Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Markets for one-of-a-kind things

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     Anyone can create a limited edition product. Artists and artisans do it all the time. Whether or not it will attract a buyer is another matter.

     Paintings, jewelry, and accessories are produced in one-of-a-kind pieces. So are sculptural pieces, special cakes, and motorcycles. 

     It's the market that rules. Artists can still starve in their studios waiting for the buying public. If you can grab the public's attention, then you're on your way. 

     Social media is a great way to reach out to large numbers of people. Take pictures of whatever you've created, post it to Facebook or other social media, and you get lots of eyeballs looking at what you can do.

     Example: Tom had a passion for motorcycles and owned several. But his business was the restoration of antique vehicles. When he had the time, he built a custom motorcycle for himself. At rallies, it attracted lots of attention. Tom began taking orders for custom bikes and gradually transformed his business. Today, he no longer restores antique vehicles. Instead, his shop is entirely devoted to the design and production of custom motorcycles for racing enthusiasts, weekend riders, collectors and others. Tom matched his talents and interests to a market opening and transformed his business. 

     To build your future, be alert to market trends and the interests of customers and clients. If you listen carefully, people will alert you to opportunities you might not otherwise see.

     Example: Jeanine makes gold and silver jewelry in her small home studio. With lots of experience behind her, she turns out rings, earrings, bracelets and other pieces for discriminating clients. Jeanine met Isabel, a compatible business partner, who hand-paints silks, leathers and other materials as accessories. Together, the two women opened a small working studio. It attracted immediate attention. Their combined customer base was similar, but they did not compete with each other. People were drawn to the handmade limited editions offered, and they referred others. The two women maintain separate Facebook pages, and this brought more people to the studio. Recently, they met Ed who produces fine wood turnings that are sculptural displays. Now, these limited edition artists are combining their talents into a single destination for the discriminating buying public. The three artists are discussing the possibility of expanding into a high-end gift shop with other artists. 

     Two or more artists can complement other talents and attract more attention than can any one acting alone. Always remember, however, that while your talents are the vehicles for your creativity, those vehicles are powered by the buying public. You must sell what you create.

     Markets for one-of-a-kind creations are out there. The key is to reach out and find the people who will buy your creations. Social media is the way to spread the word and find large numbers of customers. 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Flash on social media

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     So you discovered the value of promoting using social media. You regularly post pictures on Facebook and others. And it works.

     You can also do some simple things to increase the value of your social media postings. It begins with paying attention to the pictures you take and post. See to what's included in the pictures.   

     Do you know the value of flashy pictures? Do you include bling and flash in the pictures you take? Do you pay attention to the things that actually snag the most eyeballs?

     Example: A local dentist takes close-ups of toothy smiles showing teeth that are perfect and gleaming. Facebook entries emphasize the ease of getting that youthful smile back. Sometimes, the dentist's pictures show before and after. Other times, it's simply lips parting to capture that toothy smile. These pictures bring in calls for appointments. 

     Example: Eva operates an upscale shop specializing in women's clothing and accessories. She offers fashionable outfits from up-and-coming designers. Throughout her shop, Eva displays lots of flashy ornamentation and accessories. She changes her shop's window every week--taking pictures that she posts on Facebook. All her pictures show lots of jewelry, handbags and shoes in the latest styles. The social media postings draw shoppers, and her window draws in the curious. 

     More examples: Pet shops attract social media attention with puppies wearing flashy collars and coats. Hair stylists put sequins in the hair of party-goers. Attorneys specializing in elder care show smiling grandparents passing favorite things on to their grandchildren. Yoga instructors show photos of seniors throwing away their walkers. Food stores post pictures showing mouthwatering meals anyone can prepare in minutes, including the recipes. Garden centers show before and after pictures of nondescript yards turned into beautiful gardens.

     Turning your Facebook and other social media postings into compelling attractions is easy, quick and cheap. In fact, most successful picture postings cost you nothing except your time. And ingenuity. 

     Pictures on social media are not meant to sell. They are meant to attract attention, snag eyeballs, get passed around. 

     Get creative in your business. Use social media to promote and draw in more customers and clients. You're limited only by your imagination.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Promoting with special events

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     Promotions can take many forms. Some work better than others. And what works for one business might not work at another. Or, what works this year might not work so well next year. 

     Special events seem to work every time they are tried. There is something about a special event that attracts more attention than run-of-the-mill promotional activities. 

     Example: Eric runs a popular restaurant. He has a clientele that regularly returns for lunch and dinner. He also has a very big parking lot, and it faces a main thoroughfare. To attract more attention, Eric decided to hold a special event. He made a few contacts and set a date for a hot air balloon launch late one afternoon. Eric posted announcements on Facebook and other social media, and the word went around as friends told other friends. On the day of the big event, and as the big balloon filled with air, the parking lot filled up--and so did the restaurant. It was the biggest day Eric had ever had. And he noticed that many new faces began showing up for dinners--they were all asking when the next balloon launch might take place.

     Some events can be one-time affairs. Others can develop into regular events that people can plan to attend. 

     Example: Mary operates a bar. She regularly promotes the place with big televisions playing, pool tables, poker games, and other activities to attract people. She decided to clear an area, install a dance floor, and bring in a band on weekends. It attracted lots of attention and new people. Today, Mary schedules bands ahead, announces on social media, and fills the bar on Friday and Saturday nights.

     Some events are entertainment. Others are educational.

     Example: John runs a garden center. He has greenhouses and displays of annuals, perennials, veggie starts, as well as the materials gardeners and landscapers need to construct pathways, fences, and even fish ponds. In the spring, John holds an all-day open house to show people how to lay pavers, brick and stone to do the things they want to do. The session attracts homeowners as well as landscapers. It's a special event that helps John spread the word in the community.

     Informational events can be held by any business. These attract people anxious to learn how to do things, what to expect when they come to your business, and enjoy a learning session with friends. 

     Promoting your business with special events is easy and can be very inexpensive--considering the free publicity you bring to your business.   

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Networking for successful growth

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     Everyone networks. You meet people at events, at gatherings, and many additional places. 

     You interact, have conversations, trade information. Networking is part of everyone's social life.

     So, why do so many business people hesitate when asked to attend a networking event? They approach the session with dread, apprehension and trepidation. It should not be so. 

     Example: Tom runs a restaurant. He was invited to a business networking event and went. Tom doubted that it would help his business, but he did not want to disappoint the friend who insisted he attend. When he entered the gathering, an unknown man approached, introduced himself, and asked Tom what business he ran. Tom described his restaurant operation, focusing on the farm fresh menu he was introducing. The man expressed interest, telling Tom that he was concerned about healthy eating--especially among his employees. It turned out that the man recommended Tom's restaurant to his employees and, additionally, hired Tom to cater an upcoming event. Tom was convinced that business networking events could be helpful to his business future, and he regularly attends other sessions. 

     Example: Mary is a licensed therapist, concentrating on family problems, marital relationships, and the concerns and problems of young people. To increase awareness of her operation, she decided to hold networking events open to the public. She went on MeetUp.com and set up an upcoming event. She ran the session like an open house, where people could meet each other in a relaxed setting, get to know about the therapies she offered, and she invited other business people to participate as well. At one session, the concentration was on nutrition, at another it was chiropractic, and at still another, a massage therapist demonstrated and answered questions.

     Turn any event at your place into a networking event. It is a social gathering. It is not necessary to call it a networking event. Any gathering will quite naturally turn into a networking event. 

     Promotional activities take many forms. Don't neglect the networking possibilities of any event you might hold.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Partnering for success

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     Promoting your business keeps it healthy and growing. You need to attract more customers--or you are losing ground.

     Yes, you can send out news releases now and then. Maybe they will get picked up and printed. Maybe not. You'll do better with social media. 

     You will have a better chance with news releases if you are announcing an event open to the general public. And one of the best ways to put together an event is to partner with another business.

     Example: An attorney specializing in elder law partners with a financial planner. They hold a session open to the public in which both discuss and answer questions about the problems of the elderly, the people who care for the elderly, and the special financial concerns that are involved. Announcements go out on social media. When the event day comes, the room is filled with potential clients for each business.  

     Example: A hypnotherapist partners with a chiropractor. You structure an event at the chiropractic offices. You blast social media (Facebook and others) with announcements targeting people who want to address weight problems and pain management. The event draws many people who get introduced to the ways chiropractic addresses pain problems and to the ways a hypnotherapist can help with overeating and smoking cessation. The partnering increases awareness and results in more client calls for both businesses.

     Example: A garden center partners with a landscaper. They structure an event for the general public at the garden center. People are attracted by the landscaper's talking about new garden designs, building fences and pathways, and designing new garden layouts. The garden center, of course, offers all the materials for sale. The event is announced weeks ahead of the all-day session on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. Future customers are attracted to both businesses.

     Example: A frozen yogurt store has a large patio out back. The store partners with a local book store which schedules an author's signing at the yogurt patio. People are drawn to the event. And they get introduced to each operation. The word about the event goes around on social media, and both businesses get good promotional feedback. 

     To partner with another business, look for some compatibility. You target many of the same customers, but you don't compete. Use social media to promote the event. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Your customer is king

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     It's obvious. With customers, you can thrive and grow. Without them, you are headed downhill.

     Much has been said about customers. How to get them. How to make them happy. How to keep them coming back--and referring others.

     Customers are the reason you do a business plan. They are the market you are targeting. Customers are fundamental to any success.

     Example: In my own first business, my focus was on making my customers happy. The business was graphic arts/printing, and I gave out my home telephone number to all comers. I knew that they would need me day or night, and I wanted to be there for them. Few called me at home, but several did. The most important call came on Easter Sunday morning. The head of a major company/client needed a printed booklet delivered the next morning--an early Monday meeting had been called and he wanted to provide printed materials. I quickly gathered my team, and we delivered what he wanted to his boardroom by 7 a.m. the next morning. It meant working most of the night, but when I subsequently handed him the invoice, he thanked me and paid it right away. It was for a large amount, and we enjoyed a long term relationship for years. He also referred many others to me.

     Customers have problems of their own. Your business is best served when you solve their problems, on their terms, and in their time frame.

     Example: An attorney was engaged by a lady to draw up her will. She had some unusual requests, and the attorney listened patiently. But instead of leading the client through the problems, the attorney saw an opportunity to draw out the situation and increase his fees. He suggested a series of meetings to sort through all the details. This might have helped his cash flow, but the client saw it as annoying. She also suspected his true intentions. He lost a client that day--not only for the will, but for some large property transfers she subsequently made.

     Customers are not dummies. They come to you with a problem which they expect you to solve--whether it's to buy a dozen cookies or make that neck pain go away. They don't come to you to be manipulated.

     Successful business people keep focused on the customer. When you give them what they want, their loyalty will solve your problems. 

     Some customers can be annoying. Know the difference between the one you want to refer to your competition and the one who can be a future advantage to you and your business. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

New solutions, old ideas

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     Jump starting your business into a better future means re-thinking what you do. This can be very difficult.

     One way to think about changing is to consider some older ways of doing business. Updating yesterday's business ideas can be an eye opener.

     Restaurant example: Turning a breakfast cafe into a breakfast club can mean making drastic changes. Phil's cafe catered to an early morning crowd. It was attracting more and more corporate types and professionals who showed up early for his healthy breakfasts. He decided to concentrate on this market. Phil went on social media and announced that he was forming a special breakfast club for members only. The response was immediate and gratifying, and he decided to proceed. He established a closed-membership breakfast club--for a monthly fee, any member would get a key to the front door. Using their key, they could enter and order anything on the menu, or order ahead via a special app. This turned his cafe into a members-only club where corporate types and professionals met each other. The new arrangement became a special networking event for the business community. Phil took down all signage outside the place, replacing it with a simple "Breakfast club for members only" sign on the front door. All his promotion was done on social media. Phil's cafe became an updated example of the old club idea where people met and socialized while enjoying a meal. 

     Fiber arts example: Sue was a fiber artist. She made pins, hats, and other accessories for women, as well as some quilts. She also stocked materials for sale--beads, buttons, fibers, thread, knitting and crocheting materials, and other items. She decided to turn her place into a community meeting place where people could come and learn-by-doing. One day each week was knitting day, another was crocheting day, and still another was quilting. People came to learn techniques, do their thing, and enjoy the community setting where others with similar interests engaged in conversation. Sue promoted her "new" operation on social media and this attracted lots of attention for her business. She called it her new "quilting" bee, although some other activity filled other days. 

     These examples are updates of older gatherings. What's old is new again, as people re-discover the community. 

     Look to the past for ideas that can update and grow your business. You might be surprised at what you find.