Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

I recently read this great quote posted by a Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/johnjphillips) friend: “be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”.  The quote is an old Chinese proverb, but remains as relevant today as it would have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago.

Read the rest of this article at http://canberrabusiness.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/be-not-afraid-of-growing-slowly-be-afraid-only-of-standing-still/.

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Grow your business with social networking

Online social networking provides a multitude of opportunities to form strong connections with your customers, build your database and achieve your sales goals.

According to Wikipedia, “A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking).  We’re going to take a look at the three most popular social networking sites and how they can be used grow your business.

Facebook (http://www.facebook.com)

As at September 2010, Facebook has more than 500 million active users, with more than  50% of them logging on every day.  On average, each Facebook user has 130 friends (connections to other users).  With this many users, chances are most people you know, and probably most of your customers, are already using Facebook.  Facebook is primarily used for social purposes.  It is a way to keep up to date with what your friends are doing.  As an entrepreneur, creating a personal profile on Facebook, and becoming friends with your customers allows you to keep up to date with what they’re up to and vice versa.  It provides a means for people to easily and directly communicate with you, ask questions and generally find out who their dealing with.

Facebook also enables you to create a page for your business separate to your personal profile on the site.  Facebook business pages are categorised and ‘tagged’ with keywords related to your enterprise, enabling Facebook users to find you.  Whether you use a personal Facebook profile, a business page or both will really depend on your business and what you hope to get out of the site.

Facebook has good privacy controls, allowing you to determine who can see what.  For example, anyone can see my public profile on Facebook here http://www.facebook.com/johnjphillips, but only my friends can see my status updates, photos, links I post etc.

LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com)

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook but with professional slant.  LinkedIn has over 75 million users worldwide.  Users on LinkedIn form connections and can then make professional recommendations, ask questions and network with likeminded individuals.  To connect with someone on LinkedIn you will generally need to know them in person or at least know their email address.

Once you have a few connections on LinkedIn, you can start exploring your ‘network’ of connections, that is, the people your connections are connected to.  This is the real power of LinkedIn.  If you are looking for a graphic designer, you might find one of your connections is connected to a designer.  You can then ask for a LinkedIn introduction, read their recommendations and find out a little about the person before you work with them.

LinkedIn allows the creation of a public and private profile.  Anyone can see me public profile here http://au.linkedin.com/in/johnjamesphillips (you don’t have to be on LinkedIn to see this), however, to see all my details or to make contact with me you’ll need to connect to me on the site.

Twitter (http://www.twitter.com)

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ platform where users post short updates of 140 characters or less known as Tweets.  It is commonly used by business that frequently update their products or run lots of promotions.  It differs from LinkedIn and Facebook in that all posts are public by default.  You don’t even need a Twitter account to see my tweets at http://twitter.com/john_J_Phillips.  Twitter users can follow other users, seeing their Tweets in a feed when they log into the site.

The usefulness of these tools will depend on your marketing strategy and how much time you put into them.  They certainly aren’t a case of set and forget.  You need to keep it interesting for your friends, connections and followers or they’ll start to ignore you.  How are you going to use social networking to grow your business?

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Be careful what you say

I received a phone call a couple of days ago from a local business.  It is a business I haven’t dealt with in the past, and they were calling with an offer to use their facility for free for a period of time.

The offer it’s self was actually pretty good.  Instead of just relying on me to take up the offer, then turn up and use it at some point in the future, they actually booked a time for me to come in.  Now, I don’t have a need for their services, so I declined.  From a purely marketing perspective, their offer contained the following elements:

  • Risk reversal.  By trying them for free for two weeks, I get to find out if they will be suitable without outlaying any money.
  • Scarcity.  “We are only calling a small number of people with this offer”
  • Call to action.  “Can you come in at 3pm on Monday, or would 6pm on Wednesday be better?”

Unfortunately, the person actually making the calls did something a bit strange.  They opened the call with “my boss asked me to call a few people”.  The trouble with this is that it made me feel like the person on the other end didn’t really want to be making these calls, they’d rather be doing something different and are only doing it because their boss told them to.  It’s not the callers fault either.  Their boss has obviously put a fair but of time and effort into designing this promotion, and probably just needed to provide a little more coaching to their telephone operatives.

The moral of the story:  Be careful how you open conversations with potential clients.  First impressions and lasting, and this company, for me at least, didn’t make a very good one.  Nobody wants to speak to someone who is only grudgingly speaking to them.


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The number one thing you can do to improve your business today

Author: John Phillips

I’ve been speaking with small business owners recently who all want to improve their businesses.   While all these businesses offer their own unique challenges, a common theme is a lack of understanding of their numbers.  The key numbers I’m talking about are:

Break-even point
This is basically the sum of all your expenses including the money you take home.  If you don’t generate at least this amount of income, you are making a loss.

Turnover
This is the total income you generated.

Profit/Loss
The amount of money you made/lost, calculated as Turnover-Expenses.

How many leads have been generated, and how many converted into customers
How many enquiries you generated from your promotional efforts, and how many of these you converted into paying customers.

Lifetime value of each customer
How much each customer will spend with you over the entire time they stay with you.

Cost of acquiring each customer
The cost of buying each customer calculated as the cost of your promotional activities divided by the number of customers that resulted from them.

Margin
The percentage of your income that is profit.

Calculating these numbers isn’t a difficult task, and determining them will reveal areas where your business is doing well, and areas where you could improve.  I recently completed this exercise with a business owner who had been operating for about five months.  We found the cost of acquiring a customer was a bit over $8, but each customer only had a lifetime value of 50 cents.  Obviously this isn’t sustainable, and it told us that we needed to look at ways to buy customers at a significantly lower price.

Before you make any changes in your business, such as starting a marketing campaign, calculate your current numbers.  This gives you a baseline against which to measure the impact of the change.  Understanding your numbers really is the key to maximum profit.

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