Common Sense Tips for Start Ups

Is your small business a start up? If you are in business one year or less then your business is considered a start up and there are common sense things that you need to know and understand before you rush off into the sunset thinking because you sell it or offer the service that the people will just come. Because, they won’t.

Before you even think about a website you need to do this first:

Understand that you actually have no idea what you are doing. Face up to this fact and seek help and guidance from those advisers who have the business experience. 

Hire a business coach. Retaining a business mentor should absolutely be your very first expense / investment in your business. Do a phone interview with several business coaches before settling on one. Make sure the fit is right for your business needs. Each business coach that you interview should give you some free initial consultation time on the phone. Be respectful of their time limit. 15 minutes, 20 minutes. Listen for a business coach who expresses genuine interest in your business and who is willing to treat your business and you like the unique entities that you are. 

Decide whether your current idea of your product is fulfilling a need or want that prospective clients have. Do some market research, do internet research. With tangible products explore selling at craft or trade shows or local marketplaces. Gauge the interest, or not. You may have to tweak your product several times in order to find the sweet spot that gets you customers.

With services, determine who your local / main competitors are and analyze how they do what they do and use it to your advantage. Learn from the ones that instinctively grab your interest. You too will have to go through the tweaking stage more than once to find your sweet spot that nets you clients as well. 

When you see that your product or service is viable, this is the time to create a flexible business plan that can grow and evolve with you. 

If you are going to need a payroll service such as ADP go directly to them yourself. Do not use a middleman. In fact, do not use middlemen for anything for your business. Go direct or go nowhere – the commission fees will bleed you dry and when money is slow to come in you will find yourself still having to pay the higher price because of the middleman. 

Be motivated when cold calling on businesses if you offer a service. Don’t hand them a flyer and expect that they will call you. They won’t. You have to get in there, meet the owner or manager, give them a reason to want your service. Your market analysis of competitors should have been done by this point and you and your business coach should have come up with a plan that sets you apart from the rest. 

This legwork is necessary before you spend good money on a website. Putting up the website first is like putting the cart before the horse. You don’t even have a game plan at that point. 

Hiring the right website designer is crucial. Again, you should touch base with several website designers, doing the phone interview bit. If they don’t offer a free 15 or 20 minute consultation they are not right for you, right off the bat. Each website designer should be asked about what they can do for you. Just like the business coach, the website designer should express a genuine interest in your business, and be able to tell you briefly what they can do for you clearly and in understandable terms. If their services include marketing after website launch they need to be able to tell you what they will do to get your business out there. 

If you are a start up and you have found this article helpful, give us a call to find out more about our comprehensive business services such as business coaching, business mentoring, website design and marketing. Call today 201.753.1677

Is It Time To Turn Your Business Around?

Every business reaches a point where processes and tasks could be done more efficiently making better use of time and resources. Employee morale is directly tied to the company culture and what flavor of the company Kool-Aid is being served. Sometimes these things need to be changed up a bit so that the business can experience sustainable growth and take things to the next level. 

As a business consulting firm here in Northern New Jersey, we help clients throughout Bergen County and Rockland County New York turn their businesses around from stagnant to viable and growing. Sometimes it’s a simple issue such as the company or culture having gotten stuck in a particular groove that’s old and not very apparent until you look at it from the outside – and begin thinking out of the box.

Other times it’s a little more serious. Maybe some financial concerns because profits are down, or e-commerce is not what it should be, or new programs need to be introduced to breath life into the business. We are actually working with a local company now who’s mantra was “but we’ve always done it this way” and in the same breath “but everything we try never works” which simply screams “help we are stuck in the mud!!!!”.

How you do what you do sometimes also needs to be kicked up a notch or two. If processes are too clunky there would be a call for streamlining and efficiency and creating an easy to follow routine. This not only encourages efficient usage of time and resources but also can bring up employee morale which encourages teamwork and camaraderie. Maybe your employees would benefit from work at home flex time, a revamped company culture of a more relaxed and productive atmosphere. Rewards for jobs well done. Who knows? Some companies expect their employees to drink the company Kool-Aid while ignoring the fact that many are pretending to like the culture simply because they need the job, not because it’s actually an enjoyable experience.

The last thing your company needs is a negative tone. This is picked up by employees and customers alike. You don’t need production slipping, you need it to grow. You don’t need staff turnover, you need staff to be happy and productive and to do their best every day.

Working with Maureen McCullough LLC, we help you:

  • Identify the challenges
  • Develop a customized plan of action
  • Create a make-sense execution strategy
  • Build an operational groundwork for success and growth

We will help you implement systems and processes while providing common sense guidance, enabling everyone from the executive wing on down the line to cultivate a thriving and sustainable business.

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

3 Reasons Why A Large Marketing Agency May Be Dead Wrong For Your Business

Many small businesses are correct in knowing that they need to hire a marketing agency to beef up brand recognition, search engine visibility, handle email campaigns, setup and monitor pay per click PPC campaigns as well as organic campaigns, and much more.

In the same breath, many of these same small businesses, regardless of industry – be it attorneys or manufacturing or food and hospitality – make a critical mistake when choosing what type of marketing agency they will work with.

Many are under the misconception that the MORE they spend means they will get more at the end of the day.  Many feel it’s worth it to spend $3000 a month as opposed to $300 a month just because the $3000 simply MUST be better quality. They could not be more wrong. 

Let’s examine this for what it’s worth.

A) Let’s get the basic cost bit out of the way. Large marketing agencies have overhead, employees, consultants and more high maintenance costs. So by the nature of the beast they MUST charge more. And they do.

Small hometown marketing agencies do not have these costs. Many work out of their home office, and do not have employees and consultants but instead have teams that work remotely from their home offices. Sure they still have to pay themselves and their remote team members, but the cost to expense ratio is far diminished. 

B) Large marketing agencies are hung up on numbers, flowcharts, pie charts, funnel charts besides which THEY tell YOU what keywords they are going to list you for or spend your ad dollars on. They do not take the time to explain Google Analytics to their clients who actually have an interest in understanding it. They are SO caught up in the numbers game with their clients, caught up with feeding the client all possible industry buzzwords, they actually brainwash the client to an extent. 

Small marketing agencies operate the exact opposite way. They realize the client really doesn’t care about all the intricacies of Google Analytics, or industry buzzwords, or charts. They realize the client wants one thing to happen.

The client, at the end of the day, wants the damn phone to ring. That’s it.

That’s the point of first contact. The phone ringing, even if it is a tire kicker on the other end, is a good thing. The tire kicker may be converted to a customer or client. Maybe not. But the phone is ringing. 

Case in point: A colleague and I were discussing this and she pointed out the case of Proctor & Gamble and also Unilever. Proctor & Gamble cut $200 million of it’s marketing spend and they reduced spending with what they called several “big players” by 20% to 50%.  The cuts enabled Proctor & Gamble to eliminate 20% of it’s ineffective marketing and actually INCREASED the company reach by 10%. 
Read original article here.

C) The Personal Care Aspect. Large marketing agencies do not preach nor do they practice the personal care aspect. They do not take the time to get to know you, the client. They do not take the time to get to know your business, your goals, needs, aspirations for success, or wish lists. They take your money, assign you to an account manager who may or may not be the same account manager the next time you call, and they do not focus on you. Often the marketing efforts are not closely tailored or even closely focused on what your business needs but instead are focused on what they feel is best for you at this time.

Small marketing agencies embrace the personal care aspect and the hometown feel of “we’ve got your back and if what we are doing is not working we’ve got a Plan B in the lineup”. With many if not most smaller marketing agencies, you are taken care of personally by the owner or a dedicated account manager who knows it’s your 5 year old’s birthday this coming Wednesday. If you are local to them they are willing to meet with you on a monthly basis or whenever schedules permit to discuss what’s working and what’s not. 

If you are not local, they are willing to Skype a meeting with you to accomplish the same goals. Small marketing agencies don’t tell YOU what’s good for you. They instead LISTEN to you, and create a personalized plan accordingly. They exhaust all organic methods before spending your money on pay per click ad campaigns. Small marketing agencies work WITH you and FOR you, taking a sincere interest in your business and your success. NO ineffective marketing tactics allowed.  

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

10 Tips to Make Your Attorney Law Practice Successful

An attorney law practice, like any other business in the world, is subject to the same set of rules as any other business – an extremely competitive environment. So how do you make your attorney law practice stand out from the competition?

Having worked with lawyers throughout Northern New Jersey for over 7 years as their Business Coach and Marketing Agency, we have some marketing tips that can help you IF you are willing to put in the extra hours and effort. If not, your law practice will just stagnate and go nowhere.

Tip #1 – Get yourself a customizable website that can grow and evolve with you and your business. Customizable means exactly that. No cookie cutter template nonsense just because it’s free. If you want to set yourself apart from the rest, you’ve got to walk the talk and look the look. Find out more here.

You think you’ll pass on having a website? Then you may as well pass on the business cards, and the overhead………. like the rent of your law office. And while you’re at it, figure out a different way to pay the bills.

Tip #2 – Figure out your niche target markets – what areas of law are you going to practice in. Understand that over time this may change and evolve. In order for you to become a successful law practice, you need to excel in a few areas and become the expert. If you feel like you’re just going to jump in and practice in all areas, you’re just branding yourself as a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Tip #3 – Populate your website with quality content, and lots of it. Each area of practice needs strong positive content, letting the public know what you can do for them. Potential clients are not interested in you patting yourself on the back. They are in trouble and need to see what you can do to get them out of said trouble. End of story. It’s not about you. It’s about your clients.

Tip #4 – Blog on a fairly consistent, constant basis. Your blog posts need to focus on your targeted niche markets. Your blog posts need to detail aspects of relevant cases, case outcomes, new laws and how they can and will affect various criminal court outcomes. The more information you make available in a professional helpful manner the more your law practice comes over as a leader and expert in the field.

Tip #5 – Make your branding consistent across the board – using the same handles and branding hashtags on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Your law office should be instantly recognizable by your consistent brand hashtag. Potential clients may not remember your name when they go looking for you, but your hashtag will be your saving grace as they very well may remember that and find you that way.

Tip #6 – Populate your website with meaningful informative videos. This also establishes you as the expert that people can turn to for their legal issues. Whether they video is a lecture you gave, part of a round table session, or a short video on your chosen niche areas of practice, this goes a long way in establishing you as the expert. Plus, people like the visual. They feel like you are talking to them and this makes you much more approachable and relatable.

Tip #7 – Get involved with your local Bar Association, get on some committees. This brings up your visibility within the law circle itself. No, it’s not just schmoozing and nonsense. It’s networking, gaining peer respect, and getting referrals from other attorneys.

Tip #8 – Populate your website with all of the professional memberships you belong to, speaking engagements, education, continuing education seminars you attend over the course of your career. This is another very valid tactic to establish yourself as the pre-eminent expert in your field. This goes a long way in gaining potential client’s trust because they feel you actually know what you are talking about. Remember, they don’t know you from the next attorney and they have many other potential choices to take their legal issues to.

Tip #9 – Hire yourself a good marketing agency that will work with you to either build your website for you, or do a complete audit of your current website. A reputable marketing agency will identify all issues and weaknesses with your website after a thorough audit. Your marketing agency will then work with you to implement all organic methods possible to establish your presence in the search engines through proper white hat SEO, organic marketing techniques, local geo targeted SEO, reputation management and responsible social media marketing.

Tip #10 – Take advantage of your free listing on law directories. Don’t spend thousands of dollars a year on paid listings. Even on paid listings there are still other attorneys appearing on your page. This leaves the door open for a potential client to still click on one of them. Take the free listings, encouraging your clients to leave reviews for you there as well as on Google, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Remember, people like 5 star ratings. The more legitimate 5 star ratings, the stronger your reputation will be without you breaking the piggy bank.

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Small Business Start Up Coaching A Great Story

I’ll be very honest. My digital marketing agency doesn’t attract many high fliers with appreciable budgets – my agency has always attracted small businesses, Mom and Pop businesses, and clients with less than deep pockets. And that’s ok. To me, it’s very important that the average guy have a shot at making his or her dreams come true too.

My focus as a digital marketing agency is to establish that very special, one on one, personal relationship with my clients. The business coaching they receive leaves no question in their head that they can trust me, and that I know what I’m talking about. They have no question who will handle their account, their questions, their needs. It’s me. They don’t like to be passed off to an assistant, or anyone else. That being said, the close personal bond ensures that 90% of my clients stay with me for the long haul.

And so today it was my distinct pleasure to be able to help an emerging women’s fashion client to finally see some light shed on her venture, her dream, her project. We specialize in WordPress and Shopify e-commerce clients who want that custom look but more importantly that custom set up.

She started this project two years ago. Life got in the way. She phoned me a few months ago and said she was ready now to move forward. I set up weekly / biweekly meetings with her as our schedules permitted. We keep it moving forward.

Last time we met she wanted me to evaluate her choice of a dropshipper. I told her quite honestly that the one she picked would not be a good thing for her business. I also laid out a plan of action that we would need to follow through on in order to keep things going in a positive way. I presented other dropshipper options to her, and sent her home to think about it.

Today we met and she decided I was correct about the original dropshipper for the reasons we had discussed. She also like one of the other’s I had picked out for her, based on her ideas and goals for her new business.

So, we dumped #1 for #2. I suggested we explore different templates as the original shop template she picked out I wasn’t crazy about from a functionality and esthetics standpoint. After a few samples, we settled on a template that we both liked and would serve her very well.

We loaded a few products into her store just to get an idea of look and feel. So far so good. We decided on her branding details, so that her domain name, Instagram handle and Facebook handle would be uniform across the board. We purchased her domain name.

I explained the process to her, and how each of the parts of the process would work and in what order they needed to be addressed.

When we are eventually done, she will have a beautiful Shopify store, a shop on Facebook and a shop on Instagram. Then we tie it all together with expert marketing and SEO to generate traffic so she can make the sales.

And so it goes. Another satisfied client well on the way to making her dream of an online fashion boutique a reality.

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Use the Instagram Name Tag to Make Your Business Viral

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at least somewhat agonized over how to make their business go viral on Instagram, or at least gain more followers a reputable way. By the way, buying followers is NOT reputable and should be avoided. But I digress.

Instagram has rolled out a new feature called the Name Tag. There’s been alot of buzz about it in marketing circles, but I doubt few consumer users (the average Instagram user) even knows about it.

I’m here to enlighten you.

If you are a small business owner, this is an absolute must – have.

First, go into your Instagram business account. Tap on the three bars in the upper right hand corner. Next screen, choose Name Tag. Create a name tag using a color gradient background, an emoji background (if you find one that fits your business) or a selfie. If using the color gradient, tap on each of the four corners to get the color gradient you like best.

Create then save your name tag by tapping the upper right corner. On iPhone it looks like an upload icon; on Android it looks like a share button.

There are any number of ways to use this.

We have created a graphic image complete with visual instructions for each of our three Instagram business profiles. Two of our businesses sell tangible goods – vintage items and handmade jewelry.

See below. Each name tag is scannable just like a QR code right from your cell phone. Instructions are on the left. This way people who are interested have clear cut easy instructions on how to do this. Works like a charm.

 



 

We have a few printed in advance. Every time we get an order we include one of these promotional cut sheets in with the packing slip and thank you note.

For our SEO and design business, when we are giving a lecture somewhere or are at a networking event, we leave them on our table for attendees to grab or we hand them out.

It’a a great, non-intrusive way to make your business go viral with any and all Instagram users!

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

 

How to Handle the Social Media Pressure on Small Businesses

There is an incredible amount of social media pressure on small business and many do not know how to handle it. That’s completely understandable. Small businesses rarely have the budget to outsource their social media strategy and campaigns to high tech companies nor do they have the budget to hire an in house professional who can really deliver results.

Some small businesses DO have the resources to outsource to a local SEO and marketing company who delivers results and gives them good bang for their buck. Others cannot justify spending money on it at all and they just muddle along.

The result is that none of these companies actually understand how it all works and so they end up flopping around in the social media ocean, trying one thing, trying another, and ultimately failing at all.

Instagram

As an SEO and marketing company owner, I read many articles about the latest trends, about what works and what doesn’t, the latest and greatest, and it occurred to me not that long ago that the average person also reads these articles in an attempt to get a handle on it all as well. Thing is, the articles are written for us, not them. No wonder the average individual and the average business owner throw their hands up in the air in despair and swear they just don’t understand any of it it’s all too complicated.

Well, they are absolutely correct. I get it because I work with it day in and day out, besides which it’s just my thing. These people are trying to run their business, in addition to which they are trying to wear too many hats, and they are not going to be able to take on what’s involved with establishing brand recognition across the board on all mediums.

Facebook

So, I decided I will write a series of articles not only explaining various topics in layman’s terms, but also with visuals that truly dumb down many of these topics which are too complex.

Some of the topics I will explain are Instagram, Facebook, e-commerce in general, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Shopify, WooCommerce, WordPress and any others that come up that I feel will help mainstream small business get a grip and be able to make headway for their business.

Enjoy reading and learning!

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Did Your Business Just Get a Less Than Stellar Review?

Did your business just get a lousy review on Google or Facebook? Did you just get dinged with a one star review? What exactly can you do about it anyway?

Negative reviews have to be handled with restraint and professionalism. Especially if your company is at fault, even in the tiniest way.

If your company is not at fault, that’s a different scenario. Let’s handle that reputation management case first.

Let’s say someone came into your shop, or did business with your company somehow, and for all intents and purposes, nothing at all went awry. However, the next thing you see is a negative review on Google or Facebook that leaves you shaking your head in total disbelief.

Nine times out of ten, someone who does that is a troll. Because, nine times out of ten, they will say negative nasties about your store, business or product, and in the next line, they will be comparing you to another business for which they have the highest praise. What are they playing at anyway?

The troll is simply using your business as a way to promote someone else’s business. Game over. Trolldom.

Your knee jerk reaction is to fire back with a sharp, witty reply that’s actually going to make you look negative and sarcastic, and your next knee jerk reaction is to get 15 of your family, friends, and best customers to give you amazing, stellar reviews.

What have you just done?

You’ve just showed the entire world, including potential customers………. that you are:

A) enabling the troll’s behavior by acknowledging them

B) that you are exhibiting needless defensive behavior over a baseless claim.

C) Instead of being reactive, be proactive.

Reply to the troll that you are sorry to hear (way different than being sorry) that they feel they had a less than wonderful experience with your business (way different than they actually had a bad experience) and invite them to revisit your business any time they like. This way, you have not enabled their bad behavior, you’ve put the ball back in their court, and you didn’t waste a whole lot of time on them. Instead, a simple, professional two liner from you and you get back to running your business. Troll Game Over.

Now. Second scenario. What if your company is actually at fault, and somehow did drop the ball, however inadvertently, your reputation management issue now requires you to apologize and do some mild groveling.

It happens, Buttercup. Get it done and get on with good customer relations.

First of all your reply must be again with restraint and professionalism. You cannot show anger, sarcasm, or negativity. The customer is NOT always right. But when your company has indeed dropped the ball, that changes the universal shift just a wee bit.

A) First, apologize nicely, letting them know that you are truly sorry for the inconvenience / bad experience / issue at hand.

B) Admit to whatever part of being wrong that you need to.

C) Do NOT make excuses. Yes, something slipped through the cracks. We all know it happens, stuff happens. Admit to it.

D) Offer nicely to make amends. If that means giving them a free product, a discount, a mea culpa of some sort, then do it.

E) Bottom line. Address the issue, admit the fault, make the goodwill overture. Keep it simple, show them you care, and be professional. No need to go overboard and sell off your firstborn.

End result. They either accept your stance, and you’ve retained the customer, or, they do not, and you will both part ways.

How do you end up looking? Quite good. You’ve just showed the world that you can handle the sticky situation with class and finesse, and people will be much more willing to do business with you.

Why? You just successfully turned negative publicity into positive publicity for your business without degrading the incident into something ugly with he said, she said overtones.

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

Your Website is Costing You Hundreds of Dollars in Sales

Whether you are an attorney, small law firm, online retailer, or a small business providing goods or services to your customer base, the very idea that your website is costing you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in sales is quite the scary thought.

Many people think that their website is simply a set it and forget it tool. They couldn’t be more wrong.

ANY business owner worth their salt takes the time with their web designer or marketing agency to be constantly adding to their website, either visually with pictures or blog posts, tweaking the content, keeping their eye on their competition and implementing new offerings and features.

And ANY business owner who is truly interested in their business will spend most of their time actually running their business, not playing with a website builder with limited functionality, no interactive features and cookie cutter design. Business owners who try to cut corners with a cheap website builder end up with a less than stellar website full of broken code and no curb appeal by which to gain new clients.

small business growth

Constant evaluation of what your business offers will also prompt you, the small business owner, to diversify your offerings. WHY? To keep up with trends, competitors, to get ahead, to put yourself in a valuable niche with your customer base. This helps you add to your customer base. Which means you are making more money. Instead of losing money.

Why is constant interaction with your small business website important? Adding new product, new pictures, new content, new offerings, and new blog posts keeps your website fresh both for potential and current clients / customers and also for search engines like Google.

Consistent activity on social media – be it every day or once a week – is very important as well. The key to social media is CONSISTENCY. Being consistent, posting and sharing on a regular basis gives your audience a reason to look forward to your activity and therefore be in the know of what’s going on with your company.

Considering your website to be a set it and forget it tool will cause it, and your customer base, to wither and die. Much like a business that refuses to diversify it’s offerings, that business has absolutely no back up to lean on when the main offering dries up.

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to make thousands of dollars and grow your business. But you do have to put into your business in order to get what you expect out of it.

Maureen McCullough LLC is your Bergen County New Jersey website design, SEO and marketing agency. We care about your business and want you to succeed. Give us a call today at 201.753.1677 for a free 20 minute consultation.

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