Small business consulting and coaching for self-employed people. Increase your reach and revenue. Boost clarity about your business and marketing models. Get practical tips, advice, training and techniques.
Every month, you’re innundated with offers for workshops, classes, weekend intenstives, bootcamps, and webinars. How do you decide which one is best for you?
Here are six tips:
Decide on your MOST important business goals first. Only choose classes which will help you achieve your business goals for this year. If you learn materials that you can’t implement immediately, you’ll forget most of what you learn by the time you really need the information.
Decide how you like to learn — and how you learn best. Some people prefer intensive, immersion experiences; others like to learn a little at a time. Some people like to have time in class to practice what they’re learning; others like to take the exercises as homework and work on it at their own pace. Some people like small group classes where they can get one-on-one help from the instructor; others thrive on large conferences. Some people like a lot of interactive discussion with the other students; others want to have a ton of information given to them and find classroom discussions to be an interruption.
Decide what you need to learn and at which level. For instance, say you need to learn about internet marketing techniques. Do you want an overview class, or do you want to learn a specific internet marketing technique? If you want to learn a specific topic, do you already know something about the topic (and therefore are looking for an “advanced” class) or do you want to learn from the very beginning, where an introductory class would be right for you? If you choose a class that’s too easy, or too hard, you’ll find your learning diminished.
Decide how much time you have to devote to the learning experience. Can you take two days away from your business to attend a weekend bootcamp, or do you only have one hour a week available to attend a webinar series? For those training events that aren’t local to you, factor in travel time and costs.
Decide on your financial budget. Most business classes should make you money, once you implement what you’re learning. But spending huge amounts of money on a training class when you can’t predict Return On Investment (ROI) can feel uncertain. Ask yourself, “How soon will this training repay me in increased revenue for what it cost to attend the training?” Do the math: how many new sales or increased sales will you have to make to recoup the cost of your training? How many hours will you save by implementing what you’ve learned?
Choose the teacher with care. What is the instructor’s reputation, both as a topic expert and as a trainer? Have you ever sat through a class where the teacher droned on and on? No matter how exciting the topic, a boring, poorly prepared teacher will put you to sleep instead of offering a training experience that helps you to cement your learning in your mind and in your daily life. And a self-serving teacher who only wants to upsell you to the next level will dimish your learning (and your attitude towards them). Be sure to ask your friends and colleagues about their experience with different instructors.
Lifelong learning is an extraordinary backbone to a successful business. Just be sure you choose the best class, and the best instructor, for you and your business. Then, sit back and enjoy the training experience!
When it comes to marketing to multiple niches, I have two words of advice:
1. Go ahead! There’s nothing wrong with targeting multiple niches. BUT…
2. Pick one and become a leader in it, then move on to the second one.
If you try to go after too many niches (target audiences) at the same time, you will wear yourself out. It’s exhausting and doesn’t use the “best of you.”
When you go after too many niches simultaneously, your marketing time and money is scattered too broadly. Say for example that you want to go after “salespeople in the pharmaceutical industry” and also want to go after “salespeople in the auto industry.”
Their appears to be a common denominator (salespeople), but the two industries and the two selling styles are dissimilar. You would have to connect with both industries simultaneously, which means you can’t really focus all your time, energy and marketing money on just one target. Scattered focus equals scattered results.
In my article, The Problem With Niches, I said that the whole purpose of choosing a niche is so you can find a central place that potential clients congregate. Find ALL the places where auto industry sales people congregate: meetings, magazines, conferences, classes…especially those that are specifically focused on the niche you’re going after. Center your marketing attention on those areas first. Once you become known and recognized in that niche, then move on to other industries or other niches.
Read the complete Why Marketing Fails blog series here:
There are some people in the world who love the challenge of “cold calling” — that is to say, you enjoy calling people who you have never met, have never had any contact via email or phone, and asking them whether they need your product or service.
But what about those people who contact you and ask about your products and services? They’re interested in your services, your classes, your mastermind groups. Do you follow-up with those warm leads?
Most small business owners will make at least one follow-up phone call or email to a prospective customer. But if they don’t get a response back, they often drop the whole thing. You don’t want to feel like you’re being a pest.
But you have to remember two important things:
The prospect called you. They want to hear from you.
There are many reasons why a prospect might not call you back.
Let’s look at both reasons
In the first place, the prospect contacted you. They are interested or they wouldn’t have gone to the effort of leaving a voicemail or sending an email. People who take action, even these seemly simple actions, are motivated and interested.
In the second place, just because they don’t return your phone call or email doesn’t mean they’re not interested anymore. Think about your own life for a minute: I bet you’re a very busy person and there’s always something going on that needs your attention. Items on your to-do list slip off, including returning phone calls and emails. Well, your prospects are just like you! They’re busy, they’re time-constrained, and they’ve got to put out fires first, before they can take on another task.
I’ve done an unscientific test over the past six months. I’ve continued to call and email people who have expressed an interest in me and my business, just to see what happens. Amazing! In nearly every single case, the prospect was grateful that I took the time to continue to follow-up, even though they hadn’t replied to me.
So why hadn’t they replied to you?
In short, life got in the way:
A family member died and they had to go out of town to take care of funeral and house-selling tasks for a month.
A child was preparing for a big college-entrance exam and needed a lot of extra time and attention.
They were working on a big proposal for a prospect and put everything else on hold until the proposal got out the door.
They had never gotten my reply email (a spam filter had captured it).
…And any number of other reasons. All legitimate.
How often should you follow-up?
Here are the rules of thumb I work with when I get a prospect call or email:
First contact: we follow-up within one business day
Second contact: we re-try three days later, always via phone (darn those email filters!)
Third contact: 10-14 days later, both by phone and by email
In marketing and sales, being shy or lacking confidence is a killer for your business. If people express interest in you, now is the time to connect with them, repeatedly if necessary, and not avoid it.
Read the complete Why Marketing Fails blog series here:
At this time of the year, we’re encouraged to set our business goals for the next 12 months and beyond. But when I speak with small business owners, you consistently tell me that you can’t figure out what the future of your business looks like. You can’t imagine a year from now, and you certainly can’t imagine three or five years from now.
I think you’ve put the cart before the horse. Instead, first figure out what you value, then design your next year to create a meaningful life and career.
Here’s an eye-opener exercise that’s sure to help:
Take a piece of paper and divide it into thirds. (Here’s a More/Less Worksheet PDF you can use.) In the first column, write down all the things and feelings you’d like more of. In the middle column, write down what you’d like less of.
Don’t try to do this exercise in one sitting. Instead, do a quick, initial brain dump of your wants and needs, then walk away and let it rest for a few hours. Come back later to review your worksheet, and continue to add items as they bubble up to the surface.
At this stage, just list ideas for any and all projects that could help you achieve what you want. If you begin to edit your thoughts, you might remove a project before you know whether it would be viable.
Slowly, your future unfurls before your eyes. By imagining what you want more of and less of, you begin to imagine a future that’s exactly right for you.
When planning for 2019, remember that there are 8 ways to increase your income:
Sell more quantity of your existing offers. If you typically have 25 people in a workshop, aim for getting 30 or 40 in your next workshop. If you work one-on-one with clients, add more private clients to your roster.
Increase the price of your existing offers – Without changing your offer, increase your fees. If you’re still charging the same fees as you did five years ago, it’s time to look at your pricing model.
Increase the price and increase the value. Change your offer to be more complete and compelling, and increase your fees. Make sure that you haven’t increased the value by adding more of your personal resources, otherwise, the offer isn’t scalable. For instance, if you previously offered a six-session consulting package, and now you’re making it an eight-session package, you’ve just used up two extra hours of your time. Even if you charge more for it, are you actually making more income from it? Instead, consider adding something valuable to your clients that doesn’t require you to spend massively more money, time or resources to deliver. Do the math to be sure that the cost doesn’t outweigh the income.
Decrease the size/quantity of your existing offers without reducing the price. You see this all the time in the supermarket – a 12-ounce box of cookies now becomes a 10-ounce box of cookies, but the price stays the same. Where can you cut back and still deliver value? Which parts of your offer are not used by your clients?
Create new offers that leverage your time and resources. If you’ve maxed out of offering private, one-on-one consulting with clients, can you offer a mastermind group or workshop that maximizes your time by working with groups of clients rather than individuals? Can you create an online self-study program?
Upsell existing customers to the next level of your offering. Your clients love you and they want to work more closely with you, or they’re asking for a specific resource that you can provide. When my existing consulting clients wanted a systematic way to manage their projects, tasks, and time, I wrote a book and created a class to help them. How can you serve your existing customers better and provide what they’re asking for?
Go to the master level – teach others how to do your work. For instance, after 20 years as a small business consultant, I now teach people how to become small business consultants.
Hire others to do some of the work for you. If you typically bill out at $200/hour, can you hire others at $150/hour do the client work, and you keep the extra $50/hour as your commission for bringing in the clients? This is especially helpful when you have limited time and too many clients to handle personally, or if you want to create an agency model for your business.
Do you have an area in your business that you want to grow or change? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.
Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply statements of results you want: be more profitable, finish a big project, launch a new service, or help more clients. It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating exactly what you want, and what you’re willing to work towards.
The trick is to get from goal setting to goal attainment. That’s where you hit potholes and brick walls. Being a planner rather than a jumper will get you results quicker.
Start with Big Picture Goals
Before you jump into details, start with big results you want for your business over the coming year. People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself some questions.
What results are you trying to achieve and why (goals)?
Which vehicles will you use to attain those goals (projects)?
For instance, say your goal is to launch a new class. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?
Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Your goal is to build your list; your project is to create and offer a free class.
Or maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income. Your goal is revenue generation and visibility; your project is the paid class.
By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.
ACTION STEP: Pause for a moment and write three big goals you have for the next 12 months.
Brainstorm Your Projects
Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s talk about how to achieve them. There are many paths that will lead you to the same goal. Choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going.
Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal. For example, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform and to get known. You could boost your blog audience, write a book, teach a class, do more speaking engagements, start a column in a national magazine or website, hire a PR firm, or create a podcast. All of these things will show you’re an authority in your field.
How do you know which projects are the best ones to tackle? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:
Which ones align with your personality, knowledge and skill set?
Which ones match the way your audience likes to connect with you?
Which ones fit your budget?
Which ones are likely to get you to your goals the fastest?
ACTION STEP: Pick one or two projects to work over the next year.
You can always add more later, but choosing too many projects will overwhelm you and cause you to lose focus. Start the year right: don’t overburden yourself.
Tap Your Task List
Write a list of the tasks to complete for your project. Next to each task indicate whether it’s a task you will do or whether you’ll need to outsource it to someone else. Also note whether a task will require a specific resource, like hiring someone to update your website, or taking a class to learn a new skill.
Say that your project is to create a new class. Tasks might include writing a lesson plan, creating worksheets or a student guide, selecting a teaching method, picking dates for the class, setting a price for the class, creating a marketing plan for the class, etc.
ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project.
Next, organize the tasks into a logical order. Let’s use the class design project as an example. You’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and what you’ll cover, before you can set the price or write your marketing copy. And you’ll need to write the marketing copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.
Tally up those tasks and the timing for each one, and calculate when the project is likely to be finished. Allow for some “stretch time” in your action planning; you never know when you’ll hit a bump in the road that might delay your project.
ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks, and take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.
Get Moving, It’s Easy
You have an action plan for your project. That’s great!
Now it’s time to start implementing that plan. This is a place where many people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest. Don’t look at the totality of every task on your list. It’s not possible to do all those tasks simultaneously, so step back and focus on the very first task.
ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.
If your project is to write your marketing copy, your one action might be to write the headline. If your project is to create a profit model for your class, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.
By breaking projects and tasks into small increments, you achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.
It’s easy to forget the the simplest SEO tasks when you’re busy. Search engines can drive a huge amount of traffic to your site, but only if you’re consistent about doing the SEO work.
Here’s a simple checklist reminder for the next time you post on your blog or add a new page to your site. This list doesn’t include overarching SEO techniques for your entire website, but focuses on the everyday tasks when adding new content to a site which is already optimized for SEO.
Choose keywords appropriate to the page; don’t simply replicate the website keywords on every page. Ask yourself, “What does my visitor want from this page or blog post?”
Alt tag for images
Image file names
Social sharing fields (title, snippet, image)
Using your keywords in the headings and sub-headings
Keyword in page URL (and domain name, if possible)
Keywords in text: don’t stuff them in, but having them near each other (“proximity”) helps; put them closer to the top of the page.
Links to internal pages
Links to external pages (make sure it’s a reputable site)
If you’re using WordPress, choose one of the SEO plugins, like Yoast, to make it easier. They will give you easy-to-complete fields for data entry on the tags and snippets, and remind you if your SEO isn’t strong for that page.
If you have a Category or Round Up page that shows popular posts on a specific topic, add the new post/page to that directory for your website.
You can check where you currently rank for your keywords in Google Analytics. It’s the Queries report: Acquisition>Search Console>Queries
Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?
Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!
Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)
Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:
Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.
I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times: make your prospective customer feel welcome and safe while they’re learning about your products and services, and they’ll buy from you.
But when you actually see this in action, it’s a miracle to behold.
One afternoon, with several hours to spare before I had to appear at a speaking engagement in New York City, I wandered into Macy’s Herald Square. It’s one of the busiest department stores in New York, and it didn’t help that it was pouring rain and everyone wanted to get inside to dry off a bit.
So how does Macy’s welcome its customers? With the most brilliant — and inexpensive — solution that can be handed out at the door on a rainy day: Umbrella Bags. A very nice man in a very nice business suit stood at the door for hours, offering people plastic bags (with the Macy’s logo on it, naturally!) so that they could tuck their wet umbrellas away while they shopped.
You might think this is no big deal, but if you’ve ever shopped in a crowded store, trying to figure out what to do with your web umbrella is a real distraction.
Macy’s made every person who walked through the door feel welcomed and cared for. Net result: less distracted people who could focus on buying.
Now apply this to your business:
If you have an office or a place where you meet customers, how welcoming is it? What color is the decor? Do you see to their basic and common needs, like bathrooms, water, etc.?
If your business has a website, do you give them the information they’re looking for, in a simple and speedy way? Are your text, graphics and colors friendly and welcoming?
When you answer the phone or connect via video conference, how is your voice modulated? Do you act rushed or do you relax into the conversation and create a great environment?
When you answer emails, what’s the tone of reply coming off your keyboard?
Make your customers feel welcomed and cared for, and they’ll return again and again.