5 Essential Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

With all the different types of innovative marketing you can do for your small business, one of the most important tactics is a simple thing called networking. By meeting new people and building strong, long-lasting relationships with other industry professionals, you can significantly increase your business’ growth, sales and reach in impressive ways.

But because networking is essentially selling 082615 Networking2yourself and your business to create connections, some people have a hard time mastering the technique. To get a better grasp on your networking skills, take a look at these five tips.


  1. One of the best ways to begin networking is to start within your community and getting to know other local small business owners. By striking up a conversation and asking general questions about their business, you’ll create a level of trust and mutual understanding about living and doing business within your town or city. And if you really hit it off with one of the shops, a great way to encourage local support is to create a partnership around the holidays. For example, if a customer spends over $100 at your store, you can offer them a 15 per cent discount at your partner’s store, and vice versa.
  1. Having an online presence is not only great for marketing and branding, but it can be a powerful networking tool, too! Because social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn give Business Communication Duplicate modelyou access to individuals in your community and other businesses in your industry, utilizing their features is a great way to make connections and develop relationships.
  1. Any successful networker will tell you that the key to building strong relationships is to listen more than you talk. By looking people in the eye, repeating their name and actively listening to what they say instead of simply talking about yourself and your business, you’ll make them feel relaxed and interested in who they are.
  1. If you live in a small town or city and are struggling to find great in-person networking opportunities, attending an industry trade show will get you face to face with a ton of professionals in your field. Not only will trade shows and conferences give you the chance to meet more people, but you’ll also get a first glimpse at hot new products, innovative industry trends and other information you can share with your employees and customers.
  1. The key to successful networking is to stay in touch with the contacts and relationships you worked so hard to get. Keep your connections alive and healthy by frequently reaching out with a casual email, phone call or even suggesting a get-together if you’re in the same area. And old-fashioned as they may be, birthday and holiday cards can work wonders.

5 Tips for Pricing Your Products

When it comes to pricing the products at your independent retail store, the line between pleasing your customers and turning a profit can be a fine one. If a product is priced too high, you stand to make higher margins but it may not sell; if it’s priced too low, you may attract bargain hunters to your store, but you won’t make any money. For the best of both worlds, follow these 5 simple tips.

  1. One of the easiest and most common ways to determine a price point for a particular product is to see what your competition is selling it for. If a customer were to call each store to compare prices before buying a product, they’ll usually go with the one that’s cheapest – even if it’s by a few cents! Although you may not always be able to undercut the big box stores, scoping the competition will at least give you a good starting point.


  1. 081915 Pricing1When you’re figuring out how to price your merchandise, it’s important to remember that each sale covers not only the cost of the product, but your other expenses as well. From marketing to administration, your prices should be high enough to cover you even when business is slow.


  1. When introducing a new product to your shelves, a little experimenting with prices and promotions can go a long way. One of the most popular mind tricks you can use is to price items high while offering a discount. When people think they’re receiving an incredible deal, they’re more likely to make a purchase.


  1. A big part of pricing products has to do with knowing your target market. Are your customers looking for excellent quality in their products, or something that will simply get the job done? If you know your customers seek only the best products and are willing to pay for them, you can get away with charging a little more. On the other hand, if your main demographic on a particular product is students, discount is the way to go.


  1. Another trick of the trade that can both increase sales and pad your profits is to inflate the price of particular products – a technique known as “prestige pricing.” Because higher price points create the illusion of greater value, some people don’t mind buying the most expensive product on the shelf. It’s a bold move, but psychology is on your side for this one!

5 Reasons Consumers Will Always Love Brick-And-Mortar Stores

With the rise in e-commerce and increasing ability to buy anything and everything online, it may seem like the store that you built from the ground up could become extinct in the near future. But according to a recent study, researchers found that even though consumers can buy what they want online, a whopping 90 per cent of them simply don’t want to.


So, even though the digital world has simplified almost everything, it turns out that people are still finding joy and pleasure from taking the time to browse around a store and keep their shopping experiences local – good news for small businesses and independent retailers, to be sure.


Here are five reasons brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere.


  1. One of the biggest reasons brick-and-mortar stores are the most popular among consumers is because people love to touch products before purchasing. In fact, according to this study, people are more likely to buy merchandise if they have the opportunity to feel it first! So, if you’re looking for a relatively easy way to increase your sales, display your products in a way that makes them easy for customers to touch. Whether you unwrap the plastic protecting of a product or set up an easy-to-reach display table, your customers will love having the 081415 brick-and-mortar-image1opportunity to get a feel for things before opening their wallets.


  1. It comes as no surprise to us, but another reason people would rather buy a product from a store instead of online is the experience of communicating with salespeople. People find real enjoyment from connecting with, and learning from, sales associates – an experience that disappears behind a computer screen. To take advantage of this, make sure your employees are given enough time with each customer to really develop a connection and rapport. While some customers are looking for a quick in-and-out shopping experience, most will appreciate the time sales associates take with them.


  1. No matter how much you include in a product description online, consumers would still rather learn about a product from a knowledgeable associate or expert at the store. So while e-blasts and social media posts might be great for marketing, it turns out that people would rather communicate with an actual person instead of a screen. Make sure your customers have an in-depth understanding about all merchandise available, and ensure your employees are caught up on the current industry trends and familiar with your product line.


  1. If you’ve ever had to return a product you’ve purchased online, you know the process can be more than a headache. One of the reasons people love shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is because of the excellent and readily available customer service they can provide. Whether they want information on a product or need to return merchandise, brick-and-mortar stores are generally faster and easier to deal with than online stores.081415 customer loyalty


  1. In the end, it all comes down to the love of loyalty. It’s easier to be loyal to an actual shop – and the people who work there – than an e-commerce store. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, people enjoy attaching themselves to particular companies, and when they receive excellent experiences a beautiful thing called brand loyalty is created. Because in-person shopping gives consumers the opportunity to touch, communicate and receive immediate assistance from helpful sales associates, they develop a sense of brand loyalty that simply can’t be found online.


5 Tips For Satisfying Unhappy Customers

 One thing all customer service professionals can agree on is that dealing with an unhappy customer is an incredibly uncomfortable experience. Whether they received poor service, their purchases didn’t live up to their expectations or they’re having issues with a particular product, trying to satisfy an angry customer is never easy. As an independent retailer, these situations are even more unpleasant because the success of your business likely relies on the happiness and satisfaction of every single customer. To make things a little easier for you and your employees, here are five tips for turning customers’ frowns upside down. Read more

5 Ways Your Small Business Can Give Back to the Community

We all know how good it feels giving back to the community. But did you know that doing so can actually help your bottom line? According to a recent study, 62 per cent of small businesses that donated their time or money to a local charity saw further success at their store.

Not only can giving back increase sales, but it’s an excellent PR and networking tool. In addition to getting your name out there, volunteering and hosting events will give you the opportunity to build new relationships and meet potential customers. However, as many small businesses owners know, money and time can be tight. So to help you out, here are five cost-effective ways your small business can give back.

  1. Never underestimate the power of your expertise in the paint and decorating world. 072915 VolunteerIf your city or town is building a new library or community center and is looking for volunteers to help, your professional skills and knowledge in this industry will be much appreciated. Donating products or offering them at a discounted rate is another great way to get involved.
  1. Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer in your community, some of your staff members may. Encouraging employees to get involved in community organizations or events on behalf of your company will humanize your brand and help customers connect on a more personal level. As an added bonus, volunteerism will boost your company morale and build a stronger team. For every 20 hours your employees volunteer, you could reward them with awards or gifts!
  1. Another great way to give back to the community is to encourage employees and customers to make small donations while they’re at your store. As a group, you and your staff can choose an organization that you all love, respect and value. Employees can then contribute a portion of their paycheck or chip in with pocket change, while customers can add donations directly to their purchases. When you have a decent sum, you can all take pride in knowing you helped make a difference.
  1. As an independent retailer, you know firsthand how important it is to buy local and support small biz. 072915 ShopSmallIf you’re looking for an incredibly easy way to give back to the community, simply shop local and encourage your staff to do the same. By purchasing everything from local shops and vendors, you’re putting your hard-earned money right back into the community while supporting the people around you.
  1. Holding a contest is one of the most fun and exciting ways to collect money for a great cause in your community. To get this going, have each employee choose a local charity and encourage them to fund raise for it. You can even encourage your customers to get in on the giving! Instead of winning a prize, the top fundraiser will earn the honor of donating all of the contributed money to their charity of choice. But if you want to give the winner a little more recognition for their accomplishment, you can’t go wrong with another gift!

Five Ways to Distinguish Your Brand from the Competition

When it comes to running a small business, one of the persistent challenges is differentiating your brand from the competition. Because a brand can sometimes be confused with a logo or a company slogan, some retailers miss out on opportunities to connect with their customers as more than just another store.

Simply put, your brand is usually first the thing that072215 Branding_500 comes to mind when a customer thinks about your store. And if your brand is strong enough, it has the ability to create an incredible amount of support, retention and loyalty. Here are five simple and affordable tips to build your company’s brand awareness and stand out from the crowd.

  1. The power of visuals is so strong that some brands that don’t even need an introduction. Having a unique logo and eye-catching artwork is the first step in creating a brand that’s both recognizable and memorable. With all the competition out there, things like business cards, pamphlets, flyers and website graphics are a great way to stand out and burning your brand into the subconscious of customers. If you’re not overly creative or artistic, hiring a graphic designer to hep define your image could be a worthwhile one-time investment.
  1. In order to differentiate your paint store from the competition, you need to hone in on your main core values. Whether you want to be known for carrying the newest products, offering the best prices or providing top-notch customer service, having clear values will help distinguish your brand. When customers come to your store, they’ll know exactly what to expect – and get it every time.
  1. Because the sign of a good brand is the feeling your customers get when they see or hear about your business, you should try to find a way to connect with the community whenever possible. Branding2_500If done in person, you will add a human element to your brand and form relationships with customers. If done online, you’ll have to find a distinct voice that your customers will recognize and trust. The goal is to form a loyal connection with people so they’ll be proud to say that they’re one of your customers, and that your store is their store.
  1. In the initial stages of distinguishing your brand from the competition, you should figure out who your target market is; you can’t be everything to everyone. Are the majority of your customers in the 40 to 60 age bracket, or will they be younger couples buying paint and decorating products for their first home? While it’s entirely possible to serve both groups of people, having a clear demographic will help you create targeted branding and marketing tools so you can figure out how to serve your customers better in the long run.
  1. Once you figure out your brand, be sure to remain on brand. If your marketing messages and content are conservative and formal but your social media voice is playful and humorous, you’ll be sending mixed messages to the public while skewing their view of what your company is all about. If you don’t stay on brand, your customers won’t be able to differentiate you from the competition – and you’ll be just another paint store.


Five Customer Experience Mistakes You Should Avoid

One of the most important things a small business owner must understand right from the get-go is the importance of creating excellent customer experiences. Because customers are the key to profit and business longevity, maintaining a superior level of customer service and ensuring a pleasant shopping experience is as important as keeping your shelves stocked with products.

Reign in on your customer service and experience skills and fix up the mistakes that your business might be making with these five smart tips.

  1. As sad as it is, there will be times when your customers complain about a service, product or experience. Unfortunate as it may be, this is actually a blessing in disguise, because you’re given the opportunity to make things right with the customer. Instead of giving a quick apology or simply issuing a refund, take the time to really communicate with the customer to figure out what went wrong. By providing them with patience, understanding and compassion, you can change their mind about the situation and earn a great deal of respect (and quite possibly a loyal customer!).
  1. With the rise of social media marketing in the business world, so many companies are now offering live 071515 CE2 (1)chats and 24/7 customer support services. Because most small business don’t have the time or resources to provide that level of service, it becomes even more imperative that the quality of your customer service is top-notch. Make sure you have enough staff working each day so customers on the phone and at the store never have to wait long to be heard. It’s also a good idea for you (or a trusted employee) to monitor your social media and email accounts during the day to make sure any questions and comments can be attended to right away.
  1. Because people engage in so much mobile activity these days, not having a website that’s smart-phone friendly is an easy way to lose customers. If they’re trying to purchase something online using their mobile device and can’t access your website in a fast or readable way, the customer will become annoyed and give up in a flash. To avoid this online customer experience mistake, make sure your website is mobile-friendly so you don’t lose traffic, sales and the opportunity to grow your customer base.
  1. One of the best ways071515 CE2 (2) to figure out if your customers are happy with their experience is to simply ask them! If you don’t have an online survey or questions and comments box in your store, your customers will either feel like they have nowhere to voice their concerns about your store … or even worse, they’ll turn to social media. If you’re looking for an easy way to connect with your customers, learn what they want and increase your transparency, set up a clear place for them to let it all out. And to promote this new feature, offer them a reward or draw!
  1. Last but not least, it’s important that you never forget to praise and engage your hardworking employees. If your staff aren’t happy and satisfied, your customers won’t receive the excellent service and experience that is crucial for a successful business.

Five Ways for Small Business Owners to Stay Motivated During Summer

Whether you’ve owned a business for three months or three years, the warm summer months will always make you feel like you should be soaking up the sun instead of being stuck indoors running your business as usual.

Because we were raised to work hard during the year and enjoy a few months of downtime in the summer, it can be hard to stay focused and motivated during this season. But just because the sun is shining and the birds are chirping doesn’t mean you can’t still be productive.

If you’re looking for ways to beat the summer slump and continue building your business, take a look at these five tips.

  1. Since the summer months are the mid-way point of the year, it’s a great time to think about your initial goals and evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Whether you wanted to increase sales or improve your marketing tactics, use this time as an opportunity to regain focus on what you really want to accomplish for the rest of the year.

It’s also a good time to really think about why you started a business in the first place and to remember what you’re working towards. Do you want to retire young and travel? Do you want to pay for your children’s tuition without taking out a loan? Remembering these things will help you stay motivated and determined to work towards your goals, no matter what time of the year it is!070815 StaffParty_350

  1. Rest assured, you’re not the only one feeling antsy and unproductive during the summertime. A great way to stir up some excitement in the workplace is to organize a day of fun for your staff. Whether it’s a company BBQ, a pool day, a game night or even a potluck, you and your employees will look forward to coming to work that day, even – and especially – if the sun is shining outside!
  1. One of the most common tips among successful business owners is to work smarter instead of harder. This tactic is especially important in the summer; the last thing anyone wants to do is to spend eight hours working indoors. As a business owner, you have the luxury of determining your own hours – what better time to take advantage than summer?! The key to working smarter is to reduce distractions, organize your time and try to condense your workload into three to five hour chunks so you can leave the office and enjoy all of the beautiful things summer has to offer.
  1. If you want to cut back hours but the business can’t survive without the extra hands, consider hiring a summer assistant or intern. With the large amount of college students on summer vacation during this time, it won’t be hard to find a hardworking individual to help out at your shop for a few months during the year. 070815 StaffParty_350Plus, it’s a great way to pass along some of the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired over the years, perhaps to a son or a daughter.
  1. If all else fails, embrace the kid inside and take an adult version of a summer break. Owning a business is hard work and if there’s one time you deserve a vacation, it’s summertime! Whether you take a week or a month, you’ll come back feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next two quarters of the business year.

Making More Money Because You Have a Business Plan

When it comes to running your own small business, you can never be too prepared.

Whether you’re considering starting one or you’ve already successfully launched, it’s never a bad time to think about how things will go and how your business will progress. If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, it’s wise to create a concrete plan for everything from financing and location to personnel and merchandise.Business Plan

While there are many reasons why small businesses fail within the first few years (or even months, one of the biggest reasons is a lack of revenue. Although there are many factors that can contribute to this, having a proper business plan in place can eliminate the risk of failure and improve your odds of bringing in the big bucks.

Making More Money Because You Have Business Plan is a PDRA-sponsored webinar walking you through the entire process of setting up – and seeing through – a strategy that will help your small business succeed.

You’ve heard the adage, ‘planning to fail because of failing to plan.’ It holds true for multinational corporations and it holds true for independent paint and decorating retailers. Making More Money Because You Have Business Plan will teach you how to plan ahead and eliminate mistakes, from hiring the right staff to stocking the right merchandise. Just like preventive maintenance on the equipment in your store, the preventive maintenance of a business plan is a great way to plan for the best future for your store.

063015 BizPlan_500 (2)To reap the full rewards of business planning, we encourage you to check out Making More Money Because You Have Business Plan. Free for members and only $50 for non-members, we promise – it will pay for itself several times over.

For more information about Making More Money Because You Have Business Plan, and our other educational webinars, click here.



Five Content Marketing Ideas Your Customers Will Love To See

If you’re running an independent business, you know how important it is to provide excellent service for your customers and clients.

In today’s digital age, it has become equally necessary for business to get online and engage with customers outside of the store and in the virtual world of social media. Content marketing can be done via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and blogs.

Not only is content marketing a great way to connect061615 ContentMktg_400 with people and secure potential customers, but it can also establish your small business as an expert in the paint and decorating industry. If you’re looking for smart and engaging content ideas for your digital marketing platforms, take a look at these five creative ideas.

Current Trends. As an expert in the paint and decorating industry, you are – or at least should be – the first to know which colors, trends and decor fads are about to hit the consumer market. Take advantage of this knowledge by writing about what’s hot in your blog. Not only will this give you fresh and creative content every few months, but it will give you a voice of authority in an ever-expanding industry.

Customer Interaction With Products. As we’ve mentioned before, posting photos on social media is the #1 way to attract eyes and engagement from followers. A great way to use this method is to share photos of customers using products in your store or at home. Whether you hold an in-store demonstration with product representatives or you simply ask one of your loyal customers for a photo op testing out their new product, this post will promote engagement and keep your stream looking fresh and exciting to followers.

Answer a Common Product Question. If you’re looking for a great way to increase engagement on Facebook or Twitter, set up a Q&A with your customers and followers once a month. This will give them the opportunity to ask questions about paint brands, trends and decorating tips – and it will give you a platform to build rapport and show off your expertise. Whether you want to create a blog post with the answers or simply reply back instantly, this will give your followers something to look forward to.

Client Case Studies. One of the best ways to show your followers and fans that your business is successful is to share case studies of satisfied customers. By sharing this information, you’ll let the public know exactly how you helped others, which will make them want to receive the same quality of service. If you have a customer purchasing a new product or taking on a big project, keep in touch with them and ask if they’ll answer a short questionnaire about what you did to help them out.

Testimonials. If there’s one thing your customers want to be sure of at the end of the day, it’s that your store is the best place for them to buy paint and decorating products. 061615 Testimonials_500If you’re not already, give your shoppers a place where they can submit comments and collect feedback from satisfied customers. Positive word of mouth will help build your reputation without seeming like advertising or marketing. And best of all, it’s free.

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