Monthly Archives: July 2014

Confession #5: I hate traditional business development.

I decided to build my own system. There are many traditional approaches to developing a business. All of them have their justification for why they are the best system ever built. When I started my business I dreaded “business development”. Telephoning a person I do not know is scary and it feels slime-baggy too. (Yes, it’s worse than going to the dentist.)

The way I worked to build my client base I would now describe as organic and intuitive in hindsight. There was an idea of a system, an intuitive priority list and a decision to focus on corporate clients.

When I hired a business development and Marketing specialist I heard the term “conversion rate” for the first time. It did not look great when I worked out mine. Our “corporate” conversion from proposal to client is probably 60% (3/5 so far have signed the contract) right now. BUT that is because we are only proposing to very few clients.

For private clients the conversion rate is a lot better. Mainly because private clients come either through personal contacts or through a referral from a person I know well. From 10 individuals coming for a first consultation around 8 come back. We do not even keep stats about that. Sometimes I am just happy if I could help someone within the first hour of coaching.

Let’s say for a moment that our conversion rate is 40%. There is still a huge gap to 100% and we spent several thousand francs on “networking” activities, social media marketing, relationship building and blogging. Now, if I had listened to classical approaches that are taught in business schools I would be utterly frustrated and probably have given up my business by now.

BUT: We are still in business and we are generating  a lot more turnover than last year.

I read books and develop goals for myself. The turnover is a good indicator and shows how you are doing. At the same time you could measure your success by client feedback and other metrics. The biggest indicator that I am on the right track for me is when the cooperation with the client feels light and when I love to work with the person or corporation. There’s nothing more demotivating than feeling like a “resource”, “provider” or “commodity”. Funnily, I sometimes feel the most energized when I work as a volunteer or pro-bono because this feels mostly aligned with my purpose of “serving your client”. Still, we need to earn income to pay the bills. It’s a reality and Switzerland is generally expensive.

Developing goals that are relevant to you

At GPT we are currently focusing on three targets for the business year.

1) Excellent client service: Being in constant contact and supporting twenty VIP. They are our ideal clients and it is a pleasure to work with them. With them our work feels effortless and we contribute to solving the challenges they are facing.

2) Doubling turnover year by year in the first three years of business . Then grow further. Be profitable and sustainable. Make enough money to pay the bills.

3) Ten corporate clients with a direct contractual relationship by the end of 2015. Feel in good connection with them. Work with companies where cooperation feels light. Have at least a pilot case with the top five.

Develop a system of gratitude that aligns with your values

Again, there are many “referral systems” out there. It always feels like cheating to me. I would like to refer genuinely and based on a positive experience with a provider or company. It does not make sense anymore when I am paid for the referral or recommendation. Therefore (after a negative self-experiment) we have decided not to work with Multi-level Marketing companies as clients. We do not believe in their system. We are declaring this in our T&C (Terms & Conditions). I advise you develop T&C. They give you a policy to refer to when you want to say “no” to a potential client.

A good way to avoid a financially based referral system is to agree to support each other on a “give-and-take-basis”. In the beginning of my business I was so desperate to earn money that I tried the provision angle first. I noticed though that it is a lot more fun for me to refer to another service provider (e.g. a headhunter or banker or insurance broker) when I do it purely because I like the way they serve their clients (and me).

A general rule is that I thank the referrer. Sometimes, I even invite them for a lunch or offer them a reduction for a coaching.

 

If the system of gratitude ever gets out of balance you can still re-negotiate.

 

Another way is to be very transparent to your client about referral fees you are expecting. At least give your client an alternative as well so they do not just have to go with one provider because of your bottom line. Or charge only if the service you provide is  directly linked to your business model and your client still saves when working with you as opposed to another provider.

Maybe this is not the way to become rich but at least it feels right.

 

Confession #3: I hate multinational companies who try to make a deal at the expense of smaller vendors but I am drawn into the cycle of cost cutting through my clients as well.

Recently I held a talk about starting a business in Switzerland. It was a one-hour talk and I was not paid for it. This is a network sponsored by companies. I support their cause. I said yes. We discussed at length that my session would not be about technicalities or process because

1) This depends largely on the type of business you want to set up.

2) Most of this information is freely available online when you know how to use Google.

3) Many of the listeners were not yet sure whether to start a business or seek employment.

So we had agreed that I hold more of a motivational speech, sharing my story of entrepreneurship and my lessons learnt. I mentioned in my presentation that it is important to seek legal advice specific to the personal situation. Still, I got the impression that people were not fully satisfied with the information. What they need is a real business coaching. Only very little companies in Switzerland provide this helpful support for their expats and spouses though. One of my clients does. The expat spouses are very thankful. They are brand ambassadors.

Lesson #1: Support your expat spouses with high quality coaching!

 

In other instances I often get asked for free advice. Sometimes I am happy to “pay it forward” and I have helped many people in a 15 minute chat on Facebook but there is a point where I stop to give free advice. I also noticed that no one ever asked me for my time without paying when I was in a corporate role.

Since I started a business people sometimes behave as if I was unemployed. They think that I am available at random hours during the day (for a coffee at the airport). Many people think that it is fine to ask for my consulting, an article or a talk (without even mentioning payment). I understand that the internet has made free education and training possible but entrepreneurs need to earn an income too and once again I have to say: “Quality has a price!”. In my earlier blog post on “10 Professional Networking Principles” I have given you ideas how you can ensure that you deal sensibly with other people’s time.

If you are also an entrepreneur follow my advice: Only make time for contacts you feel have been appreciative and supportive in the past. Avoid the energy snatchers.

Lesson #2: Quality has a price! 

 

One client cut costs by avoiding all sorts of services (home search, settling-in).  The poor expat has to organize most of the relocation himself. We bend over backwards to find “cheap” workarounds. What happens is that everyone involved in the transfer has a lot more work, more coordination and conversation is needed.

In other areas cost cutting leads to overworked, stressed and long-term disabled staff through under-resourced teams. Considering that many of our clients still pay massive salaries and bonuses to their senior management I really wonder if the new processes, outsourced arrangements and work-arounds really benefit the bottom line.

We need to look into a lot of corporate processes with a fresh eye and from the perspective of our clients, cut out all the admin crap and just focus on delivering an outstanding service.

Lesson #3: Cutting costs at the wrong ends will increase complexity and stress!

 

What’s your take on this?

Please share this post with your cost-cutting corporate friends.

 

 

GPTSocialMediaGuest Post by Nabeha Latif

People often don’t understand what I do when I say I am social media engagement specialist. They think that it is only about posting on Facebook and Twitter but why will anyone need to hire someone to do that? What type of job is it?

Let’s explore what is social media to business and why is it important for success in this age. Guess what business owners are using right now to connect with clients? Yup. Social media!

When we googled the question “Will social media help me?” we were greeted with 1.6 billion suggestions. Had we added the word ‘business’ to it, they would still be few millions. Many of those will be repeating the same thing. Still it’s clear that getting started on social media is a question that business owners are looking for an answer to. Facebook campaigns, blog posts, news articles, corporate videos and more – again, everyone is looking to find the right way to do the social media.

What is the secret ingredient?

If you ask me, the secret is simple: You might want to start right away just like everything else that you do in your business. It is helpful to have a plan with measurable milestones and results. I was always amused by the idea of connecting with so many people virtually. I got more and more interested, every time I explored a new aspect of social media. I have a hobby to try new networks which I come across, just to study new ways of spreading virtual messages. Not kidding! Now being a social media engagement specialist, I know it’s not a myth or exaggeration that your social presence online is a representative of your company.

It was a challenge for me to make others understand that posting JUST anything on social media isn’t social media marketing.   You need to be specific to attract right kind of people. You can’t afford to say ‘what’s in your mind’ without thinking. It should be what others want to read because people will judge you accordingly!

Step 1: Why should your business want to be on Social Media? > Define your Social Media purpose

From having discussions with clients to monitoring conversations online, the overarching theme that prevents businesses from using social media is lack of understanding about why they NEED to be here! The typical responses we get include, “Our competitors are here,” “Because everyone’s talking about it”, “We want to be on everywhere.” The problem is that they fail to dig deep into bigger questions they need to answer:

  • What are your competitors doing on social media?
  • How can you differentiate yourself from the competitors with social media?
  • Will you be able to identify impact it will be have on your business?
  • Will you measure increased awareness, number of new leads through social media, heightened participation of potential clients and will you find out if it changes your bottom line?
  • Are you reaching your target audience?
  • Have you identified who that is?
  • Will you enjoy working with social media or is it just an extra chore for you?

Being able to answer these will allow you to move to next step.

Step 2: Where do you need to be? > Determine your Social Media channels

There are literally hundreds of social networks online along with power hitters Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Not to forget the forums, niche networks, community blog networks and more. No wonder so many businesses have trouble spotting the right path.

  • Define your market segment – Where is your target market in social networks? Are the business professionals on LinkedIn or every day users on Facebook?
  • Who do you want to be connected with? – Unless you are selling coke or pampers, you don’t need mass audience! Be specific. The closer you stick with your offerings, the fewer followers you will attract. But they will be delighted to connect with you.
  • Stick with maximum 3 to 4 networks – Work only with a number of networks than you can consistently maintain. Only if you can add meaningful content publish your business page on that network.

Step 3: How do you measure success= > Map out goals and success metrics

Try to define your goals and measure the success of your social media use. What do you want to achieve out of it? Quantitatively measure your efforts in terms of Likes/Follower growth or increase in frequency of engagement or brand mentions or amount of content to be shared etc.

  • Set up a calendar – Set up a social media calendar and break it down into results pattern like monthly, quarterly, biannually, annually .
  • Analyse results periodically – Study the difference in website traffic. Does traffic increase and which channels bring more traffic. Google Analytics will do the job!
  • Determine acceptable growth vs. ideal growth – Compare if you are at least reaching the former i.e. minimum growth you expected to achieve through social media. And how far behind are you lagging from ideal growth? An indicator could be your turnover that is generated through Social Media or leads you receive through referrals on Social Media (email does not count!).
  • Analyse the cost of implementation – Compare cost of implementation to the expected return (increased customer loyalty, word of mouth marketing, brand perception)

Remember content is the key! Stand out from the crowd through your content.

What is your greatest challenge when it comes to Social Media Marketing for your business?

 

 

 

Due to the overwhelming BRAGER 1:7 yesterday we have reduced our prices for “RockMe!” and “GrowMe!” Programmes until the GRANDE FINALE on Sunday. Check out the offers in our online shop.

Go Germany!

 

...you need to have built trust to your clients before you launch new ideas.
…you need to have built trust to your clients before you launch new ideas.

As a business owner you have a lot of chores and tasks but your main task is to fulfill the needs of your clients. What frustrates me is when my bank, my supermarket or my other service providers do not seem to “get” what I need. What frustrates me even more is when I give feedback that they are just defending the status quo. When I invite them to have a conversation with me they do not listen…

But ACHTUNG: As entrepreneurs we might fall into the same trap.

We are often convinced that what we do is relevant and helpful for our clients. A few of our clients will not be 100% satisfied because we fail to notice the signs that scream “Hello, you are not giving me what I need.” Sometimes they simply had different expectations.

When is an idea ready to be launched?

When you are planning to launch your business for the first time or you are planning to launch a new service or product you might want to get together a small group of clients to “pilot” the service or product.

What type of relationship do you have to have to your potential clients?

Before you invite your clients to “pay” for anything you need to have built your credibility and a relationship of trust.

Why is it so hard to spend time and money on a course?

I know from my own experience that even though I would like to participate in a lot of courses the decision about spending time and money on learning and growing is often not a priority when we have to pay rent, food, children’s needs. Think of how much you would be willing to pay and under which circumstances. What would you need to go through or suffer from before you spend money on your own learning or a service? (It is a different story when your employer pays for it.)

What is a good price?

Price is a hot potato. You cannot undersell your service because you are running a business but at the same time you need to make it easy for your client to spend the money for what you offer. It needs to be reasonable but a no-brainer.

Global Mai 13 _071
Price can be a hot potato.

How well do you know your target market?

In order to judge what price is right you need to know your target market and their spending habits well. One example: I am happy to spend 100 CHF on a good manicure or a good wellness massage but I am not happy to pay 100 CHF for a credit card or to get my car repaired. Some expenses we are very happy to have as they make us “feel good”. Others just seem to be random and a waste of our financial resources. You get the idea?

How is Marketing related to this?

A secret of Marketing seems to be that it makes us “feel good” about the expenses that we do not necessarily want to have. You find tons of videos on youtube where Marketers will explain how they “sell” us a negative and convert it into a positive.

My advice is that you speak a lot to your clients in person and always have a pilot before you launch a product or service. Let me know what your experience is.