Small Business Insights from Outsiders

While it is essential to practice ongoing education to stay current with trends, technologies, and best practices – it is much easier to acquire that same knowledge through networking.

In fact, networking is nearly always the top reason given for attending industry conferences and expos. The conversations in the halls after an educational session – or at the end of the day, are often the ones that lead to the most profound and lasting insights.

To generate more fresh ideas, it’s also essential to network and learn from business leaders outside of your industry. 

Here’s a few I learned by doing exactly that.

Stick to Your Niche

Mike Chapman of Chapman College Admission Consulting helps college bound students in central Ohio make the most of their college experience – from the planning and application process, to finding and securing financial aid, all the way through to post-graduate career advising and interview coaching.

Chapman serves a narrow and defined niche – central Ohio students seeking to attend a four year college. While Chapman considered expanding its business reach to include the entire state of Ohio, the decision was made to limit the population served in order to serve them well – by offering more extensive services and personalized attention.

What Mike Chapman practices is something I’ve learned in my business ventures. Stay focused on those you can best serve if you expect to sustain passion for your work – and the profits that come from doing it well.

Explain What You Do – For a 3rd Grader

If you do not have a well defined business processes, then you cannot possibly explain to your prospects how and why you can help them.

Having clear processes accomplishes a number of things. The most important is projecting confidence.

When you can describe what you do in simple and concise language, your prospect instantly knows you have a plan or method for reliably taking them where they want to go.

A well-defined process also ensures that each and every member of your team is applying the same proven formula – thereby avoiding embarrassing and costly mistakes.

How do you explain what you do so a 3rd grader can understand?  Video and Powerpoint presentations are excellent vehicles, and both are easily embedded into your website and social media pages and profiles.

Creatively Engage Your Community

In considering how to get the most bang from his marketing budget, Mike Chapman came up with a exceptional idea for extending his reach deep within his target market.

Instead of spreading his dollars around, he instead chose to make an impact by investing $5,000 to fund an annual scholarship for one fortunate student.

To be considered for the scholarship, the student needs to simply agree to enroll at one of Ohio’s four-year colleges, and pledge to work or attend graduate school in Ohio upon graduation. The idea is to recognize and reward a student who is truly passionate about Ohio.

To apply for the scholarship, students have to create a 2 minute video describing what they love most about Ohio. There are a number of things I like about this idea – all of which affirm the company mission or purpose.

So, the challenge for adapting this to your business is to first get clear about your company mission. Then ask yourself how you can extend that into your community in an engaging way.

Incidentally, the winner of the Chapman scholarship is determined by crowdsourcing the community response to the students videos that will be hosted on the Chapman College Admission Consulting website.

Isn’t that a brilliant way to make a difference and get the community talking about your brand – while also driving traffic to your website?

See what I mean? The new ideas you are looking are already here.

You just have to get outside of your comfort zone to find them.

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Until next time,  Jeff