Month in review: August 2022


Here's a look back at some of our favorite articles on the blog from August. Which ones stand out to you? Let us know on twitter.


Gratitude magnitude: Prioritizing appreciation in your referral strategy
What's the referral strategy for your business? If demonstrating gratitude for referrals isn't a part of it, it needs to be. Learn how to show your appreciation and boost your business in five easy steps.

>> Read more


Helping your employees feel fulfilled keeps your bottom line strong
Employee retention is a small business key to success. Learn how to retain top talent and boost your bottom line with these eight steps.

>> Read more


BBB Business Tips: Why you should answer customer complaints and reviews

It's easy to feel defensive or discouraged if you receive a customer complaint -- but responding to them quickly and effectively can actually have a positive impact on your business.

>> Read more

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  • Next up: Black History Month 2022 Events in Greater Cleveland

    Black History Month 2022 Events in Greater Cleveland

    February is Black History Month and Greater Cleveland is offering many events in celebration. Check out the list below and let us know if you have something to add -- we will continually update the list as we hear of additional events. Click on the event name to learn more.

     Date Event title Hosting organization
     Month-long  Black Health, Wealth and Equity  Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival
     Month-long   Expressions of Black Culture Public Art Passport  Destination Cleveland
     Month-long   Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation  Cleveland Public Theater
     Month-long  Virtual class: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad   Playhouse Square
     Month-long  Virtual Class: Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom  Playhouse Square
     Feb 1  Black History Month Reading Challenge  Northwest Akron Branch Library
     Feb 11 - March 6   Katuri Hall's The Mountaintop  Karamu
     Feb 12  Black Baseball Stories 2022: Barrier Breaking Moments in Baseball   Community Cup Classic Foundation
     Feb 12  Black History Month Escape Room  Youth Advocacy and Leadership Coalition
     Feb 12  Virtual Fam Jam: Black History Month  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
     Feb 17  Frederick Douglass Speaks on Democracy  Western Reserve Historical Society
     Feb 18  In Celebration of Black History Month  Cleveland Pops
     Feb 19  Culture and Crafts  Mojuba Dance
     Feb 19 Meet Frederick Douglass  Western Reserve Historical Society
     Feb 19  Black History Celebration: Exploring Black Stories Western Reserve Historical Society
     Feb 19, 20  7th Annual The Real Black Friday Black Business Expo  The Real Black Friday - held at Tower City

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  • Next up: Brand your way to success

    Brand your way to success

    Branding is an important part of owning a small business. Check out these six tips to effectively implementing and communicating your brand.


    Everything a small business does brands itself. Everything we say or do brands us as worthy resources … or not. But, it’s the marketplace that really determines our brand. It’s what they really think of us. It’s why they buy from us rather than the competition. It’s their reaction to what we communicate as our value proposition.

    It’s therefore crucial—as a small business owner—to effectively establish and communicate your brand. Here are six tips for branding your way to success:

    Branding tip no. 1: Accurately describe your value proposition.

    This is what you do through the lens of who benefits from what you do. You don’t “fix computers,” you “solve technology problems for small businesses.” You may need help with the specific details from colleagues—or even better, from customers.

    Branding tip no. 2: Be specific.

    Many small businesses provide lots of different products or services. Identify what you do best, what sells the most, and what produces the most revenue…and profit. This narrowing of scope doesn’t limit your appeal, it makes it much easier for the marketplace to remember what you can do for them.

    RELATED: Branding on a budget

    Branding tip no. 3: Consider a rebrand.

    If your company name no longer communicates that value proposition—or never did—it’s time to consider re-branding. What makes more sense: The Andrew Peters Group, Inc or Tech Solutions, Inc.?

    Branding tip no. 4: Reinforce the brand.

    If you’ve taken the step to rebrand, it’s time to then make sure everything customers and prospects see and hear reinforces that brand promise and value proposition. This includes your visual branding—logo, business cards, website graphics. You should even update your voicemail greeting. Add a branding line to it: “Thanks for calling Tech Solutions, your resource for small business technology installation, training and repair…”

    Branding tip no. 5: Invest in your brand.

    Commit the necessary time and dollars to create effective, efficient and engaging MarCom strategies and techniques. Hire one or more small business branding/marketing experts to help you.

    RELATED: Building a strong business brand

    Branding tip no. 6: Become fully immersed in branding.

    Take full advantage of all marketing and branding-related learning activities COSE, your chamber or professional groups provide. Attend workshops or webinars, read blog posts, discuss the topic when networking at events. There are a lot of resources out there to help you take your branding to the next level.

    Now, the next steps are up to you. Search for experts who are ideally positioned to pro-vide you cost-effective support. Commit to attending several professional development events this year. Make learning about these topics high on your list of objectives when-ever you network at a business event … and Brand Your Way to Success!

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

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  • Next up: Branding on a Budget

    Branding on a Budget

    When it comes to branding you may not be able to out-spend your competition, but you can always out-think them. Consider these four ways to brand your small business even with a small budget.

    Are you trying to promote your brand on a tight budget these days? Well then, it’s time to start out-thinking your competitors since you probably can’t out-spend them. 

    Many COSE members have found simple yet creative ways to get lots of positive exposure—for free. They harness the concept of "target marketing” by precisely defining and describing their ideal customers with specific demographic details—those who really need their products or services, value their approach and style, will always pay full price and will easily evolve into raving fans. 

    Here are four avenues to explore when it comes to branding your business on a tight budget.

    1. Written Publications. If you know what trade publications, eLetters or blogs your target market reads regularly, try to publish content in them that promotes the value of the concepts behind your products or services. But, don’t try to sell. For example, write about the importance of data security for small businesses, not the specific data security service your company provides. Allow the exposure to ‘brand you’ as an expert. And pitching content to COSE’s Mind Your Business is a great place to start*. Hey… works for me!

    2. Professional Groups. If you know what professional or business group events your target market used to attend before Covid, offer to speak at them after restrictions are lifted. Same caveat—speak about the value of the concept, not your specific product. Allow that exposure to also brand you as a dynamic and engaging expert. And don’t overlook those groups who pivoted to on-line workshops with speakers.

    3. Pro Bono Work. Volunteer your time and talents to some of those groups. Showcase your expertise. The classic example is the website designer who freshens up the organization’s site pro bono, in exchange for a mention on their home page. Allow the contribution of time and talent to help brand you as a professional who gives expertise willingly to support worthy organizations.

    RELATED: Check out more articles on working pro bono.

    4. Referrals. Always ask for referrals from happy customers. Let them become an extension of your sales team—or your entire sales team. Testimonials on your website can help, but not as much as a happy customer calling a colleague on your behalf. And the larger the customer’s organization, the greater the chance for internal referrals to other divisions and departments.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

    One final tip: Whenever you network at small business-oriented events, ask people you meet how they brand their businesses on a budget. You will be amazed at what you can learn.

    So, "No-Budget Branding” is a simple and clever suite of strategies but they’re not easy. They require time and effort, especially if you don’t want to invest the money to have a branding pro do it for you. 

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

    *If you are a COSE member and would like to contribute to Mind Your Business, please email Marie Zickefoose.

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  • Next up: Broadband Bill GCP Supported Crosses Finish Line

    Broadband Bill GCP Supported Crosses Finish Line


    Reliable, affordable access to broadband internet is more important than ever and it is an issue the GCP Board of Directors and our members have elevated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis further exposed the digital divide throughout Ohio. Cleveland is no exception. 

    GCP has consistently called for investments in infrastructure that will support digital inclusion and technology-based economic development statewide, including broadband. HB 2 – which allows broadband providers to apply for state grants for service provided to unserved and distressed areas – is a part of our important work. The legislation was signed by Governor Mike DeWine on May 17, is effective immediately, and GCP applauded the initiative. 

    “The Greater Cleveland Partnership greatly appreciates Ohio’s collective efforts to expand high-speed internet to underserved and unserved areas across Ohio,” said Baiju Shah, President & CEO, Greater Cleveland Partnership.  “Concurrent and related efforts within BroadbandOhio, JobsOhio, and the Ohio General Assembly highlight how seriously state leaders are approaching this critical issue.  We have consistently supported the passage of HB 2 and welcome its approval.  In the state budget, and as outlined in the Executive Budget proposal, it is also imperative we address internet affordability in urban settings across the state – particularly in Cleveland and surrounding communities.” 

    The law provides $20 million this fiscal year for broadband grants. The Governor’s budget proposal called for $250 million for broadband expansion, an initiative GCP strongly supports.
    Beyond GCP's support for HB 2 GCP leaders understand more must be done in the effort to advance digital inclusion and we will continue to urge for a targeted approach in Cleveland. We stand ready to work with countless partners in our region and across the state to help solve our state’s digital challenges and prepare Ohioans for the future of work.

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  • Next up: Ask SCORE: Building a Strong Business Brand

    Ask SCORE: Building a Strong Business Brand

    Building a strong brand is critical to a business’ success. It is not, however, easy to develop. The following information outlines why building a strong brand matter and how you can get started.

    A business brand is more than a recognizable name and logo. It is the way you will communicate with your clients, a promise on how you will do business and provide your service/product. In essence, it is your calling card. The style, color and words of the brand statement will influence potential customers. Having said this, creating a brand is a challenging task.

    To build a strong brand, you must create opportunities for potential clients to connect with you in engaging ways that allow them to understand your company’s purpose and believe in the value you bring to their lives. It provides a cohesive story on who you are and how you differ from competition. Most importantly, it can create customer loyalty. 

    While brand creation is one of the key components to a successful business, it takes much thought as well as trial and error. Following are some helpful questions to consider when working through the process of building your brand:

    • What is your business’ purpose?  What problem does it solve?
    • What is the first thing you want your customers to think of when they see your product or service?
    • If your customer were to tell a friend about your business, what would you want them to say?
    • What do you want your company to be known for?

    Building brand strategy requires the following research and development components:

    1. Research to identify and understand the target audience and your competitors: This can be done by using Google to research competitors, talking to individuals who may be perspective clients to gather information on their needs and likes for the product/service, and by shopping yourself online to get the feel for how a potential customer would. This provides information on important words to include in your brand statement so when customers perform a search your product/service will appear. Competitor research will allow you to identify their strengths and weaknesses and assist in creating your advantage.

    2. Create a focus statement: The focus statement/value statement should be the center for all other brand materials created for the business. It is a 2–3-line statement that informs customers what value they can expect to get from your product/service. The important information contained in this should be: product/service, target market, value proposition and statement of differentiation from other products/services with the market.

    3. Slogan development: A good slogan is a short, catchy phrase that will be associated with your product/service. This should be used on your business cards, website headers, and other business materials. Slogans can and do evolve over time.

    4. Selection of appealing aesthetics: This may seem strange, however, color and font can communicate how you want the client to perceive you. It should help differentiate you from competitors.  When choosing a color/color scheme make sure it cannot be confused with a competitor. Also consider how print text and pictures you may add will look on the color pallet. Keep your font selected simple and never use more than 2 font types – one for heading and one for text.

    5. Logo design: The logo is the face of your business and will be on all materials. Therefore, the complexity of it should be kept to a minimum so it is scalable and can be utilized in various sizes within the business materials.  

    The final step in the brand creation process is to consider the appropriate delivery channels. Selecting the optimal delivery channels should include consideration of potential clientele audience. In todays’ business environment, there are many options available. Following are the most common:

    • Email – personalized way to reach customers that can be used across all aspects of the customer relationship from initial marketing to sales, service delivery. 
    • Web content – personalized way to reach customers. Requires a good knowledge of potential customers and effective marketing content.
    • Social media – is scalable and allows business owner to build loyalty groups that can be brand advocates.
    • Organic search - Organic search is the use of search engines like Google to assist potential clients in finding the services/products they need. This is where the use of some critical words in the branding statement will have a significant impact on its success. 
    • Display ads – these can be posted on either mobile or more traditional venues. Consideration of client base may drive the approach utilized.
    • Traditional marketing materials such as brochures, business cards, trade shows or organizations.

    Your brand will evolve as the business grows and changes over time. It is okay and even necessary to tweak messaging and make improvements along the way. Once you have your brand strategy in place and you know your message resonates with your customers, stick with it.

    Content courtesy of

    Developing your business’ brand is the perfect time to bring in the support of a SCORE mentor. A SCORE mentor has experience building strong brands and has access to the best resources to help you along the way.

    The Cleveland Chapter of SCORE was founded in 1965 to foster and support the small business community in Northeast Ohio through mentoring and education. There are currently 80 volunteers with experience in the fields of business ownership, managers, accountants, attorneys, and other business fields that are ready to share their knowledge through mentoring. For more information about our services for small business visit the website at or call (216) 503-8160. 

    Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.


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