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Stick to the Basics to Stay Afloat in Hard Times

Morrow Bay, CA Photo by Linda C Smith

*My article first appeared at Technorati [dot com].  I did just a bit of updating.

Have you heard the news?  Economically speaking it’s tough out there!  But we all knew that.  The small business sector suffers just the same as Big Business…so what to do?  Stick to the Basics and do what you do best.

First things first:  be sure you know your business.

  • Have a dream and passion for the business that you chose.
  • Have determination to make the business work.  Show up every day and be the poster child for hope.
  • Give great customer service. Even if your business has slowed down, the very fact that you are still in business means that someone is paying for your business’ products and services and these customers and clients deserve your attention.
  • Offer added value. Go beyond just being in business…make your business different by giving the customer more than they expect.  Instead of merely selling your product or service, engage the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that.  In 2010 pure sales won’t be enough.  Added value will be key.

To weather the economic storm, you might think about:

  • checking and double-checking your current business plan; bring up-to-date your stated vision and mission statement; determine if you are on target.
  • checking and double-checking your current business strategies: are you in the correct marketplace for your products or services?  Are you actually and effectively reaching your desired customer-base?  Are you sure you’ve correctly identified your customer base and know how to communicate with them?
  • keeping your products and services clean, polished and ready to deliver…be proud to represent the products and services you have in your current inventory.
  • contacting your customers – have you shown your current customers that you appreciate their business?  It is not just a cliché saying that ‘happy customers bring referrals,’ it is a truism: satisfied and happy customers will often be a good source for new customers…have you asked your customers for referrals?

This is not to say that you oughtn’t to try anything new during an economic downturn; to the contrary, one thing you could do is experiment with new ways of communicating with your customers, find new ways of finding customers.  If you aren’t already, make internet marketing a part of your strategic communication and marketing plan.  You don’t have to get complicated to start, begin small:

  • build a web page...or do a little web page redesign and clean-up
  • tout your business on a few top social media sites like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn
  • direct people to your website by writing articles
  • anything new or improved you do, write and submit a press release about it
  • start a blog, either as a part of your business web page, or independently [and have it point back to your business web page]
  • if appropriate for your business: (1) have classified and display ads in your local newspaper and regional magazines; (2) run radio and/or television spots; (3) arrange speaking engagements for yourself at local groups who might be interested in your area of expertise; (4) leave your business card everywhere and with everyone

I read a fantastic article in my local newspaper over the weekend that highlights a solo-preneur in my area who does stick to the basics and has built a successful business.  The article is written by David Morrill, the online title: One-stylist hair salon thrives on personal connections. Mr. Morrill wrote about hair stylist Jenny Mui, whose business is Zen Jen Hair Studio, and she has built her business on:

  • customer service
  • added value
  • word of mouth

…which builds her reputation.  According to the article Ms. Mui says, “…’How great is it to know that it’s your reputation that has built your business,” she said. ‘For me, it’s always been about making sure the customer comes first, and people appreciate that.’…”

The article describes how she marketed her business through personal service and word-of-mouth: “…When she first started in the profession, she would go to the nearby coffee shops and seek out the baristas. Mui would tell them that she’s going to do their hair for free. The only thing asked in return is if someone asks them about their hair, she refers clients to her. ‘I got many clients that way,’ she said….”

The present economy might not be the rosiest to look at, but you don’t have to let it ruin your day…or your business.  Just keep doing what is working and use the present climate as a time for continuous improvement.

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Interesting Small Business Blog Directory

[picapp src=”0228/cab5278d-f076-48ae-add7-9120665e3954.jpg?adImageId=6983905&imageId=232218″ width=”234″ height=”195″ /]I ran across something new (to me) this week while doing my blog reading “homework.”  As part of keeping up with the latest in information for small and home-based business – and just business in general – I “surf” blogs of interest.  I did an interesting journey-of-sorts while surfing last evening.  Kind of like the however-many-points-of-separation game…start here, which leads to there and you find this.  This is how it worked:

  • I began with an initial reading through ProBlogger’s “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” by Darren Rowse.  I’m going through this workbook as an exercise to be a better blogger…makes sense – part of my business plan is continual improvement.
  • Chapter 6/Day 6 is about learning from successful bloggers of the likes of Seth Godin, Liz Strauss and Chris Brogan – as well as others.  I’m a diligent student so I looked up every one of them.  Some I’m already familiar with as you can see by the blogroll to the right.  Well, in one of those articles I was directed somewhere that looked interesting and found myself at the Forbes.com site with an article review of “Small Business Blogs.”
  • In looking through the short list in the Forbes article, I visited the allbusiness.com site – it is rich with articles and blogs of interest to small and home-based business.  While there I noticed an article written by Denise O’Berry, whose tag line was “Just for Small Business.” Some great articles written by Denise here.
  • My next step was one of curiosity. I decided to do a search for small business blogs on Google.  Guess what came up? First was Small Business Blog Directory and second is the Forbes.com site mentioned above.  I went to the Small Business Blog Directory site and was astounded to find that the founder of this directory is Denise O’Berry.  And what a good idea she has in developing a directory whose emphasis is small and home-based business and those who write about these issues.

This was very cool.  I looked over the SBB Directory and decided Linda’s Business Blog just might find a home there, too, so I filled out the info.  I got the email just a bit ago that says my blog is now officially a member of the SBB Directory.  Today you can find me listed on the “What’s New” page.

What is instructive about this exercise is the idea that the internet has now become a valuable repository of information.  You do have to search and categorize and sift and sort to find just what you’re looking for; but you’d have to do that in a public library also.  There is criticism that “just anyone” can put up a blog or website and call themselves experts...but the same is true in hardcover print.  I think the proof comes in the pudding…or so the saying goes.  Either the source and information stands up over time or it doesn’t.

The internet is a rich ground for any small or home-based business owner seeking information, guidance and advice – doesn’t matter what their market niche might be.  The experts are out there.  Experts?  I have 2 definitions:

  • An Expert is someone with grounded experience in “whatever” – having won, lost and generally learned along the way and who comes out with positive gains…these are the business owners themselves
  • An Expert is someone who has studied the efforts of those who experience the “whatever” in all the fields in which the experienced players play…these are the academics

It’s like the art thing:  if you can’t make a living as a working artist, teach.  In both cases, the person has the expertise of the subject.

My advice?  If you are a small or home-based business person seeking information go to the obvious sites first such as:

  • Business.gov“…Business.gov helps small businesses understand their legal requirements, and locate government services supporting the nation’s small business community….Business.gov is an official site of the U.S. Government….”

Then do some research on blogs that give good help and tips – find them through such blog directories as:

And, of course, do internet searches on your own.  The information is out there and, just as at a public library, you have to go in and sort and look.

 

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Writing for Technorati-that’s new and so is it

The new Technorati still has some bugs to work out, but it looks promising.  I’m excited to announce that I’ve been accepted as one of their writers…people who write articles on their favorite topics either just for Technorati or to be seen there first – before it appears anywhere else.  My first exclusive-to-Technorati article was published over the weekend and can be found here.  As I do on this blog, I will be writing articles about business, small business and home-based business.

Don’t know what Technorati is?  According to the Technorati Blog, dated October 14, the new T is a “…re-launch of a wholly new Technorati.com. Technorati was founded to help people find great blog content….” When I first discovered it about two years ago, I understood it to be a blog directory – a place to use much like an internet search engine, to find blogs to read in categories of my choosing.  And so it was.  Then I also discovered Alltop, which also is a terrific directory: “…The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, ‘What’s happening?’ in ‘all the topics’ that interest you….” It has a cool feature where you can have a page that lists blogs and sites that you like to read.  My Alltop page is here.

As I’ve said on my “About” page on this blog, I believe information is key and it is very helpful to have sites such as Technorati [the new] and Alltop and other blog directories that help you sift and sort the millions of blogs and words to find what you need.  Everything new has bugs and fits and starts…so I’m hoping that blog readers and writers everywhere will join me in having patience with the New Technorati as it gets its beta version off the ground.

George of my jungle

George of my jungle

Speaking of having patience…George, my 5-year old Amazon parrot insists upon “helping” me this morning!  He likes to “shop” on my desktop to see what he can snatch…today it ended up being some green sticky notes.

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