social media, marketing
Written by Joe Paradiso

It’s 2020, how are you planning to grow your business?

The start of a new year typically brings hope and promise as people make resolutions to be healthier, better people, etc. but what resolutions are you making for your business? The start of a new year is also a great time to evaluate the state of your business so you can grow it even larger. Some businesses hire consultants like our company to help them figure this out but if with the right tools and a bit of honesty, you can do most of the work yourself.

January 2nd (or earlier) is a great day to focus on your business plan for the upcoming year. We all want to grow our business but in order to do that effectively, we need a good snapshot of where our business is currently. A tool that we use here and have used in past businesses is a SWOT analysis. For those not familiar, SWOT stands for “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Opportunities” and “Threats”. It’s typically set up in a grid like the illustrations below so you can see all the categories at one time.

Each box describes the criteria for what should be filled into the box. The key to the SWOT analysis is you, and your management staff have to be brutally honest when completing it. This is a tool for your eyes only, there’s no need here embellish strengths or ignore real problems with the business.

Most small businesses are very compentent at doing what their core business is so that is usually a strength, thus they are typically good at identifying their strengths. Let’s take for example a Bagel Store that’s been around for a few years. The owners likely make great bagels, have an established, reliable staff, decent sales and are making a profit, all strengths.

Where we see small businesses struggle is the other three boxes because they are so embedded in their day to day business they often don’t step back and take a real objective view from above. So what weaknesses might the Bagel Store owner have? They might not know the exact cost of their ingredients which might impact their actual profit margins. They might not do much marketing or engage the community as well as they could. Their store might not be as clean or welcoming as it could be or the variety of bagels and coffee they offer is too limited.

The Weaknesses box usually helps drive what gets filled into the remaining two boxes, especially Opportunities. In our bagel stores scenario, some potential Opportunities could be, better cost management, add a new fad bagel, offer gourmet coffees, increase the marketing budget and support more community events. In most cases a businesses weaknesses can easily be converted into an opportunity once you recognize the weaknesses.

The reason why most businesses fail is because they failed to recognize the threats / weaknesses and/or take appropriate action before they became a major problem. So what Threats does our Bagel store face? It could be a new competitor that has a bigger, nicer store with a larger variety of choices. It could be the store space they rent is getting sold and the new owner doesn’t want to renew their lease. Maybe a key supplier for the bagel store is in financial trouble and won’t be able to provide ingredients needed to make bagels or an expensive key piece of equipment could be old and fail, causing unexpected costs and loss of business. The business could lose a key employee that isn’t easily replaced. Threats can come from anywhere, internal and external, being aware of them helps you to be better prepared should they occur and strengthens your business.

Once you have the all the boxes filled out, let the list sit for a day or two, then review it. Verify you didn’t leave anything out and begin to rank the individual lists from 1-n with 1 being the greatest strength, weakness, opportunity and threat and progressing from there. The ranking is nearly as important as the list itself because this will be the outline for your 1 year, and 5 year business plans which will focus on your strengths, address your weaknesses, identify ways to benefit from your opportunities and secure your business from the threats.

A SWOT analysis isn’t a silver bullet, but if done properly you will have a better sense of where your business is from a non-financial perspective and allow you to plan for growth while ensuring you aren’t blindsided by unforeseen problems. If you would like more information on how a SWOT Analysis can help your business please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

social media, marketing
Written by Joe Paradiso

Hey Alexa, bring me some new customers

We are living in an exciting time. We have: watches we make phone calls on just like Dick Tracy used, smartphones that provide us with access to tons of useful and useless information, cars that can drive themselves (well almost), and web appliances with voice assistants that answer our questions and handle various mundane tasks on our behalf.

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social media, marketing
Written by Joe Paradiso

“Think not what your customers can do for you…

but what you can do for your customers.”  A twist on the famous words spoken by JFK during his inauguration speech but very applicable when it comes to brick and mortar businesses today.  2018 was not kind to brick and mortar and 2019 is not projected to be any kinder.  Let’s face it, online businesses have made it very easy and convenient to shop online.  The best ones offer free next day or 2 day shipping, usually a discounted price, no checkout lines or traffic to deal with, that’s a lot to overcome. 

So how does a small business retail store owner compete with the online giants?  They need to focus on the customer experience so that the customer wants to come back and support their store.  Easier said than done you say, but it really isn’t, not if you do some homework and actually interact with your customers.  Here are some of the things consumers are looking for from their in store experience;

1.  Consumers want a memorable experience.  Your business space should be bright, uncluttered, provide easy access to products with a pleasant scent throughout the space.  Shelves and aisles should be well maintained and stocked and your staff should be friendly and informed on the products you sell.  I personally hate going into Home Depot, the store is dark, the shelves are usually messy, there’s never anyone around to assist you and if you do happen to find someone that works there, they don’t work in the department you need assistance in.  Conversely, the Apple Store is bright and open.  Their staff is friendly, typically greeting people as they enter, well trained and can not only assist you with selecting your product but paying for it as well. 

2.  Consumers prefer to touch and try products, many also want the instant gratification of owning a product once they decide to buy it so inventory and accessibility is critical to having customers return to your business.  Utilizing your store space efficiently by placing your best selling products up front ensures customers can likely find what they are looking for.  Prime shelf space should be reserved for the best-selling products, and poor moving products should be discounted and sold off to free up valuable shelf space and cash flow.

3.  Brand authenticity.  Most small businesses have an online presence, whether it be a website, social media page or both.  Your store brand, business practices and in store experience should match your online presence.  There’s nothing more disappointing than visiting a retail store that fails to live up to the expectations they establish with their online presence.  Avoid using stock photos, making false claims about your business online or using gimmicks to attract foot traffic to your store.  Your website or social media page should be a true reflection of your store, using stock photos or questionable methods to get people to visit your store is your first indication you have a problem in your store that needs to be addressed.

4.  Reward loyalty, we’re not just talking about discounts or free stuff which is nice but we’re talking about tailoring the experience of your loyal customers.  Get to know your best customers, their name, kids names, their buying habits and make them feel appreciated and important.  As you get to know your customers, you’ll get a sense for what they like.  Imagine their reaction when you put aside a great selling new product that you believe they’d want to buy.  Even if they choose not to buy it, the fact you thought enough about them to do that will earn you a customer for life. 

5.  This next one is a bit controversial, charitable donations and tip jars.  Many consumers I interact with don’t wish to be nickel and dime’d during checkout.  Charities are great but asking your customers to donate to your selected charity or contribute to a tip jar on your counter at the end of their shopping experience is  awkward and uncomfortable.  This form of retail panhandling depends on peer pressure to get your customers to contribute to a charity or tip jar that they otherwise would not and often can sour an otherwise positive experience.  Unless you’re a restaurant, pay your staff a fair wage and stop expecting your customers to supplement their income with tips.  Sorry, but placing bagels in a bag, making a sandwich or scooping some ice cream into a cup isn’t tip worthy.  The $20 in tips they may get isn’t worth the impact on the consumer experience as they exit your store and could result in them not returning.

We all shop online and we know the reasons why.  Your job as a brick and mortar business owner is to address those reasons.   Look at your business objectively as a customer and consumer and determine if you’d leave the comforts of your home to shop in it.  Ask your loyal customers what they like best and what they’d like to see you change.  We business owners don’t have all the answers but we can get most of them from talking to our customers, so that’s where you should start. 

social media, marketing
Written by Joe Paradiso

Welcome “Back 2 Reality”

“Back 2 Reality” will be the official SMB Marketing blog where we share and discuss our experiences not only as business and marketing consultants but also as customers and consumers.  We will cover a wide range of topics that we think are beneficial

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