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// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Jan. 29, 2016 0 comments
focus on funding

Tamer Marshood was still a student when he imagined starting a program to help young readers help their communities. He started Feeding by Reading to raise money to feed hungry children and families through read-a-thon programs at local schools. Marshood’s program brings together local schools, municipalities, and businesses as they empower children to make a difference close to home.

Since its launch, Feeding by Reading has formed partnerships with the New Jersey Institute of Technology to work with the Irvington, New Jersey community, and with Wagner College to serve Port Richmond on Staten Island, New York. Expansion into additional grade levels, the inclusion of additional community service opportunities, and scholarship programs are in the works thanks to the initial success of the program.

But this engaging nonprofit didn’t launch without a great deal of hard work. Marshood had previously considered franchising, and remembered SCORE’s help in that arena when he started thinking about a community project. A group of mentors from the Bergen, New Jersey SCORE chapter teamed up to help make Marshood’s vision a reality.

A SCORE sounding board

Working with several SCORE mentors provided a “board of directors” environment for Marshood as he developed plans to start and grow Feeding by Reading.

“We dug deep into the details of my program — further than I had previously gone on my own. We really broke down my program and organization,” Marshood says. “Peter Loder once came in with a printout of every page of my website marked up. I wasn’t expecting that personal touch when I first signed up with SCORE.”

Marshood explains that programming elements were a direct result of some of his conversations with SCORE mentors. Reading Points, the system used to track and reward students’ reading progress, was born during a SCORE meeting.

“It’s great practice for starting a company,” Marshood says. ”If you’re starting a project, you’ll have to meet with a lot of people and you can use meetings with SCORE as practice sessions to present your company, elevator pitch, and yourself.” Mentors Frank Melchior, Anthony Basile, Peter Loder, and Kristine Scheufele helped Marshood prepare for meetings with school administrators as Marshood planned to launch his program. “The answers just flew out of me when I met with education professionals.” 

Next step: Focus on funding

Feeding by Reading has provided more than 6500 books since it started in 2014, and reader sponsorships have raised more than $3,000 to feed people in need. But since so much of Feeding by Reading’s funding has gone back into the community, the organization is beginning to explore grants, loans, and other funding opportunities.

“It’s one of the more challenging parts of our operation due to the costs involved,” he said in an interview with SCORE’s Bergen chapter. “My aim is to find larger companies willing to donate books to children for our program. I'm seeking out publishing companies as well as retailers.”

Whatever direction Feeding by Reading takes next, Marshood is sure to have his SCORE mentors by his side. Team up with a mentor to make your nonprofit idea a reality.

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Vistaprint / Jan. 27, 2016 0 comments
shopping friends

As its owner, you are your small business’s best brand advocate. Unfortunately, the way human nature works, your customers will probably be more influenced to buy from you if they find out about your business on their own, rather than via straightforward, in-their-face advertising. In fact, of the distrustful and skeptical 79 million Millennials, only 6 percent consider online advertising to be credible. And while most people don’t trust brands, they do trust their friends: According to Social Chorus, 91 percent of consumers would trust a recommendation from a friend.

So how can you find these brand advocates, the ones who hold the future sales of your business in their powerful hands? And how can you use their influence to help grow your brand?

You probably have some great loyal customers who are already acting as your brand advocates—and you may not even know it. The key is to recognize and reward these customers so their brand advocacy continues. Review records and website analytics to see who your frequent buyers are. Reach out to offer them membership in a loyalty program that gives them rewards for buying. You can also ask loyal customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues to your business. Offering some type of incentive, such as a gift or discount, for a referral that leads to a sale can help turn loyal customers into strong brand advocates.

Have you made it clear how customers can complain if they have an issue with your product or service? If you can quickly identify and remedy a complaint, you may have just created a brand advocate out of the complainer. Make sure you or someone on your staff is monitoring your website, email, social media and online review sites to respond to problems and find solutions. Regularly check your business website and any online directories in which you’re listed to ensure your contact information is up to date so people can contact you.

You can also find potential brand advocates on social media platforms. Start with your own followers and reach out to those who frequently interact with your posts. Encourage them to advocate for your brand by asking them to share photos or posts of themselves using your product on social media, or to share your posts with their connections.

Next, reach beyond your immediate social circle to larger influencers who can become brand advocates. Search on hashtags or keywords about your business, product, service, or industry and see who’s talking and what they’re saying. Look for bloggers, YouTubers and other social media stars with big followings that match your target market. Klout, SumAll and Buzzsumo are three good tools for quantifying someone’s social media influence.

Once you identify potential brand advocates, you need to get on their radar. You don’t want to be too pushy, but you do want to forge a relationship. Start by going through their posts carefully, liking and commenting, as well as suggesting other interesting tidbits to check out. Get to know what kind of content the person creates and where they are represented the most.

If you feel you’re ready to make contact, be straightforward about a possible relationship. Influencers know they are influencers and usually have some sort of expectation as to what they want from you in exchange for their influences. Some options for promoting your business via brand advocates include:

  • Send the influencer free samples of your products for review or for contest giveaways to their followers or fans.
  • Offer to trade guest posts.
  • Offer to host a guest webinar or ask to interview them.
  • Ask to hold a joint promotion.
  • Ask to have a tweetchat or video chat to talk about the market

After you’ve done some joint marketing with your brand advocate, be sure to track the results. Use Web and social media analytics tools to see how many new visitors each brand advocate has driven to your website or your social media accounts. Use in-store codes to track the number of visitors to your physical location as a result of the brand advocate.

Give your brand advocates the respect and attention they require, and you can build a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship that will strengthen your brand. 

Vistaprint
SCORE Corporate Sponsor

Vistaprint provides millions of business owners with quality, affordable printed and digital marketing products to help them look professional and promote their businesses. Products include business cards, postcards, brochures, signage, apparel, and promotional products.  
Vistaprint | Facebook | Twitter

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Jan. 26, 2016 0 comments
satisfied customers

Are you struggling to generate enough leads for your small business? Maintaining a full pipeline of leads is every small business owner’s challenge.

Here are some ideas (ranked from easiest to more complex) to help you attract more leads.

  • Ramp up the phone calls. I’m always shocked at how many small business websites hide their business phone numbers! Even if your phone number is somewhere on your home page, that’s not good enough—it needs to be at the top of the home page so prospective customers see it right away. (Better yet, put it on the top of every web page.)
  • Ask for the action. Whether it’s your business website or your print or radio ads, don’t just hint at what you want customers to do—spell it out! All your advertising and marketing efforts should include a clear call to action. On your website, every page should include its own call to action—whether that's “Shop now,” “Call for a quote,” or “Make an appointment.”
  • Tap into satisfied customers. You probably buy lots of things based on referrals from your friends and colleagues, right? Well, it’s the same for your potential customers. Set up a system for gathering referrals from your satisfied customers and clients. (Make sure they're satisfied—that's important!) Then quickly follow up with those referrals to gauge their interest and provide more information about what you sell.
  • Use local search. Does your business rely on a local customer base? Then being listed on local search directories can generate tons of leads. Visit relevant local search directories to claim your listing and fill in the required information, such as your businesses phone number, address, hours of operation, photos, menu and more. Make sure to include relevant keywords that your target customers use when searching for companies like yours.
  • Make it easy to call you. If your business website is mobile-friendly, and I sure hope it is, adding a “click to call” button makes it super simple for prospective customers to call your business right away when they discover you during a mobile search. Remember, mobile searches don't just happen when customers are out and about — think about how often you look something up on your mobile phone from the living room couch.
  • Try pay-per-click advertising. If you're not already using pay per click advertising, you've got nothing to lose by testing it out. One big advantage of this form of advertising is that it lets you set an advertising budget and target prospects very specifically so you know you only reach the exact audience you want. Visit Google AdWords and Bing to learn more about how to advertise online.
  • Get social. Social media isn't just for getting “likes” anymore. More than two-thirds of marketers who spend at least six hours a week promoting their businesses on social media say they generate leads that way, according to Social Media Examiner.  If you sell to consumers, Facebook is the best way to go; both LinkedIn and Facebook work well to generate leads for B2B companies.
  • Use content marketing.  Whether you sell to consumers or businesses, content — that is, information — that educates your prospects about how to do something better, how to solve a problem or how to fill a need is today's hottest marketing trend. (Of course, that content should also subtly sell how your product or service benefits your customers.) Content can range from a blog post or Instagram photo to a whitepaper or online video. Post content in places where your target customers spend their time and use proper SEO to guide them to it. While creating good content may require hiring outside contractors, the results can be worth it.

Want more ways to generate leads? Your SCORE mentor can help you come up with plenty of ideas—and put them into action. Visit www.score.org.

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Rochelle Robinson / Jan. 25, 2016 0 comments
Host an event for a good cause

Advertising your business can cost big money. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service recognizes these business expenses and allows you to deduct the cost on your taxes. Increased advertising is believed to boost sales and generate more taxable income in the future.

Here are a few advertising activities that the IRS recognizes as tax-deductible:

Host an Event for a Good Cause

Sponsoring an event for a good cause, like supporting your local nonprofit with free food and beverages as a means of marketing, is considered tax-deductible by the IRS. The event is considered goodwill advertising to keep your name before the public with reasonable expectations of gaining business in the future. The IRS requires you conduct business during the event which could include a sales pitch or product demonstration, and the event must not be considered overly luxurious. The event must be open to the general public in order to be 100% deductible. Take pictures or video to prove your event was business related. You must provide records to prove the business purpose, the amount of all expenses, and the date and location of the event.

Get Your Marketing Material

Advertising is the process of marketing your business to targeted, potential customers. Advertising your business allows you to share your company’s brand, products, and services in hope of gaining new business. Advertising expenses can include business cards, informational brochures, advertisements in print publications, direct mail, and technology advances like text messaging, social media marketing, stock image purchases, online advertisements, and your website. The costs of your website domain name registration fees, monthly hosting fees, and development of your website are considered tax deductible. 

Join a Club

The IRS considers a membership to your local chamber of commerce, business leagues, real estate boards, trade associations, and professional organization tax-deductible if the purpose of your membership is not related to entertainment purposes. If you advertise with an organization, it may be considered deductible as an advertising expense and not a business expense. You can deduct expenses directly related to attending business meetings or conventions of the above listed organizations. Membership fees for country clubs, sports clubs, and other clubs that provide meals (especially alcohol) and entertainment are not considered tax deductible as they are not conducive to conduct business. 

The IRS considers advertising expenses to be tax deductible but all businesses are different so you should confirm your unique business situation with your preferred tax professional. As a standard the IRS requires all deductions to be reasonable and in line with your total taxable sales. You should keep receipts, canceled checks, and detailed supporting documentation for all related advertising expenses.

Rochelle Robinson
Business and Wealth Advisor
WealthSide Capital
Rochelle Robinson is a business & wealth advisor serving as a CEO of WealthSide Capital, a pioneer in business and financial management services and Managing Editor of WealthSide.com, a leading interactive financial empowerment community. Rochelle is focused on small business solutions, personal finance management, and achieving financial freedom through wealth creation.
www.robuildswealth.com | @robuildswealth | More from Rochelle 
// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Jan. 22, 2016 0 comments
Represent your brand

Everyone knows they need to market their business to reach potential customers and drive sales. But if your marketing efforts aren’t guided by a thoughtful plan, that time and energy might be wasted.

Instead of trying to conquer your corner of the business world by marketing everywhere all the time, it’s important to plan your marketing thoughtfully. Your plan doesn’t have to be overly ambitious. But it does need to help set you up for success, rather than leaving you feeling frazzled or overwhelmed.

Before you pick your Twitter handle or start handing out coupons, think about how you want to achieve these three marketing “Rs:”

Represent your brand

You might already have a logo and branding materials, but it’s time to take that branding to the next level. Envision seeing your logo in various advertising and marketing forms - on community bulletin boards, in newspaper ads, on bus shelters. Where do you want to see your logo? Where do you want to hear people talking about your brand?

For example, you’d never advertise an upscale cafe with a flyer on a telephone pole. But a well designed flyer posted in a bustling neighborhood might be a great match for a dog-walking service. Can you see your moped shop featured in a glossy luxury magazine? Maybe not -- maybe your nearest college student newspaper makes more sense. 

This exercise isn’t about figuring out the best place to pay for advertising. It’s about thinking about how your brand fits into the world around you. Who’s the customer walking through your door on any given day? What do you want them to think or feel when they arrive?

Thinking about how to represent your brand helps you focus on your marketing approach.

Raise awareness

Once you’ve thought about your brand aesthetic, it’s time to figure out how to reach your target customer. Try to get a sense of their lifestyle and set your marketing efforts to match.

Targeting older customers? They might not be on Snapchat, but they’re probably crazy about Facebook. Seeking younger customers? Sign up for Periscope, but maybe skip a traditional blog.

Not sure how your customers want to learn about you? Ask them. Hearing their preferences can guide where you spend your time to see the greatest return as you work to raise awareness of your business.

Business not open yet? Now’s the time to pick your family’s brains, email your friends, or even strike up a conversation with your local barista during a lull. Everyone loves to share their opinion -- sometimes you just have to ask!

Reward customers

Some big-box stores seem like they offer a different sale every day. Sales are great, but how are you going to use them to attract -- and keep -- customers?

Sales, promotions, and rewards programs can overwhelm you if you don’t consider them in advance. Think about how you feel about flash sales, discount programs, and markdowns at other businesses you frequent.

Do some programs keep you coming back, while others fail to keep your interest? Your salon might not want to attract new customers with a Groupon or similar daily deal, but a discount after a certain number of visits might be the perfect thing to keep a customer coming back for trims every six weeks.

Again, think about your representation. An upscale boutique will offer -- and announce -- sales or buying programs differently than, for instance, an outdoors rental company.

Next you’ll want to work on your marketing calendar to make sure you promote any sales or special events with plenty of time to save the date on your customers calendars. Help them be loyal to you by making their life a bit easier!

Get together with a SCORE mentor to think about your marketing big picture. Remember the three “Rs” before you get caught up in that Twitter feed! 

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Chris Adkins / Jan. 21, 2016 0 comments
Successful Franchising

For any entrepreneur, owning your own successful business is the ultimate dream. However, starting a business from the ground up can be a daunting task. Young entrepreneurs in particular may face barriers including limited finances and business management experience, as well as the absence of support needed to succeed as an independent business owner. Enter franchising.

Franchising offers a unique opportunity for Millennials who may not have prior business experience to succeed thanks to a business structure that is already in place. For instance, The UPS Store franchise network combines brand strength and a proven business model that offers training, resources and continued support for franchise owners along the way.

The UPS Store has helped many Millennials open and successfully operate their own stores. Many of these entrepreneurs are motivated and eager to take advantage of the resources provided by The UPS Store and there are several common practices that have helped them achieve success, including:

  • Taking advantage of training and resources
    By joining a franchise, business owners capitalize on the industry knowledge, training, sales and marketing expertise, and longstanding reputation of an established company. The UPS Store provides franchisees with comprehensive training programs and tools to develop the business acumen and day-to-day operational skills needed to own and operate a franchise. The training helps establish a foundation to develop, learn new skills and truly understand all facets of owning a business.

  • Setting goals
    In business, it’s important to set attainable goals and then develop a clear plan to achieve those goals. Whether it’s increasing sales, encouraging brand loyalty or promoting a specific product, goal setting establishes a clear path to success. It’s also critical to communicate these goals to employees because at the end of the day, once you have communicated your business model and goals to your employees, everyone can be held accountable. 

  • Hiring the right employees
    Employees are the first touch point for customers and a critical part of achieving success in business. However, finding and retaining good employees can be challenging. It’s important to create a positive work environment and keep them motivated so they remain engaged. It is also essential for employees to be properly trained to communicate with customers and properly represent the business and the brand.

  • Making connections within the franchise network
    Unlike many other independently owned businesses, franchising allows you to join a network of other owners. Networking with these other franchisees offers a great opportunity to make new connections and develop relationships that advance your business and your career. It can also provide great insight into what it takes to operate a successful franchise. In addition to this internal network, local small business organization and national nonprofits like SCORE -- which is dedicated to helping small businesses succeed via mentorship -- can be a great way to connect with other business owners.

For Millennials and other young entrepreneurs, owning a business is an exciting yet challenging aspiration. Through franchising, this dream can not only become a reality, it can lead to a successful career.

Chris Adkins
VP Franchise Development
The UPS Store
Chris Adkins joined The UPS Store, Inc., in December 2010 as vice president of franchise development. Adkins began his UPS career in 1984 as a part-time employee in Central Ohio. His early career focused on UPS operations positions such as part-time hub employee, package car driver and hub supervisor. Currently, Adkins manages domestic franchise sales.
// by Jaleh Rezaei / Jan. 20, 2016 2 comments
payroll

Running your business is a lot of work. The last thing you want to worry about is a costly mistake from a payroll related misstep. In fact, 40% of small businesses get fined an average of $850 per year for improperly paying their payroll-related taxes so this is not a small concern.

At Gusto, we work with more than 25,000 small business owners like you on payroll, benefits, and workers’ comp. Here are some of the most common payroll mistakes a business owner can make.

1. You Forget to Pay Taxes Year-Round

For many first-time business owners, it’s common to think of business taxes like personal income taxes. In other words, I’ll pay my taxes at the end of the year (or in April!).

But did you know that you likely have to pay taxes year-round? The IRS and each state’s governing body regulate your tax payment schedule, and the schedule differs between each state. Also, the frequency of your tax payments also depends on your payroll frequency (e.g., monthly, biweekly).

One additional mistake is mismatching tax payments with your employees’ pay schedules. For example, if your business pays monthly payroll for most of your employees and semimonthly for others. Rather than pay taxes according to the employee’s pay period, you pay taxes monthly for everyone. Because you are not matching your taxes based on pay period, you may be at risk for tax penalties. To protect your business, outsource your payroll to a third-party provider or accountant.

Is your worker an employee or a contractor?

2. You Misclassify your Employees and Contractors

You are starting your business and a friend helps out with some design work. At first, she comes and goes as she pleases, but your business picks up. Now she’s coming more regularly, and using the workspace you created for her and on a work computer. Is your friend an employee or contractor?

Misclassifying your worker can be a costly mistake on multiple fronts. If your contractor is actually an employee, you may be underpaying payroll taxes. On average, employees can cost 25-30% more than contractors.

In additional, nearly 30% of employees are misclassified as contractors. The Department of Labor is cracking down on employers who are misclassifying employees as contractors. Use this handy checklist to see if your worker is an employee or contractor.

3. You Forgot to Keep Important Reports on File

Actually, good reporting can help you manage your business or help you avoid costly legal fines. For payroll, you are legally obligated to keep certain documents on file:

Form I-9: Each employee needs to fill out Form I-9 to verify he or she is legally eligible to work in the US. You don’t need to submit the form, but you must keep it on file (a digital copy works just fine) for the entirety of the employee’s employment, and a minimum of either 3 years from the hire date or 1 year from the term date, whichever is longer.

Optionally, you can choose to verify the employee’s work status online using e-Verify.

Form W-4: Your employee will also need to fill out Form W-4 to determine their tax withholding (Note: You cannot do this on their behalf). The W-4 does not need to be submitted anywhere, but each company is legally required to keep every employee’s W-4 on file for a minimum of four years.

Only modern payroll providers like Gusto manage your withholding taxes on behalf of you and your employee.

New hire reporting for states: Each state has a department to report your new hires. You will typically provide the employee’s name, address, and social security number. Depending on the state, you may have anywhere between a few days to 90 days to submit this information to the state. Check your local state tax, labor, and workforce website for more information. In California, for example, an employee has to file a DE-34. Fortunately, your payroll provider should be able to file documents like the DE-34 automatically on your behalf.

You’re busy running your business but a tax penalty can really sidetrack your business. To get help, we suggest working with a full-service online payroll provider.

Jaleh Rezaei
Head of Marketing
Gusto

Jaleh Rezaei leads marketing at Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll), which reimagines payroll, benefits, HR, and personal finance by automating the most complicated, impersonal business tasks and making them simple and delightful.
Gusto | Twitter | Facebook | More from Jaleh

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Jan. 19, 2016 0 comments
customer service

Did you ever stop to think about your secret customer service agent—the customer service representative you may not even know you have? I'm talking, of course, about your business’s website. (You do have one, don’t you?)

These days, your business website is your front line when it comes to providing customer service. After all, when you're looking for a business, you go online first, right? You check out the company's website — and what you find can make or break your decision to do business with them.

It's the same for your prospective customers. So how do you make sure your website is providing great customer service? Ask yourself these five questions:

1. Is it easy to use?

Visitors should be able to quickly navigate around your business website, whether it's a few pages of information or a sizable ecommerce site. Is the key information easy to find “above the fold” — that is, without paging down? Do the right-side and left-side navigation bars clearly indicate how to find additional products or information that users might want? You can use Google Analytics (it's free to sign up) to see what visitors do when they come to your website. How long do they stay? After the homepage, where do they go next? If everyone seems to come to your home page and then leave without going anywhere else, maybe your homepage is too confusing.

2. Is it informational?

Visitors should be able to find essential information on your website easily. If you own a physical store, restaurant or office, the basics include your business address, hours of operation, phone number and other ways to reach you, such as social media accounts or email. If you sell products on your website, it should be easy to see what you offer, find different product categories, and get essential information such as return policy, shipping times and shipping costs. Don't make visitors hunt around for this type of information, or they probably won't bother.

3. Can it answer questions?

If visitors have questions or run into trouble with your products or services, being able to get help from your business website makes life easier both for them and for you. In addition to a phone number so people can call for customer service, how about adding online chat to your website? There are many low-cost chat tools tailored for small business websites. You can also include a frequently asked question (FAQs) section with answers to the common questions customers have or directions for solving problems they often run into. This allows your visitors to help themselves, saving you time and money on providing in-person customer service.

4. Is it quick to assist?

In other words, how fast does your business website load? Customers have high expectations for websites today, and if your website takes more than a few seconds to load, it's the customer-service equivalent of making them wait in a long checkout line or listen to your hold music for half an hour. Regularly test how quickly your site loads on a variety of browsers and on both computers and mobile devices.

5. Can it help them anywhere, anytime?

Speaking of mobile devices, they’re more important than ever as a customer service tool. Busy customers expect to do just about everything on their mobile phones, from checking up on an order status to quickly calling your company or looking up your restaurant menu online. If your business website still isn't mobile-friendly, you're falling behind the curve in terms of online customer service.

Think of your business website as your always-on, never-tires-out customer service representative, and make the most out of it. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Jeanne Rossomme / Jan. 18, 2016 0 comments
distraction

This New Year, my dear friend and inspirational entrepreneur, Aviva Goldfarb started a Sugar Detox Facebook group page. The instructions were simple – cut out all added sugar for the month of January.  It is enlightening and a bit scary to see how sugar creeps into everything we eat – and how that constant stream of sugar is so very difficult to quit.  The detox term is not too strong.

All of this got me thinking about my number one New Year resolution – to take back my time and my thoughts from the constant stream of interruptions.  I decided I needed to create a Distraction Detox.  Unfortunately, I cannot resolve to cut out 100% of all the buzzes and pings coming at me on any given day.  But I have been trying to gradually improve my mindfulness by setting up some simple rules:

1. Shut off alerts.

This is perhaps the easiest step, and a huge help.  On all electronic devices I have set up preferences to shut off all alerts with the exceptions of appointments and one “ping me” source…

2. Set up one “ping me” channel.

I realized that one of my problems was that I was constantly scanning several channels (email, text, phone, Skype, Google chat) for any urgent messages or requests that may come in from clients (or my kids).  This caused me to be constantly checking several sources, wasting time and causing me to react to way too many things, versus being purposeful.  I decided to set up one chat channel (Skype) for clients and another for kids/family (text). 

3. Device free zones.

In my family, the dinner table has always been a place where the only communication devices are our faces talking with each other.  This year I am trying to expand those times and places, leaving my phone home on walks with my husband and also shifting from digital to paper books by my bedside to resist the temptation to check email late at night.

4. Keep one to do list.

For me I have gone back to the old-fashioned smallish notebook.  I have actually two to-do lists – one personal and one professional – where I jot down everything big and small.  I find if I capture it there, I can then prioritize it at the beginning of each week or planning quarter.

5. Plan each week.

I find that while I schedule in time for meetings, family schedules, etc., I do not block out time for project work.  In order to produce any larger and more meaningful output, I need an hours of focus with no distractions. Monday morning first thing I lay out blocks of work time throughout the week where I can slide in those activities that I know are most important.

6. Match my work day to my energy patterns.

I find I am most creative and fresh early in the morning and the most brain dead about mid-afternoon.  When planning my week, I try and reserve early mornings for writing and creative problem solving.  I actually get away from my computer first and jot my ideas on a blank piece of paper.  Afternoons I reserve for more rote tasks – responding to emails, straight up analysis etc. Bonus points if I can get in a walk or exercise break during the afternoon to boost my energy!

7. Check email only a few times per day

Arghh!!  This is a tough one for me!  Like the sugar detox I have such deep habits on constantly taking little “breaks” to see what has come in.  My resolution is to break that cycle by shutting down email and looking at it only a few times throughout the day.  (Let me know if you have any advice here.)

8. Pray/meditate each day.

I find that those mornings where I spend 15 minutes in stillness, I start the day calm, centered and refreshed – rather than frazzled and overwhelmed with worry.  I love listening to the “Pray as you Go” app for 15 minutes of music, biblical readings and guided prayer – despite religious/spiritual beliefs there are many great options to set up this practice.

And while this may seem like a contradiction – there are many tech tools that can help you reduce distraction

What are your ideas for a Distraction Detox?  Please chime in on the SCORE Facebook page.

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Jan. 15, 2016 2 comments
marketing on a budget

You’ve worked hard to develop your business plan and refine your products or services. Now it’s time to connect with the people your business was designed to help.

But marketing your company can quickly become expensive. If you’re operating on a shoestring budget, you may feel discouraged that you can’t do enough to promote your hard work.

Even if money is tight, you can still make marketing work for your new business. Here are a few reminders to keep in mind when you’re marketing on a tight budget.

Stick to your budget

Have you established a marketing budget for your business? There are several ways to determine how much money to spend on marketing and advertising efforts, including a percentage of sales, a fixed annual amount, or a fixed amount needed to achieve specific marketing goals.

Once you choose the right budgeting method for your business, remember to stick to the plan. Walk-in sales pitches or cold calls might seem slick and worry-free, but can often turn into ongoing expenses that don’t yield results.

Before signing up for any offer of a service or special to help market your business, consult your marketing budget. If the dollars aren’t in the plan you already set, don’t get carried away by promises — make notes for next year’s budget instead.

If you can’t spend money, spend time

So many online marketing tools are free, or offer tiered costs depending on your needs. Use free tools like social media platforms to your advantage. Not only do they help build brand awareness; they’re also a way to interact with customers rather than just “shouting” at them like you might with a flyer or newspaper ad.

Small business owners typically spend 20 percent of their time on marketing efforts. If you build this time into your schedule — think of it as two hours each day or one day each week, SCORE blogger Jeanne Rossomme says — you’ll have time to focus on putting your best foot forward while using free tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or a free email newsletter platform.

Don’t try to do everything

Just because a free tool is available doesn’t mean you need to use it to promote your business.

Use your time wisely by focusing on free tools that make sense for your business, both because they reach your target demographic and because you enjoy them. For instance, if you commit to using Twitter but hate scrolling through your feed and creating catchy tweets, it’s a poor use of your time. Instead, reduce the number of social media platforms you use to those that excite and inspire you.

If there’s a platform you still feel like you need to use (but still hate using), assign that task to another member of your team who enjoys it. A staffer whose typical tasks don’t include marketing might enjoy adding a little variety into their day. If you delegate social media marketing tasks, be sure to communicate with your staff regularly to ensure best practices are being followed.

Step away from the computer

Don’t forget the power of word-of-mouth and in-person marketing opportunities. You might think about opening your workshop to tours or school trips. You may be able to snag a low-cost booth at a community fair where you can offer samples of your dishes or answer questions about your product line. If you’re great with a crowd, speaking on education or networking panels can help dozens of people get acquainted with your business.

By staying aware of ways to get involved in your community, and spending time interacting with potential customers one-on-one, you’ll build relationships that bolster your online marketing efforts.

Ready to do more to market your business on a budget? Set your budget with our free template and meet a SCORE mentor to review your plans. 

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.