We believe that building a better presence for your business is a practice of constant movement. Changes don’t always need to always be made in large packages or expensive replacements, but can often be made by implementing in a tweak or modification at a time.

We call these SmallBizTracks. Depending on the level of change(s) you’re looking to make, we have three levels to choose from:

  • Basic Tracks
  • $79
  • Quick and Simple Solution
  • Out-of-the-Box Simple
  • Keep it Simple
  • Advanced Tracks
  • $169
  • More Dynamic or Detailed
  • Customized Frameworks
  • Make it Dance
  • Master Tracks
  • $349 and up
  • Still a Step, Lots of Style
  • One-of-a-Kind
  • Go Plush

For more information, click on of the buttons above to learn more.
Or contact us via phone 800-825-9973 or email: mike (at) smallbiztracks.com

Getting Customers in the Door with Social Media

Facebook Decal Written by James White

With the advent of online shopping and the popularity that it now includes, finding a way to get customers inside your business’ doors has become more of a challenge. While social media has often been a tool for online shoppers to buy items on the Internet, as a business owner, you can also encourage potential customers to visit your location.

In order to get customers to go to your brick and mortar business, understanding how to find customers and effectively communicate with them will make you successful.

Target Customers
Whether you plan on using Twitter, Facebook, Vine or any other social media platform, it will do no good if you don’t know how to target the correct audience for what your business has to offer.

The needle in the haystack situation comes to mind when thinking about blindly sending out posts into the humongous social media world without having any sort of aim. While every business may seem on Facebook, that doesn’t mean it is the best place to find and encourage your customers. With Facebook alone having approximately 1.4 billion users, having a strategy for finding viable candidates to target is the only way to efficiently reach potential customers on a regular basis. Maybe instead of just posting to your handful of followers, consider using social media ads.

Know How to Use Coupons
The ability to provide customers with coupons on social media is great, but knowing how to effectively do so is vital for getting those customers inside your business.

The trick is to offer discounts and coupons through social media sites like Pinterest or Groupon, but only make them redeemable in the actual store. That way, the customers who want to get those savings will visit your business, rather than sitting on the computer at home to do their shopping.

In addition, customers who use those coupons in the store will be more likely to share a picture of the coupon online or post something about their experience in your store, driving more traffic your way.

Pictures and Videos
Another way to get customers to visit your business rather than doing all of their shopping online is by using photos and videos to your advantage on social media. Use your Pinterest account to post pictures of interesting events that happen in the store to show how much fun customers have. On Facebook or Instagram, add pictures of specific merchandise, and display how customers can easily try on clothes or try out electronics when they come into the store.

Videos can also be an effective tool to entice customers inside your doors. A quick, six-second video on Vine could show how to easily navigate your store or to show off how nice parts of your store are, such as the dressing room. Uploading a YouTube video of a review of a product at your store or of a customer testimonial will be a further encouragement to get people to go to your store.

Get creative with your approaches and ads to entice customers to come to your store. Of course, with all advertising and social media use common sense and ethical practices so you won’t get into any legal issues.

Show your customers how much fun it is to physically visit your store and they’ll come to shop in person. Remember, once they’re in the store, they’re more likely to buy more than what they came for.

Author: James White is a writer for SEO Company Go and blogs in his free time at InfoBros. His articles have been published by Bargainteers, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily.

Note: Occasionally, this site will publish a post by a guest author if the content, links, and purpose is to assist small businesses in building a better presence online or offline. If you are interested in participating with your own guest post, here are the ConverStations Guest Post Guidelines.

Remember When … in Friday Flutterings

Retro Small Business District “It’s a poor sort of memory that only looks backwards.” – Lewis Carroll

… Remember when you had to stick your whole arm out of the window to signal other cars about your desire to change lanes or stop (arm out and down, palm open).  - Nowadays, signals are used as people change lanes, but not well before they do (?) and if you had to stick your hand out to signal a stop, the truck behind you would be tailgating too close to see your arm.

… Remember when you’d get in trouble if you changed the television channels too quick? Double trouble if you smarted back by suggesting to Dad he should get up and change it himself. We had three channels for all our television watching.  - Now we have three devices and stream on-demand.

… Remember when chocolate anything was a great snack, but you had to eat your greens first?  - Now, the Ding Dongs are replaced by Avocados or Kale Chips. (And less indigestion)

… Remember when only the toddlers had sippy-cups?  - Now adults are always tugging on their own sippy cups, whether coffee, soda, or old-fashioned water.

… Remember when you were a kid and the adults would reminisce about the “good-old days”? The next generation will too. It’s human nature. And human nature doesn’t change much, though the tools often do.

Look ahead, and make something happen.  Poor is the memory that only looks backwards.

Previous Friday Flutterings:

Photo on Flickr by US National Archives

Items on Your To Do List? Pick One

A handful of straws to pick from Overwhelm. There are plenty of small business owners and solopreneurs who work in a constant state of overwhelm.

The opposite of being overwhelmed is probably not being underwhelmed. And par is not simply whelmed – in fact, whelm is a synonym of overwhelm.

Finding good flow crushes overwhelm.

I see and hear about a lot of to-do lists. It seems these lists are a barometer of overwhelm.

  • So much to do!
  • My to-do list is never ending
  • I want to make a To-don’t list, and it’s on my list of things to get done.

My response is simple: Pick One.  Just one. Do that.

Focus on one thing. When that’s done, get your list and … Pick One. That’s the beginning of finding your flow.

You might find Calvin Coolidge’s wisdom practical, teaching us to create a to-do list of 10 items, set seven aside and attend to three items, one-at-a-time (Three Important Things – Own One Thing). By the end of the day, the other seven will have taken care of themselves.

You might find focus in my grandfather’s wisdom, teaching us that to improve continuously is to be “Never Done“.

You might find value in a tool, like the Eisenhower’s Matrix, to help you pick your one.  That’s fine – as long as you Pick One.

You might find freedom in one of Kim Yuhl’s Take 35 tips (delivered one-at-a-time).

Pick One. Find Flow. Crush Overwhelm.

Photo on Flickr by Luke w/ cc

Never Done

Continual Improvement Requires Your Continuous Efforts

Carpenter Tools Hanging on Wall

My grandfather was a carpenter by trade. When he wasn’t working on someone else’s house, he was working on his own.

Some projects seemed to take a long time because he would work on the others before his own. Yet he was always making small improvements or finishing tasks of the larger projects.

During one of his larger projects, I asked when he was going to be done with the house?  ”Never done,” he said. He knew by my raised eyebrows there was at least a handful of follow-up questions in my head.

He explained that this house once saw a family with three young boys. As time changed, so did the use of the property:

  • As the boys grew and priorities changed, the backyard became a work area instead of a play area.
  • As the sons moved out, traffic patterns in the house changed.
  • As my grandparents became more involved in community work, more guests would visit.
  • As my grandfather aged, the improvements slowed.

Times changed and so did the needs of the house. By recognizing the external changes, he was able to make internal changes – and sometimes anticipate them.

In business, times are always changing. Whether the change comes from internal or external forces, change is going to come.

Continual improvement – small changes when deemed appropriate or necessary – help avoid stagnation. With a vigilant eye towards small improvements that make sense, and continuous efforts to improve the experience for your customers, your employees, and yourself – you can find comfort in the term, “Never Done.”

When it comes to dynamic pieces of your business – your website, social media, mobile developments, advertising budgets, networking opportunities – “Never Done” will come in handy.

Photo via morgueFile by Alvimann

Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle Like SmallBizTracks

640px-Jigsaw_puzzle_01_by_Scouten Completing a jigsaw puzzle can be a huge task. That’s why when someone brings one out on a snow day, they try to recruit others to join in a team effort.

We can look at puzzles as a big job (could take days) or divide it up like a SmallBizTracks series of  smaller projects (might take a few hours). Let’s try the latter.

SmallBizTracks Way – Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle

  • Preparation – Find a flat surface and turn all the pieces right side up: Preparation is always an important first step. It allows for discovery of the shapes and sizes while developing ideas on what it will take to complete the job.
  • Track 1Find the Border Pieces: The framework acts as a scaffolding to the rest of the tracks to build from. They are easy to track and find because of their unique shape and gives those involved a sense of structure.
  • Track 2Find a Big Focal Point: In puzzling, we might look for the roof of the barn or the lighthouse. In business, we might look for the project that is most important to the business owner or an important touchpoint for the customer.
  • Track 3Find Other Focal Points: In puzzling, these focal points are smaller sections (a bicycle, the boats, tree trunks). In business, these would often be administrative pieces, back-end tasks or items not seen by the customer.
  • Track 4Fill in the Holes: As you work on the above projects and compare to the picture on the box (or the scope document), minor piece will linger and find their place.
  • Closing - Back in the Box or Frame It: Once the project is done, measure it by putting it in front of your public and letting them use it – or put it back in its box and on the shelf.

Tackling larger projects with a series of smaller projects allows for the main thing (your customers and your business operation) to remain the main thing. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces must fit for the picture to become complete.

Photo by Björn Larsson via Wikimedia w/ cc

Learning to Violate Your Templates

Architectural Drafting Template Every good small business owner has a set of practices or behaviors they rely on while operating their business. These “best practices” serve as a template for employees, customers, and during peak hours or seasons.

As business climates, economies, and the marketplace continues to change at an accelerating pace, “Learning to Violate Your Templates” can be a profitable exercise.

We’ve all heard the term “out of the box” as a motivator for creative and innovative thinking. It worked for a while, but what does it mean, really?  Whose box are we talking about? Once we get out of the box, can we come back to it as a point of reference?

Learning to Violate Your Templates

  1. Learning as a form of experimentation and application, not simply reading or watching a tutorial. Nobody ever learned to swim without getting wet.
  2. To Violate your templates while in learning mode is simply tweaking a practice or portion as a test. Not wholesale changes, but bits and pieces to see what works. Test and Measure.
  3. Your Templates might be what got you here, but can those same templates that have worked for years lead to continued growth? With the changes happening with how customers shop, communicate, and purchase – some templates may be outdated.

If the experiment or application (1) proves unsuccessful (2), revert to your previous practice (3). If it’s a success – you have a new template. The templates (both old and new) are your templates, not someone else’s version of a box.

I will never ask a business owner to “think outside of the box” – but I might encourage an owner to “violate your template.”

LIFT: Learn, Improve, Flow, Think

When ConverStations first began in 2006, the goal was to teach business leaders how to use blogs and podcasts to extend their reach and augment their voice.  Quickly, more social media platforms, networks, and tools launched – and continue to do so.

Believing that these online outlets are part of many “conversation stations” available to business owners, this site continued to be a place small businesses could come to learn and apply new things, improve their practices, find a flow, and consider new ideas.

Last fall, ConverStations became the voice of  SmallBizTracks. There’s still plenty of blogging and social media, but also other small business development topics and thoughts as well. With over 2,000 posts at this writing, the current taxonomy of categories seems … a bit off course.

I’ve often said that the categories of a blog site are like a table of contents in a book, giving the reader an opportunity to see what’s within.

LIFT - Learn, Improve, Flow, Think

A bit of restructuring is about to take place, with the categories moving under one of four sections:

  • Learn
  • Improve
  • Flow
  • Think

Still very much like earlier days of the site, but with more defined purpose. The acronym of L.I.F.T. is the goal of ConverStations – to take some of the weight off of small businesses, sharing insights, tutorials, and new ideas and trends in order to help in building a better business presence offline and online.

During the restructuring (and we’ll be taking it a small step at a time, of course), there may be some juggling of posts and categories, but finding the right item will be easier once the tracks are clear.

If you’re interested, here’s a bit more on how SmallBizTracks works.

What is an API?

garage door half-open Occasionally, a question comes up about some programming or technology piece.

While some questions may seem complicated, I’ve learned that in most cases, a simplified answer – one that makes meaning if possible – is what’s desired.

One such question is: What is an API?

First – a techy answer: An acronym (Application Programming Interface) representing a computer system or application allowing for requests to be made of it by other programs and allows for data to be exchanged. Think “programmable web”.

Next – a simple answer (maybe): An API might be like the relationship between your garage door and your garage door opener. It’s not your garage, or the garage door. It’s the communication or “handshake” that allows the requests to be sent from one (the opener) to the other (the door): Open the door or close the door.

Another example could be your television remote(s). If you lose the remote, you can still operate the TV – if you know where the buttons are located. You still have the “program” (the television) though the API (the remote) might still be on the kitchen counter.

An API allows for programs we use to communicate so our applications and devices work together seamlessly. It’s what makes most of our cool tools – cool.

Photo from Wikimedia

 

Pop-Up Shop at a Networking Event?

Intro Offer on Back of Business Card At almost every local networking event or association workshop, there is a vacant table among the vendors and partners. Those vacant tables could be an opportunity.

Often, these tables are the result of no-show vendors or slow sales by the host. Empty tables make the vendor area look less valuable. Offering to fill a table provides the host and registrants with a more robust event.

With a laptop or tablet, some business cards or other collateral , and a friendly smile, you can create and relate with a new set of customers and colleagues.

It’s possible the host may ask for a table fee, though an offer to give attendees a discount usually seals a deal.

Very much like pop-up stores as a growing trend of retail , setting up your own “pop-up table”at an event can help build a better business presence.

Keep What Works

a frustrated man holding head in hands The savings in the SmallBizTracks belief of improvements-by-component workflow is threefold. Time, Savings, Worry.

By dividing projects into smaller segments, we can implement faster, measure what’s working, shelf what isn’t working, begin the next project.

I’ve seen small businesses agree to big-dollar projects – especially web-based projects. The longer the project takes, they more they worry. If something doesn’t work, more money is needed. Time. Cost. Frustration.

A practice of successful companies is to keep what works, shelf what doesn’t. To do this, we follow this five-step flow:

  • implement small
  • apply and test into the marketplace
  • measure how it works
  • set aside pieces or ideas that don’t work well
  • improve if necessary

A key is the setting aside of pieces or ideas that don’t gel. Sometimes a great idea is implemented in the wrong project, or a bit ahead of its time. Rather than throw it away, set that aside. It may be a keeper later.

Small steps. Keep what works. Shelf what doesn’t. Eliminate headaches.

Overseeing Bigger Projects Campaign

Photo on pixabay by geralt w/ cc

 

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