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Archive for the ‘Business Growth’ Category

A few weeks ago, I attended Idaho Startup Weekend. Startup weekend is a 54-hour adventure where teams of technical and non-technical people get together to concept and build new businesses. These weekends are held in over 100 cities throughout the world. Although most of the business concepts are web and technology-focused, it occurred to me, many existing small businesses could benefit from a similar exercise. 

Two key Startup Weekend “learnings” for already-formed small businesses:  

1)      You can do a LOT in 54 hours (or even 24 hours). Take one weekend, gather the best and brightest people you know from various fields, and focus on your business and business growth.  When a smart group of people focus on one problem/challenge (food and beverages add to the fun) for a defined set of time, amazing things can be accomplished.

2)      Don’t be afraid to QUICKLY reach out (and I mean “real time” quickly) to more experts. For our start-up weekend team, we needed a mobile application developer and a graphic artist. We sent out requests via twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, plus made a few phone calls. Within minutes (no exaggeration) we had resources available. If you get to a point in your weekend work session where you have a legal, financial, technical, marketing, or other question…have everyone tap their networks. Resources are out there, and they are actually quite willing to help. There is a camaraderie and community built within these types of exercises. 

Lastly, this is somewhat obvious, but worth stating– remember to end your weekend session with an action plan or at a minimum “next steps.” It’s easy to be excited and motivated after a focused period of planning and teamwork; it’s harder to maintain the momentum when everyone goes back to their day-to-day routines. 

10 minute action

Obviously, a weekend session (dare I call it a retreat?) requires more than 10 minutes. But, take 10 minutes to think if this type of exercise would help you in growing your business or overcoming a current business challenge.

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I was just checking my email at the GoDaddy.com site and came across Bob Parson’s “16 rules for success in business and life in general” (Bob is CEO and Founder of GoDaddy.com, and has also founded many successful software companies).  Check it out…I think it’s a good reminder, plus I always like being encouraged by other entrepreneurs.

Here are the 2 things that resonated with me during my 5 minutes on the site:

1) Rule #8 Be Quick to Decide — “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow” (General George S. Patton). 

Do you agree?

2) The GoDaddy.com site brings to life the company’s brand personality;  I recall when I set up my account with them, the customer service representative and tech support folks, also had the same sense of entrepreneurial spirit, urgency, and fun, all without taking themselves too seriously. It’s a good example of a company embracing their brand. (per our last blog post)

Have a great day. Happy Selling!

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Yes, I did. 

In a recent ClickZ article by Sage Lewis, Sage shares the message he heard David Meerman Scott deliver during the Incisive Media’s SES NY keynote address. Read the article if you get a chance, it has a great example that brings this message to life. 

And the message is: customers don’t care about your product; they care about what other customers think of your product. Think about your own recent purchases. Did you check an online review, read customer comments or ask a trusted friend or colleague for a recommendation? In the past couple weeks (beyond the basics of groceries and gas) about 80% of my professional and personal purchases have been influenced by some type of online review or personal reference. When you consider the amount of information available at our fingertips, it makes sense that we are regularly incorporating other people’s opinions in to the decision making process. 

An interesting example of this happened to me last week. I was investigating companies who offer pet health insurance. In Google, I searched for reviews on each company and this was the first thing that came up: 

This is the second time I have reviewed this company. I am excited to say that I have been pleased with some of the changes they have implemented. Initially I gave them a low score of 2. This was heavily influenced by claims processing time exceeding what was listed on their site. I also thought that I would not be doing business with them even a year later. So, what’s changed my mind? These things …If they continue on like this, I have every confidence I will be a happy customer for the life of my pets”

Wow. From this one review, I now have an impression of the company–a company that listens to their customers and makes improvements accordingly. This is a lot more powerful that if I had gone on the company’s website and read “We listen to our customers.”

There are steps you can take to ensure your customers’ find validation for choosing you and your products/services. 

1) Identify happy customers and ask them to be a published and/or personal reference for your company and your products. Get a quote/customer case study you can publish on your website and use in other marketing assets, like brochures and public relations. Consider obtaining approval for prospects to contact this happy customer for recommendations (usually you only do this if you have a higher priced offering like a client/agency relationship, business software solution, plastic surgery, etc). And of course, never publish someone’s recommendation or contact information without their permission.
2) Build an area on your website for conversation/reviews. It will help close business. I just purchased a dog house kit online (yes, we have an animal thing going on in my household this month). The “official” product description said it required 20 minutes to assemble, but in the “review this product” section, reviewers said it “took 45 minutes to assemble and the product quality was great.” I purchased the product because I felt I had an honest evaluation of the product–what the company said PLUS what actual customers had to say.
3) Develop a process for listening to your customers on a regular basis. You want to know what customers are saying about your company, both on your website and on the internet. In the online social media course I have been taking, John Jansch refers to this as a “listening station.” This will be the topic of my next blog post.
4) Most importantly, respond to feedback, both good and bad. A customer says something good about you, thank them. A customer has constructive feedback, or is just plain upset, listen and correct as much as possible. And, if a customer has a new need or challenge, seek to understand it and see if you can help—it just might be your next product extension, or up-sell opportunity. 

10 minute action:

1. Identify the current ways you are listening to your customers
2. Identify a new way to listen to your customers, then do it (or email me if you need suggestions on how to do it)
3. Call a happy customer, see how they are doing, ask for a recommendation/quote/story

 

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I’ve been doing some networking in my local community.  At the second half of this post, I’ll share my experience, but first let’s talk about you.

WHY NETWORK?

You will meet interesting people who can help you meet your personal and professional goals, you will help other people meet their professional and personal goals, and you might make a new social contact.

How do you start networking? (or how should you start networking again?):

First, decide what your goal is. Do you want to grow your business, learn something new, change industries, build awareness for a cause, connect with new people in a similar profession/industry?

Second, call or email a couple of people who might have suggestions for new people you can meet. Don’t forget to catch up with the people you contact. They are probably glad to hear from you, and you may be able to help them with their own networking.

Third, consider attending a meeting or event that is of interest to you. Don’t force yourself to go to a function that is not of interest. Your time is valuable, and networking should not be a horrible chore, but rather something where you enjoy yourself, learn something new and hopefully move a step further to meeting your goal.

So, regarding my personal networking…

Over the past 6 weeks, I have sent a couple dozen, short emails, arranged 5 coffee meetings, and attended one industry meeting. Over the course of these interactions, I have

1) Learned about 6 community organizations that might be helpful to me professionally and personally. And, I have received personal invitations to attend 4 of these organization’s events.
2) I have introduced 2 colleagues to 2 of my new contacts. Networking works both ways which makes it all the more interesting.
3) I have learned about 8 new, cool technologies and marketing tools (which is my business;  you will learn about things related to your industry when you network)
4) I’ve added 15 people to my Linked In network
5) I’ve already run in to some of my new professional contacts in my personal, social circle. Small world.

The past 6 weeks has reminded me how important networking is for both personal and professional growth (not to mention, it might add a couple new business opportunities!) 

10 minute action:

1. Determine your objective for networking.
2. Take action. Make a call, invite someone to coffee, attend an industry meeting or event.

 

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