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5 Secrets of Winter Business Success

For many industries, winter can be the most nerve-wracking time of the year. Short days, cold weather, slippery roads…it all contributes to a general feeling of uncertainty. While the months leading up to the holidays might be grand, the mid-winter months that follow that can wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

With a little planning, your business can boom even in the winter – maybe even more than in the warm weather months! Here are 5 secrets of winter business success:

1. Stay Visible to your Customers
One of the easiest things you can do for your business during the winter months is to keep yourself in front of your customers. Post regularly to your social media accounts, attend any local winter events that might be happening (either as a vendor or as an individual), and ALWAYS carry business cards when traveling. You never know where your next customer might be discovered, and having a business card ready will help them remember your name once you part ways.
2. Take Advantage of Other Business’ Winter Events
If you are a restaurant owner who knows the beautiful cabin next door is a favorite spot for winter weddings, making your presence known as a potential catering service is a must. If you are a horse farm, opening up your trails to snow shoers, cross-country skiers, or even snowmobilers and creating a checkpoint can generate more awareness for your location and ultimately bring you more business. If you’re a photographer, consider attending events that might not typically have a photographer because of harsh conditions–fill a need when you find one!
3. Consider Offering Discounts
In the aftermath of the holidays, most people are more budget-conscious than usual. Try offering discounts, coupons, buy-one-get-one deals, gift cards, or referral bonuses to draw in customers. Avoid the trap of offering too many discounts before the holidays–many people wait until afterwards to make larger purchases because they are able to get better deals.
4. Host Your Own Winter Event
Maybe you’re a landscaping company whose primary source of income is tending lawns, and you want to raise awareness for your snow-removal division. Hosting a snowman-building competition at your office for local families could help you make some much-needed connections and increase business.
5. Update your Website or Blog
Take advantage of slower times of the year and update your website or blog. While a complete redesign might not be in the budget, adding or replacing photos with ones of recent projects, writing new informative articles, or sending a few new email blasts can give potential customers a fresh new take on your company.


Got another idea? We’d love to hear about it! cinderhawkcreative.com/contact

 

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Overcoming the Business “Slump”

It happens to everyone at some point. Life gets in the way of running your business. Recently, this has been an issue for me, and so I wanted to write about it and let others know they aren’t alone.

In my case, my circumstances weren’t necessarily bad. I took a new full time job, which I happen to love, and for the first time in a long time, I hadn’t felt the need to push my own business. That being said, it was only a matter of time before it became apparent that, once again, I needed to get back into the swing of things. While there is a certain level of joy and appreciation I have for being able to come home and not having to worry about making money, at the same time, it’s hard to come home and have nothing pressing to take care of for someone. I don’t have any children, just pets, and they’re usually pretty self-sufficient. With just two people in the house, there’s not an insane number of chores. I like helping people, I found I was missing it, and life throws curveballs now and then that make you realize you could use a bit of extra income.

But what if your situation isn’t like mine? What if you NEED income, right NOW, and can’t seem to get your business out there to bring it in? What if you’ve been advertising and connecting and trying your damnedest to generate sales, but you just can’t make it happen? What’s going to happen to you?

First, you’re going to be discouraged. Discouraged because you feel like you’re working your ass off and have nothing to show for it. Discouraged because customers aren’t answering you, aren’t contacting you to begin with, or maybe they’re even unsubscribing from your emails. Discouraged because you seem to be stuck in a rut of bad luck. Discouraged because of the state of the country. Anything and everything becomes fair game for that miserable feeling, and it’s very, very hard to overcome.

Then, you’re going to get angry. You’re going to wonder “why me? What did I do wrong?” You’re going to start to wonder if maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s just that life is unfair, that maybe you really don’t have a say in how your life goes.

But, hopefully, by the time you get to that anger stage, or hopefully before you get there, you’re going to find a way to this article and read what I have to tell you.

I’ve been there. Believe me, I have. I’ve been in your shoes, I know what it’s like. I understand what it’s like to work full time, come home, and realize you need to work another 15, 20, or 25 hours to make ends meet. And I know what it’s like to need those hours, and not have any customers to fill those hours. I know what it’s like to be working a crappy, soul-sucking job that doesn’t pay enough, and tells you you can’t have the time off you need to run the business you created to make a better life for yourself. I know what it’s like to quit that job, take the leap to relying on your own business, only to find out it was a bad idea. I know what it’s like to own a business that grows exponentially over the course of 4 years, only to realize that not only are you not making enough money to survive, but you now hate what you used to love because you overworked yourself.

It’s a hard situation to be in, and it might seem like there’s no way out of it other than to give up and go to work for someone else.

But that isn’t the case, and here is what I tell myself to keep from going crazy.

Keep Pushing

No matter what, no matter how bleak or useless it might seem, keep pushing for sales. Keep advertising. Keep connecting with people. Keep helping people. Keep sharing things on Facebook, on Twitter, keep Pinning inspirational pins. Keep yourself in front of your customers. Never let them go a day without seeing you. You don’t have to scream “BUY SOMETHING!” in every post. Just let them know you’re there, let them know what you do. When you do ask them to buy something, if one method of asking doesn’t work, try a new method. Research methods you may not have tried. The entire internet is at your disposal. USE IT.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Reward Yourself for Pushing

You may not have made a sale, but if you tried a new method to obtain sales, give yourself some credit where credit is due. If you’re running a business while also working full time, you’re basically the equivalent of a crazy person. It’s crazy because it’s hard, and it’s even harder when that business starts to show some level of  success. When you’re working for someone, that someone is in charge of the problems of the business, not you. When you’re working for yourself, there’s a lot more on your plate. When that business starts to grow, it gets even worse. And when growth slows, or, God forbid, stops completely, it worsens even more. Then you’ve got personal survival stress added to the mix.

So, don’t forget to find some way to remind yourself that you deserve credit for persevering.

When Things Go Right, Push More

The worst thing you can do in a fight is stop moving.

Let’s say you’ve finally got that momentum going. Keep it going. Don’t let it stop. Hey, maybe you got a whopping 3 likes on your Facebook post today–That means 3 people saw value of some kind in what you showed off. Make sure they come back to like your next post. And your next. Then, every so often, throw in a plug for yourself or your business. Keep yourself visible. Don’t let the momentum slow. Once you’ve got someone interested, you need to make sure they keep that interest.

It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

Maybe you’ve done everything I listed above. Whether you were successful or not, you are fully entitled to change your mind. Maybe you don’t want to run a business because you simply don’t like it. Maybe you want to run a different business. Maybe you decide you love your full time job more and simply don’t need another job. Maybe you’ve given it your all, but you just can’t seem to get the business off the ground, and you’re tired.

You know what?

That’s okay.

Not every business is a success.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what you did, or tried to do. It doesn’t mean that YOU are a failure. In fact, you’re probably more successful and gutsy than a lot of people out there, because you tried to make it happen. And, if your business IS a success, or sometimes even if it isn’t, you can still make it work for you by selling it to someone else. Maybe you’d rather just bring someone in to run the business end so you can focus on the portion of that business you love.

The takeaway here is that in spite of the fact that you might find yourself caught in a slump, be it personal or professional, it is possible to make it out alive. Maybe you have to change a bit to get there, or maybe even the business itself has to adapt, to morph into something totally different, but you can get out. It’s called drive, it’s called ambition, it’s called persistence. It has many more names, but you can’t ever lose it. It’s part of the human condition.

How Business Owners Can Help Simplify the Design Process

As a small business owner, you are naturally focused on efficiency and cost-effectiveness when you hire a professional to complete a task. Some tasks, however, take longer to complete than others simply because of the work itself. When you’re being billed hourly, it can be hard to let something complex like a logo design drag on and on. Even if you are paying a flat fee, the longer your business goes without a well-functioning logo can cost money in the long run. Here are some ways you can help your hired graphic designer to simplify and speed up the design process.

Have a clear idea of what you want the design to achieve

Are you looking to grab potential customers eye with an attractive flier to increase awareness of your company, or increase sales directly by including coupons on that flier? Do you want your business to exude corporate professionalism with a simple, elegant text-based logo, or instead present a symbol or icon to be associated with your brand without any context like the famous McDonald’s golden arches? Say you are opening a new senior care center–when your designer creates your business cards, should they be aimed at the seniors who will be living there, or instead the current caretakers of those seniors?

Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and communicating that to your designer will help clarify the setup and help reduce the painstaking back-and-forth of design revisions.

Are you trying to generate a completely new design or revise an existing one? 

This is a big one–in the internet age, it can be overwhelming for a designer to scan for what designs your competition is using. Let your designer know right off the bat if they have free reign to create something totally unique, or if there is a particular style you want to emulate. I typically tell my logo customers to find 3 logos they love and send them to me. This helps me get an idea of the style they prefer, in some cases the color schemes, and saves a lot of the guesswork that can come with providing a subjective service. It also enables me to redirect the business owner if their chosen style is completely off-kilter for their business goals.

If you have a storefront, a website, or anything already in existence, invite your designer to visit.

You can talk to your designer all day about your company’s services, goals, culture, and more, but until they’ve visited that storefront or website themselves, their vision is limited. For the same reason many famous novelists visit the locations of their stories before writing them, being able to experience your business environment first hand can help answer a LOT of questions and save time.

Have additional suggestions for business owners? Comment below!

Maintaining the Motivation to Run Your Small Business

In today’s fast-paced and increasingly connected society, running a business can be downright exhausting. When business is booming, or even when business is slow, it can be difficult to maintain the motivation to continue working. Here are our suggestions for how to keep motivated to run your business:

Revisit Your Work-Life Balance

At times it can seem like your business is your life, but this is not the case. Just like a person working for an employer can suffer from “burnout” after too many hours or too long a stretch without a break, it is important to take time away from your business for yourself. Read, write, teach, or take up a new hobby. Stress will always be present in some form for the avid entrepreneur, but by dedicating a point of each day strictly for yourself, you can help reduce this stress and conserve that energy for more important, useful endeavors the following day.

Think About Why You Started Your Business

Sometimes, your business might diverge from its original intended path. If this happens, it might be difficult to stay motivated. If you open a restaurant because you love cooking, it can sometimes be hard to reconcile with the fact that you are now spending more time completing paperwork than creating lavish, award-winning dishes. If you are able, consider designating some of these tasks to other individuals to allow you to reconnect with your passion and regain your enthusiasm. You may even be able to automate tasks–such as your social media management through applications like Hootsuite.

Set Realistic Goals

Ensuring your goals are realistic is paramount to how you will perceive success and keep yourself motivated. If you set goals that are too difficult or even impossible to reach, you are pre-programming yourself to consider every bit of work you do as a failure. If you find yourself already in this situation and needing to find a way out of it, take a day to think about simple goals you can set that you can reach quickly and easily. Things as seemingly insignificant as just sweeping the storefront or cleaning the windows to make the store look more presentable can make a big difference in your overall opinion of your own successfulness. Some individuals might even need to go so far as writing down what they accomplish each day. Do whatever works best for you.

Reward Yourself for What You Have Already Accomplished

Feeling low, miserable, and unmotivated? Consider this: only 14% of Americans are operating as an entrepreneur. You, and your business, are a rarity. This is because it is a LOT of work to start a business, let alone maintain one, and even more so to ensure that business is successful! If you’re reading this, you’re probably an entrepreneur, and you’ve already accomplished a great deal. Pride yourself on this fact, and for all the other achievements you have reached.

Consider a “Freshening Up”

If your business’ website, branding, or storefront outdated or lacking character? Perhaps it no longer matches the culture of the business, or maybe the color of that ugly old countertop is just driving you crazy. If that’s the case, you can always consider a redesign or remodel to freshen things up and re-energize both yourself and your employees.

Find New Inspiration

Although I hate to throw Pinterest in here yet AGAIN, the fact remains that this is by far the best online inspiration source out there. You can type in almost anything and be overwhelmed with various ways to recreate your identity, your storefront, your office, or even your company vehicles. Furthermore, connecting with fellow business owners or even your customers can reignite the spark or even generate a new one to help re-motivate you to keep running your business.

Consider a Different Approach to Certain Tasks

If you are stuck in a routine that isn’t working, developing a new approach to break free of that routine can be…well…liberating. Talk to a marketing person about a new ad campaign. Talk to your fellow business owners about how they handle day-to-day clerical tasks. Research more efficient software for managing your time or accounting. No matter what your routine may be, breaking that routine can be a breath of fresh air when your motivation has weakened.

How do you stay motivated? Tell us in the comments!

Where to Advertise Your Small Business for FREE

Many small business owners don’t fully understand the importance of advertising, and if they do, they may not have the funds to do so. Advertising is an extremely important piece of owning and operating a business–in fact, what many businesses consider their least important department is actually the complete opposite. Your advertising is your direct connection to your customers and Continue reading “Where to Advertise Your Small Business for FREE”