Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Using Webinars to Promote Your Business

No matter how quick the pace, it seems keeping up with technological changes is one of the greatest challenges we face! Just as we get comfortable with one form, a new slew comes to town.

It’s not essential to be an early adopter. The key is to select the tried and true methods that best fits with your business’s goals.

Utilizing webinars to market your business is certainly one such trend worth further examination.

Webi-what? Indeed. A webinar is simply a web-hosted seminar, hence it’s cutesy mashed up name.

Webinars are certainly not new to the small business scene, however, the technique of implementing them as a marketing strategy is.

Need ideas? Interview an expert, feature a customer or vendor, host a Q&A, preview a new or upgraded service/product or simply teach something.

The three major benefits of webinars over traditional marketing channels are:

1. They provide a level of engagement that content based articles cannot – they encourage a conversation and rapport.

2. They are more efficient in terms of time – no travel necessary, no wasted time in between meetings, etc.

3. They are customizable and without the limitations set by scale – hosting 1000 people is no problem when done online!

Webinars are usually instruction or education-based and are a great way to interact with customers, engage potential clientele and encourage users to try out a service or product you offer.

However, they can be used to equal effect as a post-sale tool. Hosting these kinds of webinars helps to establish your brand as helpful, encouraging and an expert in the field.

Drive traffic to your website by incorporating Search Engine Optimization into your webinar listings.

Describe the content of your webinar using key words. This can improve your search engine rankings. Hosting an archive of webinars supported by lots of juicy keywords can give you an additional boost.

Host a virtual web event, combining the benefits of the tradeshow with the convenience of the internet. Consider product briefings and demos or events that compliment current seminars or conferences in your industry.

Include lead-generating questions in the sign-up form to take advantage of the niche market users who are attending. Offer discounts or perks for becoming a subscriber or providing an email address to receive future news and event info.

Follow up the webinar with attendee feedback forms to best cater your next event to your audience.

Take Back Your Time by Building a Great Team

Embarking on the journey as a small business owner may often feel like a one-person job. By building the best team possible, you may start to alleviate that stress and free up some valuable time.

Building the team can feel a bit like a game of Tetris- the key is to find how they all fit together to build the most secure structure.

When building your team:

1. Identify the areas where you need the most support. This could be an area where you are overwhelmed or lack essential skills. Start filling these areas first. Feel good about product development but know nothing about accounting? Fill the void.

2. Clarify roles. Clearly identifying what needs to be done, defining what skills are necessary and determining where and how to look for the right pieces to the puzzle works best.

3. Hire only when you need to. It is tempting to add to your team as the business grows, but consider the investment in time, commitment and resources each additional hire requires.

4. Be prepared to sell your business vision to potential team members. Great teams are fueled by passion, and not necessarily the desire for a bigger paycheck.

5. During the hiring process, always trust your gut. Your team member should not be a clone – diversity works best – but they will ultimately need to be a good fit for your organization.

Once you have a team in place it is your responsibility to ensure that they remain committed and motivated. Team synergy is vital to ensure the best chances of success.

Consistently build your team based on a cultural fit, not just on qualification. Engage employees on a deeper level to learn about their personal and professional goals and work toward helping them achieve them.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the constant loop of hiring and firing – it’s exhausting and demoralizing.

If you want your team to be effective, set clear expectations. They want to succeed, but they need to clearly understand the goals.

With your team in place, it is time to start delegating. That was, after all, the whole point! As the business owner, delegation is not about passing the buck and it’s not about abandoning accountability.

Who is Influencing Your Customers? – How to Listen on Social Media

We’ve heard it before – listening and hearing are two very different things. If you are one of the growing number of businesses that are utilizing the advantages of social media, you should appreciate that it is vital to listen to your customers, actively hear what they are saying and then act upon it.

Without any one of these three steps, the benefits that come from social media engagement might be squandered.

Monitoring and information gathering is useful but it does not help you understand your customer. And that’s a key advantage of social media engagement.

Social care, or the practice of utilizing social media for customer care purposes, is how many of your customers look to interact with businesses.

How do you prove that you are listening? Speed – It’s that simple. The faster the response time, the more valuable the client feels and the more likely they are to remain a customer, refer your business or provide positive feedback.

Ready to start providing social care?

1. Identify your target market – this is tied directly to your ability to understand your clients and the ones that are best for your business.

2. Identify your influencers – pay close attention to the type of person who is interacting with your page, not the number of people who “like” or “follow” you. They are just meaningless numbers. It’s another case where quality rules over quantity.

3. Determine important key words, trends and SEO strategies that are relevant to your business.

4. Develop a social business strategy that stands on its own – managing your reputation and staying relevant are two key goals.

Social media has the power to increase or reduce your chances of success. When ignored, social care has the ability to transfer control of your business to a few vocal customers. Having a strategy in place can pay huge dividends.

NEED LOCAL INDUSTRY SUPPORT?

Building a great team and consulting with mentors are great starts to a successful long-term business plan, but at some point, you may crave the advice and opinion of an even more diverse group. Consider cultivating an advisory board. The board should aid in the decision making process, keep innovation flowing and encourage productivity, growth and profit. Professional colleagues, trusted business partners and experts in the industry should be part of your group.

Many Hands Make Light Work – The Value of Mentoring

Small business owners run a perpetual to-do list, constantly checking things off and adding more just as fast. In doing what needs to be done in order to keep the business afloat, self-development and improvement can be overlooked.

Choosing a mentor is the best way to ensure that you continue to grow, learn and progress along with your business.

The most successful owners realize they don’t know everything. It’s important to play to your strengths while recognizing your weaknesses so you can select a mentor who compliments both.

Not sure how to find a mentor? If your weaknesses are concentrated in the area of understanding what you need to do to create an awesome business, then you should have a chat with us!

However if your challenges are more technical or of an operational nature, then it might be a good idea to join up with a professional or industry group, attend seminars and find ways to get involved in your community.

This is the easiest way to be surrounded with other like-minded business people who are generally willing to act as a teacher to other self-starters.

Start by shadowing your selected mentor to get an idea of the day-to-day responsibilities. This is the time to ask questions and take notes but be mindful of the fact that they are running a business and generously allowing you to gain valuable experience through their eyes.

In any business, advice flows from a number of outlets – family members, friends, colleagues – most will have something to say. It’s best to focus your attention on those who are where you want to be. They have been there, done that, after all.

Business mentors are there to answer questions and provide perspective, but like any other type of coach, they are also there to boost confidence and provide support and encouragement.

Be sure to choose someone who you respect, with similar values and who you feel comfortable with. Go with your gut instinct on this one and select a mentor who will challenge you to continue lifting the bar.

Additionally, being able to challenge your mentor is how you encourage collaborative learning. It allows your mentor to also gain something from the relationship. If your mentor intimidates you, you will not enjoy the fruits that this symbiotic relationship should provide.

Remember that securing a mentor is much like any other acquisition – you must consider the return on investment. The relationship must be constant, the impacts tangible and the developments obvious.

As a rule of thumb, if three months go by without much progress, it may be time to consider a change.

Global Markets and Business Etiquette

It can already be daunting to travel to another culture, let alone feel the additional pressure of trying not to insult your international business partners! Lucky for all of us, the most basic of business etiquette, no matter what continent you are on, are based on concepts rooted in simple common sense.

Essentially, you can follow some simple rules to ensure that you avoid faux pas and social landmines that may lead to business relationships going sour no matter what country you are in.

ALWAYS:

1. Show respect – this is always held in high-regard. You do not have to agree, but you do have to respect.

2. Be proactive in finding out about customs and traditions, this shows you care.

3. Find the middle ground – don’t try to be someone you are not, simply be yourself, in a version tailored to the particular situation you are in.

4. Brush up on geography. Trust us. The last thing you want to do is show your ignorance of where you are in the world!

5. Slow down! Your speaking patterns, slang and cadence make it much harder for people of other nationalities to follow you. Be aware, clearly annunciate, but be careful not to seem condescending.

6. Know the appropriate greetings. This is your first impression, know what is customary and avoid an embarrassing situation. Also find out beforehand how to address people.

NEVER:

1. Over-gesticulate with your hands. This is a slippery slope – hand gestures are interpreted differently in all cultures and what you thought was a flippant staccato to your statement could serious insult someone.

2. Touch. These can often be the most sensitive of the etiquette rules. In every country how, where and how often you can touch someone can vary hugely. Best to just avoid it altogether.

3. Get too personal. Westerners can be very candid and conversation about personal life is quite normal. This is not always the case in other countries; steer clear of diving too deep by sticking to professionalism.

4. Discuss politics or religion. Need we explain this one?

5. Forget your humble attitude. Being confident is revered in Western countries, though many other places revere a humble and more low-profile persona when it comes to business.

Basically, the best favor you can do yourself is research. Knowing what you are walking into and knowing how you can remain respectful is of the utmost importance. Many countries develop stereotypical views about other foreigners based on those who decide to just ‘wing-it’.

Do your best to change those stereotypes if you want your business to be reflected in a positive light.

Workplace Bullies and How to Deal With Them

Times are a-changing. And rather than being a mere hindrance to running a successful business, unaddressed workplace bullying can be a real detriment to the entire team, pulling down morale and generally leaching negativity into the mix, not to mention the possibility of being a cause of litigation.

“Workplace bullying refers to any repeated, intentional behavior directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management, and is a real problem for workers at all levels.”

Often, the hardest part is recognizing a workplace bully. Disguised as sarcastic humor or dry cynicism, bullies can often come across as simply disgruntled yet humorous employees. Learning how to spot the problem is the best way to come up with a solution.

Bullies use intimidation and manipulation to gain from others. Learn to differentiate this trait from those who are simply driven and ambitious. Does the act of disrespecting others become part of the business culture? This may be an early warning sign of a bully in your midst.

Some other signs that may speak of a more serious issue:

1. Yelling, raising the voice or shouting, in front of others or in private.

2. Name-calling.

3. Disrespectful comments, inappropriate comments.

4. Excessive criticism of colleagues work. 5. Undermining a colleague’s work, encouraging failure on a subliminal level or purposefully overloading someone with work, setting them up to be overwhelmed.

6. Withholding information or actively working to keep someone out of the loop, making people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

Any of these traits can signify that a conversation between you, the team member, and even an HR expert, might be necessary. Nipping things in the bud before they escalate is the only way to prevent a workplace crisis.

Encourage team members to stand up for themselves and create an open-door policy that invites them to speak with you about any kind of concern they may have, including feeling bullied. Creating a space where employees feel safe and respected is tantamount to overall business success.

So that it is clear from day one, what is and is not appropriate in the workplace. Make sure employees know that bullying is not tolerated. Document everything. Involve your local trade association or HR consultant to find out the best way to get things down on paper.

As the boss, you may be viewed as the bully. Make sure to keep your ear to the ground and truly listen to team member’s reflections of you as their leader.

Beef Up Your Bottom Line

In the busy day-to-day operations of running a small business, actively working to boost profits can take a back seat to other management functions. Crunching numbers to make payroll, clear accounts and stay on top of the line is hard enough!

But ignoring the importance of the bottom line is perilous to a small business. Commit to investing in beefing up the bottom line in order to sustain long-term success.

A flourishing enterprise should be producing profits and cash, and this is even more important during growth stages.

Get creative and encourage profit growth by changing the game. Change is necessary if you expect results, so consider out-of-the-box options. Don’t just rely on cost cuts.

Look at other, smarter ways to improve results into the future. Look at introducing cross-selling strategies. If costs must be reduced, consider outsourcing or automating processes to improve efficiencies.

Make better use of new technology by considering accounting and financial management programs that could benefit your business.

Incorporate a relationship-based sales strategy that keeps customers coming back. Bundle and package goods and services, implement rewards programs and referral benefits to create longevity and promote return business.

Constantly audit your administrative and operational processes in an effort to remain a lean, mean, money-making machine.

Raise the bar when it comes to visibility, marketing and presence. You cannot expect to acquire new clients if you are disappearing into a plethora of generic marketing messages.

Improve cash flow by offering pre-paid terms that come with additional benefits. And always pay your own bills on time to avoid fees and overdue charges, which can really impact on profits.

Consider reducing occupancy costs. There might be opportunities to sublet under-utilized space in your business. Or look at the modern practice of offering employees the chance to work from home.

PROTECT YOUR DATA

Properly protecting your business’ data is of utmost importance – so important, that there is in fact a National Back Up Day! Small business owners can start by developing a backup strategy and educating employees on malware and spyware. Encrypt anything and everything; develop policies for bringing personal devices into the office and restricting who has what access to the network.

6 Strategies to Reach Your Goals

Setting goals is the best way to ensure progress, stick to deadlines and ultimately, to tangibly quantify success. But it is important to take on strategic methods when setting goals, and to stick to SMART goal planning.

What are SMART goals? They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each time you lay out a goal, evaluate it for these five qualities. This will ensure that the goals are driving you towards success, rather than setting you up for failure.

Once you have your SMART goals in place:

1. Align your goals with your values. Your goals must reflect what you believe in or you will lack the passion and drive to achieve them. The pay out from achieving a goal means nothing if it does not ultimately reflect your overall business vision.

Each goal should have a meaningful motivation and actively move you along the path that was set out in your vision statement.

2. Define the importance, or the ‘why’ behind the goal. Why this goal? What does it achieve, how does it benefit your business and your bottom line? Examine the why behind the goal and be sure to stay realistic.

Don’t attempt to change the world with one goal. Stick to small and relevant tasks, which act as building blocks that support each other. Goals should link together to form a net of accomplishment, designed to further escalate your business and support it through development.

3. Establish a support system and minimize potential challenges. A measured amount of preparation is required before embarking on any journey, and this is no exception. Make sure you share your goal with the people who support you – both at work and at home. Having support groups, even informal ones, can boost your confidence, provide motivation and help you through obstacles.

4. Map your route and choose your crew. This is where you break it down from point A to point B. How will you get there? Determine a timeframe; create a plan of action that is realistic and time sensitive. Deadlines – stressful? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Decide who needs to be on board, keep them involved in the planning process and keep the team as small as you can – that whole ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ thing rings true here.

5. Delegate! A good leader knows how to get the best out of their team and this is particularly so when trading conditions become more challenging. Understand your team’s strengths and leverage them. And ask for help when you start to lose your way.

6. Celebrate and reward! Celebrating achievements is an important step on the continued path to success. Reward yourself and your team for a job well done, particularly if it was a struggle. Celebrate, then evaluate. Define what worked, what did not, what could be improved upon in the future, and apply what you learn to the next goal.

5 Website Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

“Your website is your opportunity to showcase the value of working with your business, as an employee or as a customer. It also allows for you to project your product offerings and messaging exactly as you wish them to be seen.”

Eek, sounds important! It is important, and it’s worth the investment to build up a website that represents your mission, gathers potential clients and propels the business to a new level. One of the biggest mistakes that small-business-owners-turned-web-entrepreneurs make is trying too hard. Simplicity is a value here, making sure pertinent information is clear, concise and easy to find.

Other than that, there are some pretty common complaints when it comes to first-time sites. Don’t fall victim to the dreaded ‘Back’ button and make sure you keep people on your page by avoiding these mistakes: 1. Too much content. Both visually confusing and over-complex, filling the site with text is a no-no. The ‘back’ button is the web equivalent to flipping the page – keep it relevant! 2. Not being mobile friendly. Essentially, this means that any time a user attempts to view your site on a tablet or smart phone they are not getting the full experience. There are businesses devoted to converting your site to be mobile-friendly. Just look around – not being accessible via tablet? That eliminates half your potential client base! 3. Burying the lead. In this case, your contact info! This should be the most prevalent information, not some after-thought stuck at the bottom of the page. Reorganize with the idea that you have less than thirty seconds to get your customer to contact you, before they get frustrated and click ‘back’. 4. Failing to utilize Search Engine Optimization. Snazzy sites are not really that snazzy if they do not drive you any business. Make a list of the 25 best industry buzz words or phrases that relate to your business and go from there. 5. Too many gadgets and gizmos – most importantly, logos or banners that flash, spin, sing, dance or any other of these obnoxious unnecessary elements. Nitpick and be precise. People dislike typos, grammatical errors and misspelled words. It implies that you do not care enough to take time to edit for perfection. What does that say about your brand or your product?

Stale content, dead links, outdated or sparsely filled calendars are also deal breakers. They are simply signs to potential clients that you lack follow through and attention to detail and may be in turn the way you handle your clients’ affairs.

Ever heard of KISS? Keep it simple, stupid! A commonly uttered phrase, KISS is important when things start to get a little bit too complicated. With small business website design, KISS is paramount.

Ways to Use Google to Build Business

Want to find out what the biggest sea mammal is? Google it, they say. The notorious go-to for seekers of information, gleaned through the vast world of online information, Google is a household name. But how much do you know about their small business support systems?

Recently Google hosted “Get Your Business Online Week” (just Google it), aimed at encouraging small businesses to get up and running on the web. Hosting free online tutorials, the support staff aimed to make the case for online business, and to assist in the creation of websites, answering questions, etc.

This kind of support has become a vital part of the brand Google has become. Their multi-layered (mostly free) suite of applications can assist even the most web-timid of small business owners.

Jumpstarting the Google-train can improve web presence, build client base and boost profits overall. So, where to begin? Let’s start with the three A’s of the Google alphabet: AdSense, AdWords and Analytics. In a nutshell: 1. AdSense: Hosting other businesses ad’s on your own site creates new content and diversifies web presence. In other words, make profit from displaying other people’s ads. 2. AdWords: Google’s answer to online advertising, allowing you to breach a new customer base by strategically placing paid advertisements. The key here is linking your advertisement to key word searches, to become an advertised search result. 3. Analytics: Interactive tool for tracking stats about who visits your site, and what they are doing once on your site. Think of this as the playbook at a ball game – it’s mostly stats, subject to interpretation and analysis.

AdSense and AdWords require some bucks, but Analytics is offered for free. Now why, you ask, would Google offer such an invaluable service at no cost?

It’s because they aim to create a suite of services that work integrally with each other and are best used as a team. When you buy shampoo, you usually pick up conditioner too, right? Another app worth mentioning is Google+, slowly but surely eating its way into the die-hard Facebook fan club and converting users worldwide.

More like a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook, this social media site more directly targets audiences, allowing small business owners to specify their scope and adapt messages accordingly. It’s a welcome substitute to Facebook, which shares all information equally.

Other supplemental app’s worth checking out: Google Offers, Google Places for Business, Site Search, Blogger and YouTube.

But we’ll save them for another time