Your Business Success Checklist for 2016

by Gail Oliver, Online Marketing Consultant

As we are in the final months of 2015, it is a good time to look at your business and decide how successful your year has been so far and what changes you need to make to have continued success in 2016.

business success checklist 2016

1. Are Your Sales Increasing?

It is critical that you compare your sales from year to year, as well as month over year (for example, are your August 2015 sales stronger than your August 2014 sales). This really helps you see overall annual growth as well as if you have any seasonal highs and lows.

I highly recommend you set up a spreadsheet where you enter your sales for each month of the year (in a column) with sales for the previous year’s months in the column to the left. Then in the column to the right of your current sales determine your sales growth, by month and by year, by entering the calculations:

[sales for Month X 2015 – sales for Month X 2014] / sales for Month X 2014

[sales for 2015 – sales for 2014] / sales for 2014

This will arrive at a percentage. Overall sales should never be down from the previous year. If this is the case, then you need to rethink your business in terms of your offerings, your pricing, your costs and whether you need to invest more in marketing.

2. Are Your Costs Increasing?

It is also important to look at your profit, which is Revenue – Costs. Is your profit up over last year and month over year? Again, if profits are down you need to consider raising your prices and/or lowering your costs, especially if your revenues increased. It doesn’t have to be a huge price increase. If profits are down 10%, then you can easily raise your prices 10% and it should have little negative impact on your business. If your costs have increased, then you need to analyze each cost center (be it supplies, fees, shipping) and see which ones increased in price and find alternatives.

3. What Were Your Revenue Leaders?

Look at which products and/or services performed the best for you in 2015 and consider expanding further in this area, slowly eliminating or reinventing products and services that did not sell as well.

4. What is Working For Your Competitors?

Take a look at your competitors and see what they are selling, what their customers are saying in their reviews and on their social media sites. Try to garner what is working for them in terms of their business offerings and marketing efforts and see which ideas you can steal.

5. Are You Listening to Your Feedback?

Listen to your customers. Read your reviews, comments, feedback, even ask your customers questions. If they feel your prices are too high, consider lowering them if that makes business sense. If they didn’t like the quality of a product, improve upon it. If there is a product or service you don’t have that they want, consider offering it.

6. What Marketing Efforts Are Working?

You need to study your website analytics, even though it will not tell you which traffic sources converted into sales, it is still a way to decide which efforts you should be spending time on and which you should maybe discontinue. For example, if two-thirds of your traffic is coming from Pinterest and very little from Twitter, then stop wasting time on Twitter and dedicate even more time to Pinterest. If your Google ads are not bringing in a lot of traffic, contact a Google Adwords rep and ask how your ads can be improved. If you have been avoiding social media altogether, then maybe now’s the time to give it a chance. Remember, it is futile to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

7. Are You Maximizing Your Customer Base?

How many new customers did you get last year? Guess what, they are still potential customers in 2016! Find ways to tap into your already established customer base – either through special offers on your social media sites or a Mail Chimp email campaign – to get additional business from them (as well as referral business) in 2016.

Just 3 More Things to Do…

Thanks so much for your support!


© 2015 Gail Oliver, Attention Getting Marketing. All rights reserved.

Marketing Dos and Don’ts from Last Night’s Celebrity Apprentice

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

There were two marketing challenges last night on the Celebrity Apprentice – one was adding entertainment to a one-hour New York City boat tour and the other was creating a visual showcase exhibit for Trump’s new golf resort in Miami. So here is my take on what marketing ideas you can use for your small business, based on last night’s tasks.

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How to Keep Customers Entertained During a One-Hour Boat Tour 

The goal of this marketing task was not to change the type of tour being offered (a by-pass of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty), it was simply to make it more entertaining for the guests. The celebrities’ first mistake was not understanding the type of people who would be taking the tour, which was mostly couples of all ages. So hiring Hooter’s waitresses was not necessarily a great idea. These are visitors to New York, so I would have given them the best of the city, such as:

  • Handing out free food samples from popular local restaurants, especially ones located near the entrance to the boat docking
  • Having a photographer perched at the top of the Statue of Liberty to take zoom-in photos of guests as they pose at the bow of the boat
  • Having a quick performance of a NYC dance troupe at the start of the tour as people are getting settled, to again, up sell shows around town

This is alliance marketing at its best, working with other non-competitive businesses that service the same target market.

How to Create an Enticing Exhibit 

If you participate in any trade shows, exhibits or fairs, you realize the importance of creating an exciting visual display to lure people in. I actually liked what the winning team did, so here are things to consider at your next event:

  • Appeal to all five senses to lure people in, from sight to sound to smell to taste to touch. Trust me, people will follow a good smell to see where it is coming from.
  • Have an activity to bring people in. Back when I was a Marketing Director, I had a putting contest in my company’s trade show booth and it really got people to stop and visit. Plus, it was a great way to collect their business cards (we drew cards to win an expensive putter).
  • Giving out swag is important. Visitors expect it, and it serves you long after they have left the booth if you make it relevant to what you are selling. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. I had a children’s clothier hand out a “New Baby Checklist” to expecting moms at a show (make sure your logo and url are on it) and it was much more effective than handing out a business card.

‘Til next time. Thanks for reading … Gail


Need Marketing Advice? Click Here to Learn More About My Small Business Consultation!


Hot Business Idea: Instead of Just Selling Your Products, Allow Customers to Rent

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

There has been a growing movement towards consumers renting and not buying certain types of merchandise. Renting houses and cars has long been a common occurrence, but new types of products are now making an impact in the rental market.

The success of the online shop, Rent the Runway has encouraged the renting of pricey, trendy clothing that tends to go out of style faster than people can afford. It makes sense that with technology and styles constantly changing, and or limited space to house items, consumers may not want to invest in items that don’t have a long life.

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Wedding, Kids & Tech Items All Have Rental Potential

Men have long rented tuxedos for weddings, so it would only make sense that a bride could rent her wedding dress. For most women, it means getting the couture dress of their dreams, for a fraction of the price (you really do only wear it once).

Think of all the money that goes in purchasing items for a new baby, from a crib to a high chair to a stroller, these are all fairly high ticket items that only have a life span of a few years (depending how many kids you have).

What about the cost of cell phones? How often have you paid $800 for the latest phone only to find out a new version will be out within the year. If the average life span of a cell phone for an early adopter (the person who always has to have the latest and greatest the second it comes out) is only a year, even if you rented your cell phone for $50 a month, you would still be saving money ($600 for a year rental versus an $800 flat fee).

Ideal Rental Products 

  • Apartment furniture
  • Dorm/college furniture
  • Wedding jewelry
  • Wedding dresses
  • Flower girl dresses
  • Prom dresses
  • Kids bikes
  • Baby/kids clothing
  • Baby equipment
  • Boats/snow mobiles / ATVs
  • Lawn tractors/snow blowers
  • Big screen TVs / gaming systems
  • Laptops / tablets
  • Smart phones
  • Trampolines

So think of what you sell and if there is any way it can lend itself to the rental market, providing that it is still profitable for you. It does haven’t to be your main business, but a side aspect to the business for those who want it.

My Quick Tip of the Week: Do you sell products online that are well suited for a couple’s wedding registry? is the leading online wedding registry (projecting sales of $40 million for 2015) and they allow couples to add products to their Zola wedding registry from any online site.  So, you can encourage customers to add your products to their Zola wedding registry, simply by using the “Add to Zola” button available at their website.  You can also apply to sell on Zola, just email

GB OliverNeed marketing help with your small business? Get my One-on-One Marketing Consultation. And don’t forget, my Marketing Calendars for February are available for download.


If Your Small Business is Failing, It Isn’t Always Your Marketing

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Consultant

Do you know about the four Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place, Promotion? They are in that order for a reason.

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The problem most small businesses and entrepreneurs make is that they do not spend enough time on the first P – the Product. They get anxious and excited and jump right ahead to the next three. Then, when the business starts to fail, they automatically think the problem must be their price, where they are selling, and/or their marketing efforts.

But more than likely the reason the business is failing is because they didn’t make sure that the product/service they were offering was:

  • Better than the competition
  • Different than the competition
  • Answered a need in the marketplace that competitors were not

Particularly if you are a late entrant into an over crowded market, your business has to have at least one of the above to have any kind of success.

Real Business Case Study

I had a client a few years back wanting to open a cupcake business. The problem was, the cupcake business was already thriving and full of competitors doing a great job. But she was determined and jumped ahead and started designing the website, logo, marketing materials, etc. I had to reign her back in and have her focus on the cupcakes before committing to anything else. If she was going to compete in this already crowded market, the only way she was going to have success was to offer cupcakes that were better, different and/or answered a need in the market that no other business was addressing.

Research the Competition

Your first step in developing a successful business is to research your competition in terms of what they offer. I researched her competition, noting:

  • The look of her competitors’ cupcakes – were they regular size, oversized, mini, mile high icing, round, square, in shapes, decorated, etc.
  • The taste of her competitors’ cupcakes – were they moist, decadent, rich, not too sweet, something I couldn’t make at home, etc.
  • The special types of cupcakes her competitors offered – peanut-free, gluten-free, flavors tailored to men (beer cupcakes), specialty cupcakes for sports teams, companies, weddings, etc.

If her cupcakes didn’t taste better than anyone else’s, look better than anyone else’s, and/or address niches the other companies were not, there was not much point going forward.

How to Make Sure You are Better Than the Competition

My key advice to every business is always this: match your competitors feature for feature, and then go beyond that.

Make a list of every feature your competitors offer, and then compare to make sure you are matching them feature for feature. Now, how do you go beyond? Find out what they don’t have that customers want or features where they are weak and customers have complained about.

One easy way to do this is to read reviews of your competitors – a great place to get this information. You can also reviews of similar products on Amazon, again, focusing on the negative reviews to see where a product and/or service is lacking and you can take advantage.

Making sure that your product and/or service offering is better than the competition and/or offers something different from the competition and/or covers sought-after niches in the marketplace, is the first and most important step in ensuring the success of your business. Do not proceed with any of the other Ps, until you have that perfected.

Need a Product Consultation?

If you don’t think your products are up to the competition, I can help with
my Product Consultation.

© 2012-2014 Gail Oliver. All rights reserved.

Case Study – How One Successful Small Business Only Needs to Have a Storefront Two Months a Year

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

In the city where I live, every year, for just seven weekends from early October to mid November, a local couple hosts a major shopping event called The Third World Bazaar.

They reside on a few acres of farm land where they turn one of their large barns into a holiday retail space. The owners spend 5 months of the year travelling the globe buying products for the sale from artisans in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, Cuba and Vietnam. Everything from jewelry to furniture to textiles to home accessories to toys to Christmas ornaments to other unique finds. In the 10 years it has been operating, the bazaar has become incredibly popular and proves you don’t need to have a storefront year round, if fact, it might work better if you don’t.

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Why Does This Business Work?

  • The owners capitalize on the key holiday buying time of the year, October and November.
  • Buyers know that the bazaar is only open during these seven weekends (Friday to Sunday), so they make the effort to get there, and they BUY, because they know that they are not coming back again for another year.
  • As they own the property and the barn, there is no rent being paid on a retail space.
  • The bazaar barely has to advertise because of strong word of mouth and customer loyalty. People know when it is coming because it is always the same time every year.
  • They have food trucks on the site, and also sell pumpkins and apple cider, making this an all-day fall event.

As I’ve said before, when something is only being offered for a limited time, it forces people to act. If buyers know a store will be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, there is no urgency.

Ways to Have a Storefront for a Limited Time

Depending on what you sell, there are certain times of the year when it may benefit your online store to have a physical store presence. If you sell swimwear, maybe that is May/June. If you sell skis, that would be December. If you selling wedding goods, January is usually prime time. Or maybe you also want to take advantage of the holiday buying season. So what options do you have?

  • Approach a popular local store about the idea of them hosting a pop-up store of your products for just a few Saturdays during your prime selling season.
  • Consider taking out a shopping kiosk in a mall. Malls are hurting right now, so they may be open to the possibility of just a two month rental.
  • See if there is any retail space in your area that has been sitting empty for a long time. Approach the leasing agent about renting the space for just a one month period.
  • Ask your local church or community center if they would be willing to let you use their facilities in exchange for a donation.
  • A lot of hotels and resorts will host local vendors on their premises at certain times of the year.
  • Some business parks will also allow vendors to set up temporary one-day events on their premises, if it is something that will benefit their employees.
  • If you can’t afford some of these options, form an alliance with other local, but non competitive vendors, about going in together.

The goal is to maximize your key selling season with both a physical and online presence that will help carry you throughout the year.

NEW SERVICE! My Marketing and Promotion Blitz

GB OliverI am offering a new marketing service for small businesses. I tend to offer DIY marketing services to keep my prices low, however, a lot of customers have been asking me to offer a service where I do the work for you. So please check out my ALL-NEW Marketing & Promotion Blitz, complete details on my Marketing Services page.

© 2014 Gail Oliver. All right reserved.


Need a Business Idea? Simply Solve a Problem (Like These Companies Did)

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

I often see people trying desperately to come up with an idea for a business, but the easiest way is to simply solve a problem that people are having. It could be with a current product or service offering, or an offshoot of a problem with another product.

Hopefully some of these product ideas will inspire you (be sure to also follow my Pinterest board, Products I Love!) :

Problem Solved: Cell Phone Off the Floor When Charging

small_business_ideasNow this is not an expensive product, but it solves a definite problem. This cell phone holder ($8) from Solutions simply keeps your phone off the floor when you are charging it (why do they make the charger cords so short?). What would make this product better? If you could fold it up and stick in your purse to take with you.

Problem Solved: Make Brushing Teeth Fun For Kids

product idea for a small businessAnyone with kids knows how hard it is to get them to brush their teeth, so anytime you can take something that a child finds a chore and make it fun, you will have success. Tooth Paste Pete ($5) is just a cap that goes over the  toothpaste tube and makes it instantly makes bedtime a lot easier.

Problem Solved: Small Dogs (and Fat Cats) Can’t Jump


There are so many issues that small dogs as well as older dogs have, and one of them is getting up onto high beds. This portable pet step from Collections Etc. ($15) offers a simple solution. Making it available in other stylish colors would make it even better.

Problem Solved: Being Seen When Biking at Night

small business ideas productsThese LED Spokelit Bicycle Lights ($11) are a great way to increase visibility and security when biking in the dark  (still need a headlight!). Considering that cycling at night is a factor in nearly 50 percent of all cycling fatalities, it offers a solution to a very real problem.

Where to Find Product Inspiration

Look around you. What products are you dissatisfied with and why? Ask your friends, family and colleagues what types of products they are looking for and can’t find. Maybe even try reading the reviews of popular and top-selling products to see where they are missing the mark and you could possibly fill that void. 

If you need more marketing help, be sure to check out my Customized Marketing Action Plan as well as my Ebook Shop and my Services for Etsy Sellers.


Why Mobile-Based Small Businesses Are a Hot Trend

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

A lot of businesses struggle with bringing customers to their establishment, either a physical location or online, but have you ever thought about going to them?

mobile based businessesMobile-based businesses are becoming a hot trend, and with the baby boomer generation getting older and less mobile (no pun intended), and the younger generation over taxed time-wise, we might see the return of former ways, such as the door to door salesman, doctors making house calls and the milk man.

One industry that has really proven to be successful as a mobile set-up is the hairdressing industry. Older ladies absolutely have to have their hair done once a week and getting to a salon may not be physically that easy. A hair salon on wheels provides a great alternative. How perfect would this be for the wedding and prom industries as well?

I recently spoke with a company called Ground FX Flooring, that brings their flooring showroom right to you in their mobile trailer. The benefit here is you can bring the samples right into your home to see if they work and you don’t have to drag them back to the store. Customers are more likely to make faster decisions with this type of service.

Even the online marketplace Etsy is jumping on the mobile bandwagon with a traveling airstream trailer touring this summer through various Canadian cities filled with items from local artisans.

Maybe your business don’t need to go to someone’s home, but rather an area, the way a food truck does. There are a lot of rural and remote neighborhoods that do not have access to certain types of goods and services. Going to them gives you a captive audience and no competition.

Mobile-Based Business Ideas

I’m going to throw out some of my own original ideas, so take them for what they are!

  • A mobile spa offering manicures, pedicures and massages at office parks
  • A mobile physiotherapist showing up at sports facilities
  • A mobile pharmacy showing up at retirement villages
  • A mobile beer store that shows up to campgrounds or trailer parks
  • A mobile butcher frequenting a local neighborhood in late afternoon
  • A mobile laptop and smart phone repair service making visits to college campuses

Now obviously there are certain restrictions and special licenses needed for mobile-based businesses, but it offsets the costs of paying rent.

How can you make your business mobile?

Attention-GettingNeed More Advice for Your Small Business?

I offer a variety of affordable services especially for small businesses. Feel free to contact me about how I can help your small business, no obligation, at