Monday, November 23, 2015

Long-form thinking in today's short-form world

I've written a lot about having a cogent strategy when you start a new nonprofit or small business. I'm beginning to think that the market for that advice is as dead as a fossilized woolly mammoth.
I get that in the age of information overload, you have about 7 seconds to capture your target's attention. I've written my share of SEO-friendly 50 character action posts and catchy sales pages.

All that's fine, well, and good, as long as there is some actual thought behind your hastily thumbed tweet.

The problem is that it seems as though our brains are now in permanent short-form mode.

Recently a twenty-something wanna-be nonprofit founder/entrepreneur asked me to come up with some content for their Twitter feed. As she put it, "something that will show people we care about "X" and need their money to help."

So I did what any consultant would do…I asked her to outline her value proposition or mission and vision statement so I could better represent her organization.

She didn't have anything, beyond the idea that if she could separate enough people from enough money, she could "help."

No budget, no program/product outline, not even a firm idea whether she wanted to be a nonprofit or a for-profit with a philanthropic division.

Her reasoning?  She did know that it takes money to make money, and she didn't have any, so she figured she'd get the money first and figure out what to do with it later. 

I'm not sure if she was simply naïve or she'd gotten her hands on some really good weed, but that ain't gonna cut it.

Maybe it's old-fashioned, but believe it or not, people actually want some substance available before they invest in anything.
If you want other people's money, you have to provide value.  It's just that simple.

As boring as it might be, you have to have a plan, objectives, results and at least some understanding of why people purchase or support anything.

In short, this business thingie is a lot of real, brain-busting hard work.

Hopefully, there are still people out there that can think in those terms. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How does your small business find employees?

Recently a friend called me to ask if I had any leads to help her find a part-time administrative assistant.

Julia (not her real name) said she had posted an opening on the state employment office's website, but after three weeks, only one qualified applicant had applied. She did not want to use one of the many private employment firms, feeling that the extra 2-3 dollars an hour they pocketed for their service didn't reflect the value of the services they offered to manage just one employee.

In a town of just over 50K with a well-respected technical college that seemed odd. I decided to look for her posting.

I discovered that the heretofore in-house state managed job listing had been turned over to one of those internet-based job posting firms. A call to the local state employment office netted me a referral to the website.

First of all, I couldn't find her posting through the keyword search function, using "administrative assistant". Only when I used her specific business name did the listing finally appear. Predictably, the posting was titled "Office help wanted". At no point in the posting did the words "administrative assistant" appear.

Interestingly, the posting did show up on Glassdoor and Indeed using the keyword "office". The information did re-direct to the state sponsored website, leading me to wonder why only one person had managed to navigate through the maze to actually reply.

I surmise that most of the people looking for work locally weren't using these sites to search for openings. Typically, local employees tend to use local searches, like the employment office or newspapers.

That points up the problems with our keyword and SEO oriented age.

If the person searching isn't using the same descriptors you are, you might never connect.

I referred Julia to the local college employment office, and had her re-write her ad so it would search more effectively. I also suggested that she run a help-wanted ad in the local paper, since it has both a print and online presence, and that's where she finally found her new employee.

After revising her ad, she received over 50 responses, and of those 50, almost half were well-qualified for the position.

In all of this research, I did notice that there were almost no truly small businesses using the new state job search resource. Most of the listings for openings were from government or large institutional or retail employers.

That leads me to wonder whether there is truly a "shortage of people that want to work" or  is it that they can't find each other?

So I'm asking…if you are a truly small business owner (25 employees or less),  where are you looking for employees, and how much success are you having finding them? Email me here or post in the comment section and let me know. Perhaps there's a way to make this easier and more effective for everyone.

Addendum:  If you are looking for work and can't find openings in your town, feel free to contact me as well. Where are you looking, and why aren't you connecting with employers?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Maybe you should market to a goldfish.


In this age of self-taught ADHD, marketing needs to be read, absorbed and acted upon in just 8.25 seconds, or ¾'s of a second shorter attention span than that of a goldfish.

For instance if you are still reading this, it isn't because the cute headline caught you. Indeed, your brain probably only registered these words:

"Read this" and "more money."

Or so says an oft-quoted study by Microsoft. Considering that pre-social media, i.e. back in the dark ages of the 1970s and '80s it used to be 12 minutes, it's no wonder that long form marketing isn't working.

If your appeal or sales pitch (depending on whether you are a nonprofit or a for-profit) can't compel the reader to stay long enough to read your whole pitch, and most especially if it doesn't promise a reward for that reader, it's going to join the rest of the internet trash PDQ.

All that assumes that your target market is people under 40.

High-end appeals are still being read by people who are old enough to be able to read more than 140 characters.

If that's your market, then you may want to take this advice with a grain of salt.  Nonprofits in particular often eschew modern internet marketing trends because their audience tends to be older.

Why?  Because they're the ones with money. Unfortunately, many of them have picked up their kids bad social media habits, so a tweak here and there could be in order. 

It all goes back to the same basic marketing premise. Know your audience and target your message to it.

That's not to say that once you capture a reader's internet attention they won't stick around for a minute or so. But in the world of instant gratification, if they haven't clicked through to buy or give to something in that length of time, you've pretty much wasted your time.

Think about overhauling your sales approach. You really will make more money.