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.

Networking: The Golden Rule

After writing my last blog on networking, I decided that a follow up was in order.

Networking is not about selling your business to the first person you run into. If that’s what you do, just stop. Instead, find out about the other person. What do they do? How can you help them?

The best way to gain someone’s trust is to give away information. Maybe you don’t need the services of his printing company, but so-and-so from place is looking for new business cards. 

Set up the referral. “Hey printing dude, I have a friend that does something really cool and needs business cards. Would you mind if I send her your way?” Exchange business cards, small talk and polite goodbyes as you find someone new. 

When you have a second, note what you plan to do. Actually SEND the referral. Do them a favor. These favors come back two-fold. Some day, Printing Dude will have a client who needs a new website, or house remodel, or (insert your expertise here) and will recommend you.

Why? Because you sent business his way. And if he did it well, you’ll probably continue to do so. It’s reciprocal.

Remember, try not to sell your business at networking. Instead, pinpoint the people you can help, help them, and they’ll help you!

 

Networking?

I’ve spent the last few months going out of my way to get to local Networking Events. To be honest, I have been quite disappointed by most of them.

I’m not sure what I expected from the first one that I went to,  but I really didn’t get much out of it (in fact, even the speakers were lame). So I turned to a few books and blogs to find out what I did wrong. Apparently, I’m supposed to command a room upon my entrance. I’m sure I turn a few heads – being a female and wearing ridiculously high heels (see, I have this thing for shoes…). However, the room is usually packed with people deep in conversation.

So the next time I listened in on those conversations. Most of the groups huddled throughout the space already have an established relationship with each other – which begs the questions as to why they even attended the networking event (free breakfast?).

Then it hit me. Sure I can go to every event I can get my hands on. It’s only a few hours and I usually do meet new people (I really have to go out of my way to be VERY social), but networking isn’t about some 2 hour conference or presentation.

Networking is the relationship.

I still go to networking events. I’ve come to quite like the free breakfast (joke). But they are no longer my only chance each month for networking.

I network EVERY DAY. I meet new people every where. The grocery store, the salon, gas station – you name it. Just strike up a conversation. Make a relationship. You’re probably not going to exchange business cards with everyone. But out of the hundreds of people you talk to every week, there’s sure to be at least one or two that can do something for you (or you can do for them).  Now that’s what I call networking.

You don’t need to spend time at special events to make connections. Make connections during your normal routine. Most likely, they’re going to be more meaningful.

Get Motivated

“Just like New Year’s resolutions, all the motivation in the world means nothing if you don’t have the determination see it through to the end.”Six Pixels of Separation.

Starting and maintaining your business is much the same as a New Year’s resolutions, but there’s more than a marathon at stake – your livelihood. At some point, we are all going to run out of gas. Working 60-80 hour work weeks while balancing your personal life (or lack there of), is draining. There have been a slew of studies on limiting your work week to 40 hours, but let’s face it, we can’t all be that lucky. And frankly, some of us like to stay busy.

What happens when the spark is gone?

There’s the challenge. How do you keep the momentum in the right direction? My trick? Reminding myself what I want to achieve.

Last year, I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles. Less the 1% of the US population has completed the feat. I’m not a competitive runner – in fact, up until recently, I hadn’t run more than a mile at a time. But I had put the marathon on my bucket list and figured now was better than later.

To be honest, the training leading up the race was terrible. It was time consuming, And while a had a few friends running the marathon with me, I was doing the training completely by myself (due to my work schedule). To add to the difficulty, it was summer and summer in Utah’s can be crazy hot. I was getting up before 5 am to attempt to beat the heat on my 15-20 mile runs. The first time I ran 20, I misjudged my distance and ended almost 3 miles from my stopping point. I nearly cried at the thought of having to walk back to my car and almost quit the training all together.

I didn’t quit.

I knew what my goal was. I knew that I wanted to finish the marathon training and ultimately run a marathon. I had to take a breath and remind myself of the goal. Not only that, but I was able to reflect on where I was compared to where I’d been. While I didn’t feel quite prepared to run all 26.2 miles, I had just completed 20. A year ago, I would never have thought that possible.

I congratulated myself on my accomplishments so far.

It was such a great feeling to realize what I had managing to accomplish up to that point. There had been so many hurtles along the way and I had managed to jump them all. It was so motivational that I managed to make it to my car and ultimately complete the marathon.

Your business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Every business has it’s own set of challenges, and each of us are going to have our own set of doubts. 10 years ago, you may not have imagined you would be a business owner – look at you now.

When the going gets tough – take a breath.

Remind yourself where you’ve been and where you’re going. Dig deep and find the determination and the spark that got you moving on this path in the first place. Write your goals down, hold yourself accountable to them, relax – and take action.

Find the determination to see it through to the end.


4 Employee Essentials

So you run a business. In fact, you’ve grown so much that you’ve hired a few employees. Maybe just one, maybe 20. Beyond the complications of just hiring an employee, there’s managing one. Which in the long term, will be much more work than getting them on board.

Interactions with your employees will be complex, however, I have found that breaking it down into 4 categories will make your job much easier.

1. Guidelines

Set the minimum expectations immediately. If there is a dress code, be specific. Using the term ‘business casual’ might be sufficient in your mind, but many teenagers (or even college students) don’t have any clue what you mean. Lay it out in detail – make sure they understand and agree before you assume anything.

Remember to talk about attendance, tardiness and code of conduct. If your employees are customer-facing, it may behoove you to have some type of contract. Let them know upfront what the consequences for failing to meet your expectations will be.

Sit down and make a list of your guidelines. Know them before your preach them. Conversations can get awkward if you’re making up the rules as you go.

2. Goals

It seems so simple. As business owners, we have already set more goals than we can count. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now. Think about how focused and driven you were when you had a goal to achieve. Your employees are going to be the same.

Make it tangible. Don’t ask them to work hard or be nice to everyone. Ask them to get 3 surveys per week or 5 business cards from potential clients. Maybe you’re building your email lists- ask your employee to record 10 per shift. Something worthwhile, tangible and measurable.

3. Critical Conversations

While I will go into this in detail later on, the one thing to remember is that a behavior ignored is a behavior leveraged. Critical conversations have a time deadline – immediate.

If your employee shows up to work late, have the conversation around the expectation they agreed to immediately. If your employee did not greet a customer as they walked through the door, address it immediately.

It sounds like a hassle, but if you don’t address the mistakes, they will become habits.

However, I urge you to give your employee the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had their back to the customer and was engaged in restocking the shelves. Explain what you witnessed, ask for their point of view and ask them to keep a better eye on the door. Usually, this is all it takes to create a good behavior.

4. Recognition

I love to be praised, it’s in my personality. In fact, I would bet that most people love to get praised. This is the most important part of interacting with an employee. Find something they did right every time you see them. You may have to look for it, but it’s there, and they will appreciate the recognition. Frankly, they will work harder to receive your recognition than your critique!

Doing these things are a minimum requirement for having employees and keeping them around. Don’t be afraid of any of these steps. You are the boss- as long as you approach your employee with respect, they will respect you in return.

Time Management 101

Question: How often are you too busy to finish your To-Do List?

The better question: Is your To-Do List worth doing? And when are you supposed to get it done?

Answer: Probably not today… But I can give you a few tools to start hacking away at that list.

Step 1: Make a List
Just sit down and list everything you do for your business. I mean EVERYTHING. From checking your email to entering expenses to taking out the trash. Give yourself a working list of how you should spend your day. Don’t be overwhelmed when your list starts moving into the margins of the page. This is good stuff.

Step 2: Break it Down
Separate your list into 3 categories- daily, weekly and monthly (you could add yearly, but I find it to be daunting).  Your lists are probably long and that’s OK. You have a lot to do. Figuring out what you do and how often you need to do it are the first steps to tackling it.

This is how mine started out looking…

Step 3: Where do you Start? 
Now it’s time to figure out what needs to be done first. This is usually the hardest part, but I have a solution. It’s called urgent v. important. They are two very different things. Important are the things that just have to get done. I would say that checking my email is important, taking out the trash probably isn’t. Urgent are things with a deadline. My blog posts have a deadline, backing up my computer does not (even though it’s my most important thing).

You can do this 2 ways. The first is to make another set of lists like this:

Everything on my list gets re-listed twice. Once in the Important/Not Important and again in the Urgent/Not Urgent.

Then take this list and match it up into these boxes:

Notice that I ended up without anything in the “Urgent, Not Important Box.” It happens. Yours will look different. You can skip the first step if you really really really want to. However, it makes your decision less arbitrary.

Step 4: Make Your List
Make your list in this order: Urgent/Important > Urgent/Not Important > Not Urgent/Important > Not Urgent/Not Important.

My final daily list:
Call Client “A”
Listen to messages
Update event page
Check email
Back up PC
Take out trash
Clean up desk

This would be my working list everyday. Repeat the steps for weekly and monthly tasks. In the weekly list, pick a specific day to get it done. For example, there is no way I could finish and post my blog on and complete my expense tracker. Choose a specific day to get that specific task done and hold yourself accountable to it.

Step 5: Be Flexible
Your lists are going to change.  In fact, I would go back and change ‘take out the garbage’ to a weekly task.  I don’t have clients coming to my office (I go to them), and let’s be honest, we both know I won’t do it everyday, so rather than have to look at it everyday, I would prefer to think about it only on Fridays.

Projects happen. Hey, that’s what most of my weeks are. Follow the same steps. Know what you need to do first and get it done. Set deadlines, reminders and try to gauge how much time it will take you- but don’t stop doing your initial list. The first time you ignore your messages or don’t check your email, something important and urgent will be there.

After a while, you won’t have to look at your home-base list – it will be automatic, it will be a habit, your time will free up and your productivity will skyrocket!

Happy Listing!

5 DON’T’S of Doing Business

There are a lot of things that a business owner can do right everyday, yet they will go unnoticed. While we want to be commended for making good choices, we have to live with the fact that when things are going well, there won’t be much feedback (unless you solicit it, but that’s another post). On the flip side, something that goes wrong will not only be noticed, it will be talked about, shared, and could be detrimental to you and/or your businesses reputation.

This is a list of Don’t’s.  There is no way I could list all of the Do’s,  I’m not writing a novel here. Keep in mind that this isn’t an entire list. I’m going to hit the big one’s, the deal-breakers, the one’s that if you can’t get right, you won’t be around much longer.

1. Don’t forget to Communicate.

If you’ve done the marketing and the advertising and the word-of-mouth thing right, you’re going to have potential clients trying to get in contact with you. My biggest irk is when a business does not answer my phone call or doesn’t respond to my email.

I’m a pretty fair person. I realize that others are busy. I understand that sometimes I’m going to have to leave a message- that’s OK. But you MUST call me back. I, like most people, have the patience to give you 24 hours. However, you would be better served to call me back the same day! To even get to this step, you must have a voice mail (or more archaic- an answering machine). Please don’t make me go there.

If you insist that your clients contact you via email, fine. But your response is still necessary and your time-frame for response shrinks dramatically. If I send an email, I expect an answer within about 3 or 4 hours during the business day. If it’s later, I expect it first thing the next morning.

I personally prefer to do my communications with my clients via phone or face-to-face. Afterward, I will send them an email recapping the conversation to verify that we are both on the same page. It works wonders!

2. Don’t have flexible business hours.

Give your clients something reliable. Plan on being available for your business between 9 and 5 on weekdays. If you run a bakery, maybe 7-2. It’s up to you, but it must be consistent and make sense. Even if you aren’t in the office all day, answer/return phone calls and generally be available to your current and potential clients.

I spend my day all over the city. I am rarely in my office at home before 4 pm. However, I have my phone with me and I make it a priority (unless I’m with a client- or in the bathroom) to answer those calls. I’ve also gotten to know my clients. Most of them have daytime hours, some of them don’t. I know that the Personal Trainers I work with are busy till 6 or 7, sometimes later. Sure, I’ll call and leave a message during the day if I need to, but I know that I won’t receive a call back until late evening. Most of the time I will wait to even make the call.

I am definitely not saying that you should answer your phone all hours of the day and night. There are limits you should set based on your work-life balance. But it needs to be just that, a balance. When can your clients expect to get a hold of you?

3. Don’t get political – or religious.

It is definitely OK to have both political and religious views, but don’t share them. Keep those conversations at home with your close friends and family. Potential and current clients don’t care about your views. And if your views differ, most likely you will lose them or lose their trust (which is just as bad). If a client wants to know your opinion, they will ask for it.

4. Don’t forget about the people who have helped you.

Your best marketing tool, no matter who you are or what you do, is word-of-mouth. People that have worked with you and your business and have liked what you did for them will tell other people. Thank them for their referrals. Thank them for the awesome comment they left on your facebook page. Don’t forget that they are the one’s keeping you in business.

Don’t forget about your family and friends. Most likely, they are sacrificing something for you to be successful. My family has been absolutely priceless in my business endeavors. I have their full support, and there is nothing more important. As for my friends, I am constantly digging through their brains with ridiculous questions and ideas to help make my business better. These are the same friends that are telling others about me. I know there are people out there doing the same for you.

5. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

This is just a reminder to move at a pace that you can afford both physically and financially. There’s no sense putting up a billboard if your store front is still under construction.

Don’t go spending a few thousand on hardware upgrades until you actually have enough clients to support that cost and necessity.

Be thoughtful about the next step before you jump.

50/60/70/80

The buzz on Twitter right now is all about finding your customers and actually listening to what they have to say. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this concept. As a business owner, I tend to find myself assuming I know what my current and potential clients want. My dad clearly repeated to me throughout my childhood and beyond what exactly “assuming” does. In case you haven’t heard, I quote, “It makes an ass out of u and me.” So I came up with the 50-60-70-80 rule. And it works.

50
This one is straight forward. Go find your customers. Spend (at least) 50% of your time finding your customers. You will never know what your customers want, or even who they are from inside your store-front or office.

Truth: Your customers don’t care about you. Heck, they don’t even know you exist.

Solution: Go find them. Figure out who they are, what they do, where they live – narrow it down.

It’s much easier (and more cost-effective) to market to a smaller audience, but you can’t do that until you know who they are. I understand your challenges. You are busy, you don’t have any other employees, etc., but you will not- and cannot grow unless you roll up your sleeves and get out there. You want to hire someone to answer phones? Then you’d better have customers calling. Check out the Customer Manifesto from Steve Blank. He sure knows how to hit that nail on the head.

60
While you’re out there finding your niche, you need to listen. This is not the time to market yourself. Your mission is information. Not marketing. We just established that you need to find out who your customers are and what they want before you market to them.

Fact: Marketing can get expensive.Why waste valuable resources on groups of people that will never be your customer.

Listen to what your customers are saying- minimum 60% of you time while your out should be listening. What do they like, where do they shop, who are they, what social media do they use, where do they get their news, what activities do they like? You have to find the answers to these questions before you start anything else. You need to know what type of media they like. There is no sense on putting your efforts into a daily blog if your customers are on twitter – but we’ll talk about this in the “80.”

Spend your time listening while you’re out there. Image

70
Once you’ve listened, or I should say are listening (because this is ongoing, people change), you can start narrowing your focus. Spend 70% of your time in the office on efforts towards attracting and appealing to your target group. You don’t have a business without customers. Yes, you have expenses to manage and sales to achieve and possibly employees (which are also very important, but that’s a whole other blog), but you won’t have those things if you don’t have someone buying your product.

Make these soon-to-be customers your priority. They are your present and your future.

80
Don’t spread yourself thin. Now that you know who your audience is and what they like and want, you can make that your priority. Like I said earlier, don’t spend all your time on a blog if your audience is on Twitter. Don’t ignore your blog, maybe cut it down to once/week or twice/month, you still need to stand out as an expert, but spend 80% of your marketing efforts on things that you know your new found niche will like and respond to.

Check out what Gini Dietrich has to say on this matter, specifically on the social aspect. It follows the same idea for both social media marketing and more traditional approaches.

Not to sound too mushy, but I have complete faith in you and your ability to be successful. I’m sure you do too. Just take a deep breath and don’t assume anything.

3 Steps to Charisma

Charisma truly is a learned art. Some people are gifted with the ability to command attention as soon as they walk into a room.  The stage is set, the question is whether they can keep their audience engaged. Sure we want to hear about your latest product line, and of course we are interested when you tell us a marketing disaster story, but if you fail to connect with us – we’re going to stop listening, and likely stop caring. You’ve missed one of the pieces of the pie and potentially lost a sale.

There are 3 distinct features of charisma. With practice and self-awareness, there is no doubt you too can be a least little more charismatic.

  1. 1.       Confidence

Before you can begin any conversation, or presentation or sales pitch, you must be confident. Essentially, you must already know you are a success before presenting yourself (and your product) to your audience. More and more we are told through this social media age that we don’t sell a product or service, we sell its value. To do that, we sell a connection with our audience. To even begin the connection, you must exude a confidence that makes people want to hear what you have to say.

Confidence cannot be taught. The best advice I can give you is to remember that you are an expert in your field. You must know more about what you do than the average person, use that as leverage next time you walk into a crowded room.

However, if that’s just not enough, and you need a little more than a lifetime experiences check out “10 Ways to Instantly Build Self Confidence” be Editor in Chief, Pick the Brain.

  1. 2.       Assertiveness

The dictionary defines assertiveness as confidently aggressive or self-assured; positive. Notice that you cannot be satisfactorily assertive until you’ve mastered the confidence. This feature of charisma is by the far the most difficult to balance. While you want to put your ideas into the hands of your audience, there is only a thin line between confidently aggressive and overly dominant and bombarding.

Don’t be afraid to let people know that you are the owner of your company, or the head of marketing, or whatever fancy title you prefer. Not only do these titles give you a more memorable appearance (you’re not just Joe Schmoe, you’re Joe Schmoe the Owner of “insert your business here”), you also open the door to assert yourself into conversations where you can be the expert on the subject.

Being assertive is the trickiest part of being charismatic. It’s a demonstration of self-control.

  1. 3.       Genuine Interest

I personally find this to be the most difficult part to master. Of course we have a genuine interest in our own careers or family, but that’s not what I mean here. To truly be charismatic, you must show a genuine interest in what other people have to say. Ask a question then listen to the answer and respond accordingly.

Not everyone is going to enjoy talking about that same things all the time, but you will never know unless you ask. Likewise, they may have valuable information to share, or a product that you personally wouldn’t use, but you know someone who would.

Showing a genuine interest in the people you strike up a conversation with is priceless when networking and building clients.

I cannot claim to be an expert at achieving a perfect charismatic balance. However, I do my best to remember all three pieces of the pie. As long as I am keeping a decent balance, my interactions with others usually go very well.