HWCOC Blog

Marketing in Turbulent Times

By Dick Helmey
President, trucolorGRAPHICS/FASTSIGNS
HWCOC Board Member and Former Chair

And, these are turbulent times to say the least. I don’t know what the true outlook is for the future, but I do have an abiding belief that this situation will be more short term than long term. So, the issue for small business and others for that matter, is how do we navigate the near term and prepare to come out of the gates when the economy gets back on track.

Near term:

If you can, now is not the time to pull in your marketing and sales effort. In Texas, many industries are still running and need goods and services. For your business, identify those and reach out to them to let them know how you are operating and how you can help. This is when your membership and relationships you have developed in the Houston West Chamber are most valuable. Now is the time to take advantage of those resources and to connect with fellow Chamber members. Everyone is looking for ways to operate more efficiently and maintain as much of their revenue streams as possible. How can you help?

Prepare for the other side:

Yes, Virginia, this will pass and when it does you need to be ready to take advantage of it. Now is the time to refocus on creating your marketing and sales plans and to develop all of those programs you never had time to work on. This isn’t unique advice, but it will be easy to get swept up in crisis management. Be sure that a key element of your crisis management is planning for the rebound.

From a marketing perspective, I have always been a firm believer in really understanding who your target audience is. Everything flows from that. Like a bullseye target, clearly understand what businesses and consumers are in the middle for your business and be sure you focus on that. The outer ring opportunities are now a “B” project. How can you help them in the next few weeks and on the other side.

Again, you’re lucky. You belong to the best business organization in the Houston area. Don’t forget that and let’s pull together.

Saving During Covid-19

By Katrina Esco
People’s Trust Federal Credit Union

About three weeks ago I attended a luncheon where financial expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox discussed financial planning. During her presentation she highlighted how few people are prepared for what she calls,“The Dreaded D’s” –death, divorce, disability, disease. Unfortunately, at the time, none of us knew how quickly we would be faced with the last one, disease. And none of us imagined we would be facing it in the form of a global pandemic. Yet, here we are.I acknowledge it’s late in the game to talk about preparing for an emergency. The emergency is now. While we look forward to the federal relief on its way, here’s what you can do today (and every month from here on):

1. Tally up your monthly expenses.

· How much is going out

· Where is it going

· What day is it due

Do this for next month. This month is already over.

The easiest way to do this is to keep it simple: list the essential and put the dollar amount next to it. List anything that is a priority for you and how much it will cost for the month. When you’re done, add the amounts together and circle your total.

2. Tally up your income.

· How much do you have right now

· How much is on the way (and from where)

· When is it coming

Do not freak out right now. You need your brain to get through this part. Add up your income then plug the numbers into the following equation:

Income – Expenses = Your Situation

If you have any money left after subtracting expenses from income, that’s great. You’re probably going to be ok. If you break even, start looking at what you can cut. Your priorities will change when you review your expenses and you may begin to see things you can skip for the month to free up cash.

If your expenses are greater than your income, here’s what to do:

1. Eliminate any expenses you can. Move payment dates. Negotiate reductions on fees and interest. Keep track of due dates and communicate with your creditors even if it’s to say nothing has changed.

2. Call your financial institution and see what options are available. In response to the pandemic, my company has made emergency resources available to our members including relief loans with no hard credit pull, skip a pay on auto loans, and no penalty on CD withdrawals. See if your financial institution offers similar aid.

3. Barring any major obstacles, find another revenue stream. Sell something. Provide remote services. Take on a part-time role with companies hiring through the pandemic. Don’t stop looking until you land something.

4. Lastly, imagine the worst-case scenario and make a plan for it. Be sure to ask for help.One significant benefit to evaluating your situation is the sense of control it brings. You’ll either realize things are not as overwhelming as they seemed, or you’ll discover a misstep quickly enough to prevent it or recover from it. This is a basic, but solid exercise that will get you through the next month. We’re not entirely past planning but we are past planning without acting. Once you take stock of your situation take the first step.Bio – Katrina Esco is an account executive on the business development team at People’s Trust Federal Credit Union. She partners with businesses to bring Financial Wellness at Work, a free benefits add-on designed to help employees achieve financial prosperity

Don’t Waste This Time

Top Five Ways to Get the Greatest Benefit While You Stay in Place.

Ed Ryland
ARVO Realtor Advisors

There are many things that you can do as a small business owner during the Coronavirus Stay in Place.The one thing you don’t want to do, is waste this valuable opportunity. Look at it like a “Staycation”

1. Processes. How many times have you wished you had time to document your company’s processes?This is a great opportunity to document and refine your processes. As your team members change and new people join your organization, documenting your processes can eliminate or reduce the time required to restart and train your personnel-making your entire team more effective and efficient. This can be an extremely good use of your time, and you will be glad you did it.

2. Training. What a great opportunity to train and retrain your personnel! Look for training tools and ways that you can help your team do their jobs better and bring greater value to your customers.

3. Personal CEO Development. This is a great opportunity to enhance your knowledge around your industry so you can become known as an expert. Keep a positive attitude. You no longer have the excuse of not having time to read, or focus on self-help videos and resources. Do those things you have been promising to do. Get your workout routine started (again). Look at this like a caterpillar in a cocoon. They emerge, as a beautiful butterfly. Take this time to work on yourself and when you emerge, you will be a beautiful and more powerfully engaged leader; stronger for yourself, family and company.

4. Pick up the phone. Not just to text, email or get on social media. Pick up the phone to call someone!Recently I spoke to my daughter about this.” Hey, this is your dad, how are you? I was just thinking about you and your sister and brother and wanted to call and say I love you and I’m so proud of the young people you have turned out to be. Call me back I want to hear your voice”. Call someone.It makes a big difference when you call and they hear your voice, and you hear theirs. You can encourage them, and they can encourage you. By the way, tell someone that you love them, tell your clients that you appreciate their business and that you will be there for them.

5. Look at how you can reduce cost. This is an excellent opportunity to look at every line item on your profit and loss statement and determine how you can avoid, reduce or eliminate cost during this challenging time.Is there an expense that you don’t need temporarily? Are there any expenses you can eliminate? Do you have contracts in place that you can now renegotiate for a reduced rate for period of time? This is a great opportunity to be creative and innovative to keep your business afloat until we get through this uncharted time. We will get through this. We will come out stronger and better than ever!

We understand that two of your largest expense items are your payroll and your facility lease costs. We have a commercial real estate Lease Relief Program designed to help small businesses. Contact our office if you need this assistance

Business Tips on How to Survive the Virus

By: Malcolm D. Gibson
M.D. Gibson & Bolen, P.C.
mgibson@mdgibson.com

There is nothing new under the sun, including recessions. During my career as a lawyer, they have occurred roughly every twelve years. Covid-19 is my fourth. When an economic crisis strikes, the most important lesson I’ve learned is not to take the media too seriously. Journalists are not economists. Most bad news that is reported is only 50% as bad as its headline. The same goes for good news. Dig into the data yourself before making any new business plans. Over the years, I’ve learned to use each slow-down to assess how the business climate might change when the recession has passed and to adjust my marketing approach accordingly. For example, most companies will seek to emerge from recessions much leaner. This means more outsourcing. If you research what products or services were provided to a company by employees or vendors before the downturn, when business picks up again (and it will) you can be in a position to offer those products or services in a more economical “package” on a contract basis. If you don’t have all the deliverables yourself in-house, you can find joint venture partners to join with you.

I have also found that every customer needs something to weather a recession. What it is will vary from company to company, but there is always something. For example, an accounting firm may need introductions to law firms for referrals. Ask your customers what they need the most to ride out the recession. If you cannot provide those things yourself, find out who can. Using your network to help your customers’ find what they need to survive will enhance your personal brand with them. Whether you are successful or not, they will remember that you tried and return the favor when times improve.

To further illustrate this point, consider the results of a survey of law firm clients taken some years ago. When asked what was most important to them in hiring a law firm, they did not choose how often a firm had won or lost legal cases, its fee schedule, or its response time. Far and away the leading criteria was whether the law firm had its clients’ best interest at heart. Never discount the value of loyalty, especially during hard times.

It’s easier to get to know your clients on a personal level when business is slow. Rather than discussing legal issues, I have used the time (free of charge) to ask more about how their company operates. They have always been happy to oblige and that I cared enough to inquire. The more I learned the better position I was in to offer economical legal services down the road. I also learned about their interests outside of the office, such as non-profits and charities, and how I could help them support these causes.

When recessions hit, I have discovered that trade associations often seek to provide their members with information about how to weather the storm. I’ve always asked our clients if they belong to any such organizations and, if so, I’ve offered to make a short presentation to the group at no charge about legal issues during hard times. It’s given me a chance to enhance the image of our client before a group of its peers and to promote our firm.

Another tactic I’ve used in the face of a slow-down is simply to become less specialized. There are always areas of expertise that you enjoy more than others and they tend to become specialties. But promoting your full range of skills will increase your universe of potential clients.

Finally, when business slows, I’ve always tried to focus on finding and/or keeping smaller customers. While it may be may mean making some price concessions, in an environment where businesses are being forced to close every day, I prefer to have ten small clients than one big one. It helps pay the light bill.

Why a Strong Chamber of Commerce is Good for Business.

By Dave Gilkeson, Vice President of Operations & COO
Westchase District,
HWCOC 2020 Board Chair

Dave’s Top Ten List of Questions to Ponder.

Remember the chamber tag line – In Business, For Business!

For members considering membership renewal – even in today’s economic environment – please take a moment to examine your investment in the Houston West Chamber of Commerce.

10. Has the chamber assisted my marketing efforts? The strongest form of advertising is word of mouth. How can you not afford to have other chamber members passing your name onto business prospects?

9. Does belonging to the chamber assist my business’s credibility?

8. Does belonging to the chamber advance the careers of myself or my employees through their personal development programming?

7. Has the chamber provided our members as an advocacy for business issues with Government officials? And if you can’t say yes to this, then has the chamber provided access to Governmental officials through it’s monthly programming with the Governmental Affairs committee?

6. Has the chamber given my business exposure through the networking programs or ribbon cutting ceremonies (which number in the hundreds per year)?

5. Have I gotten involved with the Houston West Chamber and has it been a positive experience for both me and my business? And the more I get engaged, the more other members can advocate with other community business leaders and elected officials.

4. Have I received marketing benefits from the chamber though its email and website communication pieces?

3. Have I received additional branding recognition through the chamber’s website and social media presence?

2. In sponsoring / supporting the chambers events, have I assisted in supporting other non-profits that have received recognition and financial assistance as a result of the event?

1. Is this the most-friendliest, most positive, and most multi-referrals chamber on the planet or what?

You should be able to answer yes to all of the above questions, but even if that is not the case, examine your investment in the chamber, you should still be able to cost justify this marketing arm of your business.

 

How to Communicate Effectively During a Crisis

As the coronavirus crisis continues, the one certainty is that the situation changes daily. Your or organization may be grappling with the ongoing challenge of working with remote teams, servicing customers in new ways, and possibly even survival.  This is a time for businesses and organizations to level-up day-to-day communication with all stakeholders.

It is vital to provide clear, factual, and useful communication. If you are a business owner or leader, you must continue to communicate with your customers, employees, vendors, board members, investors, and others. Do you have a plan in place? Are you making adjustments based on these new conditions?

The messaging you were using a month, or even a week ago simply may not work today. You may need to update your messaging daily or weekly. You may have to change how you do business. Flexibility and honesty are your best tools.

Here are 6 tips to effective communication during a crisis:

Have situation awareness. Be aware of what’s happening in your community and keep up with the daily changes to health advisories and guidance from local officials. Be prepared for any scenario and create messaging for each outcome so you can instantly communicate with your stakeholders as your situation changes. Remain honest, factual, and calm, and check-in with your stakeholders regularly via phone.

Listen to your employees. They are anxious about their livelihoods. Prepare appropriate and clear messaging. Set up regular briefings via Zoom or send a daily email. Establish a regular schedule so your employees can hear from you firsthand how the company is operating. Allow them to ask questions and share their feelings. Remain honest, factual, and calm.

Don’t be tone-deaf. Make sure the tone of your message is appropriate. Now is not the time to push sales in every social media post. When talking about the coronavirus, stick to the facts, and be serious. It’s okay to offer some content that is lighthearted and encouraging but doesn’t forget people are getting sick and dying while others are deeply concerned about their future.

Provide information regularly. Keep stakeholders updated on developments that affect your company’s operations. Make sure your employees are prepared for all eventualities. Let your customers know you’re still in business, and if your products and services may be delayed. Setting expectations and avoiding surprises as much as possible will get you through the long haul and set you up to recover after the pandemic passes.

Offer resources. It is easy to hit information overload. And a lot of misinformation is circulating right now. You can help your stakeholders by providing them with accurate and timely information that comes from credible sources. Provide links to organization websites (local elected officials and health departments, the CDC, local news outlets, etc.) that will help them understand the virus, what’s happening in the community, how to manage stress, and more.

Be creative. Maybe your company can help the community. Do you have food to donate? Can you help with an existing initiative? How about other services? Lend your expertise to others. This is a good time to spread the word about your business in a positive manner, especially if you offer something to help people get through the next weeks or months.

Your leadership skills will be tested daily. Will you rise to the occasion? Using messaging that informs and is helpful will put you ahead of your competitors. How can you best serve your customers during this time? Understanding how to reach them and what message resonates with them will be key. Make adjustments as needed. Be responsible. 

Most importantly, be kind. We are all in this together and we will get through it.

10 Steps to Build Brand Loyalty.

By Michael Mallon
Storyteller Promotions 

If you are in a business that prefers Loyal and Devoted customers as opposed to those who shop solely on price, or convenience, or speed, then there are some steps you need to take to create that Raving Fan. I have spent the last two decades studying the brands that have created loyalty amongst their followers and they all share these qualities.

1. They Have a Simple Single Stated Purpose – Simon Sinek, calls it your Why. Some refer to it as a cause, a belief. It is a vision of the future that does not yet exist, yet you are dedicated to expend all of your resources to achieve it, AND, you can utter it throughout your organization in one simple sentence.

2. They Understand Purpose vs Task – You and your team may perform many tasks, but know that deep within is that purpose and its pursuit. They know that each and every task or role within the organization exists for one reason and that is to pursue the purpose.

3. They Have Courageous Leadership – The company’s leadership is willing to adhere to the pursuit of the stated purpose and standards of care. They are willing sacrifice short term gains for the long term vision. They are willing to jeopardize losing the wrong customer to maintain their brand integrity and care for the right customer

4. They have Prioritized Standards of Care with identified & Specific Acceptable Behaviors that each and every team member displays at each and every interaction with the Brand.

5. They Educate their team members as opposed to Train them how to perform a task. They know that a team member who understands Why they perform a specific function, in a specific way, at a specific point, creates an environment where people are fulfilled at the end of the day.

6. They have Trusting Teams that possess a consistent & overwhelming desire within the group to get better at what they do, how they do it and for whom they do it.

7. They have A Deep Understanding of the Expectations of the people within their organization and those who use their services or product. They anticipate their needs, wants and desires, and seek to exceed them every day.

8. They Know What Competes against them instead of Who; they play the long game of business and know that sometimes you don’t run with the pack. They focus on being a better version of themselves as opposed beating their perceived competitor; instead of running to win, they run to be a better runner.

9. When things go wrong, and they always will, They Attack the Process that led to the mistake, NOT the People involved.

10. They are Conscious of the Show created by the expectations of the people they serve. Shakespeare famously said, “All the World is a Stage”; the smart brands Give their customers what they NEED, even when, THEY DON’T KNOW, THEY WANT IT

Share your Business Ideas to Our Business Blog

Criteria for submitting a Business blog to the HWCOC Business Resources Blog Page

  1. Blog must be on a business subject and something every member could learn from and utilize in their business. EX. How to collect on invoice, How to deal with difficult customers, How to keep up with ever changing forms of media, the best marketing tools for every budget.
  2. Must be between 500-900 words
  3. Please use colloquial term, laymen terms
  4. Format your blog in a legible manner. Does your blog topic read better in paragraph form or breaking it down into bullets and numbers?
  5. If your blog is about tips, post no more than 10 tips at a time. EX. “10 online marketing tools you need when starting a business”

Ideas

  • Talk about trends in business.
  • Pose a question.
  • Discuss future plans in your industry, give readers a sneak peak on what you’ll be doing in the coming year.
  • Review a book or piece of media, if you’ve read something that you think your consumers might like, give a write up.
  • Report on a conference you’ve attended.
  • Explain how you do it. Do you have a special way you make your product, handle returns or welcome new customers? Describe your process.
  • Talk about your blunders. “Success is you reaction to your failures, how have you succeeded?”.
  • Share your vision.
  • How did you get your idea?
  • A day in the life.
  • Mention a popular post, if you notice a post by a popular blogger in your niche getting a lot of attention, add your viewpoint and link to the original post.
  • Answer questions anyone is asking.

How to submit your blog

All blogs will be reviewed for approval prior to being posted.
Selected blogs will be posted on the 3rd week of the month to the hwcoc website and a link will be placed on all applicable media.
Blogs must be received by the 2nd week of the month to marketing@hwcoc.org

HWCOC Blog Posts

How to Plan a Ribbon Cutting

When to Have One

Almost every occasion is appropriate for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. You do not need to have something new and BIG to show off. A brand new business, new digs, a big remodel to accommodate growth are great reasons to celebrate. But you can also celebrate your company’s birthday, the launch of the new services you’ll be offering or another year with the Chamber. When you want to draw attention in a big way, a ribbon-cutting ceremony makes a big splash without having to spend a huge amount of money.

Choose Your Date and Time

Give yourself a month to plan the ceremony and to get on the calendars of the people you want to attend. If your new space is still being finished, wait until you’re certain when the new space really will be finished before you plan your ribbon cutting. Don’t take the contractor’s word for it. Many things are out of his control, including when his vendors will actually deliver.

Check with HWCOC team and with any officials you want to attend before finalizing the date. Having them in attendance makes your business and your news look more important. Make sure there’s nothing else going on that day in the neighborhood because that could pull attendees away from your event or it could take up all the parking spaces so people can’t get to your event.

Ask our team what time we recommend, we do this often and see what has proven to be successful. Don’t hold the ceremony too late in the day. An hour before noon or an hour prior to the end of the business day will allow people to take a longer lunch. At 4-4:30 p.m., many business folks will be able to break away, attend your ceremony, and can also try to get home early.

Spread the Word

We always invite our Ambassadors to attend the ribbon cuttings, alert our membership via email and encourage new members to attend. However, if you are trying to spread the word about your business, go beyond this. Make a list of everyone you would like to attend. Follow up with emails to your friends and close business associates. Tell them to spread the word, too. Attend Chamber events and personally invite members you meet to attend. Post the event on social media, and, as the event draws closer, keep updating the page. Change your posts to make them interesting and to keep people coming back. Announce your social media presence in your company newsletter and emails.

Prepare Invitations and Flyers

For your invitations and flyers, you’ll need the following information:

  • WHO: Your company name
  • WHAT/WHY: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for our ____(new building, new location, etc.)
  • WHEN: Day of the week, date and time (i.e. Thursday, July 19, 20__)
  • WHERE: Address for the event
  • R.S.V.P. : Phone number (and name if needed i.e. “Call Marion at (xxx) xxx-xxxx ext. X”)
  • Refreshments will be served

People who are on the fence about coming or who have multiple invitations for the same time, will often come to yours — if you’re serving food. If you’re having the event catered, note on the invitation something which indicates that food better than potato chips and punch will be served. For example, you can write: “Assorted appetizers from Le Chef will be served.”

Plan the Ceremony

Make a checklist of what you want to happen at your ceremony:

  • Emcee/Host – Someone from your company or a local “celebrity”? Emcee introduces speakers and keeps event moving
  • Speakers – Who will talk about your news, give a brief synopsis and thanks? Maximum of 2 speakers, 1-2 minutes each
  • Ribbon Cutter/Holders – Should be owners, partner, etc., flanked by chamber of commerce dignitary and other VIPs, perhaps family
  • Entertainment/Demo/Guides – Music, demo of a new product? People stationed in each room to explain what’s new?
  • Food – Choose and book the caterer. Food should be simple and easy to eat. Don’t forget utensils, plates, cups & ice.
  • Photographer – Hire your own photographer so that you’re not dependent on the media.

Please reach out to our team if you have any questions. We want your ribbon cutting ceremony to be a success!