Tag Archives: small business

How Do You Drive Innovation? Intuit Wants to Know

Everyone has a story to tell about a time when their innovation made an impact on a campaign, client or in the community.  Intuit wants to hear your story.

We’re looking for 15 individuals to crown as “Intuit Innovators.”  From Nov. 8 until Dec. 19, small business owners and financial professionals from across the country can share their stories of innovation on the Intuit Accountants Facebook page. Whether it be serving clients with technology or supporting the community by giving back, they can submit their stories via video, text or photo.  Winners receive Apple iPads and Intuit Rewards Cards for up to $100.

Watch our quick Intuit Innovators video below for an overview of the campaign and how it works! 

Can’t wait to hear the stories.

Official Rules

Intuit Accountants Mobile Site

 

 

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Smarter Branding For Your Small Business

 A few thoughts and hints I presented last July for the Plan Fund – a non-profit organization that provides coaching, resources and micro-loans for entrepreneurs in Dallas, Texas.  The session gave insight into what a brand really is and what it means to develop, position and maintain it.
 

Adrian Parker Plan Fund LectureWhat is a brand? The best way to answer that question is with another question: What is the first thing people think when they think about you?

 

Whether your brand is a product or service, the way it looks, smells, feels, tastes and sounds is all part of your brand.  Your brand is the sum of all your communications.

Adrian Parker Plan FundThe single-most important thing to remember is this: Your brand is a democracy.  The second you own a business, it doesn’t belong to you anymore.  Your brand becomes the property of your customers.

Because your customers and clients have the right to directly influence your brand, think of it as a democracy.  To get as many “votes” as possible (in the form of sales, orders, referrals, etc.) it’s important to view your branding program as an on-going campaign, as opposed to a one-time transaction.Brand Democracy

Often times, perception is reality when it comes to creating your brand.  What consumers think about you matters more than what you think about yourself.

So how can a small business owner create and maintain a brand without breaking the bank? Great question.  If you’re convinced that branding is important, allow me to introduce you to the process of owning and growing your brand… marketing!

POP QUIZ!

Name the top 5 fast food restaurants… (go ahead, I’ll wait)

 

OK, now name the top 5 luxury car makers.

 McDonald's Rock

If you’re like most, your list started to get a little fuzzy around item #4.  I mean, we all know McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, right?  But then, is it Subway or Taco Bell?  Pizza Hut or KFC?  Who knows? (I know someone who does – click here for the official results.)

Well, your customers are pretty much like you.  As a general rule of thumb, we have mental room to rank about 3 items in any category.  After that, it’s every man for himself.  So the goal of branding your business is to get your product or service in the top 3 ranking of the target who is most likely to care (and most profitable).

I make my living consulting, coaching, counseling, challenging and championing companies whose ideas outweigh their budgets.  How?  Very carefully.  There is no magic formula to marketing success. If so, I would create it, patent it, sell it and be on a yacht in Tahiti. 

 

I dream of Tahiti
I dream of Tahiti

Instead, experience has proven there are practical tools for building your brand consistently. These are some of the overlooked weapons in your brand building arsenal. As you read through these tips, think about what works for you or, more importantly, what works for your customer.

Tips for Smarter Branding For Your Small Business

 

Read it. Learn it.
Read it. Learn it.

 

Research is Your Friend – Get as much information as possible and then get some more. Not only will you be smarter, but also it helps counteract the emotional aspect of running your business. When you’re building a brand with your heart, it’s easy to overdose on zeal and creativity while starving for information. Take an introspective look at yourself and your plan while gaining knowledge from books, experienced peers and advisors. Must Read: The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship

http://www.GetOnlineAlready.com  – Social marketing, search engine optimization, keywords, Google, Tweeter and the list goes on. When it comes to online marketing, EVERYONE has a strategy. If you’re not online, that’s your strategy. I can’t stress enough the importance of including online resources in your marketing arsenal. Some quick tips I’ve learned:

  1. If your business model already doesn’t work, the internet will not magically fix it. Websites take asWeb Biz Success book much work to maintain as traditional businesses. Must Read: Web Business Success
  2. If you’re using the internet to simply promote your business, it’s OK to start simple and work your way up. For starter websites, check out: Red Silo, Magnt and Photobiz for great, cost-effective designs. For custom work, get some professional muscle from Prototype Advertising, Majestic Design Group or Lancaster Advertising.
  3. Never buy a list of e-mail addresses. Always build your own. Check out rankings & reviews of e-mail marketing services here.
  4. The good news is – the web is accessible to everyone. The bad news is – the web is accessible to everyone.  These days everyone has a site and building a shiny new one doesn’t guarantee traffic.  I’m always surprised at how many folks think launching a site automatically entitiles them to attention.  I recommend a crash course in internet strategy and then a conversation with someone who knows how to get attention on the web.

rise of PR book Al RiesPR Works – Public relations is all about building a credible relationship with your customers and the media they consume. We sometimes refer to PR as “earned media” because you have to earn the media coverage. Use PR to build and launch your brand. Then use advertising (paid media) to sustain your brand once you have built awareness. Take my word for it or pay $12 for 320 pages of explanation. Your choice.

Bring the Fruit to You With Seeding – Find a notable broadcast personality that championsdj-clark-kent-sole-collector-magazine your cause or has an affinity to your product. When I worked in the sneaker industry, we gave (seeded) media personalities sneak peeks at the hottest shoes and provided them exclusive product. In turn, they naturally promoted the product – not only because they received a free pair of kicks. But also because it was a part of their lifestyle and something they would have purchased for themselves.

And for the finale, here’s a list of the DOs and DON’Ts of Smarter Branding For Your Small Business

DOs

1. DO be your company’s #1 sales person. Never stop learning about your market and seeking opportunities to gain an advantage.

2. DO take ownership of your brand by building a repeatable experience for your customer.  What processes can you enact to ensure top quality and minimal overhead (cost of goods sold) every time?

3. DO define your purpose for being in business. Whether it’s for income, social awareness, pursuit of a passion, creating a financial legacy or just having fun, your motives will ultimately determine whether you consider your brand a failure or success.

4. DO build barriers to entry.  New ideas are hard to come by, once you get one you must protect it. Guard your brand’s “vital organs” with patents, trademarks, copyrights, licenses, exclusive deals and other tools.

DONT’S

1. DON’T chase opportunity.  95% of the folks who claim to be able to “take your business to the next level” are fakers. Run! Most paths that seem like great opportunities for quick growth are merely distractions. Some can be costlier than others. Focus on long-term growth and reference DO #3.

2. DON’T borrow equity. Build it on your own.  There are no shortcuts to being #1 and this is one of those instances where “fake it till you make it” won’t cut it.  Embrace where your business is now and resist the temptation to cut to the front of the line by imitating the category leader. Don’t be McDowell’s, build the next McDonald’s.

McDowells

3. DON’T skip the research! Please, just don’t do it. 

 

4. DON’T fall for the fallacy of “OR.” It’s the false assumption that you can have one desirable choice OR the other, but you can’t have both:
*Low cost OR high quality
*Wealth OR give back to community
*Pursue long term OR short term goals

Branding success means doing both at the same time – on a professional and personal level.

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The E-Attitudes: So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?

8 Tips for Entrepreneurs That Will Keep You Off Your Mom’s Couch

mommys_little_entrepreneur_tshirt-p235697830807811550q0aj_4008 ) DIE
No, not literally – although death sometimes seems like a carousel ride compared to the exercise of starting a business. You do, however, have to put aside your own personal wants in order for your “baby” to grow and develop into a mature business. The sooner you realize your business isn’t all about you, the better. Creating, constructing and maintaining a viable company will  take away your pride and self-reliance and show you what you’re truly made of.  Die fast.

 

7) STOP LYING
It’s the biggest lie ever told and each year countless victims fall prey to its merciless trap. It’s the myth: I’m great at doing this! Everyone knows me for doing this! That must mean I’d be great at running a business doing this!” Get this in your head… being a great baker and owning a bakery are 2 completely separate things. In fact, beyond the yummy smell of cream cheese cake, they don’t have very much in common. Learn the business of what you’re good at before you try to make a living doing it.

 

6) BRING AN UMBRELLA-ELLA-ELLA…
This one’s simple. Life happens and storms will come. You may run out of money, get sued, lose all your client files, experience a tragedy or get poked in the eye. No matter what obstacle comes, you absolutely must first STOP, THINK, DON’T PANIC and then use your brain to get through it. Your umbrella is your peace, your faith, your trust and your hope. It really does work… you just have to bring it along and open it up.

 

PancreasA5) THE P-WORD
It’s the single-most important thing. You can’t live without it. Everyone has one. If you don’t use it your life will inevitably suck. Nope, not your pancreas – though you do need that. It’s your purpose! Fish were formed to swim, birds were born to fly and you were made to (fill in the blank).  Build your business around your life, not your life around your business. Figure out why you were born, pursue it, and the money and resources will come.

 

4) DON’T FORGET YOUR WALLET
At the day’s end, business is still about money. Money is the objective. Even in a non-profit organization your goal is to raise the money and then use it for a meaningful cause. Realize that you will need plenty of it to start a business. And then learn a thing or two about accounting, finances, credit, taxes and all the business basics. It’s the language of industry and without it you’re deaf, dumb and mute.

 

office-space3) YOUR BOSS IS AN IDIOT
It’s a hard pill to swallow but it has great results. If you’re starting and running your business, you must realize that you work for the most incompetent, unqualified boss ever – you! You won’t have all the answers and (gasp!) you won’t feel like working all the time. At the end of the day you can only do so much. That’s why it’s vital to build a business model that works, not because of you, but without you. There are only 3 ways to get rid of the idiot lurking inside you: 1) read books 2) meet smart people 3) learn from your mistakes.

 

2) DANCE WITH THE SIAMESE TWINS
Adversity is ALWAYS tied to opportunity. They are conjoined at the hip and where you see one, the other is not too far away. The new economic climate and convergence of technology has created countless opportunities for new ways of doing business. Many traditions are becoming void while new business models are sprouting. Creativity thinks up new things, innovation does new things. Be a doer. Don’t play by the old rules. Create new ones and opportunity will come knocking.

 

1) SOLOMON SAYS
A long time ago, men wore togas and lived life slow. King David had a son, Solomon. Solomon was young and inexperienced but he was given one of the biggest real estate development projects ever. He was to build a great temple. His father told him 5 simple words, “Be strong and do it.” Same goes for you. Great ideas are everywhere. The success of your business will be in the execution. Businesses all fail for the same reason – they give up. Keep working at it and don’t give up if it’s truly what you are meant to do. Remember, the brick walls are there to show how bad we really want something. Solomon finished it, why can’t you? I’m sure he’d agree: Be Strong And Do It!

 
You really can...

You really can...

BONUS:  If you only read 1 book this year, make it a classic. Michael Gerber’s E-Myth:Why Most Small Businesses Fail And What You Can Do About It. This $10 will save you thousands.

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