Last night we had a very small session focused on refining business plans. We opened up this class just to our most recent Foundations business class participants, who finished up their six-week course last week. Six of them sent in what they had as business plans, and our presenter, Yolanda Karp, read them over and came to the session with some pointed suggestions to help them move forward. She also worked with all of them on how to clearly articulate who they are, what their business is, and why people should buy their products/invest in them/care what they do.
I grilled the participants afterwards about whether they liked this session, because this sort of follow-up is something we want to do more of. As we get more and more people coming to us and interested in our services, we have to figure out some ways to better serve them, even as our staff capacity stays the same. One way is using the skills of volunteers like Yolanda, who participants said was “a very good facilitator“. They said the session was “very very helpful for encouragement, ideas, and support“, they “got lots of good feedback” and they really appreciated “the personalized aspect of this business plan review“. Another idea we’re ruminating on is to do some sort of peer mentoring session, where clients who’ve been through the Foundations process and are further along in their business experience can help people coming in. All six of the students last night said they’d be willing to act as mentors at some point in the future.
So, we’ve got many exciting ideas for our training sessions in the future. We’re going to continue with our seminar program, inviting our local talent to share their knowledge and skills, but also encouraging our clients to share all the knowledge and experience they already know and have. Hopefully we’ll be able to reach even more people in the Portland small business community, and serve them even better.
I got an email the other day from someone who wasn’t able to make it to Peter’s Marketing on a Shoestring class Monday night, but wanted to know if there was some sort of summary or resource online.
I tried, but it’s kind hard to summarize what Peter did. He said he’s taught this class before and that it always ended up being a laundry list of techniques that you could have googled “shoestring marketing” and found yourself. So this class he decided to make more discussion based, and started out by having everyone go around and introduce themselves and their businesses and any experiences they’d had with shoestring marketing. People came up with things like social media, networking with peer businesses, referrals, doing email newsletters with coupons and raffles, etc. And so they elaborated more on some of those ideas.
Then he focused on the second half about the main part of your marketing being building relationships and focusing on people. And so, maintaining good customer service and providing a good product so that that one satisfied customer will go out and recommend you to more. He suggested doing events that weren’t necessarily focused on selling your product, but that got interested people together and allowed you to demonstrate your quality or your expertise in a fun and memorable way. He emphasized in this relationship-building part that it was important not to pester and bombard people with your sale, but to remember that people want to do business with people they like.
Well, that was the best I could do in the way of summary. It was great to have such a discussion-focused class, even though it made it difficult to condense into any sort of handout! But one exciting development is that we’ve got a group who’s going to help us by filming our classes and trainings so that we can get them up on our website and make them more accessible – so next time (or more accurately, starting with Susan Rich’s seminar on December 14th) I can offer people like him something more concrete!