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Blogging for your Small Business June 26, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Blogging for Business.
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dirksphoto.jpgBlogging is more than a passing fad. For a small business looking for a competitive edge, a well-engineered and promoted blog can make a world of difference. Whether you are service, retail, or manufacturer, a blog can help build customer depth and width for your business.

This posting is not about ‘Blogging 101’. There are great resources available, most are free, that can help you learn about blogging essentials. A blog is simply an online journal that you can make available for all to see or just those you want (like your customers and potential customers).

We use WordPress (WordPress.com) because of its ease of use, it’s excellent support, and…because it’s free! There are other excellent places to create your blog online and for free. Google has its blogger.com, etc. We tried Blogger and discovered that WordPress was better.

What can a blog do for your business?

1. It can help you create a way to communicate with your customers and others that you come in contact with in your business.
2. It gives your customers and other interested parties a chance to communicate with you. Interactive blogs allow people to comment on your postings.
3. It allows you to talk frankly about subjects related to your business that others would be interested in understanding and commenting on as well.
4. Done well, it can help to expand your credibility as an expert in your area of business.

What you need to do to make a blog work:

1. Create a simple and interactive blog. Look how this one was set up. It took me less than an hour to get this one set up. It has the look and feel of a functional website…because it is.
2. Don’t use it as an advertising tool. It’s not. It’s designed to let you give value added information to your customers and others. When someone comes to your blog, they should leave and want to return because they got something out of it.
3. “Posting” is when you make an entry and publish it on your blog. Rule No. 1: Post and post often. At least once a week…more is better. Give your readers something to come back to…otherwise they won’t. Rule No. 2: Go back to rule number one.
4. Actively promote your blog. Make sure every customer knows about it. Make sure your potential customers know about it. We could spend a book on it but promotion is key. Make sure the local and regional media know about this.

Rick and I are relatively new to blogging but we realized in short order that it was an excellent way to help people tap into what we have to offer them. We’re not charging anyone for the free insights we give. We don’t advertise any consulting services. We know how tough it is to start and grow a business, so we want to help and in the process, learn more ourselves. That’s the great thing about a blog. As this blog begins to grow, we fully expect people to interact with us…tell us what they think…give us some fresh insights and perspectives on what we post.

What Rick and I both know is that if we give our readers real value when they visit this blog, the business will come. And if it doesn’t come tomorrow, we don’t care. We want to provide an excellent blog that helps small business owners grow their enterprises. If we do that, people will want more from us than we can give in a blog. That’s the business side of blogging.

We have yet made a major push to promote this blog as of this posting…but we surely will.

Blogs. Simple, effective, and another way to stay ahead of the competition and Run with the Big Dogz!

For More Information:

Books:

Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies
Publish & Prosper: Blogging for your Business (New Riders Publishing)

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Service Recovery in Bulgaria June 22, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People.
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p5130012.jpgThe Big Dogz know how to handle a service recovery! Let me tell you what happened to me last week. I was traveling on business in Europe and had an opportunity to take a short vacation at a resort on the Black Sea in Bulgaria.

I arrived at the resort and was informed that they did not have a reservation for me. I pulled out my Expedia confirmation and then there was some scurrying activity. Several people were involved, phone calls were made and a manager was summoned. I was informed that the resort was full and I was to be accommodated at a “sister” hotel just down the beach. Now to say the least, I was not happy about this turn of events. I suspected a bait and switch operation and all my defenses were up. Here I was in Bulgaria without a room and without recourse! The manager suggested I get the driver of the transport that dropped me off to take me to the other hotel. Unfortunately he was already gone. The manager then said he would drive me in his personal car.

On the way to the other hotel, the manager was extolling the virtues of the hotel. It was newer, had 3 restaurants instead of 1 and had 2 outdoor pools and an indoor pool. He also kept apologizing for the misunderstanding. I sat there quiet and apprehensive. When we go to the other hotel, I was pleased to see that in fact, this hotel was nicer than the other one. As we entered the lobby, the manager of the new hotel, the desk person, a bell man, and the general manager of the two hotels in this resort area surrounded me and were profusely apologizing. I was checked in with a glass of champagne and the manager took my contact information for the transport service to call tem and let them know I had changed hotels for the pickup.

People kept apologizing as I was escorted to my room — a nice first floor room near all the amenities. Each day, the manager of the hotel sought me out to make sure everything was in order and to apologize again for the misunderstanding. Since this hotel was newer and had more amenities than the one I booked, it was more expensive. However, I was given the rate of the older hotel. I would definitely recommend that hotel to anyone traveling to the Golden Sands resort in Bulgaria. In fact, I wrote a sterling review online when I returned home.

Taking care of the customer in a recovery situation does not take a lot of money or even a lot of effort. These people made me feel like I was important to them. Make your customers feel important and they will keep coming back

Creating a vision June 19, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder on Vision.
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p5130012.jpgAll great leaders have a vision. Not sure what your vision is? The Big Dogz know how to create a vision. Just follow this process:

You will be using a 3 column page format.

1.      Label the first column “Characteristic”. Now, think about your company as an item to buy. How would you evaluate it? What are the characteristics of a company that you would evaluate before buying it? For example, you might consider market niche, market share, number of employees, industry, etc. Begin the visioning process with a list those characteristics down the left hand side of a page in the first column. After you have listed all the characteristics you would consider, put them in priority order; high, medium, low is good enough.

2.      Label the second column “Current State”. Identify the current state of your company for each characteristic you identified. Be specific and use quantitative descriptions like annual revenue, number of employees, etc. wherever possible. If you can not use quantitative measurements, then use qualitative measurements like fair, good, excellent, etc. If you use qualitative measurements, be sure to include a brief explanation of what that measurement means to you. Provide the kind of information you would want to be able to make a purchase decision. Do not put information about how you think it should be, or what you would want to tell your friends it is — provide an accurate picture. If you can not describe the current state of any characteristic, go find out what it is.

3.      Label the third column “Desired End Result”. For each characteristic, identify the desired measurement. Think into the future. A good time horizon is 3-5 years; however use a horizon that is comfortable for you. Again use quantitative measurements wherever possible; and for any qualitative measurements, include a description. Do not worry about the desired end measurement being different than the current measurement if that is how you see your company in the future. Now is the time to identify any characteristics your company does not have; but you want it to have this characteristic in the future. Specify the characteristic in column one and the desired end result in column three. Put these in the proper priority position.

4.      Now it is time to sell the company. Not really — however, you are going to write an advertisement for the future company. Think about prospective buyers. What language would you use to get them to buy your company? What are the exciting words that will generate interest and enthusiasm in your selected buyer? You can write a quite lengthy copy if you want. Get excited and try to appeal to the kind of buyer you would want to sell. After you have written the advertisement, let it sit awhile — at least 24 hours. Now come back to the copy and condense it while keeping the essence of the advertisement. Iterate through the condensing until you have it down to a sentence or two. You now have your vision. Start sharing it!

A vision is a powerful tool for keeping you focused and for drawing others to follow you. Use this simple process and you will have a vision that is customized to you.

Check Out the Competition…Always & Often! June 19, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Dealing With Competitors.
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The Big Dogz spend a lot of money and invest time in understanding just what their competition is doing in their markets.  Products, services, pricing, marketing, sales, and a whole host of key items are studied. 

Is the small business owner any different?  No.  If you think anything else, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to leverage the best competitive ideas into your business.

dirksphoto.jpgSome of the best small business owners I know (i.e. those that own profitable and often growing businesses), spend time in the field understanding what their competitors are doing or not doing.  I know one guy who makes sure that he checks out his competition in any city, state, or country he might be in.  He checks out his competition when he goes on vacation.  Now, he doesn’t over do it, but he always comes back with something that he can use for his business.

How much time to you spend checking out the competition?  Don’t assume that checking them out once or twice a year is enough.  It isn’t.  Do what most of your competitors are NOT doing (trust me, most don’t).  Check out the competition…always and often!

Sales Metrics that Work June 1, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Metrics.
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dirksphoto.jpgWhile the Big Dogz sometimes miss the mark on getting to know their customers better, there is one area they generally excel in. Sales metrics, whether in retail or services-based businesses, are critical indicators for any small business. You need ways to help you shape the course of your sales, marketing, product/service selection, packaging, etc. Developing and incorporating sales metrics can go a long way to helping you grow a profitable business.

Here’s on simple metric (especially for retail): sales per square foot vs. cost per square foot. This simple metric is a broad indicator of the general health of your business. It’s simple to calculate. Take your total sales for say, a month, and total it up, then divide by the number of square feet dedicated to sales. Don’t include space such as warehouse, office, etc. Include only space where sales take place. Then calculate your total expenses (everything) for that same month and divide by the number of square feet of selling space (again, don’t include non-sales space).

Your calculation might look like this:

$10,000 (total sales for month) divided by 1200 square feet = $8.33 sales per square foot.

Now let’s look at expenses.

$6750 (total expenses for month) divided by 1200 square feet = $5.62 per square foot of selling space.

So what does having $8.33 sales per square foot versus $5.62 in expenses per square foot tell you? Again, as a very broad sales metric, it’s the size of the gap between the two that starts the process rolling. This metric is designed to get you to ask yourself more questions about your business than provide any immediate answers:

Is the gap between sales per square foot and expenses per square foot enough to help me to reach my financial goals (i.e. what I need to make a living and the whole effort worth while)?

What can I do to increase the gap between sales and expenses?

How does my product selection and layout impact my ability to increase sales per square foot?

Does this indicator fluctuate much month-over-month? Why?

What are my best sales per square foot months? Why?

What would happen if I increased sales space and decreased office support space? Would the increase in sales space justify the effort?

What expenses can I reduce to increase the gap between sales per square foot and expenses per square foot?

How does my marketing spend (or the lack of) impact my sales per square foot?

Sales metrics, like the one we use here, are designed to force you to question everything, including your pet brainstorms that you’re emotionally attached to. This way, you’re always challenging yourself in a way that truly looks to improve business performance and profitability. Leave the ego at home.

In the next blog, we’ll take a look at another key sales metric: Sales/revenues per employee (including you).