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Posts Tagged ‘success’


What Makes Up a Successful Entrepreneur?

December 11th, 2009 ::

Over the last few months I have been participating in a survey of successful entreprenurs and Professor Vivek Wadwa of Harvard Law School has been gathering data for a bunch of research reports on “What Makes Up a Successful Entrepreneur”. It has gotten some great coverage and this slideshow in BusinessWeek: The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur is a great example. It has some awesome charts so if you are a data junkie with a weakness for pretty graphs, you are gonna love this slide show.

Findings That Might Not Be What You Expected

The first part of the research was about background and motivation. This research was released a few months ago and titled, “Anatomy of an Entrepreneur”. Biggest revelation? Not all successful entrepreneurs have to be 25 years old. In most cases they are 40 with a few kinds and have stability and experience on their side. Techcrunch had Dr. Wadwa right a guest post called “TechCrunch: When It Comes To Founding Successful Startups, Old Guys Rule” and here is an awesome finding – “research that my team conducted, based on a survey of 549 entrepreneurs in high-growth industries, showed that the average founder of a high-growth company launched his venture at age 40. We also learned that these founders are likely to be married and have two or more kids. They typically have six to ten years of work experience and real-world ideas. They simply got tired of working for others and wanted to rise above their middle-class heritage.” WOW.

I got an email from Dr. Wadwa that the Kauffman Foundation is releasing Part 2 tomorrow. It is titled “Making of a Successful Entrepreneur” and here is a link to the full report : http://ssrn.com/abstract=1507384 (Click on “Download” at the top of the page).

Research Coming from Dr. Wadwa

In his communications he shared with all of us that he is working on follow-up research with management guru, Jeff Sonnenfeld, who heads the Yale CEO Institute, and renowned labor economist, Richard Freeman of Harvard and London School of Economics. In this, they are comparing this sample with a group of “super-successful” entrepreneurs. His goal is to explore the differences between the entrepreneurs in the sample and a very select group like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Is this research on target? Leave a comment.

This research has already gotten substantial media attention and it continues to make an impact. I am curious what you all think of these research type of findings – does it fit? are they off? Leave a comment.

Eight Things To Keep In Mind For Your Websites Search Engine Optimization

November 19th, 2009 ::

If content is King then your Search Engine Optimization efforts are your King’s Herald. The guy who is out there, once people are listening, giving out the valuable information about your King. But instead of the shiny horn and scroll of lineage, the Search Engine Optimization Herald uses text and links to allow the web crawlers, the cute name for the automated programs that source out websites and index their content in their lists.

Let me be clear, this isn’t the silver bullet that will push your website to the top page ranking. There are a lot of variables that get that there and with multiple search engines there’s more detail than can be fit in this list of eight things.

What we’re going to go over today are just a few things that will help helps search engines, like Google, be able to better index your site.

1. Title each page with your business name and section title. – Search engines use your title as the top link so it only makes sense you would have your companies name here. Don’t get too wordy and try to fill this space with extra words to try to help. You have between 60 to 70 characters (that’s letters, spaces, and symbols) so use that space wisely.

2. Use keywords on your pages that relate to that pages content. – This is where you leverage your key points in your content to, initially, draw attention to your content. You also want to take this time to also include words and two word phrases revolving around your industry and target markets.

3. Give each page a description based on the pages content. Ok, we’ve gone over the title and keywords, but the description is on more part of the sight that most people don’t keep in mind as they are looking at a search engine. By definition, this is the text that the search engines will display below the link to tell you a little about the site you are looking to find. By describing the content on that page, and a little about your company. Just like the title of your site, depending on the search engine you choose, you have roughly between 156 to 250 characters (letters, spaces, and symbols) to relay the information you want. This isn’t the place you want to get cute and fill it in with words that will boost your site. Your keywords are for that.

4. Name every image…photos and buttons. - This helps for more than search engines. This will help the disabled review your site. By namin>g the alt attribute, commonly referred to as the “alt tag”, you are giving a corresponding text title for every non-text element on your site. If this isn’t making sense, find your local web designer and they’ll go on for hours explaining it. Or you can just shoot me a message.

5.Give your site…a map- Site maps are great, because they help you organize your site as you go through the creation process, but they also provide a page of reference links for the search engines to review your site. The site map will also give viewers a place they can go where there a clean, and clear, direction to the content on your site without all the bells and whistles.

6.Breadcrumbs aren’t just for the birds. - Breadcrumb Navigation is often seen just below the header, and navigation (if it is horizontal), and just above the title of the content. It is a great way for visitors to see the path that took them to this page, but this also provides additional links, just like your site map, for the search engine web crawlers to use when indexing your site. Breadcrumb Navigation will often look like this:

Home > Main Content > Sub Content

7.Leverage free analytics tools. – There are paid analytics tools, but just if you are starting out there are tools like Google Analytics available to you simply for the time of setting up a Gmail account. This will help you determine where people are going on your site and what keywords are working for your site.

8.Remember your King. – The content of your site (the text, the links you create, and even images) help your search engine optimization as well. You may be able to get away with just a title, keywords, a description, and a single image, but you’ll get so much further making sure all of the things we talked about above are in line with the content on your website.

These are just a few efforts that you can implement early on, or even in your current website if you haven’t yet, to help make your site more appealing to web crawlers. Remember, this isn’t the silver bullet to the top page rankings, but it will help.

You can also reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Ted Murphy Gets #SmallBizCool

November 12th, 2009 ::

Here comes another #SmallBizCool from the floor of BlogWorldExpo 2009. This time around I get to talk to twitter and social media legend Ted Murphy about social media and security. Ted Murphy is well known for his his Twitter and Blog Marketing Company, IZEA.

At BlogWorldExpo 2009, Ted took a few minutes to explain social media is cool and give us the update on his latest product Sponzai.

You can learn more about Ted at his website IZEA.com and you can follow Tee on Twitter @tedmurphy

You can also reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways if you have been reading, and this time watching, thank you and stay wicked.

Eight things to keep in mind on during your project

October 8th, 2009 ::

It’s time for another excited edition of “Mike Dougherty’s Eight Things”. In other posts in this series, I’ve gone over things to have figured out before you meet your designer, things to help you choose your next marketing piece, and things to think about before you start your logo. I’ll get back to other things about different pieces, like websites and such, but for now we’re going to talk about things to keep in mind during the project.

A project is much more than just figuring out what you want and hiring a designer. You have a place, and a job to do, in the project as well. Without any further ado, here are eight things to keep in mind during your project.

  1. Home Runs aren’t common. As a designer, there are reasons we do comps (mock-ups of the possible project design) and ask a lot of questions. It happens, but very rarely, that a designer will nail the exact nuances of a project on the first try. The main reason for that is we, designers, are not mind readers. We’re more like detectives trying to figure out what the final image will be by asking you for your input. We’re more like archeologists of imagination. We keep working till we find that magical, mysterious beast that is your project.
  2. The Milestones of your project. There are steps, in any project, that deliverables and notes are required. Make sure you, and your team if you have one, are keeping on schedule so that when it’s time for your approval, or notes, the window of time for response doesn’t turn into a gaping hole.
  3. Your approval process. It is critical for you to be fully, mentally and physically, present for the approval process. If you sign off on a design know now that you have just completed that portion of the project. Going back to make changes, because you didn’t invest the full amount of time you needed to make it right…is going to cost you time and money. Before you put your pen to paper to approve…see #8 of this list.
  4. That your scope isn’t being “creeped”. You, and your designer, agreed to a list of certain items, and tasks, that would make up this project. Adding things, after the project has been agreed upon and started, will cost you time and money as well. Rather than go on about it here, read my previous post “It’s called a SCOPE of work, you CREEP” here on GrowSmartBusiness.
  5. Your friends won’t live your choices.  I’ve seen, time and time again, people take the comps, the designer gave them to approve, to their friends for feedback. Bottom line, you have to live with this design…not your friends. Very rarely will your friends be brutally honest with you. More often than not they will not want to hurt your feelings. A better source of feedback is your current, or prospective, clients. If you are unsure yourself it might mean that you aren’t happy with the design and can’t articulate why…which is ok, but work with your designer to see what you can do to get you to #8.
  6. The designers’ time is just as valuable as yours. When it comes time to meet with your designer, for the first time or on Milestone steps, make sure you dedicate that time to your designer. They cleared their schedule for you, and your project, the least you could do is do the same. Let the phone go to voicemail or someone else get it. The emails will be there after the meeting to be addressed. And for, Pete’s sake, do not try to close a sale while your designer is present. Yes, all of these things have happened in my presence and I’ve actually had to say, “If this project, and my time, is not important to you…then maybe we should put this on hold”.
  7. If you want to add more…it’s a new project. I know you love your designer and you two have become friends. Or you think you’re designer is such cool frood who knows where his towel is (if you get that reference award yourself 20 geek points…I’m keeping track), but anything beyond what was agreed upon, I hate to say this, is a new project and will add time and money (gee…do I sense a theme) to your project. Take a minute, if you haven’t already, and review the eight things to help you choose your next marketing piece. These could help ensure that you, and your designer, successfully get you to #8.
  8. You have to be happy with the results. This process takes time, but at the end of the day you, the client, ultimately have to be happy with the results. It’s partially your job to make sure you are. You need to be so excited about your marketing piece that you want to tell it to the mountains. If you aren’t, keep working with your designer to get there…as long as it is within the agreed scope of the project of course.I, personally, don’t believe in the “these are your only three choices to pick from” game that some designers play. I know that’s going to make me very unpopular, but ultimately we’re providing a service. IF your designer wants to keep you in a “only three choices” box that only allows you so much room…get a new designer, but know that you have to respect #6 to get to #8.

I want to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed. Who knows, you could inspire another “Eight Things” list, which you would be credited for.

You can always reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As always dear reader, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

Book Review: Why does Tee Morris’ book have me “All A Twitter”?

October 6th, 2009 ::

I constantly source out material for post ideas or unique ways marketing/social media are being brought to the masses. My main source for this is books. I will admit for a tech guy, I like my resource material a little on the old school side, but these are the things I like to read when I disconnect from the laptop.

Lately there seems to be a flood of books about using the tools of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. Some books feel like they are trying to talk to everyone, new users to the experienced, and have left me feeling like I have been missed. I often feel like there are questions that I still had at the beginning that were never answered. There are things, as a moderately experienced user, that I wished wouldn’t have been glossed over or should have been included.

“All A Twitter” by Tee Morris, in my opinion, and mind you that’s worth a lot to me, has hit the mark for all possible users of Twitter. The main reason for this, and he explains this himself in the beginning of the book, is that he, like you and I, is a user of the technology he’s writing about. Not to say other authors on this tool aren’t, but “All A Twitter” doesn’t come across as an instruction manual. “All A Twitter” feels like is a conversation with a friend who has scouted out the terrain way ahead of you and has come back to tell you all about it.

One of the impressive aspects about the entire experience of reading this book is that it did not end when I hit the last page. Tees has built into the book actions to take what you’ve learned, such an experience with hashtags, and apply what you’re learning as you read. This, to me, is something that can break down the fears that a new user would experience and get them to roll up their sleeves to start tweeting. I even find myself going back and searching out those steps I took and seeing how others experienced them.

Tee covers everything that you could imagine from a book on Twitter and, as Tee himself writes, “follows a logical progression with Twitter”. From setting up your account, which mobile phones handle Twitter best, to proper etiquette, Tee covers everything you would need to get the most out of the online tool. The book even has ways to expand the information, such as the “A Little Birdie Told Me…” which are tips on the in’s and out’s of the tool or the “Fail Whale Says…” tips which are there to help prevent you from falling into traps that could derail your enjoyment, and success, with Twitter.

Now, I haven’t written a review on marketing/social media books on GrowSmartBusiness before, but after reading Tee Morris’ book “All A Twitter” that has changed. Once month I will source out a book, new or established, and give you my thoughts on it. At the very least, these books could help expand your idea bank of marketing tips or ideas. To me, the best education in the world is one that comes from more than one teacher.

This book was good enough, for me, to follow the advice offered in the forward, written by Chris Brogan, which was to “give it to someone else”. I’m not going to go giving away multiple copies, not just yet anyway, but what I will do is send the first person who comments here a free copy of the book. And this has to be a relevant comment about either the book or this post. You can’t just put up “First” or some variation of “Give me my free book”. I mean I have standards…well, some what, but the comment has to be relevant at the very least.

To make this easier, your comment needs to be twenty words on if you have read “All A Twitter”, or why you would like to, and provide a valid email that I can contact you with to get the address to send it to. I would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below regardless of who is first.

You can also reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

It’s Customer Experience…Not Just Customer Service

October 1st, 2009 ::

My posts here generally circle around marketing, design, and social media, but today I am going to go off the beaten path. I am going to talk about something that creates its own marketing whether you plan for it or not. That, my dear readers, is customer service. There is an old marketing rule that I am fond of that relates perfectly to customer service as a marketing to help you understand what I mean. I am going to paraphrase, but “give one person a good experience and they will tell one person, but give one person a bad experience and they will tell ten people.”

My wife will tell you, if you ever get the chance to meet her, that I am a stickler for customer service. It might embarrass her when I’m more than vocal about it when it’s bad, but it is a major pet peeve of mine.

Customer service has been severely abused and taken for granted. It’s been seen from everything as yet another opportunity for a sale to the last reason anyone in the company should pick up the phone. I’ve sat in more than enough consulting meetings where they are worried about customer retention or new customer acquisition, but at no point is customer service ever brought up. It’s as if the reaction to customer service, for some companies, is “Give them a link to the FAQ and if that doesn’t work…let them send an email.” If you’re wondering, I heard that in a meeting that I eventually walked out of when it was obvious the client did not get it.

To be fair, and honest, I have been guilty of it. Looking back, it is a driving force now as to why I’m crystal clear about details of an agreement. It’s also the reason I get so frustrated when I see other companies do it. I want to jump over the counter and scream “Do you know how much money, and reputation, you are costing your company by giving me bad service? Trust me…I know!”

Customer service is one of the interactions with a client/customer that could sway a negative customer to a loyal one or kill any future interactions your company may have with them …and it’s swept aside in planning meetings for “more profitable solutions”.

Think about this, you plan for how to guide a prospective, or current, client/customer to your website, take an action, or make a call, through marketing pieces. You plan on what your messaging will be to gain their attention. You plan on how to make sure every dollar you spend has a great return on the investment. You plan for all the bells and whistles, but do you plan on how to service your customers beyond that step?

I hear the cries now…but Mike, how can we plan for this?

It’s simple, really. Do you plan on what your sales people or receptionist will say if they get a call? Or how many steps a customer will have to go through when trying to address an issue? Do your people know the right person to send customers to?

Decide, here and now, that the people who have invested their time and money into your company/product are just as valuable now as they were when they first gave you their business. Once you make that decision, make sure each person on your team feels the same way, because one weak link in the armor could cause the whole image of your company to be seen negatively by your potential/current customer.

In my previous post “Just take the black eye with a smile”, here on GrowSmartBusiness, I talked about what you can do when you get negative reactions to your business in social media, but good customer service will help those black eyes be fewer and fewer. Customer service isn’t the silver bullet solution, but more like an extra effort to help your marketing strategies be bullet proof.

I would love to hear your customer service experiences, good and bad, here in the comments. You never know, you could be helping someone else see ideas that they could improve or adopt.

You can always reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As always, thank you for reading, dear reader, and stay wicked.

Eight things to help you choose your next marketing piece

September 17th, 2009 ::

After some exchanges with a few readers of my previous post Eight Things to Have Figured Out Before You Meet Your Designer, I’ve been seduced by the list style blog. I know I’ve written that I don’t understand them, but, well, I’ve had a change of heart because they have said it helps them make a bit more sense of the process, something I love.

So with that in mind, I am going to start a periodical series of blogs called “Eight Things”. I am going to try to break down, either, the information you need to know or the steps you should follow to accomplish a task in your marketing goals.

I am going to assume you have your logo, business card, and a basic website, but you’re finding you need to make that next marketing choice. I am going to begin here with “Eight things to help you choose your next marketing piece”.

  1. Do you have a project in mind – Starting a project just for the sake of it is the sure fire way to end up with costly marketing piece lining your closet. Bounce ideas off of a designer, marketer, or someone who can give advice but without being bias. Take their comments as suggestions and not criticism. Sometimes what we think will be great, might only be worthwhile to us.
  2. What can your budget withstand – You’ve read me going over this before. And I’ve been victim of it early on, but make sure this project is not going to break the bank. Unless you are taking an EXTREMELY calculated risk with your finances, don’t create a piece that isn’t going to provide you a good Return On Investment.  I personally feel that you should be able to see a $2 gained for $1 spent for each marketing piece over the course of one year. For example, if your business cards cost $500 and in the course of one year they bring you $1,000 in a sale, or sales, then they are a success.
  3. Who is your intended audience – Marketing skateboarding to the elderly, or happy purple dinosaurs talking about safety to the corporate sales force, may not be the best audiences for these strategies. Know who will get the most value out of your marketing piece and tailor your piece to them. It might reduce the amount of pieces you create, but by focusing on your target you increase your chances of success.
  4. Do you have a plan to measure success –You should be able to track a sale or potential customer touch back to each piece you create. You can drive people to a specific web page, a specific phone number, or ask them to say a certain phrase. While there are some things you can’t measure, there are things you can with simple questions like “How did you hear about this [insert marketing campaign drive from your marketing piece]?” Keep this in the front of your mind as you’re creating your piece.
  5. What is the added incentive to contact you – Is it a discount code, a limited time offer, something for free if purchased, or simple…humor. Don’t forget that sometimes what you give might be a chuckle. Countless times I have been driven to learn more about a company from an entertaining advert, an emotion provoking commercial, or the incentive to get something more than what is being offered. Don’t limit yourself to needing to have more if you can give something of value for free.
  6. When do you plan on rolling this out – Timing can be everything. If you are targeting college students to do something during the school year…reaching them in the summer might not be the best time. Remember that the desire on your end to move NOW could be driven by the possible outcome you see this marketing piece giving you. A little patience could be the difference between success and a closet full of brochures.
  7. Will all of your current pieces have to be updated, even minimally – If you’re budget can’t withstand it, creating a marketing piece that completely redesigns your logo (so it also needs to be redone on your business card, website,etc.) might not be the best strategy. If your marketing piece does require a global marketing piece change, do a limited run of the effort and plan that in. It might mean you do less pieces initially or it might mean a complete re-branding of your company, but that’s up to you.
  8. How are you going to get this piece to the people – This is just as critical a step as any of the ones above and often the one most ignored. You’ve got the design, how your going to measure it, have your plan for when this will go live, but…how is it going to get in the hands of the masses? You need to come up with a plan on how each piece will get in the hands of those who need it. There are tons of ways to get it out there. Just choose one and stick with it until they are all gone.

I hope these eight small nuggets of advice give you some assistance when it comes time to start your next marketing piece. While some of these are assumed to be common knowledge, it’s been proven time and time again that sometimes common knowledge…isn’t so common.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and see if there is anything you think I missed. You never know, your comments might make it’s way to being one of the “Eight Things” in a future post. Of course credit will be given where it’s due.

You can leave a comment here, reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Customer Service Through Marketing

September 15th, 2009 ::

I recently came home from a convention with some of the best, and worst, examples of customer service through marketing I have ever seen.  Let me preface this with the fact that I won’t name names, but I will give examples of both. I also want to clarify what I mean by Customer Service through Marketing, but before that, so we are on the same page, let me explain what Customer Service is as defined by, the great, Wikipedia:

According to Jamier L. Scott. (2002)[1], “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer_service)

When you provide a marketing piece that requires the user to follow an action, or call out, and somewhere on that marketing piece you provide clear, and helpful, instructions or tips…to me you’ve provided Customer Service through Marketing.

Personally, I believe that your marketing pieces, both physical and digital, have the ability go transcend the elevator speech type format they are traditionally used for.  When those geniuses of marketing decided to turn those pieces into a way to do more for the person holding them then just a sales pitch…they have gold. When they try too hard, and reach for the sun too soon, they end up leaving a bad taste in the potential clients’ mouth that ends up resulting in…well, you know, negative press. And unless you’re all ready a star…bad press is bad press.

So let me get the bad out of the way first. The hotel I was staying at recently touted that they had a fast internet connection in every room. They had signage at the front desk, in the room, when you turned on their TV, and on every marketing piece I got my hands on. After all this I’m seriously excited because, since it’s a hotel, I am expecting an experience greater than I get at home.

Now it doesn’t matter much to me that they didn’t offer wifi, paid or not. It also wasn’t that big of a hassle to reach in the cramped desk drawer push past their additional marketing pieces, and religious paraphernalia, to find the cable to connect my laptop to their…well…router.

Where they earned a Customer Service through Marketing FAIL was in their log in screen to sign up for the internet service. I try to log in and I’m having difficulty because the “Discount Code” they offer me for staying in the room, not that I would actually have access to their internet services outside the room, wasn’t working. Their Sign In screen offered a “Live Chat” service for help. I opened it and typed my concern. What came back was clearly automated. How do I know? After getting frustrated at the clearly pre-scripted as I began to type anything from “How did the chicken cross the road” to “Why can’t you help me” and the response back was “I don’t know the answer to your question. Please retype your inquiry”. The only thing “Live” about it was the human being sitting on my side of the laptop getting ready to rip the Ethernet cord out of the wall and run down the hall screaming to find a local Starbucks (located in their hotel lobby that does offer limited free wifi).

Clearly they assumed an automated FAQ cleverly disguised as a chat feature was more than enough Customer Service, because their front desk was even less help giving me the same responses that the automated prompt gave.

The hero of Customer Service through Marketing ironically the airline I flew home on. This airline was offering new in-flight wifi, at a cost, but they were offering the first use free. I was met at the gate by a young lady wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “Ask me about free wifi on your flight”.

I followed the first activity, in a series, that the airline hoped would enhance the experience enough that I would to engage their product. Their hope paid off, because the attendant informed me about the new service. Once I said I would give it a try, she gave me a card, the size of a business card, which had all the information of the service on one side and the complete instructions, including discount code, which would allow me to use their service on the other.

Once we were in the air, I tested out the service. I was more than impressed to know that their instructions were more than crystal clear. The wifi service even had a chat based Customer Service feature that, surprise, had a human being on the other end. I got all of my questions answered about which flights carried wifi, terms of service, and, since I am not a regular flier, a list of their payment plans which ranged from per flight to monthly basis. Needless to say, but I will be using their service again once I fly out on that airline.

The main reason, if not obvious, that I chose these two to talk about is that they are polar opposite examples, of the same service, of Customer Service through Marketing. One showed that they were only willing to go so far to increase the level of customer satisfaction that their service offers. While the other showed they valued their customer every step of the way.

The question I leave you with is this, dear reader, do each of your marketing pieces increase the level of engagement, and satisfaction, that your customers have with your product, service, or brand? Or are you simply providing just enough information to get by.

As all ways, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

Social Media: 10 Tips on Jumping In Feet-First Without Drowning

August 11th, 2009 ::

This post comes from one of our Grow Smart Business Expert Network members Michelle Riggen Ransom. She is Communications Director of BatchBlue Software.

There are a lot of resources out there explaining how to use social media for small businesses. Heck, we’ve even published an in-depth paper about it! But sometimes it’s nice to hear directly from someone who’s out there trying all this stuff to see what’s really worked for them.

How we do it

BatchBlue Software is a small company that makes BatchBook, a social CRM software for small businesses. Because we’re a growing company, we don’t have much of an advertising or marketing budget. Social media’s appeal for us has been that it is inexpensive (usually free except for time) and allows you to grow your network quickly. And once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty fun.

We’ve been in business for about three years and have enjoyed some great press, made some amazing connections and grown our business primarily by using social media.

Here’s what’s worked for us in helping our business get started with social media:

  1. Start a Twitter account. You’ll hear this from anyone and everyone talking about social media. That’s because it really is the best tool of them all for connecting with people, finding new contacts, even providing customer service. There are many, many posts out there about how to get started with Twitter for business. Here are just a few.
  2. Listen. Familiarize yourself with the main social media channels out there such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask your customers which ones they are using on a regular basis. For more options, check out BatchBlue’s Blue Paper or Mashable, a blog focused on Web 2.0 and social media news. Create accounts in a couple of social networks and just observe how people are interacting. You’ll learn a lot this way.
  3. See what your competitors are doing. Go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and have a look at your competitors are doing in these spaces. If they’re not there, think about if it makes sense for you to be there (is the network you want to reach in that particular space? Maybe not.) If they are not there yet, this could be a tremendous opportunity for you and your business to be the first ones in your industry using some of these tools.
  4. Be nice. The real fun begins once you start participating. Social media is very much about helping others succeed, not just going after your own personal success. Karma goes a very long way online – if you help someone in some way (by providing a resource, a link, an answer to a question), they’ll both remember you and view you as an asset to their network.
  5. Share. Whatever your industry, you have knowledge that other people don’t. Run a fireplace supply store? Blog about when people should get their chimneys swept. Own a pet grooming business? Tweet some quick tips about clipping kitty nails (hint: there’s a lot of pet lovers on Twitter!). Social media is about communication: the more you share what you know, the more you’ll get interest in your company and the product or service you are providing.
  6. ABC (Always Be Communicating) The sales industry has the term “Always Be Closing.” Well, you should be doing that, too, but with regard to social media, the more information you put out there, the better (as long as it is relevant, interesting and not spammy!) At BatchBlue, we use our blog to talk about what’s going on behind the scenes with BatchBook, we use our Twitter account to communicate if our site has any downtime and talk about upcoming events, we share photos of staff events and conferences using Flickr. People want to do business with companies they feel they know; it was true 100 years ago and it is true today even though the rules and the tools have changed. Be open and honest about who you are as a company and that will earn you customer loyalty that no advertising dollar will ever buy.
  7. Don’t be creepy. There are a lot of great ways to use social media, but there are a lot of inappropriate ways as well. We call these people “Sleestacks”; folks who use social media to spam people, spy on people or in other nefarious ways. I wrote a post about Sleestacks here; read it so you know what to watch out for and how not to become one.
  8. Try new things. Something that has been very successful for us is starting the SBBuzz Twitter chat, where we host a weekly, two-hour chat session on Twitter for small business folks looking to connect with others. Our company president Pamela O’Hara and I started this just about a year ago at the Small Business Technology Conference in New York City and we now have over 9,000 followers on the sbbuzz Twitter account. We had never done this before, and, in fact, we’re still learning the technology ourselves, but we saw a need for this type of discussion and we’re excited to jump in and try and fill it. If new for you is simply joining Twitter or opening a YouTube account and putting up some product demos, try that. As I always tell my mom (who’s a small business owner herself) “You can’t break the Internet just by trying something out!”
  9. Manage your time. This is one I’m, admittedly, still learning. Social media can be very addictive and thus very time-consuming. The always helpful Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs and a prolific writer on the topic of social media, recently wrote a great piece as part of a recent newsletter about how he manages his daily workflow when much of it involves being active various social media channels. I’m working on adopting some of his strategies to make my work day more efficient and productive.
  10. Go to social media-related events. You’ll find that you start making real connections with certain people online due to shared interests, sense of humor, etc. If you have a chance to meet with folks “IRL” (in real life!) at conferences or meet-ups, definitely do so; it will strengthen these connections and turn virtual friends into real ones. Eventbrite is a good place to find events that you may be interested in attending. You can search by industry, topic or location or even create an event of your own.

I hope you find these tips helpful. BatchBlue will be blogging here on the topics of social media for small business and managing your contact network on a regular basis, so please let me know in the comments if there are specific things you’d like to read more about. Thanks for reading!

ABOUT THIS GROW SMART BUSINESS CONTRIBUTOR:

As overseer of all things editorial and champion of the overall user experience, Michelle works as Communications Director for BatchBlue Software and ensures that the products meet BatchBlue customers’ needs. Prior to joining BatchBlue Software, her work as a consultant for web communications helped clients connect to their employees and customers using innovative technologies such as virtual user groups, intranets, and rich media.

Michelle honed her on-line customer advocacy skills at Amazon.com, where she worked as a project manager in the Customer Service department. After four years at Amazon, she joined Washington Mutual’s Corporate Communications department developing and managing web-based communications projects.

Michelle holds a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Washington and a degree in communications from Boston University. Originally from Cape Cod, she enjoys exploring the beach with her four-year old son and collecting children’s book illustrations. Descended from a long line of birders, she’s destined to become a crazy bird lady. For now, she’s named her new daughter after a songbird that heralds the arrival of spring.

Rules for Entrepreneurs #6 – All Your Previous Failures Prepare You for Future Success

July 6th, 2009 ::

FAILURE. Say it with me – FAILURE! No louder…FAILURE!

OK, now that everyone around you thinks you are crazy from your impromptu scream therapy session. Everyone fears failure. But breakthroughs depend on it. The best entrepreneurs and the best companies embrace their mistakes and learn from them. In Rule #6 of Rules for Entrepreneurs we address success and failure. For every entrepreneur, especially successful ones, failure is something they have experienced often and sometimes very publicly but it is part of the territory.

There is much to be said for failure. It is much more interesting than success.
- Max Beerbohm

We live in a culture of perfection and most organizations push the undercurrent that failure in any capacity is unacceptable. Success is all that matters. This actually backfires because if people think that failure has dire consequences they will do the minimum and not rock the boat. The dialogue from Ron Livingston’s character, Peter Gibbons from “Office Space” to “The Bobs” (you have to see the movie to understand that one) comes to mind:

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my butt off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
Bob Slydell: Eight?
Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It did for me at the last job I worked at 10 years ago before I made the entrepreneurial leap. I had three bosses but no TPS reports (again a Office Space reference) so I did the minimum and if I got in trouble I had to figure out how to deflect the blame.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
- Sir Winston Churchill

Courage to continue is one the finest character traits a leader can have when everyone is ready to give up. Have there been times when I wanted to quit and walk away from a project? Sure. But knowing that a project is dead and nothing can be done is different from knowing there is still a chance if you take a different approach and there is a path to succeeding. I think this is a defining characteristic between someone who is a leader and who is just a dreamer.

Allow people to make intelligent failures — according a great article in Business Week, intelligent failures are “those that happen early and inexpensively and that contribute new insights about your customers — should be more than just tolerable. They should be encouraged.”

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
- Robert Francis Kennedy

That quote by RFK reminds me of the statement “Go Big or Go Home” which seems like the motto for a power drink commercial but it has such powerful implications to those who dream big and go for it all.

In fact many times when you are dreaming big, the more detractors you will have and the more people tell you “no,” the closer you are probably to ultimate success. In other words, the more people telling you “no” now, the more people will say “yes” in the long term. Most people say “no” or “you can’t do it” because they are afraid to try themselves and would rather see you fail than try themselves. I know that sounds arrogant, but it is true in many cases.

One caution… it is this is this very strength can become a weakness. Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes makes it into a handicap. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major handicap.

You ready to succeed?