Go a Little Wild: 8 Attention-Grabbing Halloween Marketing Ideas for the Small Business

Indulge in the candy and the costumes; it will bring you business and make your customers smile.

Susie Almaneih small business marketing

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season; ready or not, here it comes!  While Halloween is a holiday that focuses on kids, it’s also a time when adults let loose and spend, so therefore presents a great opportunity to businesses.

There are plenty of homegrown ideas to get people rolling in for your wares, some of them new, some of them as old as the holiday itself.  Don’t let the opportunity to draw more customer engagement and create some local excitement pass your business by this October.  Here are some handy marketing tips for you to consider as Halloween fast approaches:

    1. Join the festivities.  If there is a small business association in your town or city, make sure you are in on any events like trick-or-treating block parties or fairs.  This presents the perfect chance to get your presence and your brand out in front of the public.  It’s also a great idea to get to know fellow merchants heading into the busy season.  You never know when you made need change after the bank closes, and who knows, you might have the opportunity to partner with another business in a promotion or future event.
    2. Decorate!  A few half-hearted cobwebs aren’t going to cut it.  You have to get inventive and the more interactive, the better.  If you are an online retailer, disguise your avatar, change the look of your landing page, and post or share some timely video clips.
    3. Focus on branding.  Again, talking about social media, this is an opportune time to just get your brand identity in people’s faces.  A witty viral video or meme can put your company name at the top of the list when shoppers rev up for winter in a month or so.  Work on getting your brand recognized and associated with something fun and unique.
    4. Sweet treats.  Look, buttering up customers with a little sugar is totally above the board this time of year.  With bake sales, holiday parties, and of course, trick-or-treating, customers anticipate a little something delicious when they walk in the door.  Free samples and homemade seasonal goodies are always a winner.  Consider spiced apple cider, or pumpkin anything.
    5. Invite the kids.  Even if your business has nothing to do with kids, find a way to incorporate them.  Own a tattoo shop?  Do a promotion where you hand draw temporary tattoos on the little ones.
  • Encourage the fantasy.  One of the great things about Halloween is the way it lets our collective imagination run a little wild.  This is the magic of the holiday that everyone wants to believe in, so encourage your team to dress up, and get creative and excited.  A company-wide theme invites imaginative costumes, and then you can work in some deals around that theme.
  • Play games.  Just providing a little off-the-cuff fun like bobbing for apples, horseshoes, or a relay for a prize (gift certificates are always appreciated heading into the winter holidays) is a sure-fire way to extend yourself and your company to the public.  This is another opportunity with online games or contests that foster engagement and you can award the winners some in-store treats.  
  • Press the Flesh.  Don’t forget the most fundamental part of successful business: face-to-face impressions.  Building relationships with your community is a long-term investment that will reward your company with loyal customers.

Remember that the Halloween season is a big one; consumers are hungry for decorations, props, costumes, and candy.  As part of the larger autumn sales cycle, this is a time of year when people really get cracking on some of their home improvements, school projects are well under way, and work for many of us is in the final chunk of the year pushing to make goals and deadlines.  Get out in front of the momentum by investing some good-spirited energy in your community and give your customers a reason to come back.

Taking Your Business from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

Jim Collins uses a seminal 90s study of enterprise to determine the makeup of a successful venture.

While this book is 15 years old, it takes up a specific spot in the lexicon of business books.  The premise is simple: we settle for mediocrity and don’t make excellence the end goal.  The “Good to Great” study provides example after example of companies that exceeded expectations in unusual and instructive ways.

Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck were scrutinized based on a carefully selected set of criteria of long term success so as to determine what established them as such exceptional performers.  What makes this book such an engaging page-turner is that Collins’ relentless curiosity about what makes this companies tick is itself an innovative and fascinating process.  He really turns over each stone with some surprising results: “Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.”

Information courtesy of Amazon.com.

Road Map to Success: Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

A rigorous study by Alexander Osterwalder and Dr. Yves Pigneur provides a comprehensive playbook for the entrepreneur.

Part of the problem with success stories about innovative ideas is just that: the very fact that they are innovative means these ideas reached the market by some unconventional means.  Can there be a road map to success in bringing a completely new concept to the marketplace?  

Actually, yes.  This handbook was co-created by470 “Business Model Canvas” practitioners from 45 countries, and offers a fresh glimpse at reproducible models, practical tools, and powerful strategies.  The narratives offer some eloquent and inspiring insights that help anyone with a potential solution a way to explore if from a series of vantage points, deepening understanding of value propositions, customers, distribution channels, and costs.

Why Women are a Better Bet in the Startup World

With all the money that goes into researching potential companies, investors are missing a tested success strategy that could mean big profits.

Susie AlmaneihEndless factors go into the final decision on whether or not to invest seed money in new tech companies.  After all, we are talking about millions of dollars and that’s just the beginning, hopefully.  With the market moving at a breakneck pace, it’s more important than ever that investment capital finds worthwhile ideas and organizations.  But one consideration has been largely overlooked – the untapped human investment is women.

It is clear from the results of numerous studies that women-led startups have a higher predictability of success, yet they only represent a narrow slice of the tech industry when it comes to founders, CEOs and executives.1  Let’s take a look at the numbers.

In preparation for the “Women Startup Challenge” happening in New York City on November 1, 2015, Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist who is co-sponsoring the event said, “Only seven percent of all investor money goes to women-led startups.  Yet, studies show that women-led ventures deliver a 35 percent higher return on investment and generate 12 percent more revenue than male-run startups.”1

Another study at Gallup states that women are better bosses than men for a few reasons: women bosses’ level of engagement was higher, and of the people queried, those who worked with female bosses overwhelmingly felt like their development was a priority for their female bosses.  This same study indicated that women bosses show their appreciation with feedback way more consistently than men.2

First Round Capital released a report on July 30, 2015 and found that among 300 portfolios examined, companies with at least one female founder did a whopping 63% better than all-male teams.  The data also showed that women are present in the top ranks of their ten most valuable companies.3

Why do women-led companies tend to perform better than all-male companies?

Engagement- Women tend to work with their employees’ strengths to facilitate growth, and that is a clear illustration of usefulness that motivates a team.  They naturally excel at seeing the big picture and enabling all the moving parts to function optimally.

Calculated risk- When it comes to taking risks, “women have the edge: 87% see themselves as financial risk takers, compared to 73% of men, while 80% of women say they are likely to see opportunities where others see risk, compared to 67% of men,” says David Prosser of Forbes.4

Ambition- Like any underdog, women feel the need to prove themselves in the market.  This means many of them eventually envision striking out on their own rather than remaining an employee.  They also tend to face adversity with more determination and resilience.

Playing the long game– Where men are more prone to make immediate and often short-term decisions, women, according to studies, are more likely to arrange their goals around the long term.  They prioritize for slow, stable growth rather than a boom and bust mentality.

Compassion is successful– If you look at some of the most successful launches in recent years conducted by women, they are often geared toward solving an immediate and high priority problem.  Take Jessie Baker of InPress who is developing a device that can stop post-partum hemorrhaging, or Tessa Lau, Co-Founder of Chief Robot Whisperer, who designs user-focused systems around the study of human machine interactivity. These companies have contributed valuable innovation and generated considerable profits, in part because they have larger social goals.

Self Interest vs. Reinvestment- Sarah Fink at the Centre of Entrepreneurs says “Women entrepreneurs are more likely to work toward controlled, profitable growth with relatively little interest in merely positioning themselves for lucrative exit.  They often prefer to re-invest business profits over equity investment to scale sustainably.”5

Venture capitalists really miss an opportunity for sustainable profitability if they do not actively seek out female entrepreneurs and developers.  Organizations that stress collaboration, creativity and communication are often unsurprisingly better performers, and women are contributing to this social shift in the workplace.  Women, it turns out, are good for business, and thankfully, more recognition and support are generating opportunities for the intelligence, innovation and hard work that women have to offer.

Resources:

  1. http://www.wset.com/story/29931583/women-startup-challenge-nyc-to-help-fund-women-led-startups-in-partnership-with-craig-newmark-of-craigslist-and-craigconnects
  2. http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/183026/female-bosses-engaging-male-bosses.aspx
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidprosser/2015/04/20/five-reasons-why-women-make-better-entrepreneurs-than-men/
  4. http://fortune.com/2015/07/29/female-founders-better-vc/
  5. http://www.womanthology.co.uk/shattering-stereotypes-around-women-in-entrepreneurship-sarah-fink-head-of-research-at-the-centre-for-entrepreneurs/

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts: Aiming Your Target Marketing Campaign

There are no hard and fast rules for Internet marketing, but there are some tested strategies that can help you hit the bull’s-eye.

When twenty year olds are making a few million dollars a year just by posting videogame commentary to YouTube, and dozens of popup ads telling you that your fortune is just a few clicks away, social media marketing can be misleading.  Everyone is an expert and everyone wants to give you advice as to how to “find your audience” and convert contacts into sales.

It’s true that social media presents a highly personalized experience for the users and a highly trackable process for entrepreneurs, but for small businesses with limited resources, there are definitely some pitfalls to avoid, and some fundamentals to keep in mind.

Susie Almaneih

DO fully explore your product, purpose and brand.  Often the great idea or inspiration is followed by impulsive marketing decisions that end up inhibiting the product.  Companies or individuals that take the time to develop their voice, to assess the problem their product or service is trying to solve and get to know their target market have no problem putting together a successful social media presence.

DO be authentic. Unless you are selling gag gifts, consumers really resent being drawn in by the bait-and-switch.  Humor is a great tool for getting viewer attention, but do it in way that reinforces the authenticity of your brand.  What gets results is honest, people-centric impressions that stick, rather than the sales-oriented “act now” pitch.

DO seek out relevant communities.  Rather than casting a wide net that will catch no one, tailor your message to your audience.  Weave topical language into all your content so you are speaking your customer’s language and build a slow and steady following based on substance.

DO use evergreen content.  Blasts are effective too; we’ll get to that in a minute, but consider using content that will draw users to your presence over the long-term.

DO tie into current events and trends.  If something is happening in the world that resonates with your audience, contribute to the conversation.  Applying that previous rule of staying authentic, avoiding shock value or tragedy, but if an event happens that highlights the problem your product or service is trying to solve, jump into the exchange and readers will appreciate you have something valid to say.

DON’T succumb to sound bytes.  The notion that our attention spans are shrinking might be over-dramaticized; we can see many examples where long form, information-rich content is capturing big attention: radio programming, online education, even serial TV.  If your solution is complex, don’t try to dumb it down.  White papers, solution briefs and brochures that really articulate the offering will go way farther.

Susie Almaneih

DON’T overshare.  This can mean sending out too many emails that make people want to spam you. It can mean too many subjects in a single piece of content, or it can mean trying to cram too much material into one space.  And most importantly, if you are an independent contractor, too much personal information makes readers uncomfortable and can also leave you vulnerable.

DON’T forget to proof.  Nothing turns readers off faster than sloppy or inarticulate content– no matter what they are shopping for.  It’s almost implicit in building trust that your information is simple, high-impact and grammatically correct.

DON’T blow your whole budget on ads.  The strategically placed ad can do wonders, but the temptation is to put all your eggs in the advertising basket.  The social media phenomenon is based on the principle that your best referrals are your customers themselves; this is why reviews, polls and testimonials are so effective.  When considering placing an ad, make sure you are using platforms that supply you with metrics, like Google Ads or Outbrain, so you can see how many people you are actually reaching and how it is impacting your sales over time.

DON’T underestimate your first impression. You actually do get a second chance to make a first impression– potentially millions of them.  With every new message you put out there, try to look at it as if you were learning about your company for the first time.  Is it congruent with your voice, your values, your product?  Many repeat customers stumble across something they suddenly cannot live without everyday.  Make sure that accidental experience is just as resonant as the active search.

Shrewd social media marketing isn’t rocket science, but do your homework first.  It can help to research the spaces where your target market likes to spend time.  To use the teen example again, Vine has become a huge draw for Millennials, allowing them to post 20 second videos publically, so one way to reach that audience might be 20 second videos styled after some popular clips.  Or if you are looking to introduce a new tech solution geared toward medical professionals, you will want to view some related sites, cruise some forums and model your content in that more long-form and academic style.

Social media is about building a lasting, trustworthy impression, and there are several ways to go about it so consulting marketing experts is not a bad idea.  The more creativity and uniqueness you can add to your public image, the more you set your brand apart for the people who matter: your customers.

Diversity in the Workplace

Building a diverse workforce plays a large role when it comes to maintaining a successful business. Choosing employees with different sets of skills will not only help your company acquire a more well-rounded overall knowledge on individual activities, but it will help your company actually grow. Here are a few things to keep in mind in regards to diversity in the work place:

Susie AlmaneihFirst, be deliberate when it comes to diversity. This means that you should go out of your way to attract more women in your business along with employees with different ethnic backgrounds.  According to an article published by The Globe and Mail that speaks about why making an effort to bring diversity in the workforce was worth the effort for TribeHR, a cloud human capital management company that was founded in 2009:

“We’ve made a point of putting more effort into attracting and welcoming female developers and providing them strong opportunities to succeed. For example, we make sure we include one or more of our female developers at every recruitment initiative we do and that we have at least one female interviewer on our technical panel interviews,” (Fung, Why Building a Diverse Work Force is Worth the Effort).

Making an effort to implement strict changes is a vital part of company growth. Employees should all be treated equally, and it does takes change and charge to make sure that happens.

Next, always make sure your new hires feel welcomed and like a part of the team – even if they’re shy and nervous at first. Pairing a new hire with a buddy who’s been at the company for a while is a great way to help your newer employees feel in the loop. You can also try a catered company lunch, or a fun excursion with your team after you’ve gained some new hires.

In terms of events and activities that take place outside of work, ensure that everyone is included. TribeHR’s approach to diversifying social events is a great example to mimic:

“We want everyone to feel welcome attending our activities outside of work, so we ensure we have a diverse array of work-related events – athletic or entertainment, alcohol-free or drink-friendly, adult only or family and weekend or weekday. We have run events ranging from hackathons to baseball games, to circus classes, to pot-lucks, to golf lessons and even Arnold Schwarzenegger movie marathons. It’s easy to fall into a groove; it’s much harder to make sure that you cover all possible options,” (Fung, Why Building a Diverse Work Force is Worth the Effort).Susie Almaneih

Always remember that each of your employees are unique and like different activities. You don’t want to get stuck in a situation where a monthly happy-hour turns into only four of your employees going out for drinks. Switch it up, give your company something exciting to look forward to – you can even try sticking to season-related events if you live in a climate that allows you to do so.

Last, don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation with your employees. Many times discrimination and bias get swept under the rug, which will often lead to employees leaving your company and an overall unhappy environment. Don’t let those things slide because you may not see everything as a manager or CEO of a company, so talk to your employees and make transparency one of your company’s most important quality.

Startup Marketing Tips

Getting your startup off the ground can often feel like a catch-22. Without a successful marketing campaign, you’re unable to acquire the business necessary to grow your company. But without the business, how can you afford the marketing to attract more? These few simple steps will help get that necessary exposure while saving your precious pennies.

Many startups fail within the first two years of operation thanks to poor scaling and money management issues. It’s exactly because of this that proper marketing skills are necessary to spread the word about your company using the most cost effective means. Overspending in the marketing department will sink your chances of success long before you get rolling. A cheap and effective way to receive widespread exposure is to use social media to your advantage. Find a platform that best fits your business, and use its built in audience to your advantage. In this digital era, the potential to have video or audio go viral is very real, and the marketing power of one successful viral video is more than money can buy.

Susie Almaneih marketing

Develop a referral program or offer incentives to those who share positive reviews about your company. When conducted during the initial days of a launch, a company stands to gain serious word-of-mouth traction through customer to customer referrals. While doling out incentives in the form of discounts early in the life of your business may seem counterintuitive, genuine feedback is crucial when building positive buzz.

Partner yourself with a successful company in your industry. Beyond establishing your brand as an authority in the field, using the notoriety of a well-known entity can make for some powerful marketing opportunities. Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants. By positioning yourself in a positive way today, you can lend your influence to the next startup looking to you for help.

Create eye-catching and interesting content. When designing a business card, you want to stick in your customers mind while remaining true to your industry. Your business card is the calling card of your company, and a well-crafted card sticks in the mind long after the first meeting. Approach your website with the same gusto you bring to the creation of your business card. Diversify the offerings on your website and be sure to include a variety of different articles. Not only will diverse information help your Google ranking, it will help establish your business as an authority in the field in the eyes of consumers.

Using these simple tips are some of the ways your company can pinch pennies while getting exposure. Simple, easy and relatively inexpensive, these steps can ensure you get the most mileage out of your marketing dollars.

 

Small Business Marketing

One of the most important aspects in maintaining a small business is to know how to market it. According a an article written by Business Coach Terry Corbell, there are many ways to market your own small business as long as you act on preliminary efforts and focus your time on various marketing techniques. Here’s a recap on what he said:

Susie Almaneih Small-Business-Marketing

First, Corbell notes that a small business owners number one priority to be to market his or her business, especially after those foundational phases are developed and running smoothing. He suggests, “Avoid complacency. Even on bad-hair days, don’t let up. Even when revenue is good and you’re really busy, don’t get complacent. The point is this – decreasing your marketing investment to save money will hurt you both short and long term. Be relentless,” (Corbell, The 8 Best Practices to Win in Small Business Marketing).That being said, looking for ways to expand your marketing department is a great start to making marketing your number one priority. Many companies will gear their focus elsewhere, but smaller businesses especially need to have strong marketing techniques.

Next, Corbell advises to create an approach to marketing that is diversified and integrated. He says to “whenever possible, remember a single marketing medium should not eat up the entire budget. You should have a marketing mix of public relations and paid advertising,” (Corbell, The 8 Best Practices to Win in Small Business Marketing). Having an appropriate assortment of marketing strategies will not only help your company reach a broader range of clientele, but it will help you save money and in turn aid in your company’s overall profit.

Susie Almaneih small-business-credit-card

Another great marketing technique according to Terry Corbell is to be socially conscience. This means marketing your company in ways the public will appreciate. Whether it’s going green and creating energy-saving products, or teaming up with a nonprofit organization in order to show that your company stands behind a particular cause, cause-related marketing is always a good idea. Corbell explains:

“Don’t underestimate the power of cause-related marketing because it can get you a double-digit percentage in higher sales. And it helps to be environmentally conscious, which means you’ll be able to expand your customer base by branding your business as green,” (Corbell, The 8 Best Practices to Win in Small Business Marketing).

For more information on how to market your small business and reasons why marketing should be on the top of your list of priorities, check out Terry Corbell’s article published in The Biz Coach here.

Owning Your Own Business

Susie Almaneih small-business-saturdayStarting a business can be a fun and exciting adventure. The future is wide open, and every decision you make as your own boss is in service of the company you built. Though not for the feint of heart, forging your own path as an entrepreneur can be freeing and fun, placing you in charge of your own destiny. What other ways can making this leap benefit your future?

Put succinctly by Kasey Gahler, “One reason to own your own business is the ability to direct the culture of your company.” Mr. Gahler, a financial planner, left a career in a prominent company to start Gahler Financial. Having full control over what your company says and the way in which it’s said allows you to manage your own image, rather than languish under a direction you may not agree with.

Similarly, owning your own business allows you to set your own balance between work and life. Work from home, on the go, an island or bed, all viable options for the business owner. Your happiness belongs to you, and any schedule you choose to set for yourself is on your terms. To some, the ability to spend more time with the family means a world of difference, and only the freedom that comes with owning your own business can afford you that opportunity.

Along with choosing the direction of your business, you can surround yourself with handpicked professionals. Being the driving force of your company allows you the benefit of choosing only those that work best with you and your vision. As the one responsible for your company’s future, you’re in charge of stocking it with the best possible candidates to assist you in ensuring that future.

While starting your own business comes with its own risks, they shouldn’t stop you from fulfilling your goal. Any dream worth having can be attained if you have the grit and determination to make it so. The life of an entrepreneur may not be an easy one, but its rewards belong solely to those brave enough to meet the challenge.

Implementing a Mobile Strategy

Having a strong communication system within a business is what can make or break the company’s success. Being able to communicate both internally within the office and externally to other clients is extremely vital. Therefore, here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” that Exact Market, a highly regarded marketing firm in California’s Discovery Bay area, urges you consider when it comes to implementing your own mobile strategy:

Susie Almaneih mobile friendly businesses

First, let’s discuss some of the “Dos”: Exact Market suggests you DO meet with the Human Resources or Legal Team within your company. This is so that you can make sure your business is ready to gain a telework policy. Sometimes, businesses just simply aren’t at that level or they need to consider various confidentiality agreements before doing so. In addition, your company should find a solution that works the same way your company does. For example, Exact Market explains:
“Make sure you are A) using the best possible solution for your business and B) that the right fit also accommodates consumer mobile devices like tablets and smart phones. It’s uncommon these days that specialized software doesn’t have an accompanying app or remote access, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that app is a great option for your employees,” (Exact Market, Dos and Don’ts to Consider When Implementing a Mobile Strategy).

Another “Do” Exact Market recommends for companies is that they set up multiple consultations with various software manufacturers and services providers. Many of these firms make huge investments so they can develop innovative mobile technologies and are more than likely willing to share their ideas with prospective clients in order to determine what option in the best fit for your business.

Now, onto the “Don’ts” for your company to be aware of when it comes to implementing a mobile strategy: First, Exact Market suggests that you should not assume there is strictly one option, explaining how, “Many businesses make the mistake of assuming they have two choices: a basic, legacy phone system or an excessive enterprise PBX system. It’s a big market out there with new options entering the picture all the time,”(Exact Market, Dos and Don’ts to Consider When Implementing a Mobile Strategy).

Exact Market also suggests that a company should not invest in communications systems that don’t scale or adapt. Investing in an inflexible phone system will limit your company’s ability to accommodate growth, even if that growth is in a few years time. You don’t want to get stuck with a system that does not have the ability to adapt to new changes in the technology world, which this day and age are extremely frequent.

Of course, there are many other “Dos” and “Don’ts” you should consider in regard to implementing a mobile strategy for your company. Please check out Exact Market’s website to find out more.