Why your small business should do business with other small businesses

We’re a small company. Our story might be similar to yours, or perhaps drastically different (you can read it here).

What we do know is that, as a small business owner or employee, you wear many hats, each and every day, and we know what it’s like. It’s exhilarating and frustrating at the same time, right?

Thing is, you’re not alone. There are a lot of small business owners out there; as of the 2012 census, there were roughly 27.9 million small businesses in the US, ranging from 1 employee to 500 employees1. A majority are nonemployers2 or sole proprietors. Others have hundreds of employees.

It’s awesome to see that there are so many motivated Americans running small businesses; they are an integral part in building our economy.

All this being said, why should you, a small business owner or employee, do business with these other small businesses instead of large corporations?

The answers to that question are simple, personal, and relatable.

You get lots of networking opportunities.

Whether you’re working with a small business owner two blocks down or two hundred miles away, completing a business transaction creates a fantastic networking opportunity. Both parties learn more about the other’s business. If a peer needs a similar service, both small business owners will be more likely to recommend someone they’ve done business with before looking around online.

Not sure where to start when networking? Join your chamber of commerce (as an added bonus, being a member of the chamber of commerce gives customers an added level of trust in your business). Or perhaps there is a local, industry-based organization you can join. And, of course, there are always industry trade shows, conferences, and conventions.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention online networking. LinkedIn is the most generic professional networking site available. Connect with those you’ve done business with, join some groups, and seek out business owners nearby. And although Facebook is not necessarily a professional platform, there are industry-specific professional groups for you to join.

You’ll get empathy from your peers.

Even if you’re working with someone in a different professional field, it’s quite likely you’ve found yourself in similar situations. Like managing business finances and HR issues, or the stress of tax season and audits. We’ve all been there, so we understand what it takes to deal with these situations.

And it’s not only empathy for the hard times, it’s also celebrating the excitement of business growth, the pride of receiving awards and recognition, and commemorating business milestones. It’s laughing over how (or where) your business started, or perhaps an embarrassing mishap with a client.

While empathy from other business owners and employees won’t necessarily increase the bottom line, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that others are facing the same struggles and triumphs that we face every day.

You can help support the local economy.

With nearly every business having their own website, it’s easy to do business with companies across the US—or even globally. However, sometimes you want to do business with a marketing company near you. You don’t have to understand much beyond Economics 101 to know that when you do business with local companies, you’re putting your money back in the pockets of people in your community, from the business owners to their employees.

You’ll get increased referrals from a trusted source.

Granted, this applies to small or large businesses, but sometimes you’ll get increased referrals from fellow small business owners because they empathize with you, you’ve networked with them, and you’ve supported their business efforts. Referrals like this can often mean more to consumers because a lot of people like supporting small businesses over large-scale corporations.

Don’t believe us?

It’s estimated that on Small Business Saturday in 2015, more than 95 million people shopped at small businesses3. Yes, this is a special occasion, a “shopping holiday,” if you will. But those numbers don’t lie. Americans like supporting small businesses. Sometimes they just need a little encouragement, like referrals from you and your professional peers.

We love doing business with small businesses.

Our customers range from sole proprietors to global corporations. We welcome inquiries from any and all business or organizations. As a small business, though, we get where our fellow small business owners and employees are coming from. While we can’t offer discounts because of your business size or professional affiliation, we can offer honest customer service, professional knowledge, and empathy if you need it.

We’re On The Ball Promotions, and we’re promotional products experts. Our personalized promotional items advertise your business in a practical way. Find the best giveaways for your business at OnTheBallPromotions.com.

1 U.S. Small Business Administration, 2012 census numbers

2 A nonemployer refers to a business owner who has no paid employees.

3 American Express Small Business Saturday

Are promotional calendars effective?

Are Promotional Calendars Effective? Thoughts from On The Ball Promotions.Survey says: YES.

But we’re in the business of promotional calendars, so of course we’re going to tell you they’re effective. However, we’re a practical bunch, so if we didn’t think they were effective, we wouldn’t promote them as a tool for growing your business.

Aside from the practicality of having a calendar sitting on their desk or hanging on their wall, that still leaves the big question: why are promotional calendars so effective? Let’s start with what turns some people off of advertising: cost.

Calendars cost just pennies a day to advertise your business.

Let’s say you’re going to order 150 desk calendars that run $3.50 per calendar. Given that customers will most likely hold onto these calendars for the full year, that comes to just under 1¢ per day for each customer. Break that out to all customers who received calendars, and that’s about $1.44 per day.

That’s less than a pay-per-click ad campaign or having a glanced-over banner ad on a website.

$1.44 per day? That’s budget-friendly ad spend right there.

They provide year-round brand visibility.

Whether you put just your logo on a mini sticky calendar or go full-color on a large Daily Date calendar, your company’s name is right there for your customer to see all year long, on the desk, wall, or dashboard.

Your phone number and website are always right there. Your logo becomes a more and more familiar symbol. They don’t forget your name. The calendar is a business card that sits on their desk, hangs on their wall, or sticks on their dashboard all year long.

All of this is part of your brand. So put your logo on a calendar, get 365 days of brand advertising.

You’re marketing to a targeted audience.

You want to advertise your service or product to a specific audience, for example, your current customers. So you hand them out to your current customers. No money is lost on mass mailings to an entire community. What percentage of those mass mail recipients actually need your services? What percentage of your audience needs your services?

Let’s take a small HVAC business, run by just one man (let’s call him Joe). Joe wants to grow his customer base by reaching out to homeowners in his area. So he tries to think of the most practical place to reach new customers.

The answer? The annual home and garden show. Attendees are either already homeowners or are interested in owning a home, so it’s the right crowd for Joe’s outreach plan. So Joe sets up a table and hands out sticky calendars as a giveaway, telling them to stick the mini calendars on their furnace so they can reach him when they need him.

So did he fulfill his goal? Joe wanted to reach out to a new audience within his market, and he did. Yay, Joe!

And the moral of the story is…

A year-long advertisement + inexpensive promotional product + advertising directly to your audience = Marketing WIN.

Promotional calendars work. If they didn’t , we wouldn’t sell them. They’re not throwaway advertising kitsch; they’re practical giveaways that your customers will actually use all year long.

Interested in promotional calendars for your business? We can help. Head on over to OnTheBallPromotions.com to start your promotion.

How to Deal with an Unhappy Customer in 3 Easy Steps

How to Deal with an Unhappy Customer | Tips from On The Ball Promotions

Our customer service team talks to a wide variety of people each day—on the phone, on our live chat, or over email—and sometimes there are customers that don’t see eye-to-eye with us on an issue.

And let’s face it. Sometimes we make mistakes. At On The Ball Promotions, we guarantee we’ll fix our mistakes. Whether we ship new product or give you a refund, we stand behind our product and service.

But there is always that sticky situation when you know you’re in the right, but they won’t budge. What then?

Here are some methods our customer service team use to defuse what could otherwise be an ugly situation.

1. Ask them to explain… from the beginning.

Yes, this might take a little time. But here’s how you can ultimately take charge of the story: ask questions. Small, simple questions just to clarify what they’re saying. When they’re done telling their story, repeat back what you’ve heard. This process of clarification often causes people to reconsider their stance—if only just a little, but it’s a good, neutral way to start the conversation. You’re not questioning their logic, just making sure you know their side of the story.

2. Show empathy.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, empathy is showing that you feel what they’re feeling. It’s saying things like “I understand why you’re upset about this,” or “I’d be confused, too.” Now, do you have to truly feel what you say? Not necessarily, but at the same time, you don’t want to lie.

While you might not see things from their point of view, you can at least empathize with the fact that they’re upset because they had expectations that were not met—even if you know they’re in the wrong.

By showing the customer that you’re able to see things from their perspective makes them more open to seeing things from your perspective.

If things still have not cooled down yet, or the customer is still making unreasonable demands, there is one last-ditch effort that might smooth things out for a lasting relationship.

3. If all else fails, give them stuff.

This one might hurt a little, but sometimes you have to throw the dog a bone. Perhaps you refund their shipping costs, or give them a percentage off their order or work receipt. By giving them something—anything—you’re showing that you’re willing to work with them.

This last option might be enough to re-build the trust with your customer, leading to a lasting working relationship and potentially some referrals because of your willingness to work with them.

What now?

We think it’s time to rethink the worn-out phrase “The customer is always right,” and change it to something a bit more fitting, something a bit more accurate. Something that doesn’t make you grit your teeth when saying it. How about this:

The customer might not always be right. But they’re your business’ lifeblood, so do what it takes to keep them happy.

Or, a more succinct version:

Do your business a favor and keep the customer happy.

We’re On The Ball Promotions, and we pride ourselves in keeping our customers happy. Our personalized promotional items advertise your business in a practical way. Find the best giveaways for your business at OnTheBallPromotions.com.

10 Practical, Everyday Marketing Ideas for your HVAC Business

10 Practical, Everyday HVAC Marketing IdeasYou’re out and about, all over town every day. That doesn’t leave you a lot of extra time to promote your business—or even think about promoting your business. Or maybe you’re asking yourself, How do I market my HVAC business? 

We understand.

So we’ve compiled a list of simple tips to help kick-start your marketing campaign to grow your current customer base. Most of these easy HVAC marketing ideas are free, and can easily be implemented into your daily routine.

Ready? Here we go.

1. Wear your company shirt to the grocery store on the weekends.

You’re going to see a lot of local homeowners there, so go ahead, wear your company shirt with pride while perusing the produce section.

2. Post homeowner tips on Facebook.

We know, we know. Everyone has been saying it for years. And yet, we’re here to say it again: social media can help increase awareness of your company, services, and expertise. Post small tidbits of information, like when to replace the air filter in their furnace. Pepper your Facebook page with issues to look out for so they know when to call you.

3. Send off-season reminders—and coupons.

Send a Christmas card with a coupon for early bird AC checkup. Just be sure to include an expiration date! 

4. Work the concession stand at high school games.

Talk to someone on the athletic booster club committee to see if you help keep those fans fed and hydrated. By working the concession stand, you’ll get to meet a lot of local homeowners—and business owners. Offer to help out the booster club at a few home football or basketball games. Just be sure to wear your business shirt or hat.

5. Get in with Google

There is a fantastic FREE service called Google My Business. Just enter your business name, website, phone, and hours to appear on Google search results pages and on Google Maps. You can even add pictures, plus customers can review your business (you can respond to those reviews).

6. Park your truck or van in the driveway instead of the garage.

We see this everywhere around us, in the suburbs and the small towns; small, one-man HVAC businesses where the owner just parks their van or truck in the drive. Even if they’re really parking outside in the elements because their garage is packed, it’s still simple, easy, local advertising.

7. Small talk can really pay off.

If you played football for the local high school and see the homeowner’s son also plays football for your alma mater, talk about it. If they have a rowdy Border Collie, and you have one too, talk about it.

The quality of your work is the most important aspect in building trust, but it’s those small, personal connections that help build rapport with homeowners. It’s that trust and rapport that can lead to word-of-mouth referrals.

8. Join your local Chamber of Commerce

This is not a direct marketing campaign to your customers, but it adds value to your business’ name and garners trust. After you join, announce your membership on your website, your Facebook page, put it on your giveaway calendars; put it everywhere. Consumers are more likely to trust a business that is a chamber of commerce member than one who is not, because it shows loyalty to the community.

9. Leave a small giveaway at every visit.

One of the easiest things you can do is leave a small giveaway with customers at each visit. Fixing a furnace? Place a small mini sticky calendar on the furnace so they know who to call if problems arise. That mini calendar acts just like a business card, but since it’s stuck in place, it won’t get lost.

10. Smile when you say hello.

Ok, so this one is more a reminder of professional etiquette, but it really does have to do with your business’ image. And it has to do with trust.

The homeowner opens the door to a cheerful “hello!” and already you’ve set a nice, friendly image for yourself. If, however, they open the door and you say, “Hi, I’m Bill. Where’s the furnace?… well, you might get the job done as well as the friendly hello guy, but you’ve set a different tone for the customer.

First impressions can really help give you a boost. A friendly first impression puts the homeowner at ease, and a friendly HVAC professional is likely to get more referrals from happy homeowners.

So there you have it. Ten really simple, budget-friendly HVAC marketing ideas that you can easily implement into your everyday routine. Some of them take very little time and effort, but can have a great impact on how you are perceived by your customers.

Remember, your marketing is what you make of it.

Need some help getting your promotion started?

We can help. We’re promotional products experts, and we work with small business owners like you every day. We can help fulfill your logo giveaway needs. Call us at (800) 475-2255 or send us an email.

Don’t forget to check out OnTheBallPromotions.com for all your promo product needs.