/Tag:incorporation service

Mars Cafe and the ultimate small business marketing compliment


430_3119396This is a true story about a local coffee shop in my neighborhood called Mars Cafe. Mars Cafe was a wildly successful local coffee shop and hangout for creative types in the Dog Town district of Des Moines. It was in business for 6 years and everyone loved it – it became a friendly local institution and an anchor of a part of town that used to be struggling economically.

Back in July, the owner of Mars Cafe suddenly announced that he was going to close the business. Even though the business was successful, he decided that he was too busy with other commitments and didn’t want to run the cafe any more. Everyone was shocked to hear that Mars Cafe was going to close. This was a beloved local cafe with a devoted following. Facebook lit up with people begging the owner to reconsider, saying, “Please don’t close, we love your cafe,” and so on. People even openly pleaded on Facebook, “Can’t someone else buy Mars Cafe instead?”

Then in August, after the cafe closed, it was announced that it was coming back. The café had new owners and re-opened on September 15, 2012. The new owners are 4 former longtime customers (now owners) who love Mars Cafe and want it to continue.

Here are a few questions to consider about why the rebirth of Mars Cafe is an amazing story, with some inspiring lessons for other small business owners: Continue reading “Mars Cafe and the ultimate small business marketing compliment” »

By | October 26th, 2012|Marketing Your Business|0 Comments

3 ways to boost your small business marketing beyond “order taking”

285_2695654The other day I was having breakfast with my family at a restaurant, and the waitress came to take our order. She was very nice and polite, but her method of taking our order was very, well, ordinary – she just kind of stood there with a notepad and wrote down our order without really asking us any questions about what we were hungry for or helping us decide. The waitress could have helped us by asking questions, suggesting popular items from the menu, and offering ideas for food and beverages that we might enjoy – and she probably would have earned a bigger ticket for the restaurant and a bigger tip for herself.

Whether you’re a restaurant server, sales person or small business owner, being an “order taker” might be perfectly polite, but it’s a missed opportunity to help the customer and make more money for the business. When you’re an entrepreneur trying to market your business, don’t just be an “order taker” who waits for customers to tell you what they want. To really add value for your customers and drive better results for your business, you need to help your customers figure out what they want.

Here are a few ways that your small business marketing can go beyond simply taking orders:

Suggestive selling: One of the oldest sales techniques is exemplified by a good restaurant server who knows how to suggest items on the menu. “Do you want fries with that?” is the classic line from a fast food restaurant, but suggestive selling is often a lot more sophisticated. If you’re a consultant, you might say to a client, “Based on your situation and what we’ve discussed so far, here is what I think you might need.” If you run a retail business, and your customers have been browsing a particular item on the shelves, “If you like that piece of merchandise, I think you’d really love this one too.” Suggestive selling doesn’t have to mean forcing things on people or pressuring people into making a purchase. Suggestive selling doesn’t have to be about suggesting a more expensive choice. Instead, it’s about offering up a broader array of choices than the customer might have known about. Good marketing can help educate the customer and make them aware of better choices that can leave them in better condition.

Continue reading “3 ways to boost your small business marketing beyond “order taking”” »

By | October 23rd, 2012|Marketing Your Business|0 Comments

One simple question that can help you keep customers

1540061What do you do when a customer tries to leave your business? Whether you’re a freelancer who wants to avoid getting “fired” by a long-time client, or a retail location that wants to keep up steady traffic of repeat business and referrals, it’s important to maintain your customer relationships. But sometimes, what happens when a customer decides to no longer do business with you can be one of the most important ways to keep making your business better. If you learn from it, even going through the experience of losing a customer can help you gain more customers in the long run.

I recently needed to cancel a life insurance policy because I had bought a new policy from a different agent. So when I contacted my existing policy’s insurance agency (State Farm agent James Lunders) to cancel the policy, instead of just saying “OK” and sending me some cancellation forms to fill out, James Lunders did something interesting: he asked if he could talk further with my wife and me to make sure we were getting a good deal on the new policy.

“I just want to make sure you’re getting good advice from this other insurance agent,” James said. “And I want to make sure you’re getting set up with a policy that’s a good fit for your needs. And if not, I want to see if we can offer you something that would be better.”

This was an interesting experience from a customer service perspective. And it made me wonder, how often do small businesses let their customers walk away without taking a moment to ask them why? Continue reading “One simple question that can help you keep customers” »

By | October 19th, 2012|Running A Small Business|1 Comment

Do you have the right character for entrepreneurial success?


Bob Lefsetz is a widely influential expert on the music industry whose blog “The Lefsetz Letter” is must-read material for anyone interested in the latest trends and underlying motivations driving the music and entertainment business. Lefsetz recently posted an article about the ingredients of success in the music business, and how successful succeed not because of their cognitive skills, but because of something more intangible: their character.

If character drives our success, what are the true components of character? Anyone who is trying to succeed as an entrepreneur by starting a business can learn from these ideas about the character of successful people.

Here are the most important aspects of character mentioned in Bob Lefsetz’s article, and some ideas for how you can exhibit and strengthen these characteristics in your journey of starting a business:

  • Persistence: When you start a business, you need to be prepared to keep trying and trying and trying, even in the face of failure, rejection and disappointment. But persistence doesn’t mean simply blasting out a lot of e-mails and making lots of cold calls and handing out business cards – it means learning from your mistakes and adjusting your tactics as you go along.

Continue reading “Do you have the right character for entrepreneurial success?” »

By | October 3rd, 2012|Starting a Business|0 Comments

Things I wish I’d learned in school about starting a business

685_3496960The fall back to school season always reminds me of how different life as an entrepreneur can be from the typical experience of going to school and going to college. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to create your own structure and “grade yourself” on your performance. You have to direct your own learning, and adjust along the way to decide whether you’re pursuing the goals that are right for you. Instead of teachers and professors and textbooks and a class syllabus showing you what you’re going to work on and why it’s important, being an entrepreneur requires you to write your own textbook and create your own road map for your growth and success.

There are many things about starting a business and running a successful business that you just can’t learn in a classroom, but here are a few things I wish I’d learned in school that would be helpful in my life today as an entrepreneur: Continue reading “Things I wish I’d learned in school about starting a business” »

What can your business learn from the NFL?

518_4539324Football season is here again. The NFL is America’s most popular and profitable sport, arguably having replaced baseball as America’s true “national pastime.” With over $4 billion per year in TV revenue (in addition to ticket sales and merchandise), the NFL is the richest brand in American sports. But just because the NFL is on top today doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. One of the biggest risks facing the NFL is the new research about concussions and brain injuries in football, with many former players now suing the league for negligence.

What are some ideas that small business owners can learn from the success (and risks) of the NFL?

Find your ideal medium. For many years, NFL football wasn’t nearly as popular as college football. But the NFL took off in popularity after World War II with the rise of television. NFL football is the ideal TV sport because it is broken up into many separate plays and the action translates well to the TV screen, where viewers can see the full complexity of the game up close. Even though your small business is unlikely to ever become as big of a draw as NFL football, now that we have social media, every small business has an opportunity to present itself to audiences in the best possible format. What do you do that could be best conveyed via YouTube video, podcast, or photos on Pinterest? How can you make your small business look more beautiful, more compelling, and more engaging with your customers and audiences? With social media, business owners have the ability to create their own content and tell their own story in a way that is affordable, targeted and relevant to the audience.

Continue reading “What can your business learn from the NFL?” »

Why hiring an accountant is one of the best things to do for your business


775_3833510Have you hired an accountant to help with your small business taxes and bookkeeping yet? If so, good for you.

If not, you really ought to hire an accountant as soon as possible. Hiring an accountant might be the #1 best thing you can do for your business.

2011 was the first year I did my taxes with the help of an accountant, and even though I’m “just” a solo freelancer and my business is relatively simple compared to larger businesses that have employees, inventory, depreciating equipment, and other tax-related minutiae, I am SO GLAD that I finally got around to hiring an accountant.

Here are a few reasons why (almost) every small business owner needs to hire an accountant: Continue reading “Why hiring an accountant is one of the best things to do for your business” »

By | September 7th, 2012|Business Finance, Taxes|2 Comments

Back to school ideas to energize your small business


846_4057867As a parent who runs a small business, one of my favorite times of year is the 1st day of back to school season! For us, it was today: 9/06/2012!  It’s exciting for me to see my kids gearing up for another year in the classroom, getting ready to make new friends and have fun new learning experiences. Just as back-to-school time is an occasion for kids to leave behind the relaxing summer months and focus again on learning, activities and growth, I try to use the back to school season as a way to refocus and re-energize myself and my business as well.

Once the kids go back to school, that’s a sign that the year is in the home stretch. Many businesses start to get busier after the slow summer months. Many seasonal businesses and retailers are starting to get ready for the busy holiday shopping season. Small business owners all over America are looking ahead to the last four months of the year hoping to meet or exceed their profit goals.

Back to school season is a special time of year and whether or not you have kids in school, we can all use this occasion to reflect on how we’d like to re-energize and reinvent our businesses as we prepare for the last few months of the year. Here are a few ideas to help you ignite a new spark of creativity in your business, inspired by “back to school” season: Continue reading “Back to school ideas to energize your small business” »

By | September 6th, 2012|Business Operations, Running A Small Business|1 Comment

Small business management lessons from Usain Bolt

507_4230319Usain Bolt is the “fastest man alive” after winning Gold in the 100 meter dash at the London Olympics. The Jamaican sprinter is a legend in his own time after winning his second Gold medal in one of track’s most recognized events. What are some lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from this remarkable competitor?

  • It’s not the start that counts, so much as how you finish. In track events, getting a fast start can make a big difference in a runner’s chances of winning the race. Even minute differences down to a tenth of a second in how quickly and forcefully a runner “bolts” out of the starting blocks can make the difference between a Gold medal and 4th place. Usain Bolt’s running style is unusual for having a slow start (he’s almost always one of the last runners to leave the starting blocks) but a blisteringly fast finish. Even though he might have a slower reaction time to the starter’s pistol, Bolt is able to close down the stretch. In fact, he closes so well that it’s almost a different race in the last 50 meters down the track. Even though he’s running against the fastest runners in the world, he beats them convincingly down the stretch. In the same way, some entrepreneurs are slow to start on a project, but they finish strong. Some businesses start slow and then build up momentum. Some entrepreneurs start a business and then watch it fail, only to learn from the experience and go on to greater success. Continue reading “Small business management lessons from Usain Bolt” »

3 Valuable Lessons From a Secret Shopper

Has your business ever been “secret shopped” by a customer who turned out to secretly be writing a review of your business?

Whether you’re a restaurant owner watching for a popular restaurant critic or food blogger, or a retail store manager talking to customers who might be “secret shoppers,” there’s no denying that customer reviews – especially when they come as a surprise – can be exciting and also a bit nerve-wracking.

After all, you want every customer to have the best experience possible, but you also want to make sure that if something doesn’t go 100% right for a customer, they’re not going to turn out to be an influential critic or thought leader who will drive people away from your business.

My general philosophy about secret shoppers is that I welcome them. I’m glad to have customers share their opinions of our business, because that’s the only way we can keep getting better at what we do. (And hopefully, most of the time the customer feedback is 100% positive, so we have nothing to be afraid of!)

Our company, CorpNet, recently got “secret shopped” by an online review website called NextAdvisor, and we were pleased to see that their review was very favorable! Continue reading “3 Valuable Lessons From a Secret Shopper” »

By | August 17th, 2012|Business Tools, Running A Small Business|2 Comments