Reaping the Business Benefits of Social Responsibility

In this month’s issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine, Communications Consultant Jan Niehaus preaches the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“As a paint and decorating retailer, you can garner respect among your business peers and customers by demonstrating your own CSR commitments,” she writes. “The respect you gain will lead to trust, and trust is vital to sustaining business relationships, retaining loyal customers and even attracting new ones.” CSR1

Perhaps the best thing about committing to a CSR strategy is that you can do it on your own terms. There is no one way to improve the environment and quality of life in your community, so you have the freedom and opportunity make a difference in a way that suits your business and your brand.

“Even the smallest company can formulate and publish its CSR policies,” continues Niehaus, citing the removal of Styrofoam from breakrooms and upgrading to energy-efficient lighting as examples.

So if you’re looking to use philanthropy as a strategic marketing technique, you need not worry about changing the world – any step in the right direction is a great start. Here are three business benefits of doing so.

Attract New Customers. With the rise in environmental awareness among millennials, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be socially responsible. While shoppers used to make decisions primarily on price, the current generation of consumers are always looking to support businesses that make conscious efforts to make their communities a better place – for now and for years to come. If your shop is doing something to help reduce its environmental impact, be sure to share the news on social media so people can hear all about it and think of you next time they’re in the market for paint and decorating supplies.

Earn Respect. It takes a serious effort to make real changes towards social responsibility within your shop. Whether you start a new recycling program, make the switch to energy efficient lighting systems or organize a community cleanup,CSR2 customers, staff and other industry professionals will always notice your efforts and respect what you’re doing. In addition to attracting new customers and pleasing existing ones, a renewed commitment to CSR will bring your store a great deal of legitimacy and give you a serious edge on the competition.

Improve The World. When it comes to making positive changes to improve your shop’s social responsibility, it’s important to remember the number one goal: to make the world a better place for the next generation. By making positive changes within your business, you’ll help spread awareness about the importance of social, environmental and economic sustainability simply by setting an example. The more passionate you are about the issues, the more your customers, staff and industry colleagues will see your efforts and decide to apply them to their lives, too.

How to Get Your Customers To Do Your Marketing For You

The day-to-day duties of a small business owner can be never-ending. Add in the all-important but time-consuming task of marketing into the mix, and it’s inevitable that some of your goals might not be properly executed.

But instead of stressing about time management or sacrificing the quality of your marketing, why not have your customers do it for you? It might sound too good to be true, but part of being a good business owner is finding ways to maximize your time and working smarter instead of harder. Simply put, the key is to make the quality of your products and services so fantastic that your customers can’t help but spread the word about their experience at your shop. Keep reading to learn more about how to get your customers to do your marketing.

WordOfMouthExcellent Customer Service. Customer service is a lot like first impressions; you’ll never forget about them. Moreover, when people receive excellent customer service during a shopping experience, they’ll be eager to spread the word to their friends and family. If one of your main goals as a business owner is to provide the highest quality of service to your valued customers, you can bet that you’ll reap the benefits from positive word of mouth.

Reward Programs. Offering rewards like ‘10% off your next purchase’ will not only keep your customers coming back, but it’ll also encourage them to share the news about the sweet deal with their friends and family. The simple fact is that customers love to be rewarded for their loyalty, and any smart business owner would be happy to show their appreciation. If a customer feels valued, they’ll be more likely to come back – and to talk positively about the terrific shopping experience.

Contests. As one of the most successful ways to gain new eyes and potential new customers, social media contests can work wonders for your marketing. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, makingReferrals your audience share or like the post with their followers will help spread the word about your contest exponentially. Social media marketing in general is a fantastic way to get your customers to spread the word. For more information, check out our recent posts on Seven Ways to Immediately Improve Your Social Media Marketing and The Power of Online Contests.

Referral Incentives. In a perfect world, your customers would share their positive experience with everyone they meet. However, the reality of the business world is that people are more likely to share negative experiences. One way to provide happy customers with some incentive to spread the word about your store is a referral program. Popular – and effective – for both large-scale businesses and independent retailers, referral programs can gain you new customers and sales using simple (yet strategic) word of mouth. Whether you offer your ambassadors 10% off or $10 off a product or service, this ‘tell-a-friend’ tactic is a great way to get your customers to do your marketing.

Three Simple Steps to Ensure a Successful Summer

Ah, summertime. It’s the season for beaches, barbecue and bonfires. But for small business owners, it’s also business as usual.

While the warm weather can be a great incentive for short days and long weekends, it’s important to stay on top of your priorities and keep your company running smoothly. Whether your industry slows down or ramps up during summer, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your current situation and plant the seeds for a successful second half of the year.

So before you hand off the keys and take your well-deserved holiday, here are a few simple steps to stay on track for the rest of 2016.

Reassess. Given that summer marks the mid-way point of the year, it’s a natural time to revisit your annual goals and revise your Summer on a beachstrategies to reach said goals. While summer may not be the ideal time for a complete company overhaul, looking at what’s worked and what hasn’t – and tweaking your approach accordingly – could help your bottom line. Maybe one form of marketing is working far better than another. Perhaps one particular product has been flying off the shelf while another is collecting dust. Evaluating your year-to-date success in a few key areas is a great opportunity to cut costs, increase revenue or (hopefully) both.

Recharge. Yes, hard work is essential to the success of a small business. But so is striving for a healthy work/life balance. While winter getaways can provide a nice break from the cold, summers are truly the best time to unplug from technology, take up hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy the great outdoors. Giving your employees something to look forward to is equally important. One way to stir up some summer excitement is to organize a day of fun for you and your staff. Whether it’s a company BBQ, a day at the beach or even a weekend camping trip, group activities are a great way to build community and boost morale.Refocus

Refocus. Now that you and your team have rested up and recharged your collective battery, it’s time to come back more motivated than ever. A little bit of rest and relaxation can also be conducive to some inner reflection. While most of the year is spent focusing on the day-to-day operations of your business, some time away from the office allows you to see the bigger picture. What were your reasons for starting a business in the first place? A passion for your industry? Financial independence? What do you still want to accomplish? Sometimes taking a step back is the best way forward.

Exploring the Power and Potential of Video Content Marketing

In a recent blog post, we shared 5 Types of Content to Engage Customers Online. This week, we’ll focus exclusively on the most intriguing – and potentially the most powerful – of the bunch. (Just check out these stats if you don’t believe us.)

From TV commercials and video games to Youtube videos and Facetime, today’s generation grew up surrounded by screens. So it’s only natural that companies have increasingly turned to video marketing in order to reach new people and grow their audiences. In fact, according to this 2013 study, 64% of advertisers indicated that video content will dominate their strategies moving forward.

But like all marketing, your video content will go largely ignored if it’s not informative, entertaining and engaging. The good news is that social media levels the playing field for smaller businesses and provides endless possibilities. 053116 VideoMarketingAnd although video production can seem intimidating, technology has made it possible to create and share content with little more than your Smartphone or tablet. So what are you waiting for? Here are four types of video content to get you started.

Tutorials. One of the highest search topics on both Google and Youtube are “How-to” tutorials. While written instructions still have their place, more and more people are becoming visual learners. If you can create videos showing how to use a product or complete a project in a concise and specific manner, you’ll be sure to gain social media followers. Showing off your expertise will also go a long way in building your reputation as an industry leader and a go-to source for information.

Vlogs. Maybe you don’t have the time, talent or resources to maintain a blog. That’s OK. The power of video allows you to offer advice, answer questions, promote products, and 053116 Vloggingmuch, much more, without the hassle of writer’s block. Simply pick a topic, do some research, prepare your notes, turn on your camera and speak to your audience as you would a customer or a friend. Vlogging (video blogging) will also help viewers put a face to your name and personalize your brand.

Reviews. Another hot search topic online is product reviews. With all the options out there, it’s becoming more and more common for people to do some research before pulling out their credit cards. Short video reviews of new or popular products are a great way to inform your audience, show off your expertise and potentially make a sale. They could also lead to partnership and sponsorship opportunities with suppliers in your industry.

Advertising. Yes, video can still be used as an advertising tool. But with today’s technology, traditional commercials have become boring and redundant. With platforms like Instagram and Facebook features like Canvas, you can spread your message to the masses in fun, creative and engaging ways. Whether your goal is to gain social media followers, drive traffic back to your website or sell a specific product, video ads allow you to

And the Winner is …

For the past eight years, PDRA has had the privilege of awarding one lucky student with a $5,000 scholarship. Established by PDRA’s Board of Directors as a component of the Retailer to Retailer Initiative, the scholarship honors a deserving student nominated by a PDRA member in good standing.

Earlier this month, PDRA unveiled Nathan James Koerperich as this year’s winner at the 2016 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. James was nominated by Jim and Merita Koerperich, owners of J & M Paint & Decorating in Garden City, Kansas.

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PDRA Executive Vice President Dan Simon, and the 2016 Scholarship winner, Nathan James Koerperich

Congratulations Nathan!

For more information about the PDRA Scholarship Program click here, call 1-800-737-0107 (ext. 113), or email tina@pdra.org.

5 Keys to Penning the Perfect Social Media Bio

In last week’s blog post we stressed the importance for small businesses to stand out online and offered seven ways to immediately improve your social media marketing. This week we’ll hone in on one of those strategies – perfecting your social media bio.

As Hootsuite puts it, “Your social media bio is like a business card: a quick, pithy way to show your new audience what you’re all about.” But in addition to telling people what you’re all about, that single paragraph below your profile picture is a great way to show off some of your brand’s personality. Effective copy can also grow your social media following and (hopefully) convert viewers into new customers.

So instead of treating you social media bio as an afterthought, invest some time and effort (and perhaps even some money) and use it as an opportunity to put your best foot forward. Here are five tips to get you started.

Set the tone. One of the most difficult – and most important – elements of your social media bio is tone. In a few short paragraphs, you must align with your company’s branding and relate to your target audience, all while getting to the point of who you are and what you do in an engaging way. And while you certainly don’t want to come across 051616 TwitterBioas amateur, you don’t want to be boring either. So don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to write in a conversational or witty tone. Striking a balance between professional and approachable is the key to attracting – and intriguing – an audience.

Shorter is better. Regardless of the social media channel, your bio should be clear and concise. Even on Twitter, where you only have a 160 characters to tell people what you’re all about, don’t feel forced to use them all. You likely have an “About” page on your website to go into more detail, so use your bio strictly to introduce yourself and attract potential customers. To get the most mileage out of your limited word count, avoid buzzwords and clichés; instead use strong action verbs and fresh language. It’s easy to tell people you’re creative; showing them will go a lot further.

Get to the point. Much like a news story, social media bios should cover all of the relevant details in as few words as possible. It may take a bit of editing and creativity, but find a way to tell your audience who you are, where you’re located, what you do, why you do what you do and (to a lesser extent) how you do it. Just because bios are brief doesn’t mean they should be vague. Don’t be general when you can be specific, and always include your value proposition. After all, if you have nothingThe phrase Words Have Power  on a Blackboard to offer why would someone waste their time?

Key in on keywords. The language you use in your social media bio is not only important to your audience, but to Internet search engines as well. A good description of who you are, where you’re located and what you do will allow more people to come across your bio online. Without being repetitive, aim to show off your expertise to your specific audience and (again) always be as specific as possible.

Stand out. In addition to telling people what you’re all about, you want to show them you’re different from your competitors. What is one thing that people would be interested to know about your business? What is one of your company’s major milestones or accomplishments? In a way, social media bios are like magazine ads or newspaper headlines; they give viewers a split second to decide whether to stop and investigate or to move on. Make the choice easy for them by grabbing their attention and showing of your uniqueness. And, of course, feel free to update your bio from time to time. While you shouldn’t revise it on a weekly basis, checking it every quarter is a good rule of thumb.

Seven Ways to Immediately Improve Your Social Media Marketing

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

It’s a helpful mantra for small business owners in general, but it’s especially true when it comes to social media. With the emergence of apps, smartphones and mobile marketing, simply existing on social media is no longer enough. Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Snapchat or all of the above, it takes more than a random post or an occasional update to stand out from the crowd.

If you want to step up your social media game without spending too much time and money, here are some quick and easy ways to reach – and grow – your audience.

Use it or lose it. While creating a profile for the “next big” social media network seemed like a no-brainer at the time, there are just SO many “next big” social media networksSocial Media Scribble 2. And while each platform serves a specific function, you can’t be everything to everyone – nor should you want to be. Carefully evaluate each of your social media channels, and ask whether they add value to your brand. In many cases, it’s better to delete an account than it is to keep it and neglect it.

Polish your copy. When’s the last time you updated your social media biographies? Brief as it may be, the blurb in your bio or “About” section is among the first things people will see when they pay you a visit. In addition to telling people what you’re all about and building your brand, your copy should be clear, concise and contain key words related to your industry. And although it should go without mentioning, double-check your spelling and grammar!

Look your best. It’s true what they say about first impressions. When a new visitor or potential customer comes across your brand for the first time, their decision to investigate you further is made in a matter of seconds. Given all the competition for eyeballs, it’s important to have high-quality and properly-sized profile images. Here’s the most recent cheat sheet for social media image sizes, courtesy of HubSpot.

Reduce. When it comes to social media content, quality trumps quantity every single time. Simply put, if your content is engaging, entertaining and/or informative, people will like it, share it and talk about it. If it’s not, they won’t. In addition to planning for future posts, go through some of your old ones and delete anything that’s dated, off-brand or irrelevant.

Research. You don’t need to be a marketing expert or a professional statistician make 050616 Research_Analyticssense of your social media analytics. Simply set out an objective (views, clicks, follows, shares, etc.) and determine which types of posts best meet those objectives. It may take some experimentation, but eventually you’ll begin seeing patterns and recognizing trends. Another great way to see what works and what doesn’t is to scope out a) the competition, and b) successful brands in other industries. While there is something to be said for innovation and creativity, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every social media post.

Recycle. With all of the traffic and real-time updates on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy for your audience to miss or overlook some of your posts. The beauty of social media marketing is that content can be used more than once. Don’t be afraid to re-share your most popular posts, and consider adapting successful content for your other platforms. When it comes to recycling, the benefit of attracting new followers far outweighs the risk of losing existing ones.

Reach out. Ask and you shall receive. Reaching out to your social media audience is a fast and easy – not to mention, free – way to get valuable feedback. Whether you want to glean information about your products, your service or your brand, there’s no better source than the people you serve. Posting a Facebook question or creating a Twitter poll only takes a few seconds, and will provide valuable insights for your future social media marketing.

5 Benefits of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

They may not be as common for independent retailers as they are for big-box retailers, but customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to improve your small business.

In addition to gathering valuable data directly from the people who pay your bills, surveys can create a stronger sense of community and provide insights you wouldn’t normally have access to. If used correctly, the feedback from surveys can also convert potential problems into opportunities for sales, retention and growth.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to connect with your customers, here are five benefits of satisfaction surveys.

Feedback. Chances are you’ve heard the mantra, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When it comes to your small business, there are probably things you’re unaware of or take for granted. Surveys are a great way to step back, get honest opinions from your 042616 Quotecustomers and learn what you don’t know. But remember, quality is more important than quantity; if you want data you can use, it’s important to ask the right questions.

Communication. While newsletters and e-blasts are great ways to reach out and stay in touch, they are forms of one-way communication. Satisfaction surveys, on the other hand, provide your customers with an opportunity to respond. By showing your customers you value their feedback – and by then implementing that feedback – you also build a sense of community. Instead of seeing their trips to your store simply as cash-for-goods transactions, they will see them as positive customer experiences.

Retention. With positive customer experiences comes higher retention rates. Given the choice, many people prefer shopping where their voices are heard and their opinions are valued. By providing some type of reward for participating in surveys – whether it be discount coupons or entry in a draw – you can increase loyalty and retention rates even further.

Content. Sharing your findings – either in store, online or both – is a great way to engage existing customers and attract new ones. Even negative feedback can be beneficial; honesty and transparency are valuable brand traits, and a commitment to constant 042616 SatisfactionSurveysimprovement helps build trust. The surveys themselves can also serve as content. For example, simply ask your Facebook audience, “What is one thing we could do to improve your customer experience?” Watch the responses roll in and use them to your advantage.

Growth. If you’re satisfied with the status quo and “business as usual,” customer satisfaction surveys are not for you. But if your entrepreneurial spirit still burns bright and you’re dedicated to evolving as a brand, they can help take your company culture to the next level. By reaching out, engaging your customers, gathering data, and then using that data to better their shopping experience, you’ll be sure to gain a following as committed to your business as you are.

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience

Here at the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association, we absolutely LOVE spring.

Yes, it’s a great time to get outside, tackle some paint projects, and explore the year’s hottest color trends. But even more importantly, the first week of May marks the return of the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.

As Dan Simon, publisher of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine and executive vice president of PDRA, puts it: “The PDRA show at the NHS is the industry’s main event of the year … The show includes paint-store owners, industry manufacturers, buyers, buying groups, reps and distributors all from the paint industry. If you’re looking for new products, this is where you’ll find them.”

But as Jan Niehaus points out in the April issue of PDR Magazine, trade shows can be a big financial investment for small business owners. So instead of simply attending for the sake of attending, she says, it’s important to spend your limited time – and hard-earned dollars – wisely. Here are five tips to make the most of your trade show experience.

Plan ahead. Assuming you’ve already tested the waters and decided a particular trade show is worth attending, get to work laying out your strategy. With only a few days (at most), it’s important to study the agenda and prioritize. Simply showing up and hoping for the best will leave you overwhelmed and, ultimately, unproductive.Hand showing social networking concept made with white chalk on a blackboard Some things to consider before arriving are who you want to meet, what you want to learn, what you will bring (business cards, comfortable shoes, etc.) and who (if anyone) will go with you to represent your company.

Set goals. There’s no doubt that trade shows can be a great way to generate sales leads, scout the competition, explore new product trends and network with other industry professionals. But given your limited time, you can’t do everything. Whether it’s generating X amount of sales leads, obtaining a particular certification or boosting your social media following, come up with concrete and measurable objectives. Whatever the purpose of your visit, being intentional and deliberate will ensure much more value than trying to do too much.

Master your elevator pitch. As you’ll quickly realize, people at trade shows (whether it be presenters, exhibitors or potential customers) are extremely busy. They are also flooded with information. In the limited time you have with each new contact, it’s important to stand out. The best way to do this is with a memorable elevator pitch – who you are, what you do and what solution you offer. If you have a booth, props and unique displays can help; if not, personality always goes a long way. Think outside the box, and keep your pitch clear, concise and relevant. Important as it is to stand out, however, fight the urge to be everything to everybody; too broad a focus will only be a waste of time.

Get social. Now that you’ve mastered your elevator pitch, get busy and put it to work. You only have a few days, so make the most of them. In addition to meeting as many 041516 2014-NHS-Openingtarget contacts as possible, be sure to take advantage of social media. Apps like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are great tools to not only promote yourself, but to engage with other trade show attendees. Just be sure to find a balance between digital and personal interaction, and cast your net as wide as possible. “Plan to attend as many seminars, presentations, receptions, happy-hour gatherings and tours as your schedule can accommodate,” recommends Niehaus.

Follow up. It may seem obvious, but planning ahead, setting goals, mastering your elevator pitch and networking are all pointless unless you follow up. Immediately upon returning from a trade show, reach out to all of your new contacts and fulfill your commitments. Even if someone didn’t seem like a good fit at the present time, a quick email or a social media connection could plant seeds that pay off down the road. This is also the best time to evaluate your goals, explore potential business strategies and gauge your ROI. Most importantly, take what you learned from your trade show experience – both the good and the bad – and apply it to the next one!

For more information about the 2016 National Hardware Show, visit the NHS website or check out the April issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine.

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