Six simple rules for successful small-business advertising

  1. 6-numbers-1075313_1280Decide what your ad needs to say before you start booking space.
  2. Think of a customer behavior you want to change, and advertise to that; it’s how you’ll know if the advertising works. For example, if your slowest day of the week is Tuesday, advertise a Tuesday special.
  3. Pay a professional to design your ad; there’s no point spending money that makes you look amateurish.
  4. Just a handful of advertising exposures almost never pay for themselves. It’s a long-haul investment. If you aren’t going to spend enough money to assure the audience will hear from you a dozen or more times, find some other way to invest in your business.
  5. Run more ads in fewer outlets rather than fewer ads in more outlets.
  6. Run a larger number of small ads rather than a smaller number of large ads.

University School

All US teams play at the school’s Hunting Valley Campus.

Google Maps: 2785 Som Center Rd, Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Why advertising matters during the holiday season

TheHeightsObserver_Vol_09_Issue_08.pdf5 reasons to run seasonal ads in the Heights Observer

  1. More than 9,000 copies of each issue are distributed throughout Cleveland Heights and University Heights. No other publication in the region has such market penetration in these communities.
  2. Its readers are your neighbors – likely to be your most regular customers, based on proximity alone.
  3. We remind our readers often to shop local because money spent with local businesses has greater economic impact, and because the existence of so many independent businesses is part of what makes the area so livable.
  4. Customers who don’t shop at other times of the year need a reminder you’re there – and that what you offer is different from all the same-old at the Big Boxes and Lifestyle Centers.
  5. The Observer remains non-profit. Advertising proceeds are returned to the community in the form of programming that supports local businesses, such as the Heights Community Business Development Alliance, Best of the Heights, Heights Music Hop and more.

Journalistic Coverage

Photographer Taking Pictures Of Female Journalist Interviewing Businessman

Photographer Taking Pictures Of Female Journalist Interviewing Businessman

Journalistic coverage of your organization’s events and activities leverages the work that goes into them for long-lasting impact. From seminars and workshops to lectures to fund-raisers to open-houses, events that get editorial coverage from any source are perceived as more important than those that don’t.

Coverage is equally relevant for businesses, non-profits and NGOs. It can run on your website, in newsletters and house publications, on social media and, in some cases, can be submitted to local news organizations.

Whether written, audio or video, coverage of events is a key part of an ongoing content marketing or story-telling strategy. It can accomplish the following:

  • Serve your mission, by extending core programs to those who couldn’t attend in person
  • Increase engagement, by introducing your work to people who aren’t yet familiar enough to attend in person
  • Affirm value, by validating for those who attended why the event was successful
  • Support attendance at future events
  • Provide an informational contact opportunity – that is, a chance to reach out to important constituents without asking them for time or money
  • Support lead-generation and/or fund-raising activities
  • Elevate the stature of an event or organization

Whether you host multiple events on a regular basis or just one or two large events a year, providing editorial coverage through our network of experienced, independent journalists is key to maximizing its value for long after the event has ended.

Good clean fun

robot-joke

Sailing and business: #3

harbor-night-1352512-1279x914_freeimages-com_00  Sias van Schalkwyk Sias van SchalkwykIf you stare hard enough, you’ll see whatever you want to see.
Sailing at night is disorienting. You lose sense of direction, depth perception and perspective. A white light on the dark horizon might be a high-powered navigational beam on a tower 20 miles distant – or it could be an 8-watt bulb on the transom of a boat 100 yards away.
Navigational charts do what they can to remove such quandaries. For example, if you’re sailing toward an area of rocky, shallow waters, the chart will tell you how it’s marked – by a buoy, perhaps, with a red light that flashes every four seconds.
That’s simple enough; just look for the red flasher and steer clear of it.
But if you’re sailing near shore, there will be lots of lights, of varying intensity and color. There may be other boats in the vicinty – each with its own set of red, green and white running lights. And there may be dozens of lighted buoys marking a variety of other nearby hazards and inlets. Plus there are lights on shore.
Talk with sailors from any large city and they’ll be able to tell you about some unfortunate soul who ran aground after mistaking a 4-way stoplight for a navigational aid.
So if you’re looking for that red 4-second flasher to steer around, you’ll put the whole crew to the task of identifying it. And they’ll stare at it until every light starts to look red and seems to be flashing at roughly 4-second intervals.
At that point, if you’re lucky, someone will pop their head up from below deck and see things more clearly. This is the person who will usually point and say, “There it is,” while everyone else blinks three times and echoes, “Oh yeah.”
What’s the lesson in business? You need to be aware of your surroundings. You need to look for problems when they’re still on the horizon and identify solutions as early as possible. But sometimes, the longer and harder you look, the tougher it is to identify the real solution among all the ideas and possibilities that exist.
Sometimes, it takes a fresh-eyed third-party to bring clarity to the situation. Or a brief respite from your search. Or failing that, simply turning the boat in a new direction to avoid the hazard altogether.
Image courtesy: Freeimages.com/Sias van Schalkwyk

Using ‘Best of the Heights’ to benefit your business

Best of the Heights 2015Voting for the 2015 Best of the Heights Awards continues for another four weeks – and it’s not too late to exploit it.

If  your business is located in Cleveland Heights or University Heights, this local recognition program provides an opportunity for free and low-cost marketing. Here’s how this year’s program works, and how to take advantage of it in your business:

How it works

People fill out nomination forms for their favorite Heights businesses in 19 categories, and those receiving the most votes are named “Best of the Heights” at an event on Oct. 7. Nomination forms are available in the Heights Observer (they’ve been running since May) and online through FutureHeights. It’s that simple.

How to exploit it for your own good

1. Nominate yourself. There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion, and nobody will ever know you were the first person to nominate the business. Ballots require your name and contact information, but that isn’t shared publicly; it’s just to make sure the nominations are valid. Here’s a link to the online form.

2. Ask staff, family and friends to nominate you too, and tell then what category they should use.

3. Ask customers – and let them know which category.  The very act of asking customers to nominate you puts them on your team and brings them closer to you. Here are ways to make it easy for them to nominate you:

  • Keep a supply of forms on your counter (you can photocopy them right out of the Heights Observer; we don’t mind). Present them nicely, in a basket with a sign and leave another clearly-marked basket for completed forms. You can mail them or drop them off at the Observer all at once. (The Observer/FutureHeights office is in the former Coventry School.)
  • Use your website and e-mail communications to ask people to nominate your business. Provide a link directly to the online form in those communications to make it as easy as possible. This is a welcome opportunity to communicate with customers without asking them for money. You’ll be surprised at how many are happy to engage with you at this level.
  • Put a message on your company’s Facebook page and any other social media sites you use. Make it direct, something like: “Joe’s Eats” is excited to participate in this year’s Best of the Heights Awards. Help us by nominating us in the “Best Bar, Pub or Tavern” category. Here’s a link to the nomination form: http://bit.ly/htsbest.” (The link works; you can cut-and-paste it.)

4. Get your staff involved. Make sure everyone on your team knows this is a special initiative. Give each his or her own supply of forms (they can place their initials in a small spot in the corner) and offer a reasonable incentive – a cash bonus or gift certificate – to the staff member who brings in the most valid nominations.

5. Team up with friends in your business district. While you’re soliciting nominations, offer to suggest businesses in other categories if they’ll do the same for you.

6. If you’re a finalist or a winner, promote yourself. Put the honor into your advertising, on your letterhead template, in your e-mail communications, etc. Where appropriate, provide a link to the Heights Observer’s coverage of the winners (probably in October).

When all is said and done, the nominating process is a useful and refreshing way to promote your business. It engages your customers at a different level; it helps them think of your business not just for what it sells, but for how well it runs.

Even if your business is tiny or new and you think you have little chance of being named a finalist, the process is likely to strengthen some existing relationships and create new ones.

It might also reveal areas where you need to build up your marketing, such as building your Facebook network, or tidying up your customer database, or creating regular e-mail communications.

In the worst case, if you find people aren’t excited to nominate the business, you’ll have learned something important – and can begin looking for ways to improve the customer experience.

The Best of the Heights is designed to highlight and honor the many excellent independent businesses that are located here. But it’s also a platform for you to do  some honest self-promotion.

 

 

It’s 2015; get a website already

joe s contracting Google SearchA surprisingly large number of owners still think their small business doesn’t need a website.

Among them are some of the smallest businesses, like handymen, gutter cleaners and house painters. But it also includes businesses with higher overhead and more at stake: mechanics, limousine services, even restaurants, retailers and professional service providers like lawyers and accountants.

A website isn’t a luxury – especially for small businesses. It can mean the difference between being perceived as a painting company and a guy with a ladder. Today, a website is like a telephone and a business card: Don’t even think of doing business without one.

Why you don’t have a website

Here are the five most common reasons small-business owners tell me they don’t need a website – along with some push-back.

  1. I get all my business by word-of-mouth: That will likely be the case even with a website. But more and more, people who are referred to your business will try to look it up online before making a phone call. When they do, if they don’t find your business right away they will find competitors. You’ll never know how much business you didn’t get from direct referrals who discover you don’t have a website.
  2. Most of my customers are older and don’t use the internet: According to Pew Research, 6 out of 10 people 65 or older use the internet regularly. But even if all your customers are in the other 40%, new customers are likely to be younger.
  3. All my customers are local; I don’t need a website to reach people in Idaho: If a website reaches people far away, it’s reaching even more people close to home. That’s because the major search engines all use geographic location in search results – especially on mobile devices which now account for more than half of all internet search activity. Reaching people outside your geographic area may not put money in your pocket, but it doesn’t hurt anything and it doesn’t cost extra.
  4. I don’t have time to build a website, and I don’t have the money for someone to do it for me: Today, you can build a drag-and-drop website without any technical knowledge at little or no cost. Time and money are never the real reason – just indications that you don’t yet understand the true value.
  5. I don’t have anything to put on a website: In my experience, this is the real reason most of these businesses aren’t yet online. When pushed to make a case why anyone should do business with them, they freeze. Organizing the description and value of your business can make your brain ache, but it’s critically important – and not just for your website. Going through the sometimes-difficult process of learning how to make your business seem unique will pay dividends in all aspects of what you do, and it’s the most important part of creating a website.

Why you need a website

Credit: Search Engine Land, 2012

How many times have you used the internet in the last 12 months to find a local business? Credit: Search Engine Land, 2012

A 2012 survey by Search Engine Land indicated 85% of consumers use the internet to find or qualify local businesses.

  • For the smallest businesses, a website can act as an extra set of hands – providing information without you having to stop work to answer the phone.
  • It also puts you on equal footing with larger competitors.
  • With phone books having all but disappeared, it’s becoming the only way people can find you.
  • Even the simplest website can present your business as organized and serious; it broadcasts that you want people to find you and learn about you. Not having a website says the opposite: that your business is marginal or indifferent.

Building a simple site

Lots of small businesses have integrated the Internet with their day-to-day operations by building feature-rich websites with blogs, e-commerce, appointment-schedulers and other add-ons. This can be valuable and has successfully transformed many businesses. But that may not be what you want.

A website does not have to change the way you do business. It doesn’t need to have state-of-the-art social media integration. It doesn’t need to be optimized to show up at the top of search engine rankings. There’s nothing wrong with a simple website that provides basic information and seldom changes.

There are three technical requirements to build your first website: A domain name (prices vary, but $15 a year is a fair, gimmick-free price); a hosting service (ballpark $100 a year) and a simple drag-and-drop platform on which to build your website (free). The large hosting services like GoDaddy and 1&1 provide everything you need in one place (and you’ll enjoy the experience about as much as a trip to Walmart on Dec. 24).

If you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the process, ask for help from a friend who has already been through it; it’ll cost you a bottle of wine. Or pay someone who specializes in building small-business websites – who will help scale the project to your needs and budget.

The harder job for most people is figuring out what to put on the website. So make it simple. I suggest starting with just 4 pages:

Home: The introductory landing page that provides basic information about what your business does and who it serves.

Services: A page that goes into a little detail about what you offer. It doesn’t have to say much – just a list of the things you do.

About: A page that provides background about you and the business; use the same stuff that you say to prospective customers when trying to close a sale or deal with them.

Contact: It’s enough if you provide an e-mail address and phone number. Also include your mailing address – in case somebody wants to send you a check some day.

After the website is up and running, you may decide to add one or two more pages:

  • Testimonials from customers
  • A gallery of photos, if appropriate, of work you’ve done

One warning: Don’t illustrate your website with photos that you “scrape” from other websites or from Google Images. Most of these are copyrighted, and the cost if the copyright holder finds you (which is more likely than you think) can be exorbitant. If you need photos, try FreeDigitalPhotos.net or Stock.xchng, where photos really are free to use as long as you follow their guidelines.

Don’t worry about all the other fragments of knowledge you hear about building a good website. They all have their time and place. But for you, it’s enough to establish your online presence and then get back to business. You’ll be glad you did.

Exclusive offer for HRCC Business Expo Exhibitors

heightsobserver__Vol_07_Issue_10Thank you for finding this page.

Mention the secret phrase and you’ll receive the 12-time rate for any display advertising you do in 2015.

That’s 25% to 35% off the one-time rate.

The secret phrase is: Love the Heights!

Click here for our rates

Click here for other advertising information

Click here to contact Bob Rosenbaum for more information and service.

The MarketFarm manages advertising and business development under contract with the Heights Observer. Bob Rosenbaum is prinicpal of the MarketFarm, and has volunteered with the Heights Observer since its founding.

Cleveland Heights Business Appreciation Mixer

CH Holiday BAM invite 11-04-2014