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The Ups & Downs of Growing a Local Business

The Ups & Downs of Growing a Local Business

You may offer a terrific product or service.  You may be great at what you do, yet you can’t seem to grow past a certain revenue barrier.  You begin to see your numbers go down, so you advertise and sell like crazy, then the numbers go up so you get to work fulfilling orders and helping customers.  Then, while you’re distracted with all of the work, numbers start falling again and the cycle repeats itself.

This is a very common problem among local businesses.  Especially businesses that are trying to break through the $300k per year revenue mark and again near the $1 million revenue mark.

The only way to break through to the next level is to change the way you’re doing things.  Infusionsoft has created a helpful graphic to explain what’s needed in each phase to grow a local business.  Notice the bottom row of the graphic which indicates, “The Success Factor.”

Local Business Growth

Infographic Data Originally Compiled by https://www.infusionsoft.com/

I was blown away by this graphic when it was first introduced to me at a conference in 2014.  I thought through all of the local business we have helped and how well this fit their circumstances.

Today, we’ll go go through the first 3 phases, since that is where our expertise lies.  Next week, we’ll introduce 4 experts that can help in the final 4 phases.

 

Solopreneur

In the first phase, a local business owner IS the business.  Their time is exchanged for money.  As long as they have time to spend working, they can get paid for their time.  The plateau comes when they run out of time and naturally reach a limit.

In order to break through this plateau, the solopreneur needs to add some help and move in to the salesperson role.  The growth of the business will then depend on them being able to sell their product or services.

 

Partnership

We get approached by many solopreneurs when they start getting close to the 100k mark.  Typically, they’ve hired a helper or are considering doing so.  At this level we usually help them define their sales message and work together to create an identity package to help them sell their product or service.

And that’s exactly the change that needs to happen.  To this point, the entrepreneur IS the business, but needs to begin making the transition to selling their products or services and allowing others to help them fulfill those orders, projects, etc.

If you’re in this place, be sure to invest in some sales training resources and create a fantastic, repeatable sales process.  A few great resources include books, articles and videos by sales trainers like Jeffrey Gitomer, Brian Tracy or Tom Hopkins.  In addition, this is a great time to join a local mentoring organization like SCORE as well as one or more networking or referral groups.

In short, selling is the key to breaking through that $100k barrier and doubling or tripling your revenue.  Yes, you will need help and yes, YOU need to be the one doing the selling.  You will continue to use what you’ve learned once you hit the next plateau at around $300k per year.

At this new plateau, your role again changes.  You must begin putting marketing and customer service systems in place for you and your team to follow.  You must also train someone new on your sales system so that as you begin generating leads, your sales people can close sales.

 

Steady Operation

Helping business owners break through the $300k revenue mark and rise to the $1 million mark is our specialty.  It’s at this point you must invest in a marketing strategy to help smooth out the roller coaster ride of revenue.

It’s at this level that you must begin creating a marketing process that will continue to produce leads, customers and referrals.  Our 7 Story Marketing framework offers the exact steps we use to help local businesses create that marketing process.  You can get that framework and more by downloading our free 7 Story Marketing Playbook here.

If you know of other great entrepreneurial resources for local business, please share them in the comments.  Anything that will help local businesses to thrive is appreciated.  As always, if there’s anything we can do to make your life easier, please let us know.

Where Did 7 Story Marketing Come From?

Where Did 7 Story Marketing Come From?

One of the questions I get most often from people is “Where did the name 7 Story Marketing come from?”

I’ve been asked by my bank teller, clients, suppliers and more.  Many times I just tell them that 6 Story Marketing just didn’t seem tall enough – insert laugh track.

We’ve thought about making up stories and seeing which one gets the best response.  If you have an idea, leave it in the comments. The best one will get a Starbucks gift card commensurate to the level of ingenuity.

Honestly, the name came through a series of events and interactions.  Our company offers content marketing that is guided by the context discovered through research … we call it Story Marketing.  And it just so happens, that the framework we use has 7 steps.

7 Story Marketing Framework Diagram

The 7 Story Marketing Framework

The 7 Story Marketing Framework follows these steps.  We’ve used these 7 steps successfully across multiple industries and business types.  I hope they’ll help you with your business.  They are:

Research

In the research phase, we try to get as much information about the company, owner, industry, products/services, marketplace clients, and competition as possible.   We gather everything together and begin working on a strategy.

Strategy

In our framework, strategy asks the question – who are my ideal clients and what is their Journey like?  How are they finding out about us and what steps do they typically take in their buying process?  Once we define the buying process, we discuss tactics we can use to facilitate that process.

Tactics

If we know the journey of a potential buyer, we can make sure that we provide them what they need at every stage in the process.  In other words giving them the right information in the right place at the right time.  With that in mind, we want to make sure all of our information or content has the same look, feel and messaging also known as design or branding.

Design

In the design phase, we take everything we know to this point and turn it into a style guide.  This is much more than just a logo, but certainly can and should include one.  This is more of an identity or as we call it, a central story.  A fully authored and illustrated story.

Implementation

Now the fun begins.  We take all of our ideas and make them real.  Everything we decided back in the strategy, tactics and design phases come together to create real time marketing.  As we implement the strategy, we put several things in place so that we can see how our marketing plan is performing.

Testing and Measuring

Testing and Measuring are the simple terms for Analytics.  There are several key numbers that we track and report.  After a few months we take a look at what’s working and what’s not working and we optimize.

Optimization

Optimization is probably one of the most overused words in marketing.  What does it mean to optimize?  What in the world is Search Engine Optimization?  It certainly has nothing to do with optimizing the search engines.

As far as we’re concerned, optimization means looking at the numbers and coming up with new ideas to improve them.  We test those ideas (based on experience and research) and Implement again.  We cycle through this process every few months continually improving our campaigns.

Then, every couple of years, or if the numbers start missing their targets, we start again.  Back through the research process to discover new opportunities.

Want to learn more about our marketing framework?  We’ve dedicated an ebook to it.  Click here to download the ebook and keep in touch.

Need a hand with your marketing?  We’re happy to help!  Call us at 239.287.0334 or contact us here.

The 7 Story Marketing Playbook

The 7 Story Marketing Playbook

I don’t know about you, but I try to learn from others any time I have the chance.  I prefer to let other people make the mistakes and teach me how to avoid them.

I realize that many times that’s simply not possible.  But when it is, I want to know about it.

That’s why I’m an avid reader.  I haven’t always been that way, but a few years ago I realized that reading was one of the best way to learn about all of the mistakes that others have made and the best way of doing things.

So many times I’ll read a book that helps me get unstuck.  Sometimes it’s a book, an article or something someone shares on social media.

Well, I hope the 7 Story Marketing playbook can do that for you.  If you’ve felt “stuck” when it comes to getting more leads, more customers and growing your business, then take a moment to check it out.

 

Here is a direct link to the eBook.

 

Why are we giving it away?

We believe when local businesses thrive, it causes a ripple effect that can change the world.

That’s our mission.  To help local businesses and local business owners to thrive. 

We would love to get this playbook into the hands of as many local business owners as possible.  If you know someone who would benefit from it, please share it with them.

 

What’s in the playbook?

Over the past 3 years, my partner Brad and I have been working with local business owners to figure out what works and doesn’t work when it comes to local marketing.

There are so many ideas out there about what to do and how to do it.  I know, I’ve spent most of my adult life learning “new” sales and marketing techniques that were supposed to be game changers.

Here’s what I’ve learned – there’s nothing new under the sun.

Sales and marketing will always be about people.  And if you want to know what people want and why they want it, you should ask.  That’s why the framework in our playbook starts with research.

 

So how is the 7 Story Marketing Playbook different?

Great question.  The 7 Story Marketing Playbook takes proven marketing principles and applies them to the new marketing channels and opportunities.  It’s a step-by-step approach to creating a solid marketing plan using the RIGHT tactics for YOUR business and YOUR clients.

 

You can see what I mean by downloading the playbook here.

 

We believe context should be used to guide content. That will help you to get the right marketing message to the right audience at the right time.  Potential customers are already searching for you, your products or your services.  You need to know where and how to connect with them.

In other words: Context + Content Marketing = Story Marketing

Story Marketing is understanding the context of your business and creating content that connects with potential customers.  Once you know your story, marketing becomes so much simpler.

So, take a moment and read through the playbook.  If there’s anything that doesn’t make sense to you, please let us know.  This is a collaborative effort, and we’d love for you to join our cause.

Your feedback, comments and questions will help us to help more local businesses.  And that just might change the world.

Top 5 Ways to Get More Website Traffic Right Now

Top 5 Ways to Get More Website Traffic Right Now

I just wrote an email to one of my clients right meow.  He’s having a new website built, which is great, but I want him to make sure he’s getting regular website traffic. Then, more importantly, foot traffic into the office.

If you follow the same instructions, you can get more website traffic to your site and to your local business this month.

Here’s all it said:

Hi,

I wanted to send you a quick note.  A few things that will boost traffic as season drops (his office is in a highly seasonal location) off.  If you do a quick search for <city name and industry>, the top results are the following:

  1. Google Adwords – It looks like you have an ad.  You should consider updating the ad and linking it to a landing page to help convert traffic.
  2. Google My Business – Optimize your Google My Business Profile so that it shows up in the top 3.  A few more reviews would be helpful.
  3. Yelp – Make sure profile is optimized, pay for top placement and ads.  Request a few reviews from clients as they come in.
  4. Industry Relevant Local Directory – Claim your profile.  Update it so it’s relevant.  Request a few reviews.
  5. Organic Search Placement – Let me know when your website is complete and I’ll help you get a few of your pages top placement.

I hope all is well.

I recommend the same to you.  Google yourself.  Not just the name of your business, but your business location and industry.  For example, if you run a Mexican restaurant in Chicago, search “Mexican Restaurants in Chicago.”

Then search several variations of those terms and note the top 3-5 results.  Click those results and find out if there’s a way to take advantage of that placement.

Typically, it follows a similar pattern to above.  I hope that helps you!

How often should I post on social media?

How often should I post on social media?

Today’s Marketing Moment was inspired by a question from one of our subscribers.  They asked “Which social network should I be on and how often should I post?”

That’s a great question, and if you have any questions, feel free to email them to me at aaron@7storymarketing.com.

So I’ll answer the question in two parts.  First, which social network should I be on and then how often should I post.  As with most questions, the answer is, it depends.

Which social network should I be on?

You should be on whichever social network your ideal target client is on.  Social media is a great awareness tool, and it’s a great place to solve problems for your potential customers without promoting your products or services.  In other words, be helpful.

Of course, in order to do that, you’ll need to know who your ideal target client is and which problems you can solve.  If you haven’t already, pick up the 7 Story Marketing Playbook (free download) for tips on how to identify your target clients.  You can start by finding your existing clients on social media.

How often should I post?

There are varying answers on this, but in my opinion, you should post as often as you can be helpful.  Even more important than simply “posting,” engage with your customers and potential customers on their turf.   Comment on posts that you can be authoritative on and leave the rest for another expert.

There are ways to set up alerts and notifications, but that’s for another article.  If you need to know now, my favorite resource for social media “how to” is Social Media Examiner.  If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to their emails and search their website for answers.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that people want to be treated like people, and they want answers to their questions right when they’re looking.  Spend some time each day looking for opportunities to be helpful to your clients and potential clients on their favorite social media channel.

To get started on your own content marketing including search, email, and social media, download the 7 Story Marketing Playbook or get in touch with our team.

Increase Revenue with These Questions

Increase Revenue with These Questions

Are you willing to do this one simple thing to increase revenue?

 

Attracting your ideal client

One of the first clients I ever convinced to work with me was my younger brother, Cody. Family is good for that kind of thing. Our work together has helped him to increase revenue the last three years in a row.

Cody is a painting contractor (who I was working for at the time), and he was looking for some ways to grow his business. I volunteered to put my limited online marketing skills to work and basically went to school.

Who are your best clients?

Over the next few weeks, Cody and I thought and talked through his best clients. People who referred him lots of the kind of business that he wanted. We discovered that most of his best business came from General Contractors, Designers and Real Estate Agents.

So, we made a list of people we knew who fit that description and began to reach out to them. We contacted them, not just to solicit work, but to find out what they were looking for in a painting contractor. If they were existing clients, why did they work with York Services?

How were they finding us?

We also did some online research, searching Google as though we were a contractor or designer. What we discovered changed Cody’s business forever, and it can change yours too. In his case, we found a couple of niche directories that contractors visit when searching for painters.

There are directories like that for your industry too. Take a moment to think like your best customers. How would you try to find you?

What we did

Our research process has been refined over the years, and we use powerful tools and resources to dig deep and create an Ideal Client Profile. However, it didn’t take all of that to discover a few unique ways to grow Cody’s business. It just took some humility and determination.

We contacted his best customers. We took them out to lunch. We asked them some great questions to help us uncover what was unique about Cody’s business, what his best customers really wanted, and how they went about finding him in the first place.

Make a list

So, make a list of great questions. Then, ask yourself and your key staff those questions and document the responses. Next, meet with your best customers and go through the questions with them. Make it fun and compare their answers to yours. Chances are there will be some surprises.

Here are a few questions from our survey. I’ve made them a little more generic so that you can adapt them to your business.

  1. We appreciate you so much. We’d like to continue to get better and focus on the things that you love about us. Would you mind answering a few questions?
  2. Why did you/do you work with us? Why did you hire us?
  3. Did you decide on us over another competitor? What was the deciding factor?
  4. Are you happy with the product/service we provided?
  5. What did you like best?
  6. What could we have done better?
  7. When it comes to working with people like us, what frustrates you the most?
  8. What makes your life easier?

You get the idea. Dig deep. Find out why your best customers love you. If they don’t love you, what can you do to take your relationship to a “10?” What would that look like or mean to them?

Like so many things that are worthwhile, this is very simple but it’s not easy. It takes some time to work ON your business instead of in it for a little while. But I promise you will reap extraordinary results.

Are you ready to take the next step toward increasing your revenue?  

Download the 7 Story Marketing Playbook.

A Letter to Local Business Owners

A Letter to Local Business Owners

Thank You Local Business Owners

I wanted to write this letter just to say thank you. Thank you for taking the leap of starting and running a business in our area. Thank you for enduring the hardship, fighting off the loneliness and doing something that most people will never do or understand.  Thank you for being a local business owner.

Also, thank you for providing for your family, creating jobs for yourself and others (whether now or in the future) and contributing to our community. What you are doing is making a difference, and I want to encourage you to keep going and never give up.

As a local business owner what you are doing is bigger than you think. It’s one of the most important things that I can think of. And one of the most difficult.

Thank You for Starting and Running your Local Business

Starting a business is one of the scariest and most difficult things you can ever do. And you’ve done it! Looking back you may not have taken the leap had you known what you were going to endure.

But now that you’re here, I want to say, “please keep going, and please keep growing.” We need you. We need you to lead us and make our community a better place to live.

Because of you we have more jobs, a better economy, better schools, and better neighborhoods. Because of you our lives are improved … from the products and service you provide to the money you spend as a business, you’re making Southwest Florida a better place to live, work, and play.

Thank You for Enduring the Hardship and Hard Times

You’ve endured the tough times. Probably not unscathed, but you made it. Now you’re stronger, wiser, and more prepared for hardships and tough times ahead. Things didn’t get easier, you got better. Thank you for being willing to go through it.

Thank You for Fighting Off the Loneliness

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to running a local business, I feel alone. I know there are times when you feel alone too. The times when difficult decisions need to be made and nobody seems to understand how hard those decisions are.

They don’t see the things you wrestle with. Even those closest to you have no idea how tough it is. You’ve received unsolicited advice on how to deal with all of your problems, but at the end of the day, you’re responsible for your decisions. You have to live with the outcomes.

You get to take all of the blame if things go wrong, and give away the credit if things go right. And you’re OK with that. You’re a leader. You can handle it. Thank you for enduring.

Thank you for Making a Difference

Finally, I want to thank you for the difference that you’re making. You may not see it, believe it or know it, but you are making a difference. And even if you do see it, you’ll never know the broad reach of your business.

I cannot over emphasize the impact you’re having on your family, the families of those who work directly or indirectly for your business, your vendors, and your competitors. You’re making a difference, and the ripple effect of your “small” business will affect our community for years to come.

A Small Token of My Appreciation

I’ve worked with local businesses that are just starting out and some that are highly profitable. If I ever run in to a business owner or business development manager who is struggling to find more clients or increase profits or revenue, I share something with them that was shared with me about 10 years ago. This one idea has changed more businesses than any of the other marketing strategies I’ve used, combined.

I guess you could say I’m re-gifting this, and I’m guessing it was re-gifted to me. So please use it, and when it works well for you, pay it forward.

The strategy was introduced to me as the “Target 25.” It’s a very simple idea with tremendous power. I’ll do my best to explain it.

(Mark LeBlanc does a much better job explaining it in his book “Growing your Business” You can get a copy here.)

The Target 25

Take 30 minutes and write down your 25 best clients, customers, patients, etc. This 30 minutes will be more valuable than anything else you do this year.  Essentially you want to determine where most of your best business comes from.

Your 25 best will be people who love doing business with you or referring business to you and those you love doing business with. If you don’t have 25, write down people you believe that would fit this description. If you have more than 25, narrow your list to the very best.

Next, do absolutely no marketing or selling to these people. They already know, like, and trust you. Simply develop your relationship with them. Come up with a few ideas to help them succeed.

Here are a few things my clients have done with tremendous success.

  1. Once a month, hand write a letter to each of these people, letting them know how much you appreciate them and value your relationship. Be specific and say thank you. If you don’t have time all at once, write one every day.
  2. Invite them to breakfast, lunch or dinner at their favorite place and pick up the check. This is one of the greatest investments you’ll ever make. (Also, read “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi)
  3. Send a gift. Something your client would like specifically. If you don’t know, find out. Everyone likes getting gifts. (Be careful, some industries don’t allow this, especially if the gift is fairly expensive. Check with your industry association.)
  4. Make a phone call and have something to say. Hey John, I saw on Facebook that you had a great month. I just wanted to call and say Congrats! Or, Hey, we were talking about X and it made me think of you. Just calling to see how things are going.
  5. Make up your own. Make it personal, and do it regularly.

Full Disclosure

In full disclosure this is something I’ve forgotten about recently and I will be implementing again myself. Keep me posted on how it works for you. Better, yet drop a comment below with some other ideas.

In closing, I just want to encourage you to keep going. What you do every day is important. The mundane tasks, dealing with difficult people, and the hard decisions are all important. We need you to keep going.

Thank You.

Aaron Lynch
A fellow local business owner
7 Story Marketing

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not using social media to market your business.

Think of it like an event, there are a lot of people attending, all talking at the same time. Some of them are talking to you, some of them are talking to the person right next to you. But, if what you’re saying is engaging and attractive, those around you will start listening. There are a few questions you should ask before you start using social media to grow your business.

Do you understand how social media helps your business grow?

Have you seen others doing it well but have struggled to make social proof, engagement and all the social media jargon make sense?

When I first started using social media, I didn’t “get it” either. I created accounts on every single platform I could think of and left them largely untouched. I wasn’t posting or creating images, just sharing other’s content because I didn’t have too much to say myself. Other than sharing my weekly blog posts, there wasn’t anything else to say.

But then I started noticing where my website’s traffic was coming from. Because I was sharing relevant content mixed in with my own posts, people were clicking on links back to the website. When they got to the website, they kept exploring, which leads me to the question, are you using social media to attract new customers and who are they?

Do you know who your audience is?

Are you aware of where they hang out online and offline? Do you know what keywords they are using. Once I asked an author if she was using social media to tell people about her book. She informed me she was on Twitter but social media did not work. I pulled up analytics and saw that she was actually marketing to her peers and not her ideal readers. The market mismatch was why social media wasn’t successful for her.

Once you know who your ideal client is, ask yourself what will you do to attract them to your business. You already know people like doing business with those they trust, whose products and services resonate with their lifestyle. What you are sharing should spark a reaction, make them laugh, cry, think and share with others.

Wait a minute, what’s the point in sharing content if customers aren’t coming back to the website and purchasing? Well, remember, social media is to capture the customers who are ready to buy now, and who will be ready to buy in the future. You get to jump ahead of your competition by establishing a relationship with your ideal customers, when they are ready to buy, they will turn to you because they already like and trust you. Which means you’ll need to put a plan in place for engaging and nurturing customers who engage with you through social media.

Social Media should make it easy for your ideal customer to learn more about you. Social media should only be a reflection of the experience they could have when they start buying from you.

Our goal is to bring clarity to your social media process and help you discover what you should actually be doing and how to make it work!

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