Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’

Entrepreneurial Permission

As I toiled away on my elliptical machine tonight, I re-read Tina Seelig’s book “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.”  And what I love most about this book has to do with what makes a small business owner successful.  Is it being a marketing genius? Is it being a financial wizard?  Is it having a parent with a very large bank roll?  They all help, but that’s not it…at least not for the long run away.

At the end of the day, it really just boils down to a couple of traits or states of mind; traits/states of mind I would like to share with you.  The presence or absence of these traits/states of mind will tell you if you have the stomach and the know-how to become a successful small business owner.

  • Turning failure upside down—entrepreneurs can take failure because they know that failure shows them how to succeed the next time.  Failure is temporary.  Failure is sometimes necessary.  And, guess what? It took Thomas Edison something like  1,000 “steps” as he liked to call it to perfect the light bulb.
  • Knowing that “no” sometimes means not now—let’s face it, very few people in life like hearing the word no; especially as it relates to their business/baby.  Successful entrepreneurs understand that “no” might mean call me next week when I am in a better frame of mind.
  • Try everything, at least once—Successful small business owners will do just about anything to keep their dream alive.   And, they get creative…both inside and outside the box.  They are constantly thinking about what is next for their business and questioning whether if they are doing everything right and everything they should be doing.  Just like their business, they are in constant motion.
  • Test and learn beats fast and furious (…just ask the rabbit)—successful small business owners don’t waste money on big splashes, they take a disciplined approach to just about everything. They aren’t tentative, but they do their due diligence.

Here is my favorite and the most important part of being a successful entrepreneur.

  • Give yourself permission—the permission to start, the permission to stop, the permission to take risks, the permission to accept failures, the permission to say you were wrong, and the permission to say you were right.  Whatever permission you are denying yourself…give it freely.  You don’t have to wait for permission from someone else.  Who cares what they think?  Give yourself permission to start doing what you love today!

Since this blog isn’t about my normal marketing or market research topics, I have decided to end with a quote from Thomas Edison rather than “Happy Marketing”.  Here goes:

 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

 

Here’s something from me…I give you permission.

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I’m an expert, how about you?

When you have a small business, minutes matter.  You have to stay focused, which is very hard to do in this chaotic business world in which many of us operate.  In the past, many companies operated and sold either locally or, at most, regionally.  Now, we are global.  So how can you differentiate your brand, in addition to your products and services?  Become the Expert!

I was reading Ivana Taylor’s article regarding influence (You 14 Step Roadmap to becoming an Influencer ) on openforum.com and it got me thinking…what can small businesses do to make themselves brand experts? 

Here are some ideas that I gleaned from Ivana with my additions (of course).

  • Put in the time—You truly do need to be an expert to claim that status (don’t be a poser!)…Ivana recommends 10,000 hours…that means that you have to be working full time in an industry for at least five years to claim expert status…totally doable!  Remember though, focus is key… I am not just a market research and marketing expert…I am an expert in B2B insurance market research and B2B insurance marketing (as well as other things…wink). 
  • Strategically Embrace Social media—there are a lot of things you can do through social media that will boost your expert status, but you can’t afford to waste time.  Here are my quick hit favorites:
    • LinkedIn—join 50 groups…it’s fast and easy; and, actively post articles and ask questions in the groups from which you think you will get the most “expert status” bump. 
    • Blog—Don’t do what I do…keep your blogs short and sweet…and do what I do…keep them on topic.  When you blog, use key words you want to own/be associated with your name/brand…like marketing, commercial insurance, Net Promoter Score.  If you have more time…I suggest you also place comments on other people’s blogs—it helps with Google juice!  Another idea would be to guest blog, but few of us have enough time to write our own blogs let alone blog for other people.  I would try to get them to repost one of the blogs you have already written.
    • Create a YouTube video—if you have a video camera and an internet connection, you are pretty much set.  Make the video really short (1 to 3 minutes, tops) and very informative and instructional.  Oh, and make it fun.    Post these videos on your website…more Google juice!
    • Publish…Your Data—if you collect and analyze data and can publish it…do so!   Nothing better than providing the world with useful information.  And, after you have published your data…write a press release about it.  It doesn’t cost that much to get your press releases run through the newswires. 
    • In-person Networking—yes, you need to get out there and meet people face to face, not just online.  To do this, I recommend joining associations and attending their conferences (to the extent it makes sense).  Service clubs like Rotary are great as well, but don’t just focus on local things and events.  
    • Speak/Join Panels/Webinars—most of us would rather jump off a bridge than speak publically; but, there are few better ways to build up your expert status than having documented proof that people are willing to pay for your advice.

There are a heck of a lot more ways to get your brand elevated to expert status, but these were my favorites.  And, as you have probably noticed, most of them are absolutely free (except for your time). 

What are you doing to elevate your brand status to expert?

Happy Marketing!

Social Media and Living the Thank You Economy Dream…

I just finished the book The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and it got me wondering, what if we all lived in the Thank You Economy world instead of the I Win You, Lose world? And, of course the second part of the issue is…does Gary practice what he preaches…the answer, by the way, is YES!

If you know me, you know that I am a wine enthusiast. And, as such, I am always looking to try new (good) wines. So when I found out about the winelibrary.com from Gary’s book, I decided to give them a try. The site is very easy to navigate and I found plenty of quality wines to buy…I limited myself to 4 just to try them out. Though there are a few more (a lot more expensive ones) that I have my eye on. So who cares? Well I do, but it’s what happened next that was the important thing.

Great Thing: The very next day after my purchase, I got a call at work from the Wine Library thanking me for my recent purchase. Can you imagine that? A personal call…in addition to the automatic email I received. I was floored. How impressive!

Not so Good Thing: The girl (ok woman, but she sounded really, really young…perhaps not even old enough to drink the wine I just purchased) had not been trained well enough to be on the phone with customers…particularly brand new customers. It seemed to me that she had just been given a list with customers’ phone numbers and then told call these people and thank them for their order. On the surface this seems fine right? But, the call was extremely awkward. The gal said “hi it’s so and so from the winelibrary.com and I am calling to thank you for your order.”  Dead space. Me: “ok.” Dead space. “Um, do you have any questions?” Me: “I saw on your website that you are having a shipping delay due to the weather, when do you think my order will ship.”  Gal: “You will get an email when it ships.”  Me: “So you have no idea when it will ship?”   Gal: “No.”  The call ends soon after that. So, the moral of the story is that she needed a script or at the very least an outline. Gary doesn’t think so…but I humbly disagree. 

Kinda Awesome Thing: Since I am following Gary on twitter, I thought I would see if we could converse about this experience I had. The whole purpose was to let him, the owner know, that he is losing the effectiveness of his thank you calls because at least one of the people making the calls (the gal I talked with) was not trained enough—just trying to help. Interestingly, I know that Gary detests having scripted calls. Being a marketer and a market researcher, I am dedicated to such things. So I expected a lively discussion. I tweeted Gary that he needed to improve his thank you calls. Within an hour of me posting the tweet, he sent me two tweets asking me what was up and letting me know that he didn’t believe in scripted calls. I explained what happened and why I thought it was necessary.

Did he say he was going to look into it? No. Did he say he would do anything? No. Did he thank me for even letting him know he has an issue? No. So the experience was just kinda awesome. He responded to the tweet, but he didn’t say anything more than the questions he posed. I don’t have closure. Oh well, I accomplished my goal…I let him know he had a problem.  As, a potentially long-term customer for winelibrary.com, hopefully I will have eventually helped the process. 

The key to the story for me is that Gary is living in the Thank You Economy and I think all businesses could benefit from living in this type of economy. But please remember…don’t let your process show while living in this Thank You Economy.

Happy Marketing!

Metrics, metrics everywhere and not a fan in sight!

A little overwhelmed with all the social media metrics being thrown around lately?  Me too.  Having a more traditional slant than most digital marketers today, I really like having something concrete on which to hang my metrics hat.  That said, I am willing to stretch and grow as it relates to measuring digital and social media metrics.

As I have said in the past, I am all about ROI when it comes to metrics…specifically, a ROI based on profit, not just revenue.  In the social world, the “tail” for the sales cycle is much longer, so measuring other things while you are on the path to a sale is key. 

So what should you be measuring with respect to your digital and social media marketing spend?  It depends on your business, but here are three of my favorite interim measurements that you should be watching:

  • Engagement Score (ES):  Evaluating your engagement score is a bit more involved than some of the other measurements I am suggesting, but it can be done even by a novice.  The key is to determine what should go into your engagement score.   Specifically, you need to spend time thinking about what an engaged prospect or customer looks like for your business and craft a measurement that fits these criteria.    I would also use a weighted score when crafting the score so that I give more weight to some criteria than others.  But hey, that’s just me.
  • Brand Perception Lift:  Finally, back to market research!  Another great way to tell if your social media and digital marketing efforts are working is through consistently measuring your brand perception (and awareness) among your current and prospect customers.  This will give you an idea of the lift you are getting from the resources you are putting into your online marketing efforts.
  • Leads Generated:  As I said before, it will take time for your digital efforts to bear fruit.  However, your efforts should be getting prospective customers into the pipeline and further and further down the purchase funnel.  If your efforts aren’t getting people converted from a prospect to a real lead, then you should re-evaluate your digital/social media marketing resource allocation.

The two main “old school” measurements of online marketing I use are:

  • Qualified Reach or Qualified Visits—in traditional advertising, we have long used the word reach to describe the amount of people that should be viewing our advertising.  But, past that, we can’t really tell if the message got through the clutter or if the “reached” person actually did anything as a result of our ad.  In the digital age, we have evolved to measuring qualified reach, which is a metric that combines the number of individuals reached by the online advertising/marketing with the number of users that have performed a desired interaction.
  • Clickthrough rates:  In the digital world, this is the “tried and true” method.  This gives you a one-to-one measurement for dollars spent and prospects generated.  The only problem with this metric is that it doesn’t measure intent to purchase or even interest necessarily.  So it is important to measure, but it can’t be the only thing you measure.

So what are U.S. Marketers using to measure interactive marketing performance?  According to a study recently conducted by Chief Marketer (reported through eMarketer), its:  clickthroughs (59%), traffic to websites (53%), lead generation (43%) and page views (38%).   Where did my beloved ROI fall?  It was all the way down at 6th place with just 32% saying it was a measure they used to evaluate interactive marketing efforts.  Oh, and brand lift?  It is measured by just one-in-four (25%).

Measuring the success of your traditional and digital marketing efforts can be long and arduous…but worth it.  How are you measuring your success?

Happy Marketing!

What is a small business…?

Well, you thought you knew, but the SBA would like to change all that (it’s a proposal…not for certain).  Now, before you get your hackles up…I believe what they are doing is a good thing.  They are basically getting with the times. 

Here’s what the SBA said in their press release:

A proposed rule published today for comment in The Federal Register by the U.S. Small Business Administration would adjust the size definition of small businesses in the transportation and warehousing sector to reflect changes in marketplace conditions in those sectors. 

 The proposed revisions would increase the revenue-based size definition businesses must meet to qualify as small businesses in 22 industries of the transportation and warehousing sector. As part of its ongoing comprehensive review of all size standards, the SBA evaluated all industries in this sector that have revenue-based size standards to determine whether the size standards should be retained or revised. 

So what does this mean for you?  Well if you work in the transportation and warehousing sector and you are bidding on government jobs…a lot!   Basically, in the past, if you were reaching the size limit…you couldn’t make any more in revenue to retain your eligibility to bid on government jobs (as a small business).   Now, you have a bit more wiggle room!

Here’s what the SBA also said:

The changes would allow some small businesses that are close to exceeding their current size standards to retain small business eligibility under higher size standards, give federal agencies a larger selection of small businesses to choose from for small business procurement opportunities and allow small businesses to qualify for financial assistance from the SBA.  SBA estimates as many as 1,200 additional firms will become eligible for SBA programs as a result of the proposed revisions, if they are adopted. 

Here’s the new data that I prettied up for you!

For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards, click on “What’s New” on SBA’s Web site at:  http://www.sba.gov/size.

Are you breathing a sigh of relief on this proposed change?  I am!

Happy marketing!

U.S. Small Business Outlook…

Building and running a successful business is difficult period. Add in a weak economy and woe is the business owner, small businesses in particular.

That said, I am happy to see that even though times have been tough, small businesses are keeping a stiff upper lip. According to a new survey conducted by EMPLOYERS®, America’s small business insurance specialist® (through ORC/Inforgraphics), almost half of small business decision-makers (46%) feel that the U.S. Economic Outlook will be better this year than last— a significant improvement compared to 25% measured when they did the study in Dec. 2008.  And, 41% of small business decision-makers expect their revenue to grow this year over 2010 levels.

While the survey showed a ray of hope glimmering in the eyes of small business decision-makers, it did show some lingering pessimism. Specifically:

  • 69% of small business decision-makers say that some worry about their business keeps them up at night.
    •  The most often reported worries were: the economy, figuring out how they can grow/maintain their business, operating expenses and rising fuel prices.51% of small business decision-makers believe it will be more than 12 months before their sales revenues return to pre-recession levels.
  • 49% of small business decision-makers say it will be more than six months before they begin hiring again.

Here’s how they did the study: The study commissioned by EMPLOYERS surveyed 501 owners or managers of small businesses with 1-99 full-time employees. Data was collected through telephone interviews during the period February 23 – March 1, 2011 at the 95 percent confidence level.  The survey was conducted by ORC International, an Infogroup company through their Small Business CARAVAN.

That’s how the average small business owner is feeling…what about you?  Are you bullish or bearish about the U.S. Economic Outlook in 2011?

Happy Marketing!

Four reasons why an integrated approach is still the best…

I read the post “Why offline still matters” by Annie Mueller  and I have to say…it was a great reminder to marketers who are jumping on the social media band wagon to stop and reflect on what really works and doesn’t work with respect to marketing.

It reminds me of what I am constantly telling people: 

  • You are not your market! 
  • Don’t be a focus group of 1! 

Just because you like to communicate and receive messages through digital and social media means, doesn’t mean that your target does as well.  That’s why an integrated (online and offline) approach works so well.

When thinking about how you are planning to market to your target audience, here are a few things you should consider:

  1. What is the demographic of those I am trying to reach?—this goes for your B2B market as well.  Just because your target is business owners doesn’t mean that all business owners are the same.  There are huge differences in how Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomer and the Silent Generation business owners need to receive information.  If you are targeting business owners that are in the age ranges found in the Baby Boomer and Silent generation, you should be thinking traditional advertising first, digital second.
  2. What industry I am trying to reach (for B2B marketing)?—some industries are much more prone to internet savvy business owners/decision-makers.  If you are targeting small, family-owned manufacturing companies, you might miss your mark entirely if you focus your marketing campaign on digital dollars rather the traditional methods (mail and print advertising).
  3. Is your product local?—companies can have greater success with local TV spots and billboard advertising if they are local rather than national (national usually equals expensive media buys).  But beware!  TV spots and billboards are great for building awareness, but not as good at getting someone to pick up the phone and ordering. 
    • Social media and a digital education campaigns are great for locally-based companies (like Tele Raack, LMT…a great local massage therapist) or a complicated message that needs to be feed through a nurturing/education campaign.
  4. What is your timing?—if timing your message is critical…say you are targeting restaurant owners…your choice of message delivery is really critical.  You can’t tell the postman when to deliver a letter, but you can tell your marketing automation system when to deliver an email and your social media manager when to start posting on Facebook and tweeting like crazy.  Oh, and one last thing with respect to restaurants…if you want to get noticed, go visit with the owners after you have eaten and spent money in the restaurant. 

 Engagement is just as critical offline as it is online.

What methods of marketing will you be using today?

Happy marketing!

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