WARNING: Blunt Truth ahead. If you usually read traditional blogs this one is different. I hope you will keep reading anyway because much can be learned by those who are willing to at least consider what I am about to share. It is more direct than what I usually write – and most likely vastly longer and more specific than what you are used to reading. The challenges small businesses face now make this no time for mincing words. You need to KNOW NOW and ACT NOW.
My words may seem harsh to some. That is not my intention. If you don’t know me you may believe I am just trying to sell you something. I’m not. I give away most of my time helping others – and do without regularly because of it. I simply want you to understand what you need to know.
You may not be used to colored text or attention boxes. Those are for busy people who skim my posts and the many people who hate to read. Those two groups are the majority of my readers. They also make it easier to find a point you remember and want to revisit. Pointing at links in this post will provide additional detail on what can be found there.
Staying too busy working IN your business to work ON your business is an extremely common mistake – one that has always separated the successful from those barely making it.
Managing your time so that you can act on the
highest priorities is what creates success.
CEOs know this so they do not waste their own time doing what they can delegate – but many are allowing the time of their most valuable employees and consultants to be wasted!
They do this by obsessing over what can be most easily measured instead of what is most important and by allowing people many derogatorily condemn as “bean counters” to make decisions they are not qualified to make.
They do this by keeping their people so busy DOING what can be measured and quantified that they don’t have time to build relationships and accomplish tasks that can NOT be measured – thereby GUARANTEEING poorer results.
What works for Fortune 500 / 1000 brands and corporations
is most often VERY BAD ADVICE for small businesses.
That is the only advice many have for you, though, because studies are done almost exclusively on what works for the Fortune 500 and most of the brilliant specialists work for them because that is where the money is.
You need to get advice from someone who understands what works for YOU through experience marketing other small businesses – ideally in your industry. The advice I provide here will apply to most small businesses.
Success is determined by WHO you take the time to know.
“People haven’t changed. Technology has changed.
People buy from people they know.
People buy from people they like.
Your best advertisement is still word of mouth. Your connections
are your network, your associates, your friends and your customers.
Selling is all about relationship building.”
We all know this is true – and none know it better than the CEO, Owners and Managers of successful businesses. YOU do not spend your time this way so WHY are you forcing your people to spend ALL of their time doing what YOU should know is less important?
It is bad enough you have your people NOT doing what common sense and logical deduction should tell you would add greatly to your bottom line because you can’t measure it.
Now you want to carry that mistake over into Social Media.
There is a reason it is called SOCIAL Media.
Because it is SOCIAL. It is about RELATIONSHIPS.
But you want to measure things. You know what that leads to? Consultants and employees selling you on measuring the most useless KPIs and metrics known to man – such as:
- How many Twitter followers you have. Do you realize all you have to do is follow accounts known to follow back to get as many Twitter followers as you wish? TARGETED Twitter followers are what matters = i.e., people who are actually interested in what you have to offer OR can influence your potential customers.
- How many incentivized “likes” you can get on Facebook. Some of them MAY be interested but most just wanted whatever was offered.
- Automated linkbuilding, blog comment spam and trackback spam. [HINT: this ruins your reputation and will get you blacklisted so know enough about what the people you hire are doing to make sure they aren’t hurting you more than helping.]
- A focus on quantity over quality which leads to wanting the cheapest content that isn’t even worth reading much less sharing instead of paying for quality pillar content and setting up alerts and searches allowing sharing content precisely when your target audience is SEARCHING for it. [Another hint: the reason search converts best is because people search when they are ready to buy.]
If you believe analytics accurately measures where your conversions
come from and what traffic is worth having – or even worse – your
analytics guru or AdWords expert does – you are in
BIG TROUBLE – if you don’t apply logic, too.
I can explain to you why I know for a fact that Google Analytics does NOT attribute sales to the correct source as much as 75% of the time so you can prove it for yourself.
Does your AdWords expert brag about all the money they’re saving
you by not focusing on paid or organic general keyword phrases?
Ask them whether your analytics program attributes conversions to first or last click. Don’t be surprised when they don’t know.
Most analytics programs including Google Analytics attribute conversions to the LAST CLICK. That means the original visits are overwritten by later visits so only the more specific searches show the conversion – not the high traffic keyword phrases that let your buyers find you in the first place. Without those early visits there won’t BE as many later visits so fewer sales!
That money they saved you? Once the potential buyers already in your sales funnel make their buying decisions your sales will drop – but by then your ppc expert probably won’t attribute declining sales to the changes they made that slowed traffic from general keyword phrases.
Are your people focusing on building relationships and making sure
your potential customers hear from them when they
are actively looking for what you to offer?
Do you know the importance of what you can NOT measure? The best answer ever given comes from keynote speaker and best-selling speaker Gary Vaynerchuk is this:
What’s the ROI of YOUR MOTHER?
What are YOUR people focusing on?
I bet if most are honest they know they are busy doing what you can easily measure. Did you know you may be able to measure Social Media ROI – IF you can isolate specific activities and use timelines to measure them the way Olivier Blanchard @TheBrandBuilder recommends.
You know why I will never accept another J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) and I won’t even consider a salaried position no matter how generous the compensation or desirable the benefits? Do you know why I refuse to accept work from big brands?
Because they want to hire us for our influence – and then
bury us in doing everything except what is best for them.
They want spreadsheets and reports and to measure all those idiotic KPIs I’ve already mentioned and to set quotas that guarantee that we no longer have time to maintain much less grow our influence because we’re busy doing what they should not even want us to be doing in the first place.
I am very selective about accepting blog outreach services work for the same reason. Instead of being willing to pay even my ridiculously low rates for creating quality pillar content and setting up a system so that they can benefit from it indefinitely they want to know how many 15 minute blog posts – or worse yet – duplicate content – I can get published for them.
Don’t dilute your high-quality content
with mediocre or low-quality content.
I regularly wonder why businesses are not focusing on improving conversions when that is obviously (to me) their highest priority given that Google’s CEO has announced their intention to favor big brands and acted to consistently reduce traffic to small businesses and eliminate our freedom to choose small business in every update. See why Google is dangerous.
There are ample brilliant conversion specialists. Can’t they tell who they are? When I tell them do they not believe me? It is really obvious to me – and obvious to many others.
Don’t take my word for it – brilliant people know each other and they consistently recommend the best. If you can identify ONE brilliant person you can trust they can lead you to other specialists equally trustworthy and brilliant – IF you ask them. (There are obvious reasons we can not publicly warn you against the less ethical.)
In every industry, the top 2% are highly successful, the top 10%
do well, and 90% struggle. That top 2% know each other!
I wonder why small businesses do not act when I tell them about the free advertising available to them – advertising they can request themselves FOR FREE or – better yet – have me do their local search listings for them. It can’t be price because others who learn from me charge $1500, I only charge them $200-$400, and many do not even want to do them even FOR FREE.
I especially wonder about the people behind the
businesses, solutions, and specialists I regularly recommend.
Many of them have no financial resources,
but they could support my efforts.
At the very least they could share my recommendations OF THEM or
retweet me when I tweet about their event, cause or book.
What is particularly astounding is that brands related to social media
are guilty of ignoring their brand evangelists like me
even when we directly volunteer.
Maybe they better get the Nimble Social CRM
and do more staff training.
Perhaps they consider that immodest. They need to get over that. The reason big brands are successful is because they remind us constantly of who they are and what they offer. Small business must do the same.
The only people I do not wonder about are the social media savvy bloggers in our DoFollow CommentLuv community. THEY get it. That is why I spend much of my time identifying and mentoring them and getting them to share their expertise with each other and support each other’s efforts.
Our blog collaborations have real value – and when we have grown sizeable collaborations that can reach specific niche and especially geographic audiences they will have enormous value and that value WILL generate income.
How that income will be divided remains to be seen. I don’t do what I do because I’m motivated by money. Indeed, if money were a priority at all I could not be doing what I’m doing because there is no money in doing it – yet.
The LOVE of money is what keeps the best and brightest
from using their talents to create a better world
and that same love of money REDUCES
the income of any company that puts
short term gain above being the best.
What those who use others just don’t seem to understand is
how much MORE they could be accomplishing AND MAKING if
they were willing to treat consultants and influencers ethically.
Putting power and money before people is why publicly traded corporations consistently do evil. We need to understand that the goals of corporations are inherently psychopathic and lead to the reasons many condemn Wal-Mart and boycott Amazon.
Small businesses that aspire to success by being just as evil are on the wrong track. It won’t work for you unless you are willing to be just as ruthless as they are – and have the money to buy influence.
There is growing interest in NOT making money
the be-all end-all of every decision.
While most people DO still believe it is a “kill what you eat world” and you have to do what you’re told and look the other way that is NOT true. (It is definitely not EASY to take the narrow path – but it IS possible – the first step is to Decide to Be Ethical.)
Let’s start with how you pay your employees and consultants, your expectations, and what you have them doing. Consulting is problematic because of these issues:
- Unrealistic expectations because the hiring party has no earthly idea of the complexity or time required to do something exceptionally well instead of whatever is fastest and easiest.
- Those with resources intentionally taking advantage of those they hire. They want as much of our time as they can possible get and consistently want to pay less than it is worth – as little as possible. (Part of that goes back to not valuing excellence because increased income can not be directly attributed to what is being done.)
- Incorrect priorities: We’re back to that focus on metrics that get in the way of what is best for you. If you hire sharp people they have a much harder time just doing what you want when they know it is not in your best interest. Many a promising startup has been acquired by someone with resources (because their priority is money) but lost the founder(s) because creators tend to have a long term vision to build something exceptional while acquirers want to focus on short term income.
As an employer, you should want to pay for RESULTS
That makes vastly more sense than having legions of employees whose primary goal is to get paid as much as possible for doing as little as possible.
Many companies make the mistake of paying for their employee’s presence – so they can feel comfortable that they have the illusion of control over what their employees are doing – and end up feeding the desire to mark time instead of actually DOING something productive that leads to RESULTS!
You have to give up wanting to keep them so busy doing what you can measure that they can not spend as much time as it takes to keep your customers happy, answer EVERY question potential customers have, and improve your content and processes.
You MUST enable them to create relationships and actually provide customer service instead of evaluating your employees based on how quickly they can get rid of the customer instead of fixing their problem!
Your problem is your short-sighted goals,
over-reliance on measuring tools, and
total failure to apply common sense.
Here is a tip for making decisions. If what you are considering can not be sustained over time don’t do it. While you CAN ask your employees to work emergency overtime to deal with a TEMPORARY situation you can NOT work them to death as a regular practice.
If you decide to downsize and work your people six days – or even seven – or longer and longer hours what you get in return is lower productivity – so you actually pay MORE for less.
If you expect your people to be available to your customers around
the clock, then you need to let them take care of personal
business during their “regular” hours that
don’t even really exist any more.
The concept of continual IMPROVEMENT is excellent. The concept of continual increases in productivity and down-sizing is ridiculous. People need slower work paces to recover from the heavy periods and the tough customers.
I wonder how many managers realize they have actually trained their employees to do as little as possible? This is most visible in government jobs but common in corporations, too. If making a mistake has dire consequences, the obvious solution is not to actually do anything while APPEARING to be busy so that you are protected from those consequences.
Who decided that NOT listening to your customers and
NOT resolving their complaints was a good idea?
I’ll tell you who: the person whose focus is to maximize short-term profits regardless of the damage it does to the company, their employees, and the environment over time.
That only works for multi-national corporations who can prevent competition by using their money to corrupt our economy. The Internet changed the balance of power and they desperately want to get it back.
Even if they manage to do that – even if they shut down people like me who insist on sharing the uncomfortable truth, insist on being ethical and holding others accountable – even if they control every bit of content online or even shut down the Internet – the tide has turned.
It is too late for business as usual.
Too many people realize we must make different choices.
And most of those choices will be made locally –
and we don’t have to even have the Internet for that.
Whether the economy crashes or not, people ARE making changes. Those who can’t find employment or housing will create separate economies because they have no other choice. That has already happened and that is why the Occupy Movement will not stop.
If it crashes, those who are prepared will already have local economies up and running. Those who aren’t WILL end up with local economies. That is what always happens. The more you force people out of the “legal” economy the more they must turn to the “informal economy” to survive.
This is a consequence of excessive regulation, the law enforcement growth industry, and data aggregation – an unintended rather than intentional consequence not foreseen by the majority of the minority born with connections and affluence.
You know who is going to be the most surprised? The people who today are comfortable and actually believe that everyone who is intelligent and works hard can be as successful as they are – and that they can be the next Bill Gates.
If you believe this, you have fallen for conditioning so ludicrous that you will most likely dismiss everything I said in this post. George Carlin says it best:
“The reason they call it The American Dream is
that you have to be ASLEEP to believe it.”
If you were born with connections into a family with financial resources and you believe your standard of living is going to stay the same as it is now – or that it is still the same today as it was last year, or ten years ago, or twenty, you are either not paying attention or you are in denial. I recommend you watch the YouTube video The Real Story Behind Downward Class Migration.
If you believe saving money while it is continually declining
in value is a good idea you’re not thinking clearly.
If you believe the economy is getting better you, too, are believing an illusion. No matter how much the media spins it or what they call it, the United States is in a Depression. All you have to do to prove yourself wrong is answer these questions:
- Have salaries kept pace with inflation? Have you seen the statistics on salary stagnation?
- Does the dollar today buy as much as it did last month, last year, ten or twenty years ago?
Save your grocery receipts, pull them out, and compare the prices. Notice that package sizes, weight, and volume keep shrinking and prices keep climbing. Check the National Inflation Associations Food Price predictions.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if they keep printing money the value of the dollar MUST go down and therefore it will buy less and no matter how much money you make your economic stability is at risk. (There are a few people for whom this is not true – those in the top 0.05% income bracket. I seriously doubt any of them are reading this post.)
Do you want your business to survive this economy?
STOP wasting your employees’ time doing unimportant tasks.
FOCUS on what is most important:
providing exceptional value to your customers –
and taking the time to have real relationships with them.
SHORTCUT: Be willing to hire the best
and pay them what they’re worth.
Social Media has awakened is us a sleeping wisdom: that people matter more than money. Small Business today has something they haven’t had since there were no multi-national corporations: a way to encourage community support.
Now pay careful attention to this next part because I am going to tell you something that is totally opposite of what almost every other person advises small businesses to do:
Every small business DOES NOT have to have a blog.
Every small business DOES NOT have to do social media themselves.
If you can, that’s great. I am NOT saying you shouldn’t. But if you are a small business – especially a service business – you need to stay focused on running your business.
You DO need to have a social media presence at least
on Twitter so that influencers can share what you do
with other influencers and your target audience.
All you need is an Avatar, a bio, a link to information about your business, and to specify in your bio that you are not active on Twitter with how you can be reached. You don’t even have to do that yourself – let someone like me do it for you. If you want to do it yourself, see my Twitter Best Practices information.
You will get far more benefit from having a local, social media savvy group blog publish your content and link to your site – IF you have one – or provide you with a redirected domain you own if you don’t – and have THEM recommending you across social networks.
Here are some examples of what that can look like:
- Construction Guild US creating local construction guilds such as the Santa Cruz Construction Guild
- Local First
- District Blooms – Washington DC blogging collaboration
I am in the process of identifying bloggers and encouraging them to create geo-targeted Twitter accounts and geo-targeted niche blogs. Once they can reach a local audience they have positioned themselves where the money is and can benefit all the local small businesses in their area.
If you have a cause, group, brand, or business interested in
collaborating with me I guarantee that not only will it greatly benefit
YOU – what we do together will greatly benefit others as well.
The content, links, local collaborations and social media accounts I build can be anywhere – and where they get built first depends on who is willing to keep my Internet access and cell phone paid and the lights on.
If you have a worthy cause we can work together for a day, a week, a month or indefinitely. Anyone I agree to work with will be set up so that I can recommend and promote you at every opportunity long beyond whatever timeframe you actually spent money on.
The more I know about you the more I can benefit you. Honestly, I am very surprised that small brands or established service providers are not contacting me.
Maybe I am too direct and expect too much of them in return: that they be willing to focus on exceptional results that take more time than they want to spend.
These are the types of brands I would love to work with as a brand evangelist:
- Brands with a healthy living, sustainable, organic, Fair Trade focus including Eden Organic Foods, Marcal Small Steps, Seventh Generation, Dr. Bronners, and Aubrey Organics.
- Solutions that are highly beneficial to small businesses such as Social CRM Nimble, Piwik Open Source Web Analytics, Feedblitz alternative to FeedBurner, PaySimple, Knowem, Universal Business Listings, ReadyTalk OS independent Web Conferencing, Volusion
- Coops and consumer supported agriculture (CSAs) organizations such as Local Harvest, Organic Consumers Association, Texas Fruit Growers Association
- Umbrella groups that enable local groups such as Construction Guild US
- Local groups such as Local First, Local First Arizona, Local First Chicago, Local First Indiana, local Construction Guilds,
The above entities are also eligible to support my efforts by buying advertising on GrowMap. See that link for details on GrowMap influence and reach.
Compiling the above reminded me to mention that if your audience is
small business when you describe what you offer
write it in plain English!
It wouldn’t hurt to do that even if your audience is NOT smallbiz.
I regularly have to contact companies to find out what it is they REALLY have to offer because they are emulating Fortune 500 sites and write in unintelligible corporate-speak.
You’ve just read this post. Unless you believe your target customer base is vastly more educated and intelligent than I am don’t expect them to be able to figure out what I have to call you to ask about. Just describe how you benefit them plainly!
I am also interested in assisting ethical small businesses to do any or all of these tasks:
- Obtain their free local search directory listings.
- Create content that explains their most important products and/or services.
- Optimize their existing Web site(s) or register a domain they control and create a Small Business Online Presence for them if they do not already have one.
- Setting up and advising them on whether social media is right for them, identifying a local influencer willing to promote them – even if I have to start from scratch in their location.
- Setting up alerts to share their content when people are searching for it and teaching them how to do this themselves or finding a reliable influencer to do it for them.
Most businesses are not going to survive because they are not willing
to figure this all out. Even if you always had plenty of business
before, when your regular clients have less money to
spend you will get less income from them.
You must make a decision about what you are going to do. What used to work will not work any more. Stop procrastinating and get moving because it takes time to grow an online presence and word of mouth in the same way it took time to grow your existing business.
I realize this is a lot to take in. That is why you need someone you can contact to get all of your questions answered. That would be me. Most people can’t answer when you need answers because they’re busy having meetings and doing tasks.
I intentionally schedule very few meetings and make very few commitments so that I am more likely to be available when anyone needs me.
While I do offer a Small Business Mentoring Program, you do not have to have money to ask questions and initial consultations are free. My availability is subject to change so if you want my personal advice ASK NOW. While I can and do train others to do specific tasks and provide feedback and continued mentoring, I can not give them the benefit of my experience.
I keep Skype and Yahoo! Messenger open and check Twitter and comments often. How to reach me is on the contact tab. I am the only GrowMap on Skype, @GrowMap on Twitter, and GrowMap everywhere else to make it easy to find me.