Insights Blog

Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

How To Decide If Business Networking Is Right For You

It’s something we business owners are constantly sold: networking is essential for gathering leads. But is networking really worth it for everyone?

Let’s dig a little deeper into business networking and let me walk you through how to decide whether it actually makes sense for you and your business.

Are Your Customers or Clients There?

Before you begin considering ANY marketing channel at all, the first step is to be very clear who your Avatar is (our Avatar Creator Toolkit may be helpful for that).

If (and only if) you are really clear about that and you also know for sure that your avatar is likely to congregate at the networking event you are considering, then yes – go for it. It becomes a no-brainer when you know who you are able to help and exactly where they are going to be.

However, if you are attending networking just because you FEEL like networking makes sense – then you need to more carefully assess whether this is the BEST thing for your business. And 9/10 times, you should almost definitely not be networking as a priority.

I’ve known many business owners who have been wasting an incredible amount of time – breakfast meetings, after work drinks, dinners – going to ‘network’ with people who not only fail to fit their avatar but aren’t even logical alliances! It’s a waste of time and incredibly inefficient.

Not All Business Networking Events Were Made Equal

There is a kaleidoscope of business networking events out there, and each have different demographics in attendance. And, oddly enough, often the ones that are marketed at you directly may not actually have your avatar attending – because they’re targeting you not your avatar (unless, of course, the two coincide!)

Find networking events specifically crafted for your avatar and go there. Better yet, get into those events as an authority in your field (do a presentation, or sponsor the event) so you get more visibility and are easier to approach.

Don’t just attack every networking event you come across. Be discerning.

Focus On Your ROI

Promoters of networking events will hardly ever talk about your return on investment on coming to their event. That’s because, generally, there is no immediately clear way to measure the return.

That doesn’t mean you chalk it up to a ‘fuzzy’ channel with ‘potential’. We don’t work that way here. We make sure there are some clear numbers we are looking at to make decisions about whether it’s worth your time and money – you just need to be smart about it.

Let’s say you are attending a networking event that requires you to meet every week in the morning for about 2-3 hours, and then you also end up spending another 2-3 hours during the week doing extra networking with this group. That’s approximately 5 hours of your work week being devoted to networking.

Compare this to 5 hours a week spent on your Google Adwords account, or on refining your email marketing strategy, or devising a clever direct mail strategy. How do you compare the return? Is the result from networking really covering this time-cost in the same way?

If you think it MIGHT, but you have no actual data yet, then you do need to test and measure – and collect that data!

Build a dashboard that’s specific for your networking activity. Count the number of contacts you collected at each event. Track what the result has been from those contacts (“No. of clients referred” maybe? “Become a customer” maybe?). Record time invested on the sheet.

Then you can begin to track exactly how useful each event has been in real terms. And once you are tracking, you can start to spot how to refine your method so that you target only the most useful events and limit your time investment to get the most out of your networking.

Business Networking Is An Add-On Not Bedrock

In my opinion, it is rare to find any business where networking is going to give you any greater than 20 or 30% of your business, if even that. So, unless your business is an extreme exception, it is usually a good additional strategy to an already churning marketing machine – not a strategy that will facilitate immediate business growth.

If you are looking to grow big and grow fast, networking is not usually an effective main strategy for that. However, if you are an already large business seeking to open more channels and diversify your marketing, then networking may be an option. Just keep a tight rein on the resources you are dedicating to it and, again, be discerning.

Using Networking For Authority Building

I did touch on this earlier in the article: business networking can be useful in your wider marketing strategy not as direct lead generation but as authority building, by being present and visible where your avatar is congregating.

This, however, is a very ‘fuzzy’ result that is hard to measure. However, it may not be one to overlook, especially if you are reaching a point where you are becoming a leader in your field. Networking with the other movers and shakers in your industry can potentially be a good way to build credibility and garner thought leadership – most especially if you have the opportunity to present or do some training at the networking event.

Be The Host Instead of the Attendee

To the purpose of being an industry leader – if you think your avatar truly loves to network, why not craft your own networking event for them? That way you can get both authority building AND lead generation – and you have more control over the quality of the leads because you get to market it directly to your own avatar.

Of course, be aware that hosting a networking event yourself comes with a lot of extra work. You need to book a venue, decide on refreshments, market the event, coordinate with attendees, clean up afterwards etc – and that’s all on top of the marketing, selling, and follow up you’re planning to do!

If you have a strong team to assist with this, then it may not be as much of an issue. But if you’re a small, agile team, that may (almost certainly will) distract from the channels that are giving you the bulk of your business – which isn’t a smart move if you are looking at more immediate profit growth.

Of course, every business is different, and while networking may be an essential element for some, it is not for most. So it is worth being a bit more rigorous with determining whether networking makes sense or not for your business.

Have you had success through networking? Share your story in the comments below!

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The Retention Formula: R x R

“Business growth is all about lead generation.” I’ve heard marketers say this a lot.

Developing a sales and marketing machine to get a predictable and sustainable lead flow is important. But if you really want to grow a sustainable business, then it’s not just about getting new clients. It’s about retaining the clients that we already have.

In this video, I’m going to explain a formula to help you create some focus and help you do this even better.

So how are you going to improve your customer retention strategy? Will you communicate your results to your clients better? Will you foster your relationships more strongly?

Maybe 2018 should be the year that you create a calendar of relationship touch points to keep more of your customers than any year before.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi this is Shweta from London Coaching Group.

What I want to talk about today is how to have a sustainable growth in your business. Now when I’m working with my clients there is a lot of focus on sales and marketing machine and how to systemized their growth. So as you can see on the chart here we have a lot of discussion going around the whole topic of acquisition. How do we make sure that the pipeline is buzzing with the right kind of leads? And obviously there is a good conversion process in place, but at the same time there is a lot of focus on this topic as well which is retention because I totally believe in this. That to grow a sustainable business, to have a sustainable business, it’s not just about acquiring new clients but it’s really important that we retain the clients that we have.

Now I want to talk a little bit about this one, which is the retention of clients and how does that happen? How can you do that effectively in your business? So you might want to write this down, it’s a very simple formula which is Retention = R x R, okay? And it’s times. So it’s a powerful formula. Now the first R stands for results and it’s in no order of priority, it’s just to say that the first R stands for results and the second R stands for relationship.

So what we’re really talking about here is Retention = Results x Relationships and what that means is that if you want to retain your clients it’s really important that you deliver on the promises that you have made to them, which is about the results. And what I’ve seen many times in the business world is that business owners are very passionate, very hard working, and they’re trying their very best to actually deliver the results for their clients. But what goes missing is the communication, the right kind of communication to the clients and also the second thing which is actually seeking constructive feedback from their client saying how can they do better. You know what’s what is it that the clients are actually liking about them.

So under results if you could just make two notes which is, how are you communicating enough? Are you communicating the results that you’re getting for your clients to them? And the second thing is are you actually consciously seeking constructive feedback in a structured way for your clients? Everything might be great, but you need to give them a platform to communicate any concerns any thoughts or any well done is to you.

Now talking about the second one which is the relationship and again I’ll say the way I see it which is a lot of good intentions out there. Business owners want to actually take care of their clients. They feel good about them. You know they think about them a lot. But the point really here again is that how are you showing it? How are you expressing it? What are you doing in a very concrete in a granular way to strengthen that relationship again and again and again and again, because remember if you’re not doing that then there are many competitors out there who want to have an entry with your client and it just takes, you know, one bad servicing or someone just making an extra effort. And there you go just getting that client back is such a hard job. So make sure that you’re not just thinking about strengthening the relationship, but actually you have some form of hospitality calendar. And again for all clients we truly as I’m working with clients we really focus on the 80-20 clients who are the top 20 percent of the clients who are contributing to 80 percent of their business. And especially for them the whole idea is to have a have a hospitality calendar quarter by quarter where all the touch points. It could be just a phone call. It could be a nice postcard. You know a book, a game, just going out for lunch or dinner.

It’s not about how expensive or inexpensive the act is. It’s about actually making an effort and translating that into the real thing for your client to show that yes that relationship means a lot to you and you are really the best. At the things that you are doing for them. Because remember, Retention = Results x Relationship.

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The Powerful Opening Gambit in Power Negotiation

During the first quarter of the year especially, as a business owner you may find yourself positioning and negotiating prices with suppliers and clients.

The ones who are going to be most successful are those who have learned the gambits of power negotiation. Not just negotiation, but power negotiation.

Let me explain what power negotiation means, and share with you the powerful opening gambit that savvy business owners are using on the negotiating table…

This strategy is just one of the many power negotiation techniques that I have been teaching to my clients. These strategies are usually extremely simple, but many business owners just haven’t been told yet that they exist.

A few simple changes and you could be picking up money that’s being left on the negotiating table.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I’m going to talk about today is Power Negotiation. In fact, just this week, I had a very interesting workshop with my clients where we discussed how to go about negotiating with suppliers with clients, because as you can imagine being the start of the year, there are suppliers who are positioning price increases to clients or vice versa. So one needs to be comfortable with the whole negotiation, understand the strategies, the gambits, the moves.

Difference between Negotiation and Power Negotiation

So the workshop was pretty cool, I wish I could cover all the strategies that we talked about, but I do want to talk about one core, fundamental, in fact opening gambit that you need to be aware of. And again, it’s very simple, very common sense scope, but many people miss out on this. So first things first, the difference between negotiation and power negotiation is, basically, in both you have to win at the negotiating table, that is the objective. But in power negotiation, you make the other person feel that they have actually won. So it’s the feeling that you leave the other person with, right? So they should want to actually come back and negotiate more with you, though you’re the one who has actually met his or her objectives. So that’s the first thing.

Now in power negotiation, the first bidders that always ask for more than expected, that’s the first thing. That’s the first thing, and I’m sure you’ll be like “Yeah, that’s how it should be.” Now, the question really is, how much more? Right? Now for that to happen, you need to understand something called “Bracketing”.

What is Bracketing?

Now for Bracketing to come into function, again, another rule in power negotiation is that you have to ensure that it’s the other person who is stating his or her position to you first. That’s really important, because if that’s not happening, then pretty much you will lose out in the negotiation process. So for example, there is a buyer who is willing to pay, say, twenty thousand for your service. Ok? Just as an example. Wherein in your mind you knew that you should be looking at around twenty four thousand and now you have made the buyer state his or her position, and the person has told you that he or she is willing to pay twenty thousand pounds for your services, but you want to be at twenty four thousand. So that’s the first step.

Then you need to bracket your position. What that means is, that now what you state, your opening position should be equally distant, in the direction where you want to be, right? So in this case the difference between where you want to be and the price that’s been offered by the buyer is four thousand, so you go in the other direction, four more thousand, which is twenty eight thousand, right? So your opening position becomes twenty eight thousand and now the negotiation range is from twenty thousand to twenty eight thousand. If you are following the gambits, and the right moves, and the right strategies, then most probably you’ll land somewhere very close to twenty four thousand, hopefully on a higher side.

So I hope that makes sense. That why it’s important to make the other person state his or her position first, because if that doesn’t happen you cannot bracket. And how you need to bracket your own objective, and then let the game begin.

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Stop Being an Elf

business-coaching-london-client-appreciation-gifts

Everyone knows that Santa gets his job done with a bit of help. It has become common for many businesses to don a little elf hat and help old Saint Nick deliver some gifts to their customers – especially those who are on the “nice” list!

Even if you are not doing it to help the man in the big red suit, it is still a great time of year to celebrate positive relationships – and that includes your business ones.

However, there is a really big opportunity being missed when businesses send out gifts at Christmas time…

While the end of the year is a great time to express your gratitude to clients, why are you only doing this once a year?

We already know that your sales process benefits from having a certain number of step. Equally, when you make the right number of touch points throughout the year with your clients, you can create even closer relationships with them and maintain an even stronger raving-fan community around your business.

In this article, we will look at why you should be more than just an elf. That is, why it is a good idea to reach out more frequently during the year and how best to go about doing this.

The Double Benefit of Regular Client Appreciation

Reminding your customers that you care about them is a fuzzy and heart-warming tradition to uphold in your business. It makes you and your team feel good and it makes your clients feel good.

But what makes it an extra special and beneficial practice is that it also helps with your client retention. Happy clients are more likely to stick with you, buy from you, and refer new clients to you – so keeping them happy is also a great way to maintain a strong bottom line.

It’s a win-win: you get to feel good by expressing gratitude with actions that ultimately also help your business.

What Kind of Gifts Should I Send to Clients?

There are many ways to appreciate your clients. If you have a lot of clients, or limited resources to commit to gift giving, then you can give digital gifts such as gift vouchers for online stores or even something as simple as an email could do for limited budgets.

However, you will find that the impact of the gesture is larger and more recognised when you give something physical. I would therefore highly recommend figuring out a small, physical gift you can deliver to your clients.

This could be things such as elegant stationery, themed food like cakes or cookies, posters or paintings that can be put up, or other regular gift items.

If you can weave in a message or branding in an unobtrusive manner, then by all means do so. However, remember that your purpose here is not your brand marketing. The purpose is to make your clients feel appreciated. So give them something good first and foremost.

If a physical gift is too complicated or difficult, you can also consider organising events that you give your clients exclusive access to. This can do as much if not more to foster a sense of community and can have the added benefit of encouraging referrals if you allow them to invite friends.

How Often Should I Send Gifts to Clients?

When you only send your gifts to clients at Christmas you are Santa’s elf and, while that’s great, elves lose their impact come February. However, if you send gifts out all the time, they start to lose their impact and they start to feel less special.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend having some sort of appreciation touch point once a quarter in order to maximise the effect.

You can switch things up and have different sorts of gifts and/or events each quarter. The variance not only keeps it interesting and engaging, but also ensures that the gifts remain special, and unexpected. You want to avoid becoming predictable so that whenever you do produce a present, it comes as a small and pleasant surprise.

A good idea is to draw up a calendar and look at the holidays, events and other important dates to do with your business or which are important to your prospects. These can help structure the timing of your gifts and help with the selection (or theme) of what to offer.

Genuine Gifts Only

Some people may feel that creating a strategy around gift-giving takes away from the positivity of the gift, as it starts to have “motive”. Let me clarify something: you should not be giving gifts simply because I told you so or because you want to “get more” from your clients. You should be choosing carefully, and giving genuinely.

You should not just be choosing what you give, but also who you give gifts to. This works best if you are honestly giving gifts to people you truly believe deserve them – so don’t just give to everyone. Make sure the gift is really good, and your primary motivation is to appreciate that person, not improve your bottom line.

When do you that, you continue to feel good, they continue to feel good, and you do still get all the extra benefits of improving your business relationship on top of that. It’s a win all around – and you get to be more than an elf: you get to play Santa all year round!

Want even more growth in 2017?

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3 Tests to Measure the Strength of Your USP

One of the first things successful business owners do is clarify their unique selling proposition (USP). That is, what is it about the service or product that you offer which makes it more compelling than anything else out there?

Fundamentally, it answers the question, “Why should I buy from you?”

I have noticed, however, that many business owners struggle to pin this down. Or more precisely, they struggle to pin down a USP that is actually unique and compelling. And doing this is essential.

The result is that their marketing produces only a trickle of leads, their product development and expansion is haphazard and directionless. The company is constantly yo-yoing as the business owner feels like they are spinning plates while simultaneously putting out fires.

This begs the question, how do you check whether your business’ USP is clear and useful?

I encountered a diagram like this sometime ago and I adapted it to create some simple tests you can use to do a quick check on the strength of your USP.

london-business-coaching-usp-test 

The Grey “Doesn’t Matter” Zone

The first test is the easy one: the grey zone just doesn’t even matter. I mean, who cares what you and your competitors are both doing well if no one even wants it?

First Test: Does your consumer want it?

If no, then why on earth are you doing this? Drop it. Forget about it. It’s taking up valuable headspace.

If yes, continue on.

The Red “Fail” Zone

The next test is the red zone and if you are sitting here, then there should be big alarm bells ringing! If your competitor is serving your customers’ needs better than you are, then something definitely needs to change!

Second Test: Does your competitor do it better?

If yes, then this is certainly not your USP – if anything, it’s theirs! You either need to choose a different USP to focus your business on, or up your game and do what you do better so that you can outstrip the competition.

If no, then you can proceed to the next test.

The Yellow “Unsafe” Zone

The yellow zone is where you are almost there, but this is an unreliable proposition that could slip into the red zone at any moment. You see, if both you and your competitor are satisfying your consumers’ needs, then how are they making the decision to go with you or with them?

Third Test: Are your competitors doing it just as well as you are?

If yes, then you may use this as your USP, but stay cautious. You are deep in the battleground here. Any step backwards is a step forwards for your competitor. Be innovative. Be attentive. Know your customer inside out and sway them to you for emotional reasons, because logically there is quite possibly no difference between you and your competitor.

If no, then…

The Green “Safe” Zone

Congratulations – you are in the green zone! You do what you do better than any of your competitors, and your consumer is hungry for your solution. Your USP is sound.

You should now be focusing your niche and avatar around this USP, choosing your lead magnets, and refining your brand strategy around it. You should be structuring your products & pricing and even your company culture around it. Using it as the foundation for all your decision making will help you steer the boat of your business in a direction of growth and profit.

Does your USP pass these tests? Or are you in need of a USP upgrade? Let us know in the comments below, or let us know any techniques you have for identifying your business’ USP.

Want help constructing your USP?

Business coaching is about helping business owners understand these sort of foundations. This sets them up to achieve double-digit growth.

Get a taste of how it can help you with one of our complimentary strategic reviews.

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You Already Know Your Target Market

london-business-coaching-marketing-avatar-interview

 

Who is your ideal customer? What is the likelihood that someone like me, who works with hundreds of businesses every year, would be able to get you an introduction to a potential ideal customer? Pretty likely, but only as long as I know who it is you are looking for. 

It all starts with the concept of the “Marketing Avatar” – the first and most critical step in creating a marketing machine that brings in the right kind of leads into your business.

However, a lot of people feel like when they try and create this Marketing Avatar it feels a lot like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s Cave: it is an imperfect representation and they’re struggling to pin down this Avatar as a real target person that could actually exist.

Let me explain an exercise that has helped hundreds of businesses to concretise their Avatar from an ideal into a reality.

I have, in previous blog posts, explained why target markets don’t work and why you need a marketing avatar instead. I have also listed the 6 essential qualities that you should look out for in a marketing avatar, so I won’t explain those again.

Instead, I want to outline an exercise you can do that will help you apply the concept of the Marketing Avatar to reality.

And it’s a lot easier than you may think. It’s the Marketing Avatar Interview.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 1

Extract a list of all your existing customers from whatever database or CRM (customer relationship management) solution you use. This may be past and present customers, but they must be people you would be able to contact.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 2

Go through this list and choose the customers that you liked the most. As far as possible at this stage, avoid thinking about them in terms of the sales or money – just focus on whether they were someone you enjoyed spending time with or not.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 3

Now with your list of favourite customers, get a bit more clinical. Rank them in terms of real value to your business. Look at the 6 essential qualities again and consider how much they match your ideal Avatar.

Marketing Avatar Interview Step 4

Now that you have one or two of your existing customers who quite closely match your ideal Marketing Avatar, you can get in touch to conduct an interview with them. You should ask them an extensive list of questions about who they are, what they like, and where they spend their time to build a solid profile about them.

And just like that, you have a detailed document about who your marketing Avatar is that is built on real knowledge of an actual ideal customer.

An example of how you can use this is to ensure that you when you set up a system to ask for referrals from your business partners and alliances with abundant contacts (such as, say, your business coach!) you are asking for the right kind of customer.

Generally, armed with your Marketing Avatar, you are now in a position to reassess your entire marketing strategy and sharpen your messages so everything you do is directed to the people who perfectly match your business.

Marketing processes getting you down?

Shweta hosts webinars in order to reach out to businesses who need business advice and expose them to how business coaching could help.

There she reveals some powerful marketing techniques, among other business strategies, that help businesses grow in double-digits!

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