Small Business Marketing Blog

June 9, 2010

Rev Up Your Referral Engine

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 9:22 am
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What portion of your business currently comes from referrals? While it is widely known that referrals are essential for growth and vitality, few businesses have a systematic approach to getting more of them. That is why I was so excited to read John Jantsch’s new book, The Referral Engine:  Teaching Your Business to Market Itself.  Going beyond tips and tricks, Jantsch gets at the heart of what it takes to be a highly referable business. Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:  

Start with a referral mind-set. When you have the goal and expectation of getting more referrals, it changes how you do things. Instead of just being as good as the competition, or only slightly better, you set a goal for yourself of being “remarkable.”  Otherwise, no one is going to be excited about it—maybe not even you.  According to Jantsch you have work to make sure that the “core difference you offer” makes people stop and take notice.

Create a referral strategy. This starts from the very beginning of the relationship by setting up the expectation that the client is going to be so delighted by what you have to offer that they are going to be compelled to tell other people about your business. It might sound self-serving but you can make this easier for customers by taking the time to identify—during and after the service—the progress and how the customer is getting exactly what they asked for. 

Don’t forget to ask. Once the service is complete, there is a natural point where the customer is expressing how much they like the finished product. This is the perfect time to ask for referral. Don’t be afraid to be specific. Explain to them what kind of customer you are looking for and even how they can recognize “triggers” that signal a perfect time to make a referral.  I experienced this recently while I was checking out at an Aveda Concept store. I complimented a salesperson on his hair and without missing a beat he said, “Thanks, I get my hair cut at Adore Salon in Oceanside with Raelynn. She is great. Here’s her card.”  I was impressed. That was a well-executed referral based on the trigger of my compliment.

Being successful in getting more referrals is a great, cost-effective way to generate more business. John Jantsch’s The Referral Engine is a great resource for getting started. Tap into the power of positive word-of-mouth.  Get your customers excited about your product or service and help them help you spread the word. (And if Small Biz Marketing Blog is something you’re excited about, please be sure to point others to or to me personally at !)


April 20, 2010

Chocolate Kiss Your Marketing Message

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 8:22 am
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A chocolate kiss is a metaphor for keeping your marketing message simple.In talking to other business owners, I have found that we are all doing more marketing than ever before. One of the contributing factors is that the products and services we are selling are pretty complex. Another factor is increased pressure from the competition. This, combined with the usual business factors, has stepped up the time and energy needed to explain our value proposition and differentiate ourselves.

But just because our task may be more complex than in the past, our marketing message shouldn’t be. In marketing your small business, the challenge is to make the complex simple. Here are a few tips from one of my favorite metaphors, the Hershey Chocolate Kiss, to help you remember to keep your message simple. See if you can use any of these ideas in your marketing business strategy:

Be recognizable. Hershey Kisses are an excellent example of effective branding. Although Hershey Kisses are available in several types of chocolate, and some varieties even have nuts, they have retained their iconic plume shape and foil wrapping. Customers easily recognize the Hershey Kiss and know what they are getting. What are you doing to create a consistent message and feel across your products and services to ensure an easily recognizable image?

Miniaturize the Message. With a Hershey Kiss, you get full chocolate flavor, but in a tiny package. Distill what you do into a small, bite size morsel that is easy to remember but is still delicious and valuable.  For Hershey Kisses, their tagline is simply, “Kiss someone.”  What’s your message you want people to remember?

Be easy to share. Hershey Kisses are individually wrapped making them easy to share. Getting others to share your message is one of the best ways to attract new customers.  How can you make your message easy to share on social media networking sites, emails, and blogs?

Just because your products and services are more complicated, doesn’t mean your messaging should be. Think of the Hershey Kiss to remember to keep it simple, memorable, and easy to share with others.

To find out more about how you can use a chocolate kiss approach to attract customers with social media marketing, contact Robin Witt:

April 9, 2010

Don’t Let Writer’s Block Derail Your Small Business Blog

Filed under: Blogging,Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 7:45 am
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Writer's block  is a problem when writing small business blogs. Writing blogs is one of the best marketing tools small business owners can use to attract customers. Posting  on a consistent basis is essential to getting the best results.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks is not being able to remember any of your good ideas when you finally sit down to do the writing. The secret is to have a steady supply of story starters at your fingertips so your time can be spent on the writing instead of generating ideas.  Here are four tips to get you started. 

Make idea generation and blog writing two different activities.  When you sit down to write your blog posts for the week, your time should be spent on just writing not looking for ideas. If you try to do both activities at the same time it will take too long and there is a risk you won’t get it done. 

Have a way to capture ideas.  Finding ideas is an ongoing process and you don’t always know when inspiration will strike. Find a reliable way to save these ideas to be used at a later date. Some people write down ideas while other people like to store ideas in their phone or leave themselves a voice message. It doesn’t matter what you come up with for a solution. The important thing is that it works for you and is easy to do, otherwise it won’t be successful. 

Constantly be on the look-out for possible ideas. Great blog ideas can come from a variety of different sources.  For example, clients have questions, concerns, and issues that make excellent blog posts. When you are reading articles, ask yourself, “Is there something here that would valuable to share with my customers?” Just add your own point of view and link back to the original source.  Other sources of inspiration could be movies, books, or your life experiences. 

Fill in the blank. Simple  phrases  or fill-in the blank sentences can help jolt the creative juices. Here are some universal themes to get  you started: 

  • Avoid this mistake at all costs.
  • Do this to be successful.
  • What your _____doesn’t want you to know.
  • How to _______.
  • Thinking about______? Why that is the worst idea ever.

Writing blogs is one of the most valuable activities you can do to establish credibility and trust. Don’t let the pressures of time or an occasional case of writer’s block keep you from making the most of this marketing tool.  With a little bit of planning and attention to a couple of simple strategies you can have a large pool of ideas to choose from.

March 16, 2010

Marketing with Yelp: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 7:23 am
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Woman talking loudly signifying Word of Mouth Marketing with YelpIf you are a small business owner who sells to consumers, you’ve probably heard about Yelp but may not know much about it. It’s important to get up-to-speed quickly with this new online review site where customers are describing their experiences with a business for others to see. Yelp calls it “word of mouth amplified.”  Don’t miss out on this important new online forum.  Your business can benefit by being active with Yelp right away with seven quick actions.

Complete your business profile. Go to and access the section for business owners at the bottom of the page. Think about how you can make your profile as inviting as possible. Start by posting important information about your business like the hours you are open and your website address. Also include photos or a logo. 

Unlock you business page. Once you have completed your profile you have the opportunity to use tools that are geared toward businesses such as information about how many people are reviewing your business. A step-by-step video guides you through the process.  

Check in frequently.  You can learn from what others write about you. Where is your business doing well and where do you need to improve?  If someone is unhappy with your business you can take this opportunity to find out more and possibly turn them into a fan instead of a critic.

Respond to both positive and negative reviews. Online communities like Yelp are relationship extenders. Reaching out to people who have taken the time to talk about your business can make a big difference. You can respond to reviewers privately or publicly.

Be authentic. Who doesn’t want to have as many favorable reviews as possible? Just make sure you get them in an ethical way. Remember, the transparency of social media makes everything you do very visible. It is OK to promote and ask for reviews, it is not OK to offer rewards or manipulate this process.

Check out additional Yelp resources. There is a lot of great information for business owners including a section on commonly asked questions.  For example, why do reviews sometimes disappear? There are also videos with actual business owners you can access.

Realize you can’t please everyone. Sometimes you will come across someone who uses online communities to make unrealistic demands on businesses. In that case, you will just have to let it go.

Knowing how to effectively use Yelp can help your business find out what your customers are thinking and how to better meet their needs and expectations. By using Yelp’s ability to generate “word of mouth amplified” you can create better solutions, happier customers, and more referrals!   


March 8, 2010

Don’t Forget These Three Marketing Ingredients for Small Business Success

Filed under: Marketing — Robin Witt @ 12:35 pm

Don't forget these important marketing ingredients for small business.Yesterday I was making one of my favorite recipes.  It’s a homemade version of the lettuce wraps with spicy ground chicken made famous by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. When I needed to leave unexpectedly, my husband offered to finish it up.  (That’s a first, but more about that at a later time.) When I got back from my errand, he said, “I did what you said, but something is missing.”

After looking back over his steps, we figured out that he forgot to add one of the ingredients.  Once we added it into the mix, it made all the difference. We were both surprised by the impact that this one small ingredient had on the overall dish.  (By the way, the missing ingredient was ginger.) This got me thinking about business and specifically, about marketing.  Is there a missing ingredient that could make all the difference in your business? Here are three powerful, but often overlooked, ingredients to consider:

The Customer—Keep the customer in mind in all of your marketing messaging. I know this sounds elementary, but it is easy to get off track and think in terms of our own interests instead of the customer.  For example, some people get wrapped up in the visual esthetics of their website and become more interested in that than if the website is easy for the customer to navigate.

Anxiety—Marketing is all about creating anxiety. Shocking? It shouldn’t be.  In marketing, anxiety serves two purposes; first it gives the customer a reason to take action and second, it creates urgency.  Make sure it is clear what the customer will miss out on if they do not get your product or service.

Exciting Offer—Once you have created anxiety, the next step is to present a clear solution, otherwise known as the “irresistible offer.” Show how your product or service will solve the customer’s problem and make their life better.  

That’s it.  Three success ingredients that will increase your chances of attracting and retaining customers.

PS: Don’t forget to ask for the sale.

February 20, 2010

Marketing Lessons from a Roller Derby Playbook

San Diego Derby Doll, Lila Troncone, aka Lilamonster

San Diego Derby Doll, Lila Troncone, aka Lilamonster

I love stories about girls kicking some booty, so it was merely a matter of time before I brought home the roller derby movie Whip It. It’s a fun, coming-of-age story about a small town Texas girl who discovers herself when she joins a local roller derby team. The characters are warm and believable, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised how much you’ll like it.

I think you’ll also be surprised when I tell you that I was able to find some lessons and ideas that could apply to social media marketing!

A cool name is just the beginning.  Picking out a fierce derby name like Smashlee Simpson or Babe Ruthless is fun but it will not win you any bouts. This is one of the things the derby coach told the newly enlisted team members. If you want to win, you have to do the right actions. The same is true for social media marketing. New businesses can get caught up in picking out the color for the Twitter background, but then don’t take the time to find exciting content or keep up-to-date on conversations.  Social media marketing requires daily interaction with friends or followers and to be constantly on the look-out for content the client would find valuable and interesting.

You have to make contact. To be successful in roller derby, you have to eventually make contact. It wouldn’t really be roller derby if everyone just skated around without pushing, shoving, and the occasional hip-check.  It is the same with social media.  You have to be prepared to mix it up a bit.  You can’t expect to engage in an authentic conversation without getting your hair messed up.

Work the strategy. Early in the movie the featured roller derby team (The Hurl Scouts) never wins a game.  Why?  According to their coach, it’s because they’re not disciplined and they don’t follow the playbook. They thought if they just laced up and got on the rink, it would somehow happen all by itself. Guess what, the coach was right. Shooting from the hip rarely works, especially long-term. With social media marketing it is important to know what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to get there.  

For a fun experience, requiring minimal effort, you can’t go wrong with the movie Whip It.  Having a successful presence on the internet will require more effort and tenacity. The important thing is to keep going and not be afraid to take a few hits.

Photo courtesy of Lila Troncone, San Diego Derby Doll.

February 11, 2010

How to Get Noticed Without a Super Bowl Commercial

Del's Barber Shop owner, Dan Engelbrecht, with a customer, was one of four businesses featured in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial.

This year, one Super Bowl commercial caught my attention more than any other and it wasn’t because of creativity, humor, or special effects. It was a Miller Beer commercial and the theme was “giving it up for small business.” When the first business name and location came up, I nearly lost my pretzels. There on my TV screen was Del’s Barbershop, a family-owned business not too far from my home.

It was a great promotional opportunity for Del’s Barber Shop owner, Dan Engelbrecht. Not only was Dan lucky enough to be among four businesses that Miller decided to highlight, he also had the good fortune to be part of a commercial shown during the one broadcast where people actually watch the commercials.

What if you are a small business that wants more business but doesn’t have the Miller Brewing Company asking you to be a part of a national campaign? Don’t be discouraged, you can still capture the attention of potential customers. Here are a few tips to make sure your small business gets noticed.

Be visible and valuable on the Internet. People are constantly searching, exploring, and learning about things that they are interested in. As a business owner, you want to make sure when customers go looking, they find you! Make sure that you are creating content through company blogs, websites, and other online resources. Be sure to include key words that prospective clients are likely to be searching on.

Join in the conversation. People are spending more and more time on networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, talking with their friends, and interacting with brands. It is important that your business be present on these sites, as well. Remember that customers want two-way communication. Take the time to listen as much as you broadcast. Embrace this new two-way dialogue because you will learn so much about your customers, and how they feel about your products and services.

Even if you don’t have the good fortune to be featured in a Super Bowl commercial, don’t let that stop you from interacting with your current and prospective fans. With online marketing you can engage in a dialogue that will make your business an MVP in their eyes. Provide good content, be easy to find and approachable, and you’re sure to start seeing results. Congratulations again to Del’s Barbershop and all of the small businesses profiled in Miller’s campaign. If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, here’s a link:

January 27, 2010

To Attract Customers Set Your Marketing GPS on Multiple Locations

Filed under: Marketing — Robin Witt @ 10:05 am
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Marketing GPS to Attract CustomersAttracting and retaining customers is important to the success of every business. When talking with other business owners, I have found that many of us are spending more time on marketing than ever before. One important step to consider before coming up with a marketing strategy is to ask yourself two elementary, but powerful questions:

Who is my ideal customer and where are they in terms of knowledge of my business and readiness to buy?

What you will find is that customers are in one of three places. To be successful it is important to design your marketing strategy to be able to reach potential customers in each of these areas.

In the Driver’s Seat–This customer has an immediate need and a clear sense about what type of product or service would be the solution. This is a person who is ready to buy and is actively looking for a vendor or service provider. Who they decide to ultimately do business with is usually determined by an online search, a quick look in the phonebook, or an ad in the newspaper featuring a current promotion on the item or service they are looking for.

Kicking the Tires—This customer is not ready to buy today, but somewhere down the road they will be making a purchase. For this customer, there might be a nagging problem or something they would like to upgrade someday but the immediate need is not there yet. Possible examples could include new marketing software, home remodeling, or even a hobby. At this level of readiness, it is all about being able to find out more by researching, learning, and engaging. In this category, the company with the most interesting and easy-to-find content wins.

Enjoying the Ride–This customer feels that they have everything they need for the present and immediate future. Life is good and they don’t feel any need for a product or service right now. They have a new pet, but they haven’t thought about veterinarian services. They have a newborn, but they are not thinking about preschool or orthodontics. At this level of readiness it is about meeting the customer where they are at.  Instead of talking solutions or products, open up a conversation about enjoying life to the fullest by exploring possibilities.

Each of these three categories presents opportunities for potential customers to get to know your business, whether it is an easy to access website, an informative blog, or just friendly conversation on Twitter. Make sure that you have something to offer each type of customer. The objective is get in front of them before they have a need, so when they are ready to buy, you are the obvious choice.

January 6, 2010

Small Business Marketing: Do You Really Need a Blog?

Filed under: Blogging — Robin Witt @ 2:22 pm
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Balance between website and blogging.Small business owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to be more effective in generating business. One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Do I need to blog if I have a website?”

Blogs and websites are different.

A website is considered an essential resource. You might think of a website as an online brochure that tells what your company does and what you are about.  The information on a website, for the most part is set in place, and updated only as needed or as the budget allows. One of the disadvantages of websites is once a potential customer has looked at it, there might not be a reason to visit again anytime soon. This is bad news if you were not successful in getting them to buy on the first try because off they go looking somewhere else.

A blog on the other hand provides a way to add new content on a more frequent basis. Many bloggers write entries several times a week—some as often as every day. This is a nice complement to the static nature of a website.  In some ways, a small business blog can be thought of as an expanded Frequently Asked Questions page with blog posts often answering questions and concerns readers might be thinking about. Another way blogs are different is the style of writing tends to be quick and informal. Not only is this an engaging way to convey information, it also encourages frequent visits to see what the new developments are.

Both are important.

Having an online presence is essential for attracting customers today. Websites and blogs are both an important part of that equation.  While websites do a great job of serving as your home base, blogs really get into the nuts and bolts of what customers are looking for.  Do you need both?  You bet.  Use your website to provide a grounded presence and use your blog to provide some color and personality.

Blog at