Nowadays most of us wear too many hats. We quite often end up running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, hats and all, only to find out we never got our tasks completed or we stress ourselves out. Then, even the tasks we’ve finally completed are substandard or late due to the lack of attention we should have given them if we were able to ‘stay on task’. Over many years in corporate sales and marketing, I believe I have learned the secret to this problem. If you are running your own business or are a partner in a small business, learning to stick to your core competencies, not only frees up your schedule, but allows you to focus on more important tasks. Outsourcing your other tasks to capable experts usually costs less in the long run and the work done by professionals usually elevates the level of quality.
So when is it the right time to outsource?
As in most business decisions, timing is always everything. Learning how and when to let go takes time and experience. If you and your team are wearing too many hats, I believe the signs to outsource are when the tasks are not getting done in a timely manner, when completed projects appear to be substandard and important deadlines are being missed when a priority was shifted to other work. For small business owners, it just makes sense to outsource services like accounting, payroll, IT services and marketing especially from a business startup. For more established companies, outsourcing is logical as your company grows. You can then spend profits on expansion costs and additional payroll. Without getting into manufacturing outsourcing and the political debate that goes with that, most outsourcing allows a good use of company funding.
Top Reasons for Outsourcing
- Reduce Payroll Burden – outsourcing services can saving money
- Focusing on Core Business – free up time to focus on core business processes
- Lower Regulatory Costs – reducing delay in regulatory choices
- More Tax Breaks – take advantage of lower corporate tax rates
- Improved Service – many times outsources professionals can increase service quality
- Risk Management – less risk outsourcing than risking internal resources locally
- Freeing Up Internal Resources – wasted time with employees in areas not focused on core functions
- Peace of Mind – contract agreements offer protection for both parties
- More Efficiency – companies can spend months training only to have staff leave
- Greater Flexibility – provides the ability to expand or downsize quickly
I would highly recommend the next time you need to reduce costs or expand capabilities outside your field of expertise, that you consider the benefits of outsourcing professionals versus keeping the tasks and projects with internal employees.
In a recent conversation with my wife about spring and flowers, I learned I really don’t have a “green thumb” let alone green in ANY of my bones. She respects that, believe me. During this conversation about gardening, I realized that in the course of our conversation, there were some potential metaphors and similarities between gardening and business.
One of the main points I gleaned (pun intended) was that it was important for the caretakers of the flower beds or edible plants to thin out ‘overcrowding’, remove weeds and especially eliminate ‘suckers.’ My wife said “that you have to cut off the suckers”. I replied, “What does that mean”? She patiently responded telling me that root suckers are vigorous vertical stems that ruin a tree’s appearance. They also compete with and eventually overgrow the tree trunks.
In the same manner, customers and clients who are wanna-bes, take up all your time and energy. They can potentially vigorously ruin your business by ruining your reputation, your public appearance as it were. Their demands compete with and suck away your favourable efforts from the profitable accounts that you are trying to nurture; clients that will grow your business and enhance your reputation. I’m sure, like myself, we have all got pulled into business that ended up competing with our first-rate clients, revenues and profits. I believe the hardest part of cutting off the suckers is the fear of letting go of potential business and profits. So in practical terms, how do we identify the suckers and how do we know when to chop them off?
What to do?
To identify those wannabe accounts that suck us dry, these can be identified as the ones that usually are who make the most, many times unreasonable demands, consume much of our valuable time and our energy. There are two ways that I have learned to break off these suckers and gain growth with our gratifying accounts and clients. The toughest way (but the fastest) is to have the ‘heart to heart’ discussion with them disclosing to them that the business relationship is not working out and that they might have better growth potential elsewhere (effectively firing them). If conversational confrontation is not your plant of choice, then a more passive way is to gently weed out the customer by suggesting better alternatives elsewhere or considering a do-it yourself solution.
Do you have any wanna-be customers or clients that are taking your energy, time and money? Perhaps it time to “snap of the suckers” and allow your garden to flourish with the healthy blooms of the season and promote better growth of the annuals. Let your genuine customers and clients mature in good health and weed out the “wanna-bes” to improve your business growth. So from a green thumb to the rule of thumb, the principles of gardening really do apply here. In other words, cut off the sucker before the sucker sucks the life out of your business.
Yes, email marketing! This type of marketing is not dead. Email Marketing is still one of the best tools for reaching out to existing customers and clients while you are sleeping or working on your next contract. It still amazes me that marketing firms today have dropped these types services from their offerings and only focus on website building and SEO. I believe it still needs to be part of most marketing strategies.
So what exactly is email marketing and why should I use it?
Permission email marketing is in a nutshell, sending direct emails addressed to approved subscribers containing relevant information. It includes RSS blog feeds, promotions or email automation campaigns. Investing in email marketing campaigns as a marketing tool provides an affordable marketing solution with quick results and a larger ROI than traditional marketing, organic SEO or social media marketing. This type of marketing is fully measurable with detailed reports to see open rates, clicks, locations and demographics. There is no better way to make it easy to understand how effective the efforts have been for the dollars invested.
What do I need to know to get started?
Begin with planning your marketing strategy in your first quarter. Your email campaign should have topics that, after you’ve done your research, your target audience wants to hear about. When you create your first campaign, it’s better to focus on one simple message and create a more informational type of email. Starting with a brief story always provided better retention and evokes better readership.
How important are sending times and reports?
Sending times are crucial with emails. Therefore, it’s important to determine best times and adjust for time zones. Once your campaign has been sent, it’s ideal to create a report of the results. You will be looking at who opened, when they opened, how many times as well as who clicked on your links.
- Create a subject title to prompt curiosity and encourage opening
- Apply relevant photos that create the emotion of the topic
- Make sure your emails are easy to read and have good flow
- Use bullets to quickly let your readers see your key points as many readers tend to scan read
- Set up external links which will open a new tab in browsers
- Always integrate sending with your social media pages
- Use segregated lists to best target messages to relevant audience
Email Marketing effectively sends messages to educate or promote your products and services to your existing clients and patients. I highly recommend keeping email marketing as part of your marketing arsenal. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of your business comes from existing customers. Spending 20% of your time on them with email marketing makes sense (cents) and dollars.
Most business owners today would like to make a greener business, at the same time being more efficient and save some costs. Beyond cutting down less trees and using less fuel, the side benefits usually include less time spent and saving money. This all sounds good right? But what is required to make a greener world for our children and our grandchildren? I have a few thoughts to share as we approach the green spring season with learning how to reduce paper and greenhouse gases.
I’m sure my print colleagues won’t be happy, but our environment needs more trees not less. Business today can do many things without printing documents or marketing collateral pieces effectively creating a paperless office. Business cards are required to exchange contact info quickly, although electronic exchange is becoming more popular as many individuals discard business cards after they are scanned into phones or laptops. Marketing material can be accessed once customers reach the website to either view supporting collateral or save a PDF file for later viewing or storage. Many legal documents, contracts and accounting pages can be stored and backed up digitally for safer keeping and remote access. Faxing is almost dead, but if your business still need faxing, it’s better to send and receive digitally to save a few trees as well as lose less paper pages. Speaking of shredding, if you are saving files electronically, you should be shredding your paper pages for security reasons. In that regard, recycling your shredding has never been easier for most communities.
Reducing Greenhouse Gases
This may sound a little political, but the reality is that reducing fuel consumption saves the environment, time and money. Yes in business we do need to meet face to face. But to save your time and your customers or client time, wouldn’t a conference call or video web conference call be a greener choice? Calling or web meetings save time as they tend to be more concise with less small talk. If saving time is not enough, saving money is always close to a business owner’s heart. The cost of travel time, food and fuel may be a tax right off, but reducing these expenses can add up to hundreds of dollars per month. If you can save on shipping of documents, courier costs can be eliminated as well. Signing digital signatures is being accepted more and more now.
Would you like to be seen to be lean and green? So what are your ideas on how to have a greener business and help save your planet for future generations?
Part of my nature, and I’m sure my wife will agree, is researching and learning about the new gadgets or what I refer to as ‘business tools that justify the cost’. What I am alluding to are the gadgets we need for our home/small office or road tools for travel. These would include new smart phones, new tablets, new wireless earbuds, wireless voice command speakers and full coverage WiFi devices. This is not an exhaustive list, but ones worth noting this year.
NEW Smart Phones
Four new phones stand out which are offered by Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. Google announced their own pure android phone called Google Pixel already winning awards for quality and an amazing camera. Not out yet, are the latest versions of Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. The new Apple iPhone 8 is rumoured to have almost no bevel or headphone jack in the prototypes. Samsung has gone one step further to recover from its “charred reputation” with the new Samsung S8 by adding an almost bezel less curved screen, no home button and no headphone jack. Coming back to the scene is the Microsoft Lumina mirroring Windows 10 operating system with a Display Dock to connect a screen and use like desktop computer.
Tablets to Check Out
Along with the new “Google made products” is their new Pixel C tablet with a companion keyboard stand that allows various levels of viewing and doubles as a protective cover. For all you creative folks, a large PC table product, a Microsoft Surface Studio with 28 inch touch display and powerful tools for drawing and video editing with Surface Pen and Surface Dial is now available. Even my Mac only graphic artist liked using this one.
There are many new wireless headphones and earbuds out there, but the talk over the water cooler would have to be the long awaited Apple AirPods. Strange as they look and with controversy over the cost of insurance for lost earpieces, these new design wireless earbuds gives the wow factor Apple was attempting. http://www.apple.com/ca/shop/iphone/iphone-accessories
Voice Command Speakers
This technology took Bluetooth speakers and voice command to the next level. If you haven’t heard about the Amazon Echo of late, you have likely been living under a rock. Recently launched in the USA only so far, the Google Home voice command wireless speaker is not only the latest in AI (artificial intelligence) but it looks and sounds great and you can link many in each room together.
NEW WiFi Devices
WiFi devices are in over abundance, but the new versions have full coverage in every corner of the home office or small office building. Again two of them stand out: Google WiFi not yet available in Canada and Apple AirPort available in Canada now. Both are good looking, small products that fit into most homes or offices.
What are your top gadgets for 2017?