February 22, 2012

A Season of Shedding

I’ve started off the year by getting rid of things. Jane, my organizer friend, would say that’s a good thing. But I’m not talking about emptying closets and trips to the curb.

I’ve been shedding bits and pieces of my business. It feels like a weight off my shoulders; casting off the old to make room for the new, a fresh start… and many more clichés. This year I am focused and oh boy, am I getting in control.

Some decisions have been difficult ones – like finally putting my training career to rest. Some have been much easier – like getting rid of my Yellow Pages ad after 7 years of no payoff. (Can you believe this? The rep actually said, “Well, what’s $16 a month?”)

All have been the result of the Plan I developed at bootcamp last month. I have never understood the terms ‘niche’ and ‘specialize’ like I do now. What a pleasant surprise: decision-making has now become so much easier and straight-forward. No waffling. Does it fit with the Plan? No? Then, out the door with it, no fuss, no second-guessing. I’ve even turned away business that didn’t fit with the Plan.

Creating the Plan was really the decision point. Now it’s simply measuring – does it fit or not. And even when it fits in the hips but not across the shoulders – well that’s not a fit either. Time to go back to the rack.

What I find amusing as I sit and write this article is that suddenly all the clichés seem to apply when everything is moving in the right direction. Game on. Got a leg up. Good to go. Lean and mean.

Now we’re cooking with fire.

February 14, 2012

Find Your 'Debi'

A good friend recently asked for my best advice for a young colleague of hers that wants to start a home-based business. I surprised myself a bit by being able to zero in on the two key success factors for growing my similar business.

Yes, you've heard it before and are probably doing it. I could be doing more of it but I’m definitely making the most of what I do. Joining a weekly networking association like The Group Halifax  has been a definite boost in a lot of ways: support and advice, friendships, referrals, and of course some of the members have become clients. Networking takes me where other small business owners are, since they are my ideal clients. In recent months my networking has gone online and I've made some great connections through social media and my newsletter. Don’t ignore that venue.

Find Your ‘Debi’
Most who know me, also know that Debi Hartlen MacDonald at New Life Business Solutions is a close colleague, and that she and I regularly exchange our expertise and opinions to help each other. What you may not know is what a boost Debi gave to my business when I rebranded and took a new direction two years ago. During the first 4 months, 49% of my sales could be traced back to referrals from Debi. So when I say “find your Debi”, I mean find a business confidante and a great referrer – all in one person. Debi’s target market overlaps with my target market and we have complementary skills and personalities.

Of course, Debi and I met at a networking event. So I guess it really all comes back to my first point above – NETWORK. But don’t just network. Take it the extra step and build relationships.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on February 14, 2012

February 9, 2012

5 Reasons Why EVERY Business Needs a Website

There are many reasons that a business should have a website.  Some businesses will have more reasons than others.  If I was going for quantity, I’m sure I could come up with hundreds of reasons.  But not all of those reasons would apply to every business.  There are some reasons that apply to EVERY business – big or small.

Promote your products/services 24/7/365 worldwide
Showcase your products/services for everyone to see. Explain the benefits. Show comparisons, testimonials, and FAQs. Bonus: your website works for you while you’re busy doing other things.

Promote your business and yourself
People favour organizations and people that they know, like and trust. Your website should convey trust and credibility, making people want to buy from you and support you.

Build your community, reputation, and contacts
A website can be a powerful way to build a following of like-minded people and show off your expertise. It can also be a powerful tool for gathering new contacts and prospects.

Improve brand recognition
Differentiate your product, service or company from your competition and create loyalty. The content, style, and tools, such as newsletters, on your website should make your visitors feel good and build loyalty. Your website must look good in order to get people to look deeper.

The most important reason? (drum roll please)

People expect it
People use the internet to find quick answers to basic questions. What products/services do you offer? What is your phone number or email address? Where are you located? Make sure they find you or they will find someone else. If you cannot be found on the web, your credibility will take a big hit.