View from the Top: What I Want Next

Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

Beyond the flashy headlines, though, Northeast Ohio is experiencing a genuine revitalization—a strengthening regional economy, growing job and housing segments, and the lowest unemployment levels in a decade. Yes, things are looking up. According to rethinkCleveland.org, $8 billion in new development has been invested in the city from 2011-2015, and there are numerous large-scale development plans in the works.

As small businesses play a leading role in economic development, we asked several COSE members to weigh in with their thoughts on where to focus the region’s resources next. This might come as no surprise, but they had strong opinions.

RELATED: View a list of our members’ most anticipated Northeast Ohio projects that are in the pipeline

Mike Baach

Philpott Solutions Group

What I Want Is: A Culture Shift

“The recent development in the city is incredible,” says Mike Baach, president and CEO of Philpott Solutions Group in Brunswick that employs approximately 50 people. “The influx of investment, the creation of business activity and commerce—it benefits us all. Any resources spent on economic development activity can create a turnover of those dollars many times over.”

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that can be done in Northeast Ohio. Specifically, Baach is looking for a jobs and culture shift. He wants a greater investment in what is required to get a great paying job.

“Economic development, coupled with an able-bodied workforce, is essential for continued growth,” says Baach. “We need a culture shift that goes against social norms and encourages and respects the decision to go into trades and manufacturing versus the college path,” he says.  “These are high-paying, skilled jobs, and there is not only demand but funds and programs in place to train people.  We just need to encourage people to enter those programs.”

 

Sharon Toerek

Toerek Law

What I Want Is: A Seat At the Table

“Focusing economic development dollars on downtown Cleveland was the right starting point,” says Sharon Toerek, principal at Toerek Law in Cleveland. “You have to start in the center city—making it attractive for residents, businesses and visitors—and then ideally you can begin to capitalize on that momentum.”

What’s important going forward is that small business owners get a seat at the table as future projects are discussed, she says.

“I’d like to ensure that small businesses are seen as a priority and completely integrated into the economic fabric of the region,” says Toerek.  “Small business must continue to have a seat at the table along with government and corporate leaders when establishing economic development priorities. COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership are doing a great job of giving small business a voice, and now small, middle-market, and enterprise-level corporations need to work together to keep things moving in the right direction.”

Oh, and one more thing made her list. Toerek’s wants big business to make a significant investment in small business. “I’d like to see enterprise-size companies get in the game by participating in small business entrepreneurship – whether by investing directly in small businesses or creating and funding programs that help establish and encourage entrepreneurs,” she says.  “Big companies should be taking calculated risks in communities that are important to them through mentoring and investments in small businesses.”

 

Deborah Rutledge

Rutledge Group

What I Want Is: Community Development

Deborah Rutledge, COO at Rutledge Group in Cleveland, is pleased with the development of the CLE brand.

“All the new hotels and entertainment centers will serve us well economically in the long run,” she says.  “Building up the brand of CLE helps attract more residents, businesses and travel to the city, which can have a huge impact on the economy.”

And now that Cleveland has made an investment in its entertainment neighborhoods downtown, it’s time to start looking farther out, she says.

“Although the recent progress in the city is great, the surrounding neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs are not yet seeing the positive effects,” Rutledge says. “I hope future economic development planning includes improvements that spread out into the communities.”

 

Tim Reynolds

Tribute, Inc.

What I Want Is: More Forward Momentu,

Tim Reynolds, president of Tribute, Inc., in Hudson, wants to keep the momentum the region gained during the past several months moving forward.

Reynolds believes that one thing Cleveland’s hosting of the RNC proved was the region can handle big conventions and large-scale events.

“The region can benefit from increased convention business,” he says.  “As we look forward, travel, tourism and convention business will be a real contributor to the economy.”

And, striking a similar note as Rutledge, this will also necessitate investment in neighborhoods that surround Cleveland.

“It’s important to invest in neighborhoods that make a significant difference in not only the physical landscape and overall economic condition, but that create conditions where a quality workforce is available for area businesses,” says Reynolds.

 

Next Steps

A lot of development has taken place in Cleveland of late with a lot more to come. We asked our sources to give us their take on what they’re most looking forward to. View a rundown of their responses.

 

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  • Next up: What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    Thinking about stepping away from your business? Here's what you need to know.


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  • Next up: Is Your Company's Website Delivering the Wrong Message to Your Customers?

    Is Your Company's Website Delivering the Wrong Message to Your Customers?

    As a business owner, it is crucial that you create a positive user experience thru your site. If you’re struggling in this area, the following webinar recap will help you learn the steps to perfect your approach.

    As the saying goes, first impressions are everything. And your website is no exception, as it’s often the first impression potential customers have of your business. Thoughts about a business, or anything, are also very difficult to change once those first impressions are formed.

    When you don’t have a positive first experience, chances are you will never go back. After all, there are over 1.8 billion websites currently available online. So you have other options when it comes to fulfilling your needs.

    What can you do to create the right first impression on your site so you don’t lose leads and customers? To answer this million-dollar question, we turned to Jamie Gyerman, associate director of optimization for akhia communications in Hudson, Ohio. In her presentation of COSE’s most recent WebEd Series webinar, Jamie, who oversees akhia’s digital team, put a spotlight on the three aspects of a website: navigation, design and content.

    Navigation

    The most important part of any website is that it’s easy to use, so the navigation and paths to accessing what you are looking for are crucial.

    Jamie shared two statistics when it comes to navigation. First, 40% of people are going to abandon your site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Second, 48% of people who arrive at a site that isn’t mobile friendly take it as a sign that you are careless.

    Poor navigation says many negative things about your site, and therefore your business, including that:

    • You don’t value your potential customers’ time;
    • You don’t understand your audience’s pain points;
    • You’re unwilling to pay for faster website hosting; and
    • You don’t get the importance of mobile responsiveness and are out of touch with your customers. You are outdated.

    When potential customers walk away with a negative experience like this, the message they receive is that you just don’t care about your customers.

    Your website navigation should send positive messages to your audience, including that:

    • You respect their time and you’re going to get them the information they need quickly;
    • You know how to address their pain points and have mapped out a simple way to address those pain points;
    • You are willing to invest in your customers because you care about their needs; and
    • You take time to understand your customers and go to great lengths to meet their needs.

    The takeaway from these messages is that you care about the people navigating your website.

    If you’re having some trouble providing user-friendly navigation on your site, here are four things you can do:

    Navigation Tip No. 1: Conduct a website speed analysis. You can go to a site like gtmetrix.com to help you assess how quickly it takes your website to load. Plug in the URL for your site and it will tell you how much the load time is for your site. Jamie suggests that you should get your load time below three seconds.

    Navigation Tip No. 2: Revisit your site map. The goal here is to make sure your site map addresses your customers’ needs, not just yours. Take a close look at your analytics to see how people are navigating through your site.

    Navigation Tip No. 3: Keep your navigation simple. People want to have their questions answered or needs met quickly and easily. Don’t make them have to jump through hoops to get there or spend too much time clicking around.

    Navigation Tip No. 4: Leverage google analytics. It benefits you to find out what devices people are using to access your site. Look at the analytics for the different pages within your site and how they go from one page to the next. Make sure you optimize the experience for each of the different users coming to your site.

    Design

    Every design aspect that goes into your website must be strategically selected and placed. 46% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company.

    Think about your company’s designs across all marketing efforts—they should be consistent. Because your website URL will appear on all ads, literature, and other items, the look and feel of those pieces should be in align with your identity. Don’t leave people feeling disconnected.

    Poor website design can tell people that:

    • You don’t care about how you look;
    • You don’t spend money to improve your business; and
    • You aren’t aware of or connect to the rest of your organization.

    So again, the overall message is that you don’t care about your customers.

    The design of your website should make potential customers feel that:

    • First impressions are important to you;
    • You take pride in what you do;
    • You care about the small stuff and are willing to invest in your business; and
    • You are innovative and current.

    Doing so will of course send the positive message that you care about your customers.

    What can you do if you aren’t quite there yet with the design of your site? Here are four tips to consider:

    Design Tip No. 1: Stay on top of trends. Digital marketing changes so often and can be expensive. You do not have to keep up with each tiny change, but you do need to stay current and know the best way to communicate your message in a visual way that’s going to be relevant to users.

    Design Tip No. 2: Conduct audience research. You need to find out what resonates with the people coming to your site. You should also conduct research on your competitors. Keep in mind, though, that while you do want to stand out among your competitors, you don’t want to be too far off from what they are doing either.

    Design Tip No. 3: Pay attention to details. Do you know what your website looks like on a desktop versus on a tablet or phone? You must test your site across multiple devices.

    Design Tip No. 4: Represent your brand consistently. Take a close look at all of your marketing outlets and different pieces and make sure your audience would be able to identify all of them as being part of your business.

    Content

    Customers are researching solutions to their needs online and connecting to your brand based on search results. Since they are doing their own research in this digital movement, the power lies with the customers. And, as Jamie noted, prospects are already 57% on their way to a decision before they connect with your sales team.

    Poor content can give the impression that your company:

    • Doesn’t have a good sense of its own identity and what it can do for customers;
    • Lacks focus and purpose; and
    • Is no different than its competitors.

    Again, what you’re really saying is that you don’t care about your customers.

    Your website content should let customers know that you care about them.

    Here are three tips that you can follow if you’re not there yet with your content:

    Content Tip No. 1: Clearly communicate who you are. What’s one thing you want your customers to know about you or walk away with? Make sure you clearly define who you are.

    Content Tip No. 2: Identify what makes you stand out. Make sure you highlight the differences between you and your competition throughout your site.

    Content Tip No. 3: Showcase testimonials. Satisfied customers can advocate on your behalf, which will go a long way with potential customers.

    View Gyerman's full presentation below:

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  • Next up: What's Your Value? The Value of You and Messaging that Works

    What's Your Value? The Value of You and Messaging that Works

    We talk a lot about understanding the value of your product or service but it is important to also explore your value. Do you really appreciate what your product or service does for your clients? Do you believe you are pricing it appropriately? It is really easy to decide for your clients how much they can afford or wish to pay. However, that is not the best way to price your product/service. 

    We talk a lot about understanding the value of your product or service but it is important to also explore your value. Do you really appreciate what your product or service does for your clients? Do you believe you are pricing it appropriately?

    It is really easy to decide for your clients how much they can afford or wish to pay. However, that is not the best way to price your product/service. And here’s why:

    Chaos

    You'll make it really hard to keep track of what you are charging if your pricing varies by client. You want to have a standard and usual pricing for the vast majority of clients. Unique pricing should be few and far between and only when the case makes a lot of sense. An example would be offering a first time discount when you strongly believe there will be a lot of follow up business later. This is best done when there is a contract for long term work. That way you are guaranteed to receive the revenue, and the discount makes sense. It’s like a good faith gesture.

    Devaluation

    You run the strong risk of devaluing your product/service. This is risky. You are, in essence, trying to get into the head of your prospect and make decisions for them about what they value and what they can do. If you’re wrong (and there’s a strong chance you will be) the result is that you have actually told your prospect that your product/service is worth less than it should be. That is the belief they will have moving forward. It doesn’t instill confidence and it doesn’t guarantee they will hire you.

    Failure to Grow

    When you do this you make it really hard to grow. You end up spending your time on underpriced work. Moreover, you can get yourself into a cycle where you can’t get to the right-priced work. You’ll end up frustrated and disappointed. This can even lead to re-evaluating your worth internally. You know, when you are underpaid for too long you can start believing that it’s all you are worth.

    Not only is this dangerous but it is also unfair to you and your clients. If we stay with the premise that you have a quality product or service, then undervaluing it serves no purpose. If you come across a prospect who can’t afford what you have to offer, they just may not be a qualified prospect. Don’t automatically move to the position of lower your price. The long term impact of that decision can be devastating to your business.


    Want to hear more on this topic? Attend "The Value of You and Messaging that Works" at the Small Business Convention! This workshop will be presented by Diane Helbig of Seize This Day Coaching and Matt Brower of Hey Now! Media on October 21 at 4:00p.m.

     

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  • Next up: Why a Personalized Marketing Approach is Essential in Today’s World

    Why a Personalized Marketing Approach is Essential in Today’s World

    It’s easier than ever today for a business to quickly and efficiently reach a mass audience. Here are a few tips to help your business make a personal connection during your mass marketing efforts.

    In today’s business environment, marketing to the masses is becoming easier and more cost effective. With social media, an optimized website, and an email newsletter, any business can reach a large audience efficiently.

    While this creates more opportunities, it also creates a big challenge. The age of digital marketing has made marketing less personal. How do you stand out when your potential customers are getting inundated with email newsletters and social media content?

    In 2017 and beyond, the need to personalize your marketing efforts is critical if you want to maximize your return on your marketing investment. The goal of personalization is to create an experience that shows you understand each customer’s personality and can anticipate what he or she might need from you going forward.

    There are many ways to approach personalized marketing. Here are a few ways to get started:

    Gather ‘personal’ information and develop buyer personas
    The key to personalizing your marketing is to gather data and information about your customers and prospects. Utilize historical buyer behavior, surveys, focus groups and one-on-one discussions to gather demographic data, purchasing habits, content preferences and interests in your solutions. This information will help you develop buyer personas that group certain sets of customers into logical categories.

    Segment your e-newsletter
    If you are using an email marketing tool such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, great! Many businesses will send a monthly newsletter to all customers and prospects. The issue with this is that in most cases, the messaging doesn’t resonate with the recipients—it’s either too general or contains content that doesn’t apply. Consider segmenting your email list, leveraging your buyer personas, and sending separate newsletters to each segment.

    Use an ‘old school’ approach to connect with your customers
    With everyone moving to digital and impersonal marketing methods, there are more opportunities to leverage “old” techniques to complement your marketing. Some ways to do this include writing handwritten thank you notes, making personal phone calls, and creating more opportunities for in-person interaction, whether it be at tradeshows, lunch meetings and events.

    Showcase your company’s personality
    There is a saying that people work with people they like and trust. This saying also holds true for companies. Showcase your company’s personality publicly through social media and other digital marketing avenues. A few ways to do this might be to publicly recognize employees, showcase team volunteer efforts and share testimonials and examples of your work.

    These are a few examples that are relatively cost-effective and straightforward. Some companies go well beyond these techniques, including designing a robust website that has custom landing pages and fill-in forms. However, by taking these steps to personalization, you will be able to better target your content and your solutions to meet the needs of each customer.

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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  • Next up: Why a Political Action Committee is important and the power of your involvement

    Why a Political Action Committee is important and the power of your involvement

    Primary election season is in full swing, Iowa and New Hampshire have cast their ballots, and Ohioans will march to the polls on March 15th to have their say.  Now, more than ever, the business community needs to be proactive in helping candidates for office work towards common sense solutions in the areas of workforce, workers’ compensation, tax, regulation, health care, energy, economic development, and labor.  

    Primary election season is in full swing, Iowa and New Hampshire have cast their ballots, and Ohioans will march to the polls on March 15th to have their say.  Now, more than ever, the business community needs to be proactive in helping candidates for office work towards common sense solutions in the areas of workforce, workers’ compensation, tax, regulation, health care, energy, economic development, and labor. 

    Individually, you may choose to support candidates through your contributions and your vote.  While the right to vote and your perspective on the issues are crucial, many still believe their voice is not heard throughout the process.  So, what role does the Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC) play in amplifying the voice of business?

    Stated simply, the GCP PAC is a non-partisan, member-driven tool that unifies businesses of all sizes and industries in our region and aids us in educating key decision makers on the issues that are important to you.  A Political Action Committee provides our members with the means for concerted political action.  And, the dollars contributed through the GCP PAC are used to provide support for state and local governmental leaders campaigning for election who share your interests.

    The GCP PAC provides an avenue for you to make a meaningful impact on the process and by collectively mobilizing efforts (and, your engagement), GCP PAC creates synergy.  Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts and our strength in numbers allows us to lead the conversation on public policy matters in Ohio.

    Interested in learning more about the GCP PAC or how you can get involved in our advocacy efforts?  Visit the GCP PAC website here or e-mail advocacy@cose.org.

    Please note individuals, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and sole proprietorships can legally make contributions to a PAC.  Contributions must include itemized allocations by partners in partnerships or members of a LLC.  Ohio law prohibits other corporate political contributions. 

    Your participation in the GCP PAC is completely voluntary and you may contribute as much or as little as you choose.  Donations are not tax-deductible and will be used for political purposes.  An individual may contribute up to $12,532 annually to an Ohio Political Action Committee.  You may choose not to participate without fear of reprisal.  You will not be favored or disadvantaged by reason of the amount of your contribution or decision not to contribute.

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