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Courage, and the Self-Employed

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Each week, I hear people telling me they want to build their small business, but they don’t (or can’t) move forward on their dreams because they’re afraid.

There are so many things to be afraid of when you’re self-employed: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of illness, fear of lawsuits. No money, no time, no skills, no help, no support.

Being a small business owner takes a particular type of courage

You have to be willing to take action with no guarantees of success.

You have to be willing to put all your heart and soul into your enterprise, and you have to be willing to face and overcome the roadblocks that get in your way.

You have to be willing to dream big dreams — and have the guts to learn new things that you never knew how to do before.

On top of all that, you need the type of courage that shouts, “I must do this or I won’t have lived my life purpose!”

It takes strength, focus, and responsibility to succeed or fail on your own merits, and to be willing to ask for help or education when you need it.

Do you have it?

  • Do you have the courage to face your fears and keep walking towards your dream anyway?
  • Do you have the strength and dignity to act consistently and responsibly towards your business growth, on a daily basis, without whimpering in self-defeating behaviors and excuses?
  • Do you have the guts to set a big goal, create reasonable action plans that stretch and challenge you, and move forward on those tasks knowing that you have no guarantee of success?

Every business owner feels fear at one time or another

The next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m afraid,” reply with a knowing smile and say to yourself, “Join the crowd.”

Then, summon up that well of courage and take responsibility to create the life and business you’ve dreamed of.

Because, if you don’t have that type of courage, you probably shouldn’t be self-employed in the first place. Being self-employed is about challenging yourself and the world. It’s not about taking the easy way; it’s about taking the only way that will give you a sense of self-fulfillment and success.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Motivational Minute: Ben Zander on Leadership and Awakening Possibility

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A little inspiration…

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Avoid Pricing and Discounting Mistakes

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In 2008, Pizza Hut saw its sales drop because of the Great Recession. Competitors were lowering their prices and offering discounts — and Pizza Hut figured they had better offer a discount if they wanted to compete with Dominoes Pizza and Papa John’s Pizza for a dwindling market.

So in 2009, Pizza Hut began to offer a large cheese pizza with three toppings for $10 (the normal price was $15). Then they sweetened the deal by offering unlimited toppings for the same $10 price.

And sales rose.

That’s a good thing, right?

Fast forward to 2011. The economy was easing and Pizza Hut (and the other pizza competitors) now wanted to reinstate their normal pizza price of $15.

And customers resisted.

Why? Because of two psychological triggers:

  1. People had gotten used to paying only $10 for a pizza with unlimited toppings. When you increase the price back to the “normal” $15, people see that as a raise in price of 50 percent, conveniently forgetting the pre-2009 pricing.
  2. When you lower your prices, you devalue your product or service. You’re basically telling people, “It’s not worth $15, it’s only worth $10. We’ve been overcharging you all along.”

What do you do when sales are sluggish and you want to offer a discount, but you don’t want to imply that your products and services are worth less by lowering the price?

Enter the Concept of Adaptive Pricing

Here’s the psychology behind the concept: Customers have different needs, and place different values on the various aspects of your products and services — price being just one aspect they consider.

For example:

  • Many customers value access to a live instructor above learning on their own, so if they have questions they can get help immediately from the instructor. Therefore, they’re willing to pay more for a live class than a self-study program.
  • Some customers place value on group brainstorming and sharing of best practices to shorten the learning curve, and are willing to pay to be a member of a mastermind group.
  • Other customers value private one-on-one services and are willing to pay a premium price to get your total attention to find solutions to their problems and think strategically.

By knowing what your customers value — and creating pricing and discounts based on those values — you can increase customer satisfaction and sales at the same time.

But My Customers Want Low Prices!

Be careful of your own psychology: you might be a budget shopper yourself, but not all your customers are. If you constantly offer things for a discount (or for free!), it’s more about your own feelings about money and pricing than the needs of your customers.

For every customer who wants things as cheaply as possible, there are customers who demand extraordinary quality and are willing to pay for it. Just look at the different price/value levels of department stores (from Wal-Mart to Neiman Marcus) and you’ll see that there are huge ranges of quality, service, experience and price needs among customers.

Don’t assume your customers want cheap prices and are willing to take a lower quality service or product in order to get the lowest prices. Price based on the value of what you’re offering, and on your branding strategy. Are you the Wal-Mart of your industry or the Neiman Marcus? (Or somewhere in between?)

So, You Want to Offer a Discount

Great! Offering a discount has a lot of benefits for your business. Pay attention to your strategic purpose behind the discount — to increase sales, to increase demand, to test a pricing strategy, or to get the word out about a new product/service — and price accordingly.

When you offer your discount, test to see if your goals have been met. You may be assuming a discount will produce a certain results, and you could be wrong. Tracking your results is the only way to know for sure. (The numbers don’t lie!)

Three Adaptive Pricing Techniques to Use in Your Business

Versioning

For customers who are concerned about price above all else, offering them your product or service in a different version at a lower price-point will serve them while still keeping your sales up. Here’s an example:

  • You teach a 5-week class where students submit their homework assignments to you for review and analysis, and have access to you during class to ask questions. That class is priced at $599.
  • For the budget-conscious student, you offer similar material in a self-study version $399, (and they don’t have access to you at all if they purchase the self-study version).
  • For customers who want more private access to you to learn the topic and apply it specifically to their own business, they join an ongoing mastermind group that includes both the class and the mastermind group access for several weeks after the class.

Each customer has a different need — and by creating three versions of the service, you meet the needs of each type of customer.

Additions for Free

Another adaptive pricing technique is to offer an “extra” or “bonus” for free, but keep the base price of your product and service the same.

For example, you could offer your mastermind group to your customer at full price, but then offer them a free additional hour of your time. Walt Disney World theme park had a great success with offering their Buy Four Entry Tickets and Get Three Free package.

But don’t offer pseudo free bonuses unrelated to the product or service that customers are buying. Customers are now savvy to the free bonuses that many internet marketers offer (like: “Buy Our Ebook and Get $40,000 Worth of Bonuses Free”), and it just makes people think you’re trying to fool them, lowering trust and harming the relationship.

Unbundle

Everyone is telling you to combine a whole bunch of your offerings together, then give the customer a special price. But what if your customer doesn’t want everything in the bundle?

Consider offering your main product or service at full price, and then offering upgrades at a reduced price.

  • You could offer your live event for $1,200, then offer an hour of private consulting time for an additional (discounted) fee to those who are attending the live event. Or you could offer them an ongoing mastermind group for an additional fee.
  • Or you could offer them recordings of the live event for an additional fee. That way, customers can choose which upgrades are valuable to them and you can clearly see which upgrades are the winners in the eyes of your customer.

Final thoughts…

The key here is to know your customers, and know what they value when it comes to purchasing services and products. If you’re not sure, test out several pricing strategies and see which one pulls in the most revenue.

It’s also important to stop offering discounts when they are no longer needed to boost sales.

Be strategic and think through your pricing ideas before implementing them so they don’t come back to bite you later!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

7 Tips for Managing Information Overload

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload

Regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks with these ideas:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list. YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time, is a recipe for information overload. It doesn’t allow you any time to assimilate and implement. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take new information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. Trying to keep all that “thinking” in your brain makes you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump — writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format — will help clear things out.
  3. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three actions you can take within a month, and put only those tasks on your To Do list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned, and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  4. Make the decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel better immediately.
  5. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  6. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important. That’s why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas at your fingertips.
  7. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done soon. All require research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post today. So I put the other things on the back burner and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose one of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I’d love to hear from you: how do you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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How to Pick the Best Training Class For You and Your Business

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Every month, you’re innundated with offers for workshops, classes, weekend intenstives, bootcamps, and webinars. How do you decide which one is best for you?

Here are six tips:

  1. Decide on your MOST important business goals first. Only choose classes which will help you achieve your business goals for this year. If you learn materials that you can’t implement immediately, you’ll forget most of what you learn by the time you really need the information.
  2. Decide how you like to learn — and how you learn best. Some people prefer intensive, immersion experiences; others like to learn a little at a time. Some people like to have time in class to practice what they’re learning; others like to take the exercises as homework and work on it at their own pace. Some people like small group classes where they can get one-on-one help from the instructor; others thrive on large conferences. Some people like a lot of interactive discussion with the other students; others want to have a ton of information given to them and find classroom discussions to be an interruption.
  3. Decide what you need to learn and at which level. For instance, say you need to learn about internet marketing techniques. Do you want an overview class, or do you want to learn a specific internet marketing technique? If you want to learn a specific topic, do you already know something about the topic (and therefore are looking for an “advanced” class) or do you want to learn from the very beginning, where an introductory class would be right for you? If you choose a class that’s too easy, or too hard, you’ll find your learning diminished.
  4. Decide how much time you have to devote to the learning experience. Can you take two days away from your business to attend a weekend bootcamp, or do you only have one hour a week available to attend a webinar series? For those training events that aren’t local to you, factor in travel time and costs.
  5. Decide on your financial budget. Most business classes should make you money, once you implement what you’re learning. But spending huge amounts of money on a training class when you can’t predict Return On Investment (ROI) can feel uncertain. Ask yourself, “How soon will this training repay me in increased revenue for what it cost to attend the training?” Do the math: how many new sales or increased sales will you have to make to recoup the cost of your training? How many hours will you save by implementing what you’ve learned?
  6. Choose the teacher with care. What is the instructor’s reputation, both as a topic expert and as a trainer? Have you ever sat through a class where the teacher droned on and on? No matter how exciting the topic, a boring, poorly prepared teacher will put you to sleep instead of offering a training experience that helps you to cement your learning in your mind and in your daily life. And a self-serving teacher who only wants to upsell you to the next level will dimish your learning (and your attitude towards them). Be sure to ask your friends and colleagues about their experience with different instructors.

Lifelong learning is an extraordinary backbone to a successful business. Just be sure you choose the best class, and the best instructor, for you and your business. Then, sit back and enjoy the training experience!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Why I Always Read Email First Thing Each Morning

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Time-management pundits are always harping on how we waste time reading emails first thing in the morning. I think they’re full of manure.

First of all, a Marketo study found that 58% of people read email first thing in the morning, many reading email before they even eat breakfast. Is it just addiction — or is there a good reason for it?

As a small business owner, I have a HUGE reason for reading email first thing in the morning: my customers matter to me more than anything. Most of my clients, students and mentoring group members communicate with me via email, so taking care of their needs first thing in the morning is simply good customer service.

Why do the time management folks act like email is evil? Because we don’t segregate “important” email from “read this when you get a chance” email.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with reading email first, just like there’s nothing wrong with writing your blog post first each morning or doing yoga first thing or working on a major project first thing. You have to pick your priorities and you have to focus on the task at hand. It’s all about goal setting and self-discipline.

  • For instance, I do not use my personal email address when signing up for ezines and email newsletters. That way, my personal Inbox doesn’t get crowded with non-essentials and stops a lot of spam from ever reaching me. If something is in my personal Inbox, it’s because it’s important, like an email from a client, student or my business partner. (A colleague told me that she has 2,500 new emails each morning. My question to her is: WHY do you allow so many emails get into your personal Inbox? They can’t possibly all be of the same importance level.)
  • Another reason I read email first is that it’s the only real quiet time I have during my working hours. Typically the phone doesn’t start ringing until 9AM and using the pre-phone time to read email allows me to focus.
  • I’ve delegated much of my email reading to my business partner who handles any routine customer service questions from people who have bought my ebooks or audio programs, or students who have lost their login ID.
  • I quickly scan my new emails and only answer those ones that are most urgent. I leave the rest of them for later in the day, after I’ve done my other daily prep work.
  • Finally, I read email first because it’s when I’m the freshest and smartest. Do you really want to be writing emails when your brain is fuzzy?

If email is an important part of communicating with your customers then go ahead and read it first thing. Just pay strict attention to whether you’re keeping focused on the Communicating With Customers task or veering off to read articles, news, jokes, quotations, or watching YouTube videos of Surprised Kitty instead of doing your work. Set a time limit, say 30 minutes, and get through the most important emails first.

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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