An advisory board is a rare species in the small-business ecology, yet assembling such a board may be one of the most important steps a CEO can take to assure an enterprise’s success. Besides offering credibility and contacts, advisers working together provide guidance sharpened by boardroom debate, something individual mentors can’t match, says Corey Hansen, a financial adviser specializing in small businesses at Smith Barney in Bellevue, Washington. For family businesses, boards are invaluable, particularly when it comes to the delicate matter of succession. “A board has the willingness to bring the subject up, in a supportive and patient way,” says John L. Ward, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and author of Creating Effective Boards for Private Enterprises. “Then once it’s on the table, it creates a forum of safety for the conversation.”
All too often we see local businesses spend way too much time crafting their Facebook pages and trying to force engagement. Even if it does happen, it’s not the best way to spend their social media time. They have an advantage over big brands: touching the people.
Social media is playing an increasingly vital role in business marketing. Unfortunately, many small and medium-sized businesses (and a few large corporations) are not getting nearly as much out of their social media marketing efforts as they should be. In short, social media is proving to be a bust.
How can you get your business noticed? And, what’s more important in these tough economic times, how can you get noticed without breaking your budget? In this economy, you need all the help you can get to ensure that your business is noticed amid all the noise. Marketing is key, but which approach to take? The first thing that may pop into your mind is to send out e-mail blasts or hire a consultant. While these are good ideas, everyone’s already doing the first, and the latter can be pricey. Besides, there are lots of things you can do on your own that are cheap or free. So get creative! Use the Web and other resources at hand to try to rise above the fray.
Reader: Does your company design Facebook business pages for those of us who are too old to get the hang of it? I am sure it is very easy, but for me it is a major project with a learning curve. We have one up already but we don’t utilize it and don’t know how.
Yes, we do graphic design that can be used on your Facebook page; but design alone does not make for a compelling Facebook page. In fact, it’s more of a public relations issue than design. Let’s talk briefly about how Facebook pages (and other social media tools) are supposed to help your business. Anchor Wave Internet Solutions provides an excellent article on the matter, “5 Business Uses for Facebook.” At the end, I’ll also mention how V9 Marketing might be able to help you if you feel overwhelmed and don’t want to do it yourself.
Is anyone visiting the timeline pages for brands?
A marketing budget typically covers costs for advertising, promotion and public relations. Each amount varies based on the size of the business, its annual sales and how much the competition is advertising. Depending on the industry, marketing budgets can range from as low as 1% of sales to over 30%. New companies may spend as much as 50% of sales for introductory marketing programs in the first year. Smaller business may just try to match the spending of their direct competitors.
The overall marketing budget should include:
An example of what happens when you get your website remade for cheap (second image). We had to step in and intervene and even educate the client about aesthetic. The best point in that meeting was when we made a comparison, “Just like how you are antsy whenever you see ugly fingernails, we get antsy when we see bad graphic design.” After that, we came to a mutual understanding.
Reader: Can you design a logo for me at an affordable price? I’m just getting started with my spa business and don’t have much money to invest.
When you Google searched “logo design,” Logoworks came up at the top. Logoworks, which was owned by HP, used to dominate the logo design market, but HP closed its operations. On their website, they recommend using LogoMaker for those of you who like to DIY. Bear in mind that while you get a free logo, the logo still belongs to them (copyright) and that they grant permission for you to use it. For most small businesses, this arrangement is fine. But if you grow to be successful, they may call you out and charge licensing fee for using the logo.
If you’re looking for actual graphic designer’s touch in making the logo for you, The Logo Company is a good affordable option, which (at the time of this writing) offered logos for $149 for 5 concepts. The nice thing is that they transfer copyright ownership to you as well. It’s really a bargain! We believe how they keep costs down is that they keep a library of unused logo designs and recycle them when a new, similar client comes in. Recycled logos sounds bad, but for them to be successful, they’d have to at least remove a logo style from their libraries once a client decides upon it.
V9 Marketing does offer full-service logo design, great for people who have a vision of exactly what they want. But of course, that is a premium service, and we’d only recommend it to clients who are willing to spend at least $500 and more on logo design alone. Essentially the designer has to sweat the details for you, rather than recycle a logo concept.
Reader: Do you know where I can get business cards printed?
VistaPrint offers free business cards, but that would require the VistaPrint logo to be printed on the back of your card, which devalues the image of your company as being cheap and corner-cutting.
A quick Google search yields both UPrinting.com in Los Angeles (near Santa Monica), and PsPrint.com based in Oakland (we prefer to support companies in California). At least with PsPrint, if you live near there, you can save on shipping by picking it up from their printing facilities. Be sure to check and compare both websites for price if you’re considering other print products. UPrinting sponsored one of our client’s Children Moon Festival, so we love that they give back to the community. We printed from both companies before, and can attest to their excellent quality for your basic print products.
V9 Marketing has other vendors we keep under wraps for special options and other print products, which we’ll talk about more in the future.