Tip Sheet: January 2015

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of INVISION.

Use a chalkboard to promote your sales

Buy a Blackboard

One of the best — and most overlooked — low-cost marketing techniques is the good old blackboard, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide. Get one made with your business name and logo at the top, or just look for a cool one you like. Use colorful chalk and feature your latest specials or new product arrivals. An eye-related quote of the day can be fun, too. Put it over your cash register, in your front window or outside your store. Remember: Just like grade school, neatness counts.

Be Virtually Awesome

Have you upgraded your listing on Google Maps to include a 360-degree “virtual walkthrough” of the inside of your business? It’s an extra touch with a major “wow factor” that could make potential clients more comfortable with visiting you. While these expanded listings are free on Google, you must hire a Google-approved “trusted photographer.” Overall, the service can run from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000 depending on the size of your business, the number of panoramas required and labor costs in your market. Check out the walkthrough of Sugar Land, TX, optometrist Dr. Thomas Arnold at invmag.us/1151.

Highlight your nametag

Highlight Yourself

Networking expert Andrea Nierenberg brings a highlighter to every business event she attends. Why? Because highlighting her name on the inevitable computer-printed nametags helps her stand out from everyone else. The score: Andrea 1, Anonymous Conference Attendees, 0.

Host a Play Day

One cool idea gaining momentum online is Great Glasses Play Day on the first weekend of May. Children who wear glasses (or contacts or patches) gather to play with each other, increasing their comfort and confidence with their visual issue. The event helps raise awareness of the importance of checking children for visual problems. If you’re interested in hosting a play date, go to greatglassesplayday.com.

Shift your thinking

Shift Your Thinking

Few things in business turn out as planned. To deal with this uncertainty and the seemingly weak link between cause and effect, University of Virginia associate professor of entrepreneurship Saras Sarasvathy suggests that business owners are often better served changing “as-if” propositions into “even-if” ones. Instead of focusing on the possibility of spectacular rewards from a venture, ask how great the loss would be if it failed. If the potential loss seems tolerable, take the next step. It’s a subtle shift, but Sarasvathy argues it can keep you from being paralyzed by fear or disappointment.

21 Days to a New Habit

Twenty-one days. That’s how long you need to change an old habit, says the Energy Project’s Tony Schwartz, citing research on brain plasticity. So choose a habit you want to change — going to bed late, wasting time on the Internet first thing in the morning — and for the next three weeks replace it with another ritual: hitting the sheets at 9:30, starting the day attacking an important project for 55 minutes. “Just for good measure, though, you might think about keeping up these behaviors for a full 30 days instead,” says Schwartz, writing in the Harvard Business Review.

Use Your Imagination

You’re seeing the word “reimagined” everywhere now. The smartphone, reimagined. Accounting software, reimagined. Baking soda, reimagined. (OK, we made that last one up.) Our advice: Don’t use “reimagined” so lightly. If you have truly reimagined your business (delivering eyewear via drone), go ahead and use that word. Otherwise, avoid.

When to Start

Author Karen Lamb has the best answer for anyone wondering when to start a new project or life change: Do it right now. “A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”