Tag Archive | small business

Playing Catch Up

In the days since we last chatted, I’ve had a few interesting experiences that I want to share with you and pass on a few lessons learned.

The Conference

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference (whose name will be withheld because I don’t want to be a blogging bad-mouther) and walked away feeling underwhelmed and ripped off. You see, I paid full price for a ticket to this conference because it’s one I had attended in the past (under different management) and loved. Last time, I walked away feeling totally energized, inspired and buzzing. So, when I saw that it was back in town, I scooped up a ticket and sent the link to friends so they could do the same. Then, two days before the event, Twitter is blowing up with discounted tickets for sale. Like, really discounted tickets. Like 80% off what I had paid!

I try to keep it classy on this blog – but I was super pissed. I was a loyal customer who was attending this event and had recommended it to colleagues and now they were slashing prices on tickets days before the event and weeks after I purchased my non-refundable ticket. Not cool. 

As you can see, my nephew Davey is totally not impressed.

Lesson Learned: Don’t punish your loyal fans, no matter how desperate you’re getting. A better solution would have been to send an email to people who had already purchased tickets – like me – and offer them free tickets for friends or give full-price ticket payers VIP benefits. But, alas, they didn’t even provide me with lunch. Needless to say, I will not attend this event again next year.

Setting Intentions

The last few weeks have taught me some great lessons in setting intentions and taking action. The summer was a slow. I think everyone was too hot to think. Proposals were going unanswered, clients were taking vacations and we were all just kind of hot and bothered. But, businesses don’t take summer vacations and I had to shake things up. I set some goals and kicked my butt into planning, creating and following up.

Lesson Learned: It’s not my problem if no one else feels like working, I need to stay relevant and hustling. By being ready to jump and take action, I’ve landed some new clients and have grown with some existing ones. Plus, I’ve got an exciting new venture with my business partner Nailah Blades, which we’ve been working like crazy on all summer long. Don’t fall into the downtime trap – always be working toward your goals.

What lessons did you learn this summer? What things are you changing or making better? Did you have a good or bad experience that made you rethink things? Chat with me!

Getting Customer Feedback – Wednesday Quick Tip

It’s Wednesday, so that means it’s time for a quick marketing tip! Today, we’re working on understanding our customer service and what our actual clients think makes us stand above the competition. As a small business owner, it can be easy to make assumptions about what we do best. But, our clients might have a totally unique perspective. Often, the services that I might overlook are the ones that clients appreciate most.

Finding out what services your target market desires (straight from them) means that you can better position yourself and your business for new clients. Bonus tip – ask someone who represents your ideal client, since you want to attract other people/businesses like them!

Working ON Your Business vs Working IN Your Business

Right now I’m sitting outside of Starbucks contemplating the meaning of life. Well, that might be slightly melodramatic. I’m actually just reflecting on how I spend my time each day and what portion of my workday is spent working on developing my business, what portion is spent working on client work and what portion is wasted. Honestly, I’d rather try to figure out the meaning of life (which, I’m pretty sure has something to do with the birth of Snooki’s baby, but we’ll get into that another time).

Here’s one thing I know for sure: my mornings are getting away from me! So, I’ve set the goal to take back my mornings from the grasps of my iPhone and turn them into productive, business development time.

  1. First step in this process – I need to wake up earlier. Not that intriguing to my over-indulgent sleep routine, but necessary for productivity.
  2. Next step – I need to have a morning routine that doesn’t involve checking my iPhone in bed. This is a rabbit hole of bad that finds me wasting some of the most potentially productive minutes of my day.
  3. Step three – Get back in the habit of a morning routine. Breakfast away from the desk. And treating my office like a place of business and not just another room in the house. No more tempting PJ email sessions.
  4. Last step – Take an hour before I open up shop to focus on my own business and marketing goals. The first hour I’m at my desk (before my clients start emailing me) should be dedicated to working on my own business. This is the perfect time to update my blog, connect with potential partners and work on my own marketing.

Every business is different. Some of us have clients to service, which cuts into the time we can spend focusing on our own business needs (while still maintaining work/life balance). Some of you are your brands. Marketing the brand is your business, so your routine will be different. But, now matter the structure of your company, it’s important to have some sort of routine.

What are your most productive times? When do you find time to work on your own business? I’d love to get some new ideas!

When You’re Going Crazy – It’s the Little Things

I’ve been a little lame about blogging lately, and that’s because I’ve been so busy! So, I wanted to give you a quick update on a few exciting things I’ve been up to:

  1. This week, Nailah Blades and I announced our new four-week, small business workshop The Launch Sequence. If you’re in the LA-area and are looking to start or build a business, this is for you. Check out the site for all the details, and contact me directly if you have any questions!
  2. I’m co-hosting a super fun, girls only, entrepreneur-filled event on Thursday, May 17. It’s going to be an evening of mixing, mingling, networking and wine! Who doesn’t love that? Click here to get the details and register for the event. 
  3. I was featured on a couple of blogs recently. I love writing for other bloggers (by the way, I also love featuring guest bloggers. So, if you’re interested and have a fun topic, just shoot me an email!) First, Meghan Christine Photography featured a post that I wrote for photographers with Tips on Getting More out of Facebook Marketing. Then, I was featured as part of the Well In LA Dream Big series!

Ok, so you get the point… lots of good stuff going on around here.

That brings me to the actual topic of this blog post. In my craziness lately, I’ve been looking for ways to stay organized and downsize the clutter. I’m a big handwritten note taker. I’ve got notebooks, post-its, planners, journals and tons of great intentions. I jot down ideas as I’m talking to and thinking about clients and then they disappear into the great abyss. The problem isn’t so much the clutter, it’s the fact that all the notes I take for one client or project are never in one easily accessible place.

ARC Notebook - Small Business Tips to Get Organized

That’s where my handy Arc notebook comes in to save the day. (By the way, I know this totally sounds like an ad and I wish Staples was paying me to say this, but they’re not. I just really like this product!) The cool thing about this notebook is that you can tear pages out and reorganize them again and again. Plus, it has pretty dividers and lots of fun accessories. It even has graph paper (if you can’t tell, I went a little wild with the accessories when I bought mine).

Anyway, it’s been keeping me nice and organized and as I start working with more coaching clients to talk them through the marketing process, it keeps notes from each session so I can quickly and easily refer back. If you’re a note-taker, make sure to pick one up.

What are your go-to organization solutions for those crazy, busy times? I’d love to get more handy tips!

Creating a Voice for Your Brand

Do you have a social media presence for your company? How about a website and blog? Do you use print materials and speak at events? Keeping track of just one of these can become overwhelming, but many small business owners are juggling all of these communications themselves.

Before you launch your next business profile, take a few minutes to think about your brand’s voice and its consistency across channels.

When it comes to your brand’s personality, you need to be consistent. All of your communications are on display and many of them link from one to another. It’s confusing to your consumers if you’re outspoken and sassy on Twitter, but reserved on your blog. What does your brand really stand for? All of your company communications should have similarities in tone, language and personality. In 2012, people are connecting with brands on a personal level, so a well-defined brand voice is more important than ever.

Here are five tips to help you get consistent before you speak for your brand:

  • Are you an “I” or a “we” This one is a pet peeve of mine. There’s no shame in being a single-person operation. If that’s the case, use “I” and use it consistently (social media, website, brochure…). There’s nothing more confusing than when people say “we” to refer to themselves. A tip for brands with multiple employees – in order to establish a more personal connection with consumers, you can designate one person to make updates, just let people know who’s in charge and let their voice shine through (just make sure that voice is a representation of the brand as a whole).
  • Define what you want to be known for. If you are a consultant who wants to be known as a dependable expert, it’s probably time to put down that glass of wine and stop tweeting about your ex. But, if you’re establishing a humorous relationship column, keep the sassy ex comments coming. There’s a fine line between being honest and sharing too much. Keep your brand focused on business goals and not personal shenanigans.
  • Know who you’re talking to. Part of what you’re saying depends on the person you’re saying it to. Having a strong understanding of your target market will help authentically shape your conversations.
  • Be careful. This kind of goes back to the wine comment, if you don’t want your clients or potential clients to see it, read it, think it or associate it with you – don’t post it.
  • Being consistent doesn’t mean being boring. Don’t let these tips make you feel confined. Being confident in your brand’s voice doesn’t mean that you need to feel boxed in. Don’t reuse content from one place to another – just make it clear that the same voice is “speaking” no matter where we find your brand.

So, what do you think? Does your brand have a personality? Is it your own?

Mine is a pretty strong reflection of myself. I love to help people and throw my two cents in (admittedly, even when it’s not asked for). So far, my company is just me and I’m proud of that. I try to make everything I post conversational because I can’t stand talking to myself. The more I work on my brand and my company, the more I realize I am talking to small business owners and entrepreneurs. I find that the people who work with me relate to my personality and don’t take themselves too seriously. I don’t use the words expert, guru or ninja to describe myself. I get excited whenever someone comments on my stuff or tells me they read my blog. I love creating things that help people.

As I grow and learn, I change. My brand is no different. Being cognizant of your voice is the first step to consistency. But, that doesn’t mean that from year-to-year or even day-to-day things will be exactly the same. Keep developing your voice until you’re happy with its representation of your company.

Three Questions Every Small Business Owner Should be Able to Answer

Almost every initial consultation I have with a potential client goes the same way. They’ve contacted me (or been put in contact with me) because they want online marketing help. Perfect. That’s exactly what I do. And, typically, she has a pretty good idea of what she wants. “I need help with blogging and social media and I want more traffic to my site.” Great, those are right up my alley. She detail her woes and I take notes, smiling and reassuring her that I can help.

Then, I start asking questions. I’m really annoying like that. I ruin everyone’s plans with my annoying questions.

“Who is your target market?” I annoyingly ask. Wasn’t I listening to anything this poor person just told me? Her target market is any person who uses Twitter and Facebook. Duh.

“What makes you different?” This question is the absolute worst. It’s like when you make your boyfriend list 10 things he loves about you. There might be a million things he loves, but being put on the spot like that is terrifying.

Then, just when I couldn’t possibly be any more horrible to this kind person, I ask something like “What obstacles do we need to overcome?” At this point, it’s time for a cocktail.

Tactical execution is an extremely important part of marketing your business. But, it’s not the only component. From my experience, large, expensive marketing plans are often a waste of time and money. But, skipping the 40-page marketing plan does not mean that you should skip the strategy. Before you start marketing your company, take some time to find the answers to these questions.

Here are just a few things you should include in each of your answers:

Target Market

  • For targeting consumers: Age, sex, primary language, location (get specific), income level, personality and/or motivations
  • For targeting businesses: company size, maturity of the brand (start up, established, expanding), industry, principles and/or values
  • What does the consumer/company need that you can provide?
  • Take a look at your best clients, what do they have in common? What do they love about you?

Differentiation

  • What makes you stand out in a crowd? What’s your signature?
  • What do people say is great about you? About your brand?
  • What experiences (work, education, life) have you had that set you apart?
  • Why did you decide to go into business? What did you see that was missing for your target market?
  • Who are your direct competitors? Is there a lot of competition in your market?
  • Are people willing to pay for your product/service?
  • Do you have resources (time, money) to dedicate to managing and marketing your business, as well as providing your product/service to consumers?
  • Are there institutional limitations to your offering? (I run into this a lot with my health and wellness clients, since many of their services are not covered by insurance and people don’t like to pay out of pocket)
  • Is there a stigma against your industry? What is the media coverage about your industry?

Obstacles

  • Who are your direct competitors? Is there a lot of competition in your market?
  • Are people willing to pay for your product/service?
  • Do you have resources (time, money) to dedicate to managing and marketing your business, as well as providing your product/service to consumers?
  • Are there institutional limitations to your offering? (I run into this a lot with my health and wellness clients, since many of their services are not covered by insurance and people don’t like to pay out of pocket)
  • Is there a stigma against your industry? What is the media coverage about your industry?

If you spend a day doing some research and answering these questions, you’ll be able to streamline your communications and really reach the people who want and need what you have to offer. Try not to assume the answers. Take some time to research and get data to support your conclusions.

So, can you answer these questions off the top of your head?

Making the Most of Your Work Day

Hi there, friends. Where the heck has this week gone? I had a plan to post this earlier in the week and here I find myself on Thursday afternoon with not a blog post in sight. But, I’m happy to report that this one is worth the wait! As I mentioned last week, Nailah Blades and I hosted a webinar this week to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and big thinkers organize their ideas and their time online. If you missed it, you missed out. But, since I love you so much, I’m giving you the down and dirty version in the form of this infographic.

And, if you think this is helpful, make sure to visit www.TheLaunchSequence.com and get caught up on all the great things we’re going to be offering.

Getting the most out of your workday - Streamlining Infographic

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