There was an article that first appeared in the February 2006 issue of Entrepreneur that is about finding focus and fine-tuning your business. We all get lost in the details and day-in-day-out stresses of management. Our conclusion post shared by the DFW B2B team outlines going back to basics.
17. Do some data mining. What do customers think about your company? “You don’t build your brand by yourself anymore; your customers are equally involved,” says Michael LeBeau, CEO of Byte Interactive, a South Norwalk, Connecticut, digital marketing company. Simple customer comment cards or web-based survey forms can save market research costs.
18. Leverage partnerships. Strategic partnerships with local businesses will help you rise above the noise. Picking the right partner, however, can be very time-consuming. Simplify the process by looking to your own customers, vendors and suppliers first. You already know each other’s strengths in terms of services, products and marketing, which will let you move more quickly to develop effective cross-promotions and sponsorships.
19. Go directly to the consumer. Are you spending all your time knocking on big retailers’ doors and saving for TV ads when half of U.S. consumers have lightning-fast broadband connections? “I’m seeing more entrepreneurs starting to market their products directly to the consumer,” says Peter Koeppel, founder and president of Koeppel Direct, a Dallas direct-response TV media buying agency that works with clients including Cigna, Columbia House and DirecTV. It’s never been cheaper or easier to make your own commercials and post them on your website. “There’s technology now [so] that when someone goes to your website, the commercial automatically comes up,” Koeppel says. “That’s a way for a small business that maybe can’t get on TV to advertise.”
20. Get the message. It’s easy to lose brand focus in a world of in-person, over-the-phone, online, catalog and direct-mail sales. To simplify, divide your business into five main channels (website, catalog, direct mail, employees and customer service) and have one main marketing message every week (a sale, a new product, a new partnership and so on) that you communicate and track for consistency across all channels. You’ll see fewer customer-service hassles and less turnover from frustrated employees who can’t read your mind.
21. Consolidate your advertising legwork. Most business owners invite random interruptions from advertising representatives throughout the week. Instead, set aside a block of time–Monday afternoon, for example–when advertising people know they can reach you. Everyone will save time, and you won’t have to hide anymore.
“It’s very easy to let work consume you,” says Bo Short, president of the American Leadership Foundation, a Charlottesville, Virginia, nonprofit organization that offers leadership conferences and seminars. “But if you do, will it eat you alive?” Here are five ways to create a more balanced life:
22. Decide what to outsource. You don’t need to have your hand in every single pie anymore; let someone else carry part of the load. Outsourcing a few tasks gives you time to focus on something else–even if it’s a round of golf now and then. Plus, “You’re the customer, and they’ll treat you better,” Short says. Learn to delegate to employees, too.
23. Create boundaries. Set aside 10 minutes after lunch to make and return personal calls. Set a time for leaving the office every day, no matter how busy you are. And spend at least two hours doing something fun before you burn some late-night oil. Your family will thank you.
24. Shorten your to-do list. “A to-do list is nothing but a wish list,” says Barry Izsak, president of Arranging It All, an Austin, Texas, firm that helps companies get organized. A long to-do list leaves less time to focus on revenue-generating ideas. Instead, focus on the top three urgent tasks for the day. The rest can wait.
25. Love your inner Luddite. Entrepreneurs who become slaves to gadgets “are running reactive businesses and being reactive with their time,” Izsak says. Try working unplugged–this means no internet connection and absolutely no phone calls–for one hour every morning. It will give you a sense of accomplishment that lasts all day