Posts

9 steps to better networking

Hi, my name’s Alex. I was told by Steve that you could help me.”

A phrase loved by business owners the world over. But how do you get this to happen more often?

Networking

Every business owner and director knows that networking is a great way to generate new business.  The problem is that most don’t know how to network effectively and expect results too soon.  Let’s look at nine steps to better networking to generate the sales opportunities you’re looking for.

1. Where to go

You could do breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks every day at networking events if you wanted to. If you want to be emailed a list of networking events each week, click here. The problem is you’d never actually do any work and you’d probably put on a few pounds.  You need to target your networking so it is effective.  Think about your ideal client and then consider: Where would they be?

You should also think about where other suppliers into your target market will network. Go to events where you are likely to meet with your target audience or their suppliers.  If you’re unsure, experiment.  Choose a event and try it out.

You do need to give any networking event a good try. Going once and rejecting it, simply because you didn’t get any business, is probably the biggest mistake business people make when trying to generate business through networking.

The other factor is when the event is.  If you’re a morning person, consider the breakfast events, but not if you’re a night owl.

2. Review the delegate list

If a delegate list is available beforehand, or provided when you arrive, run your eye over the list. Who should you talk to?  Who could be a client?  Who could be a useful connection into your target audience?  Make your networking effective by talking to the people most likely to generate business, either directly or indirectly.  Don’t, however, rebuke people who want to talk to you as you never know who they might know.

3. Mostly people you don’t know

Networking is a skill that needs to be learnt and many people don’t like talking to strangers.  What this often leads to is you spending the whole event talking to people you already know.  This maintains the relationship you have, but doesn’t expand your network.  For membership networking such as BNI, the room will mostly be people you know, but for more informal events, you won’t know most delegates.

Make it a rule to talk to at least X new people at every event.  You grow your network that way, finding people who can be useful to you, your clients and others in the network you already have.

4. Listen and ask questions

You only have a few minutes to find out about each person if you are going to make the event worthwhile, so make sure you get to know what they do, how they help their clients and the people they are looking for.   Show interest and get to know them; it makes them much more likely to want to listen to you before you both move on. If you want their card, ask. If you don’t, simply move on but don’t refuse to take their card if it is offered.

5. Follow up

Hopefully you met a good number of people who could be useful for your business, as clients, as suppliers or as introducers.  Your conversation at the event will give you a good idea but you won’t know for sure until you properly get to know them and that takes dedicated time. If you can meet to talk, thats great but it may be that a telephone call or video conference may have to suffice initially. Try to do this within a week or so to maintain the impetus.

Connect with them using social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn. They both make maintaining the relationship much easier.

6. Help them trust you

Earning their trust takes time, but start from the first moment you meet.  When its your turn to talk about what you do, use stories to educate them on how you help your clients. Continue this by avoiding bombarding them with sales messages after the event.  Nothing annoys more than a series of “Hi, I met you yesterday – buy me” messages.

7. Maintain communication

Part of earning their trust is maintaining communication.  Keep up to date with what they’re doing by subscribing to their mailing lists and add them to yours, after checking they are happy for you to do so.  Connect using social media and then simply call sometimes to talk. They will see you are in it for the long term and not just after a quick sale and this is a big step in helping them to trust you.

8. Give when you can

You go networking to generate new clients for your business, but if get an opportunity to introduce them to a potential business opportunity, do so.  I was always told to forget the referral I give, but remember those I receive.  As I get 100% of my business through my network, so I like to think I’m doing something right around this. Although I’ve recently walked away from BNI, their mantra is absolutely right: Givers Gain.

9. Look after their reputation

Attached to any referral is a little bit of the referrer’s reputation. The referrer is saying you can be trusted to deliver a great job and if you don’t next time Steve refers someone to Alex, he won’t trust him quite so much, if at all.  So look after Steve’s reputation by delivering on your promises and doing a great job.  You’ve then expanded your network and will have both Alex and Steve referring work to you.

To finish off, remember that networking is a long term approach.  You may be lucky and get a new client at your first event. Printers, florists and other low risk purchase providers often do, but for service providers and other higher-risk suppliers it will usually take longer. Simply follow this nine step process and you will get more referrals.

I hope this helps.

Tracking isn’t just for rednecks

  • A broken twig
  • fresh footprints
  • Frightened birds
  • Canddi return trigger!?!

All are signs a tracker will use when hunting their prey.  Knowing where their prey is through tracking is key for the hunter if they want to eat tonight.

The same goes for the your business (with the last one on the list only really for businesses).  Knowing who is looking at you and your online presence can really help you to grow your business. It’s key to be tracking your marketing

Let’s split this into two: you and your business.

Who’s looking at you?

As the owner or director of the business, you are a figurehead for the business.  People will look at you as an indicator of what the business is all about. There’s a few places people will go to in order to look at you:

LinkedIn

Both your personal and company profiles are likely to be looked at.  Are you happy they portray you well?  The good thing about LinkedIn is that you know who is looking at you and when they looked.  This means you can return the favour and then make a decision about what to do next.  Are they a potential client, a possible supplier or simply someone who could be a useful person to network with.

Twitter

To an extent, this depends on whether you tweet as you or as the business, but they’re still going to look. Keep it consistent and interesting. Most of all make sure you’re interacting.

Who’s looking at your business?

There are many tools you can use to check out your website’s performance, starting with good old Google.

Google Analytics

An oldy but a goody.  At the most basic level, you can see how many unique views you get, where they came from, how many pages are being looked at and what pages are liked/disliked (check out the bounce rate).  At the other end of the scale, you can see whether viewers are following the path you expect them to, what they are spending and what your demographics look like.

Check out Audience/technology/network as well.  You can see the names of some of the companies checking you out!

Canddi

No, I haven’t mis-spelt it, there are 2 d’s.  There are a number of more advance web analytics tools out there, including Trovus, Lead Forensics and IDFingerprint.  My favourite at the moment is Canddi.  Not only have they agreed to a free trial for all my clients, they won’t tie you in for a long-term contract and you can set it up to tell you when people return to your website.  Would you like the next conversation you have with a prospect to be timely and absolutely relevant?

I could go on forever about the various tools you can use to track who’s watching you online, but let’s save the 1984 bit for another time.   The simple truth of the matter is that keeping an eye on who is looking at you means you get a chance to interact with them, you know what they are interested in and you can have both a highly relevant conversation and one at the right time.

I wonder if your competition are doing the same thing?

Need a hand tracking your marketing performance? Call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we’ll call you.

 

 

Key social media tips

There are nearly 12 million people in the UK on LinkedIn, 37 million Facebook Pages worldwide and nearly 40 million UK Twitter accounts. To be noticed amongst all these and to develop quality sales opportunities, here are a few social media tips that either I know to work or are tips that I have been given by people I trust who use them everyday. I hope they prove useful for you.

Social media is about helping people, it is not simply about broadcasting your sales messages.

  • There is a clue in the name in what you have to do to be successful – be socialable.
  • Build relationships so you know what interests your connections and what they are looking for in business terms
  • Provide useful and interesting material that shows you know what you are talking about
  • Be consistent so that you maintain the relationship and maintain your position in their minds for when someone needs your services.

Don’t sell – help

  • We have media recording devices at home in order to avoid most of the adverts. Your connections on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will simply disconnect to avoid your adverts.
  • If you help people by making useful connections for them, they will return the favour – think Givers Gain.
  • Provide evidence on how you’ve helped others so your connections start to trust you.

Automate and outsource sensibly

  • Social media tools such as hootsuite or tweetdeck are useful but they cannot build relationships for you. Use them for scheduling some activity but remember that you have to interact to build relationships
  • There are lots of companies that will do your social media for you but they will never know your business as well as you do. Outsourcing does not mean letting go!
  • Use tools such as Tweriod to find out when your followers are online. Be active when your connections are active so that there is a greater chance they will see you.

Volume is only sometimes useful

  • 50 connections with good relationships on LinkedIn is better than 1,000 people who you know nothing about.
  • You won’t generate interested followers simply by following 1,000’s of others. They will only follow you if you can be useful to them.

Personal and business are different

  • Don’t set up a business using a personal profile on Facebook. There is a good chance they will find it and then simply delete it as it breaks their terms of service.
  • Personal profiles are about you. Talk about you and do it in the first person.
  • Business profiles/pages are about your business so use appropriate language and images.

 

I hope these prove useful for you and I will endeavour to update this when I find other useful snippets.

 

What do your clients think about you?

When was the last time you asked a client for feedback on the quality of the work you did for them?

What do your clients think about you? Do you know?

The more you understand about how your work is perceived, the better your work will become and the results of asking for feedback will help your marketing too.

The feedback will be somewhere between love and loathe and hopefully much closer to love than loathe. The closer to love it gets, the more you can ask for to help with your marketing.

When was the last time you asked a client for:

  • a personal recommendation on LinkedIn?
  • a referral to a connection of theirs who could use your services?
  • a services recommendation on your LinkedIn Company Page?
  • a testimonial?
  • a case study about the project you’ve just delivered?
  • a video testimonial?

All of the above support your marketing and provide a little extra proof that you do a great job. The more of it is available for prospects to read, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and ask you to help them.

Of course, there is a chance that the feedback will be closer to loathe than love. In some ways this is the best feedback because it gives you an opportunity to improve. You may even get a chance to improve your performance for that client, but even if you don’t the feedback will be invaluable for when you start work with your next client.

Either way, make sure you thank them for the feedback as they have helped you, no matter what they actually say.

LinkedIn – a real problem solver

Ever been dealing with a company when things just don’t seem to be moving forward?

You find yourself constantly talking to call centres or customer services, but to no avail, as you are always talking to someone different and they don’t have a full understanding of your situation, so there is no big picture thinking. LinkedIn may be able to help.  Let me explain:

I’ve blogged recently about my house being burgled and how the loss of my technology seriously impacted my work for a week or so, and so you may already be aware of the fun and games I’ve had recently. There was an added complication that they stole my car keys and my car during the burglary and my car insurance company have been less than helpful.

I’m not going to name names but suffice to say things were going neither smoothly or quickly and I was rapidly approaching the end of my tether. Finally I thought it was about time to go around the call centre so I used the world’s biggest business social media tool: LinkedIn.

I found one of the UK’s senior directors and simply made them aware of what I had been experiencing. That was less than a week ago and now everything has been resolved.

It isn’t quite the case of “who you know”, but LinkedIn makes it the next best thing.

Networking – quality or quantity?

There are many approaches to networking  and plenty of articles written about it.  A google search whilst writing this blog identified 341,000,000 in 0.33 seconds – that should keep you busy for a little while.

Broadly speaking there are two camps when it comes to, particularly, online networking: collecting as many people as possible or, know the people you network with.  I fall firmly into the latter.

Right now I have 388 connections on LinkedIn.  Fifteen minutes ago I had 445.  Although I spend a good amount of time trying to maintain the relationships I have developed I looked through my connections and found that I had 57 in there where I couldn’t remember what they did or why I was connected to them.  If I cannot remember what they do, what is the chance that I am going to introduce them to other people I meet?

What does this mean to me?  I have roughly 15% more time to maintain the relationships I have built up on LinkedIn, further improving the quality of them

What does it mean to the 57? Absolutely nothing at a guess, as they don’t seem to be worried about maintaining the relationship either or they would have been in contact recently and I would know what they did.

What’s my point?  Simple, invest your time in developing your network and ensuring it is mutually beneficial.  If there is “dead wood” in your connections, a little light pruning is a good thing

Who Do You Go To?

When you need to talk

As a small business owner there are times when I face issues that I need help with. I’m lucky in that I have a group of people around me, both family and friends, who I can talk to and get either advice or simply someone to “dump on”.

I started thinking about what other small business owners do when they have issues they need to resolve, so I thought why not ask them? Most of you will know I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, so I simply used the Answers function within LinkedIn.  The question I asked was:

Who do small business owners turn to in order to talk about their worries, concerns and issues?

The range of answers was really interesting, some were worrying, others were expected and a couple were entertaining – do you know anyone called Bud Wiser?

I’m a little worried by the suggestion that some business owners go to hookers (2%) and I’d rather (probably foolishly) hoped that I wouldn’t get the 10% of answers that were simply self-promoting.  One guy answered the question with a simple “That would be me!”. If you’re going to self-promote, at least add something useful.

As someone who’s been described, by at least one client, as his therapist (see previous blog) I was happy to see that business coaches (15%) was the biggest answer. I don’t market myself as a business coach – I’m a virtual marketing director for a number of clients – but I do get involved with general business issues as marketing has an impact across all areas.

If you’re like me and have family and friends to talk to, you’re not alone as another 20% of responses were spouse, friends or relatives, although one response suggested that this group was probably the worst place to go. I think he thinks that these people will tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to.

If you’re reading this as a small business owner I hope it puts your mind to rest – that you’re not alone whatever source of issue resolution you have.

Consistency is Key

As you develop a following, whether for your newsletter or on social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, they will come to expect a certain amount of information from you. Let’s explain why marketing consistency is key.

Your followers follow you because you have provided them with interesting information and they would love some more. If that flow of information falters, you risk upsetting them. They will probably forgive you the first time you miss a blog/article/post but their patience will diminish rapidly the more you fail to deliver.

Maintaining marketing consistency over long periods of time is not always easy.  As you get busier delivering to clients you find the time available for your own marketing gets more rare. It is therefore best to have a series of blogs (etc.) planned ahead. That way you can maintain your consistency and keep your followers happy.  You never know, they might even start to refer you to others and your following increases.

Marketing is all about getting more people interested in your services, so keep your consistency levels high and the followers will come.

 

 

Five great sources of market information

When looking to expand your business, it’s vital that you research the market and the opportunity.  If you don’t there is a chance that your business expansion plans don’t deliver the business growth you are looking for.  The question is: where do you go to understand the size of the opportunity?

Here are five really good sources of quantitative information:

1. The Office Of National Statistics

Want to know about the businesses in your county, borough or town; look no further. ONS will provide information by industry, by size, by age and a whole lot more.

2. LinkedIn Search

How many, for example, solicitors are there within 10 miles of your office? Don’t know – used LinkedIn to find out.  With over 7 million people in the UK on LinkedIn and 141,842 UK companies  it is a great source.  Want to know if they are in private practice or within a commercial organisation – simple use another filter.

Just in case you wanted to know, there are 5,404 solicitors within 10 miles of my postcode.

3. CreditSafe

Is your prospective client creditworthy? How much money did they make/lose last year? You can find out here.  There are plenty of other similar sites out there but this is one of the best.  It’s a paid for service but it will tell you what you want to know about your clients and prospects.

4. Companies House

Don’t want to subscribe to an annual service – go PAYG instead at Companies House. Annual Reports direct from Companies House are just £1 each.

5. Facebook Ads

You don’t need to spend any money to get numbers from Facebook.  With 35 million UK adults regularly using Facebook where’s better to get information about the consumer market?

Set up a Facebook Ads account (no charge) and use the plethora of filters to understand how big your target market is. If you think of all the information you put into Facebook, that’s the number of filters you can apply to really target your search.

 

How to find a credible LinkedIn© (and other social media) trainer

If you wanted to find a LinkedIn© expert to develop your expertise how would you do it? Ask your friends? Do a quick Google search (and find over 25 million LinkedIn© trainers)? Or search LinkedIn?

Ok, you have lots of options but how do you find a good one? With LinkedIn© it is easy …

  • Review their profile; does it look good, better than the others?
  • Does their personal profile have recommendations from people and how many?
  • Do they have a company profile or company page?
  • Do they have a full company page with video, banners and recommendations on LinkedIn?
  • Do their recommendations read well? From people like you?
  • Does their web page look and feel good to you?
  • Do they know their subject? Does it have the right numbers on it for total users and accurate statistics?
  • Do they only do the platform you want to learn about?
  • Do they offer to do LinkedIn© for you? How? How can they know the people you know?
  • Does their course content cover what you need? Does it sound sensible to you? For example if many say half a day and someone says an hour ask why.
  • Do they want to look good or make you look good?

Then talk to them, yes old fashioned I know, but talk to them, are they human, do they come across well and could you work with them?

It’s amazing how many “social media experts” follow each other to see what they do on LinkedIn© and Twitter, if they are an expert why follow each other? Is it to get material they can use or simply to keep an eye on the competition?

If you want an expert on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter I will happily introduce you to some really good people.