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Trust – Fancy Website or Human Voice

11 Oct

A great comment from Barry Moltz:

“Many years ago small businesses wanted to appear large so customers would trust them. They produced fancy stationery and secured a respectable business address. This has all changed with the Internet, where customers value the human voice. Now every business wants to appear small and provide personal service to its customers.”

And I agree.  I was quite happy to stop the renewal order of new stationery and envelopes and instead spent it on a better website.  But still recognized that a website wasn’t enough, that customers expected a contact link that included phone and address.  It was acceptable that the address wasn’t local as long as there was a viable address.  More importantly was ensuring the phone was answered by a person instead of an automated system.  At my small companies, everyone was the receptionist because the call rang to everyone if the frontline people were otherwise engaged.

The next level of trust that customers are looking for includes customer ratings.  Think what eBay, Amazon and others started to ensure customer feedback is reflected back to prospects.  Having peer ratings for Inquisix referrals was a key point to the system.

To build trust in today’s market, make it easy for the customer to research and buy your offerings.  No more paper or offices but a well-designed website, a human answering the phone and trust ratings from customers are the new trust factors.

2011 New Year’s Resolution That I Kept

3 Jan

One of my 2011 new year’s resolutions was to find more time to read magazines that are either not focused just on my industry or not for pure entertainment. And it’s the one resolution I happily completed. The magazines I choose include The Economist, Fast Company and Wired. Each of them have been very enjoyable and enlightening to read and so I’ve renewed their subscriptions for 2012.

My measure of a good magazine was how many times I ripped out an article from the magazine to re-read or do more thinking on. Each of these magazines made that measure.

I picked The Economist for several reasons. Its reporting on world events is not from a pure US-based point of view, the articles tend to more in-depth and thought provoking than a Newsweek (for example), and they cover more of the non-English-speaking parts of the world.

I picked Fast Company because much of what they cover is what’s new – new companies, new technologies, new business leaders, new ideas. A breezier read than the Economist and only published once a month but I found myself also looking forward to their blog postings.

Lastly, I picked up Wired magazine. I had read it in the early 2000’s but it was so Internet-focused that I lost interest. However, recent issues have been much more interesting and I’ve found Wired to be similar to Fast Company in covering what’s new and yet there’s been very little overlap in their stories.

If you’re reading this blog soon after I posted it, you can take advantage of a Groupon for The Economist at $1/issue.

The two most interesting trends I have been eagerly reading about are social media and 3D printing. I’m quite tired hearing about what celebrity or athlete is tweeting or how many followers Ashton Kutcher and Oprah have. Nor do I care that much how companies are marketing their offerings to consumers. However, I’m fascinated by how social media has created social unrest to successfully challenge the governments of Egypt, Libya and lately, Russia.

3D printing may not be as mainstream as social media but for someone who worked for a 3D solid modeling software company, I’m quite interested in how people’s ideas can be modeled in software and then printed in 3D as easily as printing a letter is. The sophistication of the new 3D printers brings the ability for small businesses to design and manufacturer their own products in small batches and with high-quality. Imagine bringing manufacturing back to America not because of low-cost workers but because of the ability to easily manufacturer unique and high quality products in your own office.

What magazines are you enjoying reading?
What trends in 2012 will you be following?

Happy 2012!

Top Rules for business and starting your career

25 Oct

Today I thought I’d share the two top-10 rules that I have saved and posted in my office. One is from The Daily Beast on Steve Job’s rules for business. The other is a speech attributed to Bill Gates but was actually an op-ed letter by Charles J. Sykes written to college graduates.

Influitive – new spin on referrals and references

31 May

This spring, my dear colleague, Joanne Black, the author of No More Cold Calling, introduced me to Mark Organ of Influitive. Influitive has an interesting twist on the reputation-based referral process that Inquisix built our business on.

Inquisix was focused on helping fill the beginning of the funnel with qualified prospects who came to you, the sales person, based on a referral from someone the prospect trusted. At Inquisix, the network was the salesreps and executives who had high-value relationships with their customers and thus could refer them. Influitive looks at the sales cycle from the point of view of your happy reference customers. At Influitive, it’s these customers who expand their reputation network based on the products and solutions they embrace.

Influitive is in beta now and I encourage any VP of Sales or VP of Marketing who is using salesforce.com to take a look at them.

Happy Selling!

The Job Hiring Front is Improving

11 Mar

I believe that job hiring is picking up the pace, based on anecdotal evidence from my LinkedIn account.  I’m getting 2-3 InMails from recruiters a week from LinkedIn and there’s nothing in my profile to suggest that I’m looking for a new job.  I’ve spoken to colleagues and they’re getting the same increased attention from recruiters.  Let’s hope that these data points are true across a wide swath of professionals and lead to an improvement in the economy.

How about you?  How many recruiters are reaching out to you from LinkedIn InMail?

And a small pet peeve.  Why are recruiters sending me invitations to connect as a friend as an enticement to review their job posting?  First, I prefer to connect to people I know.  Second, my colleagues and boss are my LinkedIn connections.  So when they get that LinkedIn update email that says I’m now connected to several recruiters all of a sudden, they’ll all assume I’m looking.

We Want To Sell thru Inbound Marketing

14 Oct

I met with a technology startup recently. The founders are entrepreneurs with one successful exit already and are building their next company. They live in Europe but are considering moving their fledgling company to the US because they feel the majority of the customers are found here. When I asked them how they wanted to go to market, they replied, “We want to sell through inbound marketing….because cold calling does not work anymore.”

Leaving aside the thought that I don’t agree that cold calling doesn’t work anymore (me, who’s been writing about referrals all the time!?!), there’s still the discussion of what inbound marketing means and how to do it.

There are a bunch of great books and products out there to help you do inbound marketing. One of the popular ones is from Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the co-founders of HubSpot. Their book is “Inbound Marketing” and I recommended the book to these founders. We white-boarded the salient points of the book.

Inbound Marketing:

  • Create remarkable content
  • Optimize content (for search, RSS, social media)
  • Publish content (and not just on your site)
  • Market content thru social media and blogs
  • Measure what’s working and what’s not working

The real hard part here, which made the entrepreneurs look at each other to see who was volunteering, is “create remarkable content.”  Anyone can create content (see, I’m doing it right now) but is the content remarkable?  Remarkable gets found.  Unremarkable gets buried.

Blogs:

  • Visitors come to blogs to learn
  • Write remarkable content and allow guest bloggers
  • Allow content without approving it first
  • Read and comment on other’s blogs and link back to your blog
  • Track what’s working and what’s not

Search:

  • Visitors are looking for content
  • You must consider paid search (pay-per-click) vs organic (free) search
  • Look at your website for what’s searchable (links, tags, inbound links)
  • Most importantly – what’s the trigger event that’s causing your visitors to search for you

Social:

  • Visitors are looking to interact with you and colleagues
  • Top social sites include LinkedIn Answers & Groups, Twitter, YouTube, Digg

So most everything you need to do for inbound marketing can be found in this easy-to-read book.  And the authors’ company helps you measure what’s working and what’s not working.  The challenge remains, “Who’s going to write the remarkable content?”

Sharing Your Calendar is Easy and Free

6 Jan

While this post might be better posted in a site like SalesMarks, the ability for me to post my calendar online for others to share has been so beneficial that I want to share it with the Inquisix community. I coordinate my calendar with many other people (colleagues, partners, friends and family) and most of them are not Inquisix employees, thus I can’t share my Outlook calendar thru Exchange. By using Google Calendar, however, I have an easy and free way to share my calendar with those I need to, regardless of who they work for or what systems they’re using. It’s especially nice because it’s free for all parties. All you need is a Google mail account. They don’t need their own Google email or calendar, just a browser.  Coordinating meetings and events has never been easier!

There are 3 easy steps – create your Google calendar, sync it with Outlook and give your colleagues the link to your calendar.

Step 1: Create

  • Sign onto your Google mail account
  • Click on the “calendar” link at the top of the page
  • Create your Google calendar by filling out the information and clicking “continue”

Step 2: Sync

  • Once the calendar is created, click “sync” at the top left of the page
  • Follow the instructions to sync with Microsoft Outlook
  • This will download a small application to your desktop that will automatically sync Outlook to your Google Calendar.
  • Select your sync option – either 2-way or 1-way from Outlook to Google Calendar. If you want read-only permissions to your Google calendar than it’s best to chose the 1-way option

Step 3: Share

  • In the calendar list on the left, click the down-arrow next to a calendar and select Calendar settings. (Alternatively, click Settings at the bottom of the calendar list, then click the name of the appropriate calendar.)
  • In the Calendar Address section, click the HTML icon. You’ll see a pop-up window with your calendar’s URL.
  • Share this URL with your colleagues, partners, friends & family who don’t use Google Calendar.

The Power of Business Networking

31 Dec

As our final blog post of 2009, we are featuring Inquisix member Shiera O’Brien‘s article on The Power of Business Networking.

Best wishes for a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2010!

In the early 90s, a film called Six Degrees of Separation built its story around the idea that we are all separated by six degrees from everybody else on the whole planet. Everybody is an open door into another world and knows the people you are looking to meet or companies you want to work with. Everybody is connected on this planet by a trail of only six people, whether you are famous or not. If you find the right people to make the connection with, distance vanishes and the right opportunities will come your way.

In thinking about this I decided to look on YouTube to remind myself of the key ideas in this film and whether it really does have any relevance to our business life today. To my surprise and delight, I found a documentary on scientists who have studied and written an algorithm to prove this network theory, which they worked on for years. It shows that nature has this hidden blueprint and structure that connects us all. The scientists mapped it out and tested it on people by taking parcels across the world and asking 27 people to only use their social networks to get the package to a person on the other side of the world. It was amazing how quickly the parcels moved closer to the addressee, who was a scientist working at Harvard University in Boston.

This is an idea worth experimenting with in our daily business lives. I apply it in my own business strategy by making my business networks help with word-of-mouth marketing and create the connections and opportunities I seek with particular companies. There is no better example of the power of networks than the latest Web 2.0 social media networks. If you test the theory within your own social circle, you will find very quickly that people have connections that can open doors for you. Many of your connections within your business circle either know each other or have a contact into a client or employer that you may be looking to meet.

Looking at our own economy and applying this to our client-building strategy or job search, makes me think that the traditional ways of building businesses and finding jobs is far too slow. In this day and age, you need to be tapping into your personal, social and professional networks, if you want to get faster results. Systematically searching for the right people through your networks, using a plan, will yield faster results every time than a traditional approach of throwing out a blanket of hopeful letters and calls. In human nature, people will always respond faster to people they know than to strangers.

You may be asking yourself, “How is that in any way relevant to me?” If you are looking grow your practice or find new opportunities, it is very relevant. My suggestion to you is to take it out and test the theory yourself.

Here are six steps to help you in your own Six Degrees experiment:

Step 1: Connect into the network hub

The scientists tell us that in every network there is a traceable hub, where the core activity takes place. It is the place where people gather and take information about you back into their world. Even more interesting is that within each hub, you will find the “human hub”, the person with the highest degree of influence and connectivity. They are important people to know and start building relationships with. What they do for a living is irrelevant, their social currency is what you really want to tap into! Identify this person within your networks. This includes your family and friend networks, professional networks, membership organisations, and most importantly your on-line networks. Ask yourself, “Who are the people gathering around me with the most influential links?” Make sure you set up your social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Inquisix and Twitter) to build your on-line treasure chest.

Step 2: Have a networking plan

Key to getting the results you want is deciding or naming the companies and roles of people you wish to meet through your network, whether at networking events or through your on-line contacts. Then identify a very good reason why they would want to meet you. Human nature is designed to act principally from self-interest, which is driven by the reptilian part of our brains. So people will always unconsciously ask “What’s in this for me?” Give your network and potential contacts a worthwhile reason to want to meet you. Perhaps it’s to share some information, opportunities, save them money or help them use your networks.

Following on from that, it is important to have something to share about you that’s of value to them, and sets you apart. Direct them to your website, literature, testimonials or information that you think they would benefit from. Ask them to do you a favour. Most people like doing favours for others and help their own business contacts. It helps cement relationships.

Step 3: Authenticity at networking events

There is no end of opportunities to attend networking events as we go into the autumn. Networking is not just about getting into a room to break the world record for the largest business card collection. Nor is it a popularity contest on social media. The most valuable asset you can bring to a networking event is your authentic self. Be real, be present, engage and listen to people as you would if you were at a social gathering. And avoid talking about yourself all the time. Ask great questions. They don’t have to be about business. Get to know people, because relationships are built on this. Even if you only meet 3-4 quality contacts and have agreement to follow up and meet, you will have done a great job. Set a goal of having at least 2 meetings come out of a networking event.

Step 4: The Follow-Up

The downfall of people’s networking strategy is either poor follow-up, no follow-up or the full- blown sales pitch in an email. Think of your follow-up as a “getting-to-know-you” phase of your relationship. It must happen within 24 hours to reinforce the connection you made. Acknowledge the meeting, the event and create the invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Inquisix or Twitter. You will need to explore which of these ones suits your business needs. And ignoring emails is a poor reflection on your business, so avoid it at all costs. Arrange a follow-up meeting, even if it’s for a coffee to learn more about each other’s business, in anticipation of opportunities down the line. This is always a great starting point.

Step 5: The Power of Reciprocity

Give without expecting something back demonstrates how powerful reciprocity can be. If you see an opportunity to share some information or introduce a contact to your contacts, “Just Do It.” This is building some credit for reciprocal behaviour from others in the future. I saw this recently when I did a favour for a business contact. In return, an out of the blue opportunity came my way through the person I did the favour for. I was the first person that came to mind. This is the power of reciprocity.

Step 6: Build it and they will come

People often give up before they reach the momentum that makes them a network hub in their own right. They are inconsistent or dismiss people as not being of value. I suggest a rule of thumb is to treat everybody you meet like your clients, even your “so-called” competition, as they may be a vital link for a joint venture in the future.

It’s far too easy to assume people in your network as not worth knowing, because they wouldn’t understand your business of have the right kind of contacts. The business people I have met are very intelligent so give them your time! And don’t be a dabbler by attending networking events, gathering cards, connecting on social media sites and then abandon ship. Use your 20:20 vision. See the value in everybody you meet as a chain in your network and a part of your most valuable asset: your contact database.

To truly understand the power of networking, read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, who writes brilliantly about Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. These are the people turning their businesses around, making money and finding great jobs, when the masses are doing things the old way. Be a pioneer in your business or profession and tap in that that rich reservoir. Your best client or the perfect job is only six handshakes away.

Biography
About Shiera O’Brien: Shiera is an expert in sales optimisation. She specialises in consulting and training companies in sales and communication strategies to their clients. She offers training and coaching on business networking, communication skills, presenting and selling excellence. Contact her in Ireland on (086) 399-6601 or shiera@zenithtraining.ie Visit www.zenithtraining.ie for more information.

By Referral Only – Wed Dec 30 event

8 Dec

If you’d like to learn more about building and strengthening your business 100% thru referrals then I highly recommend you attending this special event from a master networker and early Inquisix member, Rick Roberge.

Rick’s program, “By Referral Only” will be offered on Wednesday December 30th, 2009 from noon to 1:30pm US ET. You have two options of attending  – you can be there in-person in Westboro, MA, USA or participate via webinar.

But act fast, as the first 24 people who register for each event using “RR1230” as the discount code will receive a $50 discount when they register.

Pick your option but don’t do nothing!

Join in-person

Join online

Follow-up Follow-UP

5 Nov

Ivan Misner posted on his blog – What Is the Number-One Trait of a Master Networker? this week and I thought, “Absolutely dead-on!”

Nothing frustrates me more than giving a referral to someone and then they DON’T FOLLOW UP. I’ve asked my colleague if they’d accept this referral to and now I have to explain why there was no follow up. This affects my reputation. That’s why Inquisix allows members to rate the referral in both ways – rating how well one party handled the referral and how well the other party gave the referral.