The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, May 26, 2006

Networking - What it is and What it isn't

By Brenda Thomson BA Psych. (Hons)

Networking – taking a bundle of your business cards, heading for a room full of strangers, and looking for anyone who wants to buy your products and services – right? WRONG! Networking is about building relationships NOT about making sales.

How many times have you been to a networking event where people have given you their card, told you what they do, and never contacted you again? Perhaps you have even been guilty of doing it yourself.

Think about this scenario for a moment. You go to a networking event, a widget maker hands you their card, says they’ll do you a great deal, and rushes off to sell more widgets. You don’t need widgets but you work with a number of manufacturers who are often looking for widget suppliers so you tuck the card away for later. Sadly you never hear from the widget maker again. Are you likely to refer them to your business associates?

Later in the evening you meet a second widget maker. This widget maker asks about your business and suggests that you get together later to see how you may be able to help each other. Following a meeting with the second widget maker you discover that this person offers just the sort of widgets which your business associates have been looking for. And as an added bonus it turns out that they have a colleague who is looking for your products and services.

Are you a widget seller or a networker?
You have two choices when you are networking – you can focus on trying to find customers, or you can focus on building your sales team. So the next time you go to a networking event, don’t discount everyone who isn’t in the market for your “widgets” today. Instead focus on building quality relationships and looking for opportunities to help the other person.

We all prefer to do business with people we know and trust. The next best choice is someone recommended by someone we know and trust. In fact networking and referrals account for more than 85% of business in the marketplace. Referrals can come from two different sources:

1) Satisfied customers who have used your products/services
2) Your business network, people who trust you enough to refer work to you even if they have never used your products and services.

Many of the people you meet may never become a customer but if they trust and respect you, and see you as professional in what you do, they will be happy to refer work to you. These people are your best sales team. Isn’t it worth spending time and energy earning that trust and respect?

Brenda Thomson is the CEO and Founding Director of Networking World

The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, May 19, 2006

Are you a Resilient Business Owner?

by Michael Licenblat B.Sc.(Psych)

As a Self Employed Business Owner, you are your business. So, it is you who has to manage the pressures of working long hours, cash flow issues, keeping up to date with your industry changes, heavy workloads, as well as finding time for your personal/family life – without burning yourself out. So how do you do it??

1. Release Physical Tension
Spending a lot time, each day, sitting at a desk, on the computer, or in the car will create muscle tension. If not released, that tension will make your body feel tired, sluggish and achy. By stretching your body every 2-3 hours for just 45 seconds, you can increase your energy levels and reduce aches and pains. Try this:

Stretch your chest. Lean into a doorframe with your hands on the doorframe at about eye level height. Hold for 7 seconds. This will help to open the chest, ease breathing, release upper back and neck stiffness

2. Develop a resilient mental attitude
According to medical research, being in a negative state of mind (or emotionally depressed) can reduce the strength of your immune system [i], making you more susceptible to illness. Persistent bad moods can also lead to poor health. [ii]. Worry and frustration create tension in your body making you more prone to fatigue, muscle pain and illness.

Focus on the solutions you need, and take consistent action that moves you towards resolving the situation, instead of worrying about the problems you encounter. People who are optimistic about their challenges have found to have healthier immune systems, are not as adversely affected by stress, and suffer half the number of infections as pessimists [iii].

3. Switch off
You need to separate your work and home lives – especially if you have a home-office.
If you are still thinking about work when you are at home, then your body is experiencing the same tension and stress as if you were still at the office! You must create a mental transition from work to home. Change into ‘home’ clothes at the end of your day. Get a hobby, interest, sport or activity you can get into for 20-30 minutes each day. Set clear times so that you are available to your family, and yourself, where you do not disappear to make ‘a quick call’ or return an email.

4. Take a break
Get up from your chair, away from your desk, out of your car, and out of the office, and take a brisk walk outside for a few minutes each day. Even during your breaks, don’t just stand around – doing a 5-10 minute power-walk can lift your energy for a couple of hours. Not only will it give you a mental break, but this movement will also:
* Brings more oxygen & blood to your body & brain, which will improves your focus
and concentration span
* Burns calories
* Normalizes your blood sugar level - which helps to even out mood swings
* Calms emotional tension

[iii] Seligman, M., Learned Optimism, Random house, Sydney, 1994, Pg 175.
[iv] Time Magazine February 5, 2001, page49

Michael Licenblat is a Resilience Expert and the Director of Bounce Back Fast

The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, May 15, 2006

Know Your Marketplace

When you advertise, it is essential that you understand who your customers are, and what will appeal to them. And for many products, the need for an emotional connection is critical. At times people focus too much on the features of the product rather than the benefits. As the old advertising saying goes: "Features Tell, Benefits Sell".

And for many products, the benefit is about the customer feeling good. The Nike Swoosh along with there slogan: "Just Do It" appeals to the active. People who don't agonise over decisions, who see something they like, and buy it.

Another product that understands the appeal to their market is the very stylish Apple iPod. Its sleekness appeals to those who consider themsleves hip and cool. Its advertising is very minimalist. Due to their branding they don't have to say much about the product. If you would like to see the wrong way to advertise it, check out this spoof of how Microsoft might market it. And guess what I am doing now- I am promoting this product through viral marketing. (Note- I get nothing from Apple. But I do hope you enjoy this blog and visit it often.) Apple may even be behind this site- I just don't know. But it looks very professional. And this type of campaign is a little underground- again apealing to the Apple marketplace.

Viral marketing is becoming more and more common. Where people see something they like, and pass on the details to others. It could be informational, or entertaining. But every time it is passed on, the product is further promoted. I hope you will tell others about this blog, about the great information in it, and send your friends and colleagues here.

Sometimes less is more. Often the biggest mistake people make in advertising is using something that appeals to them rather than their customer. And how do you find out what your customers- its really simple- ask them!
Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions

Friday, May 12, 2006

What's on Your Card Part-2

In part 1 we talked about the kind of cards you can design and I want to further elaborate in this section

Picture cards
The type of picture you use can vary from you or your staffs picture to a picture such as an egg carton on a truck demonstrating you can care for the people your removalist business deals with. Pictures of the business premises if your business is a reception centre or bed and breakfast business. A carton or sketch of you or your business's unique selling benefit.

Dramatic Card Colours
Why be boring and use a white card with Navy text? Your industry may have some bright colours that stimulate association to say Mexican foods or natural but vibrant colours that bring thoughts of wild travel adventures in the Australian rain forests.

Textured cards
Other materials other than paper can be printed on including synthetic materials that can read in the shower (or the rain). A material that is involved in your final product you sell, such as canvas for canvas awning manufacturer or glass for a window manufacturer. Others that spring to mind are plastic metal leather wood etc.

Sensory cards
While we are talking of senses. Licorice stores use licorice essence and vaporisers at their shop entrance to entice people into their stores, sales have know to fall by 30% if these devices are missing. So you could have a card 'printed' with a fragrance to make your message more memorable.

Multi purpose cards
Imagine if every one of your customers was given an incentive to introduce a new client,
A card can easily offer a friend or family member a discount or any other valuable benefit for producing the card and a discount for your existing client if they take advantage of the offer.
How about reproducing a CPR guide on the back of your card so that people carry it around everywhere with them just in case. Or how about a series of discounts for other businesses in your geographic area that expires by a certain date printed on the reverse of the card . Of course after the expiry date they are required to come back to you for another card.

I hope these ideas help you to take a second look at your business card and get creative and use the smallest advertising space your business has that can keep working for you long after you give it away.

Sam Durrant is the Director of Tamboon Publications

Monday, May 01, 2006

What's on your Card - Part 1

The humble business card with origins as a calling card in the 1600's is somewhat taken for granted, but do you make the most of this miniature Bill board?

We all think it is essential to put the multiple ways of contacting us on our card, but had you thought that it can also convey that you are:
• Imaginative and Inventive
• The text and graphics can demonstrate a flair that trumpets your ability
• It can be outside the square (or rectangle) and be so memorable that your name and value proposition sticks
• Your qualifications to get the job done

As with your marketing plan your card should tell others what is unique about
• Your product or services
• Your qualifications
• Your unique benefits

The card should clearly define you with
• Awards you have received
• Professional organisations you belong to
• The combined years experience of your team
• A memory hook such as ours – "Killer first impressions"
• A mission statement

How can I fit all this onto a card and still keep it clear and concise?
It is amazing how much info can fit onto a card and most people don't consider the back of the card can tell the story with the front giving the contact details. The card can fold to give more room for product pictures and a simple story or testimonial. In fact some cards can convert to a small book with the use of fridge magnets.

How will your card look?
With the low cost of full colour cards these days you can easily have
• Picture cards
• Dramatic card colours
• Textured cards
• Multi purpose cards such as vouchers or discount cards

Other effects such as
• Die cut cards (unusual shapes)
• Foils or coatings
• Embossing and folding

In Part 2 we will discuss other more innovative options for your business card.

Sam Durrant is the Director of Tamboon Publications


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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success




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