Month 1 Business Review

Yesterday marked 1-month since I launched http://www.scrunchieleash.com. Here is a quick review of how the month has gone.

Sales

25 Leashes Sold

  • 0 Retailer Sales
  • 20 Scrunchieleash.com Sales
  • 5 In-Person Sales
  • 0 Etsy Sales

4 Retailers Contacted

1 Online Retailer Added (http://mrchowsemporium.com/)

Marketing

1 Blog Review (http://hismuddypawprints.blogspot.com/2014/02/scrunchie-leash-review.html)

1 Blog Review Pending

6 Facebook Posts by Customers

27 Shelter dogs walked (ahead by 2)

Outlook

This was a good first month. We got some steam on the launch and made some sales. One concerning fact is that the majority of sales and activity was in the first 2 weeks. There was a drop-off after launch so I need to figure out how to reinvigorate myself and my marketing campaign.

My biggest challenge right now is time. I work a full-time job during the day and I’ve been taking grad school classes in the evenings. As the semester has been picking up, my time and energy available to scrunchie leash has diminished. I need to rework my schedule and get back in the game.

Another huge challenge I’ve been having is developing content for the scrunchie leash blog. I’m going to go more in depth on this in a later post.

My goals for this next month include:

  1. Add 5 retailers
  2. Get 5 blog mentions from doggy blogs
  3. Write 2 scrunchie blog posts per week.

I see retailers as my best sales channel going forward and I see blogs (both mine and others) as the best way to reach new customers. As you can see with my goals, I’m planning to focus on those.

As usual, I’m always looking for feedback! Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

4 Tricks to Building a Great Network

Networking is key to accomplishing your goals whether you’re in a corporate environment or a budding entrepreneur. You need to meet people. Unfortunately, most of the advice currently available is pretty weak. If I get told to “smile more” or “have a firm handshake” one more time, I might lose it.

I was at a conference recently and here are some tips I picked up. (Thanks Rick Von Feldt – https://twitter.com/hrfuturist)

Networking

1) Form Your Core Structure

Many people think networking just means meeting more and more people. I don’t know about you, but to me that just sounds exhausting! Is it even possible to develop meaningful relationships with so many people? I love meeting people, but a more strategic approach to your network will serve you better than quantity.

This is where the idea of your Core Structure comes in.

  • 1 or 2 Sponsors
  • 5 Mentors
  • 25 Allies
  • 100 Contributors
  • >500 Acquaintances

The goal isn’t to know as many people as possible, the goal is to fill your top 150 roles with the best people possible. Here are the roles you need to fill.

Sponsor (1 or 2) – A sponsor is somebody who is well above you and takes an active role in helping you along. They will provide you with more than advice and guidance, they will take action to help you along.

Mentor (5) – A good mentor is somebody who is a few steps ahead of you in wherever you’re headed. They can give you guidance and help talk you through decisions you’re struggling with. When you find a really good mentor who advocates for you and takes care of your interests, they become a sponsor.

Allies (25) – These are people who are interested in what you’re doing. They know what you’re up to and you know what they’re up to. These are your really good friends and peers.

Contributors (100) – Contributors are similar to Allies, but you don’t stay in as close of contact with them. You know the general changes that are taking place in their lives, but you aren’t involved in the day-to-day.

Acquaintances (many) – This is everybody else. Friends, family, friends of friends, coworkers, old classmates. These are people who know who you are, but you don’t necessarily keep in very close contact. You may like their pictures on facebook occasionally, but you don’t typically talk much.

2) Fill The Roles With Stellar Candidates

Now that you know what your core structure should look like. It is time to start filling the roles. I suggest being deliberate about it. Make a spreadsheet. Figure out who you currently know that reasonably fits those roles.

It can be difficult to fill the Sponsor, Mentors and even some Ally roles. Leave them blank if you don’t have anybody that really fits the bill. If you have some blanks or even if your network seems a little on the weak side, that means you have some work to do and some people to meet.

Fill your network with people who have a network greater than your own. They will help open doors for you when you need help. You don’t want your network to be a small, closed system where everybody knows the same people. Ideally, you would like them to be able to introduce you to the right person when you have a serious need. That’s the whole point.

Actively seek these well-networked people. Fill your core structure with as many as you can find.

3) Communicate With Your Network

Here are some simple communication guidelines. Again, this will work a lot better if you’re deliberate about it. Whether you use a simple CRM or even a spreadsheet, make sure you communicate.

Do a 72-hour followup. Contact people you just met 72 hours after meeting them. It could be a thank-you card or maybe even just a “it was nice to meet you” email.

Also do a 14-day followup.

You should be contacting your network’s top 150 people at least every 90 days. Many of these will happen naturally as you interact with people socially and via work, but make sure you’re doing this with people you don’t see regularly. If you regularly interact with about 60 people, then you should be sending one email each day to keep in touch with the other 90.

Again, be deliberate. Track it.

4) Provide Value

This is really fundamental. Provide the people in your network with value. Always try to give so you don’t have to feel guilty when you need something.

Here are some example ways to provide value:

  • Introduce them to somebody else in your network.
  • Learn about what they’re working on and give them some feedback.
  • Ask if they need anything. Often a facebook post or retweet can be very beneficial to their business.
  • Send them information that directly pertains to what they’re trying to do. It doesn’t have to be anything big. I have a friend who curates a music newsletter every week and when I hear a new song that fits his style, I send it to him. That’s it. Sending a link to a music video. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Also, don’t forget to think about ways that people could help YOU. If your network is good, they’ll ask.

I hope you find these suggestions to be helpful! A strong network is important. I’m refocusing on mine and am implementing everything I just shared in a spreadsheet.

Remember, you become the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose them wisely.

Do you have any tips or strategies that YOU use for networking? Share them in the comments!

 

 

How To Get Started With Social Media Automation

When you get squeezed for time, do your social media fall by the wayside? This happens to me all the time and I feel terrible when I wake up 5 days later to see my traffic has plummeted.

I do my entrepreneurial work in my free time. I also work a full-time job and take grad classes in the evenings. As the semester picks up, the amount of free time I’m able to find has all but vanished. Here is one step I’m taking to reclaim my sanity.

Putting My Social Media On Autopilot

This is something that marketing gurus talk about doing ALL THE TIME but there were various reasons I always ignored it.

“It’s really impersonal if it’s planned.” ~Me

Disappearing for a week at a time is impersonal. You can still respond to comments and interact.

“Generating the content is the hard part, not remembering to post it.” ~Me

Creating content is easier when you do a lot at once. Take a picture, add a funny phrase. Tell a joke. Link to a blog post. Comment on relevant current events.

postSchedule

Sitting down and writing 1 post takes me about 30 minutes. Sitting down and writing 10 posts takes me about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Due to necessity, I finally took the plunge and I wish I had a LONG time ago. It’s FREE. There are some limitations to the free account, but don’t let that be an excuse. Did I mention it’s free?

Here are the steps I took that you can easily copy.

  1. Go to https://bufferapp.com/
  2. Add your social media accounts. I’m using the Scrunchie Leash facebook page and twitter account.
  3. Choose a posting schedule. Choose time. Choose days. Don’t get hung up on this. You can change it tomorrow if you change your mind. I picked the evening every day on facebook and the afternoon every day on twitter.
  4.  Write a post and click “Buffer”
  5. Continue writing posts until your buffer queue is full (10 posts)

That’s it! Your social media is covered for the next 10 days. You can always post more if inspiration hits or you think of something that is time-dependent, but your minimum is covered.

The Key to Small Business Contracting Success

“Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organizational execution. Distrust is the enemy of both. I submit that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one.” ~ Stephen M.R. Covey

Abamath Series – This is the 6th in a series of blogposts by Luke Schlangen, Founder of Abamath. (read the 1st , 2nd3rd4th and 5th)

Signature

 

Some Businesses Will Happily Neglect Your Best Interests

Being a small business often leaves you with less negotiating heft. You aren’t anyone’s biggest client. You don’t have a massive legal team. Sometimes the way you’re treated is just terrible, but you do have some control over how much of that treatment you allow.

6 days after we opened our first location, we received a letter that the mall would be undergoing serious construction within the next year. Not once during contracting did the landlord mention the multi-million dollar construction project that they had been planning for over a year. They had completely misled me, and when I asked for more information, they had no comment. We would be required to move some time, but wouldn’t know when.

Obviously that was awful. Fortunately, my friend’s mother had encouraged me to push for 60 days construction notice instead of 24 hours, and for a way out of the contract. So, given the chance to leave early, we did. We officially left on December 31. We timed things correctly. Every business that stayed was given a letter on January 1 saying they had 60 days to move.

Thanks to my contact, we dodged a much more devastating blow, but needing to relocate after just opening is not good for business. Granted, most of our clients stuck with us, and we moved to a nicer place with lower rent, but we got lucky.

The Work Starts Before the Contract is Drafted

I was lucky to have a legal connection like my friend’s mom, but the point isn’t only that you should read the small print (of course you should). At the end of the day, being forced to move 5 months after opening is pretty miserable, even if the contract gives you some protection. That’s not good enough.

The point is that you should work with people and businesses you can trust. Since that initial misstep, I have been working almost exclusively with business partners who have been referred to me by trustworthy people.

Use Your Network

If you have a friend who does business in your area, ask them who they work with. What software do they use for accounting? Who is their insurance agent? They might run a completely different business, but all businesses have some basic needs. Before you move into a new location, ask other tenants what they think of the management. Life is a lot easier when you can stop worrying about having the rug pulled out from under you. This is where that all-important “network” becomes your most valuable asset. Use it.

Trustworthiness might seem subjective and fluffy, but it can save a lot of very real money.

Luke Schlangen is the founder and president of Abamath: A Better Approach to Math

Luke Schlangen, Founder of Abamath

Are You Wasting Your Ad Dollars?

Abamath Series – This is the fourth in a series of blogposts by Luke Schlangen, Founder of Abamath. (read the 1st , 2nd3rd and 4th)

I hate losing money (you too?). There are few things as frustrating as throwing money at advertising and seeing no impact on your customer base. Here’s the rundown on the first three months advertising my math tutoring startup.

  • Method: Local Newspapers, Google adwords, Facebook Ads
  • Cost: $15,000
  • Timeline: 3 Months
  • New Clients: 1

You read that correctly. I only gained a single new client from the ads. You could argue that we didn’t execute correctly or maybe it wasn’t the right channels. Regardless of why it failed, a small company can’t afford to spend and see no conversions. It was time for a change.

Advertisements aren’t the only way to advertise.

On January 25th, we hosted our first “Abamath Invitational,” a 90-minute math competition for middle school students.  This gave me a great excuse to talk to the schools in the area and spread the word. On the day of the event, 8 potential clients and 5 current clients came to Abamath and had an awesome experience.

  • Method: Math Competition
  • Cost: $500 (including my time, employee time, and the computer)
  • Timeline: 1 Month (including planning)
  • New Clients: 4 and growing (already paid for itself)

Bonus: Kids from the area experienced math insanity, and the winner got a brand new laptop!  I got tons of pictures for our website, and an excuse to build relationships and credibility with local schools. I also had the chance to plug our robotics league.

Everybody wins.

Abamath Competition

Abamath Competition

Give out free high-fives on a street corner, smash a car, sponsor a mission to Mars. Do anything! Companies like Red Bull have mastered event marketing! (anybody heard of Flugtag?) The good news is you don’t need to be Red Bull to pull off an event. This applies to any business, you just need to get creative.

The Bottom Line

Give an advertiser $15,000 and you can get a couple thousand views. Spend $15,000 on a pizza party, and you can get a couple thousand real people in your doors to talk to and interact with on a personal level.

Spend your ad dollars on awesomeness, not on clicks.

Luke Schlangen is the founder and president of Abamath: A Better Approach to Math

Luke Schlangen, Founder of Abamath