Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Taking on the Giant

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The hardest thing for a business to do is stand out and claim a presence among its millions of competitors. That goes double for a small business that is looking to get a piece of the pie that its bigger corporate rivals are enjoying. They have to come up with ways to step out from behind their shadows and create one for themselves.

Businesses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Some are bigger than others and some might be more effective and efficient. One thing that they all have in common is the goal to bring the best product to the market as possible and hope that they can get business. While that task may be easier for some than it is for others, all hope is not lost. With the right amount of marketing and promotion, your small business could find itself rubbing shoulders with some of the big time businesses.

As a small business, your first step towards world domination is knowing who you are up against and the reality that you will never be as big as the bigger companies or reach the broader audiences. I know it sounds harsh, but that is reality. You are going up against well established companies that have a big presence and will be hard pressed to move. So, your job is to conquer what they have left unattended, which means smaller audiences. This is one step in increasing your visibility. If you are able to do business in a smaller space and be successful, it's only a matter of time before you are forced to grow and move on.

Your next step should be to create a presence on social media. This is a step that cannot be skipped. I know the internet might scare you and you would rather not deal with it, but once again, keep in mind you're small and therefore need to use any tool available to you. This means making sure you are getting your message out to existing customers and potential ones. Furthermore, social media is inexpensive, so you don't have to worry about the cost to market your business.

If you have been following me so far, you should know what is coming next: good old online reputation management. It's never overrated, but somehow understated. Now before you say that your reputation is clean, stop right there. It is better to be safe than sorry and if you have the opportunity to acquire the services of a respectable firm, you take it, no questions asked. There are actually some firms that can help you with building your company. Firms like Centel Media can help you design your webpage, establish your presence on social media and on top of that, protect your online reputation. With all this knowledge in hand, you are ready to take on the world one step at a time or better yet, one customer at a time.

It won't be easy trying to gain traction in the cutthroat world of business, but it can be done. A little luck and a lot of hard work and dedication will take you to far greater heights.

Mail Call

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Many of us check our email daily. Of the thirty plus emails we receive on daily basis, we read maybe five to 10 of them. Most businesses struggle with getting their emails read and not labeled as spam. Once that happens, you can forget about connecting to that customer. In fact, your email will never get seen. Instead, it will go into the deep pile of spam mail never to be seen again.

It wasn't too long ago that emails were the social media of its generation. It was hip, trendy, and if you didn't have one you were considered lost in time. While it still remains one of the most popular and effective ways to communicate, it often gets grouped with trash if it is not labeled correctly or does not have an attention grabbing title.

The faith lost in emails has developed over the years from spam and viruses that get transmitted through emails and wreak havoc on your computer. People no longer open emails freely. In fact, if a message looks like spam, it is going straight to the spam folder. Unfortunately, you can be running a legit business and send out emails to the public in hopes of gaining interest from the recipients, but have these emails never get there. Not only have your messages been labeled as spam, but your business has the reputation of sending out spam.

Having your business being labeled as a spam sender could be very damaging, especially if you are just starting out. I always say social media is a cheap form of marketing, but you can add email to that list as well. It can be an amazing tool for your business at a very low cost. But since you have the reputation of a spam mailer, you now have to fix that. Of course, it will cost you, but it is a cost that you should be glad to pay. Unlike fixing your online reputation, I don't recommend you trying to do this on your own. It is too risky and if you don't completely remove your self out of that position you will most likely fall deeper. This only leads to more time and money wasted.

Hiring professional help should be your next move. Not only will you get your reputation restored, but you can look to them for help with marketing your emails so that customers read them rather than discard them. What you were missing is how to properly market your emails and the audience to send them to. Now that you have professional help, you no longer have to worry about your emails getting spammed because they are now constructed in a way where they stand out from the rest of the emails that we get.

Email marketing is often overlooked, but if you are not careful, it can give you a negative reputation without you even knowing.

Culture Change

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A business is defined by its culture and how it does business. Some sectors are labeled by the public as having a bad culture, one that puts profit above the concerns and needs of the people they are servicing. As a business owner, you should be aware of the type of culture you are cultivating and that you have the right people working for you.

The main problem people have with jobs or businesses is the culture. You will often hear the word toxic being thrown around when someone is attacking the culture of a business. The culture of a business includes many key factors such as mission statements, employee morale and customer service interaction. Businesses that receive positive grades in the three aforementioned criteria are often some of the most profitable and popular businesses in the world. Finding a mix of the three is not an easy task, but for those that can achieve this, they will be among the top rated businesses.

On the flip-side, there are many businesses that have failing grades in one of the three categories. Some even have failing grades in two or more. These are the businesses we read and hear about on the news and in the paper. The businesses are often misguided and fall deeper into the toxic category, which nobody wants to touch. The culture of a business starts at the top of the helm. The CEO is usually the one who comes in and sets the tone and direction in which he wants the business to go.

Big businesses are often under immense pressure to fill the spot of a CEO, so they often choose someone who is not fit for that specific job. Now he might be a great fit at another company that fits his strengths, but for this job, not so much. He is now faced with the option of adopting the company's existing culture or injecting his own. Either way, a struggle is developing, which leads to bigger problems with board members, employees and most importantly, the customers.

It is important to know who you are hiring and what their plan for the company is. If we look at some of the world's biggest companies today, they are struggling to repair their reputation with the public for many reasons. Those same companies have gone through numerous CEOs in a little under a decade because of the culture struggle. Many of them are now trying to repair their reputation with the public and are diligently searching for the right candidate to properly represent their business.

The difference between having a successful global business and a business that is barely making profit is culture. In the global society we live in today, culture can no longer be pushed aside or hidden beneath big profits.

How Should You Respond?

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Are you going to respond to negative comments made by customers with anger and with the same type of negativity, or are you going to simply ignore them? Either way, the outcome will not be good. We have always been taught to respond to negative content with positivity, which will at least show that you do not act out of emotion. Ignoring comments that customers have made about you, however, will just show that you do not care about what they have to say. Your online reputation is on the line when it comes to certain decisions; do not make one that will cause you to have a negative reputation.

When it comes to responding to negative comments, have a plan of attack. You are in control when it comes to responding to comments, respond appropriately and consistently in order to have the effect you want. Try to build relationships with your customers and earn their trust. This will come to your benefit when negativity starts to come about. Some of these loyal customers that you build your trust with will defend your good name when a customer tries to bad mouth your brand.

Learning from your mistakes is crucial when it comes to responding to certain comments. If you ever do respond out of emotion or negativity, learn from it. There are going to be certain consequences that come about from this and you will know what to do next time in order to avoid it.

The best thing to remember is to stay positive. Do not over react or panic when you start to notice negative comments. Your actions will indicate how others will think of you as business owner, or as a professional. Online reputation is just as important as your credit score nowadays, do not let it go downhill. If you do not think you are capable of dealing with these types of situations on your own, consider hiring an online management such as Centel Media™. They have professionals that will help you build the right type of online reputation that is needed in order to be successful. These professionals will also help to put up more positive comments and remarks about your brand name and fade out the negative ones.

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Day, Old Problems

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As a business owner, a new day is one of hope and adventure. The hope comes in the form of new customers that bring in more profit. The adventure might be expanding your brand from point A to point B. But, you don't want the same problems to stick around when you could instead be focusing on something new.

The problems of yesterday can stunt the growth and progress of your business and overtime can build up into to something very disastrous if it is not taken care of immediately. Of course, some problems will take longer than a day to take care of. However, the longer you let it sit and fester, the worse it will be for you down the line when you are ready to move on. You could be all set to go, but this could be the one thing that holds your progress back.

One of the many responsibilities that a business owner has is making sure your reputation is in good standing at all times. What you don't know about your own company's reputation can hurt you and cost you money in more ways than one. Customers that search you might find some startling news about you that will turn them away. You might have been considered going into a partnership with another company, but if your reputation proves to be too much of a risk for them, the deal may be compromised.

There are thousands of different scenarios that I can go through, but you get the point I am trying to make. If you are too busy to keep tabs on your reputation yourself, you do have the option to hire professional help, which in reality is the best option for you. Doing it yourself can be effective and save you a lot of money, which is always a plus, but you might not do a sufficient job of fixing everything.

With professional help working for you, you can continue to operate your business and take advantage of newer opportunities that are coming your way. Problems that you once had will always resurface when you are progressing and moving up. If your company is protected properly, those problems won't stand a chance and will have little effect on you. But if not, they can reclaim the spot they once had and wreak havoc on you until you properly get rid of them.

The past often tries to stall progression. Protect your business from any past attacks that try to resurface and keep you from moving up.

Social Media: The New Background Check

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In the past, when you applied for a job, you more than likely had to agree to undergo a background check. This was to see if you had any type of trouble with the law other than the one you admitted to on your application. However, times have changed and there is a new background check that employers use. This one is less expensive and is easy to sign up for--it's called social media.

As a consumer, the technology boom has brought many unique and satisfying tools for communication into our lives, the fact that we can connect with friends and loved ones quite a distance away is still amazing, no matter how old it gets. But with every pro, there is a con. In this instance, the con of social media is it is your social resume. We have our professional ones that we upload or hand in, but social media is one we don't look at as a resume but in fact it very much is.

Social media is the resume that employers of today are interested in seeing. It's not that your professional one is not good enough, but social media really tells who you are as a person and how you conduct yourself when you are off the clock. While you are off the clock, you are free to do whatever you want. But, keep in mind if you are working for a big corporation or the government, it would be wise not to post anything offensive or tweet anything that you will regret later on down the line. Before you press that enter or send button, you should ask yourself that question.

We have to keep in mind that it is a hiring manager's job to find the best candidate to get the job done as well as represent the image of the company in the most respectful way. While you may have graduated with top honors and be tailor made for a specific position, what may be holding you back are the questionable things you post on your socialmedia account. What people don't realize is no one would know if you don't post it. You have the option of just keeping it to yourself or among friends, but in the "ME" generation we feel we should broadcast our every move.

It is the responsibility of all participants of social media to be cognizant of what they are putting out there for the world to see. This is especially true for high school and college students. Our future is still ahead of us and we want to give ourselves the best chance to succeed and not be held back by some dumb decision. That decision could affect us for a very long time and keep us from achieving a lot great things.

We may think sending that post or tweet out might make us the talk of the town, but in fact, it is severely damaging to our future.

Effective Promotion

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There are many ways to promote and get your product out to the masses. The question you must ask yourself as a business owner is how effective is your promotion strategy? You are one of many business owners who use the same methods and means to promote and market your product, so you must find a way to stand out in that bunch and get your message across clearly.

Promotion has changed over the past 25 years, going from billboards, print and TV ads to emails, text messages and pretty much any technological device we have available to us. One could assume that because we have more tools to use to promote our product, it should be easier; but in fact, it is the total opposite. Those who think like that are the ones who suffer and end up spending a lot of time and money on an ineffective strategy.

The reason there are more effective tools to promote is that the population has grown over the past two or more decades. However, before you start drooling over the dollar signs, think about what that means. While having more people benefits business, the strategy on how you will reach them has to change. The print ads or the pop up ads you have used in the past won't be good enough this time around because the audience you are reaching is 10 times bigger.

On top of that, business has undergone a makeover and has become very global. On top of having to reach all of your customers, you now have to tailor your promotion to the needs and cultural requirements that each country has, because each is different from the other. It may seem overwhelming and intimidating, but if you plan and execute your plans correctly, this process could be very easy and save you a lot of time. Still, you have to be willing to put the work in. A lot of trial and error will be involved, and promotion strategies will work for some places, but not for others. The quicker you acknowledge that and fix it, the quicker you will be able to move on to the next phase.

I believe in the saying, "if it ain't broke don't fix it." In a situation dealing with promotion, I think you can still apply that saying, but with a twist. That twist will more than likely be in the form of social media activity, either on Facebook or Twitter. It doesn't matter which one it is, as long as you have a presence and can communicate on a daily basis with your fans and customers. Yes, promotion is about selling something, but you can use it to attract and inform existing customers as well as potential customers. In the end, it is a win for you and your business.

Promotion can get tricky as you expand your business. Having a sound strategy will ensure that every step of the journey is as easy as possible.