If this is Thursday, it's sit up and take notice day. Every Thursday, as faithful readers know, Lip-sticking posts a weekly interview with a Smart Man Online or a Smart Woman Online. There are two reasons for this: 1) Jane hopes to pass along the kind of business information her readers are looking for online; information that will help them build stronger, more profitable businesses. 2) Men and women are working together in all industries today; by posting interviews with both genders, Jane hopes those men out there who align with her brother, Dick, will understand that her advice to go Dick*less is NOT meant to exclude Dick, but to reach him through her.
Today's interview is with Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends, and the woman behind the business Web site Anita Campbell Associates, Ltd which promises to "show your business how to get to the next level." Lip-sticking met Anita through another woman blogger, and we're deeply glad we did. Anita's professionalism shows in the quality of this interview -- she not only has the background and experience to get small businesses to the next level, she has what's known as 'class'... something that comes from being smart, attractive, approachable, and experienced, and delivering all of this with a sense of humor. We could go on, but we know you're anxious to read what Anita has to say about the Internet, about small businesses online, and, her predictions about blogging.
Lip-sticking: Your bio shows nearly 2 decades of experience working in business, including startups. Tell us what's changed in those 2 decades; what's different about beginning a business today, as compared to beginning a business in the 1980's.
Anita: Loads of things have changed in those two decades. Let me summarize two big trends:
Entrepreneurs have it easier than ever before: Being a small business owner is a hot, sexy thing right now. And it has never been easier to start a business. There are so many small business services available today – from SCORE to Quicken – that you can start a business with very little investment and very little work.
Business was never so complex: As easy as it is to set up a new business, it is more complex than ever to "run" a small business day-to-day. In a small business, whether it is a $500,000 business or a $25 Million business, everyone wears multiple hats. You need very broad soft skills, the ability to juggle conflicting demands, and technical expertise in a variety of fields, from computer networks to marketing to customer service.
Lip-sticking: The note in your bio that you are the former CEO of tech start-up MotorcycleWorld is intriguing. Are you a motorcycle Mama?? Tell us what it was like being the CEO of MotorcycleWorld.
Anita: Ha ha. ;) I like to keep people guessing about the riding. It was fantastic being CEO of a business called MotorcycleWorld. We worked on the cutting edge. We helped motorcycle dealers market their wares over the Internet, something quite revolutionary for the time. One of the services we provided was the ability to dynamically list pre-owned motorcycles for sale at eBay Motors, using data captured from the dealer's inventory system and transmitted to eBay using XML. Today, everything we accomplished would be considered pretty routine because technology advances so quickly, but at the time it was groundbreaking and exciting.
Lip-sticking: You mention Strategic Planning in your services at Anita Campbell Associates, Ltd. I am in the middle of working on my strategic planning for the next 5 years and I can attest to its necessity for any business, big or small. Can you give the readers 3 vital areas many small businesses ignore or forget, in their planning process?
Anita: (1) Sales typically is one of the weakest areas for small businesses. Often the CEO is the company's best salesperson, and when the business grows and the CEO attempts to move into more of an executive role, a sales crisis can ensue.
(2) I am surprised by how frequently small businesses want to focus on "new markets" when they have barely scratched the surface of their core market. Most small businesses would benefit from this advice: stay narrow and go deep. Few small businesses have the resources for a shotgun approach. A small business needs to pick a niche and drill down into that niche.
(3) Businesses forget to tie the financial budget to the strategic plan activities. I know, I know, this sounds elementary. But all too often I see companies that treat the annual budget and the strategic planning as if they are in parallel universes.
Lip-sticking: In a recent blog post, TREND: SMALL BUSINESSES GO VIRTUAL you talked about the old-fashioned sales call not working in today's virtual business world, with offices often not having a physical presence. Your suggestion was to embrace email marketing...do you think blogging is also a good way to reach clients and customers?
Anita: Blogs are a great way to reach out to (1) new prospects who are already searching on the web for a provider, and (2) a "portion" of your existing customers. Keep in mind, though, that the majority of the population is not as fixated on blogs as we bloggers, [Lip-sticking's bolding] and does not yet read blogs. You still have to figure out a way to get customers to even come see your blog. That's where an email newsletter comes in. You can repurpose your blog content for your email newsletter, and at the same time get a much larger percentage of your customers to visit your blog.
Lip-sticking: Give us a glimpse into the next 5 years: What are your predictions for the small business arena; more blogging? the continuation of email marketing as a stable, useful tool? rich media? Is there a holy grail in there somewhere? Or, do we all just have to wait and see?
Anita: I'll make one prediction, with many subparts, about blogs:
Business blogging is a hot trend right now, but many bloggers will not be able to sustain their blogging energy long-term unless they can generate revenue from blogging. Thus, we will see the rise of more ghost-written corporate blogs, as bloggers hire themselves out as freelancers. In the small business realm, we will see blogs morph into direct revenue generation – in other words, the blog becomes the business. Storefronts will be added to blogs to sell goods and services. Some blogs will go to paid subscription models, or support paid content models in some way. For small businesses, blogs will consolidate with websites, instead of being separate sites as they are today. Blogging tools (Movable Type, Typepad, etc.) will be used to build a single site for a small business, one that combines elements of the regularly-updateable blog and traditional website pages.
Smart words from one smart business lady.
What's not to like about that?