Saturday, November 28, 2009

What I'm thankful for

I have so much in my life to be thankful for, and I hope that there is never a day in my life that I take any of it for granted. But specifically thinking about Bizango, I'm grateful for not only still being in business, but happily so, together with Mark. Despite the rotten economy, the slow months, the endless number of things that can keep a small business owner up at night, the end result is: we're still here doing our thing.

I think survival in business is about not only being good at what you do, and cultivating relationships within your community, but also about persistence, flexibility, creativity and ultimately being happy with what you do. It takes skill (and perhaps learning by trial and error) to balance the compromises you make in business in order to pay the bills, and the choices you make to not compromise your integrity or devalue your work. This balance is never easy, but it helps knowing your limits. Its this knowing what you will and won't do in business, that actually allows you to be confident and to be flexible as to how you achieve success.

Friday, November 20, 2009

thoughts on successful marketing

What a relief to realize that the key to a successful marketing strategy is personal connection.

Whenever I think about Marketing, I feel anxious, like a deer in headlights, or having to do a math problem in front of the class. For me, Marketing has always evoked images of a pushy, well-polished, well-manicured, good smelling, extroverted and ultimately annoying sales person. I’m not any of those things. Thank goodness I’m not pushy, I wish I were more polished and manicured, I don’t think I’m all that bad smelling (despite what my 3 year old says), I’m definitely not extroverted and I sure hope I’m not annoying.

Given my image of what Marketing is, its understandable why I would want to run from it. I’ve never been good at being something that I’m not, so of course any of my sorry attempts at Marketing have probably come off as insincere.

The good news here is that the key to successful marketing is building relationships. Well, if you put it that way, its not so scary, right? Marketing actually starts to feel like something attainable, like something I can actually do and be good at.

Creating trust through honesty and transparency. Listening first. Being responsive. Making an effort to learn more and to find commonality. Working hard at meeting someone’s expectations because you care about the relationship. These are what build relationships, either in business or in life. Why should building relationships in business be any different than in the rest of my life? It may be more comfortable to keep things separate, keep business life and personal life in its own box. But, if running your own business is part of who your are (and I would venture to say that most business owners do feel this way), then it only gets more complicated, not less, to try to keep who you are in business and who you are in the rest of your life separate. Really, its liberating to think that I don’t have to take on a different personality to market my business.

By cultivating relationships and creating trust, I am helping to grow my business too. I’m more likely to buy from the person who takes the time to establish a connection with me (hell, I ended up dating the guy I bought my first car from), then from the super-polished, pushy sales person with their own agenda. Why would my neighbor, or the person I just met at that social networking event, be any different? Just try to imagine selling to yourself. What if you were your own customer? Would you do anything differently? The care and attentiveness you give to someone who you’re genuinely interested in will promote goodness. In the end, they may not buy from you, but they may pass your name on to their friends, or remember you a year later when they do need your services.

Friday, November 13, 2009

technophobe like me

Business owners are either tight on cash or busy. Regardless of how successful we are, we're always watching the bottom line.

Keeping your website current, its true, takes either time or money. Which do you have more of? If money is no object, then you can call up your trusty webmaster (does that word bother anyone else?), request the changes you want made, and hope he can squeeze it in sometime that week. Yes, Master!

Or you can do it yourself. What? You mean, a technophobe like me is supposed to update my own website? Are you crazy? Like, I'm not busy enough trying to do business, going to social networking events, blogging (ok, I've fallen behind on this one!), running a family, having a life...Its easy to understand why updating your website gets pushed down on the endless to-do list.

But don't let it. I can't tell you how many times I visit a site that was last updated a couple years ago. Are they still in business? Is anyone home? Its like going to someone's store where the lights aren't all turned on, or its dusty. You wouldn't let your actual retail space look uninhabited, and you shouldn't let your virtual one either.