The Challenge – Are You Using Your Business Time for Profitable or Non-Profitable Tasks?

 

One of my coaches threw down the gauntlet by giving me The Challenge. This just the challengehappened to be a topic I’d chosen to write a post on today.  Why this topic? Because I hear it over and over from my clients, and I’ve been guilty of saying the same thing at times – to myself and to my coach.  Perhaps you’ve said it yourself:  “I don’t have the time to do all the things that I should to make my business grow faster.”  Notice that your business may be growing, but it could grow faster if certain things were given more attention and others implemented.

So the question is:  Are you using your business time for profitable or non-profitable tasks?

Time recognizes no economic, racial or any other status.  It’s the great equalizer, and we can do much with it or do little.  We can accomplish a lot or nothing at all. There are people who are able to do more in two or three hours than some people will do in eight hours.  Many of these people get this done before millions even get out of bed because for them their most productive time is between 5:00 and 8:00 a.m. Then there are people who are adept at getting things done in time blocks.  Others do their best late at nights when the family is gone to bed.

The key is to find out what works for YOU.  It can never be about someone else.  So here are some questions only you can answer for yourself:

  • What is your most productive time of the day?  Is it early morning, mid-afternoon, or late at night?
  • Do you have a short or long attention span?
  • Do you find that you start to work on one project, but in the middle you become distracted and switch to something else so that at the end of the day you have three or four unfinished products?
  • Do you have legitimate reasons that make it challenging for you to focus on your business? 

So, getting back to the claim we often make about not having enough time.  Here is the challenge he gave me and I’m going to share that challenge with you:

Take an inventory of how you spend your time over the next three days.  Get a calendar/planner or use a spreadsheet. Every 15 minutes write down what you did.  Next to each time slot write –

–>necessary and important (profitable)
–>not necessary (non-profitable)
–>wasteful or could have been done without

Of course, if you have a full-time job and work on your business part-time then only the hours dedicated to your business would be recorded. If you decide to accept the challenge, please leave a comment on my website. It would be fun to find out what your results are
after three days.  Let’s do this!

In my next post we’ll look at how 15 minutes per day can be used to increase productivity.

5 Reasons Small Businesses Should Embrace Social Media Marketing

social-media-marketingSocial media marketing allows businesses to directly connect with their existing customers and work toward developing new customers through a medium that is used by the majority of people today on a daily basis.

The people that are using social media will include your customers, as well as your prospective customers. Unlike traditional methods of communication between the company and the customer, social media marketing allows you to connect with your customers in a much more dynamic manner, significantly improving response time.

An important point to keep in mind is that in order to attract prospects, convert them into paying customers and build the relationship so they become repeat customers, you will need to employ multiple types of marketing strategies. There is no one marketing strategy that’s going to effectively cover all of those areas and social media marketing in only one of them.

The following are 5 reasons small businesses should embrace social media marketing:

1. Social Media Marketing can help potential customers find your business

Through social media someone can locate or discover new things on their own which means that your business website could ‘accidentally’ be found while they are performing their everyday online tasks. In turn, they could contact your website to learn more, and increase the possibility of becoming a customer. In addition, because social media sites promote communication and sharing between the people who use them, this allows the user to share information about a product or service they like with their friends.

2. Social media marketing allows your business to raise its brand awareness

Social media platforms allow a company to spread its brand’s information all over the Internet. Potential viewers could see your brand in image form, in online videos, in discussions between users and via your company’s website.  They will also be able to learn more about your brand when they perform an online search. The more that people hear, read or see your brand, the better the chance that it will stick in their mind.

3. Social media marketing allows you to build customer trust and loyalty

One of the best ways to increase your customer’s trust in your company is to speak with them directly, as though you were a friend rather than a business. Social media allows your company to do exactly that. Direct interactions and contact with customers that’s engaging, interesting and co-operative both help to build customer trust and create customer loyalty.

Make your customers feel appreciated on a social media platform that they use every day, and you will see an increase in repeat customer transactions!

4. Social media allows you to interact with your customers

This is closely tied in with #3. With social media you can do more than just showcase your latest advertisements to your customers. It lets you interact with them. Online users are always bombarded by banners and advertisements, so they want to see something different. Rather than just shoving an advertisement at them, you can use social media to deliver your message in an engaging, interactive and far less aggressive manner.

You can have a talk with your customers and they can talk back. You can use social media to find out your customer’s opinions, ideas and desires, and then you can use the information to deliver it to them.

5. Social media is a great way to perform market research

Interactive online media platforms allow you to listen to what your customers have to say when it comes to products and services. You can then use this information to improve your product or service, and in turn, share these improvements with your customers. Few things offer your business a chance for such easy insight into your specific market.

These are only some of the benefits associated with social media marketing, but small businesses can no longer afford to ignore social media marketing.  For the busy business owner or entrepreneur it can be confusing and challenging so I invite you to schedule a Complimentary Breakthrough Strategy Session with me to discuss how you can incorporate social media marketing into your business.

Are the Six Most Expensive Words Killing your Business

We've always done it that way

The term “microwave generation” has been applied to our society of people who want what they want NOW.  Information is readily available literally at their fingertips and in the palm of their hands.  What does this mean for the business owner?  Business as usual is no longer going to be effective and the idea of ‘We’ve always done it that way…” is no longer going to be acceptable. These six most expensive words could be killing your business!

How does this affect Customer Care?

There are some benefits to doing business the way you did it in the past, but these have to evaluated individually.  For example, in the past small business owners found it easier to connect with their customers and build a one-on-one relationship with them.  A lot of that intimacy may have been lost as more people do business online or over the phone.  So what’s required?

1)       An active online presence, which includes having a user-friendly website that provides information on your products and services.  Depending on the type of business you have, research shows that visitors would prefer if you have information right there on the website, perhaps a section for Frequently Asked Questions so that they can get information without always having to make a phone call to speak with a person.

2)      Finding out where online your customers and prospects hang out and make sure that you’re on those platforms to answer questions, add value, and position yourself as an expert in your niche.

3)      While you do not have to spend large chunks of your day on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn; it makes sense to have a basic schedule of what you will do in the limited time you spend there and the kind of content you will share to educate your prospects and customers.

4)      In order to restore a measure of intimacy so you get to know your customers, ask for feedback and try to get them involved in what you’re doing.  At the same time, share, to the extent you feel comfortable, some information about yourself so they get to know, like and trust you.

5)      Customers do not want to wait for days for a reply.  They want it as soon as possible so it’s your responsibility to explore what channels you’ll use to deliver exceptional customer service, always keeping in mind the goal of customer/client retention.

“We’ve always done it that way” could be killing your business unless you analyze and evaluate what’s working and what you need to change to meet the demands of your customers so you deliver superior customer care.

Are you losing your customers? Do you know someone who is? You may download my Special Report: “STOP Losing Your Best Customers: Time-Tested Tips to Grow Your Business with Customer Retention.” Please forward to a friend who may find value in this information.

 

Why Make Time to Keep in Touch with Customers

keep in touchSmall business owners often wear many hats and are very busy.  Even if there is a small staff in place, a great deal of the decision-making and general day-to-day business operations fall of their shoulders.  It’s easy for some things to get lost or be given a lower priority.

One of the things that often get pushed down on the list is making time to keep in touch with customers.  The thing is that keeping in touch with customers should be given as much priority as Marketing and Sales.  Why is this so important?

  • Keeping in touch with your customers on a consistent basis builds the relationship and creates a bond that affects the emotions.  Your customers will get to know like and trust you even more.  When your customers are emotionally attached to you they’re less likely to defect to your competition.
  • Keeping in touch works in tandem with Marketing and Sales.  In fact, it can contribute to effective marketing because surveys and feedback from your current customers empower you to identify what’s working and what may need to be improved in your marketing strategy.  At the same time, your sales will improve as your customers become repeat buyers.  You also have an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell.
  • Many small business owners struggle with consistency.  They may intend to contact their customers on a regular basis, say two times per month or even once per month but they become distracted so that months may go by with no contact.  The effect of this is that you will be perceived as being unreliable and your customers could lose trust in you.  Since recapturing lost trust is very challenging, making a schedule and sticking to it is important.
  • When you keep in touch with customers it gives you an opportunity to educate them and position yourself as the expert in your market.  Let your customers know what you’re doing in your business.  Large corporations have credited the success of some of their products to the suggestions and recommendations of their customers as they kept them updated during product creation.
  • If you’re a speaker, share with your customers where you will be speaking.  If you’re sponsoring an event or doing something in your community share that with them.  People want to see  and come to know who you are as a person, not just the business side. 

It takes time to stay in contact with your customers, so this is something that has to be included in your formal schedule of activities.  It cannot be left to chance.  Building relationships with your customers when you keep in touch with them on a regular basis will help to bridge the gap between your efforts to attract them and retaining them on a long-term basis.

 

Building Customer Relationships – a Priority for Long-Term Success

build relationship with customersBuilding customer relationships is of utmost importance.  Businesses know that their competition will gladly service their customers if they fail to do so correctly.

Customer attraction is rarely an issue because companies, large and small, are well-equipped with sales and marketing strategies that attract new clients and customers.  This is evidenced by the volume of offers most residents receive in their mail boxes.  And some of these offers can be quite enticing.  From banks offering appliances or Gift Cards to communication providers offering up to $250 Gift Cards, it can become challenging for individuals and businesses to remain loyal to their current provider or bank.

Failure to build strong relationships with customers is a mistake!  Michael Denisoff, Business Consultant; some time ago noted that all successful small businesses–regardless of what they do or sell–have one thing in common:
their owners know how to build and maintain relationships.  He continued, “Without strong relationships, it is impossible to have success as a business owner.”

Like any other relationship, building strong relationships with your clients and customers, as well as vendors and suppliers, all of whom have a stake in your business, take time and work.  However, once all of these stakeholders recognize that you’re serious about cultivating the relationship and are willing to enhance the value you bring to them, you’ll find that you’ve built a community that will be loyal to you.

Think about it: If you had a friend and the only time you contacted him or her was when you were in distress and needed their help, how long do you believe that friendship would hold up?  Eventually your friend would begin to see you as a ‘user’ who only contacts her when you need something.

The same is true for your business.   In building customer relationships here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Have I set up a database of my customers with as much information as possible?
  • Do I have a system in place so that I contact my customers on a regular basis?
  • Is my system flexible so that I can add notes from conversations I, or any member of my team, have with customers for effective follow-up where necessary?
  • Do I ask for feedback from my customers so that they feel that they have an active part in the growth and success of my company?
  • Do I carefully listen to the feedback objectively and seek to implement where necessary?

It’s important to remember that as business owners, we’re often so close to our business regardless of the size and scope, that others can often see what we cannot.  In addition, your customers need to be made to feel they are important to your business.  The reality is that they are.  So by seeking their feedback, listening, and implementing where necessary, you’ll be building and cementing the relationship with your customers.

What steps have you taken to build or continue building customer relationships with your customers and suppliers?

3 Ways to Create an Online Reputation that Attracts Your Ideal Customers

threeThe importance of creating an online reputation that attracts your ideal customers and clients cannot be underestimated. Advancement in technology makes the world a smaller place because of the various means of communication.   The Internet makes it possible to impact and be impacted by people ‘on the other side of the world’ at the drop of the proverbial hat.

You know that people do business with people they know, like and trust; therefore, it’s important that as part of managing your online reputation and allowing people get to know you, you create products that educate them, not only on what you do, but also provide information that answer their burning questions. You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Article Marketing: Article Marketing is constantly evolving, and is still a valuable way to acquaint people with what you do and build your personal brand. It’s a good way to let your ideal customers know how you can help them with the questions they have and the problems they’re seeking a solution to. The Resource Box is valuable real estate that should be used to lead them to learn more about you and the solution you provide.Another advantage of Article Marketing is that you can submit your content to multiple article directories where they can serve to attract your ideal customers that are outside of your normal sphere.  You also build your online reputation based on the excellent information you share in your articles.
  1. Blogging: Blogging, like Article Marketing, is a way to educate your audience. Becoming part of the blogosphere allows you to connect with your customers – you can answer their questions and address their pain points. By having a comment box that is active on your blog, this allows your customers and potential questions to ask you specific questions and for you to provide specific answers.  You can also expand on your answer by writing a blog post that can benefit even more people. It also allows you to get your name out to others bloggers and connect with them and build a relationship.The key is to blog about content that will appeal to you ideal customers. This will help to create an online reputation that attracts your ideal customers and make them want to learn more from you.
  2. Monitor what others are saying about you:The people who become customers usually do so after they’ve spent some time getting to know you.  They may do this through opting into your list and receiving emails from you.  Or they may get to know you through social media posts.  However, all the goodwill that may have been built up over time can be destroyed in a moment by malicious or derogatory comments on your blog or social media platforms.Monitoring mentions of your name and company name online are a must!  One free way to do this is by setting up Google Alerts for your name and the name of your business.  There are also paid services that will monitor mentions like Beevolve which offers a 7-day trial.

Your reputation can attract your ideal customers or repel them, so it’s important to make sure that your online reputation serves you in a positive way.  Do you have questions, please contact me at http://yvonneajones.com and I’ll reply to you personally.

 

Time Management: A Crucial Component to Goal-Setting

time managementThere is a lot of emphasis on goals at this time of year, but really, S.M.A.R.T goals can be set for anytime in the year. Every month presents an opportunity for a fresh start, if you choose to view it that way, and so you can set goals on a monthly basis. On the other hand, your annual goals give you a picture of where you are and where you want to be at the end of the calendar year.

A point to keep in mind is that your annual goals should be broken down into monthly goals, then weekly goals. This way every week you know what you should be working on. The challenge that arises after the goals are set is devising a strategy so that you will stick to your goals and complete them.

Time Management, or as I prefer to call it, self-management, is a crucial component to overall productivity and goal-setting achievement. And in order for you to get the most out of time or self-management, you have to know what your day will look like so that you will use your time effectively.

Set aside time each day to plan for tomorrow. Many people do this first thing in the morning, whereas other people do it the night before. If you are a “morning person” the “day-of” tactic will probably work best. If you have a hard time getting started in the morning then the night before would probably be the smarter time to plan your day so you know exactly what to do and when to do it, and you can hit the floor running.

There are people who say that they do not like to have to stick to a schedule, but having something to guide and remind you on the most important things you want to accomplish in a day or a given period can be very helpful.  I personally do not operate well without a Planner with the items and tasks that I want to accomplish each day.  Frankly, I’m lost without my Planner as it keeps me on track…and I love being able to check things off as I go.

When you are planning out your day, be sure to work based on priority. In her book, Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work author, Julie Morganstern offers some great tips on the value of placing priorities in the right place.

Start with a list of all the things you would like to accomplish. Then, put the items that will make the biggest difference first. This may not be the task you really want to do, but it may be the one that gives the greatest results. Next be sure to put down the items that are time sensitive. And lastly put the items you will enjoy the most.

If you put your favorite activities at the end of your day you will not only be more motivated to accomplish your goals but you will end the day on a high note. Time Management is a crucial component to goal-setting and recognizing that and working with that premise will be one of the most beneficial ways to stick to your goals and achieve them.  Remember that the key is not just Time Management; it’s more important to take action!

What strategies have you found to be effective in goal-setting?  Please share.

Implement S.M.A.R.T Goals for Better Results and Success

SMART Goals to SuccessIn Part I – “New Year’s Resolutions or S.M.A.R.T Goals for Better Results” we discussed the importance of setting S.M.A.R.T goals. We clarified the first two parts of the meaning of the acronym: S = Strategic and M = Measurable. In this post, Part II, we will dive into the meaning of Achievable, Realistic and Time-Specific goals…and more.

Achievable/Attainable: No one can set your goals for you because only you can decide if they are within your capabilities – your ability, skills, resources, and time-frame. True, others can often see in us what we cannot see in ourselves, and that’s the advantage of having a coach or a Mentor. I help my clients/students to discover strengths they may not have thought they had and breakthrough their limiting beliefs and barrieers, but ultimately they are going to do the work and only they can decide if this is something they feel they can accomplish.

Goals should make you stretch; they should challenge you, but should not be so unattainable that they frustrate you. Question to ask: Are there any challenges or barriers that would prevent me from reaching this goal?

Realistic/Relevant: In order to set a goal that you want to achieve it must be relevant or meaningful to you. You decide if this is a realistic goal that’s relevant to your personal life or your business. If it’s not, why include it? Time spent on one thing is time away from another, so to spend time working on achieving this goal you’ll have to carve out time from your other activities. So your goal should be something you believe you can reach and an important part of your strategy in your life and/or business. Question to ask: Why is this important to me?

Time-Specific: Your goal must have a deadline. As I reviewed my goals I’d written for 2014 I realized that some were not time-specific; I’d not set a time-frame for completion and for some I did not have a start date. It was important to go back and add those parameters. Not all your goals will start on the same date so it’s important to include a start date and a deadline. Questions to ask: When will I start this goal and what will be the deadline?

You’ve written your S.M.A.R.T goals, now what?

Your S.M.A.R.T goals should be a reflection of where you want to go in your life or business. But that’s just the first step. Your goals may be just a single page document, or it may be three pages or more. However, the next two steps are crucial:

  1. Make a list of the steps you’ll need to take to accomplish each goal
  2. Decide which goal you will make a priority – the one you’ll work on first.

For years I’d set goals at any given time: maybe at the beginning of a month or the beginning of a quarter and found myself frustrated because I was not able to complete them in the given time. Why? Because I’d not taken the time to break them down into actionable steps.

A part of these steps will be to determine if you have all the information needed or will you have to get additional training (that takes time), what resources do you have available to you or where will you get the resources. Those and more will affect you time-frame.  If you gave yourself a three-month deadline but six weeks of that time is spent in training, will you have enough time to implement all of the strategies?

The second thing is that if you attempt to start several goals at one time you’ll only end up frustrating yourself. Give yourself permission to select a priority goal and work on that to completion, or until it’s at a point where you can take your focus off of that item and turn your attention to your next goal.

Make your S.M.A.R.T goals FUN!!!  Don’t view them as “have to’s” but as “want to’s”!  Visualize what it will look like when you’ve accomplished all the goals you’ve set for yourself.  Get an accountability partner to cheer you on!  Find a Mentor or Coach who will support you and guide you on this journey. 

I’d love to talk with you about supporting you where you are and where you want to go in your business. Let’s set up a time to talk in a complimentary Breakthrough Session. You can either use the Contact Form or send me an email directly: yvonne@yvonneajones.com.

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions or S.M.A.R.T Goals for Better Results?

smart goalsWhat do S.M.A.R.T goals have that New Year resolutions may not have? Every year around mid-December especially, millions of people around the world start to make New Year’s resolutions. At the same time there are millions who take the time to create their goals and actually write them down. Remember that it’s more than a cliché that “A goal is just a dream if you fail to write it down.”  [This is Part I of a two- or three-part post.]

Distinction between New Year’s Resolutions and Goals

Wikipedia defines “New Year’s resolutions as, “… a secular tradition, most common in the West but found around the world, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement starting on New Year’s day.” Notice the word “promise”! Promises are not to be disregarded by any means, but in this context, let’s explore the strength to be found in well-planned and documented goals.

Different online dictionaries describe “goals” in various ways. Here are some common definitions: ‘the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe.’ I like the latter definition as it embodies parts of what are commonly referred to as S.M.A.R.T goals.

What are S.M.A.R.T Goals?

The acronym represents Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Let’s look at these more closely.

Specific: When you’re specific with your goals, you will have a clear picture in your mind and be able to translate this to paper of what your objectives are—what you’re aiming to achieve. It will also make it easy for others, especially those to whom you’re accountable, to understand. This could be a business partner, an accountability partner, like your coach. You’ll know that your goals are clear when you’ve answered: Why, What, Where, How, and Who? Here’s an example of one question to ask yourself: What will it look like when I’ve accomplished this goal?

Measurable: “I want to earn more money in 2014” is not a goal. You must state numbers and dates that you can quantify and earmark. This means that there must be mileposts along the way that you can check-off. If you’re going on a long road trip, you’d have a map with points along the way that as you check them off (even mentally), you know that it means you’re getting closer to your destination. The same is true with your goals. These mileposts may be monthly checks, or other periodic checkpoints specific to you and your business. Question: How will you know that you’ve accomplished your goal?

In Part II, we’ll discuss the other three parts of SMART goals and dive a little deeper into what other steps you can take to make sure that the goals you set for 2014 give you the desired results. It’s one thing to set overall goals, but how will you go about achieving those goals? What steps will you need to take to achieve your goals? More in the next post.

New Year’s resolutions or goals, which do you think, or have you found, bring greater results? Please share in the Comments. Thank you.