Thanks to American Express OPEN for sponsoring this post as part of the Big Break for Small Business program. Visit FaceBook.com to learn more about the Big Break contest. Enter your small business for a chance to win a trip to Facebook headquarters for a one-on-one business makeover and $20,000 to grow your business with social media. See Official Rules for complete details.”
Small businesses have very big challenges. It’s hard to obtain financing. We have limited resources to call upon – hence we’re up until the wee hours of the morning and waking up a few hours later. We have to make decisions about things we know little about (law, real estate, hiring, and more). Often our families are closely tied to our business success or failure.
However, even with these things in mind, I’ve found in building my own business that with technology, brains, innovation, passion, smiles (and a bit of good luck and prayer) small businesses (very small businesses) can do VERY BIG THINGS.
Ramon’s 9 Rules of Business Success outlines 9 of the “non-technology” ways that small businesses can succeed, so I won’t list all the rules here, but I will mention one tip:
Small business owners ask so much of their clients, vendors and employees but they don’t take the time to have a great, positive, smiling attitude when they make a request. Often they’re too serious and not upbeat. Attitudes are infectious. Smile and you’ll infect others positively.
Passion is so important when growing your business. Many of us do have passion for our businesses, but I’ve also come across many business owners who run their business as if they were running a prison, in charge of other prisoners, in a prison. Have a passion and excitement about what you are doing. LOVE what you do. If you don’t LOVE what you do – you’re in the wrong business. Loving your business and passion is not going to make everything perfect, but it will help you advance farther than you are now.
The word “no” is one of the most beautiful words in the English language and many other languages. Why do so many entrepreneurs think the word no is negative or means “no”. “No”, to me, often means – “not at this time”, “not right now”, “maybe later”, “no…to this solution”. All of these scenarios (and more) really mean that you have an opportunity to get a yes. There’s another thing about innovation, it’s about being creative. Maybe you don’t have the $10,000 you need to buy components for a product you are selling. With innovation I wonder if you can get the components you need through another solution.
I’ve been honored to know (and in many cases work with) very smart people – Beth Silver, Adrian Miller, Seth Godin, Yao -hui Hang, Yacov Wrocherinsky, Norm Brodsky and dozens of others. Unfortunately I’ve also come across several business owners who are not too bright – in regard to business savvy. Over the years I’ve read books (not enough), magazines and online content outside of my industry (of tech) to help me know more in areas that I need to know more about. Harvard Business Review, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, including TED Talks video and many other podcasts (such as Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends and John Jantsch Duct Tape Marketing) and so many others have all been very instrumental in giving me ideas and insight to help further grow my business. Much of this “brain food” has helped me learn from the mistakes and successes of others – you must do the same.
In the following points I’ll give short insight into how you can use a variety of technologies to do BIG things with technology
5. Conference Calls
Emails are great and phone calls are better but when you can’t meet in person, video conference calls through Skype, ooVoo or other options let you see the person you are talking to and develop a closer bond. Do it more often. The above image is one of Torrey McGraw interviewing me on Grind and Thrive – via Skype.
6. Customer segmentation
Too many times we dump all of our contacts into an email system and do not take the time to segment our customers based on their buying patterns, customer preferences and etc. Use tools such as BatchBook or InfusionSoft to segment your customers and respond to their needs as individual customers and not just one big segment “customers”
7. Mobile Technology
Today, in the year 2011, with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and apps there is no excuse for any small business to not be as productive out of the office as they are in the office. However, this is NOT possible if you are not leveraging mobile tech tools to make this happen.
8. Mobile Broadband
I’ve been using Verizon Wireless’ MiFi for some years now and has enabled me to get online from just about any location. This means webinars in the car, video conferences in the mall and etc. AT&T and Sprint also have mobile hot spots that you might want to consider for your business.
9. Email Marketing
You’re probably wonder why your email marketing consultant of 5 years has not become a social media guru, over night. Don’t down email marketing – just yet. Email marketing is still one of the most important ways to reach your customers. It goes right to their inbox, and most importantly you own/control the email address. If Twitter shuts down, you can’t communicate with your customers. If your email service provider goes down – just switch (I hope you have a backup copy of your email addresses) providers and start emailing them again.
10. Social Media
Social media is what “everyone’s” using to communicate. Instead of “Tweeting” out your missives think of a strategic way you can better maximize each of the major social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. They are each a bit different in how most people use them and you should respect this difference. Don’t focus so much on “how many” followers you have, but instead first focus on the WHO is following you. If you have “rapid” fans re-Tweeting you, for example, treat them very special and encourage them to be more active.
11. Cloud Computing
Software is great and sometimes you have to use software, especially for processor intensive tasks, like video editing. However, for the most part, pay a relatively small monthly fee and use onlnie software. You’ll only need a web browser and you and your team can access the same software and data from anywhere. I know Amazon.com went down, but still, online software is a great investment.
In the next few points I’ll outline several more ways your small business can do BIG THINGS:
16. Host Teleconferences With Your Employees for FREE using Freeconferencecall.com
(sure, it’s “free” but you’ll build lots of good will and might get some new customers)
17. Make a special offer only for your Twitter followers
18. Bring guest experts in your retail store – to help customers learn more about how to do more with your products or services or the “industry” you serve
19. Host an annual customer appreciation event
20. Remember to say thank you and “do thank you” with special customers, vendors and others in your business. Do thank you means – send them a box of cookies or something beyond thank you
21. Track the news of your customers and vendors in Google Alerts or Twitter and send them a short note with your comments about their news
22. Give your employees lessons about online tools – check out Grovo.com
23. Encourage all your employees to blog. Train them and then unleash them. Dell does – why not you?
24. Refresh your web site on a regular basis. Refreshments can be incremental upgrades or major over hauls.
25. Seek the help of a technology consultant to upgrade your computers, networks and mobile technology. You’ll be surprise at how much more productive you can be with a technology upgrade.
26. Ensure your technology is secure. It only takes ONE hack to put your business OUT OF BUSINESS
27. Don’t Tweet alone – use TweetDeck or HootSuite let others share social media updates
28. Buy a dedicated camera for quick video interviews. I carry around a Kodak Zi8 and a portable microphone everywhere I go. Smartphone cameras are great – but it’s best to save your batter and keep your video on one dedicated device.
29. Blog frequently and informatively. Over time you will get a loyal following and with the right “luck” the media and others will ask you to speak on the topics you blog about