According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses –and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.
An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.
It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.
So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.
All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.
A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.
If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.
If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.
Search Engine Optimization
Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:
Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.
Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.
In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.
Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.
When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.
Ask someone to describe a typical employee handbook and you’ll probably hear words like “dry,” “stiff,” and “boring.” Let’s face it, most handbooks aren’t exactly page-turners. They’re documents designed to play defense or, worse yet, a catalog of past workplace problems.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your employee handbook should be the road map for how to operate within your company–an introduction to your culture and a guide that your employees interact with on a regular basis. If you believe in your company’s vision, policies, and procedures, you should want every employee to read and use them.
So here’s an idea: Write an employee handbook your employees will want to read. The handbook is, after all, often the first document a new hire receives, sometimes the only document all employees are required to read and acknowledge, and a document that gets reviewed, revised, and recirculated every year. Seize the opportunity.
Here are some strategies for creating an employee handbook that can excite employees and reinforce your culture:
CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE
Imagine if I had titled this piece: “Reader Article.” Would you have clicked on it? Probably not. Names like “employee handbook” and “staff manual” signal to your employees that the document is going to be long, laborious, and filled with boilerplate. So come up with a new name that engages employees, piques their curiosity, and conveys your company culture right off the bat. Examples can range from conventional (e.g., “Team Guide”) to unconventional (“The Way Things Work” or “Our How-To Book”).
START WITH YOUR MISSION
Every company should have a mission: the reason why your employees come to your workplace each day, rather than the millions of other workplaces out there. Your mission should engage your employees on both an emotional and intellectual level, establishing an exciting challenge they care about.
Start your handbook by telling your employees your company’s mission and values. That will set the framework for the rest of your policies and procedures, not only for the reader, but also for you, the drafter.
WRITE POLICIES THAT PERSONIFY YOUR COMPANY’S VALUES
Building and sustaining a dynamic, engaging, and compelling company culture can be a competitive advantage in any industry. So use your handbook as a platform for helping your employees understand and deliver your culture and values.
Rather than copy and paste generic policies into your handbook, personalize them for your company. Explain your policies and your reasons behind them, and do it in a tone that’s consistent with the way you typically speak with your employees.
For instance, your dress code policy can articulate the image your company seeks to present internally and to clients. Your job vacancy or performance evaluation policy can explain your company’s commitment to developing employees and promoting from within. And your benefits policy can describe your company’s view on work/life balance.
PROMOTE YOUR PERKS
Employers, especially small businesses, are getting more and more creative with the benefits and perks they offer. From sabbaticals to employee appreciation to public service to continued learning, employers are finding ways to make the job about more than just the paycheck.
If you’ve invested in building programs or perks for employees, include them in your handbook. And don’t bury them deep in your table of contents–put them up front.
The rest of the handbook is filled with the expectations you have for your employees and how they are expected to invest in your company. Turn your handbook into a dialogue by telling your employees what they can expect from you, and how you plan to invest in them.
DON’T ATTACH IT; PRESENT IT
Be creative with how you present your handbook. Skip the PDF. Instead, make it readable and attractive. Print it in color, bind it, or even wrap it with a bow. Plan an annual company event around presenting your handbook for the upcoming year. Or bring it to life with an interactive survey, playful quiz, or a reward in the middle, like a coffee gift card to congratulate employees on their progress.
These techniques are lighthearted, but they don’t undermine the value and seriousness of your handbook. To the contrary, they show just how important it is to you and how your policies and practices are embedded within your culture and mission. Your handbook is your employees’ admission ticket to an exclusive club: your company. Present it that way.
Employment policies are serious business. But for employees to take them seriously and incorporate them into their daily work, those policies need to be an extension of your culture, not a departure from it.
Even companies committed to investing in and building a dynamic culture often only use their handbook as a backstop to minimize risk rather than as a tool to build culture and create value. Take advantage of the opportunity to set your company apart from the crowd with an engaging and authentic employee handbook.
Whether you've purchased an existing business or want to start a new company, you must first decide which company type (also known as “business structure” or "business entity") is best for you.
Each company type has key advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to consider if you’re deciding whether to form an LLC, incorporate as an S corporation or C corporation, or file a DBA.
Filing a DBA
DBA filing (doing business as, also called an assumed or fictitious business name) allows a company to transact business using a different name. It generally takes place at the county level, but some states have state-level DBA filings. For sole proprietorships and general partnerships, unless a DBA is filed, the company name is the same as the owner’s or owners’ name(s). For example, John Smith is operating a landscaping business as a sole proprietorship. In order to transact business as Smith’s Landscaping, he must file a DBA for that name. Otherwise, he must transact business as John Smith.
A corporation or LLC can also file a DBA to transact business under a name different from the one registered with the state (when the business was incorporated). For example, a corporation formed as Smith and Sons, Inc. may want to do business under a name that more clearly states what the company does and could file a DBA to use a more descriptive name like Smith Landscaping.
Advantages & limitations
Understanding corporation types - Forming a corporation (C corporation, S corporation) or LLC
To incorporate your business as a C corporation, S corporation or LLC, formation documents—Articles of Incorporation for corporations and Articles of Organization for LLCs—must be filed with the appropriate state agency. Incorporating helps protect personal assets, while sole proprietorships and partnerships that use a DBA incur unlimited liability.
To formalize your organization, first learn about and decide which business type is right for you.
A corporation is a separate legal entity set up under state law that protects owner (shareholder) assets from creditor claims. Incorporating your business automatically makes you a regular, or “C” corporation. A C corporation (or C corp) is a separate taxpayer, with income and expenses taxed to the corporation and not owners. If corporate profits are then distributed to owners as dividends, owners must pay personal income tax on the distribution, creating “double taxation” (profits are taxed first at the corporate level and again at the personal level as dividends). Many small businesses do not opt for C corporations because of this tax feature.
A C corporation might be the right business type for you if you:
Once you’ve incorporated, you can elect S corporation status by filing a form with the IRS and with your state, if applicable, so that profits, losses and other tax items pass through the corporation to you and are reported on your personal tax return (the S corporation does not pay tax).
An S corporation might be the right business type for you if:
Limited liability company (LLC)
Another business type that is formed under state law and gives you personal liability protection is the LLC. Tax-wise, an LLC is similar to an S corporation (or S corp), with business income and expenses reported on your personal tax return. If you are the only owner of an LLC, you are viewed as a “disregarded” entity. This means you report the LLC’s income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040─the same schedule used by sole proprietors.
An LLC might be the right type of business for you if:
Advantages & limitations of a C Corp, S Corp, and LLC
C corporations, S corporations and LLCs provide you with personal liability protection. S corporations and LLCs are commonly used for small business activities. Both enable you to grow your business and take on new owners. Both pass through income to owners who report it on their personal returns. Both cost about the same to set up, depending on the filing and ongoing fees imposed by the state in which you incorporate. One key difference is how owners are affected by employment taxes:
Other considerations: State selection
Most people opt to incorporate or form an LLC in the state in which their business operates. However, you are not required to do so; you can choose from any one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia (DC). You may want to consider which state is right for you to weigh any potential advantages or disadvantages. Remember, if you incorporate in a state other than the state where you operate your business, you may be required to register to transact business (foreign qualify) in the state where you operate, which results in paying registration and ongoing fees/taxes to both the state of incorporation and state of qualification.
Making your decisionThe decision to file a DBA or form a corporation or LLC depends on your particular business, situation and goals. Existing corporations and LLCs evaluating whether to file a DBA may need to consider:
A quick search on Google will tell you that the term solopreneur has been around for quite some time.
Macmillan dictionary defines a solopreneur as a business owner who works and runs their business alone. Going by this definition of solopreneur, about a third of the American workforce comprising freelancers and consultants fit under category.
Solopreneurs have an inherently entrepreneurial mindset, and they prefer single-handedly managing their business.
Solopreneurs are often criticized for not generating jobs for others. What critics do not take into account is that while solopreneurs may work alone, it doesn’t mean they don’t collaborate with other entrepreneurs. To give an example, a freelance writer may work closely with a designer on various projects. In this way, solopreneurs generate work for others.
Pros and Cons of Being a Solopreneur
Solopreneurship as a career is tempting for several reasons. To begin with, solopreneurs have the flexibility and freedom to choose their work. The work-life balance that solopreneurship offers is, in fact, one of the key factors behind its growing popularity.
Solopreneurship also works for those who want to be their own boss. By choosing to run their businesses single-handedly, solopreneurs avoid boardroom politics and other hassles that come with dealing with too many people. Solopreneurs call their own shots and are accountable for the business decisions they make.
In the present market scenario, solopreneurship is an idea worth exploring because demand for self-driven, skilled specialists is on the rise. There are plenty of opportunities that solopreneurs can consider to achieve success.
On the flip side however, solopreneurship is not for those averse to taking risks. While working alone as an entrepreneur, you may face challenging situations that demand patience and quick decision-making.
It’s also important to remember that as a solopreneur you will be on your own, without the support of your team members. You may face situations where you need to multi-task and do many jobs all at once.
Plus, a growing number of people are jumping on the solopreneurship bandwagon today, making it a really competitive place to be. To get business, you have to find new ways to set yourself apart and communicate your unique brand story. What special value do you bring? Why should your customers choose you over your competition? These are some questions you need to answer before you choose a career in this domain.
Solopreneurship is an exciting opportunity to consider also because there are some really fun ideas you can explore. With the right strategy and vision, you can get started in no time.
Motivating employees seems like it should be easy. And it is — in theory. But while the concept of motivation may be straightforward, motivating employees in real-life situations is far more challenging. As leaders, we’re asked to understand what motivates each individual on our team and manage them accordingly. What a challenging ask of leaders, particularly those with large or dispersed teams and those who are already overwhelmed by their own workloads.
Leaders are also encouraged to rely on the carrot versus stick approach for motivation, where the carrot is a reward for compliance and the stick is a consequence for noncompliance. But when our sole task as leaders becomes compliance, trying to compel others to do something, chances are we’re the only ones who will be motivated.
Why not consider another way to motivate employees? I’d like to suggest a new dialogue that embraces the key concept that motivation is less about employees doing great work and more about employees feeling great about their work. The better employees feel about their work, the more motivated they remain over time. When we step away from the traditional carrot or stick to motivate employees, we can engage in a new and meaningful dialogue about the work instead. Here’s how:
Share context and provide relevance. There is no stronger motivation for employees than an understanding that their work matters and is relevant to someone or something other than a financial statement. To motivate your employees, start by sharing context about the work you’re asking them to do. What are we doing as an organization and as a team? Why are we doing it? Who benefits from our work and how? What does success look like for our team and for each employee? What role does each employee play in delivering on that promise? Employees are motivated when their work has relevance.
Anticipate roadblocks to enable progress. When you ask anything significant of team members, they will undoubtedly encounter roadblocks and challenges along the path to success. Recognize that challenges can materially impact motivation. Be proactive in identifying and addressing them. What might make an employee’s work difficult or cumbersome? What can you do to ease the burden? What roadblocks might surface?
How can you knock them down? How can you remain engaged just enough to see trouble coming and pave the way for success? Employees are motivated when they can make progress without unnecessary interruption and undue burdens.
Recognize contributions and show appreciation. As tempting as it is to try to influence employee satisfaction with the use of carrots and sticks, it isn’t necessary for sustained motivation. Far more powerful is your commitment to recognizing and acknowledging contributions so that employees feel appreciated and valued. Leaders consistently underestimate the power of acknowledgment to bring forth employees’ best efforts. What milestones have been achieved? What unexpected or exceptional results have been realized? Who has gone beyond the call of duty to help a colleague or meet a deadline? Who has provided great service or support to a customer in crisis? Who “walked the talk” on your values in a way that sets an example for others and warrants recognition? Employees are motivated when they feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions.
Check in to assess your own motivation. What if you’ve done all of the above but are still struggling to motivate others? You may need to assess your own motivation. Employees are very attuned to whether leaders have a genuine connection to the work. If you’re not engaged and enthusiastic about your company, your team, or the work you do, it’s unlikely that you’ll be a great motivator of others. What aspects of your role do you enjoy? What makes you proud to lead your team? What impact can you and your team have on others both inside and outside the organization? How can you adapt your role to increase your energy and enthusiasm? Employees feel motivated when their leaders are motivated.
The bottom line is: Don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate employees. Talk with your team about the relevance of the work they do every day. Be proactive in identifying and solving problems for your employees. Recognize employee contributions in specific, meaningful ways on a regular basis. Connect with your own motivation, and share it freely with your team. Put away the carrots and sticks and have meaningful conversations instead. You’ll be well on your way to leading a highly motivated team.
Guerrilla Marketing is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results.
The original term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The term guerrilla marketing was inspired by guerrilla warfare which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics includes ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise. Much like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry.
This alternative advertising style relies heavily on unconventional marketing strategy, high energy and imagination. Guerrilla Marketing is about taking the consumer by surprise, make an indelible impression and create copious amounts of social buzz. Guerrilla marketing is said to make a far more valuable impression with consumers in comparison to more traditional forms of advertising and marketing. This is due to the fact that most guerrilla marketing campaigns aim to strike the consumer at a more personal and memorable level.
Guerrilla marketing is often ideal for small businesses that need to reach a large audience without breaking the bank. It also is used by big companies in grassroots campaigns to compliment on-going mass media campaigns. Individuals have also adopted this marketing style as a way to find a job or more work.
Successfully pulling off a guerrilla marketing plan requires the right mix of surprise, delight, and a unique twist.
Public Art, Graffiti, and Urban Art
Graffiti has come along way since its Philadelphia beginnings in the late 60’s. What used to be a rebellious way for urban youth to gain attention or mark territory has now grown into a full-fledged movement as artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy earn international fame and recognition with their socially- and politically-charged messages.
In 2008, the Obama presidential campaign recognized the power of street art to grab the attention of young voters. Shepard Fairey had already started to gain attention with his Andre the Giant/Obey art when Barack Obama’s message captured his interest. Fairey’s original portrait of President Obama read “Progress,” but he changed it to “Hope” when the campaign reached out to commission the piece as a fundraising tool. This a great example of sharing momentum to promote your message.
If you’re a little wary of the risk factor associated with true graffiti art, consider reverse-graffiti—a process that uses cleaning products to create an image by removing dirt and debris from the walls or sidewalk to display an image.
In this genius low cost move, Green Works created a 140-foot mural in a San Francisco underpass using their plant-derived, eco-friendly cleaning products to remove the accumulated grime from the city. That means no need to buy advertising space, and it’s certainly not a crime to clean public space!
Sidewalk chalk is another great guerrilla marketing option for temporary public art. Writing your website, company name, or slogan on the sidewalks of an industry event is a cheap and easy way to grab free attention. This is also a fun way to lead people to a business that might be slightly off the beaten path, or just guide people to a sale or grand opening.
Unique Storefront Displays
Don’t think that a street art approach means you’ll have to be sneaking around at night with stencils, paints, posters, and glue. For a less stealthy approach, you can use your storefront or other space on your building to display a clever image. Having an artist paint a mural on your building or designing a unique window display is a great opportunity to catch the eye of foot traffic and stand out to local customers.
If making your businesses location an eye-catching piece of art appeals to you, consider hiring a local artist to paint your name on the building instead of the more traditional signage. You don’t have to stop at just your name: using more building space is just more opportunity to pique the interest of passersby. You’ll stand out from your neighbors and win nearby fans by supporting local art.
Stickers Out in the Wild
Creative street art doesn’t have to stay close to home. If you don’t have a storefront or want to look beyond foot traffic to earn new patrons, enhancing the everyday fixtures of life can have a big impact. Stickers are less risky than paint, but more versatile than traditional ad placements. They can be designed in all different shapes and sizes, even on the tightest budget, and are good for modifying an existing message.
In the wake of Banksy’s popularity and impact, Ikea paid street artists to to graffiti their existing ads and placed similarly styled ads in unconventional unconventional places. Ikea’s bright, modern, reasonably-priced furniture makes young people a big part of their target market. Using the popularity of stenciled street art is a perfect fit to catch they eye of the right demographic.
If you like the idea of using the streets and sidewalks as fun advertising space—but aren’t sold on the permanence of spray paint—then carefully placed decals and stickers might be just the thing for you. Procter and Gamble used the white stripes of crosswalks to remind pedestrians of Mr. Clean’s power over grit. This wins points for reversibility, humor, and defying language barriers.
Another good use of strategically placed images is Folgers’ steaming cup of coffee. Why let that steam go to waste when it can sell some coffee? Keeping your message simple and visually based helps to convey your message to a diverse audience.
If you’re thinking of using guerrilla marketing on a smaller scale, consider smaller decals strategically placed for a captive audience. Guinness narrowed in on their exact audience by wrapping small and simple stickers around the ends of pool cues. Even a simple strategy of having your logo stickers visible in places your target customers frequent can increase brand recognition. Pixar knew that their target audience has a lower line of vision, so they put their mouse hole flyers closer to the ground where children were more likely to spot them.
The Salvation Army got really creative with their “This Ad Cost Nothing Campaign” and canvassed the northeastern U.S. with their free ads. Stamps in pizza boxes, on coffee cup sleeves, chalk on walls and sidewalks, even dirty windshields served as perfect advertising space to bring in new donations.
Performance-Based Guerrilla Marketing
Even with safe and reversible options, maybe (literally) making your mark through public art doesn’t really interest you. If that’s the case, consider integrating public performances into your guerrilla marketing plan. Performances take a lot of time to plan, but can be repeated to maximize exposure. Documenting performances and sharing them over social media will also help you expand the reach of your message beyond your immediate audience.
The term “flash mob” could also sound a bit menacing, but it’s actually nothing to be afraid of. In a nutshell, a flash mob is a group of people gathering suddenly in public to do an unusual act or performance, and then quickly disperse. They should be quick, attention grabbing, and fun. Flash mobs can be very complex, too, like T-Mobile’s dance at a train station. Dozens of dancers assembled and performed choreography for a few minutes to a fun mash-up soundtrack, then quickly dispersed. This particular performance was not only well-planned and rehearsed, but also very well-documented to reach a wider internet audience.
A step down in complexity but not in impact is the famous Grand Central Freezeorganized by comedian Charlie Todd and Improv Everywhere. In this stunt, more than 200 voluntary participants froze in place at the same time while walking through Grand Central Station, for five minutes. Again, this was well documented with video from several angles, broadening the audience beyond passing commuters.
While at the opposite end of the scale in complexity of performance, both do require a lot of people and planning. Molo Nation took a smaller scale plan to the streets with their Jedi Battle Prank. The idea was equally simple and delightful: get a group of people to don Star Wars Costumes and challenge pedestrians to lightsaber battles. This guerrilla marketing performance engaged passersby to draw attention to a local fitness business.
Notice that all of these performances, regardless of complexity, were filmed and shared online to extend the reach of the guerrilla marketing campaign. We really can’t say this enough—if you execute a guerrilla marketing plan but only a few people see it, you’re severely limiting the reach of your campaign!
Put away your cat-burglar uniform, folks… There will be no breaking and entering here.
In guerrilla marketing terms, sabotage is when a brand uses momentum, popularity, or the message of a competing brand to draw attention to their own campaign.
Marc Benioff, CEO and co-founder of Salesforce, has earned himself quite the reputation for using sabotage as a guerrilla marketing technique. At competitor Siebel Systems’ annual conference, Benioff rented all of the taxis from the closest airport, using the 45 minute ride to pitch Salesforce before their rivals could even get guests checked in! Not only did this anger and frazzle his competition, journalists couldn’t resist writing about this bold stunt. Benioff let Siebel spend the energy and money of gathering the industry together, then just borrowed the audience for a bit.
Gett, a ride sharing app, capitalized upon the common complaints around Uber’s surge pricing with their new ad campaign to poach some already savvy customers. Uber has done a lot the heavy lifting of building a customer base for their ride sharing app—Gett simply just needed to highlight the benefits of their competing service.
Brewing giant New Castle combined the sabotage concept with more traditional outdoor marketing through hilarious hilarious billboard placements that competitor Stella Artois could not have seen coming.
The notable connection between all these sabotage campaigns is the use of humor and focus on the saboteur’s own products. This guerrilla marketing tactic isn’t just about bashing the competition. The savviest saboteur will always bring the message back to the superiority of their own product.
So far we’ve focused on live, physical guerrilla marketing campaigns that are documented and shared online—but don’t underestimate the power of campaigns that are born and live on the internet. Web campaigns offer huge potential for a wide impact at a very low cost.
The student filmmakers that made The Blair Witch Project did so on a $50k budget—about equivalent to the craft services budget for a major Marvel action movie.
To create this level of buzz for such a low budget movie, the filmmakers created a website for the film documenting the legend of the Blair Witch. They wisely focused on college-aged audiences and only showed ads on college campuses. On IMDB, the actors were listed as “Missing, Presumed Dead” prior to the film’s release. To further the authenticity of the story, “Missing” fliers were passed out around college campuses for the three film stars, and the filmmakers created and encouraged rumors about the “facts” surrounding the case on websites and message boards.
Even with such a small investment, The Blair Witch Project went on to gross $250 million worldwide—earning $1.5 million on only 27 screens opening weekend. That’s the very definition of guerrilla marketing success!
The Dollar Shave Club took a counter approach to brand name appeal with their wildly successful YouTube commercial. Founder Michael Dubin used his improv background from studying at New York City’s famed Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre to appeal to men tired of the ever-rising prices of name brand razor blades. It worked. Orders started rolling in and the Dollar Shave Club eventually expanded their line into men’s bath products and women’s essentials as well.
The common thread of successful web-based guerrilla marketing campaigns lies in the brand’s ability to control the content. With Instagram and Twitter commanding a huge influence on buyers, it can be very tempting to try to generate some buzz by creating a fun new hashtag. But be very careful when you are counting on the Twitter-verse to follow the spirit of your intent: there are countless examples of hashtag campaigns being hijacked or just hilariously and disastrously misinterpreted. Before launching any web-based campaign, be sure to test it out with a smaller focus group to check for any misunderstandings you may have missed.
Guerrilla Marketing Rules to Live By
Now that your mind is abuzz with all kinds of great guerrilla marketing ideas you can adapt to your business, there are a few guidelines worth keeping in mind when you launch your campaign. After all, while you want to stand out, you don’t want to be polarizing or negative. Your aim is to gain positive favor, so avoid ideas that could scare your audience or put them on the defense.
Catch Them Off Guard…
In today’s world of screen-based technology, consumers have developed an immunity against being advertised to. We automatically tune out, change channels, or mute devices when commercials come on. Closing pop-up windows and sidebars has become so automatic, we don’t even see things that are relevant.
Finding a way to get your message to a consumer when they’re not on high alert to reflexively ignore or shut out advertising is an important part of any guerrilla marketing approach. This is why street art, flash mobs, product modifications, and even simple stickers can be so effective.
…But Avoid Scary Associations
In the fall of 2007, Turner Broadcasting placed several blinking robot machines around Boston to promote the new season of their show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the much-loved Mooninite characters on the show. Unfortunately, this guerrilla marketing plan turned out to be too vague, and many passers-by mistook the flashy machines for potential terrorist threats. This led public officials to shut down mass transit and call in the bomb squad for investigation.
Not quite the positive buzz marketers were looking for!
Lesson Learned: Before launching any guerrilla marketing campaign, test it out with a few people who have little to know knowledge of the product—or at least try to think of it from their perspective. If your plan risks causing genuine public concern, look for ways to either alter the plan or swiftly relieve the concerns of your audience.
Creativity Is Key
Once you catch customers’ attention, you’d better have something to say that will hold their interest. Writing “Our widgets are the best widgets” on the side of a building won’t do you much good. Your message needs to be as unique as your delivery.
Don’t Annoy Your Audience
Organizing a water fight to advertise your jet ski rentals? Great idea! Soaking innocent bystanders on their walk to work? Not so much.
Take pains to make sure that audience participation in your guerrilla marketing event is voluntary and that the public won’t be inconvenienced by your plan. You’re doing this to create new customers, not enemies.
Make Sure Displays Are Temporary
If your guerrilla marketing plan involves any type of public art, make sure that your work is easily reversed. Reverse graffiti, chalk spray, hydrophobic spray, and stickers are great options to make your mark—just not forever.
And even when choosing a non-permanent art option, be sure to test your method in an approved space first. IBM’s “Peace, Love & Linux” chalk stencils turned out to be much harder to remove than anticipated, costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in fines and clean up fees. Costing the city or a building owner time and money to fix their property is not the brand message you want to send.
Stay On Brand
You definitely want to be creative, but you also don’t want to create an image of something you aren’t. Staying on brand is important, so that when your newly-interested customers finds you, they’re not disappointed or baffled by the connection to your campaign.
Share, Share, Share!
No matter how creative and exciting your guerrilla marketing plan is, it can only be effective if your potential customers actually get to see it. So make sure to document your plan—not just the final product, but also the process of putting it together. Then plan to share those nuggets in the lead up, during your campaign, and after your launch in order to spread the reach of your stunt as far as possible.
To help get all you new and hoping-to-be CEOs started on the right financial footing to ensure confidence from your team and your investors, here are some basic finance terms that every good entrepreneur should know.
Net earnings and net income both fall under the “bottom line” description. You may hear people talk about “affecting the bottom line” of the company and this is simply any action that may increase or decrease the company’s net earnings, or overall profit. The term “bottom” is in reference to the typical location of the number on a company’s income statement, below both revenues (top line) and expenses. Needless to say, this is an important term to know.
Gross margin is expressed as a percentage and represents the percent of total sales revenue that a company keeps after subtracting the cost of producing its goods or services. The higher the percentage, the more the company keeps on each dollar of sales (that will eventually go toward paying its other costs and obligations). In simple terms, if a company’s gross margins are 25 percent, for every dollar of revenue that is generated, the company will retain $0.25 before paying its overhead, which includes salaries, rent, and more.
Fixed versus Variable Costs:
A fixed cost is exactly what is sounds like, a cost that does not change with increases or decreases in the volume of goods or services that are produced by your company. These costs are obviously the easiest to predict and plan for. Rent, salaries, and utilities all usually fall into this category.
Variable cost are just the opposite. They can vary depending on a what a company is producing and as a result are much harder to forecast.
Equity versus Debt:
The “equity versus debt” comparison may seem silly to some, but you would be surprised at how many people I have come across who have no idea what either really means. Equity is simply money obtained from investors in exchange for ownership of a company, while debt comes in the form of loans from banks that must be repaid over time. Both are necessary for growth, with their own pros and cons. Equity versus debt is a critical decision for any entrepreneur and it is important to know the difference as the future of your business may depend on it.
Leverage can be interpreted a couple different ways. In the financial world, leverage is most commonly known as the amount of debt that can be used to finance your business’ assets. In simple terms, the amount of money you borrowed to run your business. The balance you want to strike as an entrepreneur is that of your debt and equity. If you have way more debt than equity, you will be considered “highly leveraged” aka “very risky” to potential investors.
Capital Expenditures (CapEx):
Capital expenditures are any items purchased by your business that create future benefits. Basically, if something you bought is going to be useful to your business beyond the taxable year in which you purchased it, capitalize the item(s) as assets in your accounting. Examples include computers, property, or acquisitions.
Concentration is simply the measure (usually a percentage) of how much business you are doing with a specific client or partner. Relying on one or a couple of clients and partners to do business is a prime example of over-concentration. This is a losing strategy for any business because if something goes wrong with those limited relationships your business will be in serious trouble. Focus on keeping low concentrations for your accounts and investors will be impressed.
The number one, single most important thing you must do - on social media, on your website, just everywhere – is be yourself. Customers of every generation are looking for reality. Your real personality, conveyed through genuine, unique content helps you appeal to customers. Authenticity is consistently ranked among a brand’s most important qualities by Gen Xers, Millennial and Gen Z customers.
Consumers expect content to be appropriate to the platform it appears on. A fantastic Instagram post may fall flat on Facebook, and vice versa. Most small business owners who are doing their own marketing don’t have the available time or resources to shine on more than one platform: it’s better to choose the one most relevant to your customers and focus your energies there. With that in mind, take the time to make sure you know the best practices for posting content and engaging with other users – things like having the right number of hashtags can make a meaningful difference.
Social selling continues to grow, as companies learn how to convert interest into sales via social media and messaging apps. Selling is the third most important thing you can do on social media: the first is to maintain an authentic presence, and the second is to listen to and engage with your customers. Keeping everything in proportion will ensure you’re not seen as too pushy or overly commercial on social media.
Influencers are those individuals people listen to online: they tend to have large followings on at least one social media platform, and they may have their own YouTube channel. In influence marketing, you pay an influencer to talk about your company, and they do so as part of their regular content. Choose an influencer to work with based on the size of their reach as well as their relevance to your customers. Top influencers command top dollar, but you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to cash in on the influencer marketing trend: particularly for those businesses that depend on local traffic, look for up-and-coming aspiring influencers in your market – just make sure to check out their content prior to signing any deals!
Livestreaming & Video
Facebook has made livestreaming video absolutely mainstream: users have broadcast everything from surprise marriage proposals to natural disasters in real time. Look for ways to use livestreaming to promote your business: retailers who have livestreamed crowds waiting for the doors to open for a sales event have seen traffic spikes as a result. Not all video needs to be live, either: for service companies and B2B firms, informative, instructional video will continue to be a very powerful marketing tool.
The popularity of Alexa, Google Home and other digital assistants makes it crystal clear that every website must be optimized for voice search. Google tells us a full 50% of all searches happen on mobile devices, and of those searches, 20% are voice searches. Think about how a customer would ask Siri to find a business like yours, and make sure those terms are featured strategically throughout your content.
Data Driven Marketing
Almost every major digital platform has increased the number and robustness of their analytical tools over the course of 2016. Take advantage of these tools to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Data is valuable, but it also has its limitations: as a business owner, you have to apply your own perspective and insight to the numbers. For best results, you want to look at your data regularly. This will allow you to spot trends faster, making you more responsive to your customers.
Automation and Chatbots
The last trend is one that will actually make small business owners’ lives a little easier. Automation allows you to schedule content, advertising and other digital assets to appear specifically when and where you’d like it to. Dynamic advertising will show customers the specific products they’d been browsing on your website while they’re on other platforms: it’s often the extra nudge they need to buy. Chatbots are basically pre-recorded messages you can set up to reply to common questions that may come in through a messaging app, such as what time your business opens or a returns policy.
Ready to Rock? Reading the trends list can make digital marketing seem a little overwhelming. The key is to remember to be yourself, pay attention to how the tools you’re using work, and let data guide your decision making process.
Employees may not need a pay raise as much as they do personal thanks for a job well done. Show your workers that you support them, and encourage better performance by motivating them in the following ways:
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