How to Make the Most of a Business Networking Event

Posted by on Dec 08 2014

You’re not alone. Most people are uncomfortable walking into a roomful of strangers.

Networking at business events can help you grow your business and allow you to do hands-on marketing research. Learning to mingle and follow-up with business networking contacts is crucial to your small business success. The following techniques will assist you in connecting effectively with others.

Before the Event

  • When you write the networking event into your calendar, also add one or two hours the following day into your calendar for follow-up so that you know you have time to complete the task.
  • Come prepared with a pen and a small notebook, so you can jot down who each person is and what’s important to remember about them.If it’s a cocktail party, or finger foods are being served during the networking portion of the meeting, eat before you go to the event. It’s better to carry only a drink, instead of trying to juggle a plate of food and shake hands at the same time.
  • Know your goals: What is your purpose for attending this particular event? To meet certain people? To find prospective customers? To find a resource you need? Meet a connect with like-minded colleagues? Nurture existing relationships?
  • Ask the event host about dress code. Some events are Business Formal and people will be wearing business suits. Some events are Business Casual and there will be a mix of more relaxed styles. By knowing in advance what to expect, you maximize the feeling of being part of the group.

At the Event

  • Arrive early. Get there early when the group is small and manageable.
  • Enter the room with a smile. Even if you feel nervous, “act as if.” If you have a smile on your face, you will be perceived as approachable, enthusiastic, and friendly. (And you’ll feel a whole lot better, too!)
  • Bring 20 business cards and promise yourself you won’t leave until you’ve given out all the cards. Ask for other people’s cards if you sincerely want to keep in touch with them. Not everyone you meet will be a good resource or connection.
  • Make sure you mingle. Do not isolate yourself with only your friends or colleagues you know. Move around. Spend no more than 5-6 minutes talking with any one person.
  • Ask your host to introduce you to people that you want to meet, or to get you started in a group where you know no one. If they have a Greeting Committee or Ambassadors, find out who they are and ask for help with introductions. Reach out to people standing by themselves, introduce people to each other. (Note: if you are part of a group or association that does not have a Greeting Committee, offer to become a one-person Greeting Committee. It gives you the perfect excuse to introduce yourself to everyone who walks in the door!)
  • When you meet a person, shake hands, and repeat their name. This not only helps you remember it, but it shows that you’re making an effort to hear the name properly.
  • Wear a nametag that is easy to read and is descriptive of you. Wear it on your right shoulder so that people can easily see it when they shake your hand.
  • Create, practice and use a description of yourself and your work that can be said in 30 seconds or less. Know how to describe your work in one or two sentences. Make sure this quick introduction includes your name, the audience you serve, and how you uniquely help them.
  • Listen more than you talk. Remember that there is nothing more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere interest in other people. Ask questions and listen to the responses so that you begin to understand the person. This also helps you to identify who might be a potential client for your own products and services.
  • Take notes to help you remember what people have said. When you get back to the office, put all this information into your contact management software.

After The Event

  • Once you have someone’s business card, make sure you follow up with them within 24 hours of the event.
  • If there’s an obvious win-win connection with someone you’ve met at an event, call them up and invite them to lunch or a Skype coffee to explore the connection further.

When you look upon networking events and business functions as an opportunity to meet new people, do some market research and find potential clients, it can become a joy instead of a chore. Going in with a game plan makes you feel like you can really make the most of the event.

   

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Category: Marketing

Book Review: Blink

Posted by on Nov 30 2014


I’ve just got done reading “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell. Very interesting stuff, folks.

As self-employed small business owners, we need to learn to trust our intuition, our initial reaction to people, opportunities and our own thoughts. Blink gives us some good reasons to do just that, as well as cautions us about the down-side of making too-rapid decisions based on assumptions.

A definite must-read for small business owners!

   

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

10 Things To Do When Business Slows Down Over the Holidays

Posted by on Nov 11 2014

I’m sure you’ve seen it happen every year: your business slows down during predictable times, like the summertime months or the holiday period at the end of the year.

For the self-employed who rely upon steady cash flow, this can be a disconcerting time. Should you just take a time off until things naturally pick up again? Or should you try to find the needle-in-the-haystack business that might be out there during slow times?

This year, vow to be different! Instead of languishing in no-business-never-land, get off your butt and do something to build the foundation of your business so that natural business cycles don’t affect you too deeply:

  1. Clean your office. Go through all the piles of papers and magazines that have been sitting around and get rid of them once and for all. Remember the office organizing mantra: do it, ditch it or delegate it. File all your papers, dust and vacuum your office. Reorganize your desk and your office so that you can find everything you need in 60 seconds or less.
  2. Take a mini-break from work. Walk away from your office and enjoy a day or two of renewal and relaxation. Go to a day spa. Take a weekend retreat. Go for a walk in the local park. Breathe.
  3. Get ready for tax season. If your business slows down during December, no worries! Use that time to prepare your tax files so that you can whiz through tax season (it’s coming sooner than you expect!). Tally business-related mileage for year. Estimate your last tax payment for the current year (many self-employed people make quarterly estimated tax payments; the final payment is usually due on January 15). Send your final invoices for the current year.
  4. Send business holiday cards and gifts. If the slow time falls around the holidays, use them to your advantage. Get into the holiday spirit with your clients by mailing holiday cards and gifts to them. Make specially-discounted holiday offers to clients/customers. Offer them gift certificates that they can give to their family and friends for your services and products.
  5. Do your accounting and bookkeeping. Enter all revenue and expenses into your recordkeeping system. Balance your checkbook. Set your budget and revenue goals for next year.
  6. Become goal-oriented. Take this down-time to look at your current goals, to see how you’re doing so far and to write some new goals for the next 12 months. Create an updated marketing plan and budget. Make sure your budget includes a cash reserve to cover you during slow business times. Even if this business slow time falls mid-year, you can still spend time planning for the next 12-24 months.
  7. Go back to school. List the topics you’d like to study, the classes you’d like to take, or the books you’d like to read, to keep you up-to-date with your industry and business skills. Use your quiet business times to read, study and add to your intelligence pool.
  8. Get some personal chores done. Slow business times are ideal to schedule your annual dental and eye exams. It’s also a great time to clean out the attic, garage or basement. Remember, a strong personal foundation helps to propel your business forward.
  9. Go shopping. No, not for personal items (though that’s always fun!), but for business items. Have you been putting off buying a new PC, laptop or tablet? Now’s the time to research what’s out there and determine your next computer purchase. Is your office chair uncomfortable? Spend some time at office furniture stores “butt-testing” for a quality office chair that will support you properly. Stock up your office supplies. Buy some music CDs or MP3s to play in your office to inspire you.
  10. Spend time with family and friends. When business is busy, it’s easy to sequester yourself away to get all that work done. Now that business is slow, come out of your cocoon and visit with family and friends. They’ve been wondering where you’ve disappeared to!

As you can see, slow business times can be used productively to prepare you for the next burst of business coming your way. Renew your business, your office, your Self, and create a firm foundation for the busy business days ahead! Always ask yourself, “How can I use these days wisely?”

Will you be doing anything for your business during the holidays? I’m looking forward to the “quiet” week between Christmas and New Years Day, when I’ll be working on a new class design. :)

 

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Let’s Talk About Fear

Posted by on Nov 03 2014

fear

I talk to lots of small business owners who are feeling afraid right now.

They’re afraid of:

  • Not having enough: enough money, enough love, enough health, enough security and enough freedom.
  • Failure — or being a success.
  • Missing out on all the life has to offer.
  • Not reaching their potential.
  • Rejection.
  • Dying – and afraid of living, too.

No Matter How Confident You Are, Everyone Experiences Fear

You may know consciously that you’re experiencing fear, or your actions might be showing you that subconsciously fear is the culprit: procrastination, feeling stuck, overwhelmed or out of control. Perhaps you’re feeling envious of others, or becoming a perfectionist suffering every time you make a mistake.

What Story is Scaring You?

Jack Canfield says, “Figure out how you’re scaring yourself. Then acknowledge that you are creating your fear and you’ll start to triumph over it.”

Most fear is based on a future event, something that’s not even happening right this moment. We picture this future event and frighten ourselves much like going to a horror movie. We imagine all kinds of outcomes that may or may not ever take place.

One way to figure out how you scare yourself is to listen to your self-talk. Take a moment and write the answers to these questions:

  • I can’t be successful because…
  • I can’t have what I want in life because…
  • I can’t be who I’m meant to become because…
  • I don’t deserve to have what I want because…

Learned Fears

We were not born with these fears. Our past experiences and people in our lives have taught us how to be afraid of the future and about our ability to meet it successfully. Sometimes we make generalizations about life because of one bad experience.

Mark Twain said, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”

Change Your Self-Talk

What if you changed the way you talk to yourself? What if you remembered all the times in your life when you were able to accomplish what you set out to do, big or small? What if you thought back to all the times you were scared and still took action?

Affirmations are a statement of what you want to be true. But sometimes using affirmations feel false, because the affirmations talk about a future truth that’s not quite true yet.

Instead, consider overcoming your limiting beliefs by using what David Gershon and Gail Straub call Growing Edge affirmations, writing and using statements that are true and that still move you towards what you want.

Instead of the affirmation: “I am a successful small business owner making a 6-figure income,”

Use a Growing Edge affirmation: “I am capable of finding people who can teach me what I need to know,” or “I try a new marketing technique each month and chart the results.”

See? These modified affirmations are still positive, still motivational. And once you’ve mastered that Growing Edge statement, you can modify it again and again to keep you moving forward.

Just keep the affirmation truthful AND challenging. Don’t write an affirmation that’s too easy or too hard…you will sabotage yourself. Write affirmations that are challenging: they make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, ones that feel like you are reaching and growing, but that also feel completely possible. Remember this mantra: challenging but do-able.

It’s okay to feel fear. But don’t let it stop you from moving forward. Tell yourself: I feel scared, but I’m capable of moving one step forward today towards my goals and dreams, because it’s more important for me to be happy and successful than it is for me to allow myself to wallow in my fear and tell myself scary stories.

Helen Keller says, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

We can’t know what the outcome of any endeavor will be. But we do know if we allow fear to keep us stuck, the outcome will not be what we want.

You deserve to have everything you want in life, to have a rich, rewarding, meaningful and happy lifetime.

Live a Daring Adventure!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Should You Put Your Prices on Your Website? Pros and Cons

Posted by on Oct 06 2014

The decision to put your prices on your site is a strategic one for your business. In some ways it can make you feel vulnerable.

Ask yourself: What does my prospective customer want and need?

Studies have shown the consumers want to see prices of products and services. Even a price range is sufficient. But many business owners have reasons why they prefer to not include pricing.

How can you decide which way to go? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Nine Reasons to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Trust. Many customers will not do business with a company who is not forthcoming about pricing and fees. They simply won’t waste their time talking with a sales rep only to find out that the price is too high (or too low, which may feel cheap or low quality to them).
  2. Price Range. Customers want to know what they’re going to pay for your service or product, or at least have a ballpark figure.
  3. Unaffordability Beliefs. Some customers believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if the price is not shown, then it must be too high. They reason that if they aren’t shown the price, they probably can’t afford it.
  4. Efficiency. People who can’t afford your services or products will not request a prospect sales phone call. Hear me out: do you want to spend time convincing people on the phone that they can afford you, when they really think they can’t or don’t see the value you are offering? It’s hard to have phone calls with people who have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know the fees. Trying to convince them is a hard-sell tactic that I choose to avoid.
  5. Branding. Pricing is a strategic marketing decision and helps to set your brand apart from others. Are you the low-cost leader? Are you the expert who people pay more for because you’re worth it? Your fees tell the prospective customer where you place yourself among the others in the industry and which target market you want to serve. There is no right or wrong pricing strategy. The key is that you’ve developed on through your marketing plan.
  6. Discounting. For products and classes, there’s typically no negotiation in pricing: either they purchase it or they don’t. You can always create a separate page with special pricing for existing customers or special groups, or offer coupon codes that give discounts, if you want a tiered pricing approach to products and classes. Or indicate that you have payment plans, if that helps your customer with a buying decision.
  7. Budgeting. If people feel like they can’t afford you, but want to work with you, they now have a price-point from which they can start savings towards working with you. I have had a number of clients who tell me that they saved for three months in order to work with me.
  8. Honoring. Your customers are busy and time-constrained. They need information at the moment when they have time to do their research. Don’t make them jump through hoops. Try to be helpful in getting them all the information they need, not just in your pricing, but in the valuable benefits you offer.
  9. Information Gathering. People who are looking for a price range so they can get some budgeting ideas may be a perfect client for you. One of the important stages your customers’ sales timeline is the Information Gathering phase when they are researching possible solutions. Get to know your prospective customer’s process for making buying decisions and plan your marketing accordingly. This is especially true when marketing to women: they do a lot of research before they buy.

Ten Reasons Not to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Customized Services or Product. Sometimes you can’t list your prices, because each person gets a customized quote based on what they need from you, like a home builder or a website designer. But you can offer packages with a note that says, “Fees start at…” for each package. Or show them examples of your work and indicate what each of those project fees were.
  2. Competition. You’re afraid your competition will find out how much you charge. Bad news: your competition already knows what you charge. It’s easy for them to have a friend pose as a prospective customer and get your entire price list. Or your customers tell others what they paid. You are going to have a tough time keeping your pricing private, especially in the internet age.
  3. Value and Selling Strategy. You feel that they need to talk with you first, so that you can show them how valuable your service is, before quoting them a price. That is the job of your website. If your website is written well, it will easily show someone whether you can solve their problem and that the price they’ll pay is worth it. Then, when a prospective customer finally does call you, they’ve already been pre-sold by your website and you don’t have to struggle to convince them of anything. I figure if a sales rep needs to speak with me, it’s because they think the product or service “needs explaining,” or that they need to “handle my objections.” Neither is a good excuse to waste my time on something that doesn’t need explaining or should have been explained thoroughly on the website. Need help with your copywriting? Read my blog post on 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.
  4. Rapport. Your service is based on your personality and your rapport with your customers. Therefore, they need to speak with you in order to get the connection and see if it’s a good fit. I agree with this 100%. But if it’s a perfect fit, and they can’t afford you, how does that benefit either of you? Why not put some videos on your website, offer some free teleclasses or workshops, so they get a chance to experience you before the prospect call is scheduled.
  5. Price Fixing. You (or your industry) in concerned about price fixing. By definition, price fixing is a conscious agreement among businesses to keep the price of something unnaturally high or low, instead of letting free-market forces determine what each customer pays. Putting your own prices on your own website is not a conscious agreement with other businesses, it’s not a conspiracy, and therefore is not price fixing. If you’re really concerned that you’ll be accused of price fixing, consult your business attorney.
  6. Mimics. You are concerned that competitors who are less qualified than you will increase their prices to mimic yours, but offer poor service. Let them. You cannot be responsible for what your competitor does. If they charge too much and offer a shoddy product or service, they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
  7. Uniqueness. You feel that your service or product is not unique, but is exactly the same as what your competitor offers. This is called a commodity. But a commodity implies that what the customer is purchasing is the same, regardless of vendor (like milk, flour or gasoline). By being clear on what makes you unique, different or better than your competitor, you avoid being seen as a commodity. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get one.
  8. Ongoing Marketing. You’re concerned that if someone sees your prices but doesn’t reach out to you, you won’t have any way to connect with them in the long term. This is where having an offer on your website they can sign up for can help you gather a list of people who may be interested in your product or service. Think: email newsletter, teleclass or whitepaper. However, you need to handle these people differently than you would a bona fide prospect, because they’re in the Information Gathering stage of the sales cycle, not the Decision Making phase.  Establish your sales and marketing strategy and funnel, and reach out to people based on where they are along the sales path.
  9. Price Shopping and Tire Kickers. If they’re shopping on price alone, they’re probably not your ideal client unless you are Wal-Mart. People who shop only based on price will leave you when they find someone cheaper. So if you put your prices on your website, you get them to exit before they waste your time. If a prospective customers is truly *only* shopping on price, then it wouldn’t matter if you tell them the price on the phone or on your website.
  10. Not Knowing Your Worth. It’s true. Many small business owners feel uncomfortable setting their prices because they don’t truly know their value. Here’s some tips in setting your service fees.

What To Do?

Whether you put your prices on your site or not is a personal business decision. It depends on your business and marketing strategy. Just make sure you make your decision based on what’s helpful to your customer and right for your marketing plan, not based on your fears about what “might” happen.

If you don’t put your prices on your site, it may be helpful to explain to people why you didn’t include them, and explain what the next step is in the process. Prospective customers will be curious to understand why they need to speak with you first.

People often ask me, “Don’t you think you’ll lose prospective clients that way?” My answer is: I get 10 phone calls a week from people who want small business coaching/consulting from me. I’m not losing ideal client prospects by putting my fees on my website.

So…should you put your pricing on your website or not?

The best thing you can do it test it. Put your prices on your site for two-to-four weeks, and compare the results. If you get more inquiries, more sales, easier conversions, then you know your audience found it helpful.

You’ll never know if something works or not until you try it.

Do you put your prices on your site? Why or why not? When visiting other sites, do you want to find pricing there? Share your comments, ideas and suggestions below. We’ll all benefit from understanding the pros and cons. I can’t wait to hear from you!

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

Posted by on Sep 26 2014

I had a tough discussion with a client yesterday. She needs to hire a marketing manager, but would rather find a person who knows her narrowly niched target audience intimately and then teach them marketing skills.

I suggested to her that it would be easier find a marketing expert who had all the skills she needed and then to teach her new team member about her target audience. It’s too much of an uphill slog to have to teach someone all the marketing, admin and tech skills that make a marketing manager great.

I asked, “Can you explain your target audience, their needs, philosophy and psychology (to someone not in your industry) in 15 or 30 minutes?”

She said no, that it would take “days and days” to explain her target audience to someone.

What about you? Do you know your target audience so well that you could provide a high level description to your new team member in a short time? If not, why not?

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

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