5 Smart Steps to Become a Better Small Business Owner

How to become a SocialMedia Manager by Urs Steiner via CC BY 2.0

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you dream big. That’s probably one reason you pursued this career path in the first place. Dreaming big is great, but it can also be paralyzing. Where do you start?

“Entrepreneurs are often defined by the size of our ambitions, but the best way to make a big impact is to start small steps.”                                                                -Damon Brown, entrepreneur & author

Damon Brown, entrepreneur and author of Our Virtual Shadow, recently published a smart article for Inc. entitled 21 Simple Ways to be a Better Entrepreneur. In it, he shares easy steps you can take to make yourself more efficient and productive in 2016 and beyond.

Here are our favorites:

  • Schedule a blank day: Yes, you’re busy, but that doesn’t do much for you or your business in the end. Scheduling a blank day (which isn’t a vacation day) can help you focus on the big picture and shift direction if needed. When’s the last time you’ve scheduled a blank day?

Please stop telling me you’re busy.

  • Skip the heavy lifting on Monday: Mondays are a drag. No one really looks forward to them and you’re rarely satisfied with your production. If you work over the weekend, Mondays are even worse. So take Brown’s advice and only handle light lifting on Mondays, if you can.

Your Comfort Zone: Where the Magic Happens

  • Write more, type less: How often do you physically write things down? Strategies, ideas, thoughts, musings… While we’re always fans of the written word, writing by hand can create stronger connections, motivate, inspire and help you relax.

Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

  • Walk more: Innovative ideas rarely come to us while we’re sitting behind a desk. Physical activity can be a wonderful way to break out of a rut or see a situation more clearly. Struggling to put together a plan for a client? Trying to make a difficult decision for your business? Get up and go for a walk. You (and your brain) will be glad you did.

Need an Idea? Just Walk Away…

  • Read a book a week: Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to be constantly learning, and books are the perfect way to accomplish this arduous task. They’re also a way to travel to other cultures, learn from other people’s mistakes and get lost in another world. Even if you’re not a writer, reading is a habit that you should develop.

Eat, Pray, Love — In Business Too

Who are we kidding? We loved Brown’s entire list, especially the coffee and poker suggestions. What are your favorites?

We do struggle with a couple of them, especially In the first hour of your day, avoid email and social media. Perhaps this is a goal we can tackle in 2016. Which suggestion(s) do you struggle with the most?

Whether you agree with Damon Brown’s suggestions or not, we all want to be more productive and efficient. What additional tips can you offer to achieve these goals in 2o16?

We can help you be more productive and efficient by assisting with your marketing, writing and social media needs. Let’s discuss how we can help you!

Taking small steps to dream big,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about entrepreneurship, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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How the Gift-Giving Process Makes You a Better Marketer

I love to give gifts. Part of it is seeing the joy that the recipient expresses, but part of it is the process. Finding the perfect gift for someone isn’t easy and shares a lot in common with the marketing process.

Danbo Santa Claus_Takashi Hososhima_flickr

First, there’s the research into what the recipient likes and how he spends his time. What’s a day in his life like? Is he a workaholic? A teacher by day but writer by night? Doting Dad of two? You need to understand what makes the recipient tick in order to give a meaningful gift.

Sound familiar? Studying a potential gift recipient is a lot like creating a buyer persona or understanding your customer. Step into your prospects’ or customers’ shoes in order to understand what they truly need. What would make their job a little easier? How can you take some stress out of their life?

After doing your research, you need to keep your budget in mind. Sure, it would be great if you could buy everyone a dream vacation or a MacBook Pro, but that’s not always feasible. Don’t be disappointed with your lower budget; just change your level of thinking. Does your friend love to travel? Pick up a scarf with multiple uses or a great travel bag that will be perfect for her next trip.

The same way of thinking holds true in marketing. Budget is always something to keep in mind no matter what yours is. Figure out how to maximize your exposure and effectiveness with what you have to spend. Maybe you can’t afford a digital billboard in Times Square, but you can afford passing out flyers about your new pop-up shop to those in the area.

Another way to expand your budget is to partner with others. So your brother and sister-in-law need a new washer but it’s out of your budget? Get together with family and friends to organize your gift-giving efforts. Everyone can contribute to a ‘new washer fund’ via a crowdfunding source or a group gift card to the appliance store.

The same practice works well in marketing. Partnering with like-minded businesses can expand your reach and your budget. Attend networking functions to find other businesses that you can help and vice versa. The important aspect of any relationship is that both sides are committed and both gain something. If only one business benefits, it’s not a good fit and the relationship won’t last.

Finally, evaluate the feedback. No matter how much you do your due diligence, sometimes you miss the mark. A gift is not well received or the recipient has no use for it. Make note of why the gift failed to live up to expectations so you can improve for the next occasion.

In marketing, sometimes your efforts fail. You can conduct ample research and maximize your budget but your campaign or project may not produce the expected results. Your customers and prospects are people, which means they’re complex. No matter how well researched your buyer personas are, maybe you missed one key aspect.

It’s crucial to examine your feedback so you can improve whatever part of your marketing is lacking to see better results in the future. That’s not always easy but that’s the topic of another article (actually the next one).

Who knew the gift-giving process could make you a better marketer? Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much. Or maybe it’s because I love to make people smile. Or because I love a good challenge. Regardless, put some thought into your gift giving and marketing this Holiday season and you’re bound to see the results.

p.s. Do you know an entrepreneur or small business owner who could use some marketing help? Give them a gift that will keep on giving long after it’s opened. We offer gift certificates toward any of our services. Let’s talk about your recipient’s business, product or idea, so we can customize a gift certificate for you.

Picture: Danbo Santa Claus by Takashi Hososhima via CC BY-SA 2.0

CCC’s Chief Elf,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about gift giving, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Specialized Services to Help You Run Your Small Business Smoothly

There are a variety of skills involved in running your own business, and so many to-do’s that it can get a little overwhelming. By using specialized services, I free myself up to concentrate on what CCC does best — help brands communicate with their target audiences.

Specialized services take care of the nitty-gritty and let me focus on being my own boss. I would recommend you try to do the same as much as you can. Here are a few services that can help you run your company smoothly.

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Copywriting

Content marketing is all the rage these days, and this popular (and effective) form of marketing requires a lot of quality content. If you’re not a writer, then you’re going to want to use copywriting services, which are essential for producing excellent content and running a successful blog. You need to make sure that everything you produce is of the highest quality and originality, which can be difficult to achieve if you’re working on your own. You might not have the necessary skills required to be able to keep up with the content demand for your company, or you’d rather spend your time on what you do best. Either way, CCC would love to help with your writing needs.

The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Affiliate Marketing

At any stage, it’s essential to spread the word about your company and the products or services it offers. If you have recently started your company or are going through a rebranding process, it’s even more important. Most small business owners want to bring in more targeted leads and increase their client base, but this can be difficult to achieve while juggling the daily demands of running a business. One solution is to use affiliate marketing services. They allow you to gain exposure on other people’s websites and attract targeted leads, while still focusing on other areas of the company, such as wowing current customers.

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”  -Jim Rohn

Appointment Reminders

As a business owner, you have to deal with a lot of appointments and meetings, some business-related, some not. One misstep and you can destroy your schedule for the day and a relationship for much longer. That’s why it’s important to use a service to help keep track of your appointments. Appointment reminder services send alerts directly to software that you already use. That way you never miss a meeting or appointment because you receive constant reminders of what you need to remember.

Jumping Off a Cliff: My 1st Year as an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur or small business owner is a labor of love. Like you, I have poured so much into my business over the past three and a half years that it’s important to me that it succeeds. Succeeding in small business requires a lot of time, effort and money, but it’s worth it when you create a successful and professional brand.

Your Turn

What services help you run your business on a daily basis?

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs or small business owners?

“There’s nothing small about small business.”

Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business services, your hopes and dreams or otherwise):
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It’s All About the Bling (Even in Business)

It really is all about the bling, even in business. Presentation, image, packaging… call it what you want. Time and time again, I’m reminded of this fact.

It's all about the bling!

It’s all about the bling — even in business.

Whether a client compliments my laptop bag (love Wenger Swiss Army!) or a prospect is impressed by a smartly packaged presentation, it matters. Yes, substance is important, but you have to wow people with the presentation so they’ll listen to what you have to say.

I’m not talking about being shallow or falsely advertising what you’re all about. It’s about attracting people to give yourself a chance — a hot prospect, a potential business partner, a new boss. Of course you need to impress to continue to develop the relationship.

Disagree? Have you ever bought a more expensive product at the store due to its impressive packaging? Picked up a book based on its eye-catching cover? Noticed someone because of his tailored suit?

If you’re honest, you probably have. We all have. Whether you call it judging a book by its cover or going with your gut instinct, it’s not always a bad thing. According to best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, it usually turns out all right.

Thoughts?

How have you been swayed by “bling” (i.e. presentation, image, packaging) in the past?

How has presentation, image or packaging helped you succeed in business or life?

Cheers,
Jaime

Connect with CCC — and me — on social media:
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LinkedIn: Are You Connected?

All of your colleagues and fellow business professionals keep telling you to get on LinkedIn, but you’re not looking for a job. So what’s the point, right?

LinkedIn: Are You Connected?

Wrong. LinkedIn is the Rolodex of the 21st century and so much more: an organized way to store your professional contacts, an easy way to follow up with new connections (made on or offline) and an amazing way to connect on business ventures across town and across the world.

How should you stand out on this popular networking site? It depends on your objectives, but the following tips should help you break free from your competition.

Do

  1. Be active. People tend to set up their profile and walk away. You don’t need to post as much as on other social platforms, but it is helpful to share valuable content at least a few times a week.
  2. Set up notifications. Remember that LinkedIn is a great place for new opportunities: business ventures, clients, careers, volunteering. Set up notifications, so you know when someone contacts you and can respond accordingly.
  3. Engage. Don’t just connect with people and forget about them. Cultivate your network! If you come across a resource that would benefit a connection, send it to him. Take some time — even 5 minutes twice a week — scrolling through your feed to like, comment or share on your connections’ posts. This is a helpful way to stay abreast of the latest news and stay top of mind with clients, prospects and business professionals.
  4. Help. Are you knowledgeable about the topic of a group discussion? Chime in! Do you have a solution for someone’s problem? Share! At it’s core, LinkedIn is a forum for business professionals around the world to connect, collaborate and grow.
  5.  Be selective. Some people are obsessed with having the most connections, but it’s really about quality, not quantity. Only send connection requests to people who genuinely interest you: a possible client, new connection at a conference, colleague or possible partner in a business venture, for example.

At it’s core, LinkedIn is a forum for business professionals around the world to connect, collaborate and grow.

Don’t

  1. Spam. Some people use social media like they do email marketing — to spam you with constant sales pitches, special offers and information about them. It’s OK to post this information sometimes, but remember the tried-and-true customer mantra, “What’s in it for me?” Post valuable information for your audience, and don’t feel the need to post constantly. (So please think long and hard before connecting your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.)
  2. Spam. This isn’t just about posting updates; it’s also about sending messages and posting to groups. Don’t spam anywhere. While an effective message to new connections, old contacts or prospects can open doors, blasting people with tired sales pitches, daily specials or repeated requests for ‘favors’ can slam them shut.
  3. Always have your hand out. One of the numerous benefits of social media is the ability to connect with people from all over the world, including leaders in your industry or field. These ‘rock stars’ can be a tremendous asset to growing your network and creating opportunities. However, don’t constantly ask these folks (or anyone for that matter) for favors or hit them with a request right after connecting. They don’t like to be used either.
  4. Stalk. Just hang up the phone with the HR director at a company you’re interviewing at next week? You may want to hold off on sending a connection request. Some people aren’t comfortable connecting with prospective employees in order to avoid showing favoritism. Did you meet with a prospect for coffee? Feel free to send him a connection request with a thank you message, but don’t go overboard. Inundating him with 5 messages over the next 2 days isn’t necessary.

Enjoy these tips to enhance your LinkedIn experience, and let us if you’re able to put them to good use. Keep an eye out for additional posts in this series: LinkedIn: The Essence of a Profile and Are LinkedIn Groups Working For You? (If you have any additional requests for posts on LinkedIn, let us know!)

Connect with us:

Do you agree with the aforementioned tips? What did we miss?

Have you landed a new client, career opportunity or business venture on LinkedIn?

How do you use LinkedIn vs. other social platforms?

p.s. If you’re on the largest professional networking site in the world, connect with CCC. We’ll be happy to answer any questions or offer a few tips.

Cheers,
Jaime

Connect with CCC! We’re social creatures.
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To Blog, or Not To Blog: That Is the Question

Original photo credit: "Portrait of Duranty Blogging, after Degas," Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Original photo credit: “Portrait of Duranty Blogging, after Degas,” Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (CCL)

Why do you blog?

That’s assuming you do blog, which millions of people do across the world, on millions of different topics for millions of different reasons for audiences of one to (yes, you guessed it) millions.

Some blog for business while others type their hearts away purely for pleasure, a way to scratch that itch deep inside or satisfy a longing need. Some blog to motivate themselves to lose weight or graduate from school while others share a deep knowledge of a particular topic while still others hope to be discovered.

–> Here’s my question: is it worth it? 

Blogging takes time. No matter how organized you are or how many tips you read about becoming a more efficient blogger, it just takes time. (Although you may want to check out this handy post from Jeff Bullas entitled How to Streamline Your WordPress Blogging Workflow to save some of that precious time.)

Is all of the time you spend on your blog worth it? I guess that depends on your objectives.

Related Reading: Do You Mow Your Blog?

This blog grew out of starting my company, Clearly Conveyed Communications, just over a year and a half ago. It functions as a place where I can share marketing, writing and social media (the main services CCC offers) tips and resources as well as reflect on my personal experience of being an entrepreneur, small business owner and on life in general. Yes, it has a varied overall direction, which works for me (and I hope for you).

As a new business, I really wanted this blog to generate exposure for the services I offer while connecting me with people who have shared interests. Sure, I would love to generate some business as well, but that wasn’t the original point and still isn’t today. I’m not a big fan of hard selling via blogs or other social media channels, so I hope that I haven’t come across as trying to sell you anything.

My goal every time I click on New Post is to add a little value to your day.

Whether it be insight into a business decision, a social media tip, marketing ideas or how to write a little more effectively, I want you to walk away from the CCC blog with just a little more knowledge and a smile on your face. I hope I do that, and if you have any ideas on how I can do that more effectively, please let me know. Seriously, I would love to hear from you.

So now we’ve come full circle… why do you blog?

For business? For pleasure? To share your knowledge with others? To keep yourself on track?

Leave your answers in the comments below, and feel free to leave your blog URL as well.

To blog, or not to blog: that is the question. Do you?

Related Reading: Attention bloggers! We want you.

Blogging away,
Jaime

p.s. Thank you to each and every follower of the CCC blog. I truly appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to read my musings, and I really do hope that you find them valuable in some way, shape or form. Cheers!

As always, please reach out to me and join the conversation: 
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Jumping Off A Cliff: My 1st Year As An Entrepreneur

A year ago today, I took a deep breath and jumped off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, anyway. I left my job in corporate America to start my own business.

A year ago today, I walked away from familiarity and security toward an unknown and exciting horizon. What a ride.

A year ago today, I walked away from familiarity and security toward an unknown and exciting horizon. What a ride.

I was terrified and excited, overwhelmed yet satisfied with my decision, completely burnt out but eagerly looking toward my future. In some ways, it’s been better than I expected. In other ways, I had no idea. Would I do it again 12 months later? In a heartbeat.

Venturing out on my own has taught -- and continues to teach -- me to focus on what's important.

Venturing out on my own has taught me — and continues to teach me — to focus on what’s important.

I’ve grown so much as a person and as a business owner even though there’s still so much to learn. I’ve experienced the highest of highs (tremendous opportunities) only to dip into the lowest of lows (major health insurance issues) days later. I love roller coasters, but this has been the craziest ride of my life.

While I continue to learn new things about myself, some things have become even more clear. I love to help people. Whether it’s donating platelets, helping a friend or writing copy for marketing collateral, it makes me smile. It pulls me out of bed in the morning (preferably not too early though) and gets me amped about the day.

My pride and joy, hopes and dreams. I'd love to work with you!

My pride and joy, hopes and dreams. I’d love to work with you!

That’s how it all started. Clearly Conveyed Communications. The name, the focus, the mission. Because my goal is to help others communicate. It sounds simple enough but is surprisingly difficult to do. We live in a 24/7 hyper-competitive world, so it’s tough to stand out.

Whether it’s writing copy that sells, creating marketing that brings opportunities, managing social media that sizzles or cultivating your personal brand to help you stand out and move up, I love it.

I have so much respect for others who have made this jump — successful or not. I’ve learned so much about myself and experienced so many situations because I stepped outside of my comfort zone; I’ll never regret it. No matter what happens going forward, I made the right move.

trail running

I love the outdoors. All of it, even the mud.

I’ve rediscovered who I am. I’ve reconnected with nature. I run on the local metro park’s trails and walk errands and hike to see the beauty. I’m eating cleaner and healthier than I ever have. I cut cable and read even more (certified bookworm here) and finally stopped to smell the roses (or espresso beans, whatever your pleasure).

My point is: love what you’re doing. Enjoy your life and do everything in your power to do what you love and love what you do.

I’m not a motivational speaker (a little too sarcastic) and am certainly not stepping on a soapbox anytime soon. I’m here because I’ve failed and failed and failed again. But I kept pursuing my dreams and I still am today. I’m not there yet but I’m on a much better path than I was 365 days ago.

Oh, and I’d love to work with you. Really, I would. Because I love what I do.

Photos via my Instagram account

Have faith in yourself,
Jaime

p.s. If you’re new to the CCC website, come back soon and visit our Facebook page too.  We’re going to be running a few contests to celebrate our first year of existence.

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