11 Step Marketing & Business Health Checklist

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The Kate Show | Episode 83

Do you ever get the feeling you aren't doing enough to market your design, staging, or workroom business? Wouldn't it be nice to have a checklist that could tell you, in mere minutes, whether you were on track for success or dangerously close to derailing? In this episode of The Kate Show, I'm sharing an 11 question checklist to help you determine the marketing well-being of your business.

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Clear concise advice to design professionals. Kate’s approach to helping her ideal clients- us - is the model we should follow for our clients. She listens to our needs and provides reasonable, easy-to-follow steps to achieve success.
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11 Question Marketing & Business Health Checklist

#1 You have an LLC or other legal entity set up for your business.

You would be surprised how many creatives don't have a legal tax status protecting them and their businesses. If you are currently in business without a limited liability corporation (LLC) or something similar, you legally do not have a business and are putting your personal assets at risk if you were ever the defendant in a lawsuit. While some creatives in the home industry might think they are doing themselves a favor by flying under the radar come tax time, they are actually missing out on the tax benefits of being self-employed in addition to running the risk of forfeiting their homes, cars, and personal finances in the event of a lawsuit.

Just get an LLC, okay? Protect yourself. (And get a professional liability insurance policy while you're at it, too.) Getting an LLC today won't protect you retroactively if you are sued due to something that happened before you became an LLC, but it will definitely help protect you going forward. The longer you operate without an LLC, the more risk you will incur.

#2 You can pay yourself a regular salary while also covering overhead and taxes.

When I first started my business, I struggled to pay myself anything...or consistently. Eventually, however, I had to learn how to manage my revenue to ensure that I could pay myself weekly or monthly, even if the paychecks started out small. If you can't manage your revenue when it is minimal, just think about the mess you'll be in when you are finally raking in six figures per year.

If money management is a struggle for you, or if you feel like the amount of work you do far outweighs what you are paying yourself, I suggest you work with these two lades:

Michele of Scarlet Thread Consulting | Michele is a business coach for the home industry and specializes in money management and profitability.

Sherry of Business by the Book | Sherry runs a bookkeeping firm for the home industry and can whip your Quickbooks account into shape faster than you can figure out how to itemize your deductions.

I continue to work with both of these women, and it was no coincidence that my most profitable years began when I became their client.

#3 You've set up your brand - or rebrand - to be cohesive and high quality, ditching any DIY logos or websites you might have been using.

If any one of us presents a cheap image of our businesses, we shouldn't be surprised if attracting the right clients is a struggle. When I first started my business, I designed a logo on Vistaprint, then on PicMonkey, then eventually realized how silly I had made my business look. No wonder people couldn't take me seriously!

Take a hard and objective look at your logo, brand colors, website design, and print collateral. Do any part of these things suggest your brand is on the cheap side, outdated, or inconsistent from one place to the next? Getting a new logo and, potentially, a new website are not the largest investments you'll ever make for your business, but they are two of the most important. Your visuals should be personable and attractive to your ideal client.

Don't choose brand colors because they are your favorite. Don't commission a website design because it matches that of your colleagues. Your goal isn't to serve them or to be like them. Your goal is to serve your clients, even the ones you haven't met yet, at the highest level and in a way that is truly authentic.

#4 You are clear on who your target client is and have no problem turning away clients that don't feel right.

Being able to tell a sketchy potential client that, "We aren't a good fit," is one of the best long term success strategies you can implement in your business. Saying no to clients that don't suit your business helps you save your creative energy and mental space for marketing to and winning over the right clients. While it might be tempting to accept a problematic client when you're in a pinch, it rarely ends well.

Don't operate from a scarcity or fear-driven mindset; neither of those lead to success. Instead, break down how many projects you'll need each month to cover your expenses and review what percentage of your leads become paying clients. Assess where most of your leads come from and pursue more of that activity.

Do not fall for the quick, easy, and not-so-helpful-but-very-attractive lead generation ideas: Running social media ads, running Google ads, and shelling out cash for a print ad might seem like good ideas when your bank account is begging for mercy, but none of these ads will provide a return if you don't have a sales funnel in place to support them.

Moral of the story: Get clear on your ideal client and stay clear of "fast sales" advertising tactics.

#5 You are firm on your rates and have a zero-negotiation policy.

Over the past few years, people have generally stopped asking me and the team for discounts. I credit that to my no-nonsense contracts and policies, as well as to a healthy dose of hard-won confidence. Much like you, I'm not out to receive money I didn't earn, but I'm also not running a charity. Again, much like you, the team and I work best when we are paid for our skills.

In the event that I get a message from someone wanting a discount on my carefully researched rates, I quietly whisper to myself, "We do not negotiate with terrorists."

Dramatic? Maybe, but it helps me keep myself in check. If you love to help people, love to please them and see how happy they are, you might be tempted to give a discount here and there. I'd say "follow your heart" on that one....but our hearts often lead us astray. The truth is that clients who pursue discounts are announcing that they already devalue your services and abilities. Why would you want to work with them?

Site note: If many leads ask you for discounts on the regular, make sure you aren't accidentally attracting them with budget-focused marketing. Avoid offering free consultations, running sales, looking cheap, or marketing to the wrong demographic and / or the wrong venues.

#6 You use templates, automation, and / or online platforms to manage your client on boarding and project process.

Organization and efficiency are the first noticeable traits of a well-run business. Make sure you're using an online project management tool, templates, and automation wherever possible.

A few of my favorite tools include Asana, Calendly, Canva, and Mailchimp. Go listen to episode #60 of The Kate Show to get a full list of the top 20 tools your business should be using.

#7 You invest in high quality photography of your work several times per year.

If you've listened to my episode on how to get the most marketing mileage out of your portfolio, you'll know why this step is so important. If you haven't listened, go back and download episode #79 of The Kate Show.

#8 You market your business - even when you have plenty of work - to prevent the feast-to-famine cycle.

"I was overwhelmed with projects for months (even years), and then suddenly it all dried up."

I hear this statement more that I care to admit from customers who come to me looking for help. At that point, their finances have dwindled and the panic in their voices is hard to miss. Not only is it difficult for these worry-driven business owners to pause long enough to understand the marketing that must be done to fix their situation, but it can be even more difficult to bring their emotional state up from the depths. I totally understand this. We all care about our businesses and clients deeply. It is so easy to get caught up in the projects here and now, while totally forgetting that we'll still need new leads in 6 months and that these projects won't last forever.

If you are enjoying the abundance of a full project schedule and more work than you can handle, now is the time to hand off your marketing to someone else on the team or to an outsourced company. You don't need to market your business personally, but you do need to find someone else who can.

#9 You continue to be the face of your company and don't mind sharing personal photos or facts on your website / in your marketing.

Regardless of the size of your team, you as the owner are the person everyone truly wants to see. Otherwise, they'll feel like you're distant and cold and that they are just enough number in your bank account. Make sure your face is a regular feature of your website, social media, and email marketing strategies.

#10 You use several types of lead generators in different categories (a lead magnet, a word of mouth referral source, industry partnerships, collaborations with colleagues).

A lead magnet is something unique to your target client that will draw them to you. Skip offering the free reports, the free consults, or the discount codes. Focus instead on offering a "how to" PDF on the type of project they typically want. This shows that you know your stuff and that you can truly help.

Partner with local vendors or collaborate with colleagues to promote each other through co-hosting events, and setting up long term referral relationships. Word of mouth is not dead. Use it!

#11 You have a sales funnel in place.

When someone visits your website due to social media, a referral, or something else, they'll hopefully see your lead magnet opt in to get it. You, in turn, will get their email address. Don't just sit with that valuable piece of information. Make sure you're sending a monthly newsletter to stay in touch with that person and convert them to a paying client. Be mindful about sharing your lead magnet on social media every week to generate more interest and website traffic. Your goal should be to get more and more of the right leads into your mailing list.

Are you using all 11 of these tips? If so, your business is light years ahead and you can give yourself a pat on the back - but don't become complacent.

Resources

Are you lacking one or more items in this list? Well, time to get moving. You know exactly which gaps you need to fill. If you need help, be sure to reach out to me and the Socialite Team.