Where do you turn to when you need business advice?
Every entrepreneur knows the value of speaking to their peers, especially when they operate a home-based business or small enterprise and rely on a close network of trusted advisors.
We recently held our annual conference in beautiful Montreal, Canada, where our franchisees came together to discuss trends in the market and business best practices. These are some of the most successful franchisees in all of North America, and the conference gave everyone a chance to learn what works, what doesn’t, how to offer a better customer experience and most importantly, how to grow a profitable business the right way.
We gathered some of the best advice from franchisees throughout the conference to share with you as fellow business pros.
Tip 1: Build your referral network
Everyone has their traditional network of contacts, but not everyone has built a true referral network out of those contacts.
To start, create a list of all your contacts, personal and professional. Gather these from every possible source – and we mean every source – family, friends, business cards, old Rolodex files, every person you’ve ever emailed and all your LinkedIn contacts. Create a spreadsheet of all these contacts and this will be your master list.
Rank those contacts from 1 – 4 based on their potential to generate referrals. This is your starting point for finding the right contacts at the right time and building an incredible referral program.
In future posts, we’ll discuss how to use this referral list to connect with the right people via social networks, email campaigns, in-person meetings and special events.
Tip 2: Build an email list using social media
A regular e-newsletter to your contacts is a fantastic way to turbo-charge your business relationships and reach out for referrals.
As a starting point, use LinkedIn to build out your email list. If you have an existing email list, you can match it to your LinkedIn contacts and add to your list with online connections. One business owner increased his list from 300 to 1100 using primarily this tactic.
Once your list is ready, send out a monthly newsletter that provides valuable content to your readers, and ensure that you include a call-to-action asking for referrals. You can use software like MailChimp to easily manage your list and emails.
Even with a straightforward monthly e-newsletter you can get 500 views relatively quickly and make use of those valuable connections.
Tip 3: Join local business associations
Local Chambers of Commerce are a fantastic way to reach out to your business community. Every business owner should visit their local Chamber as a starting point, and then ask about related associations relevant to your industry.
Many Chambers run workshops, special events and networking groups and sessions that can include one-on-ones between business owners. This is a great way to meet peers in your community and get to know each other face-to-face, making it easier to give and receive referrals from one another.
Tip 4: Hold events in the local community
Speaking of Chambers of Commerce, you can often take advantage of their space for minimal or no charge. If you are setting up a special client event, see if you can hold it at the Chamber, which is generally a centrally located and well-maintained space.
And make those local events memorable. Use food, drink and entertainment to make your guests happy they attended. Most importantly, they’ll associate positive sentiment with you and your business brand.
Tip 5: Convenience is key when it comes to client meetings
Consider the location and timing of any events, meetings and mixers you hold for your clients. Make it convenient, as they are doing you a favour by being there.
If you’re meeting for a quick coffee, find a unique space close to their office. Or if time is tight, bring them coffee and snacks to their office and your meeting will be much more welcome. If you’re holding a special event, make sure you define specific start and end times, and stick to them. Your clients’ schedules are just as important as the event itself.
Tip 6: Show some love in return
If your clients attended your events, return the favour and support them at any functions they run. It could be a monthly mixer or a fundraising event, but they’ll notice and appreciate the support.
Get bonus points by following them on social media and then retweeting or posting something about their events to help spread the word.
Tip 7: Consider your “Return on Time”
We all focus on ROI, but do you look at your ROT – return on time?
What networking activities are you doing on a regular basis and how much time does it take to complete those tasks? You can do a quick analysis of your daily, weekly and monthly networking activities and determine what’s really paying off. If there’s something that gives you a high ROT, then continue and potentially expand that activity. Conversely, if sometimes is a massive time drain and “bad ROT,” then consider putting a hold on that activity.
Bonus: Chat to your business partners
All the vendors and partners you work with have likely gone through similar business issues and growing pains. And they are likely always looking for good advice and improving their contacts as well. If you’re looking for advice from peers, why not chat with one of your trusted partners? At Liquid Capital, we are always happy to chat with our clients and help businesses grow.