Blending in-person and online networking and building active, engaged and loyal communities are key factors in today’s small business success.
We should have an online presence but we cannot hide behind our websites, blogs, or social media platforms. People want to know, like, and trust who they are considering or people with whom they’re already doing business. We need to put a real face with that image of what we promote online.
The ICON15 Small Business conference, hosted and presented by Infusionsoft.com , is one of the best conferences that Small Business influencers, leaders and owners attend each year. I was there again on behalf of Small Business Trends capturing some insights and interviews from keynotes and session speakers.
More than 3,000 media professionals, small business owners, keynotes, session speakers and attendees gathered for education, information, motivation and fun. It was a huge small business “pep rally.”
I interviewed some of the best of the best and one excerpt appears in the video at the end of this article.
From podcasting, sales, focus, branding and content marketing, to video, local marketing, professionalism and perseverance, these small business leaders shared their stories and bared their souls. They shared their experiences, hope, commitment and the ineffable joy for what they have built and are doing.
Clate Mask, CEO and Founder of Infusionsoft, @ClateMask 
Mask (pictured above) shared some personal and candid changes he made personally this year to grow and calm his chaos.
“I did two things this past year with building my team and building myself that helped me calm my chaos and take some weight off my shoulders. It’s a continual investment in those areas.
“I promoted a team member and upgraded an existing position with a new team member that added more experience. I also meet weekly with a coach, who helps me to see things differently. It’s vital that I can help leaders lead in a more powerful way.”
John Lee Dumas, EntrepreneurOnFire Podcast, @JohnLeeDumas 
Dumas’s very enthusiastic approach on his award winning EntrepreneurnFire podcast  translates to his interviews with some of today’s most inspiring Entrepreneurs 7-days a week.
“The biggest benefit of podcasting is its on demand feature. If you miss it, you can always go back to it and it will be there. I was no longer on somebody else’s schedule.”
Wes Schaeffer, The Sales Whisperer, @SalesWhisperer 
Schaeffer, of TheSalesWhisperer.com , is all about inspiring sales professionals to be the best of the best, with sales ideas, automation sales tools, his Think Like a Man podcast, CD’s, books, keynotes and workshops.
“You want to enter the conversation going on in the mind of the prospect. Learn about them before so you give them information they are interested in.”
Greg Head, CMO Infusionsoft.com , @GregHeadAZ 
The chief of marketing for Infusionsoft.com, Head (pictured above) leads a team of successful and passionate sales and marketing professionals who help entrepreneurs build businesses, have a great life and “Focus to Grow.”
“The simple answer is by focusing on a smaller segment of customers you can serve well, narrowing what you offer, and having fewer tactics, ironically you can focus and grow the business better.”
Andrew Davis, BrandScaping.ca, @TPLDrew 
Davis, of BrandScaping.ca , has wrangled for The Muppets and written for Charles Kuralt. He’s marketed for tiny startups and Fortune 500 brands. His new book “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships ,” puts his common sense approach to work for small business.
“Define your niche and focus on being something to somebody.”
Carey Ballard, Director of Content Marketing at Infusionsoft, @CareyBallard1 
Carey heads up Infusionsoft’s content marketing initiatives via blogging, social media, video.
“Use content marketing to educate and brand yourself as resource and leader in your field or industry. You don’t have to be creating all your content. You can be a ‘content curator’ that brings great content to your community.”
Rohit Bhargava, Influential Marketing Group, @RohitBhargava 
Bhargava, of Influential Marketing Group , is a marketer, speaker, trend curator, author of five best-selling books including “Non-Obvious: Connecting Data to Action in a Data-Crazy World ” and “Likeonomics .”
“One of the trend ideas that is gaining traction now is ‘glanceable content’. Putting content into a format where people can consume it quickly and capture attention and interest in a short span of time.”
Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends, @SmallBizTrends 
Small Business Trends  is an award-winning online publication for small business owners, entrepreneurs and is the premier source of information, breaking news and advice covering issues of key importance to small businesses.
“The number one thing for small business success is perseverance. People give up too soon before things start to take off. You have to stick with it, and find ways to motivate yourself. “
Sognonvi combines old school marketing tactics like flyers and signage with new school digital marketing to build a local following in Brooklyn, New York.
“When you are a local brick and mortar business, it’s really important to have a good ground game. Flyers, signage and promotional booths at street fairs built our first 100 clients in the first 6 months.”
2015 Icon Small Business of the Year
Brian Young, Home Painters Toronto, @HomePaintersTO 
The community vote this year for the 2015 Small Business ICON Grand Prize went to Brian Young from Home Painters Toronto . Brian won a $10,000 prize and many more opportunities await Young to continue to grow his business.
He attributes his success to “having good role models and turning to them whenever I had a bad day. I used movies too and am especially a big Rocky fan. Whenever I watch it, I knew that no matter how bad things got, there’s always a way around it.”
Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Clate Mask:
Group of People  Photo via Shutterstock