Category Archives: Networking

Are You Fatigued by Facebook and Twitter?

GOP imageFacebook gave us a way to find old classmates and renew friendships, find clients and share ideas.

Email has given us a way to quickly conduct business or send silly stuff to co-workers and friends.

So now we have IM, text messaging, friends on Facebook, and constant communication by 140 characters or less on Twitter.

All of this messaging is great as it is supposed to bring us closer to our friends and find new ones, but if we aren’t careful, these interactions can harm our real-life relationships. Columnist Elizabeth Bernstein quite recently said that she is experiencing Facebook fatigue because loved ones are sending so many photos of their children or parties, forwarding funky quizzes, and posting dozens of jokes. And they are tweeting about their whereabouts and what they are doing at the present moment.

To improve our daily interactions, Bernstein says: Before posting an item, ask yourself if it’s something you would want one of your contacts to send to you. Reward people by responding to interesting messages.

While private blogs can be platforms for political ranting, it can be considered poor form on Facebook to constantly post your political opinions.

Improve Your Communication Skills While Travelling and Meeting New People

Warning for Tourists

Warning for Tourists

I have been traveling quite a bit lately. I embrace these opportunities as there is always so much to  learn from people who live in different parts of the world – frugality and resourcefulness from citizens of countries that have to get by with much less than people in the U.S,  relaxed and easygoing attitude from a young man who lives in Brazil, efficient time management from German professionals and eloquence from British gentlemen.

I have witnessed different approaches to marketing and politics as well – pre-election Germany had a different feel than pre-election Estonia.  Overall, it looked like Europeans had taken a low key approach,
people and governments are tightening their belts.

Just like people in different countries have different needs, so do small businesses. Product and service customization as well as getting to know your customer are both equally important, or you’ll miss the mark.  We have so much to learn from each encounter with potential and current customers.

Top 10 Challenges Professional Service Providers Must Overcome to Generate New Clients and Revenues

I would like to share my fellow Duct Tape Marketing Coach Bill Doerr’s advice:

Challenge 1
“Not seeing enough people”

Probable Cause/s:

* insufficient level of marketing-related activities

Corrective Strategy:
Be sure you’re engaging in appropriate activities at an adequate level for the client acquisition and revenue-generation goals you have. Seems obvious and may correct any deficiency right there. As one respondent said, “Get of your office and go see some people!”. Sage advice.

Challenge 2

Dealing with ‘high maintenance’ prospects and clients

Probable Cause/s:

* not clear about who is ‘right’ for the business or practice (i.e. who is ‘qualified’ to work you?)
* not using that profile at the ‘moment of truth’ with a prospective client or referral source

Corrective Strategy:
Define your ‘ideal client’ and don’t compromise your own standards. A number of people lamented that their willingness to take ‘anyone with an open checkbook’ often led to a client engagement that, in the end, proved frustrating for all parties. Just don’t do it! Identify specific ‘knockout’ factors and, if present, avoid engaging with those people.

Challenge 3
Prospects (and, some clients!) are asking us for ‘lower fees’ or ‘better pricing’

Probable Cause/s:

* not focusing on the value you provide vs. the fee you are charging

Corrective Strategy:

Charge a ‘fixed’ fee for your services rather than billing by the hour. Why? Understand that an hourly rate is something you need to know to be sure your pricing is profitable for your business or practice. It is NOT something your clients need to know. In fact, most don’t like hourly billing (survey your clients and you’ll confirm that one!).

What they do need to know is the answer to this question: “What’s it going to cost me . . . if I use you or, if I don’t?” Once framed that way, any ‘price’ you’ll ask for will be positioned around the VALUE you represent, not the time you have to invest in a project that will provide the client what they want. In my own experience, ‘package’ pricing invariably causes more services to be sold and better margins to be maintained than providers who bill ‘by the hour’.

Challenge 4

Losing bids to other firms (who are arguably less qualified, too!)

Probable Cause/s:

* No system for helping clients to make a decision is present
* Not skilled at using a system for helping clients to make a decision
* Not seen as a preferred provider of your services

Corrective Strategy:
The first two causes will be addressed by a systematic approach to helping someone make a decision . . . in short, ‘selling’. Seen as an essential aspect of your professional advocacy role, it’s an incumbent responsibility of every professional to help clients make decisions about their services – including the decision NOT to use them. But it must be a deliberate decision, not a decision by default because it wasn’t made deliberately.

If prospects fail to perceive you as a preferred provider you are not differentiating yourself to your marketplace. To differentiate yourself, you must be both beneficial and unique. Being yourself is about as unique as it gets. So you need to learn how to demonstrate the beneficial ‘edge’ you offer that will cause you to stand out to your prospective clients.

For service providers the ‘secret’ is to learn how to manage the experience your prospects have with you during the courtship phase of your relationship so they will feel, all things being equal, that you and your firm are definitely the preferred providers of your problem-solving expertise.

Challenge 5

Finding it distasteful to have to ‘sell’ and/or ‘market’ our services

Probable Cause/s:

* An attitude of advocacy . . . as a fiduciary of your client’s interests is missing

Corrective Strategy:
Reframe ‘selling’ as a ‘moral responsibility’ that your professionalism demands. Selling is simply ‘client-centered advocacy’. Think of a physician who ‘advocates’ a course of therapy for a patient not because they want a fee as much as they want their patient to be healthy. So too, you must see that such client-centered advocacy is a high calling and not something much lower . . . in your humble opinion. More than one respondent offered the admonition to “just get over yourself”. I hope this perspective will help you do just that.

Challenge 6
No sense that EVERYONE is responsible for marketing in the firm

Probable Cause/s:

* leadership has not communicated that marketing IS everyone’s responsibility
* There is no consequence for not bringing in clients (or, doing things that would!)

Corrective Strategy:

If you / your firm hasn’t made this expectation public . . . do so! Rewrite everyone’s position description (yes, even the receptionists’) to include behaviors that support ‘marketing’. Unless and until marketing behavior is expected and inspected, it’s likely not to happen. Better yet, post this expectation in locations where you will be re-minded of it frequently.

Challenge 7

Not having time to devote to marketing my services

Probable Cause/s:

* No need to market (see Challenge #6)
* No plan – so no marketing activities have been identified to do in the first place
* No skills – you know what to do and why but you still don’t allocate time for it

Corrective Strategy:
Create and use a ‘Marketing Activity Plan’ to ensure you’re allocating your time to what some call the ‘mission critical’ activities so the ‘mission’ of your planning will be accomplished. And brushing up on your time management skills might be a good idea, too!

Challenge 8
Not leveraging our relationships with existing clients to find new ones

Probable Cause/s:

* Not asking for help from existing clients
* Asking but ineffectively

Corrective Strategy:

Learn to use an effective referral system with existing clients and centers-of-influence. Two possibilities to consider might be: “Referral Flood” by Duct Tape Marketing or The Preferral Prospecting System®

Challenge 9

Not developing long-term relationships for the referrals and revenues they offer

Probable Cause/s:

* No system for following-up
* No system for keeping-in-touch
* Not using such systems even if present

Corrective Strategy:
Get – and use – a system for

1. following-up, and
2. keeping-in-touch

in a manner that is as professional as you are.

While no one will argue these two functions aren’t important, many cite they either don’t know how or feel they’ll come off a ‘less than professional’. The key is not to ignore the need to do these things but to find a way to do so that won’t be offensive – to you or your marketplace.

Challenge 10
Focusing on client acquisition activities at the expense of client retention activities

Probable Cause/s:

* myopic mindset . . . “Need MORE Revenues? Get NEW Clients!”
* inability to appreciate that not all revenues are equally profitable to your firm

Corrective Strategy:

Consider that the cost of acquiring a project from a new client is much more costly (cost of sales) than generating a project from an existing client. In his book, “The Loyalty Effect” Theodore Reicheld explains that many firms don’t see a profit until an account has been with them for some time. Implication: “equal revenues with high turnover is less profitable than equal revenues with lower turnover”. Point: Keep-in-touch and stay-in-mind with your existing clients so whenever a need arises . . . you’ll be there and . . . seen as the preferred provider that you are.

BONUS!!
Doing more than expected . . . without being asked – (so here’s my little ‘extra’ for you!)

Challenge 11
Not getting people to buy or refer us when there’s no apparent reason not to do so

Probable Cause/s:

* Trust (or, a significant lack of it!)

Corrective Strategy:

For any professional or business service provider, trust is an essential element to the formation and maintenance of a productive client relationship. If trust is an issue, getting and keeping clients will be highly problematic if not impossible.

From The National Networker

Rethink Your Small Business Marketing

Email marketing – Hire an expert if you feel that you are not cut out to manage databases and lists. Find a reliable vendor to work with.  Constant Contact and Vertical Response are good.

Direct Mail – How effective is your Direct Mail marketing? Are you measuring your results? Anything printed has to be carefully thought out as you may be wasting money, time and natural resources.  Maybe you could upload most of your marketing materials to your website and switch to email marketing campaigns.

Discounts – Are you offering special extras, online only content or freebies?  Consider online coupons, try Intellogy.

Viral Marketing – Are you creating compelling content that is picked up and shared person-to-person via social networking sites?
Have you considered creating your company profile on Merchant Circle or Facebook?

What Can Small Business Owners Learn From Obama

1. Leadership skills – he put together a great team for his campaign and motivated his people all the way. 

2. Never give up, believe in yourself, even if you have no reason to do so, polls did not always predict Obama as a winner.

3. Presentation skills – Obama is one of the most eloquent and self-confident speakers I have ever seen. Practice!

4. Social media marketing – get away from ads to building online communities, just like Obama did.

5. Viral marketing – get everyone talking and singing about you. Where are you now, Obama girl?

6. If you can’t get to young consumers otherwise, send them a text message or an email- speak their “love language”.

7. Go to gym and play some ball – relieve your stress, basketball plays big part in Obama’s life.

8. Buy some nice clothes and look sharp – I loved Obama’s suit on election night!

9. Supportive spouse or partner is always a blessing – keep your spouse and partner happy.  Have you noticed the smile on Michelle Obama’s face?

10. Humble beginnings don’t always mean humble lives – with hard work, passion and dedication small business owners can beat the odds, just like Obama did.

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Skills

In tough economic times, customers may be feeling more pain than you know. They want to feel better, and you can help. Show how your product or service can solve a problem or improve their bottom line.

* Making more money for yourself should not be your goal. Making yourself the best you can be is a better choice.

* Be happy even when you can’t get an appointment or close the sale. Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, consultant to 50 of the top Fortune 100 companies, says rejection allows the game to continue. Send a gift to the one who turned you down and you will be remembered.

* Prepare. Know what your prospect will say and what your response will be. Study your prospects and their operation so you know the answers.

* Speak in a natural conversational way. If you memorize a script, you may come across as dull. Be prepared, and you will be able to improvise on the spot.

* Make a connection if there is an opportunity. Master small talk.

* Know that sales are not entirely based on the logic and intelligence of the prospect.

* Believe in the benefits your product or service will provide. Think of what the product or service will do and love it.

Best salespeople I know are all good communicators, they love people and know how to handle rejection.

Where Can I Get Web 2.0 for My Small Business?

Several small business owners have asked this question.  Well, sometimes it’s hard to respond.

For me Web 2.0 is a mindset or a philosophy.  It is a way of creating dialogs with your audiences via the world wide web.  Everyone participating becomes a contributor.  Finally there is a level playing field for like-minded individuals.  Small business owners, hockey moms,  pet lovers, etc. can become thought leaders and create their own communities if they have passion for a certain topic or field and they are willing and able to share their  interest and  knowledge.

We don’t have time for this knowledge sharing stuff and online networking some small business owners say. Could I just put up my website and update it once or twice a year? Yes, you can.  But you may miss out.

Web 2.0 has opened new avenues for keeping up with global connections as well. I have been able to re-connect with people in different countries via social networking tools.  It is amazing – they can get glimpse of my life and accomplishments  by looking at my profile and I can see what they have been up to.   I can see their current photographs and family life…and avoid asking embarrassing questions.

Will One Minute Treatment Help You Become A Smarter Entrepreneur?

book_productshot.jpg

Ken Blanchard, author of the famous One Minute Manager, got support from Don Hutson and Ethan Willis to create his book, The One Minute Entrepreneur.

Most people who start a small business fail within 10 years, say the authors.  Readers find a simple map to success. Some advice is short and to-the-point, and some common sense advice they share you’ve heard before, but it still works.

The authors describe 20 key attributes of a successful entrepreneur. I find the following five they have included to be essential.

Resourceful – In my experience successful entrepreneurs find ways to get through difficult times, constantly learn new skills and improve their self-reliance.  They practice patience and come up with new ways to open doors that have been slammed shut in their face.

Visionary – Vision-inspired focused small business owners WILL find success. They don’t get discouraged by numbers and inspire people around them.

Optimistic – Future may not seem so bright for some small business owners right now, but they have to show up and motivate others.

Strategic -Clarity of direction will lead to smart decisions, learning to let go and working smart.

Team oriented – That’s how smart entrepreneurs earn the commitment of their people and the loyalty of their customers. Successful leaders always help other people grow.

The goal of writing this book must have been helping people discover their entrepreneurial strengths.  Entrepreneurs must learn to commit to success one step at a time.

The One Minute Entrepreneur: The Secret to Creating and Sustaining a Successful Business, Currency/Doubleday, 139 pages.

Should I Start A Wiki?

Logo of DokuWikiImage via Wikipedia

 

I have written about several web-based collaboration tools, but have not dedicated any space in this blog to wikis. I often use Wikipedia and have been involved in projects completed by utilizing wikis as collaboration platforms. Now it’s time to shed some light on them as wikis can be very effective in managing group projects.

Tikiwiki.org features a pretty sophisticated collaboration and project management or maybe even an online community platform. TikiWiki can be your Groupware/CMS (Content Management System) solution. It has the following features:

  • Wikis (like Wikipedia)
  • Forums (like phpBB)
  • Blogs (like WordPress)
  • Articles (like Digg)
  • Image Gallery (like Flickr)
  • Map Server (like Google Maps)
  • Link Directory (like DMOZ)
  • Multilingual (like Babel Fish)
  • Bug tracker (like Bugzilla)
  • Free source software (LGPL)

DokuWiki provides less customization options than TikiWiki. Small business owners may prefer this solution as it is easy to implement and use. Some organizations may even set DokuWiki up as a website, especially when they need to provide information such as guidelines or purchasing policies.

The most popular wiki (open source) currently available is MediaWiki with familiar interface (Wikipedia).

Creative instructors can use wikis to make courses more interactive and engage today’s students in a range of environments such as high schools, small colleges, universities, and online schools.

For more detailed information about wikis go to Stewart Mader’s blog Grow Your Wiki.

Not convinced? Watch Wikis In Plain English.

Extra credit assignment:  Watch Blogs vs. Wikis.


Content is King, President and Pope

newrulesofmarketing.jpgI just finished re-reading an excellent book The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Some stuffy PR guys would probably like to challenge the contents of this book as it does not promote the old truths of PR and marketing. David Meerman Scott has focused on explaining the world of opportunities that have opened up for aspiring journalists, marketers and small business owners via web-based tools and services. Free or low cost applications such as blogs, podcasts and social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn are changing the old rules. Niche buyers can be reached with targeted messages that cost a fraction of big-budget advertising campaign. In addition, these marketing efforts often allow instant feedback and measurable results, so the “train can be stopped much sooner when it’s headed to the wrong direction”.

One-way interruption does not work as well as it used to. Instead, marketers have to create a dialogue with potential buyers and deliver useful content at the moment their prospects, buyers or constituents need it.

Readers learn that online marketing is not about pretty websites either. Per Meerman Scott, content is not only KING, but President and Pope as well. The key to interesting and entertaining content is the collaboration between the different departments of the organization. Websites cannot be stale either – content needs to be fresh and the reactions of the visitors should be measured and analyzed, so the content can be improved. I agree with all these points as I prefer information rich blogs and websites to flashy and design driven sites.

Here are some steps David Meerman Scott suggests for creating thoughtful content. These steps apply to websites and all social media tools in my opinion.

  1. Do not focus on writing primarily about your company and products. Content should be designed to solve buyer problems or answer questions.

  2. Define your organizational goals before you design your website.

  3. Based on your goals, decide whether you want to provide the content for free without any registration, or you want to include some kind of registration mechanism (much lower response rates).

  4. Think like a publisher. Consider buyer personas.

  5. Write for your audience. Use examples and stories, make it interesting.

  6. Choose a great title that grabs attention.

  7. Promote the effort like crazy. Offer the content with easy-to-find links.

  8. Alert appropriate bloggers, reporters and analysts that the content is available and send them a download link.

What is the main reason I like The New Rules of PR and Marketing?

It gives easy to read instructions on how to become a thought leader while remaining authentic and transparent. No need to pay a top dollar to reach your audience if you have expertise, find your voice, target a specific group of people and keep improving your skills.

Educate, entertain and motivate!