Does size matter?

Of the category growth of your business, that is.

Based on years of growing my career in the low-growth industry, and now working as a consultant in a variety of industries, I’d suggest that unequivocally: yes, size absolutely matters.

There are so many challenges we face when attempting to grow a business in ANY industry, that investing in growth categories increases the probability of our business dreams coming true. When there is natural demand for a service or produce, the organization is typically successful in spite of the typical slip ups that happen in growing organizations. In a declining business, if you have a moment of lackluster sales staff, deliver one poor customer experience, or compromise even for a split second on quality, it’s detrimental. A declining or flat industry leaves very little margin for error.

A declining or flat industry leaves very little margin for error at the unit level of an operation.

How do you know if you are a high-growth industry? What is your opportunity to pivot into one? Below are three places I like to look at when evaluating my own entrepreneurial opportunities or suggesting next steps for consulting clients.

JWT: FUTURE100

Future100trendreport

The JWT #future100 is a free download filled with a huge wealth of knowledge. Trends span culture, tech and innovation, travel and hospitality, brands and marketing, food and drink, beauty, retail, health, lifestyle, and luxury. Each includes an original analysis of what is trending and what the future of that trend could be. It’s a beautifully produced wealth of knowledge I go back to again and again.

despite living in Pennsylvania, I’m a Swiftie all the way.

despite living in Pennsylvania, I’m a Swiftie all the way.

Google Trends

The google trend tool uses graphs to compare the search volume of different queries over time. With google being the most popular search tool in the world, this is a great place to find information about the products, events, and services that matter most to our current or potential audiences. I use this often when analyzing market positioning or considering a service or product in my own entrepreneurial endeavors.

pinterest100report

Pinterest 100

250 Million users are on Pinterest looking for the solutions to their biggest problems, 83% of which are US women aged 25-54. And according to PEW research, 39 percent of people in households worth $75,000 USD or more per year use #Pinterest. Do I have your attention yet? With most of my client being female-focused lifestyle brands, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Pinterest 100. The Pinterest 100 is the the top 100 trending topics on Pinterest that these users are curious about in 2019.

SUMMARY:

It’s always possible to find success stories of top performers in any industry. But when you look around across industries, what you’ll find is that some industries simply have an easier time making money than others. Focusing on these trends and categories helps us find success as a business owner. These three free tools are invaluable to avoiding declining or flat categories when investing time and resources, and leveraging hard data when making strategic marketing decisions.

How To Lead Through The Noise

We live in a tremendously noisy world, and leaders suffer the pull of overlapping time requests more than anyone. After getting sucked into many things I wished I hadn’t as an emerging CEO, it took me a while before I really learned how to sense when to move on quickly when something or someone was distracting me from great work getting done.

“I am doing a great work, and cannot come down.”

This powerful quote comes from the biblical story of Nehemiah, whom God tasked with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. And it’s just as helpful today as it was then.

While the Jews had been gone from Jerusalem, other groups moved in and took possession of the land. When Nehemiah showed up with his plan, these men were not so happy.

‪Nehemiah knew ‬these walls that were eventually necessary to fortify Jerusalem. God called him to the work, and he listened.

This was thousands of years ago, and people showed up with the same strategies as they would today in an orchestrated attempt to suck Nehemiah down the proverbial rabbit hole.

They told ‪Nehemiah‬ they didn’t think he could do it; what Brené Brown would call “cheap seat feedback.”

They threatened to rebel against him, and when that didn’t work, they told him he was wasting his time.

They criticized him. They made up stories to pull him away and distract him.

They even tried to kill him.

Yet, his answer, every single time, was “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to meet with you?”

Pretty straightforward, right?

If there is one thing I have learned is that we need this same exact focus to do great work.

Great work is:

Being still enough to hear God.

Creating direction and clarity for our teams.

Mentoring and teaching others how to lead.

Understanding the why before jumping to the what.

Seeking out mentors and wise counsel when making tough decisions.

Creating enough margin in our work to connect with our kids and spouses.

Holding space for hard conversations and being open to what we contributed.

Honoring truth in every situation.

Being impeccable with our word.

Most times, the harshest voice is the one in our own minds. As soon as I hear it, I try to remember to respond as Nehemiah did.

”Sorry, I’m doing great work.”

Because a with little awareness and focus, the voices grow quieter and great work manifests into something vivid, joyful, powerful and, ultimately, real.

drone video by Laura Meyer- taken with DJI Spark

Don't call it a comeback. Why community marketing is here to stay.

community marketing

In the age of digital advertising, many small business owners tend to believe that online marketing is the magic solution that solves all of their sales problems.  Yet, in the increasing noisy world of social media, I would actually propose the exact opposite. Community and grassroots marketing is what's needed most, but used the least often to grow local businesses.

Remember the days when we received huge stacks of direct response mailers? So much so that the mail almost didn't fit in the mailbox!  As social media has taken over advertising platforms, the pile certainly thinned out as traditional marketing has often taken a backseat to digital.  

Yet, in my experience, the most successful business owners have evolved from how local direct response marketing is deployed, instead of fully abandoning it for digital. So while social media is quick and inexpensive, community marketing is often the path less traveled which can make all the difference. Your new year marketing strategy needs to include traditional channels, online strategies and very importantly; community marketing to validate the premises made through traditional and digital.

The tricky part about grassroots marketing is that it takes time out of our calendar, and requires us to put ourselves out there in ways that is much more difficult than just posting online and hoping people will find us.  It is much more comfortable to sit behind a computer, in our yoga pants and slippers, and market our business.

By itself as a channel, digital marketing typically isn’t effective for local small businesses. The reason is that you must be willing to personally connect with current and future customers  to enhance what's posted on social media.

Here are my top three reasons why community marketing needs to be part of your toolkit as a small business owner.

  1. Community marketing makes traditional marekting perform better. I've seen this time and time again in my own business and consulting practice. The small business owners that already have great community partnerships always have better performing metrics with online paid traffic. We live in a very noisy world and in order to cut through this noise, a strong local reputation for your brand offline will multiply your ROI on online.

  2. Community marketing creates value. I am guided by the saying 'give before you get'. Meaning you've got to give value before you actually get value in return. In his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary Vaynerchuk states: "There is no sale without the story; no knockout without the setup."

    Community marketing is a great way to create a setup for new customer acquisition. Giving out free samples (typically micro versions of  your paid services), hosting local giveaways, or creating community events emulates the same effect as free downloadable PDF online. But it’s more effective because the easiest person to convert is the one standing in front you.

    In a way, local brick and mortar business owners have an advantage to online businesses in that when used correctly, brick and mortar business owner can leverage personal connections in creating new digital traffic.  One networking meeting could turn into hundreds of new likes on your Facebook page. This subsequent new ad audience will be much warmer than someone who stumbled upon your page online.

  3. Finally, community marketing enables your team members to be part of the overall vision and mission.  In most small businesses, the team members arrive for work every day for much more than a paycheck. They're there because of the way that the role they are in makes them feel. By being involved in community partnerships, non-profit donations and goodwill in the community, your team members feel like they're part of something greater than just clocking in and out of a job.

Community marketing is the new blue ocean in advertising.  Direct response mail is now beautifully created and carefully crafted to stand out among a sea of noise.  What used to be junk mail is now inspiration, because the “easier” path is much more likely to show up in our digital news feed.

My prediction is over the next few years the digital trend will boomerang back to a balance of personal, in person community connections when it comes to effectively marketing a local small business. While social media can emulate personal connections through Facebook Live, social learning groups and free online content, community marketing needs to be part of a comprehensive marketing strategy for local small businesses.