How to Grow Your Organization Today

Brian Solis has a great post over at TechCrunch.  It is very long and I know if I twittered about it, many of the folks who needed to see it most, would probably FEEL they did not have time to read it.  So I am putting the most important part here and adding a few thoughts of my own (in italics).  

My clients, folks who read my blog regularly and those unfortunate to sit near me in any social setting know I VERY FREQUENTLY talk about most of these themes.  That being said, I think now, more than ever, small businesses need to really make sure that they are working on best practices and not cutting essentials in a foolhardy attempt at costcutting.  

1. SEO – Customers actively use search engines to find relevant solutions. Keyword and organic search optimization is an inexpensive and effective means for gaining strategic presence.

No, don’t go hire an SEO firm quite yet.  But do focus on setting up outposts and comment on blogs. This is a quick and simple way to boost oranic optimization.  Also, read up on SEO, meet experts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  By implementing a few quick tips you can make sure you are who your prospects find when they search for your product or service.

2. Blog Relations – It’s not just about news and pitching the A-List, creating a consistent and visible brand requires the inclusion of the authoritative, peer-to-peer blogs that your customers and influencers read for information, help and perspective. Oh, and be wise about using embargoes.

Getting to know others in your space and in your customers space gives you great opportunities for promos, learning, more organic SEO and you may even make some real friends in the process.  It never hurts to share some link love.  As Guy Kawasaki says, “Always be Linking.”

3. Media/Analysts – Reporters and analysts cover your space and by simply writing about your company or product, they can position you as an option among your customers; especially when they’re researching options to validate decisions.

If something truly newsworthy happens at your organization, let the media know.  Otherwise work to provide value to reporters in your space.  Social media has a funny way of rewarding the TRULY helpful.  Just ask Chris Brogan.

4. Direct Sales – Some of the most successful companies right now are concentrating on direct outreach to the decision makers instead of hoping to influence them from the sidelines.

One huge disconnect that exists (although social media is beginning to help with) is between the Sales and Marketing departments of most organizations.  These folks should be practically one in the same, should be talking daily, and should be collaborating on just about everything.

5. CRM – Building a customer-focused business saves money and increases revenue. Focusing on customers and empowering them improves business processes, product development, and also offsets marketing expenses as “involved and participatory” customers transform from a cost-center into an active surrogate sales force.

This isn’t just the Customer Service department or the Sales Team’s job.  This needs to be Company Wide. If someone writes about a bad experience on a blog there is no reason they shouldn’t get 100 different apology letters (obviously an exaggeration) and attempts at writing the situation.  Everyone should be taking care of the customers.  Happy customers tell one person, unhappy customers tell 10 people, so you had better work at turning your customers into Raving Fans

6. Participate – Social networks are much more than mere time killers. Participating across the social communities where you’re customers and prospects are active and vocal provides a looking glass into their thoughts, requests, opinions, dislikes, and recommendations. It also provides you with priceless opportunities to combat negative perceptions while also positioning your company as a resource.

Obviously we talk a lot about this here.  Jeffery Gitomer  says (A LOT) that all things being equal people want to work with their friends. Active participation in social networks allows for YOU to connect with your customers and prospects in a real and meaningful way, not unlike friendship.  This has to be looked at like building friendships, not selling per say, not marketing per say.  Putting a friendly human face to your brand or product is an amazing differentiators in a sea of competitors as well.  

7. Thought Leadership – One of the best ways to demonstrate thought leadership is to actively share your thoughts where they count. Contributing articles and posts to industry publications, forums, and blogs increases visibility and unobtrusively contributes to your sales strategy by helping customers find you.

By establishing yourself and your brand as the gold standard in the industry, folks have no choice but to come to you first.  How many of you remember when we didn’t call them PC’s but IBM’s or IBM’s compatibles or clones?

8. Blog and Blog Comments – It may seem trite or perhaps even worthless, but I can guarantee that finding the time to host and contribute to a blog that demonstrates the expertise of you and your team is priceless. People are looking for information and direction, not just from your blog but others as well. Go where they are and offer counsel, contribute to the dialogue and establish trust and authority in the process. Why wouldn’t you position yourself as a resource for your customers or prospects? Too busy you say? Empower your staff. Contract outside experts to contribute to creating a one-stop-shop for insight and direction—just be transparent about their involvement. It costs less than you think to build a community around your product, or at least what it stands for.

Very similar to number 7, so here, here!  Do it. 

9. Network in the real world – Participation isn’t solely relegated to online networks. Opportunities to meet and cultivate relationships in the real world are abundant. Meetups, industry events, groups, unofficial lobbycons associated with your favorite events are continuous and more valuable with your involvement.

Oddly enough, while many decry online networking as inherently antisocial, more and more people are hosting meetups in the real world based on connections made in the virtual one. Knowing the right people and staying in touch with them has whole host of benefits.  From job searches to expert advice, from buyers to sellers, one never knows how a relationship can later benefit you, so invest and cultivate many.  Who knows, you may even make a REAL LIFE FRIEND.

10. Involve Your Community – Save money and time by involving your customers in the development process of your new and iterative products as well as your go to market strategy. Alpha customers are often ready to assist with the validation of your business model and also the honest feedback associated with your product benefits and features.

There are tons of smart people out there who want to help and be a part of your success.  Crowdsource your next big decision.  I guarantee it will be an enlightening, interesting and helpful process. 

11. Websites are not Just Web Pages – Your Website must make an emotional connection with visitors, while also conveying stories and value propositions that specifically capture the attention of your customers – otherwise, all of your hard work and investment of time and money in sales and marketing campaigns will generate traffic, but lead to a dramatically reduced conversation ratios.

Great content is key.  Provide lots of values to your readers and customers will follow.  Also, spend some time on your site.  How easy is it to buy? To connect? To contact? To learn? Not easy?  FIX IT!!!

12. Innovate – Always learn and improve everything in order to stay relevant.

Find blogs in your space.  Read them.  Beyond that, find relevant blogs that might not be in your space.  Most marketing blogs are read by marketers.  If you own a store don’t just read the store ownership blogs. Read the staffing, logistics, marketing, leadership, etc blogs.  Learn how to do everything just a little bit better and see the PROFITS role in and your job get much easier.  

By making little changes everyday, innovating, learning and implementing, connecting, you can, even in today’s economic climate, grow exponentially.

What are you going to do today to grow tomorrow?  What did I leave out?  What are you doing to weather the storm, outsmart the storm, profit from the storm?  Am I a gigantic moron? Why?