If you didn’t get the chance to make it down to Louisville, Ky., at the end of October for the GIE+EXPO, here’s a wrap-up of a couple of the educational sessions.
Avoid the social media time-suck
Chris Heiler has practical tips and time-saving efforts for managing your time online more effectively.
By Tom Crain
Tweets, texts, emails, posts, blogs, smartphones, teleconferencing. We’ve never been more connected to people than we are today.
With that in mind, Chris Heiler, founder and president of Landscape Leadership, emphatically preaches to his clients and audiences day in and day out that building a presence online for companies is not only important, but essential. But, he reminds everyone that doing so comes with an enormously overwhelming challenge.
“We can’t spend our time everywhere, doing everything,” he says. “It’s unrealistic to think that your business can have a vibrant Facebook Page, a compelling blog, a popular YouTube channel, etc. You can’t be effective with everything.”
In addition, Heiler says, most professionals are victims of “social overwhelm.” Rapidly evolving technology and the need to participate and engage on a consistent basis – week in, week out is just too much.
Why is it critical to participate in social media? Heiler gives numerous reasons, including generating sales, increasing sales, staying in touch with your customers, expanding your sphere of influence, building your reputation, building brand awareness and just simply keeping up to date and current on issues that affect the green industry.
Heiler offers tips for establishing loyal followers when you have more time to invest in providing content:
Become a trusted source. Heiler estimates that about 30 percent of the content he shares through social media comes from other people. “If your followers find something you posted to be useful, they’ll be glad you shared it,” Heiler says.
Emphasize the visual. The more pictures and videos you can share, the better. “We work in a unique industry, and people like to see what we do,” Heiler says. “We should never run out of cool things to post.”
Do one thing really well. He urges people to focus their efforts on the site(s) where their target audience spends the most time.
“Most people try to be everywhere, doing a little bit of everything, to get in front of everyone, but doing too much can spread yourself too thin,” Heiler says.
Show up consistently. Part of doing one thing really well means showing up consistently with useful content. “The best way to build your reputation is to establish consistent blogging yourself,” he says.
The author is a freelance writer based in Akron, Ohio.
One step at a time
Jerry Gaeta helps hardscapers with a one-year business plan.
By Peter Hildebrandt
Most companies have a visual, mental business plan of some kind, according to Jerry Gaeta owner of Gaeta Business Planning. They have an idea of what they want to do, a goal or objective of some kind and a few things they want to accomplish. “But the problem is it’s in their mind,” Gaeta says.
“I was probably just as guilty with my company; we did more budgeting – which is part of the business plan – more annual meetings and retreats and wrote things down. But we never really wrote the formal plan. We had the same vision, wrote some of it down but there wasn’t some written document or booklet that said ‘this is what you do.’ Gaeta says that a simple business plan is what you are trying to accomplish.
The first thing that you’re going to look at is the basic components of a business plan. You obviously want to tell the basic information about the company. The objective is similar to a mission statement but it is what you want to accomplish in that year summarized in a paragraph.
You also want to look at the challenges that you face in the upcoming year, achievements you’ve made from your previous business plan or the year prior. Financial information and goals are just a few of the items.
“The final step is coming up with a contingency plan,” Gaeta says.
“This consists of an answer to the question of what if you don’t hit your targets. If you don’t hit an objective in your budget or in one of the achievements you want to make, you sit back and look at what you want to change – mainly financial – if you are not hitting your goal, your timetable and the basic ideas of what you are going to change.
“If you start with five to seven different little separate categories, that will get the first plan built,” he says.
“That’s your objective and you want it so your first plan can be implemented.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.