Ramon hosted his 2020 holiday party with some of the best industry experts out there. If you missed the live event, don’t worry! You can still take advantage of all the small business advice that was shared throughout the event. Below are some highlights from each expert interview. You can still listen to the whole thing, but we wanted to share some of our favorite moments and pieces of small business advice. Keep reading to get all the best nuggets of knowledge!
Brian Moran, Small Business Edge
Brian spent a large chunk of his career in publishing with the Wall Street Journal. He then worked as an entrepreneur and had his own publishing company for a while. He left WSJ in 2012 and started Brian Moran and Associates. The company does two things: Help small business owners and entrepreneurs run better companies, and help marketers better target the small and mid-size business space. So whether it’s podcasts, webcasts, speaking, or blog posts, (and more) they need in order to connect to any part of the market, they are supported.
“So what I’ve learned is that life can change on a dime, and when it does, it’s rarely for the better. And the fact is, the companies that have successfully navigated COVID are the ones who not only had a plan, but they had a contingency plan. And when the plan blew up, they didn’t panic.”
Changing the Plan
Many companies spent a lot of time figuring out where they wanted to be at the end of 2020. But in March that all got blown up. But before March, (in January and February) which seems like many years ago at this point, it was a new year, a new decade, and everybody was excited.
Things were going well: Unemployment was in check, inflation was in check, and all economic indicators were strong. The fear of recession was gone. This was the year that everyone was waiting for. But that all changed three months in.
The smart companies, large and small, said, “Okay, let’s not panic. What part of our plan is blown to pieces?” Anything that had to do with events, in-person conferences, all of that was gone. And then they said, “Okay, which pieces are still intact? Which parts are salvageable, and what do we need to do to salvage them?” And that’s how some companies have made it through the year successfully.
A Better Outlook
There are also people who look at where they are now and know that this was the kick in the butt they needed to make a change. Maybe that means living a better, more productive life. Or maybe it’s tapping into all of the silver linings that are there. But then you have other people who are desperately trying to rebuild their comfort zone, to go back. So, whether you are a small business owner or an individual, you have to ask yourself which one you are.
Awesome small business advice!
Kevin L. McCrudden, Mr. Motivation in America, Chief Motivation Officer
Kevin is the only motivational leadership speaker in the history of America to have a day passed by the United States Congress. January 2nd is known as ‘National Motivation and Inspiration Day’. Kevin had it passed by Congress after the attacks of 9/11, and then New York State embraced it as ‘National Motivation and Inspiration Day’ And also named January as ‘Motivation and Inspiration Month’.
For the past 20 years or so, Kevin has focused on motivating and uplifting people. So, it’s clear he knows a thing or about how to give small business advice. He has published many audiobooks and just came out with his eighth book, Transcendence. Transcendence is about rising above COVID-19 and the challenges that we have had this year. Overcoming adversity is one of the key things that he talks about, whether it be in business or your personal life.
Learnings from COVID
COVID has taught people that life is short and a lot of people are looking for a better quality of life. People are saying, “Timeout, I’m going to go move here. I’m going to take care of my family first. We’re going to sit at dinner at night. We’re going to share our lives together and work and make money at the same time.”
Kevin was left shattered with nothing only a few years ago. He was almost penniless and homeless. He was giving other people the power to destroy his life. But even when you have nothing, you’re left with a choice of how to overcome and persevere. But when things are difficult, you lose faith in yourself.
And this is a period that people are going through right now where they may be potentially losing faith in themselves. Kevin asks them to please hold on. Continue to pray. Get back to your faith. Have faith that you’ll be able to persevere because you have the personal power and integrity to be able to withstand the challenges that you’re facing.
Maybe be creative enough to come up with an idea that will sustain you, transform your life and your family’s life. Maybe more people will be doing what they love and making money doing it as opposed to being unhappy with their job. Kevin hopes that’s what COVID is creating.
Jason Miller, Active Campaign
Jason has been the head of brand at ActiveCampaign for the last six months. ActiveCampaign is a customer experience automation platform, orchestrating the customer experience across several different factors. This includes a blend of human and automation and blends your customer intelligence with your business. It’s basically a platform to wow customers with a brilliant experience across different channels. He works with tons of different businesses and is used to offering small business advice.
Customer Experience During COVID
Jason thinks that one of the best things you can do right now is follow up on the customer experience. He’s seen how powerful it can be for small businesses. You can actually achieve a one-to-one type of communication. Also, having empathy for your customers and making sure that you’re solving their pain points, and making sure they have a consistent experience across all of your different channels should be a focus too.
Jason was looking at trends around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and noticed that people are open to switching brands based on their experience. So, this is truly the time to focus on really delivering that “wow” with your customers. It can be the difference that keeps them loyal to your brand.
At the end of the day, it’s about how you make your customers feel. And everyone has a customer experience, whether you’re defining it or helping to push it in the right direction. The idea is to take full advantage of that, define that, understand what that looks like, and make sure that you’re making it the best that you possibly can. And the technology to have automation with a human touch is key. True one-to-one marketing is available for small businesses now. So there’s no excuse.
How ActiveCampaign Helps
ActiveCampaign lets you bring them what you have and they’ll orchestrate it and make it better. They have thousands of integration partners and recipe campaigns where you can set up your own automation, easy as drag and drop. It’s about how much you can imagine expanding this, automating, and making sure that those touchpoints are as good as they can be.
Great small business advice from Jason!
Steve MacDonald, LeadKlozer
Steve was running a social media marketing university and his students were constantly coming to him saying, “I can’t keep track of it all. I got engagements happening all over the place on different pages and posts. How do I keep track of all that?” So Steve went setting out for a social-focused CRM that would monitor individual leads and what they were doing. There wasn’t anything out there that was focused solely on social media and in particular Facebook marketing. So Steve and his team created it and that’s what they do.
Social Media Data and Sales
They monitor every interaction on your Facebook page: All your posts, all your ads, and bring it all together and create an entire history of that relationship. And they automatically rank all those leads so you can press one button and see your super engagers. Because in business, the more engaged a lead is, the higher quality that lead is. They’re the most loyal, the readiest to buy, the most willing to recommend. Steve has talked to some of the biggest social media marketing influencers and digital agencies, and they say, “We have no idea who our biggest fans are.” Yet, that’s the number one thing everyone should know.
Engagement is one thing, but it’s not the end-all. It’s creating a relationship. So the real lead that you have is a lead that you actually can have a conversation with. The conversation is where the magic happens, even in the largest e-commerce companies. People don’t want to be treated like a faceless number. They want to be treated as an individual and know that you care about them and that you’re actually listening to them.
Where the Sales Live
It’s five times easier to get more sales by upselling or cross-selling an existing customer. And you would certainly spend more time or respond differently to a customer than you would a lead or somebody that has been following you and you can see that relationship. From a ‘like’ to a comment to a message, Steve’s team automatically creates a profile for that person. And then they’ll just keep the whole relationship right there for you. So you can see in one click of a button everything that’s happened with that person and how important they are to lead ranking.
Some of the best small business advice people need right now is about social media and how to make it more impactful. Thanks, Steve!
Small Business Advice from Bob Sparkins, Sales and Marketing Manager at Leadpages
Bob explained to use that the first thing everybody should be doing is actually getting tasks done and not procrastinating. Don’t wait until the perfect moment for it to be the exact right time. Do it and revise later.
“As far as Leadpages is concerned, what our users are doing is focusing on conversion. They’re not focusing on general websites for the sake of a website. They are not just putting up a landing page because somebody told them to. They’re focused on providing content, providing value, and then asking for an email address or payment to actually drive their business forward.”
There is this misnomer of giving free content out into the world. But you have to ask for the conversion point. Don’t just give value with nothing in return. That doesn’t mean you expect anything in return. It means that you offer something of value with that email, with that payment in mind.
Bob also suggests to make sure you are using the tools that are best suited for your business.
“What I see people doing really is using the LeadPages landing pages and also using the website builder. It’s perfectly great if you have an existing website and you’re happy with it. If you have somebody on your team who’s managing your WordPress or managing whatever you’re using. But if you’re the person controlling all of that, you might want to take a look at what we have as a website building tool, because it streamlines all the things.”
With LeadPages, you don’t have to worry about plugins, themes, updates, shortcodes breaking or hackers in your PHP databases. Everything is super fast, easy to use, easy to update, and maintain yourself.
Small Business Mistakes to Avoid
When people are putting up a virtual summit or they’re putting on an event, oftentimes they’ll use the countdown timer to reflect when people are going to attend that event. Well, what your timer is really for is to help figure out when they need to make a decision by. When do they need to make a choice? If you have an event coming up and let’s say it’s January 15th, don’t put a timer on your page that says, “Join us January 15th. You have XX days.” People will procrastinate and they won’t make a choice. They’ll think they have all of this time to make a decision.
What to Do Instead
Instead, you want to compel people to make that choice. For example, if your webinar is coming up in a week or two, tell them that it’s free if they sign up within the next 24 hours or if they sign up for the next 10 minutes. Now the reality may be that it’s still free after that point, but you get people to make that decision. If the timer hit zero, you have a choice in Leadpages to remove the timer and show a general offer that says it’s still free, or it’s a second chance. Or you can actually charge money. Therefore, the next time you tell people to make a decision within five minutes or within the day, they’re going to know you mean business. Use timers for when you want to make the choice, not just when something is about to happen.
Steven Rowell, strategicspeakersecrets.com
Steven started strategicspeakersecrets.com in February but it took off in March after COVID started and it’s his way of giving back. He’s a 25-year change management consultant. Steven worked at Disney for several years and then did a lot of work in change management consulting. So strategicspeakersecrets.com is simply a place where he and his team invite work with speakers and consultants who already have high six and seven-figure businesses. This is not for new speakers or emerging speakers. It’s really about helping people identify different ways to leverage licensing, sponsorships, and other ways to really adapt to the new normal.
Getting People to Show Up
Steven doesn’t run Facebook ads. They’ve never done any social media blasting or anything like that. What they have is simply found people, researched their sites, looked at their videos and websites, seen their LinkedIn, and then just reached out and said, “Hey, I think you’d be a really great asset for this group.”
Almost a third of the entire group are people that were introduced and invited to the group by somebody already in the group.
Using Tools to Find the Right People: Small Business Advice
Steven suggests definitely starting with LinkedIn. He will find a person and if they’ve got a website he will review and then Google their name and see what else pops up.
Don’t settle for this notion of, “Oh, they’re too hard to get ahold of.” What you do is you say, Steve says you need to call maybe five times and five different numbers, but this is a tried and true way.
“In other words, I think we need to just become more fascinated and curious instead of trying to settle and hock people.”
Small Business Advice: An Outlook on COVID
Steven has kept his focus on all of the great things he’s been able to do with his family. They’ve played more board games, practiced chess more, and read more books.
“I sat with my son and we listened to the audible version of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Next thing you know, he’s on a group call in a role-playing game and he says to his battalion and his Star Wars team, ‘Hey, these are the seven principles we’re going to lead by.’ That magic moment would have never necessarily come up because we’re always so busy.”
Steven has also taken the time to step away from technology and think about how we can connect. He suggests focusing on the very thing that we don’t do normally, which is calling people you haven’t talked to in 20 years.
Adrian Miller, AdriansNetwork.com
Adrian has four businesses, is a sales trainer, consulting strategist, and writer. She has a company that does content development for clients as well. Her integrated marketing company helps small businesses put together a marketing program, web collateral material, content, and more. And she runs AdriansNetwork, a multi-hundred people B2B networking community.
Being Realistic About 2021
Adrian knows that a lot of work is going to be required to make sure 2021 is as good as it can be. She suggests setting yourself up for success rather than just assuming the new year will be different. Hopefully, you’re doing that now and setting the goals in motion. And more than the goals, she thinks it’s important to recognize how you’re going to actually execute those goals.
“Goals are great, but if you don’t have an execution plan, they’re empty.”
Adrien believes it’s better to have slightly optimistic stretch goals and an action plan to get them with baby steps along the way. So if you blow out your growth at 1% or 2% and you do that in April, you go, “Whoa, I can re-engineer. I can be more aggressive and I can start to set things up a little bit higher.” But if you set it up and just say, “I want to up my revenue by $50 million,” without any kind of plan, you’re less likely to succeed.
Small Business Advice on Networking
Whether you’re networking face-to-face or on zoom, it’s important to keep it up. If you’re not being proactive, if you’re not making the outreach and follow-through efforts, you’re not going to be rewarded with your goals.
It takes effort and strategy. In networking, it’s all about being proactive and establishing relationships.
“This was a tough year. I think we have to reward ourselves for the successes that we were absolutely able to accomplish.”
Beth Silver, Doubet Consulting
Beth is a marketing consultant and PR strategist for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
“I move businesses. I let people have fun, and we make the news. And I think the greatest thing about the last year is that I’ve helped people get in the news and to get their business stronger with marketing. So I’m trying to have some fun.”
Beth explained how important it is to be authentic. We can’t be anyone else but who we are. And that’s how Beth helps her clients succeed. Over the last nine months, businesses have changed the way they function, what they’re offering, and what their message is. Beth believes that being honest about where you are and what you’re doing within this crazy world is the first key to success.
The other thing she recommends is to slow down. Savor the moment. Tasks will always get done, maybe even better. Slowing down can help create growth. When you slow down you can re-evaluate your business and what they’re doing.
Beth hired this year, and she believes everyone should do that. “I looked at my business and said, ‘Hm, what do I want to tweak? What do I want to do?’ Now I finally have time for that.”
There were things she wanted to change but never was able to focus on because she was helping clients. She started to get a little jealous that her clients’ sites were nicer than hers, so she fixed it. She even enrolled in Ramon’s small business essentials program just to see what it was about and what she could take away from it.
Small Business Advice: Grow Your Business
In order to grow your business, you really have to look at it as a business and what you want to do. So Beth looked at different things during COVID, (which wasn’t fun for her, it’s hard work) but now she’s much happier overall with her business and what she has accomplished.
Elaina Dulaney, Microsoft
Elaina has been a Microsoft employee for a year and prior to that had her own company for 14 years. Her company, Salt And Light Communications acted as a consultant to Microsoft. So she started as a contractor and now works there as an employee. (What a cool journey!)
Small Business Advice: A View from Both Sides
Elaina knows what it’s like to be a small business owner. She was one, and now as an employee, she has a new view from the other side.
Elaina says it’s all about building that relationship to start with. And that comes from being a giver, not a taker. So even when she goes to her partners, oftentimes people even within Microsoft will say, “Hey, can we find out how HP, or Dell, or Novo, somebody is doing such and such?” And I’ll say, “Yeah, but what are we going to give them?”
She doesn’t just want to say, “Hey, how are you guys doing this? We want to learn, learn, learn, learn, learn.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but what can you offer in return? So anytime you’re building a relationship, it’s about being a giver, not a taker. So if you’re going to them, you always want to think, “What can I bring to the table? What can I offer?” And she feels that also helps build trust.
The other thing is about trust and tenacity.
For example, when partners come to Elaina and they need something, they know that she’s going to be their biggest advocate at Microsoft and figure out how to navigate within Microsoft for them. The same is true of small businesses.
“Anytime you can help them navigate a problem and help them learn from your experiences, I think that’s when goodness happens. That’s the depth of a relationship is trust. And then tenacity, just knowing that you’re going to go to bat for them, you’re going to do whatever it takes to help them out.”
Elaina has seen a lot of digital transformation in the last 10 months. She feels that we saw years of transformation during the first two months of COVID. And for small businesses to survive in this current climate, they’ve got to continue to think about digital transformation.
Elaina says that as you’re thinking about your business and the importance of tech you don’t have to have the fastest PC in the world, but you do need to make sure that the services you’re using are safe and secure for your customers.
Holiday Party Wrap Up
That was a ton of small business advice! We are so lucky to have all these experts join us to share insights and help our readers gear up for a successful 2021. If you enjoyed this article, check out more interviews here.
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