Overcoming the Business “Slump”

It happens to everyone at some point. Life gets in the way of running your business. Recently, this has been an issue for me, and so I wanted to write about it and let others know they aren’t alone.

In my case, my circumstances weren’t necessarily bad. I took a new full time job, which I happen to love, and for the first time in a long time, I hadn’t felt the need to push my own business. That being said, it was only a matter of time before it became apparent that, once again, I needed to get back into the swing of things. While there is a certain level of joy and appreciation I have for being able to come home and not having to worry about making money, at the same time, it’s hard to come home and have nothing pressing to take care of for someone. I don’t have any children, just pets, and they’re usually pretty self-sufficient. With just two people in the house, there’s not an insane number of chores. I like helping people, I found I was missing it, and life throws curveballs now and then that make you realize you could use a bit of extra income.

But what if your situation isn’t like mine? What if you NEED income, right NOW, and can’t seem to get your business out there to bring it in? What if you’ve been advertising and connecting and trying your damnedest to generate sales, but you just can’t make it happen? What’s going to happen to you?

First, you’re going to be discouraged. Discouraged because you feel like you’re working your ass off and have nothing to show for it. Discouraged because customers aren’t answering you, aren’t contacting you to begin with, or maybe they’re even unsubscribing from your emails. Discouraged because you seem to be stuck in a rut of bad luck. Discouraged because of the state of the country. Anything and everything becomes fair game for that miserable feeling, and it’s very, very hard to overcome.

Then, you’re going to get angry. You’re going to wonder “why me? What did I do wrong?” You’re going to start to wonder if maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s just that life is unfair, that maybe you really don’t have a say in how your life goes.

But, hopefully, by the time you get to that anger stage, or hopefully before you get there, you’re going to find a way to this article and read what I have to tell you.

I’ve been there. Believe me, I have. I’ve been in your shoes, I know what it’s like. I understand what it’s like to work full time, come home, and realize you need to work another 15, 20, or 25 hours to make ends meet. And I know what it’s like to need those hours, and not have any customers to fill those hours. I know what it’s like to be working a crappy, soul-sucking job that doesn’t pay enough, and tells you you can’t have the time off you need to run the business you created to make a better life for yourself. I know what it’s like to quit that job, take the leap to relying on your own business, only to find out it was a bad idea. I know what it’s like to own a business that grows exponentially over the course of 4 years, only to realize that not only are you not making enough money to survive, but you now hate what you used to love because you overworked yourself.

It’s a hard situation to be in, and it might seem like there’s no way out of it other than to give up and go to work for someone else.

But that isn’t the case, and here is what I tell myself to keep from going crazy.

Keep Pushing

No matter what, no matter how bleak or useless it might seem, keep pushing for sales. Keep advertising. Keep connecting with people. Keep helping people. Keep sharing things on Facebook, on Twitter, keep Pinning inspirational pins. Keep yourself in front of your customers. Never let them go a day without seeing you. You don’t have to scream “BUY SOMETHING!” in every post. Just let them know you’re there, let them know what you do. When you do ask them to buy something, if one method of asking doesn’t work, try a new method. Research methods you may not have tried. The entire internet is at your disposal. USE IT.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Reward Yourself for Pushing

You may not have made a sale, but if you tried a new method to obtain sales, give yourself some credit where credit is due. If you’re running a business while also working full time, you’re basically the equivalent of a crazy person. It’s crazy because it’s hard, and it’s even harder when that business starts to show some level of  success. When you’re working for someone, that someone is in charge of the problems of the business, not you. When you’re working for yourself, there’s a lot more on your plate. When that business starts to grow, it gets even worse. And when growth slows, or, God forbid, stops completely, it worsens even more. Then you’ve got personal survival stress added to the mix.

So, don’t forget to find some way to remind yourself that you deserve credit for persevering.

When Things Go Right, Push More

The worst thing you can do in a fight is stop moving.

Let’s say you’ve finally got that momentum going. Keep it going. Don’t let it stop. Hey, maybe you got a whopping 3 likes on your Facebook post today–That means 3 people saw value of some kind in what you showed off. Make sure they come back to like your next post. And your next. Then, every so often, throw in a plug for yourself or your business. Keep yourself visible. Don’t let the momentum slow. Once you’ve got someone interested, you need to make sure they keep that interest.

It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

Maybe you’ve done everything I listed above. Whether you were successful or not, you are fully entitled to change your mind. Maybe you don’t want to run a business because you simply don’t like it. Maybe you want to run a different business. Maybe you decide you love your full time job more and simply don’t need another job. Maybe you’ve given it your all, but you just can’t seem to get the business off the ground, and you’re tired.

You know what?

That’s okay.

Not every business is a success.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what you did, or tried to do. It doesn’t mean that YOU are a failure. In fact, you’re probably more successful and gutsy than a lot of people out there, because you tried to make it happen. And, if your business IS a success, or sometimes even if it isn’t, you can still make it work for you by selling it to someone else. Maybe you’d rather just bring someone in to run the business end so you can focus on the portion of that business you love.

The takeaway here is that in spite of the fact that you might find yourself caught in a slump, be it personal or professional, it is possible to make it out alive. Maybe you have to change a bit to get there, or maybe even the business itself has to adapt, to morph into something totally different, but you can get out. It’s called drive, it’s called ambition, it’s called persistence. It has many more names, but you can’t ever lose it. It’s part of the human condition.

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Many small business owners don’t fully understand the importance of advertising, and if they do, they may not have the funds to do so. Advertising is an extremely important piece of owning and operating a business–in fact, what many businesses consider their least important department is actually the complete opposite. Your advertising is your direct connection to your customers and Continue reading “Where to Advertise Your Small Business for FREE”

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4 Quick Tips to Grow Your Lesson Program

A few days ago, a woman approached me with several questions about her fledgling business–a beginner horseback riding lesson program in Upstate New York–and how she could make it grow. As it stands now, she has a fairly loyal customer base, but their payments do not provide her with an income that is steady enough to support herself and her family. Her full time work schedule means that she can only offer lessons on the weekends and often results in her working 6 to 7 days per week. She is working with a limited number of lesson horses on a small farm with a very small indoor arena. To me, this seemed like a pretty difficult position to be in, but one that I thought many other farm owners could relate to. In this article I will touch on some of the methods by which instructors–or pretty much any equine business owner–can help their business to grow by attracting new customers.

Competition between riding programs is rather fierce these days, as many families elect to forego the weekly riding lessons of the not-so-distant past due to tighter budgets and time constraints. Sometimes a student may have to travel great distances to reach a horse farm. The cost of travel, combined with the cost of the lessons themselves, can very quickly turn into the same amount one might spend on a new car or their monthly rent. When weighed against other expenses, riding lessons may take the back seat. Instructors often need to be not only well-known, but capable of teaching more than just one specific discipline. They must have horses for every rider’s experience level available to them at all times. One mishap or otherwise poor experience can cost an instructor both that student and their reputation as an instructor. That being said, with proper business practices, it is still possible to gain customers and make a living in this field.

Tip #1: Utilize Word of Mouth Advertising

Are your clients happy with your program? Chances are, if they keep coming back and handing you money, that answer is yes. Remind them to tell others about you and your business. If you can, give them an incentive, such as a referral program that provides them with a free lesson if they bring in a new customer. Offer to give the lesson at the customer’s own location if you can. Word of mouth advertising is extremely powerful–more powerful, even, than social media and print advertising combined. You can’t be sure that someone will spread your name around after a positive experience, but you can be darn sure people will hear about a bad one. Make sure everything that’s said about you is positive!

Tip #2: Take to Social Media

If you aren’t on Facebook, you need to be. Although this social media giant is typically seen as a method for connecting with friends and family and sharing every insignificant detail of your life, it is also a dominant marketing tool for businesses. Facebook advertisements can easily reach thousands of local customers for a very reasonable price. I spent $5 on my last ad campaign and reached 717 individuals. I received 4 new wall posts and over 30 new likes in just the two days the campaign was running. That may not seem like a lot, but every like increases your business’ online “range.” Once a person likes your page, there is an increased chance of your business showing up to their friends as well. Considering the average number of “friends” per user is over 300, that means my business now has the potential to reach about 9,000 more users. That $5 investment doesn’t look so wimpy now, does it?

Facebook also allows businesses to track their page “insights,” including the age, gender and location of the users visiting the page, as well as what they are viewing most and when. Knowing which posts are the most effective at drawing attention is a valuable bit of information for any company, large or small. Users can also join Facebook groups that pertain to their business. There are hundreds of local groups for horse lovers, horses for sale, horse-related discussion forums, and more. Join and participate in as many of them as you can. It’s all about networking.

Tip #3: Keep in Touch via Email

Sending out bi-weekly or monthly emails to your clients can be an efficient way to keep ahead of your competition. A good email subject line, relevant and interesting content, and easy access to your contact info are a few surefire ways to get results from your email blasts. The most straightforward way to collect emails from potential clients is to ask for them. Collect business cards from people and you’ll notice that many of them include an email address. Using an email client such as MailChimp will allow you to create a signup form that can be added to your Facebook page or website, as well as allow you to view your email lists and the results of each email campaign. Don’t use your email blasts just to advertise–make each email worth opening. Offer tips and tricks, savings coupons, event invitations, contests and useful articles to keep your customers opening and reading your emails time and time again.

Tip #4: Appear Often

I cannot stress this enough. It is a proven fact that the more often a business appears to customers, whether it be through personal interactions, business cards, fliers around town, or on the web, the more apt that customer is to remember your business name. Obtain professional business cards and a well-built website. Invest in a sign for the end of your farm’s driveway if possible. Attend seminars and clinics to heighten your skills. If you travel a lot, turn your vehicle into a rolling billboard for your program while you’re at it. Attend shows and events with your students to reap some of the benefits of their blue ribbons when people ask who their trainer is!

Do you have any suggestions for how to bring in customers? Comment below and tell us!