How to Manage Your Time As a Small Business Owner: 7 Simple Steps to Maximize Your Schedule

As an entrepreneur or small business owner/operator do you often feel that you aren’t able to accomplish your daily tasks effectively? Do things seem to snow ball until the back log becomes overwhelming? Is being focused and staying on task a challenge amid the day-to-day distractions common to all small business owners?

Do you find that you end up sacrificing personal and family time to sneak in a few more hours at the office, in the field, or on sales calls? Do you ever find yourself exhausted, irritable, and unable to cope with little things that may pop up personally or professionally on a routine basis?

Have you ever wondered if this is what owning and operating a small business is all about? Is there a better way?

What I have concluded from personal observations is that for many entrepreneurs, small business owners and independent professionals there is a condition of insufficient – or even a complete lack of – scheduling.

Scheduling is a system for completing crucial tasks before they become critical. A proper schedule contains a beginning, middle and end. It is not a to-do list nor is it proper time management, though it can assist with both. Creating an effective schedule and routine assures you align your business with your life, the people you work with, and the family and friends that you love.

Without a proper scheduling system and routine many entrepreneurs will experience overwhelm and burn out. Many a friendship, relationship, and marriage has been negatively impacted by a business person that was unable to balance work load with personal relationships. Without proper balance in life what is the true purpose and intention behind owning your business? You business is to be a part of your life that is fulfilling and serves a purpose in the marketplace for others; it is not supposed to be an all-consuming entity that drains the lifeblood of those associated with it.

Many entrepreneurs I have consulted with have many “reasons” for not having a well-maintained schedule. In my opinion if you find the need to have a “reason” you are just making an excuse for a bad habit. A few of the most common “reasons” I have encountered.

“I have a great memory and don’t need to write things down.”

“I work better under pressure and like to handle things as they come.”

“Scheduling just takes more time away from actually getting things done.”

In my experience, these are excuses entrepreneurs use because creating and maintaining a schedule is foreign to them. Can you imagine an all-star athlete with no training schedule, relying on their memory for everything – and randomly practicing when they feel like it?

Many small business owners started their business as part of a “quest” for freedom, and adding a schedule just seems like another burden that really isn’t necessary. The exact opposite is true. Without a proper schedule most business people find themselves enslaved to the very thing they thought would give them freedom in their life.

So what can you do to take back control of your schedule and conserve your most precious asset (time)?
Have a clear vision and mission for what your business truly provides as a service to others.
For example, one business I am aware of was founded “To provide single moms the opportunity for financial freedom.”
Share your vision with others and invite them to share theirs with you.
Determine the necessary tasks to be completed as part of the following (3) categories:
Activities – what are the most important single tasks or procedures required of you in your daily business interactions.
Routines – what combinations of activities repeated consistently (weekly, monthly) will lead to your greatest results.
Practice – what strengths and skills, if improved upon, would most impact your business and personal life.
Have and use only 1 calendar. If you have a paper-based calendar seriously consider going digital and syncing it with your iPhone/Blackberry. Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook are great options.
Eliminate the habit of working from a “to-do” or task based list.
Transfer all of your tasks in to your schedule with the exact time it will take you to complete it. If you can’t find enough time for all of them, prioritize the critical ones and see if you can eliminate the items at the bottom of your list. You will find that many of the task on your “to-do” list are actually not supportive of you or your business and have no real effect on either.
Leave 15 minutes between every appointment. This will account for distractions and interruptions and allow you to debrief from each activity.
Schedule sleep, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also include time in your calendar to spend with family, friends, exercising, and yes – personal time for having fun or as funny as it sounds – being spontaneous.
Keep notes throughout the day as activities come across your mind. Create a daily list and at the end of the day review the list to determine if any of the ideas warrant time on your schedule. If so – reserve the time in your calendar. If not – delete and move on.

In closing, creating and maintaining a schedule isn’t another task you have to complete in order to be successful. Proper scheduling is “A Way of Life”; a habit consistently used by the most productive and successful people I know.

Take time to master your schedule now, you’ll be amazed at the transformation your life and business will undergo.

As one of my mentor’s Keith Cunningham puts it, “Simple things done consistently lead to extraordinary results.”

How To Leverage Yourself As a Small Business Owner

So you are thinking about getting into the speaking business and you have been talking to a lot of people (especially the ones who don’t have any experience)and they have shared with you crazy stories and myths which are now making you unsure about going into it full force.

Well, let me rest your mind. There are 3 myths that you need to know that will help you on your venture in speaking. First off you can use speaking in anything. It could be sharing information about your product at a convention, a teleseminar, or you could be a key-note speaker at a conference. All of them are useful and can help you build your small business. Speaking will help you separate yourself from your competition because you leverage yourself as the expert and leading authority with speaking, people get to know you and trust you. And when people trust you they will buy from you.

A lot of people think that you need to be elegant when you talk! This is not true at all. Talk the way you talk or let it come out the way that it needs to come out. You don’t have to have this wonderful English ancient voice to speak, you can talk the way you always do, as long as you are giving out the good information that can help better the person’s life listening. By giving good information people will sub-consciously want to know more about you and your small business.

Usually you might get that one person that will say that you need credentials. Ha-ha I have to laugh! You don’t need to have credentials!!! You know your product and or service(at least you should) and no one can tell you about your small business and what you can do for others better than you can. You created it so the credential thing needs to be thrown out the window. You are the expert.

Last but not least and the most important thing that people might do is trying to become something that they are not. If you don’t remember anything else that I have written on this page please remember… BE YOURSELF WHEN YOU SPEAK TO AN AUDIENCE, you were sent here to solve a problem. The prospects and or people who you are to help with your small business, want to hear from you because of you. Every business owner is called to help a group of people so be yourself they will find you. And by being yourself you can never go wrong.

If you follow these tips they will help you in your journey of speaking so get rid of all the crazy myths and thoughts that people might have said or things that you might have heard. Be yourself, know your product and or service and what it does, deliver the information to the people who are asking for it and you will be fine. You can’t help but to be successful.

If You Are A Small Business Women Or Man And Would Like To Know The #1 Secret To Building A Solid Client List visit: http://www.TheMagicInYou.com

Email Marketing For Small Businesses

Why You Should Use Email Marketing For Small Businesses

Email marketing is more important than ever as a tool to help improve small business’s customer base and bottom line profits. This is especially true with competition being greater than ever in this prolonged recession. There is not much else that can impact a company’s bottom line faster than a well thought out email marketing campaign to a large and well-nurtured email list.

A business can easily and cheaply deliver a large number of customised and personalised messages at predetermined intervals for next to nothing, so why not take advantage of it? Every business, big and small should be doing this. Most Small Business have not developed a serious email marketing strategy and this is something that should be done sooner rather than later. They are leaving money on the table, so to speak, by not using this valuable method of marketing.

Before you can conduct any sort of meaningful email marketing campaign, you need to have a list of people’s email address and names if possible. There are a number of ways to get this moving fast. As they say “the money is in the list”.

What is a Customer Worth to You?

Customer Lifetime Value

Most Small Business owners won’t know this, but here’s how to calculate it:

Determine average net spend of a new customer transaction:______________

Determine average # of repeat purchases per year: ______________________

Estimate average # years a customer patronises the business: ________________

So, let’s say the average customer buys an item worth £100 profit to the business, and then repeats this process once again in the year, they are worth £200 to the business in year one. If they remain a customer for 5 years, they are worth £1,000.

Use any figures you want, but this is a simple way to view the worth of a customer

Building Email Lists:

  1. Website pages. You never know which page a visitor will land on when they arrive at your site from a search engine or link. You maximise your chances of getting a lead if you have a signup form on every page of your site.
  2. Special Internet-Only offers: Try to get your customers to get on your email lists to receive these special offers. The offers can be discounted products, two for one sales, coupons, vouchers or whatever you wish.
  3. Ask for email addresses. Get your staff to ask customers for their email address.
  4. Send postcards to your mailing list. If you have postal address information but not email addresses of existing customers, send them a postcard asking them to subscribe to your email list. You will want to provide them with some sort of incentive of course.
  5. Use Invoices: add a sign up box on your invoices.
  6. Rented Lists: Can be useful in building a subscriber list. Be careful and only use a reputable provider of such a list and make sure your list contains names and addresses of people who are specifically interested in your type of products or services. Otherwise a waste of time.
  7. Create a Newsletter:and promote it in all your company correspondence and advertising.

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Do Confirm all new subscribers: This will be done automatically via your autoresponder.
  2. Do Use the “double opt-in” method to ensure the integrity of the signup. This confirms that the subscriber has given you their email address is done by having the subscriber reply again via email to confirm.
  3. Do use the Unsubscribe Link Feature:This is very important to let the subscriber know they can get off your list by unsubscribing. This stops a lot of complaints about spam. All reputable systems will provide this feature.
  4. Do Personalise Each Message: You can increase both your reading and click-thru rates considerably by putting the subscribers name in the email. It’s important to establish a relationship with each customer.
  5. Do Choose Your wording Carefully. Most email systems use spam filters that analyses the certain words or combinations.
  6. Do Use Eye Catching Subject Headings: When your email arrives in your subscriber’s inbox, there are only a few seconds to the subscribers attention. They will quickly delete your email or ignore it.
  7. Don’t add email addresses to your list: unless the person has given you permission.
  8. Don’t forget to sign your messages: Always include a signature at the bottom of your emails, as it’s one of the easiest ways to attract more traffic to your website. This signature should include your personal details, your company details, and an unsubscribe link.

Email Marketing Systems

Ok, now you have the basis of email marketing. Let’s focus on what you need to do next. You will need to select the Autoresponder system that best suits your requirements. Below are some of the more commonly used systems. These are not expensive and includes the hosting of the software (basically you only rent it) and your subscriber lists and follow up messages etc as well. These are all Hosted.

AWeber: Has some great features and is easy to use. Costs around $19.00 per month, but cost will go up once you go past 5000 subscribers. Highly reliable and robust.

GetResponse: Similar to Aweber, but a little more difficult to use in my opinion. Cost about $18.00 per month, cheaper with annual payments.

Trafficwave.Net: You get unlimited autoresponder and click track reporting. Price stays the same regardless of how many subscribers you obtain. Cost about $17.95 per month.

Imnica: A new and up and coming hosted system. It has the vast majority of features the others, same deliverability levels, and LESS strict policies. Imnica Mail also has a full blown API for easy integration with existing systems. Not as easy to use as some of the other, but a great price at $9.00 per month.

With Imnica Mail you also get unlimited lists, unlimited AutoResponder messages, and unlimited broadcasts to your list.

InfusionSoft. Good choice for larger businesses that need to send out huge quantities of email. It integrates email marketing, sales, e-commerce, and even customer service.

Autoresponders Generally:

Because email marketing applications are available as hosted solutions, businesses do not have to worry about using their internal systems to send messages, nor do they have to worry about managing the mail server or backing up their database. Most importantly, they don’t have to worry about legal issues and CAN-SPAM compliance. With these third party systems, all of that is done for them. Once the email system is setup with the chosen provider the next step is to develop the email list. As email is the primary method of online communication. You should have a website that captures leads and sales, nothing is more important than the email marketing system behind it.

Creating an “Opt-In” Form:

You create the Opt-in form within the Autoresponder. You chose the type of form you want, edit the wording and the system provides you with a code that you can cut and paste into your website.

Of the five above systems above, I recommend AWeber mainly for its reliability and ease of use. They also have a very neat “light box” feature that allows you to setup an opt-in form without needing to change the design of your website. They also have good tutorials which lead you step-by-step through the setup process and use of the system.

What Kind of Emails: HTML or Plain Text?

What does this really mean? Basically with HTML you can send messages with text plus graphics and banners etc. With Plain Text it’s text only.

Ideally, you would like to send your messages sent using HTML and graphics to get the full impact, just like in print flyers and direct mail. This works just fine, however, there are a few things to keep in mind with HTML email messages:

  1. Many people will only accept email in Plain Text and have “images” turned off in their email accounts. If you send HTML emails to them, they will only see the words and not the graphics…not really the impression you want to convey.
  2. Generally most of communicate in plain text (i.e. just words). It’s more personal and is more likely to be opened and read.
  3. Plain Text has is disadvantages as well. For example you can’t use all of the means at your disposal to get your message across, such as headlines, photos, pictures, etc
  4. I recommend that you start out with PlainText

Building Email Lists Through Offline Methods

All Businesses, both large and small should be building their email list offline as well as online.

A good example of this is a retail outlet dealing directly with customers. The staff could ask their customers if they want to sign up for Internet Specials. Staff could even wear a badge saying “Have You Heard About our Internet Offers?” When the customer asks a member of staff what the Internet Offers are, they say they change all the time so it’s best to email them to you each time they change…do you want to get on our email list? Your Staff can capture the email information on a small card specially prepared for this or on the part of the receipt that the business keeps. This method is a bit slow, but over time it will grow significantly. This same basic strategy can be used for any business where there is direct customer contact.

Summary:

Email Marketing for Small Businesses is vital and over 90% of them are not using email marketing at all, and the others are not doing it very well. As a Small Business Owner you can leap ahead of your competition if you take advantage of Email Marketing.

12 Ways to Get New Business Leads

Every small business owner and entrepreneur, every services firm and solo practitioner should begin every day with this recognition: “I need new business leads.” Someone in your organization should be devoting part of every day to finding and nurturing leads for your company or firm. New business leads are the lifeblood of your company.

No matter how much easier and less expensive it is to keep selling to people who have already bought from you, the truth is that current customers can only buy so much. Every product or service will not be appropriate for them. If your business is to hold its ground and gain ground (grow), you must bring in new business leads.

Your processes for finding new business leads might be largely automated or it might be largely manual. The future does not require automation. Building a future for your business by ensuring a steady flow of new leads, requires daily attention to marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, lead conversion, sales and ensuring customer satisfaction.

How to Get New Business Leads

There are many ways to find and attract new business leads. Most companies use a combination of many tactics. Some of the most productive are:

  1. A customer-focused enterprise
  2. Strategic Internet marketing
  3. A well-constructed website that converts visitors to leads and then to customers
  4. Blogging that speaks to customer needs (and prospective customers)
  5. Social media strategies
  6. A finely tuned lead nurturing process
  7. Automated systems and processes for lead management
  8. Active gathering of customer opinions, needs and desires
  9. Customer knowledge that informs product and service development
  10. Flawless customer service
  11. A tested sales process
  12. A finely-tuned referral request process

Converting New Business Leads to Customers

Converting is a particularly appropriate term for making leads into customers. To convert means “to turn.” It means turning the customer’s opinion to a desire or need for your product or service and then winning or closing the sale of the product or service. Converting new business leads to customers is, then a process of:

1. Understanding the customer’s pain, need or desire.

2. Demonstrating that your product or service can meet the customer’s need, relieve pain or satisfy desire.

3. Providing enough information about the benefits of your product to enable the customer to make a purchase decision.

When your sales process (both direct and automated) can move through those three steps with each new business leads, you can reasonably expect to convert leads to customers. Information must be obtained and provided as the customer is ready to offer or receive it. Your job is to provide the information the customer needs in order to buy from you in a way and on a schedule that matches the preparedness of the customer to receive it.

By using the methods listed above to attract new business leads to a place where you can interact with them productively and then to use the this three-step process for converting leads to customers, your business will be able to build a strong sales pipeline filled with a steady flow of prospective customers.