Grow Your Business While Bootstrapping

Wikipedia's definition of "Bootstrapping." Bootstrapping in business means starting a business without external help or capital. Such startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses.

No matter what stage your business is in, if you don't have venture capitalist throwing money at you, then you're bootstrapping.  Hek, we're all bootstrapping!  Whether it be finding new customers, launching new products or services or buying equipment, you'll need resources to fund these activities.  If you're anything like us, we spend our money and our time wisely.  As a matter of fact, we would prefer not to spend any money at all!  Yet, we all know that's not realistic.  Spending a little bit wisely and strategically can make all the difference.  If you don't have more time, you won't make more money.  A Deloitte survey found businesses who outsource grow 26% faster than their peers who try to do everything themselves.

Here are some examples of how we helped some clients last year. Each one unique, yet all of them are bootstrapping!  I want to note, it doesn't have to be Workbea that helps you. Perhaps you know specialists in your industry that you can contract for a few hours here and there to help you reach your goals.  The important message is that you spend your money and your time on things that generate ROI.  Hiring a bookkeeper or a customer care person won't generate revenue, but it will produce some extra time that must be used finding revenue to cover those costs.

FIND WASTE

Recently we helped a successful E-Commerce operation.   As always, we'll start with a deep analysis of where people's time and company money is being spent. Almost always we find thousands of dollars being wasted.  It's fact, no business is perfectly lean, no process is perfect and no employee does their job perfectly efficient.  There's no one to blame, it happens naturally.  Leaders and teams execute on objectives, goals, and plans but never think about HOW.  It's rare to see leadership take a step back and really understand the time cost or lost opportunity cost of any given activity.

In this case, we analyzed processes and found two in particular that were an expense not only in time but cost too.  The team helped us map out the process and agreed to perform a few time studies.  We were able to shave 3 minutes from a billing process that totaled about 5 hours a month.  In the shipping area, we found something even bigger, an entire process that could be completely eliminated from the workflow of the shipping area, this saved about 9 hours a month.  In just those two processes, we uncovered 14 hours a month.  Conveniently, the billing and shipping areas were managed by the same supervisor (this was an E-Commerce business) so he was able to reorganize responsibilities and position someone to spend those hours every month on outreach to current customers up selling products.  In the first quarter of the year, they are on track to generate about 7k in net profits.

Guess what? That 7k can be allocated to lead generation and marketing.   Over the course of this year, if they continue on this path, they will generate over 20k for growth initiatives.   What would you do with an extra 7k every quarter?

FIND TIME

Here's another example.  Last year we worked with an electrical contractor.  Very small business, just himself and one other employee. Typical scenario, wife at home taking care of the bookkeeping and the owner doing all the work in the field.  He was working 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, there was no time to think about growing or developing his business.   As a matter of fact, he was turning business down left and right because he just didn't have the bandwidth to take it on.  He had such a clear vision of where he wanted to take his company and a well thought out plan, but he just couldn't execute.  He outsourced his customer follow up and bookkeeping to us. Small 10 hour blocks a month. We helped him recruit 2 part time apprentices.  While these apprentices weren't journeymen, they knew enough to hit the ground running and be very valuable in the field.   With the time his wife gained giving up the record keeping, she is able to answers those requests for work and put them on the calendar.  Essentially, he is spending about $500 a month with us to capture about 4k a month in work. After all, is said and done, his margin on that 4k is about $1500.00.    This year he and his wife are on track to grow sales 30%.

FIND PROSPECTS

And the last example.  The startup.  Ah yes, the new business owner who has all kinds of enthusiasm, goals and dreams, but NO customers.   She's an artist, not a salesperson!  We began with offering FREE consulting. Yes, free.  Once a week, we'd spend 30 minutes with her outlining some of the activities she needed to do in order to find customers. We did this for 4 weeks.  At the end of the month with a few customers under her belt and a few bucks in the bank, she hired us to optimize her Social Media, Website and begin a Facebook Ad campaign.   The total cost was about 2k and she is capturing approximately 12 new leads a month through the email capture on the landing page. These are people asking for about her artwork or asking to be put on a mailing list so they can come to art shows she participates in.  If she closes just 4 of those leads, she will make back what she spent on us. The rest is all hers.

THE MESSAGE

Restated: The important message is that you spend your money and your time on things that generate ROI.  Hiring a bookkeeper or a customer care person won't generate revenue, but it will produce some extra time that must be used finding revenue to cover those costs.

So get growing!

 


The Bitter Truth About Facebook For Business

Have you ever sucked on a lemon and felt your face pucker up? That's how we felt when we heard Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook say "We're making a major change to how we build Facebook.." The news feed is changing again, in a big way. For the casual consumer of FB, this is great news, for the business owner, it's really bad news.

This move came as a result of recent research that showed people aren't actually feeling happy and joyful on social media these days.  Not so great news for FB.  So Zuckerberg has decided to take action and deliver more meaningful interactions into the news feed.

What does this mean? Pages and videos will see their reach decline.  It also means the cost of entry into a news feed (ads) will sky rocket.

But, hey, this isn't news. We've been seeing this happen over the course of the last 18 months!  We've attributed this to the fact that FB is just becoming saturated with ads and public content.  Our gut was  right. Zuckerberg confirmed the saturation of paid content but he also confirmed Facebook will intentionally deliver less of it now.

After the pucker wore off, we are adapting to Facebook's change and revisiting content strategy.

There's upside to everything! These changes will force folks to think through their messages and content. It will also facilitate deeper relationships on Facebook with your audience.  You'll have to understand and communicate that you understand in a way that moves people to interact.  This is especially true in order to catch the eye of a potential new customer, a prospect. Just as you would get to know your prospect in person, you need to get to know them with similar intimacy on social media.  After all, social media is like cold calling, it's where your prospects get to know you, look at your product, and decide if they want to take the next step. Online and offline interactions are very similar in this way.

Really all Zuckerberg is saying is, stop the billboard type posts and start connecting with people again in a way that builds better relationships, more meaningful interactions,  and as a result a better platform. Yes, we're optimistic, because we have to be and because frustration won't help our clients adapt. When Facebook makes a change, we have to navigate it with great velocity so the impact is minimized.

Consequently, if you're a plumber or a manufacturer managing your own social accounts, and may struggle with writing, this can be catastrophic.

If writing isn't your thing, you can always skip the keyboard and go for the camera to tell the story.  Video reigns king of social media right now. 76% of users will opt to watch a video than read words.  So if you get creative with your message through a video, your chances to show up in a feed improve significantly.  The caveat is that Video has only shown to increase engagement, but packing it with  value and a highly relevant message for a specific audience can help you win the conversion. Workbea has partnered with Nickel City Graphics, expert video marketers to offer packages to our clients.  Together we're hosting some local workshops on how to be successful with video and social media.

Most business owners and marketing coordinators lack the technical skill to produce quality video. This isn't an insult, it's just fact. These folks are amazing at what they do, but they aren't savvy in editing software, frame rates, or story boards.  We highly recommend you outsource this, otherwise, you'll spend hours putting a 30 second video together that may miss the mark in "meaningful."

What's the meaning of meaningful. I guess it depends on who you ask.  You have to know your audience before you can make assumptions on what's meaningful to them. Audiences vary across social media platforms. People use them for different reasons.

They key to success is understanding the platform's audience. These Facebook changes are geared to a more pleasant experience for the audience they serve. Let's take a look at the FB user base.  Most FB users want to see family and friend updates, they want to be entertained, and some even use it as a news source. Many aren't in business mode or purchasing mode when they are reading the news feed. They will shift into those modes if what they see compels them to, but in general,  people are on FB when they are on a break, off work, or killing time.  That type of understanding of all your social platforms will help you deliver resonating content.

With any audience, you'll need to build trust and rapport. Building rapport and trust takes thought and consistency.  Thought and consistency takes effort, time, and planning.  (I'm hearing the small business owner laughing right now)  Small businesses are especially challenged here because they just don't have the budget to dedicate man hours to social media.

So for those of you facing the change with limited resources, here's some tips to help you hold your own for as long as you can.

  1.  If you're a service professional working inside people's homes, ask the homeowner to share their story. Everyone has a story. The post might read something like..."Linda moved here last year so she could take care of her aging parents. For her, there wasn't another option. She wanted to come and do this. She sacrificed a lot to be here and she has a lot on her plate. Although, we came to fix the hot water tank, we left inspired by her strength and love for her parents. It was an honor to be of service to her today."
  2. If you're manufacturing product, you have to understand how that product impacts the lives of the end user and be able to demonstrate it in words, pictures, and video.
  3. The ever debatable hashtag. They do serve a purpose, yet they should be purposeful.
  4. Not the mushy type? Go the comedic route.   Everyone loves a good laugh. Find humor in your day that is relevant to your audience and reflect on it. You might make light of your spouse's well intended, botched dinner. Or show someone in the office with that sauce stain from lunch. As long as you can reflect without embarrassing, this is a great way to connect with people. Make light of not so great situations.
  5. Share your story.  Unicorns are rare.  People buy from people. Your customers can chose your competition over you and that's why it's important to tell YOUR story. For example, we have a client who uses us because she loves the fact we all left the corporate world to be more present with our families. She did the same thing 10 years ago. When we spoke to her, we told her our WHY and it resonated.
  6. For God's sake be authentic.  This advice just isn't for social media, it's for everything.  No one is perfect, no business is perfect, and people love seeing other people's imperfections. We all want to know we're not alone in imperfection. That resonates with everyone.   If you appear too put together, too amazing, you'll build skepticism and trust goes right out the window.
  7. This one's old, but new again....ask questions, but the right ones.  Challenge paradigms and assumptions on topics related to your work.  Press buttons, but be careful not to close doors. It's a fine balancing act with this one. You can play it safe by asking people "What's the strangest thing your Elf On The Shelf did this year?"
  8. Inspire people to live and interact in responsible ways.  Lots of great motivational quotes out there, but go deeper than those.  Share something relatable  to the quote and relevant to your work.  Inspire your audience to serve their communities by volunteering, donating,  or just taking a meal to a lonely neighbor.
  9. Take advantage of those "National "whatever" Days.  Be creative with the "Wednesday Wisdom" or "Man Crush Monday."  These days are perfect for connecting the dots to what you do in a meaningful or comedic way.
  10. Test things out with post boosts and target people who already like your page. If they like your page, chances are Facebook will oblige. More importantly if they like your page, they are more likely to share your post and interact with it. If and when they do, their friends might see that and interact as well.

There's a lot of noise out there, so choose to whisper intelligent bytes rather than yell louder or pay more.  We'd be happy to manage your accounts, help you with content strategy, or just give some guidance.  Contact us at info@workbea.com

 

 


find new customers quick

Want new customers quick? Find some big coattails.

There’s a lot of creative ways to generate leads and gain find new customers.   Some are pretty effective; some take a lot of time and effort, while others just use gimmicks to coax people into buying something.  All have a place.  If you’re a new small business, the goal is to get sales quickly and efficiently.  Startups don’t have a lot of time to experiment or wait for long pragmatic marketing plans to play out.  

We try to get our clients in front of as many potential customers as possible in the shortest period of time.  The method we use to do this is called “Coattail Riding.”   

Coattail riding is forming relationships with established (successful) businesses that cater to your ideal customer- then give the established business a special offer to give to their clients as a gift.  These businesses can be related to what you provide; completing a service you provide or completely unrelated to your industry yet serve the same customer. As an example, if you own a sports bar, you might partner up with a local sporting goods store.  If you are a hair salon, you might want to partner up with a local cosmetic distributor.   Or, if you are a high end clothing store, you might want to partner up with your local luxury car dealership. These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless.find new customers quick

The method of coattail riding  exposes you to a set of prospects pretty quickly. It’s equally beneficial to the older business because they get to give something to their clients without incurring cost. They can use this special offer to entice their current customer base to purchase something more or purchase something again.  It’s win-win for both sides.  Before you pick up the phone, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know who my ideal customer is? This is the most important question. If you can’t clearly define and articulate your ideal customer- this method won’t work.
  • Can I deliver in a way that builds trust and confidence with the established business? (Don’t make them look bad with unhappy recipients!)
  • What is the worst scenario? Example: If you’re giving a free sample away, will you have enough? Is your supply chain responsive enough to meet the demand of this “sample” offering?

Once you are confident on who you are trying to target and you can deliver with excellence then the next step is to look for the best coattails to ride on.   

  • Do they have a good reputation? If not, you’ll inherit a bad one by association.
  • Are they currently working with businesses similar to yours? If so, you won’t want to create more competition than what you already have.
  • Is this a business that could potentially compete with you?

Thinking through some of the questions above will help you plan and pick. Here are some steps to make this method successful in gaining new customers.

  1. Develop a clear and individual offer to each potential partner. Come up with a free or deeply discounted product or service that is perceived as high value to your prospect.  The sports bar owner might offer a free meal with the purchase of another or two for one appetizers on game nights.   The hair salon might offer a deep discount on a cut, color, and style package.  In turn, your cosmetic distributor partner might offer your package with a purchase of $100 or more.  Think through the offer, write it down and be sure to add in ideas your partner can use to generate more sales for themselves with your offer.
  2. Have a pitch ready when you call. These business owners and managers are very busy and rarely take cold calls from salespeople.  So write down a pitch, a voicemail, and email template for you to use.  These templates cannot be more than 20-30 seconds to listen to or read.  At this point you are not trying to win their business; you’re trying to win their attention. Include the “what’s in it for me” in the first 6 seconds and how you can help them get some incremental sales if they partner with you.  Practice the pitch over and over until you have it memorized. Pivot if you need to by changing things that don’t work in live conversations. 
  3. Make it easy for them to partner with you. Have content templates ready for them to place into their own company letterhead or newsletter.   Be responsive when they need you- give them enough products so they don’t have to keep asking for more and when their customer calls you, be responsive.    You don’t want one of their customers calling them with a complaint about you! You will create more work and headaches for them. The partnership will become a liability to the established business if you are not delivering well. 
  4. Last but NOT LEAST- have a plan to get these redeemers to become regular customers of yours. Make a great first impression and then give them something to comeback for. As an example, the sports bar owner might offer a loyalty card that gives patrons a free meal with the purchase of 10.  Remember hope is not a strategy- so have a plan to turn redeemers into regulars.  There are countless ways to keep customers coming back, but we'll save that for another post. 

Mid size companies use coattail riding all the time! They use it a little differently but the results are the same.    Look at the Hershey’s chocolate dipped pretzel- the pretzel company got to put their name on the bag for providing the pretzel to Hershey at a discount.  Both companies leveraged each other distribution channels and both gained exposure to each other’s customers.   Small computer networking companies strive for putting a Microsoft or Cisco logo on their letterhead or marketing material. Those logos give them instant credibility and expose them to a broader customer base.    

Whichever way you chose to coat tail ride, make sure you are a fantastic and polite rider.  Mind your manners, represent your business with integrity, and deliver with excellence so they will continue to work with you in the future.

Want some help putting this method into an actionable plan?  Contact us!  info@workbea.com www.workbea.com

 


How to improve profits

7 Creative Ways To Get New Customers

Your goal is to get new customers this year (big sigh) - the same goal as last year and every year.  You’ve tried all the traditional methods- running ads, asking for referrals, and attending those dreaded networking events.  Sometimes these traditional tacticsGrow your business and get new customers worked, most times it didn’t or you just couldn’t measure it properly to know if  these efforts worked.  Being more creative and strategic in how you get new customers can make all the difference.  You may have rethink your definition of a "new customer" and think about it as getting more business from different customers.    With some planning and consistency, using some of these methods can be very effective and won’t break your marketing budget.

First a disclaimer: before you start engaging potential customers, make sure you are engaging the right ones.   There is nothing more fruitless than trying to sell a prospect on something they aren't interested in.  Understanding WHO to talk to is just as important as WHAT you will say.

For now, we'll assume you've done the homework on what your target market is and who your ideal customer is. Now that you’re armed with a focus and a message, you can try any of these ideas and you'll be talking to new prospects and closing deals in a just a few weeks.

  1. Leverage your current base.Just asking for a referral isn't enough anymore. If your clients are happy with your service or widget they will do this naturally.  To electrify this process, put some "what's in it for me" into it.  Incentivize your current clients to refer.  Come up with a program where after so many referrals that result in new sales for you, they get their service or product for next to free for an extended period of time.  No one wants to give their widget or service away for free. Instead, think about the cost of bringing on another sales person.  If you can incentivize someone to sell for you for less than what it costs you to bring on a sales person, then it's a winning idea.   Your program should include these elements:
    • A "code" for tracking.  Some type of customer code, discount coupon, or you can use the current customer's name.  Have something to track for them, if they have to track it themselves, it's too much work and interest in your program will fizzle.
    • Automate the process so you're not adding extra work on your end. Tools like Zapier or basic notifications in your email or on your website can help you eliminate some of the administrative work.
    • Shout it out!  Announce the small victories to your other customers. ie "ABC Company got 10% off their invoice this year, you can too!" None of us want to miss out on a deal or something free, so hang the carrot on the stick and talk about whom gets it.
  1. Get engaged in conversations- online.  There isn't a network event in your local area where you can walk in the room and a potential prospect is on a microphone asking the entire room "Where can I find a good xyz?" ( you happen to sell xyz).    A few minutes a day commenting, answering, and advising, will eventually put you right in front of your prospects- daily.   You can do this while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for your daughter's dance class to end, or while having your morning coffee.    The ROI can be significant. We have three clients getting more than 85% of their business from online communities and referrals from them.
  2. Take a class with your prospects.  For instance, a home improvement contractor might attend a "Do it Yourself" class at the Home Depot or an HVAC service provider might take building safety certification classes.  There are tremendous benefits in this strategy and a great way to find new customers.
    • It will help you understand the nuances of your current customer's environment.
    • You will be able to identify what's important to prospects with laser focus.
    • You'll be presented with all kinds of problems to solve, because typically in an interactive class, people talk about their challenges.
    • Opportunity to network. What a great introduction you have: "I'm taking this class because I want to better understand my customer's challenges."   "We provide xyz to companies like yours."
  3. Give a class.  A landscaper might offer a free gardening class at a local community center.  A personal trainer might offer a free nutrition class at the local gym.    The key to this is never sell your service or product at these events- the purpose of these classes are to position yourself as an expert by showing what you know.  As an expert, you gain trust- when people trust you, they do business with you.  Your name and business will be on the printed material and you’ll have   a post card for attendees to fill out that will qualify them as prospects.
  4. Partner up.  If you're a wedding photographer, partner up with a DJ, decorator and a caterer to offer a package.  A software reseller might partner up with a network security company and refer each other.  This gives all involved a force multiplier in the effort of finding new customers.  Your business gets exposed to their customers and visa versa.  Think outside the box here- it doesn’t always have to be completing services, it can be offering a service in another area of the customer journey.  For example- An IT service provider might partner up with a business consultant to offer software audits or technology workflow audits.
  5. Find big shirt tails to ride on.   If you're small fish in a big pond, then be a bottom feeder. Yep, you'll have to eat a little humble pie here.   Call on those market leaders and ask them to outsource work to you during their peak business times.   Every company runs into times when project deadlines are at risk because the workload is overwhelming. It makes much more sense for these companies to outsource rather than increase headcount.  You might get the work they don't want to do, however, its work you didn't have before.  Be sure to have an NDA and Non-Compete to offer so they know you can be trusted and they will be protected.
  6.   White labels your services.  Promotion companies do this all the time, they sell products with other businesses logos on it.   Offer your services to other businesses (in your customer’s journey) and allow them to put their label on it. You’re providing a way for them to expand their product line without a large investment into acquiring the skill and knowledge.  For instance, if you’re a content designer, you might want to approach a local printer  see if they want to expand their service offering.  The printer has an opportunity to gain more of the customer journey and you get the work.  Again, offer the NDA and the Non-Compete, or have a white label agreement.  With this idea you may have to rethink what a new "customer" is, nevertheless, it's a way to get more business.

Try just one of these ideas at a time and make sure you have a way to measure the success.  It’s common to ask a new customer how they found you, go further and assign internal customer codes according to how you acquired them.  You’ll be able to analyze the effort at the end of the year.   Workbea has a comprehensive customer acquisition planning tool that can help you understand the ROI of your efforts.  If you’d like a copy, email us at info@workbea.com