Sunday, 3 January 2010

You have to be there

Something that I've noticed over the Christmas period is that people, obviously with a bit of down time, seem to decide to 'top up' their online networking, by spending a bit of time on forums, Twitter etc, even if they haven't been seen for weeks or months.

If they're using this to give them a kickstart into online networking great, but just dipping in and out simply doesn't work.

You've got to be there, you've got to be a presence in the online world if that is where you want to build your business and reputation. If you want to be the best known estate agent online, or the best known copywriter, or the best known whatever, you don't have to spend money but you do have to spend some time. Immerse yourself, find the people who are talking about the subjects on which you have a view or opinion and get in there.

I believe, in the UK in 2010 you have a massive opportunity to build your brand online but please don't think you can do it by dipping in and out when it suits you. You have got to be there when your potential clients and customers are there. You have got to be there to answer the ad hoc questions that come up online. You have got to be there for the chat.

Stop thinking that you don't have the time for this. If you want to build your business online, you need to start thinking that this is where you must be spending your time.

Have a great 2010 and if you have any comments, post them here or @NoRedBraces

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Don't forget to listen to the feedback

I've been really lucky this week to have had some positive feedback on some of the stuff that I've done and ,equally, some feedback where people didn't think I'd got something quite right. In one case someone said they wanted to tell me "as a friend".

I've got to be honest and tell you that I didn't take it well at first. I'm not that thick skinned and it felt like criticism. But I thought about it overnight and used what they had said to slightly change my approach with someone. The results were spectacular and they had proved themselves a real friend by telling me.

When you're in business for yourself it's too easy to believe that you're right and everyone else is wrong. If people aren't buying it's because they're not the right customers, you need bigger businesses, you're in the wrong network; if people aren't coming to your seminars it's because of 'the recession'. The hard truth is that I've had to learn is to listen to the people who give me feedback. Sometimes I don't like it but, if I want to take the business and my life forward, it's worth listening.

I've got any feedback about the blog - let me know @stefnet on Twitter.

Monday, 2 November 2009

I've posted on business forums, but nobody ever takes any notice

This was another 'business forums don't work for my business' conversation I've had in the last few weeks. Turns out someone posts ads but nobody ever reads them and by the end of the day, they've sunk to the bottom of the page.

I know I've said the same thing in different ways several times, but posting ads for your business, if that's all you post, simply will not work.

When I walk post the Post Office in the village, I'm aware that there are postcards on a board, advertising stuff for sale. And I'm also aware that there are ads on business forums. If an ad is posted by someone I know, I will take a look. If in an ad title, there is a service I really want that week, I'll take a look. Otherwise I won't bother, and I suspect most people are the same.

Take the time to make yourself an active member of the forum community, in whichever way suits you. People often tell me they're too busy to do so, just as I'm too busy to read ads from people I don't know, for services I'm probably not interested in.

Join up your communities, make sure your Twitter followers know when you've posted an ad on a forum, tell your Facebook friends about it too.

These days, with Sky+, I hardly ever watch the ads on telly, I suspect a lot of people are the same. People also switch off, unfollow, ignore and don't read, people who only ever post ads. Join in first, the rest will follow.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

What DON'T you like about business networking?

I guess because I've used business networking so much and, allegedly, so successfully, that I don't quite get it when other people claim that it won't work for them or that they just don't see the value in it enough to even try it.

So today, an open question. What don't you like about business networking? What is stopping you going to business networking meetings or, if you do attend, what is stopping you doing more of it? Do you feel you're getting enough value from the groups and meetings you attend and, if not, why not?

What would you like to see more of? Or less of? What would be the IDEAL business networking format for you?

I'm genuinely interested and in will help me to understand what else I can offer that might help. Comment on here, or @ me on Twitter - @stefnet

I don't have all the answers, but if there's anything you reckon you could do better at networking events, let me know that as well.

Have a good Sunday :-)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Prepare your strategy, or not?

I've read an awful lot about business networking and referral marketing and one of the consistent pieces of advice seems to be to know your outcome. It seems that you should have a defined strategy for what you want to get out of each networking meeting and what sort of business you are looking for there.

Hold on though, what about the other people in the room. What if their outcome is different to yours? What if you don't know who will be in the room before you attend? It's a piece of advice that has always confused me. It actually seems a bit arrogant to walk into a room full of people with their own agendas and impose yours on them.

I have a different view on this, not saying it's right, it's just the one that works for me.

Whenever I attend a business networking meeting, I prepare my introduction (sort of) and let everything else flow. In my conversations with people I try to find out as much as possible about them and their business. That way, I get an opportunity to work out if there is any way we can work together, if their services are of interest to me or if I know someone else who might be interested in their services. From there I've got a platform to think about how I might help them, either now or in the future.

It's all about building relationships and sometimes takes time, going in with an action plan will probably lead to disappointment and potentially alienating people in the room that you might actually do business with.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

First, assemble a crowd

Business networking communities online are just like any other community, I'm never sure why people think they should behave differently online.

The mistake I see people making, is to head straight for the Classified Ads section and expect people to take notice of them. You HAVE to engage, you HAVE to involve yourself in the community before people will be interested in you and your business.

Consider this for a second, you arrive at a breakfast meet or other networking event where you don't know anyone. Immediately you stand on a chair and start broadcasting your message and your current special offer. What do you think people would think of you? Yet people do exactly that here.

Spend some time getting to know the other people in the community. Find out about their businesses, see if you have knowledge or advice that might help. By doing so, you will also get an understanding of their business, which might help you to pass business their way in the future and will definitely help you to understand how your products and services might help them.

First assemble a crowd of people who know and like you. In fact, why not just do that, business might just start flowing to you without you ever asking for it.