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Economic downturns make it more important than ever for entrepreneurs to secure the marketing support they need to sustain profitability for their small businesses. Jennifer Kem, CEO of The Master Brand Institute, knows from experience the pain of losing everything due to the drastic shift in the 2008-2009 financial crisis when she was forced to close her brick-and-mortar retail business. Within a year, she was bankrupt, borrowing money from her mother, and knocking on literal and proverbial doors to see where she would find the next best opportunity to finance herself and her two daughters.
Today, she is the CEO of two future-proof, eight-figure earning enterprises, both of which focus on brand strategy and marketing consulting for corporate and small businesses. As she watches the economy struggle and small business leaders pivot from the potential of profit loss, Jen feels passionate to offer both her story and the necessary tools that helped her to rebuild from a broke to a blockbuster business leader so that they can do the same.
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This is the Success Map, a four-part marketing strategy Jen has developed to keep business leaders increasing income and impact regardless of the state of the economy through mindset, messaging, marketing, and monetization.
Step 1: Mindset
The first step of the Success Map is to master your mindset as a business leader. In challenging times you always have a choice: You can surrender to the struggle or approach it as an opportunity to lead. So many big brands that we encounter every day were born or became successful during recessions. Microsoft was founded during the oil embargo recession of 1973. The marketing platform Mailchimp formed during the dot-com recession in 2001. The Great Recession in 2008 saw the creation of several startups like Uber and the popular vacation rental marketplace Airbnb. If they can do it, so can you and here’s how: commit to a values-centered framework.
There is a myth circulating the internet right now that the best way to discern business direction is to follow “what feels best”. But let’s be real, so much of the day-to-day workings of managing a business don’t feel like the most exciting things, but they are the necessary things. The key is to understand that if you’re going to put in the effort, it’s not about being “easy” or “hard.” Instead, it’s about being worth it. What makes work worth it is what Jen calls being “values-driven.” It’s a framework she uses to filter all her business choices around her values. Jen’s top values are autonomy, justice, generosity, leadership, and legacy. As she determines how she wants her business to grow, she ensures that every decision aligns with one of these top five values.
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Your core values are a commitment that allows you to stay motivated regardless of the state of the economy. Even if your return on investment is slowing, focus on your return on impact because when the economy improves, as it always does because it’s cyclical, your audience will remember you as someone who stood by your values and consistently supported them during the challenge. When you invest in your mindset, you go from sitting on the sidelines to being an active, energized entrepreneur, sharing, caring, and daring in a whole new way.
Step 2: Messaging
The second step to the Success Map is messaging. During difficult times, your audience needs support, so be sure to craft creative messaging that presents your brand as value-centered and community-conscious. During a number of economic downturns throughout history, we repeatedly have seen the success of businesses that provide for the needs of the community.
Here are a few content ideas to get you started: First, think of seven stories that highlight your approachability. What have you been through personally that that will help you to relate and empathize with your audience? Then, think of seven authority stories that emphasize your expertise in managing similar challenges, or, that offer a solution-oriented approach. In both your personal and professional experiences, what have you accomplished, learned, or achieved that shows your audience they can count on you as a source of support and invest in your offerings to meet their needs?
When you’re able to consistently craft empathetic and effective messaging, you’ll feel more confident in your marketing and your audience will better understand why they need you.
Step 3: Marketing
The third step to the Success Map is marketing. Believe it or not, in a bad or good economy, marketing always matters. During the pandemic, all businesses have been challenged to begin or build their business in the digital space. Even if you’re in brick-and-mortar retail, like she was back in 2008, you can sell online and/or market the expertise of your experience through courses, workbooks, virtual events, etc. (As we can all relate, she certainly wishes she knew what she knows now, back then!)
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Begin to think about how you can shape what you know into online revenue. Then, market your new offering. Marketing is simply letting people who need you know that you can help them. Don’t limit your creative process to just one idea, instead think of a few offerings and beta test them on your audience, then scale whichever one has the highest earning potential. Use pre-built marketing systems on social media platforms to spread the word about what you know and how you can serve your audience.
Step 4: Monetization
The last step to the Success Map is monetization. Now that your mindset, messaging, and marketing are all in alignment, you can focus on maximizing income through bettering your sales conversations and close rates. Monetization is simply inviting the people who already like and trust you to play a bigger game in their lives, using your expertise and experience to guide them. As you prepare your monetization strategies, think about how you can serve your audience in both online and offline markets, as both verticals can contribute to your revenue goal.
If you’re a business leader who wants to ensure that your income is predictable and your impact palpable while your audience’s needs are being met, then make sure to have a values-driven mindset, supportive messaging, consistent marketing, and clear online and offline monetization strategies. Then keep yourself focused and protect your confidence through self-care practices and getting support from mentors, friends, and family. These frameworks have been so effective in future-proofing Jen’s businesses and can support you too, no matter what the state of the economy or the world.