Small Business Marketing Strategy & Process Development

Building an Authentic Business as a Solopreneur

Posted by on 10:15 am in Authenticity, Small Business, Startups/Entrepreneurs | 0 comments

  As a one-person business, it can be challenging to define your brand if you haven’t tapped into your strengths, your purpose, your ideal clients, and your value proposition. Even if you did this foundational work in the beginning, if any one of these is “off” or changes, it can be hard to achieve alignment as an authentic business. Being aware of the shifts–whether they are within you or in the market–is continual work that is important but not urgent. Most of us are complex. Shaping our complexities into the right offerings (aka productizing our services) and an authentic and consistent brand is difficult to do on our own. We don’t always acknowledge or embrace our strengths and passions. We might have doubts around using everything we can potentially bring to the table. Plus, we have blind spots and distractions. We have to contend with confirmation bias. And finally we have limiting beliefs. In addition to being complex, we are providing value to complex people. We need to identify our ideal clients, understand them deeply, align our skills with their needs, and create messages that attract these people. Most often, solopreneurs or solo service providers (and sometimes even microbusiness or small business owners) feel like they must do all of this on their own! In doing so, they could miss the mark on any one of these outcomes. And in my experience, when solopreneurs are not seeing the results they expect, they don’t always solve the right problem. For example, people will say, “I need to market my business better,” “I need to get my Facebook handled,” or “We need new graphics on our website” and the list continues.  In many cases, they are assuming promotion is the answer. And throwing money at a solution before undertaking rigorous problem identification is a huge waste. Something I’m 100% against. I want to find the true problem–especially if it is foundational–and solve that. Sometimes solo service providers aren’t even aware that they need to revisit their foundations, but that’s a good first exploratory point in any marketing conversation. In 2013, I had a client come to me with totally different perceived (and mostly tactical) marketing needs. She was feeling the pressure of time-consuming marketing tasks (such as social media) and wanted to off-load them. Through careful, consultative questioning in our kick-off session, I uncovered an untapped opportunity to apply a particular skill set to the business. This is much more strategic and valuable than silly task outsourcing! The good news? A whole new revenue stream would open up for her and bring her closer to the goal of serving 10 individual clients a month. Plus, adding this new service offering led to company re-branding, including a new, more inclusive company name to capture more of the market. Doesn’t that sound better (and more impactful to your bottom line) than having new graphics or social media content? Knowing your authentic purpose, strengths, and values as well as identifying your ideal clients is key to creating and establishing a rock-solid marketing foundation from which to build your business. Knowing what your authentic business is and your entrepreneurial vision provides clarity and direction. If you need help refocusing your marketing efforts, I invite you to attend a future office hours event or schedule a call with me. If...

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Gaining Client Insight

Posted by on 8:37 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

If you are a coach or a consultant–and especially if you have “productized” your solution by creating a program or are looking into doing so–you want to see success in your clients’ development and in your relationships. But sometimes, unless clients blatantly express dissatisfaction during our engagements or begin “bad appling,” we can’t really be sure what their satisfaction level is. And we know this impacts our ability to be referred. When clients are dissatisfied with their experiences or their expectations are violated, our value in the marketplace is diminished. Signs that we might be losing ground include: attrition, low success rates, no client action on up-sell or cross-sell options, our own frustration with the direction our clients are going (or not going, because they’re not making change), more prospects balking at price, and of course, fewer referrals–either over time or by percentage of clients who work with us. Too often, solo service providers and business owners will try to treat their symptoms with a perceived panacea (usually tactical), but without a complete analysis and proper diagnosis. This is unfortunate because all of the aforementioned signs might also point to a number of “diagnoses,” including but not limited to: Shifts in the marketplace New alternatives Attracting the wrong clients in the first place Lack of brand value Brand messaging that doesn’t resonate Communications issues Lack of change on our parts to make our vision a reality If you can’t be sure you have the right diagnosis, it’s a good time for us to talk. Before you waste money and time on efforts that will not work–or will only work temporarily. If you suspect client dissatisfaction is the problem, gaining client insight is one important first-step activity. But it must be done expertly and by a third-party to get the unbiased, REAL answers. Painful as they might be, this knowledge points us in the direction of improvement. It gives us the answers we need to increase our repeat business, stave off attrition, eliminate “bad appling” by clients or participants, and ultimately to be part of their success while being appropriately compensated for it! Ready to develop a plan to get that valuable feedback and make positive change? Let’s talk. Gaining client insight–or even diagnosing the correct problem–is an important but sometimes not urgent activity. That’s why it’s the #30DaysofQ2 challenge subject for Day...

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What Do You Want? Developing Your Litmus Test for Better Decisions

Posted by on 10:48 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

How Do We Make Better Decisions? If we take the time to identify what we want, at the BIG PICTURE level, making decisions becomes easy. When we know OUR own pH, everything that comes our way can be tested against it. If it doesn’t match, we can politely walk away. I imagine we waste a lot of time in decision-making. And maybe that comes from not having “top-level criteria.” What do I mean by top-level criteria? Your 3 most important things. Three things that MUST be present for you in your life or business. When you know these, everything becomes a lot clearer. And they are unique to YOU. For example, I will only do things that make me feel happy, successful, and appreciated. That’s MY litmus test. (Everyone’s is different.) A new opportunity, a prospective client, an event, a volunteer position–anything that comes my way–is tested against the probability for meeting each and all 3 of those criteria. They are REQUIRED. And if my initial reading changes or if I perceive it to change, my involvement can change too. Can you see how this knowledge takes the guesswork out of decisions? How it brings clarity to what I am supposed to be doing? How I can use those 3 criteria to re-focus myself and get myself back on track should I veer away? I hope so! And I hope you are inspired to find your “top-level criteria.” Have you taken the time to identify YOUR 3 things?  It’s one of the best time investments you will make and guess what? I can help you to achieve this in only 15 minutes. Feedback . . . “This was exactly what it said – a jumpstart! Thank you! . . . Good questions can help get to the heart of a matter quicker and more efficiently. I really enjoyed the call, you, your energy, and the very focused, targeted questions you asked to efficiently and effectively get to the top 3 in just 15 minutes. This was a helpful call. Much appreciated!”   “GREAT SESSION!!! I am super motivated. I love that I’m held accountable for the process to myself and you.” “Tracy, this was such a great start. It’s SUPER helpful in keeping me grounded & looking at the decisions I’m making moving...

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Try Something New

Posted by on 11:22 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

We’ve all heard the Einstein-attributed definition of insanity. And yet sometimes when we make change and try something new, we might seem insane to others–or at least incomprehensible. Some might be scratching their heads because they don’t understand us. That’s OK. (If you are scratching your head, read this.) The good news is if we have cultivated relationships–deep, caring ones–we will have support and freedom to change without judgment. And even if we are not understood. Judgment is one of the things that keeps us small. When we do it to others. When we do it to ourselves. And it really stops us from making change AND connecting with others That’s why I created the Certified Authentic Networker (CAN) program. Those of us who have been working on reducing judgment (I’m looking at you, CAN alumni!) are probably getting better (different!) results from our networking activities. Anyone who isn’t even aware that judgment might be a liability in their networking approach can benefit from trying something new–joining our ranks as re-imaginers of networking. Join us on April 21 to achieve better networking experiences through deeper connections and relationships–or to ensure you’re getting MORE of those from your efforts. (This is Day 27 of...

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Uncovering Expectations, Not Just Managing Expectations

Posted by on 6:16 pm in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

It seems everyone talks about managing expectations but it’s just as important to do the work of uncovering them. I say “uncovering” because sometimes they can be buried. Even from the people who have them. And ourselves. Too often, service providers will assume what the expectations are and cater to those assumptions. In fairness, sometimes these are experience-based and built over time from client engagements, but let’s keep in mind: Clients are not clones. As consultants and service providers, we have to do a little detective work to understand individual clients’ unique needs. The good news is we are used to asking good questions, right? We need to design questions that will extract what people expect from us when providing our services. Especially where they differ from other clients’, partners’, or our own expectations of ourselves and our clients and partners. How is that experience matching or out of alignment with a client’s ideas? (This is also useful for strategic marketing communications efforts.) If you are new to business, you might might begin with making a list of all the things that can go wrong. But, since you don’t know what you don’t know, talking with fellow consultants in other sectors is a great way to be prepared. (If you are in Phoenix, contact me to be a part of a group who can help you.) Some common things to focus on might be expected turnaround times for email response times for anything really. Also what will be the path if there is no response or repeated your responsiveness lack of their of or if meetings are missed lack of respect with respect to someone else’s time. It’s important I guess not only to say what will happen if these things happen but to say hey here’s what is OK and what is not. Oftentimes professionally we do not do this from a personal level and I think it makes all the difference. I talk a lot about authenticity and I think this is a great point of intersection between the personal and professional which I don’t separate out anyway. Whether you are new or seasoned, after uncovering expectations, you might want to address the communications around that. In other words, “How should we respond if an expectation–expressed or unexpressed on either side–has been violated?” Note that I said “on either side” because you as the service provider are allowed to expect and hold accountable as well. This is a two-way street! (Also helpful for establishing strategic partnerships.) Getting in touch with ourselves and expressing that in terms of expectations is for the benefit of the relationships and is a proactive stance to ensure success. That’s why it’s the #30DaysofQ2 Challenge for Day 26. Is there a way or technique that you found to proactively uncover what you need to do to meet expectations the first time versus manage them on the back end once there has been a...

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Practicing Learned Inspiration

Posted by on 8:16 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

I am the first to admit–I’m not always able to see myself with pride and compassion. I suspect we all waiver at times, no matter how much we love ourselves. My theory is “this is constant work.” But that’s also a concept I grapple with. Why does this have to be so much work? Why am I not just perfect as is? How come I found yet another flaw to work on today? This line of questioning is NOT productive. It is NOT healthy. And so I am learning how to “undo” it. I am learning what to do and teaching it at the same time in order to inspire myself and others. Oftentimes, this feeling of lack, of imperfection, of self-doubt arises when we’re in comparison mode. We look at someone under the microscope, maybe dwell on something we see in them (us!) that we don’t like. But what if we observe as if from afar, with compassion? With curiosity? With support just because someone else is human and deserves it? What if we say to ourselves, “I deserve success.”   Instead of comparing ourselves and looking at an accomplished someone with a volatile combination of awe and jealousy, what if we said, “Thank you. Thank you for showing me the way. For proving it can be done. I am happy to see you making change. We are the same. I can make change too. Thank you for shining a light on what is possible for me if I will only CHOOSE it.” And then . . . what if we choose it? This is the two-fold #30DaysofQ2 challenge for today: Spend time choosing it and Practice learning and teaching what you need to do to inspire others....

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Sharing Happiness

Posted by on 8:42 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

A dear friend sent me a card with this quote: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle cannot be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” — attributed to Buddha Sharing happiness, even it’s smallest form of a smile, is an important but not urgent action–and can make all the difference in the world. I smile at strangers all the time. Walking to the grocery store, for example. It’s incredible how many people are (a) not smiling at all and (b) not smiling back–or even looking at others as they make their way through the world. Maybe it’s fear, avoidance, or just plain not being in the present. . . Smiling takes so little time and effort. So why is it challenging? Like Chrissie Hynde sings, “I got a smile / for everyone I meet / as long as you don’t try dragging my bay / or droppin no bomb on my street.” (Those might not be the right lyrics but that’s how I sing ’em and I how I live.) When you are happy, share some of it by smiling. It’s contagious. There are bigger ways (of course) to share happiness, which can be Quadrant 2 activities. How are you sharing happiness in big and small ways? Thanks for following the #30DaysofQ2. See below for...

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Learning While Teaching (or Presenting)

Posted by on 9:18 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

Somewhere along the way I got the idea that I had to know everything about a particular topic to “teach” or “present on” it. And I never considered myself an expert on anything because my definition of expert meant “someone who knows everything.” Logically, I know it is impossible to know everything. That I should not hold myself to this standard. And yet here I am, down-playing my accumulated knowledge and experiences because I am not omnipotent. Am I alone in falling into this trap? The beautiful thing about life is we get to learn. Constantly. And hopefully be changed by that learning. I have–and continue to be given–lessons that I want to share in order to help others. There is never a shortage of lessons and knowledge, until we die. The challenge? Overcoming the feeling that just because there is so much to learn does not mean we are any less capable of teaching what we know. We don’t have to have it all figured out. Beating ourselves up about not being perfect or an “expert” is a waste of time. I think I’ve said that before and it’s because I need to learn it, too. So this is a real meta post. I’m actually teaching something and learning it at the same time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey and in embracing the position as learner-and-teacher without guilt or fear of being an imposter. Bonus: All the leaders I admire have humility as a trait. I know that’s not something everyone agrees on as being valuable. But for me, I think it’s important. Being open to the idea that there is more to learn as a leader IS being humble–and is a good practice. My #30DaysofQ2 important but not urgent action for today:  Live happily in the intersection and trust it is where I can do the most good. Side note: One thing I present on is authentic networking, which I am constantly practicing and learning. If you are in Phoenix, join me on April 21 (special discount with this link) to take networking to the next level and get better results simply by being...

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Communications Planning

Posted by on 9:07 am in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

At Arthur Andersen, communications planning was part of my day-to-day activities. And I was trained to plan communications. Our marketing department had a distinct way of doing this. (In fact, it was at Arthur Andersen that I received training on The 7 Habits.) To this day, I apply communications planning to strategic communications for service-based clients.  But I’ve learned not everyone has the patience–or ability or framework–to PLAN their communications efforts. For example, fast thinkers sometimes don’t plan their communications effectively. They expect everyone to be operating at their speed. They forget to paint the picture and bring an audience along step-by-step. They have a tendency to gloss over things or leave out elements as they discuss their vision. (I admit, I fall prey to this, too, but mostly when speaking.) They might also be overlooking opportunities to make their materials work for them. In other words, create trust or drive buyer action. Or, they attempt to achieve too much in a single communications piece. You can only move a prospect along 2 steps at a time with any given piece. And you must align communications so that you have the right materials for every stage. This is at the heart of communications planning. And avoiding the other pitfalls. We all forget sometimes that the purpose of written communications is in fact communication! That means we must step outside ourselves and see our writing as our audience would. (If this is difficult, outside perspective is a big help.) It’s not just about the writing but about the structuring of the material and information so that it is palatable and powerful. People need guidance on how to read things and what is important. Not everyone can do this visually.  That is, lay it out in a way that makes absorption of information seamless. This is part of the value that a strategic marketing communications consultant provides. It’s not just about semicolons and em dashes. Even people who are expert communicators–especially in the realm of speaking–or marketers themselves may be missing out on opportunities to really communicate and engage their audiences in ways the audiences need when crafting written materials. As a strategic marketing communications consultant, I find the blind spots that you have and help ensure your message gets communicated in an appropriate way based on an intense understanding and holistic view of the intended audience. This also means thinking outside the box about who you’re addressing and why. And of course whether this is the most effective avenue to go or segment to target. (That’s what makes it STRATEGIC.) Sometimes we are leaving money on the table and opportunities untapped because we do not have this perspective. That’s why communications planning is the Day 22 challenge of #30DaysofQ2. Are you planning your communications–at the tactical and strategic levels? How do you know you’re being effective?...

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Giving Others a Vote of Confidence

Posted by on 2:23 pm in #30DaysofQ2 | 0 comments

Taking the time to let those in your professional network know that you support them is an important but not urgent activity.  An easy way to do this is to endorse them on LinkedIn. Endorsements are those opportunities you see to “check off” that a connection knows her stuff.  As opposed to recommendations, which are another (albeit more time-consuming but important) way to show support for an A-lister or someone you have worked with before. I realize many don’t take those endorsements seriously–and for good reason. In fact, for the very reason I’m listing here:  Endorsing people is really a vote of confidence. It says to them, “Hey, I believe in you.” Most of the time, I suspect we will only endorse people when we have awareness of their skill set. Sometimes, I admit, I do not have direct knowledge of someone’s expertise, say with SQL or Project Management.  I figure, common sense. A database admin and PMP probably do have that knowledge. When we endorse in this way, we are simply taking the person at his word. An endorsement simply says, “I trust you.” Sometimes we can be skeptical of people’s skills and that’s fine, too. We can also like them and not endorse them for something if we do not have first-hand evidence that they know something. I’m not “endorsement-happy” in that I skip over a lot. Making time to endorse others and let them know you believe in them is a good way to reconnect with our weak ties, build relationships, and say “I’m thinking about you.” It’s not to be taken lightly. Not to be used as a marketing tactic. But to be approached with authenticity, joy, and honesty. How do you feel about LinkedIn endorsements? Are you endorsement-happy? Do you approach it mindfully with the intention of giving someone a vote of confidence?...

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