FBN’s Charles Payne, Heritage Capital President Paul Schatz, Tea Party News Network News Director Scottie Nell Hughes, small business expert Susan Solovic, retail analyst Hitha Herzog and Penn Financial Group founder Matt McCall on the shifting demographics in the job market.
When you leave your small business each night at closing time, you can set the alarm, lock the doors and know that your business is protected. One person, following the directions, can secure the building.
However, the security of your computers, data and network are not cared for so easily. You can’t reduce cybersecurity to the responsibility and actions of one person. Every person who operates a computer in your small business, the IT professionals who set up your systems and even the companies that provide the software you run can all dramatically impact the security of your computers and data.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. I always stress the importance of revisiting the topic with your small business employees at your regular meetings, but this special month is a good time to redouble your efforts, look at the big picture and make sure your team is up to speed.
If you had a broken window where a burglar could gain access to your business, you’d take care of it immediately, right? Well, unless they are properly trained and have the right attitudes, your employees are the digital version of that broken window.
If you check the website referenced above, you’ll see that each week has a specific cybersecurity topic associated with it:
- General Cybersecurity Awareness
- Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity at Work
- Connected Communities: Staying Protected While Always Connected
- Your Evolving Digital Life
- Building the Next Generation of Cyber Professionals
The page also offers links to resources you’ll find helpful. Touch bases with others in your local small business community and see if there are any nearby events you can attend or send your employees to. Sending employees off campus for seminars and conferences is a great way to get “buy in” on issues like these. And when I scan the list of weekly topics above, the second one – Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity at Work – is perhaps the most important for a small business owner.
As a fun way to get your team thinking about these issues and putting cybersecurity in perspective, check out this cybersecurity quiz on the Christian Science Monitor website. It covers a lot of cyber attack history and highlights the extensive and costly damage that can result from these digital incursions.
After getting the big picture, you might have your employees take this quiz that is designed for computer users. When we become aware of the things we don’t know, it makes us more cautious and motivates us to learn more.
If you want to have some fun with these, try a little “gamification” and offer a prize for the person who scores the highest on the two quizzes.
But in the end the real winner will be your small business, if you can elevate your culture of cybersecurity.
More reading: Security expert Robert Siciliano has written some excellent guest posts for us on small business security and several cover important cybersecurity topics.
As you go through the top small business Interweb content of the week, you’ll notice that there’s an article on neuromarketing and another one on how to use psychology in the social media. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Harvard STEM grad to learn these lessons.
Leadership, management and productivity
Google has taken a close look at cybercrime and is offering us some advice on how to prevent it.
There are a lot of changes in store at both Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you’re up to speed and making the right tweaks in your small business.
Uh-oh. We’ve been told that the new chip credit cards are a lot more secure, but that may have been jumping to a conclusion…at least in the US.
Marketing and sales
Good blog posts perform with your audience and boost your SEO. The steps in this post lay out some great principles to follow.
Do you feel the pressure of holiday marketing on your shoulders? Here are six things you must do for success.
If you want some new ideas to boost your CTAs, check out these unconventional tips.
Maybe you need to take a psychological approach to boosting engagement in your social media marketing. If so, this article will help.
The best marketing messages are personalized marketing messages. Discover four ways to do it.
Do you blog? If so, you need this checklist.
Here’s how to understand and maximize your reach on any social network.
The desire and ability to build strong brands is often hindered by the increasing complexity of today’s marketing world. Here’s where you need to focus your efforts.
Do you have a system of categorizing and tagging your WordPress blogs? You need to get on top of it.
Here are seven opportunities in social media marketing that you’ll miss out on if you don’t know your audience.
Good news! You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to take advantage of neuromarketing in your small business.
Entrepreneurship, startups and innovation
If you’re really serious about your next startup, you might want to locate in a state that is very friendly to entrepreneurs.
Some startups get overwhelmed with feedback. Here’s how Slack dealt with it.
What’s your opinion? Will the web like Facebook’s new emojis?
Politics, government and the economy
In September the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) small business optimism index ticked up ever so slightly. The survey also revealed that good hires are hard to find.
I was listening to the story of a guy who was opening a store to sell watches. He had great watches to sell and he pulled in some very creative people to design a dazzling store. His front window display was one that pedestrians loved to stop at and enjoy.
Sales, however, did not follow.
How could a store that was so eye-catching and stocked with top-of-the-line watches fail to rack up record-shattering sales figures?
The answer is really very simple: He didn’t have any experience selling watches from a physical location, and the way his store was merchandised didn’t appeal to people who were actually ready to buy a watch.
Entrepreneurs tend to have a lot of confidence in themselves – which is good because otherwise they wouldn’t take the necessary risks – but it can also cause them to unwittingly charge down dead ends.
The wise and experienced entrepreneur knows when it’s time to reach out for help and that’s what this shop owner did. And the strategy that ultimately paid off best for him is a strategy you can use as well. Today.
He started talking to all the sales reps that came through his shop. He would take them out to lunch and pick their brains. After all, this group of professionals knows which stores are moving the most inventory and they are familiar with the way the stores are setup and operated. They see it all.
Further, it’s definitely in the best interests of your sales reps to see your business make as many sales as possible. At the end of the day, it’s more money in his or her pocket as well.
Have you taken the time to pick the brains of the various sales reps you see over the course of a year? Ask for their advice. Try to find out what’s working for other businesses similar to yours and also ask for an honest critique of how you are doing business.
If you’re a retail business, ask your reps to give their opinion on how you have products displayed and how your store is organized. Make notes about what they say and try different strategies based on their input. When you have more than one sales rep tell you the same thing, you can be pretty sure they’re onto something.
So when sales reps walk through your door, see yourself as the one who needs to get something from them, not just the other way around.
We’ve all seen medical dramas on television where students are in an operating theater observing a delicate operation being performed by a team of crack surgeons.
They learn by watching experienced professionals go through the procedure.
That’s the feeling we get when we watch Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s “The Profit” swoop in and save struggling small businesses. We are able to watch small business life-saving surgery. Sometimes it’s bloody. There’s pain. Usually there’s a recovery that leaves the patient healthier than before the operation.
The show’s fourth season begins October 28, 2015. Previous seasons are available for streaming on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, they aren’t included among the free content you get as a member of Amazon Prime.
I originally wrote about Marcus Lemonis and “The Profit” back in August 2013 when the show was just starting out. That post has continued to be one of the most popular on my site. That demonstrates the continued interest in small business turnaround strategies, so I think “The Profit” should have a very long run on CNBC with Marcus Lemonis at the helm…unless he decides to run for office like another successful businessman/reality TV star we all know about! If that happens, CNBC might have to find a different host for “The Profit.”
In an interview Lemonis did with Inc, he says that one reason he first decided to do “The Profit” was so he could see more deals first hand. This is also one of the reasons small business owners would be smart to watch “The Profit.”
When you train at any new job, the first thing you usually do is tag around with an experienced hand. You go on sales calls with the best sales professionals. If you’re learning to wait tables in a restaurant, you shadow a seasoned member of the wait staff.
However, as the owner of a small business, you are usually the most experienced person in virtually every aspect of your operation. Where can you go to see how others do it? Sitting down and watching “The Profit” with Marcus Lemonis gives you an opportunity to see how the business world operates beyond the walls of your company.
I know I’m looking forward to where he takes us this season and I hope you are too. By the way, if you think you’d like to appear with Marcus Lemonis on “The Profit,” you’ll find the application form on this web page.
If you’re a small business owner, it almost goes without saying that you’re committed to your business, but let me ask a simple question: Are you committed to yourself?
I’m going to cut to the chase: Most of the time, to grow your small business, you must first grow yourself.
I touched on this topic recently when I was recording a new 1% Club podcast with Doug Sleeter, of The Sleeter Group. We got into the topic because I’ve had so many small business owners say to me, “Yeah, I know I should be using more technology and all that, but I just don’t have time to learn it.”
When this happens you’re slamming the door closed on increased productivity and new opportunities. You’re limiting the potential of your business. I understand that we are all busy, but it’s like growing a bed of flowers and what you do to improve yourself is like adding the fertilizer. Yes, you’ll get some flower growth without fertilizing, but when you add fertilize regularly you get outstanding growth and create a bed of flowers that everyone stops to admire.
“I commit to myself,” Doug told me explaining his approach to self-improvement. “It’s just a personal commitment to myself that I will always spend say 20-30 percent of my time – you might feel like that’s too much, but it isn’t for me – always reading, learning a new skill, learning a new technology, understanding what another business owner’s doing that’s actually changing their results.”
“My whole thing is ‘Let’s look up and look around.’ Go to a conference, take a webinar, take a class at school. Listen to what the Chamber of Commerce is doing in your local area. There are a lot of businesses doing a lot of things that you can learn from,” Doug continued.
Thanks to the Internet there are more resources available to you today than ever before. You can find tutorials on YouTube that cover almost every subject area. THE Small Business Expert Academy is open online 24-7 and you can get some great instruction there, along with a lot of exclusive benefits.
I’ve also seen businesses get new software or a new piece of machinery in and only train one person on it. It almost never fails that the trained employee soon leaves and takes the knowledge along. Never entrust training to just one employee and do the training yourself whenever it’s possible.
I recently wrote about how you should never outsource something you don’t understand yourself; it’s a recipe for disaster. You end up doing things multiple times before you get them right. This is another reason why it’s so important to improve at least your “big picture” understanding of the way things work in your small business niche.
Learning while doing is okay, but it comes with a price tag. It’s far wiser to get a running start by reading a book, taking a class, listening to some podcasts, talking to people who have already done what you hope to do, etc.
Grow yourself into being the competent, take-charge business owner you know you can be.
I probably don’t have to convince you that small business marketing is extremely important, so then the question becomes “Should I handle my small business marketing in-house or should I outsource it?
For most small businesses the answer to that question is that you need to do both. There are certain aspects of your marketing campaigns that you’ll want to outsource and others that you can handle in-house. That may sound like a cop-out answer, but it’s not. Read on.
If you understand the purpose of your small business marketing, you’ll be able to figure out this mix of in-house and outsource fairly easily and it starts with a simple question: “Who has to know you exist for you to achieve your goals?”
High-level small business marketing
If the director of purchasing at General Motors needs to know you exist, you need to outsource most of your marketing to a firm that can give you the polish and exposure it takes to make a lasting impression on high-level executives.
If you want to connect with hobbyists or people who live in the local Tri-Cities area, you can probably get by with less professional help. However, in this case you need to truly understand your strengths and weaknesses so you can get help in the right areas.
Marketing will create an awareness of your brand, soften up prospects and perhaps get them to approach your business. Going back to my original question, let’s focus on the first word “who.” It will take a sophisticated program that uses top quality assets to impress a corporate buyer at General Motors. This might include getting you featured in the media, placing glossy magazine ads, producing professionally designed direct mail pieces or deploying a myriad of other tactics.
If the “who” you’re trying to impress with your brand operates in a high-level commercial environment, you need to approach that person on the same level and most small businesses don’t have that kind of talent in-house. You might choose to farm out some aspects of your marketing campaign and handle others yourself. However, if you’re really “shooting for the moon” you’re probably best served by going with an experienced agency. Look at your competitors; you need to be at least that good and probably a little better.
Marketing to average consumers
If your audience isn’t quite so sophisticated – local or online consumers, for example – you may be able to do a decent job marketing yourself using in-house assets. But as I said above, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. You also need to decide if handling marketing by you or your small business team is the most effective way for you to be spending your time.
I hinted above at another way to judge your small business marketing needs and it applies to consumer-driven businesses as well. Your marketing must be where your customers are. Today this often points us in the direction of one or more online social media platforms. Carefully examine those and you’ll soon learn how much – or how little – of your own marketing can be handled in-house.
If posting to Facebook is sufficient for your small business marketing, you probably don’t need too much extra help. However, if you need to create slick videos, that immediately elevates your requirements.
Play to your strengths
Finally, don’t try to do everything yourself, even if you think you can. There will certainly be learning curves for many of the marketing tasks you need to perform. Is it worth your time to pick up these skills knowing that even after you’re somewhat proficient, there are others who will do a better job?
Remember: if your marketing is worse than your competition’s, you lose. If it’s about the same…meh…it doesn’t help much. If you outshine the rest, now were talking!
Twitter is adding buy buttons. Instagram is doing the same. Amazon offers same-day grocery delivery in several markets.
All of these are retail experiments to discover the ideal strategies that use technology to connect buyers to products in the systems that buyers find most convenient.
It’s a very creative area in retail and one where I’m certain we’ll see a lot of innovations in the coming years. I wanted to share one very creative and unusual approach that I recently found out about. It’s being done in South Korea. Check out the photo below:
Those may look like supermarket shelves, but they are really back-lit sheets of plastic printed with photos of food items.
These are being put up in subway stations. While commuters wait for their trains, they browse the supermarket shelves to find the items they want. Beside each item is a QR (quick response) code that shoppers capture on their cellphones. They browse the “aisles” of the virtual supermarket filling up their shopping carts. When done, they check out, and then board their train.
If their shopping is part of their morning commute, the food will be waiting for them at home when they get off work. If they shop during their evening commute, the food is delivered the next morning.
The company doing this, Tesco, was already in the business of delivering groceries to homes, so adding this feature just took some creative thinking at the beginning. Once the idea was worked out, they had a lot of the infrastructure already in place.
Remember when you learned about Venn diagrams in school? You drew two or more circles that represented the “universes” of different things and found the places where they overlapped. In the case of this new subway supermarket shopping strategy, you have a company that:
- Is good at delivering food to homes, and
- Has an Internet order-taking pipeline.
You have a universe of commuters who need food delivered to their homes. The quest is to find a way to get these two groups to overlap and that’s where the smart phone technology and plastic displays come in. The displays hook up with the smart phone technology and that creates a bridge between the commuters and the food store. Now the groups overlap.
Using this kind of thinking, what groups of prospects are you currently not able to reach? Do you need to be more creative in your advertising or your displays? Do you need to add another delivery system? Restaurants, for example, are beginning to use Uber and similar services for delivery.
Use technology and different advertising media to get your products in front of your prospects at times and places where they will consider making a purchase.
To get the full story on what Tesco is doing with these virtual stores, check out the company’s YouTube video.
Image: “Seoul-Metro-2004-20070722” by LERK (talk · contribs) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.
It’s great that you’re here; it shows that you’re already doing the one thing all successful small business owners and entrepreneurs must do (see below). But with that said, there are still a lot of tips and strategies you can pick up…many of which are discussed in this collection of top curated content.
Leadership, management and productivity
It’s from the government and it’s here to help you. Yes, if you know what you’re looking for and how to navigate it, the SBA can actually benefit your small business.
The co-author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” and president at TalentSmart gives us the 10 habits of ultra-likeable leaders.
If you want to get more women “onboard” in leadership positions, why not organize a train ride like this community did?
Make connections and learn the ropes of small business by joining these six communities.
Marketing and sales
Black hat SEO is out the window, so we can really use SEO tips like the 10 easy ones offered here.
If you want to go old school, one of your best marketing strategies is direct mail. Here are ideas that small businesses can use.
Think that sometimes your blog posts just evaporate into the cyber-ether? You need these 37 ways to promote your posts.
Eugene Moto explains how he got an 80 percent response rate with his top influencers outreach campaign.
Check out these 11 buzz-worthy social media marketing campaigns that broke through all the noise.
Don’t be a small business owner who thinks small. Get yourself online.
Think you’ve tried everything to generate leads in your small business? Have you tried quizzes?
Entrepreneurship, startups and innovation
There’s one activity that small business owners and entrepreneurs must do if they truly want to succeed.
This Mashable article lists 10 ways to get exposure for your startup on Product Hunt.
Politics, government and the economy
No doubt you’re hearing a lot about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact from all sides. Here are the official arguments in favor of it from a small business perspective.
While we know that “one size fits all” is seldom – if ever – true, we know that in sales the more people who are good fits for our products and services, the more profitable we’ll be.
This fundamental truth has created what we call “mass-customization” and it’s a strategy that everyone from retailers on Etsy to huge manufacturing B2B companies are doing.
Yes, I agree, the term is something of an oxymoron, but if you can wrap your brain around the concept, you can put your small business on the path to better sales.
While there are four different approaches to mass-customization, let me start with a simple illustration. Imagine an ecommerce site that designs and sells music education materials, like learning how to play the blues. The original course may have been written by a guitar player with other guitar players in mind.
However, the heart of the teaching materials apply to a wide variety of instruments, so the small business owner decides to pursue other market segments, such as piano players. He soon discovers that his materials that are emblazoned with guitars and talk about different makes of guitars is a turn-off to piano players.
Changing the look
While the core information doesn’t change, the business owner produces a version of his course that includes keyboard graphics. He even creates a micro-site that is designed totally around pianos and keyboards and tweaks all of this email marketing materials so they are customized for guitar players, keyboard players and eventually even saxophone players and others.
Of the four approaches to mass-customization, this one would fall into the “cosmetic” category. The core product remains the same, but its appearance is changed to appeal to different market segments. To pull off this kind of customization successfully, you need to be able to precisely segment your prospects so they get into the right sales funnel and then be sure they are delivered the right follow-on offers after they become a customer.
A good cloud-based small business customer relationship management system will handle this, but there are also challenges in advertising and marketing to find the right prospects. Targeting advertising channels such as AdWords or perhaps even better, Facebook ads, for my music teaching example you need to be able to find people who play the right instruments and are open to learning. If accomplished musicians were included in your ad reach you wouldn’t see a very good response.
As I explained, my example is basically cosmetic. However, there are others that are more substantial. A friend of mine bought an inflatable kayak he uses for fishing. The kayak itself comes in a basic package, however it’s available in a variety of configurations depending on if you want to use it for fishing or whitewater rafting.
Adapting for special uses
This is adaptive mass-customization. Your small business starts with a basic product and the customer gets add-ons to make it suit his or her specific use. With software we see some programs whose functions can be customized by adding various plugins.
With this approach, not only do you need to deal with prospect and customer segmentation as we discussed above, you also have significant supply chain challenges. With my kayak example, you need to order the specially adapted angler seat in the right numbers and at the right time; increased production for the holiday season is probably required.
When significant investments are required for manufacturing and inventorying products, understanding the customer and product lifecycles is critical. Being able to mine historic industry data and make good predictions can be the difference between posting a profit or a loss.
Working with the customer
For many items, in both the consumer and B2B markets, companies use collaborative mass-customization. In these situations, usually a sales person helps the end buyer get the appropriate bells and whistles.
In their article for the Harvard Business Review on the topic, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II point to Japanese eyewear retailer Paris Miki. The company has a computer-based system that allows customers to see how various frames would look on their face and also discuss the requirements of the lenses they need. When the customer and vision professional hit the right look with the right lens, the system sends the information automatically to the lens grinder.
The fourth type of mass-customization is when your supplier knows more about what you need than you do, if I can be so bold! A commercial soap manufacturer might formulate the company’s product to match varying degrees of water hardness around the nation. The end buyer might not even realize this, but when compared to a soap that wasn’t custom formulated, the user notices the superiority.
In this scenario, a solid system must be in place that regulates production and recognizes where product is being shipped to. Surveys on usage and asking about other special circumstances might also be employed to make sure products are being shipped that best match the end use and location.
With all the data we have available today, there are many opportunities for customization, if we are wise enough to first mine that data, create the custom products and services, and then put the systems in place to be sure that we are maintaining tight operational controls.