Simple steps to crafting powerful marketing campaigns

Marketing CampaignsThe goal of any marketing effort is to achieve a measurable result—and for many that goal to is often focused on moving your audience to take action. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but with the right approach in place, it does not have to be difficult to develop marketing campaigns that drive impact and achieve great results.  Following are some simple steps that you can follow to help craft powerful marketing campaigns.

1)  Think about the audience you’re trying to reach

Start by thinking about your ideal customer. Who are they? What are they interested in? What problems can you help them solve? Relevance is one of the most important factors of any successful marketing campaign. The goal of your marketing should be to create something that customers and potential customers will appreciate. That’s the type of experience people are going to pay attention to, and it’s also the best way to bring customers back.
Once you’ve shifted your focus to meet the needs of your audience, you can then start to match these ideas with your business goals.
Here’s an example to consider: If I’m a potential student who signed up for a pasta making class with a specialty pasta shop, but I’m not familiar with the different types of classes that they offer, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be receptive to an email asking me to sign up for a new class—how many types of pasta does one really need to know how to make?
Content marketing is different from traditional marketing, because it’s about providing value to your audience as a way to create and grow relationships. You still leverage popular channels of communication — like email, social, mobile, and web — and use content to showcase your business’s personality and expertise. The content you create can be something simple, like a post on social media, or something a little more extensive, like a blog post or an article in your email newsletter. But content marketing isn’t just about creating more content, it’s about creating content that will move your audience to take action.
Even the best marketing strategy won’t do you any good if you’re not willing to follow through, but you’re in the ideal position to create marketing messages that people look forward to. You know your customers. You understand their needs, interests, and expectations. And you create memorable experiences every single day.

2) Align their needs, interests, and expectations to your business goals

But if I receive email from the same shop that explains in detail the variety of classes they offer (sauce making, wine and food pairing, Northern vs. Southern Italian cuisine, etc.) and also include information about the instructor, his experience, and philosophy — it’s much more likely that I’ll pay attention.

Whether you’re trying to fill a class, generate sales, or attract new clients, you’ll be much more successful when you put the needs of your audience first, and then match those to needs to your business goals.

3) Plan your content

4) Do the work

Don’t forget one of the most important things if you are just getting started—it’s okay to start small. Choose one channel — maybe it’s email or one of your active social networks — and look for ways to give something valuable to the people you’re trying to reach. Finding the right balance for your business could mean more opens, more clicks, and most importantly — more opportunity to do more business.

Gina Watkins is a leading expert on e-marketing for small business – and has a real passion for helping businesses to succeed. Her ongoing series of dynamic lectures are filled with real-world examples, humor and results-driven wisdom garnered from more than two decades of sales, business development and marketing experience. In addition to owning her own business, she is an award-winning direct marketer, has been featured on WUSA Channel 9’s Mind Over Money show, Dr. Gayle Carson’s Women In Business radio show, Morgan State’s Briefcase Radio program, and in numerous other media. In her role as Constant Contact Regional Development Director, she’s presented to more than ten thousand seminar attendees about the keys to success with easy, affordable, highly effective technology tools that grow trusted business relationships.

Registrations and Government Contracting

Microsoft-Dynamics-SharePoint-for-Government-ContractorsDid you know there are different registrations required for government contracting?

If you have been pursuing business in the government sector, this comes as no surprise to you. Registrations serve many purposes for both you and the agency that you are registering with.

Why Register?

It’s required! Many agencies require you to have an active registration to be awarded contracts and/or paid.

It’s marketing!

  • Some agencies looking to find vendors in a specific product or service category use their vendor database to identify candidates to whom to reach out for bids.
  • You’ll gain exposure to potential prime contractors looking to expand their supply base. Some vendor databases are publically searchable on the web.

It’s free! Yes, free! It may cost you a few pieces of paper or a stamp, but many registrations have transitioned over to being 100% online.

It’s easy! Ok, so some may argue this one is a stretch! Some registrations are pretty painless and require minimal input; others are a bit more labor intensive…this is a great time to engage your government contracting specialist for assistance!

Where do you need to register?

There are separate registrations for separate government agencies. Should you register everywhere? Absolutely not! Be sure to register at those agencies that you think have a need for your product or service (perform market research in advance!).

Here is a list of a few ideas on where to register to get you started

  • Federal: SAM (System for Award Management), register at www.sam.gov   (Click here for more information on SAM)
  • Federal: Dynamic Small Business Search, register through www.sam.gov
  • Your State Government Agencies: Each state has it’s own registration process, and individual state agencies may have further registrations of their own. Work with your local PTAC to identify the state registrations appropriate for your business.

Registration tips…

  • Use an email address that is monitored on a regular basis, perhaps an “info@” or “sales@” address. This avoids having to update due to personnel changes or missing an email if someone is out of the office.
  • Keep a list of where you are registered (including usernames and passwords); update registrations with changes in products / services offered, Points of contact, etc

Now, take a few minutes to assess where you are currently registered, if your registrations need to be updated and where you need to register in the future. Your PTAC government contracting specialist is a great resource to help you throughout this process!


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.

5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Strength

Small Business ChallengesYour employees have the potential to be the greatest asset to your business. Developing loyal, skilled employees with a passion for the business doesn’t happen on its own and requires a concerted effort. Here are four ways you can start investing in what could be your business’ greatest asset:

 

  1. Create champions. Identify areas of the business that employees are passionate about, like marketing or customer service, and let employees “champion” that part of the business. Have them take responsibility for developing ways to improve their respective areas, and empower champions by providing opportunities to work together across teams. Make sure champions set quantifiable goals – that way you can track success.

 

  1. Get flexible. If the nature of your business allows it, consider allowing employees to work remotely. Research shows that when workers have more flexibility, they’re happier, better able to perform and more likely to stay at a job for longer periods. Job satisfaction is also improved by eliminating the anxiety caused by traffic and daily commutes. This could be a regular occurrence, such as “Work from Home Fridays,” or something that’s permitted on an as-needed basis. Leverage a tool like Office 365 so employees can maintain productivity and collaboration from anywhere.

 

  1. Spend time. Make sure it’s not just your managers who feel like you’re invested in them. Devote regular one-on-one time with all of your employees on a regular basis, even if it’s just for a 15-minute coffee break once or twice a year. A small time investment will help them feel valued, and it will give you greater insight into your employee culture and what you can be doing to improve employee retention.

 

  1. Encourage education. Even if you can’t afford to financially support employees who desire formal education, there still are ways to promote learning. Let employees know about free seminars or trade groups that align to their skills sets. Recommend books you think would benefit particular employees in their areas of expertise. Finally, support formal education if you are able, even if that means letting employees work flexible hours.

 

Any ideas you would add to this list? What’s worked for you when it comes to nurturing your employee base?

 

PTAC – Procurement & Technical Assistance Centers

PTACDoing business with the government is a big step to growing your business. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide local, in-person counseling and training services for you, the small business owner. They are designed to provide technical assistance to businesses that want to sell products and services to federal, state, and/or local governments. PTAC services are available either free of charge, or at a nominal cost. PTACs are part of theProcurement Technical Assistance Program, which is administered by the Defense Logistics Agency.

What can a PTAC do for you?

Determine if your business is ready for government contracting Pursuing government contracts is a challenge, and can be burden for your company if you do not have the resources to handle a contract. A PTAC representative can sit with you one-on-one and determine if your business is ready, and help position you for success.

Help you register in the proper places There are numerous databases to register with to get involved with the government marketplace, including the Department of Defense’s System for Award Management (SAM), GSA Schedules, and other government vendor sites. A PTAC representative can help you determine where and how to register.

See if you are eligible in any small business certifications Some government contracts are set aside for certain businesses with special certifications, such as woman-owned, small disadvantaged businesses and HUBZone. A PTAC representative can help you obtain these certifications.

Research past contract opportunities A PTAC representative can look into past contracts to see what types of contracts have been awarded to businesses like yours.

In addition, a PTAC can help you identify and bid on a contract, and if you are awarded the contract, measure your performance and help with contract audits.

What Is the DBE Program? What does DBE have to do with the Harbor Bridge project?

Harbor BridgeFirst, we’ll address the DBE program. The DBE [Disadvantaged Business Enterprise] program provides certain business owners with a marketing tool to increase participation of minorities and women in State and Local contract opportunities.

Federal regulations require that state and local transportation agencies receiving Department of Transportation funds establish a DBE program and set goals for participation by DBE certified businesses. These agencies are required to set annual DBE goals and review contracts during the year to establish contract-specific DBE prime and sub-contracting goals.

For a business owner to qualify, he/she must meet the requirements listed:

  • 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by an economically and socially disadvantaged individual(s),
  • Must be U.S. citizen or Legally Admitted Resident,
  • Contributions, ownership, and daily management control clearly documented,
  • Presumed Groups: Asian-American; African-American; Native American; Hispanic; Women,
  • The primary economically disadvantaged owner(s) must fill out a personal net worth statement and cannot exceed $1.32 million,
  • Must be a small business as defined by Small Business Administration [SBA] size standards;
  • Firm must be organized as a for-profit business,
  • On-site visit required.

With the upcoming Harbor Bridge project in Corpus Christi, TxDOT will attempt to award much of the work to DBE certified firms. The review process, after a completed application is submitted, can take a few months, so now is the time to apply.

Conveniently, for area businesses, the local certifying agency in Corpus Christi is the Regional Transportation Authority. To access an application, visit their website at: http://ccrta.org/dbe-certification.html

Please also know that the Del Mar College Procurement Technical Assistance Center [PTAC] can assist you in reviewing application requirements. We can be reached at 361-698-1021, or visit our website at http://dmc122011.delmar.edu/sbdc/ptac.html

A New Minimum Wage on Federal Contracts?

Minimum WageDuring the State of the Union Address on 28 January, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage for people working on new or renewed Federal Contracts from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 per hour.

What does this mean for you as a Federal contractor?

Particularly for contractors providing staffing services using a GSA Schedule, the initial answer is, very little for now.

  1. It doesn’t change existing law

The President will sign an executive order that gives preference to companies that pay their workers at least $10.10 per hour.  So, while not mandatory, you may see it appearing in RFPs as an evaluation factor.  The President is expected to sign the Executive Order within the coming month.

  1. It would affect a relatively small number of workers.

As you may know, the wages of most hourly workers on Federal Government contracts follow the Wage Determination Rates set by the Service Contract Act.  These rates are updated annually, usually in June.  It is likely that the increase would be reflected in the Wage Determinations published in June 2015 or perhaps phased across a series of annual Wage Determinations.Currently, there are a number of Wage Determination Rates that would be affected for persons working on Federal Contracts in relatively low-wage areas.  For example, in San Antonio (Bexar County, Texas), the minimum Federal Wage Determination Rate for a dishwasher is $7.76 an hour; the hourly wage would increase to $10.10 an hour as the Service Contract Act is updated in 2015.

The increase would only affect contract workers working directly on Federal contracts—Federal billable contracts.  Therefore, if you own a staffing firm that places people onsite at Federal installations, the increase would affect those workers making less than $10.10 per hour when it goes into effect in 2015.  If you have a Federal contract to supply products to the Federal Government, it will not affect the wages paid to your warehouse workers.

The Washington Post (January 28, 2014) estimated that the increase would affect about 200,000 Federal contract workers beginning in 2015 and the following years.

  1. It is not immediate

It will only affect contracts issued in 2015 and later (or renewals of existing ones) and not necessarily affect the out-year pricing of existing contracts, although the Government could seek to modify those contracts, in which case, contractors would be permitted to change pricing to allow them to charge the Government to make up the difference.The situation for GSA Contract holders is directly tied to the Service Contract Act Wage Determinations. If the increase to $10.10 per hour takes effect in 2015, is reflected in the June 2015 Wage Determinations, and you are a GSA Schedule Contract holder, the increase would likely not affect you until 2017, as under the GSA Schedule contract terms, you have up to 2 years to modify your contract to make your pricing reflect  Wage Determinations.

GSA Schedule solicitations may be updated or “refreshed” to include the Executive Order; if that happens, a mandatory modification (what we refer to as a “mass mod”) could be enacted.

  1. It is not the same as an increase in the minimum wage

The increase would only affect persons working directly on Federal contracts; if your contract is affected, you will be given the opportunity to modify your pricing so that you can collect the difference from the Government.This is different from a minimum wage, which cannot be put into place by Executive Order, but can only be enacted through the usual legislative route of approval by both the House and Senate and receiving the President’s signature.  Minimum wage is a matter of labor law and would apply to all workers in private industry engaged in interstate commerce—a very different thing from the proposed $10.10 minimum for Federal Contract Workers

How to Handle Negative Online Comments

Negative ReviewsEven if your business has never been vilified online, you likely know someone who has that can testify to how detrimental negative comments can be. Whether or not the complaints are valid, they’re now on the record for all to see.

When faced with this situation, you have three options. One is to ignore it and hope it goes away. It won’t.

The second option is to respond online by calling out the customer as irrational. Before you do that, know that caustic comments reflect more on the sender than the receiver and there’s really no delete button in cyberspace.

Your third choice, and the one that’s best for your business, is to publicly acknowledge and address the situation immediately. How you go about resolving the issue will make all the difference when it comes to maintaining your reputation and increasing customer loyalty.

Here’s a three-step process to solving the problem.

  1. Don’t remove negative comments. Since it’s likely that others have seen the comments, removing complaints causes more harm and creates unnecessary suspicion. It’s best to respond online by asking the customer to resolve the issue with you offline.

Still concerned about those public posts? Take heart. A recent Harris Interactive survey found that one-third of customers who posted negative comments and received a response from the company ended up posting a positive review after the issue was resolved. Also, around the same number of those customers deleted their original remark. Alternatively, when that unhappy customer is satisfied with how you’ve handled the issue, you can ask them to update their post.

  1. Acknowledge the complaint. Customers want to be heard so allow them to vent. Once the customer has gotten the issues on the table, respond with, “I see why you may feel that way.”

While you may disagree with some points, restate the issue so you’re on the same page and can move toward a resolution. Of note, 96 percent of customers who complain will do business with your company again if the issue is quickly resolved.

  1. Focus on the facts and be grateful for the complaint. When you separate the harsh delivery of the message from the facts, you’re left with a precious gift. Without that complaint, you may never know why great customers suddenly disappeared.

While it’s impossible to please everybody, you can learn to appreciate complaints as warning signs and opportunities to build even stronger ties to your customers.