1. The low-down on getting ahead in tough times

    Stephanie ChandlerIn these economic times, business savvy can make the difference between success and failure. In this exclusive interview, business guru Stephanie Chandler gives DolceDolce readers the lowdown on getting your business or yourself noticed in this tough market place.

    In LEAP! 101Ways to Grow Your Business, Chandler has strategies and tools to grow any business. She has also included interviews with top entrepreneurs. This is a must-read for anyone with a small business or an interest in standing out in the marketplace. Do not miss a word of this riveting and valuable interview.
    DD:  Why did you write this book?
    SC: This is my fourth book and my goal is always to write the kind of books that I would like to read. I had a vision for an accessible, practical directory of business growth strategies that included advice from experts, authors and real-world business owners. That is exactly what took shape for LEAP!
    LEAP 101 ways to grow your businessDD: Can anyone learn to market their own business?
    SC: Absolutely. The key is to be absolutely committed to marketing and understand that it is a growth tool. Many business owners view marketing as a necessary evil, but when done correctly, it’s an investment in your business that should actually pay for itself. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. Thanks to the Internet and the fast-evolving world of social media, there are endless ways you can market your business without having to spend a lot of money.
    DD: Do you need you need to spend a lot of money start business?
    SC: It depends on the type of business you’re starting. A restaurant or retail store is expensive. A home-based business can get started with a computer and a phone! Here’s a list of 100 Low-Cost Start-up Ideas that I put together awhile back: http://www.businessinfoguide.com/article-100bizideas.htm
    DD: How important is social networking and the Internet? How can you use it to gain attention?
    SC: For most businesses, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can have a tremendous impact. I use all three consistently and have landed clients from around the world as a result, not to mention a lot of media coverage. Reporters, editors and producers are finding a lot of their sources online now. The key is to avoid selling with social media, and instead be a resource. Provide interesting, useful content and you will naturally attract an audience.
    I like to use the example of a limousine company, which would likely have a limited amount of content it could share about its cars — and that content wouldn’t be all that interesting. But the company could become the go-to source for finding events in the area. They could post announcements about upcoming concerts, theatre events, non-profit fundraisers, and other related events that appeal to their target audience — people who will want to rent a limo when they attend those events!
    DD:  How important is it to brand yourself or business? What are a few of the steps to finding and establishing your brand?
    SC: I think branding is very important, and it starts with knowing what your business is all about. You have to start by considering your company values and how you want to convey the company’s image. If you own a serious, buttoned-down consulting company, your brand shouldn’t include cartoon characters or messaging that doesn’t align with your level of professionalism. On the other hand, if you own a company that’s not afraid to have fun, that message should come across too (this makes me think of Zappos.com).
    DD: If you have a limited budget what are the three most effective things a person can do to stand out?
    SC: Have an impressive website that is optimized for the search engines. Engage with Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis and figure out how to do it right (it’s not about what you had for lunch!). Launch and maintain a blog — this is one of the quickest ways to drive website traffic and it integrates really well with your social media strategy.
    DD: How important networking? What is the most effective way to go about it?
    SC: The most important key with networking is that it’s done effectively. Showing up at every networking event in town is rarely an effective use of time. A better way is to choose a couple of events that reach your target audience and that you will enjoy attending on a regular basis. Get involved to get known.
    Online networking can also be quite effective. You can participate in groups through Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other niche sites around the Internet. Some of my greatest alliances have been with people I met online.
    DD: How can you tell friend from foe and avoid time wasters? How can you tell when it is time to move on?
    SC: Hmmm. I have pretty good BS radar. When I meet someone who does all the talking and doesn’t ask me anything about what I do, I’m moving on. There are also relationships that can become draining over time. I guess you have to do a “gut check” and decide what value there is in your relationship. If it is one-sided, it’s usually best to let it go. www.stephaniechandler.com