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Monthly Archives: August 2016

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Grow

Big businesses tend to appeal to wide, general customer bases. As a result, customers with more specific needs are left out, because there’s not enough profit potential for a big company to cater to those customers’ needs. However, a small but eager customer base can be perfect for a smaller business.

“Step No. 1 is to recognize that a larger business is not necessarily your competition. Ask yourself how you are different,” Joanne Chang, owner of and chef at Flour Bakery + Café and Myers + Chang in Boston, said in The Wall Street Journal.

Identifying and focusing on your niche also lets you work to your strengths and develop market expertise and loyalty.

“Many are afraid to eliminate part of a potential market,” James Clear, founder of Passive Panda, wrote in an American Express Open Forum blog post. “It can seem scary, but you need to focus on your core customer if you want a clear path to growth.”

Danielle McPhail, founder of eSpec Books, said she has seen this in the world of small-press publishing.

“When you diversify too much when you’re small, then you can’t maintain your market,” she said. “I’ve worked with a lot of small presses, and when I see them self-destruct is when they start making imprints to reach different markets and they don’t have the support structure to reach that different demographic.”

One way to innovate an industry is to find a problem that most businesses are ignoring.

“Don’t be afraid to solve the hard problems that everyone else avoids,” wrote Clear. “There is a lot of money to be made when you’re the first person to fix something.”

“Because you have passion and because you can tap into agility, you have a perfect mix to better innovate,” Pam Moore, founder of Marketing Nutz, wrote in a blog post. “It doesn’t require an intense board meeting to kick off an idea for further research. You can simply plan it and do it.”

When you innovate, be sure to keep in mind your market and customer base. McPhail encouraged small business owners to diversify within their existing product or service scopes but warned against branching out into completely different demographics.

If you think big, you have to anticipate expansion. That might mean having some general plans in place for taking on more employees, setting up checklists and procedures to ensure quality control, and investing in products and equipment that will grow with you.

Purchasing hardware and software that grows with you is especially important. “Continuously having to upgrade is going to cost you money in the long run. Implement for growth now, and it will save you time, money and headache down the road,” said Moore.

Clear noted that growth doesn’t always mean creating more products or hiring more people.

“Acquisitions can be a massive source of profit and a means to growth if you make a few key moves,” he said.

Clear recommended keeping a list of companies that fit your niche and have the characteristics you’re looking for so that any acquired business enhances your focus and mission.

It takes an independent streak and a do-it-yourself attitude to start your own business, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. For example, partnering with a business that handles a specific task and sharing the profits lets you keep your focus on what you do best while getting a big project done.

Clear uses the example of tennis balls: If you have a high-end tennis ball, instead of trying to make yourself in the image of Wilson, which has its own manufacturing and distribution, you should find an existing ball manufacturer and offer to share the profits. This frees your time and money so you can concentrate on selling the balls to your specific market, he said.

Thanks to modern technology, you can even harness the power of the crowd to fund your business or specific products.

“What made [starting my publishing company] possible was crowdfunding. Because I’m very good at marketing, we can fund the project and be in the black from the beginning. After that, it’s pure profit,” said McPhail.

Your business may have started small, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Plan for growth and seek out help and partnerships. Then, you can expand to something larger, successfully and on your terms.

8 Important Traits Successful Salespeople Share

“Your customers want to know you … understand their challenges, dreams and goals, and have carefully considered why your solution makes sense. And, they want to be sure you have their best interests at heart. They have to be sure you care [more] about their mission and the greater good, than your numbers.” – Karin Hurt, founder, Let’s Grow Leaders

“If you don’t believe in your product, you aren’t going to make a customer believe in your product. If you can confidently explain how your product or service is going to solve a problem for the customer, then you’ve got the customer in the palm of your hand.” – Megan Ingenbrandt, social media assistant, General Floor

“A good salesperson … is always aware of her circumstances and surroundings, can see how her product or service might positively impact her environment, and will be prepared to present and make a sale at any moment.” – Judy Crockett, retail management consultant and owner, Interactive Marketing & Communication

“Great salespeople never look like they are selling anything. They are educating, instilling faith and confidence. They are quietly and invisibly demonstrating why customers should believe in them and, in turn, buy from them.” – Mark Stevens, CEO, MSCO

“Top sales achievers have a unique ability to cope with difficulty, to negotiate obstacles, to optimize performance in the face of adversity. They take rejection as a personal challenge to succeed with the next customer.” – Jim Steele, president and chief revenue officer, InsideSales.com

“An extrovert is generally sociable, gets energized by spending time with other people, likes to talk and start conversations and makes friends easily. They also tend to have many interests. This allows a salesperson to be willing to meet people, enjoy the interaction, and talk about many things. The more subjects they can converse about, the better they’re able to connect with the customer.” – Dominick Hankle, Ph.D. and associate professor of psychology, Regent University

“You have to listen to the customer’s pain point before you start selling your product or service. Great sales people sell solutions to problems and they do that by understanding and listening to the customer.” – Timothy Tolan, CEO and managing partner, The Tolan Group (Sanford Rose Associates)

“Multitasking is just a natural occurrence in any sales environment. You have sales you’re trying to close, leads you’re nurturing and following up on, and potential leads calling or emailing for more information. A great multitasker can keep everything sorted, conducting multiple trains on a one-train track, and this leads to efficiency, which in turn leads to better performance.” – Coco Quillen, vice president of operations, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions

Tips to Market Your Business with Video Livestreaming

  Video has become an important component of marketing success for businesses. It’s cheaper and easier than ever to produce professional footage and distribute it far and wide. Social media, in particular, is changing the way video is delivered and consumed, and nowhere is that more evident than in the rise of live-stream coverage.

Live streaming might seem like it’s more geared toward journalists or individuals, but it’s actually a powerful tool in the small business advertiser’s marketing toolbox. Here’s how to best leverage live streaming and expand your brand’s reach.

Video live streaming is, quite simply, the act of transmitting live footage over the internet to an active audience. In the past, live streaming was typically done on a dedicated platform, but today, social media has expanded the reach of live streaming to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“For the first time, small businesses can really experiment with video as a means of communication,” said Tom More, CEO of the creative multimedia company Slidely. “Live streaming is not a new app, there’s nothing new they need to learn, because it’s built into social media. I think what’s happening now will help empower them in new ways.”

While platforms like UStream have long been hosting live videos, social media’s step into the live-streaming territory represents a real opportunity for startups and small businesses to quickly get their messages out at little cost.

Not all live videos are created equal. Developing an effective video ad campaign requires a strategy, and your live footage should be treated no differently. In fact, sloppy or unplanned video could actually damage your brand and have a negative effect, so it’s important to get it right. It’s worth it to put pen to paper and brainstorm a bit beforehand.

“The rules still apply,” Beth Mock LeBlanc, chief creative officer and managing partner at MLB Creative, said. “You need to have a plan for your live videos; it can’t just be ad lib. Find out what your audience is interested in and come up with a plan that targets that.”

While planning is important, the beauty of live video is its casual, personable quality, More said. Striking the right balance between structure and comfort is key.

“Live streaming adds something in terms of honesty,” More said. “From the user’s point of view, it should even seem unrehearsed, but businesses need to rehearse and understand their message.”

Based on the advice of our expert sources, here are a few things to keep in mind when developing a live-streaming strategy:

  1. Post a teaser: If people are going to tune in to your live streams, they need to know when you’re going to be on. Sure, anyone in your network may happen upon your stream while online, but you’ll see an improvement in views and engagement if you give a heads-up to your followers first.
  2. Create a rough script: Live streaming allows you to show a more authentic, spontaneous and human side to your brand. Still, a meandering or nonsensical video will leave users feeling confused, which doesn’t lead to very many conversions. Draft some bullet points and perform a few dry runs before going live, but avoid becoming beholden to a specific script!
  3. Keep your content fresh: Not all live streams have to feel like advertisements. Users are more likely to engage with content that isn’t a direct pitch. If a customer tells you that he or she liked the work you did, ask that person if they’ll go live for 30 seconds and tell your followers about his or her experience. Offer tutorials and how-to videos to help your followers solve a problem that’s associated with your industry. Live-stream events like trade shows or community outings. Any type of content that helps you develop a connection between your social media followers and your brand is a success.
  4. Remember your brand: As part of your marketing strategy, you should have a “brand-positioning statement,” or a simple theme that embodies why your brand is the best choice for the consumer. Your live streams are representing your company’s brand, so be sure to stay on message and remain consistent in the way you approach content creation.
  5. Sell a feeling: Dry or technical advertisements will never go as far as emotionally driven content, and video is an excellent medium for capturing feeling. Know your audience, their needs and their interests, and then be sure to create engaging content that connects with them. Building the association between your brand and audience is more important than pushing a product.
  6. Consider incentives: Entice your followers with deals and specials that are only obtainable through your live streams. Not only will this increase the potential for conversions through that channel, but it will also encourage the growth of your followers over time. Live streaming might capture one specific moment, but the strategy surrounding it is long-term in nature.

The better your strategy is tailored to your audience’s needs, the better the response will be. A successful video marketing campaign, especially social media-based live streaming, has the potential to reach well beyond your network, Mock Leblanc said.

“In our experience, people are very engaged with video,” Mock LeBlanc said. “People share video more and search for it more often. If you can come up with some good content, it can be a very effective tool.”

“In social, we have something TV didn’t, which is real-time sharing,” More added. “People will give you feedback and share it with their friends, and then you have the ability to retarget those people with something a little more focused on the offering. That makes it real.”

How to Building a Relationship

 What do we mean by relationship-building?

When we talk about the competency of relationship-building in the world of business, we are referring to building strong relationships with partners and clients – about using interpersonal skills to network in an effective way.

What does a competent relationship-builder do?

Somebody who is competent at relationship-building focuses on understanding the needs of the client and getting the best possible results. This competency promotes an ethic of client service and so an understanding and anticipation of a client’s changing needs is essential. Stress and conflict are other issues that a competent relationship-builder will manage – keeping composed and acting as mediator when conflicts arise.

How can I start to develop the competency of relationship-building?

First identify the business plan goals of your department and decide what your role is going to be in helping to achieve those goals. You will need to study the business plan and learn as much as possible about your clients’ activities, interests and needs. This information might be available in their own annual reports or in client surveys conducted by your company. Talking to your clients about how you can best meet their needs is also a sensible first step to take.

Seven steps to becoming an effective relationship-builder:

  1. Draw up a plan of what you need to do in order to give your clients what they want. Discuss your ideas with your line manager and then do what is necessary to implement the plan.
  2. When the plan has been set in motion, schedule regular meetings with your line manager to review the progress that you are making and make any necessary adjustments.
  3. When you are working as part of a team or group within a department or a company it is important to assess your contribution to the group’s work. Think about how your efforts help or hinder progress.
  4. Make a weekly analysis of your commitments. Set yourself a goal for each week so that you follow them through. Make an effort to do what you say you are going to do – and also, to do it by the time that you say it will be done. If you get into the habit of doing this it will become like second nature.
  5. Build up a file of contacts and classify them in a way that is meaningful for your particular work context. Then you will know exactly who to call with any queries or when you need information.
  6. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, request it from a variety of sources – from your line manager but also from colleagues, clients and people who you supervise. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.
  7. Build informal relationships with the people who are working around you. Make a point of greeting people who you normally don’t speak to. Ask them about their interests and make it a goal to practise small talk with them. Listen to what they say and remember so that you can ask about a particular interest the next time you meet.