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Small Business Revitalization Blog

Small Business Coaching: Revive Your Profits, Revitalise Your Perspectives, Reinvigorate Your People

The New Era of Socially Conscious Business

Today we have a guest post from the very amazing Annie Infinite - creator of Saucy Social Media and author of 'Go Fractal'

Social and digital media have changed the world and business forever! I can say this with absolute authority as this is where I play. No longer can business leaders and owners hide behind closed doors and have immunity from their decisions. Now through the social and digital media channels everyone has a vote, and they are voting whether you are there or not.

Every business, every corporation, government and person is now under a microscope and held up to the light of integrity, globally conscious decision making, engagement with their market, quality control and more. Once more the world has a voice and it is just getting louder.  I for one welcome it with open arms, because it is through the true voice of each of us that change happens.
We welcome this change, the shift to a more aware and globally conscious world!

Here are some of the shifts in business and marketing consciousness that brand a business as a modern one:

1.    Your Company has a Grand Vision of the Future
Not only for the company itself but for the whole world, it stays on track with this vision through every decision it makes. You understand that for every choice made there are not only business consequences and reasons, but there are global ones. Every decision made reflects this mindset.

2.    Your Business is Done with Integrity Daily & Becomes Known for It
To do this a business needs a set of values it does business by.  Every person working in and on that business needs to know about the core values and also do business with and for you in line with those values. Your core values must be so ingrained in your company that you would hire and fire according to those values. Your first step is to figure out the core values of your company, by asking: what do you believe in and what do you stand for? Figure out what is important and do business accordingly.

3.    Your Company Does Business in the Here and Now

Businesses that incorporate this sign of happiness  are aware of trends and opportunities in the here and now. They do not worry  about what happened in the past other than to learn and move forward with new awareness. They do not repeat mistakes and are constantly evolving. Businesses that do business this way are also very aware of the effect of the day to day toil on their emplyees and make room for enjoyment in each and every day.

4.    Your Company Has an Appreciation Mindset

This is not about a grandstanding gesture for public viewing, it is about your company being grateful for its employees, grateful to the companies you do business with and even grateful for your competition and showing that in private and public ways. Does your business only contact an employee or a customer when something is wrong or only when you want to sell them something?

 Do you compliment your employees regularly for the work they do for you? Do you honor your loyal customers out of the blue with some small benefit or just a thank you card to let them know you are grateful for their return custom? Businesses who do this engender loyalty and word of mouth recommendations that help them to grow. "Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'make me feel important.' Never forget this message when working with people." – Mary Kay Ash

5.    You Are in a  Business You Love
Doing what you love and turning that into a business is the most satisfying thing you can do to earn a living. When you do business doing what you love you never have to worry about feeling motivated, or surviving the down times. Your excitement levels never lag because you love doing what you are doing so much, you would do it for free.  I believe that when you are in the right business, you will feel very much like you are in love, you will get that thrill in your veins when you work on your plans, you will get goose bumps of excitement as you see your vision coming to fruition...

“The more meaningfully we’re engaged and the more we believe that what we’re doing is meaningful, the more happy we are,” says David Mensink, a psychologist with the student counseling centre at Dalhousie University

6.    Your Business Embraces Change
Staying up to date is just good business, this means listening to what is happening in the market place and to what your customers and audience is saying about your business and your niche. John F. Kennedy said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

7.     Your Business Makes Time to Celebrate
It only needs to be a small occasion, yet celebrating those small successes paves the way for larger ones, it allows everyone to know you are on track and it allows everyone to become involved with the growth of the company. Happiness is contagious and the happier everyone involved is the better. Great campaigns have been built on a celebration for a company's success and this can be a way for a company to give back to its customers too.

One company I know of has a weekly 'Awesomeness Report" that is collated from every employee at the end of each week, they are asked for a summary of their successes from their time in and out of work and this is published via email to every employee celebrating the small and large successes in the lives of everyone. (That has to be one of the best ideas I have ever heard of!) Think of the movie 'Legally Blonde 2' where Elle introduced the idea of the 'Snap Cup'..

8.  Businesses Actively Seek Ways to Add Value
Giving and sharing is great PR for any company, adding value is a requirement of any company that expects to achieve its goals. Remember giving always comes back to the giver ten-fold, whether you are a company known for giving back to the community, to your employees or to your customers or all three – giving and adding value can only increase the happiness of the company and the culture of your brand. Your business actively seeks ways to enrich the lives of others on the planet who are not as well off, through charity, giving and supporting those who do.

9. Business Can Be Fun!
This is where corporations can take a leaf out of some of the most innovative companies in the world. Innovation and inspiration come from making life fun and fun and happiness can help put things in perspective. Make sure your company is filled with laughter daily. Go take a look at Google's offices and you will get the idea that they value creativity and innovation.

Steve Jobs from Apple said, "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they're not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

About Annie:

Annie Infinite helps people find their authentic voice and project it out into the world with integrity, passion and authenticity. Annie Infinite is the owner of Saucy Social Media a social media management, consulting and training company, specialising in the strategic use of social media to get you the results you need: social media auditing, creating social media strategic plans, social media management and education (workshops) and training (in-house) in social media for businesses.

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The Mysteries of (Not) Delivering Value

WARNING:  I'm having a rant today... that's what happens when I put on my 'customer' cap instead of my coaching cap... luckily dear readers, it doesn't happen too often!  There's some valuable lessons in here for us all :)

In conversation with a real estate agent he mentioned they charge $990 + GST to upload a property for sale to 14 websites and put a sign out the front.  This was their cheapest advertising package for selling a home.  

I have an extensive marketing background and a pretty good working knowledge of marketing on the internet.  When I expressed my astonishment at the lack of value, all the fellow could say in response was “I’m the principal, this is our cheapest advertising package”.  It seems his job title was supposed to make this lack of value acceptable?    

He then proceeded to stutter and stammer that writing the copy takes him 2 – 3 hours… I know amazing copywriters who could get it sorted in less than an hour for a grand investment of around $80.  So what exactly are his clients paying for?  Someone to sell their home, or an incredibly expensive copywriter??

Big hint to business owners – you should never be doing work that you could outsource for way less than what you could be earning. You need to spend your time doing what you are best at!  If this guy spent those 2 – 3 hours getting new listings or selling properties his business would be infinitely more profitable.  

 Then there is the question of the 14 websites – at roughly 10 minutes each for uploading pictures and copy that’s just over 2 hours for an admin person – say $40/hr.  Of course, this also assumes it is of value to use those 14 sites.  Most real estate traffic goes through just a couple of main sites – those 14 sites are really awesome for his search engine optimization though!  And how wonderful that his clients pay for him to be “#1 on” as he proudly informed me.  Sounds very impressive… unless you understand what it really means!

Unfortunately, your brand being #1 won’t sell my house.  Most people search by suburb not agent.  Do you not understand your business or do you think your customers are stupid?  Either way that’s not a great value proposition for building a strong business in an industry that is facing tough times.

And lastly there’s the sign for about $150… In total, even my best estimates for marketing costs don’t get much past $350 if the agent is operating efficiently!  So at $990+ that is some profit margin.  Given the extortionate price of housing in our fair country, real estate agents also receive a very generous commission on sales as well.  I know a lot of business owners who would love margins like that!

Now at this point some of you are going ‘what’s wrong with that?’  Isn’t the point of business to make money?  Yes!  Absolutely!  But not in a way that offers no value to your customers or pretty much assumes they are stupid.  The playing field is levelling AND becoming more transparent.  Your business practices need to evolve!

When both you and the customer are satisfied with the deal you will build relationships that will create referrals, repeat business and ultimately business growth – you’ll be irresistible and desirable and you won’t need to charge for something that should be included in the service!  Imagine if that agent had said “we have a basic marketing package that is included free if we sell your house.”  That would have been much more attractive to a prospective seller than what he actually said: “If the client doesn’t pay for marketing up front the price for this service goes up to $1290 + GST.” WOW!  Knock me out… not even banks are getting interest rates like that!  I’m surprised he’s not receiving daily takeover bids!

The reality is if you are not delivering genuine value which is valued by your customers, you’re going to find you are facing more and more resistance.  The era of greed is good is over.  People are saving and considering their purchases much more carefully than ever before.

By the end of the conversation the real estate agent was half-heartedly suggesting he could negotiate on the marketing costs.  Unfortunately, from a client perspective, the preceding conversation had already cost him the listing. He failed to see that selling is no longer about money – it is all about value.  I am unclear as to whether this agent just doesn't get it or his BS sales pitch works on enough people to get by.  What you need to understand is that if you come across customers who see through your BS sales pitch, you look stupid and you are damaging the reputation of your business.

Most of us are no longer interested in working with people who either don’t know what they are doing or think its fine to overcharge.  We, as customers, have choice.  More and more business owners are creating true value for their clients.  Those businesses are building a solid platform for growth.  And therein lie the lessons for us all.

The New Energies of Business are here.  It is just not good business to overcharge your customers.  It’s time to start thinking about where you are not providing value in your business?  Where you are not efficient and need to find more effective approaches?  Where you are not valuing your customers? And where is what you are offering not even relevant to the value they are looking for?  

What can you change? Where there is a lack of value there is always a way to take advantage of that in the market. Look at where customers are pushing back about price and develop value propositions that create new paradigms and standards in your industry.  When you take a leadership position in creating and providing value, your competition becomes irrelevant!  (And if you don’t know what your customers are saying about your pricing, it’s time to get amongst it and talk to them!)

If you are going to have a successful business as we move forward into the new energies, now is the time to put your new platforms in place. 

Would you like to join us at our regular New Energies of Business events?  On August 29 at Peregian Beach we'll be discussing how to create value, how the energy of contribution plays out in business and how loving your work creates profits... if you can't be there you can order the videos.  Our presenters and facilitators are experienced business people who are already living the new energies and know what it takes to transform business.  How does it get better than that? 

What are you seeing with your business and the value it offers?  What value have you experienced in other businesses lately?  Comment below!!

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Leading Consciously - What's Your Why?

Simon Sinek wrote a great book called 'Start with Why'.  If you want to sell more, attract better staff, have more buy-in for your projects or build a brand people love, start here!

When you stop pursuing money for the sake of it and start pursuing your dreams because they are so awesome,  magic shows up!!

People buy why you do it, not what you do!!

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How Authenticity Creates Profits

Do you give clients an experience that is so sanitized, business like and professional  that it seeps into a sleep-inducing stupor of non-engagement and disinterest?

Do you forget or neglect to promote some parts of your business to clients and fans?    Or do you hide away parts of your personality or capacities because you don’t think everyone wants to see ‘all’ of you?  

These are some of the many ways we diminish our authenticity in business.  The crazy thing is that the more we be the difference that we be, the more unique our business becomes, the less competition we have and the more possibilities we create for the customers who most desire to discover us!  

Do you remember Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent?  Well over 50 million video views later, she has truly proven that imperfect authenticity will blast plastic perfection into oblivion every time!

Let me guess.  You never search out boring businesses; you go looking for the ones that offer a spark of difference and a personalized experience.  Have you noticed that your best clients are often the ones you ‘click’ with most easily?  Are you aware of how much more love you give your work when you are in an environment that allows you to show up as the real you?  

There’s a reason for that!  People like to give their money, time and attention to brands they connect with and trust.  So what are the lessons for us as business owners here?

Before you launch another program or product, ask yourself ‘who is my true tribe?’ What do they desire to see from my brand?  What can we authentically share that would allow our tribe to connect more deeply with what we offer?  What would allow them to experience an intimacy of service instead of impersonal service?

And most importantly of all:  who are we really, that we’re not being right now (as a brand or a person!) that would allow this to show up with ease?

An easy way to play with this process is to look at your website.  Does it talk to potential customers at a truly personal level or is it a nice professional brochure that creates not one iota of engagement?  What does your brand DNA say about who you truly are?

We have allowed a cultural focus on productivity at any cost to disrupt our authentic connections with the people we do business with.  Bringing authenticity back into business allows creative, collaborative relationships to emerge between you, your business and your customers.  

When these authentic relationships emerge, we build a base of raving fans who love what we do and the products and services we offer.   Raving fans love to share their discoveries with other people just like them… and that’s what leads to more profits… people who love your work!!

In case you’re still wondering… here are a few more benefits of being authentically you in business!
  • Authentic brand experiences offer the possibility of premium pricing.  Just look at organic food!  
  • Authenticity offers an experience of real connection instead of surface-level platitudes.
  • Authenticity is about innovating in alignment with the ‘real’ you or brand, not about managing brand image and pretending.
  • Authenticity is about joyful difference rather than trying to fit in with the crowd.
  • Authenticity starts with you… we are all leaders!
What are your experiences of authenticity in business?

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If content is the vehicle, then the accelerator is your bliss!

Image: FlickrCCYtseJamPhotography

Many businesses build their brand by educating potential customers. Informative, high quality content promotes what they do and demonstrates their expertise.  However, it pays to think of your content as the vehicle – i.e. content is plentiful and everyone has some!

What makes the difference and accelerates your results (besides an effective content marketing strategy!) is how you express your bliss.

Would you prefer to do business with a person who loves what they do and expresses it in all the ways they interact with you, or with someone who has one foot in the grave and simply can’t be bothered in making your experience with their business blissful?

The same applies to anything you write or produce as video or audio – how do you express your bliss?  When you have clarity and enthusiasm in expressing what you know, it’s contagious… and that is the point of content marketing… when you do it well it will accelerate how fast you can share your bliss with the world!!  

Here’s two examples of sharing business bliss through content marketing that really kick butt!!  Is it time to up the ante on how you share content with prospects?

Video: Doing Great Work (rather than bad or good work...)
Slideshare:  140 Twitter Tips from Kyle Lacy.
How do you share your bliss through sharing content?  What strategies have worked best for you?  Share your comments below, or find out more about Content Marketing.

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10 Reasons Why Expert Status Is Essential For Small Businesses

Peter Drucker stated that business has only two basic functions – marketing and innovation.  Successful small businesses create value.  Smart and successful small business owners create expertise that cannot be copied!

When you are known as the ‘go to’ person in your industry, it opens many doors effortlessly.  Yes, you need to genuinely know a lot - this is about 'celebrity with integrity' rather than 'splash then crash'!  You also need to keep learning and keep packaging your expertise and knowledge in ways that make you stand out.

Sounds like a lot of work...but really, what is the alternative?  Being average leads to average (or worse!) business performance.

If you aren’t the ‘go to’ person currently, but you’d like to be, here’s 10 good reasons to put time and energy into building your expert status:

  1. You can market yourself with authority and establish your business as an industry leader.
  2. You can make your business highly visible with ease.
  3. Your referral business will grow as you are seen as a trusted resource.
  4. It’s easier to gain media coverage  and this builds trust with potential clients.
  5. Speaking at your industry conference is much more powerful than just attending!
  6. You can help clients more productively and insightfully than competitors.
  7. You can gain access to rare resources and other respected authorities in your field.
  8. By sharing, you can attract respect while having fun and being creative!
  9. You can convert followers into raving fans.
  10. You can charge more!
If you'd like a detailed strategy for developing your expert status, the REVIVE Playshop will help turn you into a high profile expert faster than you can imagine! 16th November 2009 Bookings Essential!

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Is brand more powerful than strategy in creating competitive advantage?

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” - Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie knew that the secret to understanding what people really value is to observe their behaviour. Often the visible brand and culture encapsulated by the all too common ‘handy eye candy’ wall poster turns out to be lip service only.  How often have you stood in a foyer or store and seen the blurb about ‘we care for our customers…’ only to be ignored or given poor service?
Strategy generally defines the ‘hard’ profit-making elements of your business. Brand and culture define the ‘soft’ people and customer focused elements of your business. Strategy is often easy to copy; brand and culture are notoriously difficult. 

If long term competitive advantage comes from the elements which are difficult to copy, why is so much time spent on strategy and so little time spent on brand?  

A brand can be defined as “a personal promise delivered via an extraordinary experience”.  It is so much more than your logo, signage and advertising campaigns!  Ultimately it is the intangibles that differentiate you from your competitors. In business, it is rare to see values that are authentically held and delivered! How much untapped and untouched potential is waiting to be unlocked in your business brand?  

The answer to unlocking this potential starts with the culture of your business.  In simple terms this is the core values and behaviours that define “who we are and how we do things” within a business.

To start developing your brand and culture as an inimitable competitive advantage, you need to get really clear about who you are, what you stand for, what promises you are making and how they will be delivered. Here’s five quick questions to get you started…

  • What are the first impressions people encounter in your business?
  • How do your people treat each other?  
  • How would you like them to treat each other?
  • What are the promises you make to your customers?  
  • How can the customer experience more accurately reflect your brand promises?
Sounds simple… not always easy! What has your experience been with brand and culture?  We welcome your comments!

P.S.  One of our brand values is JOY - we help you discover how joyful business can be... want to experience it for yourself?  Discover how your leadership can set your brand and culture apart from your competitors... join us at the REVIVE Business Coaching Playshop on Monday 26 October.  Bookings are essential!  (Yes, we do playshops, not workshops... so much more joyful and productive for all!!)

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The Value of Your Personal Brand

                    Source: Flickr: teamstickergiant

When Barack Obama recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, he proved that your own personal brand can deliver results beyond measure.  Whether or not he actually deserved the accolade has been well debated elsewhere. The bottom line is, when it comes to brand, ‘perception is reality’.

The reality here is that the pure strength of the brand values Obama promoted throughout his extensive campaign into the presidential office and beyond, have generated so much energy, enthusiasm and respect that he won this award before he actually delivered on the promises!

Can you imagine having a business or personal brand that is so strong and so respected that people will award and reward you even before you deliver?  Sounds impossible, but Obama has just proven that anything is possible… So here’s my top 10 tips from Obama’s phenomenal brand strategy:

  1. Be appealing, be audacious, be iconic.
  2. Something not working? Define the game differently. Shift paradigms and perspectives to create a new reality.
  3. Create credible and consistent ways to engage brand advocates.
  4. Infuse action from the bottom-up. Grassroots efforts create groundswell.
  5. Be a flexible and adaptable leader, not a boss.
  6. Be authentic. What you do sends clear messages: BE the values you stand for.
  7. Connect with people. Talk to human beings, talk to everyone. Know who you are talking to.
  8. Be honest and transparent. People love Obama because they feel they know him.
  9. Know what makes you unique, and leverage this.
  10. Invite and welcome feedback. Cherish the opportunity to make improvements.

Ready to build a brilliant brand and contagious culture?  Are you ready to realise the potency of you? Give yourself permission to BE unique… rather than just talking about it!  Create your phenomenal brand at the REVIVE Business Coaching October 2009 Playshop!

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Ordinary or Extraordinary? Which Is Riskier?

Quirky brand inspiration via Giant Ideas

Think about the businesses you interact with.  Can you name more than five that offer you an outstanding experience every time?  Can you even name one?

Being ordinary in business is easy. You don’t have to think much. You don’t need to do anything different or unusual. You don’t need to be brave.  You don’t need to stand for something. You don’t need to get out of your comfort zone.

The outcome? You don’t stand out from your competitors. You don’t attract raving fans.  And you certainly don’t get extraordinary results!  Being ordinary doesn’t cost much…. Or does it?

Is your business joyful and fun or is it all pain, suffering and gory?  Your answer will depend on your brand and culture… If your brand is more beige than magenta, and your culture is more ‘slit your wrists’ than celebration, it may be time to rethink the risks of being ordinary! When you develop an extraordinary brand and a supportive culture you open up possibilities for magic to occur…  

Talented and amazing people will want to work for you because the way you do things is enticing and engaging.  Customers will become raving fans because you offer something rare and exciting.  Suppliers will want to partner with you because your business is growing.  

Three steps to generating a phenomenal brand:
  1. Identify the personal promises your brand makes publicly.
  2. Create extraordinary experiences around these promises.
  3. Weave the delivery of these experiences through your company culture.
Ready to take the risk of building a brilliant brand and a contagious culture?  Give yourself permission to BE unique… rather than just talking about it!  Create a phenomenal brand at the REVIVE Business Coaching October 2009 Playshop!

Do you have a brand vision that helps you outperform your competitors?  What have you done with your brand or culture that has created phenomenal results? Share your experiences in the comments below...

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Culture Creates Your Brand's First Impressions

Antique shop doorknocker... a perfect match for first impressions?
(Flickr: Dominic's Pics)

Your impact on potential clients, customers and team members starts with their first impressions.  Those first few moments of communication are driven by your culture and your brand... how does your business meet expectations?

I like to think of culture as the internal representation of your brand.  It's the intangible stuff that people actually feel when they deal with your business.  Many business owners spend little time thinking about culture... they think they are too busy making money! 

Here's a little food for thought... Zappos is a US based retailer that has built a business from zero to $1billion!  And they think culture is really really really important.  They even have a culture book - it's a huge 450 insightful, fascinating pages long!  If you are wondering whether you need to think more deeply about culture in your business here's a few questions you might want to ask...

  1. Did I start my business because I hated who/where I worked for before?  (If so, then culture is important to you... what sort of culture are you building? What sort of leader are you choosing to be?)
  2. Do I wake up in the morning and get really excited about going to work?  (If not then your business culture isn't working for you!)
  3. Do I have a long line of people wanting to work for me, even though I haven't got any job vacancies right now?  (If not then no-one knows how amazing your culture or your company is... you might need to build your brand!)
  4. Do I look at other companies and wish I could work for them instead?  (If so you need to develop your culture and your brand to be more appealing to yourself right now!)
  5. Do I keep wondering how to have my team take more ownership in their roles? (If so, you may want to consider the role the right culture could play in developing productivity!)
Culture permeates every area of your business.  How your customers are treated.  How your team treat each other.  How productive your business is.  How much happiness there is in your daily working environment.  How much money you make.... You can't afford to forget about culture!

Is it time to reconsider your culture and your brand and how they can enhance each other in making your business even more phenomenal?  Book your place at the REVIVE Coaching October Playshop "Use Your Creativity to Build A Remarkable Brand"  We're going to explore new perspectives on culture and branding!

I hope to see you there!

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