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.

Making More Money Because You Have a Business Plan

Business_Plan_Webinar

The old adage of ‘planning to fail because of failing to plan’ rings true with a paint store. Having a business plan can help you eliminate mistakes because you’ve made decisions in advance. You know what type of customer you are targeting so you will make fewer merchandising mistakes. You know what kind of employees you want so you will make fewer hiring errors. Just like preventive maintenance on the equipment in your store, this preventive maintenance is a great way to play for the best future for your store.

Five Differences Between Good Bosses and Great Bosses

One of the best things about being a business owner is that you finally get the chance to be the boss you’ve always dreamed of being. If you’re like most people, you’ve had your fair share of less-than-stellar managers and have promised yourself that you’ll strive to be better. Not only does excellent management and leadership help make your business more successful, but being an excellent boss will make your employees happier and willing to work harder for you, too. If you’re looking for smart ways to go from being a good boss to a great boss, take a look at these 5 tips.

  1. Every business owner wants his or her workplace to feel safe, comfortable and relaxing for employees; a good boss ensures this by making room for everyone, from newbies and lifers. 060915 BestBoss_500A great boss, however, encourages a sense of community among staff members so everyone feels welcome and part of a great team. Because businesses are most successful when staff members work together seamlessly, establishing a culture of camaraderie and cohesiveness will ensure things run smoothly.
  1. One of the many benefits of owning a small business is that you have the opportunity to build rapport with employees simply because there are fewer of them. While a good boss may chit chat with team members at the beginning and the end of the day, a great boss takes the time to find out how things are going in their lives, inside and outside of the workplace. When employees feel a bond with their boss, they’ll feel more loyal and connected to their workplace.
  1. A great way to have a happy workplace is ensuring your employees know that they can come to you with concerns or frustrations. Build your status as a great boss by creating an open dialogue with all of your employees so they feel comfortable enough to approach you about problems they’re having in the workplace. Not only will this help manage and reduce stress, but it’ll give you an opportunity to grow as a leader as you help fix the issues at hand.
  1. A good boss will always seek out the most promising employees and give them an opportunity to engage in professional development. 060915 GoodToGreat_500However, a great boss makes this a priority for all employees. With the amount of time it takes to hire a fantastic and trusted new employee, it only makes sense to include professional development and invest in every employee, whether they work in sales or management. Not only will this reduce employee turnover, but it will increase the value of each team member over time.
  1. When an employee makes an impressive sale or lands a new client or customer, a good boss knows to praise them in a big way. However, if you’re looking for more of that excellent quality of work from all of your employees, make sure they always feel a sense of gratitude from you. When they feel accomplished and confident that they’re on the right track, their skills will greatly improve because they know you have their back no matter what.

5 Exterior Paint Projects to Tackle This Summer

As the weather heats up and the sun-filled days become longer, the summer season becomes the perfect time to transform your home into the oasis of your dreams.

If you’ve been looking for a great opportunity to tackle some small or major renovations on the exterior components of your house, summertime is your best chance at success. Fresh updates will not only improve the appearance of your home, but certain renovations can increase the overall value, too. From eye-catching accents to significant updates, take a look at our list of 5 outdoor paint projects to tackle this summer.

Accents. If you’re on a budget – with time and/or money – but still want to improve the look and feel of your home’s exterior, 060215 PDRA_Shutters_500painting accents like shutters and frames is a manageable project. To stay trendy yet traditional, we suggest sticking with neutrals like white, beige, brown and black. However, if you’re looking to really spruce it up, feel free to experiment with interesting hues like mint, burgundy or even yellow.

Entry Door. A beautiful pop of color on a front door is all it takes to transform a house that blends in with the rest into a stylish property that demands attention. Painting your front door is an easy project that takes between one and three hours but instantly brightens the entire look of a home. To stay on-trend yet traditional, we love deep reds, bright yellows and a wide spectrum of stylish blues like navy, french and grey-blue. Tip: to ensure a substantial pop or color, make sure the outer trim around the door is a clean white shade.

Deck. The ultimate summertime setting, your back deck060215 PDRA_Deck_500 is the place where you BBQ fresh meals, sip on cool, crisp beverages and comfortably entertain your family and friends. To restore your deck into a charming and attractive extension of your home, a fresh makeover is all you need. Whether you paint it a trendy grey, red or brown shade or opt to stain it with a rustic coating, a beautifully finished deck can transform your home into a special summertime hotspot.

Shed or Garage. If you’re like a lot of people, your garage or shed have seen better days. For a significant summer project, giving these exteriors an upgrade is a great way to not only make your home more visually appealing, but to also increase the value of your home. For a beautiful and traditional look, we suggest sticking with neutral shades for the garage and, if it’s wood, a fresh dark stain can work wonders. And if you’re itching to be more creative with a summer renovation project, the shed is the place to use your imagination and incorporate some of your favorite stylish colors.

The Entire House: If you’re feeling rather ambitious this summer and want to completely transform the look, feel and overall ambiance of your home, a fresh coat of stylish paint is your best bet. Exterior paint jobs can be draining on your time, energy and bank account, but a new shade can make your home feel like it’s a new one all together.

Five Interior Paint Trends for Summer 2015

For most people, summer brings thoughts of both soothing relaxation and high-energy fun in the sun. It’s also one of the best times of the year to mix up the look and feel of your home. 052615 Summer_500What better way to combine the tranquil and upbeat energies of the season than with paint? From pale yellows to playful pinks, here are five interior paint trends to get you inspired this summer.

Jade: Like the deep olive and emerald hues of the spruce trees in the great outdoors, a classic jade color is a favorite among earthy homeowners and decorators. Elegant yet rustic, jade evokes feelings of timelessness and relaxation. This elegant shade works best in a bathroom, laundry room or as a sophisticated accent wall in a main living space.

Lemon Ice: Contemporary and cool, this 052615 PDRA_YellowPaint_Summer_500sophisticated shade makes for a punch of fresh color while remaining light and subdued. Perfect for kitchens and living rooms, a rich yet beautifully elegant yellow shade reflects the sunny spirit and high energy of the much-loved summertime season.

Muted Teal: Reminiscent of the fresh blueish green tint of the water by the lake, a muted teal shade becomes a stunning addition to your home decor during the relaxing summer months. For a look that’s as captivating as it is casual, try painting this shade in a room that gets a fair amount of sunlight to avoid a dreary feel.

Passion fruit: Playful and lively, this fresh color is the perfect way to add a pretty pop of color that’s reminiscent of biting into ripe, juicy fruit on a hot summer day. Ideal for any living space or room, this shade gives you a feeling of energy, freshness and the sense that summer is here to stay.

Light Brown: An all-time favorite, this neutral shade is beautiful in the summertime because it allows fresh flowers and bright accent walls to successfully pop and become the main attraction. Warm and timeless, this color can be transferred throughout all four seasons to give special pieces of home décor the easy background they need to take the lead in beautifying your home.

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