Tips From an Expert to Help You Fine Tune and Grow Your Business
John: Hey everybody, welcome to the Life is Digital Podcast. I am your host, John Bianchi. Get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on the current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age.
I am so excited this morning, I am with Mark Roberts, he’s a business coach and business consultant with Key Concepts. Mark, it’s a pleasure to have you this morning. How are you doing?
Mark: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having me and John, And I just signed up for your class, July 1st.
John: Excellent, well, I appreciate you mentioning that.
Yes, we have a webinar tomorrow on the Digital Foundation, and the importance of getting your local footprint set up, not according to what we want, but what Google says is important for you to be found online, so that is tomorrow, July 1st. I believe it’s at 11 AM in the morning. But we’ll confirm that at the end of the show. It is 11 AM.
Key Fact about Bookkeeping
Well, Mark, thanks so much for hopping on today, we were talking before the show about some of the things that you do and when you work with your clients and customers on a day-to-day basis, and I like to give our guests opportunity to share a key, interesting fact that maybe a small business owner hasn’t thought of before. I know you had mentioned a few things about bookkeeping. Do you think maybe you could share with the audience some of the things we were chatting about?
Mark: Absolutely, the most important thing is use bookkeeping as a tool, not as a task. Most people do it like to wash the floor just to get it done. If you use it as a tool, it can be a huge weapon to increasing your bottom line. For example, the PPP. If you do your bookkeeping right, you can get most of that money or you have the opportunity to have most of that money waved that you don’t owe it back, and you do that at the front-end, not at the backend. When involving bookkeeping for the PPP, you have those loans, you’ll be saving a ton of dough if you do it the right way.
John: That makes a lot of sense, especially when business owners are managing their cash flow in funds. When you bring in a new loan, obviously, you have some availability, you want to make sure you can pay your people, you want to make sure that you can keep yourself stable, but like you said, making sure and how you use funds effectively for your business to grow your company overall, that’s really important, and I appreciate you sharing that. So I think maybe that’s a good segue today into what I thought would be our main topics of conversation. I really wanted to have a conversation with you about marketing and growing your business, both online and how you develop that referral network.
How can business owners market their company in this shifting landscape?
As businesses are moving in this new climate towards some online and virtual networking, I know you have a lot of experience with this. What are some ways that a business owner can continue to market their business, get their name out there, engaged with new customers in this shifting landscape now?
Mark: We set the company up to be virtual, some of our bigger clients are up in Massachusetts. We made to be in this environment, so we’ve been very, very lucky with that, but before you can start looking at that expansion or getting that promotion, what I think you need to do is: Do your five year plan. Decide where you want the company to be. Because if you do that, you know what kind of clients or customers you want, then you can start with the end in mind, and then back up and create the plan. For us, we’re looking to make that national footprint as well as the local. We’re doing that with the cooperation of RockStar Connect.
We do that with several of their products. Three martini lunch is a virtual networking event, they have every Tuesday from 2 to 4, so we’re on the panel for that. We also leverage that by making sure we’re in the chat, and we use social, connecting with folks and giving them their opportunity to connect with us through a variety of online ways. Calendly is one of the other tools we use to make things as automated and as efficient as possible. When we’re finally going to be allowed to be back to in-person networking, we host the Downtown Raleigh, RockStar Connect networking event once a month, hopefully be to back at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe.
What we’re going to do when we are back, is we’re going to incorporate both a virtual event with that live event. We’ll probably going to have some speakers nationally to come in and do that, and then we also do a third event, which is called Success is Contagious, which is sort of the format they’re using now for the free Rockstar events, which lets folks go around and say what they want to get out of this week… Variety that’s just what we do.
Is now the time to invest in your business and marketing plan?
John: That’s really fascinating, and I think what I’m gathering out of that is in a new climate, it’s important as a business owner to pivot and still find ways to present what you do and the value that you bring to potential clients and customers in the best ways that you can… And, maybe you’ll have a little bit more knowledge of this, especially in some of the small business loans that businesses have been able to secure over this time, do you think that this is an important time for businesses to invest, like you said, in creating that five-year plan and also invest in maybe some marketing avenues that in a more traditional environment or previously, we had not really explored? And, what might some of those be in your perspective?
Mark: Yeah, again, for us, it’s making sure that you’re targeting the right folks. Just going out and advertising and marketing might be bringing in the clients you don’t want or the ones that aren’t a proper fit, is the better way to say that.
John: That’s a great point yet.
Mark: Yeah, so really getting that and it’s funny… With everything that’s changed, some things old are coming back. Some print media is coming back. There’s an awful lot of things coming on, but the real changes, everyone now can do what you and I are doing… We’re doing the virtual. My father’s 86, and I had a zoom call with him. The last guy in the world you would have a thought would be able to do a Zoom call, so that pivot that we’re waiting before everyone was really on online has come… as of today. So, you’ve got to have that footprint, you’ve got to have that video, you’ve got to have that digital footprint, because that’s how people are going to find you even more now than before.
The importance of online reviews and your referral network
John: I love that, and that’s something that I’ve been speaking with clients and individuals that I’ve talked with over the last several years, and I really think that point that you made is fantastic, that the digital foundation is now key to the health and viability of your business. And, the digital transformation is what I would almost venture to say is complete, especially when you were saying your 86-year-old father, I know my parents obviously are using text and video calls way more than they used to in the past, and everybody’s searching for products online. A great example I always give is, my mother is probably, I don’t know, maybe never going to go to the grocery store again. She’s going to have her groceries delivered online. They come right to the front door. She doesn’t have to leave the home. Now, sure, that doesn’t mean that eventually we won’t go back to being able to get out and experience restaurants and the life that we knew previously, but some things may shift permanently to people using digital tools for their daily life and daily needs.
I love what you said there about the digital footprint and making sure that that’s set up correctly.
In your experience, how important are reviews, digital reviews and building out that referral network online? How important have you seen that for businesses?
Mark: Two comments there… one is the referral or more importantly the comments that are on your online profile. If you’re not responding to them, actively responding, people are going to take that as that’s how you’re going to respond when they have a question – good, bad or indifferent. You need to actively be going after that.
Also, if you have a complaint, I always looked at a complaint as an opportunity, and I don’t mean to find a silver lining in things. But if someone’s complaining, they’re engaged. They’re expecting something from you.
They want something. They’re involved. Okay, something didn’t go right. What was it? Can we fix it? And, how can I make it better for the process? So for me, I hate to say I love complaints but I do because it’s a fantastic opportunity to get on-point feedback and interest of what your customers are looking for. So yes, that’s paramount talking to those folks that are engaging. And, the second questions?
John: I think you’ve given us… actually you sparked something in my mind about using your comments and reviews as an opportunity to not only learn more about your target market, but to grow your business’visibility online. I think I see a lot of customers where they might have a couple of reviews, but they’re over a year old. Google is now looking at the relevancy and the frequency of gaining online reviews, so if you have new customers, you want to be continuously talking to them and I really love what you said about comments, that’s how we create and engage that conversation. And, especially in the current climate now, for a small business, a local brick and mortar, you are going to have to generate that type of content online because people might not come to your store, without knowing you’re there. They might not know the services that you provide without you getting involved and actually telling that story.
Mark: When I talked to businesses on the consulting side, they’ll say, “Well, I got one negative review, but I have 100 customers that probably love me.” That’s the wrong metric to you. You have a comment, that’s the one you have to address, that’s the one you have to speak to. And, you can turn those around. I’ve seen complaints come in and turned around in the comments actually going… As soon as I put this out there, they reached out to me, they fixed the problem. They didn’t know it was a problem.” I can’t tell you how often that happens, you’re just disappointed because you were expecting something different.
Let us know. We want happy customers. We want raving customers.
John: No, that’s a great point as well, is that, like you’re saying that each of these reviews or engagements is an opportunity, not a negative. It’s an opportunity to engage with your customer base, and how people see you responding to that individual is exactly what you said. That’s that ultimate golden moment of customer service, where how people see you treating that individual is how they’re going to assume you’re going to treat them, so you’re actually exponentially engaging with your potential client base in a way that maybe you didn’t even know before.
Mark: You have to ask for these comments too.
Mark: We offer complementary introductory calls. You know… talk about your business, talk about things, and we have it embedded into the responses that we have going, “If this was a value to you, please like us on Facebook, please follow us on LinkedIn and put a comment here on Google.”
You do get an awful lot more feedback. And I’m a little bit older, so I get to say younger generation is much more attuned doing it online or text or something, that’s not as personal, that one-on-one… Us older guys, if I had an issue with John, I’m going to call John, I’m not going to put it on text. That is shifting dramatically. After the fact, after we talk, our call is going to go like… I don’t like how this went. Especially for, again, the older guys, we need to pivot and be looking at those comments. We think everything we’ve done one-on-one is the entirety of the conversation, well, it’s not any more. Digital is taking over a bigger and bigger section of that…
John: That’s a great point, and I like the fact that you said that different people are going to engage on different platforms and different behaviors. So, no longer is your digital footprint just a website or just a Facebook page, you have to also think about, does your business employ any texting strategies.
I’m noticing now that a lot of restaurants or a lot of businesses, they’re directly communicating with customers through text. Maybe people like email, maybe they’re at their work desk, and that’s where they get their information.
So it’s also important to understand the behavioral tendencies of your customers as much as it is what you feel is important or where you prefer… I had a conversation this morning with someone. A couple of weeks ago, he had told me, “I don’t really like Facebook, I’m not really interested in it.” And, I said, “That makes total sense for you.” I said, “But maybe 30 or 40% of your potential customers like that platform.” So we’d want to engage and maybe test the communication strategy on that platform to make sure that you are actually securing what potential business there is out there for you, because ultimately, as you and I both know, any marketing has to grow the bottom line of the business. It’s ultimately about driving sales and a great marketing, and a great communication strategy is going to put your business in a place to be successful and effectively deliver the right value, which creates a sale to your customer or client.
Ways to grow your business in this new environment
Mark, I think as we come to the end of our time today, I wonder if you could just provide us some… I’ll play off the name of your company, “Key Concepts.” If you could leave us with maybe a couple of key concepts for someone who’s thinking about how to grow their business online, what’s important in terms of getting their message out there, and what you would leave them with and say, “Hey, if you’re going to do a couple of things,” like you said, “Get your five-year plan in place.” What are a couple of ways to start and then what are some good next steps for you to take in terms of how to grow your business in these new times?
Mark: Well, that kind of matches up with a one-two punch that we have. We have two companies. One is called The Office Nerds where we do virtual office management and bookkeeping, but we convert that from a task to a tool so that you can use that. Because every dollar, we can save you in expenses, actually increases the bottom line by that same dollar amount… Sales don’t do that because they have to come through the flow, so understanding that money out is your biggest enemy, and the more you want can reduce that the better, and that’s one of the things we really concentrate on with that section of it.
The other piece is creating efficiencies, and we do that through Key Concepts. The more you can make things automated, the more you can make things smoother, more things talk to each other, this simple your back office can be.
Because other than us nerds nobody wants to be in the back office. You want to be doing whatever you created the company for, and that’s why we say we want to get you back to what you love, get you out of that back office. But understanding those things, getting that grasp will make your life easier, avoid problems, and let you fun like I said, you opened the company for a reason. Yes, you want to be profitable, but you know what, you want that freedom. You want that ability to be your own boss. You want to be doing what you love, and if you’re not doing those things… Why don’t you have a job?
So, keep those goals in mind. Again, key concepts. Why are you doing this? And, let’s make sure that we’re explaining that as much as we can.
John: Well, Mark, I love that. I know you’re someone who had a five-year plan, maybe you told me weren’t always sure what the details were, but you knew it was going to involve work-life balance. You’ve been able to achieve that. I love what you guys have done with the boat down in Wilmington, so definitely, Mark, is someone who understands how to turn what you want to create in reality by creating consistency and like he said, focusing on those key areas where you can tune up and tighten up your business.
Once again, everybody we’ll have our podcast tomorrow. It’ll be Wednesday, July 1st at 11 AM if you can join us. Looking forward to seeing you, Mark. Really appreciate you jumping on.
John: Sorry, my mistake… I am referring to the webinar. Really enjoyed talking with you today, Mark. I really appreciate you hopping on, and I appreciate all of you in the audience for joining and listening to us. For this episode of Life is Digital, I am your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe to the show in the comment section below for some links. Until next time. Don’t stop marketing.