Business building – Finding People – Part 3

This is the third blog in the series of ways in which you can find and attract people around you – customers, staff, suppliers, referrers and collaborators.

Understand the difference between business and social settings

Networking must become second nature to you.  When you are in business you are always looking.  You may not be actively seeking but you are never clocked off either.  You must tailor your networking responses to suit the occasion.  Whilst you are always alert, there are occasions where you need to develop a light touch.  You don’t need to be shoving your business cards in people’s faces at every opportunity.  For example, I went to a wedding recently and when the people at my table found out that I was a financial planner, I was bombarded me with questions about income protection and insurance in superannuation.  I wasn’t overtly selling but I didn’t miss an opportunity to educate them.  So I answered their questions and then two days later a couple of them contacted me via Facebook, tagged some wedding photos and invited me to coffee to talk further.  Others will find me by asking the bride and groom when they need me but the point is – I know who they are, where they live and what they do for a living and the names and ages of their children.  That’s what a friendly and lively lunch conversation can achieve. 

If you seek employees, develop a careers page

Growing companies offer the best opportunities.  Good employees are always looking for new challenges.  They know that in a developing and growing company, new ground will be broken often and many career opportunities will be created.  That’s a good reason for them to go to work every day.  If your business exudes excitement and has a solid foundation, then to many prospective employees, you are a preferred employer.  They will not want to do boring work for a well established ‘plateau company’ and wait 5 years for a promotion.  So do a makeover on your internet presence and add an attractive careers page.  This means more than just advertising jobs.  Share your vision and tell people the mission of your business.  Give them 10 irresistible reasons why they should be working for you.  For example, talk about the company, the direction, the working conditions, the growth, your innovative products, the challenges and so on.  If you create the magnet, people will be attracted and their details will stick with you – whether you are currently hiring or not.

Until next time!


Business building – Finding People – Part 2

We continue looking at ways in which you can find and attract people around you – customers, staff, suppliers, referrers and collaborators.

Start a blog and link people to it

The beauty of a blog is that people can read the information you post on it and they can get a sense of who you are and where you are coming from.  I have an ordinary WordPress blog but there is nothing ordinary about the internet marketing powerhouse that lies behind it.  But I will go into that another time.  The point here is that when you connect with people you should be constantly linking them back to a place where they can get more information about you, or indeed buy something from you.  That applies to Twitter posts, Facebook conversations or business cards.

Ask for referrals

It helps to develop more front than a bus!  Don’t be shy but don’t be pushy and obnoxious either.  If you have a quality product or service, then develop a joy in telling people about it.  When the occasion warrants it, shout it from the rooftops.  Ask for referrals.  Ask your friends and ask friends of friends; ask colleagues and their friends; ask ex-co workers and their friends.  Then move onto the friends of all those friends.  Before you know it your database will accelerate and grow before your very eyes.  It will contain hundreds and soon, thousands of people who want to hear from you (or at least don’t mind hearing from you).

Have an elevator speech

In the course of any business conversation and most social conversations, people will invariably ask you what you do for a living.  You need to be able to tell them precisely what you do in a couple of sentences.  Develop an elevator speech!  It is basically who you are, what your main products or services are and always include one or two big customer benefits.  Make it sound exciting not boring.  Don’t do details and don’t start listing dot points.  Also expand your elevator speech out to 1 minute for those networking occasions where you have 1 minute to tell a group about your business. Make it sound irresistible so that people will want it and love it.  If you don’t love what you do, then no one else will.

Until next time!


Business building – Finding People – Part 1

Even if you are not looking to hire people, you are always looking to attract customers and build a team of referrers and collaborators around you.  When you are in business, regardless of what you do, you should always be looking out for good business and good people.

Start by building your business into a ‘magnet’ that will attract good people – customers, staff, suppliers, referrers, and collaborators.  People need to know you exist and you need to create some excitement about your business.  This is unlikely to happen all by itself.  You will need to become assertive and develop strategies to make the magnet big enough to create perpetual motion.

Get a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Get set up and organised from the start if you intend to attract a lot of people.  There are many CRM programs around.  Read online articles and reviews to find something that suits you.  If you don’t want to spend any money, then keep your contact details on an Excel spreadsheet.

Be available and follow up

If you are going to attract people, then you must make yourself available and follow up and interact with them.  Don’t hide away.  This is the important part of networking and business building.  If you ignore new contacts they will lose interest and go elsewhere.  You need people.  It’s only a matter of who and when!

Use online social networking sites

For example, follow people on Twitter and check to see if they follow you back.  Also start sending out daily messages from your own Twitter site.  People who are interested in what you have to say will follow you. Use a service like to see who you know in common.  I have also found that it is essential to have a Facebook site so people can find you easily.  It is slower than Twitter but it is much more personal.  I find that many people find me by Google-ing my name.  They are presented with a choice of web and blog sites or Facebook.

Until next time!


Building business – Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an umbrella term for methodologies, computer technology, software, and internet capabilities that enable a business to manage their customer interactions in an organized way.  CRM is a great tool to have when customers grow in numbers to be more than a few.

Such systems usually integrate a database that describes customer attributes and relationships in sufficient detail so enable management, salespeople, and service providers to retrieve specific customer and information to suit their own needs. It is a way of organising customer data and using it in a variety of ways that better focus business resources where they need to be.

CRM systems help match customer needs with products services and special offerings.  They usually have integrated calendar systems that enable the storage of customer purchase history.  It reminds staff and customers alike of future service time-lines and prompts follow up action.

It can be used as a business building tool that helps a business to identify and target ‘potential’ customers and various sections of ‘existing’ customers.  It can also help to manage marketing campaigns and generate quality leads for the sales process.

CRM systems help businesses to develop and keep track of numerous individual customer relationships simultaneously.  Any information can be stored in the computer based system.  For example, sales calls are made easy when the system has some notes about the customer involved – e.g. favourite pastime, spouse and children’s names.

The CRM system becomes the corporate memory and valuable personal information (freely given) aids relationship development.  The aim is to improve customer satisfaction and maximise profits.  The system can categorise customers, and the most profitable customers can be identified and marked for the highest level of service.

Many businesses use CRM software to help them manage their customer relationships more effectively. The technology is well developed.  It can be an office based system installation or it can be accessed as a SaaS (Software as a Service) via the internet.  CRM has recently become mobile enabled and some systems are available as open source software.  Open source code means that the source code is included with the compiled version and modification or customization is allowed and encouraged.

Until next time!


Business building – Social Proof marketing – Part 2

So how do you pull together a social proof marketing campaign?  OK here are some common strategies:

  • Convince potential buyers that there are hundreds of people lined up to buy your product.  This influences them to make a choice to purchase your product because everybody around them seems to like it too.
  • Build trust by letting your potential customer know of what others think of your product.  Testimonials, comments and feedback from happy customers are commonly used.  However, people have become used to them and tend to skip past them on sales pages, not quite knowing whether they are real or fake.
  • Independent reviews, case studies and endorsements by non-related experts, independent opinion makers.  It is important to have a credible source for any of these strategies.  It is common to give free samples in return for a favourable case study or review, which is then posted with the product.
  • Leaking information about an upcoming product.  Politicians have been ‘accidentally on purpose’ doing this since politics began.  Leaking favourable news builds the anticipation and excitement, whereas leaking unfavourable news early helps make it more palatable and easier to accept.
  • Creating a sense of urgency for a product before and after the launch.  Product run-outs, end of year sales, limited time offers and many other strategies create urgency in the mind of the target audience.
  • Customers want what they can’t have (even more), so by limiting the supply of a product and promoting messages of value and scarcity, the effect is to increase demand and price.

The more people who are engaged to believe in a particular product then the more acceptable the product becomes.  Of course the downside is that sooner or later, but probably sooner, the target audience will move onto something else.  So unless you are the supplier of the ‘something else’, you could be become cold and poor.

Until next time!


Business building – Social Proof marketing – Part 1

‘Social proof’ can be the basis of powerful marketing.  Social proof means justify your buying behaviour by observing and exhibiting similar behaviour of those around you.  In simple terms – everybody else is doing it, so I can do it too.

For example, if you see ten other people around you make the decision to buy the latest gizmo, then by doing as they do and ignoring your own information, you deem it to be socially acceptable for you to rush out and buy a gizmo as well.

Even though your own research and private information may have led you to a different buying decision, such widespread social acceptance will effectively remove any lingering thoughts of buyer remorse.

This is the type of behaviour that starts and finishes product fads and produces information cascades in financial markets (e.g. speculative mass buying or selling behaviours that result in a sudden share market movement regardless of underlying asset value).

People seek social proof because everyone likes to feel as though they have made the right decision when it comes to spending money or making a big commitment. There is comfort and social acceptance in believing that so many other people can’t all be wrong.

Improved web access and communication mobility, together with a variety of social networking media, email and text messaging make a social proof campaign so much easier to execute.

Until next time!


Create ‘instant calm’ buttons for yourself

Your most important priority in business is you.  You may have a thousand customers but without you, there is no business.

“Put yourself first, pay yourself first and take care of yourself first, physically and emotionally!”

An instant calm button is an immediate fix when you upset, frustrated or flustered, and you need to calm your mind.  Four of the best calming buttons I have found are:

a)   Deep slow breathing and eyes shut visualization.  There are many options for visualization – imagine a serene place, your favourite activity or imagine that with every breath you are inhaling and exhaling the entire Universe.  That’s my favourite.  It is so empowering.

b)   Exercise! This also results in deeper breathing.  It doesn’t need to be highly aerobic though.  A 30-minute walk will do it.  Make sure you keep your head up and say hello to everyone as you walk past.

c)   Water – drink plenty of it.  I find water calming as opposed to coffee which stimulates but may not necessarily calm me.

d)   Chocolate, which does nothing for my breathing but I focus on its antioxidant health benefits (yeah right!).  Be careful of the amount you eat.  Eat too much and you will replace one problem with a more serious health problem.

It is always the case that when I feel at my worst, doing any of the things I have listed above are the very last things I want to do, except eat chocolate of course.  But a little elbowing myself usually brings the need for a calming button into conscious focus.

Exercise is not always possible but deep slow breathing (we call it KI breathing in Aikido) and plenty of water always does the trick for me.  In our busy lives, air and water are the two ingredients that we don’t intake enough.

Until next time!


Starting business – Early Market Traction

Market traction is a measure of demonstrated profit, revenue, customers, pilot customers, or users, and their rates of change.  In other words, it is cold hard proof that the market for your product is real.  This measure of reality gives you the business owner, the bank and other investors, considerable assurance that you know your market and that your financial projections are sound.

Starting up a business is a risky investment, just like any other.  However, it is not a passive investment.  Therefore as the owner, you are likely to have your entire life and livelihood locked into your business for many years.  So you want your live-in investment to pay off handsomely.

It follows that you should be seeking a premium return on your investment of time, money and expertise. If you have any second round investors involved (after first round family and friends), they will certainly be seeking a high return on investment (ROI).

Without market traction, the decision to invest requires one hell of a leap of faith by any experienced investor.  Put your self in their shoes.  All they have is your Business Plan underpinned only by an unproven set of assumptions.  This sends the investment risk through the roof.

Without a statement of proof from the marketplace in the form of traction, investors will then focus sharply on your product and your team of people.  Doubt will exist in their minds because investors know that good teams always have good traction and good products.  So if your team hasn’t, it begs the question – why not?

By securing customers early, you and any potential investors are reassured that there is demand for your technology, product or service offering in the market.  This substantially reduces the investment risk because you have already provided evidence that your product is in demand and that you and your team is up to the job.

So the conclusion is that a high projected ROI will not of itself produce market traction.  However, the reverse is true.  Early market traction is very likely to produce a high ROI for you and your investors.

Until next time


Starting business – It’s a wide knowledge area

At its most basic level, being in business requires only a few customers and an ability to sell at a higher price than you buy.  Even if you have nothing more than these fundamental money making skills, there is still a wealth of other skills required to build a business.

Starting out, it helps to know your industry well and the rules and regulations that govern it.  In many industries, failure to comply with the myriad of government rules could get you banned from the industry, heavily fined or serving a prison sentence.

Even before you make your first sale, the Australian Government also imposes a compulsory administrative and taxation reporting regime on all businesses, large and small.  This makes bookkeepers and accountants very valuable resources from the outset.

Although bookkeeping and accounting concepts are tricky to grasp, a rudimentary knowledge makes a conversation with your financial advisers a lot easier.

As your business grows, you need more people because you can’t do everything yourself.  People need training, supervision and guidance.  When your business evolves to something more than you only, a degree of organisation and few systems become necessary.  Employing people also introduces a new layer of administration and compliance.

At some point, you will need to exercise some leadership to imprint your own culture and do some planning from time to time.  An expanding business also needs financial control and management. There have been many examples of businesses going broke because of their inability to fund rapid expansion.

Whilst you may not do the financial tasks personally, it helps a lot to understand the basic concepts. For example, the ability to read an ‘Income Statement’ and a ‘Balance Sheet’ opens up a new world of understanding and opportunity.

Developing a basic understanding of cost control concepts like product costing, budgeting, cash flow, and break even point will also make management of your business a lot easier.

Until next time!


Business planning – You need people

This is the most compelling case ever for preparing a Business Plan.  At some point in the evolution of your business, your success will mean that you are standing alone holding a tiger by the tail.  You need help (that is nowhere to be found) but if you let go you are screwed.  You pray for a person with a solution.

By definition, your business will become bigger than you.  It’s only a matter of when.  As much as you wanted to do your own thing, by yourself, in your own time, without annoyance from anyone, you actually kissed off that plan the day you started being good at what you do and giving some half decent service to your customers.

People tell other people and before you know it, a trickle of business becomes a torrent and suddenly you can’t cope alone with the increased demand. So much for your vision of being a business hermit!

Of course, there are two sure fire ways you can kill off your business from here.  Firstly, you can start turning good paying customers away so that you keep your business at a level you can handle.  That will quickly poison the well, because bad news always travels faster than good news, and there is no news worse than rejection.

Secondly, you can hire the wrong people to help – desperation hiring!  This accounts for a lot of business failure just when things were looking up.  Why?  You will be frantically busy and have a problem to solve.  So there is a huge temptation to hire someone who is available and can start Monday, rather than someone who fits the ‘skill’ bill and is good at what they do.

You can change this dynamic by making your business so attractive that all the good people want to work there.  Create your business plan and put the highlights on your website (newly created) ‘Careers’ page.  It is the first step in becoming a magnet for good employees.  And you thought marketing was only about attracting customers!

Until next time!