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A to Z of Networking: Part 4 – S to Z

Well, the wait is over!  Here’s the fourth and final instalment of my A to Z of networking where we’ll look at the letters S through to Z.  Grab a cuppa, pop your phone on silent and enjoy the read.

S is for Sixty Seconds

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been networking: you may be a seasoned pro or you may be a complete new beginner but most of us, at some time or other, have dreaded the Sixty Second Elevator Pitch. 

Let’s assume you attend a weekly breakfast meeting.  Every week, you get the opportunity to make an impact in 60 seconds.  Over the course of the year (give or take holidays) this adds up to approx. 48 minutes to talk about your business.  So why do so many of us get it wrong, week after week?

Plan ahead.  What messages do you want to convey to your audience week on week?  Concentrate on the elements of your business you enjoy doing (or what generates more income).  Rehearse what you plan to say.  If it helps, write it down and read it – there’s absolutely no shame in that.  And please, please don’t waste time by peppering your 60 seconds with umms, arrs and errs. 

Finally – 60 seconds is a target, not a challenge to exceed.  Which brings us nicely on to ……

T is for Timekeeping

Apart from the obvious (turn up on time!) one sure-fire way to lose your audience is to keep delivering your elevator pitch long after the timer has indicated it’s time for you to sit down.  As soon as you hear the timer, wind down what you’re saying and sit down – it’s someone else’s turn now.   Everyone gets the same amount of time.  What makes you so special to think that the timer doesn’t apply to you and is free reign to just carry on talking.  And talking.  And talking. 

At best, it’s just arrogant.  Please be respectful and stick to the allotted time. 

U is for Understand

Are you conveying the right messages to your audience?  Over the years, I’ve met dozens of fellow business owners who have quite literally scared me off using their services.  Week after week, I’ve sat through their 60 seconds listening to how they’ve been training household (sometimes global) brands, or how their clients include rock stars, glamourous locations and contracts worth multi-thousands of pounds.  It all sounds fabulous, doesn’t it – but as a solo business owner my brain immediately tells me that I’ll never be able to afford these guys, so I switch off.   

If your audience is a room full of micro-business owners, tailor your message to their needs.  The whole idea of your elevator pitch is to make your business/service desirable and problem solving for your potential customers.  Dropping household names, endless transatlantic flights and high-end contracts into your pitch could have your audience questioning (a) whether they could ever afford you, and (b) what on earth are you doing in the room if you have a tranche of global household names on your client list. 

Moving on ……

V is for Voice

Room sizes, like audiences, vary.  Larger groups will have background noise, several clusters of people all having different conversations, and you can guarantee that there will be some who insist on whispering (at best) to the person next to them during the 60 second section of the meeting. 

Try to speak clearly and project.  You may need to raise your voice and talk over distractions and interruptions.  It’s not easy so don’t be afraid to practice: in the bathroom, in the car.  If it helps, you may want to use your smartphone to record yourself and listen back to how you sound.   

Remember to leave pauses every so often for impact.  Silence can be a great way to get your audience listening. 

W is for Welcoming

One of the most terrifying things for many when it comes to networking is that first visit.  That first time of walking over the threshold and saying hello to a room of entire strangers. 

Don’t leave newbies lurking in the doorway, looking like they want to be invisible.  Welcome them, introduce them, show them where the coffee is, explain the format of the next couple of hours.  Some groups even have designated ambassadors for visitors and new members.

When it comes to sitting down for the business of the meeting, make sure any newbies or visitors are sat with experienced, established members of the group and that they get the opportunity to feel part of the group.

There’s nothing worse than feedback from visitors saying that they found the group cliquey or that nobody spoke to them for ten minutes after their arrival.

We were all newbies once – be mindful, be kind, be welcoming.

X is for eXtrovert

Every group has its extroverts – maybe you’re one of them?  Can you use that trait to stand out from the crowd – in a good way?  Are you brave enough to deliver your 60 seconds in verse, or even sing it to the room?  Would you turn up in fancy dress to get your point across or reinforce your brand message? 

I’ll leave that one with you ….. but feel free to share your results and reactions!

Y is for Your Business

Your business is the reason you are doing all of this damned networking in the first place, so please don’t waste the opportunity to talk about it, and promote what you do.  With balance!

As we’ve already learned, you can gain a lot from listening.  Listen to how others in the room could potentially benefit your business, not just as a client but maybe there’s affiliations and associations to be formed. 

Look after your business, and your business will look after you. 

Z is for Zoning Out

There’s nothing more off-putting than having someone in the room who is so disengaged they may as well not be there at all.

A good presenter can spot a stifled yawn from a mile away.  Show some respect, pay attention, engage and enlighten – it sure beats slumping in your chair, checking your phone, clock watching and zoning out.

Well, that brings us to the end of our A to Z of Networking.  I’d love to hear what points you’ve taken away from this series of blogs that you can now put into practice with your own networking. 

Finally, I’d like to give a big heads-up to the networking groups I’m involved in:-

Burntwood inBusiness Networking

Business B4 Work (Tamworth area)

WiRE – Women in Rural Enterprise (National organisation)

Love Ladies Business Group (Midlands)

Thanks for reading – now go forth and network! 

A to Z of Networking Part 1

A to Z of Networking Part 2

A to Z of Networking Part 3

A to Z of Networking: Part 3 – M to R

As we reach the midway point of our A to Z (unless your alphabet of choice is Khmer – Google it!) we take a leisurely look at M to R.  If you’re sitting comfortably, let’s begin ……..

M is for Making Notes

At every meeting, attendees will be given the opportunity to deliver their killer “elevator” pitch:  the golden 60 seconds to inform the group what they do, and what types of referrals and introductions they’re after.  With the best will in the world, there is no way that your brain will remember everything – make notes if something piques your interest as you never know –  someone in your business circle could be the ideal introduction for someone in the room. 

N is for Networker

I’m guessing you’re now asking yourself “What is she going on about? I AM a networker!” 

But ARE You?  Really?

Being a true networker isn’t just about turning up to meetings.  It’s about introducing person A to person B if you can see synergy between the two, it’s about recommending your fellow networkers to anyone you come into contact with who may need their services, it’s about giving testimonials to businesses in the room you’ve used yourself.   Being a true networker also beings us neatly onto our O …..

O is for One To Ones

Getting to know your fellow group members is an integral part of networking.  The meetings themselves can be busy and many stick to an agenda, leaving little time to get round to talking to everyone in the room – especially if it’s a large group with lots of members. 

There are several ways to manage the one to ones:  yes, they do take time, and can easily get in the way of running your business.  Make a note of these tips – you can thank me later!

The traffic light system – when you first join a networking group, listen to what others have to say and make a note of how much synergy there is between you and each member.  Then, introduce a traffic light system to “grade” how soon you need to arrange a one to one, according to the time you have available:  a red light indicates that there is very little potential for your businesses to work together/refer.  An amber light means that it’s definitely worth arranging a meeting as there’s a fair bit of commonality and interest, and a green light – get that diary out and pick up the phone now!

A good time-saver is to arrange the one to one session immediately after a networking meeting.  This ensures that you will both be in the same place, at the same time, wearing your “networking” hats. 

Set a time limit on the meeting:  an ideal one to one should allow around 20 minutes for you to both speak freely about your own business, and a further 20 minutes for questions an potential for working together and referrals.  

A one to one should NOT be one party pumping free information out of the other party to help their own business – this is called a paid-for service!

P is for Plan Ahead

If it’s your first visit to a networking group:  where is the meeting? Is there parking on site?  What time does the meeting begin – and end?  Who else is in the group? Does the group have any social media presence, or a website?  Is there an annual fee?  What’s the monthly/ongoing fee should you decide to join?

Nuff said!

Q is for Questions

A room of networkers is an invaluable source of knowledge and experience.  If you have an issue within your business (or life in general!), or if you’re looking for something specific – ASK! 

If you don’t quite understand what someone does for a living (let’s face it – we’ve all been left a little baffled after some 60 second pitches!) – ASK!

If someone puts out a plea and it strikes a chord within you – ASK if you can help them!

Simples.

R is for Respect

Picture the scene:  it’s your turn to stand up for 60 seconds and tell the room what you do.  As you begin to talk, several members reach for their phones to check their emails, others start their own little micro meetings a few seats away …… random text message beeps are an old favourite too!

Respect doesn’t cost anything, and everyone deserves it.  Switch your phone off, save the micro meetings for an appropriate break in proceedings and pay attention. 

It’s not rocket science – it’s courtesy!

Well that brings us to the end of Part 3.  Feel free to add your own comments or observations:  have you ever had a mis-placed one to one, or struggled to talk over others at a meeting? 

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Going the extra mile is a great way to showcase what you can do for your fellow networkers

A to Z of Networking: Part 2 – G to L

In Part 1 we looked at the importance of business cards and how to be a farmer when it comes to networking for your business. Part 2 covers G to L.

Ready? Let’s go …..

G is for Go The Extra Mile

Once you’ve settled into a networking group, does your business lend itself to helping the group in any way? Yes, you probably won’t get paid for volunteering to print the attendee sheets or post social media posts on behalf of the group, but it can be a really effective way to showcase (subconsciously) what you and your business are capable of.

H is for Hunter

To quote George Orwell, “Four legs good, two legs bad” – the same can be applied in networking circles when it comes to hunters: “Farmers good, hunters bad”.

You'll only see a Hunter in the room when they have something to sell
You can spot a Hunter a mile off.

You never hear from hunters until they have something to sell: it may be a new product, tickets to an event, perhaps they want you to sponsor them. Hunters tend to do the rounds but will never commit: they will have a timetable of networking meetings to target (maybe one or two a day over a two week period).

As soon as they arrive, they are telling anyone who will listen what they want you to hear. Hunters can be aggressive salespeople (remember our D – Do Not Oversell?!). Hunters will hand out their flyers regardless of whether you want one or not. And guess what – you’ll not hear from them until the next product / event they want to push your way. After the meeting a hunter may even bombard you on social media, trying to over-tag you into submission.

Please don’t be a hunter. Its just nasty and won’t win you any fans.

I is for Introvert

Let’s face it, we’re not all natural social butterflies. For some, the thought of walking into a room full of strangers, conversing, eating …. It’s all just too much!

Maybe ask your existing circle where they network: could you go to your first meeting with someone you already know, perhaps as a guest of an existing member?

Try to break down what it is that you’re most anxious about. Breaking down the problem can help to lead towards a solution: is it the initial walking over the threshold? Perhaps the thought of standing up and delivering a 60 second pitch is keeping you away?

With a little bit of work, research and forward- thinking, even the most introverted business owners can generate success from networking.

Introverts, look away now as we move on to J …….

J is for JFDI!

I have to confess, I am more of a JFDI type than an introverted flower. So what does JFDI stand for?

Just F*****g Do It – that’s what!

JFDI people don't dwell - they just do it!
Are you a JFDI type?

Once a decision has been made, or a seed of an idea sown, your average JFDI person doesn’t tend to over-think, or break down their options. As it says on the tin, we just JFDI.

A new hobby? We’ll go out and buy all the kit before we change our mind. A new networking opportunity? Let’s go, and let’s go now.

Not all JFDI people are screaming extroverts but reaching beyond the comfort zone can be a good thing (unless you’re talking about sky-diving, in which case you can jog on, sunshine!)

Whether you’re an introverted I, or more of a JFDI, you will need to focus on your K ……

K is for Know Your Audience

You may be in a very fortunate position to have household names amongst your client base. Yes, this is excellent for your business: a testimonial on your website from a renowned company could win you business from other household names. However, stop and think.

Is the room you are networking in full of multi-national household brand names, or is it full of solo business owners and local businesses?

By constantly talking about the “big boys” you’ve done business with, are you potentially scaring away new business opportunities that are right under your nose? Similarly, someone whose business is more gender-specific (let’s say, for example, a nail technician) may find more potential in a female only networking group.

Every audience will be different, so again, shop around until you find the audience that fits your business.

L is for Listening

It’s always far too easy to talk too much. We all like to have our say, and perhaps when out and about networking, nerves can play a part in how much we gabble on. And on. And on.

Stop!

Let someone else talk. Ask them questions and let them answer. Yes, the art of listening is fairly easy to master.

Listening means being respectful too. How would you feel if, when you stand up to deliver your 60 seconds, everyone picked up their phones and started scrolling through their emails. Give your vocal chords a rest, pin back your lugs and listen – you never know, you might even learn something!

Well that’s taken us (more or less) halfway through the alphabet of networking. Part 3 will be along soon, so make sure you’re around to read M – R.

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Business cards are an important tool in your networking kit bag.

A to Z of Networking: Part 1 – A to F


Since starting Tao Business Solutions in 2012, I’ve done an awful lot of networking – and yes, some of it has been truly awful!  Over my next four blog posts, I will be sharing my A to Z of Networking with you – the good, the bad and the downright ugly!

Are you sitting comfortably, with a mug of something hot and steamy in hand?  Then let us begin.

A is for Attendance

It might come as a bit of a shock to some, but turning up in the first place is a real biggie when it comes to networking success.  I’ve lost count of the number of business owners I’ve encountered who look down-trodden at the mention of networking:

“I went networking once but it never got me any work”. 

No shit!  Being in the room works.  Joining a group and not turning up, or sending a sub on your behalf won’t work.  Really people – it’s not rocket science.

Once you’ve turned up and started to talk to people, chances are it will soon become second nature to you.

Let us move swiftly on to B:

B is for Business Cards

Yes, we live in the digital age, connecting with new people on LinkedIn, following them on Twitter but there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned business card when you first meet someone new at an event.

Does your business card have all the information needed?  Is the information current?  Is your colour scheme easy to read?  Is the font size readable or will the recipient need a magnifying glass to read it?

Business cards are an important tool in your networking kit bag.
Do your business cards reflect your business and personality?

Don’t be afraid to tweak your card between print runs – there’s nothing worse than a card with crossings out and scribbles all over it where a mobile number has changed or an email address was omitted in error. 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is always be prepared and carry business cards on you at all times – you never know who you might bump into,  and when!

So, we’ve turned up to a networking event, we have business cards – now it’s time for our C …..

C is for Commitment

You’ve mastered the attendance bit, you have a pocket full of business cards and you seem to get on with pretty much everyone in the room.  Now all you need to do is commit! 

Becoming a member of a networking group shows that you are serious about your commitment to the group and its members. It also comes with other benefits such as your business profile being included on the group website, mentions over their social media channels and an immediate circle of professionals to turn to when you need advice.

Some groups can be an expensive financial outlay, so visit several groups and find one that suits your budget and your availability.  We’re not all bright as a button at 7 am but some of us don’t want to be networking at 8 pm either.

As the adage goes, you reap what you sow – and with networking its all about commitment.

When it comes to networking, you reap what you sow.
Sow the seeds, nurture the seeds and the seeds will grow.

D is for Don’t Oversell!

I’ll be brief on this one.  When someone asks you what you do, give them a brief overview.  Don’t go spouting prices, availability, tech specifications and waving your diary in their face.  And always remember to reciprocate – and listen! 

Two ears, one mouth.  Nuff said!

E is for Expectations

Newbies to networking.  Please don’t walk in a room, expect everyone in there to drop their existing supplier and switch to you.  Lower those expectations, take time to get to know new introductions.  Book a 121 with anyone you feel there is genuine synergy with (we’ll come on to 121s in Part 3) and maybe over time, they will engage your services.

Barnstorming a meeting once and expecting the room to fall at your feet will lead to disappointment.  It won’t do your professional reputation much good either.

Finally in Part 1, let’s take a look at the letter F.

F is for Farmers

We all like a good farmer when it comes to networking.  Farmers commit to the cause.  They are in it for the long-haul.  They sow seeds, they nurture relationships and over time, those seeds flourish into crops – or in the case of networking, trusted sources to refer to, new clients, friends.

Being a farmer is all about the principle of know, like, trust.  Grow your farm wisely and you can’t go wrong.

In Part 2 we’ll cover G to L. Find out what’s the opposite to a Farmer – and then don’t become one!

Thanks for reading Part 1. Feel free to add your comments – it’s always good to talk.

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All Hail The Power Hour!

We’ve all been there, done it and laundered the t-shirt a million times over.

“I’ll do that later today”

“I really need to write a blog / schedule some social media / clean my desk”

And on a Friday evening ……. “Where did the week go, I never did get round to ……..”

Time is our most valuable asset and also the thing that most of us are depleted of, which is why we end up working in our businesses, looking after our clients and taking care of the day-to-day tasks when in reality we should put some time aside to work ON our businesses.

Something I use on a regular basis is the “Power Hour”.  Ask yourself when are you at your most productive?  For me, its first thing in the morning.  Once you have identified your “golden time”, set an appointment of 60 minutes in your diary – with yourself – and stick to it.

This is your Power Hour!

If your mission, for example, is to write a blog, don’t open your email programme, close all of your social media feeds, switch your phone off and put it out of sight.  Once you’ve banished the distractions, apply yourself to writing that blog.  You’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve in 60 minutes once you’ve removed all the distractions – the pings, dings, bells and whistles that constantly distract you and take your thought path down yet another dark alley.

Sticking to the 60 minute appointment is the key to success.  Yes, its easy to answer the phone to a client, reply to that email or make an excuse for the sake of making an excuse but none of these will get your blog written, your social media scheduled or your desk cleaned!

Give it a try – I think you’ll surprise yourself and after a few times, your business (or environment!) will begin to benefit and the Power Hour will become a regular habit.

Good luck!

You Wouldn’t Send Your Child To The Pub, Would You …..?

 

Whether you love it or hate it, social media and online communications play a part in our everyday lives – work, rest or play.  The same can also be said for our children – choosing to talk to their peers using electronic means such as SnapChat, FB Messenger and Instagram.  But did you know that there are minimum age limits for the various social media platforms – just like smoking, drinking, voting and many other aspects of life we encounter as we go from childhood into adulthood.

A recent survey for CBBC, of 1,200 people aged between 10 and 18, found that 96 per cent were signed up to social media networks.   And it found that 78 per cent of those 1,200 people interviewed aged under 13 had joined at least one social network despite not being old enough

So, what are the age limits?

  • Facebook – 13 years old: “Creating an account with false info is a violation of our terms. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of someone under 13”
  • Instagram – 13 years old
  • Twitter – 13 years old
  • SnapChat – 13 years old
  • WhatsApp – 16 years old
  • LinkedIn – 16 years old
  • You Tube – 18 years old – but it will also allow a 13-year-old to sign up with their parent’s permission.

The NSPCC said that some sites can be a “dangerous place for younger children, potentially exposing them to bullying, inappropriate content or grooming”.   The charity found that 1,380 children – out of nearly 1,700 it surveyed – thought social media sites needed to do more to protect them and they reported seeing pornography, self-harm, bullying and hatred.

Quick Tips For Parents:-

  • Educate yourself about the various social media platforms (and remember – the Daily Mail is NOT the gospel!!)
  • Be open with your kids about social media and talk to them about the potential dangers of grooming, bullying and over-sharing. It’s a very fine line between friendly “bants” and cyberbullying.
  • Persuade your kids to accept you as a Friend/Follower. Promise you won’t hound them – but keep a respectful, watchful eye from a distance.
  • Check their Privacy Settings. Many of the social sites default to “the world and his wife” – change the settings so that only Friends/Connections can see the content your children are posting.  Food for thought:  A Profile set to Public, a simple selfie, and Location set to On means that anyone anywhere can locate your child.
  • Make sure you have access to their accounts/account passwords so that in the event of anything untoward occurring, you’ll be able to access their account and intervene if necessary.
  • Establish guidelines: how much time are your children spending on social media?  Do they have access to mobile phones/tablets after they’ve gone to bed at night?  Look out for signs such as tiredness and decreasing grades at school as these could be signs that your child isn’t sleeping at night.

Used in a positive light, social media:

  • Helps children connect with extended family and friends.
  • Helps develop better perspectives on various issues.
  • Helps learn new things, exchange ideas and hone their networking skills.
  • It helps provide an effective platform for enhancing your child’s knowledge.
  • It helps motivate children to get better at communication and encourages freedom of self-expression.

 

 

 

 

It’s Not All About You!

I’ve undertaken a fair few social media audits of late, and without exception, one of the things that leaps out time after time, across all platforms, is that businesses only tend to post about themselves.

OK, I appreciate that that’s better than not posting at all, but if you’re looking after the social media activity for a business, try to remember the 80/20 rule of thumb:  social media is not an extension of your sales funnel, so in an ideal world, only 20% of your outgoing content should be about you and YOUR business.

So, what should you post?

  • Be educational.  Share content relevant to your business/industry sector.
  • Share your knowledge.  What seems like part of the everyday to you could benefit someone reading your social media posts – think #TopTips!  Sharing your knowledge will also help to make you a “go to” source when someone has a need for something you’ve been posting about.
  • Look out for awareness days/weeks/months – these can be a great way to join in with daily trending topics and grow your audience.
  • Be current.  I recently had a frenzied three hours on Twitter on behalf of a client, Tweeting on their behalf during the final of BBC1’s The Apprentice.  As a result, their website crashed due to the increased demand in traffic (on a Sunday night!) and they had a spike in online orders.  All because I was being them, on Twitter, whilst watching TV.
  • Don’t be afraid to start conversations.  Twitter and Facebook polls are great ways to nurture engagement.  Ask questions.  It’s human nature to reply.

In summary, don’t be like Donkey.  If you take the “pick me, pick me, pick me” approach to your social media, you’ll soon lose Followers and the Likes will dry up.  Be engaging, be educational, be amusing – and they’ll keep coming back for more.

If you’re still struggling, and would like to book a Social Brainstorm, get in touch and let’s see what we can do!

Vaguebooking? Please stop it. Now!

For many years now I’ve held a pet peeve, primarily with Facebook although it does pop up on other social networks from time to time.  So, imagine my sheer joy at discovering that I’m not alone.  I’m actually in the majority, maybe the masses.  There’s even a recognised word for the thing that makes my blood boil ……. ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to “vaguebooking”.

Vague-whatting I hear you ask?  Allow me to explain.

You log in to your Facebook account to see what’s being going on since you last stopped by, perhaps you have a picture of your cat to upload or you’re checking in to a swanky restaurant for the evening, and then you see it.  The status update along the lines of –

“That’s it.  Never again”.

This my dear readers is known as vaguebooking.  Those irritating status updates which inevitably prompt concerned comments such as “hugs”, “DM me bab” and my favourite – “U OK hon?”.   Always, without fail accompanied by an emoji or three.

Why do social media users feel the need to post such inane drivel?  I appreciate that we’re all different but surely, if something affects you emotionally to such a degree that you feel the need to partake in vaguebooking, you need to get off social media, pick up the phone and talk to a real friend.  Better still, do it in person, over a coffee or glass of wine with real – not virtual – hugs/rants/tears/joy.

If you’re in a bad place, Facebook can have a tendency to skew reality:  it can appear that all your Facebook friends are having the time of their lives; glamourous holiday photos, check-ins at luxury hotels or restaurants and the occasional celebrity encounter.  It’s understandable that being force fed this false reality when you’re not feeling tickety-boo can drive you to post a cry for help, being deliberately obtuse in the small hope that some of your friends will put their wonderful life on hold and find 10 seconds of their time to post an equally cryptic comment back to you.

Really, unless you’re in the midst of teenage angst please stop this thing known as vaguebooking now.  You’re not doing yourself any favours and I’m 100% sure that your real friends would much rather you call them for a chat to offload your woes than read about your hard time on a social networking site.

“My Mate Says ….”: 5 Common Social Media Myths Debunked

Without exception, every time I embark on some social  media training, either with a 121 client or a delegate on one of my workshops, the phrase “my mate says” always crops up, together with one or two common social media beliefs that quite  frankly make me shudder.

Whilst it’s true to say that most of us use social media in a personal capacity, how many of those well-meaning “mates” are using social media for business?  No doubt they’ve had  experience of dealing with brands and companies on social media, but do they really understand the difference between personal and business use?

Let’s take a look at 5 common statements I hear time and time again, and the reality behind them.

“I need to be on every social media platform going”

Or do you?  Personally,  I disagree wholeheartedly with this statement.  As a business, the first thing you should think about is where are your potential customers hanging out, in terms of their social media presence, closely followed by asking whether your business is conducive to a particular social media platform.  I know of some fantastic local businesses who enjoy great success on Instagram – hairdressers, wedding dress shops, cake makers – but would a Chartered Accountant or Solicitor have as much success?  I doubt it.  They would be better off investing their time in LinkedIn and Twitter.   My advice on this one would be to assess which social media platforms are worth investing in, and work at them rather than being ubiquitous and end up struggling for content and spreading yourself too thin!  Which brings me on to Myth #2 ….

“If I use a scheduling tool, I can send the same post across all platforms”

Really?  Please – just don’t!  Each social media platform should be treated individually when it comes to your posts.  They all have a different audience and different formats/rules for posting – and if you’re lucky enough to have the same followers across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and  SnapChat (to name just 6!) how will they feel, ,seeing the same post at the same time from your business?    And please, if you have your Tweets linked to Facebook, or your Facebook posts linked to Twitter go ahead and unlink them now – here’s why.

 “The more Followers/Likes I have, the greater my social media success will be”

Believe it not, social media is not a numbers game.  Sure,  you can visit the likes of Fiverr.com and easily buy yourself 500 Facebook Likes or Twitter Followers, but why would you?  Social media is all about engagement, and a smaller audience of Followers who have actually chosen to follow your brand/business are more likely to engage with your posts – Like, Share, Re-Tweet – than those anonymous accounts who don’t know you from Adam – many of whom are more likely to be automated bots than real people.   If you work at your posts and engage with your audience, the Likes and Followers will increase organically over time, which neatly brings us on to Myth #4.

“Social media is a quick fix to get me out there”

Usually, when I take on a new client for social media management, one of the first questions they ask me is “how long will it take to get anywhere on social media?”  I always advise them to give it 6-12 months and not to expect miracles in the first 3 months.  You may have the best content on the planet, but its not worth putting it out there if you haven’t first built your audience – you may as well be giving a presentation to an empty room.   Think about your audience,  engage with them and your reputation will grow.  Please, don’t expect to have as many Followers as LadyGaGa within  a week. Food for thought – the world won’t necessarily come to you if you don’t go to it first!

“I don’t see the point, I’m not getting any orders/sales from social media”

Boom!  And there you have it – the ultimate mistake made by many:  the expectation that purely having a social media presence will make the phone ring and the order book healthy.   By all means use your social media presence as a partial sales funnel but its primary function should be to build your brand awareness and the fact that you exist!  Make yourself accessible to your audience (yes, we’re talking engagement again!) make yourself memorable, and when the time comes, they will remember you for all the right reasons, which is when it’s down to you to take the relationship away from social media and talk business.  The golden rule of thumb is that just 20% of your social media output should be sales-orientated, whilst the other 80% should be everything else, from sharing tips, joining in conversations on trending topics (think hashtags!) and generally being a clued-up, engaged member of any social media community.  Your followers will soon get bored if you turn into Donkey from the Shrek movies with a “pick me, pick me, pick me” attitude.

So, next time your well meaning friend comes out with a golden nugget of social media wisdom, just ask yourself if its advice worth taking, or advice to be avoided at all costs.

 

5 Top Tips For Successful Networking

Now, I’m guessing you wouldn’t expect to win the first marathon you ever entered, would you?  However, if you train hard, apply yourself, invest the time and really work at it, subsequent marathons will eventually get easier, your finishing times will improve and the personal rewards will follow.

Well, the reality is that the same can be said for networking.  Time and time again, I come across  business owners who just don’t seem to get the importance of networking and the positive impact it can have on your business.  The classic line I often hear is “I went to a breakfast meeting once, but didn’t get any business from it so didn’t go back again”.

Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

When done effectively, networking should play a pivotal role in how you  grow your connections and ultimately win new business.  There are so many different networking groups that trying one and dismissing the whole thing as not for you is a bit like saying “I don’t like Chinese food” when in fact you may have had noodles once and not been overly keen!

Personally, I enjoy breakfast meetings – I tend to be a morning person, plus it leaves the rest of the day free to run my business.  However, we’re not all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7am – not to mention early morning commitments like packed lunches, the school run and the time it takes to commute to the workplace.   We all have different budgets for our networking efforts, as well as different levels of comfort zone.  Networking is a long-term investment, not a quick fix and I hope my 5 top tips go some way to helping you when it comes to taking the networking plunge.

  1. Shop around. Most networking groups offer one or two free visits before they ask you to commit and become a full-time member of the group.  Take advantage of this – you can usually instinctively tell if its the group for you during your free visits, and assess who the other members of the group are, potential synergy with them and work out your budget for membership (financial and time!).  However, be careful not to become a “serial networker” or you could soon find you have a reputation that is far from flattering.
  2. Prepare well, before you walk through the door for the first time.  Does the group have a website? A social media presence?  Do you know anyone already in the group? Ask them what the format is – do you need to prepare a 60 second pitch?  Is there a one-seat policy and if so, is your seat available?   Is there a membership fee? If so, is it annual or a one-off?  What are the expectations of members when it comes to bringing guests, referrals etc.  Trust me, it’s better to find all these things out up front as part of your prep than join and not live up to the Ts&Cs of membership.
  3. Learn to listen. Believe it or not, its not all about you.  A  room full of seasoned networkers should make you feel welcome – you may even get “buddied up” with a member of the group for your first visit.  Naturally,  you will be asked questions but remember to ask them back and listen with interest at the responses.  Open-ended questions (how, what, when) will make for better conversations than closed questions (do  you, have you, are you).  You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by just shutting up and listening to those around you!
  4. Think about your 60 second pitch. Plan ahead what you want to say to the room.  Rehearse it if it makes you feel better.   It may sound daft,  but when you’re standing up and the clock is ticking, its easy to forget such fundamental pieces of information like  your name and what your business is. If you need a crib sheet, have a crib sheet – there’s no shame in reading from a set of notes.  Just don’t go over the 60 seconds – if everyone else in the room can stick to it, then so can you.
  5. Collect and connect. Offer your business card to the group members and take one of theirs in exchange.  After the meeting, connect with them on LinkedIn, follow and mention them on Twitter, Like their Facebook page.  Networking doesn’t end the moment you leave the room – follow up with anyone you were particularly interested in getting to know better.  Request a 121 with them over coffee – this is where the real value of networking begins to take shape.

Hopefully, those five points will give you a head start when it comes to networking.  Over and above everything else – be yourself and be professional.  Once you’ve found a group and applied to become a member, give it time.  Networking is a long-term investment, not an express lane to get new business.

For further networking opportunities visit:

Burntwood inBusiness

BriteStart Lichfield

WiRE UK

Featured image by Mark Zaccaria Photography

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