By personal brand strategist Tanya Smith
Every solo business owner has a set of processes or systems that either promote their business very well or contribute to the business’ demise. There are really 3 essential systems that any successful business owner needs in place in order to automate the things they repetitively do over and over again, while adequately supporting the brand. These systems form the structure of success because they are the ways in which you continuously reinvigorate your business for expansion and growth.
What is a system? For purposes of this article, we’re going to define a system as follows: a set of integrated, interdependent processes that can be replicated over and over again to produce similar results.
This article is designed to explain the 3 critical brand support systems for real breakthrough in your business. These essential systems are key to ensuring your success and creating a structure on which your brand can thrive.
It all starts with the BRAND
Before we cover these systems, let’s talk about brand first. As a solopreneur in the “entrepreneurial renaissance” age – a coin termed by business coach, Marcia Bench, you will have to compete against many people who claim expertise in the same field as you. Regardless of their level of experience or visibility, the sheer numbers require that you carve out a way to stand apart from the crowd. Your brand must be distinctive, powerful and recognizable.
The brand is the foundation of any effective marketing strategy. It is how people perceive you. The brand is YOU in a single owner business. If your brand is weak, the systems I will describe below will not operate to support your business. An analogy would be like building a new house, installing a beautiful kitchen, hardwood floors, and hiring a dynamic salesman to greet buyers at the door when the house has no walls yet.
The support systems we will talk about in this article will allow you to deliver great service, they will engage your customer base, and they will automate your delivery but only when you have taken the necessary steps to first put in place your brand strategy.
This means getting clear about what you do, the market you serve, and how you provide the service. Brand support is most connected to the latter – the “how”. We will spend more time on the branding piece in our next article for this series.
System #1: Customer engagement
Brand support system number one is about the way in which you engage your customers. This is the process by which you create a path of attraction to your business. It’s the way that you make it easy for prospects to meet you, to love what you do, to test drive your services. This might look like your current opt-in strategy. Or it may even be the type of events you host that attract people to your business.
Creating an easy path for prospects to engage is critical to building your pool of interested buyers. As a system, this path should be outlined in such a way that you can powerfully reflect your brand with ease. The goal is to create a connection between you as a solution provider and the potential client, or prospect.
What is evident when you view an entrepreneur’s website is whether or not there is an easy way to determine your next step. Successful entrepreneurs are clear in the single action they would like for a viewer to take when visiting their website the first time. But unfortunately too many business owners fail to streamline the instruction for their prospect. There is no opt-in form. There is nothing “sticky” about the page that keeps a person there, so viewers leave after only visiting a few seconds.
One example of a way to engage customers that capitalizes on the way they first interacted with you is to create a social media landing page. This blog post by visibility guru Nancy Marmalejo tells you how to do this: http://vivavisibilityblog.com/social-networking-landing-page/.
There are other ways to engage your customer or prospect. One of the most widely used ways is to develop a strong opt in form. A blog post by marketing diva Ali Brown shares great insight into how to make this work for you: http://www.alibrown.com/blog/?p=722.
The key to customer engagement is to entice prospective buyers within the first few seconds so they can receive your valuable information.
System #2: Customer Relationship Management
The customer relationship management system refers to the way you take care of your current customers. It may be the way that you process their intake into doing new business with you. It’s about how you provide here and service once your clients have already paid or invested in your services. Ultimately the goal is for prospects to become clients and eventually to become raving fans for your business. This happens when you treat current clients or fans very well.
How do you deliver on the promises that you make in your brand. Does it require a lot of manual labor? Can you automate delivery of your services? Can you set up systems with the click of a button that will accept payment and deliver on the promise? If you’re conducting a coaching group is there self-service function word new clients can go and access their profiles, pay an invoice, create a support case? This is all part of delivering on your brand promises.
When you have easy tools and systems in place it’s much easier for your clients to rave about your services and to refer others to them as well. A great service experience can immediately expand your level of influence and authority.
I am a huge fan of Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM). CRMs were like a dream come true because I was tired of manually tracking loose pieces of paper, sticky notes, e-mails that flooded my inbox from people I worked with. A solid CRM can manage projects, automate your billing, and make it easy for you to find essential correspondence between you and the customer. Examples of great CRMs to research for your business include BaseCamp, Salesforce, Capsule CRM, and WorkEtc.
Another part of the relationship management, however, involves your approach to follow-up. Send Out Cards is a simple but highly distinctive way to show your clients you care. I purchased an account with the company years ago but did not realize the power of the program until I used it to mail personalized postcards to members of a course I was teaching online. It really made an impact with my clients to receive a special thank you from the right at their doorstep.
Trust me, in this age of Internet marketing a postcard or greeting card will help you stand out from the crowd. It will also help to solidify the emotional connection with your customer, which has the potential to generate more sales. Besides, sales are really about creating a personal experience for the buyer.
System #3: Content Creation
In addition to your customer care practices, it is important to look at ways to systematize your product strategy. There are many opportunities for you to deliver your services on a wider scale. What I mean is just about any offline services you provide can be made virtual. If it is a process that you teach over and over again, you should be able to implement a way for your customers to receive the instruction even when you’re not around.
Many entrepreneurs have more than one business but especially if you are a single business owner there is only one you. You cannot be in all places at all times, but your products can. A simple way to ensure that your brand receives constant recognition is by designing information products. These type of products are becoming quite commonplace. The reason is that they can be developed for low-cost and delivered for high return.
Some examples of information products include e-books, webinars, tele-classes, CD/audio products, e-zines, and more. There is an abundance of resources, teachers, and coaches that can show you how to create content from your off-line training programs. If you already have developed certain programs, it will be even easier for you to virtualize the information and make it available online work in a kit that can be purchased.
I have learned great product creation tips and strategies from a number of experts online. Bob the Teacher, Milana Leshinsky, and Jan Marie Dore have all been instrumental in demonstrating how easy it is to create products. Google either of them to see examples of great information product options.
As an entrepreneur in the information age you have amazing opportunities to promote your visibility, and to generate profit for your business. The key to promoting your brand is to develop systems that run on automatic while you actively put yourself in front of others. The three systems discussed in this article: client engagement, customer relationship management, and content creation – when done correctly – can significantly boost your business and distinguish your brand.
About the Author: Tanya Smith is a creative business strategist specializing in showing coaches, consultants and freelancers how to spend more time making money with simple, yet profitable marketing systems. Her company Be Promotable provides clients with fresh actionable strategies and virtual resources to promote their small businesses as power players in their market. Claim your instant access to a free 10 part ecourse, 10 Ways To Grow Your List at: http://www.bepromotable.com.