Tag Archives: networking

DO YOU NEED FORENSIC SCIENCE TO HELP FIND NEW CLIENTS? PROBABLY NOT.

Although forensic science has been shown to be effective in winning court cases, and it may help you to grow your business by scientifically gathering and examining information about potential clients, what’s likely to work just fine is good old-fashioned networking. In-person business networking, when done in a professional manner, is a tried and true method for finding new clients through referrals.

The reason is simple: people naturally want to work with people they trust. Once they know you, they begin to trust you. Start by putting yourself in a room with a diverse group of local businessmen and women who are potential sources for referral or may become clients. You can find professional networking groups on LinkedIn that are in your area. Then, all you have to do is “get up, dress up and show up” with a smile and your skillfully-honed elevator speech. Some professional networking groups don’t even charge dues. The opportunity is yours for the taking and perhaps the cost of breakfast.

About that all-important sixty-second elevator speech: Speak clearly and with a friendly tone. Be sure to answer the three big questions:
1. who are you
2. what do you do, and
3. what or who are you looking for
Be straight and to the point. Don’t use big words, industry jargon, or hard sell; and do remember to say how to contact you. If possible, develop and close with a succinct and memorable tag line that sums up how you provide a needed product or service and implies you’re good at what you do or that your product is valuable.

Of course, if your primary goal is rapid or phenomenal growth, you’ll probably want to try newer ways to connect with prospects and convert them to clients or customers. The argument for in-person networking does not exclude other efforts. However, the point is that you may be wasting time and money trying to capitalize on social media, digital marketing or even forensic science just because you think you should.

You need a strategy that is effective. The trick is to integrate what makes sense in your case and not just to jump in because it’s new. Understand the value of transparency and content. Why are they important to your brand? Is yours a B2C or a B2B company? Evaluate social media choices based on the answer. Should prospects be posting selfies on your Facebook page or learning about your company from a corporate video you posted?

Word-of-mouth advertising still works. It’s free and now goes by the name “engagement.” Publicity is still an effective tool when media exposure is sought professionally as appropriate. Direct mail, which can be highly targeted and combined with e-mail marketing, can be cost-effective in many cases. Social responsibility and charitable giving never go out of style.

Whatever your business, find the right consultants to help you navigate the maze. You don’t have to do everything, just the right things.

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HOW TO MARKET A SMALL BUSINESS IN TOUGH TIMES

SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING ON A SHOESTRING

Word of mouth can be your best spokesperson. This post is a four-step outline for building your small business without an advertising budget.

 1. BUILD A SOLID FOUNDATION FIRST

• Know who your clients or customers are and what they want; create a profile of the ideal client/customer.  This definition becomes your target audience.

• Perfect your professional profile and photo. It all starts with YOU!

• Figure out what makes you different and how to say it in a “sound bite” or “tag line.” These words become your key message. Create your “elevator speech,” a 60-second summary of whom you help and how.

• Get your house in order so that you won’t fail to deliver on your promises.

• Sketch out a plan with a tentative timeline and budget, including:

1)  Website – This is your online brochure and list builder. It must have educational value and continually fresh content as well as good design.
2)  Blog – Regularly demonstrate your knowledge and industry expertise; posts can later become an ebook.
3)  Brochure–Goes beyond the business card for trade shows, luncheons, etc.
4)  Create desirable incentives, freebies, special discounts and rewards for your target audience, and offer finder’s fees for referrals.
5)  Newsletter marketing can reach current and prospective clients/customers via your website or directly through email.

2. LEARN and PRACTICE PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING SKILLS

The best way to get new clients or customers, far and away, is by being recommended.

Networking is not selling. It’s making business connections, seeking and giving referrals.

• Become a connector who facilitates business introductions.

• Join your local chapter of Business Networking International and other groups.

• Take on pro bono activity and make known your involvement.

• Choose and engage in appropriate social media.

3. DON’T HIDE YOUR LIGHT UNDER A BUSHEL

Small firm visibility can be increased through publicity, which is more credible than advertising. Understand what the media considers news and what editors want.

• Event marketing can be used to obtain publicity.

• Surveys and case studies can also generate publicity.

• Trend articles can demonstrate your expertise and be recycled.

• Speaking platforms let you reach beyond the captive audience.

4. GET THE HELP YOU NEED

Marketing is not something you do with your left hand. Don’t think you can go it alone or expect your existing staff somehow to do double duty.

• Look for experienced marketing counsel with some knowledge of your industry.

• Use your network to find professional marketing help at a price you can afford.

Is Traditional Networking Dead?

This post advocates the preservation, versus total abandonment, of old-style business networking at least until Xtreme Networking becomes truly widespread and each new person one meets is screened for value in four minutes. (Interestingly, in recent years a Chicago company has been offering such speed dating style networking events for business.)

Lately I’ve attended a lot of local workshops, breakfast, lunch and after-hours meetings in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.  I’ve watched a lot of webinars.  My goal is to help clients achieve their best marketing return on investment (ROI).  To do that I need to keep up with the latest trends and to continually educate myself about changes in the way goods and services are marketed in 2011.  It’s also part of my own networking plan.

All the meetings I’ve attended so far were ostensibly designed to educate the under-informed; but, of course, the underlying intent was to sell services.  Similarly, social networking seeks to engage potential customers through a mutually-beneficial dialogue, but the underlying intent is still ultimately to sell something.

Not what you’d call a “newbie,” I’ve been immersed for decades in advertising and professional public relations; yet I’m learning a little something new with each session.  Essentially a freelance business writer, I take copious notes.  As I review them, one thought keeps haunting me:  “The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.”  Let me attempt to draw a few parallels.

Martha and Maxine Talk About Networking with Social Media, Etc.

Martha’s Way

Maxine’s Way

Build your reputation through personal branding I don’t own any cows
Synchronize LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages with your website and Blog Try dialing the phone
Write an insightful Blog every week Take more naps
Recommend and Friend people Friend is not a verb
Start a dialogue and engage people Oh, shut the duck up
Develop friendships, not leads Don’t call me, I’ll call you
Use links for better SEO results SEO? New sausage recipe?
Set up RSS feeds Is that like the KISS principle?
Keep an eye on your ROI as you go viral Only under doctor’s supervision
Use Google Analytics to gauge results Analyze THIS!

Seriously, the point is that face-to-face networking is still alive and well, and e-mail is not quite dead yet.  We shouldn’t be too quick to declare things “dead.”  As always, marketing efforts work best when integrated or synchronized. In-person networking can flow in tandem with social media networking. Just as a book can still become a movie, a blog post might become a video.  Someone you meet at a business function can be someone you connect with on LinkedIn or Friend on Facebook.

Not a sausage recipe, search engine optimization (SEO) is, of course, vital when it comes to being found by Google’s “spiders” and by other search engines.  If you are paying to help ensure that your business can be found when someone searches for it on the Internet, SEO that works will surely enhance your ROI. But don’t forget to put a sign out front that can clearly be read by approaching cars.

For my money Really Simple Syndication (RSS) doesn’t quite qualify under the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS) principle of old.  RSS feeds aren’t that simple to explain, yet the benefit is not complex:  easily being able to subscribe to and read timely updates from favored websites. RSS feeds are a great time-saver, yet you may still want to track down a hard copy of that newspaper article with your quote and photo in it so you can frame it.

Both word-of-mouth and viral marketing rely on trust.  Most people still will not spread the word about a product or service, either in person or through social media, unless it comes from a trusted source, such as possibly a medical professional.  We still need our soft skills, reputation rules and words still matter.

Various methods of measuring advertising’s effectiveness have existed as long as advertising has existed.  Google Analytics is simply a modern version of tracking your advertising ROI and more.

Even as I write, technologies are being developed that will present new and faster ways to do things. But it can’t hurt to review your options when you choose how and when to embrace those new ways.  It’s important to note that audiences are not migrating from one medium to another. They are spreading their attention across all platforms. For example, people are watching more online videos than ever, yet tv viewing is actually on the rise as well.

Until everyone owns and can operate a smartphone that scans an encoded business card which instantly takes them to a website, or until the facial recognition app is perfected, we will still exchange uncoded business cards and later visit each other’s websites.  In the extreme, we might even want to get out of our comfort zones, attend a “meet and greet,” shake hands and send someone a hand-written follow-up note!