How to Hire Quality Seasonal Workers

Over eighty percent of hourly employers expect to face challenges filling holiday positions in 2016, based on data released from online job marketplace Snagajob. According to its annual Holiday Hiring report, 44% of employers cite a lack of qualified workers, while 34% cite a lack of available workers, and 30% report increasing competition with other employers.

Many of the businesses surveyed, however, are well-known big box retailers, and that presents a challenge. As a small business, how can you compete with bigger competitors such as these for a seemingly small pool of seasonal workers this year, and more importantly, how do you ensure that the people you are bringing in will actually do a good job?

5 Steps to Hiring a Great Seasonal Workforce

One of the most important things to remember is that even though the positions you are trying to fill may be temporary, they can have a big impact on the overall performance of your business. This means you need to go into the hiring process thinking about the bigger picture. Here are five steps to consider:

1. Start the process early. Don’t wait till the last minute to begin your holiday hiring. Not only will that create pressure to quickly fill the positions- even if the applicant pool isn’t so great- but it may put added pressure on your regular staff as well since they will need to work with and likely train these individuals. The holiday season is a stressful time to begin with; you don’t need to add to it unnecessarily. You also will want to take your time finding the best people for the job. So, begin your search process months in advance.

2. Create a profile of your ideal seasonal worker. Before you start your search, make sure you are very clear about what you want your seasonal staff to do and when. Then, breakdown the kinds of skills, qualities, and experience needed to fulfill that role.

Keep in mind that there are different ways to hire holiday help:

  • You could bring in temporary employees who perform work on a short-term basis, say for a few weeks or months. You could hire these people directly or rely on a temporary staffing agency.
  • You could hire an independent contractor. These professionals provide their services to on a contractual basis. Some examples are mangers, marketers, and freelance writers.
  • You could on-board part-time staff. Part-timers generally work 10 to 20 hours per week. One benefit to this strategy is that these people could stay on as permanent employees and eventually take on full-time positions.

3. Decide where to look for your seasonal hires. While the majority of big employers consider online job postings to be the best way to hire seasonal candidates, small businesses really need to think beyond the Internet. Here are some effective ways to attract short-term talent.

  • Consider using a staffing agency. As I mentioned above, if you are looking for temporary workers to give you more man power through the holiday season, then relying on a temporary staffing agency may be a good option since they will do a lot of the screening work for you. You can give the agency a list of what you are looking for, and they will sift through the applicants. While you will have to pay a fee to work with a staffing agency, you will free up precious time and other resources, and if one of the workers isn’t a good fit, you contact the agency, and they can send you someone else.
  • Rely on referrals. You can also ask your current permanent staff for referrals. The benefit to this is that your workers already have an idea which kinds of people would be the best fit for your business and the job that needs to be done. To ensure a steady pipeline of referral candidates, you could even start a formal employee referral program that rewards employees for quality suggestions.
  • Tap college students. Another option for businesses next to a college or university or even in a town with a young population is to seek college students for holiday job openings. College students are usually not taking classes during the holiday season and/or they may be in need of extra cash. To reach this population you can recruit on campus a couple of months before the break and also post your openings on college job recruitment sites.

4. Ask for feedback. Once the holiday season is over, ask your staff for feedback on their experience. In particular, you want to know how well they understood the responsibilities given them, how comfortable they felt on the job, how your permanent staff interacted with them, and what things they wish they could change or improve. While this may not help the current holiday season, the information you receive can help you create a better experience the following year.

5. Stay connected with your seasonal staff. Finding quality staff is a challenge for all employers- big and small- throughout the year. Your seasonal hires may be there to fill a short-term need, but they could also become a pool of potential talent for future positions- even permanent ones. So, try to maintain the relationship.

In short, though you may not think of it this way, when you hire seasonal workers, you are making an investment in them and in your business. If you want to get the most ROI from this investment then you need to go into the process with the right attitude from the start.

How to Take Your Craft Business to the Next Level

Whether you are tired of working at your day job, you want to earn some extra money on the side, or you are looking to monetize the passion that already consumes a good part of your week, turning your craft into a profitable business may be a good option.

But, just because it may seem good doesn’t mean that success will come easy or that it will even come at all.

What most business experts out there don’t tell you is that one of the hardest parts about turning your hobby into a viable business is the mental flip that has to happen. If you want your hobby to become a serious source of income, then you have to treat it this way. Without this initial, internal shift, it will be very hard to put the systems, processes, and goals in place needed to build a sustainable business.

That said, here are 9 steps that you need to take if you really want to cash in on your hobby:

Step 1: Get out of the “hobbiest” mentality. There’s nothing wrong with being an artist, designer, or crafter. But, until you start looking at yourself as perusing a professional career designing handmade items, you will never get to the next level.

Step 2: Get to know your ideal customer. The second step is finding out if there is a market big enough for your products. If the answer is yes, then you need to settle on a profile of your ideal customer. This is important because it helps you to figure out what your customers want, how best to reach them, and how to craft your marketing strategy.

Step 3: Build up your systems. By “systems,” I’m referring to appropriate time management, inventory management, payment processing, as well as accounting programs and tools. Having the right systems and processes in place will help you to create structure in your craft business which will allow things run smoothly and efficiently. Don’t give in to the urge to resist them. As I mentioned above, making the transition from crafter to business owner is critical, and that process starts with figuring out how all the aspects of your business will come together in a professional way.

Step 4: Embrace technology. Even for the most tech-phobic craters and artisans, in just about every niche imaginable, there are powerful, yet extremely easy-to-use programs that are designed to help small business owners run their business better. Find out what businesses similar to yours are using, and pick 2 or 3 core products to try out.

Step 5: Invest in yourself financially. There is no such thing as a business that you can start and run for free. Every successful business requires an investment of some sort- whether it is an investment of time, money, tools and equipment, or some kind of combination. Don’t sell your business short by skimping on the tools, professional services, training, and other support you need to be successful.

Step 6: Identify your niche. You can’t be everything to everyone, so don’t even bother trying. Generally, the more defined your niche, the better. You just need to make sure that your niche is big enough to earn the income you are looking for. Once you’ve established your business and have built up a customer base, then you can think about expanding into other areas.

Step 7: Create a memorable brand. Don’t just let your products speak for themselves. Create a unique identity of you and your company in order to connect with your customers in a more personal and memorable way. So, don’t be afraid to show your personality and some of the behind the scenes parts of your business.

Step 8: Partner up with other businesses and entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. If you want to expand your reach, then one of the best ways to do that is to join forces with other businesses and craters that compliment your own products. You can, for example, co-host an event or cross-promote your products. Such collaborations tend to uplift all the businesses involved.

Another aspect of making connections is getting support and feedback from those who have businesses similar to yours. Don’t underestimate how important this is- especially if you are new to running a business!

Step 9: Get feedback from your customers. This last step is vital to the continued success and growth of your craft business, but so many new business owners overlook it. Make it a point to regularly ask your customers what they like and dislike about your products and the way you serve them. You can also find out what other types of products they may be interested in over the future.

Obviously, the kind of feedback you get will depend on how loyal and engaged your customer-base is; it also depends on what questions you ask and in what format. You can get this valuable feedback in several ways, such as emailing your customers a short list of questions, using a free app like Survey Monkey, or asking questions over social media.

Turning your hobby into a viable business may take an initial change in attitude and some hard work, but the potential rewards are great. Pay attention to the steps mentioned above, and your favorite hobby or pastime may soon become a source of serious income.

Is Brick and Mortar Retail Making a Rebound?

If you have been paying any attention to the headlines coming out of the retail industry over the last few months, you may think that off-line retail is going the way of the dinosaur. In the first half of 2016 alone, the industry has been flooded with unfavorable news, such as that poor sales are to blame for the closing of numerous Kmart, Macy’s, Target, Walmart and Sears stores throughout the country. Then there was Nordstrom’s embarrassing stock downgrade. Later, reports came out that Sports Authority and Aéropostale are filing for bankruptcy

Few would argue that the dismal performance of both big box and small, mom-and-pop retailers is not being affected by the growing prevalence and preference for ecommerce. Platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Paypal, as well as the emergence of mobile technology has forever changed the way we make purchases. But that change need not be a death knell for brick and mortar retailers. In fact, over the past year or so, behind all the doom and gloom, the retail industry has actually been showing some signs of healthy growth and expansion.

According to Douglas Hope, of GlobalShop, in his session at the Microsoft Envision 2016 conference, some corners of the retail industry appear to be going strong. In 2015, retailers spent some $62 billion on in-store “shoppers’ experiences,” and it seems that at least some of this investment is making an impact. Even as several big box retailers began pairing down their operations, retail revenues hit $5 trillion last year- that represents a 72% increase in sales since the year 2000. Plus, there are currently 3.8 million storefronts in the U.S.- which represents an increase of 190,000 within two years. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener of all: about 90% of those storefronts are small, independent shops.

So, what could be driving this resurgence of off-line commerce? The retailers that are expanding in this age of digital commerce tend to have a couple of things in common:

1. They are very focused on providing a good customer experience. For example, consider the case of hunting and sporting goods chain Cabela’s. Stores feature in-door rock climbing, and an in-store cafe, animal and cave exhibits and a wide selection of products. The chain is now building two new 70,000-square-foot retail locations, one in Georgia and one in Missouri.

2. They don’t ignore their digital footprint. Successful retailers today work to seamlessly blend their online presence with their off-line one. In fact, many bring the two together. Some great examples of this in action include: Geo-Targeting and Proximity Marketing as well as in-store virtual dressing rooms.

While it may seem like the sky is falling when it comes to “real world” retail, the industry is going through an evolution and it is one that will likely include physical storefronts for a long time to come. Those who adapt now will be the ones in the best position to survive.

You Can Outsource Your Operations; But Avoid These Pitfalls

As you go through the process of growing your small business, there will come a point where you will have to decide whether or not to take on additional full time or part time employees. On one hand, the added human input can help you scale up your operations. But on the other hand, taking on employees can be a very costly and time-consuming process. Plus there is always the risk that your new hires won’t end up working out.

One way to overcome this dilemma is to outsource some of your business’ operations to another individual or business. Doing this will allow you to expand while reducing the risk of a costly bad hire or even a good hire made at the wrong time.

But, outsourcing parts of your business comes with its own set of challenges. After all, who says that this outside entity will properly “get” your company and its unique culture. How well will they be able to relate to your customers, and how do you ensure that there is enough motivation on their end to do a good job?

Outsourcing can truly make or break a company depending on how it is approached. So before you outsource anything- especially those front-line positions, such as customer service and sales- make sure you consider the following five pitfalls:

Businesses don’t consider the scope of their needs. This is the very first, critical step to successfully outsourcing your business’ operations. Before you start the process of looking for an outside company to take over, you should figure out exactly what it is you need from them. Not only will this help to make your search process easier, but it will help you avoid some of the other pitfalls mentioned below.

Businesses don’t allocate enough money. You really do get what you pay for, so beware of prices that seem too good to be true. While many small businesses are working with tight budgets, price shouldn’t be your only consideration when hiring a service provider. If you discover a company that offers the same basic services yet they are charging much less, then it could be a indicative of the kind of work quality you can expect from them.

There is not enough due diligence. Don’t just fall for a company because they have a flashy-looking website. You need to dig into this company’s reputation as well as the amount of time they have been in business. You should also research customer reviews and seriously consider trying to contact previous clients to see how satisfied they were. During the research process, pay attention to any red flags that could signal potential problems or mis-representation. For example, if it takes a long time for you to speak to a real person when you try contacting the service provider or if customer representatives are unfriendly and not knowledgable, then it may be sign to take your business elsewhere.

Businesses forget about cultural fit. Just as you should hire people based on their cultural fit with your company, not just the skills and experiences listed on their resumes, the same is true for any business partnership- whether that partnership is contractual or a joint venture or a full, working partnership.

There is no system to monitor performance. Outsourcing vital operations is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. There needs to be a system in place to monitor and review the company’s performance as well as the ROI that the setup is supposed to be achieving. By doing this, you will be able to quickly spot problem areas and then decide whether or not the partnership is a good one. One of the biggest factors to successful outsourcing is knowing when to walk away from a bad setup.

In short, outsourcing business operations can be a very reasonable and profitable method for expanding a business- but only if it is approached in the right way. In order for such as setup to have the best chance of success, the company needs to consider it as an important investment. With a bit of time, effort, and money upfront, they have the best chances of watching that investment grow.

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7 Ways to Quickly Re-Set a Bad Business Day

It happens to the best of us. You get up in the morning and hit your head, or you kid throws a tantrum, or you don’t feel well, or, perhaps you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. We all have those “off days.” While there is a certain level of acceptance to that fact that some days will just be harder than others, at the same time you don’t have to let any erstwhile negativity rule the next 24 hours.

how to turn around a bad business dayHere are 7 simple things you can do to quickly turn a bad business day around for the better:

1. Laugh or smile… even if you’re faking it. Various studies have found that the act of laughing can positively influence one’s mood and outlook. The same is true for smiling– even if the smile itself is fake.

2. Listen to upbeat music. Recent research has highlighted the connection between mood and music. Not only that, but some researchers even suggest that the music you listen to can also affect the way you perceive the world. So, turn the volume up, and if you’re feeling inspired, sing along. It may also help to lighten your mood.

3. Clean out the clutter. Want to regain your focus so you can concentrate on running your business and push those negative thoughts aside? Why not start the day cleaning off and organizing your desk? Even if you spend a mere half an hour on the task, the effect can be significant. In a recent study, scientists found a connection between clutter and a person’s ability to focus and process information.

4. Reach out to a friend. A few years ago, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends, while others made the climb alone. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill, and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

5. Help someone out. Focusing on a giving to another person releases a hormone called Oxycontin that can soothe and calm even the most frazzled nerves. So, start your day by giving a little money to your favorite charity, answering another person’s question, or hugging someone you love.

6. Go for a walk. Need a fresh perspective on your day? Make time for a 30 minute walk. There is a growing body of research that suggests even moderate exercise, such as walking, can significantly boost your mood and general feelings of well-being.

7. Make a schedule change. Is there some task you have to do today that’s making you feel anxious and blue? Make sure you do that task first and maybe reward yourself with a short workday or a longer than usual break afterward. Not only will you feel relief having completed the unpleasant job, but the time off can also help clear out your mind.

So, there you have it. Seven quick ways to boost your mood and brighten up the gloomiest days. Have you tried any of the above strategies or have some of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.

Image credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

How to Cheaply Ship Delicate Items with the 2015 Shipping Price Changes

If your business involves the shipment of delicate items, such as electronics, art work, glass pieces, or fragile antiques, then the new shipping price changes that went into effect this year may result in higher shipping costs. But with a little know how, there are several things that you can do to help keep these costs to a minimum.

2015 Shipping Price ChangesBeginning this year, both UPS and FedEx, the two biggest shipping carriers in the US, officially changed the way they charge customers for lightweight shipments in large boxes. The change involves utilizing dimensional weight to calculate the billable weight of a shipment among ground and freight delivery services in order to promote packaging efficiency.

Why does this matter? The reality is that parcel carriers are increasingly challenged to maximize the space in their cargo planes and delivery vehicles. By focusing on the dimensional weight of the package, they hope to retain profitability, while encouraging shippers to evaluate the way their shipments are packaged and protected.

So what can you do to ensure that you are paying the least amount possible on shipping, yet still adequately protecting your shipped items? Here are some key points to consider:

First, make sure you understand the details of these shipping price changes. The change in dimensional weight pricing targets the biggest culprit of capacity inefficiency: lightweight shipments in comparatively large boxes. Parcel carriers have always applied a dimensional weight calculation to all air shipments and to ground shipments with a cubic capacity over 5,184 inches (3 cubic feet), so the change isn’t a revolutionary one. The dimensional weight formula for domestic Air and Ground shipments is: L x W x H / 166. In order to find out if your shipping costs will go up this year, you need to consider your most frequently used boxes and apply this formula. If the dimensional weight of that box exceeds the actual weight of the box plus packaging material and the weight of the product, then you will be paying more to ship that product.

Re-Evaluate your boxes and packing material. Are your boxes the right size for your product? What kind of packaging material are you using to protect your product, and how much of this material is being used? Ideally, your shipping box should have enough room for additional padding, but not be too big. Parcel carriers suggest that there be about 3 inches of space on each side between the wrapped, padded item and the walls of the box. Knowing how to properly pad the item is also important. FedEx has posted several packing tips with video that demonstrate the proper way to pad delicate items. You can see them here.

Take the time to research shipping options. Once you know the dimensional weight of your item, you can then go online and research various shipping arrangements to see which of the major carriers, FedEx, UPS, and the USPS, has the cheapest option. To get an idea of how much prices can vary depending on your shipping needs, take a look at this post over at My Wife Quit Her Job. Your best bet would be to use the shipping cost calculator provided on each carrier’s site or a shipping cost comparison tool.

Bottom line, if you put in the effort to accommodate these shipping changes, you may ultimately enjoy considerable savings instead of a price increase since you can save money by using the right shipping materials. Just be sure to do your research.

3 Business Trends That Will Revolutionize Small Business in 2015

Around this time of the year, an assortment of small business experts take out their crystal balls and make predictions about what the next twelve months or so will bring. While many of the these potential future trends are important to be aware of, sometimes events come together to create a literal transformation in the way we do things.

Business Trends in 2015The following three business trends promise to totally revolutionize the way that small businesses operate. They don’t just represent popular movements or tendencies, but rather a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted.

1. The merging of online identity and the off-line world. After the launch of Apple Pay last October, many people were quick to suggest that mobile payments will see a surge in prevalence and popularity. While that may be true, the move by Apple is actually ushering in a more important trend. Apple has over 800 million accounts tied to credit cards, a loyal customer following, and data on users’ browsing behaviors as well as app usage. Every time an Apple customer uses Apple Pay to make a purchase, he or she is providing valuable data to Apple that can then be used to provide a personalized online user experience. We’re not just talking about mobile payments, but a merging of consumers’ online identity and habits with their off-line behavior and purchases.

2. The rise of dynamic pricing. With dynamic pricing, your prices on products or services change based on several factors including: demand, customer location, competition, and seasonality. Dynamic pricing as a practice is not a new concept. Airlines, event venues and hotels have been using dynamic pricing models for decades, and many big online retailers, such as Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart, rely on sophisticated applications and algorithms to instantly make personalized price changes.

What has changed is the number of vendors offering dynamic pricing solutions to small businesses- especially those that conduct business online. As mobile payments become more prevalent and online identities merge with offline purchases, even brick and mortar businesses could benefit from an app-based dynamic pricing solution to experiment with the market, spur demand during slow periods and maximize profits.  There is also plenty of room for creativity. Consider what this San Diego bar did to engage customers while learning about their buying habits and maximizing profits.

3. Alternative business financing will make great leaps towards becoming the “new traditional.” Like dynamic pricing above, alternative, non-bank lending is far from a new concept. In fact, the practice of factoring in particular has actually been around for centuries.

Ever since the Great Recession hit a few years ago, and banks and most traditional commercial lenders basically closed the door on small business lending, a wave of alternative lenders have come on the scene to fill in the funding gap. But, the industry as a whole has got a bad rap, mostly due to a small pool of predatory lenders and fly by night operations, and it has yet to gain main stream appeal.

All of this is set to change, however, given the number of high-profile IPOs in the alternative lending space that have been taking shape over the last few months. This includes the likes of OnDeck Capital and peer-to-peer lending platform The Lending Club. Many have suggested that these IPOs are not really about raising money, but more about raising public awareness. Given that banks are still being reluctant to lend to the nation’s smallest businesses, even with real signs of an economic recovery, alternative lending, such as business cash advances, invoice factoring, and micro loans, will only grow forcing small business owners to think more in terms of short-term financing rather than long term funding.

So, what do you think? Do you see how each of these business trends is poised to make a big splash in the coming year for smaller companies? Let us know in the comments below.

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How to Increase The Lifetime Value of Your Customers

Do you know what the lifetime value of your customers is? If you haven’t heard of it, then it’s time to start learning. Knowing how to manipulate and increase this value can make all the difference between the ultimate success or failure of your business.

dollar-signAccording to a recent Marketing Metrics study, the probability of successfully selling a product to your existing customers is around 60 to 70%, while the probability of selling to a new customer is only 5% to 20%.  It is thus more likely that you’ll be successful re-marketing your products to existing customers than it is trying to gain new ones. Existing customers have already demonstrated their interest in your products or services and are already engaged with your brand. Moreover, you probably already have crucial customer data to work with, such as contact information and buyer history, that you can pair up with your product/service life cycle and industry trends.

If you know how to actualize this potential source of sales, you can uncover a very lucrative goldmine. This process begins and ends with your customer’s lifetime value, or the prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship you will have with a customer. Knowing how to calculate your customer’s lifetime value (LTV) is thus a vital measurement of your business’ health and a predictor of long term success. But, it doesn’t stop there. You also need to know how to act on this information

To see the LTV equation in action, check out this great infographic over at Kissmetrics that attempts to break down the lifetime value of a Starbucks customer and how this may affect their business decisions.

So, how can you improve the LTV within your own business? Here are three areas to consider:

1. What is the current level of customer satisfaction? In order to increase your LTV, you need to be focused on customer retention, and this means your customer satisfaction has to be strong. So, make an effort to get feedback from customers about their experiences doing business with your company. You can conduct surveys, look at user-generated customer reviews, and pay attention to who mentions your company online and in what context.

2. How many paths of communication are open? Do you create opportunities for current and future communication with your customers? Do you have their email addresses, social media profiles, or mobile phone numbers? When previous and current customers land on your website, do they see personalized content or offers? All of these channels can be used to bring customers back into the sales funnel.

3. Where can you create additional value? Look for ways to add complimentary products or services, upgrades, or any elements that add perceived value to your basic products and services. If your brand is very clearly defined, even just providing customers the opportunity to further identify with its ideals can part of the perceived value as well.

In short, the LTV of your customer is one of the fundamental elements of your business. But, unlike many assets or sales figures, this number is not static. If you go in with a focus on customer retention, keep the lines of communication open, and constantly seek to provide value that “grows” with the customer, then this amount can be maximized to the fullest and significantly help your bottom line- now and over the long term

5 Quick, Effective Ways to Do Market Research

Conducting effective market research has always been an essential part of business start-up, development, and growth, but these days it’s even more so. It’s hard to deny that the pace of business has been turned up several notches. There is this unspoken rush to get from concept to market in lightning speed (i.e. before anyone else does or anything changes). Moreover, countless young entrepreneurs and their Icarus moments are often being turned into public spectacles, heavily glorified and even praised by the media.

compassThe high stakes business crash and burn is has become a badge of honor.

In short, a kind of recklessness has emerged in the business world, and at the risk of sounding like a parent, it’s not the most positive of influences.

If you really want to get your new business idea off on the right foot- whether this idea is for a start-up or an established business- you’ve got to put in the time and the effort to be very clear about the current market demand and conditions.

Often, you don’t have to spend much money on this process. Here are five quick things that you can do to test out the efficacy of a new idea:

1. Get on the phone. Call up a few potential customers, the ones that best fit your ideal customer profile, and ask them if they would be interested in your product or service. This is a good way to initially gauge demand.

2. Get on social media…for research. Social media platforms are a great source of information and market research. Many of these platforms have their own built-in search functions that will help you to spot certain trends. Just a note here: don’t just focus on the trends themselves, but also pay attention to how people and businesses talk about them. What words and phrases keep coming up? What is the tone behind it?

3. Test with content. One relatively easy way to test the market waters is to create a piece of content that touches on the problem you are trying to solve and hints to the solution. You then need to post it in a place where many of your potential customers will see it and wait to see what the response is. If it generates a lot of activity and engagement from people then it’s a good sign that you are on to something.

4. Snoop out your competition. What is your closest competition doing in these space? What is working and what isn’t? What are customers’ reactions?

5. See what already works. Even if another company is not operating in your niche, you may be able to draw on their successful marketing, promotional strategies, and even products and services as examples of what you can do in your own company. Just make sure that there is some overlap in the target market.

In short, good market research is and always will be an important foundation in any business, and these days it doesn’t require a major drain on resources to do it properly. So, do yourself a favor, and don’t jump the gun in the implementation of a new business idea. Take the time and make the effort to ensure that you’ll have a profitable customer-base waiting for you at the finish line.

How to Properly Outsource Your Content Marketing

Marketing a business today takes so much more time and effort than it used to. Your target audience is being bombarded with messages both online and off, and as technology becomes a bigger part of the marketing equation, the rules just keep changing.

ID-100146171Content marketing in particular has become an enigma to many small business owners who are still trying to figure out how to set up their websites and use social media properly. Yet content marketing, done well, can really help you to build brand awareness and create an online audience of current and potential customers. Doing content marketing properly, though takes a great deal of time, effort, and skill.

For this reason, many small business owners choose to outsource some or all of their content creation and marketing. But for a significant amount of these business owners, their efforts don’t work out. The truth is outsourcing your content marketing is not so easy to apply effectively nor does it make sense in all situations.

If you are thinking of outsourcing your content marketing, here are some important points to keep in mind:

Make sure you understand what content marketing can accomplish. Even if you will not be creating the content yourself, you still need to have an understanding of what effective content marketing allows you to do across different mediums and platforms.

You need to be actively involved in the process. You also need to be actively directing and analyzing the content marketing process from beginning to end if you want it to be effective. Don’t be tempted to just leave it to your outsourcing providers. It’s the biggest mistake you can make! Don’t forget that the content you promote as how you promote it will directly reflect on your business.

Choose your hired content marketers wisely. It’s very easy for a company to claim they they are content marketing experts; it’s much harder to prove it. Therefore, you really need to exercise your full due diligence before deciding on a company. Get a list of previous customers and make it a point to contact them. Request to see a sample of a documented content marketing strategy they have developed and implemented. Also, pay attention to any promises or claims they are making. Content marketing is a long-term strategy, and specific results may be hard to guarantee- especially over the short-term.

In short, outsourcing your content marketing can help your business get its name out there while freeing up your time. But you have to approach it correctly or else it can get out of hand taking your business’ brand and money with it.

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