How does your small business generate more sales? Marketing initiatives? Sales incentives? Referrals? Cold calls? All of the above? While each of those tactics play an important role in any business growth model, as a small business owner, there are some other not-so-obvious ways to increase your sales and expand your market. Check out these five catalysts for business growth – creative ways to grow your market presence in your local community and ultimately increase your sales. Don’t overlook the value in stepping outside of your office and into your back yard. As a small business owner, it can be any one of these unique approaches that might ignite the fire that blasts your business into the marketplace.
1. Engage: Join local small business groups. Whether it’s your local Chamber of Commerce or a more casual setting, actively participate in your community by facilitating relationships with like-minded folks. Developing a “tribe” of supporters in your back yard can serve many purposes. They can help spread awareness by word of mouth, offer pointed advice and experiences, and empathize with the struggles of small business. Stay motivated with the help of others and show genuine interest in their endeavors and they’ll be sure to return the favor.
2. Research: Pay attention to your local market. What are other business owners doing? Are they successful? Any recent failures that you could learn from? Acknowledging your competition is healthy and can help you gauge where you might be missing the mark. Read local newspapers and business blogs. See how your community reacts to certain strategies by watching and learning from established business owners.
3. Learn: Attend local conferences or seminars. Stay up to date with regional events and explore leadership programs. Any opportunity to hear words of wisdom from those who have gone before you is a sure-fire way to be sure you are always challenging yourself in new ways. You can also make great connections with other attendees. Be sure to follow up on new introductions with a proactive phone call or email. Don’t let the opportunity die when the conference is over.
4. Volunteer: Showing value for your community and marketplace by giving back is a wonderful way to establish your presence as a company that cares. Making an effort to serve others instead of selling others shows your client base that you know it’s not “all about you” and you general care and want to meet their needs. Beyond meeting local people in need, other volunteers and the good feeling that comes from helping others, you are developing respect and admiration for yourself and your business.
5. Socialize: Make an effort to make friends everywhere you go. Whether they are in your target market or not, you never know when a friendship will pay off in a referral or positive recommendation. Develop genuine relationships, be approachable, smile and laugh. If your market consists of business owners who love to kick back and hit the golf course on their free time, make it a point to play a round with new people once a week. Chat people up in the doctor’s office, coffee shop, supermarket. Be happy and share that happiness with others. A social business owner is a successful business owner. Engage people because they are human, not because they are prospects. Wait for them to ask about your business. Treat them with genuine interest and authentic interest.
These simple catalysts for business growth often go overlooked, especially in the frenzy of trying to get a business off the ground. Be diligent about setting aside time to slow down and focus outward. After all, your small business isn’t about you. You’re providing some service or meeting some need for someone else. Take the time to look outside your door and engage what’s right in your back yard. Your key to success might be right there and you don’t even know them yet!
What Kind of Business Partner Are You?
If there is anything I’ve learned as a small business owner, it’s that choosing the right business partner can make or break you. I managed my business alone for years, and as a self-professed perfectionist and avowed control freak, the idea of bringing someone else into the inner circle of my multi-tasking crazy world…that was a big shift from my comfort zone to say the very least. After watching the rise and fall of many small business partnerships in my industry, deciding to place my future in the hands of another person was more terrifying than anything else.
Simply put, there just comes a time when you must take a leap of faith to accomplish more than you could alone. Choosing the right business partner goes so far beyond friendship. It’s a personality quiz, a social experiment, a financial storm and a character integration all rolled into one legally land-locked marriage. The keystone to professional partnership wedded bliss is identifying what type of business partner you are and what type of partner you are looking for. Once you grasp your own style, you can then choose wisely to make sure your business partner is a perfect match and meets your mutually beneficial needs.
What kind of business partner are you? Do you hold several positions in your business relationship?
The Squirrel: Distracted by even the tiniest of sparkly objects, do you easily drift off task and switch focus every time a new idea pops into your head? Extremely creative, is it hard to reign your excitement in when it comes time to do the dirty work?
The Silent Ninja: Are you a behind-the-scenes powerhouse? Maybe you’re not the face of the business, but you are most definitely worth your weight in gold. Are you the “man behind the curtain”?
The Doer: Do you find yourself the first to tackle the heavy lifting? When it comes to the tough stuff, are you ready to pull up your sleeves and dig in to get things done?
The Delegator: Lacking in the handyman “know-how,” do you excel in delegating tasks to those people in your life with the appropriate talents to complete projects? Sometimes wrongly perceived as the last to volunteer, are you really just acknowledging that you are not the best person for a particular job?
The Booking Queen: Are you a lover of all things order? When it comes to keeping the books, managing contracts, the legal mumbo jumbo and all else paperwork-related, are you on cloud nine in your little organized corner of the world?
The Control Freak: Overly anxious, with your bottle of Zoloft always within reach, do you struggle to delegate even the simplest of tasks? Even with the hours in the day waning away, are you the ever-present “yes” man who takes on more than you can chew?
The Dreamer: Always raising the bar and fantasizing about the next step in your adventure, is life one constant daydream of where you could be if only…? Do you carry hope close to your heart and believe all things are possible?
The Logic Lover: Are you the “Debbie Downer” that marries every decision with a laundry list of logic and what-ifs? Do you count on common sense and street smarts to dictate your perspective and motivate business decisions that are very calculated and coordinated?
The Leap-First, Ask Later: Do you leap off the cliff and build your wings on the way down? Sometimes seen as reckless, do you rely on your confidence and commitment to getting things done to carry you through when the going gets tough?
The Micromanager: Verbal affirmations just don’t do it for you. You need to see the proof in the pudding. Are you always leaning over your partner’s shoulder to double-check their work?
The Tortoise: Always cautious, taking your time to make even the tiniest of decisions, do other people get frustrated by what they perceive to be your incapacity to commit?
The Shake it Off: The ever-present positive thinker, can you shake off setbacks with a smile and encourage the world that tomorrow is another day? Do you see every failure as a learning opportunity?
The Apocalyptic Worry Wort: Are you the conspiracy theorist who sees failure lurking around every corner? Do small setbacks trip up your confidence and leave you sleepless and stressed?
The By-the-Book: Are you City Hall’s best friend? Do you have every rule, every regulation and every professional guideline at the ready to reference at every planning session?
The Even Keel: The calm in the storm, do you find yourself speaking peace and order into anxiety and panic? Do setbacks serve as speed bumps and road blocks as opportunities to evaluate and excel?
The Personality: The face of the business, are you loud and proud? Always ready for a party and a networking rock star, are you the social butterfly of your biz?
The Wallflower: Content to work hard and work long, do you shy away from public events and celebrations, much preferring to keep your head in the books and fly solo?
Many of these sound negative and stack up more as weaknesses and shortcomings than professional strengths. The reality is that a business partnership needs a little bit of every, single one of these. Everyone has to be able to give and take, be front and center or behind the scenes, as needed, without hesitation or ill will. Taking the time to define your work ethic and style, being fully transparent with the good, bad and ugly, allows you the clarity to choose the well-balanced mate. Even more importantly, it helps you to identify which relationships do not hold your future success in their confident grasp. For example, two squirrels would never get anything done! But one squirrel could come up with a fabulous idea, knowing that the logic lover will grab it and develop the efficient workflow needed to make it happen. The even keel keeps the worry wort at peace, while the personality shines on the social networking front when the wallflower is plugging away behind the scenes.
When choosing your business partner, you must consider all aspects of that person. The most beloved friend will make a poor business partner if they can’t be counted on to complete important tasks. And maybe your quiet coworker doesn’t strike you off hand as a good fit in the party arena, but you know they can manage multiple projects without getting anxious. The perfect business partner is a balance of your strengths and weaknesses. You fill each other’s gaps. You are both stronger together than apart. You know you’ve found the right business partner when they instinctively fall into a routine that compliments your individual skills and counterbalances your shortcomings.
A business partnership can take the cake even above a marriage. While your spouse is the love of your life and the ultimate priority, we all know that it’s our professional environment that gets most of the hours in our week. Just like that job you hated as a teenager, the wrong business partner can be excruciating for you both and ultimately, for your clients. Take your time, be honest, don’t do anyone any favors and thoughtfully select your counterpart. Be true to yourself and let them shine where they are at. Choose wisely and rock the business world!
Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics
Why is social media scheduling important?
Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.
If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?
Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.
Where do I start?
I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.
If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.
I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.
Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating). I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:
- Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
- Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
- Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life.
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Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!
IBA Blog Conference – October 12-17, 2015
Mark your calendars!!! I have some very exciting news to share!!! The International Bloggers Association is hosting their very first IBA blog conference! The IBA Network-a-thon will be hosted online October 12th – 15th. Yup, that’s right! A virtual conference! You don’t have to worry about travel expenses, child care, vacation time or anything! Just you, me, the IBA, our computers and some amazingly awesome Google Plus Hangouts.
Want to hear the very best news? The IBA blog conference is SUPER affordable. Only $10 for your ticket! Even more exciting? Use the code KATY to receive a special Chaos & Kiddos discount! You’ll get $5 off. 50% off! At that price, there’s no reason to miss out on what will be a fun week of networking, learning and blog sharing. The IBA blog conference will be a great opportunity to discover your tribe of blog supporters, learn new tips and tricks, and dig into blogging professionally. Don’t miss out! $5 is less than a cup of Starbucks coffee! Woot! Click on the big IBA right below or click on “Buy this on Selz” to grab your 50% off discount ticket now! Don’t forget to use the code KATY! See you in October!