Every business should be working on their audience-focused marketing strategy for 2018 if they have not done so already. Gone are the days when you just relied on spitting out some information pertaining to your industry filled with keywords you think that people are using during their searches. You must up your game if you are going to reach your audience in a meaningful way, and then convert them into sales. So let’s start at the beginning:
Who Is Your Target Market?
Specifically. The more specific the better. Then ask yourself, “What is their woe? What is their pain point?” Typically your target market has urgent needs – things they are trying to move away from. They will have compelling desires – things they are trying to move toward. Now take that information and tell them the #1 biggest result that you provide that will address these issues and partner it with the benefits that it will give them.
Set Your Goals
Start at the end and work your way backwards. Do you want to increase leads? Is there a specific dollar amount you have in mind as it pertains to sales? Are you wanting to increase YouTube followers, blog subscribers, social media followers? Once you know what it is you want, this will allow you to create better quality content that has a more specific call-to-action, thus helping you achieve these goals.
Develop A List of Potential Topics Your Target Market Is Interested In
Brainstorm time. Once you dive in and figure out their urgent needs and compelling desires, it should be easy to come up with a list of topics that you know your audience cares about. A great tool that can help you is HubsSpots Blog Topic Generator. This handy tool wants you to enter three different nouns and then it will come back to you with five different topics that will get your mind working. The best part, you can enter the same three nouns again and hit enter and will give you five more ideas if you don’t like the first round!
Do A Keyword Search
Yes, this is still important. People are still using search phrases to find you. But again, do go it alone. A great free tool to use is Ubersuggest.io. Just type in your keyword and this handy tool gives a ton of ideas to choose from.
Create A Calendar So It Makes Sense
What I mean by this is that certain topics may make more sense depending on the time of year you are sharing them. This post, for example, would not make as much sense if I had ran it in May. HubSpot offers free editorial calendar templates for you to use. You can also go extra simple and just open a spreadsheet. Don’t make your life any harder than it needs to be.
Get It Done
You’ve got your topics, you’ve got your keywords, and you’ve got your timeframe. Now sit down and write! Not a writer? Hire one. Seriously, stop dragging your feet and stop whining about it. Don’t waste time on something that is not your strong suit. Share your research with a great copywriter and spend your time elsewhere. Don’t let the writing part hold you up.
Track Your Success
I wrote an entire article on this topic called, If You Don’t Track, You Don’t Have Jack. If you are not testing and measuring, or paying attention to what is resonating with your audience, then everything you are doing here is just a complete waste of time.
Diligently working on an audience-focused marketing strategy will not only help you convert people into customers, it also helps your SEO since you are providing quality content out there on the internet. So this is a win win. Get started – because there is still time. 2017 isn’t over yet! If you need help – I am happy to help you!
My mind has already been on 2018. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2017 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on for my marketing content for 2018.
First step: Get your calendar ready. I prefer to keep things simple. I have a very simple spreadsheet that outlines the twelve months of the year and I brainstorm different events or anniversaries that make sense for me to comment on. It is basically a “big picture” approach about the kind of content I feel would be relevant to my readers and clients. I take that information and formulate the various blog posts I want to write about that make sense with certain times of year. I am always open to move topics around to adjust to current events and moments in time that have events where the need for a little shuffling is in order. Always remain flexible and have the ability to capitalize on current events.
If you are not into spreadsheets or documents, another great place to organize your calendar is on Trello. I have mentioned Trello in the past. It is a FABULOUS online tool that multiple people can log onto and all of your team members can brainstorm content for the following year. This is a great one if you have a team, or if you want to share it with your business coach. **hint hint***
A lot of my clients – and other business owners – like to put their topics and ideas on their actual calendar. Having your due dates in front of you when you can glance at it and prepare for it weeks in advance allows you to prepare for it so you are not running around at the eleventh hour trying to meet a deadline. You can either color code your online calendar, but quite often it is even very useful to do it the old fashioned way – with post its and stickers! Below is a the folks at CoSchedule who make a WordPress plugin for an editorial calendar, and they are still using sticky notes! Whatever works for you – do it!
But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? One resource is from Authority Hacker entitled 13 Creative Ways To Find Blog Post Ideas.
Another list I will highlight my favorites from is a great resource called CopyBlogger, and their article “50 Can’t Fail Techniques for finding Great Blog Topics” but make sure you click here for a the full list.
1. Google alerts – setting an alert with some of your industry’s key words. This can give you an endless supply.
2. Riff on a popular post. Post your reaction and thoughts to a popular blogger’s thoughts and a hot topic and you can gain some power packed link benefit!
3. Try a new medium. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or one of MY personal favorites: watch some TV for inspiration. Shark Tank is one of my favorites!
4. Do an interview. Do you have a favorite person you like to follow online or connect with at networking groups? The answer is no unless you ask them for an interview! I am sure they won’t mind the free publicity!
5. Take an entire day off. I love this one. Recharge your brain for a whole day by doing something you love. Go focus on your hobby and enjoy yourself. Giving your brain a break may be just what you need!
6. Do a product review. Is there something in your business you use every day that you just LOVE? Write about it and spread the love with your readers! My husband, who runs an IT company, does a great post every December on his picks for Holiday Technology Toys as an example.
7. Recruit a guest. When all else fails, call for back up and schedule a post of someone you respect that you can feature on your blog. Make sure their content is what your readers are looking for and it makes sense with the overall feel of your blog. But don’t get lazy and rely on them every month!
Lastly, you will want to set some sort of alert and an accountability system in place so this task actually gets completed. If alarms work for you, wonderful. If you need an accountability partner to make sure it gets done, then set that up. You will be amazed how much you get done when someone else is watching!
So I want to hear from you! What is your preferred calendar method and where do you get most of your blog topics?
For those of you that need your memory jogged, a QR code (Quick Response Code) is a type of barcode or label that contains information about what it is attached to. QR Codes have been around since the 90’s, but have never really taken off in the United States. Up until now, it was perceived as a bit of a pain to use them since it required a third party app to scan them. Most people will not take the time to open a separate app to scan a code. I am completely guilty of this. I know, how lazy is that, right? Well now you don’t have to any more thanks to Apple.
With the release of their new iOS 11, you can now use your built-in iPhone camera app to scan a QR code, which will take you directly to where the QR code wants you to go – no more third party app required! Given how popular iPhones are, this suddenly makes the use of QR codes much more feasible for companies looking to share information with mobile phone users.
So this begs the question: will more companies now start taking advantage of the technology of the QR code? I certainly think they should! So here are some suggestions that business owners can use to utilize QR codes to market their business or products.
- Direct Mail Piece. It is so hard to squeeze all the info you want onto a postcard or brochure, isn’t it? Instead, you can put a fancy QR code on that piece that will give your target market all the information they need without the restrictions of space. Simply put the QR code on the postcard with a few nuggets and a call to action and you are good to go.
- Utilize Video. Have your QR code take them to a video on your website that is either informational or instructional. Everyone loves video and a quick “how to.” Or, if you are trying to promote a product or an event, this is the perfect way to do it. Have the QR code open to a video with you personally inviting them.
- Promotional items. I have seen where companies put QR codes on their promo items. Maybe consider a t-shirt or mug or something that has plenty of space to display it. Then that will take them to your website where they can learn more about you!
Two quick things to mention. If you are going to utilize QR codes, make sure they have an email capture form so you can get their information. They are obviously tech savvy, so you want to grab their email so you can keep in touch. Also, wherever the QR code is sending them MUST be mobile friendly. Nothing is worse than not being able to read or see the content on your mobile device. Over 90% of information consumed is on a mobile device, so make it a pleasant experience. If you need help with any of these things, don’t hesitate to ask!
So, does this new technology have you wanting to give QR codes another try? What do you think? Leave me a message in the comments!
Starting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a Business State of the Union.Our company had been growing since its inception in 1997, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or to my husband if something were to happen to either one of us. Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.
But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you? Who has access? Where are the passwords?
Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. I am on my 8th year of doing so, and remind everyone annually at this time. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.
Step One: Collect all the data.
- Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works? A common one that comes to mind is Quickbooks.
- Social Media – As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login. There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
- Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc. where you can log on to the email?
- Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
- Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
- Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
- iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.
I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.
Step 2: Where To Store It
Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. We use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.
Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.
Last year I even placed everything “in order of importance” to the best of my ability, just to make it easier on my executor.
My husband and I have placed our SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to us both, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a printed copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.
Step 3: Update on an annual basis.
For us, that just happens to be every August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes us less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.
The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge.
So how many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?
It is easy to get stuck in a rut with your systems or processes while running your business. All to often do I see business owners with the mindset “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But that is not wise for entrepreneurs. The world we live in is nothing but constant change. There will always be a new program, new app, new service that could possibly be serving your better, or maybe even saving you money. I just finished reading a great article that got me inspired to double check some of my processes. This in turn got me thinking – what else could maybe be improved? I have pulled together a list of six things that you should check on that you may not have investigated in a while that could improve productivity AND profitability.
When is the last time you went really took a good hard look at your website? When is the last time you changed the content? When is the last time you had someone reach out to you based on your website? If you can’t remember the answer to any of the above questions, this one definitely needs to be a priority. So much has changed with website platforms, SEO, mobile optimization, and lead generation. Websites are so much easier to manage now, and the old SEO rules definitely no longer apply. (Check out 18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind from Hubspot – GREAT suggestions to help get you started on this front.) Your website is definitely your first impression – so make your first impression your best. Call your web guy to start a refresh. If you don’t have one, I recommend this guy.
Server vs. Cloud
It used to be that small businesses had little choice when it came to centralized data storage or application sharing. They had to buy an expensive server and pay someone to maintain it. Then every few years buy a new one and start over. The reality was that most small businesses would hold on to a server for many years past the time it should have been replaced – and they would not pay to have it maintained anywhere near as much as they should have! The great news is that with mobile devices and cloud technologies, the need for small businesses to maintain a server of their own has been significantly reduced. Many small businesses that do fairly standard “office” tasks with their technology are great candidates to retire their old server and take advantage of a variety of cloud-based services that can offer many advantages to even a brand new server. If your business has an in-house server sitting lonely in a closet somewhere, it is highly recommended that you review the functions that server provides and evaluate if certain cloud services can be a safer and more cost-effective option for you.
FYI, technology has moved very fast and a lot has changed in the last several years, so don’t dismiss cloud services out of hand. A lot of misinformation gets shared by people who simply are repeating what others told them – and it’s often outdated and/or no longer relevant. Seek out qualified advice from a technology professional who is fluent in the many cloud technologies available. There are IT firms out there who are behind the times themselves and will still recommend servers to small businesses that would do better without one.
There are a lot of CRM programs out there. In the beginning, they were all very cumbersome and hard to set up since you had to put a lot of work into the set up. Truthfully, a lot of small businesses don’t even really need all the functions they provide, and you end up spending a lot of money on a program that you only use a fraction of. Based on your need and the size of your business, I recommend checking out this article which covers pricing, features, and the type of support provided for small business, very small business, what is free, and what is best for start-ups. I also found this article helpful, and showcases even a few I did not know about. Personally, I find a lot of usefulness out of using Trello, which is also free.
When is the last time you updated the look and feel of your newsletter? Is it still the same template that you started with years ago? While continuity can be a GREAT thing in many cases, you also need to be up with the times when it comes to visual design. People are really drawn to images and video. Take a look at your newsletter template and see if you think it really grabs the end user like it used to. You don’t want people to just scroll past something – you want to catch their attention.
Credit Card Processor
So much has changed in the credit card industry over the last 10 years. The mobile device revolution spurred a variety of mobile card processing services such as Square. It is now almost trivial for any small business to process credit cards. The reality is that customers look down upon those businesses that do not, so it is in the best interest of a company to make sure they can take credit cards – even if they only run a few per month. The question, however, is which credit card processor to use? Traditional credit card processors have some overhead costs that the newer generation of processing services do not. However, the per-transaction costs of the newer services are higher and eventually those fees add up to cost more than a traditional processor would. So what is a business to do?
The best advice is to find a person you can trust to give you good information regarding credit card processing. There is usually a fairly defined break-even point for most businesses where the fee structure of a traditional processor starts to save them money. Additionally, the costs associated with a processor can fluctuate over time so it is a good idea to make sure your current processor is still offering competitive rates. A trusted credit card professional can evaluate your costs and advise you if you should stick with who you have or look at another processing company. Ask around your area to find someone trustworthy, or if you need help, I can offer some referrals to trusted professionals my company uses.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and not think about the next level. When is the last time you sat down and mapped out the next 90 days of what you wanted to accomplish in your business? Last month I sent an email out to my list promoting my 90 Day Plan that I teach my clients – and more importantly hold them accountable to. Typically this should be done quarterly – but I say it is never too late to make a plan. So what it is mid July. It is never too late to map out a plan, set goals, examine processes to achieve those goals, and have someone help you stick to it. I encourage you to do it, and if you need help, please call me!
These are just the first six that popped into my head, also some that I have witnessed for myself from some other businesses. I am sure there are many more. So think about it – what systems or processes do you need to take a look at? What have you not paid attention to lately that you should? I highly recommend giving your business a tune up. You never know how much money AND time you could be saving.
Do you remember your first job? My daughter went on her first job interview yesterday and it has started an avalanche of memories of where I was, and what my first “real job” was when I was her age. My friends have all chimed in as well, recounting the crazy things they did to earn a buck – all before technology really existed for most people.
As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, she has never known what life was like for her father and I when we were not business owners. We started our company full time when she was a baby. She has grown up knowing the lingo of the entrepreneur. Client meetings, networking events, customers coming and going to pick up their computers, this is all very normal to our kids.
But the truth is: entrepreneurship really did not kick in for me until my late 20’s. I had a lot of jobs including waitressing, telemarketing, secretarial, government, corporate, retail, grocery store, and I was even a chiropractic assistant. It’s not that I was a job hopper for no good reason, but that I was constantly in search of what was going to make me happy. What was going to make me be excited to get out of bed for every day? What would motivate me so much that I would spend money, time and energy to do it?
That’s the rub, isn’t it? What would I say to her? How do I counsel her on this? So I made a list of all the things I learned throughout my many jobs and throughout my youth that I wish someone would have told me.
Intern or shadow someone. If you are truly interested in doing something for a living, no matter what it is, go find someone who is doing it right now. Get to know the industry, the clients that come and go, the exciting tasks and the mundane tasks. Dig in while you are young and can see without bias or the pressure of making money. It will save you later if you find out that this is not something you want to spend the rest of your life, or a good portion of it, doing. The last thing you want is to spend your first two years in college majoring in something you hate. That is the mistake I made.
Are you good at it? So what. Just because you are a really good at something, doesn’t mean that is what you need to build your career around. I am really good at a lot of things, but I don’t necessarily enjoy them. Don’t get pressured into taking a job that you will eventually hate that will kill your spirit.
Ask a million questions. Don’t be afraid. People love to talk about themselves and what they do. Ask friends, family, neighbors, whomever. Interview a wide variety of people.
Don’t be afraid of risks. I took the easy road a lot of the time out of fear. What a waste of time. You are young. Take risks. If you hate it, you move on.
Don’t let your age hold you back. You are so lucky the Internet is what it is today. Kids today are becoming millionaires on YouTube doing what they love. And that is awesome! You are coming from a place where the world is your oyster and all you need is a good smart phone and Internet access to make a name for yourself. You are never to young to make money.
Buy your name’s URL. This is just good advice. Thought I would add it.
Surround yourself with people that know more than you. This is really the only way to grow and learn. If you are not learning from people you are around, it is time to move on.
As I put this list together, it occurred to me that this is also the list for anyone who wants to start their own business. Every single point applies to that scenario as well. Isn’t that funny? That the very thing we are trying to teach our kids about following their dreams we should be doing ourselves? I’m just going to let you take that in for a moment…..
So it is with great hesitation and also great pride that I push my baby bird from the nest and let her test her wings. But if you find yourself wanting to open your own business, and you need someone to give you a little push from the nest, give me a call.
Last week I was at a business conference where the whole purpose was to learn how to make more money. Now obviously, the topic tells you why I was there, but what it doesn’t tell you is what else happened.
I got a swift kick in the pants. I got slapped upside the head. And I knew I would – which is precisely why I went.
Being a business coach, I knew that I needed to get back on track. I knew that I am no different than anyone else who has ever run a business that has fallen victim to focusing on everyone else and not themselves. I am sure it is the same for you. How many of you seem to get caught up in daily life and get pulled in a million directions? Before you know it, the day is over and you have not accomplished half of what was on your to-do list! This is is a pretty normal situation for small business owners. All it seems to take is one phone call or one email to derail the entire day’s agenda. The to-do list just keeps growing because you put things on the back burner that really need to get done.
But the fact of the matter is you have to get all of those things done. You have to focus on all the tasks at hand – especially the revenue generating tasks. The ones that have the potential to push the business onward and upward. Often these are the tasks that get pushed back the most. They are usually time consuming, and possibly expensive, and sometimes even scary. But the truth is: what you resist, persists. What you focus on grows.
I bet you thought that when you went into business for yourself you would never have to answer to anyone. That is simply not true. There is a reason larger companies have a board of directors or some sort of management – the business needs structure and accountability. There has to be a person, or group of people, to be there to nudge you in the right direction when you are not accomplishing the projects that should be your main focus. Most recently, it was the ALL the people at this conference. The presenter, as well as my peers. Pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to look in the mirror.
But how does one go about creating an accountability plan or finding an accountability partner? However you decide to set it up your accountability plan, you will want to focus on some key elements:
- Choose someone or a few people who are not afraid to tell you the truth – no matter how painful.
- Book at the very least a monthly accountability session with them.
- Find someone who has strengths where you have weaknesses so they can guide you where you need the most help.
- Take a look at the systems that run your business. Are they helpful or disruptive and expensive?
- Determine what is not your skill set and either learn what you need to become better – or delegate and MOVE ON!
- Work with them to establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)
- Establish a DEFINITIVE timeline AND deadline for those goals.
- Create fair consequences for not achieving those goals. Punishment is not necessary – but there are ALWAYS consequences.
Accountability is a MUST for every small business owner. Why? Because isolation is the enemy of wealth and success. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The longer you run from someone holding you accountable, the longer it will take for you to achieve your goals and put your business in the position you want it to be in. I am thankful this weekend provided me with a swift kick in the behind. I once again have someone who holds me accountable. I also provide accountability services for my clients. It is one of my most favorite things I do.
You know the beautiful thing about accountability? It means you are not alone. It means there are people there to help you.
I would love to help you.
What works for you as a small business owner? What are some ways you have inserted accountability in your business?
I am about to celebrate 15 years of being in business with my husband. Our company, MB Tech, Inc., is a technology company that has seen a lot of changes over the years. Since we are planning a lot of fun surprises and taking a walk down memory lane, it has brought up a lot of memories of how we made it this far. Amidst all the planning, the remembering back, and even the day-to-day operations, there is still only one question that I get the most often:
What would you say the secret to your success is?
That’s easy. I can answer that with two words. The first one is DISCIPLINE.
When we first started running our company, we naturally fell into our prospective divisions. He handled all the IT stuff and I handled the sales and marketing. We both had to grow with the technologies that allowed us to do our jobs, but we still stayed focused on what we needed to accomplish in order to make our company grow.
So as the marketing arm, my duties have really grown over the years. I started out networking all the time – at every event I could find. We did not have a brick and mortar – still don’t – so getting out there and putting in the face time was key. Then came email marketing, then came social media, and now the most prevalent – video marketing. Somehow, business owners are expected to maintain a marketing presence and still do whatever it is their business does.
I understand this can be hard for a solo-preneuer. That is where the discipline comes in. Myself, I have a schedule that I follow to the letter that I follow. Every day, week and month I have a deadline of some sort. And I follow it. I figured out what represented our company the best and I ran with it. For us, this is STILL networking face to face, social media/email and treating the people that know and love us with respect to keep the referrals coming. That is the discipline. But I am a crazy, super Type A individual and actually enjoy this level of organization. I am not not normal.
The fact of the matter is most people are not disciplined to this degree. But what do you do if you simply can’t be everywhere? You have some discipline, but simply not enough hours in the day. I totally get this. It happens. I am no saint, sometimes we are late on the marketing deadlines I set for our company.
This is where the excuses come in. I hear excuses from my clients and colleagues all the time as to why something is not getting done. Excuses and whining WILL NOT GET YOU THERE. Yes, I said it. STOP WHINING. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen. If you can’t be the one to get them done – then you have to delegate.
Discipline also means knowing your limitations. No one can do everything. I delegate plenty. In order for a small business to succeed, the next thing you need is to have is someone holding you ACCOUNTABLE. This can be a business coach, peers in your or complementing industries, virtual assistants, etc. who will not only help you accomplish tasks, but to push you to the next level.
I am not suggesting jumping into something blindly. I am saying have a plan. If you need help, call me, call a coach, call a trusted colleague, just call someone. Formulate a plan, realistically plan who is going to do what and when – and then actually do it. This type of DISCIPLINE, partnered with ACCOUNTABILITY is really the secret to any business’ success.
Final thought – don’t get caught up on hiccups. Life is full of hiccups. Roll with it. Don’t let delays, failures, or flat out not knowing how de-rail you. Find someone who can help you. Google it. Do whatever you have to do. Just get back on the horse. I believe in you – you should too.
I was recently approached by several people about coming to speak at their event about networking. It is very common this time of year to re-focus your efforts on networking and analyzing where you should be spending your time to grow your business. Rather than tell it like it is to a small group, I am choosing to lay it all down and put it out there – the COLD, HARD, UGLY TRUTH about networking.
- Everyone’s process is a bit different. Most people shy away from networking because they think this means going to some boring mixer, drinking your glass of wine, passing out business cards, all while collecting some for yourself. Ugh. This IS NOT networking. This is wasting time. Networking does not just happen in meet and greets. Networking DOES NOT have to happen in a certain way. It can be anywhere. I network just about in every situation I am in. The grocery store, the school pick up line when I am getting my kids, chatting with other Moms, talking with the neighbors, all my friends on social media, you name it. Technology certainly has opened some doors for us to keep communicating. The point is – choose strategies that appeal to YOU. Maybe it is face to face events, or a lively LinkedIn Group, or simply making an amazing blog and staying in touch with your followers that comment. The point is – you will shine if you are having fun. People will be drawn to you, and that is really what you are after.
- It’s not all about you. It’s about building lasting relationships. This takes time. I once had a job many moons ago where I was required to return with at least five business cards from people I had “connected” with at an event. The proverbial “get in, get out” method, or as some may call speed networking. This will get you no where. You cannot expect to get serious leads EVERY time you go out. Networking takes time and patience. You have to go into it with the mindset of building relationships. Start conversations with questions. This takes the spotlight off of you in the beginning and allows you to learn something about them in the process. People love to talk about themselves. Then you turn your focus on “what can I do for you” by doing the following:
Share who you know. This means everyone you have ever met. It is as simple as that. During your chatting, really listen to what the people are doing, involved in, trying to accomplish and think about if there is anyone in your circle of influence or database of people that you think they should meet. People will remember you for making the connection.
Share what you know. This means your life experiences, your observations, what you just read on Facebook, tips from email newsletters you subscribe to, etc. Share the knowledge that you think will help them in their agenda.
Share how you feel. Sharing your compassion will always bring you the greatest rewards. Show concern, show empathy. It will not only help you with your bottom line, but also knowing that you are following your heart and your integrity.
- You MUST keep in touch. Otherwise, this networking thing is a complete waste of time. This is also the number one thing most people will not do. They make quality connections, work on building relationships – and then….nothing. Work gets busy, life gets busy, or they simply get lazy. Such a shame. Create a system for yourself and stick to it. I like to use Trello to give myself a to-do list, where I include time in my schedule for a keep in touch strategy. Regardless of how you remind yourself, you have to follow through.
Networking in some form is a must. On the bright side, it can be in many forms. Just stick with what works for you, make sure it’s not all about you, and you will do just fine. Approach every event/encounter with an open mind, making new business contact, and maybe even a friend. You never know who knows who, who they can lead you to, and what can come of that new face from across the room. Those kids that invented the Kevin Bacon game were on to something. Six degrees is not very far. Good advice to take with you to every networking opportunity in the future.
What is your favorite networking strategy? What works best for you?
It is safe to say that 2016 was quite the year for everyone. Whether you are focusing on politics, pop culture, the economy or simply your own life, I am sure if you take the time to take a look back at your calendar or some of your emails you could refresh your memory on some major events and life lessons that help to make you who you are today. For entrepreneurs, this is a very important task. If we are not learning – we are not growing. We must do what makes us uncomfortable in order to grow and thrive in our business. So I did just that. I took a look at my emails, and my social media posts and here are some great reminders – that I often say to myself – that I think everyone should say to themselves as they embark on the New Year.
Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. — Abraham Lincoln
This is so true. All too often we get caught in a routine or the new normal. We are stuck in a rut of just doing what is on the schedule and and we lose sight of a goal or a dream. A lot of people have ideas or vision – but not nearly as many actually take the time to get out there and find out what it takes to accomplish that vision. My advice? Time will pass regardless, so why wait on achieving your vision? Right them down your goals and post them in your office. Start at the end and work your way backwards. Get help. Ask questions. Study those who have done something similar. Hustle means, well HUSTLE.
Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it. – Dr. Laura Schlessinger
I think a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of this one, including myself. I know it is easy to become gun shy when you mess up. All of the sudden that is the only thing you can focus on and then you spend all of your time focusing on how not to do THAT again. I am here to tell you – don’t waste your time with that. Mistakes are an important part of learning. It is just as important to learn what NOT to do as it is what TO do. When you start to focus on the negative, all you are doing is putting the energy out there that will attract more negativity. Mistakes are simply part of life. Don’t let them hold you back.
A strong spirit transcends rules. — Prince OR Either I will find a way or I’ll make one. — Philip Sidney
This one is one of my favorites. I have built my entire company on finding a way. When my husband and I first started helping people with their technology back in 1995, very few people even knew what the Internet was. We had to make up the rules as we went along. We were literally learning as we went. Think about how far technology has come in the last twenty years and you can understand why we were flying by the seat of our pants most of the time. We had to learn as went, come up with programs and packages based on what our clients needed, and find a way to make money at it. Was it scary? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. I have written about this before: the answer is always yes, and then you find a way.
Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow. – Carrie Fisher
Courage and confidence does not mean there is an absence of fear, but rather there is something more important than the fear. Heard that somewhere, but it is very true. My coach Michael Port always said “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” A little fear never hurt anyone, and I am certain that many successful people still operate with an element of fear. But this quote could not be any more poignant. Just do it. Confidence will follow or possibly a mistake – but you will learn and grow.
You can reach your goals a hell of a lot faster when you have help. — Lou Bortone
Love this one from my friend Lou. And he is so right. I, myself, was once afraid to ask questions. I was scared to reach out for help. Once I signed up with my first coach, all of that disappeared. If you are waiting to ask someone for help – then STOP IT. Not one person on this earth can possibly know everything, but for some reason I continually see entrepreneurs trying to do everything themselves. INVEST IN YOURSELF. Invest in your education. Whatever it is you need help with, then go get it. Maybe it is mapping out the steps to your next big thing. Maybe you just need some motivation or a slap across the face. Whatever it is – just do it. This is exactly why I created my Accountability Program. Contact me to learn more. Even if it is not me – just contact someone.
The key to success is learning how to monetize what you had to learn the hard way. — Danelle Brown
Every entrepreneur I know has to learn something the hard way. There is no definitive map to success. It is full of twists and turns that you have to overcome and learn from. Whether it is figuring out how to launch a new product to the masses, writing a book, coming up with a new program, or simply paving the way on something that does not exist yet – if you have the knowledge, then figure out a way to package it and sell it to people that want to do the same thing. Life is full of mentors who went on to teach others how to do what they had to struggle to learn. You could be next.
I could go on and on with inspiring quotes, but I believe you get the idea. 2017 needs to be a game changer for you. I am excited for all of us. So share with me and my readers – what is the next big thing for you? Post it in the comments and let’s all cheer each other on.