Month: July 2019

Dreams – The Symbiotic Marketing Why

On my way to see a client this week, I noticed a store that seemed to be a staple in the area had closed. I don’t know why it closed and mentioned it to my client to see if they knew why it had closed. My client didn’t know, and I stated that this bothers me to my very core. If a business closes due to owners choosing to go on a different path, or a business has simply run its life and the owners are ready to retire, I can accept that and hope that they celebrate their time in business. But closing because they aren’t getting the traffic needed to keep afloat, that’s something that hurts me to my very core.

I’ve worked for more small businesses than corporations. I have been with individuals who have had to make those very difficult decisions and to see their dreams of what it could be diminish. Several years ago, I was working for a small restaurant. The location wasn’t great but the food that was prepared was ahead of its time in the area, healthy, fresh, and well prepared. At the time, more and more chain restaurants were coming to the area and they had lines out the door to get a seat while we were hoping for a few reservations for dinner to see if it warranted bringing in a second wait staff for the evening or cutting the early person’s shift.

As time progressed, the staff could see the writing on the wall, but we all stayed on until the last bittersweet night. Yes, we cried our last night being open but more importantly, we laughed and enjoyed our time together. What had been created in that small space was more than a restaurant ahead of its time at a less than ideal location, but a family and we still are family. Those who worked there fully understand that it was more than just a business. I am often reminded that “the phone goes both ways Stephy” when I say that we should spend more time together.

That’s what having a small business is, it’s creating a family of chosen individuals supporting a dream. When we patronize these businesses, we are supporting their dream. There are many reasons why a business may close but closing because they couldn’t make it hurts me to my very core. That’s why I started Symbiotic Marketing and that’s my overall goal. If I can help keep one business from that painful decision by assisting with marketing and getting the word out there about the amazing things that business has, I am living my dream.

All businesses have a why, because let’s be honest, leaving stable pay, benefits, all that good stuff is not easy, and many would say it’s foolish but there’s a reason behind that decision. This is my why. My son, years after the restaurant closed, mentioned to me while driving that he was concerned about another restaurant. He told me he was worried that he may close too and that he felt we don’t do enough for small businesses and that seven-year-old was right. We don’t, but I chose to try because in the end, that’s all we can do. Try to help as much as we can because small businesses are the backbone to our community but more importantly, it’s someone’s dream.

What is Marketing?

Marketing, it’s an ambiguous term and while not sales, it’s closely tied with sales. I have heard many misconceptions about marketing: it’s only meant for larger businesses, people will feel they are being “sold,” and “I’m not good at it, so I don’t need it.” That last one gets me to my very core. Why? Because marketing is for all businesses! So, what is marketing?

Marketing at its core is your cheerleader. It lets people know about your business and what you have going on, and let’s be honest, you have some pretty cool stuff going on. Marketing includes all the different ways you get the word out about what you’re doing. This includes networking groups, advertising, social media, visual representations of your business and the core of this is your customer. What are you doing for your customer? How are you different from other individuals in the area who offer similar goods or services? Your mission and vision for your business should also be tied with your marketing.

Before discussing points your marketing should hit, I want to discuss sales. Yes, that dirty word, sales. Sales first and foremost does not need to be Glengarry Glen Ross style of dirty, whatever it takes, get it done, always be selling mentality. Just like how everyone poops, it’s necessary to running a business. Sales is tied to your rates and your budget as well as your client’s budget. Sales feeds your business; it’s how you make money. Sales comes from your marketing. Marketing may employ a sales tactic known as a call to action campaign. However, be careful to limit these. There’s only so many giveaways you can offer before it starts to diminish your value.

 

Here are some key points to help you with your marketing:

  • Your message should be clear and concise. From print materials to digital platforms, your overall message should be easily understood. Potential customers do not need to know or want to know every detail about your offering. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
  • Know your audience. Who do you want to reach? Where are they located? Having an idea of who you want to reach with your marketing will help you in the long run. Otherwise, you may be throwing time and money at a wall to see what sticks.
  • Your message should have a sense of continuity across all advertising platforms. This includes your website, social media, print materials, and any advertising you do. Having a logo, slogan, or general message helps.
  • Be aware of color. The use of color color is an integral part of your marketing but can easily distract from your message. Would you use a florist whose primary colors are brown and black? Likewise, the overuse of color or patterns distracts the eye from text.
  • Follow the 80/20 Rule. In this, only 20% or less of your advertising should be an ask for sale. The majority of your time should be focused on getting the word out about what you do and how you help solve a problem.

 

As always, I hope this has helped you and I look forward to answering another question next week!

The Wall

Have you ever felt the pain and anxiety of waiting for docs to open on your computer because you just had to write something out? That fear of waiting for the computer to turn on and load would lead to forgetting some portion of what you wanted to write? Maybe it’s just me, sitting here watching the computer load for what seemed like an eternity. What’s so important that I felt the absolute need to get it out? My business plan.

But before I get into that, I want to tell you what brought this feeling up. The other day, I attempted to play Halo with my son. I say attempted because I was raised during the time that gaming systems were thought to make children complacent and lazy. And I certainly was not allowed to have one. So, I did what every child who wanted a gaming system who wasn’t allowed to did, I visited friends that had one and played on theirs. Unfortunately, I lived in a very small town and there weren’t a lot of children my age. Needless to say, I am not a gamer.

In my attempted to play with my son, he taught me how to get into vehicles and how to operate them, but I had one glaring setback. I didn’t know what the buttons on the controller did, what they were called, or where they were. I spent most of my time looking at the sky or the ground while trying to move myself forward.

Once I started to figure it out, he traversed ahead of me, telling me to follow him and I followed the little arrow designating his character until I simply couldn’t any more. My character wouldn’t move and I couldn’t figure out why.

I couldn’t move because I was facing a wall, but I didn’t realize I was facing a wall. I was looking ahead to get to him and not looking at where I was going. Now you may be asking, how does this relate to my business plan? Because I haven’t updated my business plan in over a year. I know I need to, I know I should, but I haven’t done it yet.

I talk about business plans with clients, and the importance of writing one. I compare it to a road map, you know your starting point and your destination, and over short distances, you can get away without planning too much if at all. But longer trips, that takes planning. Several years ago, my husband and I took our first big road trip. We decided on a whim to drive west to see the Rocky Mountains. We knew we wanted to drive and figured it would be fun to camp along the way. In that journey, we had to plan. Where were we going to stay? How long could we drive at a time? How long would we go on this journey? How much should we budget? In that plan, we researched, discussed, and prepared for our journey.

Not long after this trip, I wrote my first business plan and I found the similarities striking. I was setting forth a plan for the business I was going to create. It was fun and exciting, thinking of the business I wanted to start and why. I enjoyed some of the research I did and created handwritten notes to keep myself on track. But then it became real, and fear started to set in. As I typed, I realized that my business plan didn’t really look like a business plan, more of thoughts typed into a computer and thus easier to organize, but not a true business plan that I could take to a bank for funding.

I sought out assistance from SCORE and SBDC to assist with different parts of the plan, specifically the financial portion which I knew would be the weight of the plan and the determining factor of whether or not this was a viable business. One year later, I sat down to revise the business plan to plot out the future of my business, and at that time, not a lot had changed. My goals at startup had not yet been met, but I was still trying. As the year progressed, I decided to change services offered and how the rate plans were organized based on what I was hearing from clients and business owners. While this was well received, I did not update my business plan. And here I am a year later, with handwritten notes and figures, fearing to type it all out again.

My business plan is my wall. I know where I want to go and am figuring out what buttons do what and where they are. And yet, I am stuck standing at this wall trying to figure out why I can’t move forward. I’m going to run some figures, update that spreadsheet and start typing out my findings. I am going to find my way around that wall.

Pushing Outside of the Comfort Zone

I am not the best at talking about myself and I haven’t figured out why quite yet, but I know it’s an issue many small business owners struggle with. We have a tendency to diminish ourselves while promoting our businesses. This is one of the most counterintuitive things we can do because why we are in business for ourselves and why we are so passionate about what we do is closely tied with ourselves! You decided to start your own business for a reason. I know this because I started my business for a reason and it’s that reason that keeps me going. That passion deep inside me has and continues to keep me working even when times are tough and when I don’t know the answers. But yet, I still don’t like to talk about myself.

A dear friend of mine says that when we break out of our comfort zone, we are able to grow. I have grown as my business has grown, but I’m much happier talking about what my business is now doing and what we are working on. We have really exciting stuff happening at Symbiotic Marketing and I get ridiculously excited with each project, each goal achieved, each and every single business we assist. Seriously, incredibly, redonkulously excited.

That’s me, hiking in Colorado, one of my favorite places to visit!

Yet, I dismiss my own hand in this excitement. I tell myself that I’m just doing what I enjoy, because I really do enjoy every single minute of what I’m doing. I woke up this morning and decided I’m done waffling, I’m done thinking it over, I’m going to do this. I’ve known for months that I wanted to start a blog for Symbiotic Marketing, but oh gheez, where to start, what to write about, what if no one wants to read it, what if, what if, what if…fluttered around my head. Those months of thinking and wondering…hell, questioning myself, I’ve come to realize that I respond well to questions.

With this, I encourage you to ask your questions, about Symbiotic Marketing, about marketing in general, about sales, about the things that keep you up at night (because they probably keep me up at night too). I will be posting about two questions that I’ve responded to recently via social media: how our rate plans are put together and my diverse background. These two are in draft stages, so please look out for them and please ask your questions!

 

Stephanie

July 6, 2019

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