I have had the unique experience lately of mentoring a high school student as he completed his senior project at New Albany High School, and given that he's the younger brother of one of my closest friends, I've found myself in the position of "elder voice of reason". I look at this young man, and his twin sister, and so frequently think Wow, I wish I would have realized this or that when I was their age.
Granted, I'm only 10 years older than they are, however I'm continually staggered by how dumb I was when I was younger. I'm amazed at how much we learn as we age and mature, and as a business owner that only seems to be intensified. Because we're daunted with so many challenges thanks to our many roles, we're constantly learning how to become a better entrepreneur, boss, leader, strategist, and don't forget about our growth within our own fields!
Do you remember in school when your teacher would ask you to write something at the beginning of the school year, and then she'd force you to read it at the end of the year so you could judge your progress? I find myself looking back over the 4 year history of my company and, on occasion, smacking my forehead over some of the lame, unlearned, ignorant, and just plain stupid things I've done.
And that doesn't count what I did before I started Gong Gong. In between some ventures, I took a stab at running a short-lived and ill-advised business. It was incredibly niche, had high overhead, and was in a field I didn't know all that much about. What could possibly go wrong? But looking back at the situation in general and the company in specific, I still think it was a good idea and had wonderful potential.
So, what was the problem? Me.
I had ambition, I had vision, and I had desire. I can inspire the feathers off a duck if I try hard enough. But what I lacked was focus. Strategy. Any clue how I was going to turn my idea into a success. My company lasted approximately 9 months and left me in debt.
When I started Gong Gong, I was gun shy and honestly just wanted something quiet and easy that would pay the bills and that's all. Eventually, I regained my confidence and the scales fell from my eyes. An idea could only take me so far, and I needed to buckle down and work on becoming a serious business owner. I know I'm not the next Richard Branson, and I don't pretend that I have it all together, but slowly I've learned how to run a business, not just play at being an entrepreneur.
When I became involved with the Women's Small Business Accelerator last year, I was excited for so many reasons, but the education programs were what really wowed me. I see so many business owners that don't have a clue, and either don't think they need to have strategies and plans, or realize they need them but are too cheap to invest in them. And guess what? They usually fail.
The WSBA will begin its first educational program in mid-May. This first class will focus on startups (businesses up to 24 months old), who need help getting from A to B. After 6 months of classes, you'll leave with a completed business plan, marketing plan, sales plan, credit recovery plan, and a lot more. Guest lecturers (including yours truly) will help ensure you stay on track, and the supportive environment means you won't feel alone in your journey.
When talking to groups, colleagues, and friends, I've been summing up this program in two words: Game Changer.
I wish I had this program when I started my first business, and definitely when I started Gong Gong. The WSBA will eventually be launching a similar education program for businesses further along in their growth, and you can bet that I'm going to be taking part. I know first-hand how valuable this kind of investment is, and $1,500 is a drop in the bucket when you think about the dividends and ROI (not to mention saving your sanity!)
The first class is May 18th so if you're interested, be sure to sign up soon. The first few registrants get a 10% discount, so don't pass this up!
Full disclosure: Gong Gong Communications works as a service provider for the WSBA, however, we are also a happy tenant and participant in the WSBA's programs. Not to mention an unabashed supporter of anything that helps women business owners excel!
Alina Dizik recently posted an article on Entrepreneur.com on "3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business". In summary, these were Alina's 3 main points:
And while we agree with those incredibly practical pieces of advice, we have a few more to throw in ourselves:
If someone has already registered Uptown Car Wash, don't name your company Uptown Carrr Wash. It sounds obvious, but c'mon, you know you see that all the time, so much so that I think our society has become immune to what is tantamount for institutionalized ignorance.
By the way, this also includes making up your own spellings of foreign language words, especially using apostrophes to take the place of a properly accented letter (such as cafe' instead of café). Nothing drives me - a polyglot - up the wall more then made up foreign words.
I'd like to think that if some business owners asked their friends and family for their opinion, some of the more epic company name failures would have been avoided.
Growing up, my father owned a sign company, and I remember my mom helping a new client try to come up with a name for their restaurant. They were a very nice couple who had recently immigrated from China, and they spoke little English. They were intent upon naming their Chinese restaurant Lion Food, failing to understand how bizarre, and possibly carnivorous, that would sound to Americans. I don't remember what name they ended up settling on, I think perhaps Golden Lion or something such as that, but that story has always stuck in my mind.
A quick Google search of "funny company names" will provide you with hours of entertainment, reveling in the utter ridiculousness and stupidity of some people. That may sound harsh, but let's face it, Americans like to laugh at the ignorance of our peers, especially when it involves a good double entendre!
So this was mentioned in the Entrepreneur article, but I have always found it very important not to pin your company down by including a location in the name. In the city of Columbus I can think of two really obvious examples. Clintonville Electric and 5th Avenue Florist both left their namesake location years (in some cases, decades) ago, and let's face it, Clintonville Electric looks out of place in Dublin, and 5th Avenue Florist looks out of place 2 miles away from 5th Avenue.
There are ways around this, and some large corporations have overcome their location-based named to grow internationally. HSBC is probably unknown to most by their original name, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Up until a recent name change, the Caroline Panthers played in the RBC Center, a venue named after the Royal Bank of Canada.
I've been a bit glib in this post, but for good reason. A name is an extremely important part of who your company is, just like it is to you as an individual. It defines who you are and how your company is known as it grows (or possibly fails). Unlike our given names, we have the ability to choose our company names, so choose wisely!
Funny sign/company name hunting almost became a sport when I lived in Ghana.
Westerners are constantly laughing (lovingly) as the endless availability of funny signs, so much so that the non-profit I used to work for actually created a book of all the funny signs to sell. Joe's Hair That Talks is a hilariously awesome book full of hundreds of photos snapped by Global Mamas volunteers and employees (such as myself), across Ghana, and the proceeds all go back to the non-profit.
How do the demographics and psychographics of your ideal client affect your content marketing strategy and how does this strategy affect your clients?
A serious trend in the marketing industry is sharing useful and free information to the subscribers of your blogs, social media profiles, and e-mail lists. Everyone likes free stuff, especially when it’s useful, so it’s no wonder why this marketing technique has become so popular.
When you share helpful and intriguing information, your audience comes to view you as a valuable resource. Business owners can then hope that the viewers of this content will then turn into paying customers!
You’ve got a target audience, the people who you are promoting and marketing your products and services to, but not all of these people will be perfect customers.
Let’s say you’ve created a service that you would like to sell to middle-aged bachelors living in northeast Ohio. Great start, but who in this group do you really want occupying your time and resources? Once you’ve answered this, you’ve got your ideal client. Maybe it’s inner-city residents because they are likely to use your service more often and they are more fun to work with, or maybe it’s suburban businessmen because they will spend more.
The more details about your target and ideal audience that you collect, the easier your marketing efforts become. So be sure to really pull out the nitty gritty when you start to research who it is you want and need to buy your service or product.
Easy, just share information your ideal client would want to see in places they are looking!
We’re kidding about the easy part but the rest is really true. Your content marketing strategy should strictly reflect the wants and needs of your audience. The tricky part is finding and creating this interesting content and knowing how you’ll get them to read it.
Some techniques for starting your content marketing strategy include understanding where your ideal client is already subscribed to. You can track down statistics about social networks, websites, and mobile apps from research companies (such as Nielsen) and figure out the what, when, and where.
But in reality, it’s all about experimenting. Pay attention to the analytics of each of your posts and e-mails so you can tailor future campaigns and content to get your audience to pay attention.
With a full-fledged description and understanding of your ideal client, you will be able to answer the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your content strategy to get your audience to become paying customers.
Worley Law, LLC is a business law firm located in Westerville, Ohio. Their service offerings include business formation, protection of trade secrets, contracts and agreements, and, as of October 2012, comprehensive employment and HR legal services.
The attorneys of Worley Law consistently receive positive feedback from a myriad of clients. In January of 2012, after three years of being in business, Caroline was ready to take her marketing to the next level to expand her company and increase her client base. To achieve her goals, Caroline hired Gong Gong to strategize and implement a marketing plan that would land Worley Law genuine leads and loyal customers.
Creating a plan of action to market Worley Law’s incredible customer service, prevalent community outreach, and extensive legal service offerings was the easy part. However, working for a law firm meant abiding by a strict code of ethics and regulations, not that Gong Gong isn’t usually 100% ethical). As with any client of Gong Gong’s, developing and executing a strategy also meant being conscious of their budget and time.
During initial discussions with Worley Law, the Gong Gong team was sure to learn and document the specifics of ethical communications as defined by Worley Law.
From here Gong Gong created a comprehensive (and awesome) marketing plan that detailed the following:
Your website is the information hub for everything that you do. Because of this, one of the premier focuses of any marketing strategy or promotion is to bring potential customers back to your website so they can learn more about your company and feel comfortable enough to hire you.
With a solid plan, consistent focus on Worley Law's website, and frequent communication between our client and us, the strategy was put into action.
To measure the success of our joint marketing efforts, Gong Gong took a look at Worley Law’s website analytics to discover that the following occurred from January to December 2012*:
Worley Law, LLC has implemented and continues to utilize the strategy detailed in the marketing plan developed by Gong Gong. Because of their dedication, Worley Law has reached new qualified leads on a regular basis all while maintaining a sustainable presence with loyal and returning customers.
*Data compared to previous year’s data, January to December 2011, using Google Analytics
Your company's marketing plan is the piggyback strategy to the business plan that you (should) have, and like your business plan, it's also a road map and set of guidelines used to help meet your goals and hit milestones.
Yes, business plans are very important. But guess what? So are marketing plans! You've defined your mission and your goals in your business plan, now it's time to answer how you will achieve these goals with marketing.
Without a marketing strategy documented, your organization can't thrive. Sure you could wing it and write a few random social media posts a week and jump on promotional opportunities when they pass you by, but it makes life so much easier when you can prepare for what's to come.
With a marketing plan you get to fully explore the who, what, where, when, how, and why of your outreach, but you also get to strategize a budget for your time and money and truly understand where both of these resources should be spent.
Who is your ideal client? Who is your target market? What do you want them to know? Who are your competitors? What are you business, sales, and marketing goals?
A professional marketing plan will include the answers to all of these questions.
In addition to simple questions being answered, our marketing plans also consist of the following solutions:
Once questions have been answered and you have a solid strategy in hand, you should consider actually using it. Staying true to a plan keeps you on track and focused on success.
If you are interested in learning more about our marketing plans, give us a shout!