With an all-star cast of local, national and international celebrities and personalities on hand, the Spark Centre literally rocked downtown Oshawa on June 25th with the Ignite Finale 2013.
This gala evening was organized to celebrate homegrown entrepreneurship and success. With the help of Timothy Ferriss, author of the famed The 4-Hour Work Week and his new book The 4-Hour Chef, we partied into the night all in honour of the amazing pool of entrepreneurial talent that lives, and thrives, in the Durham Region.
Over 500 people registered for the event, and over 400 people showed up to mix and to mingle, but most of all to support and celebrate 2013 winners of Ignite – Squabble Studios and Mobile-X Co. Attendees had an opportunity to learn from the winning businesses how the Ignite program has helped to shape their businesses, and, most importantly, how the support of organizations like Spark, and sponsors like OPG, 360 Incentives, and the BACD , are contributing to success at a grassroots level.
If the Durham Region is where you call home, be sure to keep an eye out for the Spark Centre and its programs and services. There are opportunities year-round to support and sign-up, and to get in on the next party on the ground floor…
Day in and day out, technology continues to change the way we live our lives. Laptops, tablets and smart phones have effectively made communicating online the norm, and this has changed the way we plan our days, organize our lives, and do business. For many, their phone is the last thing they put down at night, and the first thing they pick up in the morning.
Is it little wonder, then, that how you show up online matters? I am here to tell you it matters… a LOT!
If you are a business owner, or someone who works for a business, you know (I hope!) that having a solid online presence has never been more important. Just as a bricks-and-mortar location has to reflect the image you want people to have of your organization when they visit you in person, so too should your online locations and profiles reflect your image to those who are visiting you online. In a growing number of cases, it is your online presence that is the first impression that your prospects will have of you, so you need to make it a good one!
Knowing how to build a rock-solid profile and presence online is a valuable skill in many ways. Websites like LinkedIn for example can help you make career-launching contacts, and business-building connection. On websites where you transact business online, you will need some sort of profile so customers know who they are as dealing with.
People do business with people.
Establishing the Know-Like-Trust factor is utterly critical to moving prospects along the buying cycle. In a world of seemingly endless options, standing out from the crowd in your market space is imperative if you are going to build and grow your business, or the business you work for.
Here are a few of the most important things that go into creating an online profile:
A High Quality, Professional Photo
People do judge a book by its cover. Before they’ve read your profile and before they’ve read anything you say, people are already going to be forming impressions of you based on how you look in your photo.
Aim to have a high quality, professional, high resolution photo for online profiles.
Ideally you should be wearing a suit and tie, or for women a suit jacket or blazer. The image should be crisp and it should be color corrected.
Your Personal Description
Your personal description is where you really get the chance to come out and make your case.
Try to touch on the most compelling things about you and what you have to offer. Use credibility-enhancing statements, such as talking about how you have impacted your customers’ lives, your professional accomplishments, and/or your designations or credentials.
The tone of your profile should be as professionally compelling as possible. However, try to also drop in just one or two little personal tidbits. This will help humanize you and set you out from the crowd.
Focus on References
Last, but certainly not least, your references can make or break you. Each social network’s referencing system works slightly differently, but by and large most communities have some sort of referencing system. On LinkedIn for example, the references are called “recommendations.” The more positive recommendations you have, the more solid your LinkedIn profile looks.
No matter what the reference system looks like, it is important to get as many compelling references as you can. This will mean that you need to reach out to your network of existing customers and ask them to refer you, or, better yet, build this online referral and reference loop into your customer service process.
People viewing your profile will lend a lot more weight to references from past clients, colleagues, associates than what you say about yourself.
Go get to work!
These are the three most important elements of creating a compelling online profile on any website or online community. If you have a professional-looking photo, a credibility-building description with a hint of personality, and overwhelmingly positive references then you’ve nailed the online profile.
Is it, or isn’t it? Is Spring finally here, or is Winter going to keep holding on?
Is it time to move forward and try something new, or is it better (read: ‘safer’) to stay where I am?
I know that I often feel bombarded by the number of decisions that I have to make in my day, beginning with things as simple as what to wear, and growing in complexity as my day goes on. When it comes to certain situations – like choosing service providers or solutions – the choices I have trip me up and sometimes leave me frozen and unable to decide.
Oftentimes I wait… I wait for someone to tell me what to do, to offer what I really need, to solve my “analysis paralysis” for me, because it is likely that I really don’t know what is best for me.
Failure is NOT an option
Although I often make decisions fairly quickly, and with a fair amount of certainty (likely because I have researched the bejeezus out of the thing), there are those times when I get paralyzed in the process. Often this happens when I am confronted with a decision that is outside the parameters of my experience, and revolves around something technical or complicated that is unfamiliar, and I don’t understand.
What I am looking for in that moment is direction, because left to my own devices I am more likely to do nothing than make what I feel might be a mistake. I don’t like to fail at things, and doing nothing feels safer than making a ‘wrong’ choice. Staying where I am, if it isn’t obviously hurting me, seems easier than taking a chance on something new… even if that something new may be better for me in the long run.
Make your Move
If you are an expert at what you do, the world needs you. If you know something, or many somethings, that could improve the lives of others – be it personally or professionally – tell us, or we’ll miss out. We need you to show up and share with us that you understand our challenges, and that you have a solution.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that your ideal clients want you to bombard them with unsolicited phone calls, visits, or emails. What I am suggesting is that you to reach out, in person or online, to connect and to share your knowledge and your expertise as often and in as many places as you can think of where your Ideal Client hangs out. If your Ideal Client is me, then I want to be so familiar with you and your offer that when I need what you have I know exactly who to call.
Whatever you do, don’t wait for me to come calling… I’m likely too busy trying to decide whether or not I even have a problem.
I am approached every day, by individuals and businesses trying to attract a steady stream of new prospects to their product/business/service. They ask me all kinds of questions, like:
“Do you think networking is a good idea for me?”
“Is print advertising worth doing?”
“Do you think I should spend money on this [fill in the blank] opportunity?”
As pressing as those questions can feel, and as desperate as you may be to generate more leads into your business, this can sometimes be a case of putting the proverbial cart before the horse…
Which comes first… the chicken or the egg?
Generating new leads and converting new clients is critical to the success of any business. I get that. Really, I do. And there are many, many, many ways available to business owners to invest and spend their resources to market their business.
Now, by and large most businesses spend the bulk of their time in this space – constantly focused on finding NEW. But what happens with all of these prospects once they become clients? What are you doing to keep them, and more importantly keep them happy, once the ‘new client smell’ wears off?
Statistically it is 4x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. It isn’t terribly complicated, and it doesn’t have to be hard. So the real question becomes, why do you always need to find new?
Sorry… He’s “newer” than you…
I don’t know about you, but I personally am severely underwhelmed when I get adverts in my mailbox from the national telecom company I have been a client (read: hostage) of for the past 10-years who consistently offers me a great deal to ‘sign up’… but only if I am a new customer. Suffice it to say they are not concerned about keeping me happy, and quite frankly I am pretty much ready to be mistreated by their competition. How many of your customers are thinking the same thing about you?
So if we all know that KEEPING clients is the real key to long-term success in business, how do we do it? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Build relationships – Whether you are selling a car, an insurance policy, or a service plan, you need to see your customers as more than just a number. Get to know your customers, let them get to know a bit about you, and you will create a foundation for a relationship that is more likely to deliver a referral, or a repeat purchase, somewhere down the line.
- Be exceptional – If you have customers who when asked say that they are ‘satisfied’ with their interaction with you then you have a LOT of work to do. Satisfied should not be an acceptable standard, because a customer who has merely been satisfied by you is primed to be scooped up and dazzled by the next guy. Make sure that your customer service is so good that your customers won’t even consider going anywhere else.
- Deliver on the promise – Snazzy marketing materials, fancy visuals, or clever packaging won’t save you if the product/service/offer doesn’t deliver. Never, and I do mean NEVER, misrepresent who you are, what you are, and what you promise because you will get caught… I guarantee it. In this highly social age, if you get caught in a lie and/or really blow it upon delivery, you can be sure that your disappointed customer is going to share that information with as many people as they can.
In the end, no amount of marketing can save you if you have a lousy product or offer crummy service. But with just a bit of care and consideration, it is possible to radically improve your client retention and customer loyalty. And when you keep more clients buying from you, without you have to spend a ton to get them through the door, you should see a significant (positive) impact on your bottom line.