx, we’re here to tell you you’re wrong. Since the holiday season is “the main time of year when people are out buying products and services not for themselves, but for other people,” Forbes.com explains it’s the prime opportunity for businesses of all walks to grasp their share of the shopping season.

Since gift-buying is vast and diverse (Santa doesn’t just deliver toys nowadays), finding ways to market your own business during this time is essential to grasping the best possible outcome. Shoppers love to find the “It” item of the season and are always on the lookout for the most unique items, so don’t be afraid to market your products and services no matter how unorthodox they may seem for the holidays.

Find Your Niche

By looking at your history, you should be able to find a pattern of top sellers and items or services that have peaked the most interest with your customer base. If you’ve never focused on seasonal planning before, start with your top sellers and run a campaign focusing on them as a starting point.

While you’re examining your historical sales, you can also familiarize yourself with customer-specific purchases. This will allow you to tailor discounts and offers to your clients, based entirely on their personalized needs and gives them an attentive message about you as a business.

Why So Early?

You may wonder why it’s such an important time to begin holiday planning, being fresh off the heels of summer. We’ll tell you why. Early planning allows for a seamless transition into the biggest spending season of the year, and it gets your customers thinking about how they want to spend their funds ahead of the season.

By strategically planning your holiday marketing campaigns, you will be planting ideas into the minds of your consumers, allowing them to prepare for how they’ll be shopping that season.

There’s also another important aspect to keep in mind: online sales. Since we are seeing a major shift toward online shopping in recent years, earlier seasonal planning allows consumers to use their favorite medium to shop (i.e., online shopping) while still allowing ample time for shipping before the holidays.

Holiday Strategies

If you’re looking for a unique spin on your holiday planning, try looking at what is available in your area. Perhaps you could do a collaborative work with a related company (think discount party catering with office rental space promos for corporate Christmas parties) or offer certain charitable donations to area shelters or fundraisers with a portion of their funds.

There are endless ways to market your goods and services for the holiday season – the key is to find the right angle for you and figure out what motivates your customer base. Above all, the most important thing you can do for your holiday planning is to begin now.

 

SEO, B2B, SMM and More Digital Marketing Terms You Should Get to Know
15 May

SEO, B2B, SMM and More Digital Marketing Terms You Should Get to Know

With the digital world booming today, your understanding of online marketing strategies can essentially make or break your business ventures. Practically every form of commerce has a corresponding (if not central) online presence nowadays, but the reality is, not all business owners are also digital marketing gurus.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a marketing whiz to operate a successful online presence for your business. Understanding the basics of digital campaigns will help you navigate your way through the web; and it all begins with knowing the lingo.

Digital Marketing Terms

The first step to tackling digital marketing is to learn the terminology behind it. There are a lot of various anagrams and terms out there that can be quite confusing – but they don’t have to be. Once you familiarize yourself with the lingo, you’re well on your way to improving your business’s online presence.

“The better you familiarize yourself, the easier it is to understand and speak discerningly, whether it’s within internal departments or the agency building your website.” – Forbes.com.

Acronyms

There seem to be no shortage of acronyms when it comes to digital marketing terminology. Consider it the shorthand of the day, or the texting lingo of the business world. However, you look at it, acronyms are here to stay, so it’s best to get familiar with them – at least, the most widely used phrases.

Some of the acronyms should be fairly understandable once you learn what they represent. In fact, many of them are just abbreviations of common business terms you likely are already familiar with.

Most Common Acronyms

Here is a look at some of the most common acronyms used in digital marketing today, along with a brief description of their meaning:

  • B2B: Business to Business, or commercial operations
  • B2C: Business to Consumer, or traditional operations
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization, or knowing how to drive customers to your site
  • SMM: Social Media Marketing, or utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms
  • WOM: Word of Mouth, or advertising via client praise

The Details

Essentially, the bulk of the terms are fairly self-explanatory. If you’re a business owner, chances are you are already familiar with terms like “word of mouth” and know whether your business is focused on B2B or B2C transactions.

However, it goes without saying that the more you know, the better off you are. Especially when it comes to familiarizing yourself with current trends and successful digital marketing tactics.

SEO knowledge, for example, is a highly sought-after commodity in terms of creating a booming virtual business. Why? Well, since the bulk of all internet traffic flows through search engines (such as Google) first, the businesses who rank in the top findings for each search are the ones with the greatest visitors. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that greater website traffic equates to a wider client base.

“Having your online business searched, found and ranked is not only about how you are marketing and messaging to online audiences but also how it is in observance of the latest rules and algorithms.” – Forbes.com.

The More You Know

There are multitudes of acronyms out there when it comes to digital marketing, but don’t let that dissuade you from getting your business out there digitally. These terms are critical parts of running a successful business venture of any kind today. The more you learn, the easier it will be to navigate your online presence.

Want to Boost Your Profitability? A Look at How to Increase Your ROI
1 May

Want to Boost Your Profitability? A Look at How to Increase Your ROI

When it comes to running a business, few things concern owners more than achieving a successful return on their investment (ROI). It’s not an issue that disappears after you’ve officially reached a profitable term or a well-developed client and customer base. In fact, it’s a concern that will dictate your business decisions for the duration of your operations.

Whether you’re an established entity with decades of experience or just starting out and toying with the idea of a new business, you’ll be focused on generating ROI. Why? It’s more than simply earning back the basic start-up costs. As you will continually invest in your business, you’ll be continually focused on the ROI of those investments.

What Is ROI?

In order to understand how to maximize your ROI, you must first understand what it is. Most business owners are already familiar with the definition, but a refresher never hurts.

In layman’s terms, your ROI is quite simply, the probability of recouping the costs of your investment, and the potential profitability ratio. According to Business News Daily, “ROI is used to calculate how much of a value an investment is.”

There is a basic formula that is used to determine the ROI of any individual project or business investment. In short, your ROI is calculated by dividing your net profit by the overall cost:

ROI = Net Profit (Profits – Investment) / Cost (Investments, Maintenance)

Boosting Profitability

It goes without saying then, that in order to increase your ROI, you need to increase your net profits – which, let’s be honest, is the whole purpose anyway. The higher your net profits, the higher your ROI and the greater your investment is worth. So how do you go about boosting profitability?

Well, for starters, you need to fully understand the overall costs of any particular venture. Whether it’s advertising, investing in a new product or service, or developing new merchandise lines, using the ROI formula will be your first step in understanding the likelihood of a successful endeavor.

“Understanding the return on investment of any project or marketing campaign helps in identifying what is a successful business practice versus what isn’t.” – BusinessNewsDaily.com.

Tips to Increase Your ROI

Once you are confident you’ve got a successful concept for investment, the next step is to optimize your profitability in order to increase your ROI. Determining what factors will positively impact your ROI isn’t a cut and dry process, as every investment venture has its own unique set of influences. However, there are tips to help increase the ROI of many ventures as a whole:

Electronic Marketing.

It may seem like a given, but electronic communication is a highly efficient method of increasing the ROI of any given investment. Why? Because it cuts the cost of generating hard copy mailers and takes a significantly lower amount of time to complete. It also gives the invaluable insight of digital analytics which allows you to fully grasp which markets are working best for your investment.

Utilize Analytics.

With marketing campaigns focused largely on digital platforms, it makes sense to track their success rates digitally as well. Online analytic programs will take the guessing out of your ROIs by tracking all traffic and success rates for you.

Competitive Pricing.

Another concept that is crucial to the equation is to ensure you maintain competitive pricing. While it may be tempting to stay conservative on pricing options in order to increase your profits, experts say it’s best to remain competitive.

“Consumers view value in different ways and pricing yourself out of competition is going to kill your ROI.” – Chad Reid, Director of Communications for JotForm via Comidor.com.

In-House Efficiency.

Lastly, one of the best ways to increase your ROI is to carefully choose the costs that are incurred on the front end. While you don’t want to skimp on critical pieces or strategic campaigns, there are ways you can minimize costs. Determine what pieces of your investment can be done in-house (successfully), and keep your in-house overhead to a minimum. Co-working office spaces are a great way to do this, as are mobile work stations because they allow ample opportunities to develop your investments at minimal cost. Overall, there are a number of ways to increase your ROI at every step. The key is to fully research your costs and carefully determine the best strategies for each particular venture.

Business Plan Basics: 5 Steps to Your Best Business Plan
1 April

Business Plan Basics: 5 Steps to Your Best Business Plan

When starting your own business, there’s one detail all successful business owners can attest to: create a solid business plan. While this may not be groundbreaking news, your business plan is a crucial step and needs to be taken seriously.

A solid business plan will help you with more than investment pitches (though that is a critical point for most). It will also help you outline everything you’ll need to be successful and will illuminate any potential problem areas.

Creating the detailed plan can be a tedious task but avoid being tempted to rush through it. This piece will be the backbone of all your future business’s endeavors; approach it with commitment.

With your future success riding on a solid business plan, prep work is imperative. To help make this happen, here are 5 steps to your best business plan:

1 – Create a Space

You might be ready to dive into writing, but the very first step should be to create a space. Before you begin your plan, you must make sure you’re prepared to work!

Whether it be a home office, a co-working office space, or an on-site building, you need to have a location that is specifically for working on your future business. Why? Not only does an office space give you a chance to work undistracted, it reaffirms your commitment to future endeavors. By designating a work space for yourself, you’ll be able to cut down on distractions, focus on your commitment to your future success, and get down to business.

2 – Do Your Research

Once you’ve created your working space, it’s time to begin researching. Since a bulk of your business plan will revolve around outlining your intentions, you need to be able to back up your words with action. Research similar businesses, speak with local business owners for tips, and use your research to formulate your intended actions.

3 – Do More Research

When it comes to a business plan, knowledge is key. The more you research, the higher your chances of success. It’s not enough to simply have a dream – you need to be able to make it a reality. You do this by fleshing out an outline of your path. You’ll need to know your market, competitive pricing, thoroughly define what you’re offering and how you’ll stand out from competition.

4 – Business Plan Outline

After you’ve begun your research, create a basic outline of your business plan. You shouldn’t begin writing it entirely, but create a skeleton outline of what to expect. For some, this can come in the form of a generic business plan template. An online search will help you locate one if you’re having trouble and want a basic template for reference. This outline will help you to organize your research and understand what’s needed before beginning your polished plan.

5 – Keep Focused

Lastly, while you want to make sure you have a fantastic business plan to present to potential investors or partners, do not let your determination be swayed by perfection. In other words, no matter how many times you review your plan, know that you’ll likely always find something to tweak, but don’t let that cause you to lose sight of your goals and miss your opportunities. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be detailed and concise. Stay focused.

“Don’t wait until you think your business plan is perfectly polished and cannot possibly go any further in depth. Otherwise, chances are you will have missed your window of opportunity…” Forbes.com.

Overall, the most important rule to remember when creating a successful business plan is to do thorough research and keep plugging away at it until it’s finished. It all begins with your preparation, so get yourself prepared for success!

7 February

Marketing 101: 5 Essential Steps for Jersey City Small Businesses

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Marketing for small businesses may seem like an endless and confusing concept, but there are some basics that can help simplify the process for anyone. In fact, if the idea of marketing your brand or product has you believing you should leave it to the professionals, rest assured, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

Many small business owners simply don’t know the basics of getting their brand out there and are lost as a result. By learning just a few fundamental steps, your small business can boost sales and generate buzz with the best of them. Sound too good to be true? It’s really not. Optimizing the marketing tricks of the trade for your business boils down to a few key components:

1. Know Who You’re Targeting

For starters, the most important aspect of business marketing is understanding who makes up your client base. In other words, your “Target Audience.” Is your product or service focused on a local audience or is it a national or global product? What generational group (Boomers? Millennials?) is most involved with your product or service? Knowing who you’re going to be targeting is the first step and shouldn’t be too difficult to pin down. Chances are, you already know your target audience.

2. Create a Platform to be Seen

So, you know your target audience – now what? Now you need to be seen (and heard). A good marketing 101 rule to keep in mind: “people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action” (Forbes.com). How are they going to see your message? Set up a website. Create social media pages (Facebook is a great place to start if you’re not familiar). Register with local organizations (set up at community events, register with local groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, etc.). These are all essential to being seen.

3. Run Specials and Promotions

Once you have established an online presence and set up local connections to your community, this is when the marketing fun begins. You can grow your online audiences (and convert them to physical customers and clients) by running promotions, sales, special events or any other form of meet and greet that entices potential customers to check out your business. Try running “Like and Share” contests on Facebook which ask users to like and share your posts for a chance to win a free service or product. Doing this will help expand your presence both online and in the community by generating buzz and giving way to a greater audience for future promotions. (Remember the rule of 7!)

4. Utilize “Brand Ambassadors” (i.e., Family and Friends)

Another great (and simple) way to spread the word about your business for a minimal cost is word-of-mouth. Having family and friends lend a hand with your networking and marketing efforts can be a fantastic resource. Forbes suggests having t-shirts and swag created with your company logo to hand out at any opportunity, but there are endless ways you could utilize swag to create buzz. Family and friends wearing your company logo on a t-shirt all over town can boost interest as well as other items you can hand out during events (think pens, small notepads, portable chargers, coffee mugs, etc.).

5. Be Consistently Present

We can’t stress this part enough: an online presence can make or break businesses in all genres today. No matter what your target audience looks like, the vast majority of the world’s population will first turn to the web when researching any form of service or product nowadays. You need to ensure they can find exactly what they’re looking for (you!). This is done by continually updating your online presence with new promotions, new ads, new photos, new ratings and anything else that will begin to build once you’re out there.

As a general rule, the best way to build your brand is to network and be seen. Add your presence on any and all relevant platforms (local events to websites and social media) and utilize your family and friends to help spread the word too. Remember, customers will be looking online for what they need, so make sure your business is seen and give them a reason to choose you! That’s marketing in a nutshell, folks.