Category: Entrepreneurism

7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis

business uncertainty

Uncertainty can be terrifying. And chronic business uncertainty like we’re experiencing now could have toxic implications for your health, mental well-being, and the ability to make the critical decisions you need to make for your career and your family.

As I compose this post in March of 2020, we are in an unknowable, unprecedented situation. The world that we love will come back from the coronavirus crisis — But when? When do we go back to our lives, our jobs, our friends, our schools? And what about the economy?

I’ve been doing Facebook Live sessions with lessons on “Embracing the Chaos” and have also been posting the videos on my YouTube channel. In my last episode, I covered seven practical ideas to deal with uncertainty and put you in the best possible mental state for your life and your business.

1. Be aware of the panic and respond

When we feel anxiety and even panic, your limbic system responds with a knee-jerk fear reaction. This is the same response we have when we jump because we thought a tree root on a forest path was a snake. It’s useful protection for short decisions but toxic if we have to rely on this for days at a time.

People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of the irrational fear that triggers a limbic system response and quell it as it begins to surface. They realize there is no snake in the path.

In this way, they contain a panic response before it spirals out of control.

One of the things that I saw repeatedly in the research about this topic is the therapeutic impact of positive thoughts.

Finding some small thing to stay positive about turns on a different part of your brain. If you stop your brain from being reactive and afraid, you’ll make better decisions.

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking.

There is also a lot of research that shows that positivity spreads to other people. So creating positive thoughts in others can suspend that limbic response on a work team.

2. Identify the facts at hand

When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s hardly ever the case.

People who excel at managing business uncertainty start by taking stock of what they know and what they don’t know and assigning a factor of importance to each.

Dwelling on something impossible — like trying to figure out how long a recession might last — takes away your power to make good decisions.

What are the factors that are unknowable and out of your control? Let them go. Focus on what is certain.

3. Acknowledge that business uncertainty is not a personal failure.

This is a big one for me.

I come from a proud Germanic stock of people who provide and protect.

I realize that could be seen as an old-fashioned notion but hey, centuries of conditioning are hard to un-do. I’d guess that for you, there is probably some little voice inside of you saying “How did I let this happen? Why wasn’t I more prepared?”

Look, I have virtually no business right now and I WAS prepared for something like a recession.

But this level of uncertainty and loss? This is not on me. This is not my fault. And just saying that out loud is empowering … and true.

I have to live in the real world, not be wedded to some historic sense of responsibility right now.

Don’t be afraid to exert self-compassion and say, “Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still.”

The only thing we control in an uncertain world is our response and the decisions we make.

4. Focus on three known priorities 

When I worked in the corporate world, I used to collaborate with a quality control executive. And he was obsessive about getting people to focus on “The Big Three.” Over and over, he would challenge his colleagues to see if they were focused on the three most important things to their role in the business.

Not four. Not 25. Three.

One of my customers sent me a message last week. He said, “Right now in this crisis, I am focusing on conserving cash, responding to customer’s immediate needs, and taking care of my people.”

Those certainly are three critical goals, and the right ones, no matter what uncertainty there is in the world.

How about you? What are your Big Three?

Is it keeping your children comforted and sane in a lock-down? Exploring new business strategies? Committing to a period of wellness and new habits?

Pick three. Focus like a laser. The uncertainty will fade away.

This is liberating because if you try to respond to every distraction you’ll be completely sapped of energy.

By the way, I’m convinced this is a solid business practice at any time. Every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty. So focus on the three priorities you can control.

6. Focus on positive actions – even if they are imperfect

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance.

When you focus on actions, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves mental performance.

In the early days of this crisis, I wrote about how I felt disoriented.

Whether I’m writing a blog post, giving a speech, developing a strategy, or writing a book, I’m a teacher. That’s my purpose. And then BOOM! The teaching stopped. All of it.

I spent a few days in a funk trying to determine a new normal. What is my place in this crisis? What is my purpose?

And then it dawned on me that I’m still a teacher. I just need to teach something new.

I can take action to deeply connect to people where they are right now. I can’t be on a stage talking about the Marketing Rebellion, but I can teach through a blog post. I can teach through live streaming and videos. I can help people through personal phone calls.

I didn’t follow a plan, because there is no plan for this. I trusted my gut.

By immediately focusing on positive action — even if it was imperfect — I felt like I had some structure in a universe of uncertainty.

I have not even tried to be perfect. My videos are so plain, and I even had a minor audio problem with a live-stream. But, I showed up. I applied my skills to the situation at hand.

A friend sent me this message after my last video session:

“My personal life has crashed. My business has crashed. My investments have crashed. And I’m in isolation and running out of bourbon. But your words of encouragement on your video saved my day. Never underestimate your impact, sir.”

Yeah. I’m still a teacher dammit.

Taking positive action, even when you’re winging it — and we’re all winging it — provides footing in an uncertain time.

7. Stop asking “What if?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you’re focused on the Big Three and your plan.

The what ifs will answer themselves. You can’t change that. You can’t dwell on the unknown and business uncertainty or you’ll go nuts.

Every now and then my mind wanders back to “what if” because I’m a planner.  But every time my mind goes there I feel stressed, so it has to stop!

The virus is not in your control. Unemployment is not in your control. The economy is not in your control.

What’s in your control are the decisions you make and taking positive actions on those decisions.

Does this help?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post 7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

The small business marketing formula to dominate your niche

small business marketing Tracey Matney

Since I wrote an article on small business marketing, I decided to ask my friends to help me out with entrepreneurial photos to “decorate the post.” Have fun on this crowd-sourced post as you see some of my entrepreneur friends in action, starting above with Tracey Matney!

A few years ago, I interviewed a researcher in New York about the most significant marketing mega-trends. Chief on her list was that the most effective marketing was becoming “artisanal,” meaning that it had to be local, conversational, and connected to an individual or community.

I asked her, “How will giant brands like airlines and car companies survive in this environment?”

She thought for a long moment and said, “I don’t know.”

The future favors the small

I believe that small business owners (like rising star Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez) are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the marketing rebellion before us.

Here’s an interesting thing to consider. If you list every negative trend in the general marketing world, you’ll see why big businesses are hurting and small businesses are positioned to win:

  • People are not seeing big-budget broadcast advertising. Ad-free subscription services like Spotify and Netflix dominate our attention.
  • Major digital advertising programs are jeopardized by new privacy laws and moves by Google and others to end the use of cookies.
  • Ruthless cheaters with unfettered access to our customers flood the market with cheap knock-offs, threatening the biggest companies and their hard-won national brands.

Now let’s look at some of the most important marketing trends driving success today:

  • People don’t believe ads and company spin. They believe business owners, entrepreneurs, and technical experts (like Karima-Catherine Goundiam).

  • Increasingly the personal brand Is the company brand as people seek an organic personal connection to the companies they love. You probably love and admire a business owner in your community. Who do you love at Verizon, for example?
  • Big companies can’t plaster billboards around a city touting how involved they are in the community. We want people to show up. You can no longer just be “in” a city, you have to be “of” the city.
  • Direct-to-consumer online models have disintermediated the advantage of shopping mall scale.
  • Platforms like Shopify, Etsy, and eBay are opening up global commerce for even the smallest businesses.

This is why I’m so bullish on the potential for small business marketing success in this era. Every important business trend seems to be tipping their way, at least to those who really understand what’s going on in this dramatic Marketing Rebellion.

Small business on the rise

small business marketing

Kelly Baader shows us a path toward human-centered marketing.

A study found that more than $17 billion in consumer product goods (CPG) industry sales have shifted from large players to small ones since 2013!

Sales among “extra small” brands — those generating annual sales under $100 million — rose 4.9 percent, the fastest-growing CPG segment, according to market research firm IRI.

In contrast, large players saw their combined market share drop to 55.5 percent, from 57.7 percent, during the same period.

Let’s go back to that question I asked at the top of the post … “How will big brands survive in this consumer rebellion?”

The expert didn’t know at the time, but an answer is emerging. The big companies know they can’t adjust and are snapping up the smaller “artisanal brands” at a rapid rate. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.

A few examples:

Of course, this is also good news for small company founders who newly-minted millionaires!

The small business marketing formula

There are lots of ideas for small businesses in the Marketing Rebellion book but if I were a small business owner (wait … I am!) here are the key small business marketing ideas to focus on:

1. The customer is the marketer

Two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us.

How do we get invited into the online and offline stories being told by our best customers? How do we help them do their job? Make the customer the hero of your marketing.

How do we create something so unmissable, cool and conversational that people cannot wait to talk about us and carry the story forward?

2. Show up

People don’t want to see photos of your president handing a check to the United Way. They want to see you involved in the community.

Don’t just lend a hand. be the hand. This is hard for the big companies to pull off so get out there and show your community love. Show up where your customers want to find you. Let them see how you care.

3. Be the brand

For a small business, the founder is normally the face of the company. This is a huge advantage in this marketing environment.

Great branding means building an emotional connection between what you do and your customers. Increasingly, that is a person, not a coupon or a product attribute.

Jon Ferrara, pictured here, is a role model for this idea. Jon is so gracious, generous, and accessible, that you can’t help but love his company, Nimble, because you simply love him. In everything he does, Jon puts his family, customers, and employees before his own interests.

My book KNOWN teaches you how to build a strong personal brand in the digital age. This is an essential tactic in the Marketing Rebellion era!

4. Engineer “peak moments”

Build exciting, unexpected delights into mundane customer interactions. When you give people something to talk about, they will.

Jessika Phillips — that’s her in the blue suit in the front — engineers peak moments into every customer engagement and event. Somehow she has made Lima, Ohio, the summertime epicenter of the social media marketing world through her fun and inspiring event.

She creates so much positive buzz that people can’t wait to attend or speak there. The customer is the marketer!

Think about how you can build peak moments into every customer touchpoint.

5. Bring people together

In the end, The Most Human Company Wins™

How does a small business do that?

By showing your face, your smile, your heart, and passion at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is to bring people together. Celebrate something. Teach something. Connect people and let them see how amazing you and your employees are!

Julia Bramble, shown here, is becoming an evangelist for helping people “belong” as part of a marketing strategy. Obviously I agree with her. I think it is one of the most powerful things we can do!

There has probably been no better time in the history of the world to start a business. Small business marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just focus on one thing: Be the most human company in your niche.

Make sense?

That is the end of my post. But let’s keep going with my cool entrepreneurial friend photos. Every one of them is trying to make a dent in the world! 

small business marketing

small business marketing small business marketing small business marketing small business marketing

small business marketing

small business marketing

small business marketing

Keynote speaker Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

 

The post The small business marketing formula to dominate your niche appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

How to be business cool while networking at a social event

networking at a social event

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Last week I attended a secret Christmas artist party on the distant outskirts of Berlin. The invite-only event was located in a garden colony, inside a former workshop for heavy machinery. The event was a Who’s Who of Berlin’s fine artists.

I went to the event for three reasons:

  • The organizer was a sculptor with whom I had co-exhibited two months earlier
  • I was hungry like hell and knew the event would feature a giant buffet
  • I wanted to meet previous customers of my art and hook potential buyers

This was a great opportunity to do some networking at a social event — but how to remain cool and appropriate while doing it? I’ll let you know how it went for me and share my lessons. 

By the way, this post features a dynamite-equipped Santa Claus so do read on…

A sample is worth a hundred sentences

Guests at social events, even art parties, are not interested in hour-long conversations. They want to talk to many other people so you want to hook them ASAP. And samples are the grappling hook snapping instant attention.

In my case, being a cartoonist, I always flip open my Instagram feed which acts as my art portfolio.

So in the main hall of the art party, I showed a real estate guy all my artworks tagged with Berlin keywords while explaining the thoughts behind each creation.

I’ve also seen a sculptor carrying an art catalog with his recent work. Every time he showed his cartoonish horse and people figures, he pulled a small crowd. He would have never enticed folks by just talking about his creations.

But you don’t have to be a visual creator to hook folks at a social networking event.

Two years ago, I attended a freelance networking event in Berlin.

There, a translator carried a small flipbook which featured bite-sized English and German samples of his work. And since he specialized in translating works dealing with sustainability and social enterprise, his flipbook and logo were dark green, printed on recycled paper.

What a great idea to hook folks at an event while staying true to your brand!

Bypass their auto-pilot mode

You probably have witnessed it countless times:

Two strangers at a social networking event try to small talk. To break the awkward silence, they unleash the dreaded “so what do you do” question.

Ugh.

It’s the quintessential generic question and thus triggers generic responses. They are often low-energy, and try building engagement with low-energy exchanges.

You want to engage the other person by triggering their expertise and passion.

When I learned about the real estate guy constructing private flats in Berlin, I didn’t ask him any generic follow-up questions.

Instead, I wanted to know what he thought of the government’s new rent regulation laws which dramatically impacts how real estate works in the capital.

Within seconds, the guy ranted with passion, calling out specific politicians, explaining how this or that regulation was blowing up prices per square meter and complicated his business.

After his rant was over and rapport was established, he focused 98% on me.

Listen, it’s not the BEST idea to make your conversation partner rant. But a specific question aimed at their passion and expertise is so much better than lame questions they probably answer a dozen times at the same event.

You want to elevate them from a low-energy to a high-energy state so engagement can happen.

Bridging gaps when interests are opposite

During the initial phase of the conversation with the real estate guy, I realized he carried no interest in a cartoon or comic art, which was my flaming passion.

Bummer? Nah.

After having learned about his passion for urban planning, Berlin and its history, I knew I could reframe my art, making it more tasty to him.

I told him about my style which I dubbed Urban Cartoon Art, and how my characters were manifestations of the city:

  • Hipster Unicorns, partying in the infamous Berghain club
  • start-up yuppies wearing smart clothes spammed with social media ads
  • pensive street artists with elven ears, ruminating about life

All these creations were inspired by Berlin’s city vibes, which piqued the real estate guy’s interest. I also told him about my last exhibition inside a hall that used to be a military horse ban during the German Empire era.

Soon, the real estate guy started asking me specific questions about style and ideas. After fifteen or twenty minutes of passionate talking, he even ended up buying a limited art print he saw on my Instagram feed.

Double-win.

Conclusion

Small-talk at social and networking events can be a treasure hunt. By showing samples of your work, asking specific, expertise-related questions and linking them to your offer, you can make great connections and deals happen.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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Entrepreneur Self-Care For The Holidays

Entrepreneur-self-care

By Brooke B. Sellas, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Entrepreneur self-care is a trendy topic. And with reason!

In my own personal situation, every decision hangs on my head. I’m the only one “at the top” problem solving (and reverse problem-solving!). This means I’m constantly looking for ways to unplug and unwind when possible.

And right now, as we’ve entered what I call “the holiday time warp,” it’s more important than ever to figure out how to take care of ourselves.

Here’s one really superior way to protect your time over the holidays.

The Importance Of Entrepreneur Self-Care

Just in case you’re skeptical about self-care, here’s why it’s trending.

Busyness has become a widespread health issue.

In a Forbes article, Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist, and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital had this to say:

“Emotional distress due to overbusyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue.”

In other words, self-care actually helps us do better work.

Business BFF

Before I get into this amazing idea, I have to start with a back story.

I met Jamie Teasdale, owner of Propel Businessworks, in 2014. We both attended Social Media Week NYC and immediately hit it off.

brooke-sellas-jamie-teasdale

Since then, we’ve made it a point to meet online once a month to vent, share ideas, and really just to support each other as women entrepreneurs. We’ve met up several times in person as well, but we cherish our monthly catch-up sessions!

One of the big things we talk about is entrepreneur self-care. Jamie is leaps and bounds better at self-care, whereas I’m my own worst enemy.

I lean on her a lot for venting and ideas, but mostly I find myself taking a page from her book when it comes to ensuring I don’t go crazy.

And her idea for self-care during the holidays is a BIG ONE.

Entrepreneur Self-Care For The Holidays

I want to share with you an email Jamie shared with her clients for the holidays. I’m breaking it down paragraph-by-paragraph so you can see exactly what makes it so amazing.

holiday-self-care-email-part-one

  1. Jamie not only sent this email to her client list, but she also sent it to her team. This means EVERYONE is in the loop.
  2. She starts with a thank you, which is probably something clients can never hear enough of!

holiday-self-care-email-part-two

  1. Jamie states that she’s taking time off and gives the exact dates.
  2. She lets her clients know that she’s “in” for some days but that she will not be working on anything that’s NOT SCHEDULED (aka: Get on my schedule or wait until after the first — but in a nice way). She’s also asking for help (a call-to-action).
  3. Now, she goes into detail about that first call-to-action with a second call-to-action and sprinkles in a sense of urgency. Not only do you need to get something scheduled, but you also need to do it between these exact dates.
  4. Lastly, Jamie thanks her clients once again.

What a smart way to engage in entrepreneur self-care.

I loved this idea so much that I asked Jamie if I could share it with all of you and “steal” it for myself. Of course, being the wonderful business BFF that she is, she said yes.

How Do You Unplug?

I’m curious, how do you guard your precious time, especially during the holiday season?

I’d love to “steal” more ideas from smart people at the top. Feel free to share your entrepreneur self-care tips in the comments section below!

Brooke-b-Sellas-businesses-grow

Brooke B. Sellas is the Founder  & CEO of B Squared Media, an award-winning done-for-you social media management, advertising, and customer care agency. She’s also Mark Schaefer’s Co-host on the top-rated Marketing Companion Podcast. Brooke’s marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter!

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3 Ideas to realign your attitude and make freelancing work

freelancing

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I faced a terrible burnout about a year ago. I had obsessed with my work, neglecting friends, family and my health. By working all night and ignoring life, I wasn’t getting much done.

After a decade of digital freelancing, and a dark night of the soul, I changed the way I work online. I had to fundamentally realign my attitude, becoming more humble, nicer, and more appreciative of my time with real human beings.

I want to be open and share my biggest personal lessons from this difficult time. Perhaps they will inspire you to become a better AND healthier freelancer.

1) Mix digital with local

Five years ago, and I would have PROUDLY proclaimed: Screw the offline world. You can get all the work you need from the internet.

(Insert younger and foolish ‘me’ flipping off the physical world).

Then I discovered the downside of my digital-only freelancer existence.

freelancingThe online economic system is built to disadvantage gig economy entrepreneurs like me. The most popular way for my U.S. clients to pay is Paypal, which consumes your profit with hidden fees. The company charges a transaction fee, an international fee, and a currency exchange fee where they even pick a bad exchange rate that’s not up-to-date.

Every time my healthy US selling price shrunk into its final Paypal form, my heart twitched.

However, with my IRL clients and artwork sales, I get paid in my local currency, sometimes even in cash on the spot. Working offline is like getting a raise.

The second downside of a digital-only is loneliness.

Allowing pixels to glow at your eyeballs for eight hours or more just isn’t healthy. Especially not when you’re working from home, where it’s you versus your four walls.

You’re surrounded by things, not people. Online video calls help you connect with folks you can’t physically meet, but nothing, NOTHING, beats human-to-human interactions.

This hit me hard during my art exhibition opening where dozens of folks, including clients, talked to me about my art and my plans IN PERSON. They asked for more samples and potential collaborations.

Since then, I’ve been working on two bigger projects involving traveling and collaborating with my carbon-based familiars.

The mix matters.

But…

2) Kindness matters even more

Back in my early online days, I acted like a snarky gremlin at times.

 

freelancing gremlin

When a client took too long to reply or didn’t pay me on time, I shot back with passive-aggressive remarks.

And it’s so easy when you’re separated by screens, perhaps even thousands of kilometers apart from each other.

I thought I was expressing confidence, taking crap from no one, but I was just immature. After a decade of working online, I’ve become a part-time diplomat.

When your goals depend on other people — which is almost always the case — kindness gets you the best results. I don’t know anyone who likes working with, or for, a bully.

Mark Schaefer wrote a powerful post about whether to take a stand or be likable. I think it’s true –controversial people attract immediate attention and sometimes get quicker results, but they burn their bridges. Adios, future collaborations.

So how do you deal with “difficult” clients?

A creative peer of mine coined the term “friendly forward.” It means you reply swiftly and get to the point while always staying friendly. Because you never know what the person on the other side of the screen is dealing with.

So whenever a customer is not paying you on time, or not replying, or writing in a way that triggers you — assume nothing, because you don’t know.

Write again, get to the point; the friendly forward way.

3) Gaiman’s freelancing laws apply

I’ve recently bought a little inspiring book Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by the famous comic and fantasy novel writer Neil Gaiman. He shared his three principles on how freelancers keep getting work:

  • Their work is good
  • They’re easy to work with
  • They deliver the work on time

Neil also states that if you fulfill only two of three principles, you will still get work.

So clients can overlook your unpleasantness if your work is good and delivered on time.

They can forgive your lateness if you’re likable and your work is good.

And you don’t have to be as good as your competition if your work arrives on time and you’re a pleasure to work with.

Speaking from personal experience, points two and three matter a lot. If clients can rely on you AND like you, they keep coming back.

Conclusion

I feel healthier and more aligned with friends and family since changing my mindset and tactics. Online freelancing is a rich ride if you know how to compensate for the downsides.

What’s a healthy tip that you can share as a digital freelancer?

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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