Are You in a Rut?

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I was a member of a small networking group through the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. I had been a member for about 3 years.

The group ran into some roadblocks when the restaurant that hosted us (it is a lunchtime meeting) decided in May they were too busy to deal with a large group at lunch time. Then, the long-time leader of the group (8 years), decided he needed a well-deserved break from those volunteer duties. On top of everything else, there seemed to be a shift at the Chamber on the importance of the small business members to its business model. (You can imagine how that was received in a group of small business owners/managers!)

It was decided that the group should take a break while we found a new location and a new leadership team.

For three years, I’d had the group meetings on my calendar as a recurring event on the first and third Thursday of every month. It was a commitment I’d made and just as important as any other business meeting. I worked other meetings around this one.

Well, when the group went on hiatus, with no definite date to reconvene, I removed it from my calendar. All of a sudden, I realized that other opportunities that I’d passed on due to my commitment to the group were there and waiting for me. Since then, I’ve noticed an increase in business and my ability to participate in events outside of San Diego that I might not have considered before due to that Thursday conflict. After all, I didn’t want to miss too many meetings because it was a commitment I owed the group.

When the group reconvened a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had acquired new business and opportunities that far outweighed what I was getting out of my participation in the group. I had to decide – continue with the group because I was getting some business and enjoyed the people in the group; or, was it time to let it go and move on.

I didn’t want to just disappear from the group, so I decided to attend at least one more meeting. As I was driving there,  after a very successful morning at another networking event, I realized that my continuing membership was probably not going to move my business forward in the way I wanted and needed it to. I decided to resign on my way there.

Keep in mind that I have other regular commitments to business groups and community groups, but I’ve reminded myself that I can’t allow something that’s familiar (and fun) to take away other opportunities for business growth. If it’s for business reasons, each one of these activities needs to be evaluated on an annual basis and decisions need to be made if continued participation is accomplishing the goals set for that activity.

I fully commit to any type of organization I join; but I also need to know when it’s time to let it go and open myself up to new opportunities.

Are you doing the same?

 

Being a Mentor

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I was recently asked to teach a class on how to handle a promotional products order from beginning to end to ensure the best possible outcome. Who was my audience? My “competitors.”

Yes, this class was held at a trade show for people in my very own industry of promotional products and I gave my “competitors” my method to tracking orders for successful outcomes.

Why would I give my competition one of the secrets to my success? After all, isn’t having a reputation for completing promotional product orders that are consistently of high quality with a great imprint and on-time delivery part of the reason that Lev Promotions is where it is today?

Well, yes. But that’s certainly not our only secret; nor do I believe that everyone in that room who got my handouts and actively participated in the class will implement their version of my system. Heck, a couple of people in there thought it was a complete waste of time – wonder what happens the first time they have a major snafu that costs them a client and the money for the job.

I wholly believe that there is plenty of business out there for everyone. There are people and companies that are better served by working with me, just as there are those that I will never be able to adequately help because I just don’t understand their business model or personalities don’t click. Even if I could work with everyone, where in the heck would I find the time?

Given that, I believe that it’s important to elevate my profession to the highest possible standard so that people see the intrinsic value in the marketing products and services that we provide. If my profession is more highly valued, then my expertise within that profession is worth even more.

If I can teach my competition to be more professional in the way they handle their business transactions; or, if I can mentor someone new to the industry to bring them up to speed faster, ultimately it reflects well on the industry as a whole and I will reap the benefits.

What have you done to make your industry more professional/respectable/trustworthy? Why not reach out to someone you know in the business who’s struggling or new and give them a hand? You don’t have to reveal all your secrets, jut give them the basics and let them run with them.

A Slow Fourth Quarter is a Great Way to Kick off the First Quarter

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For many businesses outside the retail sector, the fourth quarter is the slowest one of the year. Budgets have been spent, people are on vacation or in a holiday frame of mind, and new projects are being put off until after the first of the year. It can seem like a great time to just kick back a bit, or a time to worry about how to make ends meet until things pick back up.

Ideally, though, the fourth quarter should be the time when you evaluate the past year and plan out your business and marketing plans for the coming year. Even if the fourth quarter is a busy time for you, it’s important to do this now so that you can get a jumpstart on the new year.

  1. Evaluate your current business and/or marketing plan towards putting together one for 2014:
    1. So you never wrote a business and/or marketing plan at all; you kept it all in your head. Unfortunately, that just resulted in a huge headache when you realized that nothing was going the way you’d “planned.” Take the time to sit down and put together a written plan. Don’t know how? Get a book, take a class, or hire someone to do it for you – Lev Promotions is one resource.
    2. You did write a plan, but it’s been living in the dark recesses of your computer or a desk drawer because you haven’t actually looked at it since you finalized it, then now’s the time to pull it out and see what you’d planned to do vs. what you actually did. More than likely, most of your plan went by the wayside and you ended up somewhere entirely different than where you wanted to be. Revisit the plan, bringing it up to date so that you can really put it into action for next year.
    3. You wrote a plan and reviewed it at least once a quarter to compare reality to your plans. You kept your plan in motion, tweaking it when needed to keep it current and viable. Keep up the good work.
  2. Write a plan for 2014.
    1. If you had an actual written plan in 2013,  you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Keep the parts of the old plan that still apply and add new components where they make sense.
    2. If you didn’t have a written plan – now is the time!
  3. Schedule regular intervals to review your plan.
    1. Review it at least on a quarterly basis, if not on a monthly one.
    2. Tweak as needed.

With a good marketing plan in place to use as a roadmap to guide you through the year, it should be easier than ever to find success and growth in 2014.

Not Sure How to Create a Marketing Plan?

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I have written often about the importance of planning your marketing – from a written marketing plan to planning each and every one of your marketing activities so that they are well thought out to get the best possible results.

If you’ve never written a marketing plan, had one done for you and not understood it, or don’t know how and can’t really afford to pay a professional to do it for you, I have a solution.

On September 12th from 9 am – 11 am, I’ll be offering “Developing a Marketing Plan,” one of the classes in my Marketing Solutions Seminar Series. I will provide you with the same worksheets I use when I build a marketing plan for a client (I get paid $695+ for this) and we’ll go through each of the components during the session. In addition, once you’ve written your plan, you can get a complimentary 15-minute consultation with me to review that plan via phone, e-mail, or (if you’re close enough), in person.

Registration is $79/person through 8/31 and $89/person after that.

Online registration is available at: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=dftplocab&oeidk=a07e7jkm8f816ddc0b9

Yes, it’s in San Diego, so, if you’re not local, maybe this is a great excuse to come visit our beautiful city for a working vacation!

I hope to see you there!

5 Tips for a Better Elevator Pitch

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One of the workshops I am asked to present most often is “Developing Your 30-Second Commercial.” Anyone who has ever attended a networking event knows that a concise, effective 30-second commercial (AKA elevator pitch) is critical. The hard part is putting one together that is concise, effective and doesn’t sound like a scripted speech.

Here are five tips to help you get started on yours:

  1. Give people a basic understanding of what you do –  You don’t need to tell them everything at this time. Give them an overview that will get the gist across without leaving them wondering when you’re going to stop talking.
  2. Give them a reason to want to continue the conversation with you. This is your ultimate goal – a conversation. Just spewing your information out to a disinterested audience will not grow your business.
  3. Features vs. Benefits – The WIIFM (What’s in it for me.) Factor. Unless they’re looking for a job, they don’t really care if you are the best/fastest/newest/trendiest/etc…. You pull people in by telling them what you can do for them, not how you’ll do it.
  4. Remember your name and your company name! It’s amazing to me how many people forget to mention this. Don’t be one of them.
  5. Remember the ask! If you don’t tell them who you help, you might as well not bother telling them anything. And, remember, “everyone” is never your target audience – but that’s a story for another day.

Just like your elevator pitch should be, I’m leaving you here – short, sweet and to the point.

Pet Peeve of the Week

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that having that little line at the end of your e-mail advertising the fact that you sent that e-mail from your phone excuses you from good spelling and grammar.

Likewise, I don’t believe that poor spelling or grammar in a text message is acceptable.

ESPECIALLY WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT BUSINESS COMMUNICATION.

OK, I get that abbreviations might be necessary in text messages, but that doesn’t mean that full words shouldn’t be spelled correctly or that you should rely on the auto-suggest function to fill in your message for you. Yes, those auto-suggestions might make people laugh, but are you sure they’re not laughing at you?

Presenting yourself as a professional applies to many areas – the way we dress, speak, write, even our handshake. If you’re trying to make a good impression, why would you not check to make sure that:

  1. your spelling is correct.
  2. your grammar is good.
  3. what you wrote made sense.

Oh, and one more thing: if you’re sending a text, don’t assume that the person receiving it know who it’s from. Include your name and even a return phone number, just to make sure.

Get out There and Speak!

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My older daughter participated in a Lion’s Club speech contest for high schoolers yesterday. She didn’t win, but she gave an amazing performance, especially considering it was her first time speaking in public in a venue other than a classroom.

It reminded me of the importance of public speaking. Taking the time to put together your thoughts, then standing in front of a group of people and speaking those thoughts out loud takes time and effort. Considering that public speaking is the number one fear for people – higher up the scale than even death – getting through giving a speech is really quite an accomplishment.

What can feeling comfortable speaking in front of a group do for you?

Well, there’s always having more confidence in one-on-one conversations like at networking events or asking your boss for a promotions or raise.

Giving a toast at a wedding? Now you can do it without feeling terrified for every moment of the day before; or, worse, yet, having to get drunk to do it.

You will have the ability to ask questions with greater poise and clarity at departmental or company meetings.

Your vocabulary will improve, making you sound more professional.

All-in-all, there is no down-side to being a proficient public speaker.

Not comfortable just getting up and speaking? There are coaches who can help, but my best recommendation is to join a Toastmaster’s group in your area. These groups are usually a good mix of amateur speakers and people who just want to feel more comfortable expressing themselves verbally. Occasionally, there’ even a professional speaker in the mix. If you attend the meetings on a regular basis and allow yourself to take advantage of the many opportunities available at each meeting to speak, you will improve and feel more confident in no time at all!

Go, ahead, try it. If a 16-year-old can do it and feel good about herself, so can you!