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7 Marketing Ideas That Can Help Boost Your Profits this Father’s Day

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 6, 2013 Updated: June 6, 2013

Father’s Day is right around the corner, providing another opportunity for small businesses to reach out to customers with an incentive to visit their stores, restaurants or websites and make a purchase.

Who’s your target market? Wives, moms, children and even grandparents are all about to start thinking about gift giving and doing something special for the fathers in their lives. And they spend big; according to a National Retail Federation survey, the average person will shell out $117 on a gift for Dad – that’s $12.7 billion in total spending.

What gifts can Dad expect? According to the survey, special outings, such as golfing, eating out or heading to a sporting event, are the most popular ways to celebrate. Electronic gift items and apparel are also big draws. Gift cards are another favorite, followed by sporting goods, books or music.

Let’s face it: choosing the right gift isn’t easy. Dads can be tricky to buy for. So what can you do to help them out and make their choices easy and the day special for fathers everywhere? Here are seven Father’s Day sales and marketing tips to help you boost your profits – regardless of your business.

Make it Easy for Buyers

Dad has it all, right? So think of ways to help make the gift-giving choice easy for your customers. If you run a store or website, a gift guide is a great way to do this. Offer suggestions by price and/or interest and use emails, social media and e-newsletters to group and highlight inventory along the same lines that appeals to Dad (and perhaps more importantly, women – who are often the buyers this holiday).

Offer complimentary gift-wrapping too (and don’t forget to promote it) – this is a big time saver for busy moms. Online stores can offer free shipping or offer free upgrades (regular to expedited shipping) as Father’s Day draws nearer.

Make Dad’s Life Easier

Could you offer a Father’s Day special that frees up Dad’s time so he can spend more of it with the family? This is an idea that works best for service businesses. Get creative. For example, a restaurant could do a promotional tie-in with a local car wash, so Dad can enjoy a Father’s Day brunch and the gift of a car wash bundled in.

Give Dad a Reason to Visit Your Business – Indulge and Pamper Him!

Think of ways to entice dads into your store or business over Father’s Day weekend. This is something that can work for all types of businesses – from health care practices to hair salons. Offer a demo or complimentary service. For example, if a chiropractor could offer a free spine or posture evaluation – we all want our dads to be healthy, after all! If you sell technology or home / DIY goods, hold an open house and give Dad a hands-on demo of popular products. Offer an incentive to make a purchase in the next seven days.

Target Kids (and Mom)!

Kids are part of the buying decision, so think of ways to entice children into your store or restaurant. Whether it’s a special offer for kids who actually make a purchase using their own pocket money, or a special event or offering that attracts kids (and their parents) to your business – such as “kids eat free on Father’s Day,” or free giveaways for kids when mom makes a purchase.

Alternatively, look for ways to help Mom make a purchase while her kids have a designated play area, or vice versa!

Offer Something That Dad Can Do With His Kids

We tend to think of Father’s Day gifts as a treat for Dad that he can enjoy away from home (golfing, fishing, etc.). Be unique – offer gifts that Dad and the kids can enjoy together. It could be a class that they could take together or a discount on a combo product that Dad can enjoy with his kid(s).

Generate Buzz

Even if you don’t have specific Father’s Day specials, don’t pass over the occasion. Recognize the day in other ways. Host a contest on Facebook – ask your fans to submit their silliest Dad pictures or host a Dad-themed contest or raffle in your store.

Honor Dads Across Demographics

No one dad is the same. Some are overseas serving their country; others may be dads for the first time. Think of ways to honor these fathers. Develop a theme and make sure it runs through all your marketing and promotions.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Using Testimonials, Endorsements and Online Reviews in Your Marketing – How to Ensure You Aren’t Breaking the Law

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 5, 2013 Updated: June 5, 2013

Do you use endorsements or testimonials from customers in your marketing or advertising? Many business owners do. The power of referrals and quotes from customers can mean the difference between success and failure. However, you need to be aware of truth-in-advertising and endorsement laws. Likewise, if you use ask bloggers to write about your products, you need to be clear and transparent about your affiliations.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees consumer protection laws in a number of areas, truth-in-advertising being one of them. So, if you intend to use customer quotes or endorsements from others to help sell your products and services, here’s what you need to know to ensure you comply with the law:

All Endorsements Must Be Truthful and Not Misleading

What does this mean? In essence, they must reflect the endorser’s actual experience and opinion. You also can’t use endorsements or testimonials that make claims about your products or service that you can’t back up with clear proof. We’ve all seen the ads that promise weight-loss miracles, often backed by quotes from customers testifying to their success. However, if there isn’t scientific evidence to prove that this is true, then you are effectively misleading your customers. The FTC can hold both you and your endorser responsible for deceptive marketing practices.

Endorsements Must Reflect Typical Experiences

In addition to being truthful and not misleading, endorsements must reflect the typical experience of consumers who use the product – not the experience of just a few satisfied customers. If an endorsement doesn’t meet this requirement, the ad must clearly disclose either what consumers can expect their results to be or the limited applicability of the endorser’s experience. It’s not enough to simply add a disclaimer like “Not all consumers will get these results” or “Your results may vary.”

So what are your options? Well, if the endorser’s experience isn’t typical, then you can go ahead and use the endorsement, but you must have adequate proof to back up the results that the consumer claims to have gained. Alternatively, you must clearly disclose the results that people can expect.

Example: Let’s say you manufacture or sell a product for which you want to make very specific claims – backed by a customer endorsement, such as a cosmetic wrinkle-reducing cream. Any quotes, testimonials or endorsements used must also be accompanied by a statement that clearly discloses the results that most people could expect in similar circumstances. And be specific: “Most users of this product saw a 50 percent reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles after using this product for 12 weeks.” It would also be a good idea to have a link to any data that backs up this claim, such as a scientific research study.

Tip: Let’s look at a real life scenario that many small business owners might encounter. Say you run a hair salon or landscaping business and you want to use a few customer quotes on your website – what should you do? Well, it’s a good idea to get permission from endorsers before you post their comments (and an absolute must if you intend to post their names). Likewise, it would also be a good practice to check that they are willing to be contacted for a reference if a potential customer wants more information about their experiences. Before and after pictures are also a great way to back up the validity and truthfulness of any endorsements or claims.

Disclose Any Connections or Affiliations to Your Endorser

If you have any material connection with an endorser of your product, you must disclose it. So if you pay bloggers or affiliate marketers, or even give them free samples in return for a review, you must disclose that relationship. It’s OK to use these endorsements in your marketing or advertising, but be sure to add a disclaimer. For example:

  • Encourage bloggers or affiliates to follow the law by adding a disclaimer to their blogs or endorsements: “ABC Company gave me this product and here’s what I think…
  • In your own ad, state the material connection you have with a paid or compensated endorser: “We provided John Doe with a trial product for review, here’s what he had to say…

What About Using Online Reviews?

Referrals and recommendations are an essential part of the small business owners marketing mix. Today, those reviews are increasingly part of the post-sales experience thanks to the popularity of independent online review sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, Service Magic, Angie’s List and more.

But can you lift quotes from these sites and use them in your marketing? If you check the Terms of Service of most these sites, user-generated content (i.e. reviews) are the property of the person who wrote the review. To use these reviews without permission of the reviewer may infringe copyright laws. There are other ways, however, to incorporate customer reviews into your website. Consider the following:

  • Add links or plug-ins to your website that take people directly to your page on crowdsourcing review sites like Yelp.
  • Use third-party rating and review tools, such as Shopzilla or BazaarVoice, on your site so that consumers can review products post-sale. Don’t forget to add a disclaimer notifying your customers that the review may be posted online and used for marketing purposes.  By using these services, your reviewers are subject to Terms of Service, which often includes giving consent to you as the website operator to use and publish their reviews, as well as certain biographical information such as name, alias, or location.

Because these reviews aren’t technically endorsements or testimonials and the reviewer has previously agreed to the Terms of Service, businesses (including many notable brands) often lift quotes from online reviews (remembering to strip out any biographical information that could identify the reviewer) and use them in email marketing, fliers and so on. If you have any doubt about the claims you may be making by using these reviews, consult an attorney.

More Information

For more information, consult the FTC’s Endorsements guide for businesses and check out this quick video from the FTC that summarizes what you need to know:

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

How to Build and Use a Business Budget That's Useful All Year Long

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 3, 2013 Updated: June 3, 2013

Business budgetBudgets are difficult to plan and maintain at the best of times – unexpected events, cash flow problems, supply chain issues and more can all reap havoc with even the most thoroughly planned business budgets. The other problem with budgets is that many of us set budgets in our business and personal lives at the beginning of the year, and then file them away until the year-end rolls around once more.

And this is where the problem lies: your business is never static, and your budget shouldn’t be either.

Here are some tips for developing and managing a dynamic budget that can keep you on course all year long.

Why Budgets Are So Important

Budgets are enormously important to the operation of your business; not only do they help you manage your costs, but they also help you determine whether you profit goals are within reach and keep you on the right road from month-to-month. In its simplest form, a budget is a detailed plan of future receipts and expenditures. Think of a budget as a tool for providing control. For example, by looking at next quarter’s budget you can anticipate peak periods and schedule stock and labor to handle the sales volume. You can also plan vacations, marketing activities and inventory taking for slow periods.

Most small business owners generally use a budgeting method that starts by identifying the profit they want to make and then listing out the expenses they’ll incur in order to reach their goal. There are several resources at the end of this article that can help you build your business budget.

Update Your Budget Monthly

If your budget is going to work for you, plan on revisiting it on a monthly basis with your management team and update it based on your business performance and expenses for the prior month. Take a look at your sales forecast – how’s your pipeline looking? Are there any indicators that you need to make changes to your budget to cover additional inventory or staffing needs? Look at your expenses – are they as projected, or do you need to cut back in certain areas to ensure you stay on track?

Make Changes That Can Have a Positive Impact

Based on your monthly review, make changes to your budget and then wait to see what impact these have to your income and profits – by month and by year. For example, perhaps you are under-investing in marketing – adjust your budget and see what happens to your pipeline next month or over a six-month period. In your next review cycle, look to see if you are a getting good return on marketing dollars spent per sales lead. Then use this information to inform future planning decisions about where best to allocate your costs.

What about receivables? Are there ways you can speed up your invoicing and payment cycles to keep cash flowing into the business?

Respond to Unexpected Changes

Use your budget to help you adjust to the unexpected. Say, for example, an important client cuts their own budget and reduces the amount of business they do with you. Take a look at your budget and how this reduction in revenue affects your cash flow and for how long –- meaning how long will it take to find a new client to replace that important revenue source and what will it cost you in terms of marketing or hiring costs to help you uncover new business?

Tie Incentives to Budget Performance

A great way to get everyone on-board with the idea of focusing and interacting regularly with your budget is to tie performance bonuses to it. So, at the beginning of the year when you plan your annual budget, set parameters for performance tied to profit, but also other categories such as return on investment in marketing dollars, keeping expenses at or lower than plan and so on.

More Information and Templates

For more information on crafting a budget for your business, check out this easy-to-follow guide – Budgeting in a Small Service Firm – from SCORE that explains how to create, manage and adjust a small business budget. SCORE also provides a downloadable and editable 12-month budget template.

Related Articles

Image courtesy of Casey Konstantin, Flickr

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

3 Types of Insurance You May Think You Have But Don’t

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: May 23, 2013

Insurance is the backstop for business owners when things go wrong. Things happen, but owners want to be financially protected for the unexpected. The problem is that owners may assume they’re covered for certain events but find out after such events that they were mistaken. Don’t fall into the same trap. Here are three common situations you may assume you’re covered for but may need to make changes to be protected.

Terrorist events

You’re a restaurant owner whose windows have been blown out by a terrorist’s bomb. Or you have a medical office but patients can’t access your office because the street is closed following a terrorist attack. Will your business insurance policy help you? It depends.

After the September 11 attacks, insurance policies were clarified to exclude coverage for property damage resulting from terrorist attacks. However, businesses can obtain coverage for such events by paying extra. The *Wall Street Journal reported that about 60% of companies across the country do carry additional coverage for terrorism. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t because of the added cost.

So are you covered or not in an event such as the Boston Marathon bombings? It depends on whether this is officially certified to be an act of terrorism. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act was passed post-9-11 to help insurers pay for terrorism claims. Under this law, terrorism coverage is now necessary for claims resulting from an act of terrorism and basic coverage does not provide protection if the Treasury Secretary, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Attorney all certify an event to be an act of terrorism. Note: This law is set to expire on December 31, 2014, but could be extended by Congress.

Even if you have terrorism coverage, it may only provide protection for property damage. You usually need a separate business interruption policy to protect you for lost profits resulting from acts of terrorism and the aftermath. Business interruption insurance pays for your operating costs (e.g., rent, utilities and wages to employees) in addition to the profits you would have earned during the period your business was forced to close. Find more information about business interruption coverage from *InsureU.

Water damage

Water damage is the most common type of property damage for commercial buildings businesses, *according to one insurance company. But there’s water damage, and then there’s water damage. Some types of water damage are covered by your business owner’s policy (BOP), but others are not.

  • What’s usually covered: BOP’s typically limit coverage to water damage from within. This means damage that results from freezing pipes, broken pipes or other accidents causing water to be inside your facility.
  • What’s usually not covered: BOP’s typically don’t cover water damage from without (outside your building or under the foundation). This can result from flooding (e.g., from storms, snow melts), water main breaks, or sewer backup.

You can obtain coverage for water damage that ordinarily is not part of your BOP. This can be done in some cases simply by extending the coverage of your basic policy.

However, if your business is located within a flood zone, the only way to obtain coverage is with a separate flood insurance policy from the federal government (not a private insurer). The cost of coverage depends on where your business is located (the closer to a serious flood area, the higher the premiums). Find more about this coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Home-based businesses

Just because you have a good homeowner’s policy doesn’t automatically give you the protection you need for your home-based business. If a business client is injured in a fall or the inventory you store in your basement is destroyed by a fire, your homeowner’s policy probably won’t provide protection. There are two ways to remedy this:

  • Add a rider to your homeowner’s policy to cover your home-based business. This option is useful if you have few business visitors and not too much business property to protect.
  • Obtain a separate business owner’s policy (BOP). This option is preferable if clients and customers regularly visit your home and/or if you have expensive business property (costly equipment and/or inventory on the premises).

Conclusion

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “there are …unknown unknowns -- the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” You may be unaware of the type of coverage your business should have. Talk with your insurance agent to determine what risks your business faces and learn about additional coverage you may want or need.

*Denotes non-government website

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

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