Featured Small Business: Cherry Blossom Intimates

Cherry Blossom Intimates is waaaay more than a lingerie boutique. Jasmine and Dr. Regina started this business to save lives and to provide comfort and dignity to women who are putting their lives back together after surviving breast cancer.

Please take a look at what they’re doing and make sure the women in your life know about this incredible resource.

And on a business note, this is what marketing your business looks like these days IF you want to actually get and hold people’s attention. If you’re not leveraging video in your marketing efforts, you’re not speaking in the language of today’s Internet.

Small Business Spotlight

Use the arrows to scroll through the Small Business Spotlight video library and see all the great products and services that the small business community has to offer. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss a video. My goal is to have new ones every week.

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General Business Advice

I certainly don’t have everything figured out, but below are some things I’ve learned along my journey as a business owner.

On multiple occasions, I’ve shared variations of what you’ll see below via email as the follow-up to a phone call or meeting I had with a fellow small business owner. Those business owners have told me that they got great value out of the information, so I decided to just put it all here so I don’t have to retype that email every time I do one of those business strategy sessions.

This guide is designed to be a reference, not a quick read, so don’t try to consume it all in one sitting. Take something from it and work on that, then come back to it later and pick something else to work on.

If what you see here proves to be useful, be sure to share this page with another business owner who might benefit from it. We all make more money when we work together.

Also, here’s a link to a blog post I wrote that will provide some useful insights to something thinking about starting a business.

Be sure to subscribe to my business blog. That’s the best way to stay abreast of what I publish, including the Small Business Spotlight videos you see above.

Marketing

The Easy Button

If I had to point you to a single resource to help you market your business, Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port is it.

There is no Easy Button in marketing, but there are tried and true practices that built businesses before the Internet and work just as well, if not better now. Book Yourself Solid lays out those practices in a logical way with a companion workbook that guides you through implementing them.

If you need help marketing your business, start with that book.

If you need help with sales, connect with Thomas Ellis on LinkedIn. He’s always sharing great sales tips and he provides sales coaching for individuals and organizations.

If you think sales is a bad word, you really should have a conversation with Thomas. Sales done correctly is about helping people by presenting them with a solution to a problem they have. It has nothing to do with trying to sell people things they don’t need.

LinkedIn

If you’re not into social media, I get it. I’m not either.

But LinkedIn is not Facebook. LinkedIn is where grown people go to conduct business.

If you put on a suit and go to networking events, but you aren’t taking advantage of the powerful networking that LinkedIn provides for free from the comfort of your home or office, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

LinkedIn is a platform that exists specifically for you to make business connections. You may or may not find clients on LinkedIn, but you will certainly find professional connections and other resources to help you achieve your goals for your business.

If your business is not where you want it to be and you’re not leveraging LinkedIn, you’re not taking advantage of an incredible FREE resource.

But it’s not enough to just create a LinkedIn profile. As is the case with anything, you will get out of LinkedIn what you put into it.

Click here to view a basic “How To Use LinkedIn” guide I put together that will help get you started.

You may also want to consider engaging a LinkedIn consultant like Elisse Barnes.

Here’s a quick LinkedIn tip: ALWAYS send a customized connection request.

Sending the default LinkedIn connection request to a complete stranger is the equivalent of walking up to a stranger, jamming your business card into their hand, and then walking away without saying a word.

You wouldn’t expect to get great results from that, would you? So why do it on LinkedIn?

If you can’t be bothered to introduce yourself properly and give some indication of why a person should connect with you, don’t be surprised if they ignore you. There are plenty of people on LinkedIn who have no desire for thousands of meaningless connections.

I ignore 100% of the generic connection requests I get on LinkedIn and I’m not alone in that practice.

An alternative to sending a customized connection request is to just “follow” the account of the person you’re interested in. Just visit their profile and click the “follow” button and you’ll get to see the things they post, which is often all you wanted anyway.

Pinterest

Any business owner would do well to take a look at Pinterest and consider developing a Pinterest strategy.

I’ve spent a lot of time, effort, and money on various forms of advertising. I've gotten way more traffic to my website from Pinterest than everything else I’ve done, combined.

On all other platforms, people are there for some other purpose and you have to convince them to click your links. On Pinterest, the only reason people are there is to click links to get more info…often as part of their research for an upcoming purchase.

Here’s a podcast episode where the guest shared a Pinterest strategy you may want to consider. The software she references is Tailwind.

Video Marketing

If you don’t have a video marketing strategy, you are not competitive. That’s the bottom line.

If you have all the business you need, then you don’t need a video marketing strategy. Everyone else needs a video marketing strategy.

Choose your favorite five websites for information or entertainment or whatever. Do those websites have video content?

Does your website have video content? Do you have even one video where you explain who you are and what you do?

The days of a picture and a paragraph being good enough are long gone. Marketing these days is about getting inside people’s smartphone and the way to do that is with video.

If you haven’t already, click here to subscribe to my business blog to receive my free guide on how to develop a video marketing strategy for your business. You can click here to see examples of what executing a video marketing strategy looks like.

Build Your Team

No one is good at everything and certainly no one is great at everything. If you try to run your business without engaging experts to help your business stand apart and be great, you’re setting yourself up to ultimately fail.

No one gets excited about patronizing an “okay” or “average” small business. Be great or be overlooked.

Here is a link to a blog post I put together at the end of 2018 about some individuals you might want to add to your team to help you stand out as “great.”

Some of these people, I met initially through LinkedIn and then developed relationships with them “in the real world.” This is an example of the power of LinkedIn.

Here’s another blog post I wrote on the importance of surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. You can’t build a million-dollar business if you’re spending all your time with people who have thousand-dollar dreams.

Don’t Try To Be Wal-Mart

…or Amazon or any other “we sell everything to everyone at the lowest price” business.

You’re not going to win that game. There will always be someone who will look at your prices and undercut you, just like you looked at someone else’s prices and undercut them. That’s called the Race To The Bottom. The winner of that race gets to deliver goods and services to clients who don’t appreciate them AND they get to pay for the privilege because they’re taking a loss on every transaction.

Aside from that, if the best reason you can give someone to hire you is that you’re the cheapest…just sit and think about that for a minute. If you’re going out into the world everyday and telling everyone to hire you because you are the cheapest, what message are you sending?…both to the world and to yourself?

Run A Boutique Business

Identify a target customer and focus solely on serving that customer. Do not try to offer something for everyone.

You’ll be much happier because you get to do your best work for people who appreciate it.

Fewer clients who pay more is better than scores of price shoppers.

People are happy to pay for a quality experience. Offer that and charge accordingly.

Here are some resources to help you develop the boutique business mindset:

I expect most of the people reading this to be in the Washington, DC region. According to the Census Bureau, 9 of the top 20 wealthiest counties in the United States are within an hour of DC.

If you’re in the DC region, there’s literally no better place in the country to operate a boutique business. Why in the world would you run around all day everyday banging an “I’m the cheapest” drum?

People who can afford quality goods and services are not looking for the person yelling “I’M THE CHEAPEST!!!”

Tools and Resources

Scheduling

Paying for a service to let people self-schedule calls and other appointments has made my life so much easier.

If you’re still playing phone tag instead of scheduling calls, or your scheduling process is iterations of “what about this day at this time?”, click here to see an easy way to reclaim some of your time and mental energy.

Books

Click here for my business book recommendations.

Podcasts

Business podcasts are an incredible tool for helping you learn how to grow your business. Click here for my favorites.

Business Planning

Whether you’re launching a new business or you need to pivot an existing one, the Business Model Canvas is an easy-to-use tool for helping you quickly figure out what direction to take. Click here for more info.

Website Design

The easiest way to get started with a website is Squarespace.com. There are a variety of templates to choose from that will produce a good-looking website with minimal cost and effort.

You can also hire people to design a Squarespace website for you. BizGoPrint is a company that provides this service. Click here to see examples of their work. BizGoPrint is owned by Sheldon Jobe. Sheldon’s a great guy who I can’t recommend highly enough.

If you don’t know anything about website design and you didn’t hire someone to do yours for you, then your current website is probably bad. Most people will initially view your website on the smartphone. If your website doesn’t look good when viewed on a phone, it’s costing you opportunities.

Most people are going to spend less than ten seconds looking at your website. If you’re not delivering a clear message right up front that looks good when viewed on a smartphone, you’re not even going to get that ten seconds.

Nobody’s going to read a bunch of text or go through pages and pages of menu items to find what they’re looking for. Your website has to be interesting and informative and easy to digest. It cannot be an essay. You’re not interested in reading anyone else’s essay and no one is interested in reading yours.

Yes, you DO need a website!

A Facebook page or something similar that you don’t actually own is not sufficient. Owning your own database of email addresses is far more valuable than having an unlimited number of followers on a platform where you don’t own the relationship between you and those followers.

Facebook could one day decide to eliminate all business functions to go back to its roots and be only for friends and family. Or Facebook could decide to start charging a thousand dollars per month for access to business functions. In either scenario, where does that leave your business if your primary online presence is a Facebook page?

The image below is a screenshot of an email I received from a local nonprofit because I’m on their email list.

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Critical Exposure is a nonprofit that trains DC youth to harness the power of photography and their own voices to fight for educational equity and social justice.

As you can see, Facebook suspended their account on the day before the most important day of the year for nonprofits.

Can your business afford to lose opportunities like that?

At least they were able to email me.

Would you be able to still communicate with your audience if [insert social media platform] shut down your account?

Don’t let something this happen to you. Create a website and build your own email database so you own the relationship between you and your audience.

Flyers, Graphics, etc

There’s no substitute for working with a professional graphic artist. But until you can hire someone, Canva.com will help you produce good-looking graphics for social media marketing with very little expertise.

View Yourself As A Rock Star

If you don’t, no one else will. Or as Maya Angelou used to say, “You have to teach people how to treat you.”

Developing the Rock Star mentality doesn’t mean you treat people poorly. It means you don’t allow yourself to be treated poorly.

Specifically, that means you should place a high value on your time and require that everyone else do the same.

You get the same 24 hours as Oprah Winfrey. The difference is how many of those 24 hours do you waste? And how many of those 24 hours do you allow other people to waste?

Think about the last time someone had an appointment with you and they no-showed or canceled at the last minute and offered some variation of The World’s Greatest Excuse.

Ask yourself would they have done that if you were Oprah?

Very likely not.

Not only would they have kept that appointment—no matter what—they would have been EARLY because of the value they placed on the opportunity.

Nobody would even think about offering Oprah The World’s Greatest Excuse.

But they offer it to you like it’s no big deal…because they don’t value your time.

They don’t place high value on the opportunity of having an audience with you…because you’re not Oprah.

But here’s the thing…we can all be Oprah.

You don’t have to convince the world that your time is as valuable as Oprah’s. All you have to do is convince yourself and act accordingly. The world will conform.

When people know that they are lucky to have an audience with you, they will act accordingly. For those who don’t, there are more than seven billion people on the planet for you to work with. You can find people who have the same respect for your time that you do. And you’ll be much happier as a result.

Your time is precious, valuable, and irreplaceable. Any time you waste or allow someone else to waste can never be replaced, recovered, or regained in any way. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Father Time is unsympathetic to The World’s Greatest Excuse. He grants you no extra time to make up for time you’ve wasted. I’ve learned to guard my time vigorously and not care whose feelings get hurt by me not letting them waste my time. When people blow off an appointment with me or otherwise waste my time in any way, they don’t get on my schedule again.

I am a Rock Star. I suffer no fools. I don’t have time to waste.

You are a Rock Star.

Suffer no fools.

Don’t let people waste your time.

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If you would like to schedule a business strategy consultation for your business, you can click here to access my calendar and schedule a call.