Sunday, July 15, 2012

Small Business Tip: 3 Ways I Take Action for My Own Business--Not the Customer

Us small business owners get things all mixed.  We get confused easily.

When we're getting paid by a customer, it's pretty easy to motivate ourselves to do the work that we promised that customer.  (that is...if you're not altogether uncaring about meeting your customers' needs or an outright crook trying to steal from those customers :)

However, I suggest that you ask yourself one important question.

Are you working harder for your customers than you are for yourself?

Are you taking steps to get more business after you complete today's orders?  Are you advertising?  Are you marketing yourself?

Are you finding ways to improve your service?  Are you finding easier ways to deliver that service?
Key Idea: We forget to work on our own business.

If you are like most small business owners, you are spending little to no time on your own business.

It's hard, because we don't get paid on work we do for ourselves--at least not right away.  That work will pay us dividends, but that is hard to see when we're busy doing work that pays us cash today (give or take).

I have a marketing business, and I still have to remind myself to work on my business.  In fact, most of us marketers are too busy worrying about how to market other businesses without remembering to market our own.

Lately, I've been better about doing this, but I still have to remind myself to do these things every day--EVERY DAY!

Here are three (3) sets of actions I try to take each week, placing an emphasis on one (1) or two (2) of these each day:
  1. Market Myself
  2. Find Events to Attend
  3. Experiment to Test Ideas
These might seem obvious...until you look at what you are doing (and NOT doing) for your own business.  The statistically average person does not spend any thought--much less time--about doing these things.

1. Market Myself

For me, I want to be prepared for when I meet people in person and for people who find me online.

For people to find me online, I need to create content for people to find, and I need to create backlinks to that content to improve my chances of having people find these pieces of content.

Therefore, I try to do, at least, one (1) of the following online marketing methods:
Truthfully, I am not doing this every day, but I am doing it more often than the person who never does any of it.  The important thing is to focus on finding some way to market yourself, even if it is just once each week.

Obviously, more is better, but something IS better than nothing!

I also try to do some offline marketing.
  • Seek Speaking Opportunities
  • Find Someone Else to Promote and Help (an influential person)
  • Find a Charity to Help (and Write a Press Release) - I still need to do this one.
  • Meet with Marketers and Business Owners
There are all sorts of ways to market yourself without causing too much pain, especially when you a little each day (or week).  Your efforts will accumulate and pay dividends for you over time.

2. Find Events to Attend

I try to find events to attend, because it forces me to set aside time to work on me--not my customers.

I check LinkedIn Events and Meetup to find area events.  I know that there are other sources, too, but those provide me with plenty of meetings.  I also take suggestions from other people, too.

By finding different events to attend, I am usually looking for four (4) things:
  • Learn New Topics (or Strengthen Existing Knowledge)
  • Meet People - Potential Customers or Referral Sources
  • Identify Opportunities to Volunteer (Improve Visibility This Way)
  • Seek Speaking Engagements (Powerful Offline Marketing Opportunity)
Plus, attending events breaks up the day or the week.  It is important to know WHY you are attending these events and what you would like to get from attending them.  Otherwise, you are wasting your time and just pretending to "be productive" when you're really just "being busy."

3. Experiment to Test Ideas

This is so important.

We all get caught in a rut.  We have our way of doing things, but we forget that the world changes--really quickly.

Therefore, what works well today might not even exist this time next year.  It might exist, but you might have competition that offers a better value than you do today.

So we need to find ways to make ourselves better.

For me, I will test these things
  • A New Service to Purchase
  • A New Service to Offer
  • An Improved Service (Better Output or Less Lead Time)
  • An Improved (Less Expensive or Less Time Consuming) Way to Perform the Service
It is not always easy to test these things on a current work order.  To test, I will either (a) test these things on my own side jobs or (b) create something for free for an existing customer.

That last idea (b) is really good for two (2) reasons.

First, it positions you to provide a service above and beyond what you promised.

Second, you are sending an advertisement of your service, providing a chance to upsell the current customer--who is ALREADY buying from  you.

Unless you are Superman or have an incredible team around you, you will not be able to do all of these things all of the time.

However, do you think that all of your competitors are doing these things very often?  If not, how long do you think it will be before you start to separate yourself from many of them?

Who will look like the expert then?  More importantly, who will acting like a professional expert?

Only YOU!  You have entire control over how people perceive you (offline marketing)...or find you (online marketing).

How do you set aside time to make sure that YOU are working ON YOUR BUSINESS, not just IN it?

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