Yoon Cannon leans on her phone and tablet when she’s on the go. Can you run an entire business from the palm of your hand? Some entrepreneurs are giving it a shot using mobile gadgets
For these early adopters, mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets don’t just help them do their work—they’re the backbone of the business. Entrepreneurs use them to do everything from ringing up sales to creating pitches and promotional videos to coordinating far-flung employees.
Of course, that kind of extensive setup won’t work for every small business. But looking at how these mobile pioneers do it can give any entrepreneur some ideas about ways they can bring mobile technology into their everyday operations.
Here’s a look at some types of early adopters and how they’re using mobile devices.
1. iPads in the Aisles
Montreal-based LXR & Co. sells vintage luxury products—like purses, bags, belts and wallets—from outlets in Beverly Hills, New York and, soon, Toronto. Staffers also go to clients’ homes or hotels to complete deals.
That need for mobility is why the company decided to run its operation with iPhones and iPads. Using a tablet loaded with a cloud-based point-of-sale system from LightSpeed Retail, a member of the sales staff can meet with a customer one on one and “swipe a transaction,” says Fred Mannella, founder and chief executive.
“When we go to clients’ hotel or home and process a $15,000 transaction, it goes fast,” he says. “These people don’t like to wait; when they want it, they want it right away.”
In stores, meanwhile, staffers can use mobile gadgets to complete sales wherever customers happen to be. Managers can also order items for customers that are in the warehouse but not in the store.
Moreover, Mr. Mannella can remotely track sales at his stores. “We get to know—at any given point in the day—when a transaction went through and the volume of sales. It’s made our life so much easier,” Mr. Mannella says.
2. Downtime? Not Anymore
Yoon Cannon, who runs Paramount Business Coach, in Doylestown, Pa., stores company records on her laptop and prefers to use it when she has a lot to type. But when she’s on the road—which is some 40% of the time—she relies on an iPhone and iPad.
“I’m in the car a lot for both work and family,” Ms. Cannon says. “I have voice-activated apps that read me info I need to review from websites. Voice-activated apps like Dragon Dictate or Siri will also convert my speaking voice to if I need to get out some urgent responses.”
The gadgets also help her manage her five to eight remote employees. A collection of apps like Podio let her organize their email correspondence, oversee projects and give them feedback.
Likewise, she can stay in touch with clients. For instance, she can use Skype to videoconference with them over her phone and let them see what’s on her screen so she can show them information quickly, among other things. She can also record and edit videos from her phone and put together presentations and proposals.
Still, the setup isn’t perfect. Once, an alert reminder went off while she was in the middle of a client call—and kept beeping every few seconds for the rest of the lengthy call. “The other person on the call can’t hear the beeps, but it was really distracting and I couldn’t deactivate” it, she says.
3. Content on the Run
For Holly Shore,mobile technology makes her business possible.
She writes the bulk of the content for Integrative Mom, her nutrition and lifestyle site for mothers, on her smartphone, as well as taking pictures and uploading them to the site.
“I always have my phone with me and am able to work in any bits of spare time I have throughout the day. I am a very busy home-schooling mom, and do not have the time to sit at a desktop computer for any length of time,” says Ms. Shore, of Austin, Texas. “If it weren’t for my smartphone, I’m not sure my website or blog would exist.”
Using her smartphone, “I can write whenever I’m inspired—which can include at the playground, at the grocery store, or while I’m waiting in my parked car for the napping baby in the back seat to wake up,” Ms. Shore explains.
Of course, “there have been times writing on a desktop or laptop would have been quicker, or maybe a photo could have been placed a little better,” Ms. Shore says. But “if I was confined to a desktop or even a laptop, I would be writing and posting a lot less often.”
*This article was originally published in Fortune magazine Written by Elaine Pofeldt Published on October 31, 2013 @ 10:50 AM EDT
Not all small-business owners intend to stay small forever, but few take the time to map out a strategy for their growth. A recent survey by the National Small Business Association found that most don’t have a new ad or marketing campaign in the works, and one in five has absolutely no growth strategy in place for the coming year.
Instead, many entrepreneurs move toward new opportunities like a plant seeking sunshine, going where the light is most easily found. Some never slow down to consider whether those jobs are profitable, rewarding, or ultimately efficient uses of their time.
The key is not always to think big at the start — it’s to focus. With these tips, you’ll learn how to hone your strategy, cultivate the growth you want, and pay for your build-out safely and wisely.
FOCUS YOUR GROWTH STRATEGY
Even if it means turning away business.
To create a business capable of blossoming for years, you’ll have to prune it from time to time. Working with customers or offering products that can’t achieve healthy profit margins can sap time and stifle growth, says Nat Wasserstein, managing director of Lindenwood Associates, which helps turn around small and midsize businesses. So thin out ventures and customers that bleed your energy.
1. Figure out which services are worth it. Giving clients what they want is important, but it should never be your only criterion for the products or services that you provide.
When architect Bruce Wentworth considered expanding his 12-person company — Wentworth Inc. in Chevy Chase, Md. — he thought about what his firm excelled at: combining transitional-style interior design, which blends modern and traditional finishes, with detail-oriented construction. And he discovered there isn’t enough profit in projects below $50,000. “By the time we get involved in design, construction drawings, pricing, and permits, it’s not the most efficient use of time,” he says. The firm’s sweet spot is in the mid- to high-end market — kitchen remodeling, for instance, ranging from $70,000 to more than $300,000.
2. Rank your customers by their “value.” Pay attention to the quality of your clients: Are they high or low profit? Are they high or low maintenance? “You want to retain those customers who represent your highest profit margin,” says Yoon Cannon, founder of Paramount Business Coach, a small-business consulting firm in Pennsylvania. Even better: Find ways to cultivate more business from those clients.
Start by calculating the “value” of each customer, according to what they bring in annual profits, revenue, and effort. Then rank them, and focus like a laser on the top 20%.
3. Prioritize potential clients too. In 2008, Harry and Barb Haagen, who run a house-painting company with six employees, began to worry when sales dipped by more than 10% in the economic downturn.
The couple, from Doylestown, Pa., came up with a counterintuitive fix: They looked for ways that they could winnow the business even more. Harry recognized his strength was in craftsmanship, not low-cost jobs. So Barb, who handles the phones, began screening callers. To those interested only in price, she explained the added value Harry provides. If that didn’t hook them, she moved on, freeing up time to focus on customers willing to pay for premium services. The strategy has paid off: Sales are up 15% this year.
ATTRACT THE GROWTH YOU SEEK
Use the follwoing growth strategy to target clients.
Digital marketing can be a cost-effective way to stand out. Yet a recent survey found that few small-business owners think that using social media (11%) or search engine optimization (6%) is that useful. Don’t let such opportunities go to waste.
Follow the growth strategy checklist checklist:
Choose the right platform. Everyone uses Google AdWords to advertise online, but that can be pricey. The average cost per click in the business category was recently $1.98, according to a study by Adgooroo. For a cheaper alternative (91¢), try the Yahoo Bing Network.
It’s no bit player. Yahoo Bing accounts for nearly a third of all online search in the U.S. And while Google generally delivers more ad impressions, Adgooroo found that the lead is not that great in four of six major categories: business, computers, education, and travel. In finance Yahoo Bing actually leads. Yet costs per click were 23% to 63% cheaper. For B2B firms, LinkedIn is another cost-effective ad platform.
Select the right words. Seeking to grab customers using search engines to find businesses like yours? Incorporate growth strategically throughout your site words customers are apt to look up, says Heather Lutze, CEO of Findability Consulting & Speaking in Denver.
One way Jeb Brooks, CEO of the Brooks Group, a sales training firm in Greensboro, N.C., identifies those words is simple: He asks clients when he meets them. One recent post on his blog was called “The Value of Public Sales Training: Getting Coaching and Ideas From Outside Your Industry.”
Pick the right crowd. Social media is all about finding the right fit. Offer visually oriented services or products? Then Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are good places to hang out, says Evan Bailyn, author of Outsmarting Social Media. Interested in B2B? Then use LinkedIn and SlideShare.net, which let you introduce yourself to clients through posted research and presentations.
Stand out visually. Use some of your Facebook budget to create videos, says Ben Landers, CEO of digital-marketing firm Blue Corona. Research by the social media firm Zuum found that videos were shared 11% of the time, vs. less than 3% for status updates and under 7% for photos.
Track your results. More than half of all small-business owners fail to measure the results of their marketing efforts. So they don’t see what’s working and what’s not.
Yet for just $200, Landers notes, you can hire a developer to customize the free Google Analytics program for you to identify the precise channel through which each visitor came to your website.
FINANCE YOUR GROWTH WISELY
Be relentless when it comes to preserving your cash.
If you grow faster than planned, even a momentary cash crunch can have a lasting effect. “Not stocking enough cash is probably why the majority of firms go out of business,” says Bill Klein, president of Consero Global, a financial consulting and outsourcing firm that works with small and midsize companies.
To avoid a cash crunch, take a page from SpareFoot, an online search firm based in Austin that is trying to become the Hotels.com for self-storage space.
1. Monitor your cash flow maniacally. Part of making your firm attractive to a lender down the road is ensuring that there aren’t wide gaps between money flowing in and out. At SpareFoot, owners check their cash flow statement every day.
Then they do something rather unusual: They let all of the company’s 88 employees look at those financial reports too, says CFO Lucas Walters. That way, when it comes to spending decisions, “everyone on the team is rowing in the same direction” — and focused on savings, he says.
John Egan, editor-in-chief of SpareFoot’s website, agrees. “Because we know the financial situation and feel like we have a stake in it, we are careful with how we spend our money,” he explains. “If I have to book a plane ticket, I’ll look for the best deal. Why wouldn’t I?”
2. Keep staffing costs as low as possible. Since labor is one of your biggest expenses, maintaining tight cost controls over your payroll will go a long way toward protecting your cash. Sure, you can always hire full-time staffers now and lay them off down the road should business slow. But that approach can get expensive, says Jaime Klein, president of Inspire Human Resources.
SpareFoot’s owners avoided this by relying when they could on temporary workers and by outsourcing early on. When the company did need to add permanent employees, it tried them out for 90 days — without benefits — before committing.
Today, as SpareFoot plans to increase its workforce to 96 by year-end, “we still evaluate every position to determine what solution makes sense, including outsourcing,” says Walters, who himself started out as an outsourced CFO for the firm before joining permanently later on.
3. Line up financing before you expand. The time to position yourself for a low-interest bank loan isn’t when you’re running out of money and struggling, says Klein of Consero Global. Obtaining credit is a lot like landing new customers. You have to invest time and effort to build a real relationship with potential lenders — and you have to cast a wide net.
SpareFoot’s owners did just that. They kept deposits in several local banks for years knowing that they’d eventually need financing for expansion. That day came in 2012, when the firm required a seven-figure loan to pay for two acquisitions (one of which it did not complete). By maintaining relationships with lenders for years, says Walters, “we got the loan on more favorable terms than we could have otherwise.”
ATTN: Builders, Contractors, Home Re modelers, Realtors
Want to Get Some Free Exposure for Your Home Remodeling Related Business?
We are creating content for a PA/NJ public adjusting firm and would love to feature tips from a variety of business owners in the home remodeling industry.
My team and I are compiling research for a new article series on
How to Choose the Right Contractor / Business for Your PA/NJ Home Remodeling Projects
We would love to credit you with a link back to your company website to give you some free exposure.
We will be publishing tips from home remodeling experts like you on the Public Adjusting firm’s website as well as promoting your tip, photo and your website links on their website and their social media pages multiple times throughout the year for repeated exposure. Here is an example of what a multi expert feature article might look like
So, if you want to be featured here’s the question:
▶ Share a quick story of a homeowner who ended up hiring you to fix someone else’s mistake. What was the sloppy mistake they made that you were hired to fix and what are 1-3 things homeowners can look for to help them choose the right contractor? Any extra feedback will also be of use.
We will be featuring tips from (including, but not limited to):
Realtors – Brokers
Click the BIG GIANT GREEN button below to submit your response. It only takes a few minutes.
Any questions feel free to reach out. Hope to hear from you very soon!
Yoon Cannon~ Create a business that sets you free Founder, ParamountBusinessCoach.com Host, Biz Growth Doctors Show Yoon (at) ParamountBusinessCoach.com
Sigh! It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like the vision you have for your business is moving excruciatingly slow.
You have zillions of brilliant marketing strategies. The problem is there is never enough time in your day to execute or manage it all especially without a marketing team.
I have found the biggest cause is from something called the Marketing Strategy Execution Gap. You need more soldiers on the ground to deploy multiple marketing strategies to free you up to shine as Chief Visionary. You need a marketing team.
You probably already tried outsourcing to a marketing agency only to be disappointed with the results. According to digital.com, 76% percent of small business owners report facing marketing challenges.
The core challenges of marketing fall into these 5 areas:
Generating traffic and leads
Training your team to generate traffic and leads
Lack of resources (budget / people / time)
Hiring talented people
I mean, starting a business is hard enough. Can’t these leads just come you? You have a great business idea, right? You should be overwhelmed with leads, right?
After All, There are amazing musicians who, based on their genius of talent, should be worldwide superstars. But instead, they starve and struggle for decades because they were never ‘discovered’ by record labels who can market the heck out of them.
Your genius business idea is no different. Doing all the marketing yourself should no longer be an option.
As the visionary, how will you close that ‘Marketing Strategy Execution Gap’?
Option 1: Outsource your marketing to a bunch of freelancers or to a marketing agency.
Option 2: Hire your own in-house marketing team.
Which is better for you? …
Hear From 11 Entrepreneurs On Outsourcing or Hiring In-House Marketing Team
I’ve rounded up 10 small business entrepreneurs to weigh in with their opinion on this decision. Find out the pros and cons they have experienced with outsourcing vs hiring an in house marketing team. At the end I will also share my own experience from everything I have tried over 26 years of being an entrepreneur to help you make a more informed decision for yourself.
Ambroise de La Gorce, CEO/Founder Of Openinno shares, “Outsourcing and in-house marketing both have their pros and cons. Each option can be better than the other in different situations depending on numerous factors, including type of management, marketing tools used, sprints management, business stage.
In my opinion, outsourcing at the very beginning of the business can offer more flexibility. Recruiting in-house is necessary when the product/market fit is validated, to give more stability to the business. Then outsourcing 20% of the team or so when scaling the business can be interesting to gather the resources we can hardly find on-site.”
Kerry Maybank shares, “I mostly do my own marketing, but I have team members that are great at marketing and create more of the significant pitch documents for us. I also have gotten free advertising by doing interviews with the media.
My company does not have employees. We have team members. People come onboard with exceptional talents in particular areas of the business that significant interest at the time. Sometimes we provide equity if the need is that great or we barter and provide their companies something in return based on our expertise. It keeps costs down, and creates mutually beneficial relationships, while increasing the exposure of our firm.”
David Shares, “We keep our marketing in-house because it allows us to harness our own data and learn to understand how our customers interact with our business. Combining marketing customer data, building segments, and then activating those segments in your communication is something that really draws growth.”
Hiring in-house marketing employees is a lot to manage.
Peter Shares, “You need both. You need in house because no matter how much you pay an outside agency or group of freelancers, no one will care about your business or know your products/services better than you and your staff. However, there is so much to manage and oversee that you need outside agencies that specialize in the various verticals.
How we balance both outsourcing and in-house marketing team
Mark Walerysiak Jr. shares, “I’m early stage, and do all the marketing myself (at the moment). I could see the benefit of outsourcing particular tasks related to content / SEO. The more weedy stuff. But when it comes to telling compelling on-brand stories I would prefer to have someone inside the team and as close to the product as I am. When you eat, sleep, and breathe a product (and not worrying about other clients), you can communicate much more passionately about it in just about any form, and I think the audience can pick up on that. So the preference would be in-house if it’s doable.”
Laurie shares, “Our marketing needs are managed with both internal and external resources. Our internal team has a great deal of experience in marketing and PR – so we can typically tap into our own knowledge and experience for basic initiatives like drafting corporate communications and pitches, social media posts, email marketing, etc.
We outsource for marketing tactics outside of our areas of expertise, or if our bandwidth is tight – such as more complex social media campaigns, SEO and digital advertising.
Gary Shares, “I’ve always done my marketing in-house. I’ve only worked in or ran marketing companies, so outsourcing my marketing would be really weird, lol.The one piece of advice I would give entrepreneurs that feel weary about or otherwise unable to fully carry out marketing duties, still be involved. As a consultant, part of my job is to learn as much about my client’s brand as possible because the person or people leading the business know the most about their brand. I can help a client focus. I can help a client develop. However, no one can create someone else’s brand on their own.”
Staci shares, “As a new one-woman consultancy, I’m doing it all right now — marketing and business development as well as everything else involved in the business!
Honestly, while that requires more time and effort from me, I think it actually helps build trust and is part of my business values. With me, it’s personal, and my clients know that they can trust Blue Moss for personal dedication and utmost quality.
We do all the outreach to prospects. Keith Kirkpatrick Principal & Founder of 4K Research & Consulting
I have done all three options throughout my 26 year journey owning 4 different businesses. I once did all the marketing myself. But I quickly found that not to be the best use of my time as the Chief Visionary and Strategist. Just because I know how to do the marketing, doesn’t mean I should be the primary person executing it all. So, then I spent many years outsourcing to freelancers.
While it’s a good choice for one time projects, the danger is you end up spending way too much time vetting and project managing freelancers, which prevents you from acting as the Chief Visionary and Strategist. The other common pitfall with outsourcing is the temptation to hire the lowest priced freelancer. Like with anything else … you get what you pay for.
You risk super sloppy mistakes and oversights that cost you your brand’s reputation. Here’s an example a realtor friend of mine forwarded me. She subscribed to be on an email list from a marketing provider in her industry … to her surprise here’s what the email read:
My realtor friend was so confused! …. Here she thought she was signing up to let this marketing company do her social media posts and email marketing for her. Instead of getting info about the done for you marketing services she was expecting, an email template and an email from a weight loss company came instead. Certainly people do make mistakes. But, when you outsource to the cheapest provider, sloppy mistakes just seem to occur in high frequency.
Marketing is not a mindless task any monkey can do.
When I exhausted my patience for chronic sloppy mistakes from outsourced VA’s and freelancers I decided to let go the reigns and hired a marketing agency to take care of it all A-Z. I hoped outsourcing the majority of my marketing to an agency would remove the project managing off my plate.
I hired Several different agencies, but in each experience I didn’t see the ROI to renew. Instead, I discovered the project managers who were assigned to me were skilled at project managing (which is a good thing), but so many critical details got missed because they weren’t skilled enough in all things marketing. [CONTEXT] There are many great marketing agencies out there who have highly skilled marketers as project managers, but these agencies are often geared to Enterprise size clients, not so much for the SMB community.
What I do now, and my advice to other SMB’s (small-medium business owners) is the 70-20-10 mix.
70% of our core marketing is done in-house
20% is outsourced (one time projects or a specialty area we don’t have in house yet)
10% still is done by me (like recording videos, giving interviews)
I finally found the key to taking project managing off your plate as a small business owner is to make sure the project manager is a well-trained Full Stack Marketer.
Ok … there you have it. You just heard from 11 of us about our experiences and opinions on whether it’s better to outsource your marketing or hire your own in-house marketing team.
Whether you decide to outsource or hire in house, the next set of decisions you’ll need to make are things like:
Who should you hire first?
What’s the going rate for this and that?
What is the best marketing strategy they should be implementing for your business?
Where can you go to find marketers who know what they’re doing?
What should you look for when hiring your marketing person/team?
My answer to all of the above questions is this:
I would answer all of these questions differently depending on each unique business owner, bandwidth, budget and brand. If you want to get clarity on best way for you to eliminate the marketing strategy execution gap in your business why not take me up on my free offer? For a limited time, I am offering a FREE 45 Minute Strategy Call to help you work through this.
FREE THE WIZARD
Click the link below and Eliminate Your Marketing Strategy Execution Gap!
QUESTION: What other questions would you add to the list of 5 above? Share your comments and questions below.
It’s a scary time for everyone during Covid-19. We all know this pandemic has forced a lot of business owners to go out of business. 😢😧
If you are blessed to be among the lucky group who are NOT facing going out of business here’s a short video that shares 5 free effective ways to build your digital presence, so you can boost more visibility for your business during and after covid.
We are also offering free help, guidance, feedback, support for business owners on Tuesdays from 12noon-1pm EST on Zoom through the end of April.
Just comment below “Business Owner Public Service” and we’ll message you the link to join.