4 min read

Small Business Marketing 101: Live by the Four As

By scott farace on Dec 19, 2020 2:32:30 PM

I’m old enough to have seen a few downturns, and like my colleagues here at Celero, I’ve been saddened to see many small businesses struggle and even close due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In hard times like these, and in many previous recessions, your margin for error in running your business is small to non-existent. Mistakes that might have been a blip on the screen become magnified, so it’s more important than ever as a small business owner to have an adaptable, flexible plan and work the heck out of it.


A colleague exposed me to a business framework years ago, one that’s stayed with me ever since. When I’m at my best as a leader—and this framework has never done me wrong as an agency owner, a non-profit executive, or in my current role as CMO at Celero—I’m living by the four As.

Articulate

Our first A is to clearly articulate our goals. Again, this isn’t some set it and forget it business plan. When we began 2020, we had a vision for changing the world by powering small businesses to exponential growth. By March, it was an all-hands-on-deck approach to simply helping them survive the spring and summer.

Whatever your vision, whether you’re moving on a long-term plan or adapting to present challenges, it’s so important to articulate your strategy to every stakeholder, whether that’s your customers, coworkers, or partners. Back in the marketing and advertising world, you could always predict failure of even what seemed the cleverest ideas. Why? Because someone in the room, that person whose voice immediately sobers everyone up, would say, “What’s the strategy?” Any time I heard that, I knew we were doomed. If you have to ask what the strategy is, whatever you’re doing is dead on arrival.

Align

My second A is align. The older I get, the more I realize my own strengths, and sometimes more importantly, my own limitations. We all know where our talents lie, and the smartest people among us know where they don’t. But regardless of any individual’s strengths, we’ve seen the business world evolve from a survival of the fittest mentality to a team sport. It’s true: we’re better together, and it’s so important that once you’ve figured out your strategy and your goals, that you need to align everyone in your ecosystem to what you’re trying to achieve.

The easy metaphor here is the sport of rowing. No one’s ever guaranteed victory, but you can guarantee a loss if each member of your crew isn’t rowing in the same direction and at the same tempo. You can’t have some of your people getting ahead of the others, nor can you leave some behind. Everyone must march together and head to the same place.

Accelerate

My third A is accelerate. Each of these As feed off each other. When you articulate, it’s much easier to get alignment among your team. And when you have a clearly defined strategy that’s understood and embraced by all, you position yourself to reach your goals faster.

Think about it: how often do we end up wasting precious time that could be spent achieving other successes by forgetting our strategy or not getting everyone on board with how we’ll accomplish it? The fact is, when everyone understands the mission and wants to do their share and collaborate, our work is naturally more efficient and thus we move through each stage more quickly and reach our end point with time to spare.

Furthermore, there are other ways to accelerate toward meeting your goals. Throwing down the hammer is dependent on your ability to leverage the right tactics to achieve your mission. For some of you, that might mean procuring some new software, getting some fresh training, or developing a winning sales or advertising campaign. There’s not a one-size-fits-all winning formula, so success comes to those who know the right levers to pull for their businesses.

(Be) Accountable

My final A is the foundation for everything we do. It’s something I especially love about our culture at Celero and how our people live it, and it works for businesses of all sizes. My fourth A is accountability.

When you’re accountable, you make everyone else more efficient. When teammates can trust each other to own and execute on their respective pieces of any plan, accountability, by nature, makes the team more efficient, more productive, and more fulfilled. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you can accomplish virtually any goal you see before you, and you have this feeling because you know your team will own and execute time after time. It’s great when you’re on the team, and a simply unbeatable feeling as a leader.

As a small business owner, you should know that this stuff works. The four As are nearly universal in application, whether you’re developing a new product or service, embarking on a marketing campaign, or working to implement new operational processes or technologies. The for As are effective whether you’re bringing together a cross-functional group of employees or collaborating with external partners.

Always articulate, align, and accelerate to achieve success—and above all else, be accountable. So many of the challenges you face in business will be difficult. They become much easier to scale and solve when you put yourself in position to succeed instead of becoming your own worst enemy.

Best wishes to all of you as you continue to battle market conditions related to COVID-19. We are truly in this together. 

2 min read

The Impact of Technology on Small Business Marketing

By scott farace on Sep 7, 2020 12:00:00 AM

When I was looking to come on board to the fledgling Celero Commerce last year, two aspects of the opportunity were especially appealing. First, Celero was creating a dream team of people that I knew could conquer virtually any challenge. Second, the challenge they had picked was right up my alley.

The whole premise of this organization is to provide the technology tools, whether it’s payments hardware and software, SaaS, or integrated apps, to small and medium-sized businesses, technology that will help them grow quickly and sustainably, even in competition with the big boys of their industry. The beauty of great business technology—and we are assembling an arsenal of technology designed to meet every need of the small business owner—is that while those big boys must often step up as early adopters, the irresistible force of that technology is its democratizing effect. Eventually, it’s in everyone’s hands, and it evens the playing field. Game on.

What I’ve really seen in the world of marketing is that the digital age has transformed the ability for small and medium-sized businesses to compete on the same level as their larger counterparts. And I think when you start looking at what you can do with targeted digital advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, and, even to a larger extent, what is now available in broadcast radio and television with niche markets, you can find very affordable means to deliver your message to your target audience that was not available to you even 20 years ago. It’s amazing what the advancements of technology have done for the ability of the small and medium sized businesses to compete with larger organizations.” 

Here in the payments industry, we’ve witnessed the ability of technology to scale down to meet the needs of the smallest business and save them during this pandemic. You may have seen us share a recent webinar on social media, where our in-house product guru, Tim MacDonald, talks about a wave of integrated technology that’s saving businesses by the thousands. A pair of payments technology platforms, Clover POS, with its terminals seen in thousands of restaurants, salons, and service companies across the country, and the popular payment gateway, Authorize.net, have teamed up with a pair of developers to make going digital easy.

Clover has teamed up with Ecwid, and Authorize.net with Big Commerce, to bring quick, easy-to-build, and extremely cost effective apps for building websites. These websites enable any small business to share menus and merchandise online, giving customers the ability to prepay for in-person and curbside purchases or pay outright and have products shipped. Truly, these integrations are delivering the benefits of e-commerce and digital marketing for many.  

Perhaps the best thing about technology is that it never stops, and we’ll keep bringing those innovations to small businesses everywhere.

The benefits of e-commerce have provided a much-needed lifeline during the pandemic, but they will ultimately transcend the pandemic as small businesses will have diverse sales channels, both analog and online.

2 min read

Culture: Everyone Must Contribute

By Hubspot System on Sep 4, 2020 12:00:00 AM

If your culture relies solely on the leadership efforts of your executives, you could be doing it wrong.

Many companies fail from the outset with culture, after working hard to mete out their vision and values. They fail when that vision doesn’t bear the fruit of action. Others fail over time, as they focus only on the actions of executives, while lacking buy-in from those outside of the executive suite.

I have seen first-hand how non-executives can make just as much of an impact as executives when it comes to overall cultivation of culture. The company should see every single person as a culture carrier, and each employee should operate under the expectation that they follow through. In the most prolific cultures, your team sees the responsibility of acting on the company’s values, each day, as their duty.  

The moment you start to draw a line or to limit one’s ability or contribution to culture, based off of title or tenure with the company, is also the moment that you start to impede that person’s ability to grow—and your company’s ability to grow, too. And the second that you start to limit one’s ability to grow, or at least their perception of their ability to grow, you’re creating a ceiling. This artificial limitation is toxic, and it goes beyond individuals to infect your entire organization.

Don’t get me wrong. Those who have more authority and responsibility can naturally have more influence on culture if they are prioritizing their actions. I don’t think the question we should be asking is, “How can non-executives contribute to corporate culture in the same way executives do?” Instead, we should be asking, “Does my team have opportunity to contribute? If so, are they willing?” If the opportunity and willingness to contribute is there, that means every single person has the choice to take ownership in what they do and cultivating the company culture. This opportunity is vital in enabling non-executives to grow into executive-level culture carriers.

Perhaps the biggest key to this mentality that values and expects everyone to contribute, regardless seniority, is the flattening of the organization, not necessarily in titles, but in deeds. That means C-suite executives and senior managers should set aside their ego and try to connect with non-executives where they are. Essentially, they should act with empathy and return their mindsets to where they themselves were earlier in their careers.

Mastering this concept will result in genuine culture growth and more universal buy-in across the organization. Eliminate the hierarchical boundaries that separate who’s able to truly contribute to culture and who’s not. Provide your team the opportunity and set the expectation that everybody is encouraged to not only contribute to culture, but to perform at the same level, too.

1 min read

We Are Celero Commerce

By scott farace on Jul 6, 2020 12:00:00 AM

When I envisioned creating a great company that enables our customers to grow and thrive, it sure looked a lot like this.

Celero Commerce is comprised of several teams coming together with a great sense of purpose and commitment to our mission of creating the ultimate platform of payments and technology solutions that enable small to mid-sized businesses to compete and win. Our country has always counted on entrepreneurs, and they should count on us in return.

This week, we are celebrating our teams from the former UMS Banking, Tandem Innovative Payment Solutions, and Elmhurst Financial coming together with the Celero crew under one, united brand that reflects that purpose and mission. As those brands recede into history, we are honored that these teams chose us over the last 18 months, as partners and friends on a journey of raising the standards for American business.

We want to ensure that no longer will only large corporations enjoy enterprise solutions including business management software, frictionless payment processing, big data, and more. Our work together democratizes technology in the service of financial and business operations, enabling growth for customers from the Tennessee Titans down to even the solo, work-from-home founder bootstrapping her way to realize financial freedom.

And our community bank partners will no longer feel as though they are trying to keep up, only accessing second-class solutions when business owners compare them to their megabank counterparts. Community banks are the top driver of small business capitalization in America, and as such, they deserve platforms that are sophisticated in capability but easily implemented as they battle to keep and grow market share with the relationships they have deservedly earned. In partnering with us, we will be sure they are now leading.

That’s what we’re here to do, and the people of Celero Commerce are working diligently every day to live our purpose and make this mission happen.

Thank you, our merchants and financial institution partners, for joining us on this journey. It’s going to be an amazing ride.