Helping Jobs Creators Lower Costs in a Tough Economy – By Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague

Helping Jobs Creators Lower Costs in a Tough Economy

By Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague

Forty-year high inflation. An unprecedented supply chain crisis. Record-breaking energy prices. And now, interest rate hikes at the Federal Reserve that will make the cost of borrowing more expensive. As small businesses try to stay afloat, they’re being confronted with no shortage of new and complicating challenges.

However, the Treasurer’s office is more committed than ever before to serving job creators and family businesses across Ohio. Through the long-standing linked deposit programs described below, we can assist Ohio-based businesses in accessing interest rate reductions on eligible loans to drive down the rising costs of borrowing.

Ag-LINK

Since 1986, the Ag-LINK program has been a trusted tool in helping farmers and agribusinesses to lower interest costs on new and existing operating loans. Every year, borrowers use the program to finance upfront costs for feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel, equipment, and other expenses.

As part of our Ohio Gains initiative and in direct response to feedback we received from the ag community, we recently made several reforms that modernize Ag-LINK and make it even more impactful amid the current economic climate. For the first time in the program’s history, loan applications are being accepted year-round. This new, year-long application period provides borrowers with greater flexibility and ensures they can access capital whenever they may need it most.

In addition to adding agricultural cooperatives as eligible Ag-LINK borrowers, we’ve also removed outdated programmatic and loan caps from statute. Previously, only loans up to $150,000 were eligible for reduced interest rates through Ag-LINK. That’s no longer the case, as we’ve removed these caps to allow the program to better keep pace with modern borrowing needs. Moving forward, loan caps will be assessed and set by our office on an annual basis.

GrowNOWDesigned to support Ohio-based small businesses, GrowNOW offers interest rate reductions on business loans. Under the program, loan proceeds must directly support job creation or retention efforts, which may be accomplished through a variety of means, including, but not limited to, start-up costs, on-going supply purchases, marketing, building expansions or renovations, or equipment purchases. To be eligible, a small business must also be organized for profit, headquartered in Ohio, and have less than 150 employees with the majority located in Ohio. Depending on your lending institution, additional requirements and restrictions may apply.

In the Treasurer’s office, we’re committed to putting the power of finance to work for Ohio and its communities. While the economy faces an uncertain road ahead, we’ll continue to look for new and innovative ways to put the state’s strong balance sheet to work for our residents, families, and job creators. And we’re ready to help more Ohioans and businesses lower their borrowing costs through our linked deposit programs.

For more information about these programs, please visit our website at www.tos.ohio.gov. As always, we encourage you to stay up to date on news from the office through social media. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram at @OhioTreasurer.

Acing the Basics of Grant Writing

Acing the Basics of Grant Writing

 

Hiring a grant writer isn’t cheap. Some charge a flat fee, while others base their fee as a percentage of the grant amount. If you’re a small business or nonprofit, you may not be able to afford to hire someone. But it is worth it. To take on grant writing yourself, you’ll miss out on the years of experience you’ll get with a professional and it will likely take more time. But if you’re looking for a DIY solution, you need to know the basics of grant writing.

Basics of Grant Writing

First, know that good grant writing is simply good writing. If you struggle with the basics of grammar, you either want to hire it out or hire an editor once you write it. However, one thing to keep in mind about grant writing is that even if you hired a grant writer, you would still need to give them the bullets to put together a compelling grant application. Knowing this, the rest of the writing is simply polishing. The points will always be yours anyway.

Another important aspect is research. Grant bestowers won’t contact you. You must apply. Half of the work in a grant is finding one that’s a good fit for you. Do you fit their criteria? If you’re lucky, you’ll be an obvious fit and hit all of their requirements, but for some you may need to (creatively) illustrate the fit for the person/group giving the money away to show them how you meet their specifications.

Assuming you’ve found a grant you’re interested in, do the following:

  1. Set aside time. A grant is not the same as a credit card application. It will likely take you hours to compile the information needed. If you want to be successful in your grant writing, clear the table, and make sure you have the bandwidth. Delegate, if you must. Applying for money is a big deal. Treat it that way. This is not something you want to write at home in front of the TV at night.
  2. Double check your eligibility. Don’t waste everyone else’s time applying for things you are not remotely eligible for. For instance, if the grant is for a Florida business, don’t apply as an orange grower from California hoping you can sneak in.
  3. Consider the fit between your group and the one giving out the money. Ever watch a sponsor drop a celebrity because they do or say something that is not in keeping with the sponsor’s brand? Well, you want to consider the same thing when applying for grants. Don’t take money from an organization that does not jive with your mission or beliefs. If you can’t tell from the grant offering write-up, do your own research on the group.
  4. Follow the instructions. Even if the grant is being awarded for creative pursuits, follow their directions. If they require a 500-word essay, don’t write a sentence, and submit that thinking it will be Avant Garde and make a statement. If they say 500 words, that’s what they want.
  5. Tell a story. If you watch America’s Got Talent or other talent show with judges or an audience selection process, you’ll notice that contestants who share their tearful stories of family members with cancer or lives spent living in vans, often when paired with a little talent, progress to the next level. A good voice can sound extraordinary when accompanied by a compelling story. Think about your focus, your passion, your successes, and your obstacles. Make people feel what you’ve gone through as you answer the grant questions. Your story will also help you stand out from other applicants.
  6. Use the right language. In addition to telling your story, you want to use persuasive, concise language. Don’t drone on and on thinking the more often you reiterate something, the more you’ll hit the point home. Imagine each word costs (you) money and use as few as possible (following their guidelines, of course) to prove your point and convince the decision maker that yours is the best entity for the money. Axe words like “really,” “actually,” and “very.” They add nothing to your application. Were things really hard or challenging? See the difference? The latter conveys feeling, the former doesn’t.
  7. Then do it again. And again. We all make mistakes but not on applications for large amounts of money. Run your finished application by several people. Ask them to read for grammar/typos, as well as understanding. If they can’t follow your reasoning as to why you should be awarded the money, the grantor certainly won’t be able to either.

Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and believes the world would be a better place if we all had our own theme song that played when we entered the room. What would yours be?

_______________________________________

Twitter: @christinagsmith

Facebook: @tellyourstorygetemtalking

LinkedIn: @christinagsmith

“Small Businessing” Ain’t Easy

There was a time when the biggest concern a business had was bringing in customers. These days, we know you’re worrying about a lot more. You’re wondering where you will find qualified employees. When you do find them on paper or through an application, you keep your fingers crossed that they will show up for their first day of work, or better yet, the interview. Once you hire them, you hope they’ll come back the next day and the next.

You worry about how you will sell items if you can’t get anything on the shelf. And you’re so very tired of hearing your suppliers talk about the supply chain. Two years ago, you didn’t even think about a supply chain in reference to anything more than toilet paper.

You worry about baby formula or people getting sick, your loved ones, your friends, your employees. You wonder if you should ask the person who’s been coughing the entire time they’ve been in your business to leave. Will they be offended or angry?

You worry that if you raise prices to try to make the smallest of profits to help pay for your gas to get to work or the groceries that keep getting more expensive while the quantities shrink that people will stop buying from you. Lag times and scheduling keep you up at night.

Or you’re challenged with too much need of your product or service and an inability to deliver. You hope that when you tell people it will be two to three weeks before you can meet their needs that your competitors are in the same boat.

You want to learn more, do more, and help more but your profits are dwindling almost as quickly as your “rainy day” money and investments are. Rents are going up and you worry your business’ lease will increase above what you can afford or you worry your landlord will sell your building. Home prices are going up but if you sell now, you won’t be able to find an affordable place to live.

It’s summer and you want to take vacation but there’s no one to run your business and even if there was, plane tickets and gas prices look more like car payments these days.

And you worry about safety.

No, this is not an easy time. But we see you small business owner. We are working to connect need with solutions. We’re talking to municipal, county, state, and federal leaders and voicing what you need most. We are brainstorming solutions for these unprecedented times.

We know you’re stressed and anxious, but we are here for you. Small businesses like yours are the backbone of our community and our country. You are not in this alone even though it can feel that way as a business owner.

While it’s important to have a support system, many small business owners struggle when they turn to friends and family for advice. Unless your family and friends are/were business owners themselves, they likely do not fully understand what you are facing.

At the chamber, we do.

While these are unprecedented times, we are working with all our resources to find solutions. We have experience in business and are bringing business owners together.

We can’t make your anxiety go away, or fix the supply chain over night, but we’re working on viable solutions and growth for all.

And because we understand what you’re going through, we’re sharing the following. Please feel free to use it (or edit it) however you see fit:

<<feel free to share this with your customers>>

We’re Business Owners, Not Miracle Workers

Behind this business is a person and a family.

The employee you’re fed up with or questioning because prices are “too high” or service is  slow, is someone’s mother, father, child, friend, or loved one.

We’re not a faceless conglomerate.

We are your neighbors and we’re doing the best we can working in times no one prepared us for.

And while we seem to have everything together, we’re working round the clock just to help keep appearing like they used to be. In reality, we’re getting by and doing what we can to keep our doors open. A lot of people depend on us–our employees, our landlord, our vendors, our suppliers, our own family.

We are providing you service with a smile today even if you’re not showing us your best self.

And we’ll do it again tomorrow and as often as you want to patronize us. We will be here as long as we can keep our business open.

We thank you for sticking with us while we navigate unprecedented times. And yes, some days we’re going to run out of things or we’ll be short-staffed. That may inconvenience you for an hour or two, but please don’t take it out on the person who’s working a double shift because a co-worker called out.

We love being part of this community, but we’re worried, too, just like you. We drive to work, we buy groceries, we must take off when people who depend on us are ill.

No small business owner or employee signed up for the challenges we’re facing now. But we’re making the best of it—like you are—and we sure could use your continued help and understanding.

Thank you for your support. We want to continue to serve you long into the future—or at least as long as it takes for the supply chain to get untangled.

Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and believes the world would be a better place if we all had our own theme song that played when we entered the room. What would yours be?

6 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out During a Local Event

6 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out During a Local Event

 

Does your town host a Wine Walk, Holiday Stroll, First Friday, or other downtown event where they close off streets and encourage people to get out and support business? If so, you may know that those events often bring the crowds but also bring “tire kickers,” people who are just out for a stroll, not really interested in what you sell. They’re just going into each business, poking around, and usually leaving empty handed.

The hard part of that is that you likely brought in full staff to ensure you had enough coverage only to deal with a lot of “lookers.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few suggestions on how to transform your looky-loos into looky heres.

6 Ways to Help Get the Sale

If you have an event that will bring a lot of commerce “tourists” to your business who do a lot of visiting and not much buying, you need to change that with these ideas.

  1. Tell a story. While you may not have the time to do this for everyone in the store, if you see someone eyeballing one of your items in a loving way, go up to them and tell them something interesting about the piece. You’d be surprised what may inspire a sale.
  2. Give a taste. If you sell food or drink, offer someone a taste before they buy. This works to create a sale in two ways: they’ll (hopefully) enjoy it and want more and/or because you kindly gave them a taste (and did something for them), they will feel obligated to buy from you.
  3. Teach a quick skill or use for your product. Draw the crowd into a quick presentation that features a product you sell. Have several products to hand people who want to buy right there. Alternately, have a pro available to answer questions. For instance, a store that sells painted furniture might have an expert on hand to walk people through how to do it themselves. Don’t worry that it will discourage them from buying from you. When they realize how hard it is, they will beg you to take their money.
  4. Get people on your mailing list. You never know when a “tire kicker” may see something in store and decide later that week they must have it. When people are in your store, ask them to join your mailing list. A few days after the event, follow up with a coupon, special offer, or sales notification. That call-to-action will likely send them your way.
  5. Offer a freebie for that night only. If it’s a special night or event, give away a little something to anyone who buys from you or offer specials for that night only.
  6. Create a singalong. In a crowded store, it’s hard to talk to everyone but you want to make sure people have fun and feel the energy of your business. You want them to remember you. A good way to accomplish that is by queuing up the tunes and encouraging people to sing with you. There are certain songs people just can’t help but sing along with—”Don’t stop believing.” You know what I mean. If you don’t, just put on Sweet Caroline and see what happens.

 

 

Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so. 

Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

 

3 Creative Ways to Become Top of Mind

3 Creative Ways to Become Top of Mind

Do you want people to think about your business before all others? Of course, you do. The first step to patronizing your business is remembering it exists.

Imagine you have a free evening, and you want to go out to eat. It doesn’t matter how amazing the food is at the new place down the street; if it doesn’t pop into your mind, you won’t be going there.

The same is true of your potential customers. They need to think of you to spend money with you.

So how do you ensure you’re top of mind and that they will think about your business over the competition? You need to find a way to stand out and be memorable. A good product or service is the first step. Good customer service is also a solid choice. But to truly stand out you must do something slightly different.

Ways to Ensure Your Business Is Top of Mind

Events

Hosting an event at your business is a great way to help people remember you. It also provides an experience, and many individuals admit to enjoying them over physical purchases. When you host an event encourage people to share the occasion on social media for even greater reach.

There are several types of events that draw crowds:

  1. Sampling your offerings or services. You can host an event that is directly related to what you do. For instance, a restaurant may have an invitation-only, special tasting night to sample its new menu.
  2. Education event. You could also offer an evening out based around something that you sell. For instance, a yarn store may hold classes on how to knit.
  3. Block party. Celebrate your customers and potential customers by throwing a party outside your store. A patio furniture store held a parking lot party every weekend with a band and hot dogs. It drew a crowd and people lingered. It was a nice tie in with the product they sold—outdoor furniture. It helped people imagine hosting their own parties later with their new furniture.

A Facebook Group

Depending on the nature of your business, and the things your ideal customer/target audience may have in common, a Facebook group can connect your buyers to you and to one another. This idea works well when you can find a connection or mutual interest among your customers. For instance, a bookstore might create a Facebook group for writers or for fans of a specific genre. In a Facebook group you can share information and flash sales, stream events, and invite your audience to talk about their favorite books. The online community will keep your brand center stage while uniting and engaging your audience.

Savings Clubs/Subscriptions

Have you noticed that a lot of companies are charging their customers a monthly fee for some sort of discount or benefit? It began with Amazon Prime, where customers paid an annual fee for free shipping. The program has expanded beyond that now, but you can certainly start with one benefit like that.

Panera has created an unlimited coffee subscription where coffee lovers are auto-charged a fee each month and given a free cup of coffee daily. Both programs drive sales (and loyalty). When people pay for something, they want to get their money’s worth. Often, that means buying from one store over another because they’re part of a savings club.

However, like gift certificates, there may be people who pay every month and don’t use your services. That’s OK too as the subscription (even if it’s only a few dollars) is a source of revenue you did not have before.

If you want strong sales at your business, you need to ensure that your target market thinks about you. You can do that through email marketing, social media participation, or these three ideas. But whatever you do, make sure you use consistent branding and tone. After all, you want them to remember you, not question who you are.

 

 

Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so. 

Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Allen County Agriculture Hall of Fame Presented by Nutrien

Allen County Agriculture Hall of Fame

Presented By:
Hosted By:

 

The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce initiated its hosting of an Allen County Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2013.  In 2020, Nutrien joined as the presenting sponsor. This annual award recognizes men and women who have been instrumental to the success and excellence of agriculture in Allen County, either as a farmer or in an agriculturally related field. With over $139 million in annual crop and livestock sales, production agriculture is Allen County’s largest industry.  Farms occupy over 80% of its land base. 

Purpose    

The purpose is to honor and give public recognition to those who have brought distinction to themselves, have made outstanding contributions to their professions, and whose community service has been a stimulus to others. 

 Award Selection    

The number of awards made each year may vary, and is at the complete discretion of the committee.  The number of posthumous awards made in a given year is preferred not to exceed half of the total inductees. Honorees are to be selected via a ballot vote of the Ag-Business committee of the Lima Allen County Chamber of Commerce.  They reserve the right to request that a nomination be held over for consideration the following year.   

 Commendable Nominees

The committee has the ability to annually recognize nominees who were not selected for induction into the Hall of Fame but have truly exemplified the spirit of the Allen County farmer as a dedicated and committed servant to their industry and community.

Who Can Be Nominated    

Nominations are honored in two categories: Producer/Breeder and Agricultural Related. 

Nominees must have made their major contribution to agriculture primarily as a result of being born, growing up, living in, or beginning their career in Allen County. The goal is for honorees to have at least 25 years of experience in agriculture.  Nominations can be made posthumously.

The Nomination Process    

Award applications can be secured through the Chamber office or website.  Partnership or husband & wife applications will be considered a single nomination and will use one application form.  Hall of Fame nominees may be submitted by an individual or organization completing a nomination form.  One additional page (8.5 x 11″ paper) may be used, if needed. Additional pieces will not be considered.

Deadline for 2022 Submissions

Deadline for submission of 2022 nominations is Monday, May 2nd.  The application with original signature is to be received in the Lima Allen County Chamber of Commerce office by 4:00 PM on the deadline date.  The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce office is located at 144 S. Main St., Lima, OH  45801 (other contact info below).

2022 Nomination Form

Annual Induction Ceremony     The Chamber will honor the 2022 inductees to the Allen County Agriculture Hall of Fame at a banquet to be held sometime during the summer. 

Roster of Hall of Fame Inductees

Calvin Leimbach
Thomas Fleming
J. Edgar Begg
Russel M. Long
Louis W. Harrod
Wendla Black
Ray W. Whetstone
C. Mark Hershberger
Donald P. Klingler
Calvin R. Kiracofe
Ross Clum
Robert and June Polter
Fred L. Arnold
Robert W. Core
Lester Fleming
Barrett D. Feigh, Sr.
William C. Strayer
William H. Bowersock
Robert W. Mayer
John R. Nixon
Sam B. Blythe
Lloyd B. Smith
John Jay Begg
Clyde E. Ditto
Gerald D. Brooks
Gene McCluer
Kewpee Hamburgers – Harry, Myrna and Scott Shutt

Commendable Nominees:
Elmer Maag and Bob and Phyllis Boyer

For more information contact:
Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce
144 S. Main St., Lima, OH  45801
www.limachamber.com     419-222-6045

Efficiency Versus Effectiveness: which will you choose for 2022?

Efficiency Versus Effectiveness: which will you choose for 2022?

How do you like to work? Are you a speed or precision person? Do you like many small projects or one big, long one that you can dig into?

No, you’re not in the middle of a recruitment fair. These are simply questions that most self-aware professionals should know about themselves and about their teams.

My go-to answer used to be, “I can do either.” But that’s not really an answer, is it? What’s my preference? What do I excel in? After years of running my own business, I’ve come to realize that I like most of my days filled with many smaller projects, with a large one in the background that I can explore about once a week.

Because I like to go fast. What about you and your business?

An Ode to Speed

I am always looking for more efficient ways to do things. Maybe you are too. There are tons of productivity tools, suggestions on how to streamline operations, and the like. If you love efficiency, you are probably a mass consumer of this type of content. You likely fill your time in the car with podcasts and maximize learning or working opportunities whenever possible. You also either fall asleep the minute you turn off the light or you’re up for hours considering new ideas and solutions.

If you work for someone else, they likely pass you the ball often because they know you’ll get it done on time but…

There’s something speed demons often sacrifice and that’s effectiveness. That’s not to say they aren’t effective at their jobs. But as they develop a reputation for getting things done, those around them pile on more. After all, it’s fun to watch kind of like those strongest man contests where they sport truck tires around their arm as if they were bangle bracelets.

Get It Done

Speed allows for singular focus. Efficient people know what tasks can be performed when. If they have a few minutes in their schedule, they know how to use them. Effective people, on the other hand, allow themselves to take a step back. To make decisions about what tasks will advance their ultimate goals and what will detract from them. They weigh everything against what they want to accomplish, and they say “no” often. They would rather have a moment doing nothing than cramming it full of busy work.

Effective people are not the most efficient. They are not the peo

ple you hand something to when it needs to be completed ASAP. They probably wouldn’t put up with you dumping things on them anyway. They make deliberate decisions.

Choose Your Way

As a business owner or employee, there are times to concentrate on efficiency and there are times to gear your operation to effectiveness. If you are one or the other all the time, you will find yourself struggling either with burn out or missed deadlines.

Ask yourself if this week you moved the marker toward you

r goals be being deliberate in what you were trying to accomplish, or did you break the speed barrier and astound audiences everywhere?

Only you know which of these is the most important for your business this week, this month, this year. But you must recognize the differences between the two to realize what you need when in order to succeed.

 

Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.

Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

 

Small Business Season Deal Idea

One way to bring shoppers into your business over the holiday season is by offering deals. That’s how the big box stores work. They bring in customers through loss leaders. While you might not be in a situation to offer products at cost, you can offer deals to bring the crowds in. This year especially, shoppers will be looking for bargains and they may not always think of small businesses as places to find them.

Here are a few ideas to help change their minds:

Small Business Season Deal Ideas
Offering a discount can be tricky for a small business. You want to ensure your discount is driving enough sales that you’re not undercutting profit.

Discount Codes or Coupons

According to Statista, 93% of shoppers use a coupon, so offering discount codes/coupons is a good way to lure buyers in. You can offer a discount to some customers, but not all, if you use a coupon rather than a store-wide discount.

You can also target certain audiences for their loyalty or following such as sending out a mailer or email to past customers, posting a flash discount on social media (good for a very limited time), or offering it to a specific group of people such as chamber members.

Do you remember the idea the CEO of JCPenney’s had of offering the best pricing all the time, no coupons, no discounts? It failed miserably. There’s something motivating in the sales psychology of getting a coupon or extended offer. It makes a customer feel like they have the winning ticket, and many are inspired to buy because of it.

Two-fers: more is more to most buyers

Another popular deal strategy is offering discounts for larger quantities. Most people will find it much more appealing to get more of an item than buying a single item at a discount. For instance, a 50% increase in quantity (getting more) is the same as offering a 33% discount, but the latter is not nearly as appealing.

Discounts for the Appropriate Buying Stage

Offering discounts for online shoppers who are new to your site is a solid strategy but only when used optimally. How many times have you been on a new site and before you can tell whether you want to buy or not, a pop-up fills your screen offering a discount for that day’s purchase? Discounts drive sales and make customers feel great about their purchase but this type of use is like asking for a marriage commitment on a first date.

Instead, ask them to join your mailing list for a discount when they’re ready to buy. This benefits you in two ways. You’re incentivizing them to purchase when they’re ready and you’ve enticed them into providing you with a way to contact them in the future. If you promise to respect their privacy, they’ll likely sign up. Discounts are the top reason people subscribe. Plus, a past customer is always easier to sell to than a new one. According to HubSpot, you’re 60-70% more likely to sell to one you’ve sold to before. A new customer also costs you more, between 5-25% more to acquire.

Loyalty Discounts and Clubs

One complaint about cable and cell phone companies is that the best deals are saved for new subscribers. Yet, even these businesses are slowly changing their tunes and beginning to offer deals to loyal customers. You can too.

Loyalty clubs can take many forms such as punch cards, point programs, or special thank you discounts. Some loyalty benefits are one-offs like a coupon for a “Customer Appreciation Event” or—in the case of loyalty clubs—cumulative (the more they spend and the more frequently they buy from you, the more they are rewarded). Loyalty programs make people feel valued and special. You are thanking them for your success and inviting them back.

Pay Up Fronts

Depending on your business, you may also find “pay up front” deals very appealing. With these programs, you offer discounts to customers who buy in bulk ahead of services or products offered. You can use this as part of a gift card offer (buy $100 gift card, get an additional $10, for instance) or—if you offer services—charge a flat fee for unlimited use (such as $60 a month for unlimited classes). This helps you bring in revenue today for products or services claimed tomorrow. Since you’re getting the money up front, you pass a small discount or bonus along to them in return.

The shop small season is a great time to bring in customers with deals and discounts. If you decide to implement any of these, make sure you market them accordingly. They won’t work if no one knows about them. As you market, don’t forget to tell your chamber, visitors bureau, and your city. Those groups can help ensure the message (and “sales incentivizers”) become part of their shop small messaging too for even greater reach.

Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so. 

Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

 

16 Reasons to Shop Local Instead of Online

There is nothing more convenient than whipping out your phone, typing in a URL (or opening an app), perusing offerings, and hitting a few buttons to buy something…anything…everything. We even get our groceries that way these days. But as convenient as online shopping seems, there are several reasons to shop local.

16 Reasons to Shop Local Instead of Online

In-person is the way to go this Small Business Season. If you can suspend disbelief for a few minutes, we’ll explain why.

Our Favorite Reasons to Shop Local During Small Business Season

Yes, online shopping is convenient. You don’t have to change out of your PJs and it’s always open. But in the t-chart of holiday shopping options, there are a lot of reasons to shop local.

Here are a few of our favorites:

You’re supporting your neighbors.

When you support Small Business Season and shop local, you are supporting your neighbors and they are more likely, in turn, to keep the money you spent with them locally as well (for every $100 spent locally, $68 of it stays local).

 

You are able to get in-person advice.

Not sure of the right size, color, or other option? Maybe you want to buy something but don’t know what else you need to make that purchase complete (like buying a fishing rod without any hooks or lures). An in-person shopping experience can help you straighten out the choices. Small business owners offer complete information and suggestions and you can ask questions about those suggestions. Doing that via chat online can be cumbersome and delayed as they are answering questions from several other shoppers at the same time.

You know what you’re getting.

Have you ever ordered something online only to be disappointed when it arrives? Maybe it’s smaller than you thought or the color is just too much. Online images can be very hard to discern. (Remember that dress a few years back? What color was that anyway?) If you don’t read the description carefully, your item may be smaller (or larger) than expected and may not include things you had assumed came with it. Even when you do read the description, some items are sized differently or have unexpected variations. Don’t even get us started on what happens then.

For every $100 spent locally, $68 of it stays local.

Local yields easier returns.

Even though you have a clear understanding of what you’re buying when you buy in person, sometimes you need to return your purchase. When you do, it’s easier to do it locally than to send something back to an online store. Between paying for shipping to going to the post office and insuring it, bringing it back to a local business is generally easier than online returns.

Satisfaction guaranteed.

If you’re not satisfied with what you purchased, but it’s not something you can bring back (like a service or a food item), you know how to get in touch with the local provider. Some online sellers make it impossible to speak to a human. Try arguing your point with AI that uses keywords and automated language responses. Talking to the local business owner is much easier and they may be able to suggest something that is more along the lines of what you’re looking for.

Local shopping becomes an experience.

Yes, online shopping is quick, but you also have no memory of doing it. This can lead to overbuying. How many times during the holiday do you come home to find a package on your doorstep and you can’t remember what you purchased? You’ll remember when you go out. Plus, when you shop in-person or local, you can invite friends, family, or just make a pleasurable outing for yourself. This creates appealing memories of a wonderful seasonal experience.

It brings on the holiday spirit.

When you are out among the sounds and smells of the holiday, it brightens your mood. Who doesn’t love sparkling lights, glitter, snow (real or fake), and all of the happy tunes of the season? It’s hard to get those same smiles shopping online.

You may miss the best things when you only go online.

When you shop online, you do a few searches for things you are looking for. You are less apt to stumble across the perfect gift or item because you are on a targeted mission and only see what the online store presents. When you’re shopping in person, there are a lot of serendipitous moments where something catches your eye and you walk out knowing you found a treasure.

You meet and interact with people.

When you shop in person, you meet and interact with people. We have been sequestered long enough. There’s something to be said from those chance meetings that occur when walking around town. Who knows–you could meet your next business partner or a former friend. From the warm smile of the business owner to a suggestion, compliment, or affirmation you receive from a fellow shopper, there are many times when these sorts of introductions can be very helpful.

You’ll receive better reviews.

Sure, online reviews are helpful but so are reviews from people around you. Plus, people you meet in person who are commenting on what you’re buying have a personal connection. They are vouching for the item or dish face-to-face. If you have questions about what they’re saying, you can ask. Online reviews are one-sided with very little chance for follow-up from the original poster.

No worries about delivery this small business season when shopping local.

With ports backed up and short-staffing throughout the supply chain, there’s a lot of talk about potential delivery delays this holiday. If you shop in-person, you won’t need to worry about this.

In-person shopping is perfect for procrastinators.

Sure, there are some online mega-retailers who can get an item to you same day depending on where you live, but most times–especially as we get closer to the actual holiday–your best bet for last-minute gifts is a local shop. If you’re a procrastinator, feel free to take this reason to shop local as permission. You’ll feel less stressed about waiting, plus you won’t be depending on someone else’s delivery schedule.

Displays help you visualize.

Store displays are better than “you might also like” options in online stores. After all, the online suggestions are based on the buying patterns of others or using products the online retailer links together. Store displays are created (and stores are arranged) to help you find what you need and want. Collections are curated with the shopper in mind. You may find a lot of treasurers browsing that way.

Window shopping can lead to ideas.

When you shop in-person around the holidays you’ll be treated to beautiful window and decoration displays. These could inspire your holiday home décor or help you figure out something for your hard-to-buy-for aunt. A display may also draw you into trying a new business that you hadn’t noticed before. There are so many serendipitous possibilities when shopping in person this Small Business Season.

You could find your next job.

If you shop in person, you’ll quickly realize how many businesses are hiring. Who knows. You might decide to work at your favorite shop over the holidays.

One’s couch has never been the setting for a Hallmark holiday movie but Main Street certainly has.

And we all love those movies, don’t we?

Small business season sign image

We aren’t telling you to never shop online again. Online shopping is simply too convenient and there are many times when you can get things delivered online faster than you are able to clear your schedule and shop in person. There are also many local sellers that have an online presence so you can buy online and still “shop local.”

Still, there are several reasons to shop local, including the ability to spread some holiday cheer to your local businesses this Small Business Season.

Those business owners would just love to see your smiling face and the serious ones of Mr. Jackson, Hamilton, and Washington.

This Small Business Season, let’s give local and small businesses something to be thankful for.

Let’s give them the gift of our support.

By: Christina Metcalf

3 Most Common Business Challenges and Ways to Slay Them

Being a business owner has its rewards and its challenges. If you’ve been in business longer than a hot second, you’ve likely experienced both. Often the freedoms override the dissatisfaction, but if you find that the negatives are wearing on you, don’t get discouraged. The earlier you recognize the most common challenges of business ownership, the more likely you’ll be able to take them in stride.

3 Most Common Business Challenges and Ways to Slay Them

Hiring

 

This is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a business owner and it will color all areas of your business. The first challenge for most businesses when it comes to hiring is deciding when it’s time to hire the first employee or grow past the first employee.

After you make that decision to add headcount, deciding who that person will be is your next big challenge. If you hire poorly, you’ll be doing it again soon, or worse, it will affect morale if you already have more than one employee.

Tips for hiring well: know what you want and what you need in the position. Know the difference between both. Be logical in understanding what’s required of the position and whether the candidate has what it takes. Be honest about the job and its challenges, especially if you’re one of them.

Making Time for Yourself or Your Family

The problem with finding what you love and opening a business that helps you follow your passion is that you often don’t see it as work and you’ll spend an absurd amount of time thinking about it, dreaming of new idea, and planning next steps for your business. Even if you don’t feel like you need time for yourself, there are likely family and/or friends who want to see you.

Small business owners often neglect themselves and their loved ones because they are singularly focused on achieving success. Unlike working for someone else, when the success relies solely on you (at least in the beginning), it’s hard not to be obsessed with it.

Tips for making time for yourself (or at least those who love you): balance is essential in everything. Even if you’re enjoying yourself and don’t think of your work as work and you enjoy it, there are people in your life who want to spend time with you. It’s in your best interest to make sure your loved ones get that.

Schedule time to be with them as if it were an important meeting with your biggest client. One PR consultant I know promises to be home to the family every night by six so they can have dinner together. Her family knows they have her undivided attention for three hours. If she needs to go back to work after that, she does. But she never allows anything to take the place of those important hours.

Figure out what parts of your day work for you and then don’t schedule anything else for that time….ever.

Staying on Top of Your Industry and Tech

When you work for someone else, you likely have a manager giving you ideas for professional growth. Your company may pay for you to attend valuable conference sessions each year. They may purchase association and chamber memberships for you.

But when you are the business owner, there’s no one telling you what to stay on top of or what skills to develop in order to stay competitive. You have to decide that for yourself and find ways to accomplish this with your already full schedule.

Tips for continuing education and professional development: There are plenty of online options like Lynda and Udemy to take courses in areas of interest. You can also join the chamber and partake in their lunch and learns or other educational opportunities. Follow a few blogs in your areas of interest and read their posts over coffee every morning. Set up a Twitter account and follow people in your industry. You can use that social network as a way to scan what people are talking about in your niche.

If you’re a small business owner there are a lot of freedoms to enjoy and challenges to navigate. If you’re able to master these most common ones, you’ll be in a good position to take on additional obstacles as they surface.

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.  

 She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.