Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Killing social fears to become a better networker

Many people feel uncomfortable in meeting strangers. But if you don't meet strangers, how will you build your network? As an entrepreneur, you need to overcome your social fears so that you can talk about your product/service and build relationships with potential buyers, distributors, customers, employees, etc.

In an article for Forbes magazine, Bob Goodyear, technical product manager for Symantec, confesses to being a wallflower and having trouble mingling. On a recent business trip, Goodyear vowed to overcome his fear. Before the event, Goodyear said that he "researched all the companies that would be represented...so that when I saw the company's names on the guest's name tags, I had a piece of information about their firm to use as a conversation starter." Another technique Goodyear uses is to put a time limit on how long he feels he has to mingle. "I tell myself, Bob, there's nothing you can't do for 30 minutes."

Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychologist, has used Goodyear's strategies and has built on them. Goulston sets a goal for himself at social events. For example, he promises "to meet three new people and have them be glad to have met me." Another technique Goulston uses is something he calls "FTD delivery." Get to know people by asking how they feel, what they think, or what they have done or would do given a certain topic. By starting the conversation directed at the other person, you take the focus off of yourself (and lower your stress level).

Ultimately, saying "Hi" is all about believing that you have something worth sharing with the other person, says John Baldoni, a corporate communications consultant in Ann Arbor, Mich. "You can't be afraid of sounding incompetent," he says. "You have to believe that you deserve to have the interaction, that your company depends on you and that you have something to offer the other person in the exchange."

networking article

As an entrepreneur, do you fear social situations? Do you want to become a better networker so that you can attract new customers, distributors, employees, etc? What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs who want to become better networkers?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Producing an e-newsletter (that will actually be read)

How many emails do you receive a day that you delete immediately? For me, I'd say a minimum of 50. With the loads of emails we all receive daily, how do you as an entrepreneur create an e-newsletter that doesn't go straight to the trash?

Carmine Gallo recently wrote an article for BusinessWeek about his interviews with Dave Robinson, VP of marketing for Mozy (an online computer backup service), and Janine Popick, chief executive of VerticalResponse (an email and direct marketing provider for small businesses). In his interviews, Gallo searched for advice on getting customers to read e-newsletters.

Robinson advised that you should only send an e-newsletter if you have something relevant to say. He said, "if it's not interesting to our customers, we're wasting their time." Popick also commented that entrepreneurs should share their expertise. A "how to" article or "five easy steps to (fill in the blank)" are great ways to engage customers, but remember, keep your articles short, sweet, and instructive.

When a customer signs up for an e-newsletter, they are making a request for updates about your business. Don't disappoint. Popick said, "be specific regarding the frequency of your newsletter and the value you will provide." Irrelevant information can easily become frustrating and force your customers to unsubscribe. The marketing staff at Mozy chose to limit their e-newsletters to once a month to prevent diluted content.

One of the best e-newsletter articles is to tell customer stories. Robinson said, "The last thing we want to do is tell a story with a bunch of boring copy and bullet points. The best best way to tell our story is through real people and their anecdotes....We want people to read our newsletters and look forward to them. If it's all about the company-- give us more money-- it turns people off."

Important points to remember when writing an e-newsletter
1. offer expert advice
2. stay true to customer expectations
3. use customers to tell stories
4. deliver great content and the money will follow

e-newsletter article

As an entrepreneur, do you send out e-newsletters? After reading this post, will you be modifying the content and/or frequency of your e-newsletters? What feedback (positive or negative) have you received about your e-newsletters thus far?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Educating customers through YouTube videos

YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view, and share video clips. Have you ever used YouTube? Many people use YouTube for comedy and music, but can it be used as a tool for educating your consumers?

Lauren Luke is a cosmetics entrepreneur. She is a self-taught makeup artist who has used YouTube videos to educate consumers on makeup application. Her videos include experimenting with bright colors and recreating celebrity looks. Why are her videos successful? Luke is a "girl-next-door" type who offers easy to understand, step-by-step instructions for her customers who have no technical cosmetology experience. Since her first video post 18 months ago, Luke's videos have been viewed over 40 million times.

What does makeup have to do with agriculture? You may have a great product or service, but if your customer doesn't know how to use it or doesn't understand how it can benefit their lives, you won't be successful. Many women are intimidated by the amount of colors and brands of makeup available and don't know how to apply it or what to use. Luke's videos help women learn what makeup is best for their skin and how to use it.

Let's use a home-based jelly business as an example. Customers already know what jelly is and how to use it (spread for toast and crackers), but where else can it be used? You could post a video on creating a marinade with an orange marmalade or mixing a strawberry jelly with a cake mix to create a homemade strawberry cake. Another video idea would be to talk about the ingredients in your products like blueberries which are high in antioxidants and can help protect the body from free radicals. A customer can read a recipe card, but by watching a video, they can see how easily they can recreate your recipe or learn about health information. Also, a video allows your customer to see whom they are buying from--making the sale more personal.

Lauren Luke article

Have you used YouTube videos as a marketing technique? Have your videos helped you to strengthen your customer base?