Thinking About Quitting Your Day Job? Here is a Poem Just For You

I remember the days of the slow sludge, the nudge and grudge of fellow commuters grumbling while crumbling on the journey to the end of their line. 

I used to know what it was like to ride, watching the world aimlessly float by. But I've decided that it's really much better to fly. 

Why?

The pursuit of passion ignites an energy that the path of these predictive tracks may never reach. 

So where is the life in that?

Mix It Up With a Diversified Marketing Strategy

If you’re like most small businesses, marketing might seem like a bit of a crapshoot. You hurl yourself into social media, maybe send out a few postcards or put an ad in the paper and hope for the best. Truth be told, for businesses that are new to marketing, the spaghetti on the wall approach isn’t a bad thing, so long as you measure and monitor as you go and refine your approach based on what activity is generating leads.

You might have heard from your accountant or financial planner that it’s always a good idea to diversify your assets. Believe it or not, the same thing goes for marketing. Once you have honed in on your target market, you can start to figure out the best places to market your services to them.  But just like in finance, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

If you’re on Instagram, you might remember the near hysteria that occurred a few weeks ago when information began circulating that the platform was going to change its algorithm to deliver “engaged” posts first, instead of its current chronological format. This change created panic amongst businesses who rely on Instagram, and feeds began filling up with requests for followers to “turn on notifications” so brands wouldn’t be left in the gutter. Of course, none of that was the case, and within 24 hours, the dust settled and our photo-op obsessed existence went back to whatever we consider normal nowadays.

For any brand that went into panic mode, this potential change should have been a wake-up call. Instagram, Facebook and any of the social media goliaths have the opportunity to change the way they do things in the blink of an eye, and they aren’t likely to ask permission. So if you were one of the business owners who felt their heart drop into their stomach at the thought of an algorithm change, here’s my advice. Diversify your marketing with a mix of channels that will help you stand out from the crowd and give you the ability to market a message through multiple touch points, not just a single picture or post. It’s that simple.

In marketing, there are five general categories to explore. Let’s go through them.

  1. Social Media – Small businesses love using social media because its wide-reaching, free (or cheap) and it doesn’t take much time or effort. Don’t get me wrong; I love social media as much as the next person, but here’s the thing. Because everyone uses it, it can be hard to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. So, by all means, use it, but don’t rely on it as a sole means to market.
  2. Digital Marketing – In addition to social media, there are lots of things we can do online to promote our businesses. Email newsletters, online advertising, ad words, your own website, blogs, vlogs, and self-publishing sites such as Medium give you plenty of opportunities to raise awareness for your brand. Using some of these tools in conjunction with social media is a great way to reach a larger audience.
  3. Traditional Marketing – Remember when you used to get 20 pieces of snail mail and five emails in a day? Good times. With everyone rushing to build a digital and mobile brand, it’s worth remembering how powerful a traditional marketing approach can be. Whether it’s a postcard mailer, business cards on the bulletin boards of the local coffee shops, or even an ad on the local radio or newspaper, a bit of old-school outreach can be extremely effective, so long as they hit the right audience for your product.
  4. PR – The say public relations is the oldest profession in the world, and it’s no wonder why. For generations, people have used the power and reach of the media to get their brand in front of potential customers. From seeing your product featured in a major magazine to enlisting an influencer to spread the good word, PR is a powerful mechanism for building a brand. It’s not the easiest way to get attention, but because it’s widely recognized to be a non-paid endorsement, a nod from a well-regarded person or publication can easily be a major boost for your business.
  5. Events – Many start-ups are so consumed by digital marketing that they forget the power of being seen as a living, breathing brand. Event marketing is a great way to allow people to see, hear and touch your product or service, especially if you’re target market is concentrated to a local area. If you’re a new yoga studio, setting up a free class at the local park is a great way to attract new customers. If you’re an accountant, attending networking events might be the ticket to drawing up new business. People don’t fall in love with profile pictures and posts; they fall in love with living, breathing human beings. So make sure your face and name are out where your customers are.

So now you know the five areas of marketing. From this list, pick at least one channel from each category to help you build your marketing plan.  As an example, let’s say you own a florist that delivers daily, pre-arranged bouquets at a very affordable price. You might use Instagram to showcase your bouquet of the day and email newsletters to make sure potential customers see it when they arrive to work in the morning. Then you might decide you want to put up flyers in the local coffee shops, and hand out discount cards at the local farmers market. Finally, you might decide to offer a flower-arranging workshop once per month at your studio, and you’ll use Facebook events to notify your target market about the event. Then you might invite the local paper along to participate in the workshop and take photos for a potential feature story. These activities might represent your first month’s marketing activities and from here you can measure and monitor which channels provided the best results. Then, you can decide which to repeat, which to tweak and which to discard altogether.

Remember, there is no use putting together a marketing mix if you have no way to measure your results. The key to getting the best bang for your buck is ensuring you ask the question “how did you hear about us?” with every new interaction. Otherwise, you’ll find it tough to decipher one channel’s results from the next. Good luck!

Need help planning your marketing strategy? Get in touch, we are here to help!

The Common Pitfalls of Starting a Business

A lot of people start businesses for the wrong reasons. They are fed up with the boss and think they can do better on their own. They want the flexibility of running their own show and don’t want to be chained to a desk. They see the people who make millions on one big idea and think “Hey, I can do that!”  Regardless of the reason, if you’re starting up a business you must be prepared to be accountable for any outcome.

A business owner expecting a handout, waiting for a contribution, or hoping for the next big deal is going to have a tough time getting ahead. But a business owner who operates on passion, smarts and a can-do attitude is one that will ultimately win. In the beginning, business pitfalls are common and there are four which are likely to plague any business that’s starting from the ground up. If you can avoid or overcome these, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

1.     Underestimating the length of time and money required to get your business going

Do your homework, talk to an advisor, and constantly factor in the “worst case scenario”.  If you build a business plan based on everything going exactly the way it should, you’re more than likely setting yourself up for failure. It might not be the most optimistic mentality, but it’s the most realistic.

2.     Risking everything without having adequate protection if things turned for the worse

Starting a business is exciting, and it’s easy to lose sight of what might happen if things don’t work out exactly as planned. Make sure you have the proper insurance in place, and consider putting some money aside that will support you in the event that the business folds.

3.     Jumping the gun and getting locked into expensive assets

The greatest expense for a business is usually the lease on a premise. But jumping into a multi-year commitment on an office or retail space before the business has taken off can be a real risk. Don’t get lured into leasing a fancy office or buying bulk stock at a discount rate until you’re sure your business is both stable and profitable.  The last thing you want is to be stuck with assets you can’t use.

4.     Thinking too small and effectively “buying a job”

It’s all too common for people to invest their hard earned dollars into starting a business and then getting stuck paying bills, chasing invoices, and doing admin. As a business owner, you have to stick to the plan and make sure you have someone there to challenge you and ask the tough questions.

This advice might seem harsh, but it’s a merely a snapshot of the perils that nearly every small business owner faces. Having a business means you have to be thick skinned, have realistic expectations, and be ready to take some hits when the going gets tough. If there is one thing I have learned as a business builder it’s that there is no such thing as a free ride, or an easy one for that matter. That’s why there is nothing more valuable than having an advisor who has been through it before and can offer advice when big decisions are on the line.  Being a business owner can be immensely rewarding, so long as you’re practical in your planning, dedicated to the success of your business and willing to put in the hard yards in order to see the tough times through If you have that on lock, you’re already well on your way.