Category Archives: Business Building

How to Grow a Smart SMB Team by Lisa Barone

Small business owners have a lot on their plates – it’s become cliché because it’s true! Between marketing, running, and growing their business, there are always more tasks than hours in the day. However, among the most important and difficult of tasks is trying to build your team. It can be hard to find people who you can trust to come in and help you get the job done. It’s even harder to find people who share your values and your commitment to your customers. But it’s doable. More than that, if you want to grow a successful business, it’s a must. You can’t work in and on your business at the same time.

Whether you’re in the process right now of trying to build your team or you simply aspire to one day being bigger than yourself, below are some tips to help you grow a smarter SMB team.

1. Assess Your Skills

Knowing the skills you’ll need to hire for means first understanding the skills that you (and possibly your existing team) already bring to the table. For example, maybe you’re great at customer service but you’re terrible at marketing. Or maybe you’re awesome at using social media tools to connect with people, but you can’t keep your books straight for the life of your business. Start creating lists of skills – skills you have, skills you can acquire, and skills you’d need to hire for. Once you know what skill sets you’re looking for, prioritize them to help you identify what is most important to your business.

2. Seek Out Referrals

Once you know what roles you’re looking to hire for, put it out to the universe. Talk to the people in your community and your local network about the types of people you’re looking for. Post the required skills on LinkedIn or Twitter and see if anyone in your network can help. Talk about in the online groups that you’re part of. I’m always surprised by how easy it is to find the perfect person as soon as you let people know you’re looking for them. The world is smaller than you think.

3. Go Online Talent Shopping

If your local referrer network wasn’t able to come up with a match, it’s time to go online talent shopping yourself. One of my favorite tools for this is LinkedIn’s Advanced Search.

With LinkedIn’s Advanced Search you can hunt for potential employees by experience, industry, salary, job title, current company, previous company, etc. Better yet, you can then narrow it down to employees living within 50 miles of your storefront, helping you focus on the people who could actually come and work for you. Once you have a list of people you’d like to get an introduction to, see who in your network is already connected to these people or what groups/ associations they’re a part of. This is a really great way to get your foot in the door with an applicant who could bring a lot of value to your business.

4. Find Shared Values

But finding a great new team member for your SMB isn’t just about the skills they may have on paper. It’s about finding someone who thinks like you do and who values the same things that you’re trying to instill in your business. Getting that “culture fit” right is invaluable in helping to avoid potential pitfalls later on. If a person doesn’t match what the rest of the company believes, then they’re not a good fit for your business. No matter how impressive their resume may be. Use your gut and look for people who show a history of action, being a team player, and who appears receptive to challenges.

5. Trust them

Once you find that person who compliments your team’s skill set, get out of their way and trust them. Sure, put procedures and policies in place to help make them accountable, but avoid your instinct to hover over them to make sure they’re doing things “your way”. Delegating does not mean hiring Mini-Yous. It means creating a more diverse team. Get comfortable with that.

Even the most-skilled CEOs will eventually need to invest in growing his or her team. You can’t do everything. By carefully and deliberately putting together a team of complimentary skill sets, you help set yourself (and your business) up for success.

Hugs and Peace to Lisa Barone @ Smallbiztrends.com

Learning to (almost) Like Criticism by Fellow Toastmaster, Brian Toma

Practically everybody will admit to being interested in improving themselves or their business or personal relationships. There are even some, like Toastmasters members, who have actually taken steps to do so. But unfortunately, many people miss out on valuable opportunities for improvement and growth because of their inability to take advice and criticism from others. Do you make use of suggestions offered by your peers? Do you seek out the advice and feedback of others to your advantage? It makes sense, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I am the owner of a small business. Several years ago the managers of my company met to formally establish non-financial, people-oriented goals. Examples of those goals included providing a safe work environment, offering adequate training and improving teamwork between departments. We then sent a description of the goals and a survey to all employees so they could rate our level of achievement of those goals. Employees could respond anonymously. This was to be done annually.

I almost didn’t make it past the first survey. Most employees responded, but not in that supportive, kind Toastmasters way. They just told me exactly how they felt by using the survey rating system and adding their own comments. Although I got what I asked for, I must admit I was very upset because the ratings were, in some cases, insultingly low and several comments were nasty, blaming me directly for certain problems.

It didn’t seem like the employees were trying to help me. Indeed it seemed they were trying to hurt me, because that’s how I felt. I experienced the defensive, prideful reaction many people feel when being criticized. Criticism is universally disliked. Franklin P. Jones, an author most known for humorous quotations, wrote “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger.” It is just plain hard to take advice or criticism. Even positive, well-worded evaluations give at least a hint that we are inadequate in some way. Most of us know that we have faults or could improve, but we just don’t want to hear about it.

My immediate reaction to the survey results was defensive, but after time and thoughtful consideration I realized that there was a consensus in the results. That is, many employees expressed similar comments and ratings. I began to recognize the value of their perspectives. So, with pain and difficulty, I decided to “own” the problems and the criticisms. I sent a memo to all employees thanking them for their participation, summarizing the survey results and comments (without displaying any of the nasty ones) and showing my recognition that I, as president of the company, was a major part of the problem. Then we took action in response to the feedback and, over time, changes and improvements came about. The surveys continue today after five years and the company has greatly benefited.

“Sometimes there are difficulties in getting valuable comments from others.
But the biggest challenge is in making use of the feedback.”

I put in place a method for the company by which I could measure certain non-financial goals, identify problems and then make improvements accordingly. I also began to rely on a process for using advice and criticism to my advantage:
“Sometimes there are difficulties in getting valuable comments from others.
But the biggest challenge is in making use of the feedback.”

Recognize that you can get unique and valuable perspectives from others. Be aware of opportunities to get feedback.

Find people who are capable of providing you with perspectives of interest and value to you.

Request feedback in a way that will increase the chances that your evaluators will be open and honest. This can be a challenge. Most people understand human pride and many will simply be polite without offering any critical feedback. Sometimes anonymity is required. With anonymity, however, some insensitive people may criticize with absolutely no regard for your feelings: Be prepared for that, keeping in mind that some people are not well-trained in the manner of offering advice, but still may have some valuable ideas.

Read or listen to the feedback that is offered.

Experience your feelings. Expect the possibility of defensive reaction. You will know that you are having a prideful reaction if you find yourself judging your critics. It’s human nature. Go with it. But try to maintain control of your outward expressions for the sake of others.

Be gracious, regardless of your feelings. Thank the evaluators for their comments so that they feel welcome to offer you more open and honest feedback in the future.

Let time go by, allowing your negative feelings to diminish.

Honestly evaluate the feedback. This is the most difficult step. Your pride may block your ability to do this effectively, but try hard to find the value in the comments you received. If you just can’t find any value in the comments, then try to evaluate your feelings. If you feel at least a little bothered by the comment, then there is a good chance that your pride is obstructing your ability to make use of some valuable feedback. If you can follow this process by going to the next step instead of reacting with your feelings, then you may be able to benefit from the advice.

Seek consensus. If you identify similar comments from multiple critics then the signal is getting louder and the value of the feedback is increasing. But avoid the mistake of seeking consensus about your feelings, that is, seeking sympathy. You can make yourself feel better by doing that, but you will miss a growth opportunity.

Own it. Acknowledge it. Take responsibility. Take control. If you acknowledge the criticism as useful and valid, but then follow up with excuses and blaming, then you have not taken ownership, responsibility or control. Without ownership you won’t be ready for the next step.

Take action. Make directed improvements in accordance with the feedback that you have received. You may be forced to take small steps at first, but continue with them until they add up to greater advances.

Repeat the process.

I have used this process in an informal way in business . It can be used for continual evaluation, growth and improvement.

Much of a person’s life involves interactions and relationships with other people. Public speaking, for example, involves a relationship between a speaker and an audience.

To evaluate your own performance as part of a relationship, it makes sense to seek out the perspectives of others who are involved in or knowledgeable about the relationship. Sometimes there are difficulties in getting valuable comments from others, but the biggest challenge is in making use of the feedback.

To take advantage of critical feedback you must work past your discomfort and defensive feelings. Apply the “no pain, no gain” principle, and you’ll soon enjoy all the benefits of an improved life.

Love & Peace to Brian Thoma. Brian is CTM, CL, is president of His Toastmaster’s Voice 6280-38 in Moorestown, New
Jersey, and owner of Thoma, Inc., a company representing manufacturers of laboratory furniture and school casework.

Do you agree that business is still driven by people and relationships? by Lory Fabian

Little things make big things happen. ~John Wooden

Ed Wallace, author of Business Relationships That Last, shares ny passionate belief that creating business relationships that last is the secret to success.  Ed Wallace explains that even in the midst of technological advances, the one remarkable simple constant: business is still driven by people and relationships.

One story in Ed’s book, he writes about how the little extras can turn customers into friends.  He talks about mastering the art of taking so-called simple business from a merely transactional level to the level of high-value personal relationships, to creating a memorable experience between human beings.

Ed writes that too many of us lose sight of the fact that we are dealing and selling to real people.  A real person is on the other end of a call or an email.  We may miss an opportunity to enrich business endeavors and life with the growth and learning that comes from true interaction with others. I totally agree, do you?

Ed Wallace’s The Principle of Worthy Intent is the inherent promise you make to keep the other person’s best interests at the core of your business relationship.  At BNI, we call Ed’s principle, a Giver’s Gain philosophy.

Ed Wallace’s Relational Capital which he defines as “the distinctive value created by people in a business relationship” or simply put “the little extras.”  Keeping the client’s best interest as your focus is the gold rule for client-facing professionals. This realization stood the test of time as Ed advanced through his career from inside sales rep to an executive and now a business owner.  The little extras transform transactional activities into the relational attributes. 

I highly recommend reading Ed Wallace’s book, Business Relationships That Last to help understand  the most undervalued, least understood, most ignored, yet most important asset in your company.

If you do, however, recognize the value of Relational Capital, think about signing up for a proven low cost system that will help you start building personal relationships immediately with your customers. SendOutCards.com is an online marketing tool that will give you an added edge above your competition.

SendOutCards.com/loryfabian has both IPHONE and ANDOID apps available  that allow you to send a note of thanks before you leave the parking lot of one appointment to head out to your next meeting.

Imagine sending out a “Nice to Meet You” card before leaving a trade show and include a photo of yourself?  Do you think the person you send a personalized note to will take your call?  I do.

Check out my website at www.SendOutCards.com/biz/128092 and start building your own Relational Capitol today.

Peace and Hugs to Ed Wallace

Big Idea 2013: Be the Head Marketer of You by Linda Coles

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”   Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

Entering 2013 with a tight economy, restructuring, and new ways of doing business, the competition for a position or sale has become intense. Who shines out above everyone else in those situations? Those people who are spending time developing their own personal brand.

We all recognize great brands by their logos such as the Nike flash or the Starbucks face, but how do we recognize you? How do we know that you even exist? And when we do, what are you known for? You need to become the head marketer of You.com, and 2013 is a good time to make a start if you haven’t already.

10 simple ways to work on your own personal brand

Back in 1997, Tom Peters wrote a great piece about working on your own personal brand, which was way before any of the online networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook had even started. Now that we have these tools available, promoting your personal brand has become a whole lot easier.

  1. Have the best-looking LinkedIn profile that you possibly can and use it. People are checking you out online.
  2. If you are happy for others to see into your Facebook life, switch on the subscribe button.
  3. Tweet and re-tweet what’s relevant and interesting, keeping away from gossip.
  4. Apply some etiquette when replying to emails and online posts. Always start with a salutation or greeting and finish with a valediction or sign off.
  5. Look closer to home with your personal presentation such as ensuring your shoes are always shiny. Dress “just a little bit better” than those around you.
  6. Develop your own online soapbox by way of a blog or personal website where you share relevant content, your thoughts, perspective and encourage discussions.
  7. Buy the domain http://www.yourname.com
  8. Use your media contacts to get published in the press and on air.
  9. Write and publish a great book.
  10. Speak at industry events.

Make a start now because it takes focus and time to build a great brand. Seth Godin published a very famous book called “Purple Cow, transform your business by being remarkable”. How about applying some of those principles to the business called you?

Linda Coles is the author of “Learn marketing with social media in 7 days” (Wiley) and is a speaker and trainer on building relationships. She lives in New Zealand on a fig orchard. You can get a free sample of a chapter of her book by registering for her newsletter.

Shout out to and Peace & Love to Linda Coles

Ways to Stand Out with your Contacts by Kim Althage

Generally speaking, most people tend to talk more than they listen and they like to talk about themselves. If you’re listening and then you ask good follow-up questions based on the information you just heard, you are already more likely to stand out in the other person’s mind.

 

Focused Attention is important, as well as asking the “right” questions. Focusing on them, as opposed to yourself or your awesome product (as most salespeople do) makes you memorable in the most positive way. Again, GIVING IS IMPORTANT, for by providing valuable information they might not have had before is the biggest factor when creating a solid business contact.

 

In other words, if you leave a networking event with a clear plan of how you can help others and you did not discuss your products or services…you have done well!

 

But there is another important element that can separate you from all others…THE LOST ART OF FOLLOWING UP.  Most people drop the ball here, but this is the most crucial step. How you respond sets the tone for who you are and how others remember you. Send each person an individual message, be it a phone call, email or note card.

 

Best methods for following up:

 

  • Handwritten  Notes – Ideal and certainly states your  desire to invest the time in fostering a relationship.  Should always be your first choice for  your highest priority contacts.  Utilize email and phone as viable secondary options.

 

  • Voicemail  – When you need to communicate your energy and attitude. Smile and be in a good mood, as your voice will  reflect your state of mind.

 

  • Email  – Good for a quick note or when time is of the essence. Craft a clear and attention getting subject line to get thru the clutter. Email works well  in conjunction with a voicemail or handwritten note to let someone know you will contact them.

What success stories can you attribute to your ability to follow up with contacts or clients?

Hugs and Peace to Kim Althage, St. Louis Professional Network Team

 

Need a system to stay in contact with your contacts and customers?  Go to www.sendoutcards.com/loryfabian.  You can create one card as a campaign and re-use THE SAME CARD over and over again for every new person you meet, to thank a customer or to show appreciation.  Each card can be personalized or used as a standard company correspondence response card.  Questions? Email me at loryfabian@sbcglobal.net

The Anatomy Of A Social Marketing Campaign: 5 Steps To Success By Scott Lake

With so many social media platforms, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. Keep a clear head by following these five steps.

A social marketing campaign is a pretty simple concept:

Use social media to promote an offer and encourage people to perform a certain action. Yet while simple in concept, it’s easy for marketers to get mired in the details and lose track of what matters as they jump from Pinterest to Facebook to SlideShare and Twitter.

At its core, any social marketing campaign boils down to five key elements. Follow these steps to tackle your next social marketing campaign with more confidence and success.

1. Set your goals

Any successful campaign begins with a goal. Before you even think about diving in, focus on what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to increase sales, generate sales leads, or get feedback on a new product? Understanding the goals for your campaign will help you make the right offers, capture useful metrics, and determine how your campaign performed.

It helps a lot if the goal has a quantifiable business objective that you can track. Number of generated qualified leads is a great metric because they can later be tied to sales.

 

2. Develop a valuable offer

Most people don’t like to give up their email addresses or “Like” a brand of Facebook without good reason. That means for any campaign to be successful, you’ll need to provide real incentive. Your offer doesn’t always have to be free, but it does need to useful, valuable, engaging, and/or entertaining. Some common offers include:

•Information about something your audience is interested in

•Sneak peak at a new product or product video

•Exclusive discounts

•Social media contest

 

A key to developing worthwhile offers is having a tieback to your product or service, either directly or indirectly. You might get a lot of social love for providing a link to a free movie pass, but if it’s not related to the software product you sell then what’s the point? In and of itself, the movie pass does nothing for brand loyalty or generating targeted sales leads.

 

Make the offer valuable to people who would also be interested in your products or services. For example, if you sell social marketing software, consider offering a downloadable guide to social marketing. The people who will convert will be much higher qualified leads.

 

3. Create a landing page

A landing page, where people arrive after clicking on a campaign link, is arguably one of the most important, and frequently neglected, parts of a social marketing campaign. A landing page is where you encourage people to sign up, register, download, or make a purchase. The landing page lets you capture a visitor’s information, while the visitor downloads your campaign offer (downloads coupon, free trial, etc.). A social marketing campaign can drive traffic to your landing page, but it’s up to the landing page to convert those visitors into qualified leads for your business.

There are two common options for creating a landing page: Make it yourself on the web or use Facebook. Creating a web-based landing page offers more control over the page and its analytics–making it easier to test page variations and optimize the content.

Whatever method you choose, your landing page needs to have a clear call to action, a form to collect information to qualify a lead, and an explanation about what someone will receive after submitting their information. Before launching a landing page, you may want to create at least two versions with different headlines, graphics, or text. This lets you run A/B or multivariate tests to determine which one converts the best.

You may also want to create specific landing pages for each of the social communities that you are marketing. For example, a landing page that converts well for Twitter may not be optimal for your Facebook or blog audiences. The point is that you should always be sure to optimize the landing page for the highest number of conversions.

 

4. Launch the campaign

With a nice looking landing page (or two) created and an offer tied to your campaign goals, your social marketing campaign is ready to be launched. Decide how the campaign will be promoted. Just because it’s designed for social media, doesn’t mean it can’t be promoted using other channels such as email lists or offline. Work the hype machine.

Often, social marketing campaigns will be spread across several networks. In most cases, it’ll be Facebook and Twitter, but there are dozens of other social networks that can be embraced. For example, use Foursquare for location-based offers (i.e., coupon for a restaurant chain), or LinkedIn to promote an enterprise white paper.

If you run your campaign on multiple networks, repackage the message for each network to avoid being annoying or repetitive. Mix it up, and test out different posting styles and times. By creating more variations, you can get insight into what worked and what didn’t.

Don’t forget to use your email lists to promote your social media marketing campaigns. Many companies have nice email lists but only want to use them to put out a boring newsletter. Try to remember that email is one of the most useful social networks you’ll ever use. Don’t believe me? Put a shortened link to your website in your signature and see how much traffic it drives. You’ll be surprised.

5. Use shortened links

Since links are what send visitors to your campaign landing page, they can give you essential information on how various elements of your campaign are performing. Shortened links should be able to tell you what campaign the person interacted with, and which social property was used to promote the link. This info is usually hidden in the form of a browser cookie, which is activated when the link is clicked on. Once the cookie is in place, tracking code on the landing page will tell you if someone took advantage of your offer.

Use generated shortened links that let you track activity in real time and make changes on the fly. For example:

•Scheduling posts: Which post times drove the most conversions?

•Message creation: What combination of words and graphics attracted the most attention?

•The Medium: Which social networks are converting? Is anyone coming to the campaign from your non-social promotions?

Shortened links also solve the problem of “first touch” versus “last touch” attribution. Since social marketing offers often get cross-posted onto different social properties, the cookie generated in the shortened link will always be able to tell you what the true origin of your leads are and from which campaign and on which social properties they have responded to.

Next steps

After your social marketing campaign is a success, the obvious question is: What do all these signups really mean? Now that you’ve brought leads to the door, you have to offer more value, in addition to what attracted prospects in the first place. Don’t just carpet-bomb them with information. These leads are the most valuable data your brand will encounter: You need to treat them with the utmost respect and strategically lead them through your sales cycle.

To get more savvy about social media, sign up for Fast Company’s daily newsletters.

Peace and Love to Scott Lake.

He is the founder and CEO of Source Metrics, a social marketing optimization platform focused on ROI. He is the cofounder and former CEO of Shopify. You can find him on Twitter.

7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid by Todd Pillars

This is an updated post from 2009 which started me on a path of discovery that took my business from a 1-trick pony to the national stage in 2 short years!

Funny how it’s STILL all about relationships – and it ALWAYS will be.

Read on…

Today’s business is all about relationships. Social Media is here to stay; you have to be seen on Facebook, you must tweet and retweet on Twitter, your LinkedIn profile has to be top-notch, and now we have Google+, however the more we connect in the virtual world to more we have to tend our roots on Terra Firma. Routinely overlooked, the original social networking – face-to-face, is a crucial high-touch strategy to build critical local business relationships that are crucial to your success.

In my observations coaching business owners, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals, and attending numerous networking events over the years, I have recognized consistent networking mistakes that can kill anyone’s chances of developing any new business contacts. Avoid these seven deadly mistakes and you should quickly build your referral business in any economic conditions.

Mistake #1 – No plan, no goals… no results

Without a networking plan, you waste valuable resources; time, energy and money. You should know, before you enter an event, what you want to accomplish. Practice Bob Burg’s 10 Feel-Good Questions and The One “Key” Question That Will Set You Apart From Everyone Else so you are prepared to chose three or four to engage others that you meet at the event. These questions will show your new contact that you truly care about them. Do set time limits on what you discuss – don’t go through all 10 – or you may appear nosy. Just as you would role-play and practice these questions, picture positive results in your mind even as you enter the room.

The BIGGEST edit: Mistake #2 – Bad (or worse, no) elevator pitch

The first seven words that you speak when meeting a potential client, a.k.a. a prospect, may be the only chance you have with that person. An elevator pitch or 30-second commercial is meant to cause the prospect to say “tell me more”. Many networking novices try to cram as much company information as possible into their pitch. Keep it simple and you’ll strike more interest.

Mistake #2 – Ditch the (elevator) pitch

This is more of do than a don’t but it’s vitally important that you leave the commercial in the car. You see, elevator pitches gained popularity during the Internet Boom of the late 90′s – early 2000′s as a way to “pitch”, or spark the interest of, venture capital investors in the time it took for them to ride up on an elevator to the gilded top floor office. (Makes for a compelling visual reason to do it, doesn’t it?) Well, if the first seven words that you speak when meeting a potential client, a.k.a. a prospect, are only about what you want you’ll probably get the door slammed in your face during what may be the only chance you have with that person. There is a time and place for a 30-second commercial – and it’s not during a networking event.

Try something like the anti-mercial; You know how (whatever pain your prospects may have)? Well, what I do is (how you solve that challenge for your clients). Simple, concise, and easy on the ears. The goal here is get your new contact to say “How do you do that?”. If they do the door is now open for a deeper conversation about your solution, preferably at a later time. Don’t be afraid to set an appointment then and there.

Mistake #3 – TMI or Too busy telling

As an old mentor said “If you’re too busy telling, you ain’t selling.” The primary goal of the networking event is to make a connection – start a conversation – not to make a sale. Ask questions (see #1 above) and don’t “throw up” all over the place, regardless of how wonderful your product or service is. If it really is that good it will keep until you can sit down one-to-one. If you make a friend you can present your solution later, however, if you get the deer in the headlight look then you’ve lost the chance.

Mistake #4 – Talking to “Knowns”

Probably the most common mistake. Networking events present an opportunity to meet new people in a relatively receptive environment. Generally new sales people and business owners are challenged by meeting new people, they tend to end up talking to “known” friends instead of seeking “unknowns”. Make it a point to limit polite conversation with current referral partners to less than a minute. Better yet, adopt this new do; become an unofficial greeter. Scan the room for the people that look lost and ask them if you can help them find someone and see what happens.

Mistake #5 – Poor etiquette

Understanding how or when to join a group of individuals talking with each other is very important. Probably the biggest networking faux pas is barging in on a conversation. An introduction from a well respected business person is always the surest way. Sans that, look for groups of three or more that are standing in semi-circle – never a closed circle – and approach them in an up-beat manner and making eye contact. Always shake hands firmly, speak confidently when you introduce yourself, and practice your table manners when seated for lunch or dinner. If you are polite, respectful, and ask engaging questions – and then intently listening to the answers – you’ll be one of the most remembered people from the event.

Mistake #6 – Not being present

Be interested instead of trying to be interesting. I’ve been guilty of this more than once myself. Most times networking attendees believe the goal, at best, is to get your message into the ears of as many people as possible. At worst, to hand out as many business cards as possible. In their haste to meet that next prospect, they are not present with their current contact. Instead of thinking of what witty or sage thing you’re going to say next, listen for the subtle meanings in the answers to question you just asked. The timing of your next question will always come from listening to the full answer and being engaged and you will look like a pro.

Mistake #7 – Lack of (correct) follow-up

Attending networking event after event without correctly following up with your new contacts is literally worthless. And follow up, just like networking, is not a one-time event. The point of following up is to stand out in the prospect’s memory forever. Again, it’s not a moment of selling but of reminding them that you’re interested in them and care about their success. If you want to stand head and shoulders above your competition don’t resort to the ubiquitous email. Cement your place in your new found business contact by sending them a sincere handwritten “Nice to meet you” or “Thank you” greeting card telling them how much you appreciate them for taking the time to talk about their business. Then keep in regular personal touch with them by sending them cards on a consistent basis. Turn the most missed opportunity in networking into a way to differentiate you from your competition.

Conspicuously absent is the iconic Business Card. My opinion is that the only reason to have your Business Card is to have something to exchange for their Business Card. If your main purpose is to attend Networking Events with the intention of passing out cards and saying “Call me and I’ll give you a great deal” then you need more of an intervention than this blog post can provide.

Put others interests first, practice appreciation, and avoid these seven deadly business networking mistakes like the plague.

Peace and Love to Todd |Excellent Advice!

I recommend trying www.sendoutcards.com/loryfabian and start today cementing your business relationships today!

 

5 Crucial Tips for Editing Your Own Writing by Ali Luke

Measure the effectiveness of your writing

Are your blog posts, mailouts, sales pages and ebooks as successful as they should be?

If you always end up dashing them off in a hurry (or if you fret over every comma but never make any structural changes) then you’re falling down at the editing stage of writing.

No writer, however good, produces a perfect first draft – but every writer, however inexperienced, can hugely improve their work through editing.

Here are five crucial tips that you need to follow:

#1: Allow Plenty of Time for Editing

Maybe you’re always hitting “publish” right on deadline, or every Tuesday is a mad scramble to get your newsletter out.

If you never have time to edit properly, then write fewer pieces of content. Most readers are overwhelmed with blog posts and emails, and they’d rather have one great post each week instead of five mediocre ones.

#2: Write Then Edit

Do you find yourself editing the start of every sentence before you get as far as the period?

If you edit while writing, you’re going to make slow progress. You might never finish a piece because you get bogged down part way, or because you keep changing your mind. It’s much more efficient to get the whole thing written first and then turn your hand to editing.

#3: Let Your Work Rest Before You Edit

Perhaps you already edit your work, by changing around a few words around as soon as you finish each piece.

Instead, let each piece of content rest – for a few hours, or a few days – before you start editing. That way, you’ll see it with fresh eyes. Yes, sometimes you’ll need to edit immediately – but that should be a rare exception, not a habit.

#4: Fix Big-Picture Problems First

When you begin to edit, do you start fixing typos and fiddling with punctuation?

The first stage of editing is to get the focus, structure and flow of your post right. That might mean cutting, adding or rearranging paragraphs (or whole chapters, in an ebook) or altering the tone or style. There’s no point perfecting every sentence in a chapter that you later cut completely.

#5: Edit for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Last

If you’ve ever had a reader point out an embarrassing spelling mistake – one that’s been on your site for weeks or months – then you’ll know why getting the details right is so important.

Once you’re happy with the overall shape of your post, you can fix typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, and punctuation errors. That means reading through carefully, paying attention to anything that your spell-checker flags up – but also watching out for commonly confused words, like “its” and “it’s”.

Editing might not seem very exciting or creative … but it’s a crucial part of the writing process. By developing strong editing skills, you can make sure that your message comes across loud and clear. If you’ve got any questions, or any tips of your own to share, just pop a comment below.

 

Love & Peace to Ali who is a writer and writing coach based in the UK.

16 Ways to Simplify Your Prospects’ Decision-Making Process by Ellie Mirman

16 Ways to Simplify Your Prospects’ Decision-Making Process

by Ellie Mirman.

In an effort to break through the clutter and get the attention of more potential customers, are marketers going too far? A recent article from Forbes reported that decision simplicity was the number one driver of likelihood to buy, and the impact of simplifying purchase decisions for consumers is 4x stronger than the favored marketing strategy of engagement.

In fact, research company Corporate Executive Board (CEB) also found that a 20% increase in decision simplicity results in a:

96% increase in customer loyalty;

86% increase in likelihood to purchase and;

115% increase in likelihood to recommend.

CEB is not the first organization to tout simplicity as a key driver in increasing conversions and sales. MarketingExperiments also advocates for limiting “unsupervised thinking” among your prospects in order to effectively guide more people to conversion. As it relates to landing pages, many marketers have adopted a lot of best practices based on this principle — removing navigation and distracting calls-to-action, keeping forms short, and clearly advertising the value of the offer. But this principle is applicable to all areas of our marketing — by simplifying our marketing, we can illuminate the path to conversion to drive better results.

**Below are 16 ways you can simplify your marketing to make your prospects’ decision-making process easier.*

16 Ways to Simplify Your Prospects’ Decision-Making Process

1) Add Calls-to-Action

The first place to start is to add a call-to-action (CTA) to your website. On any given web page, you should be able to answer, “What do I want people to do here?” Then, make it clear to your visitor that exact path. Do you want them to call you? Download an ebook and become a lead? Follow you in social media? Tell people exactly what you want, and it’s more likely they’ll end up doing it. Effective calls-to-action use actionable language (e.g. “Download Now”), numbers, a sense of urgency, and stand out among the rest of the page.

2) Limit Distracting Calls-to-Action

On the flip side, you don’t want to overwhelm your prospects with too many calls-to-action. From the visitors’ perspective, suddenly they’re in Times Square with ads all around, and they don’t know where to look or what to do. Rather, you want to create a one-way street — not a 10-way intersection that paralyzes your prospects or helps them tune out your calls-to-action. If you do have multiple CTAs on a page or in a piece of content, make one primary by featuring it more prominently, and when your prospect clicks through to its actual landing page, remove any additional navigation links or CTAs on that page to focus their attention on completing the conversion you want them to.

3) Deliver What’s Advertised

Some sneaky marketers used to do a bait and switch — advertise a raffle for a free iPad, but when someone clicked through, they’d display an ad to buy a car. Any time you deliver on something different from what’s advertised, you not only confuse your leads, but you also generate unqualified leads. If someone’s signing up because they’re interested in iPads, it’s very possible they’re not going to be interested in whatever you deliver that is not an iPad.

4) Tell People What They’re Getting

Any time you’re offering something to your prospects, be clear about exactly what it is. The point of the offer is to give your prospects a reason to engage with you — if they don’t know what it is, why would they bother? Is it an ebook, a webinar, a slide deck? What is the topic covered in your offer?

5) Tell People WIIFM?

Not only do you need to tell people what they’re getting, but you also need to explain why they should care — the value of your offer. In other words, ‘What’s In It For Me?’ (WIIFM?). Any transaction should be an equal (or better) exchange between you and your prospect; for example, they give you their email address in exchange for a free ebook.

6) Don’t Hide Your Pricing Information

Any time I come across a website with no pricing information, I start to think that something is fishy. Either they customize their pricing for every deal individually (in which case, I worry I’m going to get tricked into a worse deal), or the price will be so high it’s out of my range. Either way, I’m not interested in engaging with your company. Don’t withhold your pricing information. Instead, make it easy to navigate to within the products section of your website.

7) Provide Product Guides (About Your Product and Your Industry)

I (as a prospect) have a decision to make: whether or not to buy your product, or possibly opt for another competing product. I’ll take any information you or anyone else can provide to help me with that decision. Providing product guides — either about your own product or an analysis of the industry and the competing products available — is a great help in supporting your prospects’ evaluation process.

8) Share Recommendations/Testimonials From Customers and Experts

While it’s great to provide your own take on your product and the industry, you are of course biased, so providing any third-party recommendations — from users or experts — is a great way to ease a prospects’ decision to go with your company. At HubSpot, for example, we curate social media threads, blog articles, and case studies from customers and experts and feature them on our website — even on our homepage.

9) Let People Know How They Can Get in Touch

How can prospects get in touch with you? By phone, through email, via online chat? Make it clear on your website how people can get in touch with you, so those hottest prospects can reach out when they most want to talk with you. At HubSpot, this was a big piece of feedback we heard from our prospects — a lot of people wanted to talk with someone and didn’t know how. As a result, we added our phone number and a way to contact sales in the footer of every web page on our site.

10) Align Navigation With What Your Buyers Are Looking For

As marketers, we can sometimes get lost in our own work and how we discuss things internally, and if this translates into our marketing, it can cause a lot of confusion for your website visitors and prospects. For the content on your website, think about how your buyers speak, think, and what they might be looking for — and align your content and navigation around those revelations.

11) Surface Top-Searched or Top-Visited Content

Aside from surfacing the key sections of your website that your prospects want to navigate to, take a look at the most popular content on your site, and surface that as well. By looking at your most popular content (top-searched, top-visited, etc.) you can understand more about what your prospects are looking for and make it even easier for new prospects to find it. Two great ways to do this is to feature your top-performing offer on your homepage, and list the most popular articles on the homepage of your blog.

12) Don’t Ignore Questions or Feedback

Sometimes we marketers get tough questions and critical feedback — especially considering prospects’ ease of commenting on blog articles or speaking up in social media. Oftentimes, ignoring these comments can worsen the situation, leaving a prospect unhappy or inciting them to post even more critical comments. Every time a prospect asks a question or provides feedback, you’re given a great opportunity to engage with them and address any questions or issues they have. Be sure to monitor and respond to any blog or social media comments to catch these opportunities to lead more prospects to conversion. There are plenty of free and paid tools available to help you monitor conversations in social media. And if you’re both a HootSuite and HubSpot customer, you can use our closed-loop social integration to directly monitor your leads on Twitter!

13) Categorize Your Content by Skill Level, Role, Etc.

It’s very likely that you’re already targeting different types of potential customers — various roles, backgrounds, and needs among your buyer personas. Help these personas to self-identify what content and which products are best suited for their particular needs by categorizing and labeling your content. At HubSpot, they label their content by skill level (introductory, intermediate, and advanced — just check out the top of this very article!) and by industry and role (small business vs. marketing teams, non-profit vs. ecommerce, etc.). This helps your prospects find the best content for them more quickly, rather than giving up, getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content we provide, or getting lost on your website.

14) Assign a DRI/Owner for Each Channel/Asset

A DRI is a Directly Responsible Person — an owner for a particular asset. Having an owner for each marketing channel or asset allows you to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. You’ll be more able to evaluate the potential conversion paths, respond to questions from prospects stuck at different stages of the conversion path, and make sure you’re getting the best results from each channel and asset. Here are a few more ideas for structuring an effective marketing team.

15) Pick a Campaign, and Focus All Channels on It

It can be overwhelming to juggle a lot of different offers, channels, and campaigns all at once — both for you as a marketer, and for your prospect as someone following your company. Look for opportunities to combine marketing efforts and focus multiple channels on a single campaign. Not only will you rest a little easier, but you’ll also get better (compounding) results and help focus your prospects on your top campaign.

16) Focus on the 1-3 Metrics That Are Most Important to Your Business

Not only do you want to simplify your prospects’ experience with your company, but you also want to simplify your marketing efforts. This helps you focus your efforts for better results. A key part of that is focusing on a few metrics that are most important to your business, as this will influence your strategy and where you focus your time, your calls-to-action, and other efforts mentioned above. To determine which metrics should drive your strategy, spend some time determining your marketing team’s specific goals, and then identify the top metrics that will indicate success or failure to achieve those goals.

Shout out to HubSpot