Do you know how the Flying Wallendas got started? The patriarch, Karl, answered an ad for a “hand balancer with courage”. Sometimes running a small service business seems like walking a tightrope straddling a giant bar. (And for someone that doesn’t like heights, that analogy is pretty scary.) A small business is, by definition, imbalanced. Because 80% of all small businesses (i.e. defined as businesses with under 100 employees) have fewer than 10 employees and as many as 50% have fewer than 4 employees.In most small businesses, the owner(s) usually sell, serve customers and do all the support work, creating an imbalance. It can be a struggle trying to determine what area of the business to focus on: sales, operations or support.
In an article by Chaitanya Sagar who writes a lot for American Express, he describes how to keep that balancing act in check.
• Create an On-Demand Model – find other companies who deliver similar services and establish a referral/reciprocal work agreement. It helps not only with cash flow, but with time and resource allocation.
• Hire the True Multi-Taskers – Especially in these times, it’s critical to have employees that can effectively handle more than one activity.
• Outsource Non-Core Activities – Find quality providers who want to and can understand your business and support you.
While the Wallendas didn’t use a safety net, it’s critical for small business to create their own utilizing smart practices.
Many of our clients jumping into the social marketing mixer ask us where to draw the line in being too “hard sell” on their social networking sites. I recently found a great post that I believe most people can relate to. In his “Web Ink Now” blog, David Meerman Scott encourages readers to treat social networking sites as if they’re cocktail parties. In other words, to interact with others in the same way you would at a face-to-face industry mixer. To make his point, he asks questions like these:
• Do you go into a large gathering filled with a few acquaintances and tons of people you do not know and shout “BUY MY PRODUCT”?
• Do you go into a cocktail party and ask every single person you meet for a business card before you agree to speak with them?
• Do you listen more than you speak?
We’ve all been cornered at a party to hear about Mary Kay or the sure-fire investment deal and have learned to do the duck and dodge. That approach online is just as likely to make you an unpopular guest or host. So before you say something on Facebook or elsewhere, ask yourself if you’d say it to the person standing next to you. Unless you’re really obnoxious, a “yes” means it’s probably okay.
Recently CNN had a report about what people consider luxury versus necessity with often surprising answers – high speed Internet is considered a necessity but a dishwasher is a luxury product. In analyzing three weeks of May lead reports for a client we posed this question to ourselves about some of their products and services against one of my favorite books about why people buy – “Rapid Response Advertising” by Geoff Ayling. Here are just a few reasons to try on yourselves:
• To make more money (Had to use that one on the CPA to justify the sweet new iMacs.)
• To look younger (Just look at all those skin creams that cost as much as a dishwasher!)
• To be trendy (Who knew a cross between a plastic spatula and a gardening shoe would be such a hit?)
• To escape or avoid pain (Reason #16 why bars should never go out of business.)
• To feel safe (Hey, who wouldn’t feel safer driving around in a Hummer?)
• To satisfy an impulse (How else do the blinking rosebud manufacturers stay in business?)
• To become more fit and healthy (Is this why the ab machine, dumbbells, giant rubber bands and deflated exercise ball are still under the bed?)
• To protect their reputation (3 initials: B-M-W)
• To escape stress (Where can I buy some more?)
• To buy friendship (So I guess it IS for sale.)
There isn’t really one industry that can capitalize on all of the 51 reasons people buy, but if we can define and apply just a few, it makes winning over customers’ hearts and wallets just a little easier.