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5 Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

5-things-you-can-immediately-do-to-gain-more-businessI recently wrote about the benefits of business turnover in the New Year. True to annual trends, I also experienced some turnover in my client list. Despite my best efforts to “practice what I preach” and look at this as a positive, I felt unsettled, and frankly exposed, by the fact that a few (really great) clients had chosen to part ways.

My business had made significant growth in 2016, almost so much so that it wasn’t sustainable to think I would continue to grow at such a rapid rate. After all, as a consultant I essentially sell my time and even I only have so much time in a day. So there I was, a shrunken client list and an increased bandwidth to take on more work.

What did I do? I invested some of this newfound time into beating the bushes and testing the waters for new business opportunities, but I was strategic with how I did it. Cold-calling is not effective for my business, nor does it result in quality clients (at least in my experience). I wanted to build my book of business with client work I enjoyed and could complete efficiently. Here are the five strategies with which I began.

Talk with current clients about expanding your services

For me, this was a natural and obvious first step. I was upfront with my current clients, many of whom have been loyally working with me for several years. I told them I had availability for more work and offered to create a proposal for what additional services I could provide them that would amplify my current efforts. Not one turned down the offer to at least consider my proposal and right off the bat several increased my monthly retainer. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that many of my clients had wanted to increase my services for a while but were mindful of my workload from other clients. It pays to ask!

Follow-up with leads that have fallen off

Next, I went through my notes of leads and proposals that didn’t result in business. For the most part, I never received a response after several follow-ups and was so busy at the time, I didn’t have to chase after them for work. I opened up the conversation again with a “Happy New Year, I hope you are doing well…” I received some responses within the hour – from contacts who had failed to give me a response over several months! A New Year brings a new business mindset and also gives businesses the opportunity to evaluate where they stand financially. Following-up during this time is an easy way to breathe fresh air back into a proposal and drum up new business.

Go through your stack of business cards

I also sifted through business cards I had collected from meetings and networking events throughout the past year. There were some that I felt could generate leads, so I reached out to these individuals to set up a time to talk over coffee. During this casual discussion, I was able to learn more about their business and also tell them that I am looking to take on new clients. This small investment of time most often resulted in the contact’s enthusiastic offer to keep their eyes and ears open for someone who could benefit from my services. Of course in exchange, I offered to do the same for them.

Touch base with your “power partners”

I have worked to develop several “power partnerships” with businesses who offer my services to their clients. I sent each a note letting them know I am available to take on more work and to “load me up” as they see fit. Much like reaching out to my current client list, I was able to gain some quick projects that they had on their plates, but didn’t want to risk overloading me with. Now that they knew I was open to more work, they were happy to offload.

Reach out to competitors

Finally, and most surprisingly, I reached out to contacts that I knew offered the same services I did. Yes, competitors. This may sound like an odd thing to do, but I have found a lot of value in developing a good working relationship with competing consultants and businesses. Why? Because when you get to know who their ideal client is, you will realize you really aren’t hunting for the same lead. In fact, their wheel house may be completely different than yours. In reaching out to my competitors, I wanted to put out my feelers for any leads they may have recently turned away either because they weren’t a good fit for their business or they were too busy to take on more work. Often, competitors will refer work out to me if they think I would better accommodate the client. Win-win!

When you look to build business, what strategies do you use? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Avoid Making These 6 Mistakes With Your Holiday Promotions!

Weihnachtsmann mit Daumen runter

We are in the thick of the holiday season which means we are being bombarded by sales and promotions from every angle. Mailed flyers and magazines, emails and social media advertisements all contribute to the noise and whirlwind of the holiday season.

If your business is planning to run a holiday sale, be sure to avoid these common mistakes which can cause your efforts to get lost in the shuffle – or worse yet – turnoff a potential customer. Take a look!

  1. Not giving customers enough time to take advantage of the sale

Nothing will frustrate your customers quite like a sale that gives them hardly any time to react. Don’t send out a coupon or promo code that is set to expire mere hours from the time it is received. Plan ahead so that your promotion lands in the hands of your customers with at least a week to react to it. The holidays are busy enough; your customers don’t want one more “urgent” to-do added to their list.

  1. After one promotion ends, running another one that’s event better

This is a personal pet-peeve of mine. I can’t stand when businesses run a promotion touted as “the best deal of the season” only to follow it up with an even better offer the next day or next week. The customers who took advantage of the first offer will likely feel taken advantage of themselves. This doesn’t mean you can’t run multiple promotions in a season, but be sure to structure them differently so it’s not literally the same offer with a better price tag.

  1. Using generic messaging

Your holiday promotions are yet another prime opportunity to establish your brand. Don’t resort to generic messaging like “Buy now!” or “Don’t delay!” Speak directly to your customers with a message that relates to their wants and needs. Remind them why they should want what you’re selling and most importantly, why they should do business with you over a competitor. If your brand is hip and fun, reflect that in your messaging. If your brand is high-end and exclusive, again…reflect that in your messaging!

  1. Focusing too heavily on acquiring new customers

Sure, every business hopes their holiday sales bring in some new customers. However, don’t forget to pay special attention to your loyal customers who will be the ones most likely to come to your business to buy gifts for their loved ones. Send them exclusive deals and discounts and make sure they know they are receiving this because of their loyalty. Bottom line: when your customers feel appreciated they are more likely to open their wallets.

  1. Bombarding your audience with too many promotions

If you plan to send out a holiday promotion every day between now and Christmas Eve…don’t. Not only will you see your email opens drastically decrease with every passing day, you may also turn off your customers to the point where they unsubscribe entirely. Carefully think through every email you plan to send and be sure the messaging is valuable enough that even if a few people fall off your list because of it, you’ll attract enough other customers that it’s still worth it.

  1. Using scare tactics or guilt

Finally, don’t use negative sales tactics to try and gain new customers over the holidays. This is a time when people want to feel happy! By scaring them with messaging like “You’ll be the only one without…” or “This is the last chance you’ll ever have to get…” they will associate these negative emotions with your brand. Equally as damaging is using guilt like “Don’t let your child be the only one without…” or “Don’t you want to give your loved one the best…?” Keep it positive and uplifting! Sell joy, happiness and fun.

What holiday promotion tactics do you find most frustrating? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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How to Professionally Fire a Client

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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How Public Relations is Different than Marketing

how-public-relations-is-different-than-marketing

If you use public relations tactics and hope to get results that really only marketing can produce, you’re going to be frustrated and likely begin to doubt the effectiveness of using PR to grow your business. The same is true if you mistakenly use marketing tactics and hope to get results that are more PR-related.

So what do you need to know? Let’s cut to the chase and set the record straight on the biggest and most important differences between public relations and marketing. This is not to say there won’t be exceptions to the rule. There always are. But for the sake of drawing a clear line, take these statements with a grain of salt.

Marketing is proactive. Public relations is reactive.

Marketing is almost always planned and purchased well in advance. Whether that’s a direct mail piece or promotional materials. When needed, public relations can be reactive in an effort to solve a problem, address a concern or announce something newsworthy. As a PR professional, I would certainly advocate to not make your PR efforts solely reactive. That’s as silly as it is dangerous. Public relations can and should be both proactive and reactive; however, marketing is rarely if ever reactive.

Marketing is business. Public relations is communications.

Here me out on this one. At Penn State (and likely at many other colleges across the world), my major of public relations was housed in the College of Communications, along with other majors like advertising and journalism. Marketing, however, was in the College of Business. This may seem trivial, but really it can help you understand just how closely marketing is linked to business and public relations is linked to communications. From the time someone begins to formally study one of these industries, they are placed on one of two very different paths.

Marketing changes your bottom line. Public relations changes public perception.

If you want to know if you marketing tactics are working, look at your bottom line. How have they impacted sales? On the other hand, quantifying your public relations efforts isn’t so straightforward. A good PR strategy will help to positively change the public’s perception of your brand. This can be tracked in various ways including focus groups and customer surveys, but the data tends to be harder and more expensive to obtain than simply pulling last quarter’s sales numbers.

Marketing is focused on sales. Public relations is focused on relationships.

If you remember nothing else, remember that marketing is growing sales and public relations is growing relationships. By growing relationships, this often leads to greater sales – which is why marketing and PR work well to support one another – but this is not the main focus. This understanding is critical because all too often I run into clients who are disappointed that PR isn’t producing higher sales, when that’s not its number one objective! If your focus is sales, look to marketing and if your focus is increasing good will with your customers, look to PR. Both will work together to grow your brand, but in their own unique way.

Still struggling to differentiate when to use Public Relations and when to use Marketing to grow your business and brand? Ask a question and let us help you answer it!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

Instagram is an important social media platform that some businesses mistakenly overlook. But the visual storytelling power of Instagram in today’s marketing world is undeniable! Once you create an Instagram account for your business, it is critical that you understand the platform’s basic etiquette to get the most out of the time you devote to building your brand through its use. Let’s take a look at five mistakes to avoid as a new business on Instagram.

Not establishing a unique hashtag and not using it consistently on all posts

First things first, when creating an Instagram account think about your brand and create a unique hashtag to represent you and your business.  After you have your business hashtag it is important to consistently use that tag when posting.  Don’t let one post go live without using your brands hashtag, as doing so is a missed opportunity to market your business.

Posting photos that lack quality or creativity
The last thing you want to do when posting to any social media site is to look unprofessional, so make sure the photos you choose to represent your brand are high quality and high resolution.  Equally as important as a photo’s quality is its creativity. Look for unique angels and interesting visuals that tell a story. This is your best bet that your followers, and potential customers, will stop scrolling long enough to learn more about your business. A good gallery of photos will also help to set you apart from your competitors and further enhance your brand value.

Not following other accounts related to your industry, product or service

Only posting to your account, aka the “hit and run” strategy, would be a vital mistake when using Instagram to grow your business. You need to also interact with other users and reciprocate some of the love! Search and follow other accounts that are related to your industry (it never hurts to keep your eyes on what competitors are doing) and accounts you simply find interesting. Surf relevant hashtags as a way to find people who are talking about topics related to your business. These other accounts will begin to build a network of followers in return and help you keep a pulse on emerging trends.

Ignoring comments and interactions you receive

As with any social media platform, it is important to stay up to date with your interactions on Instagram. Ignoring comments or not responding in timely manner will do nothing to help you build a following of happy customers. And for people just stumbling upon your account, a lack of feedback to your comments will make you appear inactive or disinterested. Commit to being just as present on Instagram as you are on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Check in at least daily, not only to post content but to respond to interactions as well.

Missing a call to action – how can people learn more or buy your product or service?

If you use Instagram merely to post pretty pictures, you’re missing the real value it can add to your business. Every marketing tactic needs to have a purpose and a call to action; Instagram is no exception. Utilize your profile to include a link to your website or blog. Better yet, make it a link to a specific landing page that will take a customer directly to your most popular products or services. Because links are not “live” in the comments section on Instagram, it’s a real missed opportunity to not include a link in your profile. Also, be consistent with the call to action in your posts. Tell people to click on the link in your profile to learn more or to buy. Every post should relate back to your business or brand in some way. This doesn’t mean every post needs to focus on a hard sell, but your followers should be able to get a sense of what you represent by looking at just a few of your most recent photos!

How have you broken into social media marketing on Instagram for your business or brand? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Linkedin

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Linkedin

Linkedin is a valuable, professional networking tool for building your personal brand, which is ultimately a reflection on your business. Because your profile represents you as a person, it’s all the more important to know what mistakes to avoid so that you don’t risk putting anything but your best face forward. Take a look at these five mistakes and learn how to avoid making them with your own profile on Linkedin!

Not reaching out and actively building your network

With any social networking site, actively reaching out to build connections with other people is an important part of successfully growing the value of your network. Don’t make the mistake of creating an account only to forget to reach out to contacts you know or have an interest in getting to know. Growing your network is as simple as this: send an invitation to connect with at least one new contact a day. Another great way to engage contacts and build your personal brand is to commit to participating in group discussions a couple times a week. Simply comment or ask a question, anything to start a conversation!

Reaching out TOO far and building your network with anyone and everyone
Now that we’ve talked about the value of building your network, it’s important to keep in mind that you can take this piece of advice too far. Trying to connect with everyone and anyone that Linkedin suggests will result in a ton of “false” connections that carry no value and merely clutter your contact list. Think about your goals and purpose for your personal brand. Aim to connect with contacts that you genuinely know or that align with the vision or your brand. When you go to search your contacts, you’ll have a meaningful list of professionals that can truly be of help to you.

Leaving outdated or incomplete content on your profile

In a world where change is constant, you want to remember to also regularly update your profile information to keep it accurate and relevant.  Whether your business moves to a new location or broadens its scope of service, it’s important to reflect these changes in your personal profile and on your business page on Linkedin.

Sharing your tweets or Facebook posts on Linkedin without formatting them specifically for this audience

Sharing the same content across all your social media accounts is problematic because each platform has its own features and limitations that call for a unique message. For example, Linkedin doesn’t limit you to 140 characters like Twitter, but it’s also not the best social media site for using hashtags. If you push your Twitter posts to Linkedin, it will be obvious you didn’t take the time to customize the content. Not only will this lose impact with your audience, it will also reflect that you’re not willing to put in the minimal extra time to customize your content in an effort to engage your contacts.

Not fully utilizing the power of long-form posts

The final, and possibly the biggest mistake people continue to make on Linkedin is not fully utilizing the power of long-form posts. You don’t have to have your own blog or be a skilled writer to publish meaningful content on Linkedin. In fact, this is a great way to get started! Rather than just sharing a link to your article or blog hosted on another website, you have the opportunity to increase the visibility of your content by publishing it directly to Linkedin. Your contacts can subscribe to your posts, comment on them and share with their network– all of which are powerful ways to increase your brand value, expertise and SEO.

What strategy have you used to build your Linkedin network and profile? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Twitter

No matter your business’s industry or specialty, a solid social media marketing strategy involving Twitter can produce positive and powerful outcomes. But in order to get the most out of using Twitter to build your brand, you need to know not only what to do, but also what not to do. Take a look at these 5 mistakes new businesses often make when using Twitter as part of their marketing strategy. 

Not sticking with one hashtag

Hashtags are one of the most powerful and efficient ways to share your information on Twitter; however, many businesses make the mistake of using multiple hashtags interchangeably instead of focusing their efforts on branding one.  Do your research! Choose a hashtag that isn’t already being used by another business and then use it consistently in your posts on social media and your marketing materials everywhere else. (Learn more about hashtag faux pas that should be avoided!)

Talking at their audience instead of listening and talking with them
When connecting with your audience through Twitter, you want to be sure your content comes across relatable and genuine. Don’t expect people to favorite, retweet or reply to a post if you don’t engage them. Remember the “What’s in it for me?” that people inherently want to find when reading content.  Post content that will spark a conversation rather than talking at them.  And when you do get a comment or share, be responsive! Aim to reply within the hour so that the conversation doesn’t go stale.

Letting their account sit stagnant

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on social media, especially with Twitter, is allowing your account to sit stagnant (i.e. going days or longer without posting fresh content). If you’re not interacting on a regular basis on Twitter, it sends the message that you’re not open for business or on top of your game. You wouldn’t open a new storefront and leave it sit vacant, right?  So when using your business Twitter account remember it’s a commitment to be present, reply, show interest, and interact!

Not formatting posts specifically for Twitter

What makes Twitter unique (and at times frustrating) is its limit of 140 characters per post. The intent is to encourage quick and concise sharing of information. For businesses using multiple social media platforms, this means you need to stop, think and format your posts specifically for Twitter as opposed to posting the same content you would on Facebook across every other social media site you use. Furthermore, you should be using hashtags and tagging fellow Twitter accounts, as appropriate, which is all the more reason to make your Twitter posts unique to this platform.

Being too “salesy” with Tweets

So often businesses think effective marketing is bombarding their audience with a hard sales pitch. While having a clear call to action is certainly a good thing, being too “salesy” will only turn off your customer base and cause your network to eventually tune you out completely. Instead, keep your brand top of mind and establish value by sharing helpful hints or information within your area of expertise. This will help you build both trust and a bigger following. The direct sales will result after you first put in the time to connect with your audience!

How have you navigated your small business strategy on Twitter? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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