What can we ditch as we build towards a better future?

When Covid first hit the U.S., did you imagine lockdown lasting until October? Now, as you look forward, are you hoping we’ll be “done with Covid” in January? Are you more pessimistically — or realistically, depending on who you ask — thinking that this pandemic might last through 2021? One thing that’s become obvious in 2020 is that life — and business — are precarious endeavors, and there is always room for improvement.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the realities Covid has laid bare: massive educational inequalities, extensive health care deficiencies and more inequality, disparities in who gets government funding to keep businesses open, and so many, many more — you guessed it — inequalities. And so… what? Do we go back to business as usual when this is all over? My hope is that we can truly learn some lessons from this awful time, and change the way we do business in our communities. …

Letting go of expectations — yours and mine —during crisis

For many of us, ‘stay safe at home’ orders have effectively “grounded” us. We may be home alone, with our pets, with our kids or even with extended family. Hopefully, you’re finding healthy(ish) ways to cope with the stress of crisis. You may be tempted to try to accomplish some big task during your “free time.” But you don’t have free time — you have crisis time. Crisis time is time for healing, rest, taking care of yourself and taking care of your community (if you’re able). While I’m as frazzled as the next person, I’m buoyed by the conversations I’ve had with friends and family about what we’re leaning in to, and what we’re letting go of. (Yes — I ended that sentence in a preposition. …

A minimalist guide for complicated times

In this weird time, there are a plethora of articles encouraging you to be productive (read a book — no, WRITE a book!) and at least as many giving you permission to be unproductive (mental health is more important than productivity!) What if you’re unmotivated, and feeling unproductive, but still want to keep your business afloat? Or your business is closed but you want to keep up your social media presence? In this case I recommend a minimalist social media marketing strategy. …

Showcase your weird, increase revenue, and build community

Even in the best of times, social media marketing doesn’t come easy for many of us. There is both too much information online about social media, and not enough information on what strategies actually bring customers in. Throw in a global crisis, the beginning of a recession, and massive business pivots, and suddenly social media makes even less sense! Many people avoid social media because they think if they can’t do it daily and beautifully, that they shouldn’t do it at all. What stops most people from employing a useful social media strategy is friction. Friction is any part of the process that stresses you out. For some people, choosing photos for posting creates friction. For others, writing captions stresses themout. Some people don’t mind posting, but know that if they hop online, they’ll be there for hours, scrolling and scrolling. …

When something big happens, like a huge snow storm, viral outbreak, or economic downturn, it can be very easy to catastrophize and imagine your small business shutting down. But — with some patience, preparation, and grace, we can use these slow times to build a foundation for future growth. Here are some suggestions of work to do when incoming revenue slows down:

· Take a critical look at your marketing strategy, especially social media. Can you save money somewhere, by doing more work in house? Can you build a back stock of images for use in the future (especially product photos, behind the scenes, images of your office or staff)? …

The best social media strategies increase revenue and build community

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Social media marketing is not intuitive for most of us. There is both too much information online about social media, and not enough information on what strategies actually bring customers in. Many small businesses or marketing managers think that more is better on social media, so they avoid it because they cannot commit to posting daily. What stops most people from fully engaging on social media is friction. Friction is any part of the process that stresses you out. For some people, choosing photos for posting creates friction. For others, writing captions makes them stressed out. Some people don’t mind posting, but know that if they hop online, they’ll be there for hours, scrolling and scrolling. …

How letting go of expectations can create space for efficient and purposeful work

Many of us, when asked how we’re doing, will answer with a slightly exasperated, maybe somewhat proud, “busy!” This busy-ness — and the expectations around how we “should” work — get in the way of actually conducting business. This constant busy-ness gets in the way of working efficiently as well as working purposefully. Why does busy-ness inhibit productivity? One of my favorite terms I learned last year was “inefficient overwork.” Inefficient overwork refers to doing more than you need to, to accomplish a task. Examples of inefficient overwork include checking and rechecking work, spending too long on a task, hemming and hawing about decisions, and setting too-high expectations. When you’re rechecking your email for the tenth time for spelling mistakes and “making sure” your message is clear, you feel incredibly busy (and likely stressed) but your actual product (the email) won’t necessarily be any better than if you sent it after the second look. If we want to work more efficiently, we need to be ruthless in identifying our personal areas of inefficient overwork. Often these habits come from the expectations of past bosses. …

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Image by Caitlyn Lunsford taken at the Sustainability Summit for South Sound Women in Business

“Sustainability and”: A thoughtful approach to greening your small business

If your business is trying to improve its sustainable efforts, but you feel stuck — you’re not alone! It can be hard to know what steps you can take towards greening your business will actually matter in the long run. The sheer volume of potential tactics can be overwhelming, from recycling to commute trip reduction to carbon offsets to fossil fuel divestment. Before you get so overwhelmed that you quit trying — there’s another approach that can both reduce your environmental impact and your connections in your community. I like to call this concept “sustainability and.” …

Recently, I attended a business mixer at a bar. I couldn’t find parking easily (Strike 1.) I tried to order a soda, and got ignored by the bartender (Strike 2.) I arrived on time but everyone was seated and eating already with no open chairs — did I miss a memo? (Strike 3.) I said ‘hi’ to the few people I knew, who quickly went back to their already-established conversations (Strike 4.) I left within 5 minutes of arriving. Could I have tried harder? Absolutely. But what I know now — and didn’t then — is that this type of networking event just isn’t meant for me. And that if I wanted to go to events like this anyway, I needed different strategies. So I reached out to my amazing network of introverts, wallflowers, socially anxious folks, and shy friends to talk about how to survive professional networking when it’s not really your jam. …

Small businesses might struggle to bring in customers. What you might need: a little local love.

If you’re a small business owner or employee, you might have tried the ‘a little bit of everything’ social media marketing strategy, or perhaps the ‘throw a few options up and see what lands.’ If that’s you — that’s cool, it’s many of us — but there’s a simpler and more purposeful approach to marketing: targeting your social media efforts to connect specifically with local customers. Social media is a fantastic, democratizing marketing tool. It’s free, and you can make your mark even as a tiny or new business. Putting up posts for general view is a great start — but finding ways to reorient your social media marketing strategy towards your local community can have wonderful snowball effects. One small way of doing this is to follow your city or neighborhood hashtag on Instagram. When you’re scrolling through your feed, you’ll also see a rotating assortment of local users. …

About

Allison Bishins Consulting

Small business consultant helping businesses connect with their community. Eclectic background in urban planning, marketing, non-profits + environmental policy.

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