Marketing And Strategy Tools For Your Small Business

To be successful, every business needs strategies. Strategy means you decide where your business is going to go and you create the plan to take your business there.

Every business needs to have a competitive advantage and there are two types of competitive advantage.  One is cost leadership and the other is differentiation.

Being all things to all people is a recipe for business disaster so you must have a strategy to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  You can do this through being the product leader, or by providing operational excellence or by customer intimacy.

Michael Porter created a theory of competitive advantage referred to as the Five Forces.  These define the rules of competition in any industry.  The five forces determine industry profitability, and some industries may be more attractive than others.   The crucial question in determining profitability is how much value your business can create for their buyers, and how much of this value will be captured or competed away.

The five-forces framework highlights what is important, and directs manager’s towards those aspects most important to long-term advantage.  Think of the Five Forces framework as sort of a checklist for getting started, and as a reminder of the many possible sources for what those few driving forces could be.

How To Create Competitive Advantage

You must create a perception in your market that you are able to meet buyer needs in a new way or have a new or different technology or have changed accessibility, etc.

Porters “Value Chain” and “Activity Mapping” concepts help us think about how activities build competitive advantage.

The value chain is a systematic way of examining all the activities your company performs and how you interact.  It scrutinizes each of the activities of your business from business development, sales, marketing, and operations, as a potential source of advantage.  The value chain maps a firm into its strategically relevant activities in order to understand the behavior of costs and the existing and potential sources of differentiation.   

Your business gains competitive advantage by performing these strategically important activities more cheaply or better than your competitors. One of the reasons the value chain framework is helpful is because it emphasizes that competitive advantage can come not just from great products or services, but from anywhere along the value chain.

Activity mapping is where Porter builds on his ideas of generic strategy and the value chain to describe strategy implementation in more detail.  Competitive advantage requires that your business’s value chain be managed as a system rather than a collection of separate parts.  Positioning choices determine not only which activities your company will perform and how it will configure individual activities, but also how they relate to one another.  This is crucial since the essence of implementing strategy is in the activities – choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than your competitors.

What have you learned here that you can apply?

There comes a time in the life of every business when its owner must seriously consider whether to onboard new hires. As your business grows, you will find yourself with less and less time to get into the day-to-day grind. At this point, you will have to think about taking on a few team members to help you manage some of the processes.

You may be reluctant to pass on your baby into the care of strangers, and this is completely understandable. You will need to let go of certain areas, however, if you want your business to continue growing. And if you want to be able to stay on top of things and enjoy the business that you have worked hard to build up. Here are some tips for easing the process so that you can onboard new hires as painlessly as possible.

Starter Self-Check

Are you in a good place to start training and working with a new team member?

When you begin to onboard new hires, you will need to spend some time getting to know them, communicating your systems and expectations, and training them for the job. Look at your schedule before you start your search and set aside a few hours each week that will be dedicated to this. The hiring process can be grueling, and FreeeUp can help you with the most time-consuming early stages of hunting down the top talent. Once you have your chosen candidates, however, it will be up to you to onboard new hires so that they will be ready to take over from you when you pass the baton.

Communicate Your Company

Does your worker know who you are and how you envision the future of your business?

Most business owners are intensely interested in the skills of any potential hires, and rightly so. Talent, however, is not the only important aspect of the right worker for the job. Take some time to communicate with your new hire the key aspects of your company. Talk to them about what your business is all about, but also show them your company culture and the way your systems operate. If you have a partner or other team members, make introductions part of the first stages when you onboard new hires. Armed with a more holistic view of your business, your new worker will be equipped to not only perform on the technical side but also work with an understanding of who you are and where you want to get together.

See the Signs

Are your workers exhibiting certain behaviors that indicate they might not be the right fit?

If you are not able to cover a lot of ground during the interview process, you might have to spend more time getting to know your workers. This is vital to properly onboard new hires because you need to see how they will fit into the bigger picture.

Do some probing throughout the training process to learn about your workers’ attitudes and levels of professionalism. They will soon be in a position where they represent you and your business at some level. You will want to make sure that they are not going to give you a bad name.

Pay close attention to the way they operate in the early stages and tie this into your company values and culture. You want to ideally onboard new hires who exhibit the same core beliefs that you do. Finding these gems is not always the easiest task, but you will see that the digging is worth the effort when you finally unearth the perfect jewel of a worker.

Explain Your Expectations

Does everyone on your team know what is expected of them in each role and from other team members?

Be prepared to take some time to really get into how you want things to go. From how your workers represent your company to how they should be communicating with you and clients to the level and quality of output they should be producing, onboard new hires with a clear idea of your expectations. This could be a long list or a short one depending on what you prefer. The main point is that they fully understand how to proceed so that you can get the results that you are aiming for. Here is a free Client Expectations Document that you can download to give you a head start with a few ideas on what areas to cover.

One particular aspect that all businesses should stress is how workers represent the company. They will be in a unique position to help or harm your reputation, and you should be very clear about the significance of the name that they bear when they come into the fold. Onboard new hires by ingraining in them the concept of holding that name high, whether they are on or off the clock.

Frequent Feelers

Are you sending out feelers every once in a while to check your workers’ temperatures?

If you want your business to continue down the path of steady and healthy growth, do not underestimate the need for frequent meetings. Checking in often during the training and probationary stages is an indispensable part of onboarding new hires.

First of all, it establishes your presence and shows them that you are involved and concerned about what happens behind the scenes. Secondly, it allows you to monitor their attitudes and set precedent so that your workers will not learn or perpetuate unwanted behaviors. Third, your willingness to talk to them will encourage them to share their opinions, making them feel more like a real part of the company. You want to onboard new hires who are invested in your company so that they will make greater efforts towards growth. Allowing them to express their opinions and seeing their ideas get real attention is a great way to do this.

So there you have it.

Onboard new hires with the right training and integration techniques and you will increase your chances of retaining the right people to push alongside you for business growth. You will have the time and peace of mind to focus on where you add the most value as they will comfortably perform the tasks that they are skilled at and excited about for the advancement of your company. As the FreeeUp of CMO, Connor Gillivan, says in his book Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, “the people you surround yourself with will eventually impact the heights that you are able to reach as an individual and professional.”  Raise that bar when you onboard new hires and you can expect faster and more stable growth while you avoid burnout and get to actually enjoy your business and the freedom that all business owners long for.

There’s a lot of discussion among business owners regarding the cost of acquiring a new customer. When compared to the cost of retention, retention is where our focus should be.
Famed business consultant Dan Kennedy is often credited with defining the 3 rules of Business Profit.
1) Increase the price of your product
2) Increase the number of visits, hence purchases of your current customers.
3) Bring in new customers.
Based on these numbers, it would appear that businesses need to work twice as much on customer retention as they do on customer acquisition. And raising prices is not usually the way to create loyalty for your business.
How do businesses inspire loyalty? Through customer service and recognition. Pay attention to those customers who already visit your business. In a brick and mortar setting, work on recognizing your customers when they shop with you. That’s something that doesn’t cost a penny. Treat them with respect, be polite, and while the customer may not always be right, sometimes choosing to handle a challenge in the customer’s favor will work wonders.
Remember important information about your customers such as birthdays or anniversaries goes a long way to inspire loyalty. This information can certainly be done old school with index cards, the method championed by Joe Girardi, The World’s Greatest Car Salesman, or it can be done digitally through a CRM, using email.
Loyalty programs have been around for a long time as well. Barnes and Noble has a strong program and many businesses use punch cards still for their buy x number and get x free. A lot of these card programs don’t even require any sort of a signup. All you do is pick up a card and get a punch. No loyalty necessary or inspired.
Loyalty programs have in recent years entered into the digital age. Every day, more apps are showing up in the various app stores to promote individual companies. Of course, in this situation, storage can become a problem.
One of the answers to this challenge of too many apps or cards is to work with a company such as SpotOn Rewards. The customer signs up one time and can use the app or card in any location. You can custom design your own coupons, specials, and events and deliver them by email or you can push the information to customer’s cell phones.
Bringing in those new customers is also much easier because one of the aspects of the technology is the strong social media integration of this newer technology. Sharing with friends is a recommended component.
For you, the business owner, one of the best aspects of the SpotOn app is your ability to track your customers. You know every time a customer checks in, you also know when a customer has not checked in for a while. Being that I am most familiar with SpotOn, I will discuss how our loyalty program works.
Your customer walks into your business that offers SpotOn. they’re invited to sign up at the terminal and get a SpotOn Card. The good news is that there is a SpotOn app that uses a QR code so that your customer can eliminate the card and just use their phone to sign in anytime they visit. The great thing about a loyalty program such
as SpotOn is the engagement you are able to create at a moment’s notice.
Your customers can be rewarded with immediate offers when you want or need them most. A perfect example is a client cancels an appointment. With SpotOn you’re able to notify your current customers on their phone or email that an appointment time has opened up. You’re able to offer an appointment immediately. Way better than just waiting for walk in traffic.
For you, the business owner, one of the best aspects of the SpotOn app is your ability to track your customers. You know every time a customer checks in, you also know when a customer has not checked in for a while. SpotOn refers to them as “lapsed customers” if they have not checked in for 30 days. Then you are able to craft an offer only to them. All of this is available through your SpotOn Terminal.
As far as bringing in new customers, the simplicity of a program such as SpotOn will make it easy for them to sign up to turn their first-time visit into an ongoing relationship. All of this is done without having to raise prices.
Pretty much all of these features and benefits come down to that most important word, engagement. With SpotOn engagement can be immediate without being too intrusive. So consider the value of loyalty for your business and consider what you are currently doing to keep your current customers coming back.
Guest Blogger: John Archer
John Archer is an Account Manager for in South Florida. Feel free to contact him to discuss the possibilities of updating or creating you own custom loyalty program. email is Phone is 412-480-5793

Cost Leadership Strategy

Your company can use cost leadership to have a competitive advantage in your market. You can be seen as the low-cost leader and own the company that operates with margins that are greater than your competitors. You simply have to provide your products or services with features that your customers will accept at the lowest cost in comparison to your competitors.  Typically this works best for product based companies that can provide their goods with no-frills or in a standardized way.  Just remember that your quality and service must still be on par with competitors to hold your advantage.

Two advantages of being the cost leader are most of your competitors won’t compete with you on price and typically customers won’t try to negotiate with you as the cost leader.  

A Few Examples To Get You Started…

Here are some examples of companies using cost leadership as their competitive strategy and crushing it.  These should kick-start a few ideas for you.

  1. WalMart – every day low prices that are far below their competition selling their items at low prices with high volume and low margins.
  2. McDonald’s – low margins using inexperienced employees and few managers keeping staff costs down, margins high and prices low
  3. Ikea – cheap yet stylish furniture with a very basic level of service that allows them to have lower prices that yield a lot of customers 
  4. Southwest Airlines – lowest prices with little frills for their passengers who get the cost savings of flying the low-cost leader


What actions can you take to implement a cost leadership strategy?


Effective Internet Marketing

Whenever a prospective client and I chat about me helping them with their business, I always ask them to provide their website/s and their social media profiles. I ask them if they understand the importance of internet marketing and most business owners will agree that it is important. When I look at their website/s and go to their social media profiles I am usually shocked at how much is lacking.

Next, I ask them if they use internet marketing for lead generation by sending emails, ezines, and using autoresponders. If they say yes I have them include me in emails, ezines and add me to autoresponders.  Again, I am amazed and what their internet marketing strategies lack.

Honest Answers

Let me ask you two questions before I dig in.  First, can you really answer this question, “what is internet marketing”?  If you can’t thoroughly and confidently answer this question then I am guessing you aren’t fully using internet marketing for your business or you would be able to give me a full and complete response to my question.

I am going to take you through the same series of questions I ask prospects and new clients. Answer them truthfully and you might just discover why your Internet marketing isn’t working.

You are welcome to then schedule a 10-minute game plan session with me to see if I can help you.

First of all, do you have a website?  When I go to your site is your business name clearly stated with a clickable phone number that I can easily find and access if I visit your site?  Now, this is where most business owners miss the mark – does your website have a way to capture leads?  If not, then you might as well not have a website. The purpose of a website is credibility and lead generation.

Does your website have a video on the front page?  People watch videos and don’t read the text nearly as much so you must have video. Your website must mention your Core Unique Positioning Statement.  If that is missing you look like every other business and there is no reason to choose you to purchase my goods or services from.

When a visitor comes to your site is it crystal clear that they are to take an action?  If they need help while on your site do you have any type of chat box for them?

Is the website found in major directories like Google and Bing?

Is your company blogging on the site?

Does your company also show up on Google places?

Are there autoresponders tied to your site?

Are you using email marketing to those who opted in for your ezine or who you have captured a lead for?

Do you have autoresponders going to people you have captured in your leads?

Are your emails making multiple offers and are you actively having email contact with prospects and clients?

Do you have an email sales funnel set up?

Do you update your website regularly?

Are readers leaving comments and questions on your blog?

Are you podcasting and having that podcast transcribed as part of your blogs?

Are you using social networking?

Are the links to your social media profiles listed and clickable from your website?

When you blog does your blog automatically appear on your social media profiles?

Are you tracking all your leads coming from the internet?

What did answering these questions reveal about your business?

Schedule a 10-minute game plan session with me to see if I can help you.