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 seems using video to promote your business is all you see anymore when it comes to fresh ideas for marketing. And with good reason. Video is completely exploding. Just the new features of video inside Facebook alone can make your head swim. Video is really escalating your ability to connect with your followers and fans in ways we weren’t even thinking about as little as a year ago. But you cannot ignore the facts:
- Videos have a 135% greater organic reach compared to photos.
- Between April and November of 2015, the amount of daily video views on Facebook doubled from 4 billion to 8 billion.
- Videos used in emails lead to 200 – 300% increase in click through rates
- YouTube reports that mobile video consumption rises 100% EVERY year.
- After watching a video, 64% of users are more likely to buy the product they just watched about.
But enough about that. We know we need to do it, but there are several reasons holding most entrepreneurs back.
They don’t know what to talk about. They think it is hard. They think they don’t have time. They don’t know how to begin.
It is time to change that way of thinking. So I have put together a series of articles that will give you the information you need to start chipping away at this beast one step at a time. I have broken this down into three digestible parts so hopefully you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Today we are focusing on Part 1: What do I talk about in my videos?
Think of videos the same as a blog. Brainstorm relevant topics that your customers or clients want to learn more about. Every video should be educating your audience somehow on either how you can help, or giving valuable answers that will help them accomplish something, thereby painting you as the expert. Below is a list of topics to get you started:
- Instructional Videos
This one is always helpful and typically the most sought after on YouTube. I know everyone reading this article has looked up a video on YouTube to learn how to do something. It is the same with what you do for a living. Show people various ways you can help them, or they can help themselves, by doing a quick instructional video.
- Introduce Your Staff
The best way to get people to know, like and trust you is to get in front of them. Introductory videos to yourself and your staff will help people feel like they already know you, hence feeling like they are your friend. People like to do business with their friends.
- Testimonials Of Happy Customers
EVERYONE reads the reviews on something, so why not put a review in video form? Ask one of your raving fans to let you record them giving a testimonial.
- New product announcements
If your business is constantly getting in new merchandise, stop and take a quick 30 second video about the latest and greatest product available at your store! This works great for restaurants too!
- Question & Answer Videos
This one is super easy. It is just you, sitting in front of the camera, answering commonly asked questions. End each of those videos by giving your viewers opportunities to contact you with more questions. This not only helps your viewers, but it really establishes you as the category authority.
My suggestions is to not jump into something that will overwhelm you. Start with doing a quick video once a week. You can either film four videos in one sitting and release them once a week, or you can make the time to sit in front of the camera weekly. Either way, you are delivering great content on a weekly basis that your followers will come to love and expect. The key here is consistency. Decide how often you will do it and stick to it. I promise – the results you will get will be worth it.
So now that a HUGE piece of what holds people back (the whole, “what do I talk about thing”) is out of the way, the next article in my series will be the next big stumbling block: equipment. I will go over simple ways to get you started – that you probably already own.
Are you feeling better about taking on video? If not, give me a shout and we will figure this out together.
Email marketing used to be the only online method a business owner had to keep in touch with their clients and potential clients. When social media came along and made things easier, email marketing started to get somewhat of a bad rap. However, everyone should keep in mind – and this is the one thing I tell all my clients – email is never going anywhere. It is also the thing you have total control over, meaning you own your list – you do not own Facebook. It is imperative that you continue to keep in touch via email. Even if your email is not officially “opened”, the chances are it is seen anyway in the preview section of most people’s email accounts. Seeing your name keeps you top of mind. But how does a business owner make the most of their email marketing? Here are some helpful tips that will assist you in getting the most out of your email marketing.
- Send more than just a monthly newsletter
Most email programs do not limit the amount of times you can reach out to your list in a month. So why not mix it up a bit? You can use your software to welcome new clients each month, send appointment reminders, birthday greetings, holiday wishes or even special events that your company is having. Think outside of email: what would you reach out to your clients and send them if you were mailing something via snail mail? The sky is the limit on thoughtful emails that could lead to your next sale.
- Segment Your Lists
This is especially true if you are very specific with certain emails. For example, the topic of your blog you are promoting may be targeted to a specific group of people. Take a technology company for example. Maybe they are giving tips on something that is Windows related. That company should have at least two lists: one for Windows users and one for Mac users. That way you are sharing relevant content to your list and not annoying some of your clients with information they don’t care about.
- Utilize the AutoResponder feature
This is the most under-utilized feature of most email programs. Typically there is a thank you email once someone signs up to be on your list and that is it. Take the time to set up several follow up emails. For instance if the first one is a welcome, the second auto-responder could go out a week or two later asking a specific question related to why they signed up. For example if you were selling a product, you could set up several auto-responders to go out to make sure the customer is satisfied or to see if they have any questions. Perhaps even asking for feedback can be an option. This keeps you top of mind, as well as provides good customer service.
- Make sure it is mobile friendly
More and more people check their email on mobile devices. I have seen stats that range anywhere from 50% up to 80% on my clients’ reports that show mobile devices are how the emails are being opened and read. With that in mind, you want to make sure you select a mobile friendly template, or if you are making your own make sure it is easily read on a mobile device. We are all guilty of not reading an entire email if it is cumbersome and just moving on from frustration. If it is hard to read, you will lose the attention of your audience.
- Re-engage the users that did not open
I know that Constant Contact provides detailed reports on who opened and who didn’t open your email campaign. You can run a report and select all the unopened email addresses, change the subject line to see if that helps to get their attention, and send it again. The important thing is to try. People get a lot of email, so it is important to try sending it again to see if it helps your open rate – which hopefully leads to more sales!
- Actually use it!
This one seems simple, but it is sadly true. Everyone knows they need to send emails, but they get bogged down with what to put in them, not enjoying the process, or a myriad of excuses of why they don’t have time to get it done. Let me be clear – if you are not emailing your audience you are missing multiple opportunities to connect with them. Email is a MUST. So if you need help getting it done, then find help.
In full disclosure, I am a Constant Contact fan. I have been a faithful user since 2007. I have seen a lot of changes in the way the email programs work in the last nine years. But one thing remains the same – people still check their email, and people are definitely influenced by great subject lines and dramatic images. So stop putting your email marketing on the back burner and make the most of the most precious asset your business has – your list.
So tell me about your email plan. What system do you use and why?
As the end of the year approaches, every business owner starts the daunting task of reflection. You start to assess what you have accomplished and what you have not, what made you money and what did not, what expenses are no longer necessary and so on. It can also be an exciting time as you look back and relive your accomplishments and big wins. But now is the best time to re-establish your goals and make some new ones.
But first – you need finish up the current year. Before you go making a lot of changes and getting caught up in the magic of the promises of a new beginning, let’s bring this year to its proper fairy tale ending by really looking at what your business accomplishments were, and what can be improved upon.
I have put together a list of the top ten things an entrepreneur should ask themselves as they wrap up the year and prepare to start a new one.
1. What was your revenue and how did it compare to the year before?
It is no secret that a successful business comes down to the dollars. But to truly know your dollars, are you keeping track of not only income, but expenses? Revenue numbers being high are a beautiful thing but sometimes outrageous expenses can kill that excitement. Take the time to get your numbers in order on a monthly basis so you are not cramming it in at the end of the year. That being said, were you able to provide enough products and services to increase your revenue? If numbers are staying the same year after year without much growth it is time to start looking at the reason why and deal with it.
2. What could be delegated and what do I need to keep doing myself?
I wrote about this earlier in the year. Most entrepreneurs feel like they need to take on all the roles of the business themselves in order to save money, when in fact they can be doing something else that makes the money while they delegate a task that is boring to them or takes them A LOT longer to do than a professional. Sit down and do the math to see if continuing to do certain tasks is actually costing you more money than just delegating them to someone else.
3. Which marketing method worked the best for me?
When I coach my clients, I train them on the six core promotion strategies that you incorporate into marketing your business. Which one of these strategies brought in the most clients? If a particular method is successful and bringing in the clients that turn into sales, consider doing it on a semi-regular basis. Always re-evaluate at the end of each strategy. Also consider: what is fun? Let’s face it, when it comes to marketing most entrepreneurs start to groan – unless it is something they LIKE to do. For example, I LOVE to network. It is how I got my name, Queen Bee. I love going to events and learning about what others do, sharing who I know, what I know, and how I can either help them myself or direct them to someone who can. I love the community and magic that comes with networking. Others see networking as a total nightmare and prefer to blog. Whatever your method – run with it as long as it makes you money!
4. What was your biggest struggle and why?
Taking a look at the end of the year for reflection will always bring up discussions of what DID NOT work. Perhaps it was a good idea that was just executed poorly. Maybe you did not have enough time to plan and if given the opportunity to do it again you would make some changes. Maybe your struggles were not with bringing in money, but dealing with employees or some other issue. Take a look at what was eating up your time and why – then you can make a plan so it is not a struggle in the new year.
5. What type of client brings in the most money?
This one should be easy to identify – but can you identify what brings in that specific client in the first place? If you can properly assess the needs and desires of your clients, then you can communicate the #1 biggest result they get from working with you. Follow that up by outlining the deep rooted benefits they will receive when they work with you, and then articulate it regularly so they keep coming back for more.
6. Do you have multiple ways in which clients can do business with you?
I call this your Sales Cycle. The amount of money clients will spend with you is in direct proportion to the amount of trust you have earned. If you have their interest, but they are not completely sold and still need to hear more, than you need to have an offering that is at a lower price point to give you the opportunity to win their trust. Do you have multiple levels of financial commitment in which to do business with you? Do you have various programs at various time commitments? If not, it is time to make them.
7. How often do you stay in touch with your current clients?
Keeping in touch is a NECESSARY step for every entrepreneur. It is a lot easier to do business with people that already know, like, and trust you than to win over strangers. Are you using social media, email marketing (yes newsletters are still important), or some other method to regularly reach out? Seth Godin once said, if you could never have a new client, how differently would you treat your current clients? Very profound. Treat your current clients as if they were your only clients moving forward. They already love you and want to promote you if you are keeping in touch and taking care of them. So make it easy on them.
8. Are there improvements you can make with your technology to make your life easier?
Disclaimer: My husband and I run a technology company as well. But I have seen SO MANY entrepreneurs that still waste so much time taking on tasks that would be so much easier with the right technology. Contrary to what you may think: proper technology DOES NOT always mean more money. There are so many ways to use mobile devices and cloud based systems to make your life easier that will not break the bank. My advice: get a hold of a technology professional that is focused on entrepreneurs and how they do business.
9. Is there a product I can create that will create passive income for my company?
Who doesn’t want to make money while they sleep? Dumb question – but I bet there is an information product up your sleeve that will not only establish you as a category authority, but a product you can make that will be an inexpensive way to get in front of your target market and win their trust. Could be an eBook, regular book, webinar series, or video series. (See #6 above.)
10. Do you have an accountability partner?
This one is probably the most important. As entrepreneurs, we are the captain of the ship and have to prioritize and choose where we spend our time. Unfortunately, life can get in the way and all the things I listed above can get put on the back burner. Which is why EVERYONE needs to be held accountable to someone. Find an accountability partner or coach that will meet with you on a REGULAR basis. Here and there is a waste of time. If you want to accomplish your goals, have someone hold your feet to the fire and you will.
Comments? What questions would you ask yourself at the end of the year that you feel is super important that did not make the list? I would love to hear from you!
My mind has already been on 2015. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2014 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on in the marketing department for 2015.
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? I will highlight my favorites from a great resource, 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. I continue to get inspired by the show, Restaurant Impossible!
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?