Approaching Social Influencers

As I shared with you in a recent article, I have learned that social influencers rule the world . . . or at least the small piece of the world in which they reign (read that story here).  My goal now is to harness this great power – for the benefit of my small business as well as yours.

Replicating Success

My direct experience with social influencers was limited to one feature in which I had no impact on the course of events. (In other words, I had absolutely nothing to do with the success I reaped.) 

A social influencer made a video showing her followers how to create and package vanilla extract (using my label template) as a suggested Christmas gift (watch the full video here). 

However, my logic in formulating an approach to being featured by another social influencer is to try to repeat (as closely as possible) this past success.  I have a play book so to speak, but I need to do all the work this time to get the players in place. . . .

STEP ONE : Make sure your product or service is set up for affiliate marketing.

Since paid placements with social influencers can get pretty pricey, my route of choice is affiliate marketing, in which “an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals” (Oxford Languages).  Make sure whatever venue you use for sales supports affiliate marketing.  All of the big ones (like Amazon, Walmart, Etsy) do.  If you sell your products or services through your own channel and don’t already have an automated commission structure in place, you may want to consider utilizing a popular third-party for that purpose.  (The reason the third-party should be a popular one becomes clear in step four.)

STEP TWO : Decide on the right product or service for the time period.

Given our current, heightened focus on hygiene (which I think will last for years to come), I’m thinking DIY hand soap might be an equally popular Christmas gift for neighbors, teachers, mail carriers, etc. 

Always think about holidays.  Of course, Christmas is an obvious one (and you can’t start your planning too early), but lots of other holidays have great potential.  Last week’s Super Bowl Sunday (whether people are quarantining or not) increased sales for many different types of businesses, and this week’s Valentine’s Day is another cause for lots and lots of cha chings.

Relating your product or service to current events is another boon. 

STEP THREE : Seek out a social influencer who is a good fit for your product or service.

A social influencer typically has a brand all of their own, and you want to be sure your two brands are a good match for one another.  For instance, my son’s favorite social influencer plays Roblox on YouTube.  I have an in-depth knowledge of this individual (having overheard many hours of his videos, getting to know him and his favorite games), which is a great bonus, but he unfortunately would not be a good fit for my hand soap labels.  Don’t get me wrong; he’s a resourceful guy, and I’m sure he could make it work, but I’m also sure he gets heaps of partnership offers and would be apt to pick a more ideal choice.

I focused my search by narrowing in on the related item.  I searched google for “diy hand soap recipe” and found a number of influencers who had posted one.  I looked for one that had a good following and had posted the story a while ago . . . and, therefore, could justify re-posting the story in the fall with a Christmas tilt.  

STEP FOUR : Make sure they’ve used affiliate links for your platform before.

Since you’re approaching a quasi-celebrity, you want your proposal to be as easy for them as possible.  Therefore, scan through their previous posts, videos, etc.  Do they ever include affiliate links?  If not, they’re probably not going to start doing so for you.  If they do, what types of sites do they promote?  Have they worked with your third-party before?  If so, you have a much greater likelihood they’ll consider your product or service.

STEP FIVE : Temper your expectations based on the individual’s following.

The problem with the truly famous social influencers is that they are most likely not going to respond to unsolicited proposals.  They already get a ton from big brands, so your average small business isn’t going to be able to influence them.  However, the possibility always exists that you will just happen to be suggesting a product that they were planning to promote in the near future.  Kismet.  Probably not . . . but never entirely dismiss good old fashioned luck working in your favor.  If you’re dying to work with a certain famous someone, give it a go; just don’t get your hopes up. 

(Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/influencer-marketing-report)

If you can get a macro or mega influencer to include your affiliate link, you’ve hit the jackpot . . . though your likelihood of doing so could be just as slim unfortunately.

The mid-tier is your sweet spot.  You want the person to have enough followers that your product or service will have a substantial audience but not so many that they’re completely inundated with requests just like yours.

I certainly wouldn’t disregard micro or nano influencers, but you’ll need to focus on quantity in order to get a similar bang for your buck (in this situation, your effort being your “buck”).

STEP SIX : Spend some time getting to know your chosen influencer.

Once you’ve set your sights on your target (or targets), it’s time to become his or her biggest fan.  Get to know the influencer better.  I wouldn’t just recommend spending a concentrated period scanning previous posts, though that is a good idea, too.  You need to become a follower and immerse yourself in their world for a period of time.

STEP SEVEN : Plan how you will send your pitch.

Instagram messages are the worst as they limit your number of characters per message and automatically insert pictures for any links.  Facebook messages and e-mail are good.  You also want to be sure you’re using a venue in which your message will actually be received. 

STEP EIGHT : Create your pitch.

You have your strategy and you personally (kinda) know your social influencer(s) of choice.  Now the time has come to draft your case.  

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Give a specific and thoughtful compliment – what exactly do you love about their personality, blog posts, videos, etc.?  (Bonus if you can tell them that you’ve actually purchased something based on their recommendation.)
  3. Introduce your business and your product or service and explain why you think it’s a match for this individual. 
  4. Include pictures – two should do the trick; maybe a high-quality close-up photo as well as another of your product or service in use.
  5. Describe any tie-ins to an upcoming holiday or current events.
  6. Highlight the benefits for them.  You can include the affiliate commission rate and any sales expectations (based on how well the product has does in similar or even very different promotions).
  7. Give you and your product credibility – include company AND product ratings.
  8. Offer a coupon code or some type of discount specifically for this influencer, if possible.
  9. Make yourself available for follow-up questions.
  10. Thank them for their consideration.

In the near future, I’ll be putting together a couple proposals so you can see a few real-life examples in action.  Stay tuned!

Learning from Others’ Mistakes: Humorous Branding Fails and Important Takeaways

I recently had the pleasure of doing a guest blog for MiddleMe about humorous branding fails.  With the world still suffering in the midst of a pandemic, I figured we could all probably benefit from a little break for humor . . . with some lessons on avoiding “branding fails” infused along the way.  You can check it out here:  https://middleme.net/2020/11/16/learning-from-others-mistakes-humorous-branding-fails-and-important-takeaways-by-carole-mancuso/

And you may want to take a few moments to peruse the rest of the site while you’re there . . . lots of interesting and worthwhile articles.

Happy reading!

How to Market Your Small Business During Coronavirus Pandemic

GUEST BLOG INTRODUCTION: Just as business was gradually opening up a bit, new Coronavirus cases have increased dramatically worldwide. Marketing advice for small businesses trying to navigate this unprecedented territory is extremely important. We thank our guest blogger, Kally Tay, for her insights. Having more than 20 years as a manager in various industries, she founded a career website to help others to thrive in their jobs. Featured on numerous platforms such as WordPress Editor’s Pick and AllWomensTalk, her website MiddleMe.net discusses difficult and sensitive issues like workplace abuse and discord among coworkers while providing practical advice on how to handle those situations. We encourage you to read more about her in her bio.

Photo by tirachardz

The coronavirus pandemic has definitely changed the way many businesses conduct their business. They are now forced to try out several strategies to help them keep afloat, especially now that people are not going out to shop due to the fear of the virus.

Small businesses have it rough most of all because they have limited options available to guide them through the pandemic. Fortunately, these options are enough for small businesses to create an effective marketing strategy for their business to remain afloat even during this crisis.

To help you out, here are some ways on how you can do it in the most efficient way:

Always Focus On Open Communication

Maintaining an open communication with clients has always been a major marketing strategy for businesses even before the pandemic. It is a way to show customers that they are open for business and can assist with their daily needs.

But, with the pandemic changing the way businesses do business, having an active and open communication can help customers know you are still available for clients. Keep your customers updated through social media, text and even through your website and let them know what services you have to offer. You can even post your contact details on Google’s My Business Directory so people can search you more easily if they need a certain product or services.

Show How You Can Help During This Pandemic

When you are showcasing your business to customers, they don’t look at the promises you offer them. They remember you with the services and products that you offer. Since they can’t see your products and services in person because of the pandemic, you can show that your services and products still matter during this time.

To do this, spotlight the products and services that can help improve customer lives during this pandemic. Be honest and sincere when doing your campaign and provide discounts for frontliners and anyone working in the field in your area.

Check Out Your Loyal Customers

Got loyal customers who always check your products and services? If you do, do they know that you are still in business despite the pandemic. If they don’t know you are open, how can you rake in sales and stop them from trying out other brands that offer the same stuff as you do?

Check out your loyal customer database and reach out to them through social media or email. Since the pandemic has closed down many businesses, competition is not very fierce and you can use this opportunity to ramp up your brand for new users. Use the time wisely and you can definitely rake in these clients easily to your midst.

Put The Customer First

In business, the adage “the customer is always right” is a constant thing that must be followed religiously. During this time of pandemic, it opens up a great opportunity for your business to reach out to your customers and see how they are doing.

Since people are not allowed out, especially those who are vulnerable to the disease, they depend on businesses and other content creators to give them something to look forward to. They use the content to alleviate their fears and also pass the time because they exhausted everything they can do at home.

With this in mind, you can give your customers tips on how they can use their time wisely at home with the help of the products or services you have to offer. You can also offer advice on other things related to your business that your customers may not have realized before. For example, if you are offering your accountant services before, you can put in advice on your website regarding how they can save money even while at home.

Boost Your Social Media Presence

For several small businesses, it is no longer plausible for customers to visit you in your brick and mortar stores because of social distancing and other coronavirus prevention measures. If you want to keep people still checking out your offerings, you will need to find other ways to sell your product or services.

Social media is a great place to do this, especially now that people are looking online for everything they need. Customers can check your social media pages for what you offer and reach out if you need it. However, if your social media page isn’t up-to-date or your campaign strategy is all wrong, then it can be hard to get the conversion you need to make a profit. Look into how you update your social media and provide credible information that visitors need. If you stay consistent with your brand and offer relevant information, visitors will definitely check your brand often and peruse your products and services.

Use Your Creative Mind To Think Of New Ideas

With many people now stuck at home and running out of things to do, it is a great way for small businesses to offer solutions to this problem.

You can start selling things like coloring kits or startup planting kits for customers to use on their idle time or offer tutorials on how to photo edit or produce the next big viral hit. It doesn’t have to be related to your business. So long as it can help customers pass the time, it is a great way to get people to remember your business.

Stay Flexible And Learn To Adapt

If you want to market your small business during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that you remain flexible. You can never tell what will happen next during this pandemic and you need to be on your toes for any changes that may affect your business. Learn how to adapt with these changes and be as flexible as you can for your customers who may need your services during this time.

It is unclear as to when things will go back to normal and for small businesses, this uncertainty can be disturbing. However, utilizing the best strategy available, like the ones above, can definitely make a difference and reduce the losses your business may be having due to the pandemic. See which of these tips above can help you and faithfully cultivate them because when you do, you will see things improve gradually.

How to Get the Best Fonts for Free

Photo by Lum3n from Pexels

Fonts.  Oh, how I love fonts.  They can make the simplest design unique and elegant.  With the right font, your company name can transform from mere words to a professional and striking logo. So, how does a small business owner make best use of their branding budget (mine is usually $0/mo) to obtain the fonts that are perfect for the job? 

The obvious answer . . . you can search “free fonts” on google and see the results.  Unfortunately, the majority of the fonts in those search results are “free for personal use,” meaning you can use the font for a decoration for your son’s birthday party but not to create your business’s logo.  However, “free for commercial use” fonts do exist, you just need to dig a little deeper for these gems . . . or simply view the list below, because I’ve already done the digging.

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Google Fonts – “Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography.”

A favored resource, I’ve recommended this site many times.  About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all).  You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s);  then, your search results populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”

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Font Squirrel – “100% Free for Commercial Use”

While this web site does have fonts for sale, hundreds are also available free for commercial use (as they promote right in their company tagline).  Fonts are organized by category (i.e., san serif, serif, display, etc.) as well as by other useful attributes (i.e., language, number of font styles included in font family, etc.).

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Font Space – “Free downloads of legally licensed fonts that are perfect for your design projects.”

The majority of fonts available on this site are free for personal use; so, be sure to select “commercial use” as a filter in your search, and you’ll still have thousands of results to peruse.

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1001 Fonts – Your favorite site for free fonts.

Another site in which most of the free fonts are for personal use, you have to look a little closer to find the free commercial fonts.  Click the “Font Categories” at top and within the “Special” section, you’ll find “Free Fonts for Commercial Use.”  At the time of this writing, the count of free commercial fonts was over 12,000, so the choices are still plentiful.

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Font Bundles

I will provide a disclaimer that web sites from this point down are probably only recommended for true font enthusiasts (like myself).  The casual font appreciator will probably not appreciate needing to create an account (albeit free) for access to the free font selection . . . or the regular emails that result (though you can unsubscribe to those; I personally enjoy seeing what’s new in the world of fonts from week to week, but that may just be me).  Now that I’ve mentioned the inconveniences, the benefit is that these types of sites usually have nicer options available.  If you decide to go this route, Font Bundles gives you access to everything in their “free fonts” section, including a new font added every week.

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Creative Fabrica – “BE CREATIVE. STAY AUTHENTIC.”

Another site requiring a free account for access, this source is actually one of my favorites.  They have a “Freebies” section of their web site, in which you’ll find a rotating selection of hundreds of free fonts.  However, my favorite membership perk is their daily emails, each linking to a free font – only available that day.  I enjoy having a free digital treasure delivered to my inbox each morning.  Well, sometimes, the freebie isn’t a treasure, but I can just delete those; no hard feelings.

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Creative Market

Similar to Creative Fabrica described above, you need an account for freebies, and they are regularly emailed to you.  At Creative Market, however, you get one email per week letting you know about six available free goods, which can include fonts, graphics, stock photography, templates, etc.  I would say in general half of the six free goods are fonts.  One nice aspect of this site is that every time you download one of their free goods, its saved for you in your “Purchases.” If you download your free goods every week like I do, hundreds of fonts will be available in that section – all with a nice sort feature and large, graphic preview.

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Do you have a favorite source for free fonts (for commercial use) that I missed?  Let us know in the comments section below!

BTW:  If you get to the point you have so many fonts, you have troubles sifting through your choices, read this story next:  Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers.

Not All Press is Good Press: How to Protect Your Brand When You Receive Bad Publicity from Customers

You can work to provide the best customer experience imaginable – sealing a rainbow and a hug with your perfect product in its perfect packaging – and you will still have the occasional unhappy customer.  Sometimes, the issue is simply bad timing . . . a perfect storm in your customer’s life that culminates with your product underperforming in some perceived way (that’s more often a result of the person’s current frame of mind than actual underperformance).  Sometimes, the fit isn’t a good one; the product or service isn’t what the individual expected (possibly even because he or she didn’t pay enough attention to the sales pitch or product specs prior to purchase).  Regardless, one day you will be on the receiving end of bad publicity from an unhappy customer, and you’ll want to know the best way to handle the situation.  Below are some different approaches with the selection of the right one dependent upon the specific circumstances of the bad press.

Sometimes, no response is the best response.

I have had a really hard time with this one in the past.  It’s just so against my nature to not share my point of view.  However, this approach can be the right choice when . . .

  1. The customer discredits themself in the process . . . either by sounding a little crazy, exhibiting below average intelligence, or complaining about something that clearly isn’t the product’s fault.  In other words, if your average person would read the quote, review, or feedback from the individual and not be convinced (for whatever reason) that your product was at fault, then just walk away.  Your work is done.  No input needed.


    I found this gem on Bored Panda as part of 41 Of The Most Hilarious Amazon Reviews Ever to beautifully illustrate my point.


    Here’s another great one from The Best Social entitled These 16 Amazon Reviews Are As Funny As They Are Unhelpful.
  2. You have the potential to do more harm than good.  Whenever you receive bad publicity, take a step back and try to look at the big picture.  Does this negative press have the potential to negatively affect sales?  If so, by how much?  For how long?  If the potential fallout is minimal, walk away.  Count your losses and call it a day.  Another important variable . . . how angry does this customer seem to be?  When helping my son with his science homework recently, I was reminded by Newton that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction.  If you counter your opposition, the chance always exists that they will find another way to strike back (especially if you’re dealing with one of those customers in the midst of that perfect storm in their life).

Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

This route is my favorite.  When you see a problem that has a solution, strive for resolution.  Regardless of whether you saw the complaint on facebook, on yelp, or in your local newspaper, the approach is largely the same.  Reach out to the customer, let the person know you saw their issue, apologize for the misunderstanding (usually one exists in these situations), and try to remedy the problem.  Upon reaching happy conclusion, I never ask for the individual to undo their negative press.  Simply apologize, fix the problem, and thank the person for giving you the opportunity to do so.  The majority of the time, the person will not only undo the negative, he or she will rave about your customer service.  However, do be prepared for the small minority of people who have had their issue resolved and do not undo their bad publicity.  In those cases, you then need to decide whether the potential fallout is bad enough that you need to take further action.  If so, read on.

Mitigate the damage.

Sometimes, your customer’s problem is unsolvable (or he/she is unmoved by your solution) AND the associated publicity does have the potential to substantially impact your business.  In those cases, you need to act, BUT always approach these situations with great caution.  If you choose to respond by providing a quote to the reporter doing the story or as a direct response in a public venue (facebook, yelp or other review web site, your product web page, etc.), be sure to do the following:

  1. First and foremost, be respectful.  Do not speak at all negatively about the person or situation.  If you do, readers will empathize with the customer.  They will picture buying your product, having a problem, and being spoken to in that same negative manner.
  2. Apologize . . . carefully.  Despite whether you feel you’re at fault, your customer feels he or she has been wronged in some way.  You have a public victim.  That said, you’re probably not looking to claim full culpability either, so choose your words carefully.  Apologize: for the misunderstanding, for the terrible experience that’s been endured, etc.  Don’t say, “I apologize that my product was the cause of a terrible experience for you.”  The difference is subtle but important.
  3. Address the situation directly.  This is the time to share your side of things.  Nicely explain the issue from your perspective.  Your goal is for a potential customer to hear both sides and agree with you . . . or at least feel your fault is limited enough that they would still patronize your business.  I dug up two examples for you of 1-star reviews I’ve received that I felt warranted a response.




  4. Focus on increasing your positive publicity.  Work to counteract the negative message that was conveyed.  For example, if a customer’s complaint of faulty workmanship on her home got media attention, try to get press coverage on all the beautiful work your company has done.  That could mean applying for some recognition in your field (annual awards, etc.), which could then be promoted.  Another route would be to introduce a new guarantee on your workmanship, which could be publicized.  If you’ve done a job that was unique or special in some way, you could try to pitch the story to a reporter as a feature.  In my line of work, when a product gets a negative review that needs to be addressed, I send messages to other customers who have purchased the same product, asking if they would be willing to share their experience.  During this pandemic (while sales were at their worst for me), I needed to take this step.  Here was my message:

Hi there.  I would like to personally thank you once again for your purchase.  During these hard times in particular, the fact that you are purchasing products from small businesses means so much — to me and my family.  So please accept my sincerest thanks.

An additional step that is very meaningful is leaving a review.  IF you have the time available AND you were happy with your purchase, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review for the product.  I think people often don’t realize how important an impact their voice can have — especially for a small business.

If you didn’t end up loving your purchase, please respond to this message and let me know.  I can either help you troubleshoot or I can personalize your product for you (if applicable), and I can work to improve the product for future customers.


Thank you!!!     


In conclusion, I sincerely hope you never have negative press.  (For a good article on proactive prevention, check out Great Customer Service is a Zero Cost Strategy by Business Management Blog.)  For the unfortunate though likely day that you do encounter an unhappy (and vocal) customer, I hope this article makes you feel a little more prepared.  Have any questions or comments?  We’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”

Other Resources

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

A seemingly infinite number of resources exist on branding, and a similarly large number of small business resources exist. Once you narrow in your search on resources for small business branding (and of course eliminate those who want to offer you that service in exchange for a fee), a much, much smaller pool exists. Well, we scoured the Internet for some of the most valuable of these resources for fellow small business brand builders and compiled the best of the best for you below . . . .

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Pexels – “The world’s first inclusive free stock photo & video library”

While you need to attribute credit to the photographer (as you can see in the example pictured above), you get access to a really impressive selection of *free* high-resolution stock photography. The images can be used on your web site, in advertisements, flyers, etc. Pexels is absolutely a must-have in your bookmarks.

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GoDaddy Garage > Guide to Building a Brand – “Your brand is a high-speed emotional shortcut to the promise you make to the world.”

This blog is right up our alley! The articles discuss branding from the perspective of small businesses and even provide DIY tips in some areas. If you view the “Articles by Topic,” you’ll see they’re conveniently categorized into the following sections: “Find Your Niche,” “Dream It,” “Create It,” “Grow It,” and “Manage It.”

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Google Fonts – “Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography.”

About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all).  You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s), and your search results will populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”

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Inkspace – “Draw Freely.”

We use the vector and graphics editor, CorelDraw.  While the suite is powerful and much cheaper than your standard graphics package, the cost is still pretty steep in the $500 ballpark.  I read a few articles on free vector-editing programs, found Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/) to be highly recommended, and gave it a go.  The free program seems to have all the features needed to get the job done.  (And, they make a number of tutorials available, including one on the basic tools:  https://inkscape.org/en/doc/tutorials/basic/tutorial-basic.html.)

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AmEx Blog > Branding – “Hone your presence, online and off. Carve out a niche that customers and clients respond to, and help build a seamless brand, from the color of your logo to the personality of your social posts.”

AmEx has a vastly extensive blog for small businesses. While Branding is only one section within, the quantity of information could easily qualify as a blog of its own. While the section could benefit from some organization, dozens upon dozens of articles as well as videos offer valuable branding insights for small businesses.

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Microsoft Word Templates

While Microsoft dedicates the prime real estate of this page to promoting their “premium” content, hundreds of free options are available. If you browse by category, you’ll see brochures, business cards, flyers, invoices, newsletters, and more. While you’ll certainly want to customize any template with your business’s brand elements, these “off-the-shelf” options often make a great starting point and save you a lot of time and effort.

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The Noun Project – “Over 2 Million curated icons, created by a global community”

Ever wondered where to go for icons that could be used as part of your brand identity or marketing materials for a very minimal cost?  A number of options exist, but I like https://thenounproject.com/.  They have a large selection and charge nominal, one-time fees per icon.  (We obtained the hammer for our logo from this source for $2.99.)

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DIY Marketers – “An Online Magazine for Overwhelmed Small Business Owners on a Budget”

The author of the blog shares her origin story:

Back in 2008 I got a call from MSNBC asking me to be a part of a pilot program they were doing for entrepreneurs. The idea was to bring a TV crew to “our offices” and see how we were able to create all this amazing content and to teach another small business owner how they can market themselves on a budget. I was sorry to tell them that the Ivana Taylor empire ran from my living room with my 3-person staff of Me, Myself and I. The first thing they asked me was how I was able to do so much on a budget — and that’s when DIYMarketers was born.

For me, this story exemplifies all we can accomplish in the world of DIY, investing money from our businesses in growth instead of hiring others to execute the tasks we can accomplish ourselves. And the blog itself doesn’t disappoint. While the design is a little overwhelming, you’ll find oodles of insight and “how-to’s.”

How to Easily Create Business Letterhead in Microsoft Word (Video Tutorial)

In an earlier post, we described how easy creating your own business letterhead can be in Microsoft Word.  Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth . . . a whole lot of words!

We really wanted to be able to show how easy some of our DIYs really are, and how better to do that than in live action?  (The task of creating letterhead is done in about two minutes.) 

So welcome to our first video . . . .  Hope you enjoy it!  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Just scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.