Archive | April 2012

Matching Your Social Media Strategy to Your Target Market

At this point, everyone knows that a social media strategy, if executed correctly, can be a great (and low cost) marketing option for small businesses. However, as with any marketing strategy it’s important to make sure that the message and the medium match the target customer.

To help you figure out where to spend your social media time and money based on who your target customer is, check out this great infographic from KISSmetrics breaking down where your target customers spend most of their time. It’s a little old, but still relevant and helpful:

New Venture Mentor Update

No video today. I am getting some new equipment so that hopefully I can improve the picture quality of my videos.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss anything. I tweet all of the latest news, tips, tricks, tutorials, and advice so you’ll get a lot of great information about running your small business from Twitter that doesn’t make it to the blog.

Identifying Your Entrepreneurial Type in Order to Shape Your Small Business Goals

A very brief post by Marissa Mayer about How to Avoid Burnout got me thinking about the different types of entrepreneurs and the associated different definitions of entrepreneurial success.

Some people start companies because they want to be billionaires, others are forced into it by layoffs, others seek autonomy and independence, others just want to be able to make it to their kid’s soccer game. These different types of entrepreneurs have very different goals and, therefore, very different definitions of success. A lifestyle entrepreneur, the type of entrepreneur whose primary motivation for starting a business is the desire for a particular lifestyle, not necessarily the desire to be a billionaire, can’t measure him/herself against the same ruler as the person who wants to be the next Bill Gates or he/she will always feel like a failure and be unhappy. By the same token, the entrepreneur who is willing to sacrifice everything else to make billions can’t measure him/herself against the lifestyle entrepreneur’s ruler or he/she too will always feel like a failure and be unhappy.

Mayer suggests choosing the thing that “matters to you so much that when you miss it you’re resentful of your work.” My guess is that this key thing was a big part of the reason you decided to be an entrepreneur in the first place, so don’t lose sight of it.

If your deal-breaker item is being at your daugter’s ballet recitals, don’t get so caught up in making money that you miss one. This sounds so simple, but many entrepreneurs get so caught up in running the business and trying to be “successful” by someone else’s definition of success that they often lose sight of what their goals were to begin with. In order to be happy with your choice to be an entrepreneur, you need to constantly remind yourself of what your deal-breaker item is and then let that inform your company’s strategy. Entrepreneurship is too challenging and comes with too many headaches to be an entrepreneur and not get out of it what you’d planned to.

If you want to be a billionaire you need to seize every opportunity that comes your way, work long hours, be at all of the networking events, and basically do everything in your power to make your business grow. If that means missing birthday parties and college reunions, you’ll be able to deal because you know you’re focused on your true goals. However, if you want control of your work/life balance and the ability to spend time with family, you shouldn’t create a strategy for your company that creates exponential growth because that strategy requires your undivided attention – undivided, as in your family comes second, always.

Most entrepreneurs actually fall into the lifestyle entrepreneur category, so its important for the entrepreneurial community to remember that success isn’t always defined by a 10-digit valuation. More often than not, it’s defined by the ability to turn off the smart phone during a weekend away and enjoy the time with friends and family.

There is no right or wrong goal for your company’s growth. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about whether your company’s goals and strategies both align with your deal-breakers.

I know that this post was a little lighter than usual, but I think it’s so important for entrepreneurs to stay focused on what they set out to achieve and run their companies, not be run by their companies. As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly remind yourself that you are in control. You choose what to do when. So decide what you want, set goals that will get you there, and constantly re-evaluate your progress to make sure you’re always moving toward what you want.

Happy Friday!

Effective Conference and Tradeshow Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

With the 22nd Annual OSDBU Procurement Conference coming up this Thursday in Washington, DC, I thought it would be an opportune time to share some tips for making the most of conferences and trade shows.

Everyone knows that one key factor to growing your business is networking. However, attending conferences and trade shows can get very expensive for small businesses. Not only are the attendance fees a larger chunk of a smaller marketing budget, but also small businesses generally utilize every single person on the payroll to the largest extent possible, so having a team member out of the office means very significant work isn’t getting done.

While a large company has an army of employees that may focus exclusively on events like these, whoever a small business sends also wears a hundred other hats and will be missed while they’re at the event. That makes it imperative that small businesses actually benefit from these events so here are some of the top tips for ensuring conference and trade show success:

  1. Do your homework: If you want to make the most of your event, plan in advance who you must meet and who you want to meet and then make yourself a rough schedule so that you’re sure to fit everyone in. Also, make sure that you’re up to date on industry news, current events, etc. so that you can easily make conversation and appear knowledgeable and well-read. Be able to ask intelligent questions of the people you meet as well as answer any questions they may have for you. The point of networking is to set yourself and your company apart from the competition. That means potential clients need to see the value your company can bring to the table and like you as a person.
  2. Don’t forget your toolkit: You obviously want to be prepared with enough business cards and any other marketing materials that you deem appropriate for the event and your role at it (speaker, attendee, exhibitor). You also need to have a place to write notes to yourself so that you can remember to follow up on any interesting conversations you had, even if you didn’t get a business card. If you’re exhibiting, have a draw. While most small businesses can’t afford to set up the extravagant displays and give away the expensive prizes that a big business can, it is possible to draw a crowd with something as little as candy on the table and a Starbucks gift card raffle. Just make sure that you get something – other than a business card – in return for the chance to win. Require attendees to sign up for your newsletter, for example, to be entered in the giveaway. This allows you the time to have a conversation with the prospect at your table and allows you to make continued contact, so it’s way more effective than having a bunch of business cards from people you never actually met because attendees dropped them in the raffle box and walked away.
  3. Stay for the whole (long) day: The best times to have great conversations are early and late because the event is less crowded and the people you want to talk to don’t feel like they have to split their time between dozens of people waiting in line at their booth. If you’re one of just a handful of people there, you’ll get to have an in depth conversation, be remembered, and truly form the basis for a future relationship….and that’s what you’re at the event to do. Take an energy drink if you need it, but don’t miss any opportunity to get to know a potential client or partner.
  4. Follow up: It’s amazing to me how often people I meet at networking events simply don’t follow up. Networking is about building relationships and meeting someone once for 5 minutes does not a relationship make. Once you’ve made initial contact with the people you want to know, you have to follow up to keep the relationship going. Send a follow up email, connect on LinkedIn, ask to meet in person to finish the conversation, send articles the person may find interesting. Do whatever makes sense for that particular person and relationship but doing nothing is never the right choice. Also, keep checking in. Relationships are built over time so be pleasantly persistent. Don’t annoy or harass anyone, but don’t think that 5 minutes at a conference and then one follow-up email is going to land you clients. You may get lucky once in awhile, but generally it will take a bit more effort than that.
  5. Be identified as an expert: If at all possible, get on the agenda as a speaker, panelist, or moderator. Once someone hands you a microphone you gain instant credibility with the rest of the crowd that is invaluable for promoting yourself and your business.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your next event! Please share your top tips for conference and trade show success in the comments below.