Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

Posted by on Sep 26 2014

I had a tough discussion with a client yesterday. She needs to hire a marketing manager, but would rather find a person who knows her narrowly niched target audience intimately and then teach them marketing skills.

I suggested to her that it would be easier find a marketing expert who had all the skills she needed and then to teach her new team member about her target audience. It’s too much of an uphill slog to have to teach someone all the marketing, admin and tech skills that make a marketing manager great.

I asked, “Can you explain your target audience, their needs, philosophy and psychology (to someone not in your industry) in 15 or 30 minutes?”

She said no, that it would take “days and days” to explain her target audience to someone.

What about you? Do you know your target audience so well that you could provide a high level description to your new team member in a short time? If not, why not?

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm

Posted by on Sep 25 2014

Dealing with overwhelm is like juggling balls.The Ultimate Guide for Entrepreneurs Who Do Too Much.

As a small business owner, there are often too many ideas, too many tasks and projects, and not enough time or resources. Entrepreneurs are a creative bunch of people and we’re always thinking of new ideas!

I don’t know anyone who isn’t time-constrained. We all have busy lives, and if you run your own business, you are doubly busy.

Below are 44 tips for dealing with overwhelm and increasing productivity. Feel free to share this with your friends, colleagues and mastermind group partners.

The Rules

Just pick ONE of these tips and do it. Do not overload yourself more, by trying to do all these tips. This article will be online later and you can come back to it to pick up your next tip.

Understand Why You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Many of my clients and students tell me they are feeling overwhelmed by running their own small business. It doesn’t matter whether your business is brand new or 20 years old, there are many things to juggle as a business owner. You are not alone in feeling this way, and there are some very common reasons why we feel overwhelmed:

  • Trying to be everything to everyone
  • Trying to focus on too many things at once
  • Being too optimistic about how much time it takes to do a task
  • Adding too many appointments and projects to your weekly calendar
  • Not saying “no” to people and projects

Notice how all these things are a CHOICE you made? Every time you make a choice to do too much, you make a choice to feel overwhelmed. You are in control.

You are in control of your calendar. You are in control of which projects are top priority. You are in control of your thoughts about your business. You’re even in control about whether you answer a ringing phone or not.

The power is in your hands.

Admitting That You Can’t Do It All

I have a To Do list that is six typewritten pages long. Every time I have a brilliant idea for a new project, I add it to the To Do list.

As surely as the sun rises each morning, the more I add to the list, the more overwhelmed I feel.

Then I had a startling insight: I will never be finished with my To Do list. I will always have wonderful new projects that I want to add. I will always have maintenance tasks that need to be performed. There will always be emails to answer and phone calls to make.

Once I understood that I would never get it all done, then it was only a baby step to the knowledge that I can’t do it all myself. Either I have to delegate projects and tasks, or I have to delete them from my list. If you are serious about not feeling burned out and overwhelmed, then the first place to start making cuts is in your To Do list.

Take Your Time

New habits take some getting used to, don’t they?

The outcome will be a feeling of mastery over your workload, your time and your energy. You will be in control of your calendar and To Do list instead of feeling as if they are in control of you.

Start With These Simple Tips

1. Calm down. You cannot do any of these tips if you are feeling stressed. Do 5 minutes of something relaxing before trying any of these tips.

2. Set priorities and goals. Where do you want your business to be in 12 months? What is most important, right now, to get you to your 12-month goals? Pick just three goals for 12 months. If you complete them, you can always add another one later.

3. Centralize your To Do list. Because I’m at my desk most of workday, I have a To Do file right on my computer that I can easily access and update. Whether you keep your To Do list on your smart phone or in a notebook, make sure you can get your hands on it quickly. When a new idea comes up, you have a place to put it immediately, instead of trying to keep track of it in your head. This is so liberating!

4. Focus. Choose one task and focus solely on that until it is complete. Stop multitasking; it will only lead you to feeling more overwhelmed.

5. Set a timer. Work on one task for 20 minutes, and then take a break. Every week, work for 5 minutes extra (25 minutes instead of 20, and so on) to help rebuild your focus, sustained attention span and ability to concentrate. Pay attention to when you start to become distracted and work with your natural biorhythm to take mini-breaks when you need them. Most adults can pay sustained attention for 20 minutes before becoming distracted. (Most adults can renew their attention to a task after being distracted, too.) I use a timer from TimeTimer to keep track of my 20-minute work segments.

6. Know how long it takes. I am notorious for assuming that tasks take much less time than they actually take. I block out 15 minutes for a task then discover it actually takes 30 minutes. I have learned this simple rule: whatever you think a task will take, double it. That way you won’t add too many tasks to your daily calendar and you will feel less stress because you know you’ve given adequate time to every task. Plus there’s a nice added cushion of time for a tea break!

7. Simplify. Is your business too complicated? Should some of your manual tasks be automated? Take a deep look at every task you do and ask yourself if there is a better, easier way to do it, or if a piece of software could do that task for you.

8. Know your Productivity Peak. When is your best, most productive time? Most creative time? For me, it’s 8AM to 2PM. That is the time when my intellect and my creativity is flying high. So I use that time to work with clients, teach classes, write books, and create training programs. Knowing and using your personal productivity peak times will help you be more productive and produce better quality work. Use your non-peak time for maintenance items that don’t require much brainpower (or willpower).

9. Give yourself the gift of distraction. Sometimes we push ourselves too hard. Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Every few hours, take a break from your work. Step out your front door and get a breath of fresh air. Play some music. Go for a walk. Read a fun book. Have coffee with a friend. Do anything that takes your heart and mind away from business. You will be rewarded with a clear mind and a fresh perspective when you get back to work.

10. Get rid of clutter. For many people, when there are too many things in your visual field of focus, it is hard for your brain to concentrate on the task at hand. If out of sight really does mean out of mind, keep a file drawer for paperwork and put a note to yourself in your To Do list about where to find the necessary paperwork or email when you’re ready to work on that task.

11. Know your RQ (resistance quotient). Discover what you’re resisting when you use distraction and procrastination instead of doing your work. Stop self-sabotaging your success.

Specific Things You Can Do to Deal with Overwhelm

12. Just say no without guilt. Too often we try to please everyone and end up with too much on our plates. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look at the people and projects you’ve say Yes to that perhaps you should have said No to. Here’s a practical article I wrote on how to say no to people when they ask for your time.  Look at your To Do list and ask yourself if you can simply say No to any of the tasks. Remember, you are in control of your task list and your calendar. Only you can overbook yourself, so only you can say No to requests for your time.

13. Clear your desk. There is no better feeling than starting fresh and getting a complete handle on everything that needs to be done. By going through every paper, every pile, every note, you consolidate and prioritize. Remember to use your centralized To Do list and throw away all those individual To Do notes!

14. What’s most important? Each morning, enter your office and ask, “What are the MOST important tasks to get done today?” Make a careful balance about short-term emergencies and long-term tasks so that you can meet your goals without getting swept-up in daily disasters.

15. Do it. Sometimes, a bare-knuckle commitment to getting things done is necessary. That pesky colonoscopy you’ve been putting off? Do it. That phone call to a disgruntled employee? Do it. That 3,000 word article? Do it.

16. Ditch it. Some projects were never meant to be. Some catalogs and magazines can be thrown away.

17. Delegate it. Ask for help. Look at all the tasks you do, and for each one ask, “Am I the only person who can do this task in the entire world?” Some tasks are your sole providence; others can be delegated to a website designer, graphic artist, administrative assistant, etc.

18. Work for results. Which things you currently do are giving you the results you want? Stop wasting time on things that don’t give you the outcomes you want, even if other people tell you that you “have to” do them. Stop listening to gurus and start listening to your own intelligence and experience. The only thing that matters is whether you are creating the outcomes you want.

19. Get into task habits. For instance, the first thing I do each morning is handle emails from clients and students. Then I do social media because it allows me to use a different part of my brain. Next, I look at financials. Then I prep for that day’s client calls and classes. These four tasks take me about 60 minutes, warm up my brain, and allow me to serve my clients and students first, before getting into the main part of my day. Each afternoon before I leave, I plan my projects/tasks for the next day, answer any last-minute emails, and straighten up my desk. Having task habits each day allows you to get the important daily tasks done in an orderly fashion.

20. Chunk your schedule. Do you have scheduled time each week for marketing? For administrative work? For speaking with clients? If you block out scheduled time each week for your work, you will know that you have a plan for how to tackle the work. For instance, I use all day Friday to write articles, books and new classes. I use Monday morning for administrative work. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1PM. What does your ideal workweek look like?

21. OMD: Off My Desk. Make a concerted effort to handle each item that comes across your desk ONCE. Do not stack it in a pile and think, “I’ll get back to it later.” Each morning, make a clean sweep of your desk while reciting the mantra: OMD, OMD, OMD!

22. Bit-sized chunks. Divide big projects into mini-tasks. Grab a piece of paper and write down all the tasks you can think go into the project. Divide any task that takes more than 60 minutes into smaller, doable chunks.

23. Find it in 60 seconds or less. Create a rule for yourself that you will be able to get your hands on anything in your office in 60 seconds or less. When you put something away, put it away in the most intuitive place you can think of, so that it will be at your fingertips when you need it. Find a home for every item in your office and return it to its home after each use. Fall in love with your filing cabinet.

24. Just three tasks a day. Stop overscheduling your time. Choose just three tasks a day to complete. If you are done early, you can always take on another task (or escape from the office for a little hard-earned play time).

25. Admit that you will never get caught up. Your To Do list will never be empty. Humans are the only animal who, once they complete a task, create new projects and tasks to occupy their minds, their time, their creativity, their energy. We’re hard wired this way.

26. Stop multitasking. While there are conflicting scientific research findings about whether multitasking causes productivity loss or not, my clients tell me that trying to do too many things at once causes them to do a poorer job, both in productivity and quality of work.

27. Out of sight, out of mind. When you need to focus deeply on a task, especially for a long amount of time, try clearing off your desk first. We get overstimulated, visually, by having many items within our view. By putting them out of sight, you can then focus more fully on the task in front of you. I use this technique when doing in-depth strategy work for myself or with clients. It forces my visual focus, and therefore my mental focus, on just one thing.

28. When you need to focus, get away from your desk. When I’m working on a big project, like writing a book, I find it best if I take my laptop and leave my office. If the weather is cooperative, I will go site by the lake and write; if not, I will find some quiet corner of a coffee house or hotel and write there. Even moving from your office to your living room will help. Because there is nothing else to grab your attention, you are able to focus for longer periods of time.

29. Check it off. Make a list (a To Do, a Task list for a big project). Put a big checkmark next to each task when you get it done. It’s very satisfying!

30. Make an appointment with yourself. Having a To Do list is great, but the real payoff comes when you move tasks from your To Do list and put them in your actual calendar as an appointment with yourself. In this way, you can estimate how much time something will take, and know that you have blocked out enough time to get it done.

31. Celebrate. When you get done with a big project, don’t automatically move to the next one. Find some wonderful way to celebrate your achievement!

32. Put on your CEO Hat. What are priority tasks for the ultimate success of my business? Sometimes what seems like the right thing to do in the moment is exactly the wrong thing to do for the future.

33. Get it out of your head and on to paper. Are you trying to carry your entire project plan in your head? Are you carrying your shopping list and your weekend appointments in your head, too? Stop it! Find a place to write down all these things, and use it consistently, so that you have a clear mind.

34. Unsubscribe. Do you belong to too many email newsletters that you never read? I have a litmus test: Every quarter, I go through all the email newsletters I have received from a specific person. If I don’t find at least one brilliant idea, one great tip, or one deep insight, I unsubscribe. By knowing why you subscribe to email newsletters, and using those values to judge whether a newsletter is delivering value to you (or not), you’ll easily be able to unsubscribe from those that don’t meet your needs. Life is too short to wade through emails that don’t sing to you.

35. Close down your email and social media sites during peak work periods. It’s too distracting, too tempting. (It’s like not keeping ice cream in the house when you are on a diet.)

36. Set up a good filing system. Keep big projects in their own 3-ring binder or an electronic folder on your hard drive, so that all your material is in one place. Archive old financial papers, client files, etc. into storage drawers or boxes.

37. Embrace the PDF. Get the paper off your desk by using electronic PDFs of anything that’s important. You can scan anything that comes in to your office on paper to a PDF. You can also print any online or electronic file to PDF using your operating system’s PDF creation software. If your computer’s operating system doesn’t include a PDF creation software package, try the free PrimoPDF.

38. Create an at-a-glance project planner. I juggle many projects each month. So once a month I grab a piece of art paper and create multiple squares, one square for each project. In each square, I write down the five most important tasks that need to be done for that project in that month. When I glance at it, I can see how all the puzzle pieces fit together and where the demands on my time will be felt the most.

39. Big rocks first. Do you know how to plan your priorities? This wonderful video with Stephen Covey will help you see the big picture.

40. Perfectionism kills. I know, because I tried to do every task perfectly and it nearly killed my business. Some tasks are critical for your success and need to be as good as they possibly can be. Other tasks are not so important and just need to be done without a lot of glory or perfection.

41. Backlink tasks to a project deadline. If you have a project with a deadline (like a class that starts on a certain date), put that deadline in your calendar. Then, working backwards, fill in the tasks on your calendar that lead up to the project conclusion. Then you will know when you have to start the project in order to complete the tasks in time.

42. Use GanttProject software. I’m a geek. I love software. I love Gantt charts. A Gantt chart is a visual way of seeing and linking tasks within a project, assigning time to each task, and connecting the tasks to figure out how long the entire project will take. I use a free software program called GanttProject for mapping out project/task work for big projects. You can download it for free here: http://www.ganttproject.biz/download (Don’t use the big green “download” button on this page. That doesn’t download GanttProject. Instead, look for the link in the upper left corner that says “GanttProject 2.5.” That’s the correct link.

43. Allow for Murphy’s Law. No week is complete without something going wrong. So plan for it. Allow time in your week for tasks to take longer, phone calls to take longer, emergencies to crop up. You’ll be happier planning for breathing space.

44. Action alleviates anxiety. Pick one high-priority task on your To Do list and do it. Nothing relieves stress better than getting off your butt and taking action. Don’t fall in the trap of picking a low-priority task just because it is easy. Do the things that matter.

Whew! That’s quite some list! As I said earlier, don’t try to do all 44 tips at once. Pick one that feels like it will work well for you and take a month to make it a habit. Then pick another and another until you can feel your overwhelm and anxiety lessen.

I’m wishing you a peaceful and productive business life!

Which one of these tips have you tried?

copyright (c) 2012, Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.

   

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Email Marketing: Include Full Articles or Only Links?

Posted by on Sep 15 2014

It started as an innocent question on Facebook: do you prefer to get email newsletters with the full article in the email, or do you prefer to get a short description and link to read the article on the author’s website?

The response was intense on Facebook, so I sent an email to my entire list asking their preference, too. And the results are: 60.1% prefer to get the entire article in the email, and 39.9% prefer to get just a link in the email and to read the article on the author’s website.

What I decided to do…

Sometimes I write short articles (around 400 words). Those I’ll put in full in the email newsletter AND include a link for those who prefer it.

But for my longer, more sophisticated and strategic “how to” articles (like this one, which is topping out around 2,250 words), I’ll include a short blurb and a link in my email newsletter. And I’ll let you know why you’re not seeing the full article — because it’s rich and juicy and has a lot of incredibly practical content but it’s too big to put in an email.

If I include a link, I’ll tell you what you can expect to find on the other side of that link, so you can make a decision if that information is valuable to you or not.

P.S. I love you…

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to make this decision for your own newsletter, I want to share a heart-felt thank you to everyone who replied to my “vote now” email. Not only did you state your preference, but so many of you shared that you loved my articles. As a writer, this is what I need to hear! Writers often wonder if there’s anyone out there reading their material. :)

So thank you for letting me know that what I write is important to you. It means a lot to me.

But that’s just part of the story…

It was the responses where people shared their reasons for their reading preference that got my attention. Here’s what some of them said:

From those in favor of the FULL article in the email:

  • Full article in the email, Karyn. If I have to click through I will often save it for “later” and as we know, later usually doesn’t come!
  • The whole article. I like to read it on my BlackBerry and don’t have a good web connection (or unlimited data), so it allows me to read it wherever I am.
  • I prefer newsletters to be in full in an email with a link to the website if I prefer. This is so I can go to an internet café with my laptop or hook it up with my cell phone regularly download your emails and then read them when I have the time and environment to digest (like on a plane).
  • Full article in the email. Less clicking, plus I usually read these kinds of things on my phone, which is sometimes slow loading web pages — so I often don’t click.
  • I like to have the entire article in the newsletter but don’t want to necessarily see the whole thing until I’m ready.  I like to scan all the headlines then go back & read the articles that interest me.  Going to another window or website makes me lose track of what I was doing in the first place…oh yeah–checking my email!
  • I prefer the full article because seeing it all at once saves me from having to click.
  • I would prefer the full article. It takes extra time on my phone to pull up a link so alot times I don’t bother.
  • Full letter in the email – otherwise I get distracted and don’t read it.
  • I prefer the whole article. Sometimes links do not work.
  • I rarely click through on newsletters…. If it is important enough to get to my inbox, it must contain what I need or I will unsubscribe usually.
  • Have to admit to a small preference to have the whole thing right there – easier to copy snippets that I like and want to keep to think longer about.
  • Full – because of the potential for viruses
  • I prefer getting the full article so I can read on the go, forward to Evernote for future reference, or share via email. I also like having the link to the full article so I can quickly share via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Full article in email with web-link for sharing!
  • I like the convenience of reading them in my emails. It also lets me keep your articles as a reference or reminder too!
  • I prefer the full article.  Many, many times I don’t follow the link to complete the article, but there are very few that I don’t complete when it is in the email.

From those in favor of a LINK in the email:

  • I like a short blurb with a link. I’d rather see snatches of all the articles offered and then choose which to pursue.
  • I like either method.  However going to your website allows for more variety and innovation.
  • I prefer a link personally. That way I can add it to my reading list to read and share later.
  • I prefer the link method. That way I can save it in your file in Evernote for later reference. I don’t always read them right away, and Evernote is easier for me to organize than my email. Thank you for asking.
  • I like a link as long as the link sends me directly to the article and I don’t have to hunt for it once I arrive on another page. If it’s hard to find the article, I’ll simply click off.
  • Teaser with link would be my preference because I like to share great articles on Twitter.
  • A link to your website because then I can look around and see what else you are up to! ;)
  • I prefer the link. If I’m trying to quickly clear the more than 70-100 emails in my inbox every morning, I typically delete all but the shortest ones. With a link, I can put your newsletters into my “To Read” folder on my desktop.
  • My preference is shorted article with the link to the full but that can also depend on how many articles and how long the articles are.  I scan all newsletters first then decide what I want to read.  Like in the newspapers, the headline is most important, then the first two paragraphs.  If they grabbed me, I always hit the hyperlinked “more” and view the entire article.

In favor of both ways:

  • It makes no difference to me. I guess it depends on how mobile friendly your site is for those who only access the internet via mobile.
  • I prefer to receive both. If it is a interesting small article I like to finish it while reading email. If it is longer I like to save the link for later reading.
  • Can Both be an answer? There are times where its very easy to just read it in gmail, and other times where I have other email that I have to get to, but it’s nice to be able to just click a link and save it in pocket or instapaper.
  • My preference is the whole article in the email. I wanna get the goods ASAP and without a lot of clicking and waiting for a website to load. If there’s a link within the email that gives me extra info related to the topic then I don’t mind clicking through to go deeper.
  • If there’s just one article in the newsletter, I prefer the full text. If there are multiple articles, I prefer blurbs and links.
  • Honestly Karyn, because I value your content, I don’t mind having to click to read the link. Most of the time, I prefer the content to all be right in front of me.
  • If it’s just one article, I like reading within the newsletter, but if you have more than one section, I’m ok with excerpts and links.
  • Whichever prints easier.  I sometimes like to print the article to read it while relaxing.  Otherwise, either way is fine.

So how do you serve both types of readers? 10 things to consider…

As an email newsletter publisher, I needed to make a strategic decision that both served my audience and served my business needs. Here’s how to think through this decision:

  1. You may not be able to please everyone – While I decided to post full articles under 400 words, and post excerpts with a link for longer articles, that may not make everyone happy. I think you have to do your best, and if people find your content helpful, practical, inspiring — and if they connect with you, then they’ll read what you write.
  2. If engagement is important – One of the ways that Google decides if you should have high rankings on search results is whether your content has engagement: comments, shares and likes. If good SEO is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter, and at the bottom of your blog posts, encourage discussion and sharing.
  3. If site traffic is important – Another way Google decides if your site is rank-worthy is by how much traffic you get to your site. Also, if you’re trying to get a book published with a big publishing house, or trying to get hired for keynote speeches, these folks want to know if you have a platform and an audience. So if site traffic is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter.
  4. If sharing of your article is important – I did a test last year, putting the FULL article in the email newsletter and including “share this” buttons in email newsletters where people could then share the article on Facebook, Twitter, etc., to see how many people actually shared the content. Then I did the opposite: put the excerpt and a LINK in the newsletter and put the “share this” buttons on the website blog post. FIVE TIMES the number of people shared it via my website than via my newsletter.
  5. If having your readers actually read your article is important – Just reading through the comments above tells the story. People are busy, distracted and time-constrained. If you want them to read the article, put it in FULL in the email.
  6. If you include multiple articles in your email newsletter – I got a lot of comments from people saying that they prefer LINKS when there is more than one article in the email newsletter.
  7. If your article is very long – Some email systems won’t deliver long emails (they might think they’re spam). Some mobile devices have a limit of what they’ll display in an email. So if your article is over 400-500 words, consider providing a LINK in the email. (And tell them why you are using a link: because the article is long and contains an in-depth discussion of the topic.)
  8. If your article is short – Include the FULL article. People love it. :)
  9. If your article includes phrases that might trigger a spam filter – Sometimes as marketers and writers, we actually are talking about ways to grow a business, selling Rolex watches, or talking about losing weight. But using certain phrases might trigger a spam filter, even if they’re a legitimate part of your article. If you have been dinged in the past by spam filters for phrases like this, use a LINK in your email and avoid using those phrases in the excerpt you provide with the link.
  10. If your readers typically read on a mobile device – Let’s face it, reading long articles from small screens can be tough. Do you know if your email newsletter is mobile-friendly, with large fonts and a good layout? Also, some people prefer to download their email and then read it on the go, and if they don’t have internet connection when they read your newsletter, they won’t be able to click through to your article In this case, include the FULL article. If you are going to provide them a LINK and have them click through from the email newsletter to your website, make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

When you send your email newsletter, test it…

 I have been publishing my email newsletter for over 10 years. And every single time we do a test run first, sending it to all of our own email addresses in all of the major email services and software: Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Mac Mail, iPad email, etc.  We look at the email in the full screen version and the “preview” pane for all these email readers.

This way we know two things: the email is formatted properly for easy reading on any email reader, and all the links work. It’s just plain embarrassing to have to send a follow-up “Oops, wrong link” email to your readers.

And remember to also test it in the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) because some browsers may render your email newsletter differently than others.

Do the obvious…ask your audience!

Just because my audience is split 60/40 on this topic doesn’t mean yours will be. Send out a simple email asking them about their preferences, and tally the results for yourself.

Was this article helpful?

I’d love to hear from you! What are you thinking about regarding your own email marketing?

And, yes, I’d love it if you share this article with your audience. :)

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing
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Getting Help through Your SBDC

Posted by on Sep 08 2014

Did you know you have already paid for business counseling services? America’s Small Business Development Centers are funded through tax dollars and grants, and offer free counseling and low-cost classes to small business owners.

I sat down recently with three people from my local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and asked them to help me understand how they serve for-profit small businesses like yours.

Lorraine Allen is the Regional Director of the SBDC hosted by The College of New Jersey in Ewing. Like many SBDCs across the USA, she and her team provide counseling to startup and established businesses around important small business topics: business planning, financing, government contracting, marketing and human resources. (Click here to see the SBA’s definition of “small business” based on the industry you’re in.  ). They typically focus on small business with under 100 employees, and sometimes those with under 50 employees. They especially focus on high growth businesses with over 10 employees and over $1 million in revenue in many industries, such as retail, manufacturing, professional services, online businesses and franchises.

Lorraine says, “We’re here to help small business owners make good decisions, take good actions and create good habits. We offer them information and resources so they can make well-informed CEO decisions. We can be very effective at helping turn around a company that’s on its last legs.”

SBDCs don’t offer “done for you” consulting services; they won’t write your business plan and they won’t create marketing materials for you. Instead, they help you think through what you need to do to create the business you want. And while the counseling and classes may be free or low-cost, there’s one hugely important thing to remember — you must be willing to invest something precious: your time and your commitment.

Bruce Downing, Counselor at the SBDC at Widener University  shares some amazing statistics:

  • 85% of businesses who work with an SBDC are still in business eight years later. (This is huge. It’s no secret that over 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years of business, according to the SBA.)
  • 49% of the businesses they serve are in the pre-venture category or within the first year of business.
  • 80% have 10 or less employees.
  • Small business owners often come for long-term counseling: 2 to 3 years is common.

Rural small business owners know that local help and resources are sometimes hard to come by. And busy business owners don’t always have time to travel to take a class. Ernie Post, Executive Director of the SBDC at Kutztown University, has the answer: lots of online training classes and webinars. Six years ago he set out to serve both his urban and suburban clientele, and to focus on creating an online presence and online workshops for his rural clientele and busy owners. Today his SBDC offers 90 online workshops, 24 of which are bilingual. They also offer live webinars on specific topics. He says, “We have 1.8 million adult learners interested in entrepreneurial learning in our four-county service area, but we have people from all over the world taking the online classes, especially from overseas American military bases.”

Most SBDCs have startup training classes, either in-person classes in the area they serve, or convenient online classes. This ensures that everyone has the same baseline of information before working with a counselor. These classes cover the fundamentals: business planning, cash flow projections, finances and funding options, QuickBooks, government procurement contracting, operations, international trade, and taxes. Check with your local SBDC: some have classes and counseling in Spanish as well as English.

Some SBDCs have specialists to help you with international trade questions or how to get government contracts, and there are over 100 special Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to help nationwide. (You can find out more about them here.) Bruce Downing is a Government Marketing Specialist and says, “We help small business owners find opportunities at agencies with the government, or help them become a subcontractor under a prime federal or state government contractor.”

There is a huge amount of help out there at your local SBDC. Whether you need to learn how to write a business plan or create a slideshow to get an SBA loan, or you want a more strategic approach to growing your business and your CEO skills, an SBDC can help. And if you can’t find a nearby SBDC, check to see if an SBDC in your State will work with you over the phone. And remember that many SBDCs host online classes and webinars that you can access from anywhere in the world.

Lorraine Allen sums it up perfectly: “Don’t be a lone ranger. If you could do it on your own, you would have. You can gain so much faster if you take advantage of the resources, counseling and classes available to you.”

There are close to 1,000 SBDCs in the United States. Click here to find a SBDC center near you.

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

What Should Your Service Fees Be?

Posted by on Sep 01 2014

Don’t just charge what your competitors charge.

Don’t just charge the lowest price.

Don’t roll the dice and guess.

Instead, do the math.

Here’s how…

1. Determine What You Need and Want To Make

Part of the calculation in setting service fees is how much you need (and want) to make. If you first decide how much profit you need to make, you can then “reverse engineer” the math to determine what to charge in order to make that profit. It’s necessary to do a personal and family budget first, to determine the minimum you need to bring into your home each month.

In addition to that minimum, add the amount you’d like to make which would give you the lifestyle you want. You need to have a goal of the full amount you want to bring home each month when you have a successful business. While income isn’t the only measure of success, NOT making enough money in your business will bring frustration and dissatisfaction.

Take time to dream a little. If you could earn as much money as you ever wanted, what would you spend it on? Maybe you’d send the kids to college. Or go to Paris. Or tuck it away for retirement savings. Or give to your favorite charity.

Take into consideration any business expenses, both routine ones and wish list expenses. Maybe there’s a conference next year you want to attend in Bermuda? Or you need to replace your printer soon. Perhaps now is the time to hire an employee or subcontractor to help you grow your business?

2. Research Your Fee Options

First, examine carefully your skill level. It is common practice in business to charge based on skill. The more skill and experience you have, the more you charge. Also consider the value of the results you get for your clients. If those results are something they strongly value or need, they’re often willing to pay more for those results.

You have several choices on how your services will be billed:

  • per hour
  • per session (regardless of how long a session lasts)
  • per month
  • per project
  • per “program” (you define what the program includes and how long it lasts)

Next, find out what others are charging for similar services in your industry and location. You may have a difficult time getting clients if you set your fee at $100 per hour when other providers in your area are only charging $60 per hour, unless you have more experience, are more well-known, or have a unique offering that is different (and better!) than your competitors.

One interesting note is that you often can charge much more in big cities than anywhere else: in the suburbs you might be able to charge $75 an hour and in New York City charge $150 a hour. And even within a city, you might be able to charge more in exclusive neighborhoods than middle-class neighborhoods. Keep your eyes open to the subtle differences in pricing structures all around you.

Look at your target audience. Are you trying to reach high-income people or is your target somewhere else on the economic spectrum? Are you intending to sell to corporations, or to non-profits? Knowing your ideal target client can also impact your pricing model.

Ask others in your industry what they charge. It is not collaboration or price-fixing to simply inquire as to industry norms. Ask your attorney if you have concerns about enquiring within your industry about pricing.

Another consideration is how much your education cost you. As an example, some massage therapists can spend $4,000 to $6,000 to get their certification. These education expenses need to be figured into the mix when setting fees. You’ve got to recoup those expenses and make a profit, too! And the more education you have (and the more experience you have), the more valuable your services to your client.

Finally, decide if you will offer discounted fees and how you will apply them. Some people create their fees on a sliding scale, based on what the client can afford. Others offer either full fee or free sessions, with no discounting in-between the two extremes. Some take one or two free clients per month as a way to give back to the community, or offer discounts with a deadline attached. The choice is yours.

3. Determine Your Payment Policies

Decide if the client must pay in advance, over time, or after the work  is complete.

Also decide if you will offer a discount for early payment of invoices, say a 5 percent discount if paid by a certain date. This encourages those clients you invoice to pay their bills early, thereby giving you earlier access to your cash.

Finally, if you will be invoicing clients, determine how much time they have to send you the payment. Typical time periods are 15 days or 30 days after the invoice date. You must be willing to be assertive in collecting past-due accounts and be firm with people who don’t pay on time. For example, if your policy is that payment must be received in your office by the first day of the month, consider warning, then firing, clients who habitually are late in sending in their payment.

EXERCISE – How Many Sessions Do I Need To Do?

For this exercise, you’ll need a piece of paper and a calculator.

1. Calculate the income you need to bring into your home (after taxes and business expenses) so that you’ll have a comfortable life. Don’t short-change yourself here; be honest with what you really need and want. This number is the net profit you need to make from your business.

2. Net profit isn’t the same thing as gross income. Gross income is all the revenue you bring into the business. Net Profit is what you get to keep after paying all your business expenses, taxes, etc. Add 30-40% to that number to your desired net profit number from Step 1 above, to figure out the gross income (total income) you’ll need. This covers taxes and expenses. (Adjust the percentage if you will have higher business expenses, like employees, office rent, etc.)

3. Determine the fee you’ll charge for one session (hour/program/month).

4. Divide your total gross income by the per-session fee to calculate the number of sessions you need to do in a year.

5. Now divide the yearly sessions by 12 to determine how many you need to do per month.

6. Assuming you’ll work an average of 20 days per month, divide the total monthly sessions by 20 to figure out how many you’ll need to do per day.

For example:

1. Desired Net Income: $135,000

2. Plus 30%: 135,000 x 1.30 = $175,500

3. Per Session Fee: $80

4. Number of Sessions per Year: 175,500 / 80 = 2,193.75 (let’s just call it 2,194 to round it off)

5. Monthly Sessions: 2,194 / 12 = 182.8 (round off to 183)

6. Average Daily Sessions: 183 / 20 = 9.15

In this example, you would have to do around 9 sessions per day in order to reach your annual profit goals. Now think about this carefully: If a “session” is 30 minutes, then doing 9 of these a day is possible. But if a “session” is 60 minutes, then that means you have to work 9 hours a day, 20 days a month to make the income you want! Do you have enough time and energy to do that many sessions?

Your Calculations: Do The Math

Net Income:

Plus 30%:

Per Session Fee:

Number of Sessions per Year:

Monthly Sessions:

Average Daily Sessions:

Look closely at that final number. Can you physically and emotionally do that many sessions in a day? What about the time you need for administrative and marketing work?

Final Thoughts…

There more involved with setting your pricing and payment policy, but these tips should give you a solid foundation. Until then…be happy, be prosperous, be ambitious for the sweet life.

Comments?

So, what did you think of this post? Did you find it helpful? Do you like these longer, meaty articles or do you prefer shorter ones? Let me know what you think!

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Free Information Isn’t Enough Anymore

Posted by on Aug 11 2014

I have ebooks, audios and videos sitting on my hard drive that I’ve never consumed. I bet you do, too.

Free information is everywhere. Even if it’s excellent, it’s not always easy for your audience to digest it and create a strategy around it.

The next place of growth for service professionals and information marketers is to take all the free information you research and produce for your clients, synthesize it, and give it back to people in a practical, DO-able format: a paid class.

Want to be unique?

If you want people to consume your information, teach people how to consume it and use it. This will set you apart from the crowd.

The reason people spend money on your webinars, teleseminars and live classes is that:

  1. They get to ask questions of the teacher
  2. They get to learn in a group environment, where they can brainstorm ideas and feel supported while they learn
  3. They’re given bite-sized homework assignments
  4. They can apply what they’re learning and get feedback right away
  5. They walk away with a do-able action plan

Even offering free webinars and teleseminars sets you apart from the crowd in your industry, because it allows people to receive a chunk of information (about an hours’ worth), learn how to apply it, and ask questions to clarify points. If you’re not offering free webinars and teleseminars as part of your marketing plan, now is a good time to start. Just make sure you have a plan for helping your audience consume that class material.

What students want today

Information is everywhere. But smart students are now saying to teachers, “Make it work for me in the real world of busy schedules and conflicting priorities. Help me to focus. Short-cut the learning process for me, and I’m willing to pay you to make this learning logical and easy for me.”

If you want to be unique and stand out from the crowd, start helping your customers consume, digest and use the information you’re giving them.

If you can simplify a complicated topic, if you can save your customers the time of having to do the research and analysis themselves, if you can cut through the noise and help your customers know what’s relevant and important, then you’ll always be valuable to them.

   

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Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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