That was the opening message by CEO Clate Mask at an event last week in Las Vegas put on by the folks at Infusionsoft called “Conquer and Grow.”
Clate took a no-nonsense approach to diffusing what he finds to be a theme by some in the small business community of being victims of the recession. He encouraged attendees to embrace another mindset and become the solution to the current market conditions. I found this approach refreshing, and wanted to highlight 3 ideas I picked up from the world-class speakers at the event so small businesses can thrive in tough times.
Build and Improve Systems
“Be aware of anyone selling ‘change’ cause that’s all you’ll have left in your pocket! Nobody needs change, we need improvement.” – Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited
Every business has systems, the problem with small businesses, especially entrepreneurs, is that their systems are often informal or not well defined. This leaves businesses less productive even hurting sales. Chaos in small businesses exists in large part due to the lack of well thought-out systems.
- How to build systems in your business? Start simple. No need for an elaborate training system complete with online video and interaction, it doesn’t take much effort to improve what doesn’t exist. Outline the main events in your business that need to be documented, and create a single page checklist, make sure it is simple enough that a new employee can get up to speed quickly by reviewing the checklist. Consider this for activities that are repeated often in your business and have a direct impact on sales or customer service.
- Existing Systems Needing Improvement? The challenge with documenting a system is that once it is done, it is often forgotten. A simple review of existing systems or checklists can be a very simple process. Business changes quickly and your systems may need to change with it. Schedule time to review and refine existing systems.
Build Referral Partnerships
Referral marketing goes back to the beginning of time. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing conveyed a different idea to this old concept: bring a team to the table. Meaning, as you service an account, having a team of partnerships that you can bring to the table who offer complimentary services your client needs can be a big value to the client, and all the members of the referral partnership. The idea is, everyone brings everyone to the table for any given client in the entire partnership.
Be Smart With Social Media
Social media with all its potential, also has the potential to be an incredible time suck, a distraction or even an escape from what small businesses should really be working on. Some ideas I came away with from the conference:
- Have set times for social media interaction. Instead of being logged in and allowing social networks to ping you when they has something to say, you login when you are ready to read and respond.
- Leverage your reach. Example: LinkedIn Answers is a way to share your knowledge with many by answering important questions in your market. The rise in popularity of LinkedIn Groups can be even more powerful as you participate in appropriate discussions in your niche (group members can number in the hundreds of thousands). As Starr Hall said, “Leaders answer questions, followers ask.”
- Departmentalize Social Media. This is a concept shared by dotJenna as a way of setting up social media accounts, for larger companies. Set up Twitter accounts and Facebook pages per company department, such as Pages and profiles for Sales, Customer Service, Promotions, and etc. Not only does it give a perception of the company being bigger than it might be along with SEO benefits, channel segmentation reduces clutter and the risk of customer service issues and sales questions showing up on the same feed, which is a cleaner experience for customers and businesses alike.
Making it through today’s economy can be a matter of improving business systems, developing a referral partnership, being smart with social media, or all three. Taken to heart, these strategies can help your business not only survive, but thrive in tough times.