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.
Henry Ford once said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” So why do you continue to follow the same path hoping for different results?
When I first meet with a new client, I make it clear that following cookie-cutter plans don’t work for everyone, and our goal is to build a strategy that works specifically for their needs. If something we try doesn’t work, we try something else. One thing I’ve noticed is that bad habits are hard to break — and they don’t get us the results we want.
All over the internet, every single day, there are blog posts and articles touting the one way to do the thing, or the right way to do something, or the way that all of the successful people start their day. The one thing, and more important thing, that these articles don’t include is you. Your life. Your unique circumstances.
This week, I challenge you to challenge the way you do things. Maybe you’re just used to the way it’s always been done and you don’t want to rock the boat. Maybe you’re convinced that trying the same way someone else does things is the right way. Maybe you’re just stuck and can’t think of a better way to get things done. Whatever it is, dig deep and take a look at your “why.”
There is a lot of bad advice out there — stop following it. There are a lot of “get richer,” “get skinnier,” “get quicker results” articles — stop reading them. Look for information you trust, give it an honest go, and if it doesn’t work, let it go. If what you’re doing does work, do more of it.
September is here, which means school is back in swing and the holidays (believe it or not) are right around the corner. If you’re like me, you’ve likely been scrambling to finish projects and get your ducks in a row prior to 2018, with the hope of having a day or two to enjoy family and friends (and not work the holidays away). Recently, I realized how asinine this thinking is. I don’t need just one or two days away from my computer, email, social media, and phone — I need as much time as possible.
Normally, I’ll work here and there on projects, strategies, outreach, marketing — whatever it takes to boost my business (especially during slow times, like the beginning of the year). This year, I’m focusing on myself, my health, my family, and my happiness. Realizing that work and technology takes away from these focuses was my first step in trying to correct this problem.
When I take my tech breaks, I attempt to stay away from any and all work-based technology. Emails receive an autoreply and will remain otherwise untouched. Phone calls are courteously handled by my voicemail. Strategies are executed ahead of time, or wait until I’m back in the office. Social media sits idly, receiving minimal effort from automation programs, but otherwise disengaged. And even though I’m a bit disconnected, I don’t feel anxious at all.
With these tech breaks, I focus on regaining better sleeping habits, spending quality time with others, enjoying quiet moments without reaching for my phone to fill the time, writing and reading more, and playing with my son. I try to boost my creativity and find ways to be less distracted. Most importantly (as far as my business goes), I want to prove that nothing catastrophic will happen if I don’t plug away at it for a couple weeks, which is important for business owners to do and know.
Have you taken a tech break, or are you planning on taking one soon? As I wrote in “The Better Way to Waste Time“, we spend nearly two entire days per month on random time-wasting apps on our phones and tablets. This shows how distracted and disconnected we are from one another. Another indicator of that — every single person I spoke to this season says that they are more stressed and less happy than other holidays. Technology adds to this stress and unhappiness. The main reason you should take a tech break (especially from social media) is that your happiness depends on you and those around you — and social media is a poor reflection of a person’s true happiness. Spend quality time with others, and feel that stress melt away.
I hope that you take a break away from technology, and especially from work — you need it!
Originally posted on Start-Up with Nicole in September 2017.
I read an interesting quote:
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein
This is interesting to me — I (and many other business writers) often talk about success and what it takes to get there. When I thought about how I would actually define success, however, my definition varied from the norm. You see, many people define success based on their job title, their salary, and the perception others have of them. This seems like a pretty awful definition of success.
To me, success is the person who is constantly working toward goals and still gets up every single time they are knocked down. They are the person who knows that decisions are made with either your head, heart, or gut, and they try their hardest to pick the right tool for their decision. Success happens when you make mistakes, rebound, and try again. Success is knowing that an obstacle is not something you can’t overcome, but deciding how you are going to approach it the first, second, and possibly third (or more) time — never giving up, even when people tell you that your path won’t work. Believing in yourself, because you want to be different and make a difference.
I didn’t set out to write an inspirational piece today. Originally, I wanted to write about the consultant/client relationship. Lately, when I try to sit down and write, I’ve been a bit uninspired. I try to write from what I know and what I’m working on lately, and this is it: not letting others define what success means for me. I spent a large portion of my life and career trying to please others, and trying to take their opinions and thoughts and feelings into consideration. I’m not saying that everyone should ditch their manners and be selfish, I’m saying that we need to consider ourselves first.
When we constantly focus on others and their needs, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. When my son was in Kindergarten, he read the book “How Full Is Your Bucket?” The gist of the story is that we all have buckets, and when they are full, we feel happy and fulfilled; but when they are empty, we get tired, grumpy, and unmotivated. Too often, as adults, parents, and employees, we allow our buckets to become bone dry. We spin our wheels trying to juggle everything that society tells us we need to do to live up to our potential — but too often, this produces nothing positive. When your bucket is empty, you have nothing left to offer anyone else. When you take care of yourself first, you don’t allow that bucket to empty completely.
Other people try to tell us what will make us happier, healthier, wiser, more productive — I’m guilty of this! We focus so much on what we’re not getting done and where we are failing that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we do get done. We fail to define success on our own terms. We fail to set the path that we want. When we focus less on becoming successful, and more on being valuable — as well as our own self-worth — we align our goals with an actual potential to achieve them.
How do YOU define success?
Last year, I received an email from a random stranger who was looking to start his own business; however, he had no idea what he wanted to do or what kind of company to start — all he knew what that after twenty years of working for someone else, he was ready for something else. Knowing that I was a startup consultant, he thought that I could help him carve a business from nothing.
Thankfully, he was right — together, we’ve done just that.
Fast forward to today, and he has a service, products, a website, and positive testimonials about his company from his target audience. He created, learned, built, networked, and funneled hours of effort in order to start his own business.
How did he get from Point A to Point B so quickly?When he contacted me, I used a newer method that I’d been working with to help him put together his business ideas: the Google Venture’s SPRINT process. Typically it takes five days to go through a sprint — day one is spent developing the idea through to day five, where you test a prototype product with live customers. Since his staff is just him, and since he had to do the work that would typically be split among a team of several experts, we split the process over five weeks instead of five days.
Week by week, we identified goals and deadlines, built skills, researched, and leaned on resources. Every step of the way, I was there to direct him, teach him, give him information, complete action items to keep him on schedule, and most importantly, hold him accountable to those goals and deadlines. Week by week, he met every one and exceeded my expectations. Together, we created something tangible from a blank space.
Within a month, he had his own business with an established online presence, a sales and marketing list, marketing and sales strategy, growth strategy into his established and secondary market, and his own reputation as an expert in his industry. After just 12 weeks of working with me, he built his dream from the ground up.
My biggest goal for him is something you’d never expect — that someday he will outgrow me. With each and every one of my clients, I filter my years of knowledge, resources, and experience into our sessions so that they can be successful — because that’s the greatest gift I can give them. For some, it comes sooner than others, but it eventually happens for each of my successful clients.
What’s keeping you from hiring a consultant to help you grow or build your business?
Late one night in December 2014, I received an email that caught my eye: “I found you through an article about investing. I’m going to be on Shark Tank in two days and wondered if you could help me” was the gist of the message — short, sweet, and quite to the point. I didn’t know that this email would cause a whirlwind two days, followed by four of the craziest, most insightful months of my career in an attempt to help this business get from filming to premiere.
If you’re unfamiliar, Shark Tank is one of the most popular reality television shows, and focuses on entrepreneurs pitching their startups to a group of “sharks,” or business investors. To date, the sharks have invested nearly $100 million to various businesses worldwide. The exposure alone helps many new and smaller businesses get found by customers and gain traction toward reaching their goals.
Want to read more? Get it here!
I know who you are.
You’re stuck working for someone else, but you really want to be a business owner. You’re miserable, day in, day out. You daydream about starting a successful business. You count down the minutes till you get to get out of the office every day. Your distaste for your job or career carries over into other parts of your life.
What’s holding you back from starting that business?
I hear this story all the time, and I always give the same advice: Just do it already. I don’t advocate quitting your job and starving your family. I do advocate taking that idea, making a plan, and jumping to it.
For a new entrepreneur, starting a business is a mix of exciting and terrifying. Exciting, because you’re finally stepping forward and doing what you’ve always dreamed of. Terrifying, because what if things don’t go right and you fail? Here are a couple doses of reality: in some aspect you will fail and starting a business never happens exactly how you imagine.
The fear of not knowing where to start stops many plans before they even begin. The “7 P’s” get you far, but only so far. Stalling because you haven’t thought something through enough is just as bad. Many entrepreneurial-minded individuals never reach their potential because of fear or over-thinking instead of acting.
So how does a person go from being frozen with uncertainty to being actively involved in a new business?
The first rule of starting a business is get used to being uncomfortable.
If you’re financially ready to leap into entrepreneurship, then go for it. Make a sound, smart exit plan from your current job, and hit the ground running. Know your business idea, and start to develop ideas or hypotheses about who your customer is and what you’re offering, and then get out and talk to them!
If you’re not financially ready, figure that out as soon as possible. Your happiness and life are waiting at the end of that number, so get your financial house in order, then go for it.
This all sounds simplistic, and it is, but the biggest hang up that people have when they want to start a business is actually doing it. Trust me when I tell you that your business won’t happen until you build it. Your ideas will just stay dreams until you act on them. Your dream of self-employment and building your own business is waiting for you to just do it already.
Here’s an open letter to anyone who may need it.
Your are constantly proving to be your own worst enemy. You set a plan, work your tail off, and just when you’re almost to the point where you start seeing results, you quit, backpedal, or blow off whatever would help you reach your goals. Be it a diet, an education, a relationship, a career — I am frustrated with you, mostly because I want you to succeed, but you keep doing things the hard way and are getting in the way of your best self.
“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve.”
— Debbie Millman
You see, friend, I have been there. Time and time again, I find myself having to reach toward the final stretch and I just stop. There’s no good reason for it, but I have done it, and right now, I’m watching you do it. Sometimes, we want a sprint, not a marathon. Sometimes, we want a quick fix or a fast solution. Sometimes, we just want to go through the motions and hope that we get excited about whatever we’re aiming for. The truth is, the real problem is your mindset.
“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals — that is, goals that do not inspire them.”
— Tony Robbins
So how do we build in better goals so that you can be inspired and achieve them? How can we move this mountain, or climb it, or overcome it in a way that will make us keep pushing forward?
Your Self-Sabotaging Friend
We all struggle with productivity. I know I sure struggle with this all the time. Despite good intentions, proper preparation, and hard work, sometimes a task comes along that you just don’t want to do. Sometimes there isn’t enough coffee in the world to motivate you, but you know it needs to be done. That task sits, nagging you in the back of your mind, reminding you that you need to just do it. Too bad that’s much easier said than done.
Times like these require a lot of willpower and a good strategy. Whenever I’m faced with something I don’t want to do in my business, or something I just won’t (not can’t) make the time to do, I follow this list of tips to pull me out of my negligence:
AccountabilityWhat level of accountability can I assign to this task? Am I the proper owner of this, or would this be better suited for someone else? If this task is solely mine, then enlisting an accountability partner may be the best way to get it done. Approach a co-worker or trusted friend and say “I am going to start working on this task. Please check in with me in (insert less time that is required — we’ll get to that in a minute!) to make sure that I have it done. Accountability works when you match a task you need to do with someone who you don’t want to disappoint holding you responsible. The reason why you want to assign the task less time has to do with Parkinson’s Law — which says that your task or goal will take the time you allow it to. If you sent a task or goal and don’t have an end date, the time it takes to complete that task will expand to take the time allowed. If you buckle down and assign less time to get it done, something in our brain triggers and it allows us to hyperfocus on the task at hand. Remember in college when you completed your thesis the morning it was due? And how you got more done in those last two hours than you had the weeks prior? This is Parkinson’s Law at work.
Put Yourself in Time OutWhenever I need to just do work, I put myself in time out. For me, this means taking everything needed for my task or project, going to the library or Starbucks, and working until it’s done. I eliminate all distractions (turn off my phone, email, and social media reminders), and then get to work. Getting away from my typical workspace also, for some reason, makes me more willing to do work. Multitasking is one of the biggest productivity myths, so only bringing the resources needed for a specific project means that I will only be able to do what I need to do. Personally, I love the feeling I have after being in “time out.” I feel refreshed and focused because I overtook the task that has been a bit daunting, or pushed off, or maybe just wasn’t very excited.
Assess the ImportanceAs a business owner, I (and many like me) feel like every task that is presented needs to be completed. Find a new software program that might solve another problem? Add it to the list. Someone called and wants to meet for coffee to pick my brain? Add it to the list. The current financial report isn’t as streamlined as it could be. Add it to the list. In many cases, however, these little tasks don’t add to the bottom line of the business, therefore, they aren’t as crucial as others that do. It’s nearly impossible to only focus on tasks that have dollar signs attached to them (actual sales) because that’s not the entire business; however, making money is an extremely important part of keeping you in business. Pushing paper or juggling unimportant tasks takes time away from billable hours, product creation, and time that could be spent engaging customers.
Delegate ItIn almost every position, in every company, everywhere, scope creep causes job boundaries to become fuzzy. This happens a lot in startups when you don’t have people taking accountability for certain areas of the business. Scope creep may mean that you do things that “aren’t your job,” which is fine and recommended when you are the best person to do it — but that’s not always the case. When a task isn’t being done and you’re not the right person for the job anyway, it hurts the company. When you don’t have the skill set needed, or if someone can get the job done quicker or more effectively, delegate it. Earlier this year, I learned that I spent part of my billable hours doing tasks that would better be done by an assistant, so I hired one. Having someone to do research projects, spreadsheets, templates, and other administrative tasks mean that I can focus on things that make my business operate, and make my business money.
Time is a precious, non-renewable resource. Incorporate these tips into those things you need to do so that you can get them done when they need to be done. Save time, energy, frustration, reputation, and your sanity — and just get stuff done.