Monthly Archives: March 2008

Less Rah Rah… More Ah-Ha

Many distributorship businesses miss the point when it comes to rallying the troops. They spend much time on “motivation”, but miss teaching critical concepts which would, by their empowering nature, inspire people with the idea that they could succeed with much more convincing effect than mere motivational speeches.

All the rah rah in the world won’t teach a scared newbie how to market. It won’t help them understand that there are marketing tactics which they can successfully do, if they have the desire to do them. The cheerleaders simply cannot bounce a team to victory unless the team has had useful training in how to actually win. All the enthusiasm they pass on to the players does not mean a thing if the players are confused about what to do, or if they are doing the wrong things.

I’ve spoken with people who had businesses that they did not know how to promote. One good practical brainstorm session, with a few key concepts explained, had them so excited to go try it that no cheerleading was needed!

I simply helped them understand what worked, and why. And what didn’t work, and why.

Once they understood that, and could see what their choices really were, they picked out things they could do and ran with it. Most people WANT to succeed. They need help knowing WHAT to do, and HOW, more than they need told that they CAN. Because when they truly understand the what and the how, they KNOW they can.

Forget abstract motivational speeches from people who are in positions far removed from that of the average business startup. Give them instead, empowerment through understanding how to succeed. And then, they will succeed.

Keys to Successful Offline Networking

Offline networking has the powerful advantage of face-to-face opportunity. Compared with online networking, offline networking has the potential to be faster, and more effective.

It still takes time. The critical factor of networking is always building relationships. And that is something that just cannot be hurried.

I’ve heard people tell me they joined a Chamber of Commerce so they could gain marketing benefits. Then they quit it, because it didn’t do their business any good. When asked what they did with their membership, they say they did nothing.  No wonder it didn’t work!

Our local chambers have been some of our most powerful marketing dollars. We get contracts from them. But we don’t just sit around waiting for referrals.

We got to know the chamber leadership. We made ourselves useful to them – offered small things free. We attend Business After Hours, we volunteer to teach classes. We get out of our own comfort zone, and shake hands when we’d really rather stand in the corner.

We set up a booth at local events. We make sure we leave people with something, even if it is only a business card.

Twice, we’ve gone beating the streets, dropping cards and brochures at local businesses.

We’ve taught classes through the University Enrichment Program. And we’ve done other things to develop a local reputation.

I also attend local Women’s Roundtable meetings once a month – I didn’t just go once, I keep going. And I keep introducing myself.

Offline networking is very powerful once you get the hang of it. It is really about two things:

  1. Meeting people and getting to know them. You develop relationships with people, and become friends. It takes time to get past the initial suspicion in networking circles – they won’t trust you as a friend until they know for sure that there is more to you than an advertising tagline.
  2. Let them know what you do – not in a pushy way, but matter of fact. “Hi, I’m Laura, I am co-owner of Firelight Web Studio.” My business is part of who I am, so I just include it when I say my name. I wear a nametag – a custom one, not handwritten – that also announces my name. When I leave someone with something, it has my name on it also, and my company name. My business is part of me, and I want them to think of it along with me. I don’t get obnoxious about it, it is like the sig line at the bottom of an email – it is just THERE, if you choose to pay attention, but I don’t beat them over the head with it.

Over time, as you KEEP showing up, and keep doing things, it sinks in. You become part of the fabric of the business community. That takes repeat appearances though.

There are a HUGE number of companies that come and go. They show up, and then disappear. People do not remember them, and networking circles go right on without them. So when you show up for the first time, people welcome you, and then promptly forget about you. They’ll dismiss you completely and not even consider you, even if they have that very need the next week.

Why do they do that, when you just told them what a new and neat thing you do?

Because you have not proven yourself. They won’t take you seriously until you do! You have to KEEP showing up. You have to be there, with a smart answer, whenever they have a question. You have to show up where they think you ought to be more often than you are absent. THEN they remember you. Then they know you take your business seriously, and they’ll admit you to the circle of “real businesses”. If you don’t do that, they won’t bother – because they can see that you don’t bother.

Half of networking offline is BEING there. And this is the real advantage over online networking. You can visit a forum and be a lurker, and nobody will ever know you are there. If you just SHOW UP at a networking function, someone will eventually notice you, and introduce themselves. Just by being there each time, you gain ground, and learn to make it work. Pretty cool!

Find a networking venue. And then BE THERE!

Surviving a Recession

We aren’t sure if it is coming. We do know that if it does, it will affect a huge number of businesses, large and small. What do you do if it does come? How will you know if it is here, and if you are one of the businesses whom it will affect?

First, assess your business from a customer standpoint.

Do you sell a luxury, or a necessity?

Is your item high end, or low end?

Is the value of what you sell truly solid?  MLM products are not – they are priced high to allow for complex compensation.

High end products often fall in sales during hard times. So do luxury items. Items that people can put off for a year, usually get put off for a year. People still buy, but they buy more conservatively.

The next thing is to assess some other potentials:

Does your product or service offer a potential income source? If so, it may actually gain ground if it is a good potential.

Does your service enhance business success? This can go either way – when businesses are in a pinch, they will look more to do-it-yourself options, or lower end solutions, but they may feel a stronger need to compete.

If a recession comes, you’ll need to be looking at the possible outcomes within your own business. You’ll need to understand the mindset of your own customers in regard to your product or service.

Watch your site traffic and business trends. Make sure you account for seasonal trends as well, but if your business slumps at a time when it usually would not, for a period of more than two months, it may be time to call in a pro to help you devise some strategies for recovery.

It is more affordable, and easier to compensate early on. The businesses that fail will be the ones that do not recognize when they are sliding into trouble, or who do not respond in an effective manner once they realize they are there. Plenty of businesses will fail. Yours might as well be one that succeeds.

Keys to Successful Online Networking

Successful online networking requires two things:

  1. Time – that is, you have to do it for a while before you see results.
  2. Time – that is, you have to take the time TO do it on a regular basis!

In addition to patiently doing it, you have to do the right things. The wrong things get you ignored, insulted, and potentially in court!

The right things include:

  • Be nice. Just be friendly, and be yourself. That is the best way to make friends.
  • Write regularly. People remember the names they see often.
  • Be helpful. Find ways to offer help on little things.
  • Be considerate. Reply to messages, say thank you about compliments, make compliments that are sincere.
  • Give something of value. Write a tip, share a great find, tell a clean joke.
  • Drop a signature line. Leave a signature line with a URL at the end of every post. Keep it short and sweet, or nobody will read it.
  • Choose the forums for the right reasons – professional forums for professional learning, help forums to gain clients.

Along with DOING the right things, you have to avoid doing the wrong things:

  • Don’t advertise. Nobody likes a hit and run forum poster who is only out for themselves.
  • Don’t be pushy and reply to a request for help with “I sell this, come hire me.”, or any variation thereof!
  • If someone asks for the service you offer, reply OFF list, not on list!
  • Don’t break the rules. Forum rules are no joke, you’ll get kicked off it you are inconsiderate about them.
  • Don’t expect clients from your first few visits. You have to stick it out before people take you seriously.
  • Don’t be a lurker. It won’t do you any good if nobody knows you are there.
  • Don’t be rude – you never know who is reading what you write. Even if you think you are right, or even if the other guy is rude, you’ll put people off and ruin your reputation.

Online networking is all about relationships, and those relationships are developed through writing – no writing, no relationships! If you feel that you do not write well, then get in there and start trying. I promise you, it gets better with practice, and any sincere effort is better than no effort at all.

It takes longer to develop relationships online than it does offline. The advantage is, you can do it on your own time. You don’t have to show up on someone else’s schedule, you can network in your pajamas at 11:30 at night, and nobody cares!

People want to do business with people they like, and trust. In order to BE liked, and BE trusted, you have to be nice, and you have to be consistent. Those things are absolutely achievable by anyone who is smart and has a heart.

Get in there, and start writing something – make your voice heard!

What is Networking, Really?

Networking is a buzzword that gets a lot of attention, because it is so frequently misunderstood.

Internet marketers have grasped this concept, stripped the essential concepts from it, and are now passing it off as a “fast and easy” means of promoting scams. Their interpretation of networking means spamming forums, and submitting  blog comment spam, or using other social internet venues to push a purely marketing message.

That isn’t how it works. People seem to think that there is a shortcut to it though, which truly separates the pros from the impatient newbies. Those who work it successfully know there is no shortcut, and that there really isn’t a secret to it. Rather, the key to success with networking is nothing more than following age-old rules for gaining a good reputation:

  1. Be yourself – really yourself. Your BETTER self. Put aside your impatience, and just learn to enjoy being there, and find people you like.
  2. Take an interest in other people. They call it “social” networking, because it revolves around society and social rules – the same ones that gain a person a good reputation in person. No one likes a selfish person.
  3. Be helpful and kind. People want to do business with people they like, and they like people who help them. Find little ways to be considerate and to help where you can without giving away your business. There are always ways!
  4. Make sure they know WHO you are, and WHAT you do. Not by being pushy, but by always dropping a signature line so that no matter when someone wants to know, it is always there.
  5. Don’t advertise. Find ways to show your credibility that do not involve advertising. When someone asks for a service, answer them off the forum, and be polite about it.
  6. Follow the rules! Most forums and venues have rules about ads, and they define ads as anything that exists for no other purpose than to promote your interests.
  7. Choose your venues for the right purpose. If you are there to LEARN, then don’t expect to gain clients directly from it. If you want to gain clients, then find a forum where a high number of your prospects are likely to hang out.
  8. Many benefits are abstract, and ALL take time to build. When they do build though, they gain tremendous power.

Networking is the process of building associates, getting to know people, developing a reputation as a person of integrity. There is no shortcut for that. You have to get out there, get known, and be the kind of person that others want to turn to in a time of need. If they trust you to keep their interests at the fore, they’ll come to you first.

You just can’t rush it. Networking isn’t a bulldozer that sweeps all before it. It is more like needlepoint – painstaking at time, routine at others, but if you keep doing it consistently and neatly, over and over, eventually a pattern develops that is impressive and awe-inspiring.

It is all about relationships. And those take time to form.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.