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We all have to do it right? You are your own sales person when it comes to your business, so sometimes a good way for prospects to find you is for you to be out and about, present and active in the professional community. But there are so many events to go to, and its difficult to squeeze them into an already busy schedule or to include all of them in your budget. So, how do you maximize the resources you have, get the most from the events you attend, and get a return on your investment? We’ve got 5 easy tips for a better networking experience.
6. Set Reasonable Goals: Until they perfect cloning and you can be in multiple places at once, let’s just accept the premise that you may not be able to make all the events that are available to you. So, maybe set a goal for how many events you want to attend in a month. Anywhere from 2-4 is a great start. Setting a goal will allow you to put time in your schedule, be selective with what events to attend, and plan ahead.
5. Set a Budget: Some events are free, but others require an out of pocket expense. While there might be a price tag involved, there could also be a good return on your investment based on the type of the event or the people attending. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to set a monthly budget and to choose events wisely. You can mix up your events between one or two that cost money and one or two that are free mixers/networking happy hours.
4. Play it Cool: Be more interested in conversation than making a sale. You’ll find that people will gravitate to you more if you just be yourself or pick a current interest topic to talk about. Sometimes people who introduce themselves and immediately want to sell themselves can push people away. Conversations, connections, and experiences are what attract people to become interested in who you are and what you do. Letting this unfold naturally over appetizers and a drink is the perfect way to put yourself out there and make a good impression.
3. Don’t Over Indulge: A networking event is generally not the time to make a mad dash for the food table or to go through a few rounds of drinks to the point where your judgement/response time is impaired. Eat and drink in moderation, and if you happen to connect really well with a couple other attendees, let the evening continue by inviting them out for a drink or food afterwards.
2. Keep in Touch: Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you after a networking event. If you really want to stay connected, get their business card after talking with them, and then follow up with them via email the next day. This is not an opportunity for you to sell directly to them, but more a way to say that it was good to meet them and you would like to connect with them again. Connect with them on LinkedIn to keep the lines of communication open. That way you stay in their news feed and they get updates about what you’re doing.
1. Know Where To Look: Events are occurring everywhere and some searching on your part can prove to be very beneficial. You can find these events by searching within your immediate circle of professional colleagues. You can also use sites such as meetup.com to be a part of groups and join events where people gather based on common interest (professional, personal, etc). You can also search eventbrite.com to find out what events are occuring locally in your area. And you can look up the events of professional organizations and media outlets (such as Baltimore Business Journal, SmartCEO, Urbanite Magazine, etc).
This winning combination of choosing the right events, making the most of your time at them, following up, and planning accordingly will greatly enhance your networking experience.
Have you ever found yourself lost on a website, confused by an advertisement, or wondering what a person is really offering when you look at their business card? It is our professional opinion that, at the present moment, we are on an information overload. Throughout the day you are exposed to advertisements everywhere you go, from your radio, television, drive to work, magazines in the checkout line, and the list goes on and on. In a world where advertisers and businesses are constantly competing for your attention, how do you stay in the mind of your customers? How do you make them look twice? How to you peek their curiosity and entice them to learn more?
Our philosophy when it comes to design, advertising, and target marketing is:
Less is More.
Here are the TOP 5 MISTAKES that small businesses make and how you can learn from them to stay in the game.
Overcrowded Business Cards: Do you really need to list all your products, services, mission statement, etc on your business cards? Good grief, by the time you get it all on there, the font is at 6pt and we need a magnifying glass just to read it! Business cards have about 2-5 seconds max of being in front of someone, before they make the split decision to hold on to it or place it in the recycling bin. Keep the information on your cards simple, be creative, and give just enough for someone to say “Really?” and ask you for more information.
Overcrowded Websites: So we go to your website, and a video starts playing or sound starts playing (if you’re a multi-tasker that has several browser windows open, finding out where the noise is coming from is not a fun game). In addition to the video, there’s things flashing, there’s text everywhere, and there’s multiple drop down menus. Good grief! How is anyone supposed to find what they need on your website? Consider the concept of less is more. Keep the most valuable information on your site, in a way where it is easy to find and navigate through. Consider a blog or a newsletter for your frequent updates so they don’t clutter your site. Give your viewers a reason to actually contact you for more information.
Multiple eNewsletters/Emails: This is absolutely ridiculous around the holiday season in particular, and can cause patrons to unsubscribe from your newsletter. Pick a schedule for your newsletters and stick to it to establish some consistency. Daily posts/updates are better for Facebook and Twitter, instead of for your newsletter.
Really Long eNewsletters/Emails: Some newsletters run on FOREVER and are not necessary. In many cases if a viewer sees as lot of text, it’s discouraging. That means they can’t read it immediately, and they put it aside for later (we’re sure many of you are aware that in some cases, “later” never comes). If you have a long article, provide a preview in your newsletter, link the rest to a blog post. Give your readers the power to choose, and allow all of the items in your newsletter to be seen.
Serial Social Media Posting: So your customer logs onto their Facebook page, and they see a post from your business page. Fabulous! They want to check out the link. But wait! They are immediately distracted because you’ve sent out 5 additional posts within a span of seconds/minutes! What do they click on? You do know that Facebook gives users the options to hide the postings from those who they are connected to, at their own discretion right? Space out those posts and give your fans a chance to actually digest what you’re putting out. Consider creating a running Word document with your posts if you are doing them all at once. Then you can copy and paste them into Facebook on a timed basis. Suddenly, you’re getting comments and feedback. Good for you!
As you go through your own marketing materials, or make plans for future campaigns, remember that simplicity is key and less is more.
The holidays are upon us! Tis the season for time spent with family and friends, giving more than you get, and being in good spirits. It’s also the time when your inbox, computer and television are overburdened with commercials and advertisements about savings and holiday specials! YIKES! How are you supposed to think, let alone be creative when you’ve got so much going on around you? Never fear, JWatson Creative is here!
Here are 5 Tips to Keep You Thinking Creatively Over the Holidaze:
- Shut it Down: Let’s face it folks, whether you’re checking emails, gearing up for prime time television, or checking out the latest magazines while waiting in line, you’re guaranteed to be bombarded with holiday advertisements. Why not limit your exposure to the outside world for a bit and instead curl up with a book you’ve been wanting to read or a movie/documentary you’ve been meaning to watch?
- Take it With You: Traveling over the holidays? No worries, you can leave your travel woes behind and escape into a world of creative inspiration by bringing along your MP3 player. Load it up with music that makes you smile and then drift off into another world. Music not only relaxes the mind and body, it also provides a great space to let your ideas flow. If you’re unable to use an MP3 player, take along some good reading instead.
- Carry it With You: Carrying around a giant notebook full of ideas may be asking for a bit much. After all, how will you juggle that with grocery bags and gifts? But a small pad that fits into your purse or back pocket is perfect. Find inspiration on the go, whether it be by temporarily relaxing your mind, or being in the store and having something catch your eye. Write these thoughts and ideas down as quick as they come, and then lay them to rest. Later on, when things are less hectic, you can explore them further in your own time and space.
- Go Out With It: Your house is full of relatives, there isn’t an empty room anywhere, and you’ve been entertaining guests for what seems like days! Who ate your leftover pumpkin pie?!?! Time for a break! Excuse yourself and take a drive or a walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes all you need is a moment of clarity. If you can’t find that within your current situation, excuse yourself and go out and create it!
- Catch it on Camera: You’ve got your camera on you already because you’re tasked with taking pictures of the family and the tree and the present opening traditions. Why not have some fun with it and take some different pictures too. Perhaps play with depth, angle and point of view. Or, change the subject line. Take pictures of unique objects in the house, take pictures of people when they’re not looking or posing, take extreme close ups of items so that people can guess what they are later. The camera is the ultimate tool for being creative and exploring. You have to use it anyway, so just take it up a notch and see what you come up with.
JWatson Creative would like to wish you all a safe and happy holiday as well as a prosperous new year!
If you’re not thinking about 2011, you absolutely should be. As this year comes to a close fast in between changing leaves and holiday leftovers, now is as good a time as any to start thinking about your business goals for 2011. In order to be successful in reaching a goal, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve. The key to effectively growing your business is to take time to reflect, evaluate, monitor and change. In doing so, you must develop goals and milestones to ensure your success.
When contemplating your business goals for 2011, consider the SMART methodology, meaning Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound goals. Let’s dive in a little deeper. Specific goals are well defined, and clear to anyone that has basic knowledge or understanding of the project. Measureable goals are able to evaluated and monitored; you can calculate how far away completion is and know when they have been achieved. Attainable goals are reasonable and reachable. Relevant goals take into account availability or resources, knowledge and time. Time-bound goals have time limits to them as to when they should be achieved. Your goals for 2011 need to encompass all of the aforementioned components.
As you evaluate your business, we would like to provide you with 3 suggestions of SMART business goals for 2011. We want to see you thrive!
Business Growth: Let’s say your goal is to increase your sales by 10 percent over a 12 month period, or bring on 2 new clients each month. Adjust the time, numbers and percentages as you see fit for your business. Let’s break this down: What does it take to increase your sales or bring in new clients? How can we turn this goal into action? Maybe it means setting yourself up to attend 2 business networking events a month, or doing follow up phone calls/emails for the people you’ve already connected with. Develop a plan of action for your goal, and then set up a time (maybe every 3 months if your goal spans over the year) to check in and evaluate your progress. If things are not going the way you want, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.
Be More Efficient: Let’s say your goal is to free up some time from your schedule to focus more on other aspects of growing your business. How can you do that if you’re a small business, wearing the hat of the business bookkeeper as well as the marketing director? Take a week and just write out what your time goes to. Is it mostly social networking? Invoicing? Etc. What areas can you afford to streamline or delegate to someone else, so you can shift your focus back to the core of your business? Have you looked into automated systems that automatically take care of your billing for you (see Freshbooks)? What about a Google Voice number that will keep record of all your voicemails, type them up for you and send them as emails? What about hiring a virtual assistant to take care of your paperwork and confirm your appointments? In the business world how you spend your time is important. Make sure you are spending it wisely. If you notice hiccups in your system, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.
Get Organized: Where was that paper from last week? Oh goodness, where is that email where that client told you what they wanted? Let’s say your goal is to get your business organized, which also ties into being more efficient. Take a week where you simply write down things that are not organized within your business as you notice them. Notes like “it takes too long for me to find files,” or “my supply room is unorganized so I can’t locate the items I need.” These are real problems that can slow your business down. Once you realize where the speed bumps are, take some time to research cost-effective systems to solve these problems. It could be something as simple as purchasing color-coded folders to organize your file cabinets, to investing in a software system that organizes and sorts your digital files. These goals can be measured on a time system by re-checking how efficient your new system is (does it still take forever to find something or locate a file?). If the new system is not picking up the slack, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.
Setting SMART goals are crucial to your success. The more specific you can get with these goals, the better. Suddenly, wanting to bring in new business becomes wanting to bring in 2 clients a month from the local eco-friendly business industry by attending 2 networking events and following up on people you’ve connected with. Last but not least you need to take action towards your goals. Writing your goals down is a great start, but there is more to be done. Even if you come up with a fantastic SMART goal nothing happens if you don’t act on them.
You make these goals happen by taking action consistently. And guess what, you’ve got a whole year at your disposal for getting the job done.
There is a delicate balance when it comes to the relationship between a customer/client and you, the service/goods provider. And client preferences are different. Some of your clients will love your eNewsletter while others have already lost control over their inbox and would rather read about your updates in a blog. The question is, how do you find a pleasant way to stay in the minds of your clients without becoming that overbearing “give me your business!” supplier? This is a good question indeed. Here are some suggestions to help you achieve that balance.
The 3-6 Month Follow Up Program: Depending on your business, sometimes 3 months works for this strategy, and other times 4 or 6 month intervals work. Either way, at whatever time schedule works for you, you should set aside some time to run through your top clients list and touch base with them via email. Remember, this is no general email. You know your clients. You know what projects they were working on when you last communicated, and you may even know some of their hobbies and personal interests. Play that knowledge to your advantage and send an email out that talks directly to them. You never know what new projects have landed on their desks, or what new needs they may have.
Send Out a Monthly Newsletter: What customer doesn’t like free information, especially if it is relevant and something they can easily use. Newsletters are also an opportunity to highlight your business or offer discounts. If you don’t have the budget to invest in an eNewsletter solution, we recommend MailChimp, a service that will let you have a monthly newsletter for FREE as long as your mailing list is under 1,000 and your sending limit is under 6,000 a month. We say monthly because you want to give your clients a little time to miss you, or at least to thoroughly read all of the information you have to offer. Newsletters that come out a couple days a week or sometimes weekly end up not getting read, or lost in inbox clutter.
Follow Your Clients: No, not literally! But your clients probably have social networking profiles out on the web, through Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. They will be happy to have your support. Then, you get to hear about what they are doing in live time, and they in turn get to see what you’ve been up to. Show your support even further by actually commenting on some of their posts and updates. Now this is really strengthening the relationship and showing support.
Give The Gift of Your Logo: It’s really cost effective to invest in a promotional item that has your logo on it. Something like a pen or a post-it note pad; these items are sure to get some use and its an indirect visual reminder about your business. These little items can be included when you ship orders if your business makes a product. It can be sent with a final invoice if you’re in the service business. Or, the holidays are literally just around the corner (hint hint), you could slip a promo item in the envelope with your holiday card thanking your clients for another great year.
Think About Your Clients: “Just a little note to let you know I was thinking of you….” Okay, maybe it doesn’t have to be that sentimental! But you get the point. Your best clients and customers are the ones you know the most about. Is someone a sports fan? Well, send an email about how their team did in the playoffs last night. Is someone really into online marketing? Email them an article you found on some really ground-breaking online marketing techniques. You probably come across a lot of this information in your daily web surfing. Why not use it to your advantage.
Remember, you are responsible for making sure your business gets noticed and your clients know that you are there when they need you. The real question is, what are you going to do about it?
One of the best quotes about the importance of advertising is by Stuart Henderson Britt and goes like this: “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” If you want your advertising to resonate with prospective customers, it’s essential that you appeal to their emotions in some way. Fail to do this and you might as well be throwing money out the window….or winking in the dark.
As a small business more often than not, you may not have a budget set aside for marketing, or you may not have limited to work with. Maybe you’ve been sticking with the free advertising that’s available to you (like for example, your business has a blog, a twitter page, and a facebook fan page). Those are good outlets for promoting your business and you should definitely keep those up, we’ve put together some points below that will persuade you to consider making a monetary investment. A little bit of money in the right marketing campaign can go a long way. That’s exactly why you need to spend your advertising dollars wisely and be very strategic with your campaign. You need to ensure a return on your investment and you need to generate new or repeat business.
First things first, you should start off every campaign with a little research. What’s the message that you are trying to deliver? “We are the best at….” or “10% your order…” A clearly defined selling point is important. Perhaps even more important is Who are you selling to? And your answer shouldn’t be “anybody” or “everybody.” You should be targeting specifically your ideal or potential customers and clients.
Here are some more questions you need to answer to help further clarify your advertising options:
- How does my target customer/client receive information? If they are online a lot, targeted internet advertising might be money well spent. Do they read the paper or any local magazines?
- How old is my target customer/client? What attracts the baby boomer generation may be way over the heads of generation Y.
- What appeals to my customer/client? How can I connect with them? Are they looking for a sale, to support or care for a cause, maybe a human connection?
- What makes my business unique? What can you offer your ideal customer/client that no one else can? Price? Service? Something unique? These elements should be echoed throughout the overall packaging of your campaign.
- What am I trying to sell? There is nothing worse than a confusing message that doesn’t make sense to the end-user. That’s wasting money!
The answers to these questions may not come overnight and that’s okay. You are investing money into whatever direction you choose, so its important not to rush into a campaign, investing your money without thinking it out first. Once you have the answers and a clear direction, now its time to put your plan into action. As promised, below are some cost effective options for advertising your business.
Really Direct Mail: Maybe you don’t have the budget to do a mass mailing to a particular region. Goodness, some of those mailings NEVER get opened by your potential customer/client and go straight into the recycling bin. But what if you made a list of 10-50 potential customers/clients that you would love to do business with? Suddenly, you have drastically cut the cost of a massive mailing and are beginning to zone in on your target audience. Now what? You have a couple options. You could send out a postcard or a brochure, but it needs to be very clever and eye catchy to end up in the right hands and not in the bin. Or, you can abide by a very important rule of thumbs – you can send a package. It can be small, because what curious person doesn’t want to rip open a package and see what’s inside? Get creative with what you would send with your printed marketing piece. In addition to your brochure or selling point, can you send a free sample? Can you send a branded promo item that the end user would actually use?
Really Direct Marketing: This is to piggyback off of the above suggestion. If you know your target customers/clients read a particular local or trade magazine, consider running an ad in there. Does your target customer/client frequent a particular tradeshow or event? See what it costs to get a booth or table there. You don’t have to go to all the tradeshows as this may not be cost effective if you are on a budget, but if you can target one and then work within your budget for that, this could be effective.
Showing Love to Current Customers/Clients: Sometimes the best business is referral business and repeat customers. How do you show your current customers/clients that you are thinking about them? If its just an email newsletter then you could most definitely be doing more. What if you offered a discount for your current customer/client and then one to pass along to a friend? What if you included a personal note with someone’s order or tossed in a free promo item (something useful with your logo on it, of course). No matter what it is, in most cases, people are happy to receive something extra, and if they are really happy with your product, they will spread the word. Anything you can do to help make that “spreading the word” easier on their part would be very beneficial to you.
Speak Up!: Is there anywhere you can go to give a presentation? Not a selling presentation where you say “you should buy my product because…”, but how about an event where you can be the expert and speak from your knowledge and experience. With all the business expos, groups, networking events, seminars, and so forth and so on, there’s got to be somewhere that you can step into the lime light. And if you are a business in any particular field, you’ve got to have professional knowledge that will benefit others. Do a little research and see where that takes you. If you come up empty handed organize the lecture yourself, all you need is a venue and light refreshments, then advertise for it locally or online (EventBrite is a free event-organizing service you should check out if you decide to go this route). The costs are minimal for presentation materials. You could include a brochure, handouts, business cards, and a free item for your audience taking part in the presentation. After you talk, you can pass around a form where your audience members can volunteer their email addresses and contact information.
Get Behind A Good Cause: Sometimes having your business name and logo associated with a positive cause locally can go a long way. This may require a monetary donation or a donation of goods/services, but in return it yields brand recognition. Even better if you are present on the day of the event, visible and talking with participants, handing out your business cards. Depending on the organization, if they were not set up to provide you with your company name/logo listed as a supporter, there may be some wiggle room for offering it as a suggestion. Something along the lines of, “I would be happy to provide my services of [insert your amazing service here] in exchange for maybe my logo on your mailer and marketing material as a supporter of this cause/event.” The possibilities and arrangements here are endless and the cost is minimal.
The above suggestions should definitely put those wheels in motion and have you thinking about what else you can be doing to promote your business. If you have additional ideas feel free to comment on this article.
We are always looking for exceptional design and we love the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics logo. This article below was originally featured on the Canadian Press website. We’re sharing this with you to give you the inside scoop behind the design.
The 2010 Winter Olympics will feature a unique design of an inukshuk, a traditional stone sculpture used by Canada’s Inuit people, as its official logo.
The winning logo, called Ilanaaq (el la nawk), was unveiled Saturday in Vancouver and was designed by local graphic designers Elena Rivera MacGregor and Gonzalo Alatorre.
Their emblem was selected by a nine-member panel and beat out over 1,600 other submissions.
The logo boasts five stone-like formations in green, two in blue, and one in red and yellow. Two pillars serve as the legs in support of the body, a horizontal shape acts as the arm and an eagle is where the head would normally be.
The form stands over the words “Vancouver 2010″ and the five Olympic rings.
The different colours represent different regions of the country: the green and blues symbolize coastal forests, mountain ranges and islands. The red represents Canada’s Maple Leaf and the yellow depicts the brilliant sunrises.
“There were only so many things that could represent the entire country,” said Rivera MacGregor. “We researched it and we concluded the inukshuk was in fact one character that could pretty much tell the whole story.
“The value of the style and components of it, the colours, that’s what took it over the top.”
Rivera MacGregor said her team used an inukshuk in Vancouver’s Stanley Park as their inspiration.
Even though the Vancouver Olympics are five years away, you can expect to see the logo on television, on signs, on clothes, and on global advertisements in the lead up to the 2010 Olympics.
“This is an emblem when you see it once you never forget it,” said John Furlong, chief executive officer for the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee. “That’s remarkable and important.”
The new logo also impressed Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.
“I loved it immediately,” Rogge said in a videotaped interview shown to the crowd. “I smiled when I saw it.”
“It reminds me of a hockey goalie.”
Paul Okalik, premier of the territory of Nunavut, was pleased by the choice of an inukshuk as the Olympic symbol.
“We don’t have any Maple Leafs from where I come from,” said Okalik. “This is very special.
“It shows a strength. Our inukshuk has been around a very long time. To be shown off to the rest of the world is very special for us.”