As entrepreneurs, we often put a lot of focus on the individual behind the business, especially if that business operates under the name of the owner á la Marie Forleo, Amy Porterfield, and Christina Scalera (the only time my name will be seen along with those other two!). We know that in order to succeed, we personally need strong leadership qualities like tenacity, out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness to take risks. All so true and so important!
But let’s take a moment to get away from the individual running the show and, instead, look at their creative businesses as a whole. Below are the 7 traits of successful creative businesses that we can learn from and start cultivating in our own businesses!
Successful businesses listen carefully to what their customers have to say and respond effectively to their customers’ needs. Starbucks, for example, launched My Starbucks Idea, an online forum for customers to submit their suggestions, with dedicated customer service specialists who respond to each individual and determine which ideas should be submitted to leadership for consideration. A long list at the bottom of the page showcases all of the customer ideas that were actually implemented by the company. What a win-win-win! They get innovative ideas, customers get heard, and everyone enjoys the benefits of better service.
Social media has become a pivotal tool in fostering a positive client relationship. Companies like Buffer and Seamless offer quick and convenient customer support through their Twitter accounts.
Are you listening and responding to what your clients have to say, whether on social media, through your customer support, or in reviews or surveys?
Companies who are in tune with change and who can adapt quickly to the ever-changing online world are the most resilient. Did you know that Pinterest originated from “Tote,” a shopping app for women that let them save their favorite items from various retailers and receive alerts when said items went on sale? The company realized that its users were mostly interested the app’s function to create collections of the items they liked and share them with friends, and they quickly decided to change their concept to what is now Pinterest.
As entrepreneurs, it’s so easy to get stuck focusing on a certain goal or idea that sometimes we don’t see when it’s not working for our business anymore (and that something else is). Part of being successful is recognizing when it’s time to shift gears.
Oreo cookies, if you haven’t noticed, has been on fire on social media for the past few years. (“You can still dunk in the dark.” may have been four years ago but it’s still talked about!) They have done an amazing job of creating fun, eye-catching content—and they’re Oreo, for heaven’s sake. Their cookie may be a staple, but they don’t underestimate the power of great marketing.
We’re constantly being inundated by marketing messages (literally, thousands every day!), so it’s really important to stand out if we want our messages to be heard. What makes your business unique? How can you tell your story in a way that is different and memorable?
Successful creative businesses are constantly creating and improving upon their existing products or services and pushing themselves to innovate. I think as creative entrepreneurs, this is one trait we all already have naturally!
One way to be innovative that might not come as naturally though is in your marketing. (I know, I know. I just said this, but it’s so important!) It’s very easy to fall into the trap of feeling like there is a “right” way to get your business’s message across. Maybe you’re tempted to use the same social media platforms, or the same marketing techniques, or a similar website design to your competitors. In an environment where we’re constantly exposed to marketing messages, the best way to set yourself apart from the thousands of other messages is to be different, to tell a unique story, and to do so in your way.
Behind the most successful creative businesses are some extremely talented individuals, but they usually don’t work alone. As solopreneurs, we wear all of the hats and, while we’re very talented, we can’t do it all AND do it well. It helps to take a step back and reevaluate every now and then. Could you potentially hire someone to take over an aspect of your business that is difficult or too time-consuming for you? Not only would you have a talented individual that completes your skill set, but you’d also free yourself up to do more of the things you’re great at, and that’s definitely going to help grow your business more strategically.
6. THEY’RE PURPOSEFUL
Most creative companies succeed because they have a clear vision for their brand. The new company Thinx, a female-run business selling period panties, comes to mind. Not only are they pushing the envelope to reduce the stigma of menstruation with their stellar marketing, but they also have a well-defined mission to help girls and women in Africa have access to supplies but, arguably more important, to knowledge of their bodies. Their purpose is the driving force behind their business.
As entrepreneurs, we sometimes throw ideas around see what sticks and, while that kind of trial and error is an important part of the creative process, it helps to have a general vision, mission, and purpose to guide those decision.
If you want to be a successful small business, consistency is key. Take a look at your industry leaders: I bet they are organized, focused, and follow through relentlessly on their goals. As a business owner juggling life, work, and family, you might be a little (or *cough* very) disorganized. Take the time to create systems, plan for growth, and set stretch goals… it may require an upfront investment of time or money (or both) but it will help you be more focused and save time in the future.
Another area where it’s difficult to be consistent is effort. It’s so common for entrepreneurs to experience hills and valleys because we’re doing SO MUCH that we burn out. It’s hard to find balance, but it’s so important, not just for our businesses, but for ourselves. (If you’re experiencing burnout, it might be time to get some extra help.)
Can you think of any other traits we can steal from successful creative businesses? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!