We all get them - daily connection requests that, upon acceptance, immediately jump into a sales pitch. I spoke my opinion about this annoyance on Stu Heinecke's podcast "How to Get a Meeting with Anyone" in 2018, but for those who haven't yet listened, here's the Cliff Notes version: I think it's smarmy.
Recently, however, I received a connection request that followed two profile views - both partners and President/VP of a couple of companies. The request came with a message: "Hi Nicole, I came across your profile and noticed you are seeking opportunities to help companies. Would like to discuss some possible options with you. Thanks." Curious, I decided to accept the connection request and replied with a cheerful "Hey! Thanks so much for connecting! I'd love to chat - when is a good time for you? Talk soon, Nicole"
I have worked with consulting agencies and venture firms before on several projects. My background experience and focus give me a different perspective, and my startup experience has been beneficial for firms that doesn't specialize in them. I didn't think this connection was unusual and was very excited to hear what they were offering.
Immediately, I received a brief description of the opportunity - they have consulting firm. I have a consulting firm. They are looking to license their infrastructure that they've built over the past 11 years. When can we chat? I was mildly curious and definitely interested in hearing more about why they thought this would be a good match for me.
Over the next day, they sent a few documents about their structure, pricing, and offerings. It wasn't the right fit for my company, so I cordially replied that to him. He responded with something unexpected: "Sorry to feel it would not be the right fit. I actually disagree with that..."
Here's where the "pitch" and "sales tactics" fell apart: not once during this entire back and forth did they ask me a single question about my company, my staff, my challenges, my experience - nothing. Then, when I declined to move forward, I was wrong.
It's 2019 - time to stop condescending sales tactics. They don't work, and in fact further reinforced my decision that this company was not a good match. If you want to get someone's attention in a positive way, ask them questions. And follow up questions. Gauge the relationship before you try to make a sale. If, after those conversations, the other party feels like it's a poor fit, it is okay to ask them why they feel that way. This is the best way to overcome sales objections. It's not, however, okay to tell them that you disagree or that they are wrong, or anything close to that.
Asking "why" is the most powerful tool you can use to understand your customer. Anytime you discredit their feelings or make them feel like you value their wallet more than their needs, you will lose.
In my life and work, I don't typically wait around for inspiration to strike - I make things happen out of habit and careful planning - but there have been a few thought leaders who have been incredibly influential for me and my career.
Alexander Osterwalder: As the co-founder of Strategyzer, Alexander caught my attention several years ago when I was looking for a better way to organize startup strategy. I was working on a few different projects and consulting many clients and we all faced the same problem: a business plan is not very helpful for a startup. He (with Steve Blank) pioneered the Business Model Template, which is a great alternative to the antiquated and often-outdated business plans of yore.
Steve Blank: An entrepreneurial giant, Steve is not only responsible for how I manage a lot of my ideas, but he was my instructor and unofficial mentor for several years. The first Udacity course I took of Steve's was about Entrepreneurship, and I've since taken three more courses of his.
Patrick Lencioni: As an author and consultant, Patrick caught my attention with his book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team." I was browsing my library, looking for something new to read and happened upon the book. I read it right away, then read it again. Within a few hours, I was buying every single book he ever wrote off Amazon. His storytelling about problems and solutions in the business world has shaped the way I work with my clients.
Dan Harris: Watching Dan's career for the past fifteen or so years, I was struck with how direct he could communicate and still be engaging. This became even more evident when I listened to the audiobook of 10% Happier. Dan taught me the importance of self-care and how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my life. I've been excited to watch his podcast and startup of the same name grow over the past year.
Richard Branson: My appreciation for Richard started the first time I saw him on a magazine, grinning from ear to ear. I love his views on risk-taking and being fearless - I'm not, but I work toward it a little each day. He and I are kindred spirits, as we both started our career early in life and just love to work - but differently than what most people classify as "work."
Chris Voss: I recently found Chris' book "Never Split the Difference" in my library's online audiobooks and decided to give it a listen. Sales and negotiation have never felt like my strong suit, so I figured I could learn a thing or two from the former FBI hostage negotiator. I was right, and have listened to the audiobook three times in two months, plus have read every blog post and watched every video his consulting agency has put out.
Who influences you in your life and career?
Over the past few years, as I’ve been working with more and more big businesses, I noticed a trend: when companies have turnover, they don’t make changes. They don’t change their hiring practices to prevent further turnover. They don’t assess whether or not the job description changed. They don’t analyze the current personalities and skill set within the department to see what they truly need. And they use the same, frustratingly antiquated hiring software to pilfer through candidates. Any one of these spell trouble for a brand looking to grow, and many companies suffer from all of them. That said, I think we have a hiring problem.
When I started consulting, I didn’t set out to understand hiring or culture. I didn’t study or have interest in consulting on human resources matters, but when I started analyzing why companies failed to move ideas forward and couldn’t build innovative teams, it all came back to their hiring practices.
Let’s start with the initial part of hiring: the job description. In order to attract great talent, you have to have a job description that spells out what the job entails, company history, and basic benefits. If you’re a large company with dozens, or even hundreds of job openings, you likely automate this process. You select the job you need to fill, and maybe the location, and the data goes into the want ad automatically from the previous similar listing. Nevermind that this same job has been listed three times in the past two years because the hired candidate “didn’t work out” — companies streamline this process based on what was done before because it’s easy.
Next, the resume. Raise your hand if your company has a candidate upload their resume into a system, which them scrapes it and populates fields with their information. Does that system then ask them to update the information and then verify that it’s filled out properly? Then, does that same system give them a score based on their results, which you then use to interview candidates? The fact is, systems like these filter out talented individuals because it asks them to duplicate their efforts in a redundant way, making them feel undervalued as soon as they engage with that part of the hiring process. This is the first step in getting hired, and already they are frustrated by a system that doesn’t work in their favor — if they are the least bit creative with their resume (the document we are told to prepare to get a job), then the scraping system erroneous pulls, or doesn’t pull, information. If feeding rote information into a system that grades potential hirees based on those answers is how candidates are analyzed, then we should ditch the resume altogether and standardize the form fields so that candidates can automate the application process — but this doesn’t fix the problem.
A handful of candidates were picked by the system as the best! Congratulations company, even though your method was broken, you still have people who, on paper, might work. They tailored their answers to game your system, and they get a call. So, what next? You interview them, narrow down to two or three candidates, give them a skills assessment project, then pick the lucky hiree. You bring them in, you train them to do work (which is another problem in the process, a blog post for another day), and then you let them do the thing you hired them for. And sometimes they don’t fit in to the team. And sometimes their skills don’t actually match up to what they thought the job was based on the description. And sometimes they get so frustrated with the misalignments, they leave. Then the cycle continues.
Let’s say, for the sake of this conversation, that there is a better process to hiring qualified candidates. Did you know that an interested candidate is willing to spend up to five times as long filling out an application that asks paragraph style questions instead of updating forms with information that can be found on their resume? Candidate that can read items like your company handbook, perks packages, and what to expect day-to-day on your website will either not apply due to lack of interest, or will put their heart and soul into answering long-form questions because the individuality makes them feel valued.
Does your application process allow for tailored responses? Does it ask real-world questions to test their understanding of the role? Do you give them a chance to show their personality, their experience, and what they bring to the team? Are they given a chance to show how they could solve problems that you have?
What about the existing team? Have you asked them what would make a good complementary teammate? How would the new hire fit into their job? What qualities they would look for if they were hiring the new candidate? It’s one thing to consider culture fit, and another to consider team fit.
Lastly, have you considered why, if this isn’t a new position, the last person left? Did you ask them? Did you compare their day-to-day activities to the actual job description to see if there was misinformation on your part?
If you aren’t asking yourself these questions, then you likely have a hiring problem.
Building better habits is hard. Let’s get that out of the way right now. If you are like me, you are a creature of habit, albeit sometimes bad ones. I’m no special case. I don’t have a magic solution to creating better habits — but I do have a few habits that, with some time and effort, could have a better impact on your day-to-day productivity.
For the entire month of December, I decided to challenge myself with 10 daily habits that I would like to incorporate into my life. Some of them are easy, almost “freebies,” and are things I already do. Others are a bit more challenging. The following 3 are the few that I feel will have the most impact on my life, and likely yours.
Personally, I know that I need somewhere around 7.5 hours per night in order to hit maximum restfulness. I know that less (and more) sleep decreases my productivity. I also know that for the most part, this habit is entirely in my control, so there is only one person to blame if I’m not meeting my needs. Chances are, you’ve given though to your own sleep needs within the past month, and likely didn’t make any real changes.
Lately, I’ve tried to develop a routine before bed: turn off the computer and phone, wash my face, dim the lights, and write out anything that’s causing clutter in my mind. I make sure my bed is made and my room is at the optimum temperature. I try to go to bed a little earlier each night. I also try to get outside more during the daytime. I don’t like to use an alarm, so I depend on this routine to tell my body when I should be awake, and when I should be asleep.
Recently, I wrote a list of 100 things I wanted to do in my life and answered an interview with my future self. This helped me gain a lot of insight and focus into how I should be spending my free time. There was a common thread throughout many of my goals and dreams: I needed to write more. In order to write more, I needed to create a habit that allowed and held me accountable to myself to write more.
This month, I decided to challenge myself to write anything, untimed, every day. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to create content that follows a single focus, so I’ve been using writing prompts from Reddit to help me build that habit. There are no goals for the pieces, no plans to publish them, just writing for the sake of building the habit.
I still love email newsletters, but I realized how many were just cluttering my inbox. Unsubscribe became my favorite email function — and I don’t miss any content that I unsubscribed from. It’s amazing how many emails were going either unread, or was being read for the sake of reading. Now, I try to find content that truly interests or educates me, and I limit it to half an hour per day. I don’t watch the news, I rarely watch TV, so the bulk of my content comes from the internet. By limiting that content, I can start using the information I have instead of acting like I’m on a pursuit of more information in order to be more productive. Trust me, it doesn’t work.
Reducing my content means less time on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and my inbox, and more time building relationships with clients, friends, and family, and building a better me. I love that my email doesn’t feel as overwhelming — I either read and respond, delete, or unsubscribe. This habit will continue to save me hours a day.
They might be simple, but building better habits with sleep, personal development, and how you manage content can save you time, boost your productivity, and make it so that you can focus on the things that truly matter in your life and business. Life is too short for bad habits!
Here’s a fun fact: we juggle a lot more than our ancestors did. Once upon a time, each individual within a community had a specialty that they handled — they didn’t handle them all, every minute, hour, and day. In modern times, we attempt to be a Jack of all trades, handling work, child rearing, errand running, cooking, cleaning, and many other tasks. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, and stressful, but I have a simple method that can help: the one-touch method.
Before I dig in, let’s cover the psychology behind managing, or rather, not managing your to-do list. Have you ever felt this nagging feeling that something wasn’t done? Have you ever been relaxing and then had random undone things pop into your head, disrupting your peace and quiet? Have you ever dragged an unimportant task from one to-do list to the next, and the next, and the next (or, in my case, from one time block of my digital calendar to another, and another, and another)? Then you likely suffer from mental clutter.
What is mental clutter?
Mental clutter is anything that distracts you from the task at hand, typically something that you meant to do, but for whatever reason was not completed.It can kill your productivity and throw even the most well-intentioned time management strategy out the window. Mental clutter is no joke — it can cause distractions, stress, cognitive dysfunction, and impaired memory.
What is the one-touch method?
It can be difficult to build better habits, but the one-touch method is simple: as soon as you touch an item, you deal with it. This single-focused approach seems easy, but in our multitasking obsessed society, mindfulness is a practice that we overlook. One-touch means that you put your sole attention on one thing until it is completed. If you open an email, you read it, respond, file it, or delete it immediately. If you dirty a mug, instead of setting it in the sink, you wash it, dry it, and put it away right away. If you have a receipt you have to save, you scan it, file it, or box it as soon as possible.
What are the benefits of single-tasking?
Besides the obvious benefit of getting things accomplished once and for all, there are a ton of benefits of taking the one-touch method approach. If you’ve ever done archery or something similar, you know that the best way to get a bullseye is to aim at one target, not five. There’s a reason that splitting your focus doesn’t work — you cannot focus on more than one thing at a time.Single-tasking increases your ability to focus, meaning that you can increase your productivity and time that you can spend on a task by learning to focus on one thing. Clearing mental clutter will help you reduce stress by calming your brain and keeping it from reacting. When we react, our brains send all sorts of chemicals out, even if they’re not actually needed. Once upon a time, we needed those chemicals to keep us safe, but now they make us stressed, sick, and overweight. Gaining focus and clearing the mental clutter will make you healthier in the long run.
I’m bad at focusing — where do I start?
My personal favorite method of learning to focus is to make it a daily practice. I try to carve out time every week where I put myself in time out. This means that I get away from all distractions and work on one thing at a time. If needed, I set a timer and try not to watch the clock — no email, no social media, no phone, door closed, no interruptions welcome — peace, quiet, and maybe a little background music. Some days this results in 20-minutes of doodling and nothing productive, but more often than not, I jump in and knock out a few nagging tasks.
The best way to prevent the mental clutter that multitasking can bring is to deal with things as they come, but remember — IT TAKES PRACTICE. Do better work with the one-touch method and watch some of that unnecessary stress and mental distress disappear!
From a young age, we are taught about the differences between a need and a want. We know that we have only a few, true, basic needs, and many, many wants. In business, it’s no different, but it’s a lot harder to differentiate and understand. We’re going to explore the needs and wants that business owners have, a few pros and cons for each, as well as what the happy medium solution is. Here are a few examples of each, and how to focus on what your business actually needs to succeed.
Clients/CustomersThe backstory: Clients and customers are the only way we, as a business, make a profit. We need not only happy customers, but enough happy customers to run a sustainable business. We also need to continually bring in new customers in order to sustain and grow our company.
Needs: To find the right customers to buy your product/service so that you can make a profit.
Wants: Ability to delegate work to others in your organization so you can increase sales and make an even higher profit.
Pros: Targeting the right audience gets better results so that you can build a scalable business.
Cons: It’s hard to trust someone else to do the work that you specialize in, including business development.
The happy medium:
Identifying the right target audience of customers allows you to expand your business when you’re ready. Without an idea of how to target these clients and customers, you’re left with whatever sales come in — but you’re not finding the right people often enough. Building a hiring plan will help you to find the right talent to handle the work tasks that tie you to a heavy workload. It’s hard to get everything done, so building a plan to pass those skills off to qualified or vetted individuals will help you do things that add to the bottom line, or allow you to separate yourself from your business once in a while. Building on customer retention and increasing the average lifetime value of your customers is crucial to building sustainability in your business. Creating a referral program that allows your long-term clients to promote your business (for a perk) is helpful for forecasting sales.
Employee RetentionThe backstory: In addition to having a steady flow of customers, we need steady, consistent employees to help us operate and grow our business. High turnover is costly and creates significant problems within the company.
Needs: To have consistent, loyal staff to support our business, our customers, and our customer experience.
Wants: To increase the average span of employment while decreasing training time and costs associated with replacing a staff member.
Pros: It’s easier to manage a business with low turnover.
Cons: If growth opportunities aren’t presented and skills are underutilized, employees will look for other employment opportunities.
The happy medium:
One thing that’s said over and over is that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Making sure that your company culture is attractive and offering opportunities for employees to determine their own schedules, job titles, skills utilized, and offering other workplace flexibility (when feasible) will increase employee engagement and decrease work stress. This allows them to take ownership of their positions and puts their growth opportunities in their hands. By offering team building and occasional, consistent training, everyone will be on the same page — plus encouraging professional development will help everyone build skills and grow together. Making sure that management understands the goals of the company and are healthfully managing their stress and workload are key to keeping everyone happy with their employment.
MarketingThe backstory: Every business owner should understand the importance of marketing, and should want those efforts to equate to profit for the business; however, it can be difficult to know what to do, what to spend, and how to track results of these efforts.
Needs: A strategic plan, advertising budget, and both an online and offline presence.
Wants: To do it in-house with a dedicated marketing expert that can guarantee high conversions.
Pros: These efforts can grow your business.
Cons: It might not be within the set budget and might be extremely time-consuming for someone that doesn’t have the right skill set.
The happy medium:
A lot of small businesses are not equipped to handle hiring a dedicated marketing person. Budget-wise, you’re looking at around $50,000 per year minimum to bring on someone who has the knowledge and experience of the wide scope of multiple positions, and that might not be a feasible option. Hiring contractors or a marketing agency can help you cover your needs AND wants by offering experts who handle your marketing for you, but don’t require a dedicated workspace on-site, and can develop and execute a strategy that’s the right size and budget for your business.
Office SpaceThe backstory: A lot of the work that happens for a business isn’t customer-facing, and business owners need space to do that work. Many small businesses attempt to handle this work from a home office or in the midst of operations, but find that to be less-than-ideal due to multiple interruptions and distractions.
Needs: A set area to handle work, preferably away from home life and distractions, that has internet, workspace, and office supplies.
Wants: A rented or leased office space that fits the specific needs of your business and offers a branded feel to visitors and for meetings.
Pros: There are tax breaks associated with having dedicated office space.
Cons: It can be expensive to set up an office, especially one that doesn’t require a lot of space. Leased offices that are budget-friendly may be hard to find.
The happy medium:
When you need to break away from your home-based business, or can’t focus inside your retail store, workshop, or other business, heading to the library or a coworking space may be your best bet. Libraries offer a quiet space with few distractions, allowing you to focus a few hours per day. A coworking space may be a bit busier, but it offers dedicated and flexible workspace with access to multiple resources that can help you build and grow your business. Coworking memberships are also business write-offs. Sometimes even heading to the local coffee shop, restaurant, or park (with a mobile hotspot or work not dependent on wi-fi access) can help you focus by giving you a different environment.
VacationThe backstory: Business owners feel the pressure to be present and visible in their business all day, every day. This takes a toll on both their physical and mental health, but it can be hard to find the right person to cover so you can take time away.
Needs: Separation from work, home, technology, with boundaries set for clients, customers, and staff.
Wants: To get away from their business for a few days at a time without stress and worry, preferably in another locale.
Pros: Getting away from work is a huge boost for your mental health.
Cons: It can be expensive to pay extra staff and travel expenses for a vacation.
The happy medium:
Utilizing weekends and creating long-weekends (3-days) away as often as possible might be enough of a break to reset your mind. Planning one extended vacation per year will help you to keep costs lower. In order to take even a day away from your business, you need to identify a staff member that you can trust to make decisions for the business when you are unavailable. Training someone to manage the business in your absence is crucial to your mental health, because even if you’re physically away from the business if you’re worried, your mind will be too distracted to enjoy your time away, and will keep you from stepping away in the future.
Business has a LOT of wants and needs, and with a little planning, most of them can be realized. What needs and wants, pros and cons have you identified in your business? If we didn’t cover them, let us know in the comments!
I’ve seen it time and time again — startups that fail within their first year or two. Many of these startups offer amazingly innovative products and services. Some of them even target the right audience at the right time. There is still something, however, that eludes them: their reputation.
If you look at these failed startups, or companies that fail to raise funds through crowdfunding, you’ll see viable business ideas and plans. You likely won’t find anything about what the founder and team bring to the company. Not building and managing your personal brand is one of the biggest oversights that cost you the most early on. Building your personal brand is not a hard thing for entrepreneurs and founders to do, but it is extremely valuable to their reputation, as well as the reputation of any brand that they build.
A few years ago, I was working with an exciting, fresh company in the fitness apparel world. The product was fantastic — great fabric, great patterns and colors, great design, great construction — everything that you would want in high-end women’s fitness apparel. The founder had put a few years of personal and borrowed funds, time, sweat, and tears into her brand. She had developed a great mission, strategy for building her team, and seemingly had enough ducks in a row to bring in an investor early on. It looked like everything was going right.
When I came on board, I tested the market and discovered that potential buyers were less-than-receptive; they thought that the products were beautiful and they wanted to try them, but the founder was someone unknown in the industry with no personal reputation to stand on, therefore, despite how much they wanted the products, they couldn’t justify the risk of buying them compared to their current favorites. The reason the products wouldn’t sell came down to reputation and personal branding.
This was a huge wake-up call to me — in my dozen years experience in consulting, I hadn’t seen a brand that had almost all of the right elements, but couldn’t overcome a lack of reputation. In the fitness world, as well as many industries, the successful brands are driven by founders who have established themselves as an influencer in that industry before launching their company. For new companies, many founders establish reputation quickly by creating and sharing content to show that they are an expert in their field. Many times, trial and error help entrepreneurs develop their personal brand, adding credence to their character over time.
So how do you build a personal brand?Reputation building takes time, but there are great resources to streamline the process to set you up for success. In today’s connected world, it’s easier than ever to make your name known within a specific circle, and even easier to connect with people who want what your brand supplies. Social media, email marketing, and content sharing sites help business owners and enthusiasts alike share their knowledge, passion, and ideas quickly. After working with my client last year, I developed some great tools to help startup founders build their personal brand.
How have you built and managed your personal brand or reputation?
What strategies have worked best to make you an influencer in your industry?
There is something to be said for a business that makes it through the grueling, challenging startup phase to become a successful, established business. There is also something to be said about growing a business while keeping the startup mentality.
What is the startup mentality?When your business is always in a state of creating new lines of business or product lines with the hope of them growing their own legs and branching off to create a new company, you have startup mentality. This is crucial for an entrepreneur who has a slew of ideas — take time to flesh one out into a full-fledged company, then build the next. When you try to pile too many business at once, you can’t focus on any of them.
Google is one of the best text-book examples of continuing to build startups within an established business. Google prides itself on intrapreneurship, going so far as to allow their employees time specifically for contributing to their business passion product during paid work hours, with the hope that some of the idea will filter into Google’s business-building pipeline. Many other businesses are starting to take notes from Google, building in intrapreneurial departments within their businesses.
What are the downfalls to staying in the startup mentality?There are always downfalls to every upside, and the obvious downfall in the startup mentality is that it can detract or pull time from the established company. Many businesses fall into a typical bureaucratic system that doesn’t allow for time on extraneous-seeming projects, and most departments cannot devote employees to projects that do not directly impact their work. Budgeting for the potential failures and time to create a new line-of-business or new product is also a high risk for a business that has a solid, functional business plan.
Another downfall is that the startup grind is exhausting. Growing a business that has a solid customer base is hard enough, but continually starting something new can affect the mentality and stamina needed to keep the existing business moving forward. Burnout, conflict, and disorganization can cause an intrapreneurial team to struggle with the new business plans, causing financial issues and upper-management discontentment. Straining already tapped-out resources can cause companies to rethink their staffing or even whether or not they can support the startup mentality.
What should businesses do to continue the startup mentality while growing an existing company?Businesses need to budget properly and embrace risk in order to see something positive come from a startup within an existing brand. They also need to make sure that they have the right team: one that is comfortable with the entrepreneurial process of starting a business. Entrepreneurial traits can be taught, and intrapreneurial teams can be coached to learn the skills and mindsets they need to create “the next big thing.”
Businesses need to allow adequate time to the intrapreneurial team. Employees who assist with building a startup and contributing to an existing company need to feel that they are supported in both ventures, and have the flexibility to put time and effort into whichever project requires attention. Intrapreneur ventures will likely have the entire team being held responsible for the success or failure of the project, rather than a traditional top-down system of business, at least until the startup is established.
Intrapreneurship within a business is the best of both worlds for a growing corporation. In order to compete in today’s highly competitive, global market, businesses need to constantly keep their finger on the pulse of innovation. By allowing employees to devote time to growing a new business, product, or service within a successful company, employees become most invested and interested in their work within a business. Many risk-averse entrepreneurial types are hiding within existing companies, waiting for an opportunity to use their business-building strengths, and if given the chance, can help to create great things for their employer.
You’ve seen egotistical brands filling up your social media timelines and feeds:
“Buy my product!”
“Read my blog!”
What these brands don’t realize is that this approach is killing their social media reputation.
The 80/20 rule is not alive and well across the social media platforms. Every moment, we see brands who are 100% only promoting themselves. There’s no give. There’s no sharing. There’s nothing in it for you. There’s only “Me, me, me!” Sometimes it’s so bad, you’re hoping the brand will be sorted as a bad egg like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, Facebook, Twitter, and the like have yet to design a way to tell the golden eggs from the bad ones.
“But how will my customers buy my new product if I don’t Tweet about it?” I get asked often when revamping a client’s social media strategy. There are countless resources out there about the best time of day to tweet or how to write blog posts that gain exposure, but I want to leave you with just one major tip today: social media isn’t all about you and your brand.
Tweeting your brand on your own social media isn’t a bad thing — it’s only a bad thing if it’s all day, every day! It’s especially a bad thing if you are counting on your countless tweets to sell your products. Social media is about building and promoting your brand with a goal to drive traffic to your website.
Think about your strategic off-line search engine marketing plan. It probably includes at least one social media platform. How effective is your plan? Does it need to be reworked? Are you focusing on connecting with businesses or consumers? Who is your customer? Is there a better way to help others with your brand?
If your plan doesn’t include strategy for reaching all of your target markets, it’s broken. If you are using LinkedIn and trying to connect with individuals, not businesses, you’re probably not seeing the results that you expect. Your marketing plan should include a complete social media plan, down to the demographics of a specific group you want to reach, how often you post, what content of others you want to share, and even what content you aren’t. If it doesn’t, or you don’t know where to begin, then hiring a social media marketing strategist might be your best bet to achieving your social media goals.
One of the worst things a reputable company can do is over-share their business, and not post often. Trends, viral images or videos, content that others write that help your customers should all be considered when building your social media plan. Remember: 80 percent of your shared content should be helpful, interesting, and engaging — and NOT advertisements for your products.
Your ego should not keep you from connecting to others. Sharing and building educational content for your followers will help to move your audience from random contacts, to leads, to clients, to brand ambassadors.
In 2015, I had the pleasure of speaking to the MGT 459 Business Planning & Development class at Saginaw Valley State University. I did a rousing presentation taking ten of my previous blog posts and engaging the students in a discussion about how to brand themselves for the opportunities they want. Afterward, I got a sneak peek into their personal business plans for a startup that they want to launch. I gave advice and challenged their plans, and watched their ideas expand in just a short hour and a half. There was, however, one little thing that I noticed in almost all of their plans: they were too broad.
This isn’t a problem with college students lacking real world experience. In over a decade of helping startups, I have seen my fair share of business plans, and many suffer from trying to tackle too large a chunk of the market. Part of that is based on FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.” Entrepreneurs believe that if they segment their market to a small chunk, they’ll miss an opportunity. What they don’t understand is that by trying to hit too large of a target, they already are missing opportunity.
Over the past few years, marketing has gotten increasingly more personalized. Geofencing, mobile applications, email marketing, and social media have all made it possible for companies to know more about its customers, allowing them to create sales opportunities that feel like they were reading the mind of their customer, or at the least aware of their current needs. This is great for large businesses, that have the resources to collect such intimate information, but for a startup, it’s not nearly as possible. Startups, alternatively, have to do some leg work to find their target customer, and market only to them.
When building a business model, a startup needs to narrow their focus as far as they can. There are many resources explaining how to plan for your customer “persona,” but realistically, businesses need to build their plan based off the needs of just one person. The likelihood that more people need that same problem solved are huge, but if you cannot sell your idea to even one person, you cannot build a business.
Imagine you are at a shooting range. You can aim at five targets and hope to hit one, or you can aim at one target and likely hit one. Which is the better option? Building a business plan is this same mentality — if you aim too wide, you are likely to hit nothing at all. If you narrow your focus, you have the opportunity to learn more about your potential customer and how to market to them, which means that you can close the deal.
Remember these wise words (which you’ve likely seen before and will see many times again): If your startup does not make a sale, you don’t have a business, you have an expensive hobby.