Member Tip: Is Your Unique Value Proposition Doing Its Job?

Your business needs a unique value proposition (UVP) to differentiate you from your competition and to get you more customers. If you don’t have one, or you have one that’s not working, the foundation of your marketing is shaky at best.

The problem with creating a UVP begins with the name itself. It’s smothered in marketing garbage lingo. It turns people off. No potential customer will ever ask you “What’s Your Unique Value Proposition?” before making a purchase, but they will ask you what makes you different and that’s what you have to concentrate on when defining this concept for your business.

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What Makes Your Business Different?

Most companies are quick to say what differentiates them from their competition. Usually, it’s service or quality. For the most effective UVP, it must be two things – valued by your ideal customer and hard to replicate by your competition. While most customers value good service, every one of your competitors probably believes they (too) are providing excellent customer service, so it’s not a strong differentiator in the market unless you bolster it with specifics that can’t be imitated.

How to Stand Out

Regardless of what you call it, a unique value proposition is all about standing out. If you’re lucky you do something no one else does. But in today’s crowded global markets, it’s harder to find something that no one else is doing. Instead, you need to discover, and market, how you’re doing it differently.

Explore Your Business Model

The fortunate will take one look at their business model and immediately recognize a differentiator, such as their giving 10% of proceeds to a childhood cancer charity or providing college scholarships for employees. As in these examples, you can see it’s not always your product or service that differentiates you. Sometimes it’s how you conduct your business or your company culture that stands out.

Examine the Needs of Your Ideal Customer

If you have a buyer persona or an idea of who your ideal customer is, ask yourself what that person needs? If you’re not sure, listen to what your loyal customers are saying about you in reviews or testimonials. What makes an impact in their lives? Read reviews of your competition. What are the key themes that keep surfacing?

Define the Impossible

Ideally what makes you stand out is something your competition will have difficulty duplicating. Using the themes you identified in what your ideal customer likes or values, you’ll construct a promise your business can make that would be hard for others to replicate. “The best service” is not a differentiator unless you pair it with specifics like “best same-day service” or “service with a smile or your meal is free.” Take for instance Dawn Dishwashing Soap. Marketers had a hard time finding the right niche for the product. It cleaned well but so did its competitors. Nothing seemed to work in differentiating it until they did a commercial showing how it was used in oil slicks to clean birds. Suddenly the dish detergent is known for taking “grease out of your way” was also saving the environment.

Even if your competition eventually offers the same thing you do, if you can bring it to market and become known for it first, you will have a successful differentiator.

Make Your Process Unique

Sometimes what makes your business unique is actually a flaw in other’s eyes until you define it as something intriguing or fun for your customer. For instance, Dum Dum lollipops by Spangler Candy Company produces a mystery flavor. At first glance, this appears to be a fun marketing stunt but it is really an efficient operations tactic. The mystery flavor is the combination of two flavors of lollipops. Instead of taking the time to strip the production machines between flavors and make a solid switch, the company decided to leave the machines running between flavors and thus the mystery flavor, a combination of the two. This saved huge amounts of time and resources but appeared to be a product marketing decision. Sometimes the efficiency with which you bring your product to market is your differentiator.

Differentiating yourself from your competition is essential to helping potential customers select you over other businesses in your town and across the globe. An effective difference lies in marketing something your prospective customers’ value and calling attention to something your competition can’t easily replicate (or hasn’t thought of).  If you don’t know or establish what makes you different, there’s no way for a buyer to know.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.
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8th Siesta Key Crystal Classic Returns November 10th-13th!

This November 10th-13th, the world’s preeminent master sand sculptors will be competing in the Siesta Key Crystal Classic. Now in its 8th year, this popular visual and cultural arts festival have hosted over 250,000 attendees on our #1 beach!

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Over the course of approximately 4 days, 12 teams of two master sand sculptors, who hail from all over the world, create 8 – 10′ high, 3-dimensional sand sculptures out of the whitest, finest sand in the world. They compete for prize money and an award at the largest sand sculpting doubles competition in the United States.

This Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival also features a Vendor Village on the sand Friday through Monday, live entertainment daily and until 9 pm Friday & Saturday, sculpting lessons, an amateur contest, The Learning Curve – Arts & Science lab, Quick Sand competitions and demonstrations all taking place on the #1 beach on Siesta Key. Awards & prize money are given on Sunday, 11/12/17 at 3 pm.

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Information regarding the 2017 event schedule, ticket options, and parking passes can be found on the website: www.siestakeycrystalclassic.com.

Member Tip Monday: How Do I Improve My Organic Search Listing As A Small Business?

Search engine optimization is like weather forecasting without models and data. You open up your window and look around. You make plans and try things and look for patterns.

There are people who are happy to give you tips, and there are best practices, but ultimately it’s something that’s always evolving as algorithms are anything but constant. However, optimizing your content and site to place well is essential to minimizing your marketing spend on getting found. Here are a few tips to make your small business competitive on a local level.

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Is It Harder for Small Businesses to Place Organically?

Google’s algorithm is aimed at showcasing “valuable” sites first. Since Google is not an expert in every field it looks for indicators of a quality site. These things include:

  • Decent load times (no one wants to wait even 2 minutes for content to load)
  • mobile friendly (according to Google, 82% of smart phone users use their device to find local businesses)
  • good content (as evidenced by shares, interactions, and links)
  • good outbound links (your site is not an island. Google expects you to link out to quality websites as well)

In non-organic search, large businesses have a distinct advantage over small businesses – money. From an organic listing standpoint, that advantage dwindles. What they do have over small are exposure and notoriety. People often think first of larger businesses and may share their content more readily because it comes to mind first.

Luckily, the advantage ends there. A small business can produce content that gets recognized and shared with the same ease (or difficulty, as the case may be) as a larger company. Yes, a larger company may have a larger audience and larger staff, but creating blog content and sharing it on social media requires the same effort from both groups.

Improving Local Search

The first thing you want to concentrate on if you have a physical business location is building out your business profile on Google and other directories. Ensuring you’re listed in local search is free and doesn’t require anything more than your time.

At a minimum, claim and build out your business listing on

When you visit these directories you may find your business is already listed. Verify the details and claim it, if applicable. Be sure to fill in anything that isn’t complete, including your business hours. Information from these sites feeds local search so don’t leave fields incomplete.

Next, check out other listings such as your local chamber, YellowPages, SuperPages, and industry-specific business listings such as TripAdvisor (if you offer food, entertainment, or lodging).

Here’s where things get a little tricky. There are data aggregators that pull information about businesses and feed them to other large companies (TripAdvisor included in that). Look at your business listing. Is the information about your business correct? If not, it can be cumbersome to change. Even if you go directly to TripAdvisor for instance, they may change it on their site, but that doesn’t fix a hundred others. In this case, Moz offers a yearly service where they will push out corrected information for you to the four main aggregators of business data.

Improve and Seek Out Reviews

There have been books written on this topic on how to create a referral mindset among your customers. But simply put, you need to make sure you focus on delighting your customers and making it easy for them to tell others about you. You must also ask them to do it. There’s a lot more detail in the implementation of these ideas but that’s how you’ll improve reviews on the most basic level.

Take the time to respond to reviews, good and bad. The good ones make you shine and the bad ones give you the opportunity to improve your offerings.

Think About SEO When Creating Content

You are writing for two distinct groups – search engines and people. People need good quality content (from their perspective) that addresses issues they care about, gives them the information they need, and entertains them. The content needn’t do all three at the same time but it should do one.

From an SEO perspective, you want your content to give your audience what they want because they’ll be more likely to share if you do. You also want to do everything you can to personalize it to your industry and local audience. Have you ever read a novel that is so rich in the setting and life it describes, that you feel like you’ve been there? On the other hand, have you read something that was so flat, that you didn’t even recognize it as a place you’ve been many times?

Place can be a character and you want people reading your website content to have a sense of the place you service. You can do this by mentioning surrounding areas, local events, and using insider language in your copy. These little things help customers identify with your site and tell Google that you are a local industry authority. You’re not a bot or a keyword stuffer.

A Final Word About Placing Well in Local Search

Finally, be smart about the keywords you want to rank for. There are some that are impossible. For instance, if you’re a local travel agency, ranking for “travel” will be Herculean task mainly because the first page is dominated by heavy hitters like Travelocity, Expedia, and CNN. Instead, focus on being a big fish in a small pond. Look to optimize your content by answering questions your ideal customer wants to know (or things they’d key into search, like the title of this article). Look for local opportunities like “best travel deals to Orlando from <your town>.” It’s a mouthful, but creating copy around long-tail keywords will help you achieve better local placement for free.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

*Post seen on Montgomery Chamber of Commerce website.

MEMBER TIP MONDAY: 4 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS MORE LIKEABLE

LikeablePeople buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likeable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation.

Share Your Reason

Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.

Find Commonalities

In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you.

Ask Questions

If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.

Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again.

In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog.  She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

4 BEGINNING TWITTER TIPS FOR BUSINESS

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From 2014-2015 the number of Twitter users grew by 50 million, and it’s estimated that close to 1/5 of Internet users have Twitter accounts. The average Twitter user follows 5 businesses so if you’re not trying to reach your customers on Twitter you’re missing an opportunity.

Twitter is easy enough to understand, just share something 140 characters or less. You can share links, images, or videos. Here are a few other tips for businesses just starting out on Twitter:

Use Hashtags

Twitter is as hard to follow as the ticker tape on a stock page. It’s a constant barrage of messaging, particularly for those accounts that follow a lot of people. Hashtags, or pound signs (#), help people search for the information they want.

Using an appropriate hashtag can expand your business’ reach and help potential customers find what they’re looking for. Employ one specific to your business and use hashtags that are relevant. For instance, Jake’s Jewelry Store might use all, or any, of the following hashtags in tweets with images of gifts for mom: #jakes, #mothersday, #gift.

You can also use popular hashtags of trending topics, when applicable, like #marchmadness or #50shadesofgrey.

Share Images

This tip applies to most of social media but Twitter will display images prominently in the stream so it’s a good way to get your followers’ attention.

Rise Above the Noise

Find ways to stand out from others who are merely posting articles they’ve written. Ask questions. Have conversations. Thank people for sharing your content.

One of the easiest ways to create loyal followers, at least initially, is through commenting on what they share – either by providing your own opinions or asking them follow-up questions.

Avoid sending out automated thank you messages to new followers. While the concept seems nice – thanking them for following you – they come off as exactly what they are, robotic. Plus many Twitter users don’t check their messages box because of a large number of these they receive.

In addition to finding customers and potential customers on Twitter, it’s good to connect with influencers in your industry or audience such as mommy bloggers or niche bloggers.

Follow the Golden Rule

To follow back or not to follow back. That is the question and the answer for business is follow back, or do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Twitter will cap you at 5,000 following (people you follow) if your followers (number of people who follow you) are not fairly equal. For instance, if you followed 2,000 people but only 500 followed you, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until those numbers get within (about) 200 of each other. Twitter won’t tell you the exact number that it takes but you will be limited until those follower numbers rise.

You also don’t want your followers and following number too far off of one another because:

  • If you are following too many people, and a relatively equal number is not following you back, it looks like you’re not sharing worthwhile information.

On the other hand,

  • If a lot of people are following you and you’re only following a handful, you look like a bit of a jerk. That’s okay for reality TV stars but people who are using Twitter for business should be a little more congenial.

You can manage your Twitter followers through tools like ManageFlitter, Followerwonk (a Moz app) or Friend or Follow. Many of these tools can help you tell which accounts are spambots or fake accounts or inactive accounts. (You don’t want to spend time engaging those.) They also help you isolate influencers in your area.

There are pages and pages of tips written on topics like Twitter for business but the best thing to keep in mind is your humanity. Don’t make it all about your business and be gracious. Find ways to connect with people on a more personal level and imagine every tweet you’re sending could be seen by your grandmother, unless you’re in the type of business you don’t want your grandmother to know about.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Memberclicks.

Sarasota County Wins State FAFSA Completion Award

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% by Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell grants awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has awarded Sarasota with the following honors:

  • Sarasota County Schools–“MVP for Large School District” (Having the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31st, 2017)
  • Riverview High School–“Biggest Boost for Large Schools” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)
  • All-Stars”—(Achieving an increase of FAFSA completion by at least 5% over last year):
  • Sarasota County School District
  • Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  • Sarasota Military Academy
  • Booker High School
  • Venice Senior High School
  • Sarasota High School
  • North Port High School
  • Riverview High School

 

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Talent4Tomorrow Partners and Sarasota County School District Officials accepting the award for “MVP for Large School District”

 

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network”, and consists of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives. Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce stated, “Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing post-secondary education.  When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see results getting our students one step closer to where they and we want them to be.  This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University assisted families of high school seniors in completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School, Booker High School, and Sarasota High School, as well as community-based FAFSA events and United Way Suncoast VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs.

According to the Florida College Access Network, less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.

Member Tip Monday: HOW TO FIND TIME FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Build Your Visibility

Small business owners, especially those businesses with under 10 employees, find it extremely difficult to justify the time on social media because it doesn’t lead to predictable, measurable cost savings or revenue.

Social media and content marketing is about becoming an engaging resource for your customers. What’s the yield of a relationship? If you can figure out what a relationship is worth in revenue dollars, you should be blogging about it.

The truth is, we can’t. Not exactly at least. But we know people buy from people they know, like, and trust and that’s why it’s important to invest time in building these connections and affections.

Finding that time is easier said than done. Still here are a couple of suggestions on how to carve out some time to increase your efforts on social media.

Keep Content Handy

The first thing you’ll need is a place to keep content you find. Not all content will be applicable for sharing the moment you come across it. We’ve all seen people on Twitter who post 10 tweets at a time and figure they are done for the day. It is better to deal out your posts at multiple times than all at once. Often you’ll find content that you’ll want to share later so select a system in which you can easily access your content gems in the future.

Upload content to DropBox, use Evernote or keep a notepad handy (paper or electronic). Doesn’t matter if you keep fortune cookie messages in a shoe box. Never let what you deem to be a valuable piece of content escape. Keep it somewhere handy and build a cache of it.

Find a Scheduler You Like

There are many options to help you pre-schedule posts. Scheduling is important because you can’t spend your whole day posting, nor do you want to be that person who bombards others with a firehose worth of content once a day.

Find a scheduler you’re comfortable with. Many systems allow you to control when you post and often give you the ability to do it several days out. One of the most basic is Buffer. It allows you to schedule across multiple platforms. It offers a free and paid version, but even the paid is only about $10 a month.

The most popular is Hootsuite, and while I use it occasionally because it offers greater capabilities than Buffer, I do prefer Buffer’s minimalist design. Hootsuite’s interface is busy but allows you to monitor in real time. If you’re developing relationships, this is a powerful ability to have.

Multi-task

I’m not telling you to turn off the TV when you get home, but there is no reason if you’re “vegging out” that you can’t use that time to schedule a few posts for the next day. Don’t let mindless tasks, like television watching, steal your productivity.

“Steal” Time

We all have moments where we’re waiting – before doctor’s appointments, before meetings, on the phone, while the kids finish up with practice, you get the idea. Many of us fill this time with other mindless tasks like scanning pictures of our friends’ pets on Facebook. Instead, use this time to be productive by finding content, scheduling it, or responding to people on social media.

I am a firm believer in scheduling posts but the interacting cannot be scheduled, so use this stolen time to reach out and connect with people.

Look for Content Everywhere

Content ideas are everywhere – airplane magazines, overheard conversations, commercials, popular TV shows, as well as all over social media. Use the many messages that bombard you daily to find gems you’d like to share. Retweets are only the beginning.

Take Pictures

Along that line, take pictures of everything that moves you and some ordinary things that don’t. Pictures you take can be used in blogs, memes, and image quotes without concern over cost or copyright. Links with pics are more likely to get shared and clicked. Encourage staff to do the same.

You don’t need huge chunks of time to make connections on social media. The key to success in this area is the same in most business- or relationship-building. Give people what they want/find valuable; do so without expectation. Become a resource for them and help them. Be consistent in your efforts so they know they can count on you. This takes minutes a day. Schedule good content and steal time for interacting. Then watch your relationships grow as people share your resources with others.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.