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Growth Could Kill Your Company!

growth

photo credit: epSos.de

When Alina Martin took over her father’s small company in 2007 it had been ticking along, growing slowly for several years. The company, Danatec, sold paper-based course materials for corporate trainers to use in safety training of employees. Martin could see that online learning had potential. Her father wasn’t convinced, nor were her salespeople. How could you possibly call something training if the trainer wasn’t in the room with the person being trained? Martin persevered. It took a couple of years of experimentation before it really took off, but once it did, things went crazy! Growth tripled in three years and was running at 27% when I spoke to her.

Sounds like a dream situation, but many companies that grow quickly eventually crash and burn. The skills and practices that created their success just can’t sustain it.  

So what goes wrong in these growth situations? Let’s consider the 3P Profit Formula™: Promise + People + Processes = Profits. Often as companies grow they struggle with all three Ps.

Promise

The promise is your brand, and, as the recent Volkswagen scandal showed us, it can be destroyed quickly if a company isn’t living up to the standards its customers expect. But with fast growth, that promise can be diluted. Sometimes growth companies lose focus: they want so much to keep growing that they take on clients that they shouldn’t or expand into new lines of business that are not good fit for their customers.

Sometimes they do the opposite, and hyper-focus on the formula that made them successful. But as the world around them changes, they may be unable to adapt to the new reality. Kodak was a classic case of this. They actually developed the first digital camera, but buried the idea, fearing that I would hurt their film business. That decision cost the company its life.

Others become arrogant; the fast growth convinces them that their customers will always be there.  But as they grow, the customer focus that won that business in the first place can slip, priming customers to fall into the open arms of a competitor.  

People

Your business success is influenced by many different types of people: prospects, customers, employees, funders, suppliers, distributors and even the public at large. As you grow, all of these relationships can be strained.

Despite Danatec’s clear success, Martin found that some staff were still resistant to the changes. Most people dislike change, so how do you get their buy in? Sometimes even company owners resist change: if something has been working well enough, why should they risk doing things differently?

It is crucial to involve your employees right from the start of the growth management process, so they will have a sense of buy-in and commitment to the new vision. Being open and honest with your staff will help. Remember when your 4-year old kept asking why, why, why? It’s not just kids who want to know why; we all do. If we understand the reason for something, we are more likely to accept it. Martin says that any employee is allowed to question a decision, but she expects them to have an alternative answer and explanation of why they think it would be better.

Growth also strains employees physically. Typically they’ll be working long hours while the company struggles to hire and train enough staff. It can be frustrating when overworked colleagues are late answering questions or getting their part of a process done on time. This pressure often sucks companies into hiring the wrong people, just to get more bodies on staff. But bad co-workers can be even worse for morale than overwork. There may start to be problems with staff turnover if staff feel that they are no longer the close-knit, supportive team they once were.

Suppliers may have trouble keeping up with a high-growth company’s needs. Customers don’t care that it’s the supplier’s fault that you couldn’t get their product to them on time. They’ll be upset with you, not the supplier. Distributors or franchisees can also hurt your reputation.  It’s tempting to seize your moment of popularity to keep on growing without doing proper screening or training of these partners.   But think about it: when you go to your local McDonalds and get bad service you blame the McDonalds company, not the local franchise owner.

Process

When I called Martin for our scheduled interview, nobody answered the phone. Nor did it go to voice mail. Over a year and a half, calls for tech support jumped from about 10 calls a day to 100. There just weren’t enough people to answer all the calls. The order entry process also needed to be totally rebuilt because it simply wasn’t scalable.

As Martin put it, “things break” when you grow that quickly.  “When you are growing,” she notes, “you are continually reinventing the process.”

As hard as it can be to find the time, when your company is growing quickly you must regularly check to make sure you’re still meeting your promise to your customers, you’ve got the right people in place, and that your processes are keeping up with the sales.

 

authorTema Frank is a customer experience & digital marketing  pioneer. She launched her first website in 1995 and in 2001 founded Web Mystery Shoppers, one of the world’s first companies to do remote usability testing of websites and web-related customer service.  Her podcast, Frank Reactions, focuses on customer experience in the digital era. Listen to it at http://frankreactions.com , on  iTunes or Stitcher. Tema has helped Bank of America, the Government of Alberta, the Royal Bank of Canada, and many small organizations improve their online & offline customer experience & marketing.  She’d love to meet you on Twitter @temafrank or by email.

11 6 Free Social Media Tools for Startups to Build a Strong Social Media Presence

You had a great idea, and you’ve built a viable business model around it, but getting the word around about the products and services you have on offer can prove to be quite challenging. With the use of social media, you can reach out to a greater number of people in lesser time. If you invest effort in social media management consistently, platforms like Facebook and Twitter also help you establish a relationship with your buyers.

Sure, continuous interaction means there may be instances when disgruntled customers diss you on social media. Instead of being scared away by the possibility, you should focus on having a crisis control strategy in place. Respond to negative feedback immediately and make it up to your customer. Good deeds on social media give you double the mileage – you can not only reconcile with an unhappy customer, but also reassure the others that you’re listening to them.

Building a strong social media presence is an imperative for startups in the digital age. Here are a few tools that will come in handy.

Rapportive

Sometimes, business correspondence via email can be tricky because there’s only that much you know about the other person. Rapportive fills this information gap by connecting your Gmail account to Linkedin. The tool comes as a free plug-in for Chrome and extracts a person’s Linkedin profile to display the information within your Gmail window.

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DrumUp

DrumUp is a smart content discovery tool that scours the web for relevant content based on the keywords you input. The tool acts as a central dashboard for your Twitter and Facebook profiles, letting you manage multiple accounts simultaneously. It allows you to choose from a list of suggested content, edit and schedule posts, and also add custom posts to the queue.

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Easel.ly

If you’ve used any social media platform or have been tracking the social media space, you know that visual content receives a higher rate of engagement. However, you’d think that creating visual content is a time-intensive task. Easel.ly makes you think again. The tool offers ready-to-use infographic templates that are categorized by subject. All you have to do is choose from their list of categories and search for a specific subject.

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Collecto

A dedicated tool for Instagram, Collec.to lets you manage your photos, organize them into albums, run contests to promote your brand and get statistics on the effectiveness of your campaign. It also gives you statistics for your profile, as well as others’ who you follow, provided they are subscribed to the tool.

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Canva

With Canva, everybody can be a designer. The tool offers image templates and editing options to create a wide range of visual content, including Facebook Cover Photos, Email headers, Youtube Channel Art, Photo Collages, Twitter headers, Ads, Presentations and more. It also offers design tutorials to help you hone you artistic abilities.

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Newsle

Newsle is a monitoring tool that can be used on several social media platforms including Linkedin and Facebook. It tells you who among your connections, both on email and social media, are most in the news. This essentially means that you can track mentions of you professional acquaintances, competitors and peers.

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Each of the tools discussed here offer a unique functionality and together make for a powerful social media arsenal. Given that all of them are free, you’ve got no excuses to put off trying them out to see how they can boost your social media presence.

 

JessicaJessica has a keen interest in social media and content marketing and writes extensively about it. She represents Godot Media, a leading content marketing firm.

 

The Art of the Start 2.0

Art-Of-Start-2-674x1024Marketing Podcast with Guy Kawasaki

Officially a startup is any business just getting started but over the last few years the term startup has come to mean a certain kind of business just getting started or perhaps even a certain mindset no matter how old the business is.

Personally I lean towards the latter. Startup is more of a mindset than a timeframe and that can be a good thing and a bad thing.

Many startup businesses never graduate to become real businesses because what it took to start is not what it took to grow and mature.

For some the chaos of “everyone does everything” is intoxicating. For others the inability of the founder to surround themselves with people that support the gaps they might have in marketing, operations, finance and even leadership either leads to certain death of a kind of stagnant purgatory of just enough revenue to pay the bills. (Otherwise known as a job.)

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist of Canva and author of the new book The Art of the Start 2.0, The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

In a testament to either my advancing age or strident consistency, I had Guy on this show over a decade ago when Art of the Start 1.0 came out.

Much has changed in the last 10 years and much has remained the same. In a note that struck me personally Guy claims that the hardest part of starting a business is learning how to lead and inspire others and I certainly concur.

By nature the very strengths the serve them getting started – things like tenacity, ingenuity and constant innovation (sometimes manifest as the idea of the week) are the things that sink them when they need to let go.

Guy is always a fun interview and The Art of the Start 2.0 is a must read of any – yes any – business owners or wannabe business owner.

Questions I ask Guy:

  • What is a Startup?
  • How do you make a pitch to potential investors?
  • How do you effectively build a team?

What You’ll Learn If You Give A Listen:

  • Why to hire people with complimentary skills to yours
  • How to raise funds for your startup using traditional and new methods
  • What venture capitalists and evangelists look for in a potential investment

20 The Secret to Working Less Without Making Less

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Jenna Dalton– Enjoy!

Work Less

photo credit: kroszk@

You want a life. You want a successful business. But is it possible to have both?

Yes it is. You just need to know the secret to working less without making less. The key is to be constantly asking this one critical question…

“Am I being productive, or am I just keeping busy?”

The truth is, there are very few things that you need to do to grow your business. But a lot of us fall into the trap of thinking that we’re making smart moves when we’re actually just doing busy work.

Spending 3 hours changing our Facebook page cover photo is not a good use of our time.

Spending 3 hours crafting a great guest blog post that’ll drive more traffic to our website is a good use of our time.

The secret is to know what you should focus your attention on, and what you should either hire someone else to do, or just forget about.

If you want to work less without making less you need to learn how to properly prioritize. And it all comes back to your goals.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that your goals probably look something like this… Get more clients or customers. Make more money. Right?

And you’re going to be able to do that by focusing on three key things:

  1. Doing lots of smart networking
  2. Generating more referrals
  3. Getting more email subscribers

This means that – when you’re trying to decide what you should work on each day – if it doesn’t fit any of those categories, you should question whether it’s worth your time.

I’m not saying it will never be worth your time to do something outside those categories. But, if you want to not work so much and still grow your business, these three things should be a priority for you. These 3 things are what will help you grow your business as quickly and easily as possible.

Networking

Maintaining relationships you already have, and actively pursuing relationships you want to have is smart marketing.

Try reaching out to at least 1 person per day. Send them a relevant, useful article. Mail them a birthday card. Or let them know that you enjoyed their latest blog post.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simply about keeping in touch and being generous on a regular basis.

Referrals

According to research by Nielsen, 92% of people say they trust word-of-mouth marketing and recommendations by friends and family more than any other form of marketing.

That means that the best source of new business is to make your current clients happy, and then ask them to send other people your way.

So make sure you have a strong referral system in place.

Subscribers

The only reason someone would become a client or buy something you’ve created is because they know, like and trust you.

And one of the best ways to get people to know, like and trust you is through your email list.

Spending time attracting more subscribers, and then giving your subscribers a good reason to stay on your email list – by sharing helpful tips, tools and resources – should definitely be a priority.

Where are your priorities?

If you want to grow your business without working yourself to the bone, it’s time to start paying attention to how you’re actually spending your time.

Prioritize. Delegate. Focus.

Recognize that there are some things that are necessary to grow your business, and other things you can let go (or hire someone else to do).

Focus on what will help you grow your business – networking, referrals, and subscribers – instead of just doing work, for work’s sake.

Having a balanced life – where work isn’t trickling into social time, and social time isn’t trickling into work time – can be tough.

But you can make it easier for yourself by noticing whether you’re productive, or just doing something for the sake of doing it.

So, where are your priorities? How can you shift them so you can work less and still grow your business?

DTMHeadshotJenna Dalton is an Elite Level Book Yourself Solid® Certified Coach. She helps coaches use smart blogging strategies to get more clients. Grab her free toolkit How to Write The Perfect Blog Post. And make sure to come say hi to her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

6 Avoiding The Pitfalls Of The Small Business Do-It-All-Yourself Mentality

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Sarah Brown – Enjoy!

When you’re a small business owner, it’s imperative to take on a lot of the tasks yourself, especially in the early stages of running a business. How many of us have found ourselves needing to do a little bit of finance, customer service, marketing or product development at any given point? Yet many small businesses owners try to take on too much themselves beyond the early stages of the business–sometimes more than they can chew.

Being a leader means knowing yourself well enough to know when you should take on a task, and when it makes more sense to hire someone or outsource. Here are some great questions to ask yourself in order to ensure you’re focusing on the right tasks in your business.

Is This Something I Love Doing?

Does learning about Google AdWords paid search best practices really excite you? Then, by all means, you should continue doing it beyond when your business can afford to hire someone or find another tool. Do you prefer pursuing a big sales deal or designing new products? Those are factors to consider. An easy question to ask yourself is, “is this something I’m passionate about and love doing?” Spend time doing what you love, or you’ll find yourself spending too much time doing what you don’t.

Is This A Task That Only I Can Do?

Many small business owners got into business because a particular area of expertise. As the boss, you may be the only one who can hire or fire employees, for instance. These are the kinds of tasks that it would make sense for only you to do. If not? For many of us, some self-reflection can help us see various places where someone else could step in. If possible, find a way to teach or hire someone else to do it.

By Not Outsourcing This Task, Am I Sacrificing Quality?

The perils of not outsourcing can in some cases include a poor job. Perhaps you like learning, but remember you are spending money to learn. For paid search marketing, optimization takes time even for experts. You can actually save on marketing by paying someone else to do it who will do it with enough efficiency to justify her cost.

By Not Outsourcing This Task, Is This Taking Time Away From Tasks Only I Can Do?

An important factor to consider when deciding whether a job/task should be for you, or if you should outsource, is whether a task you’re doing may be taking time away from another business task that’s in the critical path of profits. If you don’t have enough time to meet with investors because you’re swamped with mundane tasks you could’ve outsourced, you’ll find yourself frustrated and impede business growth.

Has outsourcing helped you in your business? Was it a crucial moment in your business growth when you decided to hire out help? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

SocialIcon2014Sarah E. Brown is a digital marketer at PPCPath in Boulder, CO. PPCPath is the most cost-effective way to get better-performing AdWords campaigns. Follow @PPCPath on Twitter or visit http://www.ppcpath.com.

7 Does Your Business Have a TV Show?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Kevin Jordan – Enjoy!

If you watch any television at all, chances are you’ve stumbled across one of the many reality TV shows that turn the day-to-day drama of a small business into prime time entertainment. There’s TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress (starring Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan) and Cake Boss (featuring Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ), the History Channel’s Pawn Stars (Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, Las Vegas) and American Pickers (Antique Archeology in Le Claire, Iowa), and my personal favorite–the Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska (about the airline Era Alaska, based in Unalakleet, AK). These shows have turned the owners and employees of obscure small businesses into international celebrities, and generated tens of thousands of dollars of revenue for the businesses (if not more). What small business owner hasn’t watched one of these shows and thought to him or herself, “I wish I had a TV show about my business distributed by a media giant to millions of viewers around the world”?

Well, I’ve got great news for you. You can have a TV show about your business, and Apple will deliver it literally into the hands of 1.5 billion people around the world. It’s called a video podcast, and for the business owner who has the time and resources to devote to creating one, it’s a very effective way of delivering educational content to your target audience and establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.

iTunes Video BlogsWhat’s a Podcast?

Before I go any further, perhaps I should clarify what exactly a podcast is, because the name “podcast” actually is no longer a good way of describing it. You see, a podcast is basically a means of distributing content to an audience. That content can take the form of a radio show (audio podcast), a TV show (video podcast), or a newspaper (yes, you can actually distribute PDF documents using a podcast). The reason it’s called a “podcast” is that in the beginning many people were listening to audio podcasts on their iPods. However, there are now many different ways that people can consume podcasts, so that’s a little bit of a misnomer.

Just as is the case with more traditional forms of syndicated content distribution, people can either consume one “episode” of your podcast (like picking up a newspaper from the rack at the news stand), or they can subscribe to your podcast and have each episode automatically delivered to their favorite device when it is released (smartphone, laptop, iPad, iPod, etc).

Why would you want a video podcast?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I already have an email newsletter that people can subscribe to. Why should I have a podcast also?” Unlike an email newsletter, this method of delivering content to your target audience is completely spam-proof, and does not require someone to divulge any personal information (like name and email address) in order to receive it. Therefore, all barriers to entry are essentially removed. It’s a great way to let people “try out” your business at no risk–a key component of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass concept.

As to why you should consider a video podcast instead of an audio podcast, there’s a couple compelling reasons:

  • With a video podcast, there are fewer restrictions on the type of content you can produce–think live demos, screen capture videos, virtual tours of your facility, etc.
  • Your personality comes through more powerfully in a video (assuming you appear on-camera) than in an audio broadcast
  • In some cases (depending on your content), you can separate the audio from the video in your editing process and use the audio files to create an audio podcast without any additional editing, thus reaching a wider audience.
  • Right now, there are a lot fewer video podcasts than audio podcasts, meaning less competition. Also, Apple is actively promoting video podcasts in iTunes and has expressed interest in getting more of that type of content on their platform.

What will your show be about?

So, now that you’re convinced that this whole video podcast thing is at least worth investigating, the only thing left to decide is what your show will be about. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Use your show to teach customers (or potential customers) how to use your products. For example, the Basic Brewing video podcast teaches people how to brew beer, and its host, James Spencer, has an online homebrew supply store.
  2. Use your show to establish authority and credibility in your niche. If you’re a speaker, author, or coach, a video podcast is a great way to position yourself as an expert. See the NutritionFacts.org video podcast for an example.
  3. Your show could simply be a method of broadcasting company events, messages and updates to your employees, strategic partners, vendors, and customers. For example, the White House publishes a video podcast that is simply a recording of all the president’s speeches.

If those examples don’t give you any ideas or inspiration, just go to iTunes and search for video podcasts about topics you are genuinely interested in (you can even find video podcasts about video podcasting). Subscribe to a few and start watching them on a regular basis. Chances are, before long you will start to view the hosts of the shows you subscribe to as experts you can turn to for trusted advice. You may even end up buying products or services from some of them! There’s no reason why you can’t be one of those “trusted experts”. Start a TV show for your business so you can share your knowledge and experience with the world, gain the trust of your target audience, and position your brand at the top of your niche.

Kevin JordanKevin Jordan is an authorized Duct Tape Marketing Consultant living in central Virginia. He’s also the host of the Small Business Marketing Minute, a daily video podcast for small business owners looking for simple, affordable, and practical marketing tips. He teaches several online courses on small business marketing, including video marketing.

Tech Startup Scene in Kansas City Is Red Hot!

Lots of tech start-up activity is taking place in Kansas City, home of Duct Tape Marketing, the Kauffman Foundation and the first city to receive Google Fiber in late 2012 in an estimated half billion dollar investment. Long referred to as the “Silicon Prairie,” Kansas City is quietly making its mark as a great place for startups of all flavors.

Kauffman Center for Performing Arts

photo credit: Moose Winans via photopin cc

Here’s a roundup of some recent projects going in KC.

Ten startups launch into the Sprint/Techstars Mobile Health Accelerator:  Ten mobile-health related startups from across the U.S. and Australia arrived in KC this week for a three-month intensive mentor-driven program.  This is a Sprint (NYSE: S) and Techstars partnership to develop solutions that encompass hardware, software platforms, big data and mobile apps in the healthcare industry. Spokespeople include Kevin McGuinnis of Sprint and Ryan Weber of KCnext.

Digital Sandbox KC companies raise $7M in less than one year:  This month, Digital Sandbox KC announced it has helped 19 startups raise $7 million in follow-on funding, surpassing its goal six months early.  Initially funded by a $1 million federal i6 Challenge Grant, Digital Sandbox KC provides early-stage technology companies with up to $25,000 in resources (not cash) to help them grow.  Spokespeople include Jeff Shackleford, director of the program, and successful startups like ShotTracker, Trellie and Divvy.

Google announced expansion of Fiber to nine new metros:  Kansas City became the first city to receive Google Fiber in late 2012 in an estimated half billion dollar investment.  Startups using Google Fiber include Brandon Schatz of SportsPhotos.com, Neil Anderson of Psicurity and Handprint, a 3D printing company that won the Brad Feld competition to live rent-free for a year in the KC Startup Village.

Other initiatives backing startups in KC are Think Big Partners, an early stage accelerator in partnership with Microsoft Ventures and BetaBlox, a Kansas City business incubator and accelerator that just announced it’s expanding its model beyond Kansas City. I recently attended the BetaBlox Demo Day and discovered a decidedly non tech startup called Ship and Dip. I loved the concept and founders so much I decided to become an adviser.

If you’ve not checked out the startup scene in Kansas City you’re missing out!