What’s Your Name? Jonathan Martin
Business Name? Black Sock Productions ltd.
Business Website? http://www.blacksockproductions.com
When Did You Start Your Business? 2012
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you come to create your business?
I have always loved movies, music videos, or any short video that was able to creatively tell a story. In my final years of college I picked up a camera and began making short skits and things with my friends. The more I made, the more I fell in love with film and video. Before I knew it my equipment had advanced, my techniques were more complex, and my films and videos were more professional and creative. A couple years ago I decided to try to make this my full time gig so I quit my job and never looked back.
Who was your very first customer and how did you find them?
My very first customer was for a nutrition store in Colorado Springs. A friend of mine from high school had continued to follow me on social media and knew that I had a video company- her parents owned a store and wanted a web commercial.
When did you know your business was going to work out?
I knew that my business was going to work out when I looked and saw how many friends and family, past clients etc. were referring me for video jobs. At the time I hadn’t spent any money on advertising and was staying busy just by word of mouth. I figured if I started to put myself out there more in addition to these referrals, I would be ok.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
The biggest surprise to me after starting my own business is how often you have to stay working at it. Trying to keep a business going is a full time job in addition to whatever your business might be doing. Networking, finding clients, improving on my craft… A lot of people only see the fun things I get to do and flexibility I have with my time, when in reality I am in one way or another always working.
What has been your biggest lesson learned in pricing?
My biggest lesson is that I am more valuable than I might realize initially. When I started I was almost giving away work. At the same time though, if you are going to charge for something, you had better be able to back it up with solid work.
What does a typical day look like for you from morning until evening?
I get this question all the time but so many times no two days are the same; I might wake up and start editing today, where tomorrow I wake up and get ready to shoot a wedding. Even as I am doing this interview I have to prepare for a music video later this evening.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when you were starting your business?
If I could go back I would spend money differently. In a business there are a lot of things that you think you need… As you get older or more experienced you realize that isn’t always the case. I also would have spent more time learning about my industry before diving right in. It would have given me the opportunity to be a real authority in my industry a lot sooner.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
There is a lot I don’t know. I know that now. I think any and all information from other small businesses is great and valuable. Even if their views on business differ from mine, you can never have enough eyes on a situation to try and learn from.
Creating an effective company logo is far more difficult than one would think. It is not as simple as making a good drawing of a symbol then calling it a logo. There is a lot of things that comes into play before you come up with a memorable logo like McDonalds “M” or Nike’s “Check” logo.
The problem is that creating a logo can be very subjective. What looks good to one person might not be to another. The key is to know that you can’t please everybody and you just have to come up with the most effective logo and that no logo you will come up with will ever be perfect.
To arrive at that effective company logo your company needs, here are some tips that you can follow:
Use a professional
Attempting to create a logo on your own may lead to more harm than good. And for what? To save a few dollars? Getting a professional designer may require some spending but what you are paying for is the training and expertise of that person. A professional can explain to you things like design flaws, effective color schemes, the right font, and other stuff that an untrained person may not be looking at. It is an investment but if it at least veers you away from a possibly offensive logo, then it has been worth it.
Know your Brand and your Demographics
Before you come up with a logo, you have to consider your own brand first. What are your company’s goals? What are the values you want associated with your brand? After that, you have to also consider your market. Who are the people you want buying your product or service? Your logo should represent who you are as a brand and should appeal to your current and potential customers.
Go for timeless instead of trendy
Following current trends may be the easy way but its effectiveness might be limited until the trend lasts. Go for a logo that you think is timeless and will never go out of style. If you achieve this, it will save you more money down the road because you would not have to go through a drastic rebranding campaign just to create another logo in the future.
Before taking your company logo live conduct a series of tests first to get some initial feedback and reviews. This will give you an idea if you need to make improvements or changes, create a completely new logo, or start launching your current logo.
Your logo is usually the first contact of customers to your brand. Make sure that your logo will make a good impression.
“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” Probably one of the most popular quotes of Sun Tzu from the Art of War, it is not only applicable in grand epic battles but in business completion as well. After all, the best way to beat an enemy is not only to know their weaknesses but also their strengths.
But how do you study your business competitors? Here are some tips:
Identify your competitor
This sounds simple enough but it is actually much more complicated than that. Take cable companies like Comcast and Verizon, they are essentially supposed to be competitors but if you look at it more closely it is more like each one have a monopoly of services on a specific territory that rarely infringe on one another. They are not really competing for the same market.
So when you consider it you have to identify the businesses that are competing with your for the same market for the same product or service. These will be your direct competitors. It does not end there, however. You also have to consider your indirect competitors. These are businesses who do not have the same product or service but can be considered as alternatives to your own, An example would be hosted PBX solutions vs. 4-line telephone systems. They are not really the same but the latter could be seen as a cheaper alternative to the former.
Identify their strategies
Once you have determined your competitors, you can now examine the strategies they employ to get an advantage over you and your common competitors. Do they advertise a lot? Do they have a strong branding campaign? Do they have a strong web and social media presence? Do they rank high in major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing? What other media do they use to market their product or service?
Know their strengths and weakness
Once you know their strategies, you can also study its effectiveness. Is their advertising yielding better brand recognition or is it bringing adverse effect to their brand? Do they rank high in major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing or are they languishing on the rankings for important keywords?
Look for opportunities
Once you know their weakness, you can also review your own performance on these categories. Are you doing so much better or are you just slightly ahead? Once you know their strengths, on the other hand, you can now formulate a plan to counter their strengths or even adapt those strengths into your own business.
Just think about it, you never know who you will meet in an elevator. It might be your next big client or your next big investor. You don’t want to be caught stammering in front of the person who can make or break your business. That is why you should have a solid elevator pitch prepared that you can present in a pinch.
The problem is that unless you get invited to join the person you are pitching to, your elevator pitch would be limited to the time that you are, well, in the elevator. Once the door opens and your target person steps out, you should have already been able to deliver the gist of your pitch by then.
But because of the surprise and the suddenness of the situation, few are actually equipped to take advantage of the situation. That is why you should have a solid elevator pitch prepared that you can present in a pinch.
Always have a prepared elevator pitch when you step out of your home or office. To help you come up with an effective elevator pitch, here are some tips:
Make it short and simple
As said above, you have a very limited time to give your pitch so you probably have about a minute or 2 inutes max to present your case. You do not want to be wasting those precious time prepping your pitch. You want to go direct to the point with the simplest words to explain your case. Do not use heavy words and jargons. Instead of impressing the target, you might just end up trying to explain certain terms that you used which he or she did not understand.
Present a problem and a unique solution
Aside from a brief overview of your company, your pitch should include a problem that is relatable to the target. Given that problem, you can present your product or service as the solution to that problem. Explain the benefits of your solution and its difference from what is being offered by competitors.
Always have your business card ready
If possible you should bring a paper copy of your pitch that you can give to your target so that they can review it after your pitch. But since you would not have those copies with you at all times, you can settle with always having your business card with you at all times. You have to always, I mean ALWAYS, give a copy of your business card to the target before or after the elevator pitch. This way, the target has a quick way to get back to you if he or she finds your pitch interesting.
Creating an effective email campaign is no easy task. After all, email users are pretty hard to please and are usually annoyed when they receive random emails that are promotional in nature, which are what email campaigns are in its very nature.
However, the wide reach of an effective email campaign cannot be ignored. That is why even if we are not good at it we trudge on every week or every month to send those emails.
Maybe it is time to change your approach, here are some tips on how you can improve and succeed in email marketing:
Treat your email subject as a headline
This is the first words that the email recipient will see. This will decide whether your email is opened, ignored, or worse, marked as spam. That is why you want an email that is catchy. You want the reader to be so intrigued that he or she will want to open that email. So think about your email subject. Avoid generic headers and really look for something to grab the readers’ attention.
Apply great graphics
Make sure that you have eye-catching graphics that will highlight what you are offering in your campaigns. People tend to ignore long blocks of texts so do not send emails that are purely text so adding graphics that are easy on the eyes will help you deliver your message more effectively.
Do not Spam
Make sure that you are not misleading in your email campaign. All elements of your email should be in symmetry with each other. This means that what you promised in the header should also be the one in the content. Black hat email marketers usually focus on killer headlines that are not related to the content of their email. It may lead to click at first, but your reputation will be killed in the long run.
Do not send your emails on Mondays and Fridays
What is common between Monday and Friday? They are both connected to weekends. Send your email on Monday and it will come with the deluge of emails employees and entrepreneurs get during Mondays because of unanswered weekend mails. Friday on the other hand is the end of the work week and employees tend to ignore any more email especially if it is not work related. Chances are your email will just get lost among the weekend emails that are sure to come. Best days to send your emails are Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Reviews has always been a part of business success. If people say positive things about your company, it will build up your credibility and chances are, more people will patronize your product or service. But with how dependent people are to the Internet, the importance of reviews has become even bigger.
With information readily available to people at the tip of their fingers, companies with great reviews especially on Google and Yelp, will always have the advantage over their competition. As a result, there are companies who resort to questionable practices like buying reviews or creating multiple accounts to write positive reviews for their companies.
However, the best reviews are always those that are genuine. Besides, there are things you can do to increase your own positive reviews on Google and Yelp. Here are some:
The best way to get people to write reviews about your company is to ask them directly. It is one question so it should not be too hard on you or your staff to ask, and it should not be too annoying for the customer. The worst that could happen is they say no, which would have been the same result if you did not ask in the first place. But what if they say yes? You get a genuine positive review just for asking.
So next time someone tells you something positive about your company (via email, phone, or personal conversation) ask them if they can go to Yelp or Google to write a review.
Make it easy
The problem with leaving reviews is that the customer has to go through a lot of trouble just to leave a positive review. They have to search your Google profile or Yelp account before they can leave a review. You can make it easier by linking your Google Profile and Yelp account on your website, email blasts, and other customer communications.
Include it in your processes
If you make “asking for reviews” a part of your business processes, then it is more likely to increase the number of your reviews. You can instruct your staff to include it on their spiel after serving a happy customer. You can also include it on the last part of your check-out process if you have an e-commerce site. As said on the first tip, the important thing is that you have to ask.
Offer a great product or service and great customer service
None of the tips above will matter if your customers do not have a great experience dealing with your company. If you have a great product or service and you take care of your customers the way they should be treated then the positive reviews should follow.
If you are a professional looking for work, you send in a resume. But if you are an entrepreneur looking to introduce your business, a resume does not seem like an appropriate approach. After all, the resume gives possible employers an overview of an individual and not of an organization.
What you want is something that would provide possible business partners, clients, or investors a short but concise summary of what you are as a company and what you can provide.
For this purpose, instead of a resume, what you need is a business bio. But how do you construct an effective business bio? Here are some tips.
Start off with an overview statement.
Before getting to the nitty gritty of your business, you have to give the reader a short glimpse of who you are as a company. Your first paragraph should be about who you are as a company in a macro level. Give them a general description of the products or service your company offers together, your capability in producing such products or services, and the length at which you have been doing so.
Establish your expertise
After the introduction, you want to prove that your credibility and prove that you are capable of delivering what you promise. Cite major clients that you have worked with. This will show that you have successfully delivered for others in the past. You can also cite media outlets that featured your company. This shows that your business is widely recognized for its expertise.
Highlight your accomplishments
Aside from establishing your credibility, you also want to showcase that you are the best choice. To do this, you want to highlight your past successes. Review your credentials and pick the projects that gave you the most success and the most positive feedback. These are the things that you want to show off in your business bio. This goes with your media features as well. Pick the more popular media bodies that recognized you to focus on. People would care more about something they are familiar with compared to your media mention from a local magazine that no one has ever heard of.
Short for Keep It Short and Simple. You do not want to be sending out multiple page business bios. Busy people will not have the time to read 2-3 pages of self gratifying drivel that could be compared to a boring romance novel. What they want is something short, simple, and direct to the point. No need for heavy words and jargons. In fact, you should stay away from those too. Instead of impressing the reader with your vocabulary, you will just end up confusing them. My tip is to keep it at one page at 2-3 paragraphs. That should be enough to cover all bases.
Competition is fierce in the web. Your website while pretty and engaging will not do any good if you are buried in the rankings of search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and most of all, Google. After all, if you are listed in the 60s to 100s of Google results, chances are that no one will be able to see your website.
Internet users rarely go to the 2nd or 3rd page of search engine results, much less the 10th or 20th. Data also shows that websites on the first page gets the most traffic from search engine users.
The goal is to reach the first page and rank in the top 5. To do that, you have to optimize your pages.
Here’s a short guide:
On-page SEO Strategies
These are actions that you take within the website or webpage itself. The most basic steps in on-page optimizing is to optimize your metas. Make sure that your meta title is keyword centric but still makes sense. The description, though not important in rankings, can help in conversion so make sure that it is highly descriptive and unique.
Next, make sure that your H1s and H2 headers feature your primary keywords. Support those headers with strong and high-quality content.
Last, use alt text to add the primary keyword on your images.
User Experience Strategies
Each page should have an intuitive navigation to make it easy to use. Use a strong header to attract customers. The goal is to keep the customer in the page so you should have strong content as well. Add a click-to-call button at the end to make it easier for the visitor to perform your desired action.
Make sure that you use the appropriate keywords for each webpage of your website. You can use Google’s keyword planner to research the appropriate keywords and see their Monthly Search Volume (MSV). The MSV is the average number of people using those keywords in Google.
Link Building Strategies
First is internal linking. Make sure that the linking of your internal pages are on point. Search engines do not like broken links that point to nowhere. A good internal linking system not only makes it easy for search engines to crawl but also makes it easier for users to navigate your website.
External links, meanwhile, refers to links from outside your website. Google has cracked down on spammy link building so be careful. If you are not sure then it might be better to skip this step. If you are going to proceed, the key is to choose only reputable websites that are related to your own.
You want to start a massive email campaign but do not have the email list to actually start? Well, there are actually a lot of easy ways to grow your email list fast. You do not even have to buy leads from professional lead generation companies. You just got to do what they do.
Here are some examples:
Through a lead gen form:
Offer freebies where to get those, guests would have to fill up a form, which of course includes a space for their email address. Here are some sample freebies
Offer free articles
Write a free e-book, whitepaper, or a weekly newsletter. Create a page where people can sign up and get those for free.
Create something useful for other businesses out there. Of course to get it, they have to sign up a lead gen form which is similar to what is shown above.
Host a webinar:
Have a skill that you think will be of use to other businesses, host a webinar and share those skills to the world. Anybody can join; they just have to sign up with their email.
Through social media
You have a wide reach with your social media accounts, why not use it to get more email addresses.
Promote your led gen projects
Tell the world that you are giving away freebies through your social media accounts. Next thing you know they are getting their freebies through the link you featured.
Promote your own social media project
Host a contest or some other event with prizes on your Facebook account. Of course, to join, they have to leave their email addresses.
Through your email
Your email can also be used to get more email addresses. Here are some tips:
Add a link to your email signature
Use your email to get people to visit your lead gen projects. While you already have the recipient’s email address, he or she can forward your email to other people who can in turn click on your lead gen pages.
Tell your current email list to share
While not everyone will, a percentage of your email list might be nice enough to share your email to their email list or through their social media accounts. There is a chance that nobody does, but it would not really hurt if you ask.
Create excellent content
The best way to get people to give you their email address is through good ol’ fashioned content. Provide good quality content and people will read.
Elements to a Perfect capability statement
Just a few years ago, most people do not even know what a capability statement is. Now, it is one of the most important documents especially if you are going after a government contract.
But what is a capability statement? If reviewed, you will see that it is some kind of a mix between a resume for businesses and a business marketing document. Form its name, you can already gleam that it is to show the capability of the company. It is like a resume in a way because it shows your past experiences and projects that prove your capability to deliver and it is like a marketing document as well because you present it in a way that it showcases your company’s expertise.
But what are the most important elements of a capability statement? There are different takes on that, but most would agree on these:
Your capability statement should be able to highlight what your company can bring to the table. This element should show that you can deliver what you promise. Give an overview of how your company’s expertise can provide a solution to the reader’s problem.
Your past performance will serve as proof on your ability to deliver on your promise. List your major clients and the projects that you have done with them. Describe the goals set by your clients and how you achieved those. Make sure to highlight major achievements to showcase how much your company can achieve when given the trust.
After discussing your past performance to prove your capability, you also want to highlight what makes your company the best choice. You will have competitors who will offer the same expertise as your company so you want to show something that will differentiate you. Highlight what makes your business unique and why you would be the best choice.
Include supporting data that can support your claims as long as they are not confidential. These data should show that you have improved the conditions of your clients compared to before you entered the picture.
Include important contact information on the document. Some people argue that they have already given a business card or that the company already knows how to contact them if needed. While that is true, you want to give the reader a quick way to contact you as soon as they have the document with them. If they find your capability statement interesting, you want them to look at your contact information and consider contacting you as soon as possible.