Business Planning for Transitional Aged Youth [Acknowledgement Credit]

We recently had the pleasure of working with Deena Saunders-Green, of Green Pines Media, who graciously mentioned amaraREPS in her newly released business planning workbook: Transitional Age Entrepreneurs. Deena, a graduate of California State University, has worked with at risk juveniles since her internship as a therapist in juvenile hall. Through her experience as a Southern California social worker and various other non-profit organizations, she was awakened to the disturbingly high rates of homelessness and lack of life skills among the youth she often served.

Transitional Age Entrepreneurs  is written specifically as a guide for young people who fall under the term “Transitional Aged Youth” (TAY) who would like to start a business, but need some guidance. This 100 page workbook is an especially extraordinary project, as the would-be entrepreneurs who fall under this category are considered to be high risk during a time when they are transitioning from foster or state care into society on their own (typically between the ages of 16-24). Young adults in this category are considered to be “at risk” because they are at an age where adolescents are normally faced with making several life-changing decisions. These could be things like getting ready for college, getting their first job, or moving out on their own. Because children in the foster care system, or those who have aged out may not have support and guidance of a typical family system, this makes an already stressful time even more challenging.

 

“I wanted to use indie publishing and podcasts to raise awareness about the challenges facing emancipated foster youth. The problem was, I knew nothing about starting a business. Social work taught me the value of collaboration, so instead of spending hours and hours on research, I sought business consultants with a proven track record. amaraREPS was the solution. They guided me through the process of building a solid business plan. They also made marketing much easier for me to understand.”

-Deena Saunders-Green, Green Pines Media

 

The publishing of Transitional Aged Entrepreneurs is just one of the ways Green Pines Media is raising awareness about the challenges facing transitional aged youth, with additional efforts in the form of speaking engagements on the subject.

amaraREPS is honored to have the opportunity to help Deena not only as an entrepreneur, but because she has dedicated her business to helping others. Because she has decided to help other young entrepreneurs, we’re doubly excited to be able to offer the unique and valuable expertise she has chosen to share with others. While this book is meant to serve transitional aged youth, I would also welcome you to share this with young folks who aspire to start their own businesses, as business planning is a crucial step in the entrepreneurial process.

The new workbook, as well as other publishings and information about Green Pines Media can be found on their website, www.GreenPinesMedia.com . You may also find the workbook on Amazon. Supporting the book helps to further Green Pines Media’s efforts to support children transitioning out of foster care, so please… spread the word or share this workbook with a kid that has BIG dreams and BIG ideas. 🙂

3 Ways to Turn Your Pile of Business Cards into Profit (Automate)

 

How many times have you gone to a networking event, Meetup, or gathering of sorts and collected a pile of business cards that you never ended up doing anything with? You may have your own system that you try to remember to stick to when you have time, but we’re all CEO’s and/or sales people… and we have a long list of things that need to be done when magic windows of time open up. Making connections and following up is a key part of the sales process that seasoned sales professionals often neglect. Those that don’t do this crucial step are leaving money on the table, so to speak.

I’ve been in sales for about 13 years, and very few things have changed. The fact that your connections matter, and the more that you have of them – the better, have not. Unfortunately the tunnel vision of getting to the next sale and hitting your quota so that you can eat, often get in the way of sales folks consistently adhering to the tried and true best practices of the trade. Which means follow up and nurturing of business connections can go by the wayside.

Did you know that 80% of sales require 5 follow-ups.

And that’s crazy, right?

Because good business connections = referrals, which are people who are looking for what you provide and are in the market for it at the moment. How fortuitous!

Yet… once we make a sale or a few, we’re hunting for fresh meat when we have a pile of relationships sitting on our nightstands, underneath coffee cups, hidden between cracks and crevices. And good luck finding that business card when we remember that we met a guy at an event that does that thing that we need. Some of us have created mini leaning towers of business cards that fall over if the office door slams a little too hard. Well, from this day forward let’s commit to creating follow-up procedures, because what I’m about to show you will change the game when it comes to dealing with the struggles that sales people often go through when it comes to keeping their administrative houses in order. I’ve stumbled upon a tool that makes follow-up less overwhelming and circumvents manual entry and all of the other things that sales people hate about their jobs; however, are also necessary evils.  Oh yes, and we can ditch having piles of business cards that eventually take up precious real-estate in our work and live spaces.

Sales Follow-up Option #1: Send out a Mass Email

 

So, here’s what I do. Prior to a trade show or major networking event, I draft my follow-up messaging. What I used to do was have my assistant put all of my contact from the event into a spreadsheet, and then I would send out a super generic email to everyone to follow-up and hope that folks would respond and setup a meeting with me. Lazy, right? Impersonal. And was I shocked that I got very little, if any response? Nope. However, if you aren’t currently using a CRM, this level of follow-up is the least that you can do. Because having everything in a system that you can market and send super valuable content to later is a step that most sales people don’t do. I’d say about 10% of the people that received my message post-event responded, and I’d at least get one opportunity and sometimes a new client with my shoddy, half-baked attempt at continuing the conversation and keeping those relationships going after our initial encounter.

Sales Follow-up Option #2: Schedule Your Follow-up Sequence

So option one isn’t the worst, but it’s definitely not the most effective. I still encourage my clients to draft follow-up messaging before an event, or even a generic everyday follow-up script (telephone or email). This way, you can get right to it and not have to waste brain space trying to figure out how to approach the conversation. Also, with scripts you can manage consistency with your sales teams to ensure that they are all communicating properly and following the best practices that your company has set forth as standard in order to create the best results. This is often hard to manage, but at least this is a standard that you can hold your sales people to. In your follow-up sequence you want to draft your initial email, your email that you send out after a certain number of days if you don’t get a response, and another email that you use to close this round of follow-up.

In the initial message, you can keep it brief and to the point; although, I would make sure that you personalize the message with the recipient’s first name and maybe add a quick reference to a conversation that you have just so that they know that they aren’t receiving a templated response (because it’s 2017). Like… go Yankees! Or something similar like that. Don’t overthink it.

The second message in the sequence can just be a quick check-in if you didn’t get a response to your initial message. Determine how many days out you want to send this message (3-7 business days is a good option generally). Share something of value so that the message isn’t so self centered. Include a link to a piece of (preferably branded) content that is relevant to the conference or event, or helps solve the companies problem. Or even better, if you have a legit referral, that may help you get a more immediate response as well.

Message number three can be a nice message that ends the follow-up sequence that tells them that you are here when they are more available for a conversation.

You can typically set these templates up in your CRM or you can email them using a drip sequence with a your email service provider. The only problem with this is that you may not be able to add personalization to these messages. Another cumbersome option is to manually send these messages out by hand, and calendar the dates for which you need to complete the different steps of the follow-up sequence.

Sales Follow-up Option #3: Sales Automation

So… the star of the show is automating this entire process. I stumbled upon the most amazing CRM a little over a year ago, and I’ve implemented it in a half dozen sales teams varying from 1 person to 10+, and with 100% success. Sales people love it, and CEOs and management are able to actually manage their sales process, have accurate forecasting and reporting, and did I mention that sales people ACTUALLY use it? I’m not going to get into all of the cool features that it has. But I will show you how I use it to manage my sales follow-up.

Introducing: Hubspot CRM

So let me illustrate how this works in steps…

  1. I prepare my templates for follow-up, whether it is a general follow-up sequence or a post-event sequence of sorts.
  2. I enter them into my Hubspot Sequence Library
    CRM Sales Sequences
  3. Once I get a new contact or a business card, I enter them into the system. Recently, Hubspot released this handy new feature where you can take a picture of a business card  and it enters the information in so that you don’t have to type it all. You may have to make some edits, because of course it isn’t perfect, but it makes for speedy input of data.
  4. Once the information is in, I enter the contact into the sequence, and customize the messaging for the contact. I can do this simply and easily from my email by just pulling in the template. It helps to have the template as customized to the conference or event, or even to your general company voice so that you don’t have to make many edits, and you can just drop each contact into the sequence, and voila! You’re done!Hubspot CRM Sales SequencesThe sequence keeps going until the last email is sent, or the recipient responds. Cool, eh? I mean, all sorts of CRMs have fancy tricks, but this one is the easiest to setup and deploy that I’ve found. There is all sorts of advanced stuff that you can do with the Hubspot CRM, oh, and did I mention that it’s FREE?

The Hubspot CRM is FREE with one small caveat. There are some PRO features, and sequences is one of them. The fee is $50/user; however, if you are interested in a FREE demo and would like this feature for you or your team, we can get you a pretty sweet discount as we are an agency partner at Hubspot.

If you’re interested, please let us know.

In the meantime, use these tips to and start making your follow-ups a priority.

 

 

What’s Your Go-To Marketing Recipe?

So, I decided to make some soup one day, and while I was doing so, I realized that a lot of the requirements to pull off a good soup recipe, are the same ones that are needed to make a great marketing campaign happen.

Here is a not so quick recap of what I realized…
(If you don’t have time to watch, read below):


 

  1. Your Why…
    Identify why you want to create a marketing campaign in the first place, so that if it gets complicated and overwhelming, you remember why you started this campaign in the first place. Is it because the cash register isn’t ringing? Is your business in a lull? All to often, business owners get caught up in the frenzy of running a business, that it can be hard to make time to market your business, even though it is an essential part of growing your business.
  2. Setting SMART Goals
    Specific
    Measurable
    Attainable
    Risky
    Timely
    This is important so that you can assess whether or not you hit your goal once your campaign is over.
  3. Plan!
    The most important part of the recipe that often gets overlooked… the plan. Make sure that you set yourself up for success to accomplish your goal and complete the campaign. Outline who is responsible for what, figure out what specifically you need, and make sure that you set aside time and/or money to bring the campaign to fruition.
  4. Tools
    Marketing tools are an essential component of executing a campaign. They can help you save money, time, and make replication easier. Don’t get overwhelmed if you are looking into new tools, and you see a number of options out there. Refocus on what you need, and think of future campaigns before re-evaluating your options. Ask for help if need be.
  5. EXECUTE
    Make the campaign happen!
  6. Assess/Measure
    It’s always important to reassess what worked and what didn’t, after ALL marketing campaigns. What was your ROI? Did you hit you goal? What would you do different next time to make this recipe/campaign better, or is it best to not do this again, and try something new? Whatever the answer is, don’t get discouraged if you get less than stellar results. What you learned during the process of the campaign is really important for future campaigns. And, whatever you do, don’t give up on marketing your business if it has been a struggle. It takes practice, and it’s harder to make an impact on your business when you are reactive vs. proactive. People can smell the desperation a mile a way, so try to do something consistently every month until it becomes your go-to recipe (strategy) for success.

 

How Do I Handle Online Reputation Management?

How to handle online reputation management is a question that plagues both businesses and individuals alike.  A negative sentiment can cause a business loss of both revenue and trust.  Whereas the wrong perception of a person can strip them of job security or even bring retaliation from others.  About 5 years ago, many Facebook users were changing their real names to nicknames in an effort to keep any “negative activities” from potential employers.  The case of Lindsay Stone is a severe one, in which a single picture ruined her life.  What started as an inside joke between friends became a public controversy with many sensitive layers, finally resulting in a lost job and hate mail from veterans and their supporters.  Similar things have happened to huge companies, where the opinion of an individual created a PR nightmare for the corporation (ie. Chick-Fil-A scandal).  In addition, websites like Yelp are thriving and a common point of reference for consumers, a negative review can destroy a hard earned reputation.  The major takeaway is that if you do not monitor and maintain your brand’s image then it is at the mercy of the masses.  Here are some tips to keep you and your company in a truthful, positive light.

1. CLAIM IT – Gather all urls similar or even close to your name.  This tactic will hinder imposters from acting on the behalf of your company in an effort to ride your coat tails or simply damage your image.  Value and urgency of this process increases as you gain notoriety, also be sure to remember social media platforms, review sites, YouTube and other video sharing sites.  These efforts will keep your brand, customer loyalty and satisfaction in high ranking.

2. MANAGE IT – Make sure you have consistency in your voice, verbiage is key, and also be clear on the use of each platform.  Twitter is primarily to field client questions or concerns, while Facebook is used for reminder advertising, client interaction and company updates.  Set up canned responses so if there is any negative interaction, it gets resolved appropriately.  Also, make sure everything posted is of high quality.  This sets the tone of professionalism, giving current and future clients insight on how you run your company.

3. WATCH IT – At this point you cannot only pay attention to what you are putting out, you must be cognisant of your five W’s: Who, What, Where, Why and When.  Have you ever googled your own company?  You should, it will allow you to keep tabs on anything brewing online that isn’t in line with your brand.  You may find people complaining about you or your product/service and you will be able to rectify the situation, creating a better experience for that client and other potential clients.  Companies can also find knockoffs of their product just by looking up the hashtags they have created, so it is great practice to monitor those as well.  All of this will enable you to be proactive vs reactive to potential threats, which is essential in global business today.

Some people are unsure on how to do online reputation management, or just don’t have the time for it.  Drop us a line and we can help you out!

3 Reasons to Blog for Your Business

Writing a blog can be a tedious task for those entrepreneurs who are always busy, running around at breakneck speed, and attempting to build their business. BUT, being a consistent blogger has great benefits for your business, and here are 3 main points to help you consider making time for such a rewarding task that pays off in the future:

1. Reputation, Credibility and Relevance

Frequent blogging proves, to people looking for your products or services, that you are active and expert within your field. Writing about current projects, clients, events and updates in your business also allows people to have a “sneak peek” into your company.  This is important because it gives potential clients an opportunity to check you out and see the results you are creating for others. They will also be able to see if your company can service their needs and what kind of results that they can expect from you. If you can prove that you know what you’re doing, people are more apt to trust in you.

2. Search Engine Optimization

Having a consistent stream of new content allows your site to be indexed more by the search engines. Google and other search engines are looking for websites with a lot of content, so that they can better understand what makes sites most relevant to the people searching for that content.  Why not give them what they want?  PLUS, adding pictures, videos and interactive content will keep people on your website longer, which is also great for the user experience, and supports your goals of improving your ranking.

3. Lead Creation

If you are ready to expand your business but don’t want to rely on doing a ton of time-consuming networking, dredging for referrals or paying for leads, then this is for you. With frequent posting, leads to increased traffic, increased traffic begets a greater chance that you will generate qualified leads that want more information about what you specifically offer. Don’t be shy, put a call to action within your posts.  If people like what they read, encourage them to reach out for more information, share with others, or engage in some way with you or the content. People that like what they read are more apt to download your free e-book, schedule a consultation, or sign up for your mailing list.

Branding guru, Simon Mainwaring, states “brands, and their advertising partners, must wake up and define themselves with clarity, consistency and authenticity…otherwise they just might find themselves shouting in a ghost town.” Luckily for you, amaraREPS is well versed in all the above.  If you don’t know where to start, and need some help, contact us for a free consultation!

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