Monthly Archives: June 2017

old-wooden-signboard-913-1170

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A few months ago, as you were on your way into town, you noticed that your neighbors had two pickup trucks in their driveway with three workmen entering the house with boxes. You didn’t slow down to read the logo on the side of the trucks, lest they think you a nosey neighbor. By the time you came home that night, the trucks were gone. What you did notice that evening was a yard sign indicating that “A Walk on the Woods” was proud to announce they were installing new wood flooring in your neighbor’s home.

A couple evenings later, while walking Goliath, your 150 lb. mastiff (he being the main reason you even have to consider pulling up the carpeting and putting down wood floors), you happen upon your neighbors. He’s pruning his bushes, while his pregnant wife is sitting in the shade, supervising. You remark that you couldn’t help noticing the sign in their yard, and you wondered if they would recommend this business, and more importantly, would they use them again. The neighbor chuckles and tells you you’re the 5th neighbor who has stopped to ask him this same question. He indicated they were going to ask the flooring manager for a commission.

And why shouldn’t they get one? Their yard has been used to house a billboard for the flooring company’s business. That billboard, all 24×36 inches of it, cost the flooring company $25. Installation of the sign took 30 seconds. Seven days later, as they had promised to do when their client agreed they could post the sign, they came back and removed the sign. When they came to pick up the sign, no one answered their knock on the door. They left a “thank you” card and a bottle of wood floor cleaning liquid. The bottle of cleaner had a sticker on the back with the flooring company’s logo, their contact information and a quote that expresses how much they appreciate referrals.

About a month later, you are in the parking lot of your favorite fast food joint. You realize that the truck parked next to you has the “A Walk on the Woods” logo, along with their phone number. There’s also a little camera icon, and the words “shoot me with your cell phone, and call us when you need us”.

“Wow,” you think. “This is much easier than writing their number with my finger in the dirt on the trunk of my car.”

“A Walk on the Woods” has invested in their marketing wisely. First, they came up with a creative name that most people will not only remember, but will likely share the clever moniker with others.  Secondly, they invested $25 in a yard sign for each of their installers to carry with them, installing them on the customer’s lawn. They secured permission to do this in writing at the time the customer signs the agreement to purchase.  Then, they not only make sure that they are there to pick up the sign at the end of the seventh day, but they add a token of their appreciation, which of course, also has a sign on it. They’ve also invested wisely in moving billboards, having vehicles with their logo and contact info, and even ensuring that potential clients will take that information home with them via their cell phones.

Yesterday, you drove by that same neighbor’s house. This time there were pink balloons on the mailbox, signifying that there was a baby girl born to the lovely young couple. Standing in the yard was a large wooden cut out of a stork. Hanging from its beak was a basket of pink silk flowers. At his feet was a yard sign that read, “Amy’s Flower Pot just delivered this baby girl a welcoming bouquet”.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

Looking for more great ideas to grow your business? Check out our schedule of workshops on our website at  http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/blairsville-union-county-chamber/chamber-programs/

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customer service

Growing Without New Customers

Most small businesses spend more energy and expense trying to enlist new customers than they do trying to retain those who have already chosen to do business with them. Depending on what industry you are in, research indicates that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5% to 25% more costly than keeping an existing one.

But how does a business grow by focusing on retaining the same customers? The answer is by focusing on growing their goods and services for their existing customers. Let’s take a look at Apple. In 1976, when they first introduced their computer technology, they targeted the graphic art industry. Around the world, graphic artists would only own a “Mac”. Next came the Apple printer, the Apple Powerbook, the IBook, the IMac and within 25 years there were ten generations of the IPod. At 32 years they introduced the IPhone and then the IPad.  

Granted, those original graphic artists haven’t been the only customer base for this zillion dollar company, but most of those original customers are still buying that brand exclusively. From the very beginning Apple kept a record of every customer who bought their product, and continued to give them the customer support they needed to win their loyalty. Once they secured that allegiance, they then had a base to sell each new product and service, year after year. That has led to generation after generation.

As a small business owner in our mountainside community, securing loyalty is just as important to your growth as it has been to Apple. Every customer that does business with you, or even inquiries about your goods and services, should become part of your business family. You should secure their email address and any other contact information they will share. If you can’t get their birthday, then note the date they first did business with you and email them a Happy Anniversary card, for they joined your business family 1 year ago, 5 years ago and before you know it, 25 years ago.

Though some industries have found loyalty programs (buy 5 cups of coffee and get your next beverage purchase free) to be quite beneficial in customer retainage, most small businesses can secure that same loyalty by treating their customers like family. Keep in touch. Share good news. Let them always know how much you appreciate their business. Always thank them profusely when you know that they have referred business your way. Reach out to them if you know they are at a crossroad in their lives, such as sickness or other devastating challenge.

Keeping this database also gives you the opportunity to track your churn rate, or those customers that no longer do business with you. By understanding who has left the fold and why, you’ll be better able to serve your loyal customers and your new clients. You will begin to understand the roadblocks of your business and you can begin to unlock the value of your product to more customers.

Your client database is where you first introduce new goods and services. How does a small business grow their goods and services like Apple? By listening to the needs of your satisfied customers as well as understanding why some customers have left you, you’ll be able to identify how best to grow and develop. If you clean carpets, but you are asked often if you can clean and repair leather furniture, you now have a direction to grow. If you install white picket fences, but find that your past customers’ only dissatisfaction is that they can’t find someone to pressure wash, paint and repair them, there’s an additional service on the horizon. If you serve a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and your servers tell you that they often get asked if you serve tomato soup or chili with that sandwich, it’s time to consider adding these to your menu.

And remember to always let the Chamber know of your growth, as well. We want to share your evolution with the community.

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idea plan action

Launching from the Mountain Tops

You may have been dreaming about your new business for the past twenty years, but in order to launch that vision successfully, there are certain steps to cover.

Revising Your Business Plan. Ok, we are assuming you’ve created a detailed business plan. Before you execute that plan, it’s time to share it with experts in the community in order to get their valuable feedback. Chamber staff, a CPA, a loan officer, a retired business owner and a Rotarian will ask you questions you hadn’t previously considered. Now, before you launch, go back to your plan and revise your goals, your expectations and your finances.

Are You The Expert? Fixing lunch boxes for your kids over fifteen years of their schooling does not constitute expertise in operating a sandwich shop. If you are recognizing that you need an expert, start to consider a coach/mentor, a partner or an employee with significant experience and knowledge.

Put It To The Test. The first days, weeks and months are critical to your reputation. You need to refine your model before you hang that “open for business” sign. Talk to people who might be your customers before you launch and get their views and opinions. Let them “taste test” and “test run” your menu of products services. If your list of services includes cleaning bird feeders, and no one indicates they’d likely use that service, nix it from your list. (Now, did you find out what services they would take advantage of that are not on your list?)

Where’s The Bullseye? It’s essential that you have identified, understand and know how to reach your target market. Who is likely to buy your product or contract for your service? How do you best reach these potential customers? How often are they likely to take advantage of your service or repurchase your product? Where are they procuring that product now and what do you need to do differently in order to secure them as your client? The success of your launch hinges on getting customers right out of the gate. You need to accurately project who they are going to be and understand what drives their decisions to purchase. Your starting marketing message needs to convey to them how your offering differentiates from your competition, and what benefits they will receive as your customer.

Identify Your Cash On Hand. “Potential” capital doesn’t count on day one. Ask yourself, will the cash on hand take me through the next six months of expenses without any additional revenue? Is there enough to cover the projected costs of my marketing plan? Will I be able to financially replenish depleted inventory in that period of time?

Are All Your Ducks In A Row? Is your accounting system up and running including your POS system? If you’ve hired employees, are they versed on your entire product line and services? Even if they are in charge of housekeeping, once they are out in their sphere of influence and they mention they work for your business, people will ask them questions. Be sure they have the answers. Is your website fully functional? Is all of your initial marketing in place? Do you have all the proper licensing? Have you considered and taken appropriate action to limit legal and tax implications?

Become a Member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber staff is here to help assure that your business isn’t just launched, but that it successfully soars.  

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Scottish Festival and Highland Games 2017

It’s June, which means that it’s time for the biggest festival of the year – the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games! We’ll be highlighting our area’s heritage with traditional games, Highland music and dancing, food with a Scottish flare, and much more! Visit workshops to learn how to play the bagpipes. Discover your “clan” and learn about the rich Scottish roots of the area. Watch animal demonstrations like border collies herding sheep and falcons swooping on their “prey”. Take your wee ones to get their faces painted or go on a train ride. There’s truly something for every member of the family.


The festival kicks off with a concert on Friday, June 9 and continues through Sunday, June 11, so clear your schedule and get over to Blairsville-Union County this weekend! Visit www.blairsvillescottishfestival.org or contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce for more details.