Small Economies

[… A bit of a rant and a tangent.]

Carly-Art_-_Wild_bee_hive_(by-sa)I’m a little on edge about the mess in Washington, are you? If you don’t read the news, maybe you’re fine. But I think things are so extreme that even the normally news-free types can’t avoid learning about it these days. Probably at least 8 out of 10 people you know are aware of the government shutdown.

It’s extraordinary and scary, the way those people in our government are treating each other. Which is the same as the way we people are treating each other, right?

Sure, the politicians are screwing up big time, bickering – as so many describe it – like children. But they also reflect growing polarity among the populace. I can’t fathom why, but even the bad guys have their devotees. We’re split, fundamentally, passionately, maybe irrevocably. [Read more…]

Lead Nurturing as Lifestyle for Your Online Brand

zoetnetWhat’s the lifestyle of your small business or entrepreneurship? 

Before you can answer that question, we have to agree on a definition of lifestyle, especially when it comes to business.

Even associating the word lifestyle with anything about business may seem unusual. We think of it more in reference to our personal lives.

But there’s a growing trend in the synthesis of personal and professional lives, via the internet and global communications, and the concept of lifestyle is now a  major concern even in the public arena of your business. The way you conduct your affairs, the life of your commerce makes all the difference to today’s markets.

Are you a Whole Foods, a Walmart, a Waffle House, a Winery? You are distinguished by your brand and the lifestyle it supports. And the same applies even if you simply sell ice cream from a roadside stand.

So how can lifestyle be defined when it comes to business? Maybe we can understand it in terms of where the major focus lies. While we can assume profit is always paramount, our understanding of how to gain profit varies considerably.

Profit, for Whole Foods, may be achieved by setting a standard of quality; for Walmart, profit may be seen as a matter of quantity; for Waffle House, profit comes through predictability, while for a Winery, surprise or unpredictability will serve their bottom line the best.

It is possible and even desirable to create your enterprise from the ground up around a desired lifestyle. Defining this approach makes clear most of the choices you should make, from logo selections to products and services to customer relations.

  • For artists, their chosen ‘public lifestyle’ is usually content-driven. It’s all about the products of their creativity.
  • Professionals like doctors and lawyers carefully select the lifestyle they wish to cultivate, from emergency care to cosmetics.
  • Tradespeople serve a lifestyle of practicality and community.

Online, we find that what works best is a lifestyle of lead-nurturing. Or maybe a more humanist way of labeling it would be to say it’s a lifestyle of deepening friendships. 

When interfacing with the entire globe, a small business becomes far more concerned with qualifying leads than with collecting them. If your website, SEO, and social media are healthy and active, it’s far more important to address the right audience than it is to address a large audience. When the right audience is engaged, the challenge is to nurture them, to increase their interest and strengthen your bond with them.

For the entrepreneur, it’s not about constant expansion to reach ever larger markets online; it’s about constant cultivation of the markets you organically reach and continuously serve through your faithful and generous sharing.

Small is Beautiful

Gustav on top of FreddieThere are five posts so far on this new blog, and I intend to add two more to complete the series of seven posts that constitute the ‘pillars’ of my theme here – i.e., the large impact small businesses can have through online branding.

But today I am taking a small tangent to explore an even more over-arching theme. I have nurtured a pet theory for some years and with the  establishment of this website I hope to advance these researches. Because again and again it becomes clear to me that social and business problems might be solved by minimizing process/distribution/expectation.

The core idea is that we can set things straight quite often simply by simplifying, by reducing the size. Small is beautiful. Schumacher said it many years ago. He talked about economies, and that is mostly the way I mean it too; though I admit to loving all kinds of small things, from babies to flower buds to my little Chihuahua mix, Gustav. I’m not a small person, but I appreciate the efficiency of small systems. And I’m beginning to see that promoting small business is in the interest of all of us.

“Think global: act local” appeared as a bumper sticker 25+ years ago and yet we still have a long way to go in manifesting that excellent directive. Especially, I’m disappointed that the internet hasn’t been adopted and exploited by small businesses as much as one would expect. Probably the learning curve related to using online tools efficiently has proven too much for most in-the-trenches entrepreneurs. Still, potential returns are so great that we really should keep at it.

The internet can make or break our initiatives; and at the same time, making effective use of online tactics can strengthen our business strategies, communications, and confidence.

Allow me to explain that last part. When we figure out how to interact socially on the web, building a following while at the same time promoting our services/products, we figure out how our business answers real needs in actually helpful ways. This translates into

  • vehicles for articulating your USP while remaining personable;
  • building relationships that result in loyal customers;
  • while at the same time managing reputation and putting out fires with ease.

So if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, you will benefit from savvy use of the internet for marketing and communications. The process brings new customers and also shows you clearly the true value of your offerings, along with the best ways to characterize them. This is worth many times its weight in gold!

SBOB is here to help small businesses with their online marketing. The bigger picture is that we want to support, champion, and advance small business, small economies, small politics and communities. Small houses, towns, markets, and gardens. A small perspective in counter-point to the digital age’s voracity for scale.

Scale isn’t always desireable; and possibly it’s mostly destructive.  In many cases we may be far better off with a less-ambitious goal in terms of size. Maybe goals aimed at quality, human service, improved lifestyle, or other values will return more satisfactory results.

What are your small business goals in terms of growth and size of operations/scope?  I’ll return often to this theme because I want to look at case studies: actual stories of entrepreneurs who control size in the interest of life quality. Do you have a story relating to this subject? Please share it in the comments, or contact me directly.

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