tv Your Business MSNBC July 16, 2011 2:30am-3:00am PDT
how do you get people to buy your product when they don't even know they need it? one owner discovers it's by spinning a salty tale around it. keeping your business booming by hiring a mystery shopper. i go undercover to find out what they do and how they help you and your employees. we'll have that and more coming up next on "your business." small businesses are
revitalizing the economy. and american express open is here to help. that's why we're proud to present "your business" on msnbc. >> hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg. welcome to "your business" where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. the economic signals remain mixed for small business. consumer spending has slowed, the nfib says small business optimism is down and credit for them is in deep recession. but a new reuters poll claims lending to owners is actually up 26% from the same time last year. what lies ahead? christie arslin is the executive director of the national association for the self-employed. and we have the president of siddic incorporated a sales
training company. she recently wrote in the huffington post about what small business owners must do in the event of a double dip recession. great to see both of you guys. >> thank you. >> christie, i want to start with you. i want to hear what people are talking about in your world. are people optimistic? >> the self-employed community which is 78% of the small business population is optimistic about the economy. however, what they're not optimistic about is our government, our policymakers who are making very bad decisions or no decisions at all. their big concern is the unstable policy climate will continue to put the roadblocks to allow the self-employed community to achieve and grow past this current economic climate. >> so how is that affecting the way they're running their businesses right now? >> everyone is running their business very hesitantly. they're very cautious about the decisions they make because so much is up in the air regarding policy whether it be tax policy,
health policy. dealing with the national debt right now. balancing the budget. there's just a big concern about the regulatory environment. and they're cautious about the way they're growing and spending money. it's making it very difficult for people to get through the economic downturn. >> does it feel like it's different than it was a couple of years ago? >> it is. our members are saying that it's worse. that the political climate is so much more worse these days. that people are putting politicians over policy and making good decisions for our country. there's a big concern about the instability and how it affects the economy longer term and how that trickles down to a small business owner who is trying to raise his family, start his business, grow his business and be successful. >> so andrea, you wrote a really interesting article many the huffington post. there's so much uncertainty out there. if things do not go well and
there is a double dip recession, you talked about things you should do. what should a small business owner talk about? >> there's a couple of things we could do to be successful in spite of what's happening in the economy. some of the things i recommend are running something as simple as a summer promotion where you say i'll goif you 25% off the certain amount of business in exchange for that deal you pay in full we complete your project by the end of the year. compromise is fine. i don't recommend concessions necessarily. if you're going to offer something for them, you need to do something back so you both win. this idea of i can offer you a discount in exchange you need to pay upfront in full and we'll work on your project. it helps you with cash flow in that way and then maybe just have that commitment that the project will be done by the end of the year. that's just one idea. what are some other ideas you hadsome. >> some other ideas, i know this is a scarey one for small business owners, i have a great
habit that you can do on a daily basis. jump on the phone, make an hour's worth of phone calls or set two new appointments with customers, whichever comes first. for example, if you've made ten minutes of calls and you get your two appointments you're done. you don't have to do anymore. if in an hour, whichever comes first for your cold calling activity. if you see three meetings a week, this habit should take you to ten meetings a week with customers. >> christie, you talk a lot about policy. since people can't necessarily control policy, are there things that you found that people have done that have been helpful? >> go to organizations like the -- get the onon one assistance to help manage and grow your business. that educational assistance will put you ahead of the curve. i think marketing is key in this
day and era and branding yourself is so important. there's different ways you can brand yourself and your company to help you bring in customers and mitigate some of the cash flow issues. >> nothing ever happens if you don't leave your house or if you don't leave your office. it's a really good piece of advice to get out there and meet people. you don't know what's going to happen from that conversation. thank you both so much. i really appreciate you coming on the program. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> most of us take a product like salt for granted. it's widely available and cheap to buy. so how crazy is it for someone to start a high end food and gift business based on salt? turns out it's not crazy at all if you know how to season the story properly. >> a red salt from hawaii for pork and seafood, fruits, mango. >> mark bitterman has changed
the way people think about salt. >> when you have a couple of salts here -- your chocolate salt. >> it started with a trip overseas with his new wife, jennifer. >> one day i was just riding to the north of france and stopped by a truck stop to get a bite to eat. i ordered a steak and i was -- what in the world am i eating? this is completely wild. >> what drove mark wild was the exotic taste of locally produced salt that flavored his steak. >> what's this salt? he's like this is salt from -- this is where my nephew the owner's nephew lives. i'm like get on my motorcycle and go blazing out there. i find this salt and meet the salt maker and i fell in love. >> that passion for regional salt soon grew into a collection of salts from around the world. five years ago he and jennifer decided to make a business out of it. opening "the meadow" in
portland, oregon. >> i want you to come in and stand and feel like you are a beautiful person in a beautiful place. >> but how do you convince perspective customers that your salt is quite extraordinary and very different from your common everyday table salt? in their case, by getting the customers enganged through the story behind the kondment. >> i was at my birthday party a friend recommended he's like, you have a lot to say about salt. if you use that, it gives you something to talk around and share with other people. it gives a calling card. >> so mark and jennifer started to add value to their brand by telling true personal stories about themselves and their products to their customers. >> someone walks in the door that you've never seen before and you spend some time talking and you start to feel your relationship and this connection. >> when i went in, one part of my brain said the analytical part said this is rubbish.
who cares? do i really know? and how come it's so expensive? >> anne is one of their portland customers. >> he's on a motorcycle trip through europe doing whatever he wants, now how cool is that first of all. and he goes to this little french roadside restaurant and i want the romance of this. i want that in my life. >> the stories and word of mouth made the salt a ne nom non. a new york branch was opened in 2010. and the bitterman's enthusiasm caught on not only with home cooks, but with professional chefs as well. >> mark has opened my eyes. how do i describe mark? i don't know. he's my fountain of youth. that's what mark is. >> this award winning chef owner of payee's place tossed out all of his supermarket salt after meeting mark. and he says his patrons immediately noticed the difference. >> the comments would come back saying what did you do? how did you change this?
what happened? the only thing i can attribute to is the different salt we're using. they can't put their finger on it, but i know what happened. >> it blows my mind to hear a professional chef say i've been using kosher salt for 20 years. switching to artisan salt is the biggest improvement i've ever made. >> this kind of story adds charm and value to the product. >> just over and over again people were converted. wow, we can't live without this now. it's changed our eating and our life. it's huge. >> this kind of connection between owners and customers goes two ways. the bittermans also listen to their customers just as enthusiastically as their customers listen to them. >> our restaurant supply business is a great example. we have restaurants coming into the store and they're asking about all these different salts they're saying can we buy it for our restaurant, we say sure. that happens again and again.
>> by sharing their unique travel and food stories one-on-one with their customers, the bitterman's business has grown in ways they never anticipated. >> we don't do advertising. we think the real way to build a business is word of mouth. it's extraordinarily robust. it's very, very resilient. and it works in ways that you could never predict. so you don't define what y are,. >> getting people involved in the back story of your product can help spice up some interest. let's turn to this week's board of directors. john janse is the creator of duct tape marketing. he's also author of the new book "referral engine." terry evans is the deputy editor at entrepreneur.com. and mike the founder of on siddon launch, a group that helps small business owners known as niche businesses.
he's also known as the toilet paper entrepreneur. >> i know. >> john, you must have been salivating when you heard this story. these guys don't do any advertising. they figured out a way to let the product market itself. >> the story certainly is what people gravitate to. there's one of my favorite fred rogers' quotes that i use all the time that he say it's hard not to like someone once you know their story. that's true of marketing a product, the business and the owner's stories. in this particular case they've taken something that is generally seen as a commodity, salt and they've actually given it a story. i would suggest they could take it farther and give where the salt's from on the history of the people and the culture of the people that mine the salt. they definitery are on the right track. >> that's interesting like what we've done with coffee. >> exactly. and even some fruits have gone that route as well. >> these guys are foodies. to be, you know, people who aren't foodies are fascinated
with foodies. people who are foodies is fascinated. it's a whole world of itself and creates something romantic. what if you have a boring business. you're creating a wigt. how do you create a story around that? >> sure. i think that there are certainly several examples of companies that have taken these basic products whether it be burgers or coffees or salt in this case and have created a new experience around it. i think that there's a lot to be learned from this particular entrepreneur. one thing is they took something that's basic and they found a way to reinvent it. even pair it with something that would be unusual like the sweet and the savory and then create a complete shared experience around it. so you kind of reinvent the product and then create a shared experience around it. romanticizing this product, educating the consumer and then bringing people together and reaching out to the culinary community. you know, getting those evans lists like the chefs of high end
restaurants to be your evangelists for you. >> do you think, mike, that there's a story in every product or sometimes will it sound forced? >> absolutely. there's a story in every product. a story also becomes an identity. think about kroen na beer. when it came out it was a big flop in the u.s. until they made it into the story and identity of easy going, beach life and stuff like that. now it can sell for a premium. the salt's the same thing. once you have a story behind it, people will identify with that and say that's what it represents. i don't need to travel through france, that's what i am. by consuming the salt it identifies who i am. >> do we all need to create stories? >> it's a powerful driver. you can create a story by trying to connect to the things that humans want. we all want love, we all want to belong. we all want passion. the woman suggested this made her feel romance. that's what you're connecting
to. it's not just creating a story for story sake. it's creating a story to allow people to connect to things they really want in their loves. if they can get that from your product in some bizarre way that maybe even they create, boy, that is a powerful connection. >> i guess, look, if you have a product that people want then there should be some connection to it, there should be something that you can talk about. >> it does something for them. maybe they're in charge of what that is, but that's okay if it does that, they'll pay a bunch for it. >> thank you so much. i think this is an interesting topic. you have to think about it. you need to think about what it is that i'm doing that's going to connect with people. once you get that, it spreads. >> thanks so much, guys. >> where are the lowest taxes? who's top in tech? and who's got the best workforce? here now are america's top states for business courtesy of cnbc's fifth annual report.
number five, colorado. the state received top ten rankings in workforce, quality of life and business friendliness. georgia comes in at number four with the nation's second best infrastructure and transportation system. third on the list is north carolina. one of the nation's best workforces can be found here. number two, texas. texas infrastructure' and transportation system is ranked first for the second year in a row. and the number one city for business is virginia. this is the third time in five years virginia has captured first place honors. more good advice to help your small business is headed your way. i go under cover to find out how mystery shoppers can give you a better idea of how to help your customers. and today's elevator picture also has a secret. a secret come partment in his a secret come partment in his sandals.
this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple our floor space. how can the plum card's trade terms get your business booming? booming is putting more music in more people's hands. for so many businesses customer service is key. and the way some stores keep
employees -- mystery shoppers. does it work? we went undercover to find out. if you're an employee at la bond supermarket, a family owned connecticut based chain, you know behind every inquiring customer there may be a notebook recording how you act. >> hi, how are you? do you have donuts anywhere? fresh made or no? >> on sundays we have the fresh doughnuts. >> they pride themselves on customer service and once a month it puts its employees to the ultimate test. it sends in a mystery shopper who records their every move. this month i played the role. judy hesz is the ceo of customer sir sus. a mystery shopping company that works with them. she trained me on the process. what am i looking for? >> cleanliness at the entry way,
the carriages, floor, the windows, and then it's important that you do all the departments because they want to evaluate how much product knowledge is and how helpful people are. >> excuse me, do you have aftercad does here? >> yes, we do. >> oh, great. how do i know which ones are ripe? >> you might ask in the aisle for an item and see if they take you to it? >> where would i find ter yakky sauce? >> it's important that you treat you. do you feel cared about? do you feel important? >> oh, great. thank you. >> how long do you think that will last? >> a good hour and a half. >> fantastic. that should be good. >> after i was done with my mystery shopping tour, i checked in with the owner. ready for my reportsome. >> yes, i am. >> as far as your employees go everyone could not have been more helpful. >> that's good news. >> we try to hire higher level
employees. >> can i ask you one more question, i'm looking for a melon. >> i spoke with louis martinez who helped me many the produce department. did you know who i was? >> no, i did not. >> you're so nice to me? >> i try to be. >> i felt like i was having a lesson in how to pick produce? >> that's how i was trained. >> la bonn said he wouldn't be able to get the same sense of his employee's performance by watching himself or by surveying his customers. in a world where consumers have too many choices, customer service is more important than ever for stores. >> you've got to have the customers' perspective that's the key to retaining that customer. >> how do you feel about them having people in essence spying on you? >> i think it's great. it keeps you on your toes. i think if you don't get checked on every now and then people tend to get complacent. if you're standing still, then you're not moving forward. >> the employee lunchroom is where the mystery shopping reports are posted for everyone
to see. the rewards for a good report movie tickets. it may cost a little more to have a mystery shopping program, but bob says he sees the returns every day. >> when you retain a customer it's every year, not just the one day they come in. you may have that customer for 20, 30 years. think of all the money that one customer brings in. a lot more than it's going to take to mystery shop. >> you go to the beach and you want to go in the water but where do you put your wallet and keys and stuff? today's elevator pitcher say ifs the shoe fits, stick it all in there. >> hi, i'm matt pots founder and president of arch support foot ware. let me give you my business card. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> these shoes allow you to carry anything you want inside your sandals to keep your hands and pockets free. i'll looking to sell these
through travel entry retailer and looking for $600,000 primarily dedicated towards sales, marketing and pr efforts. about 1/3 to manufacturing and development because i want to develop new categories of this footwear as well. the other 10%, 20% would be used towards operations. it's a patented product. it's very comfortable and great for the beach, cruises or pool side. anytime you want to be hands and pockets free. >> all right. matt, thank you so much. i love when we have the beach scene. you look appropriate, we look inappropriate. good job. let's hear what the panel thinks. how did he do? >> i love that his wallet came with cash in there. >> i need that back. >> i do have a question for you. i assume people want to store cell phones in here. is this capable to carry cell phones? >> not now, but who knows. >> we'll have platform ones. >> i'd like to develop new categories of foot ware. at some point in the future it's a possibility.
i thought about doing something many the vertical sector like the military. other types of electronic devices. the idea is an interchangeable removal mo duj in the sole. >> was there something more you needed? >> i think you have a great presentation. what we needed to include also you know, we didn't talk about how much sales you've had so far and where your products are being sold through to establish. >> i definitely want to mention that csn stores and shoe buy.com. we've sold a couple thousands online so far. that's really important. >> we talked about in an elevator pitch always show traction. this is where we've gone, this is where we're growing and where we think we're going to go. >> i'm a little concerned that you don't cover cell phones, i think that's the biggest problem. i think $600,000 is a big raise
on your current revenues, i'd want to talk about that. >> i'd take a meeting also. i think one of the thing i'd like to see addressed is if there's been any push back with tsa security requirement ors anything like that and if there's a negative associated with it. if so, how you're addressing it. >> good luck with everything. perfect season for this. thank you so much and thank you guys for everything. i really appreciate it. if any of you have a product or service and want feed back from our elevator pitch panel on your chances of getting interested investors, all you have to do is end us an email. include a short summary of what your company does, how much money you're trying to raise and what you're going to do with that money. somebody might be interested in helping you. it's time now to answer some of your business a questions. terry and mike are with us once again.
the fist one is about protecting your brand. >> how do companies incorporate independent contractors and still maintain their overall brand identity? >> it's tricky. you get people to come in. they're not part of the company, not part of the culture. >> branding means consistency. when you hire a contractor just because they have expertise doesn't mean you're going to do it their way. you have to treat them like an employee. you have to have systems in place saying this is how we do it at our company. develop those systems then brng the contractors through the system. that will work. >> it's a little bit expensive in the beginning. >> it's an investment. >> in which case you want to make sure you have contractors that are going to stick around. >> absolutely. and also, i mean, you really want to make sure as much as possible if you can keep it to task bringing those independent contractors keeping it to tasks that have minimal or no
interaction with the customer or clients when you're talking about your sales team, when you're talking about customer service folks you really want to keep those internal as much as possible and keep independent contractors with a little bit less interaction with the consumer if possible. >> all right. let's move on to the next one. this is about government contracts. >> we've been in business for over 12 years now. in the residential market in the cleaning industry. we're trying to go into federal contracting. how do we do that? >> federal contracting we get this question a lot there's always this talk from the government about how there are all these contracts out there, but getting to them is quite tricky. >> there are a couple of websites that will help business owners quite a bit. first of all you have to be registered with the government in their vendor database. and you can go 30 the business partner network website bpn
dwog/ccr. and register your business. and there's no cost to that, which is fantastic. you can certainly go on there, create your business profile, that's step number one. also, you want to go to the federal business opportunities website. you go to that that's fob dwog. essentially you can search out all these different types of contracts and opportunities out there really with key words in the search tool. that's a great place to get started to get your feet wet and see what's out there. >> any ideas, mike? >> sure. a lot of people think that it's all red tape and that's all there is. that's a cold experience. the relationships still matter. the trick is go in with a prime contractor. someone that's already in and come in as a subcontractor under them. that way you can make the relationship. >> how do you find the prime contractor? >> it's clearly identified on the web. >> we've heard that. i've heard a lot of people get
in and then they figure out how it works and then they can go off on their own. >> terry and mike thank you so much. i really, really appreciate it. to learn more about today's show just click on our website. don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we look forward to your feed back. you can follow us on twitter if you like. next week, meet some moms who turned down millions of dollars from professional investors and instead sought financing from fellow parents. >> we spoke to them at school, at play dates on playgrounds. we would open our laptop on the floor of my daughter's ballet class. we pitched them at birthday parties. >> find out what these women opted for strategic investors rather than traditional angels.