3 Simple Business Growth Strategies You Can Start Today To Finish 2013 With a Cha-Ching

2013 year calendar. December. Isolated 3D imageWith all the articles on wrapping up the year, setting goals for next year, and the holidays around the corner, it can feel like 2013 has already ended.

Like many of you, I still have several things I want to accomplish before the year ends.

One of the questions I regularly get from busy entrepreneurs like you is “what can I do to hit my goals before the end of the year?”.

Whether it be hitting your sales goals, completing that project or injecting some cash into your bank account – it is possible.  This is the time of year when I see folks start to slow down, assume everyone else is busy or decide to wait until next year.

Here is what I know to be true: what you accomplish in the next 6 weeks is going to be reflected in your bank balance next year AND getting them off your plate now will allow you to focus on 12 months of business growth, and more importantly, revenue in 2014, not 10 or 11 (which is what will happen if these uncompleted goals linger any longer).

I do have some tried and true business growth strategies that will help you finish 2013 with a bang and ensure you are poised to make 2014 the best year yet.

Here are three to get you started:

#1: Leverage the holidays to drive sales!

December and January are big sales months for business (if you let them be). Everyone is making and breaking resolutions (lose weight anyone?), making life-changing decisions (new house, new career, make more money) and they need your help to make it happen.

I hear you saying but Kim, everyone is so busy and people don’t want to spend money. Here’s the thing, helping your prospects make the decision and commitment NOW will enable them to go into the holidays with that weight off their shoulders knowing that when the New Year starts and the kids are back in school- you, your system, your product are there to support them in accomplishing their goals.

Think about how the holiday season plays into your business plan. What does your target market want more than anything else around this time of year? Speak to their desires and their pain, and help them achieve their goals.

#2: Cross a major project off your to-do list.

Carrying around unfinished projects weighs you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Don’t let your to do list get in the way of serving the people you are meant to serve and being more profitable.

Pick one item from your to-do list and use the next 6 weeks to get it done. Here are some project ideas to consider:

– Create marketing calendar

– Launch (or relaunch) your website

– Set up your entity

– Create your product funnel

– Hire a virtual assistant

– Plan for 2014

– Create a new course or product

– Start your blog or newsletter

It can be anything. Just choose one project to complete within the 6 weeks and commit to getting it done. Crossing even one thing off your to-do list will reflect in your bank account next year (and make you feel awesome that is done and not nagging you anymore)!

#3: Express your gratitude to your clients.

The holidays are a great time to communicate your gratitude to your clients, colleagues and team members. Send a handwritten note to thank them for working with you and being in your life (sending chocolates or other goodies is a nice touch!).

Stand out from other business owners by eschewing a card featuring your company’s logo or your business card (they usually end up in the trash and make it about YOU when it really is about THEM) in favor of a more personalized card or note.

So, there you have it: 3 powerful action items that – if implemented correctly – will help you make December and January your most profitable months yet.

What strategies have you used to keep up the momentum during the holiday season? Please share them here.

2013 – Awesome or OMG! Do This Quick Peformance Appraisal to Find Out Where Your Business Stands

Exceptional Rating

When I was in corporate I used to strongly dislike performance appraisals, which is a little amusing considering I used to design them 🙂

Even though they were not supposed to be annual event, they were always done at the end of the year. You found everything you were doing wrong, also commonly referred to as your “development needs” so you could change it for the next year. If you had a great boss, this was not new news or a surprise. If not, well, you strongly disliked the whole process.

It was like 50 weeks of effort, sweat and maybe even tears were boiled down to a number or word. Even though it was a rating, it always felt like a grade, and I always wanted the “A”. It almost didn’t matter the monetary reward, as long as I got the ‘A”.

The one good thing about performance appraisals is you knew what you had accomplished and what you didn’t and what you needed to focus on the next year, basically you knew where you stood. You may have wished you were standing somewhere else, but you knew where you stood.

As we move into the ending months of 2013, I suggest taking some time out to evaluate your business so that you can measure your progress, identify the gaps, and make adjustments as necessary to stay on purpose and on plan for the remainder of 2014.

There is no fancy form to complete, just some questions to guide your self-reflection. TIP: create 5 columns (I love matrixes!) and work through these questions for each of your primary goals. Include non-revenue goals as well as revenue ones.

  • What were your primary goals for 2013?
  • What did you accomplish?
  • What’s helped you stay on course? What did you/your business do well?
  • What didn’t work or got in the way?
  • How can you leverage your strengths, what worked well and learning’s from what didn’t work (or got in the way) to frame the remainder of the year?

To make sure you stay on track (or get back on), now is a good time to also evaluate your skills and resources.

  • What do I already have to complete my goal?
  • What do I still need to complete my goal?
  • How will I get what I need to complete my goal?

If you don’t feel you have the time or inclination to do this now, bookmark this page and come back to it in a couple of weeks. At the risk of sounding like the stern human resources director, this really is a “must do” before the year ends. The earlier you do it, the greater your chances of achieving or exceeding your goals.

Remember, “you cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight” (Jim Rohn), but only if you know that the direction needs changing.

Let me know how your business check-in is going and what I can do to support you in achieving your goal.

 

3 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Asking for Referrals, and How to Avoid Them

network of people3 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Asking for Referrals, and How to Avoid Them

As discussed in a previous article, Referral Marketing can result in serving more people, more satisfied customers, and more revenue. It can also free up your time by eliminating cold calling and chasing pseudo leads. This business building strategy can also save money on advertising and marketing.

All of that is possible, but only if it is done right. Unfortunately I’ve seen business owners make some serious missteps when trying to leverage referrals to build their business:

1) Asking for a referral to soon after a close.

Asking for a referral before your new client has had an opportunity to really experience your product or service is like asking someone to marry you on the first date. You don’t really know each other well, it feels awkward, and the person being proposed to is trying to figure out how to get out of there 🙂

People want to be comfortable recommending someone to their family, friends and colleagues. It takes time to build that comfort level and you work will speak for itself. Be patient, let the client get results and then make the request. Chances are they will connect you to their community because of the great service and benefits they get from working with you.

2) Asking everyone you’ve worked with for a referral.

It’s not about mass marketing. With referral marketing, you want to pick the top 20% of your fan base. Their enthusiasm is genuine and they often are happy to help! Chances are if they are your top raving fans, they know other potential clients who would be a good fit for you and whom you could effectively serve.

3) Not having a system or process in place to follow-up with referrals and referees.

You’ve been given a referral from someone. Now what? How do you contact the referral? What do you do with them? Are they a name on a slip of paper that gets filed away? Is the referee left wondering whatever happened? Create a system for contacting the referral within 24 hours of receiving their information, and for following up with the referee (even if it just an email to let them know you called and left a voicemail). Provide quality follow-up and service to those who do refer you – they are doing you a favor and helping to grow your business!

Avoiding these 3-referral marketing mistakes will support you in building a more profitable business (and even more raving fans). What is one step you can take to strengthen your referral marketing strategy?

Did you miss my 5 Strategies for Using Referral Marketing Techniques to Boost Your Bottom Line? Check it out here.

5 Strategies for Using Referral Marketing Techniques to Boost Your Bottom Line

solutions-next-exitAs a small business owner you might have come across the idea of referral marketing. If you’re wondering what it is, and if it’s for you, the resounding answer is “YES!”

Referral marketing is essential to your business’ growth and its bottom line. How?

The core of referral marketing begins with your current fan base. Essentially, those individuals who’ve previously purchased your goods or services and who are willing to recommend what you have to offer to people outside your immediate network. It is considered one of the most effective ways for companies to build a business.

The key is building trust. Most importantly, clients need to feel confident and satisfied with your offerings and you must be delivering a reliable product or service.

So why do it?

Instead of worrying about the cold call, small business owners can stop the legwork and have warm leads come to them. It requires patience, but is often well worth the invested time.

My 5 Strategies in Referral Marketing and Boosting Your Bottom Line:

1) Build strategic alliances with like-minded business owners, especially those who market complementary services or products to your ideal client population. Team up with and create allies in the industry in order to gain access to that individual’s network and to showcase both their talent and yours.

2) Provide incentives: reward program, free reports, referral program, etc. Incentive programs are often a welcome bonus for true fans and people promoting your work.

3) Bring in other experts relevant to your client base, to be guest bloggers or an expert interview; both parties can expand their audience bases. This can provide more practical how-to tips for clients, causing them to refer out your work and share on social media. Plus, you’ll expand your reach and be viewed as a “go to” resource.

4) Create a marketing strategy and program to let people know exactly how they can refer you. For example, use social media to promote both your work and your program, give clear instructions on how people can share with their friends and family. It’s as simple as adding share buttons to blog posts.

5) Focus on the relationship, not the sell. Referral marketing is a wonderful business opportunity, but remember the core usage of this technique relies on the person. It’s essential to keep in mind the person behind the numbers.

How have you used referral marketing to expand you reach or increase your revenue? Please share in the comments below!

Is Stinking Thinking Showing Up In Your Bank Balance?

 “Who do you think you are?”

“Who is going to work with you?”

“Why do you even bother calling, they are going to say NO”

“You just don’t have what it takes”

Would you say that to a close friend or colleague? Probably not, in fact, you probably wouldn’t even say those things to a stranger. Yet, it is not uncommon for business owners to have that conversation with themselves. You know, that little voice that reaches in from the sidelines. It’s that inner voice of doubt, pessimism and fear that plagues our wildest dreams. It’s the soft cynicism that appears in the moments of true inspiration.

Call it your Inner Critic, Gremlin, Demon, Saboteur, or Bully. The fact is, it is there, telling you that you are not good enough. This “stinking thinking” keeps you playing small. The more you listen to it, the smaller you play. The smaller you play, the less people you meet, the less calls you make, the less people you serve, the less revenue you create.

Whatever you choose to call it, that little voice in our head impacts our thoughts, which influence the actions we take, or don’t take and ultimately our bank balance.  I want to share a simple process to address it, to quite it down, so you can move forward.

STOP and observe when and where the saboteurs are showing up, maybe it’s when you are following up with potential clients, or when you talk with a “competitor”. Tune into the conversation you are having with yourself.

CHALLENGE the beliefs and thoughts that are keeping you for acting.

  • What am I telling myself about this event, person or situation?
  • What evidence do I have that this is true?
  • What are other possible interpretations?

CHOOSE a new belief that is more empowering, more connected to your goals and take action.

Below you will find a letter to my inner critic. I’d love to hear how you have (or have not) defeated your inner critic. Leave a comment and share with me your tips!

Well, old friend. Thank you for being there when I needed you. Thank you for protecting me from the hurt and disappointments that certainly would have occurred if I had taken risks and not listened to you. It felt so safe and cozy staying in my little cocoon. No challenges, risk taking or failing. Of course, since there were none of those, there was also very little success.

The thought of success is sweet and tempting, like stealing away in the night to meet a long lost lover. But since your love for me is so deep, I stayed locked up in the comfy confines of my home only reading about the excitement and fun that I so desperately craved.

When will it be my turn?” I wondered. Alas, it is time to break free.

I am bored in this tiny, cocoon of a home. I want the excitement, fun and fulfillment that others seem to experience.

“Oh, but you’ll never make it,” you say. “You are not smart enough, creative enough or talented enough to make it out there on your own. You will be disappointed and hurt.”

You have filled my head and heart with fear and worry. Too afraid to be open and vulnerable; I need and want to experience that which you have so sheltered me from. It is my time.

There is a saying that if you love something, set it free. So today, I set you free. By doing so I free myself. Please, don’t be sad and let’s not pout. You will always be there and I appreciate your constant attention, but I really must do this on my own. Feel free to check in and in time, perhaps you can change the song you whisper in my ear. How I long to hear a different song that moves me closer to success. Could you do that for me? Would you?

For now, I must say goodbye. A new day is waiting for me and I cannot let it down.

All my love,
Kim (aka Kim Possible)

Part 2: Is Your Networking Not Working? Do This ONE Thing and Put More Profits in Your Pocket

If I could only give ONE tip on what will increase a business owners bottom line and put more profits in their pocket, it is this: give your contacts a chance to say YES.Crossword - business and success

According to the National Sales Executive Association it takes five to twelve contacts before someone buys from you and 80% of sales are made after the 5th contact. The same goes for referrals. Additionally, 48% of leads that are pursued are dropped after one contact. And here is the depressing one, 67% of the people you meet will ultimately buy the product or service you are selling, from someone else.

Too often I see business owners give up before their potential clients have a chance to say YES, resulting in leaving potential profit on the table.  Remember 67% of the folks are going to buy. It is a matter of whether it is from you (because you kept on top of mind) or a competitor because they happened to show up when the buyer was ready.

Business is a lot of dating. Women (and men) want to be courted, they want to get to know you before a commitment can be made. Yet, in business we are so quick to leap to marriage on the first date and then we wonder why we are still “single”. We make excuses “no one is buying in this economy”, “my market is saturated”, “if only I had a better website” and so on.

Give people a chance to say yes (or even a “maybe” or “no”) by letting them get to know you and by adding value to their lives in some way. Reach out regularly and in a variety of ways. This can take many forms:
• Phone call and email
• Newsletters blogs or other written media (just make sure you have their permission first, and getting their business card is not getting permission)
• Invitation to a webinar, teleseminar, or workshop
• Introductions to your contacts that are good referrals or partners
• Sharing articles, links that are relevant or interesting
• Nice to Meet You, Thank You or Congratulations greeting card
• Connect on Linked In (with a personal note)

Got a stack of business cards that you never followed up on? Don’t worry, we all have had this at some point in time and probably still do. It is not too late to pick up the phone, or send an email, a LinkedIn invite if applicable, and reintroduce yourself and your business. You can send a relevant article, or even a “your business card crossed my desk today and made me think of you” note! Who wouldn’t want to get one of those?!

Remember you have a gift and what you provide could benefit that person or someone they know.

Relationships start with a simple “hello”. 50% of the world is waiting for the other 50% to say “hello”. This week, be in the 50% that reaches out first!

Have a great strategy for follow up? Please share it here!

Miss part 1: 3  Tips You Can Implement NOW to Accelerate Your Business Growth? You can get it here.

Is Your Networking Not Working? 3 Simple Tips You Can Implement NOW to Accelerate Your Business Growth

Regardless of what type of business we have, two things need to happen for us to expand and grow our business and achieve our revenue goals. We need to 1) market our products and services and 2) someone needs to buy them. So what can you do every day that will accelerate your business growth? It’s simple, and honestly, it’s one of the more fun aspects of business. Any guesses? That’s right! NETWORKING

Every day identify people who need or want what you provide, or who know others who do. Better yet, call this RELATIONSHIP BUILDING; because at the end of the day, in this fast paced world, it’s the relationships you create that really matter. What are you waiting for? Keep reading for my tips on how to better create lasting relationships in your business venture!

Business Networking

# 1 Begin with the End in Mind
Before heading out to an event (luncheon, dinner party, seminar, or wherever you are going to be meeting people) determine what it is you want to accomplish and write down your intention.
Perhaps it is to meet 10 people, make 2 genuine connections, identify a strategic alliance, or to connect with one person who you could be of service to in the near future?

It is important to be clear about why you are there, and what you want to accomplish, otherwise you are just going out for a meal. Knowing what you want to accomplish will also help you determine whether your networking is giving you the intended ROI.

# 2 Respond Powerfully when others ask, “What do you do?”
In reality, people aren’t really interested in what you “do,” they are interested in how what you do benefits them or someone they know. They want to know how you can solve their problems. There are various templates for crafting your 30 – 60 second introduction (a.k.a. an elevator speech), but the main elements are:

• What you do and why?
• For whom do you do it?
• What problem do you solve?
• Why does it matter – what results will be achieved?
• What makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing?

Spend some time answering these questions and crafting your introduction. Practice saying it numerous times so it feels natural. Use it when you meet other people; see how it flows and what type of response it evokes.

#3 Who, What, When, How – Wasn’t Just for English Class

During conversations, focus on asking questions; especially open-ended questions that facilitate conversation flow and give you information on how you may be able to help those you are speaking with in the future. Open-ended questions typically start with what, how, when, and who; they solicit more than a one word response. Be genuinely interested in what others are saying. You may discover someone who could become a partner, a potential client, or know someone who could be a connection.

A great question to include in any conversation is “How would I know I’m talking to someone who would be a good contact for you?”.
This question comes from Bob Burg, author of The Go-Giver, Go-Givers Sell More, and it is a surefire way to make a lasting connection. After all, it gives the recipient the opportunity to tell you whom he or she would love to meet; and it lets you think about people in your network who might be good referrals.

While these tips may seem really simple, and they are, just doing 1 of these will result in significant changes to your networking and ultimately your bottom line.

Take a moment and reflect on the 3 tips. What could you choose to incorporate or modify, starting today, to make your networking more effective? Comment below or email me at Kim@SmallBizBIGBreakthrough.com to let me know how it’s going.

P.S. Be on the lookout for next weeks post. In it I will be sharing the ONE networking mistake that is resulting in money being left on the table and what to do it about so you can put more profits in your pocket.

You’re Fired! 3 Steps to Stop Being the Chief Everything Officer and Live Into Your CEO Potential

I had to fire someone today. Working in human resources for many years, “firing,” “letting go,” “severing,” was part of the job. Now, don’t get me wrong, the first time I had to fire someone, it was difficult, upsetting; in all honesty, it made me cry.

Job dismissal notice

Today; however, it was so personal. I had knots in my stomach as I stood up, looked in the mirror and gazed at my reflection.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t need a Chief Everything Officer anymore. Thank you for all you’ve done and your dedication, but this company cannot continue with you in that role. You are fired.”

“What?! But this is my company.”

“Yes, but we have an obligation to our shareholders, family, clients, and colleagues.”

“Shareholders? What is this Wall Street? Did my husband put you up to this?”

“Well, you have done some great work, and people do like you; that is, when you actually talk with them. We do need a Chief Executive Officer. Are you up for the job? We cannot promise you anything, but you most likely will have better hours and better pay.

I was stunned; I was shocked. Then I was also relieved.

Being the Chief Everything Officer is draining. However, add being a perfectionist and feeling like you need to do everything yourself or it will not be right, and you’ve got yourself a 24/7 job.

It can also be very difficult to give up. As the Chief Everything Officer we are too busy list building, networking, building a website, preparing content, and managing the financials. The problem is when we try to do everything ourselves (and do it perfectly) we end up with a sufficient amount of incomplete work.

Worse yet, we end up doing everything EXCEPT what we must do – talk to prospects and bring in new clients (aka SELLING). We are busy, but not productive. The biggest tragedy is that we are not doing what we love to do, the whole reason we went into business in the first place.

The end result…we wind up frustrated, discouraged and falling far short in the client department. We wonder if it’s worth it; if we should just get a job. Maybe that little voice that tells us we are not good enough gets even louder and taunts us with “I told you so.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. The first step to being the Chief Executive Officer is to take some time to look at what you are doing, or at least what’s on that to do list.

Here is an exercise to get you started:

1) Make 4 columns on a piece of paper
Column 1: Love to Do, Great At It & Would Do It All Day Long
Column 2: Like to Do It, Takes Time & Energy
Column 3: Can Do It, Don’t Like to
Column 4: Dislike It, Don’t Ever Want to Do it

2) Brainstorm all the activities you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and put each one in one of the columns. I invite you to not judge yourself or the activity and just complete each of the columns.

As you complete each column, what are you noticing? Is there a theme of the type of activity in each of the columns? What would your business be like if your days were spent on the activities you placed in Column 1?

Now, I have to bring this up. If you placed Sales in Column 4 we need to have a conversation pronto. No Sales = No Revenue = No Money. It also means the people you are meant to serve aren’t hearing about you or able to find you.

3) Delegate or Drop the Activities in Column 4
The activities in the “Dislike It & Don’t Ever Want to Do It” Column are most likely things that are continuously getting carried over on your “to do list”. It’s not surprising because it is not your sweet spot. It’s the stuff you dread but the fact that is following you around week after week is keeping you from embodying your full CEO potential. Someone else will best do these activities, whether it is someone on your team, a virtual assistant or other external resource, so outsource them.

Outsourcing some of our work can be uncomfortable, even scary. What if they don’t do it right? What if it costs too much money? Here’s the thing, yes it might cost money and yes it may not be as perfect as you envision it. But, it will be done (and probably faster and better then you imagined) and the money invested here frees up your time and energy for the things you love to do, which brings in revenue.

The real question is: can you afford to keep trying to do everything yourself?

Fortune Cookies, Entrepreneurship and a Boy Named Tony

iStock_000001064025XSmallIt was noisy in the Chinese restaurant, as restaurants in Manhattan usually are, but we liked this place; plus there are only so many places to get vegetarian food. We were squeezed in at a little table as the wait staff hustled around us. The meal was great, and then came the fortune cookies. “You can stop looking, happiness is right beside you,” I read to my boyfriend of 3 months.

You need to keep that, he said. “There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you”. He shared with me that he was going to visit his parents at the end of the month and needed to know if I saw myself marrying him. Huh? I had just moved to NYC. I’ve known him 3 months. Why did he need to know this now? Well, his family would expect him to get married when he was home.

He put off his trip; and we spent the next several months going on with our lives as a couple, having fun and experiencing NYC to the fullest. When he did return home, it was with the resolve that we would stay together and all would be well. It did not go well. I graciously let him off the hook, I was angry and my heart was broken.

Fast forward: we have been married for 12 years, have a dog and a daughter. Kiran and daddy are playing a game of pretend. She is Miranda. He tells her his name will be Tony. Wow, that brings me back many years. When I first met my husband, he introduced himself as Tony. He figured it would be easier to say.

To borrow from singer Kelly Clarkson, “…what doesn’t’ kill you, makes you stronger.” That year was one of the most challenging I’ve ever experienced, but it set me up for more than I could have imagined.

When I think the road ahead seems too difficult, I just look back and remember the road I’ve already traveled and the souvenirs I’ve picked up along the way:

Don’t let others limit your future. There will always be naysayers, people who are married to convention and anything outside of that is scary or wrong. Building a business can be scary at times; you may feel helpless and at the mercy of others, but to succeed you will have to push yourself beyond the crowd and boldly go after what you want. Listen to your heart and follow it.

Persistence pays off. It is easy to give up; to say, “Well they said, ‘No.’ so I’ll pack up and go home or try something else.” True, “no” is a closed door, but you must go through the closed door to get to the opening (“yes”). The courage is in hearing NO, but continuing to move forward. Here is a tidbit for you: 90% of second businesses succeed; however, only 80% of business owners ever start that second business after the first one failed.

Belief in yourself, and faith that you can have what you know you want must keep you determined and going. My husband is a perfect example of knowing what you want and moving mountains to get it. How clear are you on what you want? Do you believe it is in your future? Do you believe that you will have it, and that you are worthy of having it? Often we really want something, but are not always convinced the “YES” is there waiting for us. The “YES” is always there. It may not look like we thought it would look, and it may not be when we thought it would be; but it is always there.

Now that I think about it, these souvenirs are worth displaying. It’s time to dust them off. What have you taken away from your journey that needs to be dusted off and brought back out again?