Monthly Archives: March 2012

How to Make Networking Work for You

Laurel Tielis

Whether you’re on the lookout for more customers for your business, more clients for your practice, or you need a job, networking is the fastest way to get what you want. The more skillful you are at it, the sooner you’ll be able to move from feeling depressed to achieving success.

While there are formal and informal networking groups, and a lot of people profit by attending their meetings (I personally love http://www.meetup.com), you should first take reach out to the people you already know–the ones in your natural network.

Who You Gonna Call?

Who makes up your network? Everyone from friends, family, colleagues, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers, the guy behind the counter at the cleaners, and the people you pass the time of day with at your neighborhood coffee bar. Because they know you, in most cases, these folks will be willing to give you a helping hand.

Then there’s your social network. In many cases, it’s made up of “formers”–former classmates and coworkers, former clients or customers–people who are no longer in your life on a regular basis.  So before you turn to it, call or email the people you know now.

To get help you have to be clear in describing what you need. Until your contacts understand what you’re looking for, they can’t help you find it. And if you want to keep the relationship sweet, offer something in return. After you ask for what you want, say something like, Is there anything I can do to help you?  

Hallelujah! You’ve Got a Lead

When you get a lead, follow it up–pronto. Tell the person you’re contacting who recommended you get in touch, and why he or she thought there would be good synergy between you. Then ask for what you want and again, offer something in return.

If you’re near your new contact, and it’s appropriate, issue an invitation for coffee, lunch,  or an after-hours drink. That will help move the relationship forward.

The Skinny on Social Networking

When you’re ready to turn to social networking, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and others sites, let you research individuals you’re no longer in touch with, as well as companies where you used to work. Reach out to those people who used to be in your life. After you re-establish the relationship, you can view the friends of your connections, further widening your network. Put out a call on Twitter, as well.

Once you reestablish relations or open up new ones, try getting together in person. Social networking sites speed up communication, but they’re only the first step in the networking “dance”—you get out on the floor, but you really get moving when you meet. To get what you need, in as brief a time as possible, it’s important to have face time with others.

So again, you want to offer coffee, lunch, or after-work invitations. And again, while you’re asking for what you need, you should also be offering to help the person you’re meeting with.

Open Your Options 

Attend lectures, luncheons, and meetings to broaden your circle. Go to trade shows and conventions in your arena or industry to connect with organization higher-ups. (It’s a good idea to get in touch prior to the show to schedule a meeting.)

Show up at events for groups or industries you want to work with or in, where you can be the only person in your business in the room–this is a much easier way to get attention.

Volunteer to work at events that will move your search forward. Volunteers quickly become in the know. Also, when people see you working at an event, they perceive you as an authority, someone with status. Take advantage of that.

When you’re waiting—at the bus stop, the post office, the bank, or in your doctor’s waiting room—talk to people who are there with you. The shared downtime gives you a surefire conversation-starter.

There are multiple benefits from being in the same physical space. The personal touch can make all the difference. And surprisingly enough, everyone knows someone who knows someone who can help.

Take Care of Others

Whether you know someone really well, or you’re just in the formative stages of a relationship, the fastest way to get what you’re seeking, is by moving your focus from What’s in it for me? to thinking about What’s in it for them? When someone is able to help you they’ll feel good about that, but always make sure to take care of them in return.

Lastly, don’t just to get in touch;  stay in touch. When you build relationships you build your credibility and your stature in your arena. So when things aren’t working, remember that networking can help.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales, for easy and effective ways to bring in more business, or get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

 

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How Macy’s, Sears, and Walmart Envision Retail’s Future

Laurel Tielis

You may not want to run with the big dogs, but you should know what the big dogs are doing. That way, you can use the information in your small business. So here’s an update on how Macy’s, Sears, and Walmart are approaching increasing their sales, to help you with your profitability.

Macy’s is implementing a three-year, three-part plan to win the business of the Millennial generation. The idea is to bring more customers aged 13 to 30 both to stores and online.

Localization, which has proved successful in My Macy’s, will be a part of the mix. Technology offerings will be increased; think QR codes, texting, and tap-and-go transaction processing. Lastly, in-store customer-centered operations will replace product-centered operations. Adjacencies, signage, and technology will be improved to help shoppers find things more easily; visual merchandising will be updated more frequently.

Are you taking advantage of your knowledge of the local market, staying ahead of the curve on technology, and ensuring that shopping at your store is easy and fresh? If not, start now.

Sears shoppers who are enrolled in their loyalty program, can sign up as personal shoppers. Then, if they make recommendations of Sears products to friends, family and others (their clients), they’ll receive 1% to 2% of the purchase price on any purchases made, whether online or in-store. It’s an innovative way to deepen connections with current customers and to bring in new business.

How are you connecting with customers and increasing their engagement with your business? Can you use this idea from Sears as a springboard to increase your sales?

Walmart wants to take care of customers without credit cards (and the company’s idea will work as well for customers giving their cards a vacation, and for those who fear using them online because of fraud).

They’ll be able to buy online, but pick up and pay cash for their purchases at a Walmart store. An added plus, by buying online and picking up the products, rather than having them sent, customers can definitely save shipping fees and hopefully save time at the store.

This is a creative way of offering options to shoppers who might not otherwise be Walmart customers. How are you reaching out to new and niche markets?

Take advantage of the time and study these retailers have put into growing their businesses to grow yours.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales., for easy and effective ways to bring in more business, or get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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How Twitter and Facebook Can Drive Traffic to Your Business

Laurel Tielis

Are you an entrepreneur? Sure, you can advertise, but is that the best way of building your practice or increasing your clientele?

Probably not. It’s one thing to pay for promoting a product, and quite another to advertise your services. But you do need to get your name known, if you want to be successful.

Word of mouth was the traditional way for professionals to gain new business. And in most cases, it’s still the most reliable.

That’s why you want to set up a Google alert for your name and the name of your business, if that’s different. You also want to monitor sites such as Yelp, to make sure the word on the street is a good one.

That way, you’ll know what is being said about you. But you also want to control the flow of information. You can do that through both mass media and social media.

Mass Media Will Get You Attention

Coverage in mainstream media is one way entrepreneurial doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects and others can get the word out. This usually requires working with a publicist.

The upside is that an article in a major publication should boost business significantly. (Of course you’ll want to add it to your website, and email it to your current client list.)

The downside is there is no guarantee a reporter will be interested in your story. The timing may be wrong, or the topic may have to be rethought. Plus, it usually takes time, and the fees can be significant.

You Can Control Social Media

Enter social media. The beauty of it is that it’s fee-free and you can tell your story when and where you choose.

One professional who’s done a brilliant job of it on Twitter is Mehmet Oz (@DrOz). He tweets regularly about how to stay healthy and about new findings in medicine. He also gives followers some insight into his personal life, making him more real.

All professionals can benefit from using sites like Facebook and Twitter. Granted, if you do it yourself, there is a time element, but microblogging is far less time-intensive than writing lengthy blog posts. You can also supervise a staff members’ tweets or posts. Or you can hire a professional blogger for a nominal sum. If you opt to let someone else microblog for you, make sure that the person uses your voice.

The most important thing is to do something; you want  to make sure you’re getting your share of media attention, whether it’s mainstream or social media.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

You can also get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com. For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, read my book Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2014 Laurel Tielis

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Technology Beats Out Customer Service in Stores

Laurel Tielis

Want to sell more? Retailers need to ramp up technology, rather than staff. That’s the way to success, according to recent reports.

Consider Sprinkles, the upscale chain of cupcake bakeries that just opened its first ACM–automated cupcake machine–next door to its Beverly Hills store.

Shoppers stood in line at the Automat-like machine to watch a robotic arm pick up selected bake goods, hold them upright, and wrap them. The bakery itself had less business.

Granted the cupcake apparatus is new, and it’s providing entertainment for purchasers, but even stores not offering diversions are finding customers shunning salespeople for gadgets.

 Moving from Customer Service to Customer Self-Sufficiency

There’s a strong move from dealing with staff to dealing with screens. Younger shoppers have grown up with e-commerce and feel comfortable using their phones or tablets to help make decisions on purchases. But they’re not the only ones.

Tech savvy shoppers of all ages are discovering that their interest in a particular item, and their willingness to ferret out information about it, makes them more knowledgeable than most sales staff. Even Nordstrom, which built its brand on top-rate customer service, has seen and gotten behind the move to digital, by providing Wi-Fi in-store so that customers can shop using their own devices.

Clearly, customers are opting for convenience, and screens surpass people in getting things done efficiently. And while there are customers who want to see, feel, and try the merchandise, rather than buy online, they to are happier making selections without interacting with salespeople. It’s simpler and more satisfying.

Do Less, Get More

Smart stores are finding they need to have sales staff do less, but do it better, when they’re called upon. They’re taking a tip from Apple, the acknowledged Holy Grail at providing just enough, and not too much, customer service.

Apple offers products with minimum touch points so that they’re easy to master. They also provide maximum service and advice when it’s necessary.

The moral: Get your staff up to snuff so they’re ready to assist, but let the customer decide when and where it’s needed.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales, for easy and effective ways to bring in more business, or get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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James Q. Wilson, Broken Windows, and Your Business

Laurel Tielis

James Q. Wilson died this week, but he left behind a legacy of getting it right from the beginning. A social scientist, he was a proponent of the “broken windows” theory of crime, which focuses on maintaining order, and calls for stopping minor infractions before they lead to major crimes. Acting on the theory, and using community policing, New York, Los Angeles and other cities improved their crime statistics and their quality of life.

How does this relate to you? By taking care of the little things, you’ll find the big things will fall into place. So if you want a bigger, more successful business, you’ve got to make sure that you pay attention to detail.

In a physical sense, if you’ve got a store, there’s no doubt that you’ll take care of an actual broken window. But are you as responsive to doing anything and everything to make it attractive and inviting?

For example, is the entranceway clean and clear, so that potential customers feel welcome? Are the aisles easy to navigate, and have you put forethought into making sure the merchandise display entices shoppers? How about the lighting? Is the restroom spotless?

Do you have staff? How do you behave to them? Do you trust them and give them the authority to make decisions? The more you show confidence in them, the more that confidence will be repaid. By treating them with courtesy and compassion, you’ll find they behave that way to your customers or clients. Again, it’s the broken windows theory. Get it right from the get-go, and everything will follow through in the same pattern.

Then there’s your website. Do you maintain it and update it regularly? Is it clear to anyone viewing it that it’s important to you, and that you value it? Because, frankly, if it’s not important to you, why should a buyer find it of interest?

How about your social media efforts? When was the last time you sent out a tweet or wrote something for your FB wall? If you’re not keeping up to date with social media, you’re missing opportunities to show potential buyers that you’re someone with whom they want to work.

Most importantly, do you tell the truth, or do you over promise and under deliver? Can your clients or customers rely on you? If you disappoint just one person, shrug it off and think no one else will know, you’ve underestimated the broken window theory. People do tell other people–they do it through word of mouth and media. One way or another, word gets around.

When you’re making decisions about how to go forward in your work, keep James Q. Wilson and his broken window theory in mind. Get the small things right, and you build a strong foundation for a big business.

If  you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

You can also get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com. For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, read my book Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2014 Laurel Tielis

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