The Morphing of Social Media

Social Media has been important business practice for the past few years, and it has showed no signs of slowing. In fact, it’s taking off, and we at the LCBD are here to make sure you can hit the ground running at whatever speed.

There have been numerous instructors teaching social media workshops at the LCBD in the past few years, and instruction in using Facebook fanpages is always included. Without fail, there are questions that come up regarding recent changes in Facebook that the instructors have to muddle through and try to answer intelligently. Facebook is constantly morphing and upgrading itself, making it a moving target when it comes to learning all the new functions of the latest version

Just as it’s been increasingly important to keep up with the changes in Facebook as a marketing tool, keeping up with new social media tools is essential for a thriving business. As such, LBCD will have classes for the newest social marketing machine: Pinterest.

In December of 2011, Pinterest became one of the top 10 largest social network services, with 11 million total visits per week. In March 2012, Pinterest became the 3rd largest social network in the United States. By February of 2013, there were 48.7 million unique U.S. visitors to the site. Unfortunately, until recently, the demographics for Pinterest has been 20-40 year-old women, so it was not really taken too seriously for business purposes. But take another look! They now have business pages and most of the top business authors have Pinterest accounts. Even better, they create communities, a vital business tool.

When I was asked to consider offering a Pinterest class at the LCBD, I looked at the site, and hastily came to the conclusion that it was for bored housewives, or for people interested in hobbies. I spent a bit of time messing around on the site and then quickly saw the huge marketing potential for many of the business clients that the LCBD works with. Thus, we now have scheduled a Pinterest class in August.

It’s worth checking out Pinterest on Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/13yOgZd), which details the changes the site has gone through since they first showed up on the social media scene, as it can give you a good idea of how it evolved into a marketing tool that is easy and fun for you to use. Though I doubt that I would have considered it in the past, it is certainly a site to consider using now. The key to sites like this is, offer quality, or interesting items if you are using this to promote your business. If people have an interest in what you are putting out there, they will eventually take a look at your website.

Many of the clients we see at the LCBD are apprehensive when it comes to using social media. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping an open mind and checking out the social networks that exist now or are yet to come. It is annoying keeping up with the functionality of the sites as they are going through changes, but it is well worth it in the end. If you are looking for immediate sales, this is not the place for you. Social media is about building community and offering up something that might be beneficial to others, as Pinterest is about community building, this class will help.

Pinterest

 

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Building Sales in 2013…What Should You Focus on?

I hate to be a broken record, but it is the same thing you should have been focused on in 2012…marketing, marketing, marketing. And sometimes soft marketing, that isn’t always measurable, is a good place to start.

Many successful forms of marketing have not changed in centuries. You can’t do enough one-on-one networking. Even big companies with great websites need to have employee ambassadors who exude the characteristics of their company philosophy.

Pushy_Sales_People_by_SA948_Stamps

If you have a product to sell, people have to know about it… like it… and trust that it will work for them. Look at one of our winning local companies, OtterBox. They certainly did not start out as a huge global presence. One of the ways they gained that “trust factor” is by having an amazing replacement policy. You can have a year old Otterbox case and if you are having issues with it, OtterBox will replace it on the spot…no questions asked. The reliability aspect of the product spread like wildfire. I have been in situations where I met 20 different OtterBox employees within the span of a couple of hours. They didn’t know me from Adam and had no idea that I might be blogging about them. Without exception, each person walked by me, introduced themselves and had something pleasant to say and a smile on their face. There was not a high level management person in ear-shot with each of these encounters. This is great hiring and a good example of having the right people “on the bus” (Good to Great by Jim Collins).

With that being said, there are some new wrinkles to the marketing game. QR Codes for instance. Although Japan has been using QR Codes forever, the United States is just starting to see traction in this area. If you don’t think this is a viable marketing component for your company, you might want to do a bit more research and re-think this option. Adding video to your website is another marketing vehicle that will make you stand out from your competitors. Put that “IFO” (irresistible free offer) into a video format. If you absolutely do not have the budget to add a video, consider adding a simple PDF of educational information relating to your business as your “IFO.”

The LCBD will be offering workshops in March on Creating QR Codes, Adding Video to Your On-line Marketing and SEO Secrets to Build Traffic & Increase Sales. Keep an eye on the LCBD Website for dates and times and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter (top right corner of the website).

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

Do your employees enjoy being at work or are they in a rut? If you are a sole proprietor, do you enjoy your work day? Do you have creative solutions for your business problems? You may simply need a different perspective.

The Hot Poker Principle: If you place a poker near the heat of a fire, it too becomes hot. To succeed, follow the hot poker principle. Be around great men and women, and learn from their experience.

  • Visit great places
  • Attend great events
  • Read great books

        From the book “Success One Day at a Time” by John C. Maxwell

Wellness programs are a wonderful enhancement to any business, but how about considering the addition of an imagination development program. Dedicate one day a week or at least a few hours a week to fueling the imagination of your staff.

GREAT PLACES: Visit a local museum or the D.A.M. http://denverartmuseum.org or the IMAX Theatre at the Museum of Nature and Science http://www.dmns.org/imax/current-films. The Leanin’ Tree has an extensive collection of western art with free admission http://leanintreemuseum.com.

“May your soul be at home where there are no houses.” - Ursala K. Le Guin
Be still – hike…bike…go fishing…

Forest1740b by Susannehs at DiviantArt

Forest1740b by Susannehs at DiviantArt

GREAT EVENTS: Attend an Ignite Fort Collins event http://www.ignitefortcollins.com or a TEDx event http://www.tedxfoco.com. These events are packed with fascinating speakers.

Organize your colleagues to attend a Marimba concert http://pickupsticksmarimba.com/concerts.html; http://www.kutandara.com/bands/index.htm – or better yet, take a group Marimba class: contact Carla at fortcollinsmarimba@gmail.com.

A symphony concert http://www.fcsymphony.org might be just the event to inspire your group.

The Larimer Workforce Center offers a free annual fall symposium. This year it was held at Bixpo www.larimerworkforce.org/symposium. Check their site in August 2013 and register early; the event always fills up quickly.

GREAT BOOKS: You might think of grabbing the obvious latest, greatest, business book. Try something totally different, such as picking up a book on making hand-made cards, a book on writing an e-book or a book on travel. Choose any book that can draw out that creative side of your brain. Sitting in a comfy chair drinking a latte at your local used bookstore (Anthology) can really get the juices flowing.

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
- Henry Ward Beecher 

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How To Make Your Ecommerce Business Site Even Better

If you have recently started an ecommerce business, congratulations! You are already on the road to building a successful new chapter in your company. Ecommerce is rapidly expanding, so taking advantage of its growing popularity is a great business move. However, there are a few things you can do to make this venture even better. Read on for a few tips on growing your ecommerce site.

Make It Personal

Everyone loves a personal touch in business, especially on the Internet. A major drawback of doing business online is that business owners aren’t connecting with their customers face-to-face. This lack of real human interaction means that attention to personal connection will be noticed and appreciated by your customers. Make yourself accessible to your customers by providing them with plenty of information regarding your business and the option to contact you directly, if necessary. Run tests on how users react to different designs, and be sure your site is clean, simple, and easy to use.

Diversify

The ability to more easily expand into other markets is one of the best parts of doing business online. The added flexibility of the online marketplace means you can experiment with offering new products and services. The sky really is the limit when it comes to online business, so why not expand your product selection to fit a broader range of interest? Keeping your brand fresh and constantly introducing new selections is a vital part of growing a company. Analyze past trends and pay attention to trend forecasts. Keep your strategy fresh by never getting comfortable. How can your business get ahead of the game? How and where can you expand? Find out, and then do it.

Create Partnerships

You know that networking and creating trusted relationships is an incredible way to build business. Don’t forget to do the same things online. Is there another retailer you can partner with to help build each other’s brand? Are there industry leaders you can connect with and reference within your site? Don’t be afraid to get out there and make connections. If you are in the vacuum cleaner business, perhaps you can partner with a site that sells vacuum bags; you host their product, they host yours, and everybody wins. Throw in an engaging link to an opinion piece in Vacuum Cleaners Digest, and you can’t lose.

Ryan Franklin is a guest blogger and business owner who works with www.Ordoro.com. He believes in attention to detail and uses inventory management
software to stay organized.

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Network, Network, Network

Network EventIf you have a white board you should write this across the top and list some ways that you intend on increasing your networking in the future. Networking can’t be emphasized enough. You most likely have the same problem that everyone else has, where do you find the time. It is imperative that you carve out time to network. If you lack ideas on where to network, simply go to www.meetup.com and type in an area of interest and you will find a ton of possible groups to join. They don’t have to be business groups. If you have an interest in cycling, quilting, beer, music, food, etc. seek out a group that centers around your interest. Being involved in several networking groups is really the ideal scenario.

I was invited this week to visit the group: B.R.A.V.O. (Business Relationships Adding Value to Others). The group meets every Thursday at 11:30 am at the Perkins Restaurant at Crossroads Blvd & Clydsdale in Loveland. The group was led by David Walker of MyWebBarn. David is a volunteer instructor for the LCBD program and has a great reputation in the business community. As I looked around, I saw a few familiar faces of people I had met at other networking groups. I thought to myself, these people are on the ball; being involved in multiple groups. When I checked this group out on their Meetup page, the description that had the greatest impact on me was: they are relationship-based. That is really the key to why people do business with other people…it is all about the relationship.

B.R.A.V.O. is one of the many business networking groups available in Northern Colorado. The Blue Lions, Brewed Awakening, Women of Influence, The Digital Gunslingers, Caffeinated Business Network, Women’s Development Council (WDC), Loveland Business Team – (meets the 3rd Thursday at Dorothy’s Catering in Loveland on West 1st Street 8:15 am – 9:30 am. Just show up to this group, there is no registration needed and you don’t have to join a group to attend). The LCBD also offers a networking event, bi-monthly. The next event is at Loveland Aleworks on Monday, September 10th from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Visit a few networking groups to find a good fit for your business and/or hobby. And don’t forget your local chamber of commerce.

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Cash – The Other Bottom Line

A cash flow forecast is a powerful planning and risk assessment tool, one often overlooked by many companies. No matter the size or profitability of your company, developing this tool to anticipate your cash needs can be very beneficial.

A cash flow forecast is not to be confused with the statement of cash flow, a common statement that accompanies the balance sheet and profit and loss statement. Instead a cash flow forecast is just that: a projected timeline of expected cash inflows (income) paired with expected cash outflows (expenses). A forecast can easily be created in a spreadsheet or on paper. At a minimum, creating and maintaining one can project cash shortfalls when cash outflows exceed available funds.

The structure and complexity of a forecast can depend on the organization. I prefer to maintain one on a week by week basis for at least the upcoming four to five month period. Maintaining a detailed one beyond that can be a drain on time without providing much value. The cash flow forecast can be most beneficial particularly for companies that have periodic large cash payments (tax estimates, seasonal inventory purchases or balloon payments).

Remember, timing is important; the cash for sales made on terms will not be realized for 30 days, and the cash for items purchased on credit will not be disbursed for 30 days or per terms the of the invoice.

Knowing the expected ebbs and flows of your organization’s cash balance in advance can allow a company to plan ahead and avoid cash short falls. Knowing there is a projected cash short fall in the future can allow a company to plan for a loan or reduce spending. Proper planning can eliminate or reduce the need and costs associated with obtaining cash from outside of a company’s normal operations.

The end goal is to not just to develop a tool that can assess cash needs, but one that will provide timing, direction and order to your operations. By incorporating a cash flow forecast into your organization’s decision making process, you can achieve your desired outcome while reducing exposure to unforeseen problems. There are many avenues that companies can choose to meet their profit goals. A cash flow forecast can serve as a guiding tool.

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5 Tips for Writing an Engaging Bio

One of the most important things you will need to do as a business owner and/or consultant is write your bio. It’s not only a culmination of what you’ve done in your life and work to date, however. It’s about taking the reins and crafting the way people will perceive you and your accomplishments, and influence them to take action to connect after reading your bio.

A bio is also one of the hardest things for people to put together. It can be challenging to maintain an objective perspective about your own talents and life experience and put it into words that sound confident, skilled and engaging.

There are a few key things every bio needs in order to be well rounded and provide potential customers the opportunity to get to know your highlights – and possibly lead to a sale.

Be clear. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people want to include a mention about every job they’ve ever had. That is not the goal of a bio. The focus needs to be on talking about the whole of your experience as it relates to the work you want to do or the type of people you want to connect with after they read it.

Get to the point. Long bios have their place, but it’s best to stick to 500 words or less, depending on your level and depth of experience and education.

Don’t forget the “human-ness”. Talk about more than just your work experience and accomplishments. People want to be able to connect with you as an individual, to see the human side of you. Be sure to include details about likes, hobbies, creative outlets, pets – whatever you do that is a non-business or academic pass time that is both fun an fulfilling.

Ask friends and relatives to read your bio before you publish or submit it. They know you best and will tell you if you are being too modest or braggy. Friends and family will also let you know if there is anything you’ve missed that might be of value, because it can be challenging to look at your own accomplishments objectively.

Use your final bio as a base. What do I mean by that? Use your bio as “the well” you draw from to create your elevator speech, online profiles etc. It will serve as a consistent base of material you can pull from as needed, and helps people remember and connect you clearly with what you do.

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When to Say No to Stupid Client Requests

Ever had a request from one of your clients that was so misguided, so 100% bone-stupid, that every cell in your body was screaming: hell no?

As experts, we have a moral, ethical, and professional obligation to respond to stupid client requests in no uncertain terms: no.

Whether it’s bad advice they received from their “friend” or outlandish scope requests, these are the moments you have to stand your ground to protect both your business and your client’s.

Clients hire us for our expertise. Our years of focus and dedication to our craft that make us experts. It’s why we get the big bucks to do what we do. We’re not just pencil pushers or mouse cursors inside a program doing what the client wills – they’ve got employees for that sort of thing.

Yet, every now and then, clients think they know better. Because of something they heard. Because of something their Great Aunt Edna told them. Never mind that Edna is a cat lady who spends 99% of her time dodging hairballs, Edna’s advice is unequivocally correct. You might as well be chopped liver.

This is especially common in Web Design. Because everybody owns a web browser and knows how to click around the web, they think they are experts in what a website should look like. Never mind that you have 15 years of experience under your belt, there should be sparkles, comic sans, and a lot of animated gifs or their customers “just won’t buy”.

And, on a side note – what the hell does “this design just doesn’t pop” mean? I’ve consulted every graphic designer I know – not one has ever seen a design “pop”. Popcorn pops. Bubble wrap pops. Designs are effective. Designs are beautiful. Designs don’t pop. If you find one that does, you should probably unplug your computer; your monitor is about to catch fire.

The opposite is also true: it’s OK to know what you want, but if what you want is wrong and you push forward against the advice of your expert – beware your inevitable destruction. There are rare exceptions and experts have been known to be wrong. Even so, beware the Yes Man who takes your money, does the thing you want, and leaves you high and dry with a stupid idea executed.

While we’re on the topic of how to treat experts, never, ever, is it ok to ask someone to do work for free with the promise of paid work in the future. This is called “speculative work” and it gives you and your business a bad reputation.

For example: it is not ok to pay a photographer or graphic designer only if you like the finished product. Would you go to the doctor and then refuse to pay if you didn’t like the diagnosis? No. So don’t try to pull that with any other service-oriented business.

The rules of etiquette in business are simple, and they come back to the thing we learned first in Kindergarten: The Golden Rule. Treat others how you would want to be treated. That’s true for your employees, your customers, your clients, and your business partners.

None of us like to hear the word No, but think of all the times when someone stopped you from doing something you later found out would have been pretty dumb. Big weight off your shoulders, right? They had the courage to be honest with you and to stand up to you.

In the age of social media, misdeeds can travel quickly and get out of hand even quicker. The only defense is a good offense: screw up as little as possible. Treat people as well as you’d like to be treated – even if it means telling them something they don’t want to hear.

Your work will speak for itself.

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Too Much of a Good Thing

I just unsubscribed to 5 different email subscriptions. Was it because
of bad content? Absolutely not, the articles were all worthwhile and valuable
information from top business writers. The problem…too much of a good thing.
Some of the writers send out updates daily. Is this a good thing for their SEO?
Yes. Is it a good thing to hold onto quality business relationships? I
don’t think so. One of the writers has a list of questions asking why you are
unsubscribing. I checked off, too many updates. This would not be an offered
question, if the writer wasn’t aware of this possibility. There are so many
people writing for their particular industries. There just isn’t enough time,
in the course of the day, to read this volume of work.

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Avoid the Rookie Mistake: Don’t Say Yes to it All

When you are an entrepreneur or small business trying to gain some traction, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With so many things to think about, join and contribute to, your plate is completely piled up before you even dig in. It’s a common rookie mistake.

People often feel the best strategy starting out is to be EVERYWHERE. I say all it does is contribute to burn out and dilutes your marketing message. Save yourself the stress and do it right from the start. Choose wisely about where you put your attention and spend time in a way that gets maximum results from your efforts.

To make the biggest impact right from the starting gate, follow these simple guidelines:

Know your target market. There is no point going to every networking meeting in town just to spread the word about yourself. Make sure the people who will be there actually are potential customers or good future networking partners who can connect you to other like minds.

Have clear, consistent messages that you use in all your marketing, networking, public speaking and interactions with potential clients. If you say something different each time you connect with others it’s hard for them to understand what you do or how to pass along information about your services to others. Make it simple, clear and easy by creating core messages you can call on at the ready.

Be selective with social media contacts and what you send to each. Yes, there is power in an online message, but not everyone wants to hear from you regularly or hear the same thing from you. Build authentic connections with people and then create specific messages that are a fit based on their relationship with you. Then connect with them in a way that makes sense based on the quality of your relationship.

Position yourself as an expert beyond your website and networking engagements to your target market by utilizing your key messages. Do radio interviews, guest post on relevant blogs, write articles, do short videos – something that shows your knowledge beyond just promoting your business, products and services. If this seems challenging, hire someone to help get you started with some simple content or strategies.

Connect with what’s fun and do it. Often we make business all about work, when it’s also really about fun. If something seems like a drag and you can’t muster up the energy to pursue it, leave it for a later time. There is no sense in pushing it when you could instead be spending time working on things that excite you and keep your passion for your business idea alive and kickin’.

Remember, busy does not = productive. Be selective and use your time strategically to make the biggest impact in your community and online.

 

 

 

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