All posts by admin

Why Your Business Marketing Keeps Failing

Why Your Small Business Marketing Keeps Failing.
…and what you can do to fix it, immediately.
Marketing is the collective set of all activities that you can run, in order to accomplish THREE very specific goals:
1. Build your brand;
2. Find new customers; and
3. Keep selling to existing customers
Most businesses (heck ALL organizations, for that matter) tell what they do and how they do it. Their messaging is so UNINSPIRING (yawn!) that it completely fails to tell a story of WHY you do what you do, why you’re special and how you’re better than everyone else.
Once you begin telling stories about WHY you and your organization do what you do, then you’ll be more likely to connect with your customers and prospects in a more compelling manner.
If a tree falls in the forest…
Most small businesses never ask themselves “Where are our best customers when they are most likely to be receptive to our marketing messages?”
This consideration of where to place your marketing dollars so they have maximum impact is referred to as your media placement strategy, and it demands that you have an absolutely complete and clear view of who your ideal customer is and learn as much as you can about them. The average American is bombarded with between 7,000 and 9,000 messages a day. Are they really listening to you when you try to speak to them? At Time Warner Cable, I introduced the company to elevator advertising through the service provider Captivate, ran regional advertising in a number of local area Minor League baseball teams and translated our website into Spanish because those were the MOST effective ways to reach small business owners in the New York Metro area.
Do you develop your marketing in conjunction with your sales efforts, and include your product development folks in your marketing strategy?
Another great failure of nearly all businesses that retain my services is the unwillingness to develop their marketing with their sales efforts and product development. You need to have a clear plan of what products and services you want to promote aggressively, those that are so established in their sales life cycles they require little support, and those you want/need to retire (sunset) through an end-of-life market exit strategy.
Can you calculate an ROI on every dollar of marketing you spend? You should have a campaign code on all print advertisements you run, and for every call to action a special 800-number if you ask people to call in response to your marketing. Tools like (thanks Mark at Roos) allow your customer service reps to be able to identify the source of all inbound calls that you receive in response to your campaigns.
Every Event is a 3-staged Process.
Each event you commit to is a marketing campaign in and of itself! Every event, trade show, conference, or client road show MUST be conducted as its own stand-alone 3-phased campaign. Every event is actually comprised of a pre-event, the event itself, and the post-event. Each of these 3 stages has a collective set of actions required for the ENTIRE event to be a success. Define measurable goals for each program, and conduct the event start to finish so you achieve a return on the event’s total cost commitment whether it’s obtaining newly qualified leads, engaging existing customers, promoting the launch of a new product or service, etc.
Invest in your marketing like you REALLY care about it.
Many organizations I speak to invest no more than 1-2% of their annual sales in their marketing budget. That’s a pathetically low level of marketing commitment, since marketing is the sum total of all programs and campaigns required to support sales. World-class organizations like Disney, Startbucks, Zappos invest between 5-15% of their budgeted annual sales on marketing. Now THAT is an investment!
When you develop your annual marketing plan you need to first talk strategy with your sales people to know what challenges they face, and their sales goals for the year then build out your marketing to support those key objectives.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Business Intelligence Drives Small Business Growth

Entrepreneurs and start-ups need business intelligence to grow in turbulent times.
Business Intelligence (BI) plays a central role in enabling entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses to grow into thriving, profitable organizations.
For any organization to thrive, it requires the type of business intelligence that it can use to make strategic business decisions with confidence. That’s what Business Intelligence delivers. BI technology gives organizations the ability to track, understand, and manage its information. BI is taking on an increasingly strategic role as more organizations are looking for ways to tap into the valuable data stored in their operational systems.
Real-time information on market trends, information on vendors, consumer trends, customer purchase behavior, import/export considerations, shipping/delivery cycles, new product development sales by region…all fuel a small business’s ability to make the right kinds of decisions at the right time, especially with respect to allocating scarce resources.
But what exactly is business intelligence and how can you implement it within your organization?
According to Webopedia, the term Business Intelligence (BI) represents the tools and systems that play a key role in the strategic planning process of the corporation. These systems allow a company to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data to aid in decision-making. Generally these systems will illustrate business intelligence in the areas of customer profiling, customer support, market research, market segmentation, product profitability, statistical analysis, and inventory and distribution analysis to name a few.
According to Wikipedia, BI is a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes. BI can handle large amounts of information to help identify and develop new opportunities. Making use of new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy can provide a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. [source]
BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.
Though the term business intelligence is sometimes a synonym for competitive intelligence (because they both support decision making), BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data and business processes while competitive intelligence gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
To build a BI infrastructure, start with your customer as the central cornerstone. Design a CRM/contact management system that allows you to capture all sorts of relevant prospect information. As you move a prospect through the lead qualification process, you will gather all sorts of information on them. At the point that you convert a qualified lead to a first time customer, you can obtain even more information on that new client.
As you migrate your client up your lifetime value ladder, keep integrating other components across you business into the CRM, from email systems to your blog, your website contact lead generation forms, your social media accounts, your client past purchase information, and then the systems, processes, and software that are embedded into your operations, from your customer care/call center, your phone support, Video and web conferencing…all the times you “TOUCH” a client can and must be captured to build a thoroughly complete picture of your clients, ESPECIALLY your most profitable clients who contribute most of your business (the 80/20 rule “Pareto principle.”)
Every time you can gather a little more information on your potential customers, and for every sale you make, you are increasing the amount of data that your business can leverage to perform even better, by improving your operations. For many companies, the challenge isn’t obtaining the data but rather in weeding through it all to find information it can use. While all of this is happening in your back office, on the front end you and your staff will need a dashboard view your key customer information so you can make actionable decisions in response to events as they happen, with greater confidence.
Most of the data that companies collect is useless! Why? Because they don’t have the resources to make sense of it all. Worse yet, their information is captured/stored in many different tools and is never brought together, so the organization can’t capture a complete picture of a situation and thus cannot make informed decisions. That leads to failure. With the proliferation in IT technology and Internet advances, BI isn’t just for huge corporations anymore.
In years past, incorporating Business Intelligence (BI) software was an act done only by big companies because it cost so much money to buy and deploy; not to mention, you would also have to hire programmers and developers to take care of scripting, mapping, and other high-level tasks in order to get value from the software. But now, there are many BI options out there for small and medium-sized business owners to implement and begin analysis of the data resulting from day-to-day operations. Most of them are free or low-cost, and are as simply to operate as a drag-and-drop function.
Great BI Tools for Entrepreneurs, Start-ups, and Small Businesses.
Tableau Desktop: allows users to visualize data through its interactive dashboards created from dragging, dropping, and connecting selected data points. By being able to look at this information graphically, you can easily spot trends. It can be run on a laptop, and has an engine powerful enough to analyze even large amounts of data, negating the need to sample.
PivotLink: specializes in cloud computing, allowing users to analyze data that’s been transported from on-premises to the cloud for storage and processing. Many analysts firms project more companies will begin to utilize the cloud, so this is a definite vendor to take a look at.
Yurbi: offers real-time access to data. For instance, rather than manually scheduling the next step in the process after data comes in, the system automatically knows to kick off the next step, allowing for a seamless integration of all of your data. With no hold-ups, you get access to, and are able to analyze your data faster.
Square: many small business owners are familiar with Square, allowing staff to swipe and process credit card payments on a phone or tablet device. Square also has built in analytics capabilities so you can instantly measure hour-by-hour sales, and know which of your products are best-sellers.
The bottom line for all productive BI tools is, they must deliver business owners real-time data access at their fingertips.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Successful Entrepreneurs Possess Common Traits

All Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Same Characteristics.
Since I teach Entrepreneurship, have given lectures to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs and coach hundreds of entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses, I have developed a fairly keen sense of who will (and WON’T) succeed at planning and launching a successful business.
I have developed a list of the traits that ALL successful entrepreneurs possess when it comes to planning, launching and then growing a viable (SUCCESSFUL) business. The qualities all successful serial entrepreneurs possess are:
1. Dogged Determination:
Successful entrepreneurs do not let failures slow them down. They keep going, and going, and going…like the Energizer bunny! They keep plugging along as they say to themselves: “I think I can, I think I can…” until they actually “DO!”
2. Risk-Takers:
The people who ultimately succeed in launching their business are not afraid to fail. In fact, they overcome a fear of failure by planning meticulously while believing that if they are destimed to fail they will strive to fail GREATLY and learn from their mistakes so they are more likely to succeed in their next entrepreneurial pursuit…and the one after that, and the one after that…
3. Dare to Change The World:
These rebels, these radical thinkers are never happy with the STATUS QUO. They just aren’t happy with the world the way it is, and they want to change things for the better.
4. Love Setting/Meeting Deadlines:
These people hold themselves accountable for accomplishing tasks they face within the time frame they set for themselves. They don’t accept excuses from themselves, and they certainly don’t tolerate excuses from others.
5. Are Really Committed to Leaving Their Day Job:
For these people that are currently working in a day job while they plan their new business, they set dates for themselves that they will leave that job. It is their own personal EXIT STRATEGY from the daily grind of working for others, which leads to the next quality entrepreneurs all possess.
6. Hate Working for Others:
These are the people that have a burning, insatiable appetite to be their own bosses . They do not plan on working for others their entire careers, and are moving aggressively to create opportunities to go into business for themselves, by acquiring an existing business, buying a franchise, or launching their own business.
7. Pay Meticulous Attention to Detail:
These entrepreneurs have conducted exhaustive research by developing a customer development framework model, and they also have developed a comprehensive business plan with prototypes of the minimum product they will sell services they will offer.
8. Ask LOTS of Questions:
They’re naturally curious people always asking others to explain things they don’t understand. they’re naturally curious and tend to ask “Why” and “What If” a LOT!
9. Keep Their Eyes on the Future:
You can spot these folks a MILE away. They’re the ones who spot trends before others, they can connect seemingly unrelated events, facts, or issues into a BIG picture. They have a sixth sense to spot up and coming industries or the next hugely popular trend. They are also constantly focused on the “around the corner” and planning for what comes next. They naturally practice contingency planning by having fall back options, whether it’s pursuing other vendors/suppliers, defining more than one ideal target segment, having other products in development or are ready to deliver additional services. They are hardly ever unprepared for any unexpected event.
10. Embrace Their Weaknesses:
These folks are honest in their self-appraisals, they know what their strengths are and they play to their skills, while simultaneously aligning themselves with others whose own skills compliment theirs.
11. Thrive in Chaos: They inherently know how to roll with the punches, and deal with unforeseen circumstances. They do well in undefined roles, and know how to navigate through uncharted waters with very little structure and even less supervision. They are not afraid to set a course and go at it alone. The unknown does not affect them; in fact they seem to embrace the challenge of succeeding when chaos surrounds them.
12. Lifelong Learners: The most successful entrepreneurs are constantly looking to learn from every opportunity as a way to improve their products and services, offer better customer care, deliver greater value to investors/shareholders. They see their personal mission in life as seeking new opportunities to learn and they greedily consume as much knowledge as they can not for profit necessarily but for knowledge sake.
13. Problem-Solvers and Puzzle Doers: Funny thing about people that thrive as entrepreneurs is, they love facing problems and finding solutions. They don’t see the challenge as a burden, but rather a way to beat conventional thinking by taking approaches the rest of us just don’t see. they are obsessive about finding answers where none seem to exist. As children, they loved making models, doing crossword puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles, math problems, Rubik cubes, sudoku…anything that gave them an intellectual workout.
What do you think? Do YOU possess these characteristics? Are there any I missed that you would have added?
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Your Business Neeeds a Succession Plan

Have you created a succession plan to ensure your future business continuity and survival?
Does your business have a succession plan in place, in case your leader is unable to lead? What happens if your current President/CEO, owner leaves or is unable to lead your business? Do you have a succession plan (a formal written document) that defines a specific course of action, should your CEO leave, become incapacitated, retire or pass away?
With the increased complexity of running a business due to constant technological advances, rapidly evolving industry trends and technologies, and the global nature of business competition, you need to have a plan in place to guide you in transitioning your leadership, whether its a single owner/CEO, partners, or an entire management team.
Do you have a succession plan in place already? If so, when was the last time you revisited it, to ensure that it’s still relevant and accurately reflects your current business situation? If not, you are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette by hoping you don’t need one.
If something happened to your leader, you won’t have the time required to develop a succession plan to guide you through identifying the ideal candidates from outside your organization through recruiting, then interviewing and hiring your new leader. the time it takes to develop a plan on the fly will likely prevent you from successfully navigating through the crisis and your business will likely suffer tremendously if not fold outright due to the lack of continuity in leadership.
So, what’s a succession plan, you ask?
Having a succession plan will enable you to identify employees who are capable of taking over upper and senior management positions. Most succession plans begin by creating a list of qualified candidates and narrowing the list down, until the right person (people) has been chosen. According to Marshall Goldsmith, a well-developed succession plan should emphasize/include the following four elements/considerations:
1.Change the name of the process from Succession Planning to Succession Development: Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes should develop individuals you identify as possessing the requisite background, experience, values and desire to take over.
2. Measures your desired outcomes, not the process: This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.
The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.
3. Keep it simple: We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn’t need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.
4. Stay realistic: While development plans and succession charts aren’t promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren’t realistic. The bottom line is, don’t jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only extend the promise of succession IF there is a realistic chance that they will be chosen.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Are Your Business Operations Ruining Your Business?

Are Your Business Operations Ruining Your Business?
Are your internal company systems, software, processes, and tools creating barriers to acquiring, serving, and keeping your customers? Before your answer “NO WAY” consider the following:
Any organization that says its operations and overall business performance are fine should take heed. As a business owner, you may think you’re just fine but…your employees are the ones who likely cannot respond to your customer’s needs and cannot serve your top customers the way they (and you) want them to because of your existing outdated policies, procedures, systems, and/or lack of logical, effective and clearly defined standards.
How can you tell if you have problems that MUST be addressed? Consider the many examples of dysfunctional 20th Century dinosaurs like: Sears, Bank of America, A&P, the Post Office, JC Penny, the Gap, Dell, etc. Can you think of any others?
Some questions you can and SHOULD ask:
• Do you have a contact management system that provides complete customer purchase history that your customer care representatives can view?
• Have you entered any seasonal/promotional campaign discounts into your point-of-sales system so those discounts are applied to a customer’s purchase?
• How easy is it for your clients to return products they purchased from you?
• How hard is it for your clients to reach someone in your company when and how they prefer?
• What is it really like buying from my business? Why not hire someone to MYSTERY SHOP your business and provide you with their feedback?
• How frequently do your employees experience phone, email or Internet service outages?
• Do you update your client’s contact information on a regular basis?
• How (in)frequently have you surveyed your top customers to see how you’re doing in serving them?
What if your business is in EXTREME distress and requires turnaround expertise. Implement more serious control measures to fix your business.
So, if your processes need an overhaul where can you start? ASK YOUR EMPLOYEES!
After all, your employees are the ones that serve your clients, answer your phones, and rely on your systems. They should know exactly what needs to be done to improve your operations and achieve greater efficiencies in your processes.
Here’s to your success running your business in 2013.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Work ON (Not) IN Your Small Business

  Grow your business by focusing on your strategic planning.
With all the many demands placed on you in running the day to day operations of your small business it can be extremely easy to get side tracked by managing the different tasks just to run the business. Instead of investing all of your invaluable time and effort working IN your business, it’s critical that you take a STRATEGIC approach to work ON your strategic planning and growing your business.
But how do you stop managing the details of your business and instead focus all your efforts on your business strategic planning to grow your company, you ask?
Following are a few very easy to implement strategies you can begin doing TODAY to get out of your business management so you can get INTO the planning to grow your business:
1. Outsource Non-core Functions: Outsource all of your administrative functions to an outside third party, also referred to as a “virtual assistant.” Any task you perform that cannot be directly attributed to generating sales, finding new clients, or obtaining referrals is a WASTE of your time and effort. Hire a vendor to manage your various administrative functions from billing/invoicing to your email programs, managing your social media accounts, running your emails, updating your prospect and client contact details.
2. Develop your Operations Plan: Create a detailed operations plan defining your business processes, policies, procedures, risk management, business continuity and other day to day operations SO THAT you can delegate these Operations tasks to employees, outside consultants, vendors, etc.
3. Empower Your Employees: I am constantly amazed at how few business owners I coach are willing to delegate tasks to their people. They believe their people are not qualified (a very dangerous sign!) or they simply do not know how to give up control of tasks they have done themselves. But your people are closest to your clients, prospects, operations and tasks. By empowering them you create a number of positive outcomes such as:
a. Employee satisfaction which leads to greater retention
b. Employee productivity gains – so you can get the full return on your people investment
c. New ideas to reduce your costs, increase your revenues, serve your clients, find new business, obtain referrals
d. New product/service offerings
e. Free up YOUR time to invest in the planning ON your future business growth
4. Plan for Growth: Develop a strategic networking plan so you can identify the events that all your top clients attend so you can plan a program for maximizing your networking investment.
5. Create Client Referral and Loyalty Programs: 50% of all new business comes from your existing clients. 35% of your new business is generated by new clients referred to you by existing clients. Only 15% of your new business comes from advertising. Thus, 85% of ALL your business comes from existing clients. How are you personally working on developing one time clients to repeat purchasers, from repeat purchasers to raving fans and how are you maintaining those Raving Fan relationships.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach