Category Archives: Collaboration

Add More Hours to Your Day – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

The most common problem among many small business owners is “time poverty.” Putting in a lot of extra hours could help, but it’s not the answer. Neither is trying to do two things at once.

* Become an expert at what you do. Study the workflows of people who are efficient and copy them. Learn from experts in your field.

* Prioritize. What is the most important thing on your list? Focus on that alone until you are finished.

* Be open to new ideas. Some overwhelmed people think they already know all they need to know on a subject. Never stop learning.

* Become an expert of time management. Then practice every day until you master time management skills.

Read Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book was released in 2001 and remains a best seller as it fuels global demand for Mr. Allen’s workshops and personal coaching. Amazingly, he has established an industry around a simple approach to getting things done.

Are You Fatigued by Facebook and Twitter?

GOP imageFacebook gave us a way to find old classmates and renew friendships, find clients and share ideas.

Email has given us a way to quickly conduct business or send silly stuff to co-workers and friends.

So now we have IM, text messaging, friends on Facebook, and constant communication by 140 characters or less on Twitter.

All of this messaging is great as it is supposed to bring us closer to our friends and find new ones, but if we aren’t careful, these interactions can harm our real-life relationships. Columnist Elizabeth Bernstein quite recently said that she is experiencing Facebook fatigue because loved ones are sending so many photos of their children or parties, forwarding funky quizzes, and posting dozens of jokes. And they are tweeting about their whereabouts and what they are doing at the present moment.

To improve our daily interactions, Bernstein says: Before posting an item, ask yourself if it’s something you would want one of your contacts to send to you. Reward people by responding to interesting messages.

While private blogs can be platforms for political ranting, it can be considered poor form on Facebook to constantly post your political opinions.

Grow Your Business With Proven Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies

Word of Mouth Marketing, the oldest form of marketing is gaining ground again. How can business owners beat the current recession with Word of Mouth Marketing?

Educate and Nurture Your Current Customers

Don’t put all emphasis on new customer acquisition, but affirm your current customers,
find ways to develop loyalty programs that increase the lifetime value of your customers. Reward
clients with your time, attention and little extras – they will become enthusiastic promoters for your products and services.

Get Known as an Expert in a Niche Community

Are you creating compelling stories (ideas, articles, informative presentations or videos) that are picked up and shared person-to-person via social networking sites or within niche communities? If not, observe successful entrepreneurs in your niche and find out how they have become experts and what has contributed to their success. Participate in discussions, create conversations and relationships that help you become an expert and share your ideas.

Offer Pleasant Surprises to Create Viral Marketing

Surprising your clients is worth your time, since it gives you an opportunity to exceed their expectations and satisfied customers will be back. It is not hard to come up with a special offer or free complimentary service, you can always add something remarkable to your product. The level of expectations changes fast these days, you have to be creative and continuously find new ways to “over deliver” so that your customers keep having new reasons to talk about you. Get to know your customers, their habits and buying patterns, develop a system to pleasantly surprise them.

Become and Stay Referable

Never stop learning how to be better and more efficient at what you do. Give your customers every reason to drum up more business for you and find out why or why not people refer you. Always welcome opportunities to meet and help other small business owners. Be interested in their business and volunteer activities. You will learn from them, also share your expertise and they will refer you as they get to know, like and trust you. You and your business will be on their mind as people in their network need products or services that you offer. Find time in your busy day to send thank you cards and notes to people who have made a difference in your life. Make it effortless for your loyal clients to provide information about you, your products and services (make sure they have your business cards and promotional materials, etc.) If you become and stay referable, you don’t have to try to sell your business to others, it will come to you.

Edgy Presentations Add More Power to Your Social Media Marketing

Presentation Zen

I started looking for alternative presentation tools for one of my always traveling friends and found  Zoho Show .  It is completely free for personal use,  presenters can access their presentations from anywhere.  You can  export your slideshow to PowerPoint if needed, share your presentation online and track how many people have viewed it.

Presentation sharing site Slideshare is growing in popularity,  users can upload Word documents,  text files, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations,  PDF files as well as files created with Open Office (odt) and access them from the Slideshare site when presenting.  There is a 100 MB maximum allowed upload file size limit.

OpenOffice 3 Impress is a free software for creating effective multimedia presentations. You can use 2D and 3D clip art, special effects, animation, and high-impact drawing tools.  It is possible to save your slideshow as a PowerPoint file.

Google Presentations belong to the Google Docs and Spreadsheets family. One advantage that Google Presentations has over PowerPoint is the fact that all steps – the presentation creation, development, viewing and sharing can  take place online.

Sliderocket is another emerging web-based tool.  Users can incorporate video and publish their presentations online or embed them on their websites.  Their free plan provides 250 MB of storage.

And yes, you have to learn presentation design from Garr Reynolds

Spice up your presentations, spread your ideas!

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Viral Marketing Flourishes in Recession

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

Image by luc legay via Flickr

Many small businesses have cut their advertising budgets and put their marketing efforts on hold.  Their satisfied customers, social networks, and happy business partners therefore become their main promoters.   As this is the year of reinventing, recycling and repositioning for many small businesses, let’s think about the best ways to help the above mentioned groups spread the good word for your business.

  1. Give away information, products or services within target groups in your social network.
  2. Make it effortless for your best customers to provide information about you and your product (hand out business cards, promotional materials, etc.)
  3. Offer products and services that can easily fit the needs of different companies – from small to very large.
  4. Understand common motivations and behaviors – find common needs – create mutually beneficial partnerships.
  5. Utilize your existing social networks, become a “go to person” on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as in your local Chamber of Commerce.
  6. Take advantage of other people’s networks to gain exposure for your products and services.
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12 Rules for Being a Great Marketer

 I found a great post by Steve Tobak on the BNET site.  Here’s what he tells us:

 12 Rules for Being a Great Marketer (Part I, Rules 1 – 6)

  • Sales is your friend. The whole “natural tension between sales and marketing” thing is a dysfunctional crock. Sales owns the customer relationship. As a marketer, one of your key functions is to facilitate sales’ ability to sell your products. You need each other and your goals can and should be aligned.
  • Be patient with your boss and peers. Not coincidentally, strong leaders and managers often tend to be controlling individuals. That means they can become easily frustrated with things they don’t understand, i.e. marketing. Be patient and pay attention to their feedback.
  • Remember, you have way more customers than you think. The executive staff, your peers, product development, manufacturing, sales, finance, HR, employee communications, they’re all stakeholders in the marketing function. Treat them as such. 
  • Bond with the development and product people. This goes way beyond educating and teaching. These are very smart people with a strong, vested interest in what you plan to do with their product. Bond with them, listen to them, understand their issues and concerns, make them partners in your “process;” it’ll pay off big-time.
  • Teach, teach, teach. Successful marketers are strong communicators and educators. Spend as much time teaching and educating internally as you do networking and meeting with customers externally. Again, it’ll pay off.
  • Measure and communicate results. The biggest slam on marketing is that it’s an expense black hole with no metrics to measure results. Be disciplined. Spend 10 percent of your budget on metrics for key programs and take the time to communicate results – both good and bad – to stakeholders. Do it.

Collaboration is Key in Virtual Communications

I am always looking for good web-based collaboration tools as I constantly need to collaborate virtually. That’s how I found Onehub, this tool is not simply for collaboration, it can be used as an FTP replacement. With a free account you can only set up one hub, where you basically can  upload 1 GB of files. Your hub can include calendars as well in addition to discussion boards, task lists, images, RSS feeds and video.

Paid accounts are available too – from $19 per month up to $249 per month. Details are available on the Onehub website.

Central Desktop  is a great collaboration and project management platform.  It has too much power for a solopreneur, but is great for teams and workgroups to share information and communicate with other members.  Paid accounts start from $25 per month.

Small Business Lessons Learned in 2008

1.    Not very profitable, but time – consuming demanding customers tend to refer prospects and customers who reflect their style and values.

2.    Customers who value you and what you do are the best referral sources.

3.    Set boundaries for your customers from the outset, tell them “This is how we work…”, otherwise they will create their own boundaries.

4.    Pay attention when your prospect complains about being treated badly by the rest of the world including partners, vendors, consultants and former customers – you may become the next entrepreneur they will complain about.      

 5.    If you are a coach or consultant, try to avoid customers who have never worked with a consultant, unless they show sure signs of their willingness to learn and implement new things.      

6.    Social networking is important, but prioritize – plan your activities and their frequency, otherwise social networking becomes a burden.       

7.    Get to know your associates, subcontractors and business partners before you commit to long-term projects – mavericks may be crucial to changing this world, but they may not always contribute to helping you achieve your goals.      

8.    Become a frequently improving, always up-to-date resource for other small business owners and your customers.      

9.    Reward your best customers, subcontractors and business partners.     

10.    If you are very driven, results oriented, nimble and forward looking – don’t take on customers who are not.I am sure that 2009 will be a year of re-evaluation, reinvention, recycling and repurposing as we all try to find smarter cost-effective ways of living and conducting business.  Will small business owners see a light in the end of a tunnel in 2009? 

Do You Have “The Knack?” – Question To Small Business Owners

The Duct Tape Marketing Coaching Excellence Series featured Brodsky and Burlingham today.

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Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham, two of Inc. magazine’s popular columnists,  talked about their book “The Knack”.  Their advice mixes common sense, street smarts and pragmatism. Here are some points to remember:

  • Life plan should be in sync with your business plan.  Be flexible enough to make changes if necessary.
  • Have a set of long and short term goals for yourself and your business.
  • Numbers run a business – get a handle on your finances.  Understand why gross margin matters.
  • Keep in mind – sale does not occur until you collect the money.
  • Short term assets should always exceed short term liabilities.
  • No friends in business – make decisions that are best for your business.  Take emotion out of decision making process. This does not mean that you don’t care about the people you work with.
  • Treat true competitors with respect.  You get nowhere by badmouthing them.
  • Explain why you are better/different without putting your competitors down.
  • Culture drives a company.  We don’t necessarily start out with a written statement that sets our company culture.
  • CEO should take responsibility for your company culture,  otherwise you may end up having several different cultures.   Company culture  is company’s soul.
  •  Don’t be wasteful.  Have enough cash on hand to get your company through hard times.

 

Will One Minute Treatment Help You Become A Smarter Entrepreneur?

book_productshot.jpg

Ken Blanchard, author of the famous One Minute Manager, got support from Don Hutson and Ethan Willis to create his book, The One Minute Entrepreneur.

Most people who start a small business fail within 10 years, say the authors.  Readers find a simple map to success. Some advice is short and to-the-point, and some common sense advice they share you’ve heard before, but it still works.

The authors describe 20 key attributes of a successful entrepreneur. I find the following five they have included to be essential.

Resourceful – In my experience successful entrepreneurs find ways to get through difficult times, constantly learn new skills and improve their self-reliance.  They practice patience and come up with new ways to open doors that have been slammed shut in their face.

Visionary – Vision-inspired focused small business owners WILL find success. They don’t get discouraged by numbers and inspire people around them.

Optimistic – Future may not seem so bright for some small business owners right now, but they have to show up and motivate others.

Strategic -Clarity of direction will lead to smart decisions, learning to let go and working smart.

Team oriented – That’s how smart entrepreneurs earn the commitment of their people and the loyalty of their customers. Successful leaders always help other people grow.

The goal of writing this book must have been helping people discover their entrepreneurial strengths.  Entrepreneurs must learn to commit to success one step at a time.

The One Minute Entrepreneur: The Secret to Creating and Sustaining a Successful Business, Currency/Doubleday, 139 pages.