Category Archives: Business Growth

How to Figure Out What’s Keeping Your Audience up at Night When They Don’t Have a Clue

Most marketers these days will tell you that the most convincing way to write your web copy is to solve a problem for your audience. You cannot expect your audience to read your site or watch your videos and guess whether you’re good for them or not. Instead, you need to  connect the dots for them. You have to be exceptionally clear of the solution you provide and it has to be the answer to the problem they’re struggling with.

But sometimes your audience isn’t aware of the problem. It may be that the problem is not acute enough yet for them to be entertaining a solution. Sometimes they know there’s a problem but they’re unable to define it. Maybe they’re not sure of the cause or maybe they can’t quite separate it from other difficulties they’re having. Whatever the case may be, if they are unclear about the problem, you’ll have difficulties providing solution-based marketing.

In these cases, you need to find a way to help them better understand their problem before you can provide a solution.

But how do you do that if they don’t know what their problem is? And how do you figure it out? As in other types of marketing, the best way to do this is to be as transparent as possible in the following ways.

What is solution-based marketing?

Solution-based marketing is the approach that focuses on the customer need behind particular businesses. In solution-based marketing you use a problem to shape your web copy. Don’t focus on the negative. Instead, present an opportunity for growth or potential for your customers. For instance, remember the McDonald’s catch phrase “ you deserve a break today”?  That is an example of (assumed) solution-based marketing.The problem that is not directly names is that people are stressed and overworked. McDonald’s is jumping in and suggesting (without directly saying it) they can provide the solution to that stressful existence. They can provide a much-needed break.

Solution-based marketing is its most efficient when the problem it’s solving for is known by the  potential customer. However, in the case of the McDonald’s example, the customer may not even realize how stressed they were until McDonald’s presented the solution in suggesting that they deserve the break.

How Do You Know There’s a Problem?

If your customer doesn’t know there’s a problem, how do you?

Every business has a problem the question is whether the business owner has taken the time to define and understand it.

In many cases what they recognize as the difficulty is not the actual problem but how it is presenting itself. This situation can be compared to a very painful headache. When most people have one, they refer to that as the problem or the reason they can’t do something or why they’re in a bad mood. However that’s just how the problem is presenting itself. There’s an underlying cause of the headache like maybe dehydration. While the headache feels like the problem, it’s really the dehydration that is at the center of the issue. If you really want to solve the problem, you have to fix the dehydration.

Most people look to stop the headache because that’s the pain. This is only a temporary solution. If you’re using solution-based marketing you want to alleviate the pain by getting to the heart of the problem, not just solving how it’s presenting. You can do this several ways.

Look at reviews

Examine your reviews and that of your top competitor. What are the phrases that keep coming up over and over again? Use those words and comments to shape your content and web copy headlines.

Talk to Your Customers

Create a panel of your most loyal customers or if you don’t have loyal customers, talk to some of your most recent ones. Ask them why they bought from you. And if they bought from anybody else. If so, ask them why they bought from that person.

They may bring up price, proximity, or referrals as the reasons why they chose one business over another. These are symptoms just like that headache. You want to dive deeper. Use the words they mention to get to what they’re really concerned about. For instance, if they refer to budget as the reason they selected someone, they’re likely watching the bottom line.

You want to make sure you talk about the danger of the competition that doesn’t stay within your budget or expensive upsells and charges that aren’t negotiated in the original conversation when creating content.

Look at Requests on Facebook

Have you ever noticed people on Facebook asking their following for recommendations on local businesses? When they do, very few people get right to their immediate need such as asking for a veterinarian in New York City. In most cases, they have a story to tell before they launch into their need.

Maybe they’ve gotten burned before or want to make sure they give all the background. Maybe they don’t want to waste anyone’s time or they want to get the ideal fit. But whatever the reason, they tell a story instead of asking for the referral directly.

Because of this, business recommendations can be a wealth of information. Peruse these in your local city group on Facebook or read your friends’ by clicking on the recommendations tab on the left hand side of your Facebook profile.

If you still can’t figure out what the problem is plaguing your potential customers and what’s keeping them up at night, do some research on your ideal demographic. By using your target demographic, you can search for their most common struggles. Through identifying their most common struggles, you can then create content around those difficulties and test how your audience responds to that content.

  • Is that content shared?
  • Do they click on it and interact with it?
  • Did they leave you comments or ask additional questions?
  • Is it a heavily visited post?

Any of these things can indicate that you have struck content gold and are providing something that is a great value to your audience. 

While you could create content that reflects all of the problems that your ideal demographic might face based on research, the easiest and most efficient way to figure out what’s bothering them is to do some A/B testing with questions on social media.

No one has time to write to every possible concern in the world. You have to narrow those things down. Focus on the top three reasons your customers may be struggling. Ask a couple of pointed, open-ended questions on social media that would help you better understand your active audience. Using this kind of crowdsourced R&D can assist you in creating valuable content without a lot of trial and error.

This tactic won’t completely remove the need to do some testing to see what people respond to but it will get you halfway there and provide you with good insights as to what people need from you most.

 

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to eradicate boring copy and bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Solopreneur Survival: The 5 Scariest Things About Working Alone (and How to Control Them)

By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide

You’re ready to go out on your own as a solopreneur, and you’ve got major butterflies in your stomach. Who could blame you? This decision is a huge one and can be scary if you aren’t careful. There are so many challenges that you’ll face, including the five below, that it can seem impossible to succeed. But it’s not! With some planning and proactivity, you can overcome these problems and become the success that you deserve.

Running Low on Motivation

Trying to stay motivated to complete your day-to-day tasks is hard enough when you’re employed by someone else. But when you’re your own boss, you’re going to find your energy flagging from time to time. And since you’re totally solo, you can’t take many days off! Thankfully, the Mayo Clinic outlined some of the easiest ways to stay motivated, which you can easily integrate into your lifestyle.

Start by setting goals that you know you can reach. Long-distance goals are essential, but you also need smaller ones that help you achieve the bigger picture. And, most importantly, try to make everything as fun as possible. If you’re genuinely enjoying your time as a solopreneur and having fun with it, you’re going to experience more success and stay as motivated as possible.

Doing Your Taxes

Nobody likes tax season, and few hate it more than solopreneurs. Unlike other businesses that have a broad base of income on which to draw for paying taxes, you’ll be paying taxes out of your own pocket. This situation can be frustrating and scary if you try to embark on it with no help. There are so many mistakes that one can make when doing taxes that, in the worst-case scenario, you might freeze up and struggle to get them done at all.

Thankfully, you don’t have to take this difficult step on your own. Instead, you can hire a professional tax firm to handle most of the difficult elements for you. And you can also consult tax-preparation apps online to help you get an idea of what to expect. Remember that, as a solopreneur, just about every element of your life can be used as a tax write-off in some way. So don’t hesitate to get smart — but stay legal! — with your returns.

Being Solely Responsible

People who go solo are going to find that they have to make all the big decisions for their business: Which computers and hardware to work from? Which software platforms to use? How to secure insurance and retirement benefits? Whom to consult for accounting, payroll, taxes, bookkeeping? How to safeguard client and company information? 

The answer to the last question is, happily, becoming a no-brainer: Cloud storage is becoming the standard solution for storing precious data that is both safe and easily accessible from almost anywhere with an internet connection. A safe spot in the cloud almost virtually ensures that you won’t run into info storage complications down the road.

Operations and logistics questions are sometimes easier to answer for solopreneurs. Often the harder part, in the face of so many potential pitfalls, is maintaining self-esteem. Remind yourself as often as possible that you’re an intelligent and skilled person who is working hard to become even more successful — you wouldn’t have gotten this far if you were anything else! 

Staying Afloat with Unreliable Income

Though you can make great money as a solopreneur once you get into the game, you’re also going to run into patches of low income. This situation can be a challenge to anybody — troubles with overhead costs, loss of security, or substandard benefits. However, you can overcome this problem if you’re clever about the ways you use your income.

Try to find ways to minimize your overhead costs, such as cutting back on office space you don’t need or reducing your travel expenses. And try to find inexpensive health insurance to keep yourself healthy while on the road. You may even want to consider moving to a less expensive city — such as Kansas City, for example, with its robust job market and low rents — to ensure that your income remains flexible and your overhead less demanding.

Being Lonely

Being a solopreneur is a thrilling and unforgettable adventure for most, but it can also be a lonely one. Taking advantage of industry groups, co-working spaces, chambers of commerce, local business meetups, and other business-related opportunities for networking can help you build a base of professional contacts and colleagues. 

The problem of loneliness and isolation can be farther-reaching, though, particularly if you travel a lot — and with a solo business, you almost certainly will, at least at first. Without a home base from which to operate, you might find you have a hard time meeting people outside of work. Thankfully, there are ways to expand your social network while traveling:

  • Hostels — Stay in these low-cost travel centers to not only save money but also meet unique people during your travels.
  • Day tours — Take a break and meet new people while visiting exciting areas in the city.
  • Night events — Sign up for a pub crawl, cooking class, or any other event that piques your interest, and meet a group of engaging and fun people while you’re doing it.
  • Couchsurfing apps — Meet people using the “hangout” function travel apps.

There are many simple activities that can help stave off some of the loneliness of being a solopreneur. However, you may also want to take steps to meet someone outside of work who’s interested in the same kind of lifestyle or activities as you — whether it’s sports, science, the arts, travel, or whatever. This kind of connection can help you beat loneliness (and focus on work during the hours it’s called for).

The many challenges of being a solopreneur aren’t impossible to overcome if you’re smart and persistent. With careful management of your time and energy, you can stay happy and focused, becoming a successful and satisfied person while on this life journey. So get out there and do it!   

Networking for Introverts

I’ve been doing some reading on a variety of topics. In so doing it struck me that many of our chamber events, particularly networking are really more geared to individuals who may be higher on the scale of extrovert. 

We are all on a continuum between 100% introvert and 100% extrovert. If you are fairly balanced between the two, then you might be an ambivert.  

Really the classification of whether you are an introvert has to do with how you recharge. 

Do you get your energy from being with a group of people and feeding off that energy and that charges you? – You are likely higher on the continuum toward extrovert. 

Does being with large groups of people actually pull energy from you and you get your energy from things like alone time, time spent with maybe 1 or 2 people, doing something, creative, active, etc? – Then you are on the other end of the continuum moving towards introvert.  If you are kind of in the middle with some characteristics of both you may be an ambivert.

It isn’t that introverts can’t connect, network and participate in large group settings, its just that particular activity doesn’t recharge their batteries.  So if you a reading this and saying, that is so me, then here are some tips for navigating business networking and making it work for you, while being true to yourself.

Redefine what Networking Looks like to You – Let’s call it Connecting, Building Relationships, don’t feel like you have to be this big outgoing personality.  Leverage your strengths, listen, be empathetic, ask a couple of key questions. Figure out your purpose for being there, like I am trying to hire people and ask if they know someone that can help.  Ask what they are trying to achieve, see how you can help.

Don’t Try to Work the Whole Room – Isn’t that a Relief!:)  Try to find kindred spirits, those more on the periphery, find people you truly connect with and go deeper with fewer more meaningful conversations.  Try for at least two.  Who knows where that might lead.

Focus on Asking Good Questions – Give it some thought, and then lean in and listen. Ask questions that can help you figure out how to be of use in building the relationship.  What excites you, what is the biggest challenge you are facing, where do you hope to take your business…..

Bring a Wing Man if that makes you feel better.  There is strength and comfort in numbers and at least you know one person there.

Don’t arrive late after everyone is connected and talking, it makes it harder and more intimidating to break in on a conversation.

Considering Volunteering to Work the Event – Gives you something to do, and and easy way of being introduced.

Ask your chamber staff or ambassadors for an introduction either in person or digitally.  State what you are looking for.  We all need help achieving our goals and our chamber is built on that belief among the members.

Hope you enjoyed this article and find it useful.  Stay tuned for more tips on leveraging the strengths you bring to the table as an introvert in building relationships for your business!

14 Ways to Attract the Best & Brightest Employees

Everyone wants to attract the best and brightest employees. After all, your team directly affects your ability to provide excellent customer service and that is essential to business success these days.

If you’re a very small business, you might not be looking for the best and the brightest but the willing and capable. That’s good too.

But either way, you want to attract good, quality employees just like everyone else. In today’s job market, with unemployment hovering around 3.6%, it’s a job hunter’s paradise and you’re likely hard-pressed to find the stars you want.

To further complicate that, those stars are likely already employed. So how do you become the kind of business that people want to work for? How do you get them to knock on your door instead of you having to chase them? Here are some ideas to help make you an employer of choice in your community.

Become an Employer of Choice and Potential Employees Will Seek You Out

The beauty of becoming an employer of choice–someone everyone wants to work for–is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. It’s also a lot easier than you might think but there are a couple of things you need to do before we talk about the facets behind a great workplace.

You must know who you’re looking for

Before you recreate your business to attract quality employees, you need to know who those employees are. Are you looking for seasoned professionals or someone with little experience who you can mold? Are you looking for a “hunter” personality or a “nurturer”? Maybe you only want naturally curious people, for instance. Yes, some of these things are position specific, but others reflect the type of culture you want to build.

One note of caution: this tip is by no means suggesting you scout for a particular demographic. That can get you into trouble legally through discriminatory hiring practices.

However, there are overarching themes you should be looking for that help you build the type of environment that will contribute to the service you want to provide your customers.

Know what your competition is doing

While you should never use your competition’s actions to hold you back by thinking, “They’re not doing it yet. We don’t have to.”, you should keep an eye on their hiring and recruiting practices. You don’t want them to pass you up.

You need to talk about yourself

This is hard for a lot of employers but it is absolutely necessary in becoming an employer of choice in the community. But don’t be a bore about it. Don’t tell people how great you are. Show them. Post what you’re doing, what you value, and celebrate your people doing it well for all to see. That’s the kind of thing that will get people excited about working for you.

Speaking of that. let’s jump right in to how you can become a highly desired business in your community (even if you’re teeny tiny):

  • Be flexible with work hours and/or provide work at home opportunities. It needn’t be full-time just give the flexibility.
  • Offer flexible start times. There are some businesses that this does not work for but others can adopt a coordinated window of when people start. Parents really appreciate this perk.
  • Have an attractive work facility or public spaces.
  • Offer safe, ample parking.
  • Make professional development a key component of what you offer. The chamber may provide some very cost-effective options for helping you do this. As a chamber member, your employees can attend their programming.
  • Insist that everyone use their vacation time and don’t create such an intense environment that they feel they can’t.
  • Market your ideas behind work/life balance.
  • Let your personality shine through all of your social media posts, web copy, and business communications.

Tips for Hospitality, Food Service, and Retail

These industries are notorious for the revolving door and it’s difficult to become an employer of choice in many of them because the things that office employers can do (like flexible start times) can’t be accomplished in these industries. But here are a few things you can offer such as:

  • Pay a higher wage for the area.
  • Schedule samplings and trial times. For instance, host paired tastings for employees after the restaurant closes or host a mini fashion show with paired items your employees put together from the store. It will make them better salespeople when they are suggesting dishes or outfits.
  • Celebrate your best employees and help everyone become your best.
  • Ask for employee suggestions and listen to them.
  • Empower them to do better by the customer.
  • Don’t make them feel secondary to the customer. Instead, help them feel like they are pivotal to customer experience and without them, there wouldn’t be customers.

With today’s low unemployment rate, finding quality employees can be a struggle. You will do much better in recruiting and hiring if they notice you and seek you out. As an employer of choice in your community, you will have your pick of future employees and that’s a good spot to be in.

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Start/Grow Your Business

Numerous resources exist to help you with growing your business in addition to your membership in the Tigard Chamber.  Here are just a few!  Many are also available in both English and Spanish. 


SCORE Portland – Non-profit dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground. SCORE offers free one-on-one business mentoring, a business resource center, and free workshops and webinars.  SCORE in English,  SCORE En Espanol

10 Steps to Starting a Small Business Guide (City of Tigard) – English, Espanol

Small Business Administration Portland – The U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses. – SBA in English,  SBA En Espanol

Small Business Development Center – Oregon’s SBDCs deliver our services to anyone who owns or operates a business or is planning to start a business. We work with businesses in every industry and at every stage of growth, from startups to well-established companies, from one employee to 500. In addition to no-cost confidential advising, we offer training and online courses that cover a wide range of business topics. Portland Center (English)  Portland Center, SBDC Latino Outreach Program

More Resources for Starting and Growing Your Business – English,Recursos Para Empresas