Business Entreprenurship howardgr marketing NextNY social media socialmedia

My Newsletter Strategy

Today I released the first monthly newsletter for the Harbrooke Group. If you want to subscribe and haven’t received an opt-in email (of course we did an opt-in, that’s permission marketing in action) please sign up on the newsletter tab above.

Why a newsletter? I have many friends who are all over Twitter, Facebook, and other social tools like Utterz and Seesmic, but for many of my contacts, email is still a primary communications tool. Not everyone of you regularly reads blogs, and for those who do, not everyone can keep track of all the blogs they want to. So, the newsletter is a way for me  point you to articles I’ve written that may have value in your business, but you may have missed. I also point to other smart thinkers whose work I enjoy.

The newsletter is also the answer to the question “what have you been up to?” I have been reaching out to a lot of people for everthing from my upcoming college reunion to going through my address book looking for people I haven’t talked to in a while, and this is the inevitable question. So, the newsletter is a way to keep a monthly presence in the lives of people who I care about as business connections or friends.

Finally, I’ve suggested that clients associate a newsletter with their blogs, and it is time I stepped up to do so too.

So far, just the feedback from the opt-in email has been fantastic, with connection notes from about 10 people I haven’t heard from in a while. That alone would be a great value for this effort. But, the ultimate goal is having you read what I’ve written and learn something. And if you like that, to have you pass me on to someone else who might do the same. If there’s work that I can do for you, or for that person, all the better.

Please let me know what you think of the newsletter, and share it with a friend if you have a moment. Thanks.

Business Entreprenurship events

Starting a Business (part 2) with Stephanie Booth

In Part 1 we discussed Stephanie’s background, and what led her to start her new company. In this final part we discuss the money and what Stephanie’s measure of success is, relating to finances.

Howard: Did you have to raise capital to run the event?

Stephanie: The company isn’t incorporated, so from a legal perspective I’m doing this event under my own name. In Switzerland that’s how it works. I’m looking into the incorporation, but I want to make sure the first event is successful before I do the administrative work to set up the company. There was no initial capital. The event should be self-financing, with attendee payments and sponsorship paying for it. That’s why I have some aggressive early bird pricing.

Howard: Are you paying yourself?

Stephanie: My objective is to pay myself, but the first ambition is that the event doesn’t lose any money. Hopefully I’ll make enough profit to pay myself.

Howard: Did you take time to budget the event?

Stephanie: Yes, I have spreadsheets but I was a bit naive about cash flow when I started. You can do a what’s coming in, what’s coming out, and hope the total of revenue is greater than expense. Or you can add a time component to the budget and you have a week-by-week vision of what’s coming in and what’s going out, to ensure that by, say, week 5, you’ll have enough money in the bank or incoming to be able to pay out at the end of week 5. This was something I hadn’t though about previously.

Business Entreprenurship events marketing

Starting a Business (part 1) with Stephanie Booth

This Entrepreneur Starts Her Business…With an Event About Starting a Business…

Stephanie Booth is a blogger, freelance Internet consultant and a new entrepreneur who is starting a conference business. Her first conference is for other freelance workers in the web and technology space and it focuses on the essentials of running a business. And Stephanie herself is learning these essentials in real-time as she prepares for the event.

(We also recorded this discussion. It will be published shortly at A Chat and A Song (Episode 18). I’ll change the link when it’s ready UPDATED: Direct link to episode 18 as an mp3  or click on that icon and listen to it in this page).

Howard: I know you have quite an interesting and varied background. Tell me more about how you got here.

Stephanie: I’ve been online for quite sometime, and blogging since 2000, and I primarily describe myself as a blogger and someone who understands the Internet. I studied Chemistry, Philosophy, French, Indian Religions, then worked as a project manager, a schoolteacher, and then up until recently I was a freelance consultant. My new business is called “Going Far” and it’s a media company. I organize events. I’ve been to many conferences, and I complain too often – the WiFi is bad, there’s no bottled water, the sessions aren’t interesting. A friend suggested that I could put on better events.

Howard: You complain at events. What will you do when people complain at yours?

Stephanie: I will probably crawl under the table embarrassed. I’ve realized it is a lot of work, and things are more complicated than they seem.

Howard: What things are more complex than expected?

business development Entreprenurship marketing Sales

Psst, You’re also a Salesman…

My understanding of “Sales” has been much more clearly honed since I became a consultant. By definition you’re always selling yourself, as well as your services or products.  This is critical, and sometimes difficult to remember.
I was reminded of this today when coaching a client who is also a consultant. He has made an agreement to do introductions for a company who will then actually sell and implement the work. He’s responsible for the initial contact and for high-level maintenance on the accounts. (Some might even call this “business development.”) My client was uncomfortable, since he is going to start calling old work acquaintances to ask for 15 minutes of their time to start the process. When we explored his discomfort, he realized that he has some negative association with sales. He also wanted to make sure that he wasn’t compromising his own integrity by selling services to people who don’t need them.
He was having challenges in “opening” and also worries about “closing” the sales.
After talking it through, we concluded that :
A) The people he was calling are the right people to buy this service;
B) The service is better and more efficient than what they’re using now;
C) He will be bringing significant value to his old contacts by showing them what his new partners have, and finally:
D) He can generate even stronger and more positive relationships from making these people happy.
So, it’s worth opening the discussions. And, the way his deal is set up, his partners have to ‘close.’

Wow. My client is helping his old friends meet some new friends, who have a better product that will save the old friends time and even money. That’s a lot different than ‘selling them.’ There’s a clear benefit on both sides, and he’s not compromising his integrity.
Selling is often a tough part of any new business venture. Not everyone is comfortable with all steps of a sales process. But it is clearly part of every Entrepreneur’s skill requirement set. Even if a startup hires someone to sell, the ultimate responsibility to get money in the door is with the founder(s). So, maybe it is time to reconsider what “sales” means to you. If you’ve got something that will make people’s lives easier, or their work easier or faster or cheaper, maybe NOT selling it to them is wrong thing.

Business Entreprenurship LinkedIn social media social networks

Use Live Connections to Leverage Virtual Connections, to Gain new, important Live connections

I’ve written previously about using Social Networks to make connections for business, and even predicted in my recent talk at TIMA� (slides are there) that in 2008, people will “use of Real Life Events to make Virtual Connections that help you make Real (and Valuable) Connections.” This idea came from a talk I had with Jeff Pulver.

After that talk in Raleigh, NC, I reconnected with Chuck Hester, Director of Corporate Communications for iContact, a company that allows businesses, non-profit organizations, and associations to easily create, publish, and track email newsletters, surveys, blogs, autoresponders, and RSS feeds according to their site. Chuck told me how he used Social Networking service to find his current job, promote his own brand and his companys, and to do some good in the world.

When Chuck moved to Raleigh in 2005 he had only a few connections on LinkedIn, and only one or two in Raleigh. As a new person in town, Chuck began to network and add his connections to his online tools. When he left his previous employer, he searched his network connections in Raleigh for Software, Advertising and Marketing people to assist with his search. Ryan Allis invited him in to talk, and Chuck landed the job at iContact.

Around this time, Chuck started paying more attention to his Social Networking tools, and noticed that LinkedIn had a designation of 500+. When you get to 500 connections, they stop reporting your number of connections, and your name shows with a 500+ logo. So Chuck set a goal of exceeding that mark.

Around February, 2007 he decided to connect with the really big connectors. He joined several Yahoo groups where you can send out connection requests to all the members. Every time he got new connections via these groups, he looked at these new connections friend of a friend links, and messaged the 5 most relevant links to connect.

By June, Chuck had over 700 Raleigh connections and was getting lots of calls, doing coffees, getting together to meet people in person. One of his friends who is also very active in Raleigh said “Why not get all our connections in one room and create a Raleigh Network?” In July 2007 they invited their online friends to LinkedIn Live and 50 people showed up. One connection was a bar manager who provided a back room, and another connection was an advertising person who invited a reporter for the News and Observer. Sheattended the event with a photographer, and LinkedIn Live showed up on the front page of the Sunday Business section. People started asking Chuck When’s the next event?  They now have their meetings every other month, and it’s grown from 75 people to 120, to 170 showing up. People in other cities are asking Chuck how to start their own LinkedIn Live events.

How has this benefited Chuck and iContact? Brand Recognition. Everyone knows who I am, and the company I work for. If they need email marketing services, they think of us first. And, we’ve taken our recognition to larger audiences, with mentions on the Fast Company blog, Wall St. Journal, and even via Michelle Rafter at Inc. Magazine (who was a networking connection.)

Chuck’s advice to entrepreneurs is to use the tools that are part of your Social Networking platform. Connect with connectors – people in your network that have lots of connections, and find their connections who can be of value to you. Then, politely ask for introductions. You also have to reciprocate, so be conscious that your connections also have value, and share them with people who have been shown to be trustworthy. Your connections and the way you treat other people’s connections reflect on you. Finally, be part of the conversation. LinkedIn has a feature called “Answers” which allows people to ask questions and get opinions from their contacts. Chuck says, “When people ask questions, answer them if you can, and soon you’ll be known as a resource in your area of expertise.” While respecting the “no advertising” convention of  Answers, crafting a factual  answer that refers to something you’ve written or a service you’ve given another client can drive traffic to your own Blog or company website.