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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

When starting a business it is difficult to put aside an amount for marketing and it’s hard to justify how much should be spent.

When I started my business Rentabuggy.co.uk in 2008 I spent a couple of thousand pounds on marketing within the first six months but was surprised to find that I didn’t get many results from it. Here are my top five tips for advertising on a low budget.

  1. Network. Networking is free and many businesses are becoming more involved. Networking is a great way to work with like minded businesses on a like for like basis. Shortly after setting up my own company, I set up another company with my business partner called Networking Mummies Dorset and we now have over 150 businesses involved. We share knowledge, advice and advertising and I now use this as my main stream for advertising my own business.
  2. Press release. If you have a newsworthy story involving your business then write a press release. Press releases are a great way to showcase some exciting information you may have with the media. Make a list of local newspapers, radio stations and magazines within your sector and email them. Always write the press release in the body of the email as well as attaching it as a document. For great tips on writing a press release check out www.mumsclub.co.uk.
  3. Reciprocal links. Research businesses on the internet that are in the same sector as you and email them to ask if they would like to do a ‘reciprocal’ link. This means you add a link to your website with their information and vice versa. This is a good way to try increasing traffic to your website.
  4. Facebook. Facebook was originally launched as a social media portal for friends to stay in touch but has since become a great way to advertise your business. Set up a fan page and invite all your friends. Hopefully, they will then request their friends to join and so on.
  5. Blog. Blogging is a great way to keep your customers updated with news, offers and more. You don’t have to be a great writer to write a blog and this can be kept simple. Linking with other companies will help your search engine results too.

Laura Morris, Rentabuggy.co.uk

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If you are an organiser who has recently switched your event booking and payment process from offline to online, then you’ll know that sometimes it takes a little getting used to – both for you and for your attendees.

At first organisers can be a little tentative and reluctant to becoming exclusively online. And attendees? Well, they will continue to use the booking and payment methods that they have traditionally associated with the organiser, no matter how imperfect and unsatisfactory that process is – but only until they are otherwise instructed.

Yet for organisers it is vital to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later – the financial payback of online registration and payment demands it. And you’ll be surprised how quickly even your most traditional attendees will adapt to online registration.

Here’s 10 tips for getting your attendees onboard:

1. Go 100% online
Don’t give your attendees a choice. Stop offering alternative booking methods. When you are booking a flight online, airlines don’t also give you the option of booking your ticket via the phone. As a result we all book our flights online without a second thought.

2. Get your marketing focus right
To maximise your online registrations make your marketing emails short and punchy – a paragraph in length. See it as a short trailer for your whole event. Give a concise overview of the event highlights and make your ‘register now’ button very highly prominent. Make the button impossible to miss and ensure that when it is clicked that it links to the event registration website.

Your marketing email is about persuading your attendees to visit your registration website and not for displaying all your event information.

3. Always be linked in
Always include the URL link of your registration website in your emails. Always send several emails to potential attendees for each event and include the link in every one.

Always include your URL link clearly and prominently on your corporate website. Include the link in emails about your event to your social networking groups such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Talk about your event and include the link on online forums or on Twitter or on your Facebook updates.

Make the link a clear ‘call to action’ for the attendee such as ‘register now’ or ‘register here’ or ‘to register for the event click here’.

4. Create incentives for online bookings
Offering online registration discounts encourages early attendee adoption, so make the ticket price more expensive for offline bookings. Charge a processing fee for manual or paper registrations. Make it clearly financially beneficial to book online. It is, after all, generally accepted that you get better deals via the internet no matter what product you are buying. You need to tap into that mindset.

Similarly, consider offering discounts for early online registration.

5. Refuse phone bookings
If potential attendees phone in to book manually then explain that registration and ticket payment are now exclusively online. Let them know that you will send an immediate email that will include the link for them to go straight to the registration page.

Have the email ready to go and explain the benefits for the attendee of using online registration and payment.

6. Give prior warning
Prepare your potential attendees for the switch. Give then good warning. Send them an email in advance that will explain that your next event will only accept online bookings and payment.

Let them know what to expect and how the process will work.

7. You’ll love it
Let your attendees know how they will benefit from your online registration system, such as ease of use, convenient and quick, more secure, self service, better communication.

Get them on board either with an email or a link to a page on your corporate website.

8. Make it official
Add a message to your voicemail system announcing the newer and more convenient online registration option along with the URL of your registration website for your next events.

Promote your online registration by placing your URL address in all printed materials, e-newsletters, email communications, handouts, signage etc for each event. Or if you run many events devote a page to your events on your corporate website with clear links to the registration website for each event beside each event description.

9. Educate them
Include a short frequently asked questions section or page on your corporate website.

Provide easy to follow numbered steps on how to register for your event. Put it on your corporate website or in your emails to give attendees confidence. Make it along the lines of ‘it’s easy to register and pay – here’s how’.

Offer attendees an online demonstration of how registration works.

10. Get your staff on board
Make sure that your staff are familiar with the online registration process and comfortable explaining it all to potential attendees.

Enrol your staff participants in one of our free, online registration training sessions to answer all their questions and build their confidence.

Alan Anderson, Blue Tube Design

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It was with interest that I read Andy Lopata’s blog a couple of weeks ago (13th August 2009,  full article here: http://www.networkingandreferrals.blogspot.com/) His first point is his pet hate of the use of the question “what do you do?” Well I’m very sorry, but after my experiences over the last couple of networking events I think this is actually one of the most useful questions you can ask! Let me explain why.

I really enjoy talking to people, it’s one of the main reasons that I do what I do. I also enjoy meeting new people, so I quite enjoy networking events. I think that like most people I can sometime be apprehensive walking into a room full of strangers but I’m lucky, because I target my networking, I now usually find that I know at least one friendly face in the room and if not there’s usually someone else standing alone so I usually start by talking to them, or the person next to me in the queue for a drink or to register.

In the last month I’ve been to 2 large networking events with a lot of new faces at them. Something happened to me at both these events that hasn’t happened before: someone was very friendly, talked at me with a lovely smile on their face and then offered to sell me their services. Now this isn’t unusual, but because they hadn’t asked “what do you do?”, well in one case hadn’t asked me anything at all, they were offering me services that I offer to my customers!

The first time this happened, the gentleman, who is employed by a large government agency as a business advisor, asked twice if we could meet to discuss my business at my premises, or at a coffee shop and he’d like to carry out a business review for me. I should perhaps say that the event we were attending was organised by a friend of mine, I had been on the organising committee, I had my photo and profile in the brochure for the event, I had opened the event by welcoming everyone and introducing our host for the evening and as we were having the conversation we were standing by a table, on which I had my business cards, some marketing materials and a promotion for all the attendees at the event,  –  the offer of a free business review!

He then walked away without asking my name so how could he follow up on his offer anyway? Which brings me onto the subject of exchanging business cards and the people who use this exchange as an excuse to bombard you with newsletters and emails…………………… or perhaps I’ll leave that one for another time.

But in the mean time, please find out who you’re speaking to and what they do, or you will be very memorable, but perhaps not for the reason you want to be. And Andy, I’m very sorry to have to disagree with you on this one.

Enjoy your networking,

Philippa

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What’s the difference between networking and marketing? Not that much. As a start-up business, you are unlikely to have the funds to pay for an advertising campaign or other publicity. The main burden of letting people know that you are open for business falls on you. Thus, you need to overcome any shyness or reservations you may have about marketing your business.

Have business cards on you all the time, including during social time. This is where you will pick up lots of your work. Once you start chatting, most people are interested in what you do. Without forcing your product or service on them, you can always seem professional by letting them know what you offer and having your contact details to hand. There is a huge difference between basic marketing and being irritating. Calm, professional marketers state what they do in a clear, charming way. If the reaction of the other person is reasonably positive, they might hand over a card. It’s amazing how, months later, the phone can ring and a potential new customer says ‘I met you once and now I have a need for what you do …’

This is a vital hurdle to overcome, particularly if you have a shy or reticent nature. Who do you think will be the better client? The one you cold-called and had a rather earnest meeting with? Or the one you met socially who decides to give you business in their own time? Speculative business meetings are no more scientific than interviews. They are based mainly on intuition. Yet if you already know you can get on socially with someone, or that they have a little insight into your private life, the chemistry part of the equation is already in place.

A final word on social media and social networking. There are businesses where this can be very appropriate, and used as an excellent tool to promote contact, discussion, and possibly business. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of twittering on your computer all day and strangely discovering that you haven’t got anything done, met anybody in person, or done any business. Try to keep this is perspective. Whilst everybody else is pursuing the latest fad, make sure that you are still talking to people, having meetings, and interacting with the real, rather than just the virtual, world.

These views are taken from ‘Running Your Own Business’.

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Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return.  Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be.  Here goes …

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – where does your target audience go?  do?  read?  listen to?   Don’t waste time and money being where they are not.
  2. What is your USP? – what makes you different from your competitors?  Don’t just be another face in the crowd.
  3. Be an expert – write articles and get them published.  Register on http://www.expertsources.co.uk and http://www.findatvexpert.com.
  4. Sell the sizzle not the steak – highlight the benefits of what you do and not just explain what you do.
  5. Freebies – offer a free consultation/trial session/product.  Let people experience what you will do for them.
  6. Testimonials – if you have happy customers, shout about them.  Third party endorsements are worth their weight in gold.
  7. Case studies – these are expanded testimonials and allow you to show a problem you helped solve.  The media love these.
  8. Social networking – set up profiles on, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, UKBusinessForums, and start connecting.  They’re free.
  9. Network – people buy from people so get out there and meet people.  There are loads of networking groups out there.
  10. E-mail signature – include your contact details and a short sales message or link to something you want to promote at the end of each e-mail.  This can be automated.

The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money.  There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.

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Over on the Marketing Donut we are always keen to impress upon small business users to make the most of Twitter in their efforts to engage with their customer base. For a start-up or someone thinking of starting-up we would advise that you use Twitter to your great advantage also.

Once you are established as a business and everything is in place, you would use Twitter to market yourself, to give your brand positioning, voice and personality. For a start-up it would be recommended that you use your Twitter account in order to put out feelers into the market. Use your Twitter to network furiously with like minded individuals and organisations, learn from them and engage with them. It is good to ask questions.

In order to get the most out of Twitter as a start-up, you may want to target the people that you follow. There are a number of ways to do this. The key method would be to use a Twitter Directory, for example Twellow. Simply insert the keyword you wish to base your outreach around and add Tweeple to your ever-growing list of contacts.

Once you have added people around the industry, keyword, activity or interest you are looking to connect with, engage and start-up that networking engine in order to launch your new business on a basis of a like minded community!

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I was interested to read a piece in HSBC’s Business matters newsletter this week about networking. Quite rightly it set out the different ways of formal networking: events, organisations (such as Chambers) and of course the e-world with its various different takes on networking.

But for me, the most important thing is to talk to people about their favourite topic: themselves. OK, some aggressive networkers impress themselves on people, and if they have charisma and something interesting to say they probably do well.

But the best networkers I know are the listeners. These people ask questions, are interested in others and are in it for the long-term.  People who are able to do this are able to network everywhere: at parties, at the tennis club and down the pub because people tend to like them and sooner or later, when the trust is won, are able to say a few words about themselves.

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