Small Business Tips

GO Virginia Grant Brings Lasting Change to Local Small Businesses

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The Small Business Resiliency Training (SBRT) has been working in partnership with the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia). 

The SBRT Team is made up of members of the Shenandoah Valley and Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Centers.   

Thanks to GO Virginia, small business grants were made available and those grants are having a lasting impact on small businesses throughout the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

When the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center partnered with Jon Henry General Store in New Market, VA change was quite noticeable.  The impact is still being felt.

When Jon Henry came into the SBRT program, he was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Without systems and tools and place to keep his inventory as organized as he’d like, the SBRT program was his solution.

Thanks to the GO Virginia grant, Jon’s small business got a much needed boost. 

Listen in as Jon tells about the impact this program had on his small business.

 

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The Small Business Resiliency Training (SBRT) was made possible by a grant from the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia).  This is a business-led initiative formed to foster private sector business growth along with the Small Business Administration and the Virginia Small Business Development Centers.  Participating localities include:  Augusta County, City of Harrisonburg, City of Waynesboro, City of Winchester, Clarke County, Frederick County, Rockbridge County, Rockingham County and Shenandoah County, VA. 

If It’s Free, There Must Be A Catch, Right?

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Small Business Consultants - There Must Be A Catch

Have you ever said it?  Have you heard others say it?

Many people say it all the time.   “If it’s FREE, there’s got to be a catch.”

Look, I know a ton of small business owners that say the very same thing. 

But does every small business owner who gets free, personalized business coaching fail to grow their business?  Of course not. 

Just ask Jon Henry, owner of Jon Henry General Store in New Market, VA.

Jon thought that because our services were free there had to be a catch. 

After a year of working with our Small Business Development Counselors free of charge, he has implemented new tools and processes into his business that have given him back his time, lowered his stress, and helped him stay more organized which is making him more money.

Jon says that after a year of working with our counselors for free he feels like he should be paying us money, but he isn’t because we are funded by local Economic Development Administrations, not small business owners.

Now you have a choice to make.

You can keep working hard to figure out what to do to grow your small business, or you can do what Jon Henry did.

Reach out to one of our experienced small business counselors who can partner with you to take away the stress of running your business alone. 

Give us a call:  540-868-7093

March National Days to Boost Your Social Media

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Your inbox is full and your to-do list is growing.  Where will you find time to make those all important social media posts?

Try March National Days.  They have proven to increase engagement and can start those much needed client conversations.

We want to save you time so we’ve put these lists together in this blog post.

Since engagement is the name of the social media game, we’ve tested National Days, Hashtags, Public Holidays and Monthly Observances.  And they have proven to boost our engagement. 

In addition to National Days, make sure you’re posts include high quality graphics that visually communicate the message of your post.  When you nail the message with your graphics, you win!

If you need help creating show-stopping graphics, check out Canva.

When you face social media or business challenges, contact us.  We have a tea of specialists who can help you.

March National Days - Small Business Consultants Winchester VA

March National Days - Small Business Development Consultants Winchester VA

Small Business Consultants Winchester VA March National Days 2021

March Public Holidays - Small Business Consultants Winchester VA

March Monthly Observances 2021 Small Business Consultants Winchester VA

 When you need the help of our team, we are here.  Reach out to us.  Our services are FREE today and always.  You have nothing to loose.

**This post may contain affiliate links that pay referral fees. 

Give Your Social Media Engagement A Boost

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Do you make social media posts for your business?  Ever get stuck and wonder what to post next?  Think it’s time to give your social media engagement a boost?

Try National Days.  They have proven to increase engagement and shares.

And to make it super easy for you, we’ve put together a list of February National Days.  And we have a lot more ideas.

SEND ME MORE SOCIAL MEDIA POST IDEAS    

Small Business Consultants - Feb National Days

Small Business Consultants - February National Days

Small Business Consultants - February National Days 3

If you or someone you know has a business challenge that our team can help with, please reach out to us here.

Our services are always FREE.  We’re here to help and our team is ready to go!

Effective Local eCommerce Strategy for Small Business

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How do you eat an elephant? As the adage goes, bite by bite. This works when you think a problem is too big to manage all at once, but it also makes a great deal of sense when it comes to local eCommerce strategy.

Consider the probability of any eCommerce startup skyrocketing to “unicorn” status. These usually require millions of dollars in angel and venture capital, and even then the vast majority of eCommerce shops fail early (90% in the first few months) and even after a year in business (it stands at around 78%) . Do you know what one component most of these eCommerce sites are missing?

Focus.

And, more specifically, localization. Localization is important to eCommerce, because people like to do business with businesses that are near them for a variety of reasons. These include familiarity, convenience, better customer service, loyalty, and trust. Further, there is a strong Shop Local movement happening, which has made consumers more conscious and conscientious about shopping local even when they’re shopping on the Web.

eCommerce Website Sales Strategy

While having a website is fundamental to business visibility today, it’s important that business owners recognize the value of a website’s connection to sales.

Websites are where sales happen online today. So, why would a business website not have some ability to display products or services, and take payments? (If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that it’s vital to be able to reach customers and continue to transact business online in the face of dynamic circumstances.)

So, we start with a sales strategy and then we build an eCommerce website to support its purposes. What are you selling? And, how does the website fit the needs to sell it/them?

Moreover, much of the past two decades’ worth of marketing research demonstrates that the supermajority of your sales will come from consumers within a five-mile radius. Google noticed this with consumers performing local searches and purchasing via mobile ads, and it biases search results in Google’s Local Search to around that same distance.

Businesses that have a great eCommerce presence can capture the 70+% of local searchers who go to a business’s website standing outside the store. If a potential customer finds what they need on your website, even if they don’t buy on the eCommerce website, they are likely to enter the physical store and purchase from you. This cannot be underscored enough times.

Online shopping promotes physical retail, and supports physical retail when it’s not possible or as a convenience to the customer. Local eCommerce is the best thing to happen to local commerce. All it takes is understanding this premise when building your website strategy. And, so, what should your website strategy look like?

Email Is Important

At the heart of every eCommerce website marketing strategy is email. It’s the stitching that holds together the fabric of online sales. From email marketing newsletters to email sales funnels and emailed receipts with requests for reviews.

Some questions to consider in building your local eCommerce email marketing:

  • How will you generate leads to capture their emails?
  • Where does email marketing (i.e., promotional, relational and transactional messages) fit into your overall business strategy?

Which email marketing service provider has all the features you need at the price you can afford?

To learn more, check out this article on small business email marketing strategy.

Mobile Is Dominant

If it wasn’t already apparent, people are using mobile phones more than ever and it’s driving sales. Whether it’s for researching online to buy offline (ROBO buyers) or for safety, convenience, or loyalty to a brand, mobile arguably has a hand in almost every sale happening online today.

  • Some questions to consider in building your mobile marketing:
  • Is your website mobile-optimized?
  • Is your content “snackable” and organized for mobile reading?
  • Back to email, how are you capturing leads through email capture on mobile?
  • How are you connecting a mobile visitor to your products/services?

Learn more here about small business mobile marketing strategies.

Content Marketing & Advertising

While much ado has been made of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat for its ability to get in front of potential customers. And, yes, they can get your business in front of many people. You need to create content on your local eCommerce site that is worth creating Social Media posts about, that drives visitors. And, while social networks like
your Social Media posts, you need to have a budget for advertising your best performing content to people beyond those who merely follow you.

If you want to excel in local eCommerce you need a mix of great content (in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos), Social Media posts that bring people to your site (organically and through social ads), and products and services on your website that can convert visitors.

Here are a few important questions to think about related to content marketing:

  • What localized content do you need to produce to bring potential buyers to your local eCommerce website?
  • How does your content marketing connect a potential buyer’s felt need or want to what you offer?
  • Do you have a content calendar so that you can keep on top of creating enough of the right content?
  • How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts for your
    eCommerce website?

Here is a great article on digging in deeper into small business content marketing.

Local Search Optimization: Local Schema, Hyper-
targeted Local Content, and Local Listing Directories

The last ingredient in local eCommerce strategies is far from the least important–local search optimization. Three different parts combined on and off the eCommerce website itself make up local search optimization: local schema, local content (hyper-targeted, preferably), and local listings.

Local Schema

Google (and the other search engines) use structured content (just like HTML), Schema markup, on local websites (including eCommerce sites) to display rich snippets to local searchers. Schema allows not only the business to get visibility on Google, but it also provides an ability to get specific content and products on your eCommerce site to be shown to more people by using it.

At the very least, your eCommerce site should display your name, local business address, local phone number, and hours of operation using the Schema markup. If your eCommerce website doesn’t have the functionality built into it, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and Structured Data Testing Tool to add and test how your Schema looks on your site.

Also, if you have a product catalog in your eCommerce site, you will want to push the product feed into Google Shopping.

Hyper-Targeted Local Content

Next, you can create a volume of local content that is great for Google without much more work than generating the original content in the first place. This method requires you to create your base pages for your products and services. Then, you can identify all the localities and landmarks for which you’d like your product or service to appropriately rank on Google.

The tricky part is understanding how web pages are displayed to Google and website visitors versus those displayed in the menu navigation of the eCommerce site. For hyper-targeted local pages, you only care about Google seeing those pages and directing visitors to them, but they will not be displayed in your website’s navigation menu.

For example, you might have a “Men’s Haircuts” page on your local business website and people can book appointments and pay/tip online. But, if you have a hyper-targeted local page for every neighborhood that your hair salon business serves, you’ll rank better and gain more traffic. So, you might have pages that are duplicates of the main page but are modified (approximately 20% different than the original), such as “Men’s Haircuts on Main Street”, “Men’s Haircuts in Somewheresville” and “Men’s Haircuts in the Neighborhoodsname”. These pages will include content that highlights the locality and landmarks, and because they’re 20% different than the main page, Google will see them as different than the main page and they’ll rank well for when people type those local searches into Google.

Local Directory Listings

Finally, but just as powerful, it is important for local commerce and local eCommerce alike to take advantage of local directories. These are online business directories that can generate a good amount of traffic for savvy small business owners.

The most prominent today is Google My Business, but there are many others available (see the sites that Local Listing Ninja submits to as a service to get an idea about how many there are).

The important part is to keep the listings data (especially hours of operation and website details)
up-to-date, and with Google My Business, it provides a portal to post updates, offers, products
and services, and even eCommerce links (purchase, appointment/booking, online courses,
events, etc.).

Conclusion

eCommerce sites are tough to launch, so don’t you want to do it well enough so that it actually pays for itself and more? Use this eCommerce marketing framework to consider how your products/services are going to be positioned on the Local Web. Then, consider how your mobile-optimized website is going to handle your sales, what your email marketing is going to
do for you, what content marketing you’ll create and when/where you’ll distribute it, and then how you’ll optimize for Local Search.

When you do these things well, you have a local eCommerce website that has a chance of standing up to Big Box eCommerce and outpacing your competition.

 

Thanks to Ray Sidney-Smith, guest author of this post.

Four eCommerce Best Practices You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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According to Statistica, approximately 1.8 billion people, or ¼ of the world’s population are buying online.  Online shoppers demand that we pay close attention to eCommerce best practices.

If you are a small business owner, you cannot afford to ignore eCommerce!

In today’s environment, customers want options. 

Customers want to buy what they want, when they want, and the way they want. And they want to use the payment type of their choice.

Obvious E-Commerce Best Practices

You must be selling online.

Selling online gives your customers options, saves them time, and gives you the extra revenue streams you will need in times of change.

Prior to the shutdown our country has just experienced ,  one study showed that 81% of people check out business websites before walking into the store.

A strong online presence coupled with eCommerce are important for every small business.

eCommerce best practices

Make Your Website Easy To Navigate

When you walk into a retail store, you see displays, sales associates, and it’s clear where and how you check-out.  

Does your website make it clear to visitors where and how to check out?

An unclear path online will create confusion and cause paying customers to exit your website.

When visiting your website, what’s the first impression a visitor gets?

Hopefully your website doesn’t scream 1998.  In today’s environment, customers are checking to make sure your business is open online first.

Today’s consumer demands great looking websites that are functional and easy to navigate.

Your website is one of four eCommerce best practices.

Things To Consider About Your Website

  1. Based on your website, does your business appear open and relevant? 
  2. Have you updated your website lately? 
  3. When visiting your site, what is the experience like for customers?

My suggestion is to ask a few people to test our your site and give you feedback from an “outside” perspective. 

Let them give you feedback about your online product displays.

If visitors need help while on your website, do you have Live Online Chat, a phone number that is set as a link so customers can connect with you at the push of a button?

Do you have a FAQ page on your website or is your customer left to figure things out on their own?

Remember, if a customer gets frustrated on your website, they won’t make it to your checkout page. They’ll leave your site and leave you with a high bounce rate.

As for eCommerce best practices, make sure your visitors can get the help they need while visiting your site.

E-Commerce Best Practices Require Your Sales Process To Work

When was the last time you or someone from your team went through your online sales process from start to finish?

When testing your online sales process, think about what your products look online.

If someone has a questions while on your site or making an online purchase, do you offer customer service online via Live chat, a linkable phone number, a FAQ’s page or is your customer left to figure things out on their own?

When people can’t get the help they need they get frustrated. Frustrated shopped will go somewhere else where the buying process is more convenient and easy.  

Before another potential customer leaves your shopping cart, test your online buying process. Have a friend who has never bought online from you test out your online system.

Take extra steps to make sure your system works flawlessly because you’d hate to loose sales over something you could have fixed.

And without testing your process, you’ll never know what’s happening on the customers buying end. 

Choose The Sales Platform That Fits Your eCommerce

When considering which platform is best there are many options to choose from. 

Consider what you’re selling. Is there is a specific platform that works better than others for your particular product. 

For example. If you’re selling downloadable products then Gumroad might be perfect for your needs.  If you want to sell on multiple platforms at once, you’ll want a platform that integrates with those platforms (example Etsy or Ebay). 

Make sure the platform you choose takes the payment your customers prefers to use. Make buying easy for your customers and invest the time and effort to understand what you need before you start to sell online.

If you already have a website on Wix, Weebly, Godaddy, or use Squarespace, these websites have an online store option that will cost you little each month. 

They have great templates to help you get started easily.  If you have a point of service system, it’s important that your POS integrates with your online store.  I don’t recommend having two sets of inventory, payment, and tracking systems.

For WordPress users, WooCommerce  is the biggest eCommerce in the world and works with WordPress.  It can handle affiliate sales, blogs, event management, and it works well with Taxjar which is an add-on that can compute sales tax, and auto file for tax remittance. 

Ecwid and Magento are two others that work well with WordPress. 

BigCommerce is known for it’s headless marketing displays and is great for wholesale businesses or multichannel sales.  Shopify has over 100 different payment options.

ECommerce best practices include offering online sales, having a website that’s easy to navigate, having an online sales process that works, and an online sales platform that works best with the products and services you sell.

If you have questions or need free assistance from members of our team, please contact us and we’ll get you connected to the expert who can help you navigate the world of eCommerce, Websites, and online sales.

 
 

Small Business Success Stories

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Small business success stories is a way for our team to bring together small business owners who want to share stories around business themes.  Our hope is that stories will spark ideas, give courage and build confidence in small business owners.

Stories capture our attention.  Stories connect us more deeply with others.  And stories mark moments in time that we remember well into the future.

Each week we will gather on Zoom to share stories around particular topics.  Week 1 will be “Pivot”.  Week 2 will be “Customer Service”

Small business stories will be a judgement free zone so whether someone arrives with negative connotations or experiences with the topic or positive, we welcome every story.

Stories may be from our personal experiences or they may be one’s we’ve read or heard about.  Every story opens to us the possibility of learning.  Whether we learn what to do or what not to do, both are valuable to our journey in business.

As we listen to each other’s story, new ideas will be discovered. And when needed, our team will provide the coaching free of charge to help you act on those new ideas.

Whether it’s through listening to the story of others or sharing one of our own, small business stories is to be a place where small businesses come to spark new ideas, gain courage and build the confidence needed to move forward in business

We look forward to being with you in Small Business Stories.  Together, we will win!.