It's hard to believe that one year ago, I (Dezaree) left my 9 to 5 position (at a job that I loved) to take a full-time leap of faith on Stack Strategies, my digital marketing company. I couldn't be happier about my decision. Stack Strategies has completed over 100 projects in a year; our niches have evolved; our team has grown into a party of three. Personally, I've changed a lot while becoming a true business owner; I am confident in saying I am a hard-working, passionate, dedicated, and all around kick-ass lady business owner.
When I last wrote, Open for Business: Month One, my mindset as a new business owner was fresh, eager, and sort of naïve. In that blog post, I talked about some lessons I learned at that point in time. That pace at which I was learning accelerated as Stack Strategies soared. As I learned, I made adjustments to Stack Strategies which has led us to where we are today.
Before I dive deep into the details of what I have learned about managing my company...
I must give a shout-out to our clients, cheerleaders, and industry partners. SS wouldn't be possible without the support, love, and trust of all of you. We've had the pleasure of reaching hundreds of business owners in almost every state of our country. Never in my wildest dreams did I think our marketing agency could make such an impact. It's a great honor to help you build your businesses, whether it's by sharing tips online, connecting through social media, or by starting a project together. Every interaction and encounter has meant the world to us. Thank you for supporting Stack Strategies.
We've done our best every day for the past 365 days. It hasn't been all smooth sailing, but it has absolutely been worth it. Looking back, I am so proud of Stack Strategies and all we've created and accomplished. Like I said, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this would be my life or my business. I don't say this enough (Aren't we are all our own worst critics?) but, I am so proud of ME. A year working this business fulltime has revealed what Stack Strategies is capable of. It's revealed what I am capable of.
Here's a gallery of some fun moments in the past year!
Now we'll hop into our biggest learning lessons (and solutions!)...
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Any small business owner will tell you -- Operating independently is tough work! Ultimately, it is up to the individual business owner to figure out how to get the work done. Some choose to hire an assistant; others hire virtual assistants; some automate! For SS, it's a combination of all.
From my point of view, SS would not have grown nearly as much without the hard work from our team members, Meghan (pictured left) and Christiania (not pictured, but still appreciated). Our team works from home in different cities and states, but truly, we can work from wherever we want! The key to working better together is (Can you guess it?) really good business tools. Of course, from a digital marketing expert, you should have known where that was going! The way we work best together is through an online project manager. It's all digital here! Because of our free project manager tools, our team members know what tasks are assigned to them and the details behind the tasks. They receive an email when something is assigned to them. And I receive an email when something is complete or if there's a problem.
It truly takes a village to raise -- YOUR BUSINESS. In addition to our team members, we've also had the help of some incredible, independent graphic designers, photographers, and marketing experts. The growth of our company has been greatly helped by our personal networks and from referrals from our clients and friends, too!
Every Opportunity is Not Right for You
Although I truly believe in the power of digitalizing, the power of direct human communication can be much stronger during some tasks. When it comes to taking on new clients, I personally prefer to talk to each of my clients prior to accepting their projects. Digitally pre-qualifying through a quick online form and then hosting a qualifying call is what works best for me.
SS's pre-qualifying form is built through Calendly. In Calendly, we have several appointment types and each appointment type has some questions that a client has to answer prior to scheduling an appointment. Through the form, I learn the basics about the project idea. Then through the call, I learn what I need to about the client and his/her business. That's when I have the chance to decide if my business is the right fit. Then, I choose whether we should move forward or not.
Every SS client has some type of process organized similar to this. Through our Digital Tool services, SS to sets up small business's Calendly, Acuity, Active Campaign, Constant Contact, Emailmeform, or other form-and-appointment-tools. In our opinion, this is a crucial step for successful businesses -- creating a process to gives the business owner control.
Many of our Emailmeform clients say, "I've eliminated so many tire-kickers!" because of their forms. What they mean by that is that certain prospective clients were not serious enough about doing business to follow their outlined process (i.e. completing the form or booking an appointment). The ability to eliminate the window shoppers feels great from the perspective of a business owner.
Process is everything when it comes to finding the right opportunities for you!
Niche Businesses are Most Successful
Going along with the idea the not every opportunity is right for you comes to the next point that niche businesses are most successful. Once you start working your business and earning sales, you quickly learn what you like to do and what you are really good at! You also learn what you don't like. Wah-lah: here comes your niche.
A niche is a noun that means a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment; a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.
By defining your niche, you are centering your business mission and vision around that specialized segment. [Mostly] Everything you do focuses on a topic that relates to your niche. Your brand should make your clients think "That's what this business does!" Your marketing plan should help mark you as an authority in the niche. You can have a couple niches, but too many topics can get confusing. When you offer too much, the idea behind your business can seem diluted.
For example, during our first year in business, Stack Strategies took on branding projects, marketing plans, email marketing, blog writing, social media management, website services, and digital tool building. In 2022, we announced our dedication to websites and digital tools. Although we've had some requests to go outside of that box, we have remained firm in our decision of only accepting website and digital tool projects at this time.
With today's fierce industry competition, niche marketing is so important. There is so much to talk about when it comes to niche marketing. We will add this to our list of topics to cover in the Behind-the-Strategies Blog soon!
How to Re-Build Your Business Foundation
The next lesson we learned was that once you announce you niche, your business will need its foundation rebuilt. This is no small project, my friends.
The best place to start to narrow in on your niche is by doing a business audit. In your audit, you will be looking to see if your business elements fit your niche. During your audit, you will most likely be updating as needed to make your business fit the part. Think as critically as you can and do not make emotional-based business decisions [about your brand].
These are great places to start when doing a business audit...
Branding - Logo, colors, font, tagline, mission, vision, values, business summary and descriptions
Profiles (all the ways clients find you) - Google, Facebook, Insta, Pinterest, Tiktok, Youtube, etc.
Website - Your page needs to be organized to fit the part
Emails - email signature, email headers, footers, lead captures
Marketing materials - business cards, flyers, signs
You can't mark your authority without proving your authority. Once you audit and update these business items (and possibly others), then you should be ready to target people within the demographics of the niche.
SS has been rebuilding our foundation since November 2021 and it's currently April 2022; we still have work to do. Establishing a business requires A LOT of work, especially if you are re-writing what was previously there! Stack Strategies is working hard to be a Small Business Website & Digital Tool authority; we have a long way to go!
If you need help taking on a project and have no idea where to start, let's schedule a coaching call. We'd be happy to help get you started in the right direction.
Here's What's Next for SS
Well if you've read this blog post, it's probably no secret to you that Stack Strategies is going to continue to build innovative websites and digital tools. We hope our skills will continue to develop! Our client base is 90% travel agents and we are hoping to branch into other industries with our website and digital tools services. Our next goal is to master building online e-commerce stores. We're also drafting a social media content membership plan for travel agents to launch in Q3 of 2022. Personally, it's a goal of mine to seek out personal development opportunities and networking groups with other small business owners. There is a entire world of marketing that we hope to conquer!
There is no doubt in my mind that that next 365 days in business will bring more learning experiences. Stack Strategies is an established digital marketing agency who has completed over 100 digital marketing projects for small businesses nationwide. We are ready to take on whatever is in store for us from the Man upstairs. God willing, we will continue to soar!
Thanks for your continued support of SS!
Happy Marketing, fellow business owners.