How Have Business Networking and Communications Changed?

Business NetworkingOh, the good old days of doing business!  And I am not talking 20-30 years ago I am only talking 6-7 years ago.  There was always an expectation that business people would join business groups like Lions or Rotary to network with other business owners, but that necessity is changing rapidly.

In fact if you are relying on those networks for your business in 2009 you are almost considered ‘out of the loop’.  Business these days is conducted on the internet via social sites and emails.   Interesting that they call them social sites because people who join these sites for business are not  in many of cases, very social.  Often it is a matter of targeting specific clients or groups and building relationships for business purposes only.

It is a fact that even company meetings have changed.  More and more companies are changing to having meetings on the internet with attendees being anywhere from down the hallway to half way across the globe.

How is this affecting your business?  Are you losing that personal contact with staff or with your customers?  Obviously virtual business is infiltrating our systems more and more, but business owners need to be extremely careful that they do not lose touch with their clients.

One step that major companies have taken because of this factor is to improve their customer service divisions.  Even in only the last 2 years there has been a noticeable difference in customer service.

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Seattle Businesses – Don’t miss this brand and marketing workshop!

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Defining a brand strategy is essential for all businesses and a task that many small business owners find daunting.  To be successful in any economy or market, businesses need to have a defined niche and a sound strategy for how they are going to position themselves in the market place.  Regardless of how good a product or service may be, positioning and perception make all the difference.

Taking the time to define a marketing and brand strategy are a wise time and money investment that will pay off quickly.  Two of Seattle’s big brand and marketing dynamos, Maria Ross, Marketing Director for Red-Slice and Whitney Keyes of Whitney Keyes Productions, are holding a workshop to guide you through the marketing maze and help you find practical and creative ways to attract new customers  – and keep the ones you have loyal to you.  The workshop is being held February 11th, 2009, and is an excellent opportunity to get practical strategies from Seattle marketing dynamos.  For more information about the workshop, just visit: Branding Workshop.

Best,

Heather

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5 Basic Elements of Targeted Marketing

tragetThere are many styles of marketing, but only one that truly works in all applications. That one style is known as Targeted Marketing. Targeted Marketing uses information and planning to reach the right people at the right time. Below are the five basic elements to effectively and efficiently utilize this style of marketing.

1. Know Your Audience: Just like you know your products or services, you likely know who will benefit from them the most and why. What problem does your particular product solve? Are there any other problems that that same product solves? Who has these problems? Bingo, you have found your target. Now you must learn about your target market. What are there habits? Where do they shop? What media sources do they use frequently? Why do they hang out? What do they like and dislike? Knowing your audience in this way will help you to focus your marketing efforts toward them in an efficient manner. If you were trying to reach an 80 year old man you wouldn’t post an ad in Vogue would you?

2. Optimize Your Efforts: For every company this element will vary slightly, but the general emphasis here is to make sure the tools and information you have available to your clients are working for you. If you have a website, make sure the content is updated on a regular basis, the metadata is accurate and accessible including keywords and a site map. The same goes for brochures and other informational leaflets. The information needs to be accurate and honest and the appearance needs to be clean. No one likes looking at something that hurts the eyes. If there are too many bells and whistles or too many vibrant colors you are going to lose your audience. Simple is usually best!

3. Be The expert: Develop the ‘Know, Like, Trust’ effect by becoming an expert in your market. Write articles, have free information available, be honest and upfront. If you have the opportunity to share something that you know and enrich someone else’s business/life they will become a source of referrals down the road.

4. Plan Your Attack Strategy: Whit the information you now have you should be able to formulate your marketing plans. Know what you are willing to spend and where you want to spend that money. Figure out if your going to use mail marketing vs. email marketing and know where you are going to get your mailing lists from. (It is always best to use a source you can trust) Know what keywords are best for finding your information online. Figure out where you need to be so that your customers will find you instead of you having to hunt for them.

5. Befriend the media: The media is a huge source of referrals and are more than happy to learn about new inventions, new techniques, new anything. Use the media to your advantage by sharing information. Think of this as an extension of both elements 3 and 4. You are more of an expert in the public mind if the media mentions you or your business. Press releases, on air spots, and other media events should be a part of your attack strategy.

These five elements take planning and effort to be successful. Just as you wouldn’t leave the house without your keys, you don’t want to start your marketing with only one element in place. Figuring out who your marketing needs to reach, where to find them and how best to reach them makes a huge difference in any marketing plan.

Operating Strategies – The Human Connection

Champion Assistants Business NegotiationThe last tip I will share with you for overcoming any economy is to focus. Know where your company is going, what your goals are and how you plan to reach them. Never forget your customers, but reward them again and again. Always keep in mind that business is more than a word, it’s an emotional connection. Every sale is someone saying, yes I like this product/service and it is up to you to maintain a connection with that someone. Letting these connections in on your goals through promotions or incentives is a great way to make them feel special and desire to do business with you again. Keep the customers you have, find a way to reach the customers you want and above all stay true to your core business.

As human beings we are driven by a need to connect with each other. In business this is referred to as the Know, Like, Trust connection. In essence we do business with the people and companies we know, the products/services we like, and we trust that those businesses, products, and/or services will be as good as advertised. If the trust link is broken, it is extremely difficult to re-earn that trust. The only advise I will give in this area is to be honest in your dealing and truthful in your advertising. Give your clients as much information about the products/services as you can so they know what they are getting into from the start.

I hope the information you have learned in this series of articles assists you in creating a lean, economically sound strategy for your business.

Kristi

Operating Strategies – Expanding Your Market

Champion Assistant Virtual Business Team

Champion Assistant Virtual Business Team

The first three articles in this series spoke about your current business practices and ways to increase their productivity. Now we are going to change gears a bit and ponder a bit on expanding as a way to increase your potential. Yes, even in a time of recession there are ways to expand your reach and your business. Considering a new market is a good way to refine how you reach your current market as well as increase your pool of available customers. Expanding does not have to mean spreading yourself thin or revamping your entire company ideal. In fact it should be more about refining that ideal and finding other avenues to accomplish your goals.

Do you sell overseas? Have you thought about it? It doesn’t take much to market to an international market, but it does take planning. Consider contacting some of the expat communities around the globe. Even if you don’t market all out, this is a great base to make aware of your offerings. Expats living in foreign language countries still buy in their mother language and often want products that are familiar to them. You don’t need to translate everything in order to deal internationally. You just have to know the rules. Be aware of customs fees and regulations before you begin to market yourself abroad. Customs fees vary by country, but it makes sense to look into that and if the barrier to export is low, take advantage of the opportunity!

If you don’t want to expand internationally, consider what other markets in your area might have an interest in your products or services. Talk with online and offline communities to get their reactions and ideas. Expanding interest in your products/services does take effort and research. Before making any changes do your homework and talk with other business owners catering to the markets you are considering expanding into. Use their knowledge to decide what avenue is best for your company.

The last article in this series will be on the human connection and how it affects your business and how you reach your goals.

Kristi

Operating Strategies – Referrals

virtual_meetupReferrals are the best way to increase business with little to no expense. Referrals are about networking with other people, other businesses. Make a connection, allow these businesses and people to know who you are, what you do and why you do it. Allow them to work for you so you can focus on making more connections.

You know your products or services are intended for a specific audience, find where that audience hangs out or live and find a way to work with other businesses that cater to that crowd. Don’t be afraid to talk with businesses marketing to the same market. What you do may compliment what they do and so referrals back and forth will be forthcoming. Don’t ignore competitors as a source of referrals. Often we view similar businesses as competitors, when we should focus on what is unique about our own business and view our competitors as partners in our success. Competitors spur us to do better, and we can also pass along referrals when things unique to them/us come along.

Even your past customers can be a source of referrals. Word of mouth referrals are wonderful because they come from someone who has used your services and obviously liked that service enough to recommend it to someone else. In cases where a former customer refers new business to you, it is a good idea to send a Thank you to that customer for their support. Maintaining a connection with past customers not only makes them feel special, it makes them want to be repeat customers. We don’t do business with people who are rude, belittle us, or make us feel poorly. We do business with people we know, like and trust. Build that trust and you build a solid referral network in the process.

The next article will focus on expanding your market. I hope it will inspire you to consider the possibilities!
Kristi

Operating Strategies – The Media Advantage

newsMedia is more than the local newspaper. It’s a network of information resources that every human being utilizes on a daily basis. Media is everywhere! Traditionally media was defined as belonging to the associated press, but in recent time the internet has changed that definition. Today, media refers to any and all information resources including blog posts, social networks, search engine front pages as well as the traditional TV, newspapers and magazines. Learning to use the media to your advantage is what will separate your company from your competition. Be-friend the press!

Champion Assistants sister company Holiday Assistant is booming after being voted ‘Best of the City’ by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine and getting front page press in several newspapers. Their reputation is soaring higher than ever and orders are flowing in. All this because they befriended the media! (for more information Holiday Assistants visit http://www.HolidayAssistants.com)

Make yourself known to the local press through press releases and other media opportunities. Let them know about the charity work you do, the unique services and products you offer and the ways you share those unique products/services with others. Be specific, be unique, and don’t be afraid to speak up. If your local community has an issue that you or your company might be able to solve, let them know. One of the best ways to get the media on your side is to share information. Offer to write a column for them on a topic their readers are interested in. Use your blog to keep others informed and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge. 

Another great place to share your knowledge and ideas are in social networks such as Facebook and Biznik. Connecting with likeminded business professionals can open doors to new markets and new media outlets. If you don’t let people know you’re here, you won’t be here for long.

Tomorrow we’ll look into referrals and how they can affect the flow of business!
Kristi