Overcoming the Fear of Growth

“Every significant accomplishment begins with one person stepping up and committing to making a difference” ~ John C. Maxwell.

There is a fear around spending more money, committing more time, giving up freedoms, or increasing time away from family and friends that stops so many business owners from doing what needs to get done to ensure their business grows.  To make a difference in business a business owner must be focused on the work required to see it complete and committed to providing the resources needed to get it there.

Recently I had a Client share a story of a client of hers, who is in the wellness industry. They will give up comfort for their customers because they cannot afford the right equipment. They will even be willing to risk their own health by not having ergonomically functional patient examination equipment in their treatment rooms. Their goal is to buy these things, that they know they need to run a functional business by saving up over a 5 year period.

If they think their clients are going to wait 5 years for them to have the right equipment they will be wrong. Until then they cannot charge what they are worth because they don’t have the basics to make it valuable for their customers. By charging less it will take longer to save the money they need to purchase the equipment and likely it will never happen because the habit of ‘good enough’ will already be instilled into all their business practices.

A business owner must realize that there is no free way to start a business. Growth always starts with investment. So how do we overcome the fear of investment when we don’t feel we have the money or the time to give?

Have a Realistic Goal

Five years to purchase the equipment you need to do the work is not realistic. It would be like going into the new Target store and them not having washrooms for their clients. “We know we need washrooms and it is on our 5-year plan to invest in building washrooms in all stores.” Wouldn’t that be a ridiculous thing to hear.

Maybe not as ridiculous, but just as dysfunctional, are the statements that come from many business owners when it comes to their business growth. Statements like:

  • “I can’t afford to hire someone right now,” when they are completely unable to do all the work just to maintain their business. Where do they think the extra money is going to come from if they don’t hire someone so they can take on more business?
  • “My husband is finished school for the summer and he said he would help me,” was the statement from a business owner of 17 years looking for a new growth strategy because she was working too much and loosing clients. Where did she believe her husband’s new business prowess was going to come from this summer?

The intention to grow is not enough, you must have a realistic goal that cannot be reached by applying a little extra effort in the same places. A growth goal requires a clear vision that will propel you to do the things you have not done before so you can overcome the fear of  trying something new.

Follow a Plan

Desert journey

A clear growth vision will give you the passion to do the work during the times when doing the work is difficult and a plan with steps that can be followed helps ensure that we don’t stop before we reach our destination.

Creating a plan takes a little bit of insight and requires the ability to gather knowledge about the resources needed for each component of the plan.

I was chatting with a real estate investor this morning. He has recently acquired several commercial buildings. He completely understands the value of offering an up-to-date space when it comes to renting offices for a premium, so he is on a path to update and renovate. He knows what the goal is, he has a vision for its value, he has created a plan to get there, and now he is collecting the resources needed to get the steps done.

The work feels easier when you can tackle each step in its turn. The fear comes when we don’t have a process and we try to tackle everything at the same time. The real estate investor knows he cannot have all the trades in his building at the same time. In between purchasing the building and gutting it he invested in more knowledge about development, government requirements and the trades so he could manage the project successfully for his business. The steps of his plan are easier because he is not guessing his next move and then having to put out fires as he goes.

Free Doesn’t Mean Without Cost

One of the biggest fallacies in business growth is to expect to use a free tool or cheaply acquired resource and it won’t cost any money.  When I sit down with my clients and go through the costs of their programs or services, they often find that they are paying way more than they thought to create and deliver it. Bringing things from home, using free online tools, printing a few pages, paying for cheap location, etc. all add up. Usually not everything is accounted for. The one thing that is most often overlooked is the business owner’s own time. When they calculate that they have put in 10 hours for a 2 hour service then they do the math and realize they are working for less than $10 per hour.

We feel fear around growth because we know instinctively that we are working for a pittance and we cannot do more because we really cannot afford to do more.

When you build your plan you must include the cost of your time to implement and maintain free resources. For instance, using social media is very costly in time. In your plan, your long term goal will be to have the social media marketing managed by another person, so you must account for those hours in your estimated costs for growth. It will not be surprising to you that you are working for little money and it will not be surprising to you how much money you need to then hire someone to do the work. The timing and the resources will then be known for that growth step.

Fear comes when we don’t know what we are doing, why we are doing it, or how we will get it done. If you want to be on the path for a greater business growth you have to reduce or eliminate the fear you have around doing the work. Make your goals match your vision, create a plan with steps that you can follow, and understand what your costs really are.

 

Tech-Talk Part 3 – More of What You Need to Know – Communication Software

If ‘sell’ is a four-letter word to you then having communications that make it more comfortable for you to invite and offer value will make a difference to your bottom-line. You need to have a way to identify who you are speaking to and you must be able to connect efficiently with groups of people. This is how you leverage your time in your business and keep your costs down.

We know we want to be able to communicate with our clients, prospects, and past clients in a way that gives them what they need and helps us create an experience that is valuable for them. Understanding what to say is a topic for another article, and once you know what that is, how to reach them is the next question we want to address today. I am going to look at three things that you need to identify that will help you decide what tools will be best for you to manage your communications: 1) Your List, 2) History, 3) Costs

1) Your List

When managing your marketing and customer support communications it is important to be able to connect with the right person or group of people with the message they need to hear from you. Having a list or lists of names that you can effectively reach is imperative so your communications tools need to be able to manage those names efficiently for you.

I use 1Shopping Cart (1SC) for my mailing campaigns and my program communications as well as my online purchasing portal. I can group people by their purchase or interest and communicate with those groups of people. This allows my communications to be much more specific and targeted and increases the likelihood of a person reading the message. It also helps ensure that they will receive value, as I am not sending mass emails to everyone one all the time.

For my clients, this allows me to talk directly to people in small groups, like those in my Power of Leadership. I can let them know when their next call or event is. I can offer them specific help with their work, links, and specials, as well as additional information that may have been discussed in our meetings. It makes my communications with them more about them then about selling, and that is more comfortable for me as well as them.

Different software

2) History

The challenge with lists is that we often have lists in different places. My main communications for groups is through 1Shopping Cart (1SC) but I have a database using Microsoft Business Contact Management for Outlook (BCM) to connect to individuals. Of course our social media connections create other lists and all of these are not integrated. The challenge with lists is to have a system for how you connect with people so you are able to follow up later on. Knowing the history of communications with a specific prospect or past client helps you to better meet their needs and turn them into a repeat client.

I rely heavily on BCM to keep track of past conversations with individuals, including offers, personal situations, and conversations we have had. When you speak to thousands of people it helps you to remember what was special about a specific person. It also allows me to throw out business cards after I have them put into the database and keep track of sales and prospects.

I use 1SC to track groups of people. I can look up people by their interest or our past dealings. Someone that has opted-in to a free MP3 may be interested in an upcoming event. Someone that was in a past workshop may be interested in a personal VIP day. I can connect with people individually after I identify who they are and what they may need based on what they have signed up for or purchased in the past.

Whether it is a Contact Management Software (CMS), like my BCM or social media, like Facebook, use the history of your relationship to continue to offer things that are valuable to your clients and prospects moving forward.

 3) Costs

Even if the tool is free, managing the tool effectively is not. Don’t mistaken something that is free online as a way to do business for less. To be able to effectively implement and maintain communications with your clients and prospects every tool must be evaluated for the time and dollars it will cost or save you. If your time is limited and you hate being online, then using free Facebook pages to connect and invite your prospects would be the wrong fit for you unless you hire someone to manage it for you. You see, free just incurred a cost. I find that anything that is free costs me more in time and often does not have the features I need to manage my communications to the level I expect.

For new businesses that are not ready to invest, my recommendation is to write out what you hope to have in place in your business, evaluate what it would cost to invest in the tools (both time and money) and what kind of income your business would have to be making to support that investment. This will give you an idea of when you should look at investing. Also note that making changes to a larger program can be painful. If you have the ability to start with the larger support, that you have identified as a future need for your business, you will have less growing pain by eliminating that transition.

I started with Constant Contact. It is free up to 200 contacts. Unfortunately I never had less than 200 so I started with the basic plan, which was $20 per month. I paid to have it initially set up, lists imported, and my ezine and email templates created. I quickly realized that there were a lot of limiting challenges around this choice and I needed features that could only be found in an application that could both handle email campaigns (including my newsletters) and online purchases. I had to make the change to 1SC which lost me almost 50% of my list, several hundred more dollars to move to the new applications and a $120 per month plan, plus all the sales I felt I had lost because I could not track them easily in the smaller, less expensive choice.

Overall I would suggest that you understand as a small business owner you will likely have several lists to manage. Know which list is critical for which type of communications and how to evaluate & use the history you have with the people on that list.  Most of all, start by knowing what you will want to do with your lists so you can evaluate which software to initially begin with. Understanding your costs up front can save you loses and additional costs in the future.

Some Resources (Both free and paid)

Contact Management Software (CMS) (Microsoft Outlook, Business Contact Management for Outlook, salesforce, Act)

Shopping cart (1Shopping Cart, Infusionsoft)

Payment software (PayPal, Merchant account)

Mailing program (Constant Contact, AWeber Email Marketing, MailChimp Email)

Survey software (Survey Monkey)

Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Hangout)

If you have an application, mobile app, or software you recommend, please let us know. Put your recommendations in the comments below along with a link to the company so we can all check it out.

Tech-Talk Part 2 – More of What You Need to Know – Shopping Carts

In part two of this three-part series I wanted to talk to you about Shopping Carts. Being able to sell to your clients in a way they want to purchase is a great strategy for your business. Selling online is a challenge for some, and it shouldn’t be. There are lots of options, including an online-manual approach. There is always the option to do nothing at all. I want to look at reasons why you may want to offer this option to your clients and how it might help your business as well as talk a little about the different options available.

colourful shopping carts

Related Article: Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites

Why Offer Online Purchasing?

E-commerce allows your clients to purchase from anywhere with options.

Business online is increasing by 20% per year with some 2013 statistics predicting over 1 billion annual online purchases globally1. There is a global trend to purchasing online. I believe that this is a result of increased access and the growth mobile technology, as well as the shear amount of time we spend online. We are using this time to do as much of our chores as possible, like research and purchase a needed item or service. This is not industry dependant. We are seeing online purchases for all business types and all product offerings, from very small, to very large. If your clients are online and they have this need, you are doing them, and your business, a disservice by not offering this option for payment.

Recently I found a business that could not only not accept online purchases, they were unable to purchase online. The challenge for their business was 2 fold, they could only purchase items and services for their business from places that accepted cash or cheques and they could only accept payment in this same format. My clients ask for many different ways to pay;. e-transfers from their bank account to mine (my favourite payment), credit card (the most popular) and PayPal. Strangely, I stopped offering cash or cheque about 4 years ago and no-one has complained (except that first business owner I mentioned). Initially I did not have a merchant account so I could not take credit cards, and that was not an issue since PayPal had a great support for this. I used Constant Contact to manage my communications with clients but this was manual as well. If a purchase came in via email or through an in-person meeting, I would have to add people to different lists to ensure they got the information that they had purchased. There was no automatic communications, no information delivery, no easy way to follow up, and no way to track the connection between my purchases and my communications. It was very separate and time consuming, but it was what I could manage at the beginning of my business.

What is the Business Benefit?

When I started using online purchasing I still sent a manual invoice from PayPal to my clients for payment. I did not have a shopping cart and I did not feel initially I needed it.  Eventually handling multiple purchases automatically became the goal. I liked the sound of the possibility of getting up in the morning and seeing a payment in my inbox from someone I had never met. I knew this was not possible with a manual system and this is why I opted to go to a full online shopping cart. Here were my top reasons for implementing a shopping cart versus taking online payments through PayPal.

  • The shopping cart is integrated with my communications system.
  • I can create auotresponders that delivered services, products, inquiries, scheduling calendars, files, etc. once or over multiple contacts.
  • When people purchased, the data of the purchase is captured by the shopping cart for review.
  • I can manage all my clients differently and offer them things specific to their needs based on how they purchased in the past.
  • I could integrate my merchant account and accept credit cards without having to manage the privacy of my clients’ financial information.
  • I could sell from my website, from stage, at events, in person, or over the phone.
  • I can easily deliver my ezine (newsletter).
  • I can send notices and invitations to special groups of people.
  • Most virtual assistants have skills for managing shopping carts so I could easily offload the work.

What are the Options?

The most important thing to understand is what your use is right now and what you are planning for the use of your shopping cart in the future. You need to be able to evaluate the shopping cart based on how you will use it. Transferring between carts is possible, but what I have heard and experienced is that you will lose between 30 and 50% of your list when you make this transfer. I lost close to 50% of my followers and clients in my switch from Constant Contact (a communications only application) and 1ShoppingCart.com (a full online shopping cart). Privacy policies are strict and to be compliant the best shopping carts require an opt-in for new imported lists as a verification. Even if people love you, they may not opt-in to continue as an active name on your list. This means you cannot contact them via your shopping cart.

Not every shopping cart is the same. There are many global shopping carts that will not integrate with Canadian Banks online. Here is a list of what I was looking for in a shopping cart.

  • Both text and HTML mailing features that look great and are highly functional
  • Easy template creation and use
  • Integration with Canadian merchant accounts
  • Support recurring payments
  • Able to attach a file for mass delivery
  • Put a product on sale without having to create new product profile
  • Quick uptake on understanding how to use it  (none are easy, but some are harder than others)
  • Low cost of initial investment

Other services you may need.

  • M-Commerce (Sales done through a mobile device)
  • Autoresponses based on calendar dates and not sign up dates
  • Up-sell features at checkout

A shopping cart is a monthly investment in the operations of your company, on top of merchant and banking fees. This expense for my company is ~$120 / month. How much income do you have to be making before you invest in this and when is the right time? I would recommend that you make this investment as soon as you know your company is going to need it for its future growth and you are already pushing out online communications and taking online payments.

1 EMarket Services

 

Meet Your Clients Where They Are

Recently I went on a road trip with my husband to interview a Magic The Gathering store owner in Orangeville. I was just along for the ride with no real interest in the main reason for the journey, which was to create a blog post about the local store owner and support his business. This article would go on his blog (MTG Realm) as he writes about this game with a focus on spoilers for new card releases. It sounds simple and maybe even un-interesting to those that do not play the game, but he gets up to 14,000 hits a day on this blog, so there are a lot of people following along.

While in Shawn’s store I became very aware of the business skill he possessed. I was expecting a geek that opened a store so he could be close to his favourite game and what I saw as a man providing a service to his clients by meeting them where they are. Here are the top 5 things I believe he has done right and why.

Facebook not website

The clientèle for this business has an average age in their low to mid 20’s with a lot of teens and a few older people. They are primarily male (about 95 % of players are male). Although the store has a website, there is little information on it. The key communications for this game happens on Facebook, where his community of players can take part and be active in the decisions that are being made about their favourite place to hang out.

Young people want to interact not just have information pushed at them.

Games for everyone

In a past blog post I wrote about his business and I talk specifically about how he has created new games to appeal to the youngest of his clients, knowing that as they progress, they will get better and will stay clients longer.

As business owners you need to look at what you have to offer that will keep your current clients coming back. You can sell ‘one offs’ but you want to try and fill your business with clients that are ‘in love’ with your service and return over and over, bringing their friends and spending their time and money.

Invites the community

On the third floor of his business he has a huge room with high ceilings that needed to be painted. He opened up this room and started an non-profit Art Club for young artists to exhibit murals, painting and photography. He hosts regular events and even offers his own walls for the canvas (see image below).

Koros Games upstairs floor - Art Club

What can you be doing to support the community your clients live in. If you have a location, can you open the doors during off hours for a charity to use. If you don’t have a physical location can you commit time or other resources for local events, not-for-profits, or other community engagements. A business that operates without the connection to its community, whether locally or online, is not as connected to it client.

Simple changes

I laughed at this change, but really… it makes sense for everyone. All the prices in his store include taxes. Not only does it make it easier for his youngest clients to know how much money they need to get a new card to add to their deck, it makes it easier for his employees to help people. He said to me, “Why don’t all businesses do this? It just makes sense.”

Big thinking investments

Originally when he started he was renting a small space on the main street in Orangeville, a city of 25,000, just North of Toronto Ontario. With his focus on his clients his business outgrew the location and he had to move. His answer was to purchase a century old building in a prime location and rent out the street level floor space. He still has two floors of space and he can host up to 200 players for tournaments. This is unheard of outside the large cities. The key is he does not need to fill to capacity to make his money, he simply has the space to offer the opportunity without it being a financial burden on the business. It is one of the reasons he is able to run two events simultaneously to attract both the competitive player and the newbie or casual player.

Are you thinking about your best investments in your business that will give you great resources and give your clients a better experience at the same time? Meet your clients where they are and they will continue to follow you and purchase from you.

Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites

I thought I would do a series of articles on technology. After all I have been in high-tech for over 2 decades and I do know more than most people want to know about technology and how to use it. First let me tell you about my tech-trek (my technology background). Then I want to cover technology for three areas of your business:

  • Websites (Tech-Talk Part 1)
  • Shopping Carts (Tech-Talk Part 2)
  • Communication Software – including webinars, Skype, and teleseminar (Tech-Talk Part 3)

Tech-Trek

When I was in high school we were still using Fortran and punch cards. I learned the Touring language in university, worked on VAX computer systems in College, programmed algorithms and algebraic equations into the first personal computer purchased for the Biophysic lab at the University, ushered out the Cromemco mainframe system for research and followed these introductions with many years of implementing, learning, supporting, and writing manuals & helps systems for hundreds of proprietary software and hardware products.

I loved it and Yes I am a tech-geek at heart.

Old Computers

The old Cromemco looked similar to this with a dot matrix keyboard / printer and no monitor. We were dressed a little more modern in the 1980’s

Tech-Talk Part 1 – Websites

 Why

A website is an absolute necessity for all business today. If a potential client cannot find you online then your business basically does not exist (check out point #3 “No Growth Focus = Decline” in this past article “4 Things That Lead to Business Failure“). Having an online presence is important and a good start. Having an optimized presence  that can be found by search engines in best. If you do not understand what it takes to ‘be found’ or to ‘be optimized for search engines’ then hire someone to implement that for you and create a plan to continue to be found year after year.

Other reasons you will want a website are:

  • Support brand and image recognition
  • For clients to find your business and contact you
  • Provide support and solve problems
  • Connect and stay-in-touch
  • Build a client list
  • Sell services and products

What to Use

For years business owners were at the mercy of web designers as to how their website would be created and managed. Designing a website was an expensive marketing tool for a business sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now there are free tools that make it easier to create something that is consistent and will not go unsupported because the company went under. Unless you are a large company needing a lot of customized function (like a bank needs for security, or a manufacturer may need for regulations management) my recommendation for small business is to always to use WordPress. It has a lot of built in function, it is free to use, there are thousands of applications and widgets you can purchase for a reasonable price, and you can customize it with templates that you can purchase from other coders for little money. Since there are so many people writing code for this application it is also likely to be supported for many years to come.

When I set up my website I purchased a template I liked for about $20, I purchased an image I could use to create my banner (~$35), I paid for my brand creation (~$700), I wrote all my own copy (after paying for training ~$1000), I paid for someone to set up my website (~$500), I purchased my web-hosting (~$125 / year), I purchased my domain name (~$30 with email and privacy per year), I had a members site installed (~$150) and 1ShoppingCart added ($250 + ongoing support) and I use WordPress (Free).

I can do most of my own updating but I still pay for ongoing support to update pages and products. As you can see, depending on what you need, free does not mean without cost.

Minimum information

Let me answer this section in a Q&A format.

  • Do I need to know HTML?
    • That depends on what you are trying to do and whether you have a great team to do the work. There is usually a small amount of HTML that must be understood to manage any customization. For instance, I am writing this blog post in my WordPress editor. It looks like writing in Microsoft Word and is very easy to use. Sometimes I want numbering to do something different than the crude tools of this editor will allow, so I have to go in and manually set the HTML lists to number my way. If you do not know any HTML then make sure you have someone on your team that does (an employee, support company, or contractor).
  • How many pages should my website be?
    • A sales landing page is just one page, a branded website may need 4 or more. My website must have links to Contact / Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy because of the merchant account I use and the regulations for selling online. Some sites are hundreds of pages. The more pages you have the more it will cost in your time or others to set up and maintain.
  • Do I need a blog?
    • A few years ago when someone asked me “do I have to be on Facebook?” I would answer, maybe not yet, but you likely will need to in the near future. Well now you need to be on social media, Facebook included and I’m thinking the same thing about the blog. I think it would be wise to start with a website that easily has the option to turn on and use the blogging feature if you are not going to start now, but I would encourage you to start writing a blog as soon as you can.
  • What other things can I have on my website?
    • The wonderful thing about using WordPress is there are hundreds of thousands of programmers creating widgets and ad-ons for websites. I’m sure there are many different things you can add to a website that I know nothing about. Here are a few things I have on my websites.
  • Do I need more than one domain name?
    • You will need a domain name that matches your business. It is worth trying to get the name that is your businesses name. If it is unavailable that raises red flags for me around trademark infringement. As for other domain names, I like owning the domains for my products. I buy domains for a year based on brand and product development. If I don’t use them I let them go. I usually own between 15 and 30 domains, including my personal name.

Who Can Help

As you can tell I have been at this for a while and know enough to truly enjoy coding directly in HTML. In fact, when I do my sales pages I do code directly in HTML and it is like a little vacation from my day-to-day activities. That said, when I designed my website layout, wrote the copy, and purchased the domains, I did not set it up myself. I got an expert to set up my hosting, implement the template structure, manage the backups, upload the original content, implement additional widgets, and connect my social media. This saved my 10’s of hours, if not weeks of work.

My recommendation is to know what you need, understand your brand, effectively define the best way to reach your target market, and then hire the expert to implement it.

Everyone Has To Be A Writer

ReadingInLibraryThis is a hard pill to swallow for some, even if you are not a bad writer. As a business owner you will be required to write different types of documents to support your business. I hear people saying, “I’m not a writer”, but I argue that you need to be. You may not have to write at the same level as a published author, but you do have to be able to communicate using the written word.

When we think of a writer we think of these types of activities:

  • blogs
  • articles
  • book
  • marketing campaigns

Additional writing required in business

  • email
  • invitations
  • website copy
  • announcements
  • Facebook or other social media posts
  • texts
  • RFP
  • procedures
  • training instructions
  • messages and memos

I’m sure there are more examples but I think you get my point. Your message must be clear so that the action required by the reader is understood. If you need to make an appointment via email you want to make sure both of you end up at the same place in the same time. Have you ever had this happen:

You send an email with details for a meeting and the person agrees by email. When they read the email they misunderstood the choices which resulted in a missed meeting and a waste of your time. I have had this happen and I try to mitigate this challenge by confirming the meeting email with only the meeting details. Like this:

Confirmed
Date:
Time:
Where:

ReadingInLibrary

So what are the basics you need to know? Here are three that will help you with your writing responsibilities.

Write to a level that everyone can understand

Reading in a Library on top of book stackI used to work in medical research. The doctor I worked for was an amazing woman. She was a PhD and an MD. She had patients, students, research colleagues, and she was the head of the BioPhysics department. Needless to say, she was intelligent, well read, and highly educated. I was young and new to the science we were studying. At a meeting one of her colleagues gave a presentation on his research that he planned on using at an upcoming conference. When he was done she asked me what I thought. I told her I had found it interesting but difficult to follow because I did not know his focus or the foundations of his science. “Exactly” she said, he spoke over your head. Even though the room at the conference will be filled with doctors and attendees that are intelligent, well read, and highly educated they will not have the same background or foundation of understanding. He must speak to the audience at a common level of understanding.

Even if you are writing a research paper, you must write at a common level of understanding so that your audience will have the foundational pieces to put your thoughts and ideas into context.

Have it reviewed

Everything you send out must be reviewed, including your emails and texts. This does not mean you need to hire an editor, but it might. At the very least you need to read through your copy at least once. I like to read it out loud to ensure what I thought I was writing and what I actually wrote are the same thing. You’d be surprised how often I catch errors this way.

If you are sending a document that can be used for legal purposes, like a contract, then having a lawyer or paralegal review it would be wise. For marketing collateral you definitely want to pay an editor to review it. They are trained to look for language that is confusing or wrong. I heard a story recently where the editor recommended a change to a document being used to secure a space for an annual event. The sponsorship-document wording stated an exact year. This meant when the event came up the following year the space they needed may not be available. The person did not take the advice of the editor and the space was not available.

A second example that you may be personally familiar with is the money wasted on professional printing for marketing collateral when you find an error on the final product – like the phone number is wrong. I had this happen to an image I had created. By editing the image I found the error in my website name. Can you imagine people seeing this image and not being able to get to my website because it was misspelled. Your potential clients are not going to go and Google search your website address. Don’t lose clients by making them jump through hoops to understand your intentions.

Easily fixed up front – A pain after the damage is done.

For other documents, having someone read through it may be enough to ensure it is easily understood. If you have a spelling mistake in a Facebook post it will be easily forgiven – as long as it is not a ‘Rob Ford’ sized mistake. Having a spelling mistake in a contract may cost you your income

Read and Practice

If you want to get good at something you have to practice. No one is great at something the very first time they try. I had been writing for over 20 years, but when I started blogging about 5 years ago I was nervous and overwhelmed. What would I write about? How will I find enough information? How will I find the time? The more I wrote the easier it became. This article took 45 minutes to write and 20 minutes for me to review. Then I had it reviewed by another person and updated. About 2 hours in total.

I suggest you also read often. The more I read, the more I have an opinion worth writing about. It gives me more content.

You do not have to be a world-class novelist to write for your business but you do have to know how to write. Even your emails can make a difference to a deal in your business so get good at it and read it over before you send it out. If you want to be known as intelligent, well read, and highly educated then communicate with your audience so they can understand you and then they will get value from what you have to say.

What Makes You Money? Revenue Generating Activities!

Doing Revenue Generating Activities or RGA every day is not always easy, especially if you are a soul-proprietor doing both the work IN your business and ON your business. If you are a massage therapist, contractor, coach, or any other service provider and you are spending your days doing work for your clients then when are you generating new sales? If you say, “I’m not” then how do you intend to continue with a healthy business? The answer to that is likely “I don’t”.

RGA consists of marketing and sales activities, both of which you are in charge of and likely wear the overseers hat of management for their implementation and completion. This is an ongoing, daily activity that must be attended to regularly or you will feel the roller-coaster effect of alternating prosperity and want. I want to give you one activity to use every day to help you flatten out this prosperity line as you grow it and that is The Daily Diligence.

The Daily Diligence

Phone calls are still requiredPhone Speed Dial

If you think social media and emails are enough to get your clients to reach out to you and buy then you are wrong. People still need the personal touch and, because of this, sales calls are not going away. Even if you are networking to build relations or belong to a marketing group like BNI you will need to follow up with connections and referrals. Networking, social media, and email campaigns are part of your marketing and hopefully, if done right, will help you fill your funnel with great warm prospects. Don’t throw in the towel on your marketing until you have done the follow-up and you personally know that you have connected with everyone that may want your service.

Set a time limit or accomplishment level

Ensure you have time for your Daily Diligence but don’t fill your day with it, unless you have booked extra time. To make sure you have time to do this difficult work you need to book it. Just like you would book your clients, you will book yourself time to do RGA work. There are so many activities that could be done for marketing and sales and if not managed correctly they can take over your week. Remember that time, in the not too distant past, when you had no time to do anything because you had booked so many networking events and coffee meetings? Well maybe you have not had one of those weeks yet, but if you are not careful, it will happen and then, when the week is over and you have not closed any new sales you should be wondering, “what was the value of my time and dollars”.

You can also book by accomplishment level. For instance you may say, I’m going to knock on 5 doors or make 10 calls. Pick a value you have control over. This does not work for number of sales, as you may need to spend the day to get one sale and then you have not balanced your marketing with your serving.

Start every day doing the one thing

Do the one thing that is hardest for you to do first thing in the morning. If calling clients and closing sales are difficult then start your day with the focus to accomplish that first. Don’t book any client work until you have fulfilled your commitment to your most difficult RGA.

Evaluate Your Investment

This can be applied to any RGA activity, but I want to look specifically at your networking. Have you evaluated your ROI on your networking investment?

  1. How much money and more importantly, how much time does it take?
  2. How much money and time have you budgeted?
  3. What return were you expecting (that would make it valuable / or at a minimum)?
  4. How much return did you get?

People have an expectation that just because they are liked by others or enjoy being at events, that eventually there will be a return. Even if you are one of the most productive referral partners in a networking group you may never see any return. I say, “If there is no cash flow then let it go!”

At the end of the day I want you to ask yourself, “did I do something today that was revenue generating?” Answer ‘Yes’ every day and you are on your way to accelerated growth.

To Make More Money – Give Them What They Ask For

There are three things that affect the way we want to sell our products: our idea of value (price), our self-worth (image), flexibility to create (product).

It is interesting to see how often, we as entrepreneurs, think we know best about what we offer and what will sell. It can be very different than what we think. Our clients are likely already asking for something specific and we sometimes are not listening. Creating a product, setting a price, and being able to deliver with an image of value is not easy.

I was working with a client recently (let’s call her Jane). It was clear that Jane was very focused on what she was good at and she has a phenomenal following. Clients and prospects love her. She spends a lot of energy trying to teach all the people about what she has to offer hoping the ones that understand what she is teaching will purchase from her. The funny thing is, she had several very prominent people saying they needed to work with her, but she didn’t know what she could offer them nor how she would price it.

It wasn’t what she was currently offering. Instead of saying ‘no’ or ignoring them we spent time looking at what she could offer them. It quickly became evident that it was hard for people to buy from her because her idea of value and her flexibility to create did not match her self-worth. She was in the realm of Guru and had created a halo effect around her expertise, but she spent her time selling to those that did not know they needed help in the first place.

By adjusting her product offering and her pricing she now had something that would easily appeal to those that were already reaching out to her. Her image matched her offering and now more easily draws in the right clients, which is not her niche target market.

When you stop and look at who understands you and what they need then evaluate what you offer and see if it matches. When it doesn’t you need to make some changes. Be flexible and willing to make the changes that will appeal to your target market. Here are some tips to make changes in these three areas.

Image Product Price
  • Be seen where your clients are.

Network where they network, advertise where they read, invite them to things they would attend.

  • Make it what they want.

If your clients say I can’t afford that now then make something they can afford. Listen for what they are not getting or they don’t want and adjust for their needs.

 

  • Do not charge by the hour.

Your product for 20 hours should not be 20 times more expensive then one hour. Add value, create interest and price to give breaks for those that pay up front for larger products.

By listening to those that identify with your image and want what you have you identify your niche and create products that will easily sell.

It’s Not About ‘You’ – 3 Tips to Help you Focus on ‘Them’

This morning at the Barrie Open Coffee Club our discussion was around Clients – good and bad. It was a reminder to me that even though we are often the only person in our business, the focus of business growth is not about ‘you’ it is about ‘them’ [the client]. We forget this sometimes in our development, in our language, in our interaction during a project, in our conversations and our services; we must be looking to what is needed and not what we want to offer. Let me give you three tips to help you remember where your focus should be when you are looking to grow your business.

1. Marketing Language

Our marketing language should speak to our target market in a way that will attract them and make them take notice. If your target market is athletes, then speak about topics and benefits that will appeal to an athlete. This seems rather simplistic but I often see language that is about your service, your features, your options written in a way that you think would appeal to everyone.

1. Know who you are talking to. I like work on an exercise with my clients to create an avatar (detailed description/image) of their ideal client. By knowing exactly who your ideal client is, what they like, where they hang out, what they read, the dynamics of their family and friends, etc. you can more easily understand what will attract them to your business and ultimately buy from you.

2. Find out what your clients really need or want – not just what you want to sell them. For example; we all need a coat for the winter months in Canada, but we don’t all want a ski jacket. If you are selling light-weight jackets for business dress that a professional will use to go from their car to a venue and back again, then knowing this will help you create the language that will focus on the benefit your clients actually want, like that it is light-weight, has an inside pocket for business cards, can be worn easily while driving, and can be worn over a suit jacket. Selling using language that will attempt to attract everyone because of your amazing product features may get your marketing overlooked by the professionals you need to reach. Focus on their needs not your features.

Choosing_direction

2. Direction

It is hard to let go when we know we have something of great value to offer, but if you find that you are not getting traction with the sales of your product or service then you need to look at why. One reason why may be that you are not using the right language to communicate the benefits to the right people (as mentioned above). Another ‘why’ may be that you have created something that appeals to you but not to your clients. If you are adamant about heading in one direction while your clients look for something different you are not focusing on their needs.

Evaluate your clients’ needs. Ask them what they love about your products or services and what they would like to see changed. If there is something you cannot sell, ask what they would prefer. Do some competitive intelligence research to see what your competitors are doing, especially if they are very successful.

If you find the product or service you expected to sell well is not selling then be quick to head in a new direction. Don’t be so tied to your expectation that you are unwilling to make the change required to meet your clients’ needs.

3. Service

We go into business to create an income for ourselves, to develop something we see as valuable, to follow our passion, or to work at something we are an expert at. When you are in business the only thing that really matters is if we serve our clients the way they wish to be served. What is their experience with our products, our place of business, our employees, our service. Do we fulfill our clients’ needs? Do we meet their expectations? Is what we have to offer what our clients really want? Can we reproduce our clients’ best experiences over and over?

To be able to serve your clients you must ask yourself and your clients these questions so you can evaluate your offering. Always be looking for ways to stay on top of your clients’ needs and be proactively searching for the ways to give the best service possible.

Online, in person, over the phone, or through a distance relationship, your clients are the reason you are in business. Don’t use ego to direct your business growth. Look to your clients for the things that will make you successful.

 

Don’t Ignore Your Trends

Do you know what trends are driving your industry? Understanding the trends means that you can watch for trend changes and be on top of it in your business if you have to make a course adjustment to your business growth and sustainability.

Trendy_purseFirst – What is the trend your business is built on?

Selling water filters may be based on the trend for healthy living, selling MRI machines for hospitals may be the trend of increased disease awareness and the drive for healthier living, and electric bikes may be driven by environmental concerns and the need to also continue with a healthy lifestyle.

In my business of coaching, speaking, and training I see a couple of trends that affect this market and increase the number of people doing what I do tremendously: the economy collapse and the need for education for people later in life.

In 2008 the collapse of Wall Street brought a lot of unrest and worry to the average person, not only in the USA but also in the global market. People were losing their jobs and their homes at an alarming rate. Getting support to carry on, build something new, apply to another industry, or go back to ‘the market’ is difficult and scary. Getting support from someone that can help find the path and keep you on it was one of the reasons coaching became more popular. A second outcome was that the people in that transition could also become a coach.

When people realized that to make a change and apply for a job they had never done before would require education, the education industry exploded. My understanding is that this is true in unstable markets were job loss and unemployment are high. Being a business expert and a coach meant that I could hit a market of people in transition, starting something new by creating a business for themselves, and needing education to make it last. This is the trend I watch.

Second – What are you going to be watching for?

Knowing the metrics, factors, purchasing habits, etc. are great, but knowing exactly what you will be watching and at what time you need to start looking for a new path is even more important. Businesses that are successful stay on top of the trends in their market. Google broke into an already crowded cell phone market a few years back by knowing that there was still room in the technology for growth and innovation. There was still a lot of people that did not own a cell phone and although the younger buyer may be set with their Apple purchase, the older consumer using Blackberry was now looking for something different. If Blackberry had been on top of this trend they would have released their own button-free, touchscreen phone years earlier and it would have likely helped their sales tremendously.

As the baby boomers continue to retire, many without the funds to live comfortably without work, there will continue to be a need for what I do. After that bubble passes my expertise may be in less demand and changing my marketing strategies as well as my services will be the first places I start.

Find out what the trend is that you are following, and look for new trends in your market so you can be prepared.