Archive for April 11th, 2012
OK, I’m not comparing myself to Bethenny. I don’t have a multi-million dollar liquor deal. But she admitted that when Housewives came along, she was stressing over how she’d pay her rent. She had been on Martha Stewart Apprentice (came in second). But while she was a recognized figure, she was a broke person, just like I was. And that’s where we have strong similarities.
Much like her, I spent the better part of the new millennium figuring out what my business should be and trying different variations of it in hopes of success. Where I differed from her, is that I actually ran two business. My recruiting business paid the bills, while Empower Me was struggling. Hell who am I kidding, it was on life support. You already know the story about me starting it as an email list group for Black Women entrepreneurs back in 1998 after I had gotten out of the hospital after a two month stay. I was at a crossroads because I couldn’t physically work, but I knew I had to keep busy. I came up with Empower Me (under a different name at the time) and kind of coasted along. I listened to other people’s suggestions. I tried every tip and trick I could get my hands on. No matter how excited people professed to be, the revenue was next to zilch. I won’t bore you with the story. You can read that in my bio.
So what does all of this have to do with being a broke brand?
Hang on to your hats because I’m about to break it down real and very raw. Here are 6 things you’re doing to create a broke brand.
You’re going crazy on the freebies and giveaways; they don’t always lead to real conversions. As I worked on growing my business, I fell victim to the thinking that free content will drive conversions. I spent a lot of time dispensing advice through my radio show, newsletter, blogs and on social media. I even gave away more free consulting services than I probably should have (some of the recipients didn’t respect my time enough to take it serious). Sure, by giving stuff and services away, you gain a lot of exposure. But while people are “loving” you and the brand, they’re not opening up their wallets. All of that free information may win you loyal fans. But very few open their wallets to actually buy anything or attend any paid events if they can get what they need, even minimally from freebies. I made the mistake of letting people pick my brain until it was numb. Don’t make the same mistake. Set aside a few freebies each year, but stand firm on charging for your services.
You don’t work hard enough to close sales for the major services. Now here is where the Internet Marketers come in and say something like well you didn’t follow the process for closing sales. Oh, but you probably did. Only, the audience you’ve acquired didn’t have the budgets to spend. In other words, freebies attracted a lot of window shoppers, freeloaders and low hanging fruit. They’ll buy the cheaper priced products like books and some pay for the lower cost services or special sales/offers. But not everyone will come out of pocket. In your frustration, you’ve probably resigned yourself to the fact that your audience were people who couldn’t afford you or were too cheap to become clients. So you don’t look outside that perimeter. You’re so consumed with being the expert and being liked, that you didn’t pay attention to the fact that you wasn’t targeting the right people with whom you can close deals and who want your services. Get out there and find the right people who actually need what you have, and they will spend the money.
You’ve grown a large social media following, but they’re not interested in buying from you. Social media has become the enemy, so to speak. Have you ever seen those gurus (and I use the term lightly) who tell you that as you grow your following you grow your revenue? Well that’s bullshit. I’ve been saying for the longest that it’s quality over quantity. I know this because I lived it. I’ve learned to scale back on the number of people I’ll follow back and I scrutinize each connection request more than I used to. Make social media about engagement, not advertising. Be an active participant and not just a message pusher, that way you build a community that will support you. Social media is meant to be used to engage and build relationships so people get to know and trust you. Don’t abuse that trust but don’t let them take advantage of you either. And be mindful of how much free advice you give out on social media because trust me, they’ll come out the woodworks if they think you’re the freebie person. But you won’t get many sales. It’s an added bonus to be popular, but your social media strategy should include a conversion strategy. It can’t always be about making nice. Be nice with a purpose….and a return.
You don’t have a clear strategy for acquiring new clients because you don’t have a clear idea of what you want your business to be. Literally I woke up one morning with this huge epiphany. It dawned on me that it wasn’t that I had to encounter cheap tire kickers. I had not yet put myself directly into the middle of my real target market. In order to find your real target market, you have to define what it is you want the company to stand for, and the kind of people you want to work with. Once you make that shift, your energy will change and you’ll start attracting the right people. It’s not an overnight process, and you’ll have to do some tweaking to your marketing message. But the change in thinking and raising the bar will put you on the right path. Don’t feel that you are obligated to service just any one. Not everyone is your client, and that’s OK. Find the ones who are because trust me, they are NOT in your immediate circle (read: your social networks).
You hang around people just like you. Now on the surface, that may seem ideal. It’s good to have support systems with people who understand what you’re going through. But it’s detrimental to your business. When you hang around people who do what you do, you don’t find clients. When you hang around people in the same situation, status or struggles as you, you don’t advance. Stop and look at some of the groups you frequent. How many stories of struggles and frustration are shared? How many of them are complaining about not being able to afford certain investments in their own businesses? Run immediately to the nearest exit. Now I’ll get some naysayers who will tell me I’m wrong on this, and how we all need to stick together. No the hell we don’t! Why keep yourself in an unproductive environment? It is unproductive because if you’re all high-fiving each other for mediocrity, you can’t really get the honest feedback you need to make improvements. I’d rather someone be raw and real and tell my my shit ain’t cool than to have someone blow smoke up my ass and tell me it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Position yourself to hang around achievers and people who will keep it real even when it hurts.
You don’t really tap into your network…until it’s too late. You’re so busy connecting on Linked In, attending events and padding your network that you forget to build relationships with them. They say pride goes before the fall, and I fell hard. I was drowning but wasn’t screaming out for the life raft. I learned a tough lesson. I have a sneaking suspicion that you do the same thing. Whenever someone asks you if you need something or tells you to let them know what they can do for you, take that serious. When you cultivate those relationships, more opportunities will come your way. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for help when you need it. Don’t abuse your network, but don’t let it dry up either. Networking is give and take. Balance out the give and the take and I promise you that when you need help, it’ll be available for you.
So how much longer are you going to stay a broke brand? These are just words on a screen right now, but I’ve said all of this and more in speeches. The point was driven home. You’re in business to make money. There are operating costs you must meet in addition to your living expenses. If you’re giving it all away, you’re not getting revenue in return. And without revenue you might as well shut the doors on your business. Sure you may be a popular brand. But popular don’t pay the bills. Be willing to invest in yourself and your business but especially be ready to demand others respect the value your bring and pay for that.
Til next time,
You gotta give to get
Check out my new book Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter on Using Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy in paperback or on Kindle! While you’re at it, order your paperback copy of No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. Or if you can’t wait, get it on Amazon Kindle.
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Adrienne Graham is the Founder & CEO of Empower Me! Corporation (www.empowerme.org). She is a strategist that helps people grow their career, business or network in any economy. She is the voice behind Views from the Top Radio Show, and the creative visionary behind Empower Me! Institute and Empower Me! Magazine. Her writing and shows focus on Career Management, Networking Strategies, Entrepreneurial Success and Small Business Management. You can also find her causing a ruckus on Forbes.com.