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Work On Your Business, Don’t Get Stuck Working In It

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Stephen P Smith:

This is a manifesto, or maybe just a rant, that I have decided to publish because I have been hearing so many Small Business People complaining about how much work they have to do.

Perhaps you have heard the expression:

“It’s hard to think about draining the swamp
when you are up to your neck in alligators.”

This is the wrong perspective. If you are indeed up to your neck in alligators then you need to make a change. You need to get back in the boat. Right now. Capture the alligator!

two men with a captured alligator

Let me take a step back. Back to September when I quit my soul-sucking job as a restaurant manager to go back into the freelance world. The first thing that I did was renew my Chamber of Commerce membership and get involved with the gatherings again.

Networking. Connecting. Sharing. (and a bunch of other things I have learned from Phil over the years.)

I set up some consultations and meetings and sent out proposals. I made some websites with blogs. I set up Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages.

Then something amazing happened. These small business owners and operators invested real money in an Internet presence and training on Social Media Marketing and then they did the most stunning (to me, at least) thing that they could.

Nothing.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

No tweets, no blog posts, no Facebook activity. Yes, I am completely serious. And when I went back to them, to follow up and see what they were up to (because I hadn’t seen any updates or anything in my own feeds or in-box from them) they simply said they were too busy. They didn’t have enough time.

I call BS on that.

Of course they have time. You do too. In fact, those of you reading this are here because you want out of the time-trap or you already figured it out. Good for you. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, here are some tools and ideas for getting back in the boat so that you can drain the swamp.

Get up earlier. How easy is that? Get out of bed an hour or even a half-hour earlier and write that blog post. Or schedule some tweets to share links to the products that you are featuring this week. Even if you only do this once a week, you can promote your business more than you are now.

Get in control of your email. I am not kidding, this is one of the most common complaints I hear. I wrote an entire section in my new book about this. Here is a piece of it:

The essentials of managing your email:

  • Create 3 folders in your email Inbox, labeled “Today”, “Tomorrow” and “Later”
  • Each email that you receive gets prioritized according to its importance:
    • Is this something that must be handled Today?
    • Is this something that can be handled Tomorrow (or Soon)?
    • Is this something that can be dealt with Later?
    • Move it to the appropriate folder.
  • If the email is something that someone else should take care of, forward it to them with a brief note and a due date. Tag the original email with “Delegated”, the name of the person it was delegated to, and the Due Date. Then move it to the appropriate folder.
  • If the email is about something that you do not need to act on then file it, archive it or delete it.
  • If, like me, you receive email notifications from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or other Social Networks, then create individual folders for each of these types of notifications and set up a filter to automatically move the incoming messages to the appropriate folder. Then you can deal with all of these at whatever time is best for you to do so.
  • If you receive any emails from sites that you have subscribed to set up a filter to move them to a “Subscriptions” folder automatically. This is fantastically important! I can’t stress enough how much easier your life will be if you filter out all of these messages from merchants that you may have given your email address to. You may even wish to create sub-folders for this category of email, to separate the merchant-subscriptions from news and information subscriptions. This way you can process all of these at once when it is convenient for you.

Your email folder tree should look something like this:
Inbox

  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • Later
  • Delegated
  • Subscriptions
  • Social Media
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • YouTube
  • Archives
    • 2011
    • 2012

Once you have set this up you are in business and should be able to process your Inbox in a short time each day.

Use SocialOomph to schedule your tweets. There are two schools of thought on this, but unless you have the time (and isn’t that why we are here?!) or the budget to hire someone to keep an eye on your Twitter and Facebook and Blog Comments and ghost-tweet for you, you need to put out some scheduled, automated tweets. Post 4 or 5 tweets per day, and then keep an eye on your email for responses. I use Socialoomph.com because it is free and simple.

Get a freakin’ smart phone already. Really? You just have the landline for your business? And a little flip-phone? I know it looks cool and Star Trek and all, but if it can’t get on the Internet and can’t be used to manage your email it’s a glorified paper weight. You should be able to run your Social Media Marketing from anywhere. Not that you have to, if you read the next tip, but you can.

Delegate the Facebook and Twitter stuff. I know, you’re a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology. Those kids are always doing stuff on their phones and you just don’t get it. Fine. Tell “those kids” what you want them to do and they will do it all day long. And at night. And weekends. Let them share pictures of your products and handle the Customer Service issues that come in via Twitter or Facebook. You don’t control your brand anymore, anyway. You never did. But you can and should be a big part of the conversation about your brand.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store you need to be using Foursquare. I wrote about Foursquare a month ago. Read it, do it.

Capture your customers’ email addresses and send them a quality newsletter. I simply cannot believe how many small businesses do not do this. What a wasted opportunity. You have the opportunity to create a personal, relevant and highly anticipated communication to your best customers. You know, the ones that want to have a conversation about your products or services. The people that like your company so much that they will tell their friends about you. They will share the newsletter. They will buy more stuff from you.

It’s the 21st century, and yes, things are moving very quickly. But the basic principles have not changed. Even if you are your only employee you need to invest some time, energy and yes, money, on marketing your business. Build your network. Get out there in the conversation and let your customers do the heavy lifting and sharing.

You have plenty of time. You’ve just been spending it on the wrong things instead of investing it on better, smarter things.

Stephen P Smith

Add Stephen on G+

About the author: Stephen Smith teaches Productivity and Social Media Literacy skills at In Context MultiMedia. He will be publishing a compilation of best practices based on his popular Weekly Letter this month (special pre-order offer for Work. Smarter! here).

You can follow him on Twitter at @hdbbstephen.

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