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?
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.
Last week I was at a business conference where the whole purpose was to learn how to make more money. Now obviously, the topic tells you why I was there, but what it doesn’t tell you is what else happened.
I got a swift kick in the pants. I got slapped upside the head. And I knew I would – which is precisely why I went.
Being a business coach, I knew that I needed to get back on track. I knew that I am no different than anyone else who has ever run a business that has fallen victim to focusing on everyone else and not themselves. I am sure it is the same for you. 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. 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. But the truth is: what you resist, persists. What you focus on grows.
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. Most recently, it was the ALL the people at this conference. The presenter, as well as my peers. Pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to look in the mirror.
But how does one go about creating an accountability plan or finding an accountability partner? However you decide to set it up your accountability plan, 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 for every small business owner. Why? Because isolation is the enemy of wealth and success. 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 am thankful this weekend provided me with a swift kick in the behind. I once again have someone who holds me accountable. I also provide accountability services for my clients. It is one of my most favorite things I do.
You know the beautiful thing about accountability? It means you are not alone. It means there are people there to help you.
I would love to help you.
What works for you as a small business owner? What are some ways you have inserted accountability in your business?
When I first started my coaching business almost eight years ago, I have to admit I was crazy scared. Even though I had been running a successful company for the past seven years with my husband, I had my fears and doubts about being as successful with this new branch to our company. Every entrepreneur has doubts and reservations, but what makes a successful one is the one that has the ability to not let the fear prevent him or her from pushing forward. Having been coaching entrepreneurs for the past eight years, I am seeing a trend of the types of fear that tend to hold people back, thus preventing growth and success.
Fear Of Change
I know what it is like to not want to change anything out of fear that something will not work, and thus cost you money. But change is inevitable. You have to roll with it. Let’s take technology for example. The world is moving at such a rapid pace, it is imperative that you move with it so you can remain competitive. Don’t let your website become stagnant and outdated. Invest in your technology infrastructure so it is easy to do business with your target market. Learn the best platform of social media so you can speak directly to your audience and form relationships. All of these things can be frightening. I have seen many a business not want to change their website or infrastructure because they are afraid of possible hiccups. Let me be clear – if you don’t stay up to date, your customers or clients will find someone that is.
Fear Of What Other People Think
This has happened to me multiple times over the years. Let’s take my website for example. I have never really been a fan of my website. I always put together what I thought was the “proper” business site that would attract my target market. Boy, was I wrong. I was stifling my creativity and my personality. And I did it repeatedly. I thought if I did what I wanted, I would scare off would-be clients. I was completely wrong. I finally stopped caring that I was going to upset someone and embraced what I teach my coaching clients: THE RED VELVET ROPE POLICY. RVR, in an extreme nutshell, means you only work with the clients that energize and inspire you, and motivate you to do your very best work. So I changed my website – from top to bottom. I put together a site that I feel will attract the people I am meant to serve. And I could not be more excited about. But it took guts. It took getting over the fear of what other people will think when they see my website for the first time. Some people may not like it at all – and that is OK! I am clearly not meant to work with them. AND THAT IS OK! You are never going to please absolutely everyone, so stop holding back something you are wanting to do out of that fear.
Fear Of Growth
This is a big stumbling block I see with business owners. They want to grow, but are afraid of what comes along with growth. With growth comes greater responsibility, new systems to learn, new employees, new processes and new challenges. It is easy to sit back and maintain the status quo – but that will never get you anywhere. My advice is that you assemble your very own “Business Dream Team.” If you are taking on growth, you need a team. Schedule appointments to talk with your banker, accountant, tech person, whomever you need, and formulate a plan to move forward. Most importantly – have someone hold you accountable to get it done. That is where I see most business owners mess up. They have big plans, know all the numbers, but get side tracked by life or FEAR and never accomplish their goal. Don’t let fear hold you back. If you need help, get help. You can do it.
I spent a lot of years being fearful and trust me – ain’t nobody got time for that! Embrace your fear head on. Maybe you will mess up. That is okay. At least you have learned what not to do. Don’t let your fear of what could happen – make nothing happen.
Last night I was skimming through my Facebook feed one final time before I shut the tech down for the night and came across a particularly poignant post from Elizabeth Gilbert. For those of you who don’t know she is a well-known author, probably best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love, and has recently been on tour with Oprah Winfrey while releasing her newest book, Big Magic. She was talking about how to have more energy in your life. I thought it was a fabulous article that focuses on you as a person, but it made me think: where am I spending all of my energy in my business?
It is so easy to get caught up in what we think we are supposed to be doing. We read articles, blogs, and books. We watch videos and take online classes. We typically listen to whatever catches our eye and spend time coming up with plans based on the latest and greatest promotions and methods. I have a radical idea here.
#1: Stop chasing what everyone says you are supposed to be doing and really evaluate WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
I know you are thinking, how do I do this though? Sadly, there really isn’t a quick and easy answer. I don’t care what anyone says. In order to know what really works for you, you have to come up with a plan of attack based on what you do best and what your target market really is looking for. Develop a marketing plan on how you will educate people that you are the person to give them what they are looking for, and then TRACK AND MEASURE your efforts.
That is why this is not a quick and easy answer. Tracking and measuring takes time. You need to be consistent with your approach and your methods at a minimum of one quarter. You cannot try something once and give up. You have to be consistent with how you are marketing yourself, what you are promoting, and then providing whatever that is. When that is all said and done, you do what is commonly called a “Monday Morning Quarterback” recap where you assess what went right, and what went wrong. Once you have this data, you can make a decision on how to move forward. Then you look at the next step.
#2: Did you enjoy it? Was it fun?
Most entrepreneurs start out with excitement and a fire in their belly because they love what they do. But all too often they get caught up in those latest and greatest ways to promote themselves and they start to loose sight of why they started their business in the first place. Running your own business is supposed to be fun! A lot of work, yes, but definitely fun! If you are finding yourself dreading getting out of bed to go run your business, then the time is now to re-evaluate. Just because one method is working like gang busters for someone else does not mean it will work that way for you. Maybe that method is correct, but you just need someone else to carry it out while you focus on something that YOU love to do. My coach and mentor, Michael Port, often says he wants you to have a mad love affair with your business. He could not be more correct. If you don’t even remember why you became an entrepreneur then it is time to stop the madness and focus on where your energy is going and if it is doing you any good. Again, the only way to know this is to TRACK AND MEASURE, and then have a brutally honest conversation with yourself to determine if you had fun.
So I ask you: what are you spending your energy on while running your business? What can you let go of and do differently? What will make you fall in love with your business all over again?
Helping entrepreneurs get clarity and focus is one of my favorite parts of my business. If you are looking for some guidance and are interested in learning how I can help with customized strategy sessions, contact me today so we can make 2016 your best year yet!
Have you ever wished you didn’t have to do certain tasks in your business? Things you know need to be done, but really don’t enjoy. I am pretty sure that is most of us. Of course, I will always recommend to delegate those tasks you don’t enjoy (or are not good at) and get on with doing something you enjoy that is billable. But as all of us small business owners know, that is not always possible. So very often, we need to suck it up, and just get it done. But then procrastination sets in, and we drag our feet.
But what if we could make it fun somehow?
Recently I had to do some menial tasks for a client that I really did not enjoy. But they needed to get done just to keep the project moving along. They were simple really, but I just did not want to do them. So I made them into a game. How fast could I do it in this case. (It was a bunch of typing). I got the idea from my daughter who is currently in “Computers” class in school, which is basically a typing class. She was talking about all the games they were learning to help them improve their speed. So I thought, hmmmm…. I could do that too! So I did! I was finished in no time and now I could move on to other things.
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun, and SNAP! The job’s a game!” —- Mary Poppins
But it got me thinking – what else do I not like that I can turn into a game?
The above example is simple, but now I am on the hunt to make everything I don’t like a game. So I ask you – what is it you don’t like to do that you can change into a game. Please share it here and let’s help each other have more fun running our businesses together!
I think my next attempt at making something fun will be Quickbooks. 🙂 Probably going to take more than a spoonful of sugar to get that one down, but I am up for the task!