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Pimp My Business: Networking How-To’s and an Apple Case Study

networking2
Once you start networking it becomes easier and more natural.

We recently wrote a post about referral marketing and how it can genuinely grow your business. We talk about different marketing strategies in our Small Business Management course, and particularly the different mediums – newspapers, online, etc – that you can use to advertise your business, but referral marketing is one marketing strategy that doesn’t cost a lot and that you can – and should! – begin today.

Apple: A Case Study for Using Referral Marketing

Besides driving sales, getting people talking about your business, its products or services (or creating ‘awareness’) is the goal of pretty much any marketing campaign. Consider Apple, for example. As a company they came back from the brink in the mid-2000’s when they launched the iPod. Apple had always created far superior products to IBM, but it wasn’t until Apple really pushed themselves as the trendier, far superior alternative to IBM and Microsoft-based products that they could become the company they are today.

The success of Apple is not just that their products were better (because they always were), but the way they marketed them to their customers, which relied heavily on referral marketing. Apple knew that once someone tried an iPod, they’d tell their friends about it and they’d, in turn, tell their friends about it, and so on.

Basic Networking How-To’s:

That’s basically what happened. And you can do the same for your business, even if you don’t have Apple’s marketing budget (or even their technological know-how). It starts with networking, so we’ve put together a few networking How To’s to get you on your way:

  1. Find your tribe: Whether you’re looking to connect with other local business owners or perhaps you’re specifically looking to connect with other bookkeepers, you need to find your tribe and make connections with them. You’d be surprised just how many other business owners are out there, just like you, looking to connect with others. Check your local newspaper, the noticeboard at your local shopping centre, gym or café. There are also a number of great online tools that facilitate networking – meetup.com is one of them, and a personal favourite of ours.
  2. Use social media: Social media is another great way to connect and interact with your customers and clients. But it’s also a great way to connect with other movers and shakers within your industry. Twitter and LinkedIn are especially great platforms for cultivating online connections with people in your industry. It’s important, however, not to treat Twitter as your own personal spamming platform. Your Twitter feed should be interesting and informative – and show that there’s a real person (or group of people) behind the Twitter handle, rather than a robot pushing out links to your website.
  3. Follow up – When you meet a new person, always ask for their business card and always offer yours. Remember that networking is not about selling, and in fact, you may not actually sell anything to that person, but if they like you, they may just refer you to their friend or colleague who is looking for your services. The key to getting to this point – where this other person is referring you to others – is being genuine. Take an interest in that person’s business and follow-up with them. Connect with that person on social media, send them email – follow up!
  4. Get outside your comfort zone: Instead of always going to your local networking group, try a group somewhere else. Business Networking International, or BNI, is a global networking organisation that is always looking for new members. It is very structured and not for everyone, but its huge success is partly because of the structured way they operate. Find a chapter near you and see if it works for you (tip: you may try a couple of chapters before you find your tribe).

So what are you still reading this blog post for? Go forth and pimp your business! Network, people!

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Business Efficiency: Have You Said Sorry Today?

business efficiency tips
If you’re often apologising to clients because you can’t keep up with the work, you may be over-promising.

Maybe this sounds familiar: one of your clients has been calling you about a job you said you would do. You’ve been dodging their calls, because you haven’t had time to do it. Eventually they email, so you send one back. It begins: “Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately…” or “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to…” “Sorry…” “Sorry…” “Sorry…”

Does Sorry = Inefficiency?

In one of the modules of our Small Business Management Course, we take you through business planning, where you learn about how to set processes and procedures to make your business operate efficiently. So if it feels like all of your emails begin with “sorry”, it could be because you’re not as efficient as you’d like to think you are.

If you’re new in business sometimes it’s a simple case of trying to seem more accommodating than is feasibly possible. If your clients regularly request work from you by a certain date that conflicts with your other work, suggest an alternate date rather than agreeing to something you can’t deliver.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

Good clients appreciate the honesty, and if they value the work you do, they’ll be happy to wait. It’s often not a question of efficiency. Those people who aren’t happy to wait, and would rather something that is rushed or who constantly give you short notice, possibly aren’t the kinds of clients you want anyway. Being honest establishes trust and clear communication with your clients, and paves the way towards a better, more efficient business relationship.

By having enough time to complete your work properly, you’re less likely to make errors, forget things or experience other setbacks in getting the job completed, which also reduces the number of “sorry” emails and phone calls you’re making.

But if you’re still finding yourself apologising, it could be a sign of a much bigger problem. Perhaps the processes and systems you have in place are failing you, and they need to be revised. It could be a case that you’ve outgrown the processes you have in place, and they’re slowing you down.

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At the end of the day, your customers are counting on you and if they can’t rely on you to complete something when you say you will, they’ll go elsewhere. So stop apologising and get it right the first time!