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.
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. 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?
- 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.
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 hand written 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?
We have all heard the expression “content is king”, and that is very true. Producing high quality content to a market that is looking for someone to fix their problem is the key to success. The fastest, easiest and most cost effective way to get in front of your target market is through a blog. Blogging consistently will set you apart from your competitors, but more importantly it will get you noticed in front of your target market for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons YOU should be blogging:
1. To Establish Yourself As The Category Authority
What does it mean to be the category authority? It means you are THE expert. You are the go to person for whatever it is you do in your business. Blogging on various topics that surround your business and what you do specifically will make you stand out. You will be seen as helpful, trustworthy, and someone who knows what they are talking about. So when the time comes to hire someone in your field, people will seek out the best, and you will be easy to find since you are publishing blogs on a regular basis.
Take technology for example. That is a massive topic that has to be broken down into tiny digestible pieces so the Common Joe will understand what is going on. It is also a VERY broad topic that will require many blog posts to address all the questions most people have – especially since technology changes every day. Continuous blog posts that are timely will once again show you are the expert on this topic.
2. For Your Own Continuing Education
In order to remain the category authority, you have to stay up to date on the latest and greatest in your field. By blogging on a consistent basis, you are forcing yourself to continue doing all the research, reading and testing to remain the best in your field. Coming up with quality content for your blog will continue your own education and keep you in the know for all the latest advancements in your field – and you are the one telling the masses first. Win win.
3. To Spread Your Wings
Often times people that are religiously blogging get noticed. When that happens, other opportunities typically present themselves that will give you the chance to spread your message. Bloggers are often hired for speaking events, conference break out sessions, guest blog posts for major blogs and more. Consistently blogging will get you noticed on just more than your own website.
4. It Is Great For SEO
We need all the help we can get when it comes to getting our message seen by the masses. Google loves fresh content. So if your website is constantly being updated, then your chances of getting seen through all the traffic are much greater if Google is seeing a fresh and up to date website on a consistent basis. It is a GOOD thing to be loved by Google! The added bonus comes when your followers start sharing your posts. Good ideas and helpful advice are always shared with friends. If you start showing up all over social media sites with an article that is giving great advice, it will naturally lead people to your website which helps to increase your traffic.
5. You Want To Establish Trust & Credibility
By sharing your knowledge and giving your thoughts, expertise, and advice consistently, over time people will start to know, like and trust you. It is without question that consumers like to do business with people they know, like and trust. But gaining trust takes time, and the amount of money someone spends with your company is in direction proportion to the amount of trust that you have earned. Blogging on a regular basis about topics that fix a problem or soothe a woe will make you remembered and therefore pave the way to future business opportunities.
If you are having trouble coming up with content, have no fear! I wrote a post about four ways to get blog topic ideas, just in case you get stuck! The point is to keep doing it. It will pay off in spades in the long run.
What made you decide to start blogging? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Have you ever considered using video in your online marketing strategy? I use video a lot with my clients, especially when they are trying to show you something they do that is not easily understood with text. It is also a great way to get to know you more.
A lot of people are afraid of video, but trust me – once you get started it is a walk in the park! Just remember, you are not going for the Oscar here. Just be yourself, give quality information to your viewers, and then sit back and relax!
Below I discuss some reasons why you want to use video, as well as what to do with it once you shoot it. Questions? Just contact me!