Monday, February 29, 2016

Being Agile

As a small business owner you have a lot on your plate.  From human resources to budgeting you spend your whole day figuring things out.  Now I'm going to make things a little more complicated.  Turns out that using the same marketing day after day isn't the best use of your budget.

You cannot do the same thing year after year and expect growth.  Frankly, this leaves the door open for competition.

To stay ahead of the competition and grow your business you will need to always stay agile.  Always be learning, always be trying to improve and always listen.  So, how does one stay agile?

1. Always Be Listening

Listen to your customers, your employees and your friends.  You will get a lot of bad advice, of course, but there are going to be some priceless nuggets as well.  Especially from employees.  You need to give them enough freedom to try new things, and see if they can improve your company.  You also need to invest in them.  By educating them, either through internal or external training, you give them more room to help you grow.

2. Always Be Learning

You also need to be investing in yourself.  Listen to webinars, podcasts and virtual training.  Sign up for classes online.  Get a coach.  Attend a conference.  Find a mentor.  All of these are essential pieces in learning to be better.  Better at work and life.

3. Be Willing to Test Things

Also, know how to test your results.  Gut instincts can be very beneficial, but they can also be a trap.  I've seen countless people claim to have great websites only to discover that they don't once data is being gathered.  Sometimes they are very poor.

4. Don't Fall For Shiny Objects

This is my ultimate lesson.  There are many people out there selling things that worked once or twice, or maybe not at all.  They have great sales pitches, and sound good enough to be true.  Some of these will be, and will impact your business.  Others will be a waste of time and money.

Now, the true lesson is to always work on the basics.  The extras are just that, something to enhance your basics.  Every few months you will want to get back to the basics, and try to get better at that.  Make sure that they are ingrained in you, your employees and everyone at your company.  The basics can make you good.  The extras make you great.  Make sure that you are good before you try to be great.

Small Business Marketing Ideas

Starting your own business, especially for first timers, is beyond complicated.  You now have to learn about taxes, human resources, time management, advertising strategies, legalities of marketing, how to grow your business while still actually doing whatever it is you are doing.  Even coaches, who don't have to worry about inventory, are going to have a lot to learn in a short period of time.

The other major impact you will see is your ability to market.  You probably jumped into starting your own business after being a part of a similar one.  It looked pretty easy, and you felt that you could make the same as whomever was managing the business.  That is quite possibly true.  However, getting your name out there, especially with a limited budget, can be difficult.  I can't tell you the number of times I've been contacted by a small business to find out that they don't have a budget, absolutely $0, allotted to marketing.

Now, growing a business without a marketing budget is extremely difficult.  It can be done, but you will have a lot harder time then if you had one.  How much of a budget do you need?  That depends on how much you can DIY.  Can you create your own ads, without copyright infringement?  Can you write your own copy?  Can you create your own website?  Do you know how to do Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and SEO?  If you said yes to all of these you can do it with a very small budget, $500 or less per month.  If you said no to any of these, then you need a budget that can go up to $1000+ per month.

If you still want to DIY it here are a few things you can do to can your business going quickly on a small budget.

1. Create Your Own Website

If you have no web design experience I would suggest using Weebly or Squarespace.  They have enough tools to let you build your own website quickly.  The themes/templates are pretty generic, but it is an easy barrier to get online.

If you have web design experience I would suggest Wordpress.  Wordpress is a lot more tools and flexibility, allowing you to further optimize your website (SEO) then the other two.

2. Start Posting on Social Media

With social media you are better off using just one or two social channels to get going.  Be really good at one rather than mediocre or bad at three.  Also, do your research before you get going.  Join some online groups, talk to people, get a mentor and really get down to what's going to work.  You need to engage with your prime audience.  If you are an online business you can look at similar pages to see what works and what doesn't.  If you are a local business you need to focus on the local people that are going to engage with you.  Engagement is key with posting.

3. Start Doing Facebook Ads

Facebook ads can be ridiculously great.  You can target the specific audience you are going after, and engage them.  You can choose people by marital status, relationship status, sexual orientation, interests, if they have kids, how much they make, how much they are worth, job titles and more.  You can narrow it down to the perfect audience.

More importantly is your ability to be agile.  You can change your ads as you need, and continue to improve with real data.  Radio, TV and Print don't allow this flexibility.  You can change your ad at midnight, and see the results by noon the next day.  It's an exceptional advertising medium.

4. Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex marketing medium.  There are little intricacies that will set you apart from the experts.  However, that doesn't mean that the basics aren't going to impact your business.  By reading up on what the basics are you can get your website pointed in the right direction, and really start taking advantage of Google and Bing.  SEO is essential for all business practices.

Also, don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results.  SEO takes time.

5. Networking

Networking is the ultimate marketing medium.  When I started my business I relied solely on SEO, and I grew slowly.  Small towns don't frequently have a lot of people searching for Search Engine Optimization.  However, 6 months into networking things started taking off.  Join the chamber, go to any networking event you can and simply reach out to compatible businesses to have lunch.  Get to know them, and start referring people to them.  Earn their business by providing them business.  It's how you build loyal networks.

6. Work With Non-Profits

You can either offer your services to them, if they are in the market, or simply volunteer.  Non-profits have loads of passionate people, and many appreciate the effort that you put it.  Join an organization that is compatible with your beliefs so that you get as much out of it as you are putting into it.

7. Get a Mentor

Having someone who's been in your shoes before can be huge.  They can help you with marketing, business management and balancing your work life.  They are essential to having a healthy business.  Even Tesla, who was renowned for being eccentric, had his mentors.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weebly or Wordpress Website

I've given Weebly a lot of hate over the past few years.  Some of it is warranted, but some of it is not.  After working with it a lot more I've decided that Weebly SEO is possible, and having a Weebly website can be a good starting point for a lot of businesses.

That being said, Wordpress is my go to solution for almost any website.  It is extremely flexible, probably already has a solution for your business needs and has a lot of support to get things done.  Wordpress also has the flexibility to completely customize it for yourself.  You can hire a Wordpress developer to create a plugin to do something completely new.  This isn't something you can do in Weebly.  You get what you get with Weebly, which is quite a bit.

So, which should you use?  It depends on your immediate budget.  If you can afford a custom website design, $5,000-10,000, then go with Wordpress.  If you can't, then go with Weebly.  It will hold up well as your business grows.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Making the Most of Your Budget

If you were to ask me what you should be doing for marketing it would be pretty obvious how I would answer: SEO, Social Media, PPC and Retargeting.  However, this isn't in the budget for some people.  So, the question comes back to what you can do on a small budget.  Or, is there a feasible way to market with a small budget.  So, here's my priority list for marketing any small businesses in Sheridan, WY.

  1. Networking
  2. Facebook Advertising
  3. SEO
  4. PPC
  5. Geofencing
  6. Retargeting
  7. Radio
  8. Newspaper
  9. TV
  10. Billboards
1. Old school networking is essential for any business, even in 2016.  Building up a system for generating referrals can drastically improve your business, as it always has.  So, make networking a priority.  You can't afford not to do this.

2. Facebook Advertising

This isn't just posting on your Facebook page every day or so.  This is running actual ads on Facebook for your local market.  This is one of the most affordable marketing mediums today, and it needs to be done by more businesses.  The problem is that it is quite intimidating to start into alone.

3. SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Of course, SEO is always essential in a marketing plan.  There are two parts when it comes to making your website work for you.  One is getting it created.  Two is actually getting it found when people Google your business name or your services.  You'll be shocked that most websites aren't designed with SEO in mind.  You can learn more about my Sheridan SEO services here.

4. PPC

PPC, or pay per click advertising, are the paid ads at the top of the search results.  You should be spending at least $200/month, for small businesses, to keep your local customers coming to you.  You can also get more aggressive with these ads if your budget allows.

5. Geofencing

New cellphones are equipped with GPS, which means that they are a prime source for marketing.  You can now target people within specific areas, such as the hospital or school, and have people within those areas see your ads in mobile apps such as Fruit Ninjas and ESPN.

6. Retargeting

Retargeting ads are the ones that follow you around once you've been to a website.  They are an affordable marketing medium, and allow you to get the most out of your website visits.

7-10 Traditional Marketing

You know all about these marketing mediums.