All I need are more customers

So, is that a marketing issue or a business issue?

Let me start by saying that marketing is a big business practice and is best left to the pros. We know that a small business isn’t a little big business, it is a whole other animal. Marketing, and for that matter, finance, HR and operations are functional areas for big business. Businesses big enough to have groups of people with those specific responsibilities.

Your job, as a small business owner is to make your customer ecstatically happy. That’s it.

How you do that is:

Work from your Sweet Spot

When you can give the best of yourself (and your team), you can’t help but put out the best service. When you work from your strengths and your passion, you live and breath what you do. You gain mastery.

Be who you are. If you are trendy and cutting edge – own it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to ‘tone it down’ or your customers can’t keep up. You will attract the customers that appreciate you being out there on the edge and sharing it all with them. If you are comforting and helpful – own it! Make tea a part of your service, make your space cozy, explain what to expect so your customers are comfortable. If you are utilitarian and to the point – own it! Make transactions seamless. Stay out of the way and let your customers do it.

Help your customers get what they really want

Your customer doesn’t want to just buy a sweater. She wants to know it is the latest trend, show her pictures of that sweater on the catwalk or worn by trendsetters. It is important for her to feel on top of what is new, help her do that. Or she wants help buying it, choose several that will look great on her and help her see why they are great for her. It is important for her to feel less stress about the choosing and buying process. Or she knows exactly what she wants and you need to make the transaction as seamless and quick as possible. It is important for her to be done with this task.

This applies to restaurants, accounting and car repair, too.

Tell that story in everything you do

AKA Marketing. From the moment someone comes across your business, you want them clear on what they can expect from you. Your advertising tells that story, your place exudes that story and the experience is exactly what your customer would expect.

Your environment, from your premises, to the phone experience to your packaging all tell that same story.

Your team is clear on that story, they buy into it and they share it, too.

The experience is set on autopilot. Of course each person is treated as an individual, but the routine is set up to be, well, routine and automated.

The value exchanged on both sides is sufficient that your customer is happy and you are able to build capacity to continue to add to that experience.

Your customers become your raving fans

Who needs marketing when you have a team of raving fans telling everyone how awesome you are?




Working towards creating Your Effortless Business means trying new ways. Some will work and more won’t. If we view each non-working iteration as failure, we will slowly beat ourselves up and stop trying. But, if we view each as a learning experience and a way to also find out what won’t work we can keep trying until it works.

You only fail when you give up. – Johnny B Truant

This was a revelation for me. I’ve tried many things that didn’t work, and I’d walk away disappointed. Instead, I should have took what I learned and tried the next iteration.

That’s what I’m doing with my latest project and I will post updates here for you to follow along.

What Kind of Roofer is Janet?

“Janet. This is my friend Mark. He’s the one who made your proposals look so great.”
“Thank you Mark, I hardly recognized myself.” Mark chuckled.
“No problem, Janet. Mike says you have a great business, but you may need some help with your branding and marketing.”
“Branding! Isn’t that for much bigger companies than mine?”

“Every business has a brand. Your brand is how people perceive you. Without any other clues, people will think about you based on their experience with others like you. From what Mike says, you are different than the others and there are distinct people you like to work with. Consciously working with your brand, helps people see you for who you are. You’ve been in business for 8 years, right? You have many happy customers?”

“They call us back when they need more work done, but of course that doesn’t happen often.”

“Do they refer you?”

“Sometimes, I think.”

“Do you ask people how they heard about you when they first call you?”


“That’s a start. You need to know how people are coming across you. Secondly, you need to make it easy for happy customers to refer you. But these are tactical questions. First, we need to figure out what kind of roofing company you are and who you like to work with.”

“My favourite is helping people who are having a tough go of it to get a warm safe home.”

Mike and Mark looked at each other. “Janet, it’s awesome that you want to help people, but you can’t build a business helping people who are not able to pay. That doesn’t mean you can’t help them, only that your business needs customers who can pay. Maybe you could get involved with Habitat for Humanity.  They need skilled people with tools to help. Your business can support them; but it needs to be a business making money, first.”

Janet looked at Mark and Mike. She had been giving this a lot of thought and had come to some conclusions. Should she share them? She took a deep breath and plunged in “I think I’ve realized that I need to hear people appreciate the work we do as well as pay for it.”

Mike smiled. “Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Recognize that and work with it.”

“Mike, you really listened to people and made sure we addressed their specific concerns.I feel really good about the work we’ve been doing lately and it’s great having more money, too.”

“What do you think, Mark? The Roofer who listens? Your Roof, your way?”

“The Careful Roofers”

“I like that. We are careful.”

“And you care for your staff and the community.” Mike added.

“What name are you using now? It just says Roofer on your truck.”

“Some people are uncomfortable with women as roofers.”

“But you don’t want to work for them, do you?”

“I don’t want to exclude people. I will work for anyone who needs us.”

“Be who you are and let people chose you because of who you are instead of who they think you are. I would think being a crew of women and calling yourself the Careful Roofers would attract certain people.”

“But not everyone.”

“Exactly. Why would you want to work for someone who is not happy having you working for them”

“Mike said you wanted to see a bunch of my estimates.”

“Yes, I would like to put together a branding package for you.”

Mark showed Janet some branding projects he had done for other clients. Among them was various pieces for a Ed’s Garage: blank estimate form, invoice and flyer, all with the same logo and colours.

Story = Marketing

Abel Martinez Volunteer Docent Guide Piedras Blancas Lightstation, San Simeon, CA telling a storyMarketing is having a great story and telling it.

Your story is what you do and how you do it. It’s your history, your culture and your mission. It’s your vision, your dreams and your plans. It’s who you work with, how you interact and what you do for them.

Your story is what makes people want to work with you. It’s what turns you into a person or company who is likeable and trustworthy.

Predictability = Brand Image
People want your story and how you tell it to be predictable. They want to know it’s you, every time.  They don’t want to confuse you with someone else and they want to follow your continuing narrative.

Environment = Media
Your people want to come across it where they are looking. They want it in a way they can relate and with language they understand.  Which media you choose is based on where your audience hangs out and which ones make you comfortable.

Team Building = Content
Your people want to know that you are there for them and that there are others there, too. They want a conversation and they want to be heard. Everything you say should speak to them and help them know you care. That, of course, assumes you do care.

Well Paid = Business Model
Your people want what’s fair for both of you. They want to reciprocate when you give them good stuff. Your price, your products and your offer are all part of your story. They tell people if they belong working with you.

That’s marketing, branding, usp, tactics, social media, and strategy all rolled into one story. Your story isn’t just about what you say, it’s what you do and what others say about you.  You can’t just make it up. Not any more.

The basics of your story answer these questions:

Who are you and what do you do?
With whom do you work best?
What do you do for them?
Where do you reach them?
How do you relate to them?
What do they want to hear from you?
What’s your offer to help them?
What’s your core message?
How can you wrap that to make it easily communicated?

Bernadette Jiwa tells us, in today’s post, what goes into our brand story and how everything we do communicates it.

Here’s Your Effortless Marketing Plan Worksheet. Your Story and How You Tell It

Answering those questions will give you a start on your story and ideas about how and where to tell it.

photo by Mike Baird

Overwhelmed? Don’t Panic!

What to do when you are overwhelmed
I had a dream this morning. One of those anxious, nothings-working dreams. As I was waking up, The thought came: ‘they will know your mind’. In the dream, it wasn’t fully a good thing, it was a double edged sword.
I still haven’t figured it out fully, but as I was thinking it through, I got the idea for this post.

Don’t Panic
Douglas Adams had it right on the cover of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Universe. When you feel overwhelmed your body releases adrenaline and you respond with the fight or flight instinct. This is not helpful when your overwhelm is caused by a staff or customer problem! Unless there happens to be a saber toothed tiger bounding towards you, all else is manageable. This response was designed to deal with saber toothed tigers, not a mix up at the bank. Remember: you are the boss of you. You can control this.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes, Smile. Smiling releases endorphins and makes the people around you respond by smiling. We mirror the people around us as mechanism to fit in. Again, this is a pretty ancient survival tactic. If you weren’t part of a tribe, you died.

Slow down
I know, it seems counter-intuitive that you need to slow down to go faster.
When you go fast, you mess up, you drop things, you make mistakes and you don’t do a good job. This means it takes longer or you end up doing it again.

When you slow down, you think it through, you get it all, in the right order and faster. Your mind opens and you are creative, brilliant and you do a great job with it.

Life isn’t something you get through so you can get on to the real fun. This is it. Life ain’t no dress rehearsal (I love that line). If you are not enjoying yourself, then why bother?

One of the big changes I made in my life that paid off big time, was to give myself the gift of the first hour of the day to work on whatever projects interest me. This book, blog and community is one of those projects. We all have ideas that we plan on getting to ‘once we get all this working well and under control’. I’ve got news for you, it will never be under control. Start your projects now.

Single Task
This isn’t even a question anymore.

Build Capacity
This means have more resources than you need so that if something happens, you have the ability to deal with it.  Sleep, health, money, people, contentment, joy, time, love.

Even your best work, the work that only you can do and that puts you into flow can’t be sustained all the time. You hit a place of diminishing returns. You get tired and depleted. You need to surround it with white space, a palate cleanser, rest.

The more you do this work, the more productive you are. Ideally you set up your life so that you do this work in several intense spurts through the day, with breaks to do other fun, yet different and productive work.

We all get overwhelmed at times. Try these tips and let us know how it went
Please share your best tips for dealing with being overwhelmed

Predictability v Spontaneity

I am traveling for these 2 weeks ending tomorrow.

Parts of my trip have been very carefully planned and executed, while during other parts, I have winged it. All of it has worked out, sometimes serendipitously well. Some of the times have involved a little mail-biting.

I don’t have all of tomorrow figured out yet and I find myself distracted by that.

Today is an open day for me. I will work, swim in the wonderful pool here, go for a walk and meet up with some people for supper. Rather than enjoy that, I’m thinking about tomorrow.

I’m good at winging it. I’ll tell you my Prague story some day. But it’s distracting. When I’m trying to figure out my way, I’m not in the here and now enjoying the people and place around me.

On the other hand, if it’s all arranged, there’s no room for side adventures and serendipity and creating your own pace.

A funny thing happened this week. I’m here with 700 other people for a summit. Everything is arranged, but sometimes it hasn’t all been communicated. So it felt uncertain, even though it wasn’t. Again, I was distracted. Would the bus be there or not? Invariably it was. Even though things were arranged, we didn’t feel the predictability of them.

There were times that were left open. These were opportunities for us to explore and revel in some uncertainty. In these cases, we were happy with that uncertainty and we were able to manage it.

Uncertainty is fun when we are prepared for it. Uncertainty takes some of our attention to manage.

Let’s apply that to business.
Make experiences predictable, your people should know that they will be taken care of and their needs met.
Communicate what people can they know what you have done for them.
Leave spaces for planned uncertainty. That may be time in a schedule or space for trying new things.

Running a Business is like Raising a Teenager

Dr Rick Nason spoke at TEDxHalifax, Sunday about the difference between simple, complicated and complex. His examples were: sending someone to the moon is complicated. There are 100,000 steps that all have to work in sequence in order to be successful, but they can all be calculated. On the other hand raising a teenager is complex. What works at 10:00 may not work at 10:15.

Running a business is simple. We know what we have to do: create a remarkable product or service offering, deliver it consistently, collect the money and pay the expenses of the business.

Not complicated.

It is complex. The environment of business is shifting and changing.

What worked last year, won’t work this year. We’re not dealing with hormone-driven teens, so the time frames aren’t quite so short, but the shifting environment is similar.

If you have raised a teen, you know that what works best is to create stability, but be prepared to let go of the outcome. The more you try to control, the harder it will be. Reacting as though this is a complex situation, won’t address what is really happening.

When you are dealing with a complex situation, you must be prepared to control the things you can, have the serenity to let go of the things you can’t and the wisdom to know the difference (if I can use Dr Nason’s twist to the serenity prayer).