Understanding the USP: What Makes Your Business Stand Out? [Branding Basics Series]

Understanding the USP: What Makes Your Business Stand Out? [Branding Basics Series]

When starting and running any business or organization, differentiating yourself from those similar to yours is essential for future growth, and frankly, even for short-term survival. For instance, if you are going to be one of 5 bakeries in a town of 25,000, you need to find a way to stand out—why should anyone prefer your bakery over others? That is the driving question. In the earliest stages of your business you need to establish your USP. Otherwise known as the unique selling proposition, it is a statement that every company develops to describe what they offer, how it takes care of customer needs, and how it distinguishes them from the competition. It’s a declaration of why you’re better than everyone else who essentially does the same thing.

As the business owner of our theoretical bakery, there are many ways you could decide to differentiate yourself before you open the door the first day. Maybe you’re the only 24 hour bakery in the community or the only one open on Mondays. As it relates to product, maybe you’re the only bakery that makes bagels or caters weddings. Whatever it is, you need to state this as your USP as this will guide all of your marketing efforts moving forward, or at least until you reach the point where you need to rethink your unique selling proposition and make appropriate changes as you’re responding to the marketplace.

To be a bit more specific, if your plan is to offer the best customer service ever, your USP might be “Made Fresh 24/7.” If you want to differentiate with more of an emotional tactic, your USP might be “Just Like Mom Baked.” The USP doesn’t have to be an exhaustive document on all the minutia that makes you different, its a summary statement honing in on the one thing that will drive people into your business even though its likely there are many factors that can differentiate one bakery from another.

The USP for my company is “Building Relationships so You can Build Your Business.” While my team is always focused on taking care of client needs, from logo designs to websites and marketing strategy, we want to build a relationship with our clients. After the website is built or the corporate training is complete, we hope to continue to support our clients through encouragement, networking and sending them opportunities as they present themselves. What we’re not building is a conveyor belt system such that when we’re finished with one task we quickly move on to the next one. We want to take care of our customers because we care about them as people, too. Whether local or glocal, we share the same community, and we can thrive together.

Once you have developed your USP, you might want to go back to some of your closest friends and colleagues and run it past them. People who know you, know your passion, and know your business, will be able to provide input that will help you to move forward. It’s always good to have a circle support to shine a light on your path and make the journey a bit easier.

It can be a huge step to finally decide “this is what I want to be known for” because there are other things you also want to be known for. It’s human nature to experience self-doubt and hesitate on a course of action. At some point, any course of action is better than none because there is so much to be learned in the process.

No one in business gets it right every time. And sometimes when they do get it right, its completely by accident. If you’d like some feedback on your unique selling proposition or you’re not sure where to start, let us know. We’d love to connect with you and help you get things started.

6 Myths about Non-Profit Management: Why You Should Manage Your Non-Profit Like a For-Profit Business

6 Myths about Non-Profit Management: Why You Should Manage Your Non-Profit Like a For-Profit Business

For much of much of my career, I’ve worked in the non-profit setting, but I’ve also spent a great deal of time in the for-profit sector, including having the privilege to run my own business.This makes some suggest that I’m quite versatile. I am…but the real truth is, the most successful non-profit organizations and the most successful for-profit businesses are run with the same basic business principles and should be managed in exactly the same way with some obvious revenue/tax exceptions.

I raise this issue because I often run into people who have misconceptions about the inner workings of a non-profit. Somewhere along the line they’ve come to believe that the administration, the oversight, the day to day operations, is run a little less tight than its for-profit counterpart. Now they could be making mention of these things as merely something they’ve seen, but sometimes it’s the case that boards and committees have a lax view of how a non-profit organization needs to be managed.

Here’s the problem. When non-profit leadership takes on the attitude that we can cut corners, we don’t need to run a tight ship, that the quality of our work can be the bare minimum, we can be guaranteed that this non-profit will not be around for very long. Every non-profit should be managed with the mindset of a for-profit business….as if its your money to lose, not someone else’s. So, there are some myths about non-profit management that really need to be addressed:

Myth #1: Overhead should be avoided or kept at a bare minimum.
Of course there isn’t a non-profit or for-profit business anywhere that should practice the use of excessive overhead or spending. For all practical purposes….why? But where the non-profit struggles a bit differently than their for-profit counterpart is the belief that they should do without or with antiquated equipment so that all of their dollars can be poured back into their mission. The problem with this way of thinking is the belief that the mission is even achievable without working computers, usable phone lines, or adequate office space. The more effective an organization is, the easier it is to persuade donors to invest more. But effectiveness is dependent on efficiency, and having the right equipment and the right people is how things are going to happen.

Myth #2: Non-profits can’t have money in the bank at the end of the year.
I almost spit out my drink when someone told me that an experienced non-profit executive actually believes this. There is no IRS rule stating that at the end of the fiscal year, they have to start with a zero balance in their bank accounts. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this sentiment in all honesty. It comes out in a variety of forms such as “we can’t have a savings account with a lot of money in it because we are a nonprofit.”  Please have money in the bank at the end of the year so you have something to work with. So sad that this even has to be addressed as a serious myth….but I’ll move on…

Myth #3: Non-profits cannot make a profit.
Another widely believed myth. So let’s set the record straight on this. If your organization that supports, for example, suicide prevention, and wants to sell t-shirts to create more awareness for the cause, your organization can do that.

Non-profits can earn a profit on activities not related to their stated goals, but any profits of this kind are subject to taxation. In order for a nonprofit to make tax-exempt income, it must fall within the scope of their mission and those profits must be reinvested into its expenses.This income typically comes in the form of donations and grants. Of course, this is not financial advice, please give your financial adviser a call to get more information on this matter.

Myth #4: Non-profit executives should be paid less.
After all, its charitable work, right? Think again. It takes talent to run any business, including a non-profit entity. In the same way you shouldn’t keep the computers around with the Windows 98 operating system (its a security risk!), don’t hire staff who are inadequate for the task. If you plan to be working for your cause in the next 10, 15 or 20 years, you need to invest in the leadership that can take you there. If you underpay, you won’t find the talent you need because they will find a way to go where they can get the salary they deserve. Invest early and reap the benefits later.

Myth #5: Big donors are more important than small donors.
Seems like that $5000 donor who dropped off a check last week should be more important than the guy that dropped $10 in the donation jar this morning. Common sense, right? But you know what they say about making assumptions. There is no donor more important than another donor. Of course, you can’t go to lunch with ALL of them, but don’t assume you know everything there is to know about the man who donated ten dollars. Do you know that he doesn’t have another ten thousand to contribute? The best way to think about donors is to not make value judgments about anyone who contributes less than you expect. Even if the ten dollar contributor could never give another cent again, that ten dollars was given from the heart. We don’t want to lose our small donors because they often make up more of the giving than do the large donors. According to Charity Navigator, “donations from individuals account for over two-thirds of all donations.” Big or small, every donation adds up.

Myth #6: Donor Acquisition is more important than donor retention.
Whether you’re a for-profit or a non-profit entity, you need to always be thinking about how to draw in more customers while retaining your existing customers. Implementation of different marketing strategies will allow you to focus on both types differently. Loyalty programs will help you with retention, including in the non-profit setting, and special deals will make an impact on both existing and potential customers. You need to resist comparing the two and give energy to both.

There are many more crazy myths out there about non-profits and how they should be managed differently from a for-profit business. The bottom line is in order for either to run efficiently and effectively, they both need to be governed by basic business principles that allow for future growth. So don’t buy into the myths and be smart about running your non-profit…like the business that it is.

Walmart, Kroger and Corporate Social Responsibility: Understanding the Risks

Walmart, Kroger and Corporate Social Responsibility: Understanding the Risks

Responding to the growing number of Americans who are demanding more restrictions on gun and ammunition sales, Walmart and Kroger are asking shoppers to not open carry unless they are members of law enforcement.

Big box businesses like Walmart and Kroger understand the responsibility—and see the opportunity—in this positioning. In an open letter to Walmart employees, Chief Executive Doug McMillon said the company would stop selling ammunition used for handguns and military-style weapons, completely end the sale of handguns and discourage anyone from carrying weapons in any Walmart location including in “open carry” states.

These corporate decisions, while not popular among all Americans, are important for regulating their brand image among their consumers. For Walmart, this positioning lends also toward improving their brand among those who, out of principle and for many reasons, have chosen NOT to shop in their stores. With every corporate decision comes backlash, and it’s become clear already that many open carry advocates are beginning to boycott Walmart in favor of stores that either do not take a position on this issue or simply have not made it known.

Issues related to gun rights and ownership have an impact on just about everyone, so it’s no surprise these issues are now a matter of corporate social responsibility. Its no longer just about companies being green or being an inclusive workplace or finding other ways to give back to communities. The issues are becoming more politically charged and citizens are demanding from them more socio-political positioning. Corporations are now figuring out what stands are safe and good for them from a public relations perspective, which ones come with risks and weighing the costs.

Corporate social responsibility as a form of reputation management is an area of marketing applicable to every size of business and organization. As part of a marketing strategy, it’s a way for businesses to get in front of their customers by getting in front of issues with a specific message. Many companies want to make a difference in their communities, regions or world, but the reality is that they want to be seen while making that difference. Whether it’s an act of generosity with some type of community benefit or a new company policy with social impact, there is nothing morally repugnant about putting out the press release or doing the photo op because it can motivate other businesses to similar actions. No company stock is going to plummet and there is no expectation for franchise-wide boycotts to occur for doing the right thing unless it’s just not the right time or they’ve misread public sentiment. And therein lies the challenge for businesses when choosing to respond to social issues and hot political topics—it is not without its risks.

Selling Ideas Before Selling Lemonade [Branding Basics Series]

Selling Ideas Before Selling Lemonade [Branding Basics Series]

You remember your first business endeavor. You were probably around the age of 10. It was a lemonade stand and the reason you started it is because you wanted to buy something that either your parents couldn’t afford to buy for you or you needed earn the money to do it yourself. So without regard for any cost-benefit analysis, you asked your parents for the sugar, the lemons, and the markers and tag board for your marketing materials and you set up on the front sidewalk in front of your house with your plan to make all the money you needed all before dinner.

You didn’t know at the time that you needed a business plan and a marketing strategy. All you knew was that 1) you needed the cash fast and 2) people get thirsty. There was a definitive need for what you were selling.

But you were selling more than lemonade. You were selling a dream. Every child who got a nickel from their parents to buy your product was thirsty. Every adult who told you to keep the change was sold on your dream—whatever it was. They didn’t care to know.

It gets a little harder to sell anything as a budding entrepreneur. People don’t buy because they think you’re adorable and want to play a role in helping you buy your next toy. They want to buy because you’ve sold them on the notion that your product or service fills a need or solves a problem. That connection has been made in their mind, at least a few moments before they have presented you with payment.

Moving product is as much about selling ideas as much as it is the transaction at the cash register. Successful businesses know this. Many fast food establishments have sold you their product before you even get in the car. If having it “your way” is more important than “fresh never frozen,”  then your lunch-time path is predetermined and the work of sales has been reduced to “may I take your order?”

Its never been more important that you know who you are and what you’re selling. Differentiating yourself and your product is one of the clearest ways consumers can answer the question of need or desire. You need to be willing to make your personality, your store, your product and your service look different from the 20 other similar establishments in your community. Standing out is how people begin to make product considerations. You can’t be seen among the competition if you look exactly like them.

Starting a business and having any long-term success is well beyond the anecdote of the lemonade stand. You’re just not cute enough anymore to start a business venture that inspires people much older than you to buy things because it will make you feel good. Before you can move any product or service or persuade people to give to your cause, you have to convince them of the need it fills in their life. Eventually you’ll create a brand reputation that stands out among the competition and that people have learned to trust.

“Personal branding” Doesn’t Sound Gross

“Personal branding” Doesn’t Sound Gross

It’s said by so many people, including me, that knowledge is power. So if you have an idea about how your customers and acquaintances think about you, then you have a starting point for knowing what to fix and why (or to know what isn’t broken!). Your brand is the experience others have with your business, product, service, or relationship. As Jeff Bezos is widely quoted as saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your personal brand can and should be both passive and active. It’s how people know you and what you know about yourself and want to refine. A recent article at Fast Company made some interesting claims about the concept of brand.

Brands shape themselves to what others want to hear. A brand is a politician in a cheap suit with over-whitened teeth that calculates relationships in ROI. A personal brand lives in constant fear of discovery, that others will see them for who they aren’t or what they don’t know.

Whatever the answer is to the question, “How do you want to be known?”, the answer is a goal which may or may not be actually achievable. That I might want to be known as a recording artist with at least one top 40 hit is totally not achievable….it’s an unrealistic fantasy. But that I want to be known as a marketing and leadership coach is not outside the bounds of my skills and experience. Brands can always start off as a lie, but brands that attempt to perpetuate that lie have a high mortality rate.

Where a ‘brand is artificial and phony, ethos is an authentic expression of your values and identity as a leader. Ethos includes your accomplishments, mastery, reputation, knowledge, and credibility. A professional ethos is an incomplete expression of your entire self.

Though I love the fact that a leader in the marketing arena is espousing the teachings of Aristotle in their work, I think the logical fallacy here is that brand and ethos must be contradictory terms. I would suggest that a “brand” is incredibly difficult to fake because you can’t alter a person’s experience with your product or service. You can’t lie to consumers and suggest that they can “have it your way” and not let them have it their way. The market doesn’t allow for false advertising for very long or with brands that don’t deliver the experience they’re attempting to convey through their marketing strategy. Of course, ethos is a great way to understand the depths of an individual or business culture, but a brand is simply reminiscent of the experience a customer has with your product or service—and your logo and entire brand identity serves as a reminder of that experience.

How Do You Want to Be Known? [Branding Basics Series]

How Do You Want to Be Known? [Branding Basics Series]

How is your business known? What do your customers say about their experience with your product or service? Branding goes way beyond a logo, color scheme and brand usage guide. Before you get to any of that, you have to decide how you want to be known and go for creating that climate for your customers.

For example, when I get my hair done, I have a pampered experience with lots of fun conversation with my stylist. Of course, I come out with a great product – no more roots and beautiful highlights! – but what I also take away the memory of the experience and its something I look forward to every few weeks. Its not the stylist’s logo that keeps me coming back, its the experience she provides and that is her brand.

The same is said of Starbucks, Apple and McDonald’s. The Starbucks brand begins with the social model they’ve created in each store. You want to have that bold cup of coffee with the chance to meet up with someone you know while working on your laptop or smart device. Starbucks is selling you a social experience. And while Apple might be selling technology and innovation, what you’re buying is innovation and an obvious “cool” factor. McDonald’s isn’t selling you the greatest burger on the planet, nor are they claiming to. McDonald’s brand is consistent flavor and a generally speedy experience.

How do you want to be known? Are customers coming away from your business saying they want to shop with you again? Are you providing a consistent experience that people are talking about?

Branding includes many elements including your logo, advertising, store layout & lighting….and the consumer experience. Starting with the question “how do I want to be known?” will guide decision making in these other areas. For instance, your logo should try to reflect your brand’s personality. If your retail establishment prides itself on minimalism with a lot of space, flat edges and dark lines, your logo shouldn’t embody a lot of noise, curves and color.

Consistency is the key to successful branding. Decide who you are and how you want to be known, and from there your brand identity, advertising and other marketing materials will be easier to make decisions on without being entirely random or arbitrary. You won’t just pick a logo because its pretty, you’ll choose it because it coheres with the image you want to communicate about your business. Your brand will be remembered for the experience you provide. That experience is what differentiates your product or service from the competition. it will be recognized by your company or product logo.

 

Skills Required to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

Skills Required to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

These are non-negotiables. If you struggle in any of these areas, your ability to build a business will be seriously challenged. Of course, some entrepreneurs and long-time business owners are better at some of these points and build a team to close in on the other areas that are necessary for a successful business. For instance, if you’re not good at training staff, you can hire that out if your budget allows. But some things can never be outsourced. If your’e unable to make friends or even deal with failure, you’ll only be in business for a short time. What areas do you need to work on?

 

  • Ability to manage money.
  • Ability to raise money.
  • Ability to relieve stress.
  • Ability to be productive.
  • Ability to communicate effectively.
  • Ability to make friends
  • Ability to identify strengths & weaknesses.
  • Ability to hire and train staff.
  • Ability to manage staff.
  • Ability to do digital marketing.
  • Ability to connect via social marketing.
  • Ability to focus on your customers.
  • Ability to close a sale.
  • Ability to spot new trends.
  • Ability to deal with failure.
  • Desire to improve your world.
5 Strategies for Growing Your Nonprofit Organization in 2020

5 Strategies for Growing Your Nonprofit Organization in 2020

Nonprofit organizations are businesses, not unlike where you buy your groceries, get your hair done, or buy your kids school supplies. But what makes your nonprofit corporation different from those is that you prioritize revenue in terms of fulfilling your mission whereas the for-profit business prioritizes revenue for the sake of the revenue itself.

How your nonprofit is EXACTLY like a business is that you need to utilize many of the same tools for successful start up and growth. You need a business plan, a marketing plan, a budget, and staff or volunteers….all for the purpose of executing and accomplishing your mission and goals. Because nonprofits are often providing for a cause or a service and not a tangible, out-the-door consumable, generating revenue can be a challenge. So I want to share a few ways to overcome challenges to growth at any stage in the life of the non-profit.

Donor Development. Because donors are the lifeblood of your organization, you need to be meeting with them as often as possible, thanking them for past support and updating them on your organization’s status. While you can’t have lunch with everyone who has written a check, you can be sure to connect with those who are top level donors. Share with them the stories about the people you serve who are at the heart of your organization’s mission and get them excited about their involvement in those successes. Let them know their dollars were well spent, thank them for their commitment and partnership and continually inform them about the great things that are happening. But no matter what, make sure you are thanking every single donor who supports your organization in some way, shape or form.

Marketing Strategy. Make sure your marketing materials are current and that you have a robust communications strategy that: 1) keeps your donors informed 2) provides opportunity for new donor acquisition 3) interfaces with the media and 4) continually communicates your mission and shares your stories. Email marketing still plays a significant role for nonprofit organizations as it provides a means to stay in front of your supporters without anything more than their consent to receive emails. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp, Constant Contact and AWeber are examples of affordable options for every size organization and provide templates for the less experienced email designer as well as professional services for getting the custom design you want.

Your website needs to be designed in a responsive format. This means that when its viewed on smaller devices like phones and tablets, it adjusts to its environment instead of becoming impossibly microscopic. The reason this is important is because so many more internet users are looking at websites on their mobile devices and not always their desktops. Don’t make the mistake of losing supporters and followers because your website is difficult to view on these smaller devices. Yes, this will mean a website redesign is in order, but it will be an investment worth making. Don’t cut corners on your internet presence, that’s often how the people in your community first come to know you.

Valued Volunteer Resources. Create a culture where your staff and volunteers can’t help but to share your mission with the people in their world. They love what your organization stands for, that’s why they are involved. Create incentives like volunteer appreciation events and monthly recognitions so that they get more than lip-service for their time – they need to actually feel appreciated and valued. When its clear that an organization values all of its resources and prioritizes its “human” resources, this can inspire others to get involved as well.

Leadership. The face of your organization, whether an Executive Director, board president, operations manager, or marketing/PR director, needs to be someone who reflects the values of the organization, is able to provide clear and concise information about its mission, goals and needs, and is capable of inspiring others to participate, support or just simply share about the organization to other people in other spheres of influence. This person is the ambassador for your cause, so if they struggle to lead the organization internally or externally, they may not be the right person for the position. Don’t underestimate the need for someone who can speak to a crowd of 20 or 200 who also has the disposition to connect with volunteers.

Co-Branding & Collaboration. Find ways to collaborate with other groups and organizations in your community. Doing so doesn’t mean sacrificing current or potential donor dollars to other nonprofits. You want to be seen as a member of an interactive community, not like you’re living on a nonprofit island and no other mission matters. An aspect of reputation management for any business or organization is a willingness to be altruistically involved in a community. If you are involved in an art museum, you could plan to collaborate with local children’s organizations to do workshops. If you represent a cat rescue you might find ways to work with local medical facilities to fulfill animal-assisted therapy needs. In the world of marketing, this is called “co-branding,” a strategic marketing partnership between two separate organizations who collaborate to generate interest from their respective customers. The success of one brand provides for the success of the partner brand.

Growing your nonprofit organization requires a great deal of attention to donor development, volunteer management & support, community engagement, strong leadership, and marketing. Every nonprofit who wants to fulfill their mission and achieve their goals needs to work hard in these 5 areas. I hope the ideas I’ve shared help you to continue to grow and move your organization forward to the next level.

5 Tips for Improving Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter

5 Tips for Improving Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter

There’s nothing more important to the success of a nonprofit organization than the quality of its communications. From your brochures, website, and public speaking events, your message has one shot at being received. Once you lose someone’s attention, whether because of poor presentation or inaccurate information, its difficult to get it back. The same is true for your digital email campaigns. Don’t underestimate the impact of a quality e-newsletter. Though your organization is considered a charity, people are often not that charitable if content is sloppy, poorly formatted…..or worse, out of date. The following 5 tips will help to improve your organization’s email campaigns and make it easier to reach your intended audience.

1. Design Emails to be Mobile Friendly (Responsive)

By the end of 2014, 66% of emails were opened on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet and that number is only growing. Designing your emails to be mobile responsive helps them make the most impact when opened by your supporters. Emails that lack the responsive design are impossible to read, creating a lost opportunity. Don’t encourage your readers to hit the delete button, give them something they are able to read. Platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact offer free or affordable options for setting up your email the right way.

2. Quality Content

Email is an opportunity. Once an email is opened, you have a real chance to make an impact on a supporter. Be sure all information sent is up to date including upcoming events, schedules, donation figures, etc. Share stories about your volunteers, or if possible, features about the people your organization serves. Donors want to know that their money is going to work for the stated cause of an organization and email is one way—and an easy way—to deliver those details.

3. Send Email Campaigns with Regularity and Respect

Have an email campaign schedule that your supporters remember. Its recommended not to send on Mondays and Fridays, and when you send do it early enough in the day that they will be opened and read. If sent too late in the day, your readers may not get a chance to look as their day comes to a close. You should also avoid sending too frequently. As soon as someone believes their email box is being inundated with email blasts, they will unsubscribe.

4. Always Include a Clear Call to Action

One of the ways you can determine the success of an email blast is by looking at which links were clicked or actions were taken. For example, if you put out a call for new volunteers and include a link or email address for those who are interested to respond to, you can begin to see the effectiveness of your emails. Give your readers something to do in each email! This will become a helpful metric in determining your overall success.

5. Make it Easy to Opt In to Your Organization’s Email List

Make it easy for your supporters to opt-in to your email list via social media and your website. Have it on the contact page, footer and even on Facebook. Once they are on the list, encourage them to forward it to friends so that they can opt in too. Your supporters are your biggest advocates and can be a huge benefit to your cause.

Email campaigns can assist an organization in expanding its reach and effectively promoting its cause. Contact us to discuss how Sarah Flashing Creative & Consulting can help you be more successful in promoting your cause.

 

Your Visibility Impacts Your Brand: 6 Tips for Managing Your Reputation

Your Visibility Impacts Your Brand: 6 Tips for Managing Your Reputation

Marketing is a fun, creative activity that can also test your patience, especially the area of reputation management. Everything is marketing, not just your logo, your business card and advertising campaigns. Everything your audience sees you doing both personally and professionally represents your work. So your personal life can become a marketing asset or even a liability if you have any activity in social media and/or are visible in your community. Your brand identity is ultimately the experience your customers have with your product and any time they interact with you as a person. This can lead to your corporate identity being synonymous with your personal public image. To be clear, how people know you CAN impact your business, so it’s crucial to think before you speak, as the saying goes.

So you’re wondering the obvious question, where is the line between my public and private life? Clearly everyone in any business just wants to shed themselves of their work and do their own thing on their own time and not be seen, even if it’s just for a little while. Those days are over. The era of social media has essentially eliminated the privacy anyone ever really enjoyed. Unless you’re inactive on your social channel profiles, the world has access to your pet pictures, social vents and your personal beliefs and values. And because they won’t ever really go away, your words and images on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have the potential to define your brand identity and overshadow your products and services. As soon as you start to share all things personal, the line between your public and private life has essentially been erased.

So the concerns you may have about how to maintain your positive standing as a business owner are best answered by how you choose to be visible. Here are 6 tips to managing your reputation online and off, and preserve a bit of that line that separates the personal image from the public.

  1. Avoid public discussion on deeply controversial topics. Many families still adhere to the maxim “don’t discuss politics and religion” at holiday gatherings. The point is clear. You can’t change who your family is but you can avoid conflict with the people who are always yours. Do the same with your customers and community. Your business is about selling a product or service you believe in. The second you walk into a dispute entirely unrelated to your work, it may mean a loss in revenue. If someone wants to buy a dozen cookies from your store, should it really matter who they voted for in the last election?  You may never restore a relationship with a customer or client if all they remember how angry you got in social media or the argument they witnessed in your store.
  2. Don’t share your boudoir photos. If you’re on social media and you like to post selfies, be sure that the context in which they are taken doesn’t morally compromise any projects or products you’re involved with. For instance, if your work entails counseling people with alcohol addiction, don’t post images of yourself drinking 6 martinis. If you are the president of a local nonprofit aimed at helping underprivileged children,  you should reconsider posting anything that has sexually explicit themes. People shouldn’t judge–but they do.
  3. Get out in front of a story. If there is some bad press coming your way about something you may or may not have had control over, be the first to address it. Don’t hide from it or give people time to make up their own mind about why you’re not addressing the issue. Take responsibility and practice transparency. Make all apologies that are necessary and take appropriate action to rectify the matter. It’s important to listen, respond and show your willingness to alter policies or procedures to inspire the confidence of your audience, especially those who are paying real close attention to the matter at hand. Marketing strategy often involves crisis communications. To stay in business, you need to be able to manage a crisis and not let it manage you.
  4. Privatize your emotions. If something or someone on social media or in the community upsets you, don’t fly off the handle. Give serious thought to your reactions and responses. Always keep the long game in mind, because people remember who the keyboard warriors are. If you must address an issue, make sure you’re addressing it with facts. Avoid attacking and insulting people, keep the focus on the issue. Remaining cool, calm and collected in your community is the recipe for a solid reputation.
  5. Be positive and supportive. If your local and social footprint is known for being an encouragement to others, you really don’t have anything to worry about. Be a team player in the community and in social media. Support the great work that others are doing. This is another great way to get your name and business out there, too. Show empathy when necessary and be a person known for charity and courteousness. People love to support businesses who are known for supporting a community and its causes.
  6. Keep your social posts to a minimum. Whether for personal or business purposes, if it seems that all you do is hang out on Facebook, this probably is not helpful. Push your business posts only as frequently as necessary. People who follow your business online don’t want to see their feed filled with just your content. Be strategically discreet on the social channels so that people remember who you are instead of wishing you’d go away.

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