Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lazy or Defeated by Choices? Referrals are a great Business Opportunity!

More and more companies are tracking that referrals are the best lead generator for each of their businesses. SEO (Search engine optimization) is certainly up there as a great resource but most of my clients and business contacts are stating point of fact that a high percentage of their new clients are coming from referrals.  I would be willing to bet that a big reason that referrals are beating out SEO is due to the vast amounts of information a person must consider to find a solution to their problem.  Whether you are lazy about looking at every possible result or frustrated by the browser generated “matches” for your internet searches, asking a trusted person IS easier these days.

The big push the past couple of years in marketing efforts has been to create content that is searchable by all of the internet tools. However, all of that content has flooded the internet and search engines with choices.  There is no such thing as a “quick” internet search anymore and that is making it much harder to find the sources we need for problem resolution.

Your search results will bring white papers, opinions, blogs and online magazines that are first ordered by advertisement before offering the search tool’s best match. The newsletters alone that come across our computers continue to grow our “To Read” folders so that they feel like one more thing “To Do” as opposed to a way to build our own knowledge base and understanding. All that information is out there to be found. Where do we go for the quick answer? Starting with a referral is MUCH easier and faster.

Now more than ever, I am one of those people that will first ask my trusted network of peeps when I have a need.  This saves a huge amount of time by not having to look through the pages of results. With group pages on many social websites, I can instantly reach out to many of my business partners with one quick question.  Not only does this really narrow the field of possible follow up options  but it is a base of already vetted possibilities. They ACTUALLY do what we need them to do to resolve our problem. So now we need only verify that they are right for our company and this specific need.

My process is to then go through the “trust but verify” procedure of logging onto company websites and social media platforms to see which of the referrals looks to be the best fit for my needs. After reading a few articles or white papers and a phone call or two later, I am on the way to a solution that is a great fit for my business.

I use it in my personal life too!  If I want to make chicken for dinner, I used to go straight to the website to look for a recipe.  Well, I will get not just the recipes but all the websites that might have chicken recipes, articles on chicken for dinner and reviews on why chicken is / is not the best  thing for dinner.  Too much work!  Much easier to call my neighbor down the street and ask for the recipe she cooked last month at the pot luck.  Tried and true!

Tried and true. Don’t we all want our businesses to be thought of that way?

Understanding that this is a legitimate and growing part of lead generation leads me to want to remind each of YOU that with a growing resource for your business comes a growing responsibility. 

If referrals are a large part of lead generation for your business, then your company may need to make a conscious shift in your marketing plan.  Just because referrals represent the coveted WOM (word of mouth) marketing this does not mean that money has magically appeared from your marketing budget.  Business should be budgeting to manage or encourage this area. Remember, for this to truly benefit your company you must deliver on MULTIPLE levels.

  •  Referrals must know what you do to find a qualified lead
    ( Especially when adding new products or services!)
  • Referrals must know that you deliver quality work
    ( So, you actually have to deliver quality work.)
  • Acknowledgement and appreciation for referrals is required.
    (No “Thank you”? This resource will feel no loyalty.)
  • And just like with new leads, referral sources must have you and your company top of mind.

Too often a business owner will think that they do not need to market to existing contacts because their prospects are already coming in as referrals.  They will network less because their referrals are up.  They may even start to depend on certain referral sources without marketing to generate new client leads.  This can lead to what many looking back at their downward trends consider as a down cycle or slow period.

As long as you are measuring regularly so you can be responsive, you should be able to change your process and grow again. Better is to shift the correct portion of your marketing budget to manage and grow this productive segment of your company’s lead generation NOW!

Which do you do first – search the internet or reach out for referrals? I’d love to read your comments!

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Why your marketing isn’t working the way you want! And what your marketing consultants are trying to tell you.

By Talmar Anderson
Originally published Jun. 11, 2014

Marketing is the most frustrating and overwhelming part of running a business. It is not as black and white as addition. While I am prone to think I am the only one that struggles with the mythical “marketing strategy” I find that many of my clients have the similar issues. Primarily, I start by ensuring my clients understand that marketing and sales are 2 different areas of your business and you should be expecting 2 different results.

Sales efforts need to result in clients and products sold. Marketing efforts need to result in brand awareness and prospect generation. But just understanding those differences are still NOT ENOUGH to help you gain better results from your marketing.  NO… don’t blame the website.  It’s not your logo.  It’s probably not even your elevator pitch.

I am going to ask you a question….ready?  What happens that moves your prospect over the line to client by creating the buying decision?  What is the catalyst that has leads a client to finally click the button or pick up the phone to call?  Is it an emotional decision?  Is it a definitive need?  Is it a point in their life cycle or business cycle?

I know this is a very specific question but it really goes back to that first question all marketing consultants will ask you “who is your target market?”  If you are unable to answer that question as specifically as the triggers for that markets buying decisions, it is going to be very difficult for any marketing company to deliver on your goals.

This leads to the other reason that your marketing is not performing for you. It is wrapped around my favorite topic…metrics!! For successful evaluation, we must measure.  To measure, we must define a result (Are you following??)

If we want to measure whether a marketing effort has been beneficial, we will need to define what result we expect.  Clearly and specifically define who we want to do what exactly. We must do this for each and every marketing effort we make for our company.  “MORE CLIENTS!”….I can hear you all now.  “More clients” may be the reason why you have decided to invest in your marketing efforts and growth structures.  However, let’s get specific.

Are you planning a new marketing campaign to grow your contact list? Are you developing and delivering speaking engagements to broaden your credibility? Are you creating a promotional effort to grow the sales pipeline of a specific income stream?  What is the result you want from this effort?  Pick one.

It is possible your business will receive two benefits but pick one primary reason and communicate that with your marketing team (whether internal or external).  Then create a metric that will allow evaluation before, during and after the effort for that singular result.  Now we can measure success.

Clever phrases and neato slogans only help if they help brand identity which should lead to prospect generation which should lead to the company sales pipeline which should lead to more clients.  Each of these items requires a separate process and metric for performance evaluation and continual progress.  Tracking these items will allow us to better focus on what is and what is NOT working.  It is seldom as easy as changing marketing teams or consultants

We need to REALLY understand our target market and all that includes so that we can communicate effectively with our marketing teams to measure our results and drive prospects to sales.

Are you really surprised my answer is more clarity through process and metrics??? (Imagine my wickedly twinkling eyes!)

Nerve-racking! Operational Growth and Cash Flow

By Talmar Anderson
Originally published May 15, 2014

As an owner, we start our companies by handling it all ourselves.  Our next steps will be finding ways to sell more and deliver more.  This growth is often directly and easily tracked performance through growing revenues and profit margins. But when a company has need for an operations team, development and growth does not always directly deliver revenues.  However, it is precisely this operational growth of process and support teams that is required to set up a company for success.

You are counting the time you bill your clients as well as the time you built into your labor costs for production of your offering. Forecasting and covering these variable costs is easy and offers a security.  You know how many widgets you need to sell to receive “X” dollars in revenue. However, when forecasting organizational growth we need to ensure that all of the operational and salaried sales functions we develop get forecast under your fixed costs.  You logically understand that to grow the business, you can expect your expenses to increase. Emotionally, this can be a little frustrating and even depressing.

Knowing why we are hiring will allow us to feel a sense of satisfaction and deserved achievement.  Your business will require all kinds of growth throughout its many transitions. Be sure that you acknowledge the reason and create metrics for its success.  Panic can cause us to start cutting these long fought for, defined, developed, trained and implemented positions and processes! Go back to your reasons and goals for your sense of progress.

Start preparing yourself by taking the time to write the goals that you expect to achieve through this growth project.  By writing down our expected results, we can see the progress and quell the panic that may come with an increased monthly outlay of cash.

Did you build an operational structure that supports you pulling yourself out of day to day operations? How many hours do you expect to be freed up? I recommend that you have a plan for that extra time or it can turn into a lot of watching the cash flows. A plan to free up 5 hours a week to write your memoirs is quantifiable and will allow progress that is measurable. This does not directly bring cash in to our account and that has to be considered.

Most of my clients started growing their businesses by outsourcing their bookkeeping processes. If you are thinking about doing this write down your reasons.

  • Do you need more complete and consistent reports for stronger decision making?
  • Is one of the reasons because it stresses you out trying to understand the accounting concepts?

Both are great reasons and supportive of the business, your vision and your mission.  But neither directly grows the bank account. The bookkeeping systems are required if you plan to build a successful company.

Another example is management. If you are bringing on a site manager, is it to:

  • Add a layer of responsiveness for your staff?
  • Freeing up time on your own calendar by off-loading some of the daily tasks and allow space for strategic planning?
  • To create stronger oversight of the consistency of service delivery and product performance?

All supportive and necessary processes in a growing company but these do not move the decimal point in the checkbook, right?

What can you do if you know you are going to grow more and more anxious with the investment in your operations processes and team?  Slow the progress and split some of the time and money investment in a new / additional revenue push.  Can freeing your time from the operation processes allow for a business development push? Can the hours now open on your calendar allow development and launch of a long thought of quick to market service or product? Can freeing an existing staff member that is brilliant with clients from doing the bookkeeping allow for more billable hours to be invoiced monthly? Knowing your personal stress triggers allows us to plan for rapid or slow progress that is satisfying AND rewarding.

How you grow should be specific to YOU and your comfort level.  Understanding what processes are needed and how to organize your team comes with an understanding that you are investing in your company’s foundation just as if you were buying equipment in a factory. Planning can make it less stressful and keep you focused.

 

Is ANYTHING getting done? Ideas and Your Implementation Method

By Talmar Anderson
Originally published Apr. 3, 2014

Are you so busy planning that action gets away from you?  There are three ways that people approach new ideas and the implementation.  The first are those that get an idea and step directly into it.  They will start painting the walls and handing out flyers about their new as- yet-undeveloped product.  They get so wound up at the idea that they have to get out there and start “doing”.  This is the predominant amount of people. Rather than think through the whole process and make a plan for how it will be handled they set themselves up for days reacting to the items that come across their desk to deliver on the intent of the idea.  This is where I usually start talking about process and planning in an effort to get ahead of the stress and allow for growth and success. However, today we are really talking about the opposite approach. The planning that goes on.  And on.  And on…until there is another idea upon which to focus. How much of your day are you planning and how much are you really creating???

You KNEW it was going to be about measuring and reviewing, right? Are you even considering this metric? This is a real personal productivity assessment.  You need to understand your role in the company and how much of your role is about planning.  Is it 20%? Is it 1 day a week?  2 days a month? Is research and development of the strategic planning really your core responsibility, then great!  Your company’s operations are able to be managed and produced by your staff.  Even if it is their jobs to implement your plans, then you will still HAVE TO LET GO at some point.  We must start taking action to allow for the exciting opportunity to come to fruition.

Certainly there is benefit to planning.  There is benefit to action.  Too much of either can severely impeded your growth. It is very easy to get sucked into the busy work that can distract from actually delivering.  This planning and researching allows us an excuse to avoid the work.  We can reward ourselves as “progressing” with each new fact we uncover or possible market segment we define. We tell everyone how the project is taking lots of time but the figures are projecting a SUPER load of cash once it is rolled out. Then when we get to the end of the week, or the month, or the quarter we wonder why we didn’t reach our goals.

Setting aside pre-determined planning time will ensure that you are still creating in your business.  If you preset the days and hours you will work on strategic planning you can be assured to notice when the actual deliverables of your company start to suffer.  Are you filling in your extra time with going to check out another possible venue for your next launch party?  Are able to spend 4 hours instead of the 2 hours calendared for researching competitors for your new product? PANIC!  Seriously, you originally expected to have the “extra” times filled with other functions for your business.   What is being neglected by you allowing yourself to keep going down the “planning” path?  Within this planning path there certainly is no risk of failure but neither is their risk of success.

For each new idea or product make the initial effort of giving it your scheduled time.  Progressing and growing new ideas is a major function in any business.  Don’t pretend it can magically be fit in around all of the other responsibilities currently filling your days. Now also plan for a roll out date and minimum required developed process to allow you to ACT! You can start earlier if your minimums are met and you have the momentum.  You can take the time to research more as your roll out date is still 3 weeks.  It depends upon on your comfort and your implementation method.  Setting this all in your calendar lets you notice when items are off course. Ideally this happens before your profits are affected.

You can act without planning. You can plan without acting.  But to grow your business you must make a plan AND take action. Then repeat. Then repeat again. And again….

Priorities??!!??…They are always changing!

By Talmar Anderson
Originally published Mar. 6, 2014

Goal setting is constantly being thrown at business owners.  Where are you going?  How are you going to get there?  When do you expect to see results?  It is difficult enough to set those big vision goals.  Even harder is to bring it down to the micro level of quarterly, monthly or daily.  There are tons of softwares, spreadsheets and books written on how to set the goals. In fact, one of the qualities of a strong leader and business owner is the ability to prioritize.  This allows businesses to keep moving toward those thoughtfully planned out goals.  But a good decision maker becomes a great decision maker when they understand that priorities change…even from one day to the next.

Knowing the end vision goals and having them inform decision points is critical.  Let’s say that our year-end goal is 6 speaking engagements. This is one of the ways (the “How”) we intend to increase sales of a new software app to construction companies.  Along comes an invitation to take a speaking gig to a Chamber of Commerce which has a strong ratio of construction companies as its members. Woohoo!  But then you realize the date is the same as that trade show you were going to sponsor.  It is at this point that a great leader will take the trade show over the speaking engagement.

The great leader will look at the numbers and consider the purpose of the business.  The trade show will put your logo, information, a targeted promotion and you in front of 500 construction companies.  Closing only 10% of these qualified leads that are attending will provide you with 50 new clients.  The chamber has 100 construction companies as members. 100 is more than 50 but will they all attend?  Even if they all attended you would have to close 50% of the targeted audience to gain the same result of the trade shows potential.  Using the same closing ratio of 10% would only close 10 new clients. So a great leader would pass on making the goal of 6 speaking engagements.  That specific goal may be missed but the underlying purpose of your business is profiting…literally!

Getting so caught up in the goal setting can confuse the real reason we are in business.  We need to deliver value to our clients for income. We are not in the business of speaking engagements.  We are not in the business of working vendor tables.  These are means to the end.  While daily priorities require that we break the “growth” goal out to “what” and “how”….the goals we set to complete the “how” can get consuming.  Instead stay focused on the mission of your company.  If your mission is great customer service then you must prioritize the client follow-up meeting over the opportunity to get in front of new clients.  3 new prospects will defeat the purpose if your client is dissatisfied and happy to tell others about the disconnect between your mission and your service.

Goals are guides.  Ways to measure and inspire.  Goals are not results.  At minimum, I weekly spend time considering my prioritization of my long-term goals and current projects.  It does not always change but that priority check let’s my business take advantage of any new opportunity that had not been previously considered.  Every time a client asks for a new solution I need to consider whether it would be a good fit for other clients or as a permanent product.  Every time I receive a new collaboration opportunity I need to consider where that new project fits into the old priorities.  I need to move my goals and sometimes the dates or metrics.  I prioritize my goals to move forward my company’s mission.  What is that you say?  You want to collaborate to develop a new program….let me grab my calendar and my list and see how it will fit in….

Who’s driving this thing????

By Talmar Anderson

Originally published Feb. 28, 2013

There needs to be a driver for this journey you are on building your business.  Believe it or not, it does not necessarily need to be you.  Some owners are more like the fuel…they come up with exciting options and opportunities to grow the business and get the engine revving.  Some owners are like the map, forward looking and pointing to all the places they can see the company reaching.  Some owners are like the gunk in your oil, slowing down progress by focusing on the minutiae.

A driver will focus people in a meeting to the agenda but also track new ideas for future follow up.  A driver will detail how exactly a company will deliver the new product by drafting procedures and assigning responsibility to action items.  A driver will continue searching for new tools and possible contacts to further the company’s agenda when stuck.

If you are an owner that is not a driver, recognize it and start looking for the driver for you.  If you are smaller and not ready for an operations type ( COO, Director or Office Manager) consider working with consultants.  Maybe it is topic specific (I stall on my marketing efforts without my marketing team driving me to keep it up!). Maybe you need a staff person that will keep you focused.  Maybe they need to sort out the details.  But the key to a good driver is not just paying attention to all the details but keeping the foot to the gas.

We must keep progressing to grow and succeed.

Know YOUR team now!

By Talmar Anderson

Originally published Feb. 14, 2013

Hopefully you have made (or plan to make during your growth) strong staff hires so your team can help you grow and succeed….but that’s not what we are talking about today.   Employees come and go but who will be with you the whole journey…from inception to “sayonara”? Who can YOU turn to for advice? Let’s fast forward your business 8 years from now (imagine Wayne’s World wavy hands here).  Or maybe this will be in the not-to-distant future.

When you are ready to consider purchasing a building instead of leasing an office space will you have a financial advisor that can guide you on how much (if any) of your own money you want to draw upon to fill in the holes of a business loan without jeopardizing your rainy day funds?  Will you have an attorney that knows the whole story from the beginning when Joe Schmoe insists he had that idea, like six months, before you started your business?  Will your accountant be able to help you quickly calculate the value when Mr. Money Bags comes in with a blank check to buy your business?  These are a very small sample of possible immediate needs in your business life.

Having a team that knows your history and your dreams can make all the difference in the outcome.  These moments are often driven by deadlines and HIGH emotions!  If you have a friend (because you will get to know these people that well) that is in the industry AND knows your hopes and challenges you can get the advice that will ensure you end up in the best possible situation.

So the next time you are out networking, give a CPA some love.  Hold back on the shark jokes with a new attorney and give that financial advisor the time of day.  Go get a coffee, a drink or break some bread.  Find the right person for you and start forming the winning team that is looking out for YOU.  The worse that could happen is you make another friend.