How an email can disappoint!

Do you ever feel you’re fighting a constant battle managing your inbox? Having spent hours trying to get mine down to zero I was a little annoyed by an email I got today. It came with the headline, ‘Our biggest news ever!’ so I was expecting a big announcement.

Here's the teaser

Here’s the teaser

So now I’m expecting to click through to some big announcement. This what I got,

Where's the announcement?

Where’s the announcement?

This email comes from a guy whose current product is about managing time. The product is supplemented by training in managing time and having focus. This email has wasted my time and I’m tempted to unsubscribe.

Teasers can be good

I don’t think there is anything wrong with teasers as a marketing ploy but I don’t think they should masquerade as a big announcement. Teasers should build excitement in your target audience. I think they should give us just a little hint about why we should be interested and I think they should indicate how long we have to wait to get to know more.

Teasers that help the target market identify a problem they would like to solve are good. If the teaser rubs a bit of salt into the wound and promises a solution then the anticipation builds. We might be tempted to join a special mailing list to become the ‘first to know’ when the new product or service launches but we won’t do that if there’s no hint about the benefits to us.

Perhaps when the big announcement is eventually made I might be blown away, that is if I open the email. This headline enticed me in, I am intrigued to see what the subject line will be when the announcement is eventually made.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?

If networking doesn’t work it’s your own fault!

I was astonished when the hostess at the most vibrant networking group I attend told us that she had had feedback from one attendee at the previous meeting that the event had been a total waste of time. The rest of us were in unanimous agreement that this woman had failed to make the most of her opportunity. And yet I hear regularly from people who feel that networking doesn’t work. I strongly disagree!

Don’t go for the sale

Networking with a welcome drink

Networking with a welcome drink

If you go to a networking event expecting to sell then you will come away with the belief that networking doesn’t work. People rarely buy from new people at a networking event. It’s worth repeating the saying that people buy from ‘people they know, like and trust’, you can’t build that degree of a connection at your first event.

Your aim at any networking event you attend should be to make some interesting new connections with whom you can develop a relationship. Follow up the meeting by connecting on social media and/or by meeting for a one to one. Send that new connection information that might be useful to them and I don’t mean by adding them to your mailing list without their express permission. Here are some ideas of things you could send:

  • a news clipping or link to an article that might be of interest to them i.e. a story that is relevant to their business not something that is promoting you unless you have agreed that you will send that.
  • details of a book that you think they might enjoy
  • a referral to someone you know (with their permission) who could be a good connection
  • an invitation to an event that might be helpful
  • anything else that you promised to send when you met

Your target might not be in the room but that doesn’t mean it is out of sight

The hostess at my group is far too discrete to reveal who had said that the event was a waste of time but I suspect that it might be the person whose service is better suited to a corporate market than the small business owners who typically attend networking events. Most of the people at this event are mothers running their own businesses; many left their corporate careers to have a family. They left their careers, not necessarily their connections. Many have partners who are well connected in big business. Many still connect with their corporate colleagues. Don’t assume that because your target market is not in the room today that I won’t be meeting her for a drink tonight or even sharing my bed with him!

  • be very specific about who your target market is and ask the people that you meet if they can help you reach it

Engage people in conversations

If you have a conversation with people you will find out things about them.  Good conversationalists listen at least as much as they talk. People are usually very happy to talk about themselves. Unfortunately they don’t all remember to show equal interest in you so try to steer the conversation to look for areas of common interest and experience. Listen out for clues which might lead you to the opening you need, then you can ask for the help you need.

In almost 21 years in business a large proportion of my work has come through networking. I can’t recall an occasion when I have made an immediate sale but I have built some great relationships which regularly fill my sales funnel with new enquiries.

So if you are thinking that networking doesn’t work for you I have to say it is your own fault! Here are some points to consider before you write off networking all together:

  • Are you attending the right events? I mean events that attract your target market or where attendees have the right connections.
  • Are you guilty of coming on too strong with your sales pitch?
  • Are you generous with your own contacts, knowledge, time to help those that you meet?
  • Do you follow up after the event?
  • Do you give relationships time to develop?

What’s your experience of networking? What has worked well for you? Do share your experiences in the comments section.

For more networking tips:

How to make networking work for you.

12 top tips for networking success

How do you differentiate your business?

We live an increasingly homogeneous world. Visit a shopping mall in the USA and you’ll find many of the brands present in UK shopping centres and the same is true in many parts of Europe. Whether we operate on a global scale or a local one we face increasing competition. So how do we differentiate one business from another? A recent walk around my local neighbourhood got me thinking about how you would choose a real estate agent on the basis of these boards.

Example real estate board

Frankly these boards wouldn’t help. Estate agents’ boards have been the same for as long as I can remember. Now I know that the boards are designed to attract the passing motorist so information is kept brief but I think these boards are a missed opportunity. How do we sort one agent from another?

If I was house hunting I would start on the Internet so why don’t these boards give me a website address? If I saw a For Sale board outside a house I liked the look of I would want to know if it was the right size and if I could afford it so why not include a QR code? Surely I can’t be the only person who would stop her car to take a closer look at a house I admired. How many househunters have tablet computers or smartphones with them most of the time? A high percentage I would guess so a QR code would get the potential buyer to the property details very quickly. A ‘book now’ button would speed up the whole process of arranging viewings especially if the ‘book now’ took me through to a calendar that allowed me to choose my appointment time.

Real estate boards are a form of marketing communication so surely they should have a call to action and should differentiate one business from another. Perhaps a strap line could help. Whilst Estate Agents’ boards are there to draw attention to houses for sale their other purpose is surely to attract new vendors. The Estate Agent who showed imagination and originality would be one I would consider asking to market my property. What about you?

Can your prospects and customers easily differentiate your business from your competitors? Is the difference instantly obvious or do they have to get to know you before they spot the differences? Will they bother? Success rarely comes from being a copycat of a successful business. Can you give your brand a personality which will differentiate it from your competitors? A good example of how to do this would be Innocent where each pack contains a conversation with the customer.

I’d love to hear how you make your business stand out from the competition. What makes you different and how do people find out about that difference? Why not comment here?

A lesson from Fortnum and Mason

Did you see the press coverage of the Queen, and the Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge visiting Fortnum and Mason’s on March 1st? You can’t buy publicity like that but with a bit of planning and creativity you can increase your chance of getting it.

The spotlight will be on Britain in general, and London in particular, this year as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics. This creates enormous opportunities for businesses to gain media coverage as the Press will be looking for good news stories linked to these events. Fortnum’s have shown us the way, so what can we learn from them?

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 01: Catherine, ...

The Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge visit Fortnum and Mason to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Fortnum’s have renamed their restaurant ‘The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon’ and will be sending a commemorative tin of tea and biscuits to soldiers serving abroad over the Jubilee weekend. The store invited the Queen and the Duchesses for a tour of the store and to tea with service personnel during which they were shown the commemorative tins and a number of other products. The TV and newspapers were then full of the story.

Fortnum’s made a very clear link between their products and services and the Diamond Jubilee so all the publicity increases the public’s awareness of their offer. What could you do with your products and services to celebrate the Jubilee? For example:

  • a catering company might host a Diamond Jubilee party for elderly people living alone,
  • a cleaning company might decide to clean up a local eyesore,
  • a decorating company might donate their services to refurbish a community centre,
  • a photographer might put on a special exhibition of images reflecting the 60 years of the Queen’s reign,
  • a pet care company might walk a corgi for free for 60 days!

Of course there’s no point in doing something if people don’t hear about it so make sure to send out press releases, share the news with your customers and prospects, post details and photos on social media and publicise your efforts at networking events. You might not be able to get the Queen or a member of the Royal Family to attend your event (although there is no harm in trying!) but you could invite your local mayor, MP or a celebrity.

Photos of suits presenting cheques are boring so try to find an idea that is newsworthy and photogenic to stand a much better chance of media coverage. The Jubilee weekend is only three months away so it is time to start planning. I’m off to think about what the Training Pack is going to do but if you want some help get in touch here.

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Passion is not enough!

Yesterday I had an email which really upset me. It upset me because it accused me of negativity towards people and their dreams. Given that my whole raison d’etre is to help people achieve their dreams and goals this email really got me where it hurt but it got me thinking.

Having a passion for what you do can be what will keep you going when times are hard. It is my passion for what I do that will help me bounce back from what has been a very trying week. It is why I take criticism to heart and use it to think what can I do better? But it is not what puts money in the bank.

A successful business is built on having a workable, affordable solution for a problem that your target customer has. That problem has to be big enough and important enough for them to want to spend enough money on the solution you provide and to buy that solution often enough and at enough money for you to make a reasonable profit. Your customer does not buy your passion although it may help them to choose you over your competitor.

As a business adviser I am going to challenge my clients to establish that there is sufficient demand for their products or services at a price that allows them to make a viable profit. I will ask questions. I will challenge statements. I will play devil’s advocate. I will not say ‘that is a great idea’ just because it is my client’s passion. If that seems negative I’m sorry. The business world is tough and not getting any easier. I want my clients to succeed. If I challenge them to make better decisions, to re-think or revise their ideas then I have done my job. If you think I am wrong prove it.

No I haven’t thrown my toys out of the pram. I mean it. I will not always be right (the Dragons aren’t either!). My criticisms are intended to be constructive. Use them to go out and get the data, to test your product or service with potential customers, to sell what you do. Prove that your business idea is viable. I’ll be the first to join the celebrations and, with your permission, I will use you as an example here, in training sessions and in meetings  with clients.

I really hope that you can align a good business proposition with your passion and I genuinely wish you every success. What’s more I’d love to hear how you’ve done it, so why not share your story here?

12 top tips for networking success

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How do you feel about networking? Do you see it as a great way of doing business or simply a waste of time? Do you invest time in networking or avoid anything that bears the label? Over the years I’ve … Continue reading

Taking my own advice!

I’ll own up to the occasional ‘do as I say not as I do’ pieces of advice. Crazy! I give good advice so why don’t I practice what I preach? Sometimes life gets in the way and there are just not enough hours in the day but it can be because nobody, other than myself, is holding me accountable for my actions. The result is that I’ll often dance to somebody else’s tune rather than my own.

I achieve much more when I share my deadlines and goals with other people or when someone else is depending on me. I also achieve more when I am really committed to my goals.

For years I have been illustrating the setting of SMART objectives with a personal weight loss target. Every year the target was bigger and bigger. It wasn’t until I looked at this year’s holiday photos that I decided that enough was enough and really committed myself to my goal. I decided to join a diet group and now, eleven weeks later, I have lost 17lbs and am still losing.

For once I am following my own advice. I have a clear target which is broken down into weekly goals. I have a plan to achieve those goals and I have a coach and a support group to hold me to account.

I want to succeed for myself but I have recognised that one of my great motivators is helping other people. The diet group is a new venture for my coach and I want to be one of her success stories so that I can help her to build her business. I think that has driven me to be one of the ‘biggest losers’ in the group.

I’ve decided that 2011 will be the year in which I act on more of my own advice and am looking forward to achieving more of my goals as a result. Now who will I share my goals with?