This discussion is not so much about copywriting, although effective business communications is the underlying theme. Rather it’s about exploring some common issues that crop up when I mentor small and medium businesses. I wanted to share them because you may be experiencing the same or know someone in business that is, and what you read here may offer some light!
I want to preface my comments by saying there are many exceptional and successful small businesses out there. These observations are based on personal experience and from years of mentoring many small business clients.
I have been a business mentor with the Victorian based organisation, the Small Business Mentoring Service for about six years. With a background in marketing and communications I find I am kept pretty busy working with a variety of clients. They can range from those in the embryonic stages of a business concept to clients with existing businesses wanting to grow and all combinations and permutations in between.
What are the common themes?
I would have to say that the most common theme I find among clients I mentor is time management, or more precisely the lack of it. Hold that thought because I will expand on it later.
Other common themes I have found are:
Social media – specifically understanding and using social media platforms to create awareness, recognition and promote the business.
Networking – what a lost opportunity this is for many of my clients.
Website quality – clients most often have a website but is it really working?
Database management and customer loyalty – the creation of customer databases, what to do with a database once you have one and what’s involved in creating and building customer loyalty?
Referral business -having the confidence to ask for referral business from existing customers and rewarding them for same.
Business awards – applying for and maximising the publicity and credibility they offer when you are a finalist or better still, a winner.
Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it certainly represents what I spend the vast majority of my time as a mentor talking about with clients.
Take out from these observations
Time management Small business owners are time poor. They rarely engage service providers to help either because they believe they can’t afford it or they simply just don’t think about it. With little spare time available business planning is virtually non-existent and as a result the business often suffers or at the very least fails to thrive.
Business owners often function in reactive mode rather than proactive due to time constraints, and I wonder sometimes if they even realise it.
Implementing simple but disciplined time management principals is a great start. I recommend blocking out a morning or afternoon a week or once a month to help get the mindset out of the day-to-day business operations and to focus on the business. Rocket science? No. But it is surprising how many business owners just don’t do it.
Social media I am a prime example of one who ignored social media for years as a means of building my business profile however, I am a convert. These days I encourage all my clients to take the time to get their head around what social media can mean for their business. I caution clients however to take one step at a time and not try to be the master of all that is out there in social media land because you will end up going gaga.
It’s not just about having a business Facebook page though and doing nothing with it. You need to work it hard by posting content regularly, creating and contributing to discussions, streamlining communications to relevant groups and not doing the hard sell. It has worked for me.
Networking OMG the number of business owners who don’t do this and what a missed opportunity. Now the benefits of networking don’t happen overnight. There is an investment in time involved but in my experience it’s worth it.
What I am talking about here is as a small business owner, establishing the feasibility of becoming actively involved with one or a couple of local business networks.
It’s a topic that warrants further discussion so I think I will make it the subject of my next blog.
Website quality Most of my clients have websites. But do they work effectively for them? The answer more often than not is no. Websites are a mandatory item in the marketing toolbox these days I think you would all agree. But there is no point having a website if people can’t find it.
What that leads me to is the discussion on effective website content, clever and SEO friendly copywriting, engaging and immediate content, website advertising, broadcasting content and blogging. When clients start to do this stuff well they see the results. But once again it comes down taking the time to learn what all this means and to implement strategies to build website interest and traffic.
In my next article I will focus on networking and then expand further on database management, referral business and business awards.