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2 Posts authored by: Chris Brogan

Whenever you hear about some big advertising campaign or catch a clever commercial on TV, it’s easy to think: “But I’m a small business. I can’t do that. They must have an astounding budget.”

 

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You’re right. It can cost quite a lot to build what a company needs to be seen in the modern age. But I want to share that marketing with little or no budget can still earn big results if you use a little creativity, some personalized effort and free internet tools.

 

Here are five ways you can build strong customer and community engagement:

 

1.  Launch monthly events - No matter what you sell, there’s a reason for people to gather. I live right beside a smaller, old-timey hardware store. If they had monthly or weekly events like “Simple Fixes” where they show us how to change out a bathroom faucet, it would work well. Make the event about the product or about the kind of people the product serves. You might sell insurance. Maybe your event could be “Small Business Meet & Greet.” There are plenty of options.

 

2.  Publish an email newsletter - My No. 1 marketing technology after all these years is a personable, well-written email newsletter. I’m advocating for a “looks just like Mom sent it” plain old black text on white background email template. And instead of sending the random “junk drawer” of whatever you find online, think about what your customers might actually want to know more about. You deal with accountants? Teach them how to sell packages instead of just billable hours. Make the newsletters reasonably brief (300 words or so) and to the point. It’s your option whether you end with a call-to-action of some kind (but I would).

 

3.  Shoot Brief Videos - Five seconds, 30 seconds, a minute at most if you can do it. Use your smartphone to shoot small videos. What should you cover? How-to answers. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Interviews (super brief) with employees. Video testimonials where the story is about the customer, not about how great you are. “Show and tell.” Post them on YouTube and/or on your website.  [Check out How to use Compelling Video On Social Media for your Small Business by Mari Smith for some great tips.]

 

4.  Send Personal Messages to Your Best Clients - My buddy Mick runs a gaming and comic store. In the old days, when he was selling more comics (and I was buying some), he’d email me or tweet me pictures of new comics that came out on Wednesday. Not “the” comics but “my” comics, the ones I’d care about. That one move can be copied and stolen by almost any business. Send specific one-on-one messages that engage and encourage your customers or prospects to come in and visit. It makes a difference. These can be in email, text, private Facebook messages, or postcards for all it matters.

 

5.  Build a Great Onboarding Process - A lotof customers express frustration with the “purchase and forget” experience they have with lots of smaller businesses. They buy a product or a service and the company stops interacting right there. Depending on what you sell, a great way to engage and reach people and earn their continued business (and referrals) is to follow up after a sale to see how things are going, to provide how-to instructions if that makes sense, and to offer any further assistance. There’s a wealth of “next sales” hidden in those connections.

 

What I love most about these recommendations is that nothing here takes a whole lot of time to put together, nor does most of what I recommended cost money. Time? Yes. Effort? Absolutely. But not much (if any) money.

 

If we want to sell and serve the best in our community, we will need to build better levels of engagement. It’s simple but not easy, and you can do it.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

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Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

According to the LinkedIn 2019 business survey, the No. 1 “soft skill” business owners say they want is “creativity.” While this might be true in a survey, it becomes a little more complicated to consider and execute in the real world.

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First, not every business wants or needs creativity. (Franchises are technically about the absence of creativity, in some ways. Do what this book says to the letter.)

 

Second, there’s a vast distance between “wanting” creativity to flow at a company versus knowing how to guide and encourage the process while protecting customers and the business from any unintended fallout.

 

How to Encourage Creativity

 

Set Parameters - The first important detail to point out about creativity is that it’s a condiment, not a meal. It is vital to be clear whereyou want a team to be creative, and within which parts of the process. If you run a bakery, there might be a “lab” part of the business where once a week (or month), you open the kitchen during non-production hours and encourage some recipe exploration. But you would clearly separate that kind of activity from the production tasks required every day.

 

The parameters around creativity might include the following:

 

    • Which areas of the business are flexible for creativity
    • What types of problems creative actions are meant to influence or solve
    • What is off limits (putting up “guard rails” is a vital part of helping people stay creatively safe while protecting your business)
    • What expenses are considered reasonable to the process
    • How to operate the primary business separately from the creative process so nothing accidentally spills over

 

It’s strange to think of parameters as being the first part of building out a creative practice, but it’s also the part most people feel anxiety around. Eliminating potential to harm the business, the customers, or the creative process is very helpful.

 

Build A Healthy Creative Environment - Even if you simply want occasional brainstorming, it’s important that as a business owner, you set up simple ground rules for the creative process. Creative people have two types of mindsets when they’re coming up with ideas: one, being really innovative and free to dream, or two, being defensive and fighting off criticisms. With that in mind, here are a few tips to building a healthy creative environment:

 

    • With parameters in place, state clearly that the process is meant to be positive, and that you’ll limit any use of negative words like no/not/can’t/won’t/never and so on. (Keep reading.)
    • Adopt a “Yes, and” policy. When an idea won’t work, don’t interrupt the creative flow to say that. Instead, say “What else do you have?” or “Great. Give me three more ideas.”
    • Have physical space for creativity, including whiteboards, sketchbooks, colorful markers and other materials. Give people the physical tools to explore beyond just words in their head.
    • Share creativity and innovation videos from YouTube like TED talks on design or Disney Imagineer materials. Some people are secretly creative or latent innovators but simply need the right stimulus to get their plans in action.
    • Help your creative people break walls. If you run a car dealership, talk about “What if we sold subscriptions to cars? What would have to change? What if we sold scooters?” And so on. Sometimes, giving people a very different perspective on the business will yield completely new ideas and directions.

 

As a business owner, your role is to keep the operations running, but also nurture a space for new ideas. It’s very challenging to lead people through creative processes. Your role adapts to having to learn how to guide a very fragile experience. Creativity is less hammer and nails and more like dovetailing wooden joints.

 

Reward Creativity (and Failure) - It’s vital that people see their ideas yield future satisfying uses. When you think an idea might be worth a try within your company, celebrate that. It would also empower your people to work more creatively if you celebrated failures. Sometimes, even though an idea fails or can’t be implemented, a key learning can be taken from the experience. Be sure to celebrate and reward both experiences.

 

    • While people appreciate monetary rewards, be sure that praise and credit go to your creative types. Humans love to feel necessary and wanted.
    • Celebrate failures because if people see there’s not a huge penalty for getting an idea wrong, they’ll be willing to share even more ideas. Innovation is almost always hiding inside a crazy idea, not a safe one.
    • Be sure to keep the cycle of creativity flowing so a reward of being part of the process is that it becomes a facet of an employee’s role. Think of the retention implications of someone saying, “Yes, I install ventilation systems for this HVAC company plus I get to design better internal wiring as part of my job.” That invitation to innovation might hold someone’s interest more than the simple execution of repetitive tasks.
    • Offer some kind of annual creativity-based prize. Be loud about it. Make sure there are videos and an event and lots of internal coverage of the experience. We all love hanging our foil-starred homework on the fridge.
    • Consider adding a failure-based prize to the same experience, but one where you talk loudly about the positive lessons learned from such experiences.

 

Creativity Isn’t Operations. It’s WHY There are Operations

 

In any business, there are people who come up with ideas and people who implement and execute those ideas. It’s the same in most industries. To be the kind of company that has creative ideas and who gets ahead of the competition means making some shifts in how you lead and manage.

 

Creativity is a leadership-heavy activity, not a management-centric one. You have to learn how to collaborate, how to welcome diverse opinions, how to honor different backgrounds and methods and mindsets.

 

Before anything can be “the way we’ve always done it,” someone had to come up with that way. Creativity is the little green buds poking through the soil that eventually yield mighty trees. They require nurturing but what you get will be worth it for sure.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

 

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