Building Your Small Business, Marathon Style:
Train Like An AthleteTo Reach Your Business Goals
Posted December 28, 2011
It’s the last week of 2011, so naturally I have been reflecting on the past year and contemplating the one to come. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do think there is value in reviewing what has worked and what hasn’t, and then using that to reach new or previously unattained goals. For those who do not know me, in addition to my work, I am also a runner. A marathoner, in fact. I ran two marathons in 2011, one in June and one in November. I trained through months of excruciating heat here in Austin over the summer and learned a lot, often times while covered in sweat and in a lot of pain! Many of the things I learned translate to our business and building it from the ground up. As 2012 approaches, we are focusing on how to continue to grow our business, what new things we can offer our clients to give them added value, and how to tackle some of the administrative challenges of owning a small business.
I’m approaching these things the way I would a marathon training program by setting goals and dividing the year up into phases to build strength and stamina for long-term success. Here’s my basic training program for starting or building a small business – maybe it can help you frame out a plan for 2012 and your business.
With each training season, I have a new goal and a new race. Typically this means just doing it faster than the last race, but there could be other goals, like making it through 26.2 miles without wanting to murder someone by the end of it. Each goal is personal, but you need to have one set in stone before you can properly train. For business, this can mean increased sales, being able to rent larger space, expanding into a new region, or hiring more staff. Whatever YOUR business goals are for this year, make sure you are set on them and that your entire “training” is about reaching that goal. Keep it in your head at all times – even write it out and post it somewhere that you can see everyday to help keep you focused. One bigger, scarier step is to share this goal with others who will help motivate and challenge you to reach it. That’s a hard thing to do, but I’ve discovered that sharing my time goals with my teammates (coworkers in this example) and loved ones helps keep me going when I want to quit. If no one knows what your target is, they cant’ tell you when you’re off center.
The first phase of any marathon training program is to build a base. This means logging mile after mile. There isn’t a focus on time or effort, but just getting in the miles. The more miles you have, the larger the base. The larger the base, the stronger the pyramid. It’s not about doing it well, but doing it period. The more you practice the more your body learns how to do it without thinking. It moves from work to habit. The same is true of building a business. At first if there isn’t steady work to keep you occupied, you may be tempted to spend the day piddling around on the internet, watching TV, or going to the spa. But what you need to be doing is building that base. Put in the miles by working every day for an allotted amount of time, whether there is actual “work” to be done for a client or not. YOU are your client when there are no others. The more you condition your brain to get at it, and the more it becomes a habit, not work. This means marketing yourself, brainstorming new ideas, making connections online and off, and fine tuning your message and marketing materials. There is always work to do, so build that base!
The second phase is to build strength. As a runner, this means not increasing your miles, but increasing the intensity of your runs. Pushing yourself by racing up hill after hill and doing other ridiculous things in the 100 degree heat. In work, this means moving outside your comfort zone. If you’ve built your base well, then you should have a steady amount of work. But in order to improve your quality of work (and add value to your clients) you need to expand beyond your comfort zone, push your creativity and make new connections. Build on the work you’ve already done, and then go further. Instead of just sending your clients an e-newsletter once a month, offer to take them to lunch and don’t try to sell them on anything - just build that relationship. Or instead of emailing potential clients a generic promotional offer, call them and find out what they need specifically to help their business. Doing what you think is uncomfortable might surprise you and will definitely help you grow stronger.
It's all about the Speed
The final phase is the speed phase. This is where you put all the months of logging miles and building strength together to reach the ultimate goal – get faster! This is the time when we do a lot of track work – running intervals at increasing pace, getting faster and faster. The crux of this phase is teaching your body to run fast when it’s tired. That way when you are at mile 24 and beyond exhausted you still have the ability to reach deep and push through the pain. For a small business, this is learning to do more with less and growing in the face of hardships, both financial and emotional. It’s hard to be a small business, relying on each and every client for your livelihood. And it’s difficult to manage so many vital relationships with grace and ensuring the best possible product. But if you face these challenges head on, and believe that you CAN make this work, you will. Practice going faster when it hurts most. When it seems like things are too hard, too much to deal with, ask for more. If you think you can do it, you WILL do it. Then, as you are crossing that finish line - whatever that is for you, maybe reaching $100K in sales or simply having the ability to hire a part-time assistant - you will know you got there because you put in the work. You did it smart, with focus and heart.
2011 was Deadwood’s first year of business, and there have been plenty of things we have learned throughout the year, things that I believe will make us stronger and faster for 2012! Approaching each day as I would approach a marathon training program will keep me focused on the end goal- growth! Just like with each race, I want to get better. 2012 will be a PR (personal record) year, I’m sure of it. And I hope the same is true for you and your small business.
Happy New Year!
Google's Personalized Search Hurts Business Owners
Posted August 27, 2011
If you are like many people, you keep checking to see how your website is ranking in Google. How do we do this? We search on our main search terms we want to rank for. The problem with doing this, is that Google has something called Personalized Search.
Personalized Search gives you search results that are more relevant to your interests, based in part on your past search activity. So you might see that your business's website is ranking #8 in Google. But in reality, it is ranking #30 for everyone else.
I know this is true because I have talked to business owners who think I am scamming them when I tell them their website shows up on page four of Google, but they see it on page one!
You can see how personalized search can hurt a business. They are lulled into complacency about their organic search results in Google, because they think their website ranks much better than it really does.
Here is an article by Google on the Basics of Personalized Search. In this article there are links to show you how to turn this function off.
Deadwood is Alive!
Posted August 25, 2011
For those of you who are new here, let me tell you a little about our story. Deadwood Web Works was born of an idea that local, small businesses needed the same great design, strategic marketing and attention to detail that the big boys need. Maybe more so! And being a small business ourselves, we know how to make a penny-sized budget look like a fat wallet production!
We are a two-person team with more than 20 years of combined experience in writing, graphic design, web design, internet marketing, strategic communications, photography and SEO marketing. We’ve worked for non-profits, big business, higher education and small, family-owned companies. Let's just say, we've been around!
Our dream isn’t to get rich quick off someone else’s labor, but to do something we love every day while adding value to our community. We can do this by affordably offering our creativity and knowledge to people like us: small businesses working hard to make their dreams reality.
And that’s where Deadwood Web Works began.
I bet you’re wondering about the name, aren’t you? If you’re a fan of the HBO show Deadwood, I hate to disappoint you – neither of us has ever seen it, though we are addicted to many HBO shows like Treme and the Sopranos (and maybe Anna might like True Blood… maybe). No, in fact we’re lucky to be located on Deadwood Drive, in the great city of Austin! We thought it would be the perfect name for our company since it evokes the strength and beauty of the old West – just like our work! And we don’t mind at all that it’s a little ominous…we like the idea of striking a little fear in the hearts of those looking to swindle our friends and neighbors by over charging them for cheap design and a lack of personal attention.
Welcome to Deadwood Web Works. Take a look around and let us know what you think of our new online home. We will continue to add to it over the coming months. We hope to be here for a long time to come, so tell your friends that Deadwood is Alive!
Internet Marketers Cause Local Search Problems
Posted August 24, 2011
Here is an interesting article from the NY Times about how businesses are having a difficult time ranking in Google search results because of internet marketers using lead generation websites. Picking the Lock of Google’s Search. This does not apply to all business categories and this doesn’t appear to be such a issue with Yahoo and Bing.
The article highlights the difficulties local businesses can have when in the search rankings when internet marketers invade a category and game the system.
What is a lead generation website? A lead generation site is set up to look like a local business website. But if you look at the contact information it is vague. Also, most local businesses boast ties to the community or how long they have been in business locally. This you usually won’t find on these lead websites. Also, if you do a search on their address, it most likely will be a UPS store or Mail Boxes etc type place.
Why are they so effective? These are internet marketers and they are experts at search engine ranking and finding ways to make money online. Since they probably have many websites targeting different cities, they can use shady techniques to move up in the search rankings. Techniques that most regular companies would not use for fear of hurting their own website ranking. Since the lead generation companies have so many sites it’s not a big deal if a few sites get penalized for “black hat” techniques.