2 ways the bad winter weather has affected my business

1. I never expected my business to be seasonal – why would it be? I deal mainly with online activities and they go on regardless of the weather. What I actually found was that in January & February my clients made their plans (like New Year’s Resolutions) so I did lots of sales calls and spoke with a lot of people about their plans. This lead to new projects coming in a couple of months later and by April I’d be cranking!

This year not so much!

Vintage winter scene

Couldn’t get out of the office without ice skates?

And why? Because for the whole of January & February and most of March I made no sales calls – the weather caused me to stay home and potential clients were more worried about clearing ice & snow than they were making marketing plans. Consequently I’m only now starting to see people which means that any new work is probably a couple of months out.

2. Now that I’m actually getting in front of prospective clients it’s pretty clear to me that they are all feeling the pinch because of their own slow start to the year. They’re all reluctant to spend money on “new stuff” until they’ve recouped enough to cover their loses for the first 2-3 months of the year (for some stretching back in October of last year!). I’m seeing it particularly with contractors of all persuasions, but especially those who work outside.

They are all keeping their fingers crossed that they’ll make up their lost income and it does seem, even if only anecdotally, that they are getting busier with the better weather. But its hard to get upset with a small business owner who honestly says that they don’t have the money right now.

How has the winter affected your small business this year?

Posted by John Tully
dsm-llc

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5 best practices for small business website design

Clients for websites come in all shapes and sizes – sometimes they know exactly what they want, most often they have no idea! Whatever they actually end up with with regards to their small business website design there are certain best practices that I always try and incorporate on their behalf.Keep it simple stupid!

  1. KISS – Keep it simple stupid. Simple design with easy-to-navigate menu items on a small business website are preferred over “clever”, “flashy” or “sophisticated”. Visitors are going to be looking for certain things in certain places (company name/logo at top, navigation at top or in a sidebar, etc.). Stick to simple design and your visitors will love you for it.
  2. Use a declarative statement. Tell your visitors (and Google) what you do, who you do it for and where you do it as one of the first statements on your home page. You can not assume that visitors (human and bot) to your small business website know what you do from a few pictures or from a mission statement. Make it clear and obvious.
  3. Polish your Unique Selling Proposition. You have such a small time to capture visitors attention – make sure they see right away why they should do business with you. Are you the biggest widget maker in the North East? Do you provide individual attention to each client? are you the most experienced provider of your services in your town? Whatever it is, say so.
  4. Use visuals but don’t over-rely on them. A picture is worth a thousand words – we all get that, but remember two things: 1) Google can’t read images unless you tell it what its looking at and 2) generic stock photography can bite you in the butt if people see the same image on multiple sites. Use your own images wherever possible on your small business website.
  5. Make it easy for people to contact you. Whatever your preferred method of contact is make sure that visitors see it on EVERY page so wherever they are on your site they can pull the trigger and call, e-mail or send smoke signals if that’s what you want them to do.

Posted by John Tully
dsm-llc

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The worst advice I ever received about small business

When we first moved to the States (27 years ago!) we relied a lot on my brother and his wife who also lived in New Jersey. Joe had moved to the US in the 1970′s and had traveled extensively across the country – at one time or another he lived in Juno (Alaska), Springfield (IL) and Birmingham (AL). Safe to say he knew his way around.

When I first decided to go out on my own and start my own business I was torn with what to call the company. My first thought was to call it “Tully Marketing”. My brother was dead set against it “Makes you sound to small”, he said, “John Tully of Tully Marketing makes it sound as though you are the only employee”

William Shakespeare whats in a nameHe suggested I pick something more generic, less specific so people wouldn’t be able to determine how big or small the company was or exactly what it did, in case I needed to change my offerings.

So I picked Distributor Sales Management, which somewhat spoke to my business plan at the time but wasn’t too specific.

Within a year I realized the mistake I’d made:

  1. Distributor Sales Management was a long name, not particularly memorable and difficult to spell especially when strung together for an e-mail address (john.tully@distributorsalesmanagement.com)
  2. People really had no idea what the company did and I’d spend precious time explaining the derivation of the name rather than what my business did
  3. It was clear that people really didn’t have a negative opinion of a small solo practitioner business – if you were the only employee, so what?

For every day use I shortened the name to dsm-llc which is generally easier to spell but still doesn’t give a good sense of what the company does.

So, 5 years into my business I’m exploring changing the company name to – you guessed it – Tully Marketing (or something similar).

Three morals to this story:

  1. Think long and hard about your company name before settling in on something you’ll have to live with for a while
  2. Big brother’s aren’t always your best resource for business advice
  3. Going with your first instincts is often the best way to go!

What was the worst advice you ever received about your small business? Or perhaps you are guilty of issuing bad advice – fess up below in the comments.

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Being Authentic – Your Advantage as a Small Business Owner

be your authentic selfI bumped into one of my clients the other day. We don’t see each other as often as we used to but she’s still on my Constant Contact e-mail list. “I love getting your e-mails”, she said, “they sound just like you!”

Now, of course a) no one sounds “like” me! and b) voice-over-email hasn’t yet been perfected but this encounter speaks to the title of this post. My small business is me and I am my small business. When I talk about my small business and my products, its me talking.

When you hear from “the big guys” about their business or products its not a person talking – its probably something that a PR person drafted, that was massaged and argued over by a committee and then approved by legal counsel before being released.

I can be me – they can’t.

In this world where we skip past ads and put e-mail into junk folders, marketing is all about building relationships. In building those relationships people are genuinely interested in YOU and the subject that YOU are an expert in. It could be anything; construction, podiatry, web design, etc. People are interested in hearing what we, the small business person, has to say to them – as long as it genuine and not forced onto them.

So – one of your biggest, if not THE biggest, advantage over “the big guys” is that you can be your authentic self and they can’t. Use it at every opportunity you can and see how it can bring its own rewards.

Do you have any examples of where being the little guy worked in your favor against the big guys?

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2 of The Biggest Headaches Web Designers Face

This post has been re-posted with permission from the original author, Sally Ormond of Freelance Copywriter’s Blog.

First off, I’m not a web designer so if you are and you disagree with me, please feel free to leave a comment and tell me (and everyone else who will be reading this post) what it is that really bugs you.web designer headaches

As a copywriter, I work with a lot of web designers.

It seems to me that there are still a lot of people out there who firmly believe that:

a)    Their website comes fully loaded with copy

b)    Once it’s published, visitors will flock to their site

If you think like that, you’re wrong on both counts.

Just because you’ve hired someone to build you a fantastic website does not mean people will be beating down your door to take a look at it.

These days, if you want a successful website you’ve got to do some work – well, quite a lot of work and that means having a budget.

‘Budget’ – the word sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it?

Your outlay doesn’t just begin and end with the design and build of your website. This brings us back to the first misconception listed above.

Your website comes fully loaded with copy

No, it doesn’t.

Your designer will create you a fantastic website, but he or she won’t be filling it with content for you – that’s your job, or if you prefer, the job of the copywriter you’re going to hire.

Yes, hiring a writer means more money, but it will be money very well spent.

Once you have people flocking to your website, it’s the words that will keep them there and draw them in, convincing them to buy or contact you. If you have the wrong words, they’ll keep on browsing until they find a website that gives them what they want. I won’t bore you with the details about how to write website copy here, because there you can read out that in my earlier post ‘How to Create Engaging Website Copy’.

But of course, before your copy can engage them, you have to get them there.

Traffic will just come to you

Err, no it won’t.

This is the other misconception.

Once your website goes live, if you just sit back and wait for visitors you could be waiting a very long time.

No one is going to know you’re there unless you tell them. That means:

  • Getting busy on social media
  • Writing blogs and articles
  • Building links

Yes, in other words, you’ve got to do some work. Again, you can either get on with this yourself, or you can find the budget to pay someone else to do it for you.

Getting a website online is only the start of your online journey. If you don’t have the time, patience or knowhow to do it yourself, the cold hard fact is that you’ll have to find the budget you need to get someone else to do it for you. But just make sure you find someone reputable with a proven track record. Cutting corners by paying peanuts will leave you frustrated with a website full of dire copy and rolling tumbleweed where you should have traffic.

Author: Sally Ormond

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