Posts Tagged ‘small business advice’


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 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.

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?

Unscrupulous Business Practices Exposed: No April Fools Joke

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

By Timothy Lodge


April Fools Day is the time of the year when everyone brings out their inner jester. Your friends, coworkers, and family members are bound to be scheming their own dirty tricks and foolish pranks all so they can exploit your gullibility and have a laugh at your expense. Harmless pranksters aside, there are some tricksters out to gain far more than a chuckle at your very real and substantial expense. And, we have to be on guard against them all year around. Take a small business, for example. Many engage in unscrupulous business practices, playing dirty tricks on consumers, cheating them out of their money. No one is more familiar with the unscrupulous business practices prevalent in their industries than the honest business owner who has to compete on an unfair playing field.  That’s why we’ve reached out to our networked businesses to expose some of the dirty tricks that some of their competitors like to play on customers and, worst of all, their wallets!

Taking The Easy Way Out At The Customer’s Expense

Businesses have an interest in getting customers out of the door as quickly as possible. That may be why one computer pro, Christopher: owner of our January Business of the Month Cheaper Than A Geek, sees this problem so prevalent among his competitors. As Christopher explains, “Often our competitors, when facing a difficult virus infection, will instead take the easy way out. They WIPE OUT the operating system and reinstall Windows! This delete’s the customer’s files, settings and programs! We have heard stories of this occurring when they don’t even warn the customer what they are doing!” Perhaps Christopher’s willingness to do extra work to avoid inconveniencing his customers is why he got such an outpouring of votes and positive feedback in January. So, next time a computer pro tells you he needs to wipe out your system, consider getting a second opinion from pros like these guys in Crofton, MD.

The Lowball

Competing with businesses that operate unfairly is hard enough, but when it’s a major chain, it can be even more difficult. This time, it’s a big box store employing a dirty trick – “the lowball” which Raymond Sass of Newton, CT Handyman Connection calls what he here describes. “One of the big box stores advertises a low price for many of their services, which lures customers away from legitimate contractors who quote a fair price,” Sass explains, adding that when it comes time for the company to actually do the job, “the customer finds the lowball price was for a simple job, and many of the normally necessary parts of the job weren’t included. The job winds up costing the homeowner more than we quoted originally.” Sass’ story proves that low prices might not always get the job done, so it’s important to always confirm what’s included.

Selling Customers Things They Don’t Need

According to David Bustamante of Climate Control in Austin, TX, “an air conditioning company will pay their employees commission on any new parts or equipment they sell. The employee not being ethical, and wanting to earn more wages, will lie to the homeowner and tell them they need this new part or new piece of equipment, and the homeowner, not having any idea what is really wrong, having to trust this serviceman, and is uncomfortable, will probably agree and authorize the repairs, even though they were deceived.” This tale illustrates why it’s so important to get multiple quotes on any major repair, there’s security in numbers.

Simple Misdiagnosis Costing Customers Thousands

Of course, even an honest mistake can cost customers thousands. Another HVAC pro discussed how a technician, if not thorough, can miss a simple fix that would prevent the need for a costly replacement. “There may be a simple burnt wire, or a weak capacitor”, the pro lamented, adding that if the technician misses it, “they will condemn the compressor, which is the heart of the refrigeration system, and that can lead to thousands of dollars to repair, when in reality it could’ve of been repaired for a lot less.” Although the error may not be intentional, not such a lackluster effort to avoid a more costly repair is callous at best, and self-serving at worst. It also once again underscores the value of multiple quotes.

Brand Theft Motto

Grand Theft Auto may be financially devastating, and identity theft can ruin your credit; but, brand theft is no less unfair than either. Bill Farley of House Doctors Handyman Professionals in Arlington Texas must have established a very well-known and reputable brand to fall victim to this dirty trick. He says that “using our registered company name as though it was theirs… deceives the customer into thinking they are getting the original. It’s like having a hamburger place and calling it McDonald’s Hamburgers”. Bill’s story illustrates why consumers should research businesses before hiring them, even if they selected them based on a referral. It’s easy to be confused by similar company names or fooled by intentional knock-offs.

Thanks to all of our local businesses for delivering great service to our customers and sharing their insights here.

Have you ever had any of these dirty tricks done to you? Are you tired of shady small business practices? To protect yourself from tricks such as these you should always ask questions and do plenty of research when deciding on a contractor or small business. To get a free guide on things you should do before hiring a contractor, scroll to the bottom of this blog entry and click “Get The Guide”!