So many business cards, so little time

Today Time Saving Heroes had the pleasure of exhibiting at The Big Bolton Expo, hosted by thebestofBolton.  Having attended a number of different expos, both as an exhibitor and a delegate over the past three years, I can honestly say this was hands down the most professional, friendly and well run event I’ve been to.

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The organisers did a great job of being on hand to help with any questions, and were always friendly, calm and fun to talk to.  At other events I’ve seen the people “in charge” running around like headless chickens, which I always think leaves a poor impression.  It also makes them very unapproachable if you do have a query.

With such a well-run event it’s impossible to come away, no matter what side of the stand you were on, without a handful of business cards and a bunch of new contacts to follow up with.  While it’s always important to follow up, after splashing the cash on a stand, it’s imperative. You need to justify that time, effort and just as importantly the financial expense.

This is where a VA can come in handy.  I know some businesses have a team behind them, and some may even have a whole marketing department, but for sole traders and SMEs this is not the case.  After spending a whole day exhibiting, you’re going to want to crack on with “work” the second you’re back in the office the next day, and then, before you know it, an entire week has passed and you’ve not sent a single email.

Admittedly, the contacts aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up in a timely manner.  The longer you leave it the harder it might be for someone to remember you, and any conversation you might have had.  Sending an email the next day leaves a good impression – it shows you’re organised, if nothing else.

How a VA can help

Here at Time Saving Heroes we have a number of clients that we only work with after expos and conferences.  It’s the only time they need to use our services.  Whilst every client in this situation is different, here’s what we do for most:

  1. If the client is local they will either drop off their new pile of business cards, or we will collect from them. If they aren’t local, they tend to take photographs and send them to us via email/Dropbox etc.
  2. Once we have the business cards we collate all the information in to a spreadsheet, which can then be easily uploaded in to their CRM systems. If we have access to the CRM system itself we will upload the data directly.
  3. If any information is missing from the business cards/leaflets we will take the time to search this out. It might be that there’s no Twitter handle on the card – so we will look to see if the business or individual is on social media, and find all relevant links.
  4. For most clients we will have pre-written their initial contact email, and now we will send it out on their behalf. It might be a specific email, or it might be in the form of a newsletter, depending on the client’s preferences.
  5. We will ensure we make contact with all businesses and individuals on behalf of the client via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other platform they deem to be relevant.

 

After that we can help schedule certain individuals for further follow-up, as well as writing any other emails and/or newsletters that the client might want to send.

 

If you have been to an expo, conference or any other networking event and are worried that you don’t have time to capitalise on the new contacts you’ve made remember Time Saving Heroes. We are your secret weapon in the fight against time.

 

 

Three types of people you should avoid on LinkedIn

So far this week I have done one-to-one LinkedIn Orientation with five people. OK, so that’s just a fancy way of saying I spent two hours going over the basics with five separate people who signed up, created a profile and promptly lost their password. One of them hadn’t been back on since uploading their profile photo, and that was ten years ago.

This is probably my favourite part of the “training” I do with people – taking someone who admits they know nothing, or have preconceived ideas about what LinkedIn is, and getting them to embrace it. Admittedly it’s baby steps, going from “member” to “daily interactor” doesn’t happen overnight, but you get my point.

One thing that often comes up, certainly with people who have had their accounts for a while is connections. Often I hear things like “who is this person? I don’t know them” or “why do strangers keep asking me to connect?” Equally typical is the query “why add me and then never communicate?”

The simple truth is LinkedIn is full of people who aren’t using it properly, and unfortunately when you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you can find yourself looking to these people as the “experts”.

Here’s my list of three types of LinkedIn users you should probably try to avoid if you want to attain LinkedIn zen.

#1 The Door to Door Salesperson

We have all received an invitation to connect with someone we don’t know, only to receive a generic sales pitch via InMail the second you accept them.

If you have accepted someone who does this, do yourself a favour now, and remove them as a contact. They are not interested in two-way dialogue and relationship building. They just want to knock on your door and sell you something, then they will move on.

Equally, if you are this person please, on behalf of everyone else on LinkedIn, I beg you to STOP! Here’s why.

 

# 2 The Social Police

Every so often I see comments, on other people’s posts, about the validity and appropriateness of what they’re sharing.

“This is LinkedIn, not Facebook”

“This sort of thing doesn’t belong here”

“LinkedIn is a professional network – be PROFESSIONAL”

You get my point.

The sort of posts that get these comments are either family or pet photos, memes, or jokes to name a few. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I see these things I do invariably roll my eyes because, in all honesty, LinkedIn is not the place for them. However, I refrain from commenting on such posts because I am not the police of social interactions.

What annoys me more than inappropriate posts are the comments from the self-appointed social police. Their opinion of what is or isn’t appropriate on LinkedIn is just that – their opinion. There is no handbook that says “Thou shalt not post a meme of a cat wearing a watermelon as a helmet”. There is no LinkedIn code of conduct in that sense. I am a firm believer that if you don’t like it, you just don’t interact with it; or maybe, you can remove the offender as a connection. Believe it or not, you do have those options.

Personally I recommend avoiding the social interaction police at all costs. It takes a certain type of person to comment publicly on someone else’s post in a manner that comes across as nothing short of rude, and in some cases bullying. Who, if they genuinely wanted to educate and help their fellow connections, would rather hit out, instead of send a private InMail along the lines of “Hi Bob, funny meme earlier; however, LinkedIn really isn’t the sort of place for that sort of thing. You’d probably get more interaction if you …”

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

# 3 The Ego

We have all seen them, the LinkedIn users who have a headline along the lines of “MOST VIEWED LINKEDIN USER” or “The Midas of sales: Everything I touch turns to sold!”

No, really, I’ve seen the latter. I’m still cringing now.

There is a really fine line between confidence, and an overwhelming smugness, and the people who go too far are really difficult to build relationships with on LinkedIn. Which is why I always avoid them.

It’s such a shame really as you can guarantee in a genuine networking environment they wouldn’t stand up and say “I am awesome, I am great, I am perfect”. Well, some might, but very few. In the real world they may exude confidence, but they are probably capable of having a two-way conversation.

Online they are just narcissistic and are predominantly interested in either the sale (see point 1) or collecting numbers. Don’t be one of their numbers.

 

 

These are just the people I will always avoid, you may agree – you may not. However, the key here is that you do have a choice who you interact with online, as you do anywhere else. Don’t feel you have to accept everyone, and don’t feel once you have accepted that you can’t back out again. Keep the connections you want so you can customise your own LinkedIn experience.

How a VA can make you a better networker

For the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how a VA can be a huge help when it comes to sorting out an overwhelmed inbox. This week I thought I’d look at other ways an extra pair of hands might be able to help you run your business more efficiently.

Let’s look at networking, one of my favourite things about being a business owner.

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

Have you got the new LinkedIn layout yet?

Some of you with your finger on the pulse are no doubt well aware of the changes LinkedIn is bringing to its user interface throughout 2017. For some, the new look has been available since late 2016, for others it is still in the process of rolling out.

Which side of the experience you sit on seems to be pretty random, from what I can tell.

For those who have already been swapped over, or for those who are still waiting the Big Change, I thought I would run through a few of the main differences between the two versions, to help you get your bearings.

The Colour

As changes go, the move to teal isn’t really a big deal (unless you’re colourblind, perhaps) however, LinkedIn has been a variation of grey, black, white and blue for, well, for ever, so the change takes a bit of getting used to.

According to LinkedIn logic, the change is to synergise with their app, so things will hopefully be a little more intuitive for those switching between mobile and desktop.

The Home page

When you go to the new home page you will see a snapshot of your profile on the left hand side. This will show your background image, profile picture, headline as well as how many times your profile and latest article have been viewed.

Personally, I prefer the new layout as a lot of things I am interested in looking at are now all in one easy to find space. However, I do think it’s a shame they have removed the ranking feature, which was always a good way of establishing what was working, and what wasn’t. Fingers crossed they bring it back.

Share an article, photo or update is now all on one line; making it easier to access in some ways, but may prove confusing for some. Equally, the publish an article option is now on a separate line, and seems to be a much quicker way of getting to write and post an article. Some people have been complaining about it, but personally I can’t see any issue.

Other than the ads, nothing is really different with your timeline at all, other than, in my opinion, it looks a little cleaner and easier to navigate.

Your Profile

We no longer have a profile section, instead it’s just Me. You can still access it by clicking on your circular photo on the right of the tool bar at the top, and a drop down menu will appear offering you a variety of options including view profile, as well as all the standard settings etc.

When you look at your profile you will see that the background image has changed dimension. LinkedIn suggest that 1536 x 738 works best, but in reality, 1800 x 300 appears to.

Your profile photo is now smaller, and circular (which I think improves matters), and your summary section is no longer completely visible. People will have to click See More to view it all, which means it is imperative you make those first two lines count! It might well be worth reviewing your content at this time.

One downside is you can no longer move sections of your profile around to customise what is important to you. This might be a feature that is brought back in time, and admittedly isn’t the end of the world, but it was a nice to have for a while.

Next week I’ll cover what other people’s profiles look like from your perspective, as well as the new My Network section and Notifications.

In the meantime, if you want to take advantage of this new layout to create new content for your LinkedIn profile get in touch for a review or advice: call 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

The one with the Herculean Task

Here we are, another Friday, and the end of the first full week back in the office for 2017. I thought, after only doing three days last week I would really struggle, but to be honest, it’s flown by and so far has been a bit of a breeze. Yeah, I know, famous last words.

What have I been up to? Well, as ever it’s been pretty varied.

So far this week I have already completed and signed off four CV revamps, with one more to finalise today. I’ve also conducted one interview preparation consultation for a lovely young man who was looking for his first job in customer service. The interview is next week and I can’t wait to find out whether he’s got the job.

I have written a total of 18 blogs for clients, including three on Friday the 13th! I’ve also had an enquiry from a web designer who was interested in us offering a white label service for content, to ensure he has a monthly income from clients aside from web hosting charges. We had a long chat, bounced around some ideas and have come up with a perfect pricing structure. It’s a great local company and, to be honest, I am really looking forward to working with him and his team.

My biggest challenge

At the end of last week I had a call from a new contact who had been given my contact details by a business coach I’ve worked with previously. He has just upgraded his CRM system, and is concerned that a lot of information he holds for customers may be out of date, or incomplete. Over the next few weeks we will be working through an extensive database to ensure everything is in order.

The work isn’t hard, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is time consuming, and with a large number of contacts to work through it seems like a Herculean Task at the moment. As with any job there are certain things you prefer to do more than others, and I have to admit, data cleansing isn’t one of them for me. However, I do see the value of it and obviously have no problem with helping out. It’s just one of the more trudging-through tasks we see, though I know there will be a huge sense of achievement when we (finally) get to the end of the list!

My highlight

I was concerned after the high of last week (in case you missed it, meeting Janette Tough – aka Wee Jimmy Krankie – and John Barrowman) that I’d have nowhere to go this week. However, I needn’t have worried.

Tuesday saw a return to networking following the Christmas break, and by 7am I was back at The Red Hall Hotel with the rest of the members of Bury Business Group. It was great seeing everyone again after what felt like an age, and the room was full of positivity as people shared their goals and aspirations for the next 12 months.

When you are self-employed and work predominantly on your own it can get pretty lonely. I don’t necessarily mean from a human contact perspective (chance would be a fine thing in this house), but in the sense you have no one to talk to about running a business. I love networking because it gives you a chance to see what other people are doing, find out what works for them and doesn’t, see what opportunities are out there, learn from them, commiserate and celebrate with them and generally feel like you are a part of something.

 

I hope whatever you’ve been up to this week you’ve had a good one, and you have a great weekend!

Don’t let the Clinton effect ruin your networking

I woke this morning with an urge to write a blog about networking, and it may seem a bit contrived to shoehorn the US election in to the content, but it’s more than simply a chance to jump on the trending bandwagon. If one thing has been made clear over the last few months it’s the adage of “know, like and trust” on which all networking is founded.

Clinton lost this campaign on the grounds that while people do know her, thanks to her long association with American politics, they also know they don’t like her and they sure as Hell don’t trust her.

That constant recital of her curriculum vitae – the focus on her experience as First Lady, her time as a US Senator for New York and then of course the fact she was Secretary of State – did nothing to drag the voters to her door. Yes, she has a wealth of experience, and undoubtedly she is the most qualified Presidential candidate to ever run, but the events of last night have shown that means nothing when people don’t like or trust you.

I could waffle on for paragraphs about why Clinton lost, it doesn’t matter. She did and the world moves on. Besides, this is not a blog about the US Election. It’s about networking, remember?

It’s almost two years to the day since I attended my first breakfast networking group. I loved it immediately, and joined as soon as possible. I am still a member now of that particular group, although attendance can be a little hit and miss depending on what Eric is up to with his sleep patterns. That said, for having a nine week old baby, I don’t think I’m doing too badly.

But I digress.

Since then I have joined other groups, and see networking as the primary part of my marketing efforts (blogging and Twitter aside). This is because, for me anyway, it works. People get to know me, they see my passion for what I do, they realise I do actually know what I’m talking about (post a cup of coffee, anyway) and that I’m a decent human being. I’m not perfect, but they know I am never going to screw them over, or put them in a difficult position.  They know I can be relied upon and, whether they always like it or not, they will never get anything but the absolute truth from me.

Networking allows people to get to know me, and looking at the results, they end up liking and trusting me. Which is great, as that’s kind of the point.

Admittedly business isn’t about making friends. This isn’t about me trying to find a circle of people I can go have a drink with (though, it’s amazing how many of them do like to go out for the occasional glass of prosecco). It is purely about business – but you have to be a decent human being underneath it all.

I have, on countless occasions, stopped working with someone because I couldn’t trust them. There are people I know now that I cannot recommend because I do not trust them. The reason for that loss of trust may have nothing to do with their business, it may be a purely personal issue, but that is the point – personality and personal history comes in to it. If you are sleazy, underhand, conniving, manipulative, a cheat or a bully then people are going to struggle to recommend you to anyone.

The simple truth is that every referral we pass is a reflection on us. You may well know the best builder in the world, but if he is rude to customers, or has a tendency to trample mud all through someone’s house, then the chances are you’re going to recommend the second best builder. The person you are referring to will ultimately thank you for saving them from a bad experience.

While we may question what the American voters were thinking, it is important to remember that in a situation where you find yourself unable to like or trust one of the candidates, you have to opt for the other one if you want to exercise your democratic right.

When it comes to business, don’t make your potential customers vote for the other guy purely because you’re unlikable or untrustworthy.