Make Networking WORK For You

Business Neworkingby Bob Grant, SCORE Mentor

Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs must take advantage of any networking opportunity presented to them.  It is a great way to tell potential clients and referral sources about you and your business.  Your goal is to make a positive and professional impression resulting in the listener wanting to learn more about your business product or service.  It is important that you properly prepare for these encounters by developing what is called an ‘elevator pitch,  a 30-second answer to the questions “Tell me about yourself”.  Some suggestions for accomplishing this important speech:

  • Prepare.  Your presentation time is limited.  Think about what the listener needs to know in order to become a client or a good referral source.  Emphasize your business and educational background and experience.  Think about what information will influence the listener to become a client or to refer other potential clients to you. 
  •  Practice.  Compose your speech in writing and then practice giving your speech to others.  Your goal is to make it both impressive and natural.  It is not a sales pitch;  it is an opportunity to influence others and you need to be ready to give your speech at any time and in any situation.
  • Seek Opportunities.  Always look for opportunities to deliver your elevator pitch.  You want others to learn more about you and your business, to become confident enough with you to possibly become a client or perhaps refer some of their own clients, friends, or business partners to you.
  • Contact Information.  Remember to provide a business card or other marketing collateral with your current contact information. 
  • Give Back.  Be sure to learn about the listener’s background and business.  Networking is a two-way street.  You will want to learn about their business in order to also make appropriate referrals to them.  Your ultimate goal is to not only earn new business but to increase your value as referral source to other entrepreneurs and business owners.

 

 

 

 

 

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Existing Clients Are Gold – A Simple Roadmap

Marketing RoadmapExisting Clients Are Gold – A Simple Roadmap

By Alice K. Nadin

A rule of marketing is it that it “costs more to convert a new client than it does to get more sales from an existing one”.  Consider existing clients gold; work hard to retain them and get them to become repeat buyers.

Here is a six step roadmap to help with marketing to existing clients:

1. Keep in touch with them! It may sound simple, but you may need to remind them from whom they bought that item or service… and that you are here to service them again. Weekly emails WORK, so do them. Social media works (see roadmap tip #5). Think of this as long term marketing to enhance top of mind awareness. Set up emails to auto distribute weekly to existing clients. Schedule a time every month to write out 4 emails, program your emails into a service such as Constant Contact, and then get back to your other business needs.

2. Always, always, always have a new, next purchase offer available for them. In every shipment or service appointment, enclose the packing slip/receipt with a business card, plus a short term, enticing next purchase offer. Just like with email marketing or a social media post, you can sit down and create a short-term, dated weekly offer and either print them out or use your email system to auto send them.

3. Use the strongest word in the marketing world: FREE. Structure your offers to proffer something for free to entice a call to action, in this case, buying behavior. Free shipping is a current hot offer, particularly for online purchases. Use contingency language or restrictions to be able to economically offer something free, such as buy $100 of product within the next 20 days (insert expiration date) and we will ship your next order free.

4. Look for more volume in each order. Offers such as the popular BOGO, but customized to be an economic yet attractive offer for our particular products or services.  These can take the form of Buy 1, Get 50% off the 2nd, or Buy 10, Get 2 Free. You need to see what you are able to offer with your own business model. The key is that offers do WORK. The goal is to generate more volume and more awareness from existing customers. Once you get this process working for you, you will find you work less and sell more. How do you learn how to construct these offers? Study the flyers from your local grocery stores for ideas on how you may craft an offer that is compelling and effective. The grocery industry is expert in selling more volume per order.

5. Social media WORKS and it also contains that magic four letter word; it is FREE. Monetizing and tracking the Return on Investment for social media can be a challenge as it may be difficult to connect your efforts to a specific sale.  Keep in mind that the name of the marketing game is awareness, awareness, awareness.  Start your social media program with a Facebook business page.  Research your clients (and prospects) names, find them on Facebook,  ‘like’ them and ask them to be ‘friends’. Many will ‘friend’ you back, building your business awareness. Get serious about your Facebook page.  Use some of the new features, such as timeline, to position your business.  Use it to announce specials, hold contents, solicit feedback.  Include your Facebook link on your flyers, email signature, website, etc.  Consider doing the same with LinkedIn, especially if you are in Business-to-Business (B2B) sales.

6. Measure your offers and see what drives your business success. Leverage tools like Google Analytics to track your online success.  If you are using physical coupons, code them in such a way so that you can track and develop metrics on which offer generated the most sales in volume or dollars.  As you develop metrics, you will begin to see what works. Take the time to record and analyze which offer brought more sales and profit. Continue with the strategies that are generating the behavior you want to see and tweak the ones that do not appear to be working as well.    Be aware of your business and its cycles.  If you are always slow in the summer, ramp up the offers to drive to more business during downturns.

Building awareness of your business and your brand can be challenging, but these 6 steps should help you on your journey.  SCORE counselors are here to help you navigate, so if we can be of assistance, please let us know.

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BUSINESS PLAN FOR YOUR NEW BUSINESS

Planning for your new business and writing a business plan will likely take longer than is expected.  This is not to discourage a new entrepreneur from moving forward.  Review a business plan tailored to the type of business you expect to open is the place to start.  You will get ideas on the areas of research needed to accumulate the facts and figures to complete the business plan.

There are a variety of places to look for a suitable template or outline.  Go to bplan.com for free templates to get started.  You can also Google business plan and include the type of business you will open.  There is plenty of free material available.

In Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library is a wonderful place to start.  The Carnegie Library – Downtown and Business, at 612 Smithfield Street, has a business department in the lower level with business librarians who can give excellent guidance.

The Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill at the corner of Forbes and Murray Avenues is home to the Namm Business Center.  This is also an excellent place to get information with helpful librarians to assist you.

There is a series of books containing sample business plans for nearly every kind of business you can imagine.  Entrepreneur Magazine also has a series, “How To Start A …”.  These will serve as a template or guide to writing your plan.  You will also find many books with general and specific information.

What you will determine as you review the business plan format is what will be needed to complete the various sections.  Some sections will take longer and require more research.  For instance, you may get demographics by contacting the local chamber of commerce, economic development agency or government office in which the business will be located.  Financial expectations and trends might come from a national trade association for the industry. Discussions with others in a similar business can be helpful.

Gather up the paperwork you will need to include for the last section of your business plan such as:

  • The last 3 years of your personal tax returns,
  • Copy of rental agreement,
  • Blueprints for needed remodeling,
  • Pictures or manuals for necessary purchased or leased equipment, and
  • Other materials that help to define your business and those who will be involved in running it.

A good plan will WOW your banker or other financial backers. Remember, it’s not like a high school term paper that you want to look long and complicated. Say it once; keep it tight and well organized.

 

Joyce Pearl, SCORE counselor

 

 

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So You Want to SCORE At Business? A Legal Checklist

So You Want To SCORE® At Business?

A Legal Checklist

by Barry J. Lipson, Esq.

A Necessary Coach: Your Attorney – A Facilitator For All Stages!

The Big Decision!
If employed, are you willing to give up security of pay check and benefits?
If not, can you take on another “full time +” job?
If unemployed, can you afford to give up fully concentrating on your job search?

The Idea!
A new invention, product or service.
An existing business opportunity.
A pre-packaged business venture.

Attorney needed for:
Protecting your idea!
Preparing necessary Secrecy/Confidentiality Agreements;
Assisting in “due diligence;”
Counseling on various methods of acquiring business properties/assets;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Acquisition Agreement;
Reviewing & negotiating Franchise Agreement;
And more!

Realizing and Protecting Your Idea
Preparing your business plan, informally and formally.
Finding backers, participants and/or joint venturers.
Choosing your business, product and/or service names.
Arranging sources of funding.
Obtaining necessary real property, equipment, tools, inventory and supplies.
Arranging sources of “hands on” assistance.

Attorney needed for:
Reviewing your business plan;
Determining availability of, reserving and protecting your business, product and service names;
Arranging for necessary licenses, registrations and approvals;
Counseling on advisability of protecting confidential information as trade secrets;
Counseling on and seeking patent, copyright, trademark protection;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating funding, real estate & purchase agreements;
And more!

Business Organization
Liability and tax considerations may govern:
Sole Proprietorship
Partnership
Limited Partnership
Limited Liability Company
Subchapter S Corporation
Normal Business Corporation
Non-Profit Corporation

Attorney needed for:
Advising on pros and cons of various structures, including liability issues;
Working with your CPA to determine advisable structure;
Preparing and making the necessary filings and registrations;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Partnership, Shareholder, Co-Owner Agreements;
Discussing advisability of and including “divorce” provisions in initial Agreements;
Discussing advisability of and including “succession” provisions in initial Agreements;
And more!

Building Your Team
In addition to the “coaches” you should already have on your team, your Lawyer and your CPA, and possibly your Banking, real estate, insurance, human resources and marketing professionals, you will or may need:
Co-Owners
Employees
Representatives
Agents
Distributors
Suppliers
Customers

Attorney needed for:
Counseling on advisability and limitations of Agreements Not To Compete;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Co-Owner, Shareholder & Partnership Agreements;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Employee Agreements;
Reviewing your employment practices for NLRB, EEOC, PA HRC, etc., compliance;
Counseling on pros and cons on various methods of distribution;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Representative and Agency Agreements;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating Distributorship Agreements;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating purchase agreements;
Preparing/reviewing/negotiating sales agreements;
And more!

Selling Your Product/Service
Marketing and Advertising
Publicity, Public Relations and Promotion
“Publish or Perish”
Trade Associations

Attorney needed for:
Educating you on requirements and restrictions of Antitrust Law & Laws Regulating Trade;
Reviewing you advertising for truthfulness and for not being false, deceptive or misleading;
Reviewing your marketing, labeling, etc., for FTC, FDA, FCC, EPA, USPS, etc., compliance;
Making benefit/risk evaluation of Trade Association membership/participation;
And more!

And that’s just the beginning …..

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Cold Calling – Finding New Potential Customers through Business Networking

by Alice Nadin, SCORE E-Mail Counselor

Business Networking is still the #1 way to turn cold calls into potential customers. Classic business networking is using contacts/clients you already have to find new potential customers. It can be as simple as asking current clients to suggest/recommend new ones to participating in structured Business Network groups like BNI.com or your Chamber of Commerce or other local Network groups – every town or city has them.

Seek the local Network Groups out and learn what value they have for your business. Importantly members of network groups understand the purpose – to find new business and educate other Network members about their own business so they can find new leads. So when you call a prospect, you can say, Joe of XYZ Business suggested I call – this is much stronger than cold calls – plus it gets you passed the gate keepers or administration personnel who screen your target prospect’s calls.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn.com has redefined cold calling. Now, in addition to the local active network groups, you can build a dynamic network of contacts online. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Have you built your network? From that network you can do much the same as classic networking for within all the contacts that you already know (and should be invited into your LinkedIn network) is someone who knows someone, who knows someone you are trying to approach for new business.

Do not know how to use LinkedIn? There is a ton of great help right on their website.
For New Users: http://learn.linkedin.com/new-users/
For small business, see http://smb.linkedincreatives.com/
or see the links on the left of the above page for more options and help.

 

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Developing Financial Projections

Bob Grant, SCORE Mentor/Counselor

Developing projections of revenues and expenses is often confusing and difficult. Where do you start? How do you do them? Why is it so important? Where can you get help?

First, financial projections are normally required along with a written Business Plan if you are seeking financing for your new business. Banks and investors want to see how you intend to repay the loan you are requesting. But more important is the fact that it forces you to take a hard look at the cost of starting and operating your business and the financial risk that you are taking.

Start by looking for a template that you can use to guide you through the development of your financial projections. This template will guide you through the process and provide you with a finished format of financial statements – Startup Costs, Income Statement, Cash Flow Statement, and Balance Sheet. A good example of a Financial Projection template is available on the SCORE website (www.score.org) under Templates and Tools and includes the template, notes explaining how to complete the financial projections using the template, and a sample of a set of finished financial projections.

It is critical that you do your research before beginning the development of your projections. Your estimated Revenues and Operating Expenses must be based on valid information. Many entrepreneurs tend to overestimate revenues and underestimate expenses which results in a shortfall in working capital. This is one of the primary reasons for new business failures.

Bottom line:
• Do your research in order to accurately develop estimates of your startup costs and your monthly revenues and operating expenses.
Get help if necessary. Request mentoring from SCORE or consult with your accountant.
• If you will do them yourself, look for a good template that you can use to develop a full set of financial statements including Startup Costs, Income Statement, Cash Flow Statement, and Balance Sheet.
Understand the completed Financial Projections and use them as a tool in guiding your new business.

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Making Your Business Stand Out

By Joyce Pearl, SCORE Counselor

What can you do to make your business stand above the rest? When you consider that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, it takes some clever ideas. Creative thinking is important during the planning stage, long before opening the literal or virtual door to your customers. Two ways to stand out from the crowd are to have a niche and/or exceptional service.

Even a small variation can place your business in a niche in the industry. If you have a pizza shop, it’s hard to stand out as that is a popular business. Visiting the competition might give you an idea of what has not been done. You may need to dream up unusual toppings. But, how about providing something extra for take-out orders? In addition to napkins, why not paper plates and hand wipes, of course imprinted with your business name and phone number and a take out menu. Don’t forget that the cost of extra paper products needs to be factored into the selling price. This is a place where owner supervision is important. Employees will throw in handfuls, where as the boss will count out what is likely needed.

Attention to serving your customer is another way to set your business apart. An example might be a home or commercial painting business. Call two days before starting to confirm the time of arrival and re-confirm the expected time the work will take. When the job is completed, the painter should identify the color and room on unused cans of paint. Why not advise the customer that you will call in six months (or 12 months) to check if any touch up work is needed, of course at no cost. And mark the calendar to do so, because it just may be that other painting is needed at that time. Send a holiday greeting to remind the customer that you are available to do more excellent work. Remember, time is money so the extra touches need to be built into your estimates even if the cost is small.

Finding a niche and offering attentive service to the customer goes a long way in assuring the success of your business.

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Why Businesses Fail?

Why Businesses Fail?
Bob Carlson, SCORE Mentor/Counselor

You’ve probably heard that a high percentage of start-up businesses fail with the first year or two.

It’s true. But, why do so many fail?

The following are among the top reasons:

# 1 The owner(s) had no previous experience in the business field they plan to enter.
Example: Just because you love to cook is not reason enough to open a restaurant. If you really want to own a restaurant, get a job in a restaurant for 6 months. Learn firsthand what it takes to manage the business.

# 2 Lack of family support.
If your spouse, mate, or other family members are opposed to your business idea, your home-life may suffer and in turn affect your enthusiasm.

# 3 Under estimating the amount of money it will take to maintain the business until it starts generating profits.
Look beyond the start-up costs.

# 4 Failure to write a Business Plan (see # 3 above).

# 5 You plan to start and grow your new business by offering prices below those of your competition.
This seldom works out well. Your competitors can lower their prices to match or beat your prices for a much longer time than you. It’s likely they are profitable, so lowering their prices simply decreases their profit margins, while you sit wondering why you are getting little or no new clients.

 

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Business Plans

by Michael Mohajery, Counselor Chapter Chair Most people think that the primary purpose of a business plan is to raise capital for a business via conventional bank loan, “angel” investor, sale of stock and/or any other of the myriad ways … Continue reading

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Every Small Business Owner Needs A Team

by Michael Mohajery, Counselor Chapter Chair operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation? Will you perform your service or sell your product from your home or will you lease office space? Do you have enough money to fund … Continue reading

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