How to grow a business & not lose your mind (Part 4 – Technology)
I am not sure I can build my business and not lose my mind. Some of the time. When I decide to do something new. And it involves technology. Who said if you are an entrepreneur “get comfortable being uncomfortable”?
Well, I am. I am pants-too-tight-after-a Canada-Day-barbeque (4th of July barbeque) uncomfortable. Too many mojitos, cole slaws, ribs and strawberry shortcake uncomfortable.
No, I didn’t over-indulge personally. But it’s a timely comparison you might relate to! Because THAT’S how uncomfortable I’ve been feeling the last two months learning new technology as I shift my successful “live” event, training and networking business into one that also lives online.
But like those long weekend festivities, there have been firework moments in the middle of the night too after FINALLY figuring something out. And the celebrations are always worth the discomfort. Well, almost always. Because the thing about technology… sometimes you just never know if you’ve found the “right” thing to fit until after you’ve spent many hours figuring it out.
“Technology” for part time entrepreneurs
The basics – hopefully you have the basics already and know how to use them. Because your computer and mobile device are your tether to business. These are your hardware. And these… I am comfortable with. I LOVE my netbook. And I am even more devoted to my Blackberry. Between these two devices, you can appear to have a connection to clients and an online world frequently, daily. I use these devices to email, tweet, check Facebook, text and message. They are lifelines to friends, colleagues and they are core to my business. They are not time wasters, they are business savers. I am a part time entrepreneur. I can respond to a timely email in the preschool parking lot, I can use 10 minutes waiting at the bus stop to modify a marketing map, I can have a friendly chat on Twitter, and oh yes… I can make a phone call too (really? that’s what that thing is for?).
The business builders – And then there is what you use to make the very best use of those devices… software or applications or programs. This is the power behind the devices you have. You spent the money on your tech gadgets, so now you MUST use them to the fullest capability you can to enhance your business. There are hundreds of free and paid-for software solutions – your computer even comes with some great programs – and you must evaluate them to see what fits for you. I’ve shown you the three categories to focus on first. Yes, they seem obvious (and yes, there are many more beyond this… but this post is for going back to the basics!). How you build these and how professional they look and are used are the crux of your business success… whether or not your business is online and/or in real life.
- Website – you must have one right? If not, you are likely just getting your business started, and unless you have a seriously unique product that requires a customized website, and if you are truly a part time or “slow growth” small business entrepreneur, I urge you to take the time in your early days of business to build a WordPress site (www.wordpress.com not www.wordpress.org) … being a small business entrepreneur means taking control of your money and your time and learning the ins and outs of websites, integration of social media with your website, search engine optimization, and many more core components of your business is your greatest opportunity. If you do not want to build your own by yourself, there are many fantastic WordPress developers, experts and virtual assistants to help. And I can help too. Let me know if this is where you are at! I know people who know people. You can build a WordPress site for free. You can get help to build one for as little as $500. You can build an entire branded website, logo package and company identity for less than $2500. You just need to know the right experts (or ask who I use).
- Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, LinkedIn, Blog, others: all free, all connecting you to your real life network and new people in an online format; all can connect with each other and have additional “third-party” applications to increase the usefulness of these Internet applications in your business. My blog is my website… now. I’ve migrated from a home-made website I really disliked and didn’t represent me just to get started 18 months ago. And now my website and blog are the same thing that integrates with my Twitter account and has automatic feeds to LinkedIn, Facebook and MailChimp, automatically updating both my social media accounts and my subscribed contacts when I create a new blog (hey – stop and think where you just came across this post?!). People say social media is a time waster. Well, I just wrote this and connected to a few thousand people without any extra steps… now that I figured out how to use my technology.
- Database/Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) – If you are using Outlook and Excel* spreadsheets to manage your customer communication and “list” right now, that’s fine. But soon, very soon, you must migrate to a professional system. One that helps not only collect and manage customer data, but help manage, track and evaluate your outbound communication (emails, newsletters, surveys, etc). Even more than that, many will integrate or have features that integrate with your website and subscription forms. And, many will also integrate and support growth of your social media channels. I am currently testing out MailChimp which integrates with a webinar solution I’m testing and the event management tool I use, as well as my WordPress website.
*Disclaimer: I’m a PC-gal (because my I.T. department – my husband – is a computer programmer). So if you are in Apple, heed the same advice but consider what is included with your system, because I don’t know!
Freaking out now?
Either this post is making you sweat over what you haven’t done yet and you aren’t sure where to start (don’t worry – I have a new training series coming starting in August that will help!)
Or, you are like me and have already lost your mind a few times, often at 2 a.m., trying to figure out all these tools.
Either way, don’t sweat it! Here’s why:
#technologyfail can happen so never forget #contentisking –
If you follow me on Twitter, you will have seen me referencing this in my #giymarketing Tweetchat a few weeks ago. That was what I had to confess after a webinar with Kimberley Seldon and 50+ guests where the visual component didn’t work. Yes, I was completely horrified! Fortunately, great content is still great content in audio. But the lesson here is, technology does fail. So you have to make sure your core business is rock solid first. I am SO grateful my learning curve is not on what my business is or my expertise, but on how I deliver it. Because this saved my bacon when technology failed! (note – the subhead is using “hashtags” – # – which makes a phrase ‘clickable’ on Twitter so others can follow every tweet using the same phrase)
I almost lost my mind – but didn’t
It has taken me, as a part time entrepreneur, 6 months (when I thought it would take me 2) to build a WordPress website (with expert help as required… net cost $500) and test and integrate all the tools and software technologies I’ve mentioned above. 6 months. When I thought it would take me 2. Yep, this technology growth curve has had me lose my mind, and possibly lose some business in the short term. But I’m on the other side now (for the most part) and using these technologies to grow my business more professionally and faster than ever before.
I am a marketing expert. I’m not a technology expert. But I am accepting that the two interwine intimately. And when I need help, I have hired for it… or aligned with other experts (yes, I know someone if you need one:one help right now!). This is an area where you DO want to spend your money if you need help and you DO want to spend your time learning. In the meantime, embrace your iPhone, Blackberry or mobile device and grab your laptop and use them more! These are your basic business powerhouses to really get growing, by connecting, right now.
Do you have a funny or not-so-funny technology story to share? Would love you to share in the spirit of comraderie – we are all in this technology culture shift together!
Previous articles in this series are:
- How to Grow a Business & Not Lose Your Mind (Part 3- Passion)
- How to Grow a Business & Not Lose Your Mind (Part 2- Money)
- How to Grow a Business & Not Lose Your Mind (Part 1- Time)
Next article in this series will be:
- How to Grow a Business & Not Lose Your Mind (Part 5- Knowledge)