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Small Business Development Center

Seizing Moments that Matter

Hey Siri - Que the music...

###

Who's watching?
Tell me who's watching
Who's watching me?

I'm just an average man, with an average life
I work from nine to five; hey ..., I pay the price
All I want is to be left alone in my average home
But why do I always feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone, and

I always feel like somebody's watching me
And I have no privacy
Whoa, I always feel like somebody's watching me
Tell me is it just a dream?

###

-Rockwell circa 1984

Recently, I had an interesting experience with closed loop marketing and the power of modern technology.

I was researching some of the product offerings and educational resources offered from HubSpot (they really do a great job of creating compelling lead generation devices!). I went so far as to check their pricing plans and perhaps my fate was sealed after that last click.

Because no more than 5 minutes after I left their site, the phone rang here at the SBDC office and sure enough, it was a Hubspot salesperson calling to see if I had any further questions he could answer. The rep was really quite transparent and acknowledged that he was calling because he saw that I was on their site 'recently'.

What's That You Say - Cool...or Creepy?

Personally, I found the whole experience quite helpful and enlightening.

So what's at play here and how did they tie it all together?

Step #1 - HupSpot captured me as a 'lead' a long time ago, after I opted in to their lead funnel (by providing my name, email address and phone number) in exchange for receiving some of their very well done reports, templates and tools. A fair trade.

Step #2 - HubSpot actively monitors their website traffic and has the ability to see if they can identify return visitors from whom they have collected personal information.

Step #3 - HubSpot has a system of 'scoring' leads and possibly a number of 'triggers' that would then prompt an outbound effort from the company, in this case my return visit to their site and checking their pricing plans meant a follow up call from a sales rep.

The Take-Away

My guess is that HubSpot has seen a higher closing ratio of leads to customers after closing this marketing loop with personal follow up. A higher closing ratio means more sales and more profits without having to increase unique visitors to your website.

The good news - modern technology has made this type of tracking affordable for the masses.

HubSpot is not the only company that offers such a solution and this post is not intended to be an endorsement for them.

If you would like to explore how technology and digital marketing solutions can help increase your sales, give us a call at the SBDC...we're here to help!

Authored by: Eric Grimstead

Post date: 201711

The B-Word

I’m not the first to assert that “budget is not a bad word.” Although it’s commonplace to see budgeting in a negative light, a subset of the population recognizes how a budget can highlight priorities, serve as a communication tool, and provide structure in a chaotic world.

A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive, but rather, permission to spend! In setting aside a certain dollar amount by category, you are giving yourself the freedom to spend funds on certain activities or assets. The key is to set dollar amounts that align with your priorities and reflect reality.

Setting Priorities

In a business setting, some common financial priorities include:

  • Paying yourself a salary (or increasing your take-home pay)
  • Hiring a new employee, giving your employees a raise, or offering employee health benefits
  • Buying a new piece of equipment
  • Leasing or purchasing property to expand operations

On a personal level, your financial priorities might include:

  • Saving for retirement, a down payment on a home and/or your child’s education
  • Buying new furniture or a reliable vehicle
  • Taking a much needed vacation

In establishing priorities, it’s also helpful to determine if they are ongoing or onetime expenses.

Action Step: List out your financial priorities or goals, for both your business and your personal life.

Reality Check

For future income and expense projections, be as grounded (or conservative) as possible. Base your projections on actual contracts, bids, and/or estimates provided by customers or vendors.

Alternatively, you can estimate your financial future by clearly understanding where your money has been coming from or going. Again, for best results, differentiate between onetime vs. ongoing.

Action Step: Review your Profit & Loss Statements, credit card, and bank statements. Group income sources and expenses into major categories.

Budget Basics

Add up all your annual sources of income. Next, add up all your annual expenses. Which total is larger?

If your income is greater than your expenses, is the difference large enough to meet your business and/or personal financial goals? If not (or if your expenses are greater than your income), take a hard look at your expense categories.

Are your expenses discretionary (i.e. relatively easy to reduce by monitoring)? Discretionary expenses typically include eating out, entertainment, and travel expenses. Or, are the expenses essentially fixed – such as your monthly lease or mortgage?

Tip: while it’s low hanging fruit to cut or reduce discretionary spending, the big bucks are typically realized when people rethink their “fixed” expenses. This might mean finding a smaller office space, paying employees on an hourly basis verses a salary, or hunting for a less expensive internet/communications plan.

As suggested at the beginning of this article, developing a budget means you are proactively thinking about your money choices. You are consciously setting priorities. Then, throughout the year, “actual” income and expenses can be tracked against the budget (this is called a “budget variance” report). When shared with others, a budget variance report becomes an excellent communication tool - keeping everyone informed, accountable, and on the same page.

Action Step: If you need help establishing a budget for your business, contact the Small Business Development Center at sbdc@wwu.edu or by calling (360) 778-1762. A SBDC business advisor can help you better understand your past financial performance and aid you in planning for your financial future!

Authored by: Sherri Daymon

Post date: 201711

How to have (better) hard conversations...

You know how they say “kids say the darndest things?” I think adults experience this amongst each other, too; but often it has a more contentious reaction than funny. Whether a conversation with a friend or family member, a work discussion with a colleague or a staff meeting, we’ve probably all been in those conversations that catch us off guard. For such scenarios, it’s beneficial to practice facilitation skills.

This year, I have been blessed to partake in a series of facilitation trainings and events through the WWU SBDC Leadership Series, WWU Social Justice and Equity Committee (Western Today story), and Embody Love Movement. These events target topics that are (often) difficult and feel vulnerable to discuss. Regardless of topic, facilitation skills are a professional and personal asset when hard conversations arise and lend an opportunity for learning and growth.

Why is facilitation important to business, community, relationships, etc.?

  1. Enriches understanding yourself, your experiences, narratives, and ideas
  2. Fosters curiosity about others, their experiences, narratives, and ideas
  3. Helps acquire a “bigger picture” perspective
  4. Promotes inclusion and collective wisdom
  5. Enhances collaboration and innovation

The role of the facilitator is NOT to have all the answers or a preconceived end product. In fact, there may be no tangible result at all.

The role of the facilitator is to guide conversations (one-on-one or in groups, i.e. staff meetings) that illuminate what is currently occurring and lead toward new possibilities.

Some of my favorite facilitator toolkit tricks:

  1. Take a breath 
  2. Do some self-discovery work like leadership mind maps; “Can’t lead where you won’t go.”
  3. Establish rapport
    • Create group agreements
    • Engage with honesty, humility and curiosity
  4. Ask an individual:
    • Really? I never thought about it like that. Can you tell me more?
  5. Include and ask the group:
    • Does anyone else share that experience/feeling?

Hard conversations are tough but vital to our relationships, communities, workplaces, and other social spaces.

If you are interested in learning more, check out local facilitator opportunities and resources through the following: WWU Social Justice and Equity Committee, the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, or a coach like Laura and Sara

Authored by: Haley Halverson

Post date: 201711