Category: Small Business Marketing Training Courses
Online and offline marketing, product mix, pricing packages, call to action, website goals, sales and marketing pipelines. These are all part of the marketing role and they aid the sales people to sell a businesses products.
ONLINE RATINGS AND REVIEWS ARE a great way to determine whether a business is trustworthy or whether they products and services they provide will suit your needs. TripAdvisor and Yelp have transformed the hospitality and accommodation industry, for example. And Airbnb is doing similar with short-term rentals.
While recently working on a home renovation in Newcastle, I came across a carpenter who had seven employees working for him. Jimmy the Chippy in Belmont has been in business nine years, has no website or online presence — but his business is booming.
How does he do it?
The old fashioned way! He does exceptional work for his customers and clients, who hire him again and again and refer him to friends, relatives, colleagues and so on. He also made a point of networking with local builders and plumbers in the area, who contact him when they have work to do, and refer him to other builders and plumbers as well.
Use word of mouth
If you’re looking locally, and the online ratings and reviews of the businesses you’re trying to decide between aren’t helping, asking a friend, relative or work colleague if they know any of the businesses.
If no one in your social network knows the business, you can also google an online forum like Whirlpool, where members frequently provide fair and balanced opinions of businesses they’ve dealt with — and if they don’t, they’re usually called out for it.
Testimonials are helpful, too
Real estate agents, accountants and many other businesses — EzyLearn included — use testimonials rather than ratings or reviews (except on Facebook), so you shouldn’t discount these just because they’ve been vetted before going online.
At EzyLearn we provide testimonials from our students, which include their full name and location, and why they chose EzyLearn to study in the first place. We ask each student whether it is ok to publish these beforehand. We also offer a money-back guarantee and free samples of our course content, so students know they can trust they’re making the right choice.
Take a photo of bills and invoices from suppliers and upload them to Expensify, which will input all of the data and then send it through to Xero.
Create expense reports
Online and offline retailers don’t have to worry about this too much unless they also produce their own products, but for cafes and restaurants that host functions or cater for events, separating the expenses directly related to those functions and events is an important way to track their profitability.
Automatic approvals cut bookkeeping time
By turning on the automatic approvals feature and setting expense rules, you can cut your bookkeeping time by having recurring or trivial expenses automatically approved and sent to Xero, so you can spend more time on the complicated ones that require closer inspection.
By keeping an eagle eye on your expenses using Xero and Expensify you’ll be able to see precisely where your business is most profitable and where it’s not so you can modify it accordingly.
Our Xero training courses will show you have to track expenses in Xero and how to connect third party apps to your Xero account. We offer ALL SKILLS LEVELS for ONE LOW PRICE. Find out more.
Are you in business as a bookkeeper, tradesperson, retailer, trainer or real estate agent and want to stand out from the crowd? We can teach you the online marketing techniques to help you do just this! Check out what’s included in our comprehensive Social Media and Digital Marketing online training courses.
If you’re a bookkeeper or real estate agent or someone else who sells professional services, rather than products, providing valuable information about your business or explaining the way it operates can help convert more visitors into customers.
People scan for valuable information
Most of the time, when someone comes to your website for the first time, they’re scanning it to see if you meet a certain criteria they have for a potential supplier.
This could be based on price, services, turnaround times, or something else. If they can’t find this information quickly and easily, they’ll generally move on somewhere else.
Use PowerPoint to convert visitors
Creating a PowerPoint presentation that contains this information, which you can upload slide-at-a-time, or altogether as a video, is an excellent way to present this information to visitors of your website.
This is very useful for bookkeepers and other businesses that have a particular way of working with their clients. Take prospects step-by-step through your process, so they know exactly how your operate and what to expect before they even contact you.
This helps demystify the process, which makes people feel more at ease with the practice of hiring you, and also shows you’re transparent about process, and that makes you trustworthy.
The fewer questions prospects have about you and your business, the more comfortable they will feel about contact and hiring you.
You can use PowerPoint to explain any of your business’s processes that involve the customer, whether it’s your returns or refund policy, setup procedures, or technical support.
First off, there are two kinds of audio you can use in a PowerPoint presentation: pre-recorded audio and audio you record yourself. You’ll learn how to record and insert your own audio files into PowerPoint in our PowerPoint Training Course.
When you might use pre-recorded audio
If you’ve ever fiddled around with PowerPoint, you’d notice there are a few audio sounds you can use insert into your slides. They’re mostly generic sound effects, like the sound of waves or a bird chirping. To be honest with you, none of these are ever appropriate in a PowerPoint presentation, except in some really obscure instances. Or less obscure ones, like a training course teaching you how to insert pre-recorded audio into PowerPoint!
You can also add pre-recorded audio that you have on your computer, like a song from your music library. Again, there are few instances when this is necessary, but it’s another option nonetheless.
Adding audio you record yourself
And here is where the answer to using audio in PowerPoint really lies. You can record your own audio, using QuickTime if you’re an Apple user, or Sounds Recorder if you’re using an older version of Windows; otherwise you can also record it on your mobile or digital recorder and import it onto your computer.
You would use this audio if you were going to upload your presentation to your website for a webinar, or for people to watch online afterwards. EzyLearn uses it in some of of online training courses. You could use audio in your induction training courses, too.
PowerPoint: The Great Visual Aid to What You’re Saying
Many people don’t realise what an excellent design tool PowerPoint is. It can be used for a lot more than just creating slideshows and presentations and is a great marketing and design tool for all kinds of business functions.
Generally speaking, when using PowerPoint, you should feature only one idea to a slide. A PowerPoint presentation is not an essay. It shouldn’t be filled with verbose text (unless perhaps you’re in a university lecture). In fact, as you will learn in our updated PowerPoint Training Course, sometimes a PowerPoint slide shouldn’t contain any text at all, or at least, very little.
PowerPoint presentations that are going to be used as a visual aid should do just that: visually aid the audience through your presentation. It shouldn’t contain your speaking points and you shouldn’t recite from it verbatim. Ideally, you should treat it as a source of further information (or illustration) for the oral portion of the presentation.
Illustrate your points
Okay, in a perfect world, there’d only be one idea per slide, but PowerPoint presentations are tedious enough to create, without having to use a new slide every time something we wanted to articulate contained a subtopic or, more likely, a few subtopics.
But rather than using tried and trusted (*zzzz*) bullet points, try to illustrate the points and use a small amount of text to give more detail. For example, if you’re presenting your company’s latest financial results, rather than writing out how much revenue each department generated, include a pie chart or graph to illustrate this for you.
Shape your points
If there isn’t any way to easily illustrate your points, use shapes and textboxes instead. This breaks up the monotony of a slide filled with bullet points and makes the information you’re presenting easier to digest.
It’ll make it easier for your audience to take notes, without missing any of the spoken part of your presentation. It’s also easier on the eyes, since it breaks up all the white space on your slide.
If you must use bullet points…
Sometimes there’s no escaping it, we get it. Even though we’re not fond of bullet points in PowerPoint presentations, they’re sometimes unavoidable. So don’t worry, we still teach you how to use them in our PowerPoint Training Course. We even use them ourselves.
If you must use bullet points in your presentation, try to use them in an interesting way. Put them inside a shape, change the background of your slide, or do both!
The key to a PowerPoint presentation that really pops is knowing how to use every function PowerPoint has to offer. That way, you’ll never have to settle on bullets when there’s a more creative option available.
PowerPoint — Use it for Facebook and other social media
Did you know you can use PowerPoint with social media? We already know you can create modern, eye-catching and memorable presentations and slideshows with PowerPoint but you can also make movies and videos, animations and advertising graphics. These can then be published on an array of social media, including Facebook and YouTube.
You know what PowerPoint is. It was installed on your computer when you bought Microsoft Office. You hate it. But have you thought that the reason you hate it is because a) you’ve never learned how to use it properly, and b) you associate it with boring corporate meetings and seminars?
If you answered YES to one or both of those questions, read on. If you answered NO, still read on!
We recently updated our PowerPoint training courses to include new content and new exercise books — so you can never say that you don’t like PowerPoint because you don’t know how to use it!
Use PowerPoint for training
In our PowerPoint Training Course, we take you through how to create your own PowerPoint presentation, and we show you some of the different ways you can use PowerPoint, aside from as a sales presentation or visual aid during a speech, seminar, meeting or conference.
EzyLearn uses PowerPoint all the time. We use it to do deliver many of our training courses, in particular our WHS Online Induction Course. That’s one of the other things you can do with PowerPoint: create induction training for new staff, contractors or visitors.
But there are plenty more. Here are just a few other uses:
If, for whatever reason (there are many), you find you need to write a business plan, then PowerPoint is a much easier way to do it. You can plan, write, edit, and print your business plan all from the one document. If you discover you need to reorder any of the sections, you can easily move the slides around, rather than trying to cut and paste vast portions of text. Hot tip: don’t include more than one idea or section on a slide.
Marketing or sales collateral:
You can create virtually all of your marketing or sales collateral in PowerPoint, from price lists to product / services information to instruction manuals to flyers — even online advertising or FaceBook ads. Anything you can possibly think of can be created in PowerPoint. No, not Photoshop — PowerPoint!
Flow chart / organisational chart:
Organisational charts are an excellent way to give new recruits a lay of the hierarchical land (and help them better understand their new position). PowerPoint makes creating them easy — there’s a special function that lets you select a design and style you like, and then modify as needed. You can also use this function to create flow chart for large projects you’re working on.
If you’re still sending employers your CV in a Word Document, stop. It’s boring and visually unstimulating. There’s also a good chance the formatting gets stuffed around when someone opens it in and older or newer version of Word. Create a visually attractive resume in PowerPoint, making generous use of text boxes, images, and the shape drawing tools. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a graphic designer or a bookkeeper. Your resume should stand out. So make it (in PowerPoint).
Identify yourself: As a contract bookkeeper, your identity is your brand. Create a website or LinkedIn profile (or both), and include a picture of yourself. If you’re operating a business, don’t hide behind your business name. Include pictures of your team, even if that’s just you at this stage.
Educate with video: Show prospects that you know your stuff, by creating short videos explaining common issues businesses may have using MYOB, QuickBooks, Xero, etc. You may also create video tutorials that explain how you like clients to set up MYOB, Xero, QuickBooks etc.
Capture the local scene: Establish yourself as a local business, by taking photos when you visit a local business (whether it’s a cafe, hardware store, or clothing shop) and put them on social media. Be sure to connect with those businesses on social too, so they can share with their customers. Do the same with your clients. It’s a good way to establish firm connections with the businesses you work with, and to update them on your other business projects.
Using video and images to build your online presence should be part of your broader marketing strategy.
Our EzyStartUp Course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning, plus much more.
Never Fear: A “Sales” Pitch Can Really Just Be a Conversation
After you’ve set the correct prices for your bookkeeping services, it’s time to perfect your sales pitch. It’s good to think about the way real estate agents sell a property to prospective buyers: Good sales agents don’t pitch to the buyer at all. Instead, they get to know the buyer and their needs. If that happens to suit the property they’re selling, they tell them so. If it doesn’t they tell them that too. Often, they’ll mention another listing they have that might better suit the buyer.
A successful sales pitch isn’t really a pitch at all. Remember that. It’s a conversation with a prospect to determine if their business needs and your services are a good match. If you set your prices correctly, by valuing your services strategically, then you should have only attracted prospects that fit a particular profile of your ideal customer.
The Three Elements of a Sales Pitch
Think of a sales pitch as possessing three key elements:
Identify problems the prospect needs solved:The first step is to identify their business problems, so you can offer a solution. If a prospect identifies “poor cashflow” as a problem, ask them if they’re invoicing regularly, have set up clear payment terms, have implemented a credit management policy. From here, you should determine what services they’re in need of, and explain those to the prospect.
Provide references: There’s no getting around this, unless you’re willing to work for free on a trial basis, something you should absolutely avoid. Real estate agents refer prospects to vendors they’ve represented previously, so you should do the same. If this is your first client offer to do some small task (daily reconciliations, say) as a one-off service, paid of course. Remember, a plumber or electrician doesn’t offer to work for free — they don’t even provide references. You don’t have to work for free, either.
Explain your process: Be clear about how you work straightaway. Most misunderstandings between businesses and freelancers or contractors occur because neither party agreed to a particular process in the beginning. If the business has contacted you, then you have the upper hand. Outline the procedure for getting work to you, payment terms, etc. If you contacted them first or responded to a job advertisement, you’ll need to work in with their processes, so be sure the opportunity is right for you before agreeing to it.
Don’t be a Commitment-Phobe in Business
Always remember to end the conversation by asking for a commitment. This is still a sales pitch, after all, so you need to make some business proposition that they agree to. You may propose to provide a small paid-task obligation free, to see how they like working with you, before they sign onto to a long term commitment; you may ask if you can contact them again in the future, if they don’t seem quite ready for your services right now (get their business details, add them to your marketing database).
Understanding the value of your services and how to pitch them to clients is vital to your business’s success. Our EzyStartUp Course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning, plus much more. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp Course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Glean Relevant Info from the Property Industry
As a bookkeeper, or someone thinking about becoming a bookkeeper, you may be surprised how much you can learn from real estate agents. For an example, take the way a real estate agent has to price a property for sale.
The key to selling a property quickly and efficiently, is setting the right price. A real estate agent who sets a price that’s too high for the market, isn’t doing her or his job properly. In such cases, the property will sit around for many weeks, or possibly even months, until the price is eventually reduced to one the market will bear, sometimes to well below market value. Real estate being what it is in this country, agents rarely undervalue their properties. When a buyer tells their friends they got a great deal on their new home, it’s usually due to the property being originally overvalued, rather than undervalued.
Most New Contractors Set their Prices Wrong
When business people, such as first-time or newly contracting bookkeepers, first start freelancing or contracting professional services to other businesses, very few know what their services are actually worth. Therefore they frequently overvalue or undervalue themselves. In the case of the former, they’ll discover pretty quickly that they’re overpriced (they don’t get any clients), but in the case of the latter, it may take a while longer to determine that they’ve undervalued themselves and their services.
The lesson bookkeepers can learn from real estate agents — good ones, at least — is to never do either. Here’s how you should value your booking services, to set the right price, just like a real estate agent would.
Value Your Services Like a Real Estate Agent
Know Your Market:
We cover this in our EzyStartUp Course; and it’s important to note that knowing your market isn’t simply confined to the start-up period. Continue to look at the market throughout the life of your business, because times change and you need to move with them. When we first put our training content online, we were one of the first training companies to do it; now you can do a whole university degree online!
Value Your Services Strategically:
Have you ever seen a real estate agent market a property as being identical to another one, even if it’s right next door? As a bookkeeper, you’re already competing in a crowded space, so always establish a point of difference between you and your nearest competitor(s) — a niche industry, a particular way of doing business. Whatever it is, find it, and capitalise on it.
Don’t Try and Be All Things to All People:
Know where to find your customers. Real estate agents know where their buyers come from and precisely what they’re looking for, then they market directly to them. You should do the same. Think about your local market, your services, and the type of customer who’d be looking for a business like yours. Then market to them and them only. Don’t waste marketing money trying to be all things to everyone.
Valuing your services correctly, and setting the right prices, is vital to the success of your business. Our EzyStartUp course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
The beauty of content marketing is that, as a system to source new leads, you can cover all the steps of the selling process without it seeming like a chore and, best of all, without feeling “salesy”, cheesy or inauthentic. It’s focus is about the potential client — it’s about providing them with relevant information that will benefit them — not ramming a sales pitch down their throat.
Good sales people realise that sales and the very process of selling is not about just “closing” a sale. Rather, it’s about understanding what the customer needs, seeing if your product is a good fit and then offering a solution to a customer’s problem.
How much of sales is Content Marketing?
To this end, content marketing is about 80% of the selling process or 80% of the sales funnel (as corporate sales people like to call it).
This is because content marketing involves information gathering; it involves seeing if your product and YOU are a good fit for your client.
These are the content marketing stages:
creating relevant and interest website content
‘call to action’ that results in email or mobile number capture
email or SMS marketing
social media profiles to engage with your prospects
CRM’s to manage the final parts of the selling process.
When you implement these systems you can sit back and watch it work and then focus on your conversion rate or what industry experts call CRO – Conversion Rate Optimisation.
Do you really want to be an online marketing professional? Let us manage it for you
January, February and March of a new year, which is typically the quietest as people take a while to adjust to the work and school routine, is when a lot of businesses spend time setting goals for the year ahead.
Just as individuals set their own personal new year’s resolutions, many businesses use January and February to set some new year’s resolutions for their business’s marketing activities.
Yes, I’ve been talking about content marketing a lot on this blog lately, as it’s a marketing strategy EzyLearn has been using, almost exclusively, for many years now, with much success — you are reading this blog post, after all!
Great Content is Like an Equilateral Triangle – All the Sides are Equal
As popular as content marketing has become in the last few years, many people still don’t quite understand that great content marketing requires you to pay equal emphasis on each component. This includes the word content itself in an ebook or enewsletter for instance, but also the layout and design, the SEO etc. It also needs to be free of typos!
I know, in the past, I’ve probably been guilty of rushing to publish content on our website because I’m so eager to share what we’ve created with you. But for content marketing to be successful in the long term, it needs to be approached holistically. In other words, the copy is equally as important as the design and the layout; the messages need to be consistent and you need to keep communicating with your customers — it can’t be hit and miss.
Just as every side in an equilateral triangle must be created equal, so too do you have to consider all components equally when content marketing.
Outsourcing is Okay
As a small business, you probably have at least one person in your team who is either a) design inclined; or b) a good, strong writer. If you’re really lucky, you may have both, but it’s not uncommon for a business to need to outsource part of this work to a professional, usually on a contract or freelance basis.
Take stock of the talent you have in-house already. If you have a competent designer, utilise them and outsource the writing to a professional. It’s unwise to try and do everything yourself. Producing high quality content is a time-consuming process, made even more so if there’s a particular aspect of it — the writing, say — that you’re not proficient at.
I would say that most business owners do most of what I would loosely term ‘designing’, themselves, which in the case of blogging is choosing an image that accurately reflects the message you’re trying to communicate in the main copy.
Think Outside the Stock Box When it Comes to Photos for Your Blogs
There is a certain art to selecting images for your blog. You want to avoid using ones that every other blogger is using, which means ditching your regular Google Images haunt and using a stock library instead. But this is where you need to do your research.
Many free stock libraries serve up the same images that you find in Google Images, which brings you back to square one. They’re also incredibly boring. At this point, next logical option probably seems like paying for a membership to a stock library.
Again, research is required here. Not all stock libraries, even paid ones, are created equally. Well known libraries — iStock Photo, for example — are expensive, while the other, lesser known ones are still boring. So what’s a content marketer to do? Get creative.
Take Your Own Digital Marketing Images With Your Smartphone
Remember, content marketing is about creating original, high quality content that’s relevant both to your customers and to your business. With this in mind, rather than paying for expensive stock photography and images, why don’t you take your own? There’s nothing more original and relevant to you and your customers than your own photography.
Publishing original content on your blog and website, whether it’s in the form of images, copy or videos (or all of the above), the harder it will work at driving your search engine rankings, while, at the same time, the personalised approach will have a longer lasting impression on your readers and customers.
Prioritise Content Marketing in 2017
Bookkeepers especially — take note!
If you’re a bookkeeper looking to start your own bookkeeping business and find yourself clients, or grow you list of clients, and content marketing isn’t already on your agenda for 2017 — it should be.
In terms of having the experience and know-how to content market to people we know what our students need to be successful to this end, after all, most EzyLearn students use our services for MYOB Training Courses, Excel Training Courses, Xero Courses and Small Business Management Training because they’re looking for bookkeeping work or want to start a bookkeeping business. Very early in the piece we started finding out why our students did our courses because it enables us to develop targeted products (and write content about) what they need.
Join our Bookkeeping Directory TODAY
We’ve launched a new bookkeeping directory which is aimed at helping people (our students primarily) find bookkeeping work or start a bookkeeping business, but it’s also a great way for small businesses to find bookkeepers who are close to them. We’re also taking registrations for our content marketing online course.
If you’re interested in content marketing, either for your business or because you’d like to become an independent contractor offering content marketing services to other business, you can learn more by subscribing to our blog.
In a post I published about starting your own business in January 2017, I said that all small business owners should have an understanding of traditional and digital marketing. You’ll be surprised how many don’t!
All businesses have a digital aspect to them these days so it’s vital that business owners and managers know how to manage the digital aspects of their business. This starts by understanding some of the terms used and how websites, domain names, hosting and the Google search engine works.
It doesn’t matter whether you intend to start a fully digital business (i.e. a home based bookkeeping business or online shop for example) or if you will start a more traditional bricks and mortar business (a cafe, retail clothing or gift shop, or some other business with office or retail space), you need to understand how to use the internet to develop new leads, engage with your existing customer base, and build your presence online.
Register for Our FREE Digital Business Foundations Course
I created a free Digital Business Foundations Course to help new and existing business owners understand how to digitise their business. You can register for our free Digital Business Foundations Course (scroll about half way down the page) to begin receiving the free course content. Some of the things you’ll learn include:
Insights into websites
How Google Search works
How businesses use Content blogs for SEO
What SEO really is, plus much more.
Each of the principles discussed in the free Digital Business Course were applied to EzyLearn, when it transitioned from a bricks and mortar training centre business to an online only training business, and have been used by 123ezy, which provides content marketing for real estate agents, content writers and bookkeepers across Australia.
Case Study: Baby Massage Business
I wrote about Sonia Mitterdorfer and her baby massage business in August this year. For most of her working life, Sonia had been a registered nurse. After raising her family she wanted to return to the workforce in some sort of meaningful capacity and heard about baby massage. Her first introduction was a seminar (incidentally, run by a middle aged blokeholding weekend retreats helping new parents understand and bond with their babies!)
So many business people think (wrongly) that a domain name is simply the cost of a website, but that’s just the name — you need to:
point it (DNS) to a web host
set up your email at the web host (I prefer to outsource that to Google Apps — now called Google G Suite)
install website design software like WordPress
create the pages and menus
insert images (source them and edit them)
write some words (that Google thinks are relevant).
Don’t worry if you feel a little bamboozled — we cover all of this in our WordPress course!
Add an Online Dimension to Your Business
The majority of people, when they’re looking for a product, service, restaurant, cafe, real estate agent, bookkeeper, virtual assistant — online training course, even — will search online. Even if you think your business is already doing well, if it’s not optimised to deliver online leads, then it could be doing much better.
6 Weeks from Zero to Hero in Google Organic Search
I HAD A GOOD, long think before writing this blog post. However, I’ve decided it’s OK to write this blog — because the blog should be about helping business people reach Page One in Google’s organic search results (that’s the FREE ones!)
You should see the number of emails I get each week from overseas companies in Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and even the US and UK.
All of these emails are telling me the same thing: How they will get my company onto Page 1 in Google!
You might be thinking, “Yeah, so what? I already know how to do that!” or let me see your list of companies. Point is, there are lots of these self-professed experts around — and I’m probably no exception!
I last wrote about real estate agent, Derek Farmer, before Christmas when we had already created his new website. The aim of this was to help property owners find him when they’re ready to explore selling their property.
We’d already begun the process of creating relevant content but ramped it up in the last 6 weeks and the results were amazing as you can see from the chart!
The work we did to help Derek get onto Page 1 of Google WITHOUT spending a cent on advertising, involved all the tools we use at EzyLearn just to run our business. The thing with this is that we practise what we preach.
That’s the beauty of running an online business: You get pretty good at all the technical and content stuff, particularly when you have to compete with the marketing muscle of billion dollar organisations like MYOB and Sydney University!
Of course, Derek was a good real estate to begin with. He had a great existing reputation in Sydney’s Lower North Shore and over 170 property sales under his belt. Quality speaks volumes.
Give something away
Derek had also spent a lot of time, considerable money and brainpower coming up with an educational series of videos. These helped his vendors (people selling their homes) and prospective customers better understand the various stages of the sales process.
This reflects the need for businesses to generate great quality content that people will find valuable — it’s something everyone needs do in the “Google information era” we all now live in.
Whereas the EzyLearn blog is chiefly about what we teach,the virion blog covers more of what we do. I’d love to share the work we do with you. Who knows if you see something you like, you can even join us and get involved!
Business Networking Strategies – the Elevator Pitch
For a lot of people, when they start a new business, they take a training course. It might be in an area relevant to their industry or profession, it might be a general training course, like our small business StartUp course, or it might be training in particular software, like our MYOB or Xero training courses. The best way to practice an elevator pitch is to practice all the time.
Training is incredibly important, but it’s no substitute for real-life interaction with other business owners, with whom you can gain valuable insights and perspectives on owning and operating a new business in the real world. This is what makes attending regular networking groups and events an important undertaking for any small business owner – old or new.
I recently wrote a blog post on what you should do at a networking event, but there was one point that we didn’t cover in great detail because I felt that it required a blog post of its own, as it’s crucial to your success as a networker: the elevator pitch.
Honing your elevator pitch
Perhaps you’ve heard of the term elevator pitch before. It’s most often used to describe a business or organisation’s mission statement; the name reflects the idea that you should be able to explain what your business does in the time it takes to ride an elevator. When you write a business plan, in it you need to include an executive summary, which explains what your business does or will do; it’s also your elevator pitch.
But your elevator pitch needs to do more than just explain what your business does. It also needs to encourage people to want to do business with you – or at least, continue listening to what you have to say. If you’ve completed our small business marketing course, then you’d have already practiced writing and honing an elevator pitch for your business when you wrote the executive summary of your business plan.
Be interesting, but above all, be compelling
Remember the goal of a business plan is to entice someone to invest in your business or idea, but the plan itself can run for many pages, detailing strategies and tactics for ensuring your business’s overall success. Most banks and financiers don’t have time to read every single business plan that lands on their desk, so they turn to the executive summary to see if the venture seems like a good fit for them.
It goes without saying, then, that your executive summary needs to be compelling, as does your elevator pitch. If you’ve written a business plan for your business, this is a good place to start when developing the elevator pitch you plan to use at a networking group or event. Be personable, though, and keep it conversational. Remember that the person on the receiving end of your elevator pitch is unlikely to be reading it; they’re listening to you deliver it instead, so you need to be comfortable giving your elevator pitch, while also seeming authentic.
Key elements of an elevator pitch
In crafting your elevator pitch, it’s crucial to include the following key elements:
Hook people with a good opening line that makes them want to hear more
Tell people what you do, not what you are
Repeat key information, such as your business name or main product or service
Be interesting and authentic
Use plain language when you’re describing a problem your product or service solves
Think about your end goal and ensure your elevator pitch services to achieve it
Finish your pitch by asking the other person what they do.
You should know have a good understanding of what to do at a networking event or group; now it’s just time to find a group to try out your new skills. Try meet-up.com or your local chamber of commerce to find groups near you. Make sure to RSVP if you are going to attend, and then stick to it. If something comes up, let the organiser know, so they don’t hold the meeting up waiting for you.
Networking Event Tasks: Step 1 – Let people like you
Whether you’re starting a new business or hoping to expand your existing one, networking can be your life support. Successful networking helps you to find and connect with like-minded individuals, with whom you can share your experiences as a new (or established) business owner, and gain valuable insights on the ways you can grow and develop your own business.
I’ve written about networking before, because I think it’s something every business owner should engage in regularly to complement their current marketing strategies. Networking with other business owners not only gives you access to a great brains trust to provide you with tips and advice, but it’s also a great opportunity to use referral marketing to grow your business.
What is networking exactly?
Many people think networking events and groups are places people go to sell their products or services to other attendees, but that’s not actually what a networking group or event are about at all.
[quote]The true definition of networking is ‘the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’.[/quote]
That being said, as a business owner, you should always look for new or potential business opportunities in everything you do. This is how you can help to grow and expand your business. But, where discussing your business might not always be appropriate in typical social settings, at a networking group it’s more than welcome; it’s encouraged.
Networking is a balancing act of meeting people and being social, while also looking for opportunities that will help take your business to the next level. To achieve this balance and make meaningful connections with other business owners that will prove beneficial to your business requires planning beforehand.
How can networking help your business?
If you run a home-based business, it’s not uncommon to find that you can go entire days and weeks without interacting with another person on a professional level. This lack of interaction is not only isolating, but it can prove detrimental to your productivity and the continued growth of your business.
Your business needs new, fresh ideas and perspectives to thrive, and networking groups and events can help to connect you with people who can provide you with those ideas. They also give you the opportunity to do the same for other business owners, which is what makes the arrangement so mutually beneficial.
Take the following real-life example, for instance:
A home-based bookkeeper was looking for advice about her website and how she could increase her search engine rankings and traffic to her website. She’d previously enlisted the help of SEO experts and web developers and funnelled a lot of money into her website, but she felt it still wasn’t performing well – it wasn’t mobile, for instance, and she felt the copy could read better. The bookkeeper decided to go to a networking group of small business owners who were meeting to discuss online marketing, in the hope that someone might have some advice for her or could refer someone who could help. There she met another small business owner, who operated a content marketing agency and who advised her on how to increase her web presence by blogging, creating shareable content, and optimising her Google My Business page; the agency also had an in-house web designer and developer. The bookkeeper was so impressed with the content marketing advice she received, particularly the tips on Google My Business, that she hired the content marketing agency to manage all of her content marketing, including updating her website so it was mobile; they, in turn, referred a number of fairly big clients to the bookkeeper.
Five ways to succeed at networking
The key takeaway from the above example was that the bookkeeper went to a particular networking group with a goal in mind: to solve her online marketing issues. She was seeking qualified advice from other business owners who could empathise with her situation and perhaps recommend a course of action or someone qualified to help. She received both. At the networking group, she met a person who was willing to give her advice that she could implement at herself. Because she’d received useful advice before that worked, she felt safe in her decision to trust the agency to manage all of her content marketing.
So what are the five main things you can do to ensure the next networking group or event you attend is successful? Well, it starts with goal setting.
Network with a purpose:
Like our bookkeeper in the example above, you need to determine what your needs are and why you’re going to a networking group or event, in the first place. If it’s to find advice on how to improve your web presence, select networking groups with a focus on operating a business in the online world; if it’s merely to share the experience of operating a small business with other business owners in your local community, choose one in your area with that focus.
Now that you’ve established your networking goals, it’s time to find the networking group or event that will deliver them. Check out the attendees and members of some networking events or groups to see which ones are most suited to your business and your networking goals. Once you’ve identified some people you think are worth pursuing at a glance, research them online. Check our their LinkedIn profile, website and other social media. This’ll not only help you to further refine your list of people to connect with at each networking group, but it’ll also help you to find some common interests to discuss with them when you do meet.
Brainstorm some questions:
Before you attend any networking event, think of some questions that you’d like to ask the group or any individual member. It may seem like a waste of time, but it will help to ensure that, even if the other attendees are unprepared, at least you’re going to come away one step closer to reach the goals you set out for your business in the first place. Having targeted questions also helps to show the other attendees that you’re interested and engaged, rather than just there to kill time.
Establish your presence:
Show the group that you’re somebody worth knowing and that your contribution to the group is as valuable as everyone else’s. It’s worthwhile remembering that some groups only allow one member from one profession only, to ensure there’s meaningful business opportunities for everyone attending, so you need to show that you’re worthwhile keeping around on a regular basis. Listen, be attentive, show you’re there to help other’s problem-solve just as you are there to problem-solve for yourself. Always be willing to share and contribute ideas, but know when to back off so as not to be the guy who hogs the conversation and makes the group all about him.
Establish connections and follow-up:
Don’t just hand out and collect business cards willy-nilly. Your goal should be to establish a real connection with people that you’d like to add to your professional network of contacts and, in turn, be that person to them too. Exchange business cards, email addresses or other contact information and try to make a plan to meet-up outside of the networking group. After each event or meet-up, follow-up with each person you’ve exchanged details with. It’s probably taking to too far to call, unless you’ve made an arrangement to meet already, but otherwise sending an email or connecting on social media like LinkedIn is a good place to start.
Follow these five steps each time you attend a networking group or event, and you’re unlikely to go wrong. If you’d like to read more about networking and how you can make it work for your business, continue reading our blog. Otherwise, it’s time to get out there!