The beginning of the New Year is always a good place to start afresh, to wipe the slate clean and make this year your year. Once the Christmas turkey has been eaten, the hangover’s gone, and the relatives have been sent home, you can start that plan.
In this article, I’ll talk you through 6 techniques that will help you to have your best year ever. These are tried and true techniques that will help to build you business’s success, and because they include tactics such as playing golf and going out for dinner, they’re easy to implement!
1. Hone those Social Skills
Socialising with clients and prospects is, without doubt, one of the easiest and most effective ways to develop your business.
You see, business is about relationships. In a social setting, the prospect or client gets to know you on a different, more personal level, they see you in a different light, and they understand where you’re coming from.
All things being equal, who would you rather deal with?
- a person who’s caring, considerate, enthusiastic, and who takes an interest in you
- a jerk who you can’t stand
People like to deal with people they like. By socialising with your clients, you give them (and yourself) the chance to find common ground — shared interests, opinions, tastes. You open up a new spectrum of opportunities in which you can to grow to like each other.
I often play golf with my clients and prospects. It’s not that I play golf well — I don’t! It’s just that I get to spend 5 hours with the prospect in a social situation. We have a chat, and we get to know, like, and hopefully, trust each other.
Get to Know your Prospects – it Pays Off
Getting to know your prospects is a critical element in gaining their trust. Once you’ve proven yourself trustworthy to your prospect, things get a whole lot easier. You’re not just another salesperson trying to make the sale: you’re a friend, a trusted contact and a known quantity.
Because of the writing and media work I do, I regularly get a few calls from people who want some advice on business and marketing. I always have a chat with them, and things sometimes move forward from there.
Here’s a great example of that. As I write, a web developer called Zoe is meeting with our programmer to discuss some software that Zoe developed.
Zoe called me a few months back for some advice on her web development business. I gave her some general advice for which she was very grateful — so she sent me a nice bottle of Scotch to say "Thanks." But that wasn’t all. Zoe kept in touch and kept me updated on what she was doing.
- Last week Zoe completed her first design job for us.
- She’s in the middle of another job right now.
- She’s also going over a detailed brief for another of our clients right now — this will be an $8,000+ job for her.
- Zoe’s hoping to sell us her software (a web management system with a shopping cart in situ).
- She’s about to create 10 podcasts with me for distribution over the next 10 weeks.
That’s all because Zoe took the time to make a phone call, have a chat and keep in contact. Her marketing costs have been $50 for a bottle of Scotch, plus the cost of a phone call. She’s now looking at a pretty good return on that investment!
Zoe has developed the relationship she wanted, and she gains the benefits of doing that. So far, those benefits look like they’ll be in excess of $15,000 in income, as well as a chance to access a wide listening audience (and have the credibility of being involved with a podcast), and a lot of future potential.
I know it can be daunting to call up a client or prospect and say, "I want to run a few things past you. How about lunch?" But after the first call or two, you’ll realize that it’s easy. Don’t try to sell. Just see lunch or coffee or golf for what it is: a fact gathering exercise, an informal chat, etc.
Imagine one of your suppliers rang you up and said, "I’d love to get together and ask a few questions about your industry and business when you have a minute. Are you free for lunch next Tuesday?" What would you say? Most likely, you’d say, "Yes." You’d meet, have a chat, and answer some questions. And in future, you’d be more likely to deal with that person than any other.
Building a community of contacts can also be helped by you taking the time and effort to help others. It’s a funny thing. When you help others, you seem to get benefits.
I’m the Vice President of a local media charity organisation, I’m the President of my son’s scout troop and I’m the keynote speaker each year for a local business college’s annual event. I’ve met a lot of local businesspeople through these associations and have the added advantage of being seen as a leading figure within these organisations.
It makes sense to join business groups for a whole range of reasons:
- You meet lots of useful contacts.
- You meet lots of potential prospects.
- You learn a lot.
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? What about a local charity group? Perhaps you could do a public speaking course or join your local Toastmasters group (Perfect! You learn a new skill, meet like-minded people and meet people who are, more than likely, in business).
2. Blow your own Trumpet (No one Else Plays your Tune)
Public speaking terrifies most people. After all, most people are bad at it. That’s great news for you!
If there is one tip I’d love you to take from this article it’s this: learn how to be an effective public speaker. I speak fairly frequently and it provides me with more highly qualified, hot leads than any other marketing strategy I implement. In terms of new business generation, this tactic is simply unbeatable.
Recently, I spoke for a Government small business program. I was marketed as the key note speaker for the day (there was 5 other speakers). I spoke to 120 people who were interested to hear what I had to say. The topic of my presentation? The service that I sell — on which I’m seen by the attendees as the recognised authority. It’s all looking good so far.
The MC of the event introduced me by listing my achievements and generally telling everyone how good I am! (He read from biography I supplied.) I get an hour of the attendees’ time. In that hour, I got the opportunity to say exactly what I wanted to say without interruption. I provided interesting, relevant and entertaining information about a topic in which the audience was interested. I had the opportunity to connect with the audience, to demonstrate my expertise, to talk about my experience and generally to market myself and my business.
By the end of the speech, the audience knew me and what I’d done previously. Hopefully, they liked me and saw me as a nice guy. They definitely saw me as an expert.
And, here’s the best bit: I was paid to do it!
To give you a head-start in your own public speaking programme for 2006, I’ve included my own step-by-step guide to public speaking. This free PDF will walk you through the whole process, from securing speaking opportunities, to securing and following up on the leads you generate. Use it to your advantage this year!
Media coverage is another great way to establish your credibility and get in front of your target audience for next to nothing.
Over the past few months, I’ve had a spot on the local radio station talking all things Internet; I was featured in over 10 business publications and I was the ‘go to’ guy for a number of local journalists seeking expert commentary on Internet issues.
Not once did I have to try to ‘sell’ my services. All that happened was that I was introduced or written about as the Internet expert. I talked about issues affecting web sites or the Internet in general. That was it.
Then, my phone would ring off the hook with calls from people who had heard me on the radio show or read about me in the local newspaper.
The media is always looking for new content. Can you give it to them? It can be as simple as ringing a journalist about a current event and providing a newsworthy comment that’s related to your area of expertise.
Become the Authority
One of the market niches we serve is holiday resorts. We’ve developed web sites for numerous resorts, we’re good at it, and we’ve had some successes with our sites. So, to strengthen our position within that niche, we developed an extensive case study explaining how we took a web site that received no online bookings at all, and helped them to create a very successful business online. Of course, we had the client’s permission for all the details we included in that case study. Then, we posted the case study, with a covering letter, to all of the resorts in our city. We followed up soon after with an offline newsletter that was developed specifically for these prospects.
Within a week or two, every resort manager knew of us (after all, who wouldn’t read the case study of how a direct competitor went from zilch to success in about 12 weeks?). We were widely perceived to be one of the best at what we do. All this as the result of a simply case study, about $200 in printing costs, and $200 in postage.
If people don’t know about your successes, they might as well have never happened. It’s up to you to make a noise. Let people know of your successes, your skills and your business’s development. It will keep you top of mind for the moment when they need your services.
Tell Of Your Successes
If people don’t know about it, then it didn’t happen.
One of our high profile clients (an ex-champion athlete) recently sent us a signed singlet to say thanks for our help. Within a week, the singlet was framed and hung on our ‘Brag Wall’.
I mentioned the client’s gift and kind words on our web blog. I mentioned it in our online and offline newsletters. I’ll be mentioning it in articles I write, speeches I make and our business podcast.
Why? Because the client has a high profile and is highly respected. I want people to know he’s our client, and that he likes us. I want people to know that they can trust us, just as that high-profile client does.
3. Get Into Bed With Someone
Our graphic designer is a great guy called Byron, who’s talented, funny and nice. He’s really nice. You see, Byron gives us clients — lots of clients. And we give Byron clients. Lots of clients.
It’s a two way street. When I first met Byron, I asked him if many of his clients asked for web design work. "Lots," he said. At that stage, Byron couldn’t help them. But now he can. Byron says, "Call Brendon, his team’s great. Tell them I sent you."
We get a great flow of clients. And we refer clients who need a graphic designer to Byron. And I don’t see it as our doing Byron a favour. To my mind, we’re doing our clients a favour — Byron is a brilliant graphic designer. Byron has access to our clients, we have access to his. It’s a two-way street — and it’s of benefit to both businesses.
Who could you jump into bed with — figuratively speaking?
Creating an alliance with others in your industry can have a very beneficial effect. But, as in life, you must choose your partners carefully and with much thought. It’s not always the prettiest partners that are the best for your business!
Who are your potential partners?
- a web host
- your local ISP
- an advertising agency
- another web developer (like the example of Zoe I gave above — she is about to do one of her biggest web design jobs for a ‘competitor': us!)
There is huge potential out there. Create the right alliances, and hook up with the right people. Make that phone call, meet that person for lunch — it could be the start of a great business relationship!
4. Conduct Effective Advertising
Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.
CNN entrepreneur Ted Turner uses that line to describe his formula for success. It’s a formula that has been the cornerstone for many business successes.
I see a lot of money wasted in advertising. But your advertising shouldn’t cost you a cent. No, I’m not kidding. It shouldn’t cost you a cent to advertise, because your ads should be — must be — generating new, profitable business. Otherwise, you’re going about your advertising the wrong way.
Don’t take your advertising lightly. If you do the work, put in the hard yards, and find the right spot for your ad, that ad can be a springboard to new clients, new sales and greater profitability. Promoting in the right place comes down to one thing: research.
The Key To Advertising: Facts and Figures
I love Pay Per Click advertising. I have one site for which my advertising budget is $10 per day. For that spend, I make $40 profit per day. Although that won’t exactly feed my hungry children, I love that site because it’s a great example of perfect advertising. It’s perfectly accountable and perfectly measurable.
- I can see where my ad appeared on the page.
- I can see how many people viewed my ad.
- I can see how many people clicked on the ad.
- I can even give different viewers different ads, to find out which one gets the most visitors.
- I can also present different visitors with different material once they click; then, I can assess which landing page makes the most sales.
- I can see exactly how much profit each ad gives me.
You must apply that same logic to all of your advertising campaigns. Sure, it’s a little harder when you don’t have a big PPC tracking system behind you, but there are hidden diamonds waiting to be discovered: you must measure your advertising, and draw definite conclusions about its success. If you can’t do that, you may as well not advertise at all.
Running a print ad? Measure it! Where is the ad situated in the magazine? On what page does it appear? How many people actually saw it? How many people requested further information? Measure, measure, measure!
What about links? I always ask my clients if we can publish a link at the bottom of the web sites we build for them. The links give us the occasional lead (and it’s a very well-targeted lead), but they also help with our search engine rankings.
Before you advertise, you need two things:
- an objective
- a budget
Once you’ve identified those, you can get started with your advertising plan. First, research: hone in on your target market. If you’re targeting local businesses, join that local Chamber of Commerce. Take an ad in their newsletter. Get to know other members. Run a direct mail campaign. Ring a few targeted businesses and introduce yourself.
Get as targeted as you possibly can. Because, once you have a target market, you can get specific with your advertising — you can speak directly to that market with empathy and understanding.
What about your suppliers and friends? They already have an existing relationship with you — they know and trust you. Why not send them a letter along the lines of, "We’re currently offering our friends what I think is our best deal ever — a web site for $X that has these features…" You might be surprised at the results of your campaign. And remember, in professional service industry it might only take that one new client to make a huge difference. Could a current supplier become that client? Try to find out.
5. Visualise your Success
The mind is a wonderful thing. It’s been shown time and again that the way you think about you business will have a major impact on your business’s success. If you believe, you achieve. Here’s one way I’ve learnt to move forward towards any goal I’m trying to achieve.
I live the dream. I imagine my success at the end of the road, and think about how I’m going to get there. Basically, I plan it out, right through all the small goals I’ll need to achieve along the path to that goal. Then I ‘act’ how I’d act when I achieve that goal.
I use this technique a lot with my public speaking: if a speech is a success and I’m perceived to be an expert, people will expect me to be well dressed, logical, confident and a little extroverted. So I behave that way. It’s amazing how this simple technique puts you in the right frame of mind. From the minute I turn up to speak, I appear to be all of these things (even if my knees are knocking from the nerves!).
Take the time to visualize where you’ll be once you achieve your success. Then start living the dream. It brings the goal that much closer, and it keeps you focused and on the right track, even when things go awry.
6. Persistence will Win the Day
Look, it’s a hard, tough and competitive world out there. You’ll be competing against better designers, better marketers, better programmers, cheaper designers, older developers … the list goes on.
But there is space for you! Be innovative. Be brilliant. Be different. You deserve success, and you need to persevere. I remember that it took my business a few years to really go well. It took me that long to be known within my market, to get enough clients to refer their friends, and to get enough ongoing work.
Winston Churchill said it best:
Never, ever, ever give up.
6 Steps to Success
Let’s look at those steps again:
- Get to know your clients and prospects a little better. Take them out to lunch, buy them a coffee, or play a round of golf.
- Show off! Let others know of your success. Everybody wants to work with a winner.
- Jump into bed with someone … but choose your partner wisely!
- Advertise as effectively as possible — and do your research before and afterwards.
- Visualise your success, think about how you’ll achieve it, and live that dream.
Don’t just read that list and nod! Sit down right now and plan each of these activities into your schedule. Make some calls today to set up opportunities to socialise with prospects and clients. Make time to research potential partners. Investigate advertising and promotional opportunities that are measurable. If you don’t dedicate the time to undertaking each of these tasks — if you don’t make them inherent to the way you do business — you won’t gain the benefits. And believe me, those benefits can be great.
Be dogged, be determined and be successful. And don’t forget to download that free public speaking ebook. All the best for 2006. Make it your year — you deserve it!