The Duct Tapes Like Us? Great

27 03 2010
John Jantsch

Picture stolen from DuctTapeMarketing.com

Saw on Duct Tape Marketing last weekend that John happened upon Prova & had a great review to post.  Maybe our design community can return the favor with a free design contest?

Thanks John.  If you haven’t checked out Duct Tape Marketing, do it now.





7 Tips For Gaining an Edge During a Recession

26 03 2010

According to research, businesses that advertise in a recession usually come out of it ahead of their competitors who cut advertising. It is important to stay visible and not rely solely on your current customer base to make it through the slow times. If there is no money available for advertising, there are many resources to keep your business visible but you must be creative. Read the rest of this entry »





The Face of Your Church

13 03 2010

If you were selling your house, your agent would go to great lengths to make sure it looked amazing from the outside.  Its curb appeal is important for an obvious reason.  When a potential buyer rounds the corner and sees your house, what will be their first impression?  Will they be looking at a dull building with hanging gutters, brown spots in the otherwise sparse landscape, and dingy windows?  A poor first impression based on the outside of your house would be hard to overcome even if the inside was a granite filled paradise.

Church Fountain Read the rest of this entry »





Capital for Small Businesses

19 01 2010

Small Businesses are often overwhelmed when it comes to the possibility of funding to support their business. They will often hear of grants that are available, stimulus money, guaranteed loans for small business, loans for credit cards, and even investors willing to give out money for great ideas.

As in all things, it is imperative for businesses to weigh the costs of these options against the obvious benefits. Often a business owner will in a “hands tied” position and feel that anything they must do to obtain the much needed capital. In several months, they may regret that decision immensely.

Grants are available from federal and state sources and often only open to a very narrow band of applicants. If you do fit the criteria, be aware that your competition for free money will be fierce. Be sure that you have well prepared, thorough, and professional looking documents to submit as part of your proposal. Depending on the grant, you may also consider hiring a professional grant writer to make your proposal have the best chance possible. The wait time is substantial and often will require additional funding in the interim.

Stimulus money only applies to a very specific group of opportunities and must be applied for specifically according to the directions. Many funds are regionally based and specific to a certain industry. Make sure your opportunity is a perfect match before wasting your time on applying for it.

Guaranteed loans from the Small Business Administration are rapidly disappearing. It used to be that you took a private business loan from a bank and the SBA guaranteed it.This meant that if you defaulted on your loan, the SBA would pay your bank the money. This reduced the risk to the bank and made it more likely that they would lend to a small business. Now, guarantee rates often hover around 50% and make the risk of loaning to small business quite high. Most banks are not interested in loaning to small businesses because of the default risk. You may find programs, especially if you are a returning Vet or a spouse of one.

Taking a loan from a credit card to expand your business is similar to taking a line of credit on your home. Both have risks and both have benefits. A loan from a credit card carries a very high and often variably interest rate. If your business fails, it will take your personal credit rating with it. However, credit cards are often the most reasonable access to credit that small businesses have. Using the equity in your home to draw cash is a riskier proposition. Instead of risking your credit, you’re risking your home. If you can’t pay the additional loan if your business fails, you risk losing your home in addition to ruining your credit. Borrow wisely.

When considering an investor, be sure to understand their motives. No investor is in business because they believe in you. The may invest because they think you have a good idea but they are all in it to make money. The way an investor makes money is to tie a string to your business, whether it be equity or a position within the company, to make sure their money is protected. You may find yourself being told by an investor how to manage your business, negotitate contracts or even operate from day to day. Investors gain a great deal of control in your business and some owners have even found themselves no longer running their own business thanks to an investor who edges them out.

This isn’t to say that there are no ways out when a small business needs money. These are merely signs to look for when considering borrowing money to keep your business afloat. If the money you borrow is merely to smooth over a rough patch, it’s likely a good time to do it if you’re sure that patch will end. If your business is floundering and you need to borrow money to make ends meet hoping that business will pick up again, it may be time to re-evaluate your business and make more fundamental changes. Throwing cash at a problem doesn’t make it go away, it just keeps it quiet until later.

Take a few moments and analyze your business needs. Are there things you can do to run your business smarter and more efficiently? Can you negotiate better terms with your creditors? How can you avoid the need of that additional capital? Streamline your business now and save when it comes time to pay back the debt later.

Save money with your marketing and advertising needs by utilizing Prova Advertising to manage any of your design needs at http://www.Prova.fm.

– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist
jeannie@prova.fm





Can Customers Identify Your Business?

11 01 2010

Ask a large company what “branding” is and they can answer you completely and tell you how their company accomplishes it. Ask a small business owner about “branding” and they may think it has something to do with an iron, a fire and backside of cattle. This doesn’t mean that the small business owner is ignorant; it means that they just might not understand what you are talking about.

Branding for the small business can be a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to beating the competition. Branding promotes recognition of your product, service or store and gives an easy association for your customers to your business. Branding can consist of your logo, advertising, slogan, painting or sign on company vehicles and any marketing materials you may have.

It is imperative for a small business to determine a message that conveys something about their product or service and provides a sense of confidence. In this market, customers are not impressed that you offer a service, they want to feel confident that your business is the best choice and offers the highest value.

1) Get a logo: No matter how silly it may seem, your business needs a logo. A logo gives customers a visual indication of what your business does and will allow them to mentally associate your business with that image. When a customer sees that image, whether on a vehicle, in an ad, or on your business card, they will associate it with your business and with you. That type of recognition directly relates to business.

2) Get a slogan: Don’t try to get too fancy, too cute and certainly not too long winded. Keep it short and sweet, try to convey value to the customer, and avoid superlatives that will cause your customers ultimately to doubt your sincerity. Need a slogan and don’t know where to start? Post a note in the comments of this section for our feedback, ask on a social networking site, ask your friends and families, ask your employees, or ask your existing customers. A slogan will help with recognition and garner you more business.

3) Make your marketing materials match: You should choose a general set of complimentary colors that you will use in themes throughout your business. For example, a lawn care service would likely choose green as one of its main colors. Use your logo throughout your marketing materials and on your business cards. Imagine, if you took a brochure, an ad, and a business card each from 5 different companies and tossed them on a table, you should be able to pair them up to represent each company because of branding. It’s the similar look and feel that allow you to match up the corresponding marketing materials. If you tossed your marketing materials out, could you match them up?

Take five minutes today and toss all of your marketing materials on the table. Do you see a common theme? Does it convey the impression you want to give? Be honest, does it seem amateur or silly? If it isn’t what you’re looking for, start over. Use a budget-minded contest through Prova to get more in line with your business and the image you want to convey.

Branding is a key force in making a lasting impression with your customers and will make you stand out among the competition. I’m serious, toss your stuff on the table. Go ahead!

For any questions about business branding, send me an email at jeannie@prova.fm or post here in the Comments section. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it.

– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist
jeannie@prova.fm





Where to Start with Online Advertising

8 01 2010

Online advertising is often considered to be too confusing for small businesses to undertake. Many owners who are not familiar with the medium expect it to be complicated and expensive but this doesn’t have to be the case. Online advertising can range from a simple local Google business listing to a complex AdWords or pay-per-click campaign. Whatever your level of expertise, don’t be afraid to try. If all else fails, seek the advice of a professional marketing strategist who is well versed in online advertising techniques to help you design a campaign that will compliment your print advertising efforts and marketing goals.

The first step is to decide if your business can benefit from online advertising. Ask yourself where you could find additional customers. Do you have the type of business that people would look for information online? If the answer is no, chances are your money is likely better spent on other advertising. If your business would benefit from more customers finding you online, take some easy first steps and evaluate their results.

1) Local Google Listing – Check out http://www.google.com/local/add/analyticsSplashPage?gl=us&hl=en-US for a quick and easy way to make sure that customers can find your physical location. By making a quick new business entry, you’ll get exposure and a listing on Google for free.

2) Social Networking Ads – By using targeted ads on places like Facebook, your business can target the exact audience you are looking for. These ads are generally pay-per-click which means that your business only pays if someone selects your ad and is directed on to your page. Make your ad compelling by offering a time-limited, tangible product or service. Don’t waste your money with a simple “just letting you know we’re here” type of ad. Make someone want to click.

3) Link Exchanges – If you feel that there are sites where a link to your website would benefit, suggest a link exchange to that site. By offering a reciprocal link to their site, you’ll often get a positive response. Remember, the more links that exist to your site, the better your site will rank on search engines.

4) AdWords – If you ready to put some time into online advertising, consider an ad campaign such as Google AdWords. You can create a monthly budget, set your maximum pay-per-click rate (basically buying position on search engine sponsored ads), and have outstanding statistics to measure your results.

5) Banner Ads – Certain types of businesses definitely benefit from a banner ad campaign. There are lots of services available that once you submit a banner ad, can disperse it across the Internet to appropriate sites. You can also consider buying a sponsorship on you local sites that have a lot of visibility. Consider placing a banner ad at your local Chamber of Commerce site.

6) Local Ad Sites – There are many aggregators of local businesses and services. A good place to start is to Google your own business and see what listings you end up in. You can often update these listings for free. Make sure the information is updated and if you move locations or change information, always Google yourself and make sure all listings are up to date.

Each of these types of efforts needs close monitoring to make sure you can track the results. Avoid making identical offers in multiple places so you can be sure to know where new traffic is coming from. If you have statistics for your website, be sure to check the referring domains as well so you can see what people do on your site once they come in.

Each one of these methods will drive more business to your website and the local ads will help bring foot traffic to your physical location. Make sure your potential new customers are impressed when they arrive. Make sure your website is as professional as possible. If your money is limited or you don’t have a web designer you trust, consider running a promotion with Prova to redesign your site. All the advertising in the world won’t help if once customers arrive, they lose their sense of confidence in your brand.

As always, feel free to ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out!

NEXT BLOG: Branding and the Small Business

— Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist
jeannie@prova.fm





The Perils of Print Advertising

4 01 2010

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As a small business owner, you may find yourself continually looking to get more feedback about what marketing efforts are working. This week, I’ll discuss the Perils of Print Advertising and ways to evaluate if your print ads are working for your business.

REDUNDANCY: A good first step is to avoid the biggest advertising mistake any small business can make, and that is to run an ad once. A beautiful ad may catch a few eyes but will likely not yield many results. A good rule of thumb is to plan on running ads consistently over 4-6 weeks, depending on the frequency of a publication. Consistent marketing gets customers familiar with your brand and your message and will develop confidence that you run a real business with real value to them. These days, customers are hesitant to jump on board with a new business or product. Make them feel confident in you by offering consistency.

CONSISTENCY: Make your ads look alike and slightly change the message or offer, if appropriate. Let them be recognizable throughout several publications as belonging to the same company. No one is going to avoid your company because their ad looks similar to the one last week. No one. Also consider asking the editor if you can have an ad appear in a certain place over the course of your campaign so people get familiar with where to find your ad.

COMPELLING: Offer something tangible in return for their business. Percent-off deals rarely work unless you’re giving away the farm or dealing with existing customers. Readers who are not familiar with your company may be left wondering, “25% off of what?” rather than looking for the car keys to come visit your storefront. Ask yourself if your ad reader would respond, “Now THAT’S a great deal!” Instead of money savings, consider bundling less popular items for free with the purchase of more popular items or setting a fixed price for a recognizable service. A $5 oil change would have me in a lot faster than 25% off your next oil purchase.

AVOID OVERLAP: Sometimes small businesses will go on an advertising blitz and will often shoot an entire budget within a short span of time. If your service or product is time specific or limited, this may be appropriate but often you just buy yourself a little recognition but rarely get the traffic through your door. If you run print ads in more than one publication, don’t make the same offer in the same place and ask that they bring a coupon or the ad with them. By having the tangible ad, you’ll get immediate confirmation of where your marketing dollars are paying off. Also use the time wisely when a customer brings in an ad. If you don’t recognize this customer, ask them if this is the first time they have been in. Start a conversation and learn if the customer had heard of you before or if the ad brought them in. Most customers are happy to have a conversation with you.

LOCAL ADVERTISING: Whenever you have the chance to buy an ad in a school publication, a local menu, a charity event, or even a discount card program, DO IT! These items generally are used for far longer than any newspaper and are generally much more affordable. The best way to capitalize on this is to have a business card prepared with advertising in mind. Don’t worry about whose name is on the card or what their title is. You must have your logo, address, short description of your business, contact information and tag line. You can hand these to whoever is selling a local ad and they generally will use the card as is, saving you design and layout fees and maintaining your branding. You can also have this design printed cost effectively online and use these to handout at networking events. Remember, don’t ever get the back side of your business card printed on or with a gloss coating because then you can’t write on it!

BE PREPARED: Take this opportunity to get your marketing ducks in a row and decide how you’re going to proceed through 2010. Start now with a new business card design for advertising and networking purposes that will reproduce well in black and white and look great in full color.

Need help? Set your budget and run a design contest today with Prova | Advertising and get your networking business card ready for action! For more information on running your own design contest, visit www.prova.fm.

If you have questions, please feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it.

NEXT BLOG: ONLINE ADVERTISING

– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist
jeannie@prova.fm