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Small Business Owner’s Personal Touch Helps To Compete With the Big Guys

Small Business is the backbone of this country. I shudder to think what our economy would be like without small businesses providing jobs and tax revenue in every city and town in the U.S.Many years ago, I worked with a woman who grew up near Louisville, Kentucky. One day, over lunch, we were reminiscing about our teenage summer jobs. Hers was working at her grandmother’s pizzeria.”Does your grandmother still make pizza?” I asked.She shook her head. A Papa John’s opened directly across the street. Grandma couldn’t compete with its lower prices and broader delivery area. Once Papa started taking orders online, it was all over. Grandma shut her doors and retired.Don’t Let the Big Guys Sneak Up on Your BusinessDon’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike Papa John’s pizza; it certainly tastes better than some of the other national chain pizza. But it was sad to hear how my colleague’s grandma was quashed by a growing chain.Do you worry this could happen to you? Are you challenged by the proximity of a national chain with more money to innovate and undercut you? Do you feel like the playing field is tilting away at greater angles?Don’t despair. Fight back with what makes you unique to your customers and reminding them about it-your understanding of their unique needs, and the fact that they are people, not accounts. Stress the importance of supporting local business, and practice what you’re preaching!
Every year, American Express sponsors a Small Business Saturday that usually follows Black Friday. If this or a similar campaign is in your community, join it.
Shop at local stores as often as possible. Resist big box stores except for items that really aren’t available anywhere else. When you shop at local places, you learn more about the local business community and who knows, you may gain new customers directly or by referral.
Redouble your customer service efforts.
The last bullet is very important. The big chains do emphasize customer service but you can stand out because you and your employees actually know your customers, assuming your turnover is lighter than the average Wal-Mart’s.Sometimes you have to say this a little forcefully, particularly when the competition is much cheaper or even free. Ask your friends to stop Liking free website building services, for example; while they may be free, the sites are rarely attractive or particularly useful. Legitimate businesses don’t sell a one-size-fits-all approach. But like you, they take the time to create customized solutions.Always remember this, “People do business with people, not businesses.” Probably the greatest advantage the small business owner has over the “Big Guys” is the business owner himself or herself. Take the time to come out from your office and meet your customers. Show some personality in your social media posts. People tend to know the name of the small business owners they frequently do business with. Anyone know the name of the CEO of Home Depot? If so, let me know in the comments below.Look for Small Business ResourcesIf money is a growing issue, I can understand. It’s been difficult for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get loans. Banks continue to sit on piles of money and have given many of us the cold shoulder.More options are surfacing for small businesses that need to upgrade equipment, move to better locations, or simply need access to credit in order to respond to unexpected events. Here are few trends I’ve noticed:
Crowdfunding is set to take off even if the SEC is slow to release rules about who qualifies for equity funding. Colorado and Arizona recently passed legislation allowing non-accredited investors to buy SMB stock or invest in them ($5000 in Colorado and $10,000 in Arizona).
Online loans from companies like Kabbage, Accion, IOU Central, OnDeck and Can Capital often talk about determining small business’ loan worthiness. These companies may be great sources of capital, but you want to look closely at the actual cost of the loan. Be sure you understand the interest rate and the loan origination fees, if any.
Mobile providers are abandoning long-term contracts after T-Mobile ended them in 2013. Many are setting up small business centers to cater to this previously overlooked segment.
Use tools developed for small business to help with your marketing and streamline your efforts to grow. Companies like Constant Contact and HubSpot really have the small business owner’s back.Of course, there’s always Shark Tank. Many businesses that don’t get an offer still benefit from the free publicity!Do you have anything to add to this story? If so, leave it in the Comments below.

Branding – How to Succeed – Part 4

Brand ManagementNegative Brand EquityIn the previous discussion on brand equity, one aspect needs consideration. It is this – is it possible for brands to have negative brand equity? Consider now both sides of the conundrum:From one perspective, brand equity cannot be negative. The application of effective marketing by way of a combination of advertising, public relations, and sales promotion unequivocally gives rise to positive brand equity.From another perspective, however, there is a case to support the belief that negative brand equity can exist. The validity lies in the characterisation of a political brand. A pertinent example is that, at a particular moment in time, the Democratic brand may be judged to be negative in respect of the Republican brand in the sense that the former is performing poorly compared with the latter. On the other hand, of course, the contra may be the prevailing truism.Retail BrandsRetailing – This is defined as the sale of goods or merchandise from a specified location, such as a department store, or by mail, in small or individual quantities for delivery directly to the purchaser.Private Brand – This usually involves a retailer, who buys in bulk from a manufacturer, and arranges for the product to bear its own name. This strategy is only feasible when the retailer deals in very high volumes.The advantages to the retailer are:Greater freedom and flexibility in pricing
Greater control over product detail and quality
Higher margins or lower selling price, whichever is appropriate
Manufacturer’s promotional costs are minimised
The advantages to the manufacturer are:
Minimal promotional costs
Dependable sales volumeStore Brand – Also known as Own Brand in the UK, it refers specifically to retail stores or store chains. The retailer has a number of choices, viz. to manufacture goods under its own label, or re-brand private label goods, and even outsource manufacture of store-brand items to various third parties (who are often the same manufacturers that produce brand-labeled goods).Store branded goods are, in most cases, cheaper than national-brand items since the retailer can maximise the production to suit consumer demand whilst, at the same time, reducing advertising costs. In certain retail sectors, it is possible for store brands to account for 40-50 percent of total sales.Since store branding is a mature industry; then some store brands have been able to position themselves as premium brands. It is not unusual for store-branded goods to style themselves on the shape, packaging, and labeling of national brands so as to acquire premium display treatment from retailers.Some retailers take the view that, whilst advertising by premium national brands attracts shoppers to the store, none the less, the retailer invariably makes more profit by selling a store brand in preference to a premium brand. In the majority of cases, while store brands are usually cheaper than national brands, they remain more expensive than generic brands (products with no brand name, e.g. Cola) sold at the store.The “no-frills” grocery chains, such as Aldi, principally sell store brands in order to promote lower prices. In comparison, supermarket chains sell several brands over and above other products.Branding – How To Succeed

The Economical Consumer Directed Health Care

To counter the problem of health-care financing in the USA, Consumer-directed health care (referred as CDHC) has emerged in the recent past, designed to decrease the health spending by providing financial incentive for consumers to choose the best health care proposition. With both public and private sector financiers looking to reduce their health-care expenses, CDHC has been opted as a way of bringing greater efficiency and cost control into health care.Consumer Directed Health Care refers to health insurance plans that permit patients to use medical payment products like personal Health Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements etc as a mode of settling the routine medical claims. So, patients have more control over their health budgets as they pay through consumer-controlled accounts for routine medical claims as opposed to a fixed health insurance benefit. Principally, it aims at giving patients greater control over their health care, both economically and medically. It is also meant to improve healthy competition among health care providers to increase the range of patient control.Consider this example. A health savings account (HSA) linked with a high deductible health plan lets you take care of routine claims through HSA and other high claims through the regular health plan. This is a typical CDHC plan with a lower premium than a traditional health plan premium, allowing you to take charge of your routine health-care expenses in turn making you more aware of the cost and quality of care involved before spending your money.There are tax advantages as well like in the case of HSA. However, each individual needs are different and a health insurance plan must be taken after careful consideration and professional advice on the matter.