Tag Archives: Small business strategies

How to Know If Your Business Loves YOU

There are several prerequisites for having a business that loves you as much as you love being a business owner.

It’s tempting to delude yourself into accepting less than you deserve because you’re so enamored with the concept of being a business owner.

The reality of it can be a much different story.

When we live in a state of delusion, we’ll accept less than we deserve. We put up with and tolerate behavior that is not conducive to our well-being.

So how do you know if your business is being true to you? How do you know if it’s putting you above all else? How do you know if it would take a bullet for you?

“What’s a body to do?”, you ask.

Establish criteria and expectations that will allow you to lead a lifestyle that inspires you.

1. Schedule vacations

Without proper planning, you could end up working throughout the entire year. When you do your business planning (you DO do that don’t you?), decide how much time you want to take off and then block it out on your calendar. You don’t have to know where you’re going to go (although that helps), you just need to commit to when.

2. Work in your sweet spot

Most people go into business because of a passion or area of expertise thinking that’s how they’ll spend most of there time. Then they realize there is so much more that’s required in running a business. When you’re new you may not be able to afford all of the help you need, but before you think you CAN afford it, start outsourcing tasks you hate or aren’t good at. Doing so will actually free you up to be more creative and thus afford you the time to work on things that will generate more sales.

3. Value your time an expertise

You deserve to be paid what you’re worth. Focus on sharing your gifts with others for recompense in addition to the pure joy of it. Don’t undervalue your knowledge and passion. People need your unique perspective and want help from someone who knows more than they do.

4. Work with people you adore

This is definitely one of the big perks of being in business. You get to choose your ideal clients. This is particularly true if you’re in a service business. You target the kind of folk you want to work with. You don’t have to make an ‘offer’ to everyone if you’re not interested. Or, you could add a premium to the price so it feels more palatable to you. I don’t strongly recommend that option. It’s one thing to charge more for work you enjoy less. It seems almost mean to do it for such personal reasons as not liking someone. Just say ‘no’ and move on.

5. It pays you well

I remember talking with a graphic designer 20 years ago when I first started my jewelry design business. I sold hand-crafted earrings and necklaces at Art & Wine festivals in northern California. As we were chatting about my new business (I was very excited), I revealed how much I paid in entrance (booth) fees for the more popular shows. Her reaction was “Oh. I guess you’re happy to just break even.”

I looked at her in dismay. “No”, I said. “I almost always make a substantial profit. And on those occasions when I don’t, I know it’s an aberration and I don’t do that particular show again (unless it was just rained out which was a rare occurrence).

Pristine Beach East Zanzibar
Image via Wikipedia

That jewelry business paid for a 3 1/2 week trip to Tanzania for a safari, a week in Zanzibar and a week in the ‘bush’ with the Masai. It was a great way to start off in the business world. And even today, my pricing reflects the value I provide to my clients not just the minimum to ‘break even’ and cover the bills.

So, if your business loves you, you’ll enjoy your work and your clients. You’ll have time to relax and enjoy live.

You’ll be valued by your clients and you’ll be paid what you’re worth.

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How to Attract Clients Who Will Pay You What You’re Worth

Many business owners scrape by serving clients who are struggling themselves.  In spite of the economy, there are many businesses and people who have been unaffected and are willing to pay for premium-level services and products.

When you’re trapped servicing the middle or low-price market (which, let’s face it) much of the country is these days, you encounter a ton of hairy-pulling, teeth-gnashing concerns like:

1.    People don’t buy from you because they can find what you offer at a lower price somewhere else
2.    People don’t buy at all because putting up with their problem is easier than forking over money to solve it
3.    Your bank account is scarily low leaving you worried, anxious and maybe even a tad desperate.

You get the picture.

So, well-heeled clients sound like the answer to your prayers, right?

The challenge to landing those clients however is  (at least) three-fold:

1.    You don’t know exactly who is looking for what you have to offer
2.    You don’t know how to find or attract them
3.    You don’t have anything to offer them that they’re truly interested in

So what’s a busy business owner to do?

There are several ways to overcome these problems.

In dire times businesses try to offer everything to everybody. That’s exactly the wrong strategy.  And here’s why.  When you market to everyone, your ‘target’ won’t feel special.  She won’t believe you have a solution that addresses her needs so she keeps looking until she finds it and it likely won’t be with you.

I recently went into a shoe repair shop (a dying breed, admittedly) but they were selling children’s toys and household tchotchkes that didn’t even look like they belonged in the shop.  Perhaps they were selling well, but frankly, I’d be surprised.

The solution is to focus on a small set of specific clients and do everything you can to understand them, their worries, pains, dreams, hopes and desires.

Once you know who they are, ask yourself, how are they spending their time? What do they read, listen to or go to?

Are they attending networking meetings? If so, which ones? Most networking events are populated with people hungry for business not necessarily looking to invest in solutions.

Think about it. When you need to buy something, do you go to an event to buy it? Probably not. You might go and ask people you trust for recommendations, but if you found exactly what you were looking for, I’ll bet you’d be a little bit surprised.

So you have to get visible where your market is looking. That could be online, on their smart phone, in industry-specific or niche publications (although that can be expensive).

If they’re suffering with a big problem, they may have complained to their friends and colleagues. So developing a referral strategy with the right people could be really productive.

Then, once you’ve found them (or they’ve found you), you must make sure your marketing message hits them directly between the eyes.  You have to be so clear about how what you’re offering is exactly what they need that they go “Duh! It would be a mistake NOT to invest in that.”

Again, this underscores the importance of knowing who really needs what you have so when they hear our message, they say “S/he’s talking to me!”

I remember participating in an event and one of the attendees remarked “I felt like the speaker was inside my head saying out loud what I had only thought in the privacy of my own brain!” That’s what you’re going for!

So, when you know who they are, what they’re gnashing their teeth over and have a solution aimed directly at pain (or dream) with a message that feels like it’s directly personally to them, the right people will refer you, find you and happily pay you for your expertise!

The 7 Essential Lists Successful Businesses Must Have

Running a successful business requires more than a good idea.  It requires structure and processes to keep things and money flowing.

1. Long-term goals list
If you’ve been following me for any time, you’ll undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of goals.  Goals that stretch beyond today or this week, will help you prioritize your time in the most productive manner possible.  They will motivate you and your staff.  They will keep on focused on what’s truly important.

2. Daily to-do action items list
Just as important as knowing where you’re going long term, is knowing (and doing) what’s most important RIGHT NOW.  Sometimes unforseen emergencies have to be dealt with.  But more importantly, you need to decide each day what the most productive use of your time will be.

I always have a to-do list and never get through everything on the list on any given day.  I do always decide what the priorities are for the day and then get to work on them.  Last week, I lost my list and I was lost without it!  Thank God I found it a couple of days later.  I remembered some of the critical items, but had forgotten one that needed to be addressed.

3. Prospect list
This is one of the biggest mistakes business owners make.  If you don’t have a list of potential prospects, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.  If you’re a retail establishment, people make a purchase the very first time they discover you.  However, if you don’t and you haven’t captured their contact info, you may never hear from them again.

You’ll increase your chances of doing business with them if you’re able to proactively reach out and remind them that you exist.  So if you aren’t already capturing either a physical address or email address from your store or website visitors, start that now! You’ll probably need to give them some sort of incentive (not just an offer for your newsletter) in order for them to part with their contact info. But capturing that valuable data must be your goal.

4. Customer list
Just as important as a prospect list is a list of your customers. These are people who have demonstrated interest in your product or service by making a purchase.  It takes more time and energy to make a sale to a stranger or prospect than to someone who has already bought from you and been satisfied.  Treat these people well, but don’t neglect offering them the next thing you offer that can help solve their problems.

5. Process list
Every business needs a set of processes that help the business run efficiently.  You probably have them even if they aren’t documented. You need to document them.

Start by making a list of all of the “Here’s how we do things around here” topics in a variety of areas such as answering the phone, identifying prospects, converting prospects to clients, taking on a new client, invoicing clients, processing payments, asking for a referral, publishing our newsletter, paying the bills, making minor changes to your website, etc. Then write out the steps involved in each process.

This compilation will be an invaluable tool in defining roles and responsibilities, delegating tasks and training new employees.

6. Resource list
This list includes the tools and systems you use to run your business and make your life easier.  It’s slightly different than the Process List which may reference certain resources: things like your accounting system, your website host, tools on your blog, new tools you plan to invest in, an employment agency or temp service, online portals for which you have memberships or accounts.

Having a list in a binder along with a brief description and access (login) or contact info will save you countless hours of trying find the information when you desperately need it.

7. Diversions list
After all of this work, you must take time to relax and enjoy life.  It’s challenging for some business owners to ‘work in’ time for play, but this list is essential as well.

Your list should include things you enjoy doing, that bring you peace of mind, that obliterate your stress.  Possible candidates are listening to a certain kind of music, playing music, painting, playing with your pets, children, spouse and friends.

Make sure you know which kind of ‘play’ you thirst for.  Is it board games, exercise, meditation, video games, outdoor sports, movies, ballet, opera, cards, TV, dancing, vacations, weekend getaways?

Whatever ‘floats you boat’, schedule it. That may sound weird but if these activities aren’t on your calendar or at least on a list you review regularly, they will get trumped by those emergencies and daily tasks.

Creating and using these lists will improve your productivity, keep your business soaring and maintain your sanity.

How to Distinguish Yourself in a Crowded Marketplace So You Win More Sales

If you want your business to grow, it’s critical that you set yourself apart from the competition. Many companies struggle with that idea but it’s not too difficult if you know the steps you must take.

If you fail at distinguishing yourself, you could end up having lots of conversations with prospects that end up going nowhere.  You’ll waste money on advertising that won’t get noticed and time on networking that doesn’t lead to presentations and therefore sales.

Let’s face it, unless you have a product or service that is truly unique, other entries in your industry will make the same client claims that you make.  And your prospects will either hire the person they like the best or the one who gives them the cheapest price.

So what’s a Biz Dev person to do?

Here are the 5 MUST DOs that will allow you to eradicate the competition and win more sales.

1. Define how you exceed market expectations
Everyone says they deliver exceptional customer service. That won’t distinguish you. Saying you focus on the customer is a big yawner as well.  If you’re a printer, on-time delivery is an expectation every client has.  If you’re able to design and print faster than anyone else, simplify the review/approval process, customize publications at a cost-effective price or deliver products to worldwide locations in a snap, you might have an edge.

2. Assess your past engagements
Make a list of your biggest success stories.  Notice what they had in common.  Were they all from particular or related industries? Did you sell or service them in a similar fashion? What made them so successful?

3. Identify your process
Determine what it is that you do with each of your clients.  Even if you think there isn’t a process you follow, I challenge you to discover it.  It’s there.  What’s the first thing you do?  Is it an assessment?  Do you ask them a series of questions followed by some recommendation(s)?  Do you have them do certain things?  You may have a number of processes you do under different circumstances.

4. Name It & Claim It
Once you’ve defined the steps you take, claim them and NAME them.  Acronyms are great but not necessary. For example, the steps I take clients through who are looking for more balance and joy in their life is RENEW.  Release, Elect, Nurture, Eject and Win.  While there are a lot of coaches who help people gain a stronger feeling of control over and balance in their lives, how many have a SYSTEM like the RENEW System?

5.  Tell your hero’s story
Share with your prospects and clients how you got where you are today.  Perhaps it’s the story of how you developed the system or how you grew up and led you to the life you have.  Your story is your own.  No one else can tell your story.  That makes your story a key ingredient in distinguishing yourself and your business from the rest of the world

I heard a marketing consultant/speaker share what it was like growing up the ‘baby’ in a family of 8 children.  His slogan was “Being heard above the noise”.  He tells his audience what it took for him to get heard above the noise of his children and helps business owners come up with their own stories so they can get heard above the noise.

You have everything you need to set yourself apart. You just need to look at who you are, how you got where you are, what you do that’s unique for your clients and the results you help them produce. This will distinguish you and help you win more sales.