7 Marketing Mistakes That Can Come Back to Haunt You

Re-post from SBA Guest Blogger Rieva Lesonsky
Originally published: October 6, 2017

It may be the season for ghosts and goblins, but ghastly creatures aren’t the only things that can haunt a small business owner. Making any one of the 7 common marketing mistakes below can have frightening consequences for your small business. Find out what you have to fear from these marketing mishaps and how to avoid them.


Mistake 1. Not setting goals for your marketing efforts
Whatever type of marketing you’re doing, you won’t know if it worked unless you know what you hope to achieve. Set measurable, specific goals for each marketing campaign so you can assess its success.

Mistake 2. Not having a marketing plan
You can waste a lot of money and time by marketing haphazardly. Advertising in the wrong place, at the wrong time or to the wrong audience will do no good. Before you start, develop a plan for reaching your target customer base through the marketing channels they pay attention to.

Mistake 3. Not marketing to existing customers
Customers who return to buy from you again and again are the lifeblood of your business. But you can’t count on customers coming back unless you continue to connect with them. Don’t put all your marketing efforts into attracting new customers; budget for marketing to your current customers, too.

Mistake 4. Not managing your reputation
Word-of-mouth marketing is important for every type of business, whether B2B, B2C, online or off-line. That’s why it’s so vital to keep tabs on what people are saying about your business both online and off. If your business is listed on rating and review sites, monitor them and respond.

Mistake 5. Focusing on features, not benefits
Features are things your product or service has; benefits are how it helps your customers. Customers don’t care about your products’ features—they want to know what it can do for them. Create your marketing and advertising content with the customer in mind, and always answer their question, “What’s in it for me?”

Mistake 6. No call to action
When customers see your ad, receive your flyer in the mail or get your marketing email, what do you want them to do? It’s amazing how many small business owners forget to include a specific call to action in their marketing and advertising. Each piece should direct prospects to do something, whether that’s calling your business on the phone, visiting your website or scheduling an appointment.

Mistake 7. Not testing or tracking your marketing
Digital marketing offers incredible capabilities to track exactly what prospects do when they see your offer. If you are not testing multiple versions of the same ad or email, and not paying attention to which ads get results and which don’t, you’re throwing money away. Get familiar with the analytics tools that Google, social media sites and email marketing services offer to help you. The more you learn from your mistakes, the more your marketing will improve.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

7 Things Women Business Owners Should Embrace

People Looking Choosing at Colleagues Photo

The third full-week in October is National Business Women’s Week. As an advisor to small business owners, many of whom are women, and as a woman business owner myself, I try to note issues that I observe resonating with women in this circle.  Based on these observations, here is some advice with which I think that experienced business owners would largely agree.

7 Things that Women Business Owners Should Embrace

Making Money  While it feels good to be able to give back to one’s community through one’s business, and it is wonderful to be able to do what one loves, ultimately, most small business owners work for income, and, ideally, for financial comfort, independence and security. It is important to keep in mind that beyond covering its expenses, a small business needs to be profitable in order for an owner to get anything out of her time and effort. This gains import the longer the owner is involved in running the business rather than earning income, pay raises and promotions elsewhere.

Competitiveness  The willingness to compete for things such as market share, brand recognition, development opportunities, strategic alliances, contracts and awards, is often key to being successful. Striving to excel is generally good for a business and a healthy competitive attitude can be a real asset.

Technology  We’re living in an age in which almost any business needs to employ technology of some sort – and many need to develop technology – in order to operate competitively. At a minimum, keeping up with industry-relevant technology trends and with socially relevant technology trends, is important for business efficiency and competitiveness.

Personal Branding It is easy to get lost in running one’s business and to forget to think about where how one is thought of and how the business is thought of  intersect and diverge. In other words: To what extent does your business reflect upon you? To what extent does your personal image reflect upon your business? What do you want to be known for and what can you do to develop yourself and promote the image that reflects what you value? One’s own image and development, as well as that of one’s business, are important for things such as establishing meaningful connections, taking leadership roles in the community, and future professional opportunities.

Goals & Priorities Keeping sight of one’s goals – personal, profession, and business – helps one stay on track and not lose one’s way. It is saddening when small business owners spend so much time running their business that they later feel like they neglected their family, or missed opportunities to pursue personal or professional interests, or that they were so focused just on keeping the business open that they never focused on saving for retirement.

Me -Time Small business owners work hard; and it is easy for work time to spill over into what was supposed to be time spent not working, and then for family and household obligations to take over all the rest. Personal time – time spent taking care of oneself and doing what one enjoys – is important for recharging oneself and hence also for having energy to put back into one’s business.

Success Envision it. Pursue it. Recognize it. Enjoy it. Embrace it!

At the WU KSBDC, our advisors have personal experience in business ownership which helps us to relate to our clients’ interests and concerns.

Related Posts

Goals, Success & Reflection

Celebrating Women Business Owners

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas


Posted in Business Planning, Capital/Financing/Grants, Exporting, success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Veterans Small Business Week & Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses


National Veterans Small Business Week for 2017 is October 30th – November 3rd. This week honors the service of U.S. veteran business owners — and business owners who are the spouses of veterans – and recognizes the contributions that their businesses make to our economy.  To help celebrate, empower and connect veterans/spouse business owners, SBA, SCORE, Kansas SBDC and the Veterans Business Resource center have two events coming up in the Ft. Riley ( Junction City – Manhattan) area.

• October 30th, 2 – 4 p.m. Resource Fair & Panel Discussion with Local Veteran Business Owners – Speakers will present information about how they help veterans and/or their spouses start or grow their businesses. A panel discussion will follow, featuring veteran business owners who will share their stories about starting and growing their ventures. This event will take place at the Junction City Library in the Community Meeting Room, 230 7th St. in Junction City, Kansas. To register call the SBA Wichita District Office (316) 269-6616, email Wichita_Do@sba.gov, or register online.

• November 3rd, 10 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Veterans Business Forum on Entrepreneurship – Presenters will conduct four workshop modules on business planning, financing, and the resources available to help entrepreneurs succeed. This event will take place at the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, 501 Poyntz Avenue. To register call the SBA Wichita District Office (316) 269-6616, email Wichita_Do@sba.gov, or register online.

National and Local Resources

VA Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization – You can register for verification as a veteran-owned business here, plus this website has information about training events and networking opportunities for government contracting.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – You can get assistance in registering for government contracting here and also training on government contracting. PTAC has offices at Wichita State University and in Topeka.

Veterans Business Resource Center  (VBRC) – Also called Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), this center conducts training for transitioning military and veteran business owners, helps connect veterans with resources and counseling.   KC Office (877) 825-4190

Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) – This office promotes veteran entrepreneurship through use of SBA programs. This website has information about SBA training programs, SBA loan programs, and government contracting.

SBA Veterans Advantage  – Information about loan programs to assist veterans access capital for their businesses.

Boots to Business  This is a 2-day intensive introduction to entrepreneurship for transitioning military and/or their spouses. It is part of the Transition Assistance Program. In Kansas, it is offered Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base. Presenters from the SBA, SCORE, KSBDC, and VBRC teach the modules at these Kansas installations.

America’s SBDC – Use this link to find your local SBDC (small business development center) for workshops and one-on-one business advising anywhere in the country.

America’s SBDC Kansas: Washburn University KSBDC (the MACC Outreach Center is closest to Ft. Riley), University of Kansas KSBDC (closest to Ft. Leavenworth),  Wichita State University KSBDC (closest to McConnell Air Force Base), plus Fort Hays State University KSBDC, Pittsburg State University KSBDC, Emporia State University KSDBC, Johnson County Community College KSBDC and Seward County Community College KSBDC. Centers offer one-on-one business advising, speciality consulting, workshops, training events and conferences for small businesses.

At the WU KSBDC, we are looking forward to National Veteran Small Business Week. We appreciate the service of our veterans and consider it a privilege to be able to work with veterans and their families as they pursue their goals of business ownership and entrepreneurship. 

Related Post

From Boots to Arts

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in Business Planning, success, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Paramour Coffee Story: Excellence in the Making


Paramour Coffee, a specialty coffee company based in Wamego, has two café shops and also sells artisan coffees wholesale.

Considered the grandfather of speciality coffee, in the 1960’s and 70’s Alfred Peet was at the center of the coffee revolution in the U.S. In the late 1970’s Peet sold the company to Sal Bonavita. It is in the Peet’s tradition that Jim Hovind trained and he considers his coffees to be a tribute to Alfred and Sal.

In the early 80’s, Jim had advertised his services as a handyman in the Bay area of California. Bonavita saw one of the newspaper ads and called Jim up to offer him a job as chauffeur. Amongst other responsibilities, Jim drove Sal around to Peet’s various locations. It turned out to be a formative experience. Through visiting the stores and attending tastings, Jim became interested in roasting. He started in the training program and turned out to be a natural. Doing better as a novice than many of the more experienced roasters, Jim himself eventually became a master roaster.  Enjoying learning about coffee and its complexities, he expanded into studying the business side of beans. After Peet’s changed ownership again, Jim worked roasting coffee and conducting tastings for several different companies before taking a break to do other things.


Jim, who had grown up in Kansas City, eventually saw that he had a dream of bringing really great coffee to the Midwest. He realized this vision in the spring of 2012 when he opened Paramour Coffee in downtown Wamego – on the day of the local Tulip Festival.


The shops’ regulars are dedicated to Paramour’s artisan coffees for their outstanding quality and enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the cozy café which is filled with the upbeat sounds of jazz music, laughter and conversation that spill over onto the outdoor seating area.


In May of 2017, Paramour opened a second location – this one on the Westside of Manhattan. Located at the Bank of the Flint Hills, it features modern decor, a drive thru and also an outdoor patio.


Branching out increased the need for roasted beans. This necessitated improvements to Paramour’s original building in order to accommodate the longer hours during which Jim was going to be roasting beans for the shops and the wholesale business.


Jim deeply appreciates the love, help and support shown to him by the community.  This, he points out, includes the Wamego Area Chamber of Commerce, Pottawatomie County Economic Development and the WU KSBDC for working with him and his bank to put together the funding needed at several stages of the business. Jim says that “working with these people, you just really know that they want to help you succeed.” 

Jim’s advice to new business owners: “Strive for excellence in something that you love. Be the best that you can be and enjoy it. You don’t have a chance at success unless you are being your best.”  – And Jim follows his own advice.  Jim loves talking with customers and reading them to understand their tastes. He loves sourcing the beans, roasting them, blending and developing coffees and he strives for excellence at every step of the process. He says “you have to – it shows in the coffee. It’s the pursuit of excellence, and striving to be the best you can be, that becomes apparent on the tasting table.” (To learn more, watch Love Your Coffee.)

Kudos, Jim, for achieving excellence in your Paramour coffees! We wish you continued success with your business.


Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in success, Success Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Developing a Small Business Continuity Plan


Business continuity planning is the process of developing proactive strategies for averting, weathering, and recovering from a disaster or crisis and, in the process, protecting a business’s employees, operations, and key assets.

Continuity planning helps a company anticipate potential threats, identify measures that can be taken to avoid or minimize those threats, and, when such measures are not possible, delineate steps for getting through and recovering from dire situations. A well thought out continuity plan should improve the likelihood of a small business’s ability to prevent or survive a calamity.

Here are general steps involved in business continuity planning, but a continuity plan should be specific to the business for which it is developed.

Identify your support team. Who are the people in your company, or on your business’s support team, that in a crisis, can help shift operations and solve problems? Include them in your continuity planning and give them a role to play in your recovery plan. For the owner of a very small business, these people might be employees, external advisors such as an IT professional or an account manager with an important vendor, or even family members. It is a good idea to bring someone trained in continuity planning onto your planning team.

Know the legal requirements or compliance issues for your industry.  Businesses in healthcare, the financial sector, and ones that perform government contracting are subject to continuity planning requirements. Even if you are not in one of these industries, there may be contractual expectations that your business has a continuity plan that meets certain criteria. Depending on your business, you may need a certified continuity planner to assist in development of your plan.

Identify what needs to be protected. Does your business have employees? Do you carry large amounts of inventory or have other important physical assets? Do you have data that needs to be safeguarded? What are the functions without which your business cannot continue to exist? Who performs them? Where are they performed? What needs to be in place in order for them to operate?

Run through different scenarios. Consider the possible crisis or disaster scenarios that you would want to thwart or from which your business might conceivably need to recover someday, ranging from human acts to weather events.  A cybersecurity breach? Embezzlement? The sudden loss of a key employee or primary vendor? A major disease outbreak? A tornado, fire, or flood striking your place of business? An ice storm that knocks out power for days? What if something happens to one of your major vendors or customers?

Mitigate risk. What can be done to prevent your business from experiencing a crisis situation? Think about things like password security, keeping multiple back-ups of data in distinct locations, having back-up supply chains, training employees for certain job functions in remote work, evacuation plans, etc.  Do you have adequate safety protocols to protect whatever needs to be protected including your people? What are the ways in which you can minimize damage to your business’s financial health? What insurances do you have in place and what are their limitations? Where are the policies, how will you access them, and whom do you contact if you need to make a claim?

Create a communication plan. Who are the key people (employees, customers, vendors, stakeholders) with whom you would need to communicate and in what order? How will you communicate? What if there is no cell phone service or internet service? How will you access important data if you do not have physical access to your place of business?

Plan critical operations. How are you going to get essential functions up and running as quickly as possible? How long is that likely to take and is it within acceptable parameters? What operations can be set aside temporarily to facilitate resumption of more critical ones?

Keep your plan up to date. As your company evolves, as key employees turnover, as contractual obligations or industry expectations change, as new potential risks develop, etc., your plans will need to be updated.

Conduct testing and training on policies and procedures. What policies and procedures do you have in place to reduce the likelihood of a crisis? What policies and procedures do you have in place for responding to a crisis? Test what can be tested to see whether the measures are effective, improve where needed, and conduct training on policies and procedures. For them to be effective, team members  need to be familiar with whatever sections of the plan are relevant to their positions.

Encourage your employees to have emergency plans for their families. In a crisis situation, people worry about their families, especially if they are out of communication. Having family emergency plans in place, hopefully will help keep family members safe and also remove some of stress that accompanies emergency situations.

At America’s SBDC Kansas, we have advisors who are certified in business continuity planning. While we hope that disaster never strikes, we encourage business owners to to be proactive about protecting their future.

Related Posts & Other Resources

National Preparedness Month

Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

NIST’s 7-Step Continuity Planning Process

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas


Posted in Business Planning, Cybersecurity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Stuff!


During Oztoberfest in Wamego over the weekend, Toto’s Tacoz! launched its new line of hot sauces: Witches Manic Meltdown (a green jalapeño hot sauce) and Toto-ly OZsome (a red habanero hot sauce). It was a great time for this local restaurant, part of the Oz-cluster of Wamego businesses, to introduce its new sauces!Unknown-2

While Colleen “manned” the hot sauce stand and greeted folks with her winning smile, Craig served up their famous tacos for the hungry crowd of Toto’s fans.


The condiments definitely have some zing and nice flavor for complementing cheesy, saucy dishes. Toto-ly OZsome has a somewhat more pronounced flavor and edges out Witches Manic Meltdown in the heat department. (Just in case you are wondering just how hot they are … as someone who is enjoys hot foods, but who does not seek out the very hottest, I would describe both sauces as having a pleasant amount of heat, i.e., noticeable but not so much as to detract from the flavors of the foods they accompany.)


Toto’s Tacoz was the WU KSBDC Existing Business of the Year award winner for 2017. Since we are still in 2017, congratulations again on the award, Craig and Colleen – and OZsome job on the sauces! Your customers are sure to love them!



Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in success, Success Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Working With Banks: 8 Tips for Small Businesses


The WU KSBDC recently hosted a mini-conference on Access to Capital for Small Businesses. The event started with a panel of bankers discussing what small businesses need to know about working with banks.

An issue of importance to many small business owners is the need for capital. The capital could be for purposes such as starting a new business, managing seasonal cash flow, remodeling, relocating, expansion or entering new markets, market research or marketing costs, bringing on more employees, modernization, purchasing new technology or equipment, or new product development. Though debt is not always the right choice, used properly, it can facilitate or even be vital to, a business’s ability to get off the ground, adapt, or survive long-term. Banks are one of the main places where small businesses can go for money; and a good banker can be a helpful part of a small business’s support team.

Here are 8 tips for understanding small business banking relationships before going to a bank.

It is important to manage your personal finances well.  When you apply for a loan, a bank will check your credit history.  Banks take the view that how you manage your personal finances is an indication of how you will manage your business finances. If there are any issues with your personal finances, you may need to save more money, repair your personal credit or build your credit history before a bank is willing to work with you.

It is best to establish a relationship with a bank before you need money. When possible, if you can anticipate your needs and work with a bank beforehand to make a plan for financing, that will show that you are on top of things and managing your finances. Starting a business without thinking about what you will need for operating capital, or waiting until you have run up a lot of credit card debt and run out of cash, is not the best way to make a good first impression. If you wait until you are in a pinch, you won’t be in a good position to shop for the right bank with good terms and you may not even qualify for a bank loan.

You might need to meet with more than one bank before you find the right fit. Banks give loans because they make money on them. In the case of locally-owned banks, offering loans to local businesses is also a way to support their community, but that doesn’t mean that they will work with just anyone. When bankers connect with the right businesses, they are happy to develop a relationship with them. Different banks like to work with different types of businesses just as different business owners like to work with different bankers. You may need to meet with several banks before you find one with which there is the right fit in terms of your business and the type of businesses with which that bank works, the types of loan products that bank offers, the terms of the loan package, and the level of trust or comfort that you desire.

Banks are risk averse. Banks, these days, are highly regulated and are looking for safe investments. When they lend money to businesses, they want to feel assured that the loan is going to be repaid. One of the things that makes banks feel assured is that you have invested, or are going to invest, your own money in the business as well as whatever money you are borrowing. If you are viewed as too risky – e.g., because of your personal financial history, lack of equity, lack of collateral, your stage of business, the risks associated with your industry or with the purposes for which you seek money – you may need work with another source of capital either in addition to, or instead of, a bank.

Educate yourself about different types of financing. There are various types of loans and sometimes they are packaged together to fill a business’s various needs. Loans can range from lines of credit and short-term loans to long-term loans. Different lengths of repayment are appropriate for different purposes. For example, a line of credit might be useful for operating capital, a short-term loan for purchasing equipment, a medium-term loan for a large remodeling project, and a long-term loan for purchasing a building. In some situations, loan guarantee programs might come into play, e.g., SBA or USDA loans, to remove some of the risk to the bank and establish better terms for the borrower. Sometimes bank loans can be supplemented with gap financing through a local funding partner. (An example in some parts of Kansas would be an E-Community loan. Microloans through lenders such as Kansas Women’s Business Center are also sometimes an option.)

Man showing business graph on wood table

Don’t be intimidated, but do try to present yourself well and be prepared for your meetings. Know what the purpose of your meeting is and bring in whatever materials or documents the bank will need to work with you. If you having a preliminary get-to-know you meeting, be prepared with a description of your business and the purpose(s) for which you might be looking for a loan along with a list of questions that you would like to ask.  Once you have chosen a bank and are ready to apply for a loan, know how much will you be asking for and for what purposes. Bring a well-developed business plan that includes realistic financial projections; and also bring the last several years of income tax returns (personal for start-ups, business for existing businesses). Show how you will be able to repay the loan and know what assets you have to collateralize the loan just in case. Ask whatever questions you have. Being prepared will help you make a good impression and, if you qualify, will also help speed up the loan application process.

Make sure that you understand the jargon, the repayment terms and the full-cost of the loan or loan package before signing any paperwork.  (Here is dictionary of banking terms and jargon from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.) If there is something in the paperwork for your loan or loan package that you don’t understand, if the loan costs seem too high, the payments seem unmanageable, or if you are uncomfortable with the amount or type of collateral required, ask questions and explore whether there are better alternatives. You may need to keep doing your homework and investigate other options before moving ahead.

Once you have found the right bank or banker, stay in touch.  If you have an open loan, your banker will appreciate a periodic check-in to help you both be assured that you are on the right track and to assess whether any changes need to be made. Remember that one of your goals is to anticipate your financial needs and to be prepared for them rather than be caught off-guard. Maintaining a good relationship can help solidify trust to help you in the future.

At the WU KSBDC, our advising services include helping clients with business planning. This includes assistance in producing financial projections, evaluating need for capital and identifying potential ways to access capital, so that our clients are well-prepared for their business’s future.


Related Posts

Access to Capital for Small Businesses

Helping Millennials Start Businesses



Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in Business Planning, Business Transitions, Capital/Financing/Grants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment