How to Drive Business Without Driving Yourself Crazy

Presented by Anita Campbell

Small business people have similar types of concerns they deal with. For instance, how do you market online without it taking over your life?

Ten Common Sense Tips

  1. Make friends, even with competitors. Word of mouth referrals come from unexpected places. You get more done by partnering than by trying to go it alone.
  2. Be ubiquitous. This is how you build your brand (personal and company). Spend time not just on your own website, but develop communities everywhere (social networking/social media). By using her staff to "divide and conquer," Anita has a presence in 18 communities (some more active than others). Don't just blindly focus on the big sites only; spend some time searching through and picking the right sites to be involved in. You need to determine which are right for you to invest your time in. Don't just "hang out" all day spending time without purpose.
  3. Protect and defend your brand. We don't have the budgets of companies like Dell or Microsoft, but we can put in a targeted effort on social media sites. One thing you have to do is protect your brand: on any social media site that allows you to attach a name or "handle" to your account, go out and reserve that name to prevent anybody else from acquiring it. For instance, she signed up on Twitter for anitacampbell, even though she's actively using smallbiztrends, just to prevent somebody else from getting the anitacampbell account. She posted one update to anitacampbell pointing people over to smallbiztrends to follow her. Spending an hour or two one afternoon reserving individual and business names at social media sites can save you a lot of potential grief on down the line.
  4. Figure out your revenue model. Early. Goal is to find something to sell that is moderately priced and has a relatively short sales cycle, even if you also have more expensive products/services. Many of us are "accidental entrepreneurs." Make sure what you do to generate revenue online is consistent with your revenue model. If your business model is lead generation, you may want to consider a free offer.
  5. Stick with it. People say half of being successful in business is showing up; Anita says the other half is sticking with it. Most people give up way too soon. Either they run out of cash, or they assume things just aren't working out and give up. There are very few overnight successes (unless you consider "overnight" to be measured in terms of years).

    For instance, Anita started her blog in August of 2003. It took her 14 months to get to 100 subscribers. Another year later, she had 311 subscribers. Three years in, she had over 4,000. Four years in, 83,300. Five years on, she has over 200,000 subscribers. It's the "network effect -- in the early days, you reach out and touch people, but it's very few people. But they touch others, and the ones they touch reach out to their networks, and it starts to grow exponentially. The pace of growth accelerates as time goes by -- but if you give up too soon, you never get to that point.

  6. Outsource. Partner. Sooner. More. This is the toughest thing for small businesses. We tend to be concerned about expenses, but the more people you have behind your business, the faster you'll grow. Start with independent contractors if you can't hire permanent employees. Find trusted service providers -- ask colleagues for recommendations. Partner with other companies.
  7. Learn a little technology. Otherwise, you'll spend more money, everything will take longer and you won't get the best from your service providers or staff. You need to know some tech to effectively communicate with your service providers. Read tech blogs, even if they seem to be over your head. You'll pick up something.
  8. Get organized! Between site logins, calendar events, service providers, etc. you'll waste a lot of time if you're not organized. There are online servicew where you can create a "dashboard" page for yourself that allows you to easily access everything you need from one place. She has a private page on NetVibes, but there are other services coming up that allow the same sort of thing. Find something that works for you.
  9. Plan. Prioritize a confusing landscape. Anita has three levels of priority and allocates her time and attention most to the top priority (her website), less to the second-tier items (e-mail, SEO, blog, etc.), and "as available" to the third tier. Her top priority is her website, so she spends the most time on making sure it's up to date. Website will not be the top priority for everyone. Each business owner will have to determine for him/herself how to distribute priorities.
  10. Keep a sense of humor. Something's bound to go wrong. Things that seem like tragedies can turn out to be wonderful. Her site was hacked on Christmas Eve. At the time, she didn't know what to do -- but in two weeks it had turned in to a great war story. People whose blogs had been hacked were looking to her for information. There's always a silver lining, so don't let setbacks get you down.

September 23, 2008

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