Business leads are always at the forefront of every business owner’s mind. This is where your website should be doing most of the work for you. How does that work? By offering something of value to your target market. Easier said than done, right? Well, not really. I am honored to share a guest post from Victoria Greene that spells out some simple ways to effectively draw in the people you are meant to serve by implementing business lead magnets into your online marketing strategy. If you have questions, I can help you get started!
A solid lead generation strategy is a critical part of any business plan, yet if you are new to the marketing game, you may find yourself wondering just how your competitors manage to generate so many leads with such consistency.
Happily, the trick to successful lead generation is no eldritch mystery, or closely-guarded secret. All you need are some effective lead magnets to draw potential customers to your website, where you are better positioned to engage and convert them.
There are numerous lead magnets you could try out, but a few in particular are tried and tested strategies that have worked well for many businesses already. That’s not to say you couldn’t come up with something completely different that works just as well…but here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. The Ebook
At some point you have almost certainly come across a business page offering a free eBook or PDF download. Perhaps you even have a few saved for later perusal. The point is, a high quality document, packed with useful and relevant information can do wonders for your conversion rates.
Of course, creating interesting, original content in such a lengthy format can be quite an undertaking, so this strategy is not for everyone. However, it can be a fantastic way to advertise a longer publication, or body of work, or to showcase your knowledge and insights on a particular topic.
Just be careful not to create an unoriginal document, hashed together from recycled material. Not only will this make visitors unlikely to bother with your content in the future, it could discredit your business as a whole.
Image Credit: Screencap from HR Magazine
2. The Freebie
Whether it’s a piece of software, a free trial, or even a complimentary consultation, offering some form of freebie is a great way to get users to sign up on your website. In fact, you can even deliver on this particular lead magnet by advertising free content, such as videos, podcasts, and infographics, which is locked behind a sign-up requirement.
The draw is that your visitors feel like they are receiving something useful and valuable at no cost to themselves. As such, don’t be afraid to state a value for the freebies you are offering, to increase the impression that you are offering something worthwhile. You might want to A/B test a variety of different freebies to see which one is most popular with your target audience.
Image Credit: Screencap from Delicious Magazine
3. The Exclusive Deal
Similar to the freebie, the exclusive deal takes advantage of the user’s curiosity, and encourages them to find out more about the product or service you are offering. Most people can’t resist a bargain, especially when it is backed up by exclusivity marketing.Image Credit: Screencap from The Icelandic Magic Company
Placing a time limit on your lead magnet deals, or placing them behind a mandatory sign-in, gives users the sense that they are one of only a few to benefit from that deal, increasing its appeal. This particular lead magnet can also be used to advertise an upcoming product, or even push early sales, as in the example above.
4. The Webinar
Brand authority counts for a lot, increasing the trust customers have in your business, and even boosting your ranking with search engine crawlers. As such, it is important to ensure that your audience can see that you know what you’re talking about. Better still, you want to be the source they turn to when they have a question about your niche.
Webinars, like this one from Freedive Wire, provide an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, offer helpful insights on a topic, or even to showcase a product. It also enables you to engage more directly with your audience, by adding a level of personality that is absent from written content.
Image Credit: Screencap from Freedive Wire
5. The Case Study
Including case studies on your website is fantastic way to showcase what you do, and give potential customers an insight into your greatest successes. Case studies act as proof of your ability to meet a client’s needs, and to deliver a high quality service in accordance with their specifications.,
By showing off your business’ greatest achievements, you can inspire visitors to sign up for more information or even a consultation. From there, you are in an ideal position to act upon that interest, and secure a new client.
6. The Quiz
Sometimes, a bit of fun can be an effective way to win over your target audience. A quiz or survey is a fantastic means of engaging visitors on your site, and learning a bit about them in the process.
A great example of this can be found at Beardbrand. Their quiz is short and entertaining, providing an amusing description of the user’s beard style at the end. But more importantly, this result is followed up with a range of associated beardcare products.
Interactive elements of this nature are a great way to persuade people to spend a little longer on your site, giving you more time to win them over. And even when these elements are humorous in nature, they can still be used to offer a more personalized user experience, and to drive targeted sales.
Fun content like quizzes are especially useful for product-based businesses and can be used as part of your ecommerce advertising campaigns. Just make sure that your online store has robust content features, or use a plugin like WPQuiz to automate the process.
Image Credit: Screencap from Beardbrand
7. The Cheat Sheet
If you like the idea of an ebook, but don’t have the time or resources to put together something of that length, you can do just as well with shorter-form content, such as a cheat sheet or swipe file.
The reason this type of content makes such a successful lead magnet is that it is generally quick and easy to digest. This means the on-the-go communities within your audience can benefit from your knowledge and insights, without having to sit down and pore over a lengthy document.
Cheat sheets provide clear, concise, actionable information, in a streamlined and attractive format, making it a solid choice for many businesses when planning their in-house content strategy.
Image Credit: Screencap from Cravings Crusher
8. The Toolkit
With a little extra work, instead of providing a single ebook, or cheat sheet, why not compile a few helpful pieces of content into a toolkit? You can even include some existing resources or repurposed content. As long as the whole provides more value than its individual parts, you don’t necessarily need to start from scratch.
Take a look at this offering from Live Your Legend; they offer a collection of four PDFs and two posters, providing a range of insights on becoming an entrepreneur. All they ask in exchange is for readers to join their online community.
Image Credit: Screencap from Live Your Legend
Local online lead generation is often far more effective than equivalent offline strategies, so it is absolutely worth putting some time and thought into developing some effective lead magnets on your website.
It can take time to get the ball rolling, and unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to acquiring leads. As such, you will need to weigh up the above suggestions, and your own ideas, against the specific needs of your business and its target audience. Furthermore, when you settle on an option, it is important to be patient, and give it time to work before simply moving on to another strategy.
Always remember to keep an eye on the backend data for your website, so you can see which strategies are working best for you, and continuously optimize your lead generation tactics in order to get the best possible results for your business.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on how brands can improve their reach by making the most from their marketing strategy.
When I am coaching my clients on marketing their businesses online, the one thing that they voice the most frustration over is coming up with blog topic ideas. They are constantly coming up with reasons why they cannot think of any topics. I realize this is hard, and often struggle with the same problem. But blogging is VERY important. Did you know that nine out of 10 companies now sue some form of content marketing to attract leads. It is no surprise. Even Facebook’s recent algorithm changes are pushing businesses to focus on quality content.
Not only does quality content help with your social media, it helps your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), AND it establishes you as the category authority in your business or field. If you are blogging constantly, people will remember that you are the go-to person on that subject when they need to hire someone. It also establishes great relationships and builds your tribe.
But enough about why – we all know we need to do it. But what do you do when you are stuck? I recently came across a great article that highlighted eight different blog topic generators for blog post ideas. I looked through all of them and picked out my favorites below, but I encourage you to read the entire article because it was very informative and helpful.
1. HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator
HubsSpots Blog Topic Generator wants you to enter three different nouns and then it will come back to you with five different topics that will get your mind working. The best part, you can enter the same three nouns again and hit enter and will give you five more ideas if you don’t like the first round!
I put in networking, online and offline. Check out the topics they gave me! I will definitely be using this tool again. How easy was this?
2. Portent’s Content Idea Generator
If the thought of three words is more than you can handle, then Portent’s Content Idea Generator is for you. It DOES NOT get any more simple than this. You only have to enter one keyword and then let her rip. This one is actually a little more entertaining since it gives jokes along with the titles. I entered the word “blogging” and this is what it gave me:
As with before, if you don’t like what they first suggest, you can enter the same word again and give it another try. Don’t be afraid to try similar words.
3. Link Bait Title Generator
Link Bait Title Generator is not flashy at all but gives the most topic ideas in one sitting that I have seen. It gives titles and ideas that focus the gamete of informative, controversial, or just plain fun to read suggestions. I simply entered “blogging” and look what I got. My screen shot could not even fit all the suggestions!
What’s else is helpful with this tool is if you click on their logo, you will be taken to other tools that will help with the content portion like the Hashtag Finder option. This will help you find an already current and trending hashtag to put in your posts that will help with your SEO and share-ability on social media.
This is for the people that are wanting to dive in a little deeper. If you are wanting to see what your competition is doing, or what the most popular existing articles are on the topic you want to write about, you can use the Buzzsumo tool. You can enter in your topic and it will tell you what is getting the most attention: like how many Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ shares. You can also play around with the filters on the side to get more specific information on your topic. This is really helpful if what you are blogging about is in a crowded space and you want to stand out with your article. Below I am showing what I got when I entered: blogging ideas for small businesses.
This one will find a ton of possible keywords or phrases fro your next blog post. You simply type in your topic or some keywords that pertain to your industry and off you go! It is a free tool from the Neil Patel group. I suggest checking out their website. They also have some free tools you can use for SEO and a cool A/B testing calculator.
Final Thoughts On Blogging
Don’t drag your feet coming up with ideas. We are already in February! Make your blogging calendar today. It is so much easier to sit down and write about something when you know what your topic is rather that have to figure that out first before you even start the writing process. Yes, planning takes some time but you will be so happy when it is all finished and then you simply produce the article. Need help? That is why I am here! Contact me about sitting down and getting your 2018 Marketing Calendar all set during a 90 Day Plan session. We can also discuss my DONE FOR YOU Program!
How 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 that don’t have an accountability partner. 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? In the past when I am asked to speak for organizations, I have explained to my audience specifically about forming your own Board of Directors. This is true of any business, not just small ones. 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.
As entrepreneurs, the end of the year or the beginning of the year is typically the time you re-evalutate what is working and what is not. You think of trying something new and you get excited about new prospects, or say good-bye to what didn’t quite work out the way that you wanted. If you are like me, you probably have a million ideas in your head about what to do next and can get what is commonly called “analyzation paralyzation.” Don’t let this happen to you. Call me today so we can get you on the road to achieving your goals.
Every business should be working on their audience-focused marketing strategy for 2018 if they have not done so already. Gone are the days when you just relied on spitting out some information pertaining to your industry filled with keywords you think that people are using during their searches. You must up your game if you are going to reach your audience in a meaningful way, and then convert them into sales. So let’s start at the beginning:
Who Is Your Target Market?
Specifically. The more specific the better. Then ask yourself, “What is their woe? What is their pain point?” Typically your target market has urgent needs – things they are trying to move away from. They will have compelling desires – things they are trying to move toward. Now take that information and tell them the #1 biggest result that you provide that will address these issues and partner it with the benefits that it will give them.
Set Your Goals
Start at the end and work your way backwards. Do you want to increase leads? Is there a specific dollar amount you have in mind as it pertains to sales? Are you wanting to increase YouTube followers, blog subscribers, social media followers? Once you know what it is you want, this will allow you to create better quality content that has a more specific call-to-action, thus helping you achieve these goals.
Develop A List of Potential Topics Your Target Market Is Interested In
Brainstorm time. Once you dive in and figure out their urgent needs and compelling desires, it should be easy to come up with a list of topics that you know your audience cares about. A great tool that can help you is HubsSpots Blog Topic Generator. This handy tool wants you to enter three different nouns and then it will come back to you with five different topics that will get your mind working. The best part, you can enter the same three nouns again and hit enter and will give you five more ideas if you don’t like the first round!
Do A Keyword Search
Yes, this is still important. People are still using search phrases to find you. But again, do go it alone. A great free tool to use is Ubersuggest.io. Just type in your keyword and this handy tool gives a ton of ideas to choose from.
Create A Calendar So It Makes Sense
What I mean by this is that certain topics may make more sense depending on the time of year you are sharing them. This post, for example, would not make as much sense if I had ran it in May. HubSpot offers free editorial calendar templates for you to use. You can also go extra simple and just open a spreadsheet. Don’t make your life any harder than it needs to be.
Get It Done
You’ve got your topics, you’ve got your keywords, and you’ve got your timeframe. Now sit down and write! Not a writer? Hire one. Seriously, stop dragging your feet and stop whining about it. Don’t waste time on something that is not your strong suit. Share your research with a great copywriter and spend your time elsewhere. Don’t let the writing part hold you up.
Track Your Success
I wrote an entire article on this topic called, If You Don’t Track, You Don’t Have Jack. If you are not testing and measuring, or paying attention to what is resonating with your audience, then everything you are doing here is just a complete waste of time.
Diligently working on an audience-focused marketing strategy will not only help you convert people into customers, it also helps your SEO since you are providing quality content out there on the internet. So this is a win win. Get started – because there is still time. 2017 isn’t over yet! If you need help – I am happy to help you!
My mind has already been on 2018. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2017 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on for my marketing content for 2018.
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!
But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? One resource is from Authority Hacker entitled 13 Creative Ways To Find Blog Post Ideas.
Another list I will highlight my favorites from is a great resource called 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. Shark Tank is one of my favorites!
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?
For those of you that need your memory jogged, a QR code (Quick Response Code) is a type of barcode or label that contains information about what it is attached to. QR Codes have been around since the 90’s, but have never really taken off in the United States. Up until now, it was perceived as a bit of a pain to use them since it required a third party app to scan them. Most people will not take the time to open a separate app to scan a code. I am completely guilty of this. I know, how lazy is that, right? Well now you don’t have to any more thanks to Apple.
With the release of their new iOS 11, you can now use your built-in iPhone camera app to scan a QR code, which will take you directly to where the QR code wants you to go – no more third party app required! Given how popular iPhones are, this suddenly makes the use of QR codes much more feasible for companies looking to share information with mobile phone users.
So this begs the question: will more companies now start taking advantage of the technology of the QR code? I certainly think they should! So here are some suggestions that business owners can use to utilize QR codes to market their business or products.
- Direct Mail Piece. It is so hard to squeeze all the info you want onto a postcard or brochure, isn’t it? Instead, you can put a fancy QR code on that piece that will give your target market all the information they need without the restrictions of space. Simply put the QR code on the postcard with a few nuggets and a call to action and you are good to go.
- Utilize Video. Have your QR code take them to a video on your website that is either informational or instructional. Everyone loves video and a quick “how to.” Or, if you are trying to promote a product or an event, this is the perfect way to do it. Have the QR code open to a video with you personally inviting them.
- Promotional items. I have seen where companies put QR codes on their promo items. Maybe consider a t-shirt or mug or something that has plenty of space to display it. Then that will take them to your website where they can learn more about you!
Two quick things to mention. If you are going to utilize QR codes, make sure they have an email capture form so you can get their information. They are obviously tech savvy, so you want to grab their email so you can keep in touch. Also, wherever the QR code is sending them MUST be mobile friendly. Nothing is worse than not being able to read or see the content on your mobile device. Over 90% of information consumed is on a mobile device, so make it a pleasant experience. If you need help with any of these things, don’t hesitate to ask!
So, does this new technology have you wanting to give QR codes another try? What do you think? Leave me a message in the comments!
Starting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a Business State of the Union.Our company had been growing since its inception in 1997, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or to my husband if something were to happen to either one of us. Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.
But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you? Who has access? Where are the passwords?
Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. I am on my 8th year of doing so, and remind everyone annually at this time. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.
Step One: Collect all the data.
- Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works? A common one that comes to mind is Quickbooks.
- Social Media – As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login. There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
- Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc. where you can log on to the email?
- Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
- Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
- Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
- iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.
I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.
Step 2: Where To Store It
Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. We use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.
Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.
Last year I even placed everything “in order of importance” to the best of my ability, just to make it easier on my executor.
My husband and I have placed our SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to us both, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a printed copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.
Step 3: Update on an annual basis.
For us, that just happens to be every August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes us less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.
The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge.
So how many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?
It is easy to get stuck in a rut with your systems or processes while running your business. All to often do I see business owners with the mindset “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But that is not wise for entrepreneurs. The world we live in is nothing but constant change. There will always be a new program, new app, new service that could possibly be serving your better, or maybe even saving you money. I just finished reading a great article that got me inspired to double check some of my processes. This in turn got me thinking – what else could maybe be improved? I have pulled together a list of six things that you should check on that you may not have investigated in a while that could improve productivity AND profitability.
When is the last time you went really took a good hard look at your website? When is the last time you changed the content? When is the last time you had someone reach out to you based on your website? If you can’t remember the answer to any of the above questions, this one definitely needs to be a priority. So much has changed with website platforms, SEO, mobile optimization, and lead generation. Websites are so much easier to manage now, and the old SEO rules definitely no longer apply. (Check out 18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind from Hubspot – GREAT suggestions to help get you started on this front.) Your website is definitely your first impression – so make your first impression your best. Call your web guy to start a refresh. If you don’t have one, I recommend this guy.
Server vs. Cloud
It used to be that small businesses had little choice when it came to centralized data storage or application sharing. They had to buy an expensive server and pay someone to maintain it. Then every few years buy a new one and start over. The reality was that most small businesses would hold on to a server for many years past the time it should have been replaced – and they would not pay to have it maintained anywhere near as much as they should have! The great news is that with mobile devices and cloud technologies, the need for small businesses to maintain a server of their own has been significantly reduced. Many small businesses that do fairly standard “office” tasks with their technology are great candidates to retire their old server and take advantage of a variety of cloud-based services that can offer many advantages to even a brand new server. If your business has an in-house server sitting lonely in a closet somewhere, it is highly recommended that you review the functions that server provides and evaluate if certain cloud services can be a safer and more cost-effective option for you.
FYI, technology has moved very fast and a lot has changed in the last several years, so don’t dismiss cloud services out of hand. A lot of misinformation gets shared by people who simply are repeating what others told them – and it’s often outdated and/or no longer relevant. Seek out qualified advice from a technology professional who is fluent in the many cloud technologies available. There are IT firms out there who are behind the times themselves and will still recommend servers to small businesses that would do better without one.
There are a lot of CRM programs out there. In the beginning, they were all very cumbersome and hard to set up since you had to put a lot of work into the set up. Truthfully, a lot of small businesses don’t even really need all the functions they provide, and you end up spending a lot of money on a program that you only use a fraction of. Based on your need and the size of your business, I recommend checking out this article which covers pricing, features, and the type of support provided for small business, very small business, what is free, and what is best for start-ups. I also found this article helpful, and showcases even a few I did not know about. Personally, I find a lot of usefulness out of using Trello, which is also free.
When is the last time you updated the look and feel of your newsletter? Is it still the same template that you started with years ago? While continuity can be a GREAT thing in many cases, you also need to be up with the times when it comes to visual design. People are really drawn to images and video. Take a look at your newsletter template and see if you think it really grabs the end user like it used to. You don’t want people to just scroll past something – you want to catch their attention.
Credit Card Processor
So much has changed in the credit card industry over the last 10 years. The mobile device revolution spurred a variety of mobile card processing services such as Square. It is now almost trivial for any small business to process credit cards. The reality is that customers look down upon those businesses that do not, so it is in the best interest of a company to make sure they can take credit cards – even if they only run a few per month. The question, however, is which credit card processor to use? Traditional credit card processors have some overhead costs that the newer generation of processing services do not. However, the per-transaction costs of the newer services are higher and eventually those fees add up to cost more than a traditional processor would. So what is a business to do?
The best advice is to find a person you can trust to give you good information regarding credit card processing. There is usually a fairly defined break-even point for most businesses where the fee structure of a traditional processor starts to save them money. Additionally, the costs associated with a processor can fluctuate over time so it is a good idea to make sure your current processor is still offering competitive rates. A trusted credit card professional can evaluate your costs and advise you if you should stick with who you have or look at another processing company. Ask around your area to find someone trustworthy, or if you need help, I can offer some referrals to trusted professionals my company uses.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and not think about the next level. When is the last time you sat down and mapped out the next 90 days of what you wanted to accomplish in your business? Last month I sent an email out to my list promoting my 90 Day Plan that I teach my clients – and more importantly hold them accountable to. Typically this should be done quarterly – but I say it is never too late to make a plan. So what it is mid July. It is never too late to map out a plan, set goals, examine processes to achieve those goals, and have someone help you stick to it. I encourage you to do it, and if you need help, please call me!
These are just the first six that popped into my head, also some that I have witnessed for myself from some other businesses. I am sure there are many more. So think about it – what systems or processes do you need to take a look at? What have you not paid attention to lately that you should? I highly recommend giving your business a tune up. You never know how much money AND time you could be saving.
I had a meeting with a new client this week to discuss leaving her job to open her own agency and become an entrepreneur. In the midst of all her excitement, the only glimmer of fear I saw was when she was asking if I would help her learn how to promote herself when she was talking to people. The answer is of course, but how will I do that? By teaching her to have a real conversation with someone that will have substance, sizzle and soul. What in the world is substance, sizzle and soul? What does that have to do with running a business?
To understand substance, sizzle and soul, let me introduce you to a new mindset. Years ago I was awarded a great opportunity to work with Dr. Kathy Cramer. Kathy was the founder of ABT Action Coaching, which stands for Asset Based Thinking. This type of thinking helps you change the way you see yourself – so you can change anything. By transforming the way you see your own influence and thoughts, you can improve your leadership and your performance exponentially. Incorporating ABT into EVERYTHING you do with your business will help you move farther and faster to your goals. This is a technique that every entrepreneur should employ in their day to day tasks. A big piece of ABT mindset is learning all about your substance, sizzle, and soul, and how it relates to you spreading your message, and therefore closing more business.
According to research, your potential client or audience member will know in the first 20 seconds if they like you or not. That’s right. You have twenty seconds. If you have not grabbed their attention in some way, then you really have your work cut out for you moving forward. So you need to make your message count. Start to follow these steps when you are out networking or trying to close a deal with a potential client:
- Substance – What is your message in one sentence? What do you want to happen? Your substance is essentially the basic content of what you say, meaning facts or steps to take. This should be short, and very easy to understand. It should let people know exactly who you help and what you help them do. It’s that simple.
- Sizzle – How will you engage? How will you make it happen? Your sizzle should have some vivid sensory detail. It should resonate with your audience so they start to believe in you and trust you. It should be the part of spreading your message that makes you memorable.
- Soul – Why is this so important to me? What will be the significant difference this will make? This is the part where people start to assess your integrity and credibility. Clients will start to identify if they connect with you on some emotional level.
Another way to look at this method is what I learned from my training as a Book Yourself Solid Coach and it is called your “Who and Do What Statement” and the “Why You Do It” statement. Who and Do What should be perfectly clear – anyone should understand it. Your Why You Do It is your opportunity to connect with them on a personal level to establish trust. These are all key elements when you are speaking to people.
So whether you are on stage selling yourself, working the room at a networking event, or you are sitting across the table one on one with someone, you have to structure your message with substance, sizzle and soul.
Are you going to be amazing at this right out of the gate? No. This is going to take a lot of practice. Focus on the steps, but at the same time speak from your heart. When you are coming from a place of authenticity, you will begin to attract the people you are meant to work with. Isn’t that really what this is all about anyway?
Do you remember your first job? My daughter went on her first job interview yesterday and it has started an avalanche of memories of where I was, and what my first “real job” was when I was her age. My friends have all chimed in as well, recounting the crazy things they did to earn a buck – all before technology really existed for most people.
As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, she has never known what life was like for her father and I when we were not business owners. We started our company full time when she was a baby. She has grown up knowing the lingo of the entrepreneur. Client meetings, networking events, customers coming and going to pick up their computers, this is all very normal to our kids.
But the truth is: entrepreneurship really did not kick in for me until my late 20’s. I had a lot of jobs including waitressing, telemarketing, secretarial, government, corporate, retail, grocery store, and I was even a chiropractic assistant. It’s not that I was a job hopper for no good reason, but that I was constantly in search of what was going to make me happy. What was going to make me be excited to get out of bed for every day? What would motivate me so much that I would spend money, time and energy to do it?
That’s the rub, isn’t it? What would I say to her? How do I counsel her on this? So I made a list of all the things I learned throughout my many jobs and throughout my youth that I wish someone would have told me.
Intern or shadow someone. If you are truly interested in doing something for a living, no matter what it is, go find someone who is doing it right now. Get to know the industry, the clients that come and go, the exciting tasks and the mundane tasks. Dig in while you are young and can see without bias or the pressure of making money. It will save you later if you find out that this is not something you want to spend the rest of your life, or a good portion of it, doing. The last thing you want is to spend your first two years in college majoring in something you hate. That is the mistake I made.
Are you good at it? So what. Just because you are a really good at something, doesn’t mean that is what you need to build your career around. I am really good at a lot of things, but I don’t necessarily enjoy them. Don’t get pressured into taking a job that you will eventually hate that will kill your spirit.
Ask a million questions. Don’t be afraid. People love to talk about themselves and what they do. Ask friends, family, neighbors, whomever. Interview a wide variety of people.
Don’t be afraid of risks. I took the easy road a lot of the time out of fear. What a waste of time. You are young. Take risks. If you hate it, you move on.
Don’t let your age hold you back. You are so lucky the Internet is what it is today. Kids today are becoming millionaires on YouTube doing what they love. And that is awesome! You are coming from a place where the world is your oyster and all you need is a good smart phone and Internet access to make a name for yourself. You are never to young to make money.
Buy your name’s URL. This is just good advice. Thought I would add it.
Surround yourself with people that know more than you. This is really the only way to grow and learn. If you are not learning from people you are around, it is time to move on.
As I put this list together, it occurred to me that this is also the list for anyone who wants to start their own business. Every single point applies to that scenario as well. Isn’t that funny? That the very thing we are trying to teach our kids about following their dreams we should be doing ourselves? I’m just going to let you take that in for a moment…..
So it is with great hesitation and also great pride that I push my baby bird from the nest and let her test her wings. But if you find yourself wanting to open your own business, and you need someone to give you a little push from the nest, give me a call.