Smart Ways Of Using Business Cards In Networking

You can spend hours designing and printing the perfect business card. Getting that stage right is important, but it all is for nothing unless you get those business cards out there to the right people in the right way. Business cards sitting back home or in the office in their box aren’t working for you and yet you don’t want to just spread them randomly all over your neighbourhood like confetti. So come up with a few strategies to give them out to useful contacts.

Always keep business cards on you. Keep some in your wallet and even have a special card-case – this looks professional and keeps them clean in your pocket. Keep a spare box of cards in your car glove box, in case you give out more than you expect one day. The idea is to be able to give out as many as will be useful without ever running out.

Remember that the idea is to exchange business cards, rather than just give out your own. You are building a network which is a two way thing. So when you meet someone who you feel will be a good contact, ask for their card first and give your own in return. Treat their card with respect – read through it briefly and put it away carefully in your wallet or card case. It may give you further topics of conversation to pursue If you think you know others who will be interested in that person’s business ask for extra cards sp that you can refer them. They may well ask for more of yours too. Give them as many as they would like This is the start of a good networking relationship.

One tip to give your card a better chance of being kept – hand-write an extra piece of information on the back of the card as you give it to them – perhaps your personal cellphone number, or an additional website address or email address, something that is relevant to your previous conversation. That will act as a memory jogger and make your card more memorable.

Seek out potential networking partners for your business. Ideally you want a business that is complementary to your own with a similar group of clients but not direct competition. So if you were a sports nutritionist, for example, good potential partners might be a health food store, a gym, a physiotherapist and so on. Ask them if they will keep some of your business cards in return for you giving out theirs to potential contacts. Give them a stack of cards and perhaps a cardholder so that the cards can easily be kept available in their reception area.

Check with your networking partners at regular intervals to see if they need more of your cards and to get a new supply of theirs. And of course any time you get new cards printed, go round replacing your old cards with the new ones and update your partners verbally on any changes and additions to your business.

Use your business cards when making social connections too, for example at your children’s school. You can write your home number or cell-phone number on the back of the card to make it more personal, but you never know when there could be a useful business contact among your kids’ friends’ parents. This doesn’t mean you have to talk shop instead of cheering on the match – just promise to call each other in business hours to talk further and follow up on it.

Send out a business card with every piece of mail that goes out from your business. This means that existing contacts will have new cards to pass on to others, and you never know who you may reach this way.

The secret is to be generous in giving out business cards – give more than one to interested people so that they can pass them on. Never begrudge a few extra cards – the expense of printing them is minimal compared to the potential new business that they bring you. And you can always have more printed once you’ve given out your first batch – just remember to re-order in good time so that you never run out.

Social Media: Marketing Considerations for Small Business

Social media marketing, will it deliver results for my business?

It’s clear that social media has grown dramatically over the last few years and that with more than 800 million active users, the number of Facebook users is easily more than twice the size of the entire population of the United States!

Its growth has been astronomical and today, millions of people are posting more personal and business information online than ever before. It’s happening at lightning speed with thousands of posts, tweets and uploads occurring every hour.

Recent research conducted by the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) commissioned by Sensis Pty Ltd (May 2011, p. 10) indicates, that “62% of Australian Internet users use a variety of social media sites, with many visiting every day and most at least a few times a week.” It’s no surprise that with the millions of prospective customers from all over the world using these sites, every day, that so many businesses have decided to include social media marketing into their marketing mix. However it also important to get an understanding of how these sites are being used and what’s involved in maintaining or resourcing your business presence on these sites. Your online footprint can stick around for a long time so don’t underestimate how this can affect the perception of your brand in the market place. Spend some time upfront thinking about whether social media is right for your business.

1. Seek first to understand – It is very important that you understand the fundamentals of how is social media actually works and how it’s being used. What are people and businesses doing with social media? What gets them results? Some of you may be thinking, how do I do this? Perhaps you could consider trying it out for yourself by setting up a personal account, then testing some of the features, or get a trusted friend to show you their account and guide you through. Alternatively there are so many resources and ‘how to’ items online about social media, that you could run a search on Google or on YouTube on a particular topic of interest and watch the video tutorials to get informed.

2. Understand your purpose – What is your purpose is for using social media? What do you hope to achieve for your business by using it? It’s really important that you identify your purpose for getting involved in social media (or any other marketing activity for that matter). You need to work out why you are taking part. What do you expect to achieve? Do you simply want to build brand awareness, engage with your customers or identify new sales opportunities? Remember to be realistic about what you believe you will be able to achieve.

3. If you decide to engage in social media, which sites are best for you? - With the plethora of social media sites available, which ones are best for your business? Think about where your target audience would socialize online, and think about the amount of time and resources you would realistically be able to commit to maintaining and administering your site presence. Which ones are right for you? You might find that some are a better fit than others.

4. Quality Content - If you decide that social media is right for your business, carefully consider the amount and quality of information you want to share in the online sphere. Remember it will probably stay there for a long time, so you need to make sure it accurate and reliable information that is valuable to your target audience. It has to be relevant, otherwise people will not read it.

There are a host of reasons for engaging in the social media community including:

  • It’s cost-effective. Many accounts on various social media sites are free to set up.
  • Huge global audience.
  • Enables you to receive feedback in real-time and communicate with customers in real-time.
  • Provides your business with an additional marketing channel, to increase the awareness of your product, brand or organisation.

However social media does present some obstacles for businesses that need to be measured up:

Time and Resources - you must be willing to devote the time needed to come up with fresh new content. So it is important to consider whether you have the time and the resources to effectively manage your social media presence.

Handing over brand control - You hand over some of the control of your marketing efforts and effectively your brand to your target audience. They will have the ability to comment on posts or other content and you need to be prepared for both positive and negative comments. However even if you are not administering a company Facebook page, it’s important to keep in mind that there is nothing to stop customers from posting comments on their own blogs or other public forums about your products and services.

Measuring ROI - The introduction of web tracking and analytics tools also brought with it the ability to more easily measure the success of certain online marketing and advertising campaigns. However the nature of social media means that you might not always be able to see the results of your campaign right away. Your social media efforts might allow your consumers to ask more questions or further engage with your brand or product, but like most other relationship building activities, it takes time to build brand loyalty and repeat sales, it is likely that your social media activities will not have an immediate impact on sales that can be easily measured, there may be a lag.

Social media, how is it being used?

When it comes to consumer adoption, the growth of social networking sites has been exponential, however as more research is being done regarding site usage and consumer behaviour, we begin to gain greater insights into the types of tasks and transactions people engage in when visiting social media sites. Interestingly, the top three reasons identified in the Sensis Social Media Report, for using a social networking site were:

1. To catch up with friends and family.

2. To share photographs and videos.

3. To co-ordinate parties and other shared activities.

The results of the Sensis Social Media report, Sensis Pty Ltd (May 2011, p. 18) were based on the responses of 490 telephone respondents located in Australia who identified themselves as using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As we can see from these survey results, people are still predominately using many of these sites for the fundamental reason that they were created. I.e. To “socially” interact with their network of family, friends, or peer group. I am not suggesting that we ignore the fact that 15% of the respondents did indicate that they use social networking sites to find out about particular brands or businesses, or that there are some excellent case studies where successful social media campaigns have been launched using Facebook or Twitter, however I think it is important for us to keep things in perspective and understand that just like traditional types of marketing and advertising, social media marketing needs include the fundamental elements of any good campaign for it to be successful. We need to remember that many of the same rules apply online as they do offline.

Further research findings seem to suggest that it is still more typical for a consumer to look to a company website when making a purchasing decision, than on ‘fan pages’ and that a company website provides a more influential source of information. “It seems that only about a third of respondents admit that they are influenced in their purchasing decision by fan pages while almost half say they look to company websites instead.”

It seems social media is here to stay, and that the Web 2.0 revolution and the Internet will continue to evolve, shaping the way we communicate and do business. There are clear indicators that consumers are now much more empowered to use the online sphere to voice their concerns, preferences and needs. This makes it increasingly important for businesses to figure out ways to respond to these evolving customer relationships in order to capture these markets and opportunities.

Building a Pyrotechnic Business – Paraffin Marketing

1. Embrace Social Media

This is probably a marmite test (you either like it or you hate it). You can either ignore Social Media and let it pass you by or get engaged. What’s so attractive about social media is that it offers a low cost way of promoting your personal brand, your business and its reach. Bear in mind, though, it might be low cost financially but there can be a significant time cost until you work out the best mix for your business. The favourite have fairly distinctive roles but they are becoming increasingly blurred. Linked In tends to be a professional network, Facebook more friends and family. Twitter is more about immediacy and spontaneity – the limit of 140 characters certainly focuses the mind.

If you haven’t done so get on an introductory workshop – there are plenty about. At some stage unless it’s something you enjoy you’ll have to talk to and pay for a ‘geek’.

2. Know your cost of acquisition

There’s a famous quote – attributed to many of the marketing gurus – that 50% of your marketing budget is wasted – but you don’t know which 50%. This was in an age when advertising was mainly in television, newspapers and magazines – this was called ‘broadcast’ – as in paint thrown at the wall. Later direct mail came along and it was then possible to measure response rates more precisely.

These days both the targeting of customers and the response analytics are much more focused. It’s surprising, however, that not many businesses sufficiently understand the actual business they get back per £ of marketing spend. This spend is not just the direct costs but also the time costs if you’re providing a service, say, travel or estate agents.

What you spend to get business has to be related to what you get. Make sure you understand what this relationship is – collect the data so your decisions are evidence based

3. Go wide

In the early stages it pays not to be too narrow minded about how you promote your business. Cost is inevitably the major inhibitor here. But see if you can find some cheeky low cost ways – which should be ethical of course – to get your message out. Plug and play to see what works and what doesn’t work. Remember just because it didn’t work once doesn’t mean it won’t work for ever – in many cases timing is everything.

4. Blitz local

Quite often when you start out there’s an urge to chase business all over the place because, perhaps, of some sort of assumption that locally there’s no understanding or need. Or, it may be just to do with being busy which, when you start your own business, can be a bit of an aphrodisiac.

It might come, too, from a personal sense of reticence or self-consciousness. Go large as well as wide. If you can’t sell it locally then it’s unlikely you can sell it nationally. Stay close to home – it’s cheaper and easier to service and you can go and find out face to face why you’re not getting the sales.

Join local networking groups – many offer free trial membership so you can see if it works for you – to promote your business and build potential local collaborative partnerships.

5. Copy – but do it Better

There’s a sufficient body of evidence that suggests that those who are first with an innovative business idea don’t profit the most from it. There are a number of reasons for this (such as a focus on technological features rather than buyer needs) but pragmatically a potential benefit for you is that they may have ‘softened up’ the market.

So, if your idea is already out there, don’t worry, look and learn and motor on from their experience! This applies not just to product innovation but also to the whole suite of marketing and sales activity. Where is the best practice?

Find out and copy? Yes, but do it in a thoughtful and forensic way that adds demonstrable value to your own business

6. Drive referrals

Often business owners will say referrals are where there new business opportunities mostly come from. This is the ‘virtuous’ circle, but typically though, these are ‘passive’ referrals, relying on good nature and goodwill. You can’t afford to wait for something that may or may not happen – this is the ‘vicious’ circle.

There may well be some cultural dynamics at work here – because we don’t like asking for feedback or like seeming to be ‘pushy’. But, get over it, if you’re running your own business it’s perfectly legitimate to ask satisfied customers to make specific referrals for you.

Ask them:

· Who should I speak to?

· Will you introduce me?

· What do I need to know about them?

· Will you come with me to the meeting?

You might want to put some reward mechanisms in place but don’t don’t do this unless it’s asked for and then be very careful about the longer term implications of what you agree

7. Who is Buying Right Now?

When you start out, you’ll have developed a thoughtful considered view about who will buy your product – and that’s good practice – target marketing as they say. The reality, of course, is understanding who is actually buying your product now it’s on the market.

And, more importantly, what their motives are. Where is the money coming from?

And you may be surprised – but be not judgemental! If the buyers aren’t who you thought they’d be are you going to give them their money back?

No, of course not. So the message here is be curious. Set up tracking systems – for example online/offline satisfaction surveys – that give you permission to talk to these customers and find out why they bought. And then build this into your on-going marketing and sales activity.