Tip of the Week: Stop Answering Your Phone!

Phone calls are such a distraction! Some days I feel like there is NO WAY I will every get anything accomplished while my phone rings non-stop.

I have two quick tips to help lessen the phone call distraction.

1 – Who said that we have to be reachable 100% of the day? No one. Remember when we didn’t all have mobile phones? We had answering machines, and people waited patiently for us to get home, press play on the tape (yes, tape) and call them back – at our convenience.

Guess what? You still have this handy option, it’s now called voicemail! Feel free to turn that phone off for a few hours and get some of those projects done. When you turn that phone back on, listen to your voicemails and make the return calls, at your convenience. No one will know the difference, and you will be much more productive and efficient.

2 – I realize that many you have to answer the phone, as per your business model (i.e. you are a plumber and those phone calls are your bread and butter). Don’t worry, I have 2 solutions for you, too!

A – Only answer the phone for caller ID numbers that your don’t have plugged into your contacts. Those are going to be the new clients. When your best friend, mom or colleague calls, let it go to voicemail and get back to them at a more convenient time for you. Trust me, if it’s an emergency, they’ll call you back more than once.

B – Hire an answering service! These services are very affordable. They answer your incoming calls and filter them according to the guidelines you provide. Such a time saver!

Recap: Use your voicemail!

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The Glorious Goal Tree

I often find that people (including myself) create goals so lofty they seem unobtainable. I don’t want to stop you from shooting for the stars, instead, I want to give you a few techniques to help you conquer your dreams.

The Glorious Goal Tree

business_coaching_goal_tree_modern_elixir

Go ahead and make that impressively huge goal. But don’t set a deadline quite yet. Let’s start by breaking it into smaller pieces. What are the 3 or 4 big necessities that must happen for you to succeed?

Now break those down into steps. And again. Try to break each piece down so you only have to accomplish one small task to give yourself a gold star. As your break them down, assign a deadline.

Timeliness is crucial to to your accomplishment. If these are tasks that you truly expect to complete, you must give yourself a deadline. Better yet, schedule them into your calendar right now!

As you hit these little goals, you’re going to have a huge confidence boost and your momentum is really going to get rolling.

 

Execute While You Plan.

Planning an event? Start with a check list.

Separate them into sections of like items.
Food
Audio/Visual
Presentation
Invitations
Etc.

Then start compiling all the pieces you will need for each piece of your event. Plan for everything. Secondary audio options, vegetarian dishes, microphones, welcome gifts, email lists- everything down to extension cords and pens.

If you have help, assign out entire sections, make it s team effort (you’ll be less stressed).

More importantly than planning early, execute early. Don’t wait till the day of the event to pick up the decorations, go get them as soon as you have a free moment. There will be plenty of other last minute details, so you’ll be glad you did.

Organize your supplies before you get there. I like to use boxes that have everything neatly organized with the most crucial set up pieces on top. At the end of the event, I can just throw everything back into the box and organize it in the morning.

Take advantage of return policies. Not sure if you’ll need 2 or 3 extension cords? Buy 3. If you don’t use it, return it. If you do use it, it may be worth holding on to for your next extravaganza.

Need audio or video equipment? If you’re not sure how to use this stuff, ask your event sight if they will have someone available to help you. If not, head over to your nearest rental place and have them show you how it works. I recently used Diamond Rental. If they’re in your area, take advantage! They will walk you through anything!

Remember to start planning and executing at the same time. There’s no reason to wait till the last 48 hours to pull it together. 

Happy Planning!

 

Oh, The Hat’s We Wear.

As a business owner (or even a manager) we tend to wear all the hats- or at least most of them. From manager to marketer, HR to customer service. It can get overwhelming. Sometimes we need a little help.

I’m not recommending that you drop what you’re doing and post a help wanted sign or ad in the classifieds. What I am telling you is that there is way to make wearing all of the hats a little easier to manage. And someday, when you are ready to hire, you will be prepared with a job description, payroll costs v. value and an idea of the type of person you are looking for rather than general ‘help’.

Every time you start a project or task, take a quick moment and decide which ‘hat’ you are wearing. Start making a list of all the hats and which tasks you do while wearing that hat. What you are doing is defining the responsibilities of that position.

The Marketing Coordinator Hat may have a list that contains mailer for holiday sales and Facebook page updates. The Customer Service Hat would have answer phones, balance till and greet customers.

Creating these lists are going to do two things for you.
1- You are going to be able to be more productive throughout the day. Since you are doing tasks of the same nature, you won’t be spending the extra time changing hats.
2- When you are ready to hire some help, you already have clear job descriptions. If you need a part-time person but don’t have enough administrative work, look at your other hats that you wear and see if you can combine the job duties into 1 position. Maybe look for someone that can also take care of your marketing or be able to manage merchandising as well.

“Spend time working on the business, not just in the business.”

Retro Business Fashions are IN!

I first want to clarify that I’m not talking about parachute pants, body suits or shoulder pads (though I’ve heard that all of these things are making a come back). I’m talking about shaking hands, eye contact and listening.

As we become more and more submersed into the digital age, (like many) I personally find myself consumed with keeping with Facebook, Twitter, SEO and the like. However, there’s nothing quite like a good ‘ole personal interaction.

I know it my sound ‘retro’ or ‘old fashioned’, but truth be told, making the connection is what counts, no matter what the medium. And there’s no better way to make a connection than to have a verbal conversation. Whether it’s over the phone of in person. The nuances of speech and the body language portrayed during personal interactions are priceless. Knowing whether or not your customers is smiling, nodding, or even looking at you, allows you to reach them in ways that Facebook and Twitter just can’t do.

I’m not saying that you should forget this limitless technology, I’m telling you to pick up the phone, go introduce yourself to the office next door, take a client to lunch, hand out your business card after you’ve chatted a stranger up at the deli (you know, those 2×3.5″ pieces of paper with your name and logo on them). Make a connection- in person, follow up with a phone call, you’ll be amazed at the results.

Money-Makers v. Money-Drainers

I’ve heard that Making Money is why most of us go into business. Whether we’re starting our own, backing someone else, or changing careers. It’s a silly little rumor, so I understand if you don’t believe it… But it’s true.

Unfortunately, many of us are not only plagued with to-do lists (see my post on managing that), we also have a slew of tasks that probably aren’t making money. For example, checking your email is usually dealing directly with clients or business connections is considered a money-maker. Cleaning your product shelves, carrying business cards, networking at the coffee shop or even getting your new eye-glass prescription can all be considered money-makers.

Money-drainers are the things that aren’t tied to your bottom line. Checking your Facebook every few minutes, even if it’s your business page is not productive. Yes you will probably need to post a few times per day, but wait and reply to comments or messages till then. If you like to snack throughout the day, bring your snacks to your desk, don’t walk to the break room every hour.

There are lots of extra things we do in a day that are ‘money-drainers,’ take a few minutes and recognize the ones you do, then stop doing them.

Throw out the Markers!

Take a moment and say goodbye to any and all handwritten signs throughout your place of business.

Specifically, I’m talking about the ones that are customer facing (there are some exceptions to the rules, coffee shops and restaurants that list their specials daily may be considered exempt, though quality and craftsmanship of the signs matter).

Let’s use an example: the common “no checks” sign sitting near the register (or even on the entrance door). There is more to this message than meets the eye.

1- No Checks. It’s pretty simple, everyone understands the message, but maybe there is a better way to get your message across. Try “We accept Cash and Cards.” The message is the same, but there is a positive twist- which is always welcomed.

2- When it’s handwritten you lose some of your business cred. Your place of business and everything in it is a direct reflection of you and your product/service. How much you care and how much value you place on your product. If your own portrayal isn’t quality, what are your customers going to think?

Get to the office supply store and pick out a ream of paper that matches your brand. Maybe it’s a bright assortment of florescent card stock, maybe it’s a nice gray linen, it doesn’t matter to me- but it does matter to your image.

Blow the dust off the printer and type out the message. Give it some formatting- centered is usually easiest, and pick out a font that is EASY to read. Stop using ‘Brushscript MT’ and ‘Edwardian Script’ and anything similar (go look them up in your word processor, you’ll see why).

Wait! Don’t print yet! Do you really need a whole 8.5×11 paper to get your message across? Will a 1/2 sheet or 1/4 of a sheet due? If so, than do it! Use the paper to print 2 messages (or 2 of the same) and cut in half. Post it in two different places or save on for later to replace the old one when it gets worn out.

Yes. Replace the old one when it gets worn out. Dirty, torn signs are just as detrimental as handwritten ones. Keep it fresh, clean and updated!

Mantra: Givers Gain (in the real world)

I’d like to give a shout out to all of the visitors that attended the Wasatch Chapter of BNI’s network event this morning. The amount of talent and energy was palpable. I was impressed by the professionalism throughout the room!

The term “Givers Gain” is not just a saying, it’s a way of doing business. Today’s event is an example. I did not once sell my services. In fact, I barely talked about what I do. Instead, I listened to what each person did and what they needed for their company. In most cases, I’m not the one that can help them. Instead, I handed out business cards and contact information for many others who fit their needs better. I also collected a few business cards for services that I could use.

While I didn’t gain any business directly from the people a spoke with today, here is what I did do…

By giving away information, I not only helped those seeking the information, but I handed warm business to those that I know directly and trust.

What will I get? Most likely, I will receive a referral later from the person I sent business too. It’s also quite possible that I will be contacted again when another referral is needed. I still might not be the right person for them, but I have a vast network of people that are. And it’s good to know that I was top of mind when someone is in a bind.

Good luck in your networking endeavors!

Spend $$ to Make $$$$

We’ve heard it before. “You have to spend money to make money.”

It’s true, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste money! As you start your next quarters marketing strategy (I’m thinking Christmas?), keep a few things in mind. It will help you stay on the right track with your effort, outcomes and budget.

1. Demographics

That’s right, what’s your demographic? Who are you trying to reach? Where do they live, work and play? How old are they? Do they have kids?

You have to know your target before you can appeal to them. I’ve talked about this before. If you need a brush up, check out 50/60/70/80.

2. Product v. Value

What are you selling? This can be a product or a service. More importantly that the product, you need to be able to explain and show the value. Why does your demographic want what you are selling?

Once you have pinpointed the answer– sell the value. It’s truly the only thing that separates you from your competitor.

3. Voice

How are you going to reach your clients? Mail, email, web, TV, radio, etc.? Knowing your audience will help you make this decision. How you choose to contact your ideal customer is crucial. Spending thousands on a magazine ad is silly if your ideal customer is age 21-35, drinks coffee regularly and has a smart phone- just sayin’.

How you choose to contact them is going to reflect directly on your business and its vibe. Your advertising is essentially your voice. Yelling through a loudspeaker on a busy street might be exactly what you need. Maybe you need to sponsor a local event or school, maybe an old fashioned newspaper ad is more attune to your demographic. Do the research to find out.

4. Execute

Even the best plans are unsuccessful without execution.

Once you know what you’re going to do. Do it.

Don’t put it off- get it done, now. Set yourself a deadline. If you don’t have the time, find a company near by that does. Spending an extra couple hundred may be well worth the time you don’t have. If someone else can do it for you and do it better, than it’s usually worth the extra money.

5. Track Results

Sending a mailer to every resident within 5 miles doesn’t matter if you don’t know how many of your customers are here because of that flyer. You need to know how effective your efforts were. You need to know why they came in and keep them coming back.

So ask them. I mean right there, at the register ask “Did you get our mailer last week?” “Wonderful! If you would like to add your email to our list, we’ll send your our monthly offers.”

 

Plan well, plan effectively and execute.

Making Your Flyer Count

I frequent the coffee shop in one of the retail areas near my house. They have a community bulletin board that is littered with flyers and business cards. I’ve noticed it a few times, however, I don’t usually look at them for more than a few seconds.

With that realization, I conducted an experiment. 

I’ve heard that you only have 3 seconds to catch someones attention and get them to read your content. Which means, a flyer full of 14 pt font- even if it’s on brightly colored paper- is not going to cut it.

You have to catch their attention. What is the ONE thing you want to say. Why are you even creating a flyer in the first place? That should be your focal point. You don’t have to have mad Photoshop or Illustrator skills (even though those are my programs of choice). Maybe just a basic knowledge of Publisher, or even Word has a few good templates.

Or hire someone that can do it quicker and cleaner. They’re going to save you time- a lot of time. And it’s going to get people’s attention.

Color. Yes. It needs to be in color. In our day and age, with flashing lights and technology surrounding us, color is critical. You will not get the attention you want with out standing out, and color is a really easy way to do it.

Here’s the math for 1000 flyers (which won’t go far):
Do it yourself: about $100 (give or take depending on your printer and the paper quality) plus about 2 hours of your time creating and printing. These are black print or photocopies on colored paper.

Color design printed yourself: about $150 (considering the cost of ink and the fact that you are going to use photo paper or something of similar quality).

Print through Kinkos or Office Depot: $250 for color. It’s averages about $.25 per color print, one sided on medium quality paper.

Printing through VistaPrint: $370+ shipping and 7 days.

Having someone like me do it: $235. 

While having someone local doesn’t seem to save you any money. Think about the value of the product. 

1. You don’t have to spend any time on the work, and time is money.
2. There is an extra level of professionalism when the flyer is custom made.
3. If you put out a copy of a flyer, what does that say to your customers. Does it say anything at all?

Before you start printing off hundreds of flyers for your next event, think about the message you want to get across, your audience and whether or not you even want to be noticed.