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221: Foundations of a healthy business: What you truly need to succeed

When you have a solid foundation in your business, anything is possible. Learn more about the very fundamentals of building a beautiful business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast221

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Where should you spend in your business? What actually matters for a profitable, thriving business? And how in the world do you get there? Today we’re going to discuss the foundations of a healthy business.

Today we’re going to talk about what really matters in your business. Now, these are the foundations, but this isn’t just for new business owners. In fact, if you’ve got your business together and you’re wondering how you can scale it, or make it more profitable, or make more sales, the answer is almost always in these foundations. But before we go into foundations, I want to remind you that Starship is open right now.

The Starship was just overhauled and GOOD NEWS, when you join, you are walked through these foundations, in a series of classes that serve as deep dives into your business. Over the course of three months, you’ll be guided with weekly lessons in these foundations, plus you’ll get access to our community, where you can ask your questions 24/7, our weekly check-in to hold you accountable, and monthly group coaching calls with me – where I will go deep on whatever your question is.

In the past, I’ve just given you access to the classes and told you “take what you need”, but I’ve learned over the last 6 years that the biggest transformation happens when work on your foundations in a specific order, and when you have access to ask your questions, when you’re held accountable and when you get coaching help as you go.

And now, when you’re done with the 3 month program, you can choose to stay inside the community at an affordable price. As I mentioned, we go through the foundations, but the Starship is for a business that’s set up – that knows what it sells and know how it will sell it. Maybe you don’t have sales yet, but you’re committed to this business and to doing the work to make it thrive.

Now, let’s talk about what those foundations actually ARE!

There's so much you *could* focus on, but there are a few areas where, if you focus, you can dramatically improve your results. They are:

  • Clarity of your own biz dreams (as opposed to what other people have or want)
  • Honesty about where you ARE
  • Breaking down the gap into goals, and the goals down into actions
  • Profitability (you gotta know your products will make money)
  • Marketing (someone's gotta buy your work – marketing is how you communicate with those buyers)

These can be split up into 4 main areas:

  • Mission and Mapping (everything from big-picture to this-month goals)
  • Profitability
  • Marketing
  • Effectiveness (not just doing things quickly, but doing the right things, and feeling good about your workday)

Here’s the good news: Just knowing that these are the areas that matter can help you defeat the “OMG WHAT DO I FOCUS ON” overwhelm. You can just come back to this list: Which area needs work? And then work on it!

(Not sure HOW to work on it? Or where to start with each area? This is what I teach in the Starship.)

What’s super cool is that these areas actually all build on each other – you can’t get a clear picture of your marketing if you don’t what your mission is and you don’t want to do marketing until you KNOW your item is profitable. And you can’t reach your number goals (which we talk about with profitability) unless you actually, ya know, share your work with the right people, using the right language.

In other words, working on ONE area is working on ALL areas. It’s like a fractal. Everything you do is reflected around your business. When you work on how you want to communicate with your people, you’ll see the same words and feelings show up in your Mission. Or… exponential:   working on one area improves that area (and often improves sales), then improves the other areas, which improves sales.

When I got really clear about my Mission – what I wanted to do in the lives and businesses of makers and artists, my marketing became so much more clear. From the words I use, to the topics I talk about, to the images I use. I suddenly know what to say, because I know what the end goal is; I know what I want my work to do in the person’s life. And that has improved my sales – it doubled within a year of getting ultra-clear!

So how about you? Which foundation of your business needs work right now?

As you think about that, you may feel really frustrated that you’ve wasted your time on other things, that you didn’t focus on the main foundations and instead got swept up in figuring out the perfect hashtag for your photo – that is ok! We all do it. We all read a blog post or listen to a podcast that is about a specific tactic and without asking “is this what matters to my biz right now?”, we dive into learning about it and trying to implement it.

A while ago a few friends started talking about  Facebook ads. So they’ve been talking about it in our group and I have to admit, even though I KNOW advertising isn’t where I want to spend my energy right now, it was tempting! It’s so tempting to work on something that’s outside of my strategy.

On the other hand, a lot of makers tell me that they’ve avoided thinking about ANY of this. They just make their thing, put it in their shop… and hope it turns into a business.

And you know what?

If that’s you, you’re not alone either. That is absolutely where to start. You haven’t done anything wrong if you haven’t started working on profitability or marketing yet. There is a tiny tiny percentage of artists who just make their work available and it all sells out. They don’t have to do any marketing and the numbers magically work out.

But those are the unicorns. And you may be a unicorn, but if you have big dreams for your business, I don’t want you to waste your precious life waiting around to find out.

Instead, I want you to do the work that makes your biz successful, so that you KNOW it will be. So that you don’t have to rely on outside circumstances, or being “discovered” or wait for someone else’s approval before you build the business you want.

And how do you do that?

You build each of your foundations. Here’s a few things that each foundation needs.

For the foundation of Mission and Mapping, you may need to:

  • Define your dream biz
  • Get clear on your Mission
  • Identify your assets and support
  • Choose a goal
  • Create a plan to reach that goal.

For Profitability, you may need to:

  • Know your numbers and how to get them.
  • Identify the profit margin for each item and your Break Even Point
  • Variables to experiment with

For Marketing, you may need to:

  • Improve how you talk about your work
  • Make it easier for strangers to find you
  • Look at how you build a relationship with potential customers
  • Identify how customers buy + make it easier for them
  • Work to keep customers happy and coming back

For Effectiveness, you may need to be:

  • Doing what matters each day
  • Keeping track of all your tasks
  • Streamlining all of your recurring tasks
  • Getting the level of accountability you need in order to get it all done

So which one of these, in your business, needs your focus? Which one of these matters MOST for you right now?

If you want to work through each one of these and discover everything I listed for each one, join us in the Starship, it’s open now and it closes in a week. Learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz

In the new Starship, we cover every one of these foundations, and we explore your answers to these questions: What are your goals? Who are your people? What is your ideal workday like? And instead of feeling overwhelmed about figuring it all out at once, you work on each area, one at a time, over the course of three months.

And all along the way you have support, encouragement, group coaching with me, and accountability.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

219: Branding vs Marketing vs Sales

It’s not enough to just focus on marketing, or just on branding. You need branding plus marketing plus sales to make a creative business thrive. Learn more about the difference and how to rock all three at TaraSwiger.com/podcast219

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What's your brand? Is worrying about it going to increase your sales? What is translating marketing on Instagram into sales?

Today we're going to talk about the difference between branding, marketing and sales, as it's related to your small business.

A few weeks ago we talked about increasing sales through marketing on Instagram and then I was talking with a Captain about being sure they were spending their time on SALES, not just on Branding. It got me thinking, there's an important distinction between Branding and Marketing and Sales, and we don't talk about it a lot. In a big a business, these three things are clearly separate, there are different people in each department. But in your small business, you're doing it all. And in different businesses, they have different weights, ….

Branding

The vibe of your business. Your brand is the answer to the question: “How do people think about your business? How does your business makes people feel?” When they see it, they know it's yours, because it's your branding. It's the visuals, the tone of voice, the kind of media you use, and how you show up.

This is super important in a business that sells commodity – in other words, the same thing as similar businesses.

For example, a comic shop sells the exact same comics and uses the exact same distributor as every other comic shop. So the branding is EXTREMELY important to help it stand out. For a shop, the branding is going to be how the shop makes you feel – the customer service, the vibe of the shop, the events and activities going on. Everything from the staff you hire, to the comics you highlight, to the way you treat customers – that's all going into the way your customers feel about you.

Now, before we dive into this, I want to be clear about something. In all areas of your business, you're going to be authentic and honest. Just because you THINK about something and decide something, doesn't make it inauthentic. I think makers get confused about this because they think: I'm going to be myself and any amount of being strategic isn't authentically myself. No no no. The goal of effectively branding your small business is to find the brand that flows authentically from you. But to also be aware of it and intentional with it.

So you're not just providing amazing customer service in your shop because it's what's your brand about it, you're doing it genuinely and authentically.

If you (or a branding expert you hire) try to push a brand that isn't who you really are, it's going to fall apart. For example, the knitwear designer Frenchie behind Aroha Knits – her business has this very beautiful, elegant, styled in natural materials and soft colors brand, and when she talks in her videos, you can feel it's all very authentic. But if I tried to pull that off? If it would be fake and be So. Much. Work. I just can't be airy and elegant and styled. My branding is bright colors and being honest and being my goofy self.

While that's authentically me, I have to actually remind myself of that, especially when I compare myself to others or I feel like maybe I should be X or Y.

A few more examples:
If you're in a direct selling company, like doTERRA, the company brand stands for something already. But you have to build your own brand – not with a fancy website or anything, but through how you treat every customer, through how you sample people, invite them to learn more. If your brand is aligned with the bigger brand, and if you use the bigger brand to give you focus, you'll do better.  Your brand of education and support is going to be what builds trust and creates a community.

A yarn dyer is creating a brand with every skein of yarn she dyes – the colors she uses, the yarn she uses, all of it. What also impacts your brand: the label, the shops or shows where you choose to sell, what you focus on about your yarn (is it the material? Fun? Community?)

A few things to remember about Branding:

  • If you're making your thing and putting it out there, you're going to have a brand. You don't have to “make” one, they occur naturally. Your brand is going to come from your IG, your products, photography, way you write your descriptions.
  • Since you're going to have a brand anyhow, spend a little time thinking about it. The questions I ask in my marketing classes guide you through this. You can get access to my marketing class that goes into Instagram and email in the Starship, which opens in a few weeks. Sign up to learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz.
  • Branding is really important in a business that sells commodities, and if you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  • Be consistent. Choose some colors, your tone of voice, and stick with it.
  • Brands (and businesses) evolve and change, that's ok.

Marketing

Marketing is communicating with your customers. It includes your brand (what do people think of when they think of you), but marketing is the ongoing communication of both that brand + feeling, and of the products you have. Marketing is everything that creates, keeps, and satisfies the customer.

Branding is the feeling, marketing is what you DO that creates that feeling.

Marketing is alllll the things you're doing in your business. It's putting things on sale, it's photography, it's what you post and how you say what you say. We talk a lot about marketing, but after we talk about sales, I'll give you a  few examples where people get confused about if they need to focus on marketing or sales.

Sales

Sales are: HOW YOU MAKE MONEY. It's the final step in the relationship that starts with marketing, contains your brand, all of that should lead to people making the sales.

It's where you say: Click here to buy this. Here's how you can get this. Would you like to join?

You can have the best branding and marketing in the world, but if you don't follow through and focus on sales – nothing. It won't matter. This is ESPECIALLY important in the online world. All your marketing might never be seen, until you focus on sales and you get in front of people.

For a crafter this includes:
Doing shows
Sell to retail shops (you close the sale to them and they close sales to many consumers)

I feel like I've been in an intensive training school for sales since joining doTERRA. Their branding is perfect. They already have marketing figured out. The products are amazing and pure and there's research projects that back it all up. In order to share the oils, I have to focus not on marketing (which is where I've spent a lot of my time in my other businesses) or in product creation, but in sales. How do I talk about these in a way that communicates clearly? How do I educate people so that they understand how they'd use them (because I don't want you to buy something you won't use?)

These are the questions you ask yourself to improve your selling –
Do people know this exists?
What do they need to understand or know before they will want to buy?
Am I making it clear how to buy? (So many people skip this part!)

Understanding these questions has made me better at sales in every area of my business – from the Starship, to book sales, to classes.

You can hear more about being better at sales here.

I want to reiterate what I said earlier – you're going to do ALL of this with authenticity. People have such stereotypes about “sales”, that they think you have to leave your integrity behind. Of course not! Sales is a natural outgrowth of your brand and marketing. If you make it NOT a natural outgrowth, you're going to be really bad at it.

As I said before, just because you're thinking about it and getting better at it, doesn't make it inauthentic.

If you feel like it does, or you are thinking “I don't want to do sales”, then honey, you don't want to have a business. A business is sales.

So let's look at some examples of where people get confused about which of the three they need to focus on:

If you have started an online shop and you haven't gotten sales or traffic, my #1 recommendation is that you focus on making sales, before you worry with anything else. Get your products in front of people – go do a craft show, do a local farmer's market, approach local shops or galleries. Spend all your time on sales, and in the in-between times, post to Instagram, or start to build your online marketing. But I see a lot of makers spend hours and hours on their online marketing, which takes MUCH longer to turn into sales. So when they don't have sales after 2 or 6 or 12 months, they stop their business and  say, “people didn't want what I sold”. Nope, it's that people didn't know what you sold.

The social media world has confused us by thinking a big following = a steady business. Nope. Steady sales = a steady business.

Now, if you've GOT a big social media following, you can absolutely start a business and start making sales, but my friends and students who have done this tell me that they're shocked by how SMALL percentage of their audience actually buys their thing.

If you are making some sales and you're getting real customer feedback, absolutely build an online following, but realize that a small following that actually buys is 100x better than a big audience that doesn't.

I'm pretty passionate about this topic, because I've seen so many business owners spin their wheels online instead of going out there and making sales. I have 2 businesses that earn over six figures a year, and you can see on my Instagram, I don't have a huge audience. This podcast isn't in the top 10 or even 50 on iTunes. I don't even have 5,000 email subscribers.

So why do people focus more on marketing than sales?

Sales is scary. You can be rejected. When you focus on marketing, you're just “putting it out there” and people can either opt in or not opt in. That feels much less risky.

When you focus on sales, you're giving people the opportunity to say yes OR NO. And we're afraid of hearing no.

But as my mentor told me in the first few months of my doTerra business: You have to get a lot more comfortable being rejected. Ha! Yes! Also, ouch.

So how do you know what you need to work on?

  1. Almost always you can spend more time on sales.
  2. If you've been building piecemeal over the last few years, take a step back and look at your branding. Does your site and Instagram and tone “match” your products? Does it make sense? If you threw your product (and tag) in a pile with others, would people know which is yours? It may be time to think through what you want your brand to be and how you're communicating that.
  3. Everything is marketing. If you are posting online regularly, updating your shop, putting labels on your products, you're marketing. Like we talked about in episode 217, focus on your right people and on communicating clearly.

If you'd like to work on all three and get my feedback on your branding, marketing and sales, join the Starship! It opens in a few weeks and you can learn more about it by signing up at the bottom of today's show notes or at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

217: Translate Love into Sales – Your questions answered

In businesses love isn’t enough - you also need to have a solid marketing plan. Learn how to clearly communicate with your customers at TaraSwiger.com/podcast217

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How do you translate passion into sales? Today I’m answering a question from an Instagram friend!

On Instagram, I asked for your questions and IMDCreates asks, “I am scared to ask but here goes I am a crocheter and I am proud of what I do but it doesn't seem to translate into sales how can I change this for my business?”

Sales don’t just happen, sales are a result of clear communication.

Sales happen because the person who wants what you sell, clearly understands (because you communicated it) what is special about your work and how it will serve her needs.

Remember, there are a bunch of needs: need for self-expression, need for belonging.

How do you clearly communicate?

First, understand that this is a lifelong process. You are going to get better and better at each of these steps with time, the main thing is to start working at it now, and keep paying attention as you go.

This takes time and thought the first time you do it, which is why I’ve put this in classes, so you can dedicate a few weeks to figuring this out.

  1. Identify who is the person your work is for. Where/how does she use it? What stage of her life is she in? What is she wanting to do? (Express herself? Feel great? Be funny?)
  2. Talk only to her – in your Instagram posts, in your shop descriptions, in whatever you do.
  3. Get clear about how your work serves her need. In my book Market Yourself there are a lot of worksheets to help you figure out – what makes your work special, how to communicate that, and how to speak in the language of your customer. You want to be sure that you’re talking about what she cares about (ex. she doesn’t care about what stitch you use, she wants to know why you made that decision, what that stitch does for her.)
  4. Keep her coming back. Email list. Keep communicating

Now, I mentioned that this is a lot of steps and that it takes time. I walk you through all this, along with how to translate it into email lists and Instagram, in the class Elevate your Business, which will now come with your Starship membership – you’ll be guided through:

  • Identifying your goal
  • Making a plan
  • Tracking your numbers and profitability
  • Figuring out your marketing and how to use the tools effectively

The Starship will open next month, you can be the first to hear about it, at taraswgier.com/starshipbiz.

In the meantime, you can work through some of these questions in my book, Market Yourself, and since I saw you had a Etsy shop, Ida, check out my video on three things to fix in your Etsy shop.

If you want more about marketing, here are some of the past episodes I've done about marketing your business:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

210: Fit it all together: Your marketing plan

How many parts are there to your marketing plan? Are they all working in sync to move your business forward? Learn how to make all of the parts of your marketing plan work together at TaraSwiger.com/podcast210

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Emails. Instagram. YouTube. Facebook. How can you possibly do all the marketing stuff you “should” do? And how can you be sure it's going to be worth your time?

The key is to make it all work together – today I'm going to teach you how to think about your marketing so you can make it time effective and increase your sales.

Links I mentioned

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

179: My best-ever marketing tool (and how to use it in your creative business)

The best marketing tool I’ve ever used was my podcast, and I’ve seen podcasting work marketing wonders for other artists, crafters, and makers too! Listen to how my podcast works for me, and how I got started on this episode of Explore Your Enthusiasm at: TaraSwiger.com/podcast179

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In April of 2014, I completely changed my business, because I made one small, spur-of the moment decision to follow my enthusiasm. It took me less than a week to kick-off what would become my best-ever tool for reaching new right people, building trust and loyalty, and increasing my sales at least 50% every year since. I started this podcast. And I've seen podcasts do the same thing in makers’ and artists’ businesses.

Links I mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

The social media tools I use and why

Social media is vital for modern creative businesses. Learn all about the tools I use, and my whole social media marketing plan at TaraSwiger.com/podcast169/

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Why and how do I share so much content on so many different channels? Today I'm answering your question about my own marketing plan.

Links I mention:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

What People Get Wrong about Marketing

Are you marketing your business the wrong way or the right way? Follow these marketing steps to take to grow your creative business!

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There is one thing that so many people get wrong about marketing, and it drives me crazy.

Today we're going to talk about what people get wrong and how YOU can get it right, to ensure everything you're doing in your marketing and on social  is effective.

Resources Mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

The Article That Changed the Way I do Business

The article that changed the way I run my creative business. Improve the marketing for your crafty business with these tips!

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In 2009 I read an article that totally changed the way I thought about my small business and shaped the way I do… everything in my business and how I make every decision.

Today we're going to talk more about the article I read, how it shaped my decisions, and how you can use the same concepts to grow and improve your creative business.

Resources Mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

5 steps to effective copywriting

To share your work with the world, you have to write (or speak) hundreds of messages: Instagram, product descriptions, emails, etc. How do you make them each effective? How do you make sure that what you spend your time writing and sharing actually sells your work? This week we’re talking about effective copywriting - writing words, pages, and posts that will connect with your buyer, build your relationships, and sell your work. Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast143/

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To share your work with the world, you have to write (or speak) hundreds of messages: Instagram, product descriptions, emails, etc. How do you make them each effective? How do you make sure that what you spend your time writing and sharing actually sells your work?

This week we’re talking about effective copywriting – writing words, pages, and posts that will connect with your buyer, build your relationships, and sell your work.

Resources:

Do you love the podcast? Never listen? Tell me where to spend my energy by filling out the survey, right here: https://taraswiger.com/survey

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

How to focus on your Right People, to make more sales and create more effective marketing (free worksheet included)

Get more buyers by focusing on the RIGHT people. This is the heart of effective marketing - speak directly to the person who is going to love (and want) what you sell. Remember, you’re not trying to convince anyone, you’re giving (compelling!) info to interested people. But how do you figure out who that person is? Are you limiting yourself by just focusing in on one set of Right People? And how do you find out where they are? In this episode we’ll discuss Why focusing on your Right People IS scary (and why you need to do it anyway) How to find the people + be where they are. 5 questions to get closer to your people Want to focus on YOUR Right People? Apply what you learned in today’s episode with a free worksheet (and today's transcript!) Get them both at TaraSwiger.com/podcast117/

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Get more buyers by focusing on the RIGHT people.

This is the heart of effective marketing – speak directly to the person who is going to love (and want) what you sell. Remember, you’re not trying to convince anyone, you’re giving (compelling!) info to interested people.

But how do you figure out who that person is? Are you limiting yourself by just focusing in on one set of Right People? And how do you find out where they are?

In this episode we’ll discuss

  • Why focusing on your Right People IS scary (and why you need to do it anyway)
  • How to find the people + be where they are.
  • 5 questions to get closer to your people

Want to focus on YOUR Right People? Apply what you learned in today’s episode with a free worksheet (and today's transcript!).Grab it here.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

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