Archives for November 2014

What Black Friday Can Teach You About Running a Small Business

Black Friday_Nov14Love it or hate it, Black Friday is a popular shopping day for many consumers. The 24 hours following Thanksgiving have a palpable energy in the retail world. Black Friday got its name because it is the day that retailers drive revenues out of the red and into the black. Traditionally, it’s considered the biggest sales day of the year.

As a small business owner, it is natural to sit back and watch this energy unfold with awe and admiration. You would also love to get your customers in your store so that they can spend their entire holiday budget (even if it means waking up at the wee hours of the morning). You would also love bring your revenues from red to black.

Although the attention is on large retail chains, there are a few lessons your small business can learn from all the madness.

Black Friday Deals

Like Thanksgiving, Black Friday falls on the same day each year—the day after Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday shopping season. It’s the time when consumers spend, spend, spend. To encourage all that spending to happen in-store, businesses offer Black Friday deals.

The well-timed sales and marketing campaigns are not an accident.

As a small business, your company can do the same. Get to know your audience and determine when they will buy. For example, if you market to businesses, target your audience at the end of the fiscal year when companies plan their annual spending.

Top Picks of the Season

Before Black Friday rolls around, you’ll hear buzz about the most anticipated and top selling gifts of the season. These top picks are analyzed and offered to entice customers into the store so that they can get their hands on the hottest new items.

People want an “in.” By creating your own top lists and articles outlining the most popular items that you sell, you create demand. You inspire people to want to purchase before you sell out.

Doorbuster Madness

Most retailers offer Black Friday deals. So how do they attract their customers to their store before all of the money has been spent at a competitor? With doorbuster sales.

If you’re in business, you have competition. To lure customers to your store over your competitor’s, you need an irresistible offer.

Retailers work hard to create loyal customers. They think of the lifetime value of a buyer, instead of the value of a single transaction. Although they might not make a large profit on the first sale, they begin the process of creating loyal customers for the long run.

When customer loyalty – and trust – is built over time, it takes quite an enticing offer to lure them away. Your goal is to put that offer on the table to lure them in, and then keep them by delivering doorbuster wow factor all year round.

Customer Service is Paramount

Throughout all of the hustle and bustle this time of year, the best way retailers create loyal, long-term customers is with exceptional customer service. Your customers have a lot going on already. By offering exceptional customer service during a hectic, stressful shopping season, you win.

To provide the best customer service, trying using an easy data analysis tool. DataHero integrates with companies like Zendesk to turn your customer service efforts into sales and Shopify to process those sales. With data analysis in DataHero, you can easily recognize trends, analyze customer needs, and move from the red into the black—no matter the size of your company.

Irresistible Black Friday-esque deals may bring the business in, but customer service is what brings them back. If your company’s customer service stands out from the competitors, you could find your business in the black all year round.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

The Instagram equation: Art + Science = More Followers


The Instagram Equation

Oh how things on Instagram have changed. Much of the advice I shared here last year, besides the obvious practice of daily engagement with new members of your audience, doesn’t hold value today. I’m not backtracking, I’d like to think of it more as adapting because it’s not as if what I suggested was wrong… it’s just that Instagram moved the cheese on us. But fear not, your retired IG Superhero is hot on the trail of cheddar and ready to share a few tasty morsels with you!

The equation, though, is always changing. And while solving it can be a bit tricky, there’s more than one solution to grow your Instagram account.

There are a number of different solutions to the problem. Before we even get too much further, something needs to be established. What do YOU want Instagram to do for you and what do you want to do for Instagram? Me…? It’s become more about sharing stories and expressing my thoughts through pictures than the followers and being instafamous. Just take a quick moment and find out if you’re bringing something to the table.

Art Trumps Science

Being Instafamous isn’t just about the art, there’s also an underlying science of attracting followers which comes into play. Seriously, there’s a top secret instagram algorithm. Though, to set the right expectations, I will say Instagram places a much higher emphasis on creating good Original content. IG pages who only repost OPP #otherpeoplespictures are a dime or dozen.

If you can’t take a good selfie or aren’t willing to capture the beauty in nature or don’t have much of a creative passion in any capacity, then I’d recommend sticking with Twitter & Facebook. If you think you’re dedicated enough to the art part of the equation, read on.

3 “facts” about getting more followers on Instagram.

While these Instagram tips probably are fact, they’re *technically* hypotheses based on my experience, observations, and reports of mythical activity which I’m just masquerading as proven scientific truths. But they’re definitely not myths!

1) 1 like from an instafamous account has further audience reaching effects than 100, maybe even 1000, likes from average accounts. Back when I was running my #supergram contest, I heard multiple instances of substantial account growth WITHIN MOMENTS after participants posts received likes from my contest co-hosts and myself.

The Biggest jump I saw screenshot proof of was from my instafriend who gained 69 followers and saw a spike in activity to the tune of hundreds of likes within 15 minutes of the color queen @kardinalmelon liking his post.

A good follow up piece will be how to get their attention… it can be tricky. For now, I’d say be persistent and genuine with praise of their works. I also notice spike in activity when certain friends swing by and engage on my posts.

2) Instagram now suggests followers after you follow someone with a 4 figure follower count the only problem is I haven’t quite figured out a blueprint on how to ensure an account would be linked to another. But for experiments sake, I changed my “name” from “Tony Bennett” to “A Pure Michigan Fall showcase” and sure enough, I’m often one of the 3 suggested after someone follows @puremichigan.

By the looks of it, the algorithm is largely based on geographic location, so think about adding it to you bio or play with it a little to see if you can link yourself to a fast growing account.

3) It’s easier to get videos to “go viral”. Another unscientific truth, as I don’t have a written from Instagram stating “videos are more likely to appear on the “explore” page than images”. But I’m noticing a phenomena of video heavy accounts growing at a more rapid pace than photo pages with similar content.

I see at least 30-50 new followers whenever I post a video. However, on the flip side, my videos hardly ever get as many likes as the pictures do. It’s all relative, though, because more followers will lead to more likes on everything.

Don’t go fake – slow is better than shallow

Lastly, I’ve seen a growing number of folks go the route of buying fake followers. In theory, especially on instagram where perception is most definitely reality, it’s not the worst idea if done reasonably. No, I’m not advocating it but human nature says people are more likely to follow accounts with big numbers.

With that being said; it’s so easy to spot a fraud on Instagram that it’s not worth getting a bad rep over it. If you want to win over those key accounts, you need legit activity. Having 100k+ followers with only a few hundred likes on Instagram will stick out like a sore thumb.

Tony Bennett Instagram

My growth this year has been slower than the past two, but I’m rather optimistic that I’m on the right path. I’ve still managed to amass an additional 17,000 followers in the last 4 months after stagnating in the first half of the year using the philosophies discussed above.

It’s tempting to go get the fake cheese wiz and pad my stats… but I find the real stuff to be far more rewarding. Hope you found my facts to be helpful. Do you have any success stories to share? Make sure to comment with your instagram tag readers can check you out. I’m @tony.bennett, hope to see you around the gram!