Sunday, 17 June 2012

Networking for Small Business Made Easy

One of the most effective methods of growing your business, especially if it's a service orientated is through networking.

Is your picture of an effective networker someone who comes across as an extrovert? Then think again.

Here are five easy ways to implement a business networking strategy, some of which you may be doing anyway without labelling it as networking.

1. Identify from all your contacts those who could refer business onto. Where there is a level of trust between you and your contact this should be easy for the contact. They won't be under any pressure to make the referral, so when they do refer business to you it will be genuine.

2. Share your materials and ask for theirs also. This way it v doesn’t appear the relationship between you and your contact is heavily weighted in your favour.

3. Offer to take your contact out for lunch or coffee where it’s appropriate. You don’t want to make them feel obligated they have to refer business to you, so only do this where it feels natural and doesn’t put them in an embarrassing position.

4. Get some visibility, volunteer to serve on a committee or other group at your Chamber of Commerce. Or, if there is some association that represents your area of business attend their meetings and volunteer to server on any committees or groups that are formed. You’re bound to end up building relationships with at least one person.

5. This last step is easy and you’re probably doing already, and this is keeping up-to-date with the magazines, publications and websites relevant to your area. If ‘White Papers’ are published request a copy so you are the forefront of the future thinking that surround your industry/business area.

Acting on these simple steps launches you into the world of networking which isn’t that scary a place to be. Networking will give you the opportunity to actively drive business your way.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Aerial Advertising, Make an Impact

How can you make a big impact on customers or clients with the service you provide or the product you sell?

The popular method is to buy prime time TV viewing spots. But, for the small business the cost is exhorbitant.

You could try full page advertisements in the local or national press, but the costs may be prohibitive or effectiveness hard to measure.

However, you could try a medium that is often overlooked, but when used your prospective audience can’t fail to look. Aerial advertising.

How often have you instinctively looked to the sky when an airship/blimp, or airplane flies a banner or billboard? If you don’t look, someone next to you will likely draw it to your attention.

Aerial advertising doesn’t require a small mortgage to pay for itself. And, the results can be impressive.

For example the US state of Maine used aerial advertising to promote their state lottery. They measured the results of its effectiveness and found that:

• 88% remembered the banner passing • 79% remembered what was advertised • 67% remembered at least one-half of the message

You have a wide choice of aerial marketing mediums to choose from:

• Airship or Blimp • Helicopter-banners • Aerial bill boards • Aerial logo boards • Aerial letter banners • Sky writing

Is aerial advertising effective? Here are a couple of quotes from business owners who have used aerial advertising:

"The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) decided to use aerial advertising to cut through the 'ground clutter' of logos at major auto races. Having an aerial banner in the sky attracted all attention to the aerial message, allowing us to promote our ethanol fuel use on track and direct people to our fuel retail partners”, Reece Nanifito, Sr. Director of Marketing The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) Omaha, NE.

"I've been in advertising for 18 years and very rarely do I come across a medium that reaches millions of people for hundreds of dollars”, Mike Doyle, Director of Marketing & Advertising Floor and Decor Outlets of America Kennesaw, GA.

Use aerial advertising where large crowds gather such as sports events, out door festivals, areas of heavy commuter traffic and crowded beaches. On the beaches you probably have a captive audience as large percentage of sunbathers are likely to be sun worshippers already looking up to the sky.

In a crowded place you must stand tall if you want to be seen. In the crowded market place for your product or service you want attention, and one of the best ways to grasp it is to get people to look up to you.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Redundancies or Layoffs, Can You Avoid Them?

The day every business owner dreads, other than the arrival of the tax bill, is letting staff go i.e. making one or more of their employees redundant. This isn’t a decision taken lightly. But there are options worth exploring that could make the bitter pill of redundancy easier to swallow.

Redundancies, Ideas to Avoid Them

Here are some ideas:

• Offer employees a sabbatical

A sabbatical is one way companies can reduce the payroll bill if the cost threatens their survival. Some employees may be looking to take time off to travel the world or even spend time at home with family. Sabbaticals are a great option to consider as they are always unpaid. However, most employees will want some safeguard that they will have a job on their return should they accept the option to go on a sabbatical.

• Natural wastage

During difficult times some employees may wish to resign. Halting any further recruitment to replace employees that leave may safeguard the jobs of remaining employees. But, this needs to be balanced against the extra workload that will result.

• End all temporary contracts

Although these have a fixed termination date, there is flexibility to end them sooner depending on the wording of the contract. Nissan for example, had to remove a third of a shift and right size 1200 jobs from Christmas 2009. They were able to end 400 temporary contracts immediately.

More controversial suggestions:

Suggest a paycut. There will be resistance. But, employees may realise that this is their only chance of continued employment. You could sweeten the bitter pill of a paycut by offering employees equity in the business if you really want them to stay and contribute to your business.

Exploring alternatives to a layoff can help your business survive until the business environment improves.

How to Negotiate for a Win-Win

Getting the best deals for your business depends on your skills as a negotiator. Here are some tips that could swing the negotiating pendulum in your favour.

• Never go into a negotiation unprepared... well, that's obvious, but what exactly should you do ?

• Identify your personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, If you know you are not very good at sticking to a price once you’ve been challenged, if you fail to prepare in that area and someone pushes, you will simply give way.

• The sort of preparation you do is put the price up. You don't try to get better at holding the price because that's not you, you don't work that way.

• Think ahead. During the preparation phase, focus on your primary objective - and the other party's. Decide what you believe is fair and plan to be flexible.

• List the items you are prepared to concede and what you can reasonably expect the other party to concede. Anticipate what the stumbling blocks in your argument will be for them and have an alternative strategy or plan to deal with them.

• Win or lose: Decide if you want the negotiation to be combative ('win or lose'), or 'win-win', where the parties attempt to reconcile their positions so that the end result is an agreement under which both will benefit.

The latter is preferable, an agreement reached under a win-win approach is likely to remain stable. If one party feels they have been 'hard done by', the agreement may be unstable and the 'loser' may seek ways to get back at the 'winner’.

• Become an ‘Information Junky’. Know the state of the market. Be aware of any current or imminent discounts and special offers.

If the subject of negotiation is not a purchase but involves, perhaps, extension of a deadline, acquiring more resources, or even a pay rise, gathering background information is still necessary.

• To give credibility to your arguments, back up assertions with published information. If you can bring an expert along, they will add weight to your position, especially if they are seen as neutral.

Whatever your strengths, don't enter a negotiation just hoping for the best - prepare properly to win-win. Share your tips with us on how you deal with negotiations.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Is Your Business Drowning in Paper?

The growth in information technology has detonated the explosion in the volume of paper produced with some companies literally drowning in paper.

Living in the technological age would suggest that we would all be satisfied if our information needs were catered for by electronic means.

A visit to any office, or nearer home - a glance at your desk or filing cabinet, might reveal piles and piles of documents, reports unread, press cuttings, memos, invoices, credit notes and the list goes on.

For some reason, we all have this psychological and emotional attachment to paper that we need to overcome to rid ourselves of the bonds of paper.

Even where we have all the information we want electronically, producing it on paper gives the illusion of legitimacy and creditability of the information. Paper, does makes the information more real, even three-dimensional.
What can be done to get a grip if you're drowning in paper, as dealing with mountains of paper can affect how efficiently you and you your co-workers operate.

Here are some tips:

• Distribute one copy of a document with a circulation list attached, so all recipients can initial they have read it, rather than sending a copy to every individual on the list.

• Produce a list of all reports in your company and compile a questionnaire for users asking if they actually use the reports. If not. grab the opportunity to seek and destroy redundant, but still printed, reports. If you’re a one man band, do you read them?<

• Subscribe to online information providers rather than obtaining copies of directories and journals

• Photocopy and print on both sides of the paper

• If you’re really ambitious, try to quantify how much time you deal with filing documents and reading them or reports that don’t add value to your business

Use any of the above tips and share with us any others you have.