New Incentives for Employers Help Workers Recover After a Workplace Injury

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Leah with one of her patients.

Written by Rena Shawver,  L&I Return to Work Partnerships

Leah’s Story

When a horse reared up behind her, all Leah could do was hope for the best as the 1,200-pound animal came down on top of her.  The vet tech knew instantly her back was broken.  After multiple surgeries to repair several breaks and a long recovery period, Leah had recovered physically as much as possible.  Among other things, her “new normal” meant no heavy lifting. She realized her permanent physical restrictions would not allow her to work with large animals again.  But being a veterinarian technician was the only work she knew; and she loved her job. 

Today, Leah is working full-time as a vet tech with a new employer at a small animal emergency clinic. Although she was hired for her skill, as a certified preferred worker through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), her employment comes with financial incentives that will benefit both her and her employer.

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Veterinarian technician Leah Wiltse-Perry was severely injured when a horse she was leading reared up and came down on her, breaking her back in several places. Through the Preferred Worker Program, she’s been able to find a medically-appropriate permanent job as a vet tech working with small animals at Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane.

Supporting workers after recovery

Like Leah, some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.

L&I certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate, long-term jobs for preferred workers.

Major changes to the Preferred Worker Program

Last January, the Washington State Legislature expanded the Preferred Worker Program to allow all employers in Washington State, including the employer of injury and self-insured employers, the opportunity to hire a preferred worker.

Under the rules of the expanded program, employers will receive the following:

  • Financial protection against subsequent claims,
  • Premium relief,
  • Bonus payment equal to 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, for continuous employment, and
  • Reimbursement for:
    • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, up to $10,000.
    • Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.
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Leah shows her supervisor, Mike O’Dea, DVM, and her Vocational Service Specialist, Ellen Nagourney, how the modified equipment bought through L&I’s incentive programs help her at work.

Why offer incentives to support jobs?

Many employers at heart want to help their workers after an injury, but find making that transition from the job of injury to a new job that meets the worker’s physical or mental restrictions a hardship financially.

Preferred Worker Program incentives help the worker and employer keep their relationship, giving them extra support and guidance through a transition period often with the help of a vocational counselor.

Other return-to-work incentives

Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. L&I reimburses eligible employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal. Employers covered through the workers’ compensation State Fund may qualify for financial incentives from both the Stay at Work Program and the Preferred Worker Program.

Hiring employers could also qualify for additional financial help to modify equipment at worksites that will help preferred workers complete certain work-related tasks.

Using return-to-work programs help lower an employers’ workers’ compensation costs both in the short and long-term.

Learn more about the Preferred Worker Program

Already, about 100 employers have contacted L&I with interest in hiring some of the 1,500 certified preferred workers who are ready to work and are supported by the financial incentives of the Preferred Worker Program.

To learn more, sign up for one of L&I’s  Preferred Worker workshops by going to www.Lni.wa.gov/PreferredWorker.  Or contact the Preferred Worker Program by phone at 1-800-845-2634 or by email at PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov to ask how to apply for preferred worker benefits.

Hear more about Leah’s story by watching this video.

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Top Five Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

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Written by guest blogger Corianne Burton, SEO Specialist with N2Q Consulting

“Make the customer number one.” “The customer is always right.” “Customer service is priority numero uno.”

These platitudes may seem tired, but they speak a long-known marketing truth. However, foundational marketing often makes the mistake of simply denying the fact that the customer comes first.

Thinking you know better than your audience, seeing consumers as numbers and not people, and failing to give customers their due attention are seemingly trite mantras from days of old… but they’ll come back to haunt you. If you become tone deaf to these truths, you’ll pay in lost traffic, missed prospects and opportunities, and even your loyal, long-time customers going a new direction. The good news is that you can still take back the success of your marketing campaigns. Just make sure to address these key foundational errors that many marketing firms make.

1. Thinking You Have All the Answers

…Or thinking that you need to have them. Marketing is tricky; it’s an ever-changing field of consumer attraction. While you may have great ideas, keeping current and creative requires humility. You must step back from all the good that you know (or, believe you should know) in order to listen. To learn. To ask questions.

Stop relying on the tried and not-so-true marketing methods. They only maintain the status quo and – as you can tell by our name – this is something we don’t like. To say no to the quo and move into the great beyond, you must listen to experts in the field, ask questions and get creative with marketing efforts that work well for your company and with its goals. If you need help, ask. After all, holding fast to the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades may hurt your endgame.

2. Believing One Size-Fits-All

Furthermore, making assumptions and following stock strategies reaps problems for campaigns and your client relationships. In other words, marketing proposed to “fit everyone” likely fits no one. Failing to listen to your audience or understand the goals of your company lead to lackluster marketing campaigns.

Focus on a segmented, targeted audience rather than a broad one. Taking into account the habits, triggers, interests, goals and hopes of prospects allows you to tailor your marketing to better meet their needs. Plus, matching these details to the goals, products and services of your company helps build relationships. This considerate attention leads to loyal customers.

3. Avoiding the Social Scene

You may desire to remain aloof from the crowd (whether digital or real world), but being antisocial in marketing efforts hurts your business. While social media proves vital to success (for those companies whose customers engage with it), half-hearted efforts produce full failures. Yes, nothing is better than a poorly run campaign.

To take advantage of social media, make sure you’re attending to Facebook or blog comments and questions. Build relationships rather than broadcasting or promoting yourself through these platforms. You’ll be rewarded by knowing more about your audience. The truth is consumers want to know that you see who they are beyond a mere notch in your sales belt.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Analytics

In the activity of a week, assessing the impact of marketing campaigns by “feel” proves difficult. Often this critical assessment gets set aside for lead chasing and advertising. Yet, marketing 101 teaches that tracking and measuring results is crucial for knowing what is working.

Fortunately, a host of analytics offer help in determining your return on investment. Google Analytics, social media analytics such as Facebook insights, and email campaign data give feedback to let you know where adjustments need to be made for greater success. Use the figures and switch up campaigns by concentrating your efforts on what works.

5. Failing to Draft a Strategy

Digital marketing and technology bring a flurry of business boosting options to your door step. It’s exciting! Unfortunately, these opportunities also prove overwhelming, even paralyzing to your marketing efforts. Or, if you eagerly jump in with both feet wherever you can, you run the risk of landing in the wrong place.

Marketing objectives and goals culminating in a strategy are vital. Identify where you want to go and the tactics on how to get there become clearer. Plus, assessing each marketing component to ensure it leads to the same destination proves easier. Your analytics will more accurately measure what you intend to when your direction is set.

The Wrap

Whether you go DIY or hire a creative agency to get your efforts flowing, addressing the details of your marketing campaign proves critical to your success. Your audience does come first. The customer really is numero uno.

Humble yourself to listen to your prospects, customers, industry experts and even your competition to adopt a marketing strategy which tailor fits your company and demographic. Engage with your audience to build loyal relationships. Be sure to use analytics to measure and adjust as needed.

Doing nothing out of fear or everything out of eagerness yields poor marketing results. Money and time are precious commodities poured into these efforts. Use them wisely by developing an intentional marketing campaign that avoids these top marketing mistakes.

To speak with a beyond the status quo marketing firm for help with any marketing efforts that overwhelm or allude you, reach out to N2Q today. We love to see you succeed.

 

How to Refresh Your Brand in 2017

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The close of one year and the start of the next brings many things. For most individuals and businesses a new year means a new start, providing a clean slate with which to move forward. While this may not be technically correct – after all, the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve doesn’t erase previous performance – the mindset of change and starting over can be refreshing, especially for small businesses with big goals.

Whether 2016 was a year overflowing with success or wrought with challenges, the coming of 2017 is the perfect time to refresh your brand, fine tune your focus, and get started on the right foot. A brand refresh can have great potential, reminding you of your vision, ensuring consistency, and encouraging growth rather than stagnation. Here’s what you can do to ensure 2017 is your best year yet.

Connect With Your Audience

Most companies choose to leave outsiders in the dark when it comes to business strategy. For many, this is a logical decision, preventing competitors from overtaking your ability to gain ground. However, this approach can have the opposite effect with customers, putting up walls that create unnecessary distance.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to inspire some loyalty and emotional ties. Consider posting a blog summarizing your activity and successes in 2016 and thanking your customers and fans for all that they do for you. When shared on social media, these posts provide the kind of information that stimulates a connection between you and your customers.

Target a New Market

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If you’re a small company or a new business, you may not be reaching everyone who can make use of your products and services. In order to maximize potential, use the start of a new year as inspiration to grow and improve.

Take time with your marketing team, and review who you are targeting, what you are targeting, and where the majority of your sales are coming from. With this information, you can draw conclusions regarding what areas you can approach more aggressively, and which audiences likely aren’t receiving the attention they deserve.

Reevaluate Costs

Even the most successful companies in the world can feel the pain of pinching pennies. To improve your odds of financial success in the new year, it’s important to take a deep dive into your expense reports.

Start from the top down and evaluate each category that drives your spending. Sure, you may not be able to do anything about monthly rent, but making minor energy saving changes, like limiting printing to must-have reports, can really add up over the course of the year. Look for unnecessary expenses that your team can do without that won’t compromise employee morale, and make some cuts for the new year.

Try New Marketing Techniques

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How you market your products and services can be a great opportunity for growth and change. With so many options from social media marketing to email newsletters, there’s bound to be a strong strategy you’ve never considered.

Instead of doing the same things day after day, take a look at what your marketing campaigns may be lacking. Are you tracking your success with Google Analytics? Are you focusing solely on Twitter instead of taking advantage of Facebook? By taking the time to identify shortcomings, you can find a great way to move forward in the new year.

Brainstorm New Ideas

When the status quo is positive, it’s easy to fall into a predictable rhythm every year. However, there’s no good way to grow without incorporating changes. The start of another year is the perfect time to start brainstorming new ideas, whether that means putting more focus into research and development, or simply improving community relations with volunteer activities.

Consider putting out a suggestion box and soliciting ideas from your team. Take at least one option offered, whether functional or recreational, and implement it company-wide. This strategy not only shows that you listen to feedback, but can also demonstrate a willingness to keep moving forward.

A brand refresh offers many benefits, providing a new perspective on your corporate identity and an opportunity to build connections with current and prospective customers alike. If you’d like to do more than simply exist in the new year, this can be your chance to revitalize your brand and move your business forward. By changing up marketing techniques, building emotional connections, and launching new products or services, you help ensure that 2017 will be a smashing success.

Remote Control: Creating a Productive Distributed Work Model

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Guest blog written by Lance Trebesch, Ticketprinting.com CEO

E-commerce isn’t constrained by time zones or location, so why should your office be? To be truly dynamic and have greater access to finding (and hiring) the right people, a distributed team work model is the answer.  My own company, for example, is based in wonderful Bozeman, Montana, and our production facility is in Harlowtown, Montana. However, 55 percent of the TicketPrinting.com team is not in those two locations. We’ve got workers living from sea to shining sea and beyond.

The decision to integrate distributed teams into the TicketPrinting.com structure was a practical one. Though Montana is beautiful and a fantastic place to live, the pool from which we could draw for specialized positions, such as software development, coding and graphic design, isn’t huge.  Also, by enabling team members to work remotely, we save on overhead costs, which allows us to focus resources into delivering the best product and customer experience possible.

Sounds great, but you may be asking yourself how a team of workers spread out across the globe can be efficient and cohesive.  It’s a very salient question! Not unlike a traditional workplace, the distributed team work model requires great communication, the right tools, and a positive corporate culture.

Below are some tips to creating an effective team of distributed workers:

Hire The Right Folks: Now, I realize I’ve mentioned how finding the right person for the job is easier when the world is your hiring pool. However, just because
a candidate has the skills doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a fit for working in a distributed team. Look for folks who don’t require a lot of oversight – those with freelance or entrepreneurial experience are often a safe bet as they’re self-starters and accustomed to working independently.

Make Communication Easy:  Since you can’t physically drop by someone’s office, chat in the lunchroom or grab someone for a quick meeting, do everything you can to create regular and clear communication amongst your team. Use tools such as Basecamp or Blossom to organize projects and keep everyone on the same page.  Foster a rapport and community with team group chats through collaboration technologies like Slack or Hipchat.  I’d also suggest regular face-to-face meetings via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Get Everyone Together:  For any company to flourish, its team members need to feel as if they are part of something cohesive.  Host a retreat with workshops as well as opportunities to socialize. Interacting in person and sharing experiences is something that is invaluable and worth every penny.

Respect Time Zones:  Having team members working all over the US and abroad means everyone’s work schedules are not the same. Encourage a mindset of flexibility, patience, and adaptability. For example, a team member in Boston may
have questions for a colleague in Seattle, but he or she is unlikely to get an immediate response at 8am EST. In that scenario, the person waiting for answers must be able to turn their attention to other projects.

Measure Productivity: Though you can’t see your team in-person, that doesn’t mean you can’t assess whether they’re working.  After all, gauging whether someone is pulling their weight in a traditional office setting can be tricky, too. In fact, in some ways it is simpler to figure out if folks are working in a distributed team because it’s purely about results. Are projects being completed on time? Are you receiving responses to queries within a reasonable timeframe? If so, that’s a clear positive your worker is on the ball.  There are also apps designed to track what folks are doing during their work hours, such as HiveDesk, WorkSnaps and IDoneThis.

It’s Distributed Not Remote:  Lastly, we use the term “distributed’ not “remote”.  Remote conjures detachment and distance; while we are geographically apart from each other, through tools like Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts and more, we are very present second by second as a team.  We do not feel in any way “remote” from each other.

How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Business

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A Facebook page is a must-have for any small business these days. Your customers and potential customers are as likely to look for you on Facebook as they are to seek out your own web page. Having a presence on Facebook allows you to build relationships with customers in a unique way.

Facebook makes it easy for businesses to get started on the platform. Let’s walk through what’s involved in setting up your own Facebook business page.

Setting Up Your Facebook Page

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When you create a new business page on Facebook, start out by choosing the correct category. You can label yourself as a local business, a company or organization, a product or brand, an artist or public figure, another type of entertainment, or a cause or community organization.

Depending on the choice you make, Facebook asks you for more information. For example, if you say you’re a local business, you then provide information including your hours of operation and parking locations.

You also need to provide your company’s name. If you’re commonly known by more than one name (“Howie’s Bar and Grill” vs. “Howie’s,” for instance), decide how you want to appear on Facebook. It’s possible to change your name once you’ve published your Facebook page, but it’s far from simple to do.

Facebook then walks you through a template to get all the information needed for your page. Be ready with a compelling description of your business and a link to your website. You also need a profile picture, which might be your logo, and a cover photo that exemplifies your business.

Add any admins to the page to help you edit and manage it. Don’t choose admins on a whim, as any admin has full control over the page. You don’t want to add someone who might later decide to lock you out of the page.

You can also add a call-to-action button to your Facebook Page. This button lets your visitors take a simple action just by clicking. You might want to use this button to link to your e-commerce website or to place a phone call to your store.

Facebook makes it easy to handle all these steps through its interface. If you prefer, you can also customize your Facebook page. If you have the tech skills, you can use iframes to build a custom page, or you can opt for a third-party app like Pagemodo.

Publishing Your Page

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Once your page is designed, it’s tempting to publish it right away. Hold off, though! Keep your profile private until your page is truly ready for the grand unveiling.

Now is the time to add content to your page. Use a variety of types of posts as you populate your page. Add text status updates to point out deals and exciting news. Captioned links are helpful to get visitors over to your website or e-commerce page. Many Facebook users are captivated by photo or video content, so start creating and adding visuals to your page. If you’re planning a big sale or a special event at your store, add it as an event to Facebook so users can click to say whether they’re attending.

If you have big announcements to make, pin them to the top of your Facebook page so any visitor sees them first. If you already have a blog tied to your business, use the Networked Blogs app to link your blog to your Facebook page. This app will republish any of your blog posts to your Facebook page, making it easy for your fans and customers to gather in one spot to see what you’re thinking.

Turn on Facebook Messaging so your customers can contact you directly via Facebook. This easy customer service connection lets your customers and potential customers know that you’re listening to them and helps build rapport with your brand.

Once you have enough content on your page to make your business look well-established and to give a casual visitor something appealing to scroll through, you’re ready to publish your page. As soon as you set your page to Public, start inviting people you know on Facebook to Like the page. This drives activity toward your page.

As you move forward with your Facebook business page, you can continue to post intriguing content that attracts more visitors and turns them into customers.

Seven December Marketing Ideas for Your Business

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Looking to give your year-end sales a boost this holiday season? Want to create a captivating, seasonal marketing campaign that’s both fun and effective?

Here’s seven simple ways to market your business this December:

Deck the Halls

Whether you have a retail outlet, an office space, or an industrial location, a little time and effort spent decorating your space can help make your business more noticeable, and more inviting. With just a few sprigs of evergreen branches, a couple strands of garland and some colorful LED lights, you can easily add a welcoming, festive vibe to your shop, office, or store.

Be Charitable

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Consider partnering with a local charity this year to create a campaign that benefits people in your community.

Contact your local toy bank, children’s hospital, or other non-profit group of your choice to discuss how your business can help. For example, you could run a promotion that gives customers a discount off a product or service in exchange for an unwrapped toy to be donated to a non-profit, or food items that can be given to a food bank.

Print Calendars

Despite the wide-spread use of smart phones and other tech gadgets, many people still love to use a simple, old-fashioned calendar to keep track of their day-to-day appointments.

A customized calendar that’s branded with your business name and logo makes the perfect customer appreciation gift at this time of year and it’s a great way to keep your company front-and-center for your clients throughout the year.

Decorate Your Social Media Pages

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If you maintain a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts for your business, it’s easy to decorate your pages with holiday-themed backgrounds, fonts and photos. You can even update your pages with a new design each day to keep your audience engaged!

Offer Holiday Promotions

Regardless of what type of business you operate, chances are good that your customers and clients will expect to get a deal during the holiday season.

Consider offering a promotion on gift cards (such as buy a $100 card, get 10% off your next purchase), and look for ways to encourage your customers to come back to your business in the new year by creating time-limited deals that are good in the month of January.

Send Real Greeting Cards

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Although ‘snail mail’ is on the decline, people still love to receive cards in their mailboxes – after all, a card is better than a bill!

If your company has a mailing list of loyal customers, why not take the time to mail out a personalized, hand-signed greeting card to each one? Sure, it can be a bit time-consuming, but with all the e-mails and digital marketing materials flooding consumers these days, a traditional, old-school holiday card is sure to make a positive impression on the recipient.

Host A Holiday Social

Everyone loves a great party, right?

This year, consider creating a holiday-themed open house as a thank-you to your neighbors, customers, and fellow business owners. Make sure to serve up lots of finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks, and if possible, source your supplies from another local business.

When it comes to making the most of the holiday season, it’s easy to make your business stand out with just a little bit of effort and some creative marketing efforts!

Enjoy your holidays, and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Top Five Small Business Scams

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Written by Kirstin Davis, BBB Marketplace Director

The Small Business Administration reports the percentage of self-employed seniors has been steadily on the rise since 2000. The data shows the percentage of individuals 62 years and older who were self-employed increased from 4.2 percent in 1988 to 5.4 percent in 2015. Better Business Bureau knows scammers often target seniors, so it is important senior business owners stay adept to common scams occurring to small businesses. Here are a few tips for small business owners and local nonprofit organizations who have a lot to think about and ways to avoid these common scams.

Internet & Phone

Watch out for ransomware, phishing, URL hustle and spoofing scams. Scammers play on fear, convenience and lack of technical knowledge. BBB receives complaints each year from business owners who have been scammed out of money or important business information by people who know how to speak in business terms.

Directories

A business owner or office manager may receive an invoice for a printed or online directory renewal notice. Scammers are counting on the fact that business owners have a lot on their plate and will make these notices appear legitimate, local or industry targeted. Keep a list of directories you are published in and evaluate the values of those directories on an annual basis.

Office Supplies

Business owners may receive a box of supplies as either a “gift” or with an invoice included.  Scammers are taking the opportunity to see if a busy owner will pay the invoice with no questions asked. If the “gifted” items are sent back, the business may receive a bill for a high percentage restocking fee. Another red flag is a contact describing a “going out of business” sale offering significant discounts on supply items that are misquoted or never arrive at all.

Overpayment

A scammer may over pay for the item or service and then ask for a refund to be sent by wire or cashier’s check. Most likely the form of payment was fraudulent and the scammer is trying to pocket the over payment. The business owner is then out of the product, if sent, and additional revenue.

Vanity Awards

“Best of” or “Who’s Who” in your industry are great recognition. Business owners want to be sure the award is legitimate and that it isn’t just a way to pay very high prices for plaques to display in your office.

Follow our blog for more consumer protection tips and information on BBB investigations.

8 Ways Your Small Business Can Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

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Small Business Saturday has gained plenty of steam the past few years as a great way to promote local “Mom & Pop” shops that don’t benefit from the Black Friday mega-retail crowd and the Cyber Monday e-commerce traffic. The “shop small” and “dine small” day was initially started as an American Express campaign in 2010 and many small businesses have begun to embrace the day with their own marketing campaigns and promotions.

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Here are eight ways your small business can benefit from Small Business Saturday:

Spread the Word

Print Small Business Saturday signs to hang by your point of sale or inside your business’ window. Consider creating postcards to send or pass out to remind customers about Small Business Saturday. Also, be sure to update your website. Small businesses with high quality online stores have a distinct advantage. Make sure your inventory has been updated online and special promotions are prominently displayed. Be sure to cater to the busy shopper by ensuring your website is fast, processes transactions quickly, and is optimized for mobile use.

Use Social Media

Social media can be your greatest promotional asset when used correctly. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook has more than three million fans, so use it as a resource. Always use the official #SmallBizSat or #ShopSmall hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to highlight special offers or discounts since the topics will be trending.

Email Your Customers

If your business keeps record of your current customers’ email addresses, then send them all an email blast to inform them of any events or promotions you are running for Small Business Saturday. Your most loyal customers can become your greatest marketing advocates since they will help spread the word for you.

Advertise Online

Even though many small businesses have a limited budget to spend on online advertising, you can take advantage of ad credits offered by many advertising platforms. If you already spend money on online advertising, be sure to adjust your messaging for Small Business Saturday. Also, keep track of what you spend so you can calculate your Return on Investment (ROI) to see if the advertising was worth the increase in sales.

Offer Coupons and Discounts

Nothing drives more customers to your store than incentives. After all, incentives are the reason Black Friday has become the behemoth that it is. Take advantage of this by offering coupons or discounts for your products or services. Make sure to include your coupons or discounts in your promotional material leading up to Small Business Saturday.

Expand Your Hours

Extend your shopping day for customers on that Saturday by opening earlier or staying open later to make it even easier for customers to shop at your business location. Be sure to include your one-day-only hours in your promotional materials so your customers know they can fit your business into their busy holiday schedule.

Make it an Event

You can create even more excitement for your local small business by doing something different to draw attention. For example, serve free coffee in the morning, display balloons outside your store, hire a musician to play music in your store, or create a contest for a drawing. You can also partner up with other businesses. Build on each other’s customer base by having multiple businesses in the same line of stores or area actively participating in Small Business Saturday with promotions to increase visibility and attention for all local businesses.

Promote a Cause

Small Business Saturday is the perfect time to give back to the community that has given so much to you. Consider donating a portion of your sales to a local charity of your choice, and display this for your customers to see. You may also consider matching donations from your customers to your chosen charity.

 

How Businesses Can Utilize Twitter Polls

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Businesses are using social media to gain exposure and convert interactions into sales. This can often be challenging, but the tools on social media help to make it easier to figure out how to keep clients and customers engaged. One extremely effective tool is the Twitter poll.

Since Twitter’s inception, the website known for short tidbits of information has been updated in some significant ways. Twitter polls are one of the biggest updates business owners can use to drum up interest in their company.

Here are a few possibilities for how your business can utilize Twitter polls:

Find Out What Clients Want or Need

No matter what type of business you own, your main goal is to meet the clients’ needs and unfortunately, those can change often. The easiest way to keep up with the current needs and wants of potential customers is by simply asking what they need most. This will give you the information you need to tailor your advertising and improve on the programs, services, or products you offer.

For example, a plumbing business might create a Twitter poll asking what plumbing problem seems the most concerning. The options might include a broken hot water heater, a busted pipe, or a clogged toilet. Another example would be if a toy company asked what kinds of toys kids want for an upcoming holiday.

Bring the Human Touch to Your Company

You don’t have to stick to polls that only target your business. You can add humorous polls or polls that are about current events. These polls show potential clients that you care about more than just the services or goods you provide. They add the human touch to your business. However, if you opt to do polls on current events, be careful to avoid topics that might provoke negative reactions.

When you add this human touch to your company, you are also opening your company up to more people. Be sure to add hashtags in the introductory text of the poll so anyone who searches those tags has a better chance of finding your poll.

Let Customers Play a Role in the Company

A Twitter poll can make your customers feel like they are an important part of your business. Consider asking people what they think your upcoming discount of the month should be or gauge their opinion on a certain product.

If the Twitter poll is asking the voters to choose something, make sure you have options you can provide. For example, don’t include a free trip to France as a promotional contest prize if your company isn’t prepared to cover the costs of the trip.

Using Twitter Polls is Easy

It doesn’t take a lot of time to set up a Twitter poll, which makes them a great option for busy business owners. After you choose a question and answers, all you have to do is select how long you want the poll to run, which can range anywhere from a few minutes to seven days. Once the poll goes live, be prepared to interact with respondents if they comment or retweet the poll.

Overall, you should use Twitter polls and other social media avenues as a way to interact on a personal level with the clients and customers your serve.

Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners

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Looking to grow your online presence? Want to boost your website’s ranking in search engine results pages? Creating and maintaining a small business blog takes work, but when done right, it can deliver a great return on investment for your enterprise.

A blog gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a subject matter expert in your particular field; it can also give your audience a chance to get to know your company and develop a personal connection with you, your business, and your brand.

Here are some simple tips you can use right now to establish and grow your small business blog:

Establish a Consistent, Approachable Voice 

A blog provides small business owners a chance to connect with clients, customers, and prospects on a personal level. Use your blog to demonstrate your personality, not just to promote and market your business. Think of your blog as a one-on-one conversation with your audience – aim to establish a consistent, friendly voice that reflects how you actually talk when discussing your products and services.

Stick to a Schedule 

Once you establish a small business blog, make sure to keep your audience engaged by posting new content on a regular basis. Many companies make the mistake of starting a blog and then failing to follow up with fresh content – this can give the unwanted impression that a company has gone out of business, or has lost interest in connecting with their customers.

Provide Value to Your Audience 

Give your readers a reason to read and return to your blog by providing them with real value. This value should be in the form of information —for example, ideas on how they can save money, save time, or improve their lives in some way.

Look for topic inspiration in the questions you’re asked as a small business owner. For example, if you operate an automotive repair shop, chances are you’re often asked for maintenance tips, information about choosing the right tires, or ways to save money on car care. These are all topics you can expand on within your small business blog.

Keep It Brief

Remember that most blog readers are looking for quick, easy-to-read content that they can consume during their down time – that means your audience will likely be reading your blog during their lunch break, while standing in line at the grocery store, or during their daily commute. Aim to write easy-to-read content that can be broken down into short paragraphs and lists, since this type of content is easy to view on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

Integrate Your Social Media Links

Promote your small business blog through your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter by posting a new update on your feeds whenever you update your blog. This is a great way to encourage your followers to navigate to your website and read your new content. It also makes it easy for your audience to share your blog on their own social media feeds.

Use Your Spell-Checker

As simple as it sounds, it’s worth saying – always check your blog content for spelling and grammatical errors. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the quality of your blog reflects you and your business, so it’s important to ensure your blog is clear, accurate, and well-crafted.

By creating a consistent, engaging blog that delivers value to your readers, you can harness the power of small-business blogging to position yourself and your company, as a go-to resource within your community.