5 "Bar-acktions" You Can Take To Grow Your Business
I am so totally jealous (in a good way) that my husband went to hear President Elect Barack Obama address a rally at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte on the day before he won the election. Darryl and thousands of others braved pouring rain and long lines in the hopes of being inspired and for an opportunity to take a picture. Standing on his tip toes and unable to see through the view finder, Darryl snapped this picture of our soon-to-be leader. (I used Picnik to color Obama and the flag so if you don't like that effect, don't blame Darryl.)
The day after the election, a CNN journalist recounted 5 things that President-Elect Barack Obama did that helped him win the election. As I listened to the report, I couldn't help but notice clear analogies between what Obama did to influence people to vote for him and what we Indie Business owners must do to influence people to do business with us. Whether or not you like the outcome of the election, there are several "Bar-acktions" you can employ to help you win friends and influence people.
1. Obama Was Prepared
Frequently, there's little we can do to control the timing of business opportunities. But we can prepare for them so that when they come, we can ambrace them with open arms. Obama's rise through the ranks and the public's growing mistrust of government happened simultaneously. As a community organizer, civil rights attorney and junior Senator, Obama cut his teeth on the issues that eventually lead to an uprising. This uprising lead to his position as the soon-to-be 44th President of the United States. He prepared for years for an office h had no guarantee of ever holding. His preparation enabled him to seize the moment when it arose.
In business, we must do the same. We toil away day in and day out, agonizing over details, losing sleep, planning new possibilities and hoping for opportunity around every corner. We never really know that it will come, or what form it will take. But we know that we must work hard first, and then we can take advantage of opportunity when it knocks.
Bar-acktion Item: Be prepared.
2. Obama Left His Comfort Zone
Obama knew where his base was, and while he didn't exactly ignore it, he didn't exactly invest time there either. For example, well over 90% of Washington, DC residents (my hometown) voted for Obama, yet he did not spend one day there on the campaign trail. That's because he knew the C vote was secure. Washingtonians had already bought what he was selling so he didn't have to convince them. Instead, he focused his efforts where he knew he needed to win people over. It worked.
It's no different in business. It's easy to sell to people you know, people you're comfortable with. That's why crafters have such good holiday seasons — they sell to people they know, and in comfortable places like local craft shows and church bazaars. Nothing wrong with that, but you can't rely on sales from people you know to make a living. Like Obama, you have to go out into unchartered territory, rub shoulders with people you're not comfortable with in places you've never been to before. You even have to tolerate people you don't personally like. Like Obama, you have to make your best presentations to the people who make the most difficult audience. That's how elections are won. That how business is done.
Bar-acktion Item: Step outside your comfort zone.
3. Obama Bore Deep Into A Niche
Rather than sign up people for plated dinners at thousands of dollars a pop, Obama went after $5 here, $10 there from millions of people. This allowed him to solidify his niche and gave him permission to turn to it again and again for support, both financial and otherwise. But instead of calling people on the phone and emailing them one by one, Obama used technology to reach out in ways that forever changed the way political campaigns are run.
Like Obama, we don't always have the time to attract customers in person, but technology allows us to do it efficiently and repeatedly. Technology works while wesleep, play golf or give birth. And when used properly, it makes it harder for competitors to catch up.
Bar-acktion Item: Use technology to identify and delve into a specific niche.
4. Speaking of Technology
I can't say enough about how Obama used technology, so it has to be a point all its own. To be honest, throughout the campaign, when I saw a message from David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, show up in my email in the middle of a busy workday, I sometimes muttered, "What now?!" But I learned a lot from how they used the power of the Internet to make their points.
I'm not suggesting that any business owner send out as many emails a week as Obama did. That would be foolish. But I am saying that using technology to stay in touch with your customers is essential to success. Pictures, audio clips and videos make it fun and entertaining to tell people about your passion and deliver what you offer in ways that others cnnot match. Technology is the most powerful tool of the Indie Business owner. Master it or your business will own you forever, instead of the other way around. If you didn't believe it before, you must believe it now.
Bar-acktion Item: Make technology your slave.
5. Obama Surrounded Himself With a Tribe
Obama had a powerful support team. In addition to a wife who is well informed and extremely intelligent in her own right, he chose superb experts to handle his campaign. He didn't try to become a media expert. Instead, he hired some. He didn't try to become a geek. Instead, he hired some.
As Indies, we must do the same. For example, these days, there's no excuse for not having good product photos at your website. The technology has evolved so much that you can do it yourself or hire a photographer at rock bottom prices. Similarly, if you have not found an inexpensive website designer, you simply are not looking hard enough. You can't do everything yourself and expect your business to achieve anything significant.
Bar-acktion Item: Surround yourself with experts to help you.
What do you think?
Are you as amazed as I am about the way Obama managed his campaign? Not even the tiniest detail was overlooked. If you noticed anything about Obama's well oiled machine that you have considered applying to your business, please share it in the comments section below.
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