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How to Make Better Decisions When You Call the Shots

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A former president of the United States once famously described himself as the “Decider in Chief.” On one level, that’s comical. On another level, it’s instructive, and succinctly so. The person who possesses the most decision-making power is the person who will be judged for the success or failure of those decisions. End of story.

That sounds a lot like a business owner, yeah?

When entrepreneurs are first starting their small businesses, I wager most aren’t thinking of themselves as a “Decider in Chief.” But from day one, they are. That’s the awesome and terrifying reality of working for yourself, a reality that only gets more rollercoaster-like as your business grows. You get to call all the shots. (Yay!) If they work, you’ve earned the glory. (Woohoo!) If they don’t, you’ll risk feeling like a failure. (Gulp.)

How you experience that rollercoaster-like entrepreneurial journey is directly influenced by the quality of your decision making. I actually think of them as one and the same thing: so goes your decision making, so goes your small business. Full stop.

Looking for the least turbulent ride possible as a small business owner? Then work on your decision-making skills. The more intelligent your decisions, the smoother your ride will be. That’s not to say decisions are easy; oftentimes, decisions are quite hard. But assuming you make smart decisions regardless of their difficulty, the tracks those decisions lay ahead of you will provide for a smoother and more successful journey.

There are many ways to develop your decision-making savvy. Experience alone in the wild business world is a good teacher. Experience-based learning, however, can often be reactionary. If you care to complement experience with a proactive counterpart, then invest some brainpower into learning and using a strategic framework

What Is a Strategic Framework?

Ask someone, “What is strategy?” and you’ll likely receive a dizzying array of responses. Strategy is challenging to pin down in discrete terms because (in most cases) it encompasses a composite of inputs: values, vision, market conditions, competitive advantages, intellectual property, available resources, intended outcome(s), etc.

A framework can help to organize such a fluid concept into focused and actionable terms that lend direction to your decision making. Said differently: a framework is what small businesses owners like you, me, Pat, and others need to harness our ideas into actions.

Here’s one textbook definition of a strategic framework: “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.”

The “plan” part of that definition is crucial. Applying a framework produces the plan. Without a framework, you don’t have a plan; instead, you have—at best—a set of loosely connected actions into which you’re investing time, energy, dollars, and other resources. These actions will hopefully, maybe produce desirable results and, thus, are maybe (but not necessarily) strategic in nature.

If that wishy-washy existence makes you squeamish, then you’d do well to adopt a strategic framework.

Frameworks vary. Some are surgical in purpose, like a SWOT analysis. Others are more mindset-oriented, like Blue Ocean. Some are built bottom-up within an organization to enable unified performance, like Objective and Key Results (OKRs). Others strive to enable unified performance from a top-down approach, like Objective, Goals, Strategies, and Metrics (OGSM).

There is no one right framework versus another. Frameworks are tools (a theme I’ll return to later in this article). How you wield a tool usually matters far more than the tool itself and/or in combination with other tools.

I believe in the use of several complementary strategic frameworks. If you’re a nerd like me, think Voltron. The collective is more powerful than any individual component. That said, I also believe in having a central strategic framework that anchors thoughtful decision-making at the business/enterprise-level. It’s the point of origin of all of our intentional actions.

For us at SPI Media, that’s the OGSM framework.

I was first exposed to the OGSM framework in my post-graduate leadership development program at Johnson & Johnson. This framework revolutionized how I thought about strategy development. It taught me how to not only nurture strategic ideas but rather, and far more importantly, develop strategic plans that connect vision (i.e., raw ideas turned into directional objectives) with outcomes (i.e., results described as goals) through deliberate actions (i.e., focused strategies).

The OGSM framework comes from the corporate world and isn’t as shiny as other options, like OKRs. That’s just fine with me because whatever it may lack in shininess it makes up for in substance.

Components of the OGSM Framework

I reeducate and reemphasize the OGSM framework every year with my SPI Media team during our annual strategic planning summit. In fact, the slide above comes courtesy of my strategic planning presentation deck. It summarizes the four key components of the model:

Objectives

  • A vision-based direction that aims to achieve something big
  • Can be quantitative in nature, further quantified by its goals
  • Must empower the company’s vision and mission statements as well as its core values

Goals

  • Quantifiable results that prove the objective was achieved
  • Must have at least one goal per objective; can have multiple goals
  • Goals are delegated to others consistent with their roles and responsibilities

Strategies

  • Prioritized work to serve in the pursuit of achieving the goals to which it is associated
  • Can be a combination of projects (one-time efforts) and/or practices (ongoing work)
  • Declared strategies should not be confused for tactics and tasks

Metrics (aka Measures)

  • Data points to collect, analyze, and review along the way to effectively govern the work
  • Over time, the analyzed metrics should produce trends that suggest positive progress
  • Tracking too many metrics is counterproductive; concentrate on the critical few KPIs

This framework provides a high-fidelity way of organizing your decision making at the strategy-level based upon the goals you’re aiming for to achieve an objective. When decision making is refined in this way, it reduces the waste of precious resources (e.g. time, money, energy) and elevates the probability of success. Success, however, is not guaranteed.

Caution: Strategic Frameworks Do Not Guarantee Success

Strategic frameworks—all of them—are tools, nothing more. Like any other tool, success comes not from its innate qualities but how it is used. So don’t make the mistake of believing that the quick adoption of a strategic framework will make all your dreams come true.

Instead, proceed with cautious optimism. Using a strategic framework will feel weird at first. That’s natural, so don’t stop at the awkward feeling. Also don’t stop using it when it fails to deliver upon your goals and objectives, because—frankly—that’s likely the first few times.

The not-so-secret secret to deriving value from a strategic framework is to use the framework repetitively. It’s muscle development, plain and simple, with the “muscle” in this context being your strategic brain—your critical thinking and decision-making abilities. The use of the tool builds and strengthens the muscle. At first, you will be weak. If you remain committed to the work, you will become strong. And from strength comes success.

How to Apply the OGSM Framework in Your Small Business

Start small. Start slow. Revisit frequently. That’s the best, most distilled and effective way to begin applying this framework, or any other, to your small business.

Specifically for the OGSM framework, I advise entrepreneurs to consider the following approach:

  1. Define your goals.
  2. Unify those goals into an overarching objective.
  3. Brainstorm all of the possible strategies you could choose to invest in that may help you achieve those goals and, thus, the objective.
  4. List out your key operational constraints including time/bandwidth to do work, monetary budgets, availability of other types of resources, relationships that may help, etc.
  5. Whittle down your strategies list to the critical few that you believe will generate the results you need to accomplish your goals that you can make work within your declared constraints
  6. Select a shortlist of metrics (1-3) that you’ll track over time as signals of your progress toward achieving your goals and objective.

Why You Should Start with Goals

There are two main reasons to start with goals:

  1. In my experience, very few entrepreneurs actually know what their goals are. Oh, I’m sure most think they know. But when I talk to small business owners, advise startup founders and CEOs, and generally participate in this spectrum of conversation in entrepreneurial communities, I’m reminded just how rare it is that someone has credibly defined goals in quantitative, rational, and achievable terms. If such high-quality goals don’t exist, then it’s arguable why you should bother developing an organized plan of strategic actions.
  2. Goals are a good “stage one rocket booster” for strategy development. Engaging at this level of the model first usually goes faster with less friction as compared to starting elsewhere within the model. That positive momentum is the “booster” needed to propel further good work elsewhere within the model.

If you’re new to organizing your decision-making in this way, then destress your work further by narrowing the timespan of your strategic plan to just three or six months. There is no rule that says you must develop a twelve-month annual plan on the first go.

Start Small with Your Chosen Strategic Framework

Remember: success with any strategic framework comes with repetition. So consider building one for the next three months, then execute against that plan, then analyze and evaluate the results. Learn from that experience and apply those learnings into the next three-month strategic plan. And so on and so forth until you’ve developed enough new strength and confidence with this caliber of strategic decision-making that you feel ready to take on a six-month strategic plan.

It’s easy to get lost in the trees and forget to see the forest when you engage in intentional strategy development. So pull back from time to time and revisit why you’re doing this work in the first place: to make smarter decisions that actually lead to the results you want for your small business while smoothing out the ride.

If the process and/or results aren’t to your liking, then chuck the plan you have and start over. You are your own Decider in Chief, after all. Embrace the heck out of that awesome and terrifying power, and you’ll be a-okay.

To learn more about building your business, read my guide, The SPI Beginner’s Guide to Business Fundamentals.

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Marketing

The Benefits of LinkedIn Ads

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LinkedIn wouldn’t necessarily be the first platform that comes to mind when considering social media advertising. However, if you are a B2B organisation, the platform can allow you to reach professionals across the globe. LinkedIn allows you to generate brand awareness across targeted professional sectors and reach out to decision makers directly.

Advertising is all about targeting the right people. Users of LinkedIn tend to be older, professional and have a higher income than the average user of other social media platforms. So if that is your target market, LinkedIn offers a great opportunity to reach them. Professionals use LinkedIn for business networking purposes so users are generally in work mode so engaging with them should be easier than on other platforms.

Here we outline the six main advantages that LinkedIn Ads have over other social media platforms.

1. Variety of ad formats

LinkedIn offers a number of options for advertising:

  • Sponsored content – this type of ad appears in people’s feeds, it is the least personal form but good for promoting content from your business page and encouraging people onto it.
  • Text ads – these are only viewable by people using a desktop. With these you can choose the audience you want to target and you only pay per click.
  • Message ads – these appear in users’ inboxes and are proven to be good for conversion.
  • Video ads – great for storytelling, you can also retarget users who have watched the video, aiding conversion rates.
  • Dynamic ads – these allow you to fully personalise your ad by showing user’s photo, name and title within the advert.

2. Generate high quality leads

The ability to target professionals and gain good quality leads is the primary benefit of LinkedIn ads. Users are looking at work-related content so will be more open to solutions for their business needs.

With more than 800 million users in over 220 countries and territories, LinkedIn is the biggest social network for professionals and businesses alike. 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions and the platform has been rated the best for lead generation by marketers.

By using LinkedIn advertising, you can access their Lead Accelerator feature. This feature allows businesses to follow their best prospects and offer more targeted ads directly to them. This includes remarketing to website visitors, which helps nurture leads, making them more likely to become customers.

3. Targeting

LinkedIn allows you to target specific demographics, enabling you to create much more personal advertising campaigns. Facebook lets you target interest and behaviour based factors however LinkedIn is the right medium to use if you want to target individuals based on their industry and job. You can filter your audience by:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Degree subject
  • Job title
  • Seniority
  • Industry
  • Member skills

These variables make the platform the ideal choice for B2B organisations wanting to target decision-makers.

Entrepreneurs executing on a business idea
photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash

4. Remarketing

LinkedIn allows you to specifically target people who have shown an interest in your products. Matched audiences show you which users have visited your website and the pages that they went on. This allows you to target them with specific ads in the hope that they will return to your website and convert to a customer.

Matched audiences can be created with:

  • Account Targeting – Uploading a CSV of company names to LinkedIn allows you to target decision-makers.
  • Website Retargeting – Target the users who have visited your website and re-engage them to aid conversions.
  • Contact Targeting – Uploading a CSV of email addresses of your contacts to LinkedIn enables you to nurture your leads and prospects even further.

5. Increased conversion rates

The ability to target specific groups, nurture them and remarket to them will increase your conversion rates.

A year-long study by HubSpot found that on average, LinkedIn ads convert users to leads at a 6.1 per cent conversion rate. This compares to 2.58 per cent for Google search ads.

MD of exhibition stand contractor Black Robin Exhibits, Alan Jenkins, managed to achieve a conversion rate of 8.2% with a LinkedIn campaign earlier this year, he said “We were delighted with the results, it wasn’t a huge investment, we could set the budget and the conversion rate was fantastic”.

6. High control

A big benefit of LinkedIn advertising is the high degree of control that you can have. You can set a specific start time for your advert and specify when it will end. As well as this, you can set daily budgets to ensure your advertising costs are kept at the right level for your business.

Businessman using LinkedIn app

Conclusion

Setting up a LinkedIn campaign is not straight-forward due to the variety of advert types and different ways of targeting. But the platform has a number of advantages over other social media sites if your target market is professional businesspeople.

B2B organisations will be able to target specific demographics with personal ads, nurture and remarket to them. All this will increase conversion rates, making LinkedIn a valuable marketing tool.

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Beginners’ guide to Instagram Reels

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Get ‘Reel’ results

If you haven’t already heard the news, according to Instagram, they’re no longer a photo-sharing app. Shocking, right? The company announced they want to start focusing more on video content, like that offered through Instagram Reels, as opposed to being the original square photo-sharing app they’re known for being.

“At Instagram, we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now we’re focused on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging.” — Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO

This makes total sense because short, engaging videos (shown to us by hyper-accurate algorithms) have proven to keep our attention more effectively than ever before. So effectively that 93% of marketers who use video say it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Additionally, users are twice as likely to share video content with their friends and family than any other type of content, including social media posts, blog posts/articles and product pages.

So if you’ve been hesitant to start making Instagram Reels or just needed a little encouragement, we’ll cover the basics, give you some ideas on what content to create for your business or brand, and help you understand the data behind it all.

But, before we do, let’s talk about why Instagram Reels needs to be included in your marketing strategy.
What are Reels and why should you start using them?

Person recording elephants on smartphone

Instagram Reels rolled out in late 2020 and the feature has continued to increase in popularity. Reels provide creators with a way to produce and share short, engaging videos using a collection of mainstream music and user-generated audio.

With more advanced editing tools, such as speed controls, filters and transitions, you can effortlessly edit multi-clip Reels up to 30 seconds long, entirely within the Instagram app, which is amazing if you don’t want to use multiple apps and extra equipment to film, edit and post to social media.

Reels are definitely a useful feature of the platform as a whole that is worth exploring. When it comes to metrics, Reels receive 22% more engagement than videos posted directly to a feed. In addition to IGTV, Live and Stories, Instagram Reels are another great tool for you to use to get noticed on the platform and reach potential customers.

Nearly two-thirds of Instagram users are between 18 and 29, with 18- to 34-year-olds the most active age group. That means there’s a ton of opportunity for businesses to be discovered by your target audience on this platform. So, if your Instagram strategy needs a boost to stay top-of-mind and ahead of the competition, Reels could be your solution.

Related: How to plan an Instagram marketing strategy to attract business

Instagram Reels small business content ideas

If your business is active on Instagram but hasn’t posted a Reel just yet, don’t worry, it’s not too late to start. Accounts that don’t follow you can find your content while scrolling on the Explore page, which is why it’s so important for brands to be active where their target audience is.

Don’t let lack of inspiration hold you back, here are some simple and effective video ideas:

Educational content‍

The best way to increase your reach and engagement is to give your viewers value. If you can create something that is helpful, users are more likely to like it, share it with their friends and follow you for more. That ultimately, tells the algorithm your content is worth being promoted to others on the app.

For example, you can create shareable workout, cooking or crafting videos just by showing your step-by-step process.

Showcase your products‍ or services

Highlight what makes your business unique with Reels dedicated to each product or service you offer. This could be a tutorial on how to best use your products or a way to update customers on new offerings.

Create original content‍

Easier said than done, but I know that behind-the-scenes content, user-generated content and FAQs are always a big hit with loyal audiences.

You also have a few different ways to get trending and possibly even viral. You can use trending hashtags, popular audio clips or filters and get discovered among other videos with those elements.

Re-creating a popular trend while highlighting your brand is one of the quickest (but not the easiest) ways for business growth with Instagram Reels.

How to optimize your Instagram Reels

Improvised video recording setup

Improvised video recording setup

Like with any social media platform, there are always hidden steps you can take to increase the likelihood your content gets seen and please the almighty algorithm.

For example, many users who create content for TikTok have started uploading those same videos as Reels. Seems like a logical time saver, right? Well, Instagram has not only clearly advised against re-posting content that’s “visibly recycled from other apps,” it has also updated its algorithm to recognize and prevent it from performing well on their platform.

That being said, here are some tips on how to optimize your Reels for the best results:

  1. Try to record (vertically), edit and add effects to your reels from within the app, rather than uploading a video you’ve created elsewhere.
  2. It’s also important to use text overlays, hashtags, audio, and descriptive captions to let Instagram add you to an algorithm relevant to the content.
  3. @ other accounts, when appropriate. Just like hashtags, you’ll get more reach by including their name in your content.
  4. Use custom thumbnails. Doing so will make it easier for users to find videos they want to watch when scrolling on your account. It’s also a great way to incorporate your branding and help your feed look cohesive.
  5. Sharing your Reels to your Stories and even on your feed will get more people to see it. You can share it when you post it or, if you have posted enough that day, share on a day when you don’t have anything else to post.

Algorithms are constantly changing, and not always for the better. Doing just a little bit of research to stay on top of current trends and best practices will pay off in the long run.

Related: 3 ways to use Instagram Stories for digital storytelling

Understanding Instagram Reels Insights

Bodybuilder recording workout

Bodybuilder recording workout

Finally, you’ll need a way of knowing if your hard work is paying off.

Instagram has included a dedicated tab, which is similar to the Insights tab on your static posts and videos, that details the metrics relating to your Reels. With the Instagram Reels Insights, business owners can see important metrics like accounts reached, plays, likes, comments, saves and shares.

By knowing what type of accounts you’re reaching with your Reels and which content formats are most engaging with your audience, you’ll be able to adjust your content to better serve your target audience and grow your account.

Measuring these stats is the best way to make sure all the efforts you’re putting in to engage your fans is actually working.

Once you have a good idea of where your metrics are on average, try experimenting with the time of day, type of content and hashtags you use when posting your Reels. Start thinking of ways to get in front of new users with videos like tutorials, bloopers or more user-generated content. You could even share customer testimonials or success stories for added social proof.

Final thoughts on Instagram Reels

I know I personally struggled with the idea of including yet another item on my content creation checklist, but I’ve found that even just repurposing a few old clips from videos on my YouTube channel into Reels has proved effective in increasing my engagement and reach on Instagram.

Exploring a new feature of social media can be intimidating and overwhelming at times, but Reels seems to be a fun new way to expand your social media presence through the use of short videos. I recommend testing it out and seeing how well it works for you and your audience. You might find it to be your new favorite tool in your social media strategy.



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5 Strategies to Drive Customer Engagement

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Engaging with your customers is the key to driving sales and growing your company. However, some businesses are not sure how to do this effectively. It means that when they finally manage to engage with their customers, they are not entirely sure what worked. Knowing how to drive customer engagement is all about knowing your customers.

Here are 5 strategies that you can use to drive customer engagement.

Customer engagement
photo credit: Edmond Dantès / Pexels

Communication is the Key

Communication between your company and your customers is fundamental to engagement. If your customers are trying to talk to you about your products or services, then you should listen to them. Avoiding contact will simply drive them to another company.

Here are some tips you should follow.

1. Listen to Your Customers and Never Assume

If you have a customer that approaches you on social media or any other channel, it is vital that you engage them in a conversation. Their initial message might not be the complete story, so you need to work with them to find the right answer.

Once you have found out what the customer wants, go through your products with them and pinpoint what works for them. Your sales team must never assume that they know what their customers want, or they might find the customer goes elsewhere.

2. Seek Help with Engagement

Sometimes no matter what you try, you are unable to engage with your customers or retain them. It may be that there are strategies that you haven’t considered or lack the knowledge to implement.

This is where companies such as TCC Global can help. By helping you and your marketing team to engage with your customers and create brand loyalty, you can start to grow your business.

3. Respond Quickly to Questions

There is nothing more frustrating for customers than asking a question on social media and not getting a reply. Even a delay of a few hours can be enough to cause someone to look elsewhere.

If your business has a presence on social media, then it is vital that it is monitored at least during business hours.

Selling to existing customers

4. Chat to Your Customers

There is a temptation to use your means of communication to just sell products. While this is an important part, there should also be more customer engagement through conversation.

If you find something interesting, tell your customers on social media. Reply to them if they answer you and keep the conversation going.

5. Blog About the Popular Questions

If you are seeing a trend in questions your customers are asking, then it may be a good idea to write a blog post about it.

Blog posts will drive visitors and potential customers to your website and from there they may go to your products. Answering these popular questions will also save time for your customers and build loyalty.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – 5 strategies to drive customer engagement. These are just a few of the ways your company can build a relationship with its customers and build a loyal following.

It is important to remember to stay engaged with your customers even after they make a purchase.

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