Today's Outlook on 2007 presents Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and the new blog Selling to Small Business Owners. Take notice - Anita has been successful in the small business arena for some time now (I guess she started it all in kindergarten; wink, wink) and has more credits to her name than I have space to list them, here. I met Anita two years ago and have been thanking my lucky stars ever since. Get to know her and you'll be thanking yours, too.
Yvonne: What happened at your company, in 2006,that surprised you?
Anita: I was surprised by how much consulting work came in, without trying. It’s really a testament to the way a blog works for a small business.
When I started Small Business Trends, my goal was to get out of the consultant mode and create an online business. I actually set out to minimize my consulting per se. However, I found that the opposite happened. The more visible my website became, the more interested companies were in hiring me to consult about the small business market and online strategies for reaching small business owners. In other words, the consulting services increased in demand, when I focused less on selling my consulting services and more on providing information. Two valuable lessons stick out:
(1) Showing is more powerful than describing: An effective way to sell consulting services in today’s world is to show your expertise. That’s why a blog format for a website is so powerful for consultants and service providers. Using a blog, where you write about your subject matter and “show what you know,” can be more effective than setting up the typical consultant website where you merely “describe” the services you can provide. Whatever services you have to sell -- be they SEO services, or blog design and development services, or graphic design services, or author services, or sales consulting – show it, don’t describe it.
(2) Give away 20% of your expertise, to sell the other 80%: If your stock in trade is services and knowledge, then you have to give away some level of your expertise in order to attract paying customers for the bulk of your expertise. Think of it as giving away 20% of what you know, in order to sell the other 80%. It’s a twist on the 80/20 rule. Sure, you will always have those who simply pump you for whatever information they can get and go away without hiring you. But I consider that a cost of doing business. Ask yourself: would those individuals have been good clients, anyway? Probably not. So don’t focus on the people who use your expertise without paying; focus on the ones you attract through your expertise.
Yvonne: What are you planning to do differently in 2007?
Anita: In 2007 I plan to put together a written business plan with specific measurable goals. I’ve always had a plan in my head with some general goals scribbled on a small note sheet. However, the early years of my business were more about survival than about meeting specific targets. Now that the business’s path forward has become clearer (I have a better idea of what my business is truly selling and what customers are willing to pay for), it’s time for specific written goals and a more disciplined approach toward meeting them.
In one sense I feel as if I have more luxury to do planning and goal setting, than I could in the past when I had to scratch for every penny just to stay in business. I know that we are all told to develop a business plan BEFORE we start a business (heck, that’s the advice I give!). But in reality I find that most startup entrepreneurs have a similar experience to mine. True planning comes later – after you have enough history in your business that you can set more meaningful goals, and when you can rely on a steady income stream that allows you to make choices.
Show don't tell. Those are words that haunt me. I learned them years ago, in creative writing. It was a hard concept then, and still is. Just HOW do you SHOW without TELLING? Well, you don't. You have to tell, of course. But, in the telling, you should be showing. More on that tomorrow.
Give away expertise? Is Anita crazy? Bloggers know she isn't. Her experience, and mine, proves that free can be very valuable. I love giving away free information and advice - and it always comes back to me with more visibility in my area of expertise, and more clients who like that I'm open and upfront with them. Thanks, Anita. Here's to a fantastic 2007!