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5 Steps to Qualifying Clients

helloiam

This morning I spoke to a potential client. She had been referred to me by a friend who knew I could help her with a website for her new business. And I could. I could build her an amazing website, complete with bells, whistles, e-commerce, SEO, sliders, movies…you name it. If she wanted it, I could build it.

Her first question was whether I could build a site using a popular online drag-and-drop management system. My response was that while I could build a site with that system, I wouldn’t. I believe in the management system I use, and I’m practiced at it. She accepted that.

Her next question was how much I would charge.

[Read more in my Democrat & Chronicle blog post.]

Don’t Panic

Computer key labelled don't panic

Don’t Panic! These words do little to help when something goes wrong. Your instinct IS to panic.

Everyone who has ever owned a website, social media account, or email address has, at some point in time, had a moment of sheer terror: the white screen of death, a misspelled post, or an email sent to the wrong recipient. It’s a moment when panic sets in, sweat appears on your brow, adrenaline courses through your veins, and you fall to your knees tearing at your shirt crying out “why me???” (OK – maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.)

So what do you do to address these issues? How you respond says a lot about how you are as a business person, how you work under pressure, and how resourceful you might be.

  • The Website White Screen of Death: Here’s where running frequent backups of your site will pay off. So MAKE SURE YOU RUN FREQUENT BACKUPS OF YOUR SITE. No backup? Contact your hosting company. They usually maintain backups of their servers for at least 30 days. While you may lose some of the work you’ve done recently, you will at least get a decent working copy back up quickly.
  • Website Down – No Backup Possible: Here’s where a nifty little thing called the Way Back Machine comes in handy. Did you know that there are archives of most websites online? Go to waybackmachine.org and type in your website. You can go back YEARS and see sites as they were. This comes in handy if you ever need to copy the text/images from an old site. (It’s a hoot for me to go back and see sites I built in the late 90’s!)
  • Social Media: Did you post something you wish you hadn’t? Don’t despair. Even though people may have seen it, you can always delete and repost, or, depending on the site, edit the post. A good rule of thumb here is to read and re-read everything before you post it. It’s easier to post the correct thing than to go back and correct what was already posted.

  • Email: There is really very little you can do to mitigate having sent an email that you wish you hadn’t. I can’t stress enough how much you should proofread everything before you send it. Then proof it again. If it’s important, it bears review.

The bottom line is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Planning will always beat fixing. 

And, of course, we’ve all been there, and most people will understand.

Marketing that Money Can’t Buy

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It’s true. There is marketing that money can’t buy. (And that’s not easy for a marketer to say.)

As a small business owner, it is important to spend your marketing dollars wisely. Great investments include investing in an optimized, user-friendly website; running social media campaigns; and using newsletters and other media appropriately. 

But what else can you do on a limited budget that can have a big impact? Networking!

Networking is a great way for a small business owner/business person to make connections, build trust, and grow their reputation. By networking, you will meet potential clients…as well as others who can refer clients to you.

There are many ways to network:

  • Organized, paid networking groups. Franchises like BNI and Tipclub exist to help you connect with other professionals. Usually they operate with one seat per category, meaning that no one else in your group will be from your industry.
  • Organized, unpaid networking groups. Sometimes harder to find, these usually operate similarly to BNI or Tipclub, but do not require a membership fee. You can google networking groups in your area and check Craigslist for groups near you. (About half of my business comes through referrals in my networking group.)
  • Check out Meetup.com for lots of different special interest groups. You might find clients in groups that aren’t directly labeled “networking.” Perhaps you’re into rock climbing or stamp collecting. You may meet people in those groups who would love to help your business or buy from you. You won’t know until you go. (I have gotten clients through my local WordPress user group.)
  • Join your local chamber of commerce. Chambers of commerce are in your area to help businesses succeed. They usually have monthly meetings at which you will meet other area business owners. Their membership fees are designed to be affordable to any sized business. (I have many new clients through the two chambers I belong to.)
  • Serendipity. Start conversations in line at the coffee shop. Talk to people at your place of worship. Mention your business at your kids’ schools. You never know who might be right in front of you (or behind you) that could be your next client.

Finding networking opportunities and taking advantage of them is paramount to growing your business. So get out there and make some connections!

Need marketing help? Contact us!

Customer Service Makes All the Difference

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Everyone has a bad customer service story. Whether you had slow service at a restaurant or waited in line at a grocery store only to have the cashier smash your bread. Bad customer service is everywhere.

Good customer service is everywhere, too. But no one talks about that. You know why?

Because good customer service is expected.

[Read more in my Democrat & Chronicle blog post.]

Marketing Integrity

choosy diva

Once upon a time, any business whose check would clear was a potential client. I had no idea what marketing integrity even was. In those days I worked with almost anyone. I was new. I was eager. I wanted to grow my portfolio.

Those days are over. I am now a marketing snob, and I’m OK with that.

Over the years I have grown my business in a way that allows me to maintain my integrity as a marketer. How? By not taking clients whose services or products are something I can’t get behind. Don’t get me wrong, I could sell the heck out of a broken soup bowl…but at the end of the day, who wants soup leaking out of their bowl?

In the spirit of good client/marketing fit, I have developed a 3-prong test for whether or not I can take a client integrity-wise:

  1. Would I buy your service or product?
  2. Would I want my mother to buy your service or product?
  3. Would I be proud to put my name with yours on your service or product?

If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, then I will tactfully suggest that I may not be the marketer for you. There are plenty of other marketing firms that will work with you. Others that don’t equate their reputation with that of their clients. Others who may even see it as a challenge. I am not that marketer.

Marketing Integrity

So what kinds of businesses won’t I work with? That depends, but any of the following need not contact me:

  • Inferior products
  • Illegal products or services
  • Unethical products or services
  • Well-deserved bad reputation
  • Pornography
  • Gambling

As a marketer, my name will be associated with yours. My reputation will be associated with yours. People who feel wronged by you will look to see who helped you sell them something they feel harmed by. They will see me as that person. That’s not something I’m willing to be. 

When looking for someone to help with your marketing, be sure to align yourself with a company whose ethics and integrity match your own.

Contact us if we are a good fit for you. Otherwise, save us both the time.

To Give or Not to Give (Corporate Giving)

Photo of a wallet with money

Giving to Help Your Business

Giving is a personal decision. No matter what level of success you have achieved in business, you will be asked for donations and sponsorships. Whether you are a multi-million dollar company or a solo entrepreneur just making ends meet — people and organizations will ask for your help. Giving can help or hinder, depending on how you manage it.

Why does this happen?

  • Others will assume that you are successful as long as you are in business.
  • People always equate success with wealth.
  • Charitable organizations survive on donations/sponsorships.

So what do you do? How do you choose?

The biggest companies making millions and even billions of dollars don’t say yes to everyone. In fact, they are more judicious in charitable giving than most small businesses are. Why? Because they get more requests. They are highly visible, so more people know who they are. Judiciousness doesn’t mean that they aren’t giving charitably…it just means that they have a process and internal policies to follow.

Some things that big businesses do:

  • They establish policies. There are specific ways that requestors must request a donation. Whether through a portal on their website, submitting a form, or requiring a request in writing, these companies make sure that all appropriate questions are answered, and that there is a paper trail for all requests and responses.
  • They complete due diligence, making sure that the charitable organization is a true 501(c)3, allowing for any donation to be a tax benefit.
  • They establish annual budgets. Establishing a budget allows for several things, including the ability to say no when the budget is exhausted, setting limits per request fulfilled, and keeping total charitable expenditures within limits.
  • They choose charities that meet specific criteria. They choose to give based on what the charity promotes, how long the non-profit has been around, and how global vs. local the charity is.
  • They’re not afraid to make it known. Giving is good for a non-profit, but it’s also good for the donor or sponsor. Good will can help a business get publicity and score PR points for making clients/customers feel good about the company – but only when the information is public and the clientele is aware.

So how can you be like big business?

  • Set your own policies. Create an avenue by which requests must be processed. This will help funnel requests through your process, making it easier for you to make an informed decision.
  • Make sure your money is tax-deductible. Ensure that any organization you give to is a 501(c)3 and meets the IRS definition of a charitable organization/not-for-profit so that your donation helps you financially, too.
  • Make sure that your charitable giving doesn’t impede your ability to do business. Don’t injure your cashflow just to be nice.
  • Choose based on your selected criteria. You can decide what kinds of organizations you want to support. Maybe education is your go-to, or a cancer organization, or children, or animals. Make decisions and set policies to guide your giving.
  • Shout it out. Making a donation? Sponsoring an event? Send out press releases. Put it in your newsletter. Post it on your social media. Make it known that your business has a heart. Customers are more likely to spend money with a company when they think their purchase supports others in need.

Above all — be empowered to say yes or to say no. Your job isn’t to save every organization. Your job is to fulfill YOUR mission statement. So go ahead and give, but do it according to the rules you establish for yourself and your business.

Want to talk more about how giving can help you? Contact us!