All posts by Cory Skeates

23Feb/09

Podcast | Adam Putnam’s THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT: HOW WILL THE FEDERAL STIMULUS PACKAGE AFFECT YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS?

You may have seen the Chamber’s video livestream earlier this morning of Congressman Adam Putnam’s presentation at the Lakeland City Hall Commission Chambers.  If you would like to hear the audio from the Congressman’s presentation, you can play the mp3 below or follow our podcast at http://blog.lakelandchamber.com/?feed=podcast.

23Feb/09

Marketing Mondays – One Bite at a Time

Here’s another one from the American Express OPEN Forum.

Deborah Chaddock Brown opened her freelance writing business AllWrite Ink in 2004 after almost 17 years with the International retail optical corporation, Pearle Vision. Deborah’s background is in franchising, operations, marketing and communication, however, her passion is helping businesses connect with their target audience using the Internet. Deborah blogs at Websites People Read.

Face Your Economic Crisis One Bite at a TimeI run a home based business and yesterday afternoon I went up to my bedroom to put something away and discovered that I’d left my bed unmade when I’d risen at 5:30am. I reached over the mattress to pull up the covers and found myself crawling, fully clothed between the flannel sheets. I pulled my blankets up over my nose which left my eyes peaking out and my brain running at full speed.

‘How will I find the funds to send my oldest to college in September and what about the braces my youngest needs? My dad, who lives 2000 miles away has just been admitted to the hospital for unknown reasons and the distance between us has never felt more immense. The economy is taking a toll on my business and the idea of just staying under the covers seems like the only solution.’

However, as I laid there I realized that at some point I’d need to get up. The challenges I faced before I pulled up the covers would still be there crying out for attention. I needed to take action, but how? One baby step at a time.

You’ve heard the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The same philosophy works for facing a challenge; like surviving the next 12 months. Economists theorize that Q1 09 will be tough and Q2 may be as tough but by the second half of the year we should start to see a slow movement towards improvement. Just like the extra weight we carry didn’t happen over night, neither did the economic crisis. And we can’t expect to wake up and suddenly be a size 6 without some effort.

So here’s how I see it: we just need to make it eleven more months. Are you with me? We just need to hang in there. So how are we going to do that?

Take action one baby step at a time.

  • Categorize the income producing projects you have on your plate into those that are most likely to bring you steady income the quickest.
  • Write down a laundry list of everything you need to do to make them happen.
  • Prioritize the laundry list.
  • Make a list of those people you know who might be considered centers of influence (check out Bill Cates’ definition).
  • Add to your calendar a schedule of contacting those people and letting them know you are available for work.
  • Contact prior customers to see if they need additional services or if they can make a recommendation.
  • Review your products and services and break them down into two categories: big money makers that take a while to close and small income producers that are quicker to sell.
  • Consider adopting a strategy of selling 100 services/products at a smaller dollar amount than your prior focus of selling 10 really big projects.
  • Now get started! Start each day:

    • Review your laundry list of items that need to be done to drive traffic: do ONE thing.
    • Review your list of centers of influence: call ONE person.
    • Review your list of past customers for additional revenue or a referral: call ONE customer.
    • Review your listing of small, quick selling products and services: call ONE person who might be interested.

    If after doing those four things you still feel like you need to pull the covers over your head. . . TAKE A WALK.

    Real Age has an article about crushing your chocolate cravings by taking a walk. The same thought can be applied to feeling low or stuck in a rut. Get out and breathe in the fresh air. It’s not only good for your heart, but also for your spirit.

    Pulling the covers over your head may seem like a solution but it is really just a delaying tactic. We need to stand up and take action.

    “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.” Anne Lamott

    Check out Todd Carpenter’s story of using the “one bite at a time” theory for his personal success.

    What an encouraging, helpful reminder (it seems like we need to hear this type of thing pretty often right now)!  What steps are you taking daily to stay out from under the covers?

    16Feb/09

    Marketing Mondays – Small Changes Today…

    Heed these wise words from Ken Partain, posted in the OPEN Forum’s blog:

    When times get tough and sales slow down, people start scrambling around trying to force things to happen.  I’d like to suggest another way to handle tough situations that can indeed help in the short-term, but create lasting rewards in the long-term.

    First of all, take a deep breath and relax.  No matter what you do, you can’t really force a prospect to buy your product or service.  Yeah, you could slash your prices in hopes of making a quick sale, but you’ve just destroyed your profit at the same time.  You can’t do that very often or you won’t be in business for long.

    There are four areas where you can make incremental changes that can help improve your business today and set you up for lasting success.

    Leads

    Leads are at the very top of the Marketing Hourglass, or what many people refer to as the Marketing Funnel.  Bottom line, the more leads you get, the more sales you’ll make.  So, what can you do TODAY to generate more leads?

    Remember, you don’t have to knock it out of the park here.  Just get on first base.  If you improve your leads generated by just 10% and everything else remains the same, you should see a 10% increase in sales.
    But let’s take this a step further.

    Conversions

    Now that you have increased the number of leads you are getting, how can you convert more of those leads into paying clients?  I have a one word answer, testing.  Test your headlines, test copy, test your offer, test your call to action, test everything.  Find the combination that works the best for your target market and continue to improve over time.

    Pricing

    It seems that everyone is hyper-sensitive about price these days.  The way to get around that is to offer a package of products and/or services that can’t be found anywhere else.  This one thing can differentiate you from all your competitors and make it virtually impossible for people to beat you up and compare your pricing to others.

    Now that you have a unique product/service offering you can effectively increase your average sales price.

    Transactions

    Now that you are generating more leads, converting more of those leads into sales and selling at an effectively higher price, what can you do to sell more to your existing clients?

    Offer a premium package and/or create a training or coaching program that turns those one-time sales into recurring sales.  The key here is to offer a tremendous amount of value for the price so that your clients will continue working with you for months and years to come.

    By making small improvements in each of these areas, you will see a drastic improvement in bottom line profits.  If you’ll take the time today to make these changes, you’ll be poised for remarkable sales and long-lasting success when the economy turns back around.

    13Feb/09

    Business and Breakfast | A New Service: Podcasts

    The February 2009 Business and Breakfast event ushers in a new program for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.  In order to better serve our members, audio from our professional development events will be available for download from our website and as a Podcast through iTunes.

    For the inaugural podcast, our presenter is  Dr. Franklin Schultz, who gave an engaging presentation on stress management.  The event was  hosted by the YMCA of West Central Florida, where attendees were treated to a delicious breakfast and a relaxing environment in which to learn about stress management.

    Dr. Schultz clarified that our goal was not to eliminate stress, but to manage it.  He gave us a four step process for dealing with stress and encouraged us to practice it daily.  The very serious subject of stress (and the statistics about the damage it does to our bodies) was approached with an excellent balance of humor and relevant, helpful information.

    Thanks to our podcasts, even if you could not attend, you can get all the great information for yourself!  You can play the presentation right from this window by pressing play below.  If you would like to subscribe to this and future podcasts, you can search the iTunes store for “Lakeland Chamber”.  For those of you using other devices, the feed can be found at http://blog.lakelandchamber.com/?feed=podcast.

    If you are new to podcasting, there is excellent information available here.  We are looking forward to your feedback regarding the Chamber podcasts.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here or email Matthew at mwengerd@lakelandchamber.com.

    [podcast]http://blog.lakelandchamber.com/podcasts/Feb-09-Business-and-Breakfast.mp3[/podcast]

    Have you done your exercises today?

    09Feb/09

    Marketing Mondays – Search Engine Door Slowly Closing on Small Business

    This week’s Marketing Monday comes from the OPEN Forum‘s Scott Campbell.  

    It’s difficult not to be bombarded these days with the glowing internet trends and statistics…the bottom line is that people (read: potential customers) have and continue to flock to the internet in droves in search of products, services and information.  A recent study estimates that 72% of all buying decisions now involve the internet at some point during the buying cycle (researching, considering options, buying, confirming buying decision, or post-sale information gathering).  Business pundits routinely shout the critical importance of this medium and the need for an informative/visible web presence through books, magazines, media appearances, conferences, etc.

    And yet, the majority of small businesses continue to avoid, seemingly waiting for something to happen that will help them better understand and harness this technology.  And that’s a problem for a couple reasons. First, the internet is a wonderful place to exhibit products and services and do business. It’s a virtual storefront open 24/7 and can show products/services when the owner/management is working on other things…a dynamic that has been very profitable for some companies.  And second, without sounding too ominous, the door on visibility through search engines is slowly closing.

    As a quick primer, the “Big 4″ of search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask) display the websites that are most commonly associated with related keywords.  They use a ranking system so that those websites that are most appropriate for a keyword are ranked and listed at or near the top, whereas those that aren’t commonly associated with a keyword are ranked much lower or not at all.  What some business owners don’t realize is that most of the ranking is based upon techniques utilized within the website to rank higher. That is, ranking higher is largely within management’s control.

    An important part of these search engine ranking systems (also called “algorithms”) that determine website positions is the element of age and history.  That is, within their formulas are important criteria involving how long a website has been around.  (Sorry, they don’t consider how long you’ve been in business or how old you are…wouldn’t that be nice?)  Some of these criteria specifically include how long you’ve owned your domain (www.sample.com) and the age of the links pointing to your site.  These algorithms can further identify and reward companies that have been doing the right optimization activities over time…rather than all at once.  The bottom line is that the search engines try to limit the visibility of domains that are new and are using the latest “quick-hit” linking techniques and reward those sites that are established, informative and have been doing the right things all along.

    But further, irrespective of the age and history elements, I find most companies are just not doing the basic things necessary to position themselves highly.  As a search engine optimization professional, my estimation is that in any given industry, a handful of companies in a local area actively jockey for the top positions (and lead streams), some make modest improvement attempts and most ignore the opportunity altogether.  While true that the search engines of tomorrow (5 years hence) will probably look and act differently than they do today, I can’t help but think that no matter how they evolve, there’s only enough room at/near the top for a limited number, and that there’s no way of getting around this “haves vs have nots” dynamic. 

    If you find yourself in any group not active jockeying for the top position, then my advice to you is to

    start learning and applying those things necessary to develop an informative and visible web presence now, because that’s the direction the world is going in.

    The internet is, frankly, ripe with information on improving your web presence.  A recent study by Microsoft showed that most small business owners avoid positioning their sites higher and tools such as pay-per-click because they don’t know much about it and consider it too complex and/or too time consuming.  My response is that this may be the most important area of your business today and for some time.  If you don’t have time to look into improving your presence, then hire someone to do it.  Better yet, because things continue to evolve, find someone who will not only do it for you but can clearly educate you and keep you abreast of developments.

    If the prospect of attracting more and better qualified leads to your business isn’t motivating enough, then consider the downside of your competitors leapfrogging over you and gaining such an insurmountable search engine lead that you could be treading water in this area for years.  I encourage those companies that are waiting for something to come along to welcome and engage in making their website visible now…before we get too far down the road.

    The door may be closing, but it has not closed yet.  Even if you only sell in-store, a strong internet presence is no longer a convenience; it is a necessity.  There are several Chamber member businesses who specialize in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and can create an appealing website that ranks well when people look for your products in Lakeland.  You can go to our Preferred Business Directory and type “web” into the category field for a listing of member businesses that can help.  

    Let them know the Chamber blog sent you.