Small Business Owners wanted

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The 4 R’s of growing your Pittsburgh based business in 2018

For those of us that grew up in the last century, the Three R’s were fundamental to our success in life – “Reading – wRiting and aRithmetic. In today’s spell checking world, we could not get away with such poetic license.  But these foundational items did turn out to be essential to leading a successful life.

Just as begin able to read, write and do basic math is foundational in life, some elements are important to business owners.  Four of these items – Reputation, Reviews, Referrals and repeat sales are the topic of this weeks guest blog entry.

My name is Frederick Geiger and I am presenting a series of seminars to help our forming chapters get their groups formed.  I do this in my role of Area Director for BNI in Western PA. I have come to this “calling” of sorts by working with small business owners over the last six years in the Pittsburgh area.  In my work with them on how to grow their small business, I have witnessed all manner of things that were “supposed” to grow a business instantly. I suspect that most small business owners are necessarily skeptical of these claims and are frustrated with how to market their business in these ever-changing times.

Back to the Fundamentals

Over the last couple of years, most of these fantastic new marketing tools have proven cost prohibitive for our core BNI membership of companies with ten or fewer employees. Some of these items include Buying links to your website, using “black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, direct response email campaigns, retargeting ads put on sites and many more. It turns out these are far more expensive than most small business owners can afford.

So, what works?  Simply put?  Referrals from people who trust you already and are willing give you access to your ideal client.  Supported by online reviews from others that have purchased information. Accurate online details to manage your reputation so people can find you when they lose your business card. These three things constitute the first three R’s. The fourth is repeat selling into your existing customer base.  Let’s look at each one briefly.

Reputation for small business owners

Your reputation matters more than anything else today. There is nowhere left to hide. Today I was on looking for a new audiobook.  I went to new books from three of my go-to authors.  In each case, I read the reviews of both the book and the narrator.  I decided not to buy – yet.  Despite the fact that I love all three authors and “Trust” them, I will look a bit more tonight before I make my selection.  If the reviews of any of them were stellar – I would have made an immediate choice.

The Internet is the gateway to your reputation. Take a minute open a new tab on your browser and google your company or yourself. Do you own page one of Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc.)? If you do not fill the page, not you are at risk.  The only thing that might be worse than having a bad reputation is having no reputation.  You need to take the time to claim your directory entries and make sure the information is accurate on them.

Referrals for small business owners

Getting referrals is a mainstay of doing business in Pittsburgh. BNI’s founder was born on the south side of Pittsburgh before his family relocated to Southern California when he was still a child. He learned something growing up in Pittsburgh. I am sure when his father needed to get something done, “back in the day” in the close-knit South Side area of the ‘Burgh, he went to a trusted member of the community. This friend probably  “ knew a guy”.  Ivan Misner, BNI’s founder, learned as a child that people buy from people that they know like and trust and that a personal introduction is an excellent way of making that decision.

Today, over 80% of people buy based on personal referrals. Having a strategy in place to get referrals is one of the most cost-effective things you can do in 2018 to grow your small business here in Pittsburgh. Getting referral’s today in a social media-infused and app infused world is easier than ever.  So, look at ways both online and offline to get referrals.  Personally, I am partial to the BNI approach to creating strategic referral partnerships.


Even more people today buy based on the online reviews that people post about how you do business.  Today over ninety percent of people buy considering online reviews.  This number is up from 74 % one year ago.

I read the one star as well as the five-star reviews. Some of the one-star reviewers are certifiable, but the way that they write about you might even be a positive review. For example, if someone says that you provided an excellent service but were priced too high, a person like me that likes to buy the “best” might become inclined to consider you.

You need to have a plan in place for collecting and monitoring your reviews.

Repeat business

Too many small business owners are chasing the next bright shiny object and not looking to reconnect with their customers to see how they are doing. Back when I was in corporate and had more time on my hands, I used to call our customers to see how they were using the products that I was responsible for developing and taking to market.

In almost every case I was able to find something else that we could do for that customer.  My best ideas came from listening to my customers.  It is far easier for you to sell to your customer base because they already know like and trust you.

Want to explore these topics at a free seminar?

If these topics are of interest to you, we have a special invitation for you. We are offering a thirty-minute seminar hosted by some of our forming networking groups so that they can get to meet referral sources for business. Visiting a new team that is just forming is a great way to get into a fresh new group of people on the ground floor. For more information, please visit our event page to register for the event:

Tuesday, December 19 at 11 AM – North Shore – Riverside Center for Innovation

Friday, January 12 at 7:30 AM – Peter’s Township – Beinhauer Community Room

I hope to see you there.  Not only will you discover some things to apply to your business, but you will also meet a friendly group of people that want to be able to help you with your small business growth.

Image Credit – Adobe Stock

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