News From the Louisville SBDC
the secret of my success…
Taking hold of your business opportunity.
One of the best parts of my job is seeing a client’s hard work come to fruition. I want to share with you how the hard work of Lyndell Johnson, owner of Steam*iT 2 Clean *iT, an environmental deep cleaning and disinfecting company, enabled him to take advantage of a business opportunity.
Last year, I met with Lyndell to help him capitalize on his business opportunity. Lyndell had recently retired from Norton Healthcare, and he had a hunch that there was money to earn through providing environmental deep cleaning services to corporate America.
New to entrepreneurism, Lyndell saw the potential but was unsure of how to go after it, so he and I sat down and mapped out a potential pathway to finding his clients. Here is what we developed:
1. Be honest about the risks– Most business opportunities involve you putting your own money, time, and energy on the line. Lyndell’s first step was to make sure that his family supported his new venture. We discussed the implications of break-even analysis and the importance of understanding that it takes time for a business to make money. I asked how he handled failure. I wanted to make sure that he understood all of the risks involved.
2. Start with your circle of influence– I asked Lyndell to jot down all of his friends and colleagues that he knows trust him. Turns out Lyndell had a solid network of people who trust him. He had to narrow the list down to people that could potentially connect him to the customer he wanted to provide services.
3. Get affirmation and ask for the connection– Next Lyndell contacted his colleagues and/or friends to ask the following questions (as applicable):
a. Do you have any connections to XYZ Company?
b. Do you know if your company wants/needs my services? If yes, whom do I speak with to learn more?
c. Will you connect me to the person who makes facility management decisions?
d. What is the best way to contact him/her?
e. Do you know anyone else who could connect me to more of my customers?
4. Ask for a meeting– Lyndell would politely ask for a 15-20 minute meeting with the contact at a time and place that was convenient for him/her. Prior to the meeting, he should prepare a list of questions to ask during the meeting. His questions should address the following topics: frequency of use of services, requirements needed to provide the service, company payment policies, other opportunities for business. He wrote clear concise notes.
5. Cultivate relationships – After meeting with new contacts, he should express thanks. Lyndell should send a thank you note via email or snail mail with his contact information. This simple act helps Lyndell to rise to the “top of mind” of the contact and demonstrates his professionalism.
6. Revisit notes– After about three solid meetings, Lyndell should revisit his notes and note any patterns to determine next steps. In this case, Lyndell discovered that each contact mentioned that his company met the basic requirements to offer services, but it needed to be a qualified vendor. Thus, Steam *iT 2 Clean iT needed to register as a vendor in a few databases to start getting some traction.
7. Keep the momentum– When he makes any headway, Lyndell should continue to meet with his contacts, attend workshops to connect him with more contacts, and join the right trade associations to keep moving forward. He should continue to listen and learn but most of all, he must commit to the success of his opportunity.
In August 2017, Lyndell celebrated his first year as the owner of Steam*iT 2 Clean*iT. His company garnered several contracts and transitioned from a hunch to a solid business opportunity. Lyndell took hold of his opportunity and cultivated a profit.
Written by Toni Sears.
Toni has worked with the Louisville SBDC since 2006. Prior to joining the KSBDC, she served as project director for the Louisville Minority Business Development Center and housing director for Sullivan University. Toni holds an M.B.A. and a B.A. in English, both from the University of Louisville. She is a twice recipient of the Million Dollar Loan Club, a distinction honoring KSBDC consultants who have assisted with more than $1 million in funding for clients. She has her Export and Trade Counseling Certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Toni is active in her community and volunteers with Middle School Connection and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana. Outside of the office, Toni enjoys reading, volunteering, exercising and attending plays and sporting events.
10 ways to leverage Small Business Saturday
For many businesses, holidays are the make-or-break season, but this crucial time of year can easily sneak up on you. It’s time to get ready now, before you get overwhelmed by the day-to-day holiday rush.
Remember, more than a third of shoppers begin their holiday purchases by Halloween.
Get in front of customers and prospects now to help set yourself up for a successful Small Business Saturday and make this your best holiday season yet!
How can you make the most of the holidays in your small business?
1.Get your name out there. If ever there’s a season and a reason to step up your marketing, it’s the holidays. Make sure customers and prospects remember you. Reach them through your social media channels (go ahead and boost some of those posts), start sending out email newsletters to your mailing list, and take out ads in local newspapers (and yes, many shoppers still read newspapers – especially ‘hyper-local’ papers serving specific neighborhoods).
2.Leverage Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is now one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Customers specifically focus their attention on the small and local businesses that are such an important part of their communities – and they’re ready to spend money. Small Business Saturday is also a fun shopping day for many families, so make sure you’re an active part of it. Proudly display Small Business Saturday marketing materials to help customers remember that it’s great to “Shop Small” all year long. (You can download them for free at www.ShopSmall.com/GetReady. Terms apply).
3.Work together. Banding together with other local businesses – especially on Small Business Saturday – brings attention and draws customers to your locale. Work with a Small Business Saturday Neighborhood Champion to help plan and participate in local events. Your neighborhood doesn’t have a Champion yet? You can apply to become a Neighborhood Champion for your neighborhood/community at www.shopsmall.com/rally.
4.Plan in-store events. On Small Business Saturday and during the entire holiday season, customers are looking for things to do (especially with kids). Plan events in your store or location. These don’t have to be big parties, just something interesting or fun. Independent bookstores have been leveraging Small Business Saturday to have in-store author events on the day and independent gyms have sponsored special free classes. Be creative!
5.Create bundles. Solve your customers’ gift shopping dilemmas by creating gift bundles (some pre-wrapped are great!). Select products by themes: “for him” “for her” “for your pet.” Customers spend more when they find gifts conveniently wrapped together. Here’s another advantage to bundles: they’re not easily available from discounted online retailers, which help you make the sale. Bundles aren’t just for retailers. Restaurants can pre-wrap gift cards with a menu or grocers can bundle a gift card with a shelf-stable food item.
6.Get social – in person and on social media. It’s a social season, so it’s time to socialize, both in person and online. During the holidays, opportunities abound to meet new customers. Attend community, industry, and neighborhood holiday parties and bring lots of business cards. Now’s the time to step up your social media activities and get in on the conversation around holiday shopping. Suggest cute or unique gifts or holiday survival tips. If customers have liked you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, make sure you’re busy posting throughout the holidays. And be sure to use the hashtags #ShopSmall throughout the season and #SmallBizSat before and on Small Business Saturday to join the conversation on the day.
7. Remember existing customers.
Want customers to remember you? Remember them:
• Send greeting cards to your customer, prospect, and vendor lists. Give affordable gifts to your best customers
• Throw a VIP holiday party or open house early in the season
• Invite your best customers to one-on-one lunches or dinners as a thank you
• Choose a “customer of the week” and feature them on social media
• Give a charitable donation in a valuable customer’s name
8. Sell through e-commerce. Just as in physical shops, the holiday season is make-or-break time for online retailers. Driving customers to your site and then getting them to buy takes marketing, merchandising, customer service, and even holiday decorations. Merchandise your virtual “windows” by adding holiday themed visuals to your website, creating special holiday landing pages and gift bundles, and updating your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Consider buying search engine ads and offering free shipping on purchases over $50.
9. Get found on mobile. Your customers are using their phones to search for products, get gift recommendations, and look for nearby businesses. Take advantage of the opportunities mobile devices offer. First, make sure you show up when they are looking for a local business like yours by listing your business for free on all search engines and review sites. Then give customers a reason to check in on social media when they are at your place of business – like offering a free dessert at a restaurant or a cute place to take a pic in your retail store.
10. Turn holiday customers into regular customers. You worked hard to get someone to come to your physical or online location, so find ways to stay in touch with them year round. Look for ways to collect their contact information, especially email addresses and social media handles. You can do that through offering small gifts or discounts when they make a purchase. Ask for permission to add their names to your email newsletter and request they follow you on social media, so you can connect with them in the New Year to let them know of future sales, special events, and new products or services.
I want to help you make Small Business Saturday and the holiday season a success and to keep that success going into the New Year. With just a few simple steps, you can help set yourself up for success now and in the months to come.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016, National Retail Federation’s 2015 Holiday Trends and Expectations