Create A Culture Of Innovation At Your Small Business

Innovation might not be at the top of the list of priorities when you are setting up a new small business. But considering what is happening in larger companies like Google, you might want to reconsider and move “innovation” on to the list of top priorities. Google is shifting the way that they do business and that shift can give small businesses ideas on how to modify their own business models.
Here are a few ideas on how you can create a culture of innovation at your small business.

Change your environment

This is probably the best place to start in creating a culture of innovation at your small business. Environment plays a huge role in promoting a culture of innovation. There are numerous firms out there that specialize in creating office environments that foster creativity. Take a look at Google’s office complex or the offices of advertising agency Chiat Day. If you haven’t yet received your invitation to tour either of those offices, you can take a look at photos of Google here and of Chiat Day here.

Now, Google and Chiat Day had a budget of millions to work with to invest in creating their space. But there are things that you can do within your own space that won’t break the bank. Consider ditching the beige and gray cubicle layout for something that reflects the values of your own brand. Make the environment more warm, more inviting and more fun. Small changes can have a big impact on moving toward creating your own culture of innovation within your small business.

 Search for the renegades

As we’ve previously covered in other articles, the success of your small business lies with the first ten people you bring on board. We’ve also discussed that the rebels out there can be instrumental in unleashing a whole culture of innovation for your small business. Be selective when it comes to bringing in the ones that are going to be the face of your business. And always be on the lookout for the ones that have the ability to shake things up from time to time and shed a new perspective on doing things.

Become friends with influential people

Another great way to create a culture of innovation in your small business is to become friendly with other like minded organisations. After all, two heads are better than one. But don’t stop there. Become friendly with some of the big players like there. Larger companies are always on the lookout for new innovative ideas and businesses that they can add to their portfolio. And one of those could be your small business. Many larger companies are partnering with small businesses to compensate for any areas where they might not be as strong. Be sure that the fit is mutually beneficial, and that way every party is happy. That should be a good incentive to set up your own culture of innovation within your small business. Happy innovating!

Time For A Marketing Makeover

There comes a point in any marketing campaign when it is time for a marketing makeover. It keeps things fresh and gets the attention of those that you want to (when done properly). One of the easiest places to start with your marketing makeover is with your online presence. If you need to spruce up your marketing, then creating a compelling web presence is a good place to start.

When refreshing your online presence, it is important to carefully think about your content. Plan ahead and make sure that your presence is cohesive. Create content that is relevant to your small business. Choose about ten topics that you think will be relevant to your readers (and customers) and create content around those topics. Set up a calendar so that you update your content on a regular basis. And stick to it (believe me, we can be guilty of not sticking to our editorial calendar).

WordPress is a fantastic way to manage your small business presence online. It’s intuitive, it’s popular and there are millions of options for how you can customize it. And better yet, WordPress is pretty SEO friendly. There are a host of plugins for WordPress that can help boost your SEO.

WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO – this is a really handy resource when it comes to reminding you to include all of the things that you need for better SEO when you write your articles. Having this plugin really helps you be smarter with SEO on your site.

Contextual Related Posts

Contextual Related Posts – this is another handy plugin that adds links to related posts that you have written at the end of your articles. This gives readers the opportunity to click through your website instead of going off somewhere else.

Also, when you’re creating content, it’s important to listen to what is going on around you in order to stay relevant. When you listen, you’ll find out what is going on and you’ll be able to keep up with the paces of your industry. There are some great resources online where you can gather this intelligence. Twitter is a great place to start. Create lists to see what is going on in your industry and to keep tabs on your competition. Google Alerts are another great place to gather intelligence. Create alerts relevant for your industry for writers who frequently write about your category.

Some other great resources to use are Alltop, which compiles the content of some of the most influential people within your industry. Quora is another great place to hang out to gather intelligence. Here you can understand what sorts of questions are being asked within your industry. This might shed some light on an opportunity to take advantage of with your name on it.

Building a Business vs. Instant Gratification

As human beings, it is in our nature to search for instant gratification. Perhaps it is what we in the developed world have grown accustomed to, but it seems as if around every corner offers are targeted to small business owners.
“Instantly build your business plan! Learn our secrets to success. Just pay me an extortionate amount of money and I’ll send you all of the leads you could possibly ever want”. Sure, it sounds good and we would like for it to be true. But just like those diet ads that promise that you can eat like a horse and still lose weight without diet or exercise, these offers just don’t work

There are no easy fixes when it comes to building a business. It takes an exorbitant amount of work. Trust me, I’ve been known to work seven days a week from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep.  When planning a business, it’s best that you the business owner write the first draft of the business plan. This way, the essential document will contain your vision and will be more in touch with how your business needs to operate. Then, bring in the experts, like us here at Un_Standard, to help refine those ideas into a clear and concise business strategy. There will be cost involved, but considering the amount of time that you the entrepreneur will invest in planning, and how valuable your time is (and that’s time diverted from actually implementing your business

So if you love what you do, after all, you are starting a business in this field and you should be passionate about it, then the process of business planning won’t feel like work. And the more preparation you do before you call in the experts can save time, money and undue stress. And this is as close to instant gratification as it comes.

Fear of Risk and Business: The Scary World of Creativity

Businesses and their love/hate relationship with creativity

Business seems to have a love/hate relationship with creativity, innovation and fear of risk. They love the idea, but the whole process of bringing a new idea to market carries an element of risk. That’s the part that doesn’t go over so well. Business seems to be comfortable with processes and expected outcome, which is at odds with the whole creative process. I’ve seen companies try and embrace creativity, but only to fail by stifling the process.
If business knows where the innovation will end up, then the whole creative process becomes an implementation project, innovation. Implementation is part of the process however, but the whole creative process involves an element of mess, conflict, emotion, and even a few casualties along the way. When those elements of experimentation are removed from the process, then we aren’t really innovating. If you don’t have a few failures along the way, then you’re not stepping outside of your comfort zone. And that’s where true innovation lies.

Inaction equates a fear of risk

Fear of risk often equates to standing still or adapting at a very slow pace. Opportunities seem to pass by, and this is a truly bad position to be in as a business. If you’re competition is innovating, how will you continue to compete in the future? Time does not stand still, and we must constantly look to the future for ways to innovate and create in order to remain relevant in the near future and beyond. The truth is that the best scientists, the greatest entrepreneurs, designers, politicians and CEOs are all creative. We as human beings like to think that they can be creative. It’s time to tap into that creativity and start coming up with true innovation, for small businesses, large, and for society. Eliminating fear of risk can open up a world of potential for businesses.

 

 

Unleash the rebels in your small business

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Un_Standard is all about individuality. Our motto is to stand out by not blending in. And it takes a certain amount of rebelliousness in order to fully live by this manifesto. It’s good to shake things up from time to time. Those who disagree with the status quo can often see the future more clearly. And innovation is something that we are passionate about. After all, if there weren’t anyone around to challenge the status quo, we’d still be living in caves.

There are rebels among us in the small business world. And they are truly an asset to have. I’m not talking about the rebels without a cause or the ones that are willing to cross the line into being unproductive or doing anything illegal. But ones that can challenge the existing structure and propose a new and improved way to do things are the ones that we are talking about, and the ones to actively seek out for your small business.

Companies that fail to nurture creative opposition can find themselves behind the curve when it comes to innovation and remaining competitive. Rebels can serve as a catalyst for innovation. So when it comes time to make sone hires for your small business, be sure to be on the lookout for those agents of change. Those ones that are able to be creative and visionary enough to be able to shatter outdated policies and practices. Some larger organizations have even hired what they refer to as internal disruption units that can drive innovation. Just be sure to steer clear of management consultants that don’t fit the bill.

So what can you do as a small business to nurture this sort of rebel? There are a few things that you can do to make sure you give those rebels room to work their magic. Unleash the rebels in your small business to unlock their innovation and make your small business more competitive.

Create the right attitude for the organization

We’re not talking about forming committees or anything like that. We’re talking about tolerating those who might push against the status quo and let them feel as if there won’t be any fear of retaliation or discrimination. Factor in room for opposing voices when trying to launch new initiatives. Listen, and then learn.

Keep the opposition consistent

Many small business owners might read a book on inclusiveness and think that the best way to tackle resistance is to encourage participation. But opposition is ongoing, and should be welcomed and not tried to be silenced. Alignment is a moving target.

Creative opposition can raise the accountability of every employee within your organization. And your employees are your greatest asset. Make sure that your rebels have space to operate, feel like they are close and are immensely creative.

Marketing plans to keep your business running smoothly

We’ve all heard the arguments and excuses on why a business doesn’t need to invest in marketing. After all, if you build it, they’ll surely come, right? Why not concentrate on other more productive areas, such as sales? After all, marketing is just an expense, right?

Well, if only that were true. And that we lived in a world where there was no competition and your business was the only game in town. If we believe that we are alone in offering a fantastic product coupled with great service, then there wouldn’t be the need to advertise. The reality is, that there is competition all around, and consumers have choices with whom to do business with. Even in the Business-To-Business arena. After all, businesses are made up of people, and people make purchasing decisions based upon emotion. Marketing gives those potential consumers the chance to get to know your business and soften the sales process. If you don’t control the messages that your business is sending out, then those messages will control you.

When developing a marketing plan, it is important to understand how your business is perceived, and how you would want it to be perceived. If there is a disconnect, then a solid marketing plan would help shape perceptions to move to where you want to be. Another important aspect is to understand what makes you unique. Why would a customer come to you instead of the competition? What sets you apart? What makes you special? The marketing strategy is the ideal place to communicate what sets you apart to your customers.

Marketing is designed to precondition the sale. It does not sell, but creates the platform for a relationship. It does not close the deal, but gives reason why your customers should choose to do business with you. Marketing can work hard on your behalf if you allow it to happen. Choose your tactics wisely, map out a plan, put it into action and watch monitor the results to see what adjustments need to be made. Marketing, when executed properly, has a profound effect on sales. We have experience in creating marketing strategies for a wide range of businesses all over the world, from startups to huge multinational corporations. We’ve been there and achieved results. Get in touch with Un_Standard today to nail that marketing strategy.

For a limited time, we are offering a free initial consultation without any further obligation. Be sure to subscribe to our Facebook page to receive a discount off of our rates. Don’t let your business fade into the background. Connect with your customers. Set yourself apart from the competition.

Think Un_Standard. Be. Un_Standard.’

traits of a great leader

What Makes A Great Leader

Soar to the heights of a great leader

Not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur, or to lead. If we were all born to lead, then there would be nobody left to follow. But anyway, great leaders tend to have certain characteristics that set them apart from the herd. Personality traits, that can often times be misinterpreted as weaknesses, but when properly channeled can signify the spark of an entrepreneur.

Are you easily bored? Perhaps the reason for that is that you’ve chewed through activities that aren’t up to your abilities and don’t present themselves as a challenge. This is generally one of the indicators early in life that a budding entrepreneur is coming into their own. Great minds need to be challenged, and when a great mind is placed amongst those that don’t measure up, then boredom sets in.

Constantly questioning the status quo? Remember, the status quo is for the common folk. Who wants to be average when you can be exceptional? If you think that it doesn’t make sense to keep doing things the same way over and over just because that’s the way they’ve always been done without explanation, then you have the power to change things. Or at least upset the status quo from time to time. You don’t get ahead by following the pack. Greatness lies outside of the lines of conformity.

Do you realize that you’re a bit different from everyone else? This can be the motivation that you need to acknowledge the entrepreneur in you just dying to get out.  Rebelling against the norm is a normal pattern in your life. It’s good to channel that sense of rebellion into a company and start innovating.

Always trying to make improvements on everything around you? Opinionated and always willing to offer your perspective on things, you constantly see ways to make things better. Here’s a perfect opportunity to channel that spirit in developing a product that improves the lives of those around you. Or better yet, expand into improving the lives of people on the other side of the planet.

Can’t switch off at night? Do you lie in bed trying to get some seriously needed sleep, but can’t quite switch off and drift into blissful slumber? Do those voices keep telling you about the next great idea that you need to start to work on in the morning? There’s just too much energy to burn to switch off and relax.

Depending on how you look at it, any of those traits could be thought of as a weakness. And it’s important to understand where your weaknesses lie as an individual. Understanding weak areas is in fact a strength. You don’t always lead with your strengths, but with your weaknesses. Make those weaknesses benefit your leadership style, and then you’ll come across as authentic.  Get those people in around you to compliment  your strong areas and fill in the gaps of where you are weak, and then you have the start of building a winning team.

Get Your Small Business Marketing Right

A lot of small businesses have trouble with their small business marketing. They have trouble because it’s too simple. But let’s get this straight, simple is not the same thing as easy. Some things look easy, like setting up a Facebook page. But unless your Facebook strategy is interlinked into your overall business strategy, that Facebook page is useless. You won’t be any closer to your business goals in the future than you are today.

The idea of marketing is simple. You have a great product or service, and you tell the people out there about how great your product or service is, thus becoming customers. Sounds easy, right? Well, to be honest it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are so many different techniques that you can use, and you absolutely need to understand who you are trying to reach and how best to reach them.

First of all, let’s clear up a few common misconceptions. Marketing is not all about selling. Marketing involves several different tactics, such as website copy, email marketing campaigns, SEO, brochures, ad campaigns, conversion funnels and much more. And these tactics are very likely to be important to your business. But none of these things is what marketing is really about.

Marketing is about creating a relationship with your one ideal customer. It’s about figuring out who they are, what they are looking for and how you can offer that one thing that they will absolutely adore. It’s about getting into their mind, getting their attention and bringing them on board as a loyal customer. And any of the previously mentioned marketing tactics are only one piece of the puzzle. When used in isolation, you’re not creating that relationship with your customer.

Marketing is simple. There are only three steps, and they’re linked into your business plan. Your marketing plan should never be separate from your business plan. And here they are:

Synchronize

The first part of the small business marketing process is identifying who your ideal customer is. Who would benefit the most from your product or service? Who’s pain can your small business solve? Who is it that is going to be excited about what you can offer? Without knowing who your customer is, your marketing efforts are nothing more than shots in the dark.

When creating your customer profile, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Try to paint a picture as complete as possible. What do they do in their spare time? Where do they go on holiday? What foods do they like to eat? Grab as much information as possible from as many different sources as you can. And don’t think that any of this information is trivial. Finding out about what your customer does in their spare time will shed light on ways that you can start a dialogue with those customers.

Once you have figured out some information about your customer, you’ll need to synch your offer with who you’re offering it to. Once you’ve figured that out, the rest of the marketing plan will be so much easier to put together. You’ll know who you are trying to reach, their wants and needs and how your business can benefit them. Tailor the offer to your customer.

Draw them in

Once you’ve tailored the perfect solution to your ideal customer’s problem, then you need to grab that customer’s attention. This is where much of what people perceive marketing to be comes into play.  You will use all of that information that you’ve gathered in the synch stage to figure out how to draw your ideal customer in. Make sure that your message is in the places where your customer is. Catch them off guard. Pique their interest. And slowly draw them towards you.

Engage them

Once you have captured the attention of your ideal customer, you can’t just come right out and expect them to instantly become a lifelong customer. Things don’t move that quickly. Take it in small steps. Do something simple, like entice them to join your mailing list. Once they have made that step, be sure to reward them. Give them a small token of your appreciation, such as exclusive content, or a brief moment of your time. It will make the effort that they’ve put in seem like a really great value.

Next, take another step. Offer them something a bit more substantial. Something like an offer or a free trial. Something that adds to your perceived value. Once they’ve moved a bit closer to you, then you can entice them into making a purchase. But don’t forget that once the purchase happens, the customer is still engaged with your small business. Make sure that your customer has the absolute best customer experience that they could possibly have. When a customer has a positive experience with a product or service, there is a 90% chance that they will become a repeat customer.

And that’s the name of the game.

entrepreneurial advice

Some Good Entrepreneurial Advice

Stepping away from the security of a corporate job to set up a small business is not an easy task. Some things seem to fall into place, but often times things don’t always go as planned. Nobody ever said that it was going to be easy. But it can be one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have. Here’s some good entrepreneurial advice to those who have set up their own small businesses.

It’s going to take longer than you think

Running a small business is certainly not for the faint of heart. Everywhere you turn it seems as if there is another overnight success. Business coaches tout their multi-million dollar businesses that they started in their kitchen and claim to spend about 5 hours of work on. In reality, they neglect to mention the years and years of blood, sweat and tears that it took to achieve a certain level of success. Building a company takes years. It causes grey hairs. And it brings up a whole lot of self doubt.

Perseverance is the name of the game when it comes to starting and running a small business. It’s a rare trait that entrepreneurs possess. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought that I’ve run into a brick wall, exhausted all of my options and run myself into the ground. I’ve shelved my business idea a couple of times only to pick it back up, dust it off, make some adjustments and then start to run with it. If you truly are an entrepreneur, then everything will eventually fall into place. It’s like the old saying goes, every “no” that you hear brings you that much closer to a “yes”.

It’s lonely going at it all by yourself

Bringing people on board is a great thing. Their strengths can fill in the gaps of your weaknesses and helps to keep things going when the going gets tough. But it’s critical to bring the right people on board. Getting the mix wrong can have a devastating effect on your small business. A close friend can be a great place to look. But make sure that you both share a common vision, have common goals, have a good working relationship and are both willing to give it a go. You’re going to be spending more time with this person than you will with your own family, so make sure you select wisely.

Keep it simple

It’s easy to reach for the stars as an entrepreneur. It’s not hard to get swept up in the rapture of how your business idea is going to change the world. Your mind seems to go a mile a minute. The problem is when you encounter a mere mortal (i.e., everybody else) and try to communicate. You don’t speak the same language. Don’t expect the mere mortal to be as excited about the details of your idea as you are. Remember one thing. Keep it simple so that your audience gets it.

And be sure to hold on to that simplicity. Make sure that it is present in every aspect of your company. Keep your marketing simple. Simple enough so that your customers understand exactly what your business is all about. Make sure that your business planing is simple. How does the business make money? Make sure that your products are simple. Keeping things simple will multiply your businesses chances of success.

First impressions count

Like It Or Not, First Impressions Count

Short attention span…

Like it or not, first impressions count

As a society, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Mastering Twitter is an art form, because you need to be able to convey a complete thought in 140 characters or less. Google Adwords is even shorter.  You need to be able to clearly communicate an offer, give an inventive to click through and pay it off in an even shorter space. So take this in to consideration when you deal with your customers. First impressions count.

Our brains are accustomed to filling in the blanks at record speed. We try and complete as much of a profile as possible when we meet new people and when we experience new brands. Take for example Facebook. Scour through a random selection of listings. It’s probably very easy to categorize people by the image that they’ve selected as their profile image. It’s pretty easy to figure out who is an aspiring photographer, a drunken sports fan, or just a flat out lush.

We make decisions about brands all the time. In fact, that’s what a well-crafted brand is supposed to do. It might be easy to gloss over the details thinking that they’re inconsequential. But just like those Facebook profiles, customers are “filling in the blanks” about the kind of company that you are.

So needless to say, it’s important to give a damn about the details. Websites are often the first experience that a potential customer has with a brand. Nobody will care about your website unless you do. That means that it is crucial to think long and hard about how you want to be perceived as a company. It’s important to get it right from the get go.

As a business, it is important to really understand why you started that business in the first place. You probably needed to convince your loved ones about the rational thought behind quitting your perfectly stable job to venture out into the unknown. And this explanation is going to come in handy to give to your customers. Why are you in business, and what’s in it for me? The companies that truly excel are the ones that understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

Get this right from the start, get it ingrained into every facet of the company, and clearly communicate the reason for your existence on your website (and every other piece of communications that your company has), and you’ll have an advantage over countless other companies out there that haven’t figured out the details.