4 Ways for Your Business to Support the Community

Community InvolvementIf recent events have taught us anything, it’s that communities tend to come together during difficult times. As a local business, you make up part of the fabric of your community. Now, you have an opportunity to work with other community members to help everyone push through challenges.

Beyond lending a helping hand, being actively involved in your community can have long-lasting benefits for your business. Prominent local businesses are able to build more brand recognition, encourage customers to shop local, forge deeper connections with buyers, and harness a loyal consumer base.

Here are four ways to use your brand to support and engage your local community right now.

Call Attention to Milestone Moments

For the past year, the milestones that are important to your community members haven’t gotten as much recognition as they normally would. One way you can humanize your brand and deepen your community connections is by helping to celebrate these milestone moments.

There are tons of people and occasions to celebrate—graduating high school and college seniors, local athletic events, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and so much more. Local heroes are also deserving of love right now—healthcare workers, veterans, firefighters, teachers, long-term care providers, parents, and anyone going above and beyond the call of duty would certainly appreciate a shoutout. Make your brand part of that celebration and spread positivity while helping your customers feel extra special.

Storefront signage is a great way to bring recognition to these moments. Customized banners and flags, window clings, yard signs, and sidewalk signs call attention to your chosen milestones from customers and passersby.

Small in-store giveaways like stickers, pens, and postcards are also fun ways to spread your messages. Not only will these be special take-home items for the people you’re celebrating, but they’ll serve as a tangible reminder of your brand and the trust you’ve built.

Sponsor a Local Cause or Event

Businesses and industries of all kinds are in need of extra support right now. Sponsorships allow you to support causes that are near and dear to your community while also getting your brand in front of potential customers.

There are lots of different ways to bolster both local events and your business. Sponsoring a children’s sports team is one popular choice. In doing so, you might have the opportunity to place your logo or company name on uniforms or on a banner at the playing field.

You could also sponsor a club, nonprofit program, fundraiser, or other community events. By doing so, your logo and branding will be included on advertisements for the event, as well as on signage, printed materials, t-shirts, and promotional items at the event. Regardless of whether they’re held virtually or in person at a limited capacity, events provide plenty of opportunities for brand awareness. You may be able to host a table, donate giveaways, or give a short presentation.

Share Your Expertise

While they’ve been stuck at home, people have become increasingly interested in staying active, learning new skills, and bettering themselves. Demonstrate your business’s value beyond just providing products or services by teaching your community members something new.

It doesn’t matter what the nature of your business is—you have valuable information to offer. Use this opportunity to educate and engage potential customers, build credibility, and position your brand as an industry thought leader.

Consider hosting a virtual event or webinar that people can tune into, whether as a one-off event or a series. For example, business owners are well-positioned to provide graduating seniors with interview tips or to hold a class on entrepreneurship basics. You might also consider fun events, like a DIY craft workshop, a cooking class, or a virtual group workout.

Additionally, you could create how-to videos or written guides to use as lead generation tools on your website and social media platforms. Find out what your community members are interested in and identify ways you can use your expertise to share knowledge.

Partner with Local Brands

You know how challenging navigating the current market can be. Other businesses are facing the same challenges and are likely looking for new ideas to drum up business. Now is the perfect time to get to know your neighbors and team up to help each other!

Look for businesses that are not direct competitors but offer complementary services to yours. Brainstorm ways you can work together, such as a joint promotional offer or a “shop local” campaign. You could even share fliers or coupons to drive traffic to each other’s businesses.

These types of partnerships allow you to network with other business owners and key members of your community, so you can learn from and support one another. All of the businesses involved will benefit from the extra exposure, which will help to strengthen your community as a whole.

Community Participation Is Key for Your Business

As a local business, it’s important for you to have a presence in your community. When you support your neighbors during difficult times, both your community and your business will come out stronger on the other side. Consider this an opportunity to gain brand recognition, build a loyal customer base, and make a positive local impact by getting involved.

8 Ways to Rethink Your Marketing Strategy in 2021

The new year is always a good time to get a fresh start. For businesses, 2020 was all about keeping up, reacting quickly, and trying to stay afloat. Though the pandemic will inevitably follow us into 2021, you can prepare by building a marketing strategy that positions your business for long-term growth.

Get ahead in 2021 with these eight tips for rethinking your marketing strategy.

1. Apply What You Learned in 2020

Chances are your business had to pivot your marketing in response to the pandemic. Maybe you launched a content campaign or built up your online presence through digital advertising. Whatever new ideas you tried, now is the time to analyze your results. Mine your data to understand what tactics worked best and what messages resonated most with your audiences, then carry them through into your 2021 marketing plan.

2. Refresh Your Branding

Even in a normal year, brands can shift and change as the business grows. With all the uncertainty in 2020, your brand likely evolved to meet the challenges. Take a close look at your branding to see if it still represents your brand values, your business, and what you have to offer. If not, take time in 2021 to give your branding a refresh to help you reconnect with your audiences.

3. Revisit Your Target Audiences

Just as your branding may be due for a refresh, your target audiences are also worth a second look. How we do business has changed, which could mean your customer base has changed too.

Perhaps you offered a new product or service that caters to an entirely different audience, or your existing customers took advantage of expansions in your product line. Find out by looking at your sales data from the past year and identifying common characteristics among your top customers. Once you determine who your target audiences should be, you can customize your marketing efforts to speak to their values and interests.

4. Focus on Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of customer loyalty, and now more than ever, loyalty is essential for a business’s success. That’s why in 2021, most of your marketing efforts should be focused on building trust and strengthening relationships with your customers.

Content marketing offers an opportunity to do just that. Content comes in many forms, but it all boils down to giving your audience what they’re looking for. Whether that’s education, entertainment, inspiration, or solutions to their biggest challenges, putting out regular, relevant content will demonstrate your brand’s value and expertise, giving your customers a reason to return again and again.

5. Personalize Your Campaigns

Personalization is not just “nice to have”—it’s an expectation. If your marketing messages aren’t relevant to the recipient, they are more likely to be ignored or deleted. By leveraging your customer data, you can create highly targeted content for both digital and print.

Here are some quick wins in personalization:

  • Align the messaging to your audience’s interests, values, and needs.
  • Use images that reflect who your audience is. Demographics are important, but remember to focus on other characteristics too, such as lifestyles, activities, and locations.
  • Make suggestions or recommendations based on past activity.
  • Visualize data in an infographic, like a customer’s history or involvement with your business over the past year.

6. Create Brand Experiences

Gone are the days when marketing was a one-way conversation. Now there are so many ways to engage your customers with your brand. In 2021, try your hand at some of these marketing techniques.

  • Develop interactive content that fosters engagement, such as videos, quizzes, or games.
  • Spark a conversation and empower users to respond through comments and direct messages.
  • Curate user-generated content to add authenticity to your brand, such as customer photos, reviews, and testimonials.
  • Go above and beyond expectations by sending personalized packages to complement your virtual initiatives.
  • Create immersive brand experiences with an experiential marketing approach.

7. Incorporate Print into Your Marketing Strategy

If you’ve been focusing your marketing efforts primarily on digital platforms, the new year presents an opportunity to re-examine the value of print marketing for your business. Print grabs attention and allows you to create memorable touchpoints in the customer journey. It also helps you sidestep the challenge of digital fatigue by reaching consumers in a different medium. Plus, print can bolster your digital marketing efforts by driving traffic to your website, social media pages, apps, or other online channels.

8. Ramp Up Your Online Presence

Your website is still one of your brand’s best marketing tools. While other digital channels are great for engagement, your website is where customers will go to learn more about your business and to make purchases.

First and foremost, you want your website to be optimized for search engines so people can find it. SEO is an ongoing process; it’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your content and address any technical issues with your site before they impact your rankings.

But beyond that, take time early in the year to make updates to your content depending on how your business has shifted during the pandemic. Does your site include information about new products or services you offer? Does it reflect your new hours and operating procedures? Is it easy for users to find how to contact you? If not, these are some quick changes to make to your website to ensure a more user-friendly experience.

Most of All, Stay Agile in 2021

While we’re all hoping for a resolution and return to normal life in 2021, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Make sure that any marketing plans you put in place are still nimble and flexible, so your business can adapt quickly to unexpected changes.

Keep Your Mind and Body Active from the Comfort of Your Home

With businesses closed and jobs transitioned to remote work, most of us have been stuck at home for weeks on end. Worse yet, there’s no telling when this pandemic could end, which can add on to feelings of stress and anxiety.

While sitting on the couch and binge-watching movies or your favorite TV shows might have sounded like a dream at first, lounging around probably got old pretty quickly. Now, you might be pacing your living room, itching for something to do.

To relieve some quarantine stress and help you feel productive while stuck inside, it’s best to engage your mind and body each day. Here’s a helpful list of ideas on how to keep your mind and body active – all from the comfort of your own home.

  • Journal daily: Journaling is a great way to express your thoughts and experiences in a healthy way. Grab a spare notebook and dedicate a little time to journaling in it every day. Write down your thoughts and fears or a few things you’re grateful for to help you center yourself.
  • Start a blog: Do you have a special skill or hobby you’re passionate about? Start a blog and share your unique ideas with the world! From cooking to crocheting to lifestyle inspiration, anything is fair game. Or, start a “quarantine blog” where you can share your experiences during social distancing and help others understand they’re not alone.
  • Do at-home workouts: You don’t need a full gym to complete a challenging workout! Using only body-weight exercises, small free weights you can store in a closet, or household items, you can get your blood pumping and stay active inside. Make a goal to complete at least one 20-minute workout a few days per week. You can even get the entire family involved!
  • Clean and declutter: Staying inside is one thing, but staying inside a messy house is another. Use your spare time to spruce up your space from top to bottom. Now is the perfect opportunity to clear out that hallway closet you’ve been avoiding or to reorganize your pantry. Break down areas of your home and try to tackle a little bit each day.
  • Practice mindfulness: The world is a scary place right now, and tensions are high. Instead of scrolling through social media, take a break and focus on mindfulness. Short meditation sessions where you focus on your breathing or an encouraging mantra can help you relieve stress and calm down from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Make an inspirational collage: Mood boards or inspirational collages are both creative and encouraging. Gather supplies you have around your house and create a collage of things you want to do after the pandemic is over, as well as some of your longer-term goals. Clip pictures from old magazines, dust off your paintbrush and paint sets, pull out that giant pack of colored pencils from your desk drawer, and get creative!
  • Check books off your reading list: It can be difficult to find time for quiet reading during the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and your reading list might seem endless. Don’t let books collect dust on your shelves! Now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in a fantasy world or fictional story as an escape.
  • Do a yoga challenge: Yoga is a great activity for the mind and body since it blends mindfulness with body-weight exercises and stretches. Look up a yoga series on YouTube or download a yoga instruction app to get started right in your living room.
  • Take an online course: Lots of educational institutions and hobbyists are offering online classes for free right now, so take advantage of them! If you’ve always wanted to explore a particular subject or you’re looking to bolster your resume, now is the time to learn something new.
  • Connect virtually: You don’t have to suffer in boredom alone! Your friends and family are just a video chat away. Host FaceTime or Zoom calls with family and friends, or propose virtual lunch meetings or coffee dates with coworkers. If you can’t video chat, find an online community to take part in, such as a virtual book club or hobby group to have discussions with.
  • Create the perfect playlist: Music can be energizing, therapeutic, and cathartic. And nobody knows your music taste better than you! Put together some playlists that will lift your spirits or get you ready for a workout, then host a dance party in your living room with your family!
  • Tackle a project you’ve put off: Have you been meaning to re-paint your guest room for months? Have your leaky faucets officially driven you nuts? Take stock of all the home improvement projects you’ve been putting off and try to complete as many as you can with what you have on hand, or order parts online.

Don’t squander the extra time you’ve been given! By keeping your mind and body active and engaged, you can help shed the stress of being stuck at home while also improving your skills, your space, and yourself.

12 Ways Business Owners Stay Productive During Uncertain Times

COVID-19 has led to widespread changes in our personal and professional lives. As people self-isolate and cities implement shutdowns, our businesses are feeling the impact.

Although many businesses have closed their doors temporarily to adhere to city and state guidelines, you don’t have to put your professional life on hold! There are many things you can do to prepare your business for when your doors open back up. Thought leaders and entrepreneurs can do these 12 things to stay productive while social distancing.

1. Reorganize your files

During your everyday hustle and bustle, you probably didn’t take time to organize important files appropriately. Take this opportunity to get organized! Open up past-due accounts, reorganize your internal file structure and shred outdated documents. Now might even be a great time to transfer paper files to a digital archive so they take up less space in your office.

With tax season around the corner and business financials likely in need of reexamining, there’s no better time than the present to go through your files and create a system that works.

2. Work through backlogs and old emails

When emails and requests come in faster than you can answer them, an overwhelming backlog can form. Now is the perfect time to sit down with your emails and backlogs and take care of anything you haven’t addressed.

Are there quotes you haven’t gotten to? Do you need to communicate with your customers? Are there A/R or A/P that have slipped through the cracks? While now might not be the best time to send out bills, you can organize these items so you’re ready to follow up when business returns to normal.

3. Organize your desktop

Take a look at your computer desktop. Is it a mess? Now’s the time to clean it! Delete old or irrelevant files, create a new digital filing system and do a malware check to ensure nothing is slowing you down.

4. Streamline your business

As a business owner, you know exactly where your organization’s inefficiencies lie, but you may not have had time to correct them. Identify ways you can streamline these inefficiencies to minimize hurdles in your operation.

For example, are your sales and marketing plans not leading to the returns you want? It might be time to reevaluate with the help of a concept-to-creation team like AlphaGraphics. Taking care of these inefficiencies now will help you be prepared for what’s coming next.

5. Start a blog

If your business doesn’t have a blog, now is a great time to start one! With extra time on your hands, it’s easier than ever to create new content that displays your expertise.

Research and create a list of topics you can position your brand as a thought leader in, then put content together for the rest of the year. By focusing on this now, you can get ahead and prepare two to three blogs per month!

6. Improve SEO

Along with your blog, you’ll want to tie in search engine optimization (SEO). If you don’t understand it, take an online course, watch YouTube videos on it or look into organizations that can take the burden off you.

Once you have a handle on SEO, start improving it by optimizing your web pages and blog with related keywords. You might also reach out to complementary businesses and ask to post your content on their blogs with backlinks to bolster your rankings.

7. Get on social media

Is your business reaching customers where they are online? If not, now is the time to start! Set up social media accounts and start pushing content.

Aside from consumer-facing channels, LinkedIn is a great social media tool for growing your circle. Find groups related to the business (or just things you enjoy!) and start interacting. Ask questions, post in forums and put out thought-provoking topics to engage with others. LinkedIn is a great place to learn what other business owners are doing during self-isolation and how they’re planning for the future.

8. Learn something new

The internet is full of paid and free courses that you can do from home to improve yourself. Think about the skills you and your team have and what you might be lacking. What have you always wanted to learn about or get better at? Check out some courses and turn your weaknesses into strengths!

If you find a course that would be good for your team, create a learning path and encourage them to complete it. Doing so can increase your human capital and take your business to new heights.

9. Call your contacts

During this time of uncertainty, people are feeling scared and alone. Reach out to your employees and business contacts and extend a helping hand as a friend. Everyone can use a listening ear and some encouragement right now.

You have no idea what these small gestures could do for others or how they could impact your business for the better.

10. Clean

When was the last time your store was deep cleaned? With no customers or employees around, grab some supplies and refresh the space!

Have your machines been collecting dust for months? What about the space underneath? Move machines, sales racks and desks to rid your space of every ounce of dirt or grime. When your doors are ready to reopen, your business will feel brand new!

11. Rearrange for effectiveness

Think about the way your office or sales floor is organized. Is your merchandise cluttered or your desk arrangement causing disruptions? Is there a way to rearrange things to improve employee workflows or customer experience? Move things around and see how you like it.

When everyone returns to work, it will be nice to have a fresh start and a refreshed workflow to tackle new opportunities.

12. Keep busy!

As tempting as it is to lounge around and binge TV during self-isolation, staying busy is your biggest ally in working through this time of change and uncertainty. Nobody knows how the world will be different after the pandemic, so stay vigilant. Encourage your team members to do the same and take time to train them from a distance.

By using these tips to look after your team and your business, you’ll be more than prepared for whatever lies ahead!