If You Own a Service Business, Forget Advertising

Strangely enough, almost every business out there at some point in time will turn away potential customers, despite the fact they’ve paid thousands of dollars in advertising to get that customer to call. The reasons why businesses do this varies, but in the service industry, most of the time they’re just too busy, or their service is too expensive.

This true fact creates an amazing opportunity to quickly, cheaply and effectively increase sales by simply taking the business your competitor doesn’t want or need or can’t cope with.

There are two ways to do it.

ONE: When your competitor has so much demand they literally cannot keep up, you could offer to do the jobs they can’t do (for lack of resources or labor) and pay them a referral fee. For example, a panel beater might be fully booked up for the month but a customer needs a job done urgently. Rather than kissing the sale good bye, your competitor might as well give you the job and take a cut.

In my experience, many owners don’t like this idea for the simple reason that their name is on the line. After all, if a customer comes to THEM and they point them in the direction of a competitor who botches the job up, it’s THEIR name that suffers.

So, it’s important when you approach a competitor that you are confident in the quality of your service and you have a track record to prove it.

TWO: Almost ALL service businesses will refuse jobs from time to time because a customer is haggling them on price. In my experience, I have NEVER come across a business that doesn’t deal with the dreaded price shopper.

If you do offer a lower-cost service than your competitor, and you’re willing to deal with these types of customers if only to get the sale, you could offer to have them refer their price shoppers to you.

A word of warning though. I would only use this method in slow periods when you really need the money. Or if you are able to offer a lower-cost service and still make good margins. The only one fatal flaw in this technique is that you’ll often attract the annoying customers who complain and never pay on time. But if you need the money – it’s worth it. — Marcus Maclean

Advertising and Effective Promotions

In any economy, the most important aspect of a business is their marketing mix. For small businesses and large corporations alike, it is important to get your name out and build brand equity and awareness. Although everyone is feeling the pressure of limiting expenditures, it is important to remember the old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.” You must spend, but spend wisely. It is important to continue to attend tradeshows, advertise and keep your product or service fresh on consumers’ minds. It is also essential when performing everyday business endeavors, such as sales calls, to keep watch on your brand message and alignment. To strengthen the message of your brand you must employ the basic marketing mix. Advertising and more specifically promotional items are key component to a business’ marketing mix.

Promoting new or existing products will strengthen your brand in addition to boosting sales. Promotions can also be the most cost effective way to maintain and build brand awareness. The key to promoting is to integrate the promotion with the brand identity. For this to be effective, you must work with companies that will offer unique items relevant to your product. Many companies like to leave customers or prospects with something they can keep on their desk or reuse. In this case, personalization is a key factor when choosing these leave-behind items. If it is personalized, they will continue to see your companies name and become more subconsciously familiar and aware of your brand. This familiarity will cause the consumer to become more comfortable with your product, which works in your favor for both a high impact and low impact purchase. An example of the perfect promotion comes from a local Pittsburgh bank. During the opening of 10 new branches they gave new account holders customized paint can coin banks filled with chocolate chip cookies. This was brilliant for a number of reasons. Not only was it a nice gesture for the patrons, but also after the treats are gone it will be reused. This gives the promotion holding power. The idea of a coin bank is also inline with the brand position of the savings bank.

Small inexpensive gestures that set you apart from the competition are going to leave a lasting impression on consumers. Smart marketing and advertising are important to a company’s growth. Low cost advertising tools that integrate your brand identity are the most effective way to continue to compete in any economy.

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To learn more about these and other economical promotions, visit the above website.

Top 10 Ways a Creative Artist Can Make Money

Artists are creative creatures that live each day to be inspired and inspire others. It is a gift that many share without ever asking payment for what they are really worth. If you are an artists remember that you are talented. You can continue to build upon the creative process and bring home an income that can fuel bigger projects and get you more exposure. Passion will drive you crazy but is there any other way to live as said by Howard Hughes. Turn your passion into a wealth of income.

The leap into profiting from your art can seem scary. You never have to compromise. You can always remain true to the spirit of your work. An artist never has to let go of his or her inspiration. Many are able to ignite a yearning that has long been inside them and create bigger masterpieces. These masterpieces need money to come into fruition. In the end you can achieve more than what you ever expected with these simple top ten tips.

1. Blog about your art or show case your art through your blogs.
2. Add Google AdSense to your artistic blog.
3. Create fun and innovative workshops and show case your talent while you teach others how to do the same.
4. Are you an artist such as a painter contact local coffee shops, small boutiques and shops in your town and ask if they can show case your art in exchange for a nominal fee or a percentage of the profits.
5. Are you a writer showcase your talents at local coffee shops, book stores, or open mic nights. How do you make money? Let the vendor charge a small nominal fee for others to come and hear you. You can take a percentage of the profits.
6. Showcase your art and sell it on others sites and share the profits. Start with your friends.
7. Time and time again we have seen it succeed for others but we forget that we to can benefit from social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

May this journey inspire you to learn more about yourself and help you to become the expert in your creative field.

Bonnielee Cuevas is a successful Author, Business Coach, Entrepreneur, Fitness and Wellness Expert, and Motivational Speaker. She has inspired many through her entrepreneurial ventures, books, and coaching. Her goal is to inspire others through various avenues. Through inspiration she has also had the pleasure of creative amazing programs that assist others in achieving their dreams. For more information visit: http://www.bonnieleecuevas.com

How to Incorporate the Right Marketing Message During a Recession

Fight or flight instincts. Survival of the fittest. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. During rough economic times, there is no doubt that survival instincts kick in. You either have the will to dig your heels in and battle from the trenches or not. Everyone’s fear threshold is different. But those who keep a strong, level-headed focus on the task at hand and don’t panic, usually weather the storm the best.

Just look at the statistics. A McGraw-Hill Research study assessed 600 companies for five years in the 1980s and those companies that either stayed the course or increased their level of advertising spending during the 1981 and 1982 recession had significantly higher sales after the recession ended. Companies that aggressively advertised during the recession had sales more than 250% higher than those who chose not to advertise. Instinct warns us to cut back, slash marketing and advertising budgets and save dollars. However, it’s been proven that continued or increased spending during tough economic times can actually help pull you through and out to the other side positively.

So how do you do it? How do you get over the desire to cut back and actually cut checks instead?

– Acknowledge the situation. Naturally, during a recession, your customers are assessing their budgets as well and are choosing carefully where to spend their money. It’s important to address this fact head on. Acknowledge to your customers that you are aware they have some tough decisions ahead. Then explain to them the benefits of continuing to invest in your services and products.

– Avoid price slashing and doomsday messaging. Negatives like price reductions send off fear signals. There’s a fine line between understanding your customers’ situations and instilling more fear about the times at hand.

– Empower your customers. Create ads, direct mail pieces, blogs, and e-newsletters that empower your customers to take control of their situation and ultimately their destiny. By offering solutions that help them do this, you are creating a positive environment that resonates in a very negative situation.

– Distinguish your value proposition. Communicating to your customers what they will get for their money is just as important, and sometimes more important, than low price points. Even when cash is tight, customers want to know they are getting the best value for their money and many will still be willing to pay a bit more knowing that there is increase value in the products and services you provide.

– Keep your lines of communication open. This means don’t stop marketing and advertising! It is critical to keep your brand top-of-mind with your customers right now so they don’t forget you. If you start to trim corners and cut back, your customers will quickly forget who you are and look elsewhere for what they need. When the recession is finally over, you’ll be left way behind.

– Re-evaluate your marketing mix. If you wrote your marketing plan last summer (or any time before October 2008), you should definitely go back and re-assess where you have allocated your energies. Could you increase your social networking exposure while saving a few dollars in print advertising? Perhaps you could eliminate one direct mail piece and swap it out for an additional three or four e-newsletters? Without drastically cutting your budget, you may be able to shift a few things that will create some savings without reduced exposure to your customers.

Whatever you do, over the next few months as you take stock in your current business situation, don’t take a red pen and slash through each line item in your marketing budget. It’s OK to trim your advertising and marketing budget, but do it with a scalpel, not meat cleaver. Instead, look at creative ways to stay the course and sail through this recession successfully. If you do, chances are, there will be better times ahead.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Marketing in a Recession

What many experts have known for months, if not the past year, is that our country is officially in a recession. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced in December that we have actually been in a recession since December 2007. Many business owners probably knew this long before the Bureau’s announcement, feeling the effects of customers’ budget cuts, a higher level of anxiety within the industry, and simply an overall gloom and doom mood, no thanks to the media’s contribution as well. But what exactly is a recession and how will it affect your overall business strategy, and more specifically, your marketing plans for the next six to 12 months?

The Bureau defines an economic recession as “a significant decline in the economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP [gross domestic product] growth, real personal income, employment (non-farm payrolls), industrial production, and wholesale retail sales.” With the Big Three automakers looking for government intervention and Wall Street receiving its own government bailout, most of us don’t need a textbook definition. We’re living in a recession on a daily basis.

When Wall Street began to spiral out of control in the summer of 2008, the natural instinct of most people was to pull out of their investments- simply out of sheer panic or the scariness of the unknown. It’s a knee-jerk reaction however the response simply compounds the problem – which is exactly what you will do to your own business if you panic and pull back on your marketing efforts during these tough economic times. Let’s look at some things to consider as you re-adjust your marketing plans for the short term.

1. Avoid being reactive, which will cost you money. It’s a natural response to want to pull back on anything and everything that you don’t deem a necessity during a recession, but doing so will literally take you and your business off of the map, and possibly close to extinction. It is critical for you to portray an image to your customers that you are remaining calm and keeping a clear head during these times. Remember, your customers will look to you for support and advice in order to keep their business afloat. You want to be a resource for them, as you’ve always been, not someone who’s jumping ship and reducing all of your marketing and promotion to save a few bucks. Cutting back and reacting to every bit of news that comes your way regarding the recession will only reinforce the panic that may exist with your customers. Stay the course and think before making any decisions.

2. Communicate with your customers to let them know you’re a stable VAR that will outlast the crunch. This tactic is really a follow-up to number one. Through constant, clear communication, you need to show and tell your customers what you are doing in order to avoid conjecture as to your stability. Demonstrate why you are the VAR that will outlast the competition. What makes you unique? If you start slashing your marketing budget, you will have no point of difference to share with your customers as to why you do things differently and why they should trust you during these uncertain times. Creative communication can also position you as a resourceful VAR. For example, one of the areas most typically cut during tough financial times is the travel budget. Let your customers know you have solutions that will offset their need to travel less. Create webinars and teleclasses that allow you to communicate valuable information to your customers, positioning yourself as a leader in the industry. This small marketing expense for you will win accolades with your customers. It’s simple to do and gives you an outlet to keep the lines of communication open.

3. Whatever you do, don’t slash prices! Again, this is one of those knee-jerk reactions that becomes an epidemic and a very bad cycle to get in to. It’s natural to want to cut your prices to encourage your customers to buy from you and not your lower-priced competitors, but doing so simply exposes your desperation and also permanently lowers your street prices, ultimately devaluing your brand. Instead, look for value-added extras, so that you don’t have to cut your prices but your customers believe they’re getting more for the price. Leverage your affiliates and partners. See how you can work together to create promotions and deals that give show your customers that they’re getting more for the same price they’ve always paid.

Marketing during a recession actually calls for you to dig deep into your business and commit to the fact that you are not going to cut back on programs and promotions – and will not cut pricing. Now is the time to focus on your brand and what that brand says to your customers. What are your core products and points of difference that make you shine? Communicate these aspects to your customers and let them know that even during a time of constant flux, you are stable with your products and ideas. Steer clear of price cuts, and don’t cut quality just to save a few dollars. If your reputation was built on good, quality products and services, compromise will only devalue your brand, creating a costly rebuilding effort later. There is an end to this recession and you want to come out shining on the other side.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

The Dark Side of Higher Education

Investment banks has fallen, national banks have betrayed our trust, government actions in majority of countries around the world are being frowned upon by the people (examples include the Gaza war, the Wall street bailout which is a bailout for the rich while the main street suffers the burden) and you just don’t know who the heck to trust anymore. Since you can’t put you faith in Uncle Sam or whatever, you put your trust on institutions of higher education, universities, polytechnics and others. You figure that their vaulted names are what is dependable on and they can deliver you wisdom, excellence, success and a great livelihood. The rest of the world, banks, public schools, environment, corporations etc, may be going to hell but you trust that if you try hard enough, and pay enough, you’ll get your money’s worth at universities that promises so much.

As a result of this belief, you incur tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands in student loans or loans from parents (if you have a heart, you will consider it as a loan) since it is too much a sum to pay off on your own. As what is shared with me by a senior member of a university, a student’s school fees is only a very small fraction of the amount that the university needs, with the rest coming from government(also not a very huge sum) and the private sector, foundations, companies and like (a very significant amount).

It’s just economics from here on. Times are bad. Universities are facing more and more competition, since there are many hungry wolves out there scraping for a piece of the slice of higher education industry that has a growth rate that is increasing every year. Since a significant of funds of universities come from the private sector, these institutions will not want to part with their highly paid directors who know how to develop relationships with highly generous alumni. They don’t want to scale down their astronomical building and expansion plans either. They certainly don’t want to lower tuition rates or housing or other fees.

The question now is this: Faced with more competition, more uncertainty about global outlook, more needs of funds (for the development of the infrastructure, the ever growing salary of professors and other stuff) and lesser donations from the private sector (again due to uncertainty and budget tightening), where are they going to “squeeze” the funds from?

The answer: Students. The interests of the students will be sacrificed because they are the least protected and most innocent of the whole academic community. There are numerous articles online that will support this. Sure, Yours Truly think that around 25% of them are too far from the truth, but the sheer amount of complaints, dis-satisfaction and other related articles are just too much to ignore. I don’t believe that all of these allegations are false, how can it be?

Don’t take my words at face value. I only aim to open up your mind. Do your own research online or elsewhere. Talk to people higher up in the education institutions who can be honest with you. You don’t need me to convince you, you need to convince yourself. Find out what is the state of the higher education industry right now, what wrongs are being committed against the very people who relied on them, the students.

Tales Zephyrus Lucrex is one of the 3 writers at Enxie Ferite (enxieferite.net84.net). Enxie Ferite serves as a one-stop entertainment website that consists of interesting articles of myths, humour, good-to-knows, anime and others. It also consists of music videos from English, Chinese and Japanese music.