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10 steps to a better '__________' business
by Bob Hooey

The following ideas have proven effective for the enhancement of 'any' business. Fill in the '__________' with your field, and apply accordingly.

However, since I am primarily in the speaking and training business, I will share ideas based on what I am learning in my quest to make what I do more productive, value-added and more attractive to my potential clients. Ideas to make sure I stay competitive in this growing field. I am sure you will be able to see how you can apply them to your specific business or areas of concern. The ideas are portable. :
  • Use client testimonials:
    People hire speakers and trainers based on several factors: They have heard us speak personally; someone they trust has heard us; or another speaker or client has heard us and says nice things about what we did for them.

    They do not 'normally' hire on the basis of a cold call. They may if the timing is correct, but will still go back to one of the above three factors as a part of their decision process. In the personal or professional services area this is very true and for effective, profitable, long term businesses as well.

    In my case, I have found this to be true as the majority of my engagements come from referrals or via contact through my websites.

    This applies to any business format, and is important, as it helps minimize the risk factor in the decsion process to engage or do business with us.

  • How can you ensure your clients talk about what you've done for them?
  • How do you get them to do so?

    Two points:
    • Do a simply outstanding job and keep in touch afterwards - remember out of sight out of mind and out of business, and;
    • Ask them to give you feedback on what you did and how it affected or assisted them in their business. Ask for quantified answers, if you can get them, as they are more effective tools. Ask permission to quote!

    Here is a sample from one of my clients:

    "Without doubt, I have gained immeasurable self assurance. Bob, your patience and your encouragement have been much appreciated. I strongly recommend your course to anyone looking for self-improvement and professional development."
    -- Jeannie Mura, Human Resources, Chevron Canada

  • Make your website a resource:
    If you are not already on line, you are in a positon to be be left behind in your potential client's mind.

    Out of sight is out of business!

    The internet is rapidly beginning to replace the yellow pages as a form of research for client use. It is also becoming a source of credibity as well as visibility.

    Start with making sure you are on-line and that your website covers the basics:
    • Who you are?;
    • What you do?;
    • What you offer?;
    • What do 'real' people say about you (client testimonials)?
    You can do that with a simple one or two page website, and build your value from there.

    Then move into the process of making your website a value-added resource base that people will want to put on their favorites and return again and again. Have some articles or tips that will help your readers. Include some inspiration. Give your visitors more information on the behind the scenes workings of your business or services.

    We've been working to do just that! For example we revamped our Articles Page into 'A Creative Collection of Wisdom and Writing' website. I invited some of North America's top experts and speakers to share their wisdom along with my own and will keep adding over the years.

    I've found this to be on of the most productive things I've done to assist my potential clients in the last five years.

    We also noticed quite a few of our contracts were from 'new' or inexperienced meeting planners. We created a special resource based website to assist them in planning and hosting a successful meeting, training event or conference.

    The majority of my promotion directs people to my various sites, as they are a great sales tool. In the past year, with all its turbulance, my websites have accounted for more than 40% of my new clientelle.

  • Build rapport with clients... teach or provide something new:
    I got my start in the speaking business when I was a kitchen designer by offering in-house and continuing education programs to assist my potential clients in their quest for a better kitchen. Along the way I wrote, "How to Remodel Your Kitchen & Stay Married!" as a tool to help them prepare and survive the marriage stretching and stressing kitchen rennovation.

    In any business, we are more successful when percieved as value-added or solutions-oriented or as experts in our field. Make sure they see that you are there to help them and are committed to their success.

    I often thank my clients for allowing me to be a part of their success team in their training program or conference. It is a statement of commitment on my part and a reminder to me to always seek to add value and build on the relationship. Hey, and it helps with the referrals as well.

  • Promote your delivery timelines and other uniquenesses:
    Do you have something special or unique you do in relation to how quickly you can respond, a service, or deliver on a request? Is there a way to capitalize on something you do and do consistently well. Remember the Domino's Pizza lesson in revamping the Pizza delivery concept.

    Are you available to fill-in for a speaker who cannot make it, can you market to your local convention market on this basis? I had this happen once and was asked to MC and open for Wayne Dyer… the result a client hired me for two conferences, one in Cancun, Mexico that year.

    Might not be a bad idea to become known to the local convention market and hotels with convention space. They often get asked for referrals! And if they know you, they might just promote you!

    Can your business offer back up or fill-in services to a specific client base? Might be a way to get your toe in the door and demonstrate first-hand what you deliver.

  • Co-promote with strategic alliances:
    Our global enconomy is getting more competitive on an hourly basis. If they don't know you, how will they find you?

    And how will they know to hire you? This is a challenge that faces every type of business professional, in that they must find an effective way to get through the overload of 'messages' bombarding their potential clients, tell their stories, and entice or inspire them to make contact. Working together is a tool that is underutilized.

    One of the interesting things we've been seeing is former competitors joining forces to co-promote where previously they would not have even said good morning. This can be a very effective tool as you get to know other professionals in your field and what they offer. As speakers, I have found that 'speakers promote speakers' and have had specific referrals that have turned into speaking engagements.

  • Who in your industry might promote you?
    I've also had the privilege of being able to do the same for fellow speakers within CAPS and NSA, and do gladly when I know they will do a good job for the client. Again, it is a matter of referral based on professionalism in the field. On a simply accounting point of view it makes promotional work feasible as well.

    Speakers, like other business professionals, work together to produce co-op newsletters, Web-sites, advertisements in Meeting planner guides, brochures, boot camps, and anthologies which can be a nice augment to your product offering as well.

    Who can you and your team partner with to capture or create new contacts, clients and markets?

    A new idea would be to work together with other speakers or business owners for a CD-Rom business card or resource program that can be used by each one.

  • Sell an inexpensive introductory product:
    If you are in a position that you have a product line, make it easy for people to start dealing with you. Find something that they will enjoy using and get them on your client list.

    Perhaps you can also offer something for free or nominal cost to get them hooked? This is a great way to get people to test you or sign up for a free ezine… offer them a free report or checklist.

  • Use business discussion and news groups:
    These internet based groups are a source of business research and if you are careful a source of subtle self promotion and awareness. A word of caution here, don't be overtly commercial as it will backfire on you big time! Take it slow, get to know the group and look for genuine ways to contribute.

  • Personalize with your picture:
    People like to deal with real people. Even if your business is internet based, they like to know that there is a real person or persons behind the product or service they acquire from you.

    Include pictures of your staff and don't be afraid to show them your human side too. As speakers and trainers especially, we are in the personal services business. Make sure it is a current picture and that it shows you smiling. Afterall, they want to be able to recognize you when you walk off that plane.

    Personalize your business - you'll be glad you did!

    This helps in any business, as it creates a visual impression of a real person - in our global ecomony this can be an edge!

  • Up-sell to all of your clients... add on, premium, extras, or related items:
    This is one of the three success secrets of generating additional business and increasing your bottom line. Design what you offer so you can provide a choice of at least three levels: good, better, best and then offer it to each client.

    Don't be afraid to ask for the order and the upgrade…remember a simple…'would you like fries with that?" has made MacDonald's very profitable. Look for ways to add other items to your product or service mix that will be a benefit to your clients.

    Can you offer consulting, facilitation, team training, executive debriefing sessions, panel moderation, company spokesmanship or multiple sessions that save your clients additional airfare and expenses?

    If so, then offer them! This is where you prove your commitment to your clients and stand behind the value of what you offer.

  • Bonus: Ask for referrals:
    Here is the business building secret of superstars in sales, and in every field of business. "Who else do you know that would benefit or be interested in what I offer?" Then give them ideas of who… eg… what about your banker, suppliers, etc… that will jog their minds so they actually think of someone and give you their name as a referral.

    Why is it we often work dilligently to get their business and then, after we have knocked their socks off with our superb execution, that we fall short of asking them to share us with those they know and care about? Ask, and ye shall receive!

    © Copyright 2002-2005 Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey All rights Reserved. Used with permission of the author.

    About the author:

    Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey is a productivity strategist and creativity catalyst who regularly writes for North American Consumer and Trade Journals, on-line magazines and company intranets. He is the author of nine books, a mini-book series, four success systems and an e-book series. Bob was the 48th person in the history of Toastmasters International to earn their coveted professional level Accredited Speaker designation

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