In order to network properly first you need to know what networking entails.
Networking is the process of meeting new people and maintaining valuable contact with people. There must be a mutual benefit to both parties.
Networking only works if you know why you’re networking in the first place and what you want from networking. Ask yourself these four question:
- Am I networking in order to change career?
- Am I networking to grow my own business?
- Am I networking to start my own business?
- Am I networking to grow my email list?
If you can answer these question with certainty and clearness then you are ready to network.
To make your networking experience successful, you must research the network events that are in your area. If you can travel at least 15-20 minutes outside of your immediate area, do it. Look for events in the area of your business goals. Example: if you are a virtual assistant and your area of interest is working with realtors, then you should look for events involving realtors. When looking for events, check on Meetup.com, Facebook groups and Eventbrite.com be specific when checking these sites. Also check your local newspaper metro section.
Once you have picked your events to attend make sure you:
- Pick your clothes. Make them comfortable, neat, and clean and wrinkled free. Your appearance is your first impression.
- Practice walking. Walk confidently, straight and head held high.
- Practice your handshake. Make sure your arm is fully extended and your grip is strong.
- Business cards. Make sure you have enough with all your information on them. Also, have a way to accept electronic cards. (camcard.com)
- Practice your elevator pitch. Read it aloud to someone and in front of a mirror. It is a 20-30 second introduction of yourself and your business. It should be second nature for you to speak.
When you arrive at your event:
- Walk the room. Find the people you want to talk to first.
- Ask open end questions. This gives them more time to talk and you more time to listen. Never give your opinions.
- Keep eye contact during your entire conversation. Maintaining eye contact shows your interest and you’re paying attention and listening to them.
- Pay attention to body language. A person’s body language will tell you more than their words. Looking away from you- that tells you they are not listening to you or bored with the conversation. (http://bit.ly/BodyFaceLanguage)
- Speak clearly. Make sure you are clear and concise when speaking.
- Say thank you. After you finish speaking with them and shake their hand again.
When you get home:
- Make notes. Write down notes and dates on everyone you spoke with.
- Follow up within 24-48 hours. Send an email or phone call. Remind them where you met, some of the conversation you had and thank them for speaking with you.
- Set up a 1 on 1 meeting. Invite them out for coffee. Use this to get to know them and their business better. Ask what you may help them with in their business.
- Invite them to an event. If there is another event you know/heard about, invite them as your guest.
- Keep in touch. Send out an email about every 60-90 days just to let them know you were thinking of them and not forgot about them and their business needs. You can also send them business news about their industry with the subject line- thought this would interest you. Just don’t bombard them.
Always end the meeting with thanking everyone you met. Make sure you shake hands again before walking away. Apologize to the ones you didn’t get a chance to meet. This would be where you say; I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk, how about next Tuesday 9am at So So for coffee? This will let them know you’re interested in what they have to say and their business.
The biggest mistake we all make is being pushy. If you see someone is avoiding you, stop trying to meet them. They are not ready yet. Never give your business card unless asked. Politeness goes a long way in making your networking experience profitable.
Books for reference
Successful Networking in 7 Simple Steps, by Clair Dignall
Perfect Phases for Professional Networking, by Susan Benjamin
How to Work a Room, by Susan Roane
Make Your Contacts Count, by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon
Know when to send the correct letter is the first step to achieving the proper response in business writing.
There are 12 general tips for better business writing:
Get organized- make an outline that way your writing is divided into smaller, easy to handle pieces and parts. Stick to the standard format- introduction, body and conclusion.
Know the reader- find out about your reader that way your writing will be built on their needs, interest and desires.
Avoid “corporatese”- don’t use industry jargon. This jargon is only good when speaking to someone in your industry. Avoid cliches and antiquated phrases and technical terms are useless also. No big words when little words will work just as well.
Favor the active voice- be concise in your writing. It will be more understandable to the reader.
Avoid lengthy sentence- keep your sentences short. Use the Fog Index to determine if your sentences are to long. (gunning-fog-index.com)
Be specific- people want specific facts, figures, conclusions and recommendations.
Be simple- you want to express not impress
Define your topic- knowing the purpose of your document will give you clear and specific details in your writing.
Adequate content- do research on your topic that way your writing is well rounded and back it up with facts.
Be consistent in usage- if you start in first person, use first person through out your whole document
Shun dull/wordy prose- use the fewest words as possible. Avoid redundancies and over blown expressions.
Short Blocks of text- use short paragraphs and sections to break up your writing.
then there are times when standard organizational format will not work. There are 9 other organizational schemes that will work for you:
Order of location- closes to further away
Order of increasing difficult- easiest to complex
Alphabetical order- logical arrangement
Chronological order- facts in order of occurrence
Problem/solution- problem first then write solution
Inverted pyramid- summary then details
Deductive order- start with finding then end with evidence
Inductive order- start with specifics then lead reader to the specific suggestions
List- use when writing about steps
There are many ways to write letters but only a few are correct and will get you your desired response.
The Encyclopedia of Business Letters, Faxes, and Email by Robert W. Bly and Regina Anne Kelly
Stay tune for more
Why do you write letters? There is a reason and end result you are looking to accomplish. Writing letters accomplishes several things; such as information gathering; promote; record information; sell; support and engagement.
There are basic formatting that needs to be included in your letter: dateline; reference line; special mailing notation; inside address; attention line; salutation; subject line; identification initials. Complementary close is placed two spaces after last paragraph and signature block is two spaces after that.
There are three letter types that can be used in business. Most business writing can fit in one of these categories. All these types have 3-4 paragraphs to appropriately get the message across.
The Good News Letter
This is where the “good news” is given in the first paragraph. It satisfies the curiosity of the reader. The second paragraph is for explaining your main point and offering supporting details to help the understanding of the letter. The third paragraph is for a call to action telling the reader exactly what you want them to do.
The Bad News Letter
The “bad news” is given in the third paragraph. The first two paragraphs are to prepare the reader for the disappointing news. Leading with the bad news the reader will become defensive and most likely not finish reading it. Using the acronym YES will remind you of the correct format.
para1- Y (you)- express your understanding by echoing concern
para2- E (explain)- reason for bad news in detail
para3- S (state)- give the bad news and offer apologies
The last paragraph is the call to action- this is where you leave on a positive note.
The AIM Letter
Is used to ask for contributions, collect a debt, promote a plan or sell a product or service.
para1- A (attention)- capture by using a “grabber”
para2- I (interest)- describe in detail
para3- M (motivation)- offer solid evidence
The call to action should spell out the action you want. Give the reader some thing to do by adding phone number or email and add a sense of urgency.
Before you start writing your letter, first figure out what the purpose of your letter. Remember each type of letter is for a specific purpose. When answering someone in a positive matte use the “good news” format, answering someone in a negative matter use the “bad news” format and if asking for something use the “AIM” format.
Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook Third Edition by James Stroman, Kevin Wilson, Jennifer Wauson
The Encyclopedia of Business Letters, Faxes, and Email by Robert W. Bly and Regina Anne Kelly
Persuasive Business Writing: Creating Better Letters, Memos, Reports and More by Mary Cross
Where do you shop for your marketing material? Do you go to Vista print, OfficeMax, Staples or other printing sources or you may self print? I know your instinct is to go out and buy the best but you don’t have that kind of money.
Remember, your business cards are important in the fact that it helps convey what you do in your business; they also show your personality.
At this stage you should have your logo, motto/slogan and information for your business cards. It doesn’t mean you won’t change it, in fact you will change it at least three times before you are completely satisfied. I suggest printing them yourself the first couple of times. All office stores have business card stock. Pick a nice heavy stock; it can be plain or decorative. If your not comfortable printing yourself and you to VistaPrint; just remember if you use one of their designs they are copyrighted and can not be use without their permission. Keep in mind that you need your own brand that represents your business best.
When you think you finally have the look you want; step up to having them printed. Still do not spend to much because again you will change them. Vista Print is a nice second level start as well as the office stores.
Vista Print will offer you everything you don’t need by giving 25% or more off or free while checking out. Because you are so proud of your logo and business you think everything looks good and before you know it, you have spent more than you intended. I’m no different than anyone else when it comes to free stuff. Take the free stuff! Be careful because the slightest change will incur a charge.
Finally when you have the design and working that you want, step up to the big time. Have them custom printed. Shop around to make sure you can get exactly what you want because this is the first impression you give your customers/clients. Even in this electronic age you still need letterhead, envelopes, signage, car magnets, banners and window signs especially if you have a store front.
Remember slow and steady!
Need help designing a logo? Below are some helpful resources.
Helena Richardson at http://www.hrichnetworks.com
Forrest White at http://www.facebook.com/fwhiteprint
Myrna Galan at http://www.galangraphix.co
Mari-Anne Cooper at http://sites.google.com/site/mavcgraphicsorderstudio
Let’s talk about websites.
Do you have one? If not, why don’t you. In this web search world you need a website. Your website is your first introduction to your customers/clients.
Now you can make your own from one of the many “free” place and it will look like it was made by an amateur. Your website should show your business at its’ best light and be unique to your business. When you go to those “free” sites they are cookie cutter and look like everybody else. You want to go to a web designer because you get much more personal touch and personal site.
Below are some helpful resources
Michael Caro at http://www.purpleroseenterprise.com
Helena Richardson at http://www.hrichnetworks.com
Sharvette Mitchell at http://www.mitchell-productions.com
Louis Penn at http://www.visualconceptionz.com/index.php/website-calculator
Good Luck in your business!
Some consider the marketing plan part of the business plan. It can be written together or separately but whichever way you do it make sure you update both regularly. You should review both plans at least every five years and make changes according to how your business is growing.
Susan Ward from About.com stated that a marketing plan outlines specific actions you intend to carry out to interest potential customers/clients in your product and or service and persuade them to buy the what you are offering.
There are six parts that should be included when writing your plan:
- Products or services and your unique selling proposition
- Pricing strategy
- Sales/distribution plan
- Advertising and promotions plan
- Target market
- Competitive analysis
This are parts are not the only parts that can be included but the most popular. http://www.businessmarketingplan.net/marketing-plan-basics
There are several sites that offer free templates:
Business In A Box offers document templates that are very helpful to a business owner. http://www.business-in-a-box.com/
Here are some books that can also help you write your marketing plan:
On Target: The Boom on Marketing Plans by Tim Berry & Doug Wilson
Preparing The Marketing Plan by David Parmerlee
The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Toolkit by Beth Goldstein
I know what your thinking- do I need this? Yes, you do need one! It is a blue print for your business. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t build a house without a plan so you shouldn’t run a business without one.
The business plan helps you run your business more cohesively. It’s a road map to analyzing you marketing, sales, manufacturing, web design, etc. This plan will help ensure success.
Your plan is used for outlining your business structure. The most simple plan has five parts while the most difficult could have as many as twenty parts. There are several different types of business plans. Depending on your business and what your needs are.
This a very basic* one:
- name of company
- what it do
- who owns it
- why me
Sales & Marketing-
- sales forecast
- identify your customers
- identify your competition
- business card (example)
- sign (example)
- brochure (example)
- website (address)
- profit & loss forecast
- cash flow chart
- balance sheet
- List all jobs to be done
- List who will do each job
- you have surveyed the market
- you have identified your customer
- you know your competition
- your financials indicated that
- you make money
*courtorsy of Larry Lee from SCORE
** can be found online
You will change your business plan as your company grows.
Below are more types of plans to help you decide what is best for your business
Most business people will say the business plan should come first. How are you going to write a business plan if you don’t know what the business will be? Writing a plan without knowing what your business is going to do, does not make sense.
What steps should you follow when starting a business? I have found the answers to this question varies depending on several factors.
- Type of business
Starting your own business is not as scary as you may think but its’ not as easy as hanging a shingle out saying “open for business”.
Your first thoughts in starting a business money, name, location, etc. What should be first is , can I make money from your idea, competition for your idea, market for your idea; after you have answered these questions to satisfaction then move to the next step.
Research the market get as much information you can on your product/service. Talk to people in your area of interest, visit a store location check out the inventory, pricing and customer traffic. Ask customers specifically why they shop at this store. You may get strange looks but this is part of your research so don’t give up. When that research is done move to the next step. A helpful resource is SCORE (www.score.org) the people there are former business people with years of experience. They provide seminars, workshops, online classes and mentors. Another helpful site is SHE Business Design at www.shebusinessdesign.com.
The next step after you found your niche and research is complete – Name your business.
It should be a name that represent your product/service. Don’t be to clever or to abstract. You want a name that people will remember because it’s catchy or associate an acronym with the name. (United Parcel Service- UPS) The same hold true for your logo, make it simple but eye catching (Exxon- tiger). Check your local government then broaden your search to state wide. (www.secstates.com). If you have anything that you want protected with a patent, trademark (www.USPTO.gov) or copyrighted (www.copyright.gov) . There are fees associated with filing some of this paperwork. I suggest before filing any paperwork you speak to a business lawyer.
What kind of business will you have? A sole proprietorship (LLC), partnership, corporation (S or C) or cooperative. There are tax difference so talk to a tax expert.
After you have all this information then you can start on your Business Plan.
Do you know exactly what strategy means? This word has become popular with the uprising of small business.
Strategy is your action or master plan. In business this is considered the direction or scope your business takes over the long term. Your origination can use this to meet challenges of your market and resources.
There are six things that you need for a successful strategy:
- Direction- where your business is going
- Market/scope- business compete in and what kind of activities
- Advantage- business perform better than others
- Resources- required in order to compete
- Environment- external factors affect business ability to compete
- Stockholders- values and expectations of those with power in and around the business
These are the question and answers you need to know before you can start to come up with a strategy.
In order for you to pick the correct strategy, you must first know what your trying to accomplish. There are three levels corporate, business unit and operational. Again depending on what you are trying to accomplish would depend in which strategy you will implement.
If you have investors/stockholders you will need to most likely need to use Corporate Strategy. Since your business is heavily influenced by investors and your concern would be to meet their exceptions.
If you sell a product or offer a service, you will most likely use Business Unit Strategy. Since your business is influenced by competition in your market. With that in mind your decisions will be made on products, customer need and what will have your business stand above the competition.
If you are concerned with all aspects of your business then you will most likely use Operational Strategy. Since your business is influenced by all aspects of your business. With that in mind your decision will be made on resources, processes and people.
To help you decide which strategy will best fit your business:
- Think about what direction you want your business to follow
- Go over your business plan
- Talk to a business coach to make sure you chose the right path
You have decided your not Superwoman/man and you need help. Now, where do you find the help you need?
You have asked your fellow business friends and they were no help. They told you about Guru, Upworks or other sites similar. They explained to your that you can get help there as low as $5 an hour, your excited just can’t believe it. What a score, it doesn’t even matter that they’re not in this country. You go to those sites, select a VA, your ready to start. Then you have to pump your brakes, why? You find there’s a communication issue, time difference or something else. If you have to repeat yourself or communicate at 3am, how much money and time are your actually saving?
American Virtual Assistants are very capable of doing your job without the communication issues or time zone constraints. Your American VA is niche oriented, you can hire a VA that specifically works in your industry and they don’t have to trained. Most Virtual Assistants offer a hourly rate or retainer packages to fit your budget.
Let me tell you where you can find capable Virtual Assistants.
Surprisingly FaceBook and LinkedIn have several groups that offer virtual assistants.
- Start by typing virtual assistant or administrative consultant in the search box.
- Post what you are looking for on all the sites you find.
- Be prepared for the responses. They will give you their website or FaceBook page for contact information.
- Reply thank you to all but only select who you want to speak personally to.
With LinkedIn you can connect to the individual directly and see their experience.
Other Social media to check is Twitter, Instagram, Craiglist, Youtube, Google and Bing.
There are websites that you may check such as:
Manta – www.manta.com
Smartguy – www.smartguy.com
Be My VA – www.bemyva.com
Yellow Bot – www.yellowbot.com
Thumbtack – www.thumbtack.com
For more listings check on http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/top-20-places-business-needs-listed-online/
Where do you advertise your business? Do you get results from your advertising? Is FaceBook or Twitter or other social media your only form of advertisement?
I found FREE sites that will allow you to get your business out there for potential clients/customers to find you. They also offer upgrade packages.
Manta is a site that helps potential clients/customers find you, promote your business and make business connection. They have three upgrade packages ranging from $29 to $49 per month. It has other wonderful features that are good for business. www.manta.com
Smartguy is like the yellow pages. They only except three professionals per category in any zip code. They have the free basic service but offer a premium, service for $49 per month. www.smartguy.com
Be My VA is a yellow pages for virtual assistants. If you are a VA and looking for exposure or looking to hire a Va this the place to be! There is a charge for access to a full business profile. The price is $104 but you can be a guest member with a limited business profile. www.bemyva.com
Here is a list of other sites:
Google My Business- www.google.com/business
Bing for Business- www.bingplaces.com
Yellow Bot- www.yellowbot.com
Merchant Circle- www.merchantcircle.com
Boosta Site- www.boostasite.com
More listings found on http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/top-20-places-business-needs-listed-online/
Excellent article to read on promoting your website is “How to Promote a Website with these 15 Sites” by Kristin Edelhauser. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/174914