How To Prepare Blog and Marketing Content For 2015

unanswered questions - brainstorming conceptMy mind has already been on 2015. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2014 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on in the marketing department for 2015.

First step: Get your calendar ready. I prefer to keep things simple. I have a very simple spreadsheet that outlines the twelve months of the year and I brainstorm different events or anniversaries that make sense for me to comment on.  It is basically a “big picture” approach about the kind of content I feel would be relevant to my readers and clients. I take that information and formulate the various blog posts I want to write about that make sense with certain times of year. I am always open to move topics around to adjust to current events and moments in time that have events where the need for a little shuffling is in order. Always remain flexible and have the ability to capitalize on current events.

If you are not into spreadsheets or documents, another great place to organize your calendar is on Trello. I have mentioned Trello in the past. It is a FABULOUS online tool that multiple people can log onto and all of your team members can brainstorm content for the following year. This is a great one if you have a team, or if you want to share it with your business coach. **hint hint***

A lot of my clients – and other business owners – like to put their topics and ideas on their actual calendar. Having your due dates in front of you when you can glance at it and prepare for it weeks in advance allows you to prepare for it so you are not running around at the eleventh hour trying to meet a deadline.  You can either color code your online calendar, but quite often it is even very useful to do it the old fashioned way – with post its and stickers! Below is a the folks at CoSchedule who make a WordPress plugin for an editorial calendar, and they are still using sticky notes! Whatever works for you – do it!

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But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? I will highlight my favorites from a great resource, CopyBlogger, and their article “50 Can’t Fail Techniques for finding Great Blog Topics” but make sure you click here for a the full list.

1. Google alerts – setting an alert with some of your industry’s key words. This can give you an endless supply.

2. Riff on a popular post. Post your reaction and thoughts to a popular blogger’s thoughts and a hot topic and you can gain some power packed link benefit!

3. Try a new medium. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or one of MY personal favorites: watch some TV for inspiration. I continue to get inspired by the show, Restaurant Impossible!

4. Do an interview. Do you have a favorite person you like to follow online or connect with at networking groups? The answer is no unless you ask them for an interview! I am sure they won’t mind the free publicity!

5. Take an entire day off.  I love this one. Recharge your brain for a whole day by doing something you love. Go focus on your hobby and enjoy yourself. Giving your brain a break may be just what you need!

6. Do a product review. Is there something in your business you use every day that you just LOVE? Write about it and spread the love with your readers! My husband, who runs an IT company, does a great post every December on his picks for  Holiday Technology Toys as an example.

7. Recruit a guest. When all else fails, call for back up and schedule a post of someone you respect that you can feature on your blog. Make sure their content is what your readers are looking for and it makes sense with the overall feel of your blog. But don’t get lazy and rely on them every month!

Lastly, you will want to set some sort of alert and an accountability system in place so this task actually gets completed. If alarms work for you, wonderful. If you need an accountability partner to make sure it gets done, then set that up. You will be amazed how much you get done when someone else is watching!

So I want to hear from you! What is your preferred calendar method and where do you get most of your blog topics?

 

What I Learned In My 30′s As An Entrepreneur

Roree-PP-Apr11-simple stories-the big 40-closeup3 2I am turning 40 next week, my first really big birthday that made me take a pause and evaluate my accomplishments. When you turn 20, you really don’t care because you are just biding your time until you turn 21. And 30 didn’t bother me either, most likely because I was still not fully comprehending the fact I was actually getting older. Chalk it up to young and naive. But 40, as it looms before me, really has me thinking. What have I learned? What have I accomplished? I have been doing one never-ending retrospective of my life ever since August began. So I thought, maybe I should share some of my thoughts and findings in regards to my professional life with other new entrepreneurs and hopefully spare them some of the grief I encountered.

The business I run with my husband technically was started when our kids were born. I joined him on a full time basis shortly before I turned 30. I am not ashamed to admit that we probably made every mistake there was as we found our way. This is part of the reason I later wanted to become a business coach – to save other young entrepreneurs from mistakes I had either made or seen others make. Below is a list of some of the ones I think stand out to me the most.

1. Ask For Help Sooner Than Later

Whoever said “pride cometh before the fall” must have been an entrepreneur. When we first started out, we never asked anyone for help. Whether it was with processes, finance, or marketing, we didn’t think we could ask for help. We thought it would be perceived as weakness, or that we were unstable and likely to go out of business soon. I had never even heard of a business coach, much less sought out any kind of help like that. We did our actual jobs very well, but we were learning the hard way on pretty much every aspect of running a business. When I finally got the nerve to ask other entrepreneurs for advice, a whole new world opened up. I found out that other business owners LOVE to help you. It’s like there is some secret brotherhood of entrepreneurs – an unwritten rule to help – that I never knew about. Once I trusted in the quality relationships I had been making over my many years of networking, I had answers, advice, and a whole new outlook on my business.

The other piece of asking for help is knowing when to delegate. This is different for everyone. What I have found to be true is that if you are spending time on tasks that can easily be done by an assistant, you are not out closing deals and bringing in the revenue. This will lead to trouble. You could find yourself overwhelmed or you might just be dropping the ball because you are handling mundane tasks instead of taking care of clients. Hire help sooner than later.

2. Manage Your Money

This probably seems obvious, but it is so important it must be mentioned. Find yourself a banker and a financial advisor you can trust. Make relationships with people that truly care about you and your prosperity. Then LISTEN to them. Do what they advise. They were trained for this, so give them the benefit of the doubt by believing what they say. Cash flow is critical so make sure you have a plan to keep it flowing. Come up with multiple streams of income. Create information products that bring in cash while you are sleeping. And no matter what anyone says about saving enough money to start a business, I want you to take that number and double it. There will always be a hiccup or an unforeseen issue – so save those pennies for that rainy day. You will need them.

3. There Will Be Highs and Lows – Don’t Give Up

In the beginning as you are finding your way, it is easy to get frustrated when the clients are not beating down your door. Maybe you put a product together that was not as successful as you had hoped. Maybe you are hitting your slow season and the phone is not ringing.  I wrote about being prepared for slow times which you can read about by clicking here. Keep yourself focused and busy so you don’t give in to that little voice in your head that says you are not good enough. My friend Suzanne always called it the “itty bitty shitty committee.” Don’t listen. Your passion and persistence will always prevail if you let it, even in the slow times. Don’t give up on your dream – ever.

4. Continuing Your Education Is SO Important

This does not necessarily mean going back to college or school. This also means online classes, webinars, tele-seminars, video series, books, eCourses, etc. Find a leader in your field and see if they are selling products that show you how to do what you do BETTER. Invest in yourself. Hire a coach. Establish accountability with someone. Stay current with trends and technology in your field. You want to be known as the best – so act like it and soak up all the information you can that is available to you. Rely on experts, read blogs, do your research. Whatever your method, just be diligent with keeping up with the most current trends.

5. Technology Changes Every Day – Find A Good Technology Professional

Disclaimer – I am very biased because this one of the things my company does. I have seen businesses trying to handle their technology on their own and it does nothing but cost them their precious time and money. Too many entrepreneurs waste the day away trying to troubleshoot an issue instead of earning money. Find a trusted technology professional that will put together a system that works for you – not necessarily what everyone else is doing. Your technology needs to be reliable, backed up and mobile. Make sure you are able to keep up with the fast paced world of technology. It will affect every aspect of your business, so please pay attention to your technology from the beginning. Rely on a professional.

6. Being Your Own Boss is … Awesome!

On a personal note, I cannot imagine what my life would look like if I had worked for someone else these last ten years. First and foremost I am able to follow my number one rule: the Red Velvet Rope Policy. I only work with clients that energize and inspire me. I choose my clients. Additionally, I was able to be home with my kids as well as work during the day. I got to watch them grow up into their teens and I did not miss anything. I was also the main caregiver for my mother from the moment my youngest was born. I was fortunate enough to be able to manipulate my schedule so I could get her to all the doctor appointments and then be there for her during her final days. Those days were some of the hardest of my life, and I cannot imagine having to endure my grief while working for someone else. I am so very grateful I didn’t need to answer to someone else during these last 10 years. Entrepreneurism may be difficult at times, but this reason alone is when the pros far outweigh the cons.

So as I embark on the next decade, I am looking back with pride. Pride in my business, pride in my clients and their success, and pride in myself. I can’t wait to see what wisdom the next ten years will bring…

 

 

 

 

Summer Slump – What Does An Entrepreneur Do With Down Time?

???????????????????????????????????????It seems business can slow down in the summertime, doesn’t it? Not surprising. Many people are busy taking much needed vacations, thus decision makers are out of town and projects slow down or get put on hold. Many businesses, like universities or something similar, even have just a summer crew so everything gets pushed back a couple of months. So if you are an entrepreneur, what do you do if you find yourself suddenly with more time on your hands? You obviously want to keep the clients coming in the door, but if that has slowed down a bit, maybe consider this list to help get you organized, and possibly make more money!

1. Develop an information product

This would be a perfect time to start this process. Information products are so important to an entrepreneur. They establish you as the expert in your field, as well as make you money while you sleep! Even better! Your product could be a book, eBook, journal, webinar, etc. Find a topic you know A LOT about and create a way you can share this knowledge with your target market. Technology has greatly improved over the years, so there are many avenues in which you can get your product to the masses very inexpensively. If you want to get your eBook out there for instance, I recommend BookBaby. They handle all the distribution for you. Want to host some live webinars and have them recorded to replay later? Try AnyMeeting. It has a free service that will let you do just that.

2. Write several months of blog posts

Summer can be a great time to grab the laptop and head outside and start writing. Blogging is one of the number one ways to get people to keep coming to your website – and Google loves fresh content. Sadly, blog articles often get put on the back burner because we are constantly too busy to stay on schedule. So use this time to brainstorm! I challenge you to come up with 6 topics and write about them. Then you can load them into your WordPress website and schedule them to go out for the next six months. What a great use of your time! It furthers your brand and your status as the category authority in your field if you are consistently blogging to your target market.

3. Update your website

Speaking of WordPress, this would also be a good time to look at your website. Websites all to often become stagnant and old. You are so busy working all the time, you forget to make sure your website is still providing what your client – and soon to be clients – needs. If you have WordPress, you can simply choose a new theme and upload it to give yourself a fresh new look. Add a few tweaks to match the them, and walla! You have a whole new website. If you need help with WordPress, MB Tech, Inc. is a great solution. Maybe you just need to go look at all the content and update it. Times and technology change fast – so you need to make sure your content is up to date. What about testimonials? Are you keeping those up to date? Call up past clients and ask them if they would mind sending you a testimonial – that would also keep you in front of them, which is a bonus! When is the last time you looked at the content on your website?

4. Make a vision board

Everyone makes goals and plans their year out in January. So now  you are halfway through the year and have time to sit down and reflect on what you have accomplished so far. Vision boards are a lot of fun. Applying pictures to your dreams can help them feel more like reality. I like to use Pinterest for this. I have my vision board on Pinterest so whenever I see something that I know I want to accomplish, a place I want to go, or just something that inspires me, I pin it there. I encourage to you to check in with your goals, and if you haven’t made one – make a vision board.

5. Catch up on continuing education

If you are like me and love to learn a way to do it better, faster and smarter – and of course make money doing it – then you are always on the lookout for the latest class, workshop or webinar. Sadly, most of the time I am super busy so the continuing education can be put on the back burner. What are some of the things you are wanting to learn more about but have not had the time until now? Sign up for a video series, take a class online or in person, or just maybe buy some books on Amazon you have been meaning to read – and actually read them!

The point is that even downtime can be profitable. Take your talents and gifts, and make them stronger. So when you business picks up again, you can feel good that you used your downtime wisely – and hopefully lined up some extra income in the process.

I want to hear from you! What did you create in your spare time that turned into some income for your business?

 

 

 

The Fear Of Entrepreneurship

10299510_10152195793738030_3707796870501834048_nA good friend of mine recently lost her job. She has been toying with the idea of opening her own business for the last two years, and she is now approaching this topic again. After many conversations, advice and encouragement I was offering, she confessed to me that really she is just plain afraid. I don’t blame her.

My very wise mentor Michael Port once told me: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” He was not kidding. Entrepreneurship is a series of sometimes scary decisions. Fear is what holds people back. Fear is what dictates bad decisions. For some reason, people think they aren’t good enough just because they are afraid. Let me tell you what I know about fear.

It sucks. It cripples you. As an entrepreneur, it can down right destroy your business. But you cannot let it hang out for long, that I know for sure. So as someone who has made a ton of mistakes, and will likely make a ton more as I navigate entrepreneurship, let me tell you how you can handle your fears.

1. Acknowledge what you are afraid of. A lot of people will tend to stick their head in the sand and pretend that everything is fine and it will all go away. Newsflash: it won’t. Take a good look at whatever it is and find out what you are really afraid of.  The unknown is never as scary as the known. So analyze what it is you are afraid of and face it.

2. Get educated. There is a phrase that my best friend (who is also an entrepreneur) and I use all the time: Knowledge is power. A lot of the times, fear comes from thinking you do not know enough. Do your research, get as much information as possible about whatever it is you are afraid of, and then make the best educated guess you can. Worse case scenario is that if you are wrong, now you know one way NOT to do it. Learn from that and move on.

3. You are not perfect. A lot of entrepreneurs hold back because they are stressing over the need to have everything be absolutely perfect. They don’t want to make a fool out of themselves, so consequently they never finish projects because the aren’t “right.” DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. Nobody is perfect. Even you. So finish what you started and if it needs improving you will do so on the second round. Get off the pedestal of perfect and move on!10172852_10152214849715886_856419336822991567_n

4. Keep your eye on the prize. Most people live their lives beholden to employment from others. Some are happy with that, but entrepreneurs want to be in charge. They want to take their passions and turn them into something they get to do every day – and get paid for it. What is your prize? Making your own schedule? Being in charge of when you work and when you don’t? Changing the world? Just like the quote on the picture with this post from Jack Canfield – “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” How far are you willing to go to do what you love? What risks are you willing to take? What fears are you ready to overcome? Sometimes it is easier to accomplish all of these things if you just keep your eye on the prize.

5. Do not wait until the eleventh hour to ask for help. Here we go again with the whole “being afraid to ask for help because we don’t want people to think we are stupid” thing again. Sometimes, the thing you need to accomplish will take a team. Sometimes it is just a simple conversation to help you think through the details more clearly. Just because you are asking for help does not make you incapable. It makes you smarter. It means you are doing your due diligence and rocking Step #2 I just talked about. For goodness sake, find a mentor and ask for help when you need it.

Bottom line, fear is normal – and it is not going anywhere. Ever. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and keep your eye on the prize.

 

As An Entrepreneur, What Should I Delegate and What Should I Do Myself?

shutterstock_157634516I recently wrapped up another Book Yourself Solid coaching session with a client. As is customary when we arrive at the end of the program, my client was feeling very overwhelmed with all of the projects and goals we had made for her. I completely understood her situation and we proceeded to determine what she should do and what she should delegate.

This is an age old problem with every entrepreneur I have ever run into. Everything needs to be done, but it is so easy to let life get in the way and allow things to get put on the back burner. Especially in the beginning. As with most start ups, money is tight and your schedule is even tighter so you find yourself burning the midnight oil to try to get it all done. After all, if someone else is doing it, it will cost you money, right?

Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no, and sometimes not as much as you think.

So with that in mind, here are my tips on trying to figure out what to delegate and what to handle yourself.

1. Make A List Of What Needs To Be Done

Sit down and write all the tasks that need to be done – in your business and in your home – from Accounting to Yardwork. I mean list everything. Even if you think it is a small detail, put it on the list. I found a helpful list online of tasks you can delegate. This list may help you get the wheels turning of all the tasks you need to do if you are having trouble – which I doubt!

2. Pick The Activities That You Like To Do

This one seems silly, but it is very important. The tasks that you actually enjoy doing are more likely to get done before the ones you don’t enjoy. It is just human nature to put off what you do not enjoy. You may also be in a rush to get through those tasks since you don’t enjoy them and the quality may go down. This will show in the long run and can be very detrimental to your reputation. Don’t let the name of your business suffer just because you don’t enjoy a specific task. So put your name next to all the tasks you actually enjoy.

3. Enlist The Help Of Others

This is where is gets tricky. I would start out with looking to family members. There is typically someone in the family that will step in and help with some of your basic administrative tasks for example. Maybe you have children that can be taking on some more responsibility – especially at home – so you don’t need to worry about that. Have you considered an intern? College students are always looking for experience before they graduate, and it is often required as well. Contact your local university to see if they have an internship program in your field.

After you have exhausted the free help options, it is time to start investigating freelance people. There are many virtual assistants out there that can take on a multitude of different tasks including bookkeeping, content writing, social media, etc. Look at your list and start investigating local companies or online freelancers that can take on the more professional tasks for you. Ask your local Chamber of Commerce for help. Look at the people you network with on a regular basis. Below are some I can recommend:

Hire My Mom – made up of women who are currently in between jobs because they are new mothers. They have an abundance of skill sets and work remotely. They can tackle assembling projects, administrative tasks, bookkeeping, you name it.

Kinetic Copywriting - this company will write your blogs for you – which is very important for marketing your business effectively and to keep you current on Google. This is a big one that I see get put to the back burner, and believe me it is to your detriment. If you don’t have time to get your blog done, call them.

MB Tech Inc. – this company builds your WordPress website for you. A lot of people are easily fooled with the ease of use of this software, but then get really caught up in the nuts and bolts of making it work effectively. Before you know it, you have just spent weeks of your time trying to figure out how to get this important piece of your business up and running when you could of have been doing something else that was bringing money into the door.  This service is not as expensive as a whole new website. Check it out.

I know there are many others out there, including me (had to put that in!),  but this will get you going.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Sadly, many entrepreneurs are still just too afraid to ask for help. Some reasons may be money, some are confidentiality, some are just plain fear someone will find out they are not Superman. Trust me, no one thinks you need to be a martyr or a super hero. If you do your homework, you will find reputable, trustworthy organizations or people. If you sit down and take the time to plan out who is in charge of what, it will allow you to do what YOU do best – make money!

So, what do you think? What are some services you have used that you can recommend to others that have really helped your company out? Let’s share them in the comments and help your fellow entrepreneur!

 

Is Facebook Still Worth The Effort?

facebook-moneyI don’t know about you, but there has been an awful lot of fuss lately about changes once again on Facebook. It seems the “algorithm” keeps changing and as a business owner, you have likely seen a dramatic drop in the visibility of your posts. Although I understand this seems very frustrating, I am not really all that surprised. Facebook – at its core – is a business just like yours. They are around to make money, just like you. That is why it just makes me laugh when people get so frustrated when things change on Facebook. It has been primarily free for a long time, and still is by the way, but if you want more, you have to pay to play. It is no different with your business. There is only so much you will do for free, then the customer has to pay if they want more. So if you are whining – STOP. Start asking yourself what will you do about it?

The big question that must be answered first: is YOUR target market hanging out on Facebook? Will it be worth a small investment to have a presence on there. More than likely, the answer is yes since it is still the most used platform. Of course there are other major players like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blah blah blah. But is your target market – the ones with the money to spend on your services – frequenting Facebook? If the answer is yes, than we can have this conversation. So, how much are you willing to pay to play? There really are only three categories to choose from.

I want to stick with using it for free.
Fine. That is your prerogative and decision. So be smart about it. The algorithim has changed. So you have to change with it. Some suggestions I have to get the most out of using Facebook for free are:

  • Check your insights.
    If you are still on the non-updated version of the business Facebook pages, this will be in the upper right hand corner. If not, it is to the left. Click on the word “insights” in the admin panel of your page. Once there, click on “People”. You will see what the age and sex of the majority of your fans are. Interesting, but then click on “People Engaged” right below that. This may be different than the age group of your fans. Find out who is coming to your page, male or female. How old are they? Once you have done that, click on “Posts.” This will tell you the time of day that those people are on Facebook. This is invaluable. If you have been posting first thing in the morning, but this data shows they are on at night, you are doing it all wrong. The insights are there to help you. So use them.
  • Schedule your posts from Facebook. Not a third party.
    I agree, this is a pain in the butt. But the truth is, Facebook wants you to be on their site at all times, not Hootsuite or Sendible or something similar. So try scheduling your posts directly from Facebook. Do it for a couple of weeks. Then check your insights again. Did it make a difference? If so, react accordingly.
  • Post more often.
    Sad but true. If your posts are not viewed as often, than you are just going to have to post more often. But make sure you are posting meaningful content. Remember 80% of what you are posting should be educational and helpful. Don’t constantly post “buy from me” types of status updates. No one likes to be sold to. But everyone like to be educated and inspired. Find great quotes, fun pictures or make your own and link them back to your blog! I cannot stress enough how much you should be blogging anyway for Google to pick up your website, but you can also link them to your Facebook page.

I have a little money to spend.
Awesome. And when I say little, I mean it can be as little as $30 a month. The way to do this is to “boost your post”. There will be a blue button at the bottom right of your post. When you click this button it will give you a bunch of questions to answer. Who is the audience you are targeting? What is your budget? How long do you want this ad to run? Simply answer the questions and off you go. Special note: The only posts you should be putting money behind and boosting are the ones that link back to your website. Ideally to a blog post that has something educational and actionable for them to do. You would be surprised the reach you will get just from spending $30 on a post. Try it and see what reaction you get.

I am willing to invest some advertising dollars.
If you have money to spend, then you should take the time to learn how to set up a proper Facebook Ad Campaign. This can be done just doing a regular ad, www.facebook.com/ads, but if you are investing some big dollars, I recommend using the Facebook Power Editor feature that gives you a lot more options to target the people you are going after. This is more complicated and takes some learning, but you will see great results. If you have no clue what I am talking about, or if you have never used the Power Editor before, I highly suggest getting educated. A great course to learn how to do this is through Socialmouths. They have a great class, Likeable to Profitable that will explain everything step by step with videos. It can get complicated, which is why this is a great course.

The key to this is simply one thing. Test and measure. Track where your clients are coming from, where they spend their time, where they go first to look for the services you offer. What works for you will not necessarily work for someone else. Marketing is a constant state of test and measure, trying to see what works, and then sticking with that until it no longer works and then moving on to something else. If you have any questions, of course you can always just ask me!

So what works for you? What have you been trying lately that is helping you get more business? Post them in the comments!

Who Is Your Accountability Partner?

“Where Your Time And Efforts Go, So Too Goes Your Company”

Held-AccountableHow many of you seem to get caught up in daily life and get pulled in a million directions? Before you know it, the day is over and you have not accomplished half of what was on your to-do list? This is is a pretty normal situation for small business owners. All it seems to take is one phone call or one email to derail the entire day’s agenda. The to-do list just keeps growing because you put things on the back burner that really need to get done.

But the fact of the matter is you have to get all of those things done. You have  to focus on all the tasks at hand – especially the revenue generating tasks. The ones that have the potential to push the business onward and upward. Often these are the tasks that get pushed back the most. They are usually time consuming, and possibly expensive, and sometimes even scary.

I bet you thought that when you went into business for yourself you would never have to answer to anyone. That is simply not true. There is a reason larger companies have a board of directors or some sort of management – the business needs structure and accountability. There has to be a person, or group of people, to be there to nudge you in the right direction when you are not accomplishing the projects that should be your main focus.

But how does one go about creating an accountability plan or finding an accountability partner? I touched on this very topic in my book, Soulmate Proprietors: How To Run A Business With Your Spouse And STAY Married. In the last chapter, I speak specifically about forming your own Board of Directors. This is true of any business, not just ones run by couples. However it also does not necessarily need to be a large group. It could be one or two people. However you decide to set it up, you will want to focus on some key elements:

  • Choose someone or a few people who are not afraid to tell you the truth – no matter how painful.
  • Book at the very least a monthly accountability session with them. 
  • Find someone who has strengths where you have weaknesses so they can guide you where you need the most help.
  • Take a look at the systems that run your business. Are they helpful or disruptive and expensive. 
  • Determine what is not your skill set and either learn what you need to become better – or delegate and MOVE ON!
  • Work with them to establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)
  • Establish a DEFINITIVE timeline AND deadline for those goals. 
  • Create fair consequences for not achieving those goals. Punishment is not necessary – but there are ALWAYS consequences.

Accountability is a must have for every small business owner. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The longer you run from someone holding you accountable, the longer it will take for you to achieve your goals and put your business in the position you want it to be in.  I, personally, have someone who holds me accountable because I practice what I preach. I also provide accountability services for my clients.

What works for you as a small business owner? What are some ways you have inserted accountability in your business?

 

How Are You Using Your Gifts?

SpiritualGiftsGraphicSo last week was the final episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It was funny, entertaining, and even sad at the end when he was saying a very heartfelt and tearful good-bye. I have to admit I was very touched by his closing remarks. The episode itself , as I said, was very entertaining due to the amount of celebrities that turned out to sing a farewell song to him. Compile that with the long list of people who filmed their well wishes from afar, and the many guests that wanted to appear with him one more time before he went off the air, I would say he was well loved and well respected.

But what is he going to do now?

Now I am not spending time obsessing about the goings on of Jay Leno, but if I were him, I would be capitalizing on my gifts, talents and rolodex. He has the ability to reach so many people, and do so much good in the world. What an amazing feeling to have that much power, to know that YOU can make that much of an impact on the world. I was sitting on the couch fussing to my husband; “I really hope he uses his time now to do something good for the world. He has so many connections, business savvy, and a tremendous work ethic, it would be a crime to let it go to waste.”

And then it hit me….we all should be like Jay Leno.

As a woman, no offense guys, I have a tendency to overcommit myself and not say no when asked to do volunteer work. A lot of women have this problem/issue. From a young age, I was brought up to pitch in, help out, give your time. I will admit there have been many instances when I got carried away with that and it took its toll on my family. I have learned through the years when to say yes and when to say no. I have learned to take a step back and really analyze where my strengths lie and what organization would benefit the most from them.

Along the way, I have had many role models. I have stood in awe of the time people give to support new businesses each and every time new doors are opened. I have watched a very dear friend organize and run countless auctions to give to various non-profits in the hopes for doing some good not just locally, but all over the world. (Shout out to Dave Toby!) I have been humbled by watching another organization give tirelessly to help the sick all because of a personal experience they went through with a family member. (Shout out to 3 Little Birds 4 Life. Check them out.) And the list goes on and on.

I, myself, am inspired every year to give my own time. I sit on several boards, participate in non-profit auctions, be an ear to people going through tough times, offering help when I have the ability to do so – or find someone who can. I even contemplated starting my own non-profit after my mother died – true story. That is quite the undertaking, so I decided to support existing ones and give my gifts and talents to them.

So I ask you, how are you utilizing your gifts? It would be a crime to sit back, watch and not get involved when you can do SOMETHING. If you have the ability and the means to donate, great. If you have the ability and the means to run auctions and raise money, fantastic. Or maybe you could give your time making phone calls, organizing mailings, or even simply creating awareness through your social media channels. There are so many ways to give. Find a cause you care about – and jump in to help.

Use your gifts to help others and make a difference. We are all capable in some way. I promise you, it will be worth it. And you never know what will develop from it.

Incentives Vs. Coupons In Your Business – Where Do You Draw The Line?

Discount-CouponAs the new year begins, many business owners start to look at their marketing plans, go over budgets, look at year end numbers, and try to come up with a game plan that will keep people coming in the door.  A common question that comes up when I have marketing conversations with my clients is the topic of incentives. Should you use a “coupon” to get new people in the door? Do you need to give an “introductory offer” to entice them?

This is a very dangerous game to play. The use of coupons and offers can hurt your profits and affect the perceived value of your services. The perceived value of what you do will drop if people soon discover they can get your services cheaper. Discounts are meant to reinforce the idea that the most important thing to consider is price. If you are not in business to be the cheapest offer out there, than a coupon is not for you. Incentives are different. Incentives, when done right, specifically speak to:

Their needs and desires.

Let’s take a look at their needs, specifically their urgent needs. Those are things that they must have right now, usually problems that need to be solved and often things they are wanting to move away from. Their desires are the things they are moving toward. If you address their needs and desires, and then show them the number one result they get from doing business with you, you will will have achieved your goal. Let’s face it, when someone comes looking for the services you provide, they are looking to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Every product or service you offer must have one big promise. You must focus on how to fulfill that promise, thus winning the sale or job.

Now let’s break this down into a simple example. Houlihan’s, a very popular restaurant chain in the United States with 84 locations, has a very simple way of getting people in the door for lunch. It is called “The Nooner.” Simply put, lunch in 20 minutes or it is free. You can read all about it on their website under their menu information. This is a really simple way of giving an incentive, and speaking to the needs and desires of your target market. Houlihan’s caters to the “corporate” crowd in most locations. Typically, these people have only an hour for lunch which includes drive time. They need good food and fast. Houlihan’s has developed a tasty menu that can be prepared quickly, thus enticing people to visit them for lunch. And if they fall down on the job, it is free. There is no coupon. There is no loss of money unless they do not do their job. I will report I have never seen this happen. They get me in and out and on my way. When I worked for corporate America, this was key. I longed for a great place to escape to for lunch, but I had “the man” watching to make sure I got back on time. So I got a great meal for a great price in a flash. They focused on what their target market needed, and met the need. And the results I got were tasty! Better yet, I wanted to go back for more. Even better!

So your job is to be like Houlihan’s. Figure out what your client’s needs and desires are. What is the number one biggest result they get from working with you? Address those concerns and provide a way that they can do business with you that will alleviate those needs and desires, and solve their number one issue and you will not need a coupon. Their incentive is to achieve what you promise they will achieve if they work with you. No coupon required. Trust me, price your services fairly, deliver on the number one biggest result, and they will not care if there was a coupon. And the value of what you provide will speak volumes.

**Author’s note: Houlihan’s has some of the greatest marketing out there. Entertaining, funny, and makes you want to come back. They are doing it right. Check it out on their website.***

Are You Living Your Passion?

DSC_4261When did it become such a crime to do what you love every day?

I have my clients fill out a goal sheet every year and list what they want to accomplish in their business for the following year. Most of the time they just try to figure out ways to increase the status quo – find a way to increase more of what they are currently doing, even if it is not what they want to do. And I say… why? Why are you doing that? Why are you not doing what truly makes you happy?

One of my clients had the guts to literally say what they wanted. And it was eye opening – for both of us. She told me exactly the kind of work she was wanting to do. And it was amazing. When she described it to me she lit up like a Christmas tree. I was so happy for her! She literally said out loud what she wanted to do.

But now comes the scary part…How do you make it happen? How do you find the clients and the work that truly fulfill you. So here are my answers….

Name the organizations/clients that you WANT to work with. Think about how you can help them and then formulate programs, packages, incentives, whatever it is that will BENEFIT them! Think of their needs and desires: what are they wanting to move toward and move away from. List the deep rooted benefits they get when working with you. Then – seal the deal with the number one biggest result they get from working with YOU!

Start with the low hanging fruit. Get in touch with the people you already know and have a relationship with and ask them to make a personal introduction. Email introductions work great as well. Most people are more inclined to trust a recommendation from a friend, so make sure you ask your friends to represent YOU!

Develop a Direct Outreach Strategy. A Direct Outreach Strategy is one where you list the people that you want to get to know and put them on a list of people you want to interact with at least once a month. Get to know them, research them, offer them SINCERE words of praise when they do something great. Become part of their inner circle. Remember: people do business with people they know, like and trust!

I recently read a post from Seth Godin that talks about “Getting Lost On The Shelf”. In this post Seth states:

A friend got some feedback on a new project proposal recently. “It will have trouble standing out on a shelf that’s already crowded.”

The thing is, every shelf in every store and especially online is crowded. The long tail made the virtual shelves infinitely long, which means that every record, every widget, every job application, every book, every website, every non-profit… all of it… is on a crowded shelf.

And the problem with a crowded shelf is that your odds of getting found and getting picked are slim indeed, slimmer than ever before.

Which is why ‘the shelf’ can’t be your goal. If you need to get picked from the shelf/slush pile/transom catchbasin then you’ve already lost.

The only opportunity (which of course, is the best opportunity ever for most of us) is to skip depending on being found on the shelf and go directly to people who care. To skip the shelf and get talked about. To skip the shelf and be the one and only dominator in a category of one, a category that couldn’t really exist if you weren’t in it.

That’s hard to visualize, because it doesn’t match what you’ve been taught and what our culture has (until recently) celebrated, but it’s what’s on offer now.

Shelf space is available to all of us, but by itself, it’s insufficient for much of anything.

That is the last point I want to make: Find your target market and speak to THEM. Find the people that care. Again, if you speak to their needs and desires, address the deep rooted benefits and the result they get from working with you, you will accomplish your goal. Find the people that energize, inspire you, and allow you to do your best work – and you will achieve great success. And speak to them in a medium they will understand: email, social media, video, networking, you name it. It will work if you go to where they get their information.

It takes a lot of courage to draw a line in the sand and say WHO you want to work with.

But I promise – it is worth it.

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