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Archive for December, 2010

Simple Rules Every Networker Should Follow!

Networking has been around for just about as long as business, in various shapes and forms.  It can be an extremely effective, low-cost marketing strategy – when done correctly.  Unfortunately, many people lose out simply because they don’t quite know the game.  Don’t miss a great opportunity to boost your business!  For networking success, always follow these simple and steadfast rules of play:

  1. Be genuine & authentic.  People like to do business with people they like, and nobody likes a pretender.  Savvy networkers can spot a false façade a mile away, and they instinctually steer clear.  No matter how great you are, no matter how fantastic your product is, it won’t matter one bit if others feel you may have something to hide.  Always stay true to your personality, represent your business honestly, and build genuine relationships with your fellow networkers.  Authenticity will set you apart and leave a positive impression, which will encourage people to do business with you… instead of your competition.
  2. Listen more than you talk. Have you ever met someone new – at a party, in the grocery store, standing in line for the movies – and they did nothing but talk nonstop about themselves?  Did it make you want to run in the other direction?  When networking, your mission should not be to prove how cool you and your business are.  It should be to find out as much as possible about the person to whom you are speaking, finding a way to make a connection so a relationship can be built.  The next time you meet up, whether it’s at another networking function or in person one-on-one, you should at least have some talking points so you can pick the conversation back up and continue building the relationship.  Good networking relationships lead to trust, and trust leads to business.
  3. Bring only five business cards to any function.  There are many experts who will disagree with this way of thinking.  However, if you have ever attended a typical networking event and walked away with a stack of cards, you’ll recognize some truth in what I’m saying here.  Thinking of that stack of cards, how many of the people behind the cards can you actually remember?  How many did you follow up with? How many did you actually do business with?  For most people, that number is pretty low.  Remember – networking is about building relationships.  Reserve your cards for those people with whom you truly connected and plan on following up with.  It’s always more important to make solid connections with a few, than meaningless connections with many.
  4. Don’t be that guy. You know the one.  He goes around to every person in the room, intrusively of course, and shoves his business card in your hand.  He interrupts your current conversation to tell you who he is and why you need to know him.  And then, before you even have a chance to respond, off he goes to the next unsuspecting victim.  Sound familiar?  Don’t be that guy.
  5. Get on a first-name basis with the event organizer.  I cannot stress this enough: the most important person in the room is the one who brought you all together.  Seek out the organizer (respectfully), strike up a conversation, and make the connection.  A good leader will point you in the direction of some key people he or she feels you should know, and a really good leader will make the introductions personally.  Once he or she knows who you are, what you do, and who you are interested in connecting with, you may even get some great referrals and post-event introductions.  Want to know the best way to cement the relationship?  Reciprocate.Encourage people you know to attend the leader’s events, introduce him or her to potential clients and alliances, and do whatever you can to help support his or her efforts.  A good rule to follow with any networking connection.

The bottom line is simple: Networking is a great tool, and can make a huge impact on your business.  It’s up to you whether that impact is a positive one.

Social Media Resolutions to REALLY Consider

Below are eight resolutions I developed with the help of some of my social media friends. They’re more focused on the professional than the personal. Some are things to start doing; others are things to stop doing. See if you agree.

I will be original. Plagiarism has always been a crime, but the Internet has made it much easier to commit. The ease and speed with which we can share things through social media makes it even
more tempting. If you like what other people say, give them their due for having said it first.

I will not “auto” anything. Don’t auto-follow. Don’t auto-DM. Don’t auto-tweet. Don’t do anything that shortcuts the already less-than-personal nature of social media. Give the same consideration to social media you would to a live conversation among friends and peers. Stimulating conversation occurs when people are listening and contributing to the topic of the moment. Nobody likes being on the receiving end of auto-generated messages; why would we think it’s O.K. to send them?

I will unfollow. There is a sense of “blowback” in social media, as people dial back the search for “more” and realize what we’ve known all along—that value comes from genuine relationships, and that a person in your network whom you barely know and never speak to is not a relationship. In that spirit, don’t be afraid to trim back the list of people you follow. Focus more on quality, not quantity, and concentrate on content, not numbers.

I will integrate. Stress to your clients the importance of social media as a crucial tool in an overall communications strategy. Social media constitute neither a fad nor a sidelight. In the coming year we all should look for more ways to integrate social media into our big-picture marketing plans. Many good things can come from exploring the links between offline and online media, social media included. If you respect each tool and use it appropriately in your overall marketing mix (rather than seeing it as another blunt instrument with which to bludgeon someone into a sale—see below), you’ll be a lot happier. And so will your followers.

I will not be a narcissist. Remember the feeling you got back in the day when you heard those three magic words, “You’ve got mail”? It was so exciting to think that somebody cared enough to reach out, even if it did turn out to be a perfunctory notification from your ISP. We all like getting attention, but fishing for it is never a good idea. People who post and tweet incessantly about themselves are no different than those who do so face-to-face—annoying.  Corporations can be the worst offenders in this arena, viewing social media as just another platform on which to make a pitch.  That’s as bad an idea online as it is offline (see The Cocktail Party Test for Advertising).

I will not be a boor. Peering through a computer monitor can be a bit like sitting behind a two-way mirror at a focus group, tempting you to draw conclusions and make wisecracks about people in ways that you never would face-to-face. Being a boor is never a good idea, and the network multiplies the effect of boorish behavior.  The same goes for profanity. Post and tweet only what you would say to someone’s face in polite company. If you can’t do that, zip it.

I will continue to explore. This may seem obvious to social media veterans, but we all have our limits.  You, like me, may have settled into a comfort zone with a handful of social media tools, but we all should resolve to expand. We should listen more than we tweet and connect more with those who think differently.

I will not LOL. Or ROTFL, provide TMI, or say OMG or JK. I know acronyms like these are meant to serve as shorthand to save precious character space, but a cliché is a cliché.  And in the social media world, clichés get tired fast.  Say something original.

Succession Planning – What Is It and How Can It Help My Business!?

Six Keys to Successful Succession Planning

1. Focus

Organizations need to make succession planning a priority and commit the necessary time and resources to focusing and anticipating leadership transitions. Focus should be on identifying which employees have the required skills and competencies and creating a detailed and specific developmental plan.

2. Time

There is a time commitment in successful succession planning initiatives. Succession planning needs to be a priority and should be part of a business strategy. Time should be allocated to senior management discussions to ensure the organization is ready for a leadership transition.

3. Talent Management Process

There should be a defined and specific talent management process that would include identification of skills and aptitudes needed to
perform job responsibilities. For example, if the position requires a high level of emotional intelligence the candidate may need testing and development of that competency. There should also be discussions identifying potential individual talent and discussing strengths, weaknesses, skills, experience and developmental needs. These kinds of developmental plans should be incorporated into a structured performance management process. This process would include targeted employee development by increasing employee responsibilities and targeted mentoring and coaching.

4. Benchmark Talent

Transitioning a high level leader also requires benchmarking the skill sets of other leaders in the marketplace. It is important to benchmark the skills and talent of other similar positions to make sure the in-house talent pool is competitive.

5. Transition Plan

Transitioning leadership is always a challenge. Organizations should have processes in place to help orient the employee to the new job. This process can minimize the downtime associated with leadership transitions and can help the employee hit the ground running.

6. Data Base

Organizations should develop a data base that tracks and follows employee skill development. Having access to this data base can
help facilitate candidate conversations.

Mistakes Organizations Make

  • Not paying attention to the potential leaders within the organization and being unprepared for a leadership transition.
  • Not having an ongoing process to assess the talent and skill set needed to be successful in leadership positions.
  • Failing to communicate an organization’s plan and desire to promote and develop potential leaders. This lack of communication often leaves strong candidates seeking advancement and employment with other organizations.
  • Not investing the time to mentor and coach potential leaders.
  • Not providing developmental opportunities and experiences for employees.
  • Not having senior leadership buy-in to the succession planning process.

A strong succession planning process improves employee engagement, commitment and retention. It also helps with the
challenge of talent recruitment and ever-increasing recruitment costs.

Top 10 Social Media Site of 2010

Facebook has once again topped the list as the most popular social networking website in the world-falling right behind Google as the 2nd most popular website on the planet! Facebook, Youtube, and Blogger continue their pattern as the top three social networking sites of 2009 and 2010, while Myspace, on the other hand, is barely keeping up. Last year, Myspace was 4th on this list; this year they’ve dropped down to #9. Coming in last on the list is Tumblr, a website Time Magazine claimed would be one of the 50 best websites of the year. (Their other social media choices are a bit questionable, however, as Foodspotting, StockTwits and Gowalla did not make the list, despite Time’s high expectations for the social media sites.)

Are you using these social networking websites? Which social networking sites did you enjoy using most this year?

 

Top_Social_Networking_Sites_2010_Facebook

 

Business Owners Holiday Wish

What do small-business owners want most for the holiday season?

From bigger lines of credit and lower taxes to affordable health-care plans and equipment upgrades, resources to help them grow their companies are top of mind. But given the still-volatile economy, some small-business owners say they aren’t holding out hope for a happy New Year.

At the very top of the wish-list for Andrew Fox, owner of New York-based event-listing and planning firm Track Entertainment Inc.: restoration of his $10 million line of credit. He says his bank cut it by a whopping 90% in 2008, forcing him to sell off several small businesses he’d acquired just a few years earlier. And Mr. Fox would like for his company’s credit-card provider to reinstate the unlimited monthly spending privilege he used to have; it was reduced to a $20,000 cap, also in 2008.

“Small businesses are basically being penalized and scrutinized because there is so much regulation now in the commercial loan market,” says Mr. Fox, adding that Track Entertainment, which launched in 2004, earned $29 million in revenue last year and is profitable.

Entrepreneur Michael Sinensky is craving a $500,000 loan so he can invest in new refrigerators, chairs, TVs and other fixtures for one of the nine bars that his business, Disco Sushi LLC, runs throughout the New York metro area. “We can’t grow because of that,” he says, adding that over the past two years, he’s been denied for the loan by seven banks despite having received the same
size loan previously without any difficulty.

Mr. Sinensky, whose company also operates three websites and an event-planning concern, would further like to be able to stop dipping into his personal savings to cover employees’ salaries and pay bills whenever business slows down. For this reason, his wish list includes a line of credit of up to $250,000 to help manage his cashflow. “We’re operating week to week,” he says.

For Thomas G. Marini, president of Marini Tool & Die Co., a manufacturer in Racine, Wisc., the ideal holiday gift would be $5,000 cutting-edge 3D design software that would help improve efficiency for his 40-employee company. Using the software would give the third-generation family business “a competitive edge,” he says.

Michael Folan is asking Santa Claus for an affordable health plan for himself and his one uninsured full-time employee at Infinit Nutrition LLC, a customized sports-drink business he launched in 2004. The plan he’d like most costs about $650 a month –a figure he can’t quite afford in his operating budget. “It would be tight,” he says, since the Cincinnati-based company just turned a profit for the first time this year. “We’ve put every penny back into (it) to keep growing.”

Gabriel Shaoolian wants about 20 new employees for his New York Web-design and marketing firm, Blue Fountain Media Corp., including information architects, business-development consultants, website developers and online marketing strategists. He has the money and the business to hire the people—but he needs a little reindeer power to find the right ones. “We’re in an industry that’s
relatively young, so it’s hard to find someone who’s good at it,” he says. “We get a lot of résumés, but they lack the experience
we’re looking for.”

Mark W. Smith, a founding partner of New York law firm Smith Valliere PLLC, has just one wish: Lower taxes. “I lose half of my profits every year to taxes,” he says. “They’re way too high and they’re hurting the growth of my business.”

Reasons to Add Video to Your Business Plan in 2011

  1. Because it’s fun. Leading a business is a lot of work, so why not make it fun while you’re at it? Video engages people. It makes them smile and invites them to respond to you. Video exposes you to new people, and you must make sure that happens regularly if you want to expand your business in 2011.
  2. Because it enhances relationships. Business is about making a profit, but you cannot make a profit without leveraging relationships. As you reach out to people using the power of video, you are inviting them into your world. Making yourself more personable and available to people is a great way to convey to them that you are trustworthy, authentic, credible, and real. People want to do business with real business leaders, and your moving, walking, talking, smiling image reflects who you really are better than any other type of media.
  3. Because it enhances your personal brand. The more fun you have leading your business, the more positive people you’ll attract to your business. As this happens, more people will want to connect with you. Some will buy your products. Some will want to collaborate on business projects. Some will join your FaceBook Page. Some will attend your shows or webinars. Some will tell their friends about your products.Y-O-U are the glue that binds all of this together. As you reach out across the Internet, revealing yourself through the power of video, your confidence will grow. You will begin to achieve more personally and professionally, as new opportunities come your way. You will establish your brand as you also maximize your potential as a person.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe

Who is the best customer that I know?

What customer(s) immediately come to mind when you answer this question?

Are they your most profitable?

Do they account for the highest percentage of your income? Are they the easiest to deal with or service? The ones you’ve had the longest?

Do you even know why you think they are the best?

3 Easy Steps to Know Your Customers and Make More Money

You may be tempted to skip down to the last section of this blog post. You know your customers and you’re ready to act! Weren’t you the one who just sold that big account to Widget, Inc. last week? And you know perfectly well that ABC Store was the first client on your books.

What more could there be?

LOTS!

If you don’t know which client is the most profitable, how can you duplicate your success?

If you don’t know that you earn a sub-par profit on your biggest client, how will you fix it?

If you don’t know why a client has stayed with you for 10 years, how can you be sure they will stick for the next 10?

Even if all your accounts are happy and profitable today, you can still benefit from this process. Leverage your strengths to grow profitably. Determine the real reasons behind your customer loyalty – it may surprise you.

Step 1 – Create a Comprehensive Customer List

The optimal list would include all your customers. At a minimum include the clients that account for 80% of your annual revenue. I would encourage you to create the list in Excel rather than Word in order to make the analysis as painless as possible.

Your Client List Should Include:

  1. Client (Company) Name
  2. Main Contact at Client (optional if you are willing to cross-reference later)
  3. Customer Address (optional if you are willing to cross-reference later)
  4. Year they became a customer
  5. Annual revenues you receive from them
  6. Variable Expenses – Includes commissions, cost of goods sold, and any other cost incurred only if a sale occurs.
  7. General Expenses – Often called Overhead or Operating Expenses. These expenses are the same whether you have 5 or 5,000 customers. Include the amount allocated to this client.

This may seem like a great deal of work. Remember that you only need to do it once, keeping it up to date will be easy if done regularly.

Step 2 – Analyze Your Customer List

Ugh, analyze, really? Yup. But its not so bad. I’m going to walk you through some quick and easy ways to analyze your data for maximum results.

Step 3 – Act!

Model Client

Once you’ve determined who are the model clients, you want to replicate that success.

First look at the client – their size, industry, their target market, and any other identifying characteristics.  Where is the best place to find more of that type?  Now consider what did they buy? What were their price points?  Use that information to selectively target your marketing and sales efforts.

Client Rehabilitation

What if you discovered this client is making you little or no money? Is it because you offered them a big discount to win the business? Are they a long standing client for whom you just won’t raise prices? Or were you shocked to discover how little you make off this account?

Once you determine how it happened, you need to put in place some sort of firewall to be sure it doesn’t happen again on this account or any other.

Longest Client

Talk to them.  Yes it’s that simple.  Extend an out of the blue thank you to them, indicating how much you appreciate their patronage through the years.  Ask them what is the main reason they have stayed with you. Revolutionary I know, but have you ever done it before?