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small business

5 Tips for Thriving in the 'Summer Slow Down'

By David Berry: If you're in business for yourself -- particularly in the 'establishment' phases -- you're well attuned to the fact that there is such a thing as a seasonal slow down. Invariably, for many businesses, that season ends up being summer.

The reasons aren't always apparent, but circumstantially, it's easy to find some causes. Employees take multiple, small summer vacations with their families (hey, the kids are out of school), and likewise, so do your clients. Then, there's the simple element of momentum. At the start of a New Year, the holidays are winding down for everyone, so there seems to be a huge rush -- and pressure -- to aim for hyper-productivity. Summer lacks that momentum, as it's sandwiched square in the middle of the year.

Whatever the causes, the summer slow is real for many industries. So, what's a business owner to do in the midst of such a lull? 

1. Keep a Sense of Urgency: It's easy to ride the waves when things are good; leads are answering your calls and pushing projects forward in a timely manner. Prospects are showing up in abundance -- life is good! Except, when it's not, and you find yourself without the practiced habit of maintaining diligence in your day-to-day to make sure the lights stay on. It's a lot harder to develop new, good habits than it is to maintain good habits. So, never let up.

2. Eat Lunch with Someone Else 3X Per Week: In a world where most of our communication happens with our hands (texting, emailing, social media), it's easy to forget how critical it is to actually see people in real life. Go figure. I don't know about you, but it seems like more times than not, in-person meetings are not only better for relationships, but they actually lead to more productivity/opportunities between both parties. Time to leave your desk.

3. Reach Out to Cold Leads: I'm not sure what your business looks like, but for every client I have, there are two or three that never got off the ground for one reason or another. So, reach back out to them. On the phone or in person. They may not answer your emails for the simple fact that whatever they have to say in response is too complicated to articulate, so they go cold. Push them into action and see if you can close.

4. Try to Grow Warm Leads: Want to know the best individuals to grow your business with? Existing clients. It might seem counterintuitive -- since they're already your clients -- but it might be safe to assume that if they're with you, they're happy. Who better to try growing or expanding your business with than the ones who already know your value?

5. Expand or Contract Your Services: If things have indeed slowed for you, spend some free time taking an honest look in the mirror. Is there a service that you offer that no one uses/buys? Consider modifying it or eliminating it. Similarly, do you have a service that users love? Consider expanding it.

So tell me -- is the summer slow down real? How do you work through it? Leave your comments.

-DB

5 Things Your Marketing Team Should Do Before 2017

By David Berry: Lost among the memes and mockery of the 2016 Presidential Election is the reminder that Q4 is finally upon us! For most businesses, this is a time of professional reflection; a look at where the business has been and - just as importantly - what that means for where the business is going. What is your marketing team doing to get ready for 2017? Well, here's a good place for them to start.

  1. Look at What You've Done. Bonus points will be awarded if you set up benchmarks for performance at the start of 2016. If you did, then measuring success becomes a true exercise in measurement, and far less of a guessing game. Unfortunately, here's how a lot of small to mid-sized businesses go about their marketing: Let's do what we did last year, if sales didn't go down, let's do that again. Instead, use available data to identify what worked and didn't (Facebook analytics, email open rates, sales data, etc.) and make the best judgments you can.
  2. Evaluate What the Competition Are Doing: Every business has competition, including yours. And while it would be difficult to really see what's driving their wins/losses, you can still get some insight by paying attention and doing some research. Subscribe to their emails. Follow them on social media. Google them. Find them and see what they're doing and try to get a sense of what's working and what isn't working. Blogs, podcasts, emails, social media, etc. are all things you can see for free to gain insight.
  3. Evaluate What the World is Doing: Did you know that digital advertising spends will surpass TV this year? TV is indeed a major player, but the new money in advertising isn't going to TV; it's going to mobile (text, social), digital (display, retargeting) and social (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). And it's definitely not going to print.
  4. You Need a Plan to Stick To: What are the themes that you'll focus on each month in social media, email, retargeting, SEM, events, etc.? Get specific. Build out a communications calendar that lays out the themes for your communication and considers multiple touchpoints, along with increasing/decreasing frequency depending on the business's needs and priorities. Then stick with it. Marketing isn't a light switch; you can't just turn it on and expect it to work. It takes time and consistency, and that only comes with good planning. For extra help, take a look at this great article from Forbes.
  5. Measure Your Wins/Losses and Adjust Accordingly: If you can find a way to map your monthly sales over your monthly advertising expenses and identify correlations, you may be able to identify which marketing efforts are working and when. Furthermore, if you're invested in digital marketing (social media, email marketing, display campaigns, etc.), then it's actually very easy to measure success, right down to leads and revenue. If you don't measure, you have no ground to stand on when justifying your plan, or criticizing anyone else's.

And when in doubt, hire some pros. Yes, of course business' like mine benefit from it if you do, but the reality is that you have a business to run. You shouldn't be running all of the marketing decision making at the same time. I talk a bit more about that on this video below with Arturo Arca from Pragmatique Legal. Any questions? Email me at david@dbpluspartners.com.