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Operating As A Business Vs. A Hobby

Facebook likes to remind us of where we have been and what we have lived through. I, like most others, receive a notification almost daily, letting me know that I have “memories” with others. The greater the frequency of posting, the more memories Facebook has to share with me. Earlier this week, Facebook reminded me of a milestone that I had forgotten about; I have been a member of the community for 12 years. That struck me as both odd, because I thought I had been on for longer, and intriguing. I distinctly remember when users had a “wall” to write messages to others and wait for what seemed like an eternity for a response because back then, smartphones were primarily Blackberry devices with a few Palm and Windows devices. They were meant for sending and receiving emails, keeping notes, and if you were really glutton for punishment, you could try to access the internet but if you weren’t in a large city, you were left waiting or out of luck. Today, most of us carry tiny computers in our pockets that we happen to call a phone.

In an increasingly digitized world, our options may seem limitless.

Having continuous access to the internet has changed how we live and subsequently, how we do business. Today, I have many people who ask how to make social media work for them. There are individuals out there who are making serious money online, from videos of users playing games to creating their own brand online through tutorials, it can be a very lucrative business. While it is no secret how powerful the internet and social media can be, there can also be a blending of lines between what constitutes a hobby and a business in the eyes of the individual, the consumer, and the IRS. The difference between the two can be striking and it is imperative to understand the difference, especially during tax time.

According to the IRS, the distinction considers your intent and activity toward the operation. While there are nine key questions to ask yourself, from are you operating in a businesslike manner and keeping accurate books and records to are you looking to can you expect a profit from the activities. It can be a bit ambiguous and may be difficult to determine if you are operating as a hobby or a business when you are in the trenches, especially in the first years.

Are you operating as hobby or a business?

While it can be easier than ever to take something you enjoy and make it into a business, actually operating as a business takes a lot more time and effort. If you enjoy making or creating something and just want a little extra money in your pocket, that is a hobby. Hobbies are meant to bring us pleasure, to feed us mentally, spiritually, and yes, even sometimes physically. Operating a business can be draining in ways you may not have even imagined possible, wearing multiple hats that require completely different modes of thought, long hours, and the ever-present stress. The highs can be the highest you have ever felt, and the lows, can be downright dark. Asking yourself and addressing the hard questions is key to operating a business. While there is never a guarantee that your business will succeed, here are some key markers that you will want to ensure are in place to increase your chances of success:

  1. Do some market research first. Market research may sound daunting, but it is as simple as going online and searching for the type of business you want to create. Look to see how many businesses in your field are already in the area. Too many or too few may be red flags. Some competition is a good thing, too much and you may be setting yourself up for failure. Additionally, if what you are looking to provide is new or unknown to the area, it may be because it is not needed or wanted by the general population. Take a greater look at what you are wanting to provide and ask yourself if there is a true need in the area you want to market to. While you are researching, it is also a good idea to look at those in your field in the area that you would consider to be successful. Look at what they have digitally – website, social media, etc., check to see what organizations that company belongs to, and how they present themselves. This information will come in handy later.
  2. File your business name with state and federal government. This may be a DBA (Doing Business As) when working under a fictitious name (any name other than your given name) or an LLC (Limited Liability Company) for the state you reside in. While there are pros and cons of each depending on the state you live in, there will be a cost associated with either. Both can be done independently or with the assistance of an attorney, depending on the complexity of the business you want to create. Additionally, you will want to file your business name with the IRS. This will provide you with your Employer Identification Number which you will need to open a bank account in the business name, file and report taxes, and even apply for business loans or other outside funding.
  3. Create a business plan. Many transitioning between hobby to business see this as an extra step that is not necessary. While the complexity of your business plan highly depends on you and the business you want to create, everyone who is looking to start a business should have a plan. Having a vision of what you want to create is wonderful and you will want to hold onto that vision because running a business is hard work. As time progresses, that vision may become harder to see, seem more difficult to attain as I discussed in last week’s blog. Your plan will help you see where you are currently and help you find the steps needed to get you to where you want to be. Even the most basic of plans should contain your mission (your business why) and vision (where you see your business growing), how your business will operate (what will you offer, will you expect to hire employees, where will it be located), projected financial reporting (estimate expenses to be higher and profits to be lower than expected), and your marketing strategy (how will you let others know about your business). This should be reviewed yearly to compare how your business is operating against what you planned so you are able to adjust and change as necessary. While a business plan can be typed and many pages long, it does not need to be. Some find just putting thoughts to paper helps in seeing the bigger picture. Just be sure to write it out in some way so you can go back and review when needed.
  4. Create a marketing strategy. I cannot express this enough. People need to know about what you are offering to be able to decide on whether to make a purchase. Marketing does not need to be expensive. Social media accounts are free and managing an account only costs your time. Additionally, many platforms allow for the ability to schedule posts on business pages/accounts. We highly recommend spending time monthly on scheduling posts that relate to your specific business and that engage your community. Additionally, go back and review those businesses you found in your marketing research that you felt were successful and see where they focused their marketing efforts. While we may all be at different stages, this will help you with ideas of how you want to present yourself and your business. Keep in mind that the businesses you believe are successful often have the same issues you are facing or have faced similar issues.
  5. Look for opportunities to grow professionally and personally. There are many organizations that will assist your professional growth. SCORE and SBDC are non-profit organizations that assist small business owners with a variety of processes from starting a business to operating a successful business. These organizations have volunteers and mentors in the field who are ready and willing to help. Chambers and other similar organizations offer learning series on specific topics all focused on helping the small business owner succeed. There are webinars, online classes, and even support groups all focused on professional development. While there are many opportunities to grow professionally, personal development is often forgotten or dismissed. To have the mental fortitude to be able to manage a business, personal development must be addressed as well. Your views and attitude will reflect in your business. If you are feeling desperate and uncertain, you are presenting yourself, and your business in the same light. Growth and change are expected in business. The same growth and change should also be expected in your personal life as well. Ask yourself the hard questions and address those issues when they present. These are learning opportunities.

Incorporating Change

No matter where you are in the process of running a business or are looking to take your hobby and create a business, these steps can be taken at any time and will help determine the success of your journey. There are many reasons why a business may fail but having proper steps in place, planning for the unexpected, and ensuring that you are set up through the proper channels will help in the long run. Because that is what running a business is, an endurance run. Anything worth your time, money, and effort is. Treat it as such and when you start to question why you did this, you can look back at everything you have accomplished so far and remember, you’ve done it once. You can do it again. You got this. I believe in you. As always, we are here to help if you need because we firmly believe in your dream and want to see you succeed.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to check back next week and every Friday for another topic all focused on you, the small business owner, for more tips, tricks, ideas, and lessons I have learned along the way to help you find opportunities in dark places and find the success you are dreaming of.

Your Most Valuable Asset

Last week, I discussed creating a marketing mindset and some tips to help you along the way. This week is all about your most valuable commodity…and no, it’s not capital. Having enough funding is important in not only starting but also maintaining your business but having proper funding does not define a successful business. There are plenty of businesses operating today that started as nothing but a dream and the desire of the proprietor driving it. These businesses are run by individuals who work part time or full time to be able to make their dream come to life, or maybe they have decided to go all in and cash out what little savings they have to follow their dream. While funding is a necessary step to owning and operating a business, often our most valuable asset is one overlooked, time.

Time is by far the most valuable asset of any business owner and the quality of the time you spend on your business outside of operations defines your opportunity for long-term success.

Running a business is no joke. There’s a reason why as a company grows, its workforce grows with it. It takes a lot of manpower to reach a finished product from large scale operations to building a website. It takes time and a lot of hard work. As small business owners, we entered this world, star eyed and dreamy of what we could create and what we wanted to build. We have a beautiful picture in our minds of what we could do but over time, that picture becomes darker. Darker because we spend less time focusing on what is needed to make what we envisioned happen and more time on details of everyday operations. We become frustrated because that picture is harder to see and focus that frustration that bothers us most.

In my first year, I often told others to not look at my own marketing, but to look at what I was doing for my clients. Talk about shooting myself in the foot! A marketing agency telling potential clients and referral partners to not look at her own marketing, what hope did I have for long term success with this attitude? I did this because keeping up with my clients’ accounts took time, more time that I had considered. I hadn’t fully thought out the finer details in how I wanted this portion of my business to operate and I was frustrated. So frustrated that I did not maintain my own online appearance, and this was embarrassing.

I thought I was making the situation better. I wasn’t.

To tackle the frustrating aspects of the business, I started seeking help, direct help, now help. I found a bookkeeper who was willing to trade services because a business who tells people to not look at their work doesn’t get a lot of business. Which took a huge headache off my plate but finding a groove that worked for us took time. I started looking for contract help so I could focus on my immediate issue, resolving that problem I had created but finding people who shared in my vision and were able to help, also took time. And it wasn’t always fun during that time. It was often discouraging because all I had was my dream and what I had was more of a hobby than a business and life continued to evolve around me.

Shortly after a year in business, my husband wanted to follow his own dream. While I had my reservations, who was I to say no? Yes, it would be difficult but I had a year under my belt and I had been working on some of the finer details in the business, working out the kinks if you will and I felt confident that we could make it work. We just needed to make some adjustments in lifestyle.

As time wore on, that picture I saw started to flutter.

Through mounting pressures, particularly related to financing, we found that we were both struggling to see our pictures. Could we do this? Was this even feasible? Had we made a terrible mistake? These thoughts swirled in our minds and distracted us from the more valuable use of our time, addressing the issue at hand. Once again, the details clouded my view of the larger picture but this time rather than slowly changing, the clouds came in waves.

My website went down for a period of about two weeks as I transitioned over to a more budget friendly option. While I knew this would hurt my marketing, I also knew that I could bounce back from it in the way that I handled it. If I had looked at the transition as a point of frustration, “I can’t believe I need to spend time on this,” the site would have been down for longer because I would have put it off. Instead, I viewed it as a means of getting back to my why behind my dream. I reviewed the site I had and how it lined up with my overall vision of my business and found that the business had evolved beyond how that site portrayed. During this time, the picture was clear and sharp. I knew what I wanted to do and took the time to do it while learning more about the contractors I had brought on and finding how we would make the relationship work.

But in these times of clear vision of what I wanted and how I was going to get there, I had moments of darkness. My phone, tablet, and computer all needed to be upgraded around the same time because I had not anticipated the extent of the increased use would burden the devices, all of which took time. Time to research what I really needed and what would be a good investment long term.

It wasn’t just the time spent; it was the quality of the time spent that mattered most.

Today, I have a clear picture in my mind again of what I want Symbiotic Marketing to be and am actively taking steps to make it happen because of the time I spent focused on the business. Yes, I still feel frustrated by details but shifting focus from what frustrates me to what opportunities does this have and how do I want to handle this has helped significantly. If I had allowed those frustration to continue to cloud and darken my vision, I am not sure how long I would have been able to continue. It’s a distressing feeling when you’ve lost the vision that you had for your business. I had moments where I was literally stumbling in the dark, hoping the other shoe would not drop and this was all for not. But those flashes of what could be kept coming and I held onto them, they kept me going.

When it comes down to it, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many frustrations you need to overcome, it all comes down to time and how you spend your time. The more time you are able to focus on your business, looking at that beautiful picture in your mind and envisioning how you are going to create it, the more it will come to fruition but it takes time and action. Both of which are entirely within your control.

Check back next week, when I will discuss steps you can use now to take your hobby and make it your business.

Creating a Marketing Mindset

The statistics of owning a small business are not for the faint of heart. The Small Business Administration (SBA) states that 50% fail within the first five years, 66% in the first ten years, and only 25% make it fifteen years or more. While there are many reasons for this, marketing always seems to be in the top five. It’s a bit of an ambiguous term, that includes a wide range of activities from creating print materials such as brochures and business cards to how you present your business and yourself in public and online. Marketing can be closely tied to sales but is different from sales in the approach. While both are needed, you will want to be conscious of the two and how they differ so that you can set yourself apart from the crowd and raise your chances to come out on top.

A marketing mindset is one of growth and prosperity. While there are many things needed, such as a logo that represents your brand visually, you will also want to focus on your brand’s presence. Whether your business caters to the general public or businesses, to succeed, your business should present that it is successful and will be around in the next year or years. This can be incredible difficult to do when you are trying to make ends meet.

Are you creating a sense of prosperity or scarcity?

Often, many find themselves falling back on a sales mindset to offset this issue. Creating a fast turn around sale or discount can help bridge a gap in the budget or help those on the fence jump for your goods and services but you should only use this tactic sparingly. Additionally, pushing customers to engage with your product, such as continually asking for a meeting so you can sell them on what you do or sell can be off putting for the customer and present that there may be a reason why you are so pushy; a reason you are trying to counterbalance.

Relying heavily on sales and sales tactics or not having proper marketing techniques in place, will make people wary of purchasing your goods or services. It presents that your business may be in trouble or may not be in it for the long haul. But it does not need to be that way. What’s great about marketing is that it can be adjusted and changed at any time but there are a few things to keep in mind when changing your marketing strategy:

  1. Listen to Your Customers: Your customers will tell you what they want and need. Rather than complaining that you are not able to reach them, ask yourself what you can do to reach them. Sometimes what they are asking is not something you currently offer but could possibly in the future. Explore what your customers are asking for and see if you can work it in to your current strategy. Sometimes adding in a particular type of good or service can help build your business and brand in ways you did not foresee.
  2. It Takes Time: In any marketing endeavor, it will take time. Time for people to realize the change, time for people to learn about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and decide if it is right for them. We tell our clients that it takes a good 3 to 6 months before changes start to happen, and even then, they may be small changes and it can take 6 months to a year to see how those changes are reflected within your business.
  3. Small Steps Make For Big Changes: It’s the little things that matter so ensuring you are updating your digital presence including any social organizations you belong to make a big difference. If you are finding that your business is not forefront in your friends and family’s mind or they are not active on your digital footprint, ask yourself if you could be doing more. While it may seem like a little thing to do when you are looking at a bigger issue, remember that creating a sound structure to build on is key.
  4. Marketing Should Reflect Your Values: Everyone who chooses to go down this arduous path does so for a reason, and for many of us, it is following a dream. Sharing that dream with others builds on your brand and provides a plan for your structure. Ask yourself why you started your business and how can you show that in your marketing. This shows your intent, your reasons why you keep going, and builds trust in what you are doing.
  5. Be Where Your People Are: This may be different for every business, so listening to and understanding your customers is key. While most customers are online, you will also want to ensure you are present in person as well. This can include attending networking meetings, learning series, community and service groups. Any time you are in public, you are representing your brand so finding organizations that support what you are doing and actively engaging with those groups can be a great way to increase your awareness. Think outside of the box, perhaps there is an organization that you can support through volunteering.
  6. Marketing Does Not Need to be Expensive: This is a common misconception for many business owners. Hope is not a marketing strategy. You need a plan of action, but it does not mean that with it, you need to break the bank. The most valuable thing you have is your time. Using your time effectively, from ensuring your digital presence is updated to volunteering your time to sit on a board are all means of marketing your business without costing you a dime.
  7. Think Big and Allow Yourself to Dream: When you find yourself stuck or spinning your wheels, it’s hard to break free. Running a business is hard work. At times, it feels as if you have the proverbial quiet toddler and you are bracing yourself for the havoc that may ensue. If you are always on edge and waiting for the shoe to drop, it will. Remind yourself why you started this, reflect on your values, and be grateful for where you are right now, because you have come a long way no matter how young your business is. Ask yourself where to go from here, how you can improve what you already have built, and yes, allow yourself to dream about what could be.
  8. Plan Your Execution: This is imperative to a change in marketing because it all comes down to presentation. Yes, sometimes change comes at us hard and fast but it does not have to appear that way. Planning out the details needed to support your change helps build on what you already have and the improvements you want to implement. Having a plan not only gives you a time frame to work within but also provides smaller, achievable goals to help you feel more successful during the transition. This not only helps you feel more secure, but also makes others feel more secure when working with you.

    Set Yourself Apart From The Crowd

Maintaining a marketing mindset, one of abundance, growth and prosperity is not easy, especially when you are focused on the daily tasks needed to operate your business. But it is necessary to maintaining what you have built and project for the future. While a sales mindset can be tempting, sales are meant to be short-term and scarce. When you rely on sales too heavily, you present that your business may also be short-term, your funds may be scarce, and that your business may not beat the statistics. Additionally, too many changes in too short of a time frame, can also have the same effect. If you have found yourself struggling to find your footing in today’s fast paced world, ask yourself how you are presenting yourself and your business. You may have lost the marketing mindset in the details of day to day but you can change your mindset, your approach, and yes, your business’s success by shifting focus from what is to what could be.

New Year, New Updates – Enhanced Services

There’s a saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Education is key to so many aspects of our life. From the ability to decipher the written word to a direct correlation with poverty and crime rates, we, as a society need education. What’s wonderful is that everyone has the capacity to learn. We are born learning! Look at a baby and you can see it is looking around, listening, touching, tasting, smelling and yes, learning about the world around them. As we grow older, our education needs increase and teachers, coaches, and mentors begin to enter our lives. We look to family and friends for help with decisions of all shapes and sizes from what to make for dinner to should I quit my job? When we ask for advice or assistance, we’re really looking to others for perspective and guidance. Which is what education at its foundation is.

Education is a hand up rather than a hand out. It feeds you for a lifetime. In writing these blogs, it has been my goal that you have found a hand up, that you have learned something you can take with you. Through this, I have learned a great deal about you, the small business owner. I have learned about your dreams, your struggles, and your successes and am eternally grateful for the time we spend together from a single meeting to years of service. Symbiotic Marketing would not be where it is today with you.

In our three years, Symbiotic Marketing has grown and changed from a social media management company to a marketing and advertising agency and along the way added and expanded services to better meet the needs of the small business owner. We added photography services, website design and development, graphic design and more. But something was missing, a key component that Symbiotic Marketing was built on, education.

You see, the quote on the back of the brochures, is not by chance. I firmly believe that everyone is a genius because we all have the capacity to learn and grow. Which is why I am pleased to officially announce the first of what I intend to be a greater commitment to educating and empowering the small business owner in marketing and business growth, social media management coaching.

Social Media Management Coaching

Social Media Management Coaching will include a one-hour meeting via video chat or in person (depending on distance and availability) where we will review your social media insights together and formulate a plan for you to reach your target audience. You will also receive a written report of our discussion. As each individual and circumstance differs, we have added social media management coaching to our Basic Pre-Pay Plan so that you may choose how many meetings you need based on your comfort level. After each meeting, you will be asked if you would like to schedule a meeting for the following month. Our focus is on your specific needs, comfort level, and to give you a hand up. With this, if additional time is needed, the hourly rate would then apply. This enhancement to the Basic Plan begins Monday, January 13, 2020.

I am ridiculously excited for this announcement because it is the first of what I intend to be several expanding and enhancing of services for 2020, all focused on giving you, the small business owner and hand up when needed. I can’t wait to see what you can do.

Resolutions

Many look to the new year as a time of renewal and change. We make resolutions to be more positive, healthier, to save more, to work on those aspects of ourselves we would like to change, and companies take advantage of this. How many commercials have you heard or watched about getting into shape or cooking healthier meals, losing weight? It’s common knowledge that we look to the new year as a time to resolve to work on ourselves. However, it is also common knowledge that by the end of the January, those gym memberships aren’t being used as frequently and that diet has long since lost its luster. Why do we do this to ourselves?

When we fail to plan, we are planning to fail

Often, it is due to lack of planning. As a friend says, “When we fail to plan, we are planning to fail.” This is key not only to us as individuals, but especially as a business, for us to be able to see success in the long run. Running a successful business is an endurance run, and there will be times when things run smoothly and times when tough decisions need to be made. There will be incredibly frustrating times and incredibly exciting times. But if you don’t have a plan for your business, these times may seem scary and unpredictable. The times when things are running smoothly, you may be waiting for the other shoe to drop and unable to enjoy the ride for what it is. Frequently, unfortunately when we are in this state, we will pull back from activities. While there may be many reasons we rely on when others inquire, it should be noted that when changes are made to downsize your efforts, it sends red flags to others that your business may be faltering.

The great thing about planning is it can be done at any time because we do it all the time. From the household budget to trips we want to take; we are always planning something so why not plan for your business and how you want it to operate?

While it is widely accepted that new year’s resolutions are short term and high turnover, allowing this mindset to follow into your business can be fatal. Owning a business is not for the faint of heart, and to be running your own business, you need to be strong and resilient, but you also need to make intelligent decisions for long term success. When creating a plan, you can prepare for when your business goes through lean times but more importantly, know and appreciate the times when things are going well. By planning, you can make more informed decisions and be more secure in those decisions.

This new year is special because it is not only another year the earth has gone around the sun, but it is also a new decade. This is an exciting time, and many are looking to take the lessons learned from the past year and past ten years and put the knowledge learned into action. This can indeed be a period of great change and growth but only if we allow it to be so. We wish you all the success you allow yourself in 2020! Happy New Year!

Reflections

All marketing takes time, I tell clients it will easily take 3-6 months to see a change, and even then, it may be a small change but small changes lead to big things. We had a client reach out last week, impressed by what we had accomplished for her on one of her accounts. It was an incredible high for me, because she could see a difference. But unfortunately, that high did not last nearly as long as the lows. It’s interesting, isn’t it? This got me thinking, in business, and in life, sometimes our highest highs are outweighed by our lowest lows.

This time of year, is a time when many of us reflect over what happened throughout the past year, myself included. Reflecting back, I can absolutely tell you my lowest low of the past year. But my highest high…that is not as easily determined. It isn’t that I did not have any highs this year, I did. Those times were when I reached goals for myself, my business, and my clients. But that low, it sticks with me. And at times, it haunts me.

I want to go into year three like a three-year-old in a Batman t-shirt

Next week, Symbiotic Marketing turns 3. This is a huge milestone for many businesses because according to the Small Business Association (SBA) only about half of small businesses reach the five-year mark. It’s a scary statistic but I believe in what we are doing and believe we will reach that goal. I want to go into year three like a three-year-old in a Batman t-shirt, confident in what has been built and ready to learn more. But how can that happen if I allow my lowest low to continue to haunt me?

While there may be a whole host of reasons why businesses fail in the first five years, I believe it comes down to the owner’s confidence in what has been built and the ability to learn from mistakes. As a business owner, and as an individual, mistakes are going to happen. It is what we do with them that matters. There’s an anagram that I love, FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Because that is what we are doing and that was certainly what the first three years in business has been for me, learning opportunities.

 

Symbiotic Marketing has changed and adapted from what it was when I first started it to today. The business has grown as I have grown. But that could not have happened if I had allowed the lows in the last three years to question what this business means, not only to myself, but to those who we have been able to help in that time.

Small steps lead to big things

Reflecting back, I can now say that it is more difficult for me to determine the business’s highest high this year because we were able to reach many goals but rather than celebrating them to their fullest, I treated them as check-marks on a to-do list. As opposed to the lowest low, which continues to be at the forefront of my mind. I look at it as a learning opportunity, to do better, to be better. As, one of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” But it takes time. If you are also reflecting and the negatives of the past year outweigh the positives, ask yourself if you are giving the positives the power they deserve and remember that small steps lead to big things.

One final note, Symbiotic Marketing would not be where it is today without you, all our supporters, from clients to family and friends. Thank you for sharing in our dream of helping small businesses find their voice and flourish. We couldn’t be here without you. We wish you a happy and prosperous 2020 and look forward to what the new year and new decade brings.

Building a Website

Most business owners know that having a website is imperative to keep up today however, it’s a much more in-depth project than one may think. While we are able to help you put together a website that showcases your business, we also try to keep within your budget.

There are two main keys to having a website, picking your domain and your Content Management System (CMS) or builder. Your domain is your website’s address. This is a yearly expense, typically at a minimal cost. You can pick up a domain address at a variety of places including Google, Go Daddy, Name Cheap, domains.com and many others. Your domain should relate to your business in some way, such as the name of your company or a shortened version of your business name for consistency and continuity in your brand. You can have a domain without having a website yet, you just want to be sure to pay the yearly fee to keep the domain active in your name. If you lose your domain address, you may be able to retrieve it, but it will most likely be at a higher cost. We recommend if you find a domain name that you like, to purchase it when you find it because it may need to be adjusted or changed completely to remain within your budget.

The CMS or builder is either a monthly or yearly expense depending on the platform you like the visuals of. While we typically work with two main builders, WordPress and Wix, there are many to choose from including: Go Daddy’s Site Builder, Shopify, Squarespace, Website Builder, and Drupal to name a few. While each of these come with a different cost associated with them, the key difference will be the overall look and ease of editing the site. At Symbiotic Marketing, our goal is to create a site that you will be proud of so building your site on a CMS you are comfortable using and like the look of is key.

When looking to have a website built, you will want to ask yourself a few questions before deciding on a CMS that will work for you:

What is the purpose of your site? Is it to sell goods online? Is it to direct individuals to learn more about your services and how to get in touch with you? Do you want to be able to accept payments through your website for goods or services? Understanding how you want your website to perform may narrow your search for the CMS that will work best for you.

Do you need to update the site frequently? This includes adding products to your online store and posting blogs. If you need access to the backend frequently, you will want to use a builder you feel comfortable with using.

Is it more important to you to have something within your budget or something that may be an investment but will last long? You can change your CMS any time you like as your budget increases but remember the time investment spent on building the site. Whether you choose to build the site yourself or have someone else do it, time is our greatest commodity.

We also recommend checking out websites of others in your field to see what their sites include, how they look, and what you like or do not like about those sites. This can help you formulate a plan of how you want your site to look and interact with visitors. From building a website from scratch to updating your site to better suit your business’s needs, determining the CMS that will work best for what you want is an important first step before designing processes can begin.

In the designing process, we prefer to begin with the menu first, that is the number of pages you need or want and the layout of those pages. This may be a simple three to four page menu – Home, About, Goods/Services, and Contact or may include more such as Testimonials, Shopping, Blog, or even pages showcasing your different areas of expertise within your business. The more pages associated with your site; the more time needed to develop those pages for visitors. When designing your site, you will want to ensure it is easy to use for visitors as well as maintaining your brand’s appearance. Remember, the more someone has to continue clicking to get what they want, they are less likely to act so it is best to keep the site clean and easy to use.

Once the site is ready to launch, you will want to connect your domain to the site you have built. This tells the address where to go. You will also need to tell the CMS to publish the page or site you have been working on for it to go live.

When we work with a business to build or update a website, our goal is to create a site that you can be proud of, will work for what you need, and remains within budget however, the cost associated is highly dependent upon the size of the site and what you want it to do. Typically, a website takes 5-10 working hours to design but can easily take longer if you have more to showcase. If you choose to build the site yourself, you may need to allow more time to reach that end result. Remember, building a website is an investment but having a website for your business is almost imperative in today’s society.

Networking And Your Business

Networking. It’s something that as business owners we need to do but we can find all sorts of reasons to push it to the side, time commitments, budgetary concerns, or simply trying to figure out business operations from day to day. It’s a lot and to add in meeting with others to chat, networking can feel like a chore. As an individual with anxiety, networking is a double-edged sword for me. I know I need to get out and talk to people about what we do but actually doing it? That sometimes requires me to go to events I don’t feel like going to because I had a long day or giving myself a pep talk in the car, telling myself that I have the opportunity to meet new and interesting people and can learn about what they do. More often than not, after leaving a networking event, I am glad that I went and at times have a few new business cards in my bag. But the power of networking comes with what you are able to do after the event more than what happens at the event.

Following up with individuals met at networking events is key. This is the beginning of building a relationship because in business, relationships are important. You may meet an individual who does not have a need for what you offer but you can still form a relationship with that person. From this relationship, you may be able to learn things they have found worked in their business that you may be able to use in your own. Likewise, you may find that you have resources that they may not have been aware of. The possibilities are endless when you look beyond the sale. You may even find you have a new friend.

There are a lot of different networking groups to choose from as well. From Chamber mixers to referral-based groups such as BNI, you will want to find a group that works for you. Not all networking groups are created equal and some have member expectations so check out a few meetings before making a decision if the group will work for you and your needs before committing.

Additionally, once you are in a group, evaluate the quality of the networking the group and what you have been able to secure from the group. This is more than just the amount of business you have acquired as a direct result of the networking group. Ask yourself if you could do more to generate interest in what you are doing in your business. Are the members in the group enthusiastic about what they are doing in their businesses? Have you been successful in building relationships with the individuals in the group? Remember, there’s more to networking than getting a sale.

While it feels amazing to be able to connect a direct line from actions you have taken to profits in your business, networking is more than that. When you can form a relationship with other business owners, you are building on your brand awareness, learning about other businesses and how they perform, and forming advocates for yourself and your business. All of which will boost your bottom line when you are consistent and purposeful with your networking.

Using Facebook Groups to Promote Your Business

Whether you should have a Facebook page or group, or both depends on how much you want to interact with your audience. Groups are set up to create more of a community atmosphere whereas a page should be more focused on your branding. Pages are great for getting the word out about your business but can easily become burdened by over posting and people visiting may not be able to find what they need. If you find you are posting too frequently or having others post too much on your page, a group may be a great way to keep your page clean and concise.

Groups are set up for increased communication and discussion between members. This means that any member may post and share their experiences with other members of the group. Creating a group page is great for networking groups to keep in touch and let others know about what is going on. They’re also great to share promotions and special events. But you can also use groups as a tool to promote your business. It all comes down to your sales funnel.

Groups are a great way to maintain your warmer audience in your sales funnel when you have a lot of specials in your business or have a lot of products to promote. Your members are individuals who know about or have used your products or services and want to keep informed about what you are doing and have going on. You will want to encourage the members to post or interact with your posts more on groups than what you will on pages, although that does not mean you can forgo posting on your page. Both are important although they interact with users differently.

Maintaining a group page also means that you will need to post more frequently. Thankfully, you can schedule posts on groups as well as pages. However, you will want to ensure that the posts on your group’s page differs from your business page as you are speaking to a warmer audience. Remember, they already know about you and are interested in what you offer! You may also need to interact with your audience more on a group page and reply to comments or follow up with likes. Depending on the interaction, you may be moving closer to a sale!

Having a Facebook group associated with your page does require a bit more work to keep up but remember, these are people in your sales funnel and need to be worked just as you would in person. Additionally, you may want to share your promotions to other group pages that you belong to. You never know who you can reach through a group page.

Help!

Help, from the Beatles to Papa Roach, bands have sung about it. As business owners, help is certainly something we need. From supportive relationships to genuine help with running our businesses, we cannot thrive without it. I talk to a lot of business owners about how we can help them because that is what this business is built for, to help.

A little over a year ago, I knew I needed help with my business. I knew I do not possess the ability to photograph individuals well. Give me a landscape or a product and I can make my camera see what I want others to see but when it comes to photographing people, I have a hard time creating the same power. So, I reached out for help from a dear friend.

Around the same time, I was looking for help with bookkeeping needs because putting receipts into Quickbooks was something I loathed. I knew it was important and necessary to running the business, but doing it? Oh, I could put that off for an entire month and then scrambled to get caught up. I had several people who offered suggestions, particularly devoting time to it each week but yet, I struggled to do it. So, I reached out to another friend and she helps me with my bookkeeping and helps me focus on it once a week.

Earlier this year, I knew I needed help yet again, this time with managing everything I needed to do for the business and maintaining a presence away from my computer screen. This was a big one for me, because I know that no matter how much I would prefer to stay home and work, I needed to get out and talk to others to maintain the growth of my business. Again, I reached out to friends to see if they knew of anyone who would be willing to take on the challenge.

Help is something we all need and as a business owner, it is integral to the growth and success of our businesses. At Symbiotic Marketing, we are here to help, particularly small businesses. When I started this business, it was my goal to help the small business owner. While there are resources available to help, but when it comes to actually getting the work done, that’s on the owner or comes at a cost many are not able to afford. Let’s be honest, running a business is hard work and often we are left prioritizing what we do over what needs to be done to maintain a successful business.

With the goal of creating marketing services that small businesses can afford, Symbiotic Marketing has grown into what it is today, and I couldn’t be more proud of where we are right now. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the help I received along the way. With that help, this year we have been able to help business owners build brand awareness on social media outlets and increase audience size and quality, build and update websites, create one sheets and other promotional materials, create logos and assist with purchasing promotional products to match the brand, write and post blogs and newsletters, and offer marketing ideas and assistance.

I am excited to see what the next year brings because of the help I have received along the way. I’d love to hear from you, what help have you received? We’re all in this together, let’s help one another along the way.

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