Agility: More Valuable Than Revenue

I’ve taken time over the past 6-9 months to really think about the state of business and attracting customers whether it’s for my own business for @realbraveinc and its multiple locations or for the greater NYC area’s small businesses. Since I opened my doors in 2006 as a bright eyed, wet behind the ears entrepreneur, I’ve found a world today turned upside down in marketing, in sales, in customer approach and in vision. I set out to start a huge company that made everyone’s lives better with simple tools and approach. Life is much more complicated today.

In 2006, I borrowed my sister’s 4 year old Dell computer and bought a used Quickbooks merchant program complete with a scanner, a cash drawer and a receipt printer. I had file cabinets set up for filing. I had a landline phone and a DSL internet line. I was also the only employee so whenever someone found us they’d always turn their eyes to the side looking for other people when I had sales pitches that included “we”. 2006 was also wrought with uncertainty. Post 9/11 everyone was still pinching their pocketbooks and trust was in no uncertain terms something you had to earn big time. Entrepreneurship wasn’t as sexy as it is today.

I multitasked as Real Brave’s only employee and had 3 products/ services to offer to find my own way in business.

  1. Offer music lessons to kids in the area. (with yours truly as the sole teacher)
  2. Record bands
  3. Sell products.

Number 1 was solid. I was trustworthy, had a great way with people and really understood how to take care of my customers. (who knew years later that I would have dozens of employees who teach and I no longer do) Number 2, well that brought in much needed cash but forced me to work at night as well as during the day. Number 3, I sold instruments but branched out into soundproofing installation, looked into selling new LCD TV’s, drop-shipped on Ebay- you name it, I tried it.

It was after 2 years of trying everything, that I decided to hone in on what I was good at and where I thought I could have an excellent chance of building that company that made everyone’s lives better, as I first envisioned. I started building what real brave is today, an excellent school for music discovery.

The marketing tools that got me here are archaic today except for one thing: Google. I recently had a meeting with my rep Jeff at Reach Local which handles a lot of our online marketing strategy and he acknowledged that what got us to be successful (Google Adwords & Maps) isn’t going to be the only marketing tactic that makes us successful moving forward. A marketing strategy that compliments each other and assists the customer to get them to our page is the way to go. It’s a 7 prong strategy with some of these tactics… so listen up:

  1. Provide incredible, thrilling experience that is customer focused (cant’s stress this enough)
  2. Make your social imprint strong and consistent. Advertise on social but don’t break the bank. Our most successful posts are the ones that focus on the Joy of Real Brave (smiling, fun posts).
  3. Don’t be afraid of your eblasts, they reinforce messages
  4. Have a strong SEO presence. Index that site!
  5. Maps, Maps, maps. For a physical location, if you aren’t on maps, you aren’t visible. Update as much as possible
  6. Google Ads, Yelp (I hate them) and any site online that will help with your web presence.
  7. Reward customers that refer.

After all this, have a great system for the sales funnel so that when you get an email, you can reply within an hour (within 10 min if possible). If you get a phone call, have a CRM that you can use to remind you to call that person back. Have a place to communicate with your team.

Even though 2006 feels like a million years ago, we’ve come so far to automate marketing tools but it always comes back to the systems you use to track customers data, their contact info and such. In this day and age of Yelp (I hate them), it’s more important than ever to have a clear customer service experience that people will enjoy and understand when issues arise. Being flexible is the most important aspect to today’s successful business. The ability to pivot in business, marketing and customer service provides us with the ability to scale. Agility is almost as valuable as revenue. With it, you can accomplish anything. Did I mention I hate Yelp?

How to Live The Business Of Your Dreams

Brick and Mortar Stores

As the saying goes, live the life of your dreams, right? Well, how about to live the life of your dreams, for us business owners we must live the business of our dreams!

According to SBA.gov:

  • The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.

AND

According to a sort of out of date 2013 article by Forbes: “Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month.”

So: Small business is big business for the US economy.

On Main Street, the reasons for starting a small business vary. It goes from the passionate & talented technician who wants to set out on his/her own, to the talented seamstress with a fashion line, to all sorts of retail ideas, online stores, services… you name it, there is a business for it. However, not all businesses are meant to be. That said, not all established businesses are meant to be. In fact, your business will not last forever! That is fact that is not talked about or promoted because, like life, who wants to talk about a business’ imminent death? You’ve opened your doors and are ready to sell your widgets! The sky is the limit, not the sky is falling.

Let’s live the business of your dreams. This means do whatever it takes to bring the customers in. Do all the necessary things to make them thrilled and be evangelists! I’ll boil it down to 3 things to be successful in any market and any economy.

Profit Margin

If you were to sell a widget or a service or an internet service widget, can you prove that you can monetize it? If so, who else did it and what was their outcome? Sometimes the most innovative products and services aren’t sellable. Take virtual reality, out 50 years ago, The Sword Of Damocles was as amazing and innovative as it was completely impractical. Was there a market for it? Probably not. Today the market for virtual reality is set to hit billions dollars which makes sense since consumer demand coupled with consumers having access to technology to support the headsets. More recently in the 90’s Nintendo and a company called Virtuality Group unleashed their virtual reality headsets actually selling units but the tech or demand wasn’t there yet. It took over 50 years for ideas to catch up with the technology.

Next with the product that you know can sell, how much can you sell it for and for how much profit? You can’t sell one slice of pizza and be a profitable business. Know how much you make on each transaction and track it.

Marketing

 

So you have a great widget/ service and know there is a market for it that can make you money and be profitable. Are you going to open the doors and be profitable without anyone knowing about you? You have to market it! Marketing is simply the means to which you find your customer. So where is best? Well if there are 100’s of billions of people on the internet, you can be rest assured that your marketing forum is right in front of you! But these days SEO, Adwords and such are expensive. Look into ways to do all this yourself and you will save thousands and market your stuff without breaking the bank.

Innovation

Once you are in business, as in people are paying you cold hard cash for stuff you do, innovate. Don’t do the same thing everyday and expect the same results. Constantly innovate around your services and products to ensure that you are adding value to the consumers experience. Some simple examples are:

  1. Sunday Football “adult beverages”. Hanging out at your favorite store that’s not a bar? Sure.
  2. Wine for clients in the waiting area. I am not proposing getting your clients drunk- just showing you another example.
  3. Coffee. See? Non alcoholic example!

Point is, by providing free services to help your customers, you add more value to their experience. Especially if you do something they really love! To get a business live the business of your dreams you need to get in the zone. Make sure that the zone includes, a product/ service that people want, one that you can sell easily and make a great profit off of, that you can market effectively and are constantly innovating around.

 

 

Stranger Things: A Lesson In Understanding Your Customer

Jeepers! They’ve nailed it. (credit: Netflix)

The producers of the show understand their main audience and another type of audience that longs for nostalgia so well that this is headed for more rocket-stardom. The Nostalgia Strategy as per this Vanity Fair Article. I’m not a critic, I am far from a film expert but in terms of understanding who they are speaking to, these people nailed it at just the right time. The power of timing and having an opportunity with Netflix for their audience to find them made this possible. It wasn’t the writing… or Winona Ryder.

From a branding point of view from an 80’s child (me) all of us born in the mid 70’s are eating this up. We grew up with corny movies and haircuts, we were latch-key kids, we snuck out at night to hang out, we snuck in Jason & Freddy movies behind our parents backs… and we long for those days.

 

From the opening cut in season 1 to the opening cut of this trailer, nostalgia is selling big! Now, I don’t know one kid in the 80’s who wore a or could afford a realistic looking ghostbusters costume but to me, understanding your audience (80’s kids with a flair for nostalgia) and Audience 2 (Netflix binge watchers) will win for this year and next. Just pummel me with the Rubix cubes, Alf and bad hair styles (want a laugh? Click that link). Then, if they are smart, they will adapt when we get bored of it (something Walking Dead writers and producers forgot to do).

Know your audience. Know your customer. Take a risk on something you like and research how big that audience is. For the millions and millions of us born 1965-1975 (Generation X) and 1976-1981  (Generation Y) there is an untapped reservoir of opportunity still waiting. How are you communicating with your ideal customer and what opportunities are you missing?

 

Daniel Powers Jr is a successful entrepreneur and business coach dp@danielpowersjr.com

Brand: It’s Like Brandy.

What’s your brand?

is it:

bran·dy
ˈbrandē/
noun
  1. a strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice. (via wikipedia)

Or:

Danielpowersjr.com Branding
Branding

Same name, 2 completely different meanings. One completely dating ME… I’ve never listened to her, it’s just a reference and hilarious to 90’s kids probably. (Almost doesn’t count? Why BRANDY??)

I’ve been hovering around this branding concept for 10 years now and more recently went in for the strike at my companies. To me, when starting a business, screaming I NEED TO GET CUSTOMERS NOW was a bigger rallying cry than a casual me at a coffee shop asking “me” SO, what my USP and what value do I add. ? Or what emotional value do we add?

It was more like: Branding? No rally the troops!

 

So when customers talk to me about what Real Brave or even my non profit After School Rocks does, I’ve spent a lot of time separating us from the pack. It’s important more than ever to start shaping your brand. Because of the noise. See Gary for that.

Now, for the next person that asks you “What makes your X unique?” or “what does X company” do start crafting your message. Let’s take a stab at it with a few simple steps.

  1. People buy people. When differentiating your company from others whether it’s in a start up stage or possibly a few years in, write down your beliefs, your values and who you are and start with that brand. A brand is only unique if the person who drives it is.
  2. Fall in love with what your client wants. What I’ve learned very recently is that business owners tend to fall in love with their product or service but not the customer. I was guilty of it and many more are. Identify your customer and what they want and LOVE ABOUT YOU. There is a pattern in everything.
  3. Differentiate yourself. Your brand is what you offer that resonates with your customer. What people love about what you offer. Why they buy. Market that.

 

Daniel Powers Jr is the founder and Chief Inspirer of Real Brave Inc, After School Rocks, Practice Pad and the artist’s business coach. Find me @danielpowersjr on instagram, facebook and more.