How to Network, Even if You Really Don’t Want To

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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.netBuilding strong, long-lasting relationships is part of the key to business success. One way to lay the groundwork for business relationships is to network. But not everyone enjoys networking. For people who are introverted or shy, networking can be the last thing they want to do, ever.  Few things feel more awkward for some business owners than standing in a hotel conference room with a plate of cheese and crackers in one hand and a pile of business cards in the other.

Fortunately, there are ways to network that aren’t so uncomfortable or cringe-inducing. Here’s what to do to make networking a more enjoyable experience, even if you’ve never liked it in the past.

Choose Events Carefully

The good news: Not all networking events are created equal. Some are much better than others. The key is finding the better events and avoiding the awkward ones. For example, if the thought of 50 or more people meeting in a big public area gives you the chills, look for events that limit the number of attendees to 10 or fewer.

If you feel uncomfortable at events that are designed to just be “mixers” or “meet and greets,” look for networking opportunities that have a specific activity behind them, ideally an activity you enjoy. For example, you can find a hiking club for business professionals or join a business book club. You’ll get to meet people and grow you network, but since “networking” isn’t the sole goal of the event, you’ll feel less pressure.

Bring Along an Associate

Another key part of running a successful business is knowing the strengths of your employees. Perhaps you have a colleague who is very adept at approaching new people or making small talk. Bring that person along to be your wing person at your next marketing event. He or she can approach people and introduce both of you and your company.

Just make sure you don’t depend on your associate too much during a networking event. It can also be helpful to spend some of the event on your own, talking to new people. Your associate can be there as a back-up, so that you have someone to talk to or connect with when you’re feeling uncertain about what to do next.

Set a Goal

Go to each networking event with a specific goal in mind, one that you can easily achieve over the course of the event. For example, if you’re shy, don’t make your goal “get 100 business cards.” Instead, make a goal that’s something along the lines of “have a decent conversation with one other person.” If you know who will be at the event, decide who you’ll try to approach before  you get there. Pick a few different people, and make your goal to speak to at least one of them. That way, if you choose one particularly popular person and one less popular person, you can speak to the less in-demand person and still achieve your goal.

Make a Long-Lasting Connection

Some people view networking as a quantity over quality game. While it can feel great to leave an event with a huge stack of business cards, what you do with those cards when you get back to the office is what matters. It’s better to have just one card or two and follow up with the people you met rather than have 50 cards that you stick in a rolodex and never look at again.

Once you get back to work after the event, send a short email to the people you met. Mention that it was great to meet them, rehash something that you spoke about at the event or bring up anything memorable that happened. Think of this message as a giving message rather than an asking message. Don’t ask your connection to do anything for you. Instead, make suggestions or offer to help them in a way that seems relevant.

New Direction Capital understands the importance of building long-lasting, thriving business relationships. Contact us today to learn more about how our CFO services can help you grow your business and move to the next level.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.netYou’ve heard it said that it’s not what you know, but who you know that can help you get ahead. That is definitely the case when it comes to growing your business or taking your company to the next level. Having a strong network and social support can help you grow your business. Building up that network can take time but is often worth it in the long run. Here’s why being social can pay off.

You Get Inside Information

Harvard Business Review recently published a study examining the difference between male and female champagne grape growers. More grape growers are male than female, which might seem to set the female growers up for unfair treatment or otherwise put them at a disadvantage. But HBR’s study found something else entirely. Women growers were able to ask for and receive higher prices for their grapes than male growers.

The authors of the study chalked the female grower’s advantage up to their ability and willingness to be social with each other. Since they were in the minority among growers, women tended to bond and to form relationships and networks with each other. Those networks led them to share information about pricing, which in turn allowed them to get more competitive rates for their grapes than the male growers. Meanwhile, the male growers were likely to insist that no one shared pricing information with each other, a belief that prevented them from getting a higher price for their grapes.

You Get Support When You Need It

Another benefit of being social is that you develop a support system. Then, when you have a concern or need help solving a business problem, you have people to turn to who might already have an idea of how your company runs and what it might need to take the next step or otherwise advance.

You Can Get Referrals

Many businesses get a lot of their customers from referrals. When you know people, and they know what you do, they are likely to recommend you to others who might need what your company has to offer. But people are only going to recommend you or refer you if they know you and have a connection to you.

Likewise, you can also refer your customers to a member of your network if you know that your customers are looking for something your fellow business owner offers. Referrals don’t just help your business or your colleague’s businesses grow. They also reinforce trust within your business network.

How to Network

Knowing how to network and connect with other businesses or other business owners is a key part of using your network to help build your business. There’s a fine line between networking and socializing and expecting everyone in the room that be always willing to solve your problems.

The most important thing to remember is that networking is a two-way street. Think about what you have to offer your network before you ask for help or advice. You don’t want to be the person who shows up to a networking event and expects everyone there to immediately help you nor do you want to be the person who’s only ever asking for advice.

If a member of your network does help you out or give your some advice, find a way to reciprocate. You might refer others to his or her company, for example, or hire his or her company the next time you need that particular service.

Remember that being social isn’t the same thing as being a freeloader. The people in your network are also in business. They depend on other paying to benefit from their skills or service. It’s acceptable to ask for simple advice and to ask a question or two. But if you want more in-depth guidance, it’s better to hire the person you’re networking with, rather than continue to try to get information for free.

Great relationships are key to your business’ continued growth and success. New Direction Capital takes our relationships with our clients very seriously, with the goal of helping those we work with grow. To learn more about our CFO services, contact us today.

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Image courtesy of steafpong at FreeDigitalPhotos.netIt’s a dream scenario for many company owners. You find yourself in an elevator with an investor or potential client and you have the opportunity to give him or her the short and sweet version of what your company is all about. Your elevator pitch is your chance to make a great impression on someone and to get him or her excited about your business and about the chance to contribute to it.

You only have a minute or less to get your point across, though. Here’s how to make sure your pitch is perfect.

Focus on “Who,” “What” and “Why”

When you make a quick pitch to someone, he or she may or may not have any idea of who you are or what your company. That’s why it’s essential that the meat of your pitch focus on the who, the what and the why of your business. Introduce yourself and your company, then get right to the heart of the matter. Say what your company does and what it can do for a potential client or what it can do to ultimately benefit an investor.

The “why” should focus on the problem your company solves and in particular, how that problem applies to the person you are addressing. Focus on the needs of your audience so that they understand why they should care about what you’re offering.

Boil It Down to a Single Sentence

Even if you’re not actually pitching someone in an elevator, your time with them is short. You only have a few seconds to hook him or her in. Condensing your pitch down to just a single sentence allows you to pique the other person’s interest. If he or she seems intrigued, you can go on with the rest of your pitch.

Boiling your pitch down to one sentence also helps you better understand what you’re doing and what you’re offering. It can give you some clarity about your company or even encourage you to go back to the drawing board if you can’t figure out the what or why and how to get convey that in just a few words.

Give Your Listener a Way In

After you’ve delivered your one-sentence pitch, the conversation can go a few different ways. Your listener might get excited enough about what you have to offer after hearing just that one sentence that he or she asks for more details, which is a good thing.

Alternatively, your listener might seem interested but might not say or ask anything. This is where you can given him or her a way into the conversation. One way to do that is to ask a question. Your question can give the listener a different way to think about your company or product or offer him or her clarity about it. Most importantly, the question will engage your listener in the conversation. You won’t simply be droning on and on.

Leave Room for Questions

Ideally, your pitch won’t take up the entire (proverbial) elevator ride. You want to leave the person with space to ask questions or with room to find out more about your business. Don’t ask “do you have any questions,” though. Your pitch should be sufficient enough that your listener picks up the ball and asks any questions or gives you his or her card to follow up with later.

It’s also important to remember to respect the other person’s time. If he or she has to go, don’t continue to go on about your company or product and don’t follow them. Hand over your business card and ask for theirs, and say that you’ll follow up by email or phone. Your elevator pitch is a chance to make a great impression. You don’t want to end up looking like a pest.

Although you can’t predict what will happen in a real life scenario, practicing your elevator pitch a few times in front of a mirror or in front of a colleague will help you smooth it out and condense it down so that only the most essential elements remain. If you’re looking for professional guidance when it comes to pitching, remember that the team at New Direction Capital is here for you. Contact us today to learn more about how our virtual chief financial officer services can help your company.

Image courtesy of steafpong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.netA  business won’t be in business for long without a steady stream of customers, both returning customers and new ones. Because the cost  of getting a new customer can be high, businesses often focus on retaining current ones. But it’s still important to try to bring new customers in. Avoiding the following mistakes will help the customer acquisition process go as smoothly as possible for your company.

Mistake 1: Making a Bad First Impression

You’re heard all the clichés: you only get one chance to make a first impression, first impressions last the longest, and so on. Given the importance placed on really wowing a customer the first time you come into contact with him or her, you’d be surprised at how often companies mess up the first impression.

Making a bad first impression can range from anything from running out of inventory and not being able to fulfill your orders to having a customer service representative from your team speak harshly or in a rude tone to a new or potential customer.

Another way to make a bad first impression is to under promise or undersell your company. It’s a competitive world out there, and customers might have the option of working with several companies that are similar to yours. When connecting with those potential customers, really sell your company, thinking of the components that make you different (and better) than the rest.

Mistake 2: Trying to Be Trendy

It often seems like there’s always a new way to attract and connect with customers. But, just because other companies are following the trends and having some degree of success, doesn’t mean your business needs to do the same. In some cases, the marketing or customer acquisition trend du jour might not make any sense for your business, or could end up costing you more in the long run.

Take a close look at the tactics you’re using to reach out to new customers. Influencer marketing might be a popular technique these days, but not if your primary customers aren’t big social media users. The same is true for pay-per-click services such as Google AdWords. They might be popular and might work for some, but they aren’t always the most effective choices.

Mistake 3: Not Having a Big Enough Budget

Your customer acquisition budget will be influenced by your company’s overall finances and budget. Not every business has the resources to spend considerable amounts of money bringing in new customers. That said, it’s essential that you have a realistic understanding of the potential costs of acquiring customers and that you leave room in the budget to account for them.

Mistake 4: Not Knowing What Customer Acquisition Costs

Not knowing how much it will cost your business to get a new customer goes hand in hand with not setting a big enough budget to acquire customers. One way to estimate customer acquisition cost is to subtract the amount you spend on marketing to and connecting with customers from the amount those new customers will bring into your company in terms of sales. Another way to determine the cost is to look at what you’ve spent and divide that by the number of new customers you brought in. If your business spent $2,000 and gained 10  new customers during one month, the cost per customer for that month is $200.

Mistake 5: Assuming a First-Time Customer Will Become an Ongoing Customer

Getting repeat customers is often a goal, but it doesn’t always happen. If you want a new customer to become a loyal customer, you need to think beyond the first sale. What can your business do to get a customer to come back? Offering a discount on a subsequent purchase is one option, as is sending a personal note thanking that customer for purchasing from or working with your company. Getting repeat customers goes back to making a great first impression. If you don’t give them a reason to return, odds are likely that they won’t.

New Direction Capital can help you gain a better understanding of how acquiring and retaining customers can help improve your business’ finances and help it grow. To learn more about how our virtual CFO services can help your company, contact us today.

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Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.netWhat’s the key to success as a business? Would you be surprised to learn that it’s building and maintaining great relationships? The better you connect with and relate to your customers and vendors, the more likely they are to want to work with you in the future. In the case of customers, having a strong relationship can be the difference between getting a number of referrals and not getting any referrals.

Here’s what your company can do to establish better relationships with vendors and customers alike.

Remember that Relationships are about Give and Take (but Mostly Give)

Everyone has a friend or acquaintance who only seems to come out of the woodwork when he or she needs something. Think about how you feel when your friend only ever gets in touch with you to ask for help, money or some other sort of favor. That feeling can also occur in business relationships. Your vendors might feel a little unappreciated if they only ever hear from you when you need something done ASAP or when you’re looking to make an order with a fast delivery date. The same is true of customers. If you’re only reaching out to them when you think they might have some business to offer, they are likely to start looking to other companies to do business with.

Think about what your business is giving your customers and vendors and remember that there’s a person behind the client. It’s also important to remember that your contact with your customers or vendors doesn’t always have to be about your company. There might be times when you see a product that would be particularly helpful for your vendor or when you see a service that you know your customer would benefit from. Reaching out with recommendations and ideas, even if your company doesn’t directly benefit from those ideas, will help you establish a great connection.

Keep Communication Open

Maintaining real communication with people is an essential part of maintaining relationships. In the era of social media, it can be all too easy to blur the lines of what real communication is. Sending out tweets or updating a Facebook status usually don’t count as keeping in touch. To keep the lines of communication open, send out personal messages when it’s appropriate. For example, if you haven’t heard from a client in a while, you can reach out and see if he or she is up for a meeting or just send a message to check in. If you’re going to be in the same area as a vendor or client, reach out and see if you can meet up for coffee or dinner, even if you don’t have any direct business planned.

Get a Little Personal

People like to talk about themselves and they are more likely to appreciate the business that goes out of its way to dig a bit deeper into their personal lives. If a client or vendor mentions something personal to you during a meeting, such as an upcoming vacation, a child’s piano recital or a new family pet, follow up with him or her about it the next time you meet. A casual “how was your trip?” or “what did you decide to call your dog?” might not seem like much, but it can go a long way. A vendor or client is going to be more likely to remember the company that cared and is going to be more likely to want to continue to work with that company.

Be Genuine

It’s easy to see through the executive who is just being friendly to drum up business. When you interact with others during your day to day, don’t feel that you  need to plaster on a facade of perfection or that you need to keep things “professional.” Cracking a joke from time to time (when appropriate) and admitting when you’re wrong or don’t have the answer can make a better impression than always being perfect.

New Direction Capital takes a personal approach when it comes to providing virtual CFO services to its clients. We’re committed to establishing long-term relationships with those we work with. To learn more about our services and how we can help your business grow, contact us today.

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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