Category Archives: Strategic Planning and Development

How to Manage your Feedback Funnel (and increase clientele)

wordle-view-of-workshop-feedbackDo evaluations of your products, events and “presentations” get high ratings? Can you prove it? Specifically – do you have a “written” record of this positive feedback?

If you are a business or a non-profit organization, public and private agencies may rank you. If you are a consultant, the organizations you work with may have this data on record. However, in either case, unless you help create the evaluation tool and have open access to the results, you probably aren’t maximizing the benefit of client and participant feedback.

With Constant Contact’s online survey tool, you (or I) can design a survey campaign through email and social media to help you get that valuable feedback for your business.

Increase Your Clientele. Conduct A Survey.

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10 WAYS TO GET CLIENTS IN 10 MINUTES

The following is one of many great resources from GetClientsNow!(TM):

“Does it seem like you can never find the time to market for more clients? It’s hard to find open hours in the middle of a busy week. But not every marketing task requires big chunks of time. Here are ten productive things you can do to get more clients when you have just ten minutes.

1. Place a call. Which of your past clients have been totally happy with your work over the past couple of years? Think of one you haven’t been in touch with recently. Call to see how he or she is doing. When your fans are reminded of your good work, new projects and referrals often ensue.

2. Send an email. Who has referred you the best client over the last year? Send an email to express your continuing thanks. Showing your appreciation to referral sources frequently results in more referrals.

3. Make a date. Think of a prospect or referral source you have always wanted to know better. Contact that person and make a date to have coffee or chat by phone. Informal conversations deepen relationships and build trust.

4. Expand your network. Log on to your social media channel of choice, and choose a colleague you think of as well-connected. View that friend’s connections. Send connection requests, or follow, every one of those people you recognize. More people in your network means more potential prospects.

5. Review your image. Browse through your website or social media profile with a critical eye. View each section as if you were someone visiting for the first time. Note any areas you think could improve and schedule time to make some changes. First impressions make a difference to surfing prospects.

6. Examine your contacts. Scan your contact database seeking anyone who might be a prospect that you haven’t made contact with in the last 30 days. Reach out to that person with a personal call or note. People who already know you are more likely to become clients than new, cold contacts.

7. Send an article. What’s the last article you read that might be helpful to some of your prospects? Email them with a link to it or mail them a copy. When prospects perceive you as a helpful resource, you gain their confidence.

8. Follow up a meeting. What was the last meeting you attended where you collected business cards? Did you follow up with those people? Find the stack of cards and send one or two a nice-to-meet-you note. Repeated contact helps people to remember you.

9. Touch your network. Visit your favorite social network and peruse recent posts by the prospects and referral sources you’re connected to. Post some likes and replies about what they’re saying. Relationships build when communication is two-way.

10. Find a referral partner. Think of occupations who naturally come in contact with your ideal clients. Then consider who you already know in any of those occupations. Send a quick note to suggest you talk about becoming referral sources for each other.

Marketing projects don’t have to consume your whole day. You can chip away at them a bit at a time, whenever you have a few moments. Keep this list handy on your smartphone or by your computer. The next time you’ve got ten minutes to kill, use it to find clients instead.”

Copyright © 2012, C.J. Hayden

 

Your “Secret” to New Year Resolution Success

The “secret” to success with your New Year resolutions is …… START NOW.
(You are probably already considering the things you want to do and change in 2013…am I right?)

startWell, by deciding now and waiting until later to get started, you are building on a foundation of procrastination…and setting yourself up for further delays in the achievement of your goals.

The key is to start now! “Striking while the iron is hot” – so to speak – by constructing a plan that will start immediately to (at least gradually) build to direct daily and weekly ACTIONS that will promote your goal achievement.

Here are some quick tips to help you on your way…

1) Start now – Plan your reward. Few things motivate like the promise of a reward. What’s even better?!? You can offer yourself a reward for even the “smallest” of accomplishments. Start now and consider how you will reward yourself TODAY for getting started.

2) Start now – Write it down, draw a picture, “pin” an interest…something. Take the proactive step of making your goal real by creating a visual impression of your “finish line” and anything you want and need to make it a reality.

3) Start now – Handle your business. This might mean waking up little earlier, taking shorter breaks during the day, or getting to bed a little later. (I advise against planning for all three at once…can you say “burn out”?!?). Identifying time is key component in your success. You can’t “make” time (we all have the same 24 hours a day), but you can prioritize your time. This may mean letting something go for a season, but you can strike a balance. Aligning your goals and action plans with the support of a good Coach can really help with this. (I’m accepting new coaching clients, by the way. Feel free to contact me, if you’re interested.)

4) Start now – Consider ways to track and measure your progress. Some measurements will be basic math. Others may be more subjective – but NO LESS VALUABLE or measurable. Say, you have a personal resolution to get healthier. You can track weight loss and muscle gain with scales that give you direct quantifiable results of your work. However, your success with your goal to get more rest and take time to indulge in mental health activities will only be measured by how you feel—which is unique and subjective – but measurable, nonetheless. Likewise, a professional goal to become a “better speaker” can very well be facilitated by specific action steps, with the results being numerically measured (increased # of booked speaking engagements, evaluation scores, or  number of closed sales after presentations) and/or subjectively assessed (“I feel more comfortable speaking about my products or services than I did a month ago.”)

5) Start now – Encourage yourself. Starting the journey toward a new venture, a changed habit, or simply a renewed focus, can be daunting, but is almost always worth the effort. No matter the final outcome, you grow stronger, smarter, and more confident from the effort you apply.

6) START NOW!

Best Wishes for a strong finish of 2012 and A productive launch into 2013,

Alexis

Why You Need a Small Business Management Consultant

Article shared in it’s entirety from “The Raymond Aaron Group”: http://aaron.com/2012/04/25/why-you-need-a-small-business-management-consultant/

Why You Need a Small Business Management Consultant

For most people, owning your own business sounds like a dream come true. You get to be your own boss, choose your hours, and make all the important decisions about how you’ll allocate your resources. That’s how it sounds…

Any real business owner knows the truth. That running a small business is much more complicated, time-consuming, and challenging that most people make it out to be. Even worse, running a small business is often less profitable than those on the outside believe.

That vast majority of small business owners earn a salary of exactly how much is left in their bank account after paying all of the expenses. At the end of some months, that may amount to a nice living. On others, well, it’s not a pretty picture.

With out proper planning and management, those margins can easily go negative. Quite honesty, that’s exactly how most small businesses go under.

Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind

Now it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no reason why your business has to live month-to-month with no real guiding philosophy or mission. Here’s the secret: Running a successful business is not rocket science. Nearly anyone can do it.

Surly you’ve met some at least one successful business owner that you were certain that you were smarter than. You probably wondered, “How can this mental midget run a successful company, while I can barely stay employed?”

Frankly, I don’t know how your acquaintance does it — maybe he or she inherited the business.

What I do know is how I manage to do it. And trust me, I’m no brain surgeon. So what’s my secret? It’s simple: I rely on management consultants. Most business owners do. That’s why they’re still in business.

The way I see it, who needs a prepared mind, when I can rent one at a very reasonable cost? It’s the opportunity that I’m seeking, after all, I’m not trying to earn an MBA. Right?

Building a relationship with a good management is often the difference between a flourishing business and a dream that went splat.

Making you into a Manager

Most entrepreneurs jump into a business with big ideas and lots of optimism. Typically, it’s not enthusiasm that we lack, it’s discipline… and probably foresight too. I mean, why else would we have been so enthusiastic about starting a business? Just kidding.

That’s why it’s so important to seek wise council. A good small business management consultant can help you craft a plan that set realistic goals and benchmarks. A management consultant will plan for setbacks, refunds, and unexpected costs that an inexperienced business owner wouldn’t foresee or know to plan for.

More often than not, it’s not the product that drops a business dead in its tracks. It’s unexpected costs and unexpected revenue hiccups during the growth process. These are exactly the reasons most small business owners need a management consultant.

You can’t do it all yourself, so stop pretending that you can be all things to all people all the time. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you don’t score 100% in every aspect of management.

Believing that you somehow aced the management test is a sure sign that you’re in over your head. If you want your organization to grow, you can’t approach ever challenge alone. It’s a trap that you don’t want to find yourself in, trust me. If at no other times at all, every successful business needs management consulting during two phases.

Start-up and No Man’s Land

These are two of the most often written about stages of business development, but for very different reasons.

Most entrepreneurs love to fantasize about the start-up phase, mainly because it seems like the sky’s the limit and there are few if any limitations on where your business might be able to go. It’s an exciting time in the life of a business because it’s’ where you put your concept into action, finally getting real world feedback.

Obviously, start-up is also the time in which planning is absolutely essential. This includes staffing, strategic partnerships, and financial forecasts.

For any right-brained idea-man, or idea-woman, who’s launched a start-up, it becomes immediately apparent that you’re in over your head. If you’re overly meticulous, you may find yourself completely bogged down in routine tasks, never having enough time to develop new strategies and processes.

In either case, the clock is ticking and you’ll soon find out if you can hack it all by yourself…

Or you can do the smart thing and hire someone to teach you to become a better manager. Business management consulting is a great way to elevate your game quickly, by outsourcing the learning curve to someone who’s already been there and done that.

No Man’s Land is an entirely different story. Just as the name implies, this stage in the growth of a business is not so fun or exciting. It’s the point at which you business has grown large enough to no long be considered “small,” but is far from being “big” either.

No Man’s Land is the point at which you have to scale up and go big, or else begin to atrophy. In many ways, it’s a lot like the start-up phase, without all the illusions that made it so thrilling.

Because it involves even more fundraising, organizational efficiency, and staffing, No Man’s Land is where a business management consultant becomes no longer necessary, but mandatory.

Creating the Business You Want to Run

The best part about a good business management consultant is that they become an asset, rather than a cost. The changes they suggest should make you money, or at the very least free up time or money that can be better leveraged elsewhere.

After a basic, surface level analysis, it’s easy for any veteran consultant to spot the weaknesses in your market position. I hate to burst your bubble, but they’re there, even if you can’t see them.

A consultant should be able to analyze the marketplace your business operates in and offer up suggestions that will put your business in a better competitive position.

With better positioning, you company will become more marketable. With redundancies and other bottlenecks eliminated, your business will reduce costs, increase production, and become more profitable.

That’s why I always tell people that a good small business management consultant is a business asset. Rather than costing you money, a good consultant will make you money. Over the long run they’re advice will be worth exponentially more than it cost to acquire it.

With the right management and guidance, your company can become a mission driven machine that runs smoothly and rallies around the cause or purpose you initially envisioned. Businesses that are built to deliver on a clear purpose or goal are actually much easier to grow and maintain than a hastily cobbled together organization.

It’s really not all that surprising, when you think about it. Many of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world, the Apples, the Nordstroms, the Whole Foods, etc. are also the most inspiringly single-minded.

That’s the kind of business you originally wanted to own anyway.

Article shared in it’s entirety from “The Raymond Aaron Group”: http://aaron.com/2012/04/25/why-you-need-a-small-business-management-consultant/

Scared Money?

Have you heard the expression: “scared money, don’t make money”? Aside from the broken English…this is true.

Even in the poker dictionary (referenced because of the “strategy”  involved with success in both poker and business), the term “scared money” has to do with a player whose lack of confidence allows him/her to be bullied out of their winnings.

In today’s economy, we have an upsurge of professionals who are moving out of corporate America and into their own home offices for various reasons.  Ideally, this new framework will allow  a peaceful existence where every honest and skilled business person will flourish.  However, as with any grouping of people, we  must contend with the “wolves” and “sheep” among the bunch.  Figuratively speaking, wolves will prey, sheep will be preyed upon, and those in the middle will be shadowed by the dust cloud of poor business management and the resulting “scared money” practices that will lurch forward by those who’ve been prey upon.

This means that in order to be successful, you have to understand your strength and exhibit your confidence in both your services and your business management savvy….or else fall victim to those who(maliciously or not) place your payment very low on their priority list.

Unfortunately, this happens most often when a project was informally launched (no contract), has already been completed, and the “promise” of more work (for you, from the client) has been conversationally introduced to the realm of your decision making.

Here’s the bottom line as I see it: Work without pay is called volunteering.

Volunteering is a GREAT thing and sincere pro-bono work within your field of expertise can materialize into significant and well-suited paid opportunities. I advocate and encourage such community-focused and strategic steps when it comes to growing your business and increasing your professional skill/experience-based value.

The key is make you volunteer work, clear…and your paid work, even more so.

At all costs, formalize your contractual work with written agreements that highlight payment and deliverable requirements; and be sure to manage your invoicing with a process that is transparent and unbiased. Good clients will see this as a “plus”, appreciate your professionalism, and recognize that the documentation protects them, too. (Clients reluctant to do so, warrant a “side-eye” … see my previous post on recognizing good client potential)

That said, once you have secured the contract, provided the project, and sent a timely invoice and report.  Get paid.

Resist the inclination to be fearful or lackadaisical in collecting payments for the sake of hoping to “earn” more business. Remember that successful business operations are facilitated with shared respect by all parties.   You may have to “work it out” by being communicative and open to slightly adjusted payment arrangements, but by all means… have the conversation, provide the documentation, and insist upon due payment.

Here is an article from USA Today on cutting costs resulting from deadbeat clients you might enjoy.

Feedback, testimonies, and tips are always welcome.

Until next time…..

Bartering: Bettering Businesses or Breaking Backs?

Do you barter your business services?  I’m not talking about the informal “help” that we offer each other.  I mean, have you met with a fellow business owner and formally agreed to exchange services instead of payments?

Over coffee this morning, I flipped through an old edition of Entrepreneur magazine and came across a quick list of tips for low cost marketing.  The last item on this list was a brief suggestion to consider bartering as a means of increasing your credibility (with a successful project completion), building networks, getting referrals and getting things checked off of your own business development “to-do” list.

My question:  Does this really work?  I tried once but found that (in that case) it wasn’t a good fit.  At the end of the day, projects that were paying bills (literally) took priority for both parties and ultimately we revisited the idea, making a decision to revert to our friendly “help” when possible and paying for services when rendered.

Have you tested the bartering waters?  Do you recommend the attempt?  What was your experience?  (For those considering bartering in your business, check out this list of “Nine Effective Bartering Tips” from Forbes Magazine.)

Six Quick-Hit Marketing Ideas

One of my favorite online marketing resources to share is ConstantContact, so I was happy to see that ConstantContact CEO Gail Goodman has offered her expertise with Six Quick-Hit Marketing Ideas for Social Media” via a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article.  Below is a quick excerpt and the link to her full article.  Thank you, Gail.

From the full article: “In this age of hyper-speed marketing, it’s most likely time that you start adding ‘mini campaigns’ to your year-long marketing plans. Think of these as quick hits that fill in the gaps between your major marketing efforts. Here are six examples of ways to spice up your year-long marketing campaign without investing a lot of time and resources:”

1. Respond to Current Events — Engage customers over social media by sparking dialog around news or events that relate to your field or industry.

2. Introduce a New Product or Service — Enhancements to your business provide ample reasons to reach out to customers with mini marketing bursts.

3. Invite Customers to a Special Promotion, Demonstration or Event — You don’t have to plan months in advance to invite customers to a product demonstration, open house or another impromptu event.

4. Share a New Company or Customer Video — Producing video can be fun, easy and, most importantly, engaging.

5. Give Thanks in a Customer Appreciation Message — It never hurts to tell customers, “We just wanted to thank you.”

6. Offer a Free Report, Tips or Other Timely Information — You don’t always have to ask customers for their business. Sometimes, you’ll want to give back.

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About the Author: Gail Goodman is the CEO of Constant Contact, a Web-based provider of email marketing, social media marketing, event marketing and online survey tools for small businesses. She’s also a recognized small-business expert and speaker.