Marketing Your Service-based Business for the Holidays

A lot of businesses will be ramping up their marketing efforts during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Rightfully so, when spending is over $600 Billion, according to the National Retail Federation. While product-based businesses benefit the most during this gift-exchanging holiday season, service-based businesses kind of get lost in the money sauce. If you've been wondering how do you strategically get a piece of that spending pie with your service-based business, we've come up with a few ideas.

First things first, you have to remove traditional marketing methods out of your brain. As a service-based business, you're probably already doing a lot of educating your audience on what you do and the benefits. It's time to bring out the creativity in your approach to increase your bottom line during this holiday season.

1. Cross-Promoting
You can never go wrong when you collaborate with the right business(es). You have the distinct opportunity to market to another built-in audience of another business. You can start with your former or current clients. For example, you can ask them to record a 30 to 60 second holiday-themed video discussing how your business helped them grow their business. Or, create a gift catalog of your client's products to share with your email list and social media followers. To keep costs down, just make it available digitally and/or charge your clients a small fee to be included and donate the money to a local, relevant charity. To get the full effect of this, make sure your clients are sharing with their networks, too.

2. Social Giving
Speaking of a local, relevant charity, giving is always a win. The key is to ensure it aligns and makes sense with your business. For example, if you're a Human Resource consulting company, then you partner with a workforce development organization to raise money for programming that facilitates mock interviews; make sure you volunteer to participate in that organization, too. You include their information like stats and impact and tie it into your business and share on social media and your email list. Or, you can have a percentage of a your services to be donated to that local organization. Or, if you have an event planning business, you can create a gift certificate for your services and donate it to a silent auction for a holiday fundraiser.

3. A Daily Challenge
You've probably seen those 30-day squat challenges or 30-day support a local business challenge on social media. You can create a holiday-themed one for your business. Since it's already November, you may not want to make it a full 30-day, maybe a 14-day one. For example, if you're a motivational speaker, maybe your challenge will include things like asking your audience to post a video saying their favorite one-liner from you. Or, if you're a graphic designer, have business owners post a picture of their first logo or business card design. Don't forget to repost, RT or share and comment/engage with your audience.

Just remember whatever you do, be creative and never forget to educate the audience. Don't get so caught up in the marketing idea that you forget the very reason you're doing it-for exposure for your service-based business. If you need more help or don't want to do it yourself, call Fresh Touch Publicity and we will gladly get in the holiday marketing spirit for you!

GUEST BLOG: Is a Home Office Right for You?

Everyone wants a home office for tax purposes. With being able to write off portions of monthly expenses such as mortgage/rent, utilities, phone bills, security, and insurance, who wouldn’t want that? But is a home office right for your business?

Just like any other business decision, you should be aware of both the pros and cons before making your decision. Most of the time people only tell you this part of having a home office because it is a pro and everyone wants pros in business. Wouldn’t it be nice to have only pros in your business?

I will admit being able to write off portions of expenses that you will pay regardless is a tempting offer. With your home office being in your house, your commute to work is reduced significantly. Some joke to work in their pajamas which would reduce wardrobe time and office apparel expenses significantly. Both would reduce expenses for you. Wouldn’t that be a perk?! Another pro is having everything nearby even when you are off work. The days of forgetting something at work would be over! The biggest pro is the flexibility! Modern technology has allowed the ability to be mobile. Often times all you need is a laptop, an internet connection, and a place to sit and you have a new location!

Pros
-Flexibility! You can be anywhere and everywhere, working remotely with smart technology.
-Biggest reason: Saving money! Instead of rent, you can reinvest into the business, expand technology, or purchase additional merchandise.
-Spend more time out of your car! Your commute time would be obsolete. Use this time to spend with family or take a much needed nap.

How can you make this work?
You have so many options! We have clients who contract with a “virtual assistant” service. It’s nice having a professional on your team working remotely for digital and administrative support.
There are office solution companies that offer various levels of “virtual office” services. You can have a business mailing address that is not your home and a receptionist that signs for your packages and holds your mail. You can opt for a certain number of days per month to use a furnished office space and/or conference rooms with full audio visual equipment needs taken care of. You can even have a receptionist answer your phone during business hours to elevate your professionalism and save time!
There are many agile ways to operate a business in today’s market. Having client meetings in your home space or coffee shops may not always work for every business owner! Forbes described creative office space here.

Set boundaries:
Family may think you have extra time for errands and ask you to leave your home office space to cater to their needs. They may not respect your work hours and interrupt your productivity. To alleviate this issue, you should set strict hours to alleviate unnecessary distractions.

You think of your home as a place of relaxation. If it is your sanctuary, then there needs to be boundaries so you can truly leave work at work and not “take it home with you.” In order for a home office to be successful, you will need to treat your office space as a place of work. When your work day is done, step away from the computer and mentally “turn off” your work day. A separate, distinct area is best for setting up best practices. Read these 10 tips for setting up a home office.

What’s the downside?

Cons:
-You’ll miss out on foot traffic as a retailer (investing in a quality digital e-commerce website may be a solution, but what about lost sales for customers who want to browse an inventory of options at their fingertips?)
-Credibility – you may be more anonymous and not garner high customer or client credibility without a brick and mortar location for retail (or office space).
-It’s harder to separate your private life from your business life.

How do I handle the accounting? What’s deductible? How do I track and separate work/home expenses?
Even though it’s a good idea to start with a home office to keep overhead low, it needs to be setup properly to manage the expenses and tax deductions. Proper recordkeeping is critical.

Don’t make mistakes that cost you money or get you in trouble with the IRS!
We’re here to help! Contact Hugheys Debits and Credits for your home office accounting needs and get on track with best business practices that will save you money and time.
We’ll show you how to operate lean and GREEN!

Ronda & Cortez Hughey
Owners & Fiscal Officers
Hughey's Debits & Credits

Original blog posted here.

Investing in your Bottom Line

It is Business 101 to care and pay close attention to the bottom line, or profitability, of your business. You must know if your business is making a profit and if it's in the red or if it's breaking even, or if it's making a profit and there is still enough cash flow in the account. If you have the latter going on, then continue what you've been doing. However, if you bottom line is looking unsatisfactory, then check to see where you're investing your time, energy, and money within the business.

You already know you shouldn't be tied down to those mundane tasks in your business that are not generating revenue. Filing paperwork, moving around office furniture, randomly posting on social media, etc are tasks that can be delegated to someone else. It's been discussed that doing those tasks could allow L.O.V.E., loss of valuable energy, to cost you your business.

So what else should you be investing your time, energy, and money towards to increase your bottom line? Your people. Your Process. Your Pitch, that's sales pitch.

Your People are the cherry on top.
There is a saying that you can teach "aptitude but not attitude." Hire people with great attitudes with the capabilities of doing their job and you can always teach the job. You should be creating a culture of innovation and ideas within your business. Give your people a voice because you want their buy-in. You want their great plan for a marketing campaign. You want their amazing design for your Facebook business page. When their happy, it will show in their speech and demeanor. Remember, people buy-into people. You will get new and repeat clients off the strength of your people. Yes, it helps if you product/service is great, too, but make the people happy and they will exude it outwardly.

The Process should be seamless.
There should be a consistent analysis of ensuring that your business has an efficient, simplified process- for your clients and your people. Check social media for comments on a business. Most positive comments relate to how efficient or easy the process was or how quickly their problem was solved followed by great customer service. Invest in getting the client in and out or their start to finish project completed as quickly and accurately as possible. Do not skimp on doing quality work but keep in mind process times. If first quarter, your process time was 17 minutes and now in the second quarter, you've reduced the time to 14 minutes and is still able to provide the same quality work, that's progress. There should be a continuation of analysis for a seamless process.

Pitching like your life depends on it.
Your business depends on your ability to sell. If you're in business, you're in sales. Period. Keep in mind the problems your product/service can solve. You leverage that information in your pitch. You want to engage an emotional connection with the client or potential client during your pitch. Develop relationships with prospects, especially if they tell you "no" on the first pitch. It was shared during a webinar about doubling revenue by Fire Your Boss Coach Raeyvn Jones that "80% of sales are closed after the 5th attempt and only "20% followup after 5 follow-ups." So get your follow-up game up!

The story of your bottom line should tell the tale of how you were willing to invest in it. Be sure your investment creates a good read!

@TJayPR

Apps that Help Business Productivity

Owning a small business is not easy, especially if your operating staff is limited to one – only you. Multitasking becomes the breadwinning skill you rely on each day. But, if you have a smartphone, you may have a few applications installed and activated that help you hold on to your sanity. We asked several small business owners what were the best business apps that help keep their business running. We’ve narrowed down the responses:

#1: Banking Apps
Be honest, if it’s not your number 2 reason for starting your own business, making money is somewhere in your top 3. So, if you’re in the business of making money, then it is important to know how to send invoices and know how much you’re making…or losing by having mobile banking apps installed on your phone. Some of our top responses included banking applications like PayPal, Bank Of America, Chase, etc. Stay aware and stay responsible with your business finances. It could be the key to opening up new opportunities for growth.

#2: Google Apps
I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, “communication is key.” But, this admonition isn’t just for marriages and romantic relationships. It is also a core value for building and maintaining business relationships. Many of our respondents understand this and have effectively highlighted many of Google’s communication applications – especially Gmail. One of the best features Gmail boasts is the ability to send and receive messages from email accounts outside of gmail. For example, I can send and receive mail as bkwyattjr@ftpublicity.com through my Gmail account. Cool right? This helps make things a lot easier for my communications efforts. Google also hosts other helpful applications like Google Drive for file sharing, Google Voice for screening calls and having an official business phone number, and of course Google Search for….well searching.

#3: Social Media Marketing
A presence on social media can be fun and engaging for personal reasons. Additionally, social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram are important business tools for communicating with your target market and drive new business for your company.

Author’s Recommendation
I just recently installed and tried an app that many probably hadn’t heard of yet. It’s called Cloze. Cloze is a relationship management application that processes and analyzes all of your communication and productivity applications. Cloze helps you stay on top of appointments and meetings, following up and reconnecting with customers/clients you regularly talk to, social media management, and contact management to keep your contacts up to date and organized based on who matters most. It’s like Siri, but with a purpose without the gab. Try it, you’ll like it.

Other Apps That Didn’t Make The List:
Bit.ly
This app great for shortening and customizing links to share (and the apps makes it handy to grab them again in the future).

Pixifly
Pixify is great for events because it allows you to see instagram activity near your location.

Evernote
An all-purpose note-taking app.

Genius-scan
A pdf-scanner for your pocket. Both make everyday tasks easier & more manageable

Google Maps
Helps navigate throughout the city so I can bypass accidents or heavy traffic areas.

InstaCollage
Because it edits photos easily and I can make collages of pic at events without having to flood the timeline with multiple single pictures.

@BKWyatt

Brand Your Nonexistence: Pack Your Toolkit

No one will argue that “word of mouth” still reigns supreme for securing new business. There is nothing better than a satisfied client speaking on behalf of your business without being paid to do so. However, in this digital age, your brand being nonexistent online is a problem. Why is it a problem? You’re missing out on a customer base and opportunities that your immediate circle may not be able to reach. So you have to S.H.O.W. your brand worthy online since according to PewResearch’s “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” 80%-97% of people 18 and up use their smartphones to browse the internet and use social networking sites. That’s a lot of people.

I know you were lead to believe that your brand is only your logo and, perhaps, your business card, but your brand Toolkit encompasses more than that. It's what your business is thought about and known for when you're not around. Like a contractor, you need the right things in your toolkit to brand your nonexistence online. First ask yourself “do you want a quick buzz or a timeless brand?” and “how will I S.H.O.W. it online?”

S- Start with an understanding of your SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. The simple understanding of SEO is finding the words that people use when searching Google for the products and services your business provides. For example, “faith-based pr company, Memphis public relations company, or pr for nonprofits” are great searches for Fresh Touch Publicity. Since FTP is aware of this, we use these keywords when we write on our website, in press releases and on social media posts.

H- I looooove hashtags!! You can tag your social media posts with relevant hashtags. It goes hand in hand with your SEO. Like we discussed in the aforementioned paragraph, we use some of those words as hashtags. We use #faithbased, #memphis, #publicrelations hashtags in our press releases, social media posts and tags on the blogs. Ask your friends & family to help push your hashtags. Since you’re reading this, use ours #FaithDiaries and #SimplyGiving.

O- Offer potential customers information of value. Share content that can be used via your blog and social networking sites. Refrain from always keeping information in general; be specific. I know you can’t give away all of your secrets but you can offer something like a webinar or an e-book in exchange for their email address or phone number.

W- A website should always be kept updated and all of your online activities should somehow filter through your website. You could have your social media feed, merchandise, blog, client news, client testimonials, and keywords to increase SEO. The goal is to use those website hits to get information about when, where how and who is accessing your website.

All-in-all, you want your potential clients to be able to find you online. Also, where your customers are parked online, then you need to pull-up there with your Brand Toolkit in tow. Don't miss out on potential clients that are looking for you online. If you don't have time to do it yourself, hire Fresh Touch Publicity to handle branding your online existence. Email us at inquiries@ftpublicity.com

@TJayPR