Archive for January, 2012
Creating Products For Your Service Business Is Easier Than Ever Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Products and business go hand in hand. You can’t have a business if you don’t have anything to sell. Now that I have earned my master’s degree in stating the obvious, what I really want to do today is inspire you to keep creating for your business. Especially now that creating products for your service business is easier than ever.
Despite the fact that creating products for your service business is easy, there are still a lot of businesses not creating for their business. By not creating new products, these business owners are missing out on the opportunity to engage with their clients at a deeper level, tap new markets and grow their business in the process.
What’s the reason for the neglect? It could be the usual suspects:
- Don’t have the right players on the team
- Not sure how or what to create
- Maybe you even think you don’t have any good ideas
Do these sound familiar? Business owners are notorious for using them.
In today’s day and age, there is no excuse for not creating products for your service business. Take a look at some of the traditional product creation vehicles and how easy and inexpensive they are to use today:
- Video- It used to be that you needed a ton of expensive equipment. Digital format for videos wasn’t invented until around the early 90s. Since that time, creating a video is as easy as pointing a camera where you want it and start creating. With equipment like flip cams you can record a video and plug it straight into your computer to start editing. Apple computers has made editing videos easy as well. Don’t have a video camera. Use a service like Camtasia to roll a slide show that you can talk over and put music to.
- Audio- You don’t have to have a professional recording studio to record professional sounding audio to use with products and podcasts. Microphones like the Snowball make creating audio as easy as plugging the mic into your computer. Free services like Audacity make editing simple as well. You can use an inexpensive program like Reaper to capture your audio as well and lay multiple tracks.
- Workbooks- You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a professional looking workbook laid out and designed for your products. Places like Elance make it easy to find solid professional designers to out together great looking material at a fraction of the cost.
- Books- Whether you are creating an e-book or self publishing, creating a book is easier as well. Not only is it easy to create content through channels like a blog where you can literally blog your book. You also kill two birds with one stone by not only creating content to engage your following but you are also working towards a finished product of a book. Amazon has a number of options to help you put out a finished product that can be used as an e-book, physical book or is compatible with their Kindle reader as well. They will find editors, designers, etc.
- Home Study Courses- Do you have a service or process that you take clients through? If you do, are you missing out on the opportunity to capture that in the form of home study course? A home study course will incorporate a number of the elements that I talked about above. Videos, audios, a workbook, etc. This is a great way to show people what your service is all about at a lower barrier to entry. You can offer this as a physical product or make it strictly digital or even do both.
As you read through this ask yourself the following questions:
How good is your business at creating new products?
What holes are missing that need to be addressed with products?
To get you started and help you overcome some of your product creation obstacles, here are some of my most critical tips for getting more product created:
- Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish with each new product you create. This seems fairly obvious but it’s easy to not articulate this upfront and then lose sight of what it is that you are really trying to accomplish. Keep your end user in mind.
- You have time here’s how to use it. Creating new products for your business is about setting aside the time. It’s all about creating the time and the space in your calendar to do this. I would set aside time in your calendar each week that is focused on product creation and idea development. If you don’t create the time on your calendar and stick with it, it will never happen. It’s about creating a rhythm that you work in.
- Holes that exist in your knowledge. You may have avoided creating because you don’t feel like you are “tech savvy”. I hear this a lot about entrepreneurs but the great thing about tech savvy people is they don’t come out of the womb knowing how to code in HTML and PHP, they learn it. Granted some people have more of an interest in these things than others. If tech ignorance is getting in the way of you growing your business, then you need to get over your fear or dislike of technology and make it your friend. If you need help, then find it. There is a lot of talented, inexpensive help out there. They may already be on your team.
- You don’t have any good ideas. I don’t hear this a lot from entrepreneurs as typically I am trying to get them to rein in the “good ideas” but there is a decent percentage of entrepreneurs who feel stuck or are down on their abilities to come up with good ideas. My suggestion here is to create quiet time for yourself to create in a location that is not work. We call this time a “power hour” and it happens before we do anything else in the morning. Having some quiet time to work-out, brainstorm, read, meditate or pray is a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
You know what to do and how to overcome obstacles, now it’s time to go out and do it. Take a minute right now and put some product creation time on your calendar and stick to it.
Why You Should Sell To Your Employees Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
That’s right, you heard me. It is time to start selling not only to your customer but to your employee. In fact, if you really want to improve sales, selling to your employees is often the best way to do it.
If you are reading between the lines, you may have realized that I am not talking about selling your employees the same product as your customers but a very different product, let’s call it “employment.”
Many business owners I have worked with view the different roles in business as completely different “hats.” This is a common view, thanks in large part to the book “The E-Myth.” I really enjoyed this book and find it very relevant for any business owner. However, the challenge created by this viewpoint is a misinterpretation of what it means to change hats or roles.
To change “hats” simply means it’s time to change which product you are selling and to whom. Instead of widgets to customer A, it is employment to employee B. Now, are their other roles? sure. Somebody needs to do the web programming or prep and send mail or whatever it might be. If you don’t think it should be you, then prep the “sell” of programming to the employee or staffer that you would like to do it. Sell em’!
Do not think you are entitled to their labor since you give them a pay check. You need their help more than you need the paycheck.
Do you ever expect customers to buy from you over and over just because they bought once? Are you entitled to the continued patronage and can you treat a customer however you want because they owe you having delivered your product or service?
Um… no unfortunately not.
Your delivery of a product or service to a customer is no different than your delivery of a paycheck to an employee. Just because you delivered one doesn’t mean they will continue to work with you or even have to. Without good customer service and experiences, your customer will leave looking for greener pastures. The same goes for your employees. Don’t ever think they have to stick with you; there are others willing to sell them employment…
The key… there is really only one “hat” that is used in different scenarios. That hat is sales. The difference is to know which product you are to sell and to whom in any given scenario.
So what is the product to be sold to employees?
Employment is your product. It includes not only the paycheck but other perks such as work environment, scheduling, a good (or bad) boss, punishments, etc. There are many components to this product. The goal is to improve the quality of your product so it may not only garner “sales” in the form of employees but repeat customers and higher prices in the form of lower employee turnover and better employee performance.
So what do you get for selling employment?
Your currency is time, energy, focus, productivity, loyalty, all wrapped up in employee performance.
If you are a good salesman and have a better employment product, you can “charge” more for it in the form of these different currencies. If an employee is unwilling to part with some of these, they simply do not see your employment product as worth it. They feel it is overpriced. That doesn’t mean they leave. In most cases, it means they will simply pay you less (less time, productivity, loyalty, etc.).
Why do they pay less? Why is my employee performance always poor? Typically 2 reasons: They either are the wrong “customer” or your product is not worth the price you charge in their eyes.
An example of reason 1, of the “wrong customer,” I love watches. I am willing to pay far more for a watch than my wife would like. Spending over $1,000 for a watch doesn’t strike me as odd or overpriced (depending on the watch of course). For others, that is too much regardless of the watch. They are unwilling to spend more than $100 for a watch. If you offer them a very well built, expensive watch, they will still only pay you $100. They are just the wrong customer and it matters little what you do to make the watch better, it just isn’t in the cards for them to ever bite on what you expect for the watch.
Sometimes, business owners feel they have a phenomenal employment product worth much more time, energy, loyalty and production but simply have the wrong employee, selling to the wrong market. The employee will never increase performance above the $100 mark, they don’t see the point. Learn your market to overcome this issue.
You wouldn’t sell baby buggies to 16 year old boys in heavy metal bands, why do we try to sell employment the same way?
Example of reason 2, if you try to charge me $1000 for a cheaply built watch, I won’t buy, even though I am a watch lover. The product is overpriced in my opinion. Maybe to you, it is different. Maybe you built this watch with your own two hands. It means a lot to you since it is the first watch you ever created; so in spite of its flaws, it is priceless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that much to me and you will likely never get me to see it as that valuable. I might even see why it is valuable to you but those reasons do not translate to me. I didn’t make it, therefore I don’t get that satisfaction out of it.
Business owners struggle with this issue often. They often expect employees to value their jobs as much as the owner does. Well, it doesn’t translate. They expect too much for what they give in the form of employment. That doesn’t mean wage alone. In fact, wage is lower on the totem pole (although still very much important). It often means other benefits, autonomy, control, participation in the creative process, etc. If the product performs poorly, it is worth much less. With employment, this includes systems and processes to follow, clarity on purpose, results expectations, and proper reward systems. If these perform poorly, it is like the poor performing watch. Even if it is made out of diamond encrusted solid-gold, if it can’t keep time at all, its functional value decreases considerably. I might keep it since it is gold but I won’t wear it. Just as I might keep the job because it pays well but I won’t necessarily give my all.
Are there bad employees or just bad sales?
This is where it gets interesting… when you have bad employees, or even better, simply some bad employee behaviors, is it their fault or just bad sales? If an employee is truly sold on their job, the number of issues is inconsequential. If I am sold on a watch, I don’t neglect or abuse it. I cherish it. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you cherish something, you treat it differently. If we can sell our employment products in such a way that they are cherished, even at higher costs (time, energy, and loyalty), employees will treat them differently and stay as repeat customers of them.
Take a tech startup as an example.
Most startups pay mediocre wages. They don’t have the sales and size to justify higher wages yet. On top of that, their employment products are very costly in the form of long hours, expected evangelism for the company, supreme dedication, and more. All of that for little pay. How does that work?? Well, the employees are sold very well as they should be. The employment opportunity has a lot of other features beyond pay such as opportunity to participate in the excitement of a startup and truly build something. These features are simply pointed out appropriately to the employee. It’s part of the sale. They end up with many very dedicated, happy employees and they pay lower wages and expect more from their employees than you do!
In the end, keeping happy productive employees is a function of sales. If you are a good salesman with a good employment product, you will be able to build a loyal, dedicated team of employees that will help you sell on the other end, where the revenue is generated.
The Key To Getting More Done? Do Much Less. Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
I speak with a lot of business owners; some are seeing success while others are struggling for whatever reason. Even the successful businesses have obstacles though. In fact, nearly ALL business owners I speak with face a common obstacle. It may be slowing them down or even completely holding them back.
That obstacle is the constant effort to do too many things at once.
Businesses face a lot of challenges and include many functions that must run simultaneously such as sales and marketing, finance, payroll, fulfillment and production, etc. Because of this, it is only natural that business owners decide to work on them all simultaneously as well. Each function has its own issues to work on and improve. This, of course, pulls the business owner in every direction and last time I checked, there is only one of me (if there is more than one of you, please share your secret).
Now I’m not simply talking about multi-tasking (which is a bad idea even though my wife claims otherwise). I’m talking about the direction you are going with all those tasks. What are working toward? Highly productive people have this same problem believe it or not. It is a matter of focus. Not just daily focus, not even weekly focus.
We’re talking about singular focus that lasts at least 2 weeks and as long as 90 days (maybe a year if you’re a later stage company with slower growth). Within that time frame, you will eat, breath, and sleep that single focus. Maybe your focus is to increase the average number of sales by 50%. Well my friend, that is ALL you care about for the next 90 days! Do you still do the other stuff? Well, of course.
You can’t sell if you aren’t fulfilling, making payroll, or any of the other critical functions. The difference is you will simply maintain them at their current level and nothing more. It is okay to keep these other functions within your peripheral so they do not fall apart but beyond that, you know nothing of them. It is all about the single focus of increasing sales. You talk about it constantly, theme parties around it, reward against it, and dream about it when you don’t want to.
How long do I have to do this?
So how do you know which time frame (2 weeks to 90 days) you should choose? Well, that depends on a few factors such as your industry and growth rate. If you are approaching the speed of light, your time frames will be closer to 2 weeks as too much is changing too rapidly.
If you stay too long on one focus, it may slide back in importance long before you are done and leave you with big fires to put out. Certain industries such as software development often do what may be called agile development which is often based on 2 week deployment cycles in order to ensure no one falls into complacency and to ensure no one’s brain melts from overexposure to the same computer code. For most businesses, the 90 day line is perfect (1 quarter of the year).
Every 90 days, you take another look at things and determine a new focus. It is good to switch it up because computer programmers are not the only ones running the risk of melted brain. Teams and people become callous toward the focus after too long and begin to ignore it. We all do it (just think of routines and goals you stopped tracking after a bit).
Are you even capable of laser-like focus for 90 days? probably not… at least not without some level of accountability. You will need someone to discuss progress with, someone that will ask about how the focus is going on a regular basis (at least twice per month). This can be an advisor, a board member, or may even become part of someone’s job description (it is still recommended to have some outside perspective as well).
I’m good at balancing work needs… and lying.
Oh, you like to do a lot of things do you? Well, there will be plenty to do in order to achieve your focus and you won’t be bouncing around, almost getting somewhere, always complaining that nothing works. Almost marketing never sees results.
Almost solving a problem leaves you without an answer… still. Unless you are a chameleon with those crazy eyes, you can’t focus on two things at once but we all continue to cram many more than that into our minds. Stop it! Those other things can be your focus next time, but this time they are not. You can capture them in your productivity system, a journal, or whatever to be visited later but now, they can wait.
Progress must be visible
In order to maintain this brutal level of focus, you must be able to see progress, movement, something! If you can’t visualize your standing within the area of focus, it is almost guaranteed you will get lost. You will think you are still focusing but upon comparison to your original plans, you are out in left field… in another stadium! Have numbers you can track that can be prominently displayed and regularly reviewed. How close are you to your 50% increase in sales? Have a way to see it.
Congratulations, you are alive… break time
After the 90 day period of focus is over, celebrate. Break routines and enjoy yourself a bit. At least have 2 cokes at lunch instead of one… something! You must reward yourself and your team for their dedication and focus. If you jump right into the next cycle, it will feel like never ending torture. If you reached your goal, really celebrate, if not, than just celebrate but don’t really celebrate. Instead of buying a small tropical island next to Richard Branson’s, just have a beach day a few miles down the road. Have some fun, you earned it.
Ready, set, go… again!
Now that the celebration is over, get back to work!! Take some time to find your new focus and… wait for it… focus! Forget the world around you, including those other, albeit necessary, business functions and focus.
This process of only looking at one thing for a period or quarter will lead to some phenomenal successes and allow you to sleep a little easier, or at least less confused as you will only be dreaming of one thing. You will see surprising clarity in other areas of your business, not just the focus area. It is just cleaning off the desk (which I literally need to do as I write…) so you can get to the brass tacks of what will bring success to your biz. First things first, set some time to figure out your focus for the next quarter and give it a try.
Are You Missing Out On These Product Creation Opportunities? Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Whether you are a coach, a dentist, a chiropractor or you run a yoga studio, at some point, you have run into the challenge of the time for dollars game. How to overcome that challenge? One of the best ways to make your business and your life more efficient is through creating products for your client base to consume that doesn’t require your time.
Before I get into the different product creation opportunities, let me touch on the concept of the time for dollars trap in case you aren’t familiar with that already. One of the main challenges for service providers who work with people on a one-on-one basis is that their income is tied directly to the time they spend with their clients.
The dilemma then becomes, how do we get paid more once our calendar is full? Ahhhh.
Business owners who are faced with this dilemma may scratch their head for a minute and then come up with one of two simple strategies to make more money once they have maxed out their calendar.
Here they are in no particular order.
Idea #1 They get more efficient. Meaning that they see more people in the same amount of time but figure out ways to leverage their time better.
Idea #2 They work more hours. Ouch! No one wants to do that save for a few very sick individuals. (Please get help.)
There is perhaps a third option that business owners employ which is a hybrid of the above two concepts. This is still not going to cut it.
There is another option for business owners to make money.
It comes from leveraging the most important asset that a business owner has at his/her disposal. That asset is time.
The way you leverage that asset is through the creation of physical or digital products.
Some business owners get a little nervous about the concept of creating their own physical products and services. I have found that the root of their nervousness stems from a lack of knowledge on how to best get these products and services produced.
Here’s the great news.
You are already doing a lot of the things necessary to put products and services together, you just haven’t realized it.
Let me give you an example.
Weekly talks on health and wellness. Sounds good so far right?
Here’s where the wheels start falling off the bus.
Most of my clients never record their talks! Ever! These same doctors also give keynotes in other places as well where there are professional A/V teams there to record the talk and they don’t get the recording.
The lesson for you?
You are already creating content that can be used as a physical product or service, you just aren’t thinking strategically.
Here are the product creation opportunities that you are missing currently in your business:
- Speaking- If you work with human beings in a service business, you probably gives talks of some sort. Are you recording these talks? If you were, you could then do a brief edit. You have a lot of reasonably easy to use technology to edit and create video today. Use it.
- Your Process- Do you have a process that you take people through to get them the results that they are looking for? If you do, then you have a product. Here’s the funny thing about people. Not all people want to work with a human being to get the results that they are looking for. I am not saying that’s necessarily good or bad but some people just like to go it alone. Part of this is due to trust. They want to know if you deliver the goods before they plunk down $10k for your coaching program. Smart business owners create a do-it-yourself program because they get revenue from the program from work they already did and they get more people engaged with their service.
- The Components Of Your Overall Process- Here’s the real beautiful thing about being strategic about your product creation. You can break up the process that you use in your business and sell components of that to potential clients. Start by asking this question. What’s the best part of your process (besides you) that you can use as a gateway product to get people in the door? Why the best? You want to blow people away with what you can do and you have one chance to do that. The idea is to get them to keep doing business with you and to share their results with others. Only your best product will do.
- Writing- Have you ever written anything for or about your business? An article for a magazine or a newspaper? Do you blog? All of these vehicles can be used as further products as well. If you blog frequently, can you turn that into a book? You can take a key article that you have written for someone and use that as an introduction to your process.
Those are just four areas that you can look at that are right in front of you. You don’t have to do them all, you can focus on just one area if you would like. Here are some other things that you need to know.
The product doesn’t even have to be something that you charge for but simply makes your work more efficient or gets more people in the door. You can and should use some of your products as free entries into your business for the purpose of upsells.
The other problem that I have seen with clients is once they get the hang of creating products, they create too many. Good problem to have right? The answer is yes and no. In many cases I have worked with clients who were in a state of product overwhelm. Don’t create too many products too soon. You won’t leverage them properly nor give them the chance to be successful.
There are a lot of great opportunities for you to create value in the marketplace for current and future clients as well as increase the revenue of your business without you spending a lot of extra time to do it. It’s time to leverage your time effectively and make a lot more money and spend a lot more time with your families in the process.