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Launching Small Business Products the Apple Way

Since Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 on September 21st, Apple has sold over 5 million phones and has sold out of their initial supply. That’s 1.2 million phones per day.  It was announced on September 12, 2012, and was released on September 21 – ten days.  Small business may not have the national spotlight that Apple enjoys, but we can gather the attention necessary to successfully launch a new product or service in our own corner with planning and attention to detail. Apple carefully choreographs every step of a product launch, and small business owners should do the same.

1. Any successful launch begins with your strong reputation. If you have customers and clients who have come to rely on your expertise, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. The stronger your reputation, the fewer messages needed to convert your market to paying customers. If your reputation is less than you’d like it to be, start by cleaning that up, first.

2. Create intrigue in your customer base. Apple “leaks” tidbits of information well ahead of the official announcement to build a “buzz”. Drop hints so that your customers and prospects are curious and will pay attention to upcoming announcements from you. Don’t be afraid to make an announcement before you have the details sorted out about something “exciting” that’s coming. I guarantee that if you make a public announcement, you will push through any procrastination and get the nitty-gritty done! 

3. Depending upon the financial or time investment required for your product or service, begin seeding three to four weeks before launch. Remember, you are only “hinting” at what is to come. For a launch the size of the iPhone 5, Apple began seeding approximately 10-12 weeks prior to launch.

4. In the coming weeks (see timeline below), provide prospects with more and more details, always keeping in mind what they want, not just what they need. Credible rumors of a thinner profile and bigger screen kept Apple consumers interested and talking about the product. Vary your presentation as much as possible; consider all social media avenues in written, audio and video formats. If appropriate, use direct mail or personal contact.

5. For service offerings or an event, open registration within a week of availability or of the event. Most customers will “pull the trigger” within the last 48 hours, so don’t get discouraged if early numbers are low. Your customers have a lot on their minds and companies vying for their attention are everywhere. 

 

Smaller product/service launch: 

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It’s fascinating to watch Apple and they are a prime, albeit enormous, example to follow.  Be consistent in your message, reinforce your brand continuously and trust yourself when it comes to your small business brand.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Starting Fresh For Fall; Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

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Crisp, fall days, a change in seasons, the first school days full of promise and new beginnings; fall has always been my favorite time of year for all of those reasons. As I enjoyed this beautiful day writing while sitting on my porch, it dawned on me that small business owners have the opportunity to begin again every day, to change course as appropriate, or to try an approach again in a different way. My kids have new teachers and new classrooms which reinforce the “new beginning” excitement, but we each have new opportunities as well. 

There is no need to wait for the next quarter, next year, next shipment, next anything to begin again in a different way. So many times, I have heard business owners say they want to continue down a certain path until… until they run out of promotional materials, until a certain employee leaves, until the next fiscal year and I’m honestly baffled by that logic. By nature I’m a very curious person so I ask, “What benefit do you expect to gain by waiting?” Often times, the answer is in avoiding a negative (such as I won’t waste money, I won’t have conflict – a big one), or a sense of completion, of finishing an action plan. None of those are a benefit to your business.

Small business owners are fortunate as we have no corporate office to answer to, no dictated plan to adhere to; yet all too often we behave as if someone is watching over our shoulder making sure that we follow The Plan. It can be discouraging to scrap a plan we thought would bring success; it can also be draining to change courses (again). But it is more exhausting to follow through on a plan that isn’t working. 

In the spirit of new beginnings, start tomorrow by looking at your day’s work and asking, “What benefit do I expect from this?” Be as specific as possible and if you can’t find a specific reward, double check that the intention of your work is to provide value and not the avoidance of something negative or numbly following a path set. Just a few weeks in, the “new school year” excitement is wearing off for my kids, but that doesn’t have to be true for small business owners. Be clear about your intentions, take actions in line with your goals, and adjust continuously. Tomorrow is a new day.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

photo credit: flatworldsedge via photo pin cc

 

Build Success In Your Work Environment; Small Business Office

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My kids are a couple of weeks into school and they’re getting used to new school routines, new teachers, new classmates, new environments. The teachers are learning what each student needs to succeed, and I am impressed by the classroom arrangements made to insure that every student can find the best environment for their learning style. My son’s fifth-grade class has a fish tank with only three small fish to promote tranquility; a desk for easily distracted students to use, situated away from windows, posters, or other desks; and headphones to be used by students who benefit from complete quiet. If only corporate America was set up this way. Fortunately, small business owners can create an environment that perfectly meets their personal needs and of their employees.

My small business office is arranged so that during client calls, I see a nearby lake, hardwood trees and tall grasses swaying with the breeze – I want no distractions whatsoever. Working at my computer I see several birdfeeders, where I actually benefit from my eyes occasionally leaving the screen. I also have a co

To begin, get clear on what your small business office is for; the perfect environment for talking with customers or employees is different than space intended for individual technical work or phone time. Think of a typical elementary classroom: there are desks for individual work and a common area designed to encourage together time – think “Circle Time” or “Rug Time”. This is the most critical step and you should not move forward until you know exactly what you want to promote within your office walls.mfy chair, with a spot for my tea cup next to it, and a hassock – my writing spot for when I need to hunker down andjust write. I’ve also arranged my technology to adjust noise levels when I need to. Creating your perfect working environment isn’t rocket science, it just takes clarity and little bit of focus. Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. Visual images. Once you’ve determined if you want to promote activity, reflection, or a combination, you can move on to wall color, graphics, and your view. Jot down those locations where you have been most productive and define the key element that promoted your productivity. What did you see in those locations? Reproduce as many images as you can.
  2. Noise levels. Some of us work best with white noise, while others wouldn’t dream of working without ear buds plugged in rocking away. Consider street traffic, office technology noise, and the noises of other people. If you work from home, know whether hearing the washing machine or dishwasher will be a distraction likely to pull you out of your chair. 
  3. Work surface and clutter. Classrooms have student lockers and desk shelves to control clutter. Create your own systems to combat clutter; physical clutter muddies our minds and decreases productivity. The most often ignored step in clutter control is using the systems you create. If the systems don’t work, re-do them until they do.
  4. Other obvious considerations are lighting, odors, and interruptions. Determine what works best for you and implement a supporting system. If you need ideas, let me know and I’ll be happy tohelp.

Kids naturally know what they need – my son is already gravitating towards the desk in front of the fish tank. Just like my ten-year old, you can increase your productivity by defining your needs and creating theperfect environment to support your success.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

photo credit: MyTudut via photo pin cc

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.