Getty Images, Beacon Tech, and Cauliflower Pizza – Friday Flutterings

I like that Getty Images has embraced embedding photos, though there are still (smart) limitations. As HubSpot offers in this piece, “free comes with a price.”

… If you’re looking to stay informed about iBeacon and Beacon Technology, Doug Thompson offers news, education, and trend spotting at BEEKn. Even if you’re not interested (yet), you should be reading and following this information.

… We’re going to find out if The Secret to Perfect Cauliflower Pizza Crust really works during Spring Break. Our toppings include a Ginger-Garlic-Advocado sauce topping and stir-fry type of vegetables. Stay tuned.

UpCity offers a lot of great tools and information for small business, especially in their recent examples of extending reach and improving findability beyond their geographical borders. Not surprising, really – that’s a core of their business.

…I’m looking forward to watching Noah, though I can do without the side story of its disclaimer (see press release). I know a lot of storytelling that goes on across the globe every Sunday morning, where the audience hears stories “inspired” by God’s word, but hardly 100% accurate – and no disclaimers. All sides should grab some popcorn and enjoy the movie. If it sends people to the Bible, that’s a good thing.  Lots of back story on the movie at SlashFilm.

Dx3  Canada (digital times three – marketing, advertising, and retailing) just finished up, but you can still catch up on some of the great presentations, thanks to this Uberflip hub.

Previous Friday Flutterings:

Doing Less Can Lead To More [Slides]

Sometimes, doing less can lead to more.

The plight of many small business owners is some of the projects they take on are big. They can be divided up into smaller pieces, smaller projects.

More can be the result of Less:

  • More Agile
  • More Affordable
  • More Information
  • Better Decisions (with More Information)
  • Better Measurement (the More Information)
  • Do More of what makes your business great
  • Get better at new things with smaller steps

The slideshow above is a small part of a big project for SmallBizTracks. The project also includes a video, social media, advertising, and email marketing campaign, each targeted to a specific audience.

Overseeing Bigger Projects Campaign

Collaborative Business Alliances – Be the Resource for Customers

Sharing Information on a ComputerWho knows your customers better than you do?

Knowing your own customer is something you’ve been working on since before you opened your doors the first time, right?. If you think about it, one of the strongest collaborations you have in your business is the one with your customers. They’ve come to rely on your experience and your expertise.

Since you know your customers so well, what they want, what they value, what they are trying to accomplish in life, you are in position to be the resource for them, sharing informational, educational, and at times entertaining links and resources you find.

You could subscribe to certain categories on Alltop, use  Google Alerts, and social search engines such as Topsy and BuzzSumo and send along informative or interesting items. Be the resource for your customers.

It’s simple really, as you peruse the web – either in search or through regular reading – when you happen across something you find might interest one of your customers, send it in an email. I’ll often include this sentence:

“Found this and thought it might interest you or your customers – Use as Desired.”

Be the resource for you customer. It remains a practice which can create a lifetime of loyalty.

Note: One of the occasional “tracks” we do is set up a small business owner with a few feeds to monitor, whether it’s for their own business or so they can “be the resource” for their customers. If this basic track is of interest to you, simply connect with me via phone, email, or any of the options listed in the sidebar. I’ll be glad to be your resource.

Collaborative Business Alliances – Like Practice, Across Borders

Unfolded Map of the AmericasWhen thinking about collaborating with other small businesses, most small business operators would think localized or regional pairings using proximity or shared customer base as the common thread.

Another type of collaborative business alliance might join two or more similar companies or practices, separated by geography, which can strengthen the operations and production value of each company.

Increases Value

Using some of the tools and technology readily available, these alliances might produce opportunities to share and create value for each party’s customers:

There may be a case where one “partner” is strong in teaching or coaching (great for step-by-step How-To slides or videos), while another has a strong speaking voice and presence (podcasts or voice-over work). Work from each other’s strengths.

The production doesn’t have to stop with just digital opportunities.

Renews Strength

Professional development, with such alliances also acting as an advisory board or brain storm team, building off and upon strengths by sharing ideas and best practices. The single owner of a business or the solopreneur sometimes finds it difficult to talk with operators from other types of businesses, so these like-practice pairings can be a real asset.

Extends Reach

Alliances like these can stretch geographic borders intrastate (Oakland-to-Orange County), interstate (Camp Hill, PA-to-Chapel Hill, NC), or overseas (London, Ontario-to-Lisbon, Portugal).

It’s a global marketplace, so a collaborative business alliance can provide owners of small businesses across borders. Increases value, renews strength, and extends reach.

A great place to begin looking for similar business owners to possibly pair with is

Photo via morgueFile by xandert

Setup and Produce a Podcast

Collaborative Business Alliances – Shared Customer Base

Panel of Speakers at MeetingHave you heard the one about the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker?

In today’s market place with collaborations and business alliances becoming a popular device to extend reach and broaden a customer base – the third one (Candlestick maker) is a bit of a mismatch, isn’t it? I could see potential replacements in the Casserole Maker or Salad Dressing Shaker.

The question for your small business is what type of businesses share your customer base? Sharing in such a way that a collaboration might add value to your customers while making each business stronger in a presentation?

Think for a minute on Home Improvement:

Shared Customer Base – Home Owners, especially those looking to raise the value of their homes…

Potential Alliances with – Interior Design, Landscaping, Handymen or General Contractors, Painters, Flooring, HVAC, Real Estate professionals, Pest Control, …

Another example might be Automobile Care:

Shared Customer Base – Fleet Auto Owners, especially those with utility or work vehicles…

Potential Alliances with – Insurers, Mechanics, Auto Parts, Tools and Accessories, Logistics, Tires, Communications, Signs and Decals, Auto Auctions, …

There are probably two or three potential alliances for your business and customer base, too. Can you think of a few?

Rather than hopping in a tub (like the three folks of the nursery rhyme), perhaps you get in front of the Tube – as in YouTube. Or a webinar.  Or an E-book.

Collaborating on something digitally should take precedence over efforts offline. Why? A digital product like a video, a webinar, an E-book, all are findable and available around the clock. Once produced, there are no scheduling conflicts, fewer costs, and opportunities for your customers to share with their networks.

Remember to provide a call-to-action. If there’s a download or gateway to access, have an e-mail opt-in (create a new list for the alliance – don’t use one participant’s existing list).

Maybe those three in the tub above were looking for a Floral Designer to do a “Romatic Dinners” podcast, hmm?

Photo on Flickr by MWTaskForce with cc

Build Your Optin Email List

Collaborative Business Alliances – Who’s In Your Corner?

Williamston_MI_businessesCollaborative Business Alliances, in various forms and names, have been around for a long time.

There are differences in labels and levels of agreement and partnerings, but the coming together of two or more parties in order to extend reach, gain traction, and bring more value to a shared customer base has existed since market places of long ago.

The deeper and more complex the agreement, legal documentation might be prudent, but sometimes an outline and mutual agreement to expectations and deliverables might be all you need.*

Here are a few simple examples of alliances:

  • A local merchants association may celebrate with participating business owners having a sidewalk sale or sales blitz.
  • A community trade association may partner with its local chamber or similar associations on a trade show or charitable telethon.
  • Several craft and art enthusiasts gather together to have a show at a local school or auditorium.
  • A neighborhood celebrates during a weekend with a neighborhood garage sale and feast.

There are many different forms of such partnerships, from Joint Ventures to Retail Kiosks and Pop-Up Stores, to simple consignment sales done on a handshake.

A trend in online marketing is how two or more individuals or organizations partnering together to create a product or event in order to increase sales or a form of outreach to new audiences.

There are opportunities for your business, maybe geographically or perhaps demographically. There might be a shared customer base with a non-competitive business (i.e., house cleaning service and landscape maintenance company).

As you look at your regional reach, what types of businesses share a similar customer base?

As you look at your niche market, who do you know outside of your reach? How can you come together?

Photo of Williamston, MI on morguefile by AcrylicArtist

*The thoughts in this article are intended for informational, educational, or motivational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a qualified legal attorney in cases of forming partnerships.

What I Do Every Day Matters More (Thoughtography)

Greatchen Rubin Quote on Consistency overlayed on photo of work gloves

“What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.” – Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin has presented us with several good books to read and presentations to watch. The quote here can be found in 99u‘s book, Manage Your Day-to-Day Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

Frequency and Consistency Matter.  For you and those you serve.

photo credit: Derby City (Rachel Pace) via photopin cc

Videos on How To Do Video for Your Small Business

You want to shoot video for your small business? Where do you start? What about lights? Microphone? Cameras? Action?

Nobody wants to go through an ordeal like this while creating videos for their small business:

Here are a few tips on avoiding problems like those above (sound may vary).

Start with a Storyboard

Lights and Lighting

Camera Placement

Get Comfortable in Front of the Camera

Speak Through the Microphone

Shooting the Video

Editing Using YouTube Video Editor

Having Courage

Maybe you won’t win any awards, but that’s not really where it starts, is it? From imagination and courage are where such things begin:

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

An Old Whistle Stops Collection

Foundry-Whistle-StopOpening Note: This page is dynamic as I try to collect the best links from past pages.

When this train was just getting started, I used to post a daily list of top links that I felt would assist those business folks I was coaching. This was before Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn as a stream of link sharing practices.

Sharing the links was never meant to be an attempt to elicit “link love” – it was simply sharing good links with my customers, prospects, and readers. I still use a similar practice on Twitter and other places.

In an effort to clean up some outdated pages of this site, I’m keeping some of the best links here on this page. Some of these links are years old – but still have value. Enjoy the archive. Glean what you can.






Big Ideas (and small ones too)

Cool Tools

Whistle Stops remains active here in two parts, one is a weekly newsletter for SmallBizTracks and the other is still shaping up, possibly as a “wall of fame” with best of the best links I find here and there – we’ll see how that all works out.

Photo on morguefile by jppi

Get Whistle Stops Weekly

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Customers Purchasing In-Store And Online

mobile-shoppingWritten by Chris Allen of BePoz

If you operate a retail outlet, you may have both a storefront and an online presence. The question is, how do you keep customers engaged and buying in both locations?

Your physical store and your online store have separate strengths. You need to play to those strengths, and use them effectively to market to your customers. What are customers looking for online? What are they looking for when they visit your store in person? Give them what they want and they will come back for more.

When they shop online, people are generally in a hurry. If they had extra time, they would probably come into your store. Cater to their desire for speed. Do not design a website or shopping app that is too complex— make it as easy as possible for your customers to find the items they need. Do not require a customer login or registration unless you have a compelling reason to do so.

Once the customer has purchased an item from you once, you know something about him or her. Use a cookie or other web tracking technique, so that you will recognize the customer when they return to your online store.

Make sure the items he or she purchased last time are displayed, along with similar items or items that complement what they already own. By tracking customer preferences and spending habits, you can customize the shopping experience over time to match each customer’s desires and habits.

Another option is to use your online presence to draw users into your physical store. When a customer orders an item online, be certain that he or she is given the option to pick up the item in your store. Whatever a customer buys, your store associate should have available a list of complementing items that the customer may be interested in purchasing. Once again, you are giving your customers the impression that you care about their needs, and that you’re willing to go out of your way for them.

What are your customers looking for when they visit your store in person? In general, they are expecting a more leisurely shopping experience. Customers who come into your store are often looking to touch or try out items. In a clothing store setting, be sure clothes that work together are grouped on the display floor, along with appropriate accessories. When a customer goes into a fitting room, the associate should note what clothes they have, and be ready to make apt suggestions. Make your customers feel like they are shopping at a high-end boutique by offering them top-notch service.

Just as your online store encourages users to visit your store in person, you can use your storefront as a gateway to your online store. Encourage your customers to use smartphones or mobile devices in your store by offering free Wi-Fi. When they use their devices to scan barcodes or product labels, customers should be directed to more in-depth information about your products, including extended sizes and matching items. Just as before, make your customers feel valued and cared for, and they’ll be more willing to spend their hard-earned dollars in your store.

These are reasons that your online store and physical store should be different. But there are ways in which they should be the same. Online or in-person, you and your store are a single brand. Keep colors, fonts and style consistent from one to the other. If your stores have an industrial vibe, it does not make much sense for your website to have a white and cream color palette. If your stores are decorated in soft, feminine textures and pastel colors, your website should match.

Every store has a personality all its own. Do your sales associates welcome customers and approach them as soon as they enter the store? Your website should behave in a similar way. Use a splash screen that welcomes users to your online store. Give them easy-to-recognize options to get help if they need it.

If you prefer a more hands-off approach, where customers are free to explore and your staff only assists when asked to do so, make your website follow this trend. The options to get assistance should still be easily visible on your website, but they should not be the center of attention.

Online or in-store, your goal as an entrepreneur is to keep customers happy. Give them what they want no matter where they are, and they’ll be your customers for life.

About the Author:

Chris Allen is a leading authority on POS systems and delivering customized value to business through software. Chris serves as the BePoz Chief Executive Officer, a custom point of sale software provider. You can follow Chris Allen on Google+

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