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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Your 12 New Years visions (not resolutions)

Last week, I observed that New Years resolutions are, well, a waste. We have an annual planning process and system, of course, but this is done in October. So the ideas here are really not new for the New Year; but they are timeless in their application. You can mix the month and year, and they'll still work fine.

If you value and respect your employees, suppliers and clients, you will succeed even in challenging conditions. This is not an argument in favor of becoming a push-over or for careless financial management; but you won't get far without respecting the people around you.

Encourage individuality, freedom, and work-life balance, but maintain your discipline and accountability (and expect it from everyone around you.) Regular, systematized meetings are essential. You'll soon enough catch game playing, miscues and misrepresentations.

Your brand is built on the overall experience that previous, current and potential clients have with your business. Your brand is trust and allows you pricing power. If you create a wonderful client experience, you'll succeed -- and that experience requires the support and participation of all of your employees and key contractors.

Your fastest way to find new business (if your brand is healthy) is to systematically connect and remind your previous clients about why they enjoy working with you. Follow up service/inspection and free maintenance calls are probably your least expensive and most effective marketing strategies.

Your business is your personality, and the personality of your employees. Do you speak like a robot with business cliches to your family and your friends; do you think your clients and employees want to hear the stuff out of the boring book, either? Example: "We deliver great client service."
Sure. Yawn. Can you tell a real story of some exceptional initiative where you really went beyond the norm. Better, will your client tell the story for you (the testimonial?)

Your business should be fun and you should as much as possible do what you enjoy and for which you have a passion. However, beware of salespeople playing to your emotions, your visions, your fears and your passions. Spend your time doing what you love; spend your money on the stuff you really need to do but don't like so much (and if possible select people to give the money who have the passion and competence for what they are doing.)

Connect and participate in relevant associations. In business-to-business (and consumer) markets, your best associations are the ones where your clients and potential clients are members. Put your best and most active contributions to these associations (time more than money) and you will reap the rewards -- in time.

If you are looking for "fast action" your best strategy is to revisit your current and previous clients for repeat/referral and additional business. A second-best solution is in-your-face canvassing and phoning (yuk). The latter approaches will work in certain circumstances but you either need a real thick skin or really good reason to pursue them.

You can't "rely" on referrals and repeat business to succeed. You need to plan and build the cultivation of these primary business development sources into your marketing processes. The good news is, if you have a solid base of previous clients (and in good times can get away with relying on repeat and referral business), your brand is healthy, so you simply need to cultivate and develop your marketing strategy to your clients. You won't need to reduce your prices, and you won't waste your time flailing about for business.

Use RFPs and leads services creatively. Public RFP and fee-based leads services can help you find business, but usually not directly. Sure, you can chase the public bids, and grind your pricing to the floor. However, in many cases, the opportunities are already wired. (You know you are on track if you find out stuff well before the information becomes available publicly through the leads services or RFPs). So where do the services and public opportunities help? They provide clues about what may be down the road -- and who may have future work -- and allow you to plan a forward thinking marketing strategy. See September.

Share. Be generous (more with your time and ideas than your cash, which you should preserve!) Remember networking success is not about what you take but what you give. You need to suspend your short term needs for long term gains when you are networking; by focusing on the needs of the people around you rather than your own interests, you will find results far beyond the short-term costs.

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