Tag: entrepreneur

WE’RE BACK! And Accepting New Clients!

WE’RE BACK! And Accepting New Clients!

It has been 10 weeks since I’ve sat down to write a blog, and it’s crazy to think that much time has passed! I have had the pleasure of speaking with so many individuals, organizations, and businesses through the COVID-19 season, keeping up with the weekly writing simply became too much for my plate.

With this, I cannot express how grateful I am to have been granted this opportunity to speak to so many people in such a short period of time. I hope that the insight and direction I was able to provide brought clarity to your questions and helped you brave through the storm.

This has been an incredible time for growth for every individual I have spoken with. But with that, I heard time and time again of the entrepreneur’s struggle with Facebook. What’s more, is that most entrepreneurs feel that they are alone in this struggle between personal profiles and business pages. Let me shout this from the roof tops: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I have heard this from every single type of business owner you can imagine, from marketing individuals (yes, us!) to store owners who operate successful business pages. The disconnect is incredible and what’s more, it is having significant effects on our mental health.

Who hasn’t taken a break from Facebook?

This year, this has been compounded by a multitude of factors, but one fact remains. Facebook is where people go for local information. New groups and pages sprung up between February and April with a wealth of activity and engagement. These pages are continuing to reach significant numbers in the local area.

This information is then being shared from these pages to individual profiles. The spread is real, and individual voices are carrying farther than ever before. Yet, I am seeing on my newsfeed that business owners are struggling with how to manage it all. Scheduling tools help with business profiles, but we all have our own personal pages too. It’s a lot, and I’m seeing more and more business owners going dark on Facebook.

I get it. The negativity is overwhelming. The comments and conversations can flow and grow without us even realizing it. We need to get away for a bit. And that’s okay! But entrepreneurs cannot and should not be completely silent on Facebook. Think of your profile as a networking opportunity, it is your spotlight to show how great you are in every single area of your life.

You should get something from your time spent online!

That is why, starting today, Symbiotic Marketing is not only officially accepting new clients, but also offering a new service to help you find your voice on Facebook, Facebook Coaching for Entrepreneurs. This service is geared for the professional in each and every one of us rather than our businesses. While each session is custom tailored to your specific needs and goals, you can expect the following areas to be discussed:

  • How to build your brand without losing your identity
  • How to best use your algorithm for maximize social capital potential
  • How best to confront negativity on your newsfeed
  • What to say on your profile and remain professional
  • Ways to increase your social capital with Groups
  • When to transition your profile to a page
  • Creating personal goals for engagement
  • Finding an identity on Facebook and why you should have one
  • How to find who you are speaking to when you post
  • Effectively using your audience for increased social wealth
  • Speaking to your target audience from your profile
  • And more!

We are very excited about where we are going as a company in 2020, as this is only the beginning of some really cool things coming to Symbiotic Marketing. We’ve spent the last three years showing you what we can do, now we are ready to begin to teach you our ways. One thing is clear, no matter what business you own, the entrepreneur must put themselves first.

Your business may be amazing and do wonderful things, but where would it be without you?

Ladies and gentlemen, we MUST put ourselves first to be able to do the things we love. It was not an easy decision for me to take a break from writing. I love to write and I love to communicate with you! But I have to put my own needs first.

In February, I told a group of women that when the airbags are deployed, we have to put ours on first to be able to help others. I had no idea how true those words would ring in my ears just a few short weeks later. Yes, I shut down paid operations for you, because I could not bring myself to charge for services during the crisis we were facing.

But during that time, I learned a great deal about myself. I found that I have to take care of myself first to be able to care for you. I went dark on Facebook but not because I needed to get away from negativity, but because I was working.

Working on me, working on finding myself and my joy.

While little was shown publicly, those that I worked with have worked hard but the results have been incredible. Individuals have been able to show themselves as leaders in our community simply by posting on Facebook.  As entrepreneurs, we cannot be silent any longer. The winds of change have come.

You should know the percentage of your friends list you are speaking to when you post. You should know your personal reach and engagement figures. You should know who you are speaking to and who you are not. You should be comfortable using your own Facebook. The choice is yours.

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Building a Community During COVID-19

Building a Community During COVID-19

My son’s school, like many others, has sent home enrichment projects for him to complete during his time off (if he and we want) and being the parents we are, have encouraged him to keep his mind active. He’s already excitedly picked out what he wants to do and what topics he wants to focus on and the one he is most excited about this week is building a community.

When it came to this week’s blog post, I was not sure what I wanted to write about, or even if I was going to be able to write about anything. But then I thought about my son’s enrichment project, and what he is working on. It’s perfect for what many of us are finding right now. That our sense of community, the people we interact with and engage with, are still available, although our means of communication has changed.

Communicating Virtually

This week has been filled with Zoom meetings, video chats, messages, and more on social media. We are reaching out and using it more than ever before because that is our primary source of communication with our community. We’re checking Facebook for community updates, where to find eggs, and to keep in touch with our loved ones.

I have looked at pictures from camera rolls – landscapes, flowers, general pictures sharing our lives with one another. I have had friends post unpopular opinions and watched as others commented and laughed. And I am watching as my community, comes together, works together, and is helping one another through what may very well be one of the most difficult times we can imagine. It’s really quite beautiful.

But how do we transition this movement into our business pages? Because that is the ultimate goal from all of this, to stay in business even though how we do business has changed significantly. In a Zoom meeting this week, we discussed how we can support one another personally through this time by focusing on what we are grateful for and what our gifts are. This simple shift in perception can change your audience’s interaction with you on social media quickly during this time and may set you apart when business resumes “normal” operations.

Be Gracious

To begin, ask yourself what you are grateful for. This may be difficult for some, especially if you are stuck in what I call the boot loop of doom. This is when everything sucks, nothing is working the way you want it to, and everything that happens is complicating things further and you are left feeling frustrated, angry, lost, and hurt. Maybe you are crying or have lashed out on someone in your home and now feel bad. It happens. It happens to the best of us. And let’s be honest, we’ve had a lot of shit thrown at us in a short period of time.

Find something you are grateful for, something you are appreciative to have. At a time when many of us are looking at what we have lost, look for what you have gained. Small businesses are starting to gain the appreciation that we have been asking for. Yes, we are in a sucky situation where we may not be sure how to make ends meet and if we can keep employees on, but we have options available to us now that have never been before because we ARE the backbone to our communities. We ARE the support for our economy. We ARE important and everyone is becoming acutely aware, even if they aren’t sure what to do or how to help.

Be Giving

This is where your gifts are important. As a business owner, you have a special gift – your business. You are knowledgeable about your business. You know what you provide, and hopefully who your target audience is. Ask yourself, what can you give to your audience that may help them right now because every single of one us is struggling right now. We are all looking for a bit of solace in the chaos. What can you give? How can you help? What is your gift?

For us, our gift is understanding marketing and social media and how that applies to small businesses. This is why we are hosting an AMA on our page. This is why we are offering to help small business owners without charge for marketing assistance. Because this is our gift to share with our community. From sharing this gift, we have been able to maintain a sense of “normalcy,” continue doing what we love, and most importantly, build on our sense of community.

Speak to Your Community

It’s still there, that sense of community, even though we are farther apart because we have technology with our use of social media. We are inherently social people and we need to communicate with one another, and where can we go when we cannot openly and freely meet with people? We go online. We’re going to social media. We’re sharing and connecting and learning it isn’t all bad.

So, go out there, share your gifts with your community, show them you care, and show them that this isn’t going to stop you. You are a small business owner. You are made of tougher stuff than this. Share your gifts and share your gratitude. I am sure it will come back to you in ways you never expected possible.

Presentation Is EVERYTHING (Conclusion): Bringing It All Back Together

Websites. That glorious thing that we all know we need because it drives traffic directly to our business. It’s how we show we are officially in business as a business today. We know we need one because we know that’s where the people are – online. We also know that it’s a part of our sales funnel and how it collaborates with social media. But like every other post in this series, we are going to go deeper into what your website says about your business and how you may present it in a positive light.

While there are a lot of choices for platform builders, the two main components we discuss with clients are budget and visuals. Depending on the platform you choose, the overall time spent on visuals and layout can change drastically based on your budget. With that, a lower cost platform to operate, is going to require more time devoted to layout and visuals than one with a higher annual fee. No matter which platform you choose, what you have is really a blank slate to build on. So, let’s start with that and then dig deeper.

What Does Your Website Need To Say?

There’s a phrase tossed around in marketing circles, “Facts tell, stories sell.” Your website should tell a story, who you are and what you do. And like many stories, your website should have several “chapters.” A home page is an introductory chapter, it should give visitor’s an overview of your business. But more than that, it should tell a story. Start with who you are and what you do but also think about why your visitor should care. Because the more they care, the longer they stay.

This is what is known as your “bounce rate,” how long someone stays on your site before moving onto another site. Ideally, you want your bounce rate to be low. This means your visitor spent some time on your site looking around before leaving. The longer they are there, the warmer that visitor is in your sales funnel. But we’re not looking at individual people who visit and why. Nor should your website be focused on one type of audience in your sales funnel.

Your website should speak to cold to hot audiences. As such, you will want to speak to both at the same time but in very different ways. Your hot audience needs a clear and direct path to what they are looking for. Give them clear direction to find what they are looking for because they are in the decision-making process. Whereas, your cold audience, those who may have found you through a search engine such as Google, they need a bit more. This is where your home page, and what you say on it matters.

Start with the facts, who you are. This includes any representation of your business, such as your logo and any visual representations that reflect your business, such as the restaurant may show a close up of a foot-long. With this, tell your audience a little bit about your business. What you do and why you do it. Think of this as your “elevator speech.” If they are interested, they will keep scrolling.

Tell A Story

From here, the story should go more in depth. Give more details about what the site is selling. If your company sells goods, highlight the products but be careful to not overwhelm the viewer. Remember, if they are interested, they will keep going. Selling a service, will be a bit different. Rather than showcasing goods, you will want to showcase the finer details of what you offer.

How this differs from your “elevator speech” is important. From our own website, the first paragraph is telling the visitor who we are, a small business marketing agency. The second goes into greater detail, specifically the services we offer, how and why. Remember, you are telling a story so build on what is already known and go into details as you progress.

Determining what to add to from this point is up to you. If you have testimonials you would like to share, you may do so. But remember to keep them concise. Pick and choose those that are well written and showcase your business is the most positive light. Not all testimonials are going to be useful to the visitor so if you are looking to add this, be sure to find ones that highlight specifics about your business.

And most importantly, make sure the transition time between the testimonials allows enough time for the viewer to read it. While it is tempting to have a lot of movement on the site, remember, people are here for information. They need to be able to read.

Don’t Forget A Conclusion

All homepages need a conclusion. People need to know when they have reached the end. Then if they choose to investigate your other chapters, they may do so. But creating a conclusion to your page and doing so in a positive light can be more difficult than expected.

Many small businesses do this by creating a contact box, a link to socials, contact information, or a combination of all three. While some may consider this the conclusion, it is imperative that your site include a footer with a copyright. To go without it, not only sets you and your business up for any kind of infringement from the information on your page, it also suggests ignorance and oversight. Neither of which present your business in a positive light.

Writing Your “Chapters”

As websites tell a story, your pages are your chapters. There are some key pages that should be on your website no matter how large your business is: Home, About, and Contact. As we have already discussed what should be included on the home page and contact is self-explanatory, let’s dig into the About page.

Your about page should not only tell visitors about your business but also about yourself. Include an introductory paragraph about yourself, give a little background and what brought you to where you are today. Then discuss your business and dig into your why. This is important because the visitor was already interested by your home page and clicked on your About page to learn more about you and your business. They are asking to learn more, what can you tell them and how can you make them care?

More importantly, why should you care. This may seem like a little thing, but in fact it can make a huge difference in moving a visitor along in your sales funnel. Think about the last time you wanted to know more information about something, and you received a response that didn’t really answer your question.

I love my child and genuinely want to hear about his day, but “it was pretty good” doesn’t really answer my question. Now while I may probe with deeper questions, such as asking how his math test went, your visitors are not going to do that. They may check out your socials, but then you are asking them to move away from your site. If they are already this far, they are interested. Don’t lose them this far in.

Your other chapters are highly based upon your business. You may have items for sale that can be grouped together into different types, or you may offer a variety of services. Creating pages for these items allows you to go into greater details of the specifics of what you are selling. Be aware that each different type of item should have a different page but like items should remain together. Such as, a restaurant may serve both hot and cold subs as well as sides. You can create one menu page, and separate submenus for each type of food offered to showcase the specific items for sale, the hot subs, cold subs, and side order items. Your menu should be easy to navigate and easy to read. This applies to both the example restaurant’s menu and your website’s menu. The easier it is to navigate, the more convenient it is to use. And, as you remember, we’re all about convenience.

Creating Stunning Visuals

We all know that websites are more than just text. There are visual components as well, and that includes more than just photos and videos. While photos and videos may be placed through the site as needed, the overall theme, color scheme, and sizing matters. So, let’s break these three things down and see how we can use them to present the text and structure started in a positive light.

The theme is the overall layout of your site. Where is your menu bar? Along the top? Or along the sides? Does it have text or symbols? Your theme should be appropriate for your specific type of business. While symbols are a great way to have your site look more app like, which many of us are familiar with and know how to use, does it align with your specific business or your audience’s expectations?

Remember, we are looking to ease a frustration. Think about your target audience, what would they be more likely to be comfortable with using? When in doubt, simple and straightforward fair better long term that what is trending.

The theme also often includes a color scheme that may be used. While ideally, you will want to utilize colors within your logo for consistency, you will also want to be careful of how colors relate to each other.

There are what is known as complementary colors. These are colors opposite of each other on the color wheel: blue-orange, red-green, and yellow-purple. When used together sparingly, these combinations make a stunning statement because they draw the eye in. However, when used together in a larger capacity, such as the overall color scheme of your website, they can be overwhelming and painful on the eyes to read. No one wants to use a website that is headache inducing from the color scheme chosen, when in doubt, use what the theme suggests.

Sizing includes all aspects of visual sizes. This includes not only how large your photos are on your site, but also how this relates to your text, the font and font size. Font should be easy to read and should stand out from your other visual components. Your text should not be overshadowed by graphics, but rather, they should flow together and complement each other. You should also be aware of color scheme for your text. If it is hard to read because of the hues chosen, the size and style of the font chosen, won’t matter.

Font and font size should only change based on the portion of the page you are working on. Such as, a title should have a larger font size than a paragraph. However, you will want to keep these different types of text consistent throughout your site. Including the menu bar. It may not seem like a big deal, but to have text sizing different in the menu bar presents that portion of the menu is less important or more important than other pages. Your whole menu is important.

In thinking about sizing, also consider the size of your buttons, how people navigate through your site. Disproportionately large buttons drive the eye away from the text – the information that visitors came to find. Whereas disproportionately small buttons may be hard to find or make the site difficult to navigate. While click through buttons highly depend on the size site you have and how it operates, there are also other buttons to consider such as, your social media icons. *

*Note: As websites are meant for both hot and cold audiences, like your social media accounts, and it is not only acceptable but expected to have both highlighted on each, it is imperative that if you link your socials to your website that they are updated frequently. Linking your site to unused socials shows inexperience and ignorance of all digital media and can present as the owner being overwhelmed.

Bringing It All Back Together

With the visuals and text in place, and both are clear, easy to read and navigate, your site is ready for eyes (assuming you have checked visuals on both desktop and mobile views and ensured everything is operational). But how do we get the visitors to our website other than from our social media accounts? This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in. While this can be a very in-depth process as you grow, when you are first starting out, it is quite simple.

Each builder offers SEO capabilities, whether inherently built in or a plugin to be installed. Taking time to adjust your SEO settings allows search engines, such as Google, to narrow down a topic and sites related to that topic. As we know from our own personal use, the more detailed we can be with a search, the more accurate the results are. But what if we are just looking for something, or someone who can help with a project we need completed? This is where SEO comes in.

With SEO, businesses are able to use “keywords” that describe their business that helps search engines show your website to those people who are looking for your goods or service. This returns to what you do. In finding keywords for your site, be as specific as possible. Think about what your potential customers are looking for and how you provide a solution. Ideally, you want one word or phrase as your keyword. Depending on the platform you use, you may use multiple keywords per page on your site. Be specific and purposeful. Think about what people may search for.

Additionally, you may also have the ability to add a description to your specific pages on your site. This is the information shown to the person using the search engine. When using descriptions, be clear and concise as possible, this is your first impression, and may be the difference between someone going to your site over another.

Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light

No matter where you are at in your business or how long you have been in business, presentation matters. What’s more, even if you have fallen victim to some of the pit falls along the way, you can change the perception you are giving to others.

Think about yourself, your interactions, and what you are saying. Think about your audience and what they are saying. Get to know these people, because they are pretty cool people to know, yourself included. Remember, to get a little, you need to give a little, relationships go two ways.

From this, you can change the way you are communicating with others and present your business in a more positive light. Because as we now know, how you present yourself and your business matters. What you say and how you say it, from personal interactions such as networking events, to your businesses’ front facing details, and yes, even digital communities – presentation matters. It is attached to every other portion of your business. Presentation is EVERYTHING.

 

If you enjoyed this series, please check out our other blogs and check back next week for Social Media Etiquette. I will discuss those little things on your socials that matter, why they matter and how to use these platforms effectively.

Presentation is EVERYTHING (Part 3): Building A Sense Of Community

Oh, the struggles of understanding digital media, especially social media. There are so many things to learn and terms that seem to intertwine with other terms, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, let alone how! And yet, you know you need to use it and it adds to the frustrations you already have, some of which were discussed in the first two blogs in this series: Presentation is Everything and It’s All About Convenience.  So, let’s start simple and build on what we already know.

Where to Begin?

To know where to begin, you need to first know which platforms you should use to reach your people, your target audience. Knowing who and where they are will help narrow down the platforms you need to think about. While we advocate that every business owner should be on Facebook (research shows that about 7 in 10 U.S. Adults use Facebook), there are other platforms that can be just as powerful, if not more so when used correctly. But do you need to use them? That depends on whether or not your people are there.

With Instagram and YouTube showing great success, especially for influencers, these platforms seem to be an easy way to find easy money, if only we knew how to do it…and then there’s all the others, Snap Chat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter – it’s a lot to consider. But is that where your people are? Instagram and Snap Chat are popular in younger age groups, 18-24 and Twitter users also, tend to be younger, and have higher education and incomes. So, if your business gears toward older adults, you need not consider these platforms.

If your target audience includes a younger demographic, then you need to consider how you will speak to that audience because each platform has a different means of communicating with others and needs to be respected. Not only will you present your business in a poor light with your inexperience with the platform, but you will also feel all of the frustration from the time spent for little return.

Speaking to The Audience: Facebook

To understand how to effectively communicate with people on these platforms, we need to know how they work. Let’s start with the big one, Facebook. People use this platform more than any other to keep in touch with friends and family and be in the know locally. It is highly centered around the idea of digital communities. Photos, videos, memes, events, updates, and shares (both personal updates and friends) are all centered around creating a sense of community digitally. This is why you can tag individuals, places, and even check in at events.

Groups are becoming more and more popular on this platform as well, which again builds on this sense of community. Facebook speaks to all the aspects of life, from the not so great moments to celebrations, it’s all there and discussed openly and frequently within these communities. In speaking with this community, you will want to have a clear idea of both who you want to speak to and where they are located. Other than that, your options are fairly open, just be sure to follow the 80/20 Rule and focus on your brand first.

Speaking to The Audience: Instagram and Snap Chat

Instagram also has a sense of community. However, this platform is focused on visual components – photos and videos with supportive text. As visuals are the key component of this platform, “stories” are very effective. Stories are a compilation of visual information that support your brand. While this may sound a bit complex, in reality, it is quite easy.

Let’s say you have an event coming up or something you want to promote. Creating a story can help boost interest by sharing photos with text and emojis that show for a 24-hour period. In creating a story, you can build excitement, but you are also using a key factor in how this platform is used, you are engaging with your community.

Because the communities on this platform can be so diverse, hashtags are used to associate with other pages as well as other communities on that platform. Such as if you have a restaurant in downtown Chambersburg, you may use #chambersburgpa to reach others who may also be interested in that community. This helps build your brand recognition within that community and builds on your own brand awareness, all in the same locale. Remember, it’s not just who your people are, it’s also where they are.

As hashtags are used heavily on this platform, it is acceptable to use up to 30 different hashtags! That can be just a little overwhelming. Determining which hashtags to use that support your brand may take some time. It comes down to some good, old fashioned research. Search for different hashtags, and see what is posted to them, does it support your brand? If so, make note of it and use it for future posts. You can also see what hashtags other businesses like yours are using and use it for your own business.

To keep posts clean, you can put your top hashtags (those that relate most with your business) in the post itself (up to 10) and any additional in the comments. Lump them together in packages of 10. This keeps everything clean and is less overwhelming for the follower to decipher.

Instagram is known for being a bit perfection forward and positive. Things posted on this platform should be uplifting or showing at your best. Presentation matters here. With this, you will also want to be aware of who you are following. Who your business follows says as much, if not more, about your brand than what you post. So be sure who you follow on this platform also supports the brand you want to build.

Snap Chat also shows stories for a 24-hour period but is used in a very different way from Instagram. Snap Chat is much more of a slice of life, it’s moments during your day and often funny. Let your silly side show and share moments of your day. People on this platform are looking for real, not glossed over like Instagram.

This platform can also be used to promote events and specials, but you should use it for more than that to keep your audience engaged. Share moments in your day with photos and videos with supportive text, emojis, and stickers, or have some fun with it and use a snap filter to become a pretty princess, a puppy dog, or even a scary monster, the possibilities are really endless. Snap Chat offers a great deal of filters that you can add to your post including based on your location – where you took the picture. Again, like Instagram, this can help build your brand awareness within your community both physically and digitally.

Speaking to The Audience: Twitter

Twitter, like Instagram, also uses hashtags but in a very different way. Yes, they are still searchable, but on Twitter they “trend.” This means, those who are using that platform are discussing a particular topic. This platform is much less focused on community, although that aspect is still there. Rather it focuses on discussing something that is on people’s minds.

Twitter is very news-focused and because of this, the majority of tweets come from a small portion of the users. With this platform, you will want to address things that are current and keep your audience up to date. You will also want to be aware of who you follow, because like Instagram, this says a lot about your brand.

This platform is known for being clear and concise in messages. Previously, you were limited to 120 characters in a post, including hashtags. This has now been increased to 240 characters, but the expectation remains, you should say what you need to say.

Supportive photos and videos are used on this platform, but it is focused on text – what you are saying. Conversation is key on this platform and with that, you will need to “talk” to or “talk about” others to your followers. This can include a shout out to another business in your area for a job well done or posting an update about something someone else has going on that supports your brand.

While this sounds a bit muddy, it really isn’t. It all comes back to what we do. Business owners know other business owners. We’re the ones who are asked, “Do you know someone who…” because yes, we probably do, and we probably know several! So following businesses on your account, especially those that relate to your brand and support what you do, and either retweeting (sharing) their posts, or tagging them in a post not only helps build their brand but also your own. It also starts a conversation, which is what Twitter is all about.

Speaking to The Audience: LinkedIn

We should all know what LinkedIn is used for, it’s where the business people are! But how we communicate with business owners is very different from how we speak to the general public. Treat this platform much like you would a networking meeting with a lot of people you know.

Tell them about what you have going on in your business, share posts or links that relate to your business, and if you own a business, create a page for it. This solidifies yourself and your business on this platform, it gives validity to what you are doing. It shows you mean business. Post business specific topics on your business page and share these to your personal page.

In addition to this, you will also want to maintain the sense of community. LinkedIn recently added different reactions to posts, which helps build on the sense of community the other platforms use and it is becoming much less of a sales dumping ground. So, post things specific to you or your business, celebrate others’ successes, comment on their posts. It’s the little things that matter.

LinkedIn also recently started using hashtags, which as we know, has worked for other social media outlets as a means of searching for information and communities. While there is no limit on the number of hashtags you can use on LinkedIn, you want to be aware of the community you are speaking to. Business owners don’t have time to go around looking up hashtags to determine if it fits the brand and on LinkedIn. Nor do we want to see a lot of hashtags in a post. It looks spammy and we all know how spam filters work. Keep hashtags concise and no more than 5.

Speaking to Your Audience In A Positive Light

Now that you know who is where and how to start a conversation with them, you need to know a bit more about who you are specifically talking to so that you can present yourself and your business in a positive light. From here, it is quite simple. Each platform, including YouTube, offers insights on your specific audience. These are the people who currently like or follow your page. And you can know a lot about them by looking at your insights. You can see their age and location, both of which are key in speaking to them.

Think about this, we all have a variety of people in our lives, from young to old. But we speak to them very differently, even when we’re talking about the same thing. Sometimes it’s simplifying the language to something they would understand, but often, we do this because of our relationships with those around us. Generally speaking, we talk differently to those within our age group than we do other age groups. But more than that, different age groups have different frustrations.

The frustrations experienced by a 25-year-old man may be very different from that of a 40-year-old woman. Whereas one may be looking for options to finance a first home, the other may be looking to refinance a current mortgage. While one business can speak to both these individuals, how you speak to them should be reflected in who you are as a business and how you speak to that age group.

Let’s return to the restaurant. A restaurant can service one frustration felt by many different ages, hunger. Sometimes choices are made based on convenience, what’s quick and easy. But often, decisions on where to eat are a bit more. Something as simple as deciding where to eat can be downright difficult! But as you have found, being concise and clear in what you say, who you say it to, and how you say it, can make all the difference.

So, with this information, start with who you have. Look at your audience, who is already on your page. How old are they? Where are they? How would you speak to them in person? Sometimes it helps if you can think about a specific group of people you know personally, try to be as diverse as possible. Once you have that group, think about their frustrations and how you have a solution for one of their frustrations. Now post about it – sell that 4.99 foot-long! But also, be sure to understand the community you are speaking to. What are their expectations for your communication? Do they want text or visuals? Do they like hashtags or not so much?

In addition to this, you should also be aware of how close your current audience is to that of your target audience. If there’s a discrepancy, you will want to focus your branding on speaking to both audiences while speaking to each individual audience. Yes, you can sell a foot-long to a lot of people, billboards do just that but you will also want to speak to your current audience. Post something later in the week that will play on a frustration – too tired to cook, need something fast and easy because the kid has practice, haven’t gone grocery shopping – and use it to promote the deal on your foot-longs.

But it’s just a little more than that. Because you must be more than just that on social media. These are digital communities. And you need to be a part of that community, an active part of that community, to have it work for you and build your brand. To do this, you are going to have to give a little bit of yourself, tell a little bit more about what you do and why you do it. You’ll want to be aware of who you are speaking to and how they communicate. You will want to meet their expectations and when you do, that’s when things start happening. And that’s when it’s time to get excited, because it will start to reflect in all other areas of your business.

This, like everything else, takes time. And in that time, you still have a lot to do. Come back next week when I am going to finish this series by discussing how you can present your business in a positive light in your digital presence – we’re talking websites and SEO!

Presentation Is EVERYTHING (Part 2): It’s All About Convenience

Last week, I wrote on how we, as business owners, present ourselves and through that, our business in a positive light and what that may entail. It’s more than we expect and requires us to take a deep and personal look into our own behaviors. This week we will tackle how to present our business processes and through that, our digital and advertising efforts in a positive light and more importantly, why this matters.

As you will recall from last week, presentation is EVERYTHING because it sets not only our own expectations but also our clients and customers expectations for doing business with us. With so much of our lives being lived digitally – let’s be honest, most of us have a tiny computer in our pocket that we happen to call our phone which ironically, we rarely use for that purpose – the two, business production and digital presentation need to be tied together. But first, let’s discuss what I mean by business production and processes.

Business Production and Processes

Business production is focused on what you make. From handmade goods to services you provide, it all falls under what your business produces. For restaurants, this would be the food served, the type and presentation style tells people what to expect from eating at that restaurant. But there’s more to it because any restaurant owner will tell you that the atmosphere matters just as much as what is being served. You can be selling high end, farm to table meals but if your interior design looks to be that of a diner, then that is how you will be perceived.

This, then is your business processes. It is the support system in which you present your goods and services, or business production and tells people what to expect when working with you. Yes, the atmosphere you create, says a lot about your business. Let’s start with a big one that most of us consider in the creation of the business but may not have top priority as we grow.

When is your business open? Hours of operation are key to the success of any business and highly depend on the type of business you are in. Are your hours of operation clearly listed, digitally and physically if you have a physical location? Do you adhere to these hours of operation or do you make exceptions? And if you do make exceptions, are you clear in those or are you presenting that your hours of operation are merely suggestions?

Having clear and defined hours of operation for your business is not only important to maintain your own sanity, but also tells customers what to expect from your business. Certain types of businesses are expected to operate during specific hours, or “banking hours.” Whereas, others may have a very different set of expected operating hours. Having hours of operation that fit your specific business type may be rather straight forward. Say you operate a spa – your hours of operation tell customers a lot about what to expect from their experience with you. But it’s more than that. You are setting an expectation.

Setting Expectations

Let’s consider the expectations you set from your hours of operation. If you are in a situation where there are culturally accepted “normal” hours of operation, such as Symbiotic Marketing, our hours are already set by what is already accepted and expected. Businesses who work with other businesses typically operate under “banking hours,” Monday through Friday 8-5 or 9-5. This is why many networking events take place early morning, lunch time, and in the evenings. However, as many business owners will tell you, their hours of operation are very different!

While this may be because our personal “business” hours most definitely fall outside the “normal” hours of operation, because it does. But also, because not all businesses can operate successfully withing “banking hours.” For those, creating hours of operation and expectations for such are much more stringent but also flexible, which leads to another Catch-22 which is again, tied to frustrations.

Are You Setting Frustrations?

Any business owner will tell you that setting hours of operation can be a frustration. When you set that expectation, you are telling potential and current clients that you are working during those times. But then the kid gets sick. The car needs an unexpected repair. You have a doctor’s appointment. These things happen, and when they do, they interfere with your “working” hours. So, you make adjustments and work outside of your hours of operation to get things done. All the while, you are becoming more frustrated because honestly, how much longer can you keep this up? We’ve all been there.

What’s more important, is the customer’s perception and their possible frustrations that are being set by your hours of operation. This comes down to knowing your target audience, who you want to reach with your business. Who you are servicing with your business should be closely tied to your hours. Retail stores in a downtown environment have a very different set of expected hours than those in a strip mall. When you adjust your hours to be more restrictive or flexible than the expected hours of your location, it can make you appear to be difficult to work with. However, if you own a specialty service, you have the flexibility of creating more specific, non-traditional hours. And in doing so, sets the expectation that what you have to offer may be more of a luxury item.

In either case, you are setting expectations related to frustrations. People tend to do business with those that operate within the expected norms not only within the industry but also the location it serves. If you fall outside of those norms, you are presenting to your customers that you may be frustrating to work with or buy from or that an outside frustration can affect the continued use of your business.

Let’s return to the restaurant for a moment. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love a good meal and sometimes, that’s expensive. When our budgets allow, we are more likely to eat out and eat at nicer restaurants. However, when things are tight, we’re more likely to cook at home. It isn’t something we like to do, it’s something we feel we need to do. This not only affects the restaurants we eat at, but all other goods and services outside of what we see as our “real needs.” As budgets shrink, we tighten belts, and this is when items that are considered to be “luxury” are cut. We, at Symbiotic Marketing, have felt this as much as you. That’s when tough decisions are made. But here’s that Catch-22, as we become more frustrated, our “needs” either shrink or grow.

When Frustrations Grow

When our frustrations grow, we often look to convenience first. How can I make this frustration go away? There’s a reason why we can now buy a car online and pick it up from a vending machine and why we can now do all of our grocery shopping online and have it dropped off at our door or we can pick it up on our way home. We’re busy people! For our little frustrations, finding a quick and convenient way of addressing it, is key. Maybe it’s popping through the drive through for dinner because you just don’t want to cook. Or it’s having cat litter delivered to your home because lugging it from the store, to the car, and into the house is just too much work.

But what do we do when those frustrations are larger, because the need is larger? Or even worse, what do we do when we are frustrated, and we don’t even know why because it’s somehow all tied together? For a business owner, it is all tied together. Your budget is directly tied to your finances. Your marketing is directly tied to your budget. Your sales and client load is directly tied to your marketing. And the result of your sales and client load is your finances. It can be a vicious cycle.

So, how do you speak to the customers and clients who are in the cycle of frustration? Whether their frustration is one from convenience, such as not having the time to maintain a yard or from some other outside frustration, such as looking for assistance with financial concerns, you need to be where the people are – specifically, your target audience.

Be Where Your People Are

According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, and 81% own a smartphone. No matter how much time is actually devoted to being online or playing a game, it is clear how quickly and easily technology has integrated our lives.

Having lived in and remember the time before the internet (weren’t those the days), I am fascinated by easily certain transitions from what could be considered analog to digital are accepted and then expected. What I mean is that we used to meet people face to face or over the phone. That was how we communicated directly with each other. Today, we are much less likely to speak to one another on the phone but rather through text and messenger platforms. And now we can respond to these texts by a watch we wear on our wrist.

This speaks to our convenience frustration. We want things to be at our fingertips and we want it now! But it is more than just communication we want – we also want all of the things. We go to the internet for advice, recommendations, quotes, and most of all, for information. At a time when you can literally look up anything from Andy Rooney videos to communities devoted to cats, people are there. And they are consuming all of it.

There’s a reason why major companies advertise online and on specific platforms. Ever wonder why there are ads that play before a YouTube video? Because that is where the people are. While it can be easier for a larger company to spend the money on a larger campaign to reach more people, smaller businesses do not have this luxury. We need to be more specific, more targeted in our approach because we are pulling on a much smaller audience.

Knowing Your Audience

Having a clear view of who your audience is, is only part of the picture. You also need to know where they are, physically and digitally from you to be able to reach them. Physically, the determination is rather simple – how far are you or your client willing to travel for your goods or service. Digitally, it gets a little murky – for many, it’s about as clear as mud.

Your digital presence says a lot about you as a company and sets expectations for what it may be like to work with you. While there are some clear expectations for businesses, such as it is acceptable when you are small to start off with a social media account and grow into a website. Which platforms and how to use the accounts effectively is where many small business owners start to become lost.

To add to this frustration, how to reach those audiences, which we all know are there! Our frustration grows, because we know this ties to other aspects of our business, and this is when decisions are made. Do we dismiss this audience because we don’t know how to reach them or, do we dig deeper? Come back next week, when I will discuss how to go deeper into digital, specifically social media and how you can work to find your target audience and present your business to them in a positive light.

Presentation Is EVERYTHING: Presenting Your Business In a Positive Light

In the art world, presentation is everything. From how a culinary delicacy is plated to the atmosphere in a museum, it matters because it is part of the experience. Even more than this, it sets your expectations. If you are presented with a crock of soup that is clean and topped with a puff pastry as opposed to a Styrofoam cup of the same soup, you will expect not only a different experience in eating this soup, but that same soup may also taste better because of how it is presented.

Or say, you want to stop and see a museum. You act differently in a museum that has a lot of white space and lighted art on the walls than you would in one that has a lot to see and may have more lighting spread throughout. Because your expectations of what the museum is offering – high end art or informative and educational pieces depends on proper presentation.

Presentation is EVERYTHING

Whether we like it or not, as business owners, we are a part of the art world. How we present ourselves, and through us, our business matters. It is everything and includes every aspect of our business. While the size of or age of your business may be reflected in your presentation, it is important to present yourself and your business in the way you envision it could be.

It does not matter if you are just starting out with a Facebook page with friends and family following and a few business cards in your pocket or if you have been in business for several years and are known for what you do. How you present yourself in public, from meeting with clients to networking, to how you present your business production – what you make, and how you present yourself digitally – website, social media, search engines – and in advertising matters.

How Are You Presenting Your Business?

Think a bit on how you present your business. It’s harder to do than you would think. Often, we rely on telling what we do and through that, what we are good at. While this is a part of the presentation, it is only a small part. Think about how you interact with your clients, how you answer the phone or respond to email. Do you state your business name when you answer a call? Do you have a signature in your email? These little things matter in your presentation. It shows that you are committed to your business. But let’s take it a step further. Did you know that a smile can be heard over the phone? It’s true. Emotions can show through on how we interact with and communicate with others. And often, the two most recognized emotions, are happiness and frustration. Both of which, small business owners have in spades.

As small business owners, we know that our highs can be fleeting, and our frustrations can be many. But is that how we want to present ourselves and our business? Absolutely not! Who wants to do business with someone who does not like what they are doing? But often, if we look at how we present ourselves, this is just what we are doing.

What Are You “Saying?”

When business owners gather, either in small groups or in a networking setting, we talk about our businesses. Sometimes these conversations are more directed toward the business aspects, what we do and how we do it. However, when we are in a more comfortable setting, with other business owners we know well, our conversations are deeper. We talk more about specifics of our business; from specials we are offering to frustrations we have or lessons we have learned along the way. We look for help and offer help, all which stem from our frustrations.

Many business owners are focused on how to have Uncle Sam take less from their hard-earned money. For many, the money saved over time through retirement funds or traditional savings techniques have funded the creation of our businesses, which has already been taxed for us to access it. Then, in paying ourselves for the work in our businesses, we are taxed again. This is a huge frustration! So we become creative in how we pay ourselves and operate our business and we share what has worked with other business owners.

Be Careful of the Catch-22

However, there is a Catch-22 in sharing our frustrations and it can be seen in how we present them. Let’s address the tax issue again, because it is directly related to a fundamental issue many business owners have, finances. Operating a business means that you have two budgets to focus on, your personal budget and your business’s budget. Both of which need to be operationally sound for you to live. You need to know that what you have coming into the business will be enough to support you, and your family if you have one. Additionally, you need to know that what you are paying yourself is not only enough for you to survive, but also enough left over for other expenses – such as those yearly taxes. It is not only frustrating; it can also be overwhelming.

In this state, and in a comfortable atmosphere, we are more likely to indulge ourselves and discuss these frustrations. But it is in the presentation that matters. In a comfortable setting with people you know, how do you respond when asked how your business is going? Do you say, “Living the dream…” or some equivalent? Or are you straighter to the point, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”? Because both present the same way, they show that you are frustrated and overwhelmed. They also show that you may not continue with this chosen path. This can have a ripple effect. Not only are you presenting this to other business owners, you are also presenting this to those who you do not know, those who may have been a referral to your business.

Other business owners are often the ones who are asked if they “know someone who…” because we are so in touch with other businesses. We not only know who is around, but also who is coming and who is leaving, or may be perceived as leaving. If you present yourself to other business owners in this light, they will be less likely to tell others about you.

Changing Your Presentation

This is not to say that business owners cannot discuss frustrations with other business owners. Because, often in this, we are asking for help. When asking, be as specific as possible such as, “My business is making more money this year than expected, and I am afraid I will have to owe at tax time and won’t have the funds to cover.” This says more, than “I’m worried about my finances” and gives others the opportunity to help. This also presents in a more positive light. This is an experience many business owners can relate to. They most likely have been through this themselves or know someone who has. Because this is familiar, it is often associated with the beginning of a successful business. And as we know, successful businesses are referred businesses, which is directly related to growth in business.

You can be incredibly good at what you do, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t. But if you present that you are struggling, struggling in personal matters or business matters and are not clear and concise on your needs, it will be reflected in your business.

Professional Growth and Personal Growth

Often business owners focus on professional growth, what they need to make their business successful, and less so on personal growth. Personal growth, whether we want it to or not, is continuously happening, and happens at a much faster rate once we decide to start a business. We need to become intimately acquainted with ourselves to be able to present our business well. This means we need to address not only the things we do well but the things we aren’t and finding solutions to those problems.

To do this, we need to look deeper, much like how our conversations in a comfortable setting go deeper, and we need to be concise in what we are looking for. If finances are an issue, consider looking at your budgets – both personal and business – and break them down. Where, why, and how was money spent? Really look at if it was necessary.

Often, we think things are necessities when in reality, we may be compensating for a frustration. In business, this may be a turning point when you decide that this frustration is holding you back and you delegate it to another. However, when addressing frustrations of a personal matter, there isn’t anyone you can delegate it to. You can seek help, but ultimately, you must be the one who takes action to make the change.

Presenting Publicly in a Positive Light

How you present yourself and through that, your business is key in public perception. It tells people what to expect when working with you. It also tells people what to expect from your business, not only what you do but the strength and longevity of your business through your personal interactions. Reflect on what you are saying and how you are saying it and ask yourself, is this how I want my business to be perceived? If you find that you have been presenting yourself and your business in a less than positive light in a public setting, only you can take action to change that. In addition to changing your interactions, you will also need to double down on the other aspects of your presentation – digital presentation and advertising in order to shift perception and continue to grow your awareness.

Check back next week for part two of Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light where we will go into detail of how to review and change your business’s perception in digital and advertising platforms. And for specific tips on things you can do now to build your brand and networking, check out our previous blogs: Branding – Why is it important?, and Networking and Your Business.

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.

An Attitude of Gratitude

This time of year is a time of reflection and gratitude for many, myself included. I have been contemplating a great deal on where I’ve been, where I am currently, and where I’d like to go. Five years ago, I started working at the local radio stations and thought I had my dream job and in many ways, it was a dream job. I had flexibility with my schedule, was able to meet with many decision makers and small business owners and had a wonderful group of individuals working with me for the success of the business and other businesses. The position afforded me to flex my creative muscles while learning more about marketing as a whole. But a few years into the position, I found myself struggling to see how my vision of helping small business owners aligned with my employer’s vision. This was something I had struggled with before and knew that I could either put my head down and keep trying or leave the position all together. The decision was not one to take lightly, but in the end, I chose to leave for my health. My anxiety was at a constant high, depression had a tight grip on me, and a host of other health concerns were swirling around me. I knew I needed to make a change, but starting a business was not something I had fully considered.

Today, I am grateful for that experience. I am proud to have created a business that truly supports small business owners. More than anything, I am grateful for my wonderful team of individuals who help make Symbiotic Marketing special.

Meet The Team:

Phillip Whitley, owner of Mr. Phab Photos, creates stunning portraits, landscapes, and more. His work has been proudly displayed in many businesses locally and has recently began series of work based on concepts not widely portrayed by traditional media including strong black women, the LGBTQ community, and those with Down Syndrome. His vision of inclusion and acceptance shines through in his work.

Amy Weibley, owner of Weibley Media Consulting, is a graphic design master. With her extensive background in a variety of businesses and non-profit organizations, she brings ideas and concepts to life from logo design to website design and everything in between.

Jenna Kauffman, freelance writer and content coordinator at Chambersburg Neighbors, assists with social media branding campaigns, website design, content editing, and just about anything I may need assistance with. Jenna is my right hand, ensuring businesses quality work at a reasonable rate. Her work affords me the opportunity to continue working on the Symbiotic Marketing brand awareness and has been integral in the growth we have been able to achieve this past year.

I am in awe when I reflect on where I have been and to see where Symbiotic Marketing is currently. My goal of owning a small business that supports small businesses has grown and changed in a beautiful way. I am proud to work with such talented individuals. I am proud of the work we have been able to accomplish for our clients. I am crazy, ridiculously excited to see where we go from here. For that, I am eternally grateful for everyone who has supported this crazy dream and continues to support this dream. I am also eternally grateful for every client that we have been able to help along the way. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your journey and for allowing us to share in your dream. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for you.

Embrace the Chaos

Anxiety is something I live with every single day. For me, it is something that is inherently a part of my everyday life and comes in ebbs and flows and lately, it has been flowing. As much as I would rather not discuss this topic, it needs to be. So many are living with some form of mental illness or traumatic episode in silence and in that silence, the illness takes hold. It can become suffocating, overwhelming, all consuming and above all else, lonely.

An entrepreneur’s life can also be lonely, even if you have a team of people with you. You are in control of every aspect of your business from making sure the lights stay on to making sure work is completed. Many work well past the hours of “normal operation” to ensure everything that needs to be addressed has been because people rely on us to get it done, from our clients and customers to our family and loved ones. Sometimes it’s early mornings and late nights. It’s never having a set schedule but being flexible enough to make the important things fit into a schedule. Owning a business means these are your monkeys and this is your zoo and yes, at times, they are throwing “stuff” at you.

So, why would someone who struggles with mental and emotional health decide to embrace the chaos and start a business? Because it is fulfilling on so many levels. Yes, it can be scary, frustrating, and physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I read an article a while ago that discussed the relationship between being an entrepreneur and personal development. While I cannot find the link to the article, there is a rather clear line between the two. Personal development and growth are closely tied with the success of your business.

Looking back over the past three years, I can see now that I’ve been making huge steps in my personal and professional growth. By focusing on myself and my overall health, I was also allowing my business to grow and become successful. I have big goals for Symbiotic Marketing, but I cannot reach those goals if I allow myself to fall into negative habits. That means going out and meeting with people when I want nothing more than to curl up in my comfy chair and binge Investigation Discovery all day and going to networking groups and meetings when I don’t know a single person there. It also means I need to make healthy choices for myself every day, getting exercise, eating healthy foods, and making time for me without feeling guilty about it.

I’m telling you about this because I know I am not alone. Many business owners struggle with some form of mental illness or trauma that continues to follow them years after the event. I know this because assisting others with marketing endeavors can become very personal. Marketing is closely tied to emotions and behaviors and the more I am able to learn about my clients and their businesses, the more I can do to help them reach their goals.  More than anything, I want you to know that you are not alone. While being an entrepreneur can be lonely, it doesn’t have to be. You’ve already done the scariest thing by following your dream. Embrace the chaos and together, let’s see how far that dream can go.

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