Archive for the ‘Small Business Advice’ Category


Employee Appreciation: Company Culture, Productivity, And Employee Satisfaction

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Wake up. Push yourself out of bed. Shower, dress, stumble to the kitchen, get coffee. Find something to eat. 7:30AM – drag feet to the car, drag yourself into work, drag your way through the day. It’s like a vending machine: insert hours, receive dollars. Take your earnings and drag yourself home…just in time to get some sleep and start over the next day.

Chances are we’ve all experienced this grind; it’s the hallmark of a dissatisfying workplace. Even one burned-out employee can suck the joy out of the room and drag everyone down, hurting productivity. Meanwhile, Creating the Best Workplace on Earth authors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones tell us a few benefits to highly-engaged workforces compared to the not-so-engaged:

–        50% more likely to exceed performance expectations

–        54% higher employee retention

–        89% higher customer satisfaction

–        400% more revenue growth

Take Google, for example. Some argue that their meteoritic rise from ten guys in a Palo Alto garage to the giant it is today is the product of good company culture. At TalkLocal, these three strategies have showed us that, when it comes to company culture, a little effort goes a long way:


Employees will inevitably slide into “The Grind” if they lose sight of their value to the company; reminding them that they’re more than a number of hours is crucial. By holding weekly meetings where company goals are articulated in terms of how each employee fits into the picture helps instill a feeling of investment in their position. Educating employees on their roles can also improve their performance; only clear goals can be pursued.

Combining this approach with compliments and recognition of performance improvements will bring genuine positivity and an attitude of focus to your company culture.


This mentality can tear a business apart. We’re always at our best when enjoying ourselves, so find ways to bring a little fun into your team. It can be as easy as a game of cards for a smaller group or as big as a bowling night; take a vote on it. The other night, the TalkLocal team went bowling, scheduled right after we hired new interns – put briefly, relationships were built.

It’s no surprise that, the next morning, the TalkLocal interns were talking to their teammates. Not only did having fun increase our team’s productivity through facilitating collaboration, it contributed to the relaxed, positive atmosphere that defines a good company culture.


To company managers and owners: understand that to your audience and employees, you embody the company. Capitalize on this through the intimacy of a small business by keeping in frequent and meaningful contact with employees, especially new ones. Enrich your employees by allowing them to make recommendations and educating them about the business model; questions are a sign of investment, so make sure to invite them.

Overall, a positive company culture is defined by recognizing that your team is the sum of real people. Don’t wait to make them feel that way, because you’ll lose out on the most productive and satisfied force you’ve seen yet. If clock-in is starting to feel like a funeral death knell, then turn a new page on your workplace and enliven the office by showing everyone their value and your appreciation.

Of course, if getting more and higher quality jobs is the best way to lift up your team’s spirits, then check out TalkLocal; it lets you preview jobs for free by phone and opt into a live conversation with the customer you want to do business with. No more paying for leads you’ll never use. Click here to claim your profile.

To Grow Your Small Business: Discover Your Special Sauce

Friday, October 16th, 2015


If you did the same thing, the same way, and for the same customers as every other business then you wouldn’t have started your own business in the first place. Yet, recognizing and articulating your “special sauce” so that you can stand out among the competition is one of the biggest challenges a small business owner will face. Communicating that difference effectively is the only way to attract and retain a customer base and grow your small business. Here are 6 tricks for discovering and sharing your “special sauce” in your marketing campaign.

Research your competition

You’re not going to know what your company does right without finding out what your competition does wrong. Look into the most well-known businesses who supply a similar service or product. Look up customer complaints, articles written about them, their business models – anything that could give you an idea of what your competition does differently than you. Compare what you’ve learned about your competition with how your company conducts itself. Odds are there is at least one thing you do that’s different and better than your competition. If your business looks like a carbon copy of your competition, it’s time to re frame your business model and look for what people complain about most regarding your competition. Then, remodel your business to address those problems.

Get the word out!

Once you’ve figured out what it is that sets your business apart, it’s time to advertise. Make your “special sauce” the key focus of your social media campaign. There are multiple mediums to broadcast your “special sauce,” but here are a few suggestions of what worked for us.


Blog writing can be one of the most effective ways to get the word out about your business’s “special sauce.” Write about problems customers encounter with businesses in your field, issues have with your competition, and anything related to what your business does. The important thing to do at the end of each of these posts is to separate your business from the issues you’re writing about. Incorporate the “special sauce” of your business into your solution to the problem that the blog post addresses.

Incorporate the “special sauce” Into the sales pitch

Call a meeting with the sales team. Present them with the facts that separate you from your competitors and tell them to emphasize these points in the pitch. The “special sauce” should be incorporated into the sales team’s explanation of your service or product. If done correctly, the sales call will educate potential customers about what sets your business apart from the competition (and hopefully close them).

Make the “special sauce” a major talking point in your business presentations

Business conferences are where you can get the attention of major backers and investors. These individuals who have the power to make your company sink or swim, want to hear why they should invest in your company compared to your competition and what you do that will make their investment worthwhile. Donate at least a few slides of your presentation to explaining the “special sauce” of your company, what makes it unique, and why it puts you far above your competitors. This will hook investors who are on the fence of whom to invest in, and spread word of your company across the business world like wildfire.

Create the tagline-splash the sauce on top of it!

A clear and concise tagline or catchphrase can do wonders for your online presence. You can incorporate a good tagline into your blog posts, your sales pitches, your presentations, basically any form of communication between your company and the business world. With the tagline being as important as it is, why not incorporate your special sauce into it. Make sure to do it in a catchy way. Any example can be seen is what we’ve done with our tagline here at TalkLocal. We’re a lead generation service and our “special sauce” is that we generate free leads in real time by phone. A potential tagline could be “free leads.real time.real people. TalkLocal.” If you incorporate your special sauce into an effective broadcasting campaign, you’d be surprised with how fast it will cause your business to grow.

And, did I mention that TalkLocal also helps service professionals meet new customers? Sign up to get lead previews of matching customers by phone and opt-in to speak to them immediately. Premium members pay a small flat rate per conversation; they never pay for calls that go to voicemail or are not the types of jobs they want. Click here to learn more.

How To Not Sound Like A Telemarketer 101

Thursday, October 1st, 2015


We’ve all been there before: at the start of the week, you’ve got a large list of potential leads and by the end, you haven’t closed a single sale. One problem you might have is coming across as the stereotypical telemarketer, the guy who wants to scam the customer out of his hard-earned money. The customer isn’t going to trust you unless you come across as though you’re offering him something truly worthwhile. We’ve chosen the top common mistakes salesmen make which gives their potential customers the impression that they’re just another telephone solicitor.

How to Not Sound Like A Telemarketer 101

You forget to start with your name

If you’re trying to build the trust necessary to sell something to a customer, how well do you think it’s going to go over if you haven’t even given them your name? If you don’t follow the rules of basic human interaction, it demonstrates incompetence and your chances of closing the sale are going to lower.

You can’t adapt to the customer’s demands

If you’re a rookie salesman or have gotten too comfortable with your pitch, you might be inclined to stick to a pre-planned strategy when talking to a customer. While having a good idea of what to say and how to say it, it can give you an extra boost of confidence, but it also makes it much more likely for your sales pitch to derail. It’s essential for the salesman to be “in the moment” when having the conversation, he or she needs to be prepared for the conversation to go in any direction; whether it’s a distraction or a hindrance they lead might throw his way that will keep him from making the sale.

You lie to the potential customer

One of the worst ways to sink your chances at landing the sale is to lie to the person on the phone. Whether you’re lying about who you are, what your company does, or how successful your company is, karma will come back to haunt you. The internet is an accessible tool and any published information about you or your company is there for your potential clients. When you’re on the phone, what you tell your potential clients should match what it says about you on the internet because if they do check later, they might have second thoughts about doing business with you. Lying never works out well in the end.

If you find yourself doing any of these things when trying (and failing) to make a sales call, they might be what’s holding you back. We get it, trying to generate sales over the phone can be tough. If you’re a small business, you should use TalkLocal to get leads sent to you in real time for free. We connect the customers looking for jobs in your field of work directly to you! For free leads in real time, check out TalkLocal.

How To Make Your Small Business Look Legit

Friday, September 25th, 2015


Starting a small business can be an ambitious decision in today’s market. One of the most important factors that will determine if you can get people interested in your product or service, is your ability to make your business seem “legit.” At TalkLocal, we grew from four guys in a basement to more than 60 employees in a DC-area office, and we account our growth and development as a company to our efforts of legitimizing our brand in order to attract clients. Here are some tips your small business should follow in order to seem legitimate in the eyes of potential customers:

Make your website seem professional

In the internet age, your business’s homepage can make or break deals. When a customer comes to the website of a company that they will potentially be doing business with, they expect it to be high quality. If your company’s website looks like a 13 year old girl’s blog from 2001, then it’s time to consider a serious upgrade. This article offers some simple tips about fonts, backgrounds, images, and information placement that can help you bring your website into the 2010s.

List an actual address

Nothing can make your business seem shadier than not having a physical address listed on your social media and website. When a customer doesn’t see an address, he or she will get a bad impression of your business and will not trust you. Even if it’s your home address you have to list, something is better than nothing, and a physical address goes a long way towards customers trusting you with their business.

Create company email addresses

If your small business is going to send a lot of emails, you should create company email addresses. If a consumer is deciding between one company that uses a Gmail account and their competitor with a company email account, they’re going to go with the guy with his own domain name; it just seems more professional. Websites like Hover make it easy for small businesses to get their own domain names and setup company email accounts.

Real-world networking

Never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction or over-the-phone interaction when spreading the word about your business. Set up meetings with old colleagues or local professionals over lunch. Ask them for advice on how to grow your business. Also, tell them to spread the word about your company and the product or service you provide. If you’re looking to recruit, attend career or internship fairs at local colleges; this is an easy way to find qualified and motivated people to join your team!

Move into an office ASAP

You should move into a serious office as soon as possible if you want to really make your business seem legit. The benefits of having an office should be self-explanatory: having a place to bring clients to meet, having a place for the entire team to work, having your company name on a door, and creating a professional aura around what your company does. As soon as it is economically possible for you to do so, move your company into an office.

Here at TalkLocal, we found these actions have helped increase our customer base, internet presence, and expand our company’s professional network. We hope these steps will help you expand your customer base, but if you still need help generating leads for your small business, check out TalkLocal where we can give you leads for free in real time.

“Why My Google Not Working”: A Brief Look at SEO and the Penguin Update

Sunday, June 7th, 2015



The modern internet can be a strange place, and its inner workings have gotten pretty complicated. From a business perspective, the sun now rises and sets on search engines. As lead-seeking businesses have moved from the phone book to Google and friends, a new field has proven itself essential to effective online marketing: search engine optimization (SEO).

If you want your business to thrive in the SEO era, you should understand how these new technologies work, and how recent changes in search engine dynamics affect your visibility. At TalkLocal, buying “Snow-Removal” from Google Adwords actually jump-started our business in a matter of hours and won us our first slew of consumers and business clients during a 2011 snowstorm. In fact, the fact that you’re reading these words right now is all thanks to SEO magic. So, here’s a short primer to teach you the tricks of the trade.

The Page-Crawling Robot Herd

Yes, that’s a real thing. Search engines index the internet by sending autonomous programs (sometimes called “spiders,” “crawlers,” or just “bots”) across the web to collect information. These bots crawl from page to page through links, storing what they see in databases that will one day become search results. If your site has plenty of healthy links, the bots will notice it more and your rank among search results will go up.

It’s important to remember that bots can’t do everything that people can. They can’t understand rich content (images, videos, Flash, etc.) and don’t know how to fill out forms (even one as simple as a search bar). Thus, information hidden within any of these elements is hidden from a search engine.


The bots play an important part in search engines, but so do the things that people actually search for. Using keywords taken from high-traffic queries (entertainingly, one of the highest is “ why my google not working ”) can boost your page ranking and land more search engine users on your website.

It’s also important to keep the keywords you use relevant to your content. Keyword stuffing, or nonsensically filling a page with random high-value keywords to attract traffic, can be detected by bots, and may result in a penalty to your search result ranking.

Penguin 3.0

In October of 2014, Google installed an update to its Penguin filter, an anti-spam measure. This update makes it more important for you or your webmaster to get rid of “bad links” leading back to your site, such as those from spam sources and other sites of questionable authority.

The update discounts the ranking credit earned from such links. Thus, if spammers have been linking to your site, even without your knowledge or consent, your search results rank may have taken a big hit – and that why your google not working.

All of this may sound like a lot to keep track of, but the key to SEO success as a small business is just good website maintenance. Make sure your site has a simple layout with quality content, beware of low-authority link sources, and don’t try to spam or cheat the search engine system. Follow these basic guidelines and you’ll be on your way to a high rank – and the high returns that come with it.

Top 3 Ways to Improve Work Performance in Your Office

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Improving work performance

By Manpreet Singh

One of the hardest things to figure out as a small business owner is how to improve work performance in your office. Whether you have a 15 or 40 person office, it can be hard to get everyone to perform at maximum efficiency. At TalkLocal, we understand how serious this problem can be, especially for an up-and-coming business. Here are some tips that helped us improve work performance in our office.

Cut down on miscommunication

The lifeline of a productive office is communication. The problem is major breakdowns have a potential to occur between workers over issues such as roles, tasks, positions, and responsibilities. If someone doesn’t know what their job is or how to complete it, they’re not going to be productive. If you don’t want to have an office full of people blankly staring at a screen, you need to define roles and establish a chain of command. Make sure everyone knows who to report to, who they can go to if they have questions about a task, etc.

It’s a good idea for all employees to have an idea of what everyone’s job or department entails in the office so they can go to someone if they need help in that given area. If everyone is aware of what’s going on in the office as far as the location of resources, who their boss is, or what department handles what, you’ll find your employees will work at a much more productive pace than an office plagued with miscommunication. Without an idea of how important a given task is, the employee will have no idea how to balance his workload and will become less efficient in how quickly he can complete his tasks.

Delegate effectively

Another thing that can slow down productivity in the office is an ineffective delegation of tasks. The usual model of work delegation involves the manager or department head assigning tasks to those below them within their department. Problems can arise when you assign tasks to a person who lacks the skills to complete it, or whose skills would be better used at completing another task. Don’t give the marketing guy the task of creating the graphic for the holiday newsletter. Another problem which can occur in the delegation process is failing to communicate the priority level of the task.

Challenge your employees

Monotony can cause any employee to become bored with his job; this leads to large amounts of unproductivity. The tasks that used to get your employees full attention begin to get less and less of it because they become easy and almost second nature for them to complete. The solution to this is to constantly challenge your employees. If you see them finishing their tasks at a quicker pace or just sitting around idly, give them a new responsibility or assign them to complete a task you need done.

What keeps people focused on the job is the challenge it gives them; the success they will feel when they complete a new task; the satisfaction of completing a hard day’s work. If you keep challenging your employees they will stay focused, remain productive, and grow into more valuable assets to your business.

At TalkLocal, we know the importance of keeping our employees productive. We strive to have 5-star office communication, management that understands appropriate delegation of tasks, and employees who are constantly challenged with new responsibilities.

4 Tried-and-True Summer Promotion Ideas

Sunday, May 24th, 2015


Millions of people across America are putting away their winter coats and unpacking their shorts and T-shirts. For small business owners, the coming of summer isn’t just a moral pick-me-up; it presents an opportunity to cash in on the change of season with contextual marketing. Below are four small business-friendly summer promotion ideas that could give your business a seasonal boost.

Outdoor Signage

One cheap and easy way to increase your visibility in the summer is to take advantage of increased pedestrian activity with outdoor signs advertising your business. Make sure your signage is well-placed (near a high-traffic area) and attention-grabbing (with a pleasing design or a short joke). Even a chalkboard on the sidewalk can prove lucrative to your business while also adding a homey, inviting aesthetic.


For a small business owner, “giveaway” is a misnomer. The money you spend hosting one is more of a marketing investment. Find vacation-friendly luxury products, such as a pair of designer sunglasses or a tablet, and sell tickets – or just exchange them for “likes” on social media. The buzz and customers you’ll attract will easily pay for the cost of the prizes.

Branded Summer Promotional Items

If you can put your logo on something cheap and useful during the summer months to sell or distribute, you can strengthen your brand and promote customer loyalty. Good examples of promotional knick-knacks for summer include hats, towels, and bumper stickers.

“Staycation” Campaign

This one can work with any of the above three strategies, or any other marketing medium. Amid the economic turbulence of the past decade, taking an inexpensive summer pseudo-vacation in one’s own town has become extremely popular. Small businesses can take advantage by running seasonal specials or advertising to target “vacationers” who live nearby.

Summer is sometimes associated with a slump for small business sales, but it doesn’t have to be. With some seasonally smart marketing, you can capitalize on people’s summer consumer habits, and thus turn the rising temperatures into rising profits for your business.



5 Customer Service Mistakes Your Business Might Be Making

Sunday, May 17th, 2015


Is customer service a priority for your business? For many, it isn’t; the average business loses a fifth of its customers annually by neglecting its relationships with them. In the end, your retention rate is heavily influenced by the quality of service you offer to your customers. Below are five common customer service mistakes that might be eating away at your bottom line.

Being Unprepared or Disengaged with Staff

Customer service starts between you and your employees. Before you even begin customer service training, make sure you’re respectful to them, as their relationship with you tends to be reflected in their relationship with the customer. Also ensure that everyone in your office gets some training. On a busy day, you never know who might be conscripted to handle a call.

Trying to Win an Argument Against a Customer

Arguing with a customer is the most labor-intensive way to lose business; agreeing saves time and money. What’s more, when employee egos clash with customers, things sometimes spiral out of control. Promoting a “customer is always right” culture (and some basic anger/stress management techniques) can safeguard your business against employee-customer standoffs, and the negative buzz that comes with them.

Using Jargon

Nobody likes being made to feel stupid, and speaking in industry language that a customer won’t understand does exactly that. Make a habit of discussing your product in layman’s terms— no advanced technical or business vocabulary.

Relying on Automated Customer Support

It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your FAQ page is; some customers just want to talk to a person, and your business should be ready and willing to help those customers. If a caller has a question that’s answered on your website, the proper recourse is to respectfully answer the question, then explain where the information can be found for future reference. Once again, this is a matter of investing in not making the customer feel stupid.

Being a Stickler for Company Policy

“If I did this for you, I’d have to do it for everyone.” This is the sound of losing a customer, and it’s easy to see why; it implies “you’re not special enough to us for this kind of help.” Making sensible exceptions is a cornerstone of excellent customer service. So, make sure that you and your employees understand that your policies don’t supersede common decency. Just as blindly sticking to policy can be insulting to customers, while bending it for them will often leave them grateful enough to leave a good review or tell their friends.

Any businessperson knows how hard it is to find new customers, so why skimp on keeping the old ones? Ensuring that your customer service personnel are well-prepared and have a good attitude could be a bigger boon for your revenue than the best marketing campaign. What has your business experience taught you about customer service?

Precious Milliseconds: A Primer on Website Speed Optimization

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

shutterstock_189399701We’ve all done it before: you click on a page, stare at a loading screen for a few seconds, get impatient, and then leave. In business website design, speed is king, and reducing your loading time is the key to boosting your conversion rate. Here’s a crash course in the basics of website speed optimization, listed for your convenience in order of complexity.

Easy Solutions

To optimize your website’s loading speed, you need a clear picture of the things that take up loading time. Fortunately, you don’t need a computer science degree to evaluate what needs fixing; this thing does nicely.

Another simple improvement suggested by business website experts is to turn off any plugins you aren’t using. That doesn’t mean all of your plugins; as we’ll see later, some can boost your loading speed. If you don’t handle the technical side of your website, ask your webmaster about trimming the fat.

Images take up a substantial chunk of loading time. Bigger = takes longer to load, so use the smallest images that fit the aesthetic of your site. Also, take advantage of the different kinds of image files. Low-detail images load faster as a .gif, while a slower-loading .jpeg or .png is better for more visually complex displays.

Intermediate Solutions

One plugin you do want to use is one that caches your webpages. Unless you make significant updates to your site several times a day, you can save a lot of loading time by showing visitors cached (quickly saved) versions of your pages rather than making their devices load them from scratch every time.

Redirects eat up loading time. While they’re useful for making changes while conserving search engine ranking, you must gauge whether doing so is worth the extra milliseconds that could bounce some traffic away.

Advanced Solutions

In many cases, HTTP requests take up the lion’s share of loading seconds. Compressing your data (i.e. storing more data in fewer files that must be requested) is a good move; if you use a web host you may need to talk to them about implementing this fix.

One mistake that slows down loading is putting JavaScript and CSS code right in your HTML document. To reduce file size, take full advantage of caching, and generally speed up your loading, save them externally.

It’s amazing how much of a difference a couple of seconds can make for your business site. Amazon found that every tenth of a second eliminated from loading time boosted their revenue by 1%.  From common-sense fixes to more sophisticated web developer hacks, hopefully a few of these ideas will subtract from your business site’s loading time— and add to your bottom line.



Keeping It Real: Four Ways to Avoid Dishonest Marketing

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015


By Manpreet Singh

Integrity is crucial to a successful business, and nowadays too many companies show little integrity in their marketing approach. From lost revenue to legal action, there are a multitude of reasons why dishonest marketing isn’t worth its hidden costs and risks. Below are four easy ways to ensure that your sales approach stays truthful.

Say/Don’t Say Sheets

The simplest way to promote sales ethics is to print something out about it. At TalkLocal, we ensure our sales team’s honesty by issuing them lists of possibly misleading statements they shouldn’t use, and more clearly-worded alternatives that won’t misinform customers. For example, our sheets warn against saying “We have so many requests in this area for your business to serve!” and instead suggest saying “We are expanding in your area and getting more requests.”


Employee monitoring is a surefire way to catch marketing dishonesty early, but too much of it can create bitterness and distrust. On a surveillance scale from 1 to the NSA, your goal is no more than a 5. If recording calls is too heavy-handed (or expensive) for your sales team, keeping a supervisor within earshot generally suffices; we’ve implemented this easy solution without any problems.


Your salespeople are more likely to stick to the truth if you talk to them about it. Spending a few minutes of a meeting discussing sales ethics can make a real difference in preventing deceptive practices. What’s more, promoting a culture of morality in your business can boost employee pride and, therefore, performance.There’s a one-letter difference between “morale” and “moral.”

Accepting the Negatives

No matter your industry, your customers value honesty; they can also usually tell when they’re being given a run-around. Encouraging your salespeople not to verbally dodge the downsides of your business or market builds trust with those customers. If done right, it can also keep the conversation going. As I drafted this article, I overheard one of our team members commiserating with a customer about the weak demand for landscapers during DC’s snowy winter. Within a few seconds, he’d shifted the conversation to the customer’s side job as a home contractor. He ended up making the sale.

Fighting dishonesty in your marketing and sales process doesn’t have to be difficult. A few simple safeguards can keep your approach truthful while providing your business with side benefits like happier employees and better quality control. Do for your business what you do in life – just keep it real.