workshop

I Left My Business for a Month and Nothing Bad Happened (Part 2)

We have a series of great ‘and nothing bad happened’ articles. Check out ‘I Bought Facebook Fans And Nothing Bad Happened‘ and ‘I Doubled Our Social Media Posts And Nothing Bad Happened

Last week, in “I Left My Business for A Month and Nothing Bad Happened Part 1” I talked about keeping the businesses running while I was physically in another place. This week, I’ll talk about the other side of the coin- getting involved in a new market. Ten years in the same location, especially in a small town, is almost the definition of “comfort zone.” Sure, we’ve grown and challenged ourselves so that our business isn’t frozen in time, but the time to innovate is always now, and travelling to upstate New York was part of that process.

While I was in a new location, I needed to set myself up to meet people. Something most people find surprising about me is that I’m an extroverted introvert, which means talking to people requires energy from me and I almost never want to do it. Once I AM doing it, I’m fine, but afterwards I definitely need to spend some time alone to regroup.
So what’s the best way to get into a new community, besides finding one that theoretically needs your products/services? Here are a few things I did in my new community of Potsdam, New York:

  • Met with Chamber of Commerce director to talk options about integrating into the community (Note when you meet someone who has NEVER heard of you, it’s best to be ready to give something value added for their time, whether you’re buying them breakfast or just going to send them some really great free resources about what you talked about.)
  • Meet with the local SBDC with your theoretical new additional location business plan and some questions ready to go.
  • Connect with any local business incubators and be in their space if at all possible. Set up a short meeting with people who work there to let them know what you’re doing and how you could help.
  • Connect with the local library and offer a workshop. We did a free workshop and gave a donation to the local SPCA, which meant that the library promoted it because the workshop was in their space, and the SPCA promoted it, too.
  • Check out local meetups and attend to meet new people. I attended a local artist group and we got to tour this cool museum and people shared their work.
  • Find a local business that will let you host an ‘open house’ of sorts and promote it to the local media via a press release, your new local contacts, and a Meetup announcement.¬†(Aside: because I did this, I ended up on a panel of entrepreneurs for North Country Public Radio!)
  • Go to the local happy hour spot by yourself and sit near some nice people.
  • Join local Facebook groups. (My LOL moment was when I joined the ‘Potsdam Rocks’ Facebook group, thinking it was going to be about community development but then upon acceptance, found out it was about… painted rocks.) Ask local friends recommendations for good groups to join.
  • Ask every person you meet who else you should meet. Use Facebook or LinkedIn to find contact information and name drop your mutual connection, offer beer/coffee, or otherwise see if you can meet these people in real life.
  • Meet with local economic development directors or city planners and ask them questions about the community and how you can best provide business services.
  • Go to a local Rotary club meeting (and any other civic groups you can find).
  • Attended a meeting for volunteers at the local dog park (which my dog loved).
  • Visit the local food co-op and learn about getting involved with local food movement (Aside I found the best cheese scones I’ve ever had.)

(Wow, when I see it all listed out, and remembering I did normal work too, no wonder every time someone asks me about my ‘vacation’ I sigh.)



Within each of these community outreach moments, I tried to do the following:

  1. taking the opportunity each interaction to start other interactions. ‘Who should I talk to about that?’ or ‘Who else should I meet?’ are great questions, and
  2. trying to bring value to any interaction I had. I figured if I didn’t know someone and they were taking their time to help me, the least I could do was give them some free consulting and/or food.

Because I made the leap, I am now in talks for two good size proposals I would not be having the chance to do otherwise. I also had time/mental space to finish some big projects (like adding a learning management system to Anchorspace’s website and creating an online store of the cool designs we commissioned from graphic designer Jill Lee on Society 6.) I even brainstormed an idea for an e-course about running a business while depressed. I am not sure if I would have gotten some of this stuff done, or had some creative ideas, if I didn’t do a reset outside my workspace.

So the results of my experiment are seeing that not only could I run a multi-location company in the short term, but I could use the new location as an advantage not just for myself personally but for business as well. I’ve seen many of my successful business role models run businesses in multiple locations and I don’t see why I can’t be one of them in my next decade. I will also say as a total plug, upstate New York has some of the nicest most welcoming people I’ve ever met. I was surprised to make some real friends during my month long stay. And I hope as I broaden my scope, my two hometowns will support the work we are trying to do and grow.

And, if you’re new to the area (or ANY area, really), the steps I took in New York to start meeting new people and connecting with the community are worth trying for yourself. They’re great for making both business and social connections that will last for years (at least 10 ūüôā ).



Cross Selling With Others

So you’ve been reading our posts about selling more and I know what you’re thinking: “I want to make more money without creating the complimentary product/service myself; what are my options?”

The good news is, you can sell more online without the responsibility of creating a whole new product/service! Here are a few ways you can cross sell while working with other businesses or non-profits:

Figure Out Referrals

Looking through your contact form inquiries, social media comments, and email inbox, I’m sure there are some things that people are asking you for that you are unable or unwilling to do.

Let’s say you are a greenhouse but you get lots of comments asking where people can get sod. What you could do is contact companies and get their information and make it available on your website. “Hi Debbie, thanks for asking us about sod. We don’t sell it but Company X and Company Y both do. Here is a link on our website about their services, price points, and more: thewebsite.com/faq/all-about-sod.”

You can create a more formal relationship with a complimentary business in the way of an affiliate relationship, partnership, or joining a referral networking group like BNI.

No matter how formal or informal, working with complimentary businesses means you can steer your customer (or potential customer) in a good direction so they still feel taken care of by you and hopefully, that other company appreciates and reciprocates, either with a portion of the sale you generate or by sending referrals your way, too.



Consider The Subscription Box

Let’s say you sell something that goes well with other somethings… but you don’t necessarily want (or need) to carry it in your retail shop. Consider making a subscription box, where customers subscribe for a monthly price (or slightly lower quarterly/annual) price to get a box of stuff around a theme.

An excellent example of this is Willie Wags right out of Bangor Maine.¬†They send out boxes of stuff collected from different businesses celebrating women entrepreneurs (they’ve recently moved to a retail location in downtown Bangor too but they could have kept it subscription box only if they wanted I’m sure).

Maybe you sell stationary and have connections with others who sell cool pens, stickers, etc. You could probably make some boxes including the products of your business friends (and yours) at a price that is lower than retail but allows you to get in front of new customers. (Aside: I’m not sure why no one has done a ‘Bar Harbor Box’ yet, I think that would kill!)


Host an event together

Events take a lot of bandwidth but they are good ways to attract new customers whether it’s an open house, a workshop, or something else.

Finding a complimentary business to help you host an event is a great way to not only divide the work but make the event more fun. For example, if you are a hardware store but you don’t do party rentals, it may be cool to have a cookout/block party with sales going on while you have a few rental pieces of equipment (bouncy houses and slush machines anyone) set up too. There’s also a likelihood of more attendees because you get the draw of two (or more) businesses- customers of one business may show up and decide to become customers of the other business, too (especially if there’s a bouncy house involved).

In other words, cross selling doesn’t just have to be your stuff. It actually works well when it isn’t.¬†By figuring out ways to work with other entrepreneurs in a complimentary space, you can all win together.


Hosting A Webinar: The What

So we’ve talked about the mechanics of hosting a webinar but there is an even bigger question: What will your webinar be about?

Webinars I have seen go by:

As you can see, they range from general to specific, from regular on-demand offerings (ex: every Thursday) to one-time events.

But they all have some things in common: Most webinars are free, interactive, and offer participants a way to learn about something they care about. 

Most people have initial questions about the technology of webinars, which can feel intimidating. But once they realize the setup is doable, most people suffer another round of paralysis.

“What am I going to talk about for 30 to 90 minutes?”

We wanted to give you a couple places to start and a sample outline to frame your thinking.



Answer a question people ask you ALL the time

An example for us may be, “How do I get more people to like my Facebook business page?”

Maybe as I brainstorm, I can think of ten helpful ideas, each with a real life example illustrating the point. Add an introduction and a call to action at the end and that is easily 30 minutes of content!

Feel free to give a disclaimer. For example, you are a lawyer giving¬†an informational session about business structures but can’t advise any individuals in the webinar with what they should do,¬†but you still know enough to be valuable in a general sense.

Bonus is when you have a prospective customer or friend ask you this question in the future, you have a response ready to send them.



Information they can’t get anywhere else

Let’s pretend you’re getting married on an island in Maine. Can you rent portapotties there? Can the church hold 100 people? What is parking like? These questions will involve at least half a day of phone calls… unless you are an area wedding planner or caterer.

If you have informal but useful knowledge, introducing it to people in a webinar is a great ‘social proof’ that can give people the confidence to book your planning service.

Worried about giving away the milk for free? Think of narrowing this down: “Choosing Your Wedding Venue On Mount Desert Island” could not only be well attended virtually but valuable to those attending in and of itself, leaving you plenty of room to still get hired and help them with other things.



A group consulting session

If you feel brave, holding a live Q and A (maybe a brief presentation at the beginning to make sure everyone is starting with the same basic understanding of what you are talking about) can be a great format. You can have people submit questions while registering to get a little prepared but being off the cuff knowledgeable can help your webinar participants with their specific questions while showing you are intimate with your subject matter.

Note: Most people in webinars lurk rather¬†than participate¬†so you’ll really need to encourage people and groom them to send questions in many cases.

Much like structuring a blog post, you want your webinar subject to be specific enough to attract customers but give you enough breathing room to benefit a large group of people. 

If you have a couple ideas, take a quick Facebook or email poll of your customers about which they’d prefer to learn about. Or ask us, we are always happy to give an opinion!

In short, you know something that’s webinar worthy. Now go figure out what it is!



BEC Story #5: Flyer Workshop

flyerworkshopWhen people want to work with you, sometimes they’ll try to get you to do things outside your pay grade.

I take it as a compliment but am quick to deflect. I’ve been asked to design rack cards, be an event planner, co-create an app, start a real estate related business, and more.

Contrary to what some believe, I have said ‘no’ to a lot of things.

The upside to saying no to things outside my skill-set (besides my own personal sanity) is getting to meet and work with people who ARE good at those things.

Problem: Several people asked me for help with flyers. It is tangentially related to online marketing because a lot of people share flyers they’ve created on social media and their websites. I bookmarked it in my brain that this was of interest¬†and let it sit there for awhile.

Now I’ll ‘design’ my own stuff (note the air quotes) but print design is NOT my thing and probably never will be. I have a couple print designers I like working with, one who is in the process of getting her business established. (Jillybean Designs did the card designs I’ll talk about in an upcoming story.)

Around the same time, one of my friends, who is a published author, approached me about sending her copyediting work. She likes helping out locally and figured I would know people.

Solution: Somehow, all these things went together in my brain in a coherent way. We decided that Jill (designer), Carrie (copywriter/editor) and I¬†(marketer) would do a ‘Make Awesome Flyers’ workshop together. I made a online registration form on the Anchorspace website (we charged $35 for the two hour workshop), we promoted it to our people, and we split the proceeds three ways.

We really enjoyed doing it and are thinking of taking the show on the road to chambers of commerce, downtown areas, and other business groups. Plus I learned a lot from Jill and Carrie while they were giving their presentations.

Values demonstrated: collaboration, willingness to learn, education, community service, connecting, problem solving



How this story could be better:

More pictures. So during events, I always mean to take pictures but then I’m so busy making coffee and being in the moment that I forget. If you have an event, just have one designated picture taker, even if you have to pay them. In this blog post is the one picture I managed to take.

More video. Carrie Jones, who is a friend who happens to be a New York Times bestselling author, is a really engaging speaker. I should have gotten her on video talking about typos with a passion that was awesome to witness.

BEC Story #4
BEC Story #3
BEC Story #2
BEC Story #1
Why I Am Writing All These Stories About My Business