Archive for January, 2010

Beginning the Planning Process - FOCUS

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Planning and goal setting begins with focus. Unless you have a laser guided vision of where you want to end up, you’ll never get there. It’s not all that important to know the details of how you’re going to get there. It is important to know where you’re going.

When I talk about focus, I’m concerned with the areas that are most important to us. This includes our customers, markets, distribution channels, technology, and people. If you try and plan without considering all these related areas, you’re bound to end up frustrated with a set of poor results. This leads me to one of the biggest goalsetting mistakes common to all most all of us.

It’s common to over estimate our goals. Be bold, but be realistic. You need some kind of reference point and a basis for making your assumptions. You can’t just say, “we’re gong to be a $20 million company by the end of 2010 when last year’s sales were only $500,000 and you have 2 employees. There are exceptions to this, but in general, being realistic is a big part.

Where I see the big focus challenge (myself included) is in being spread too thin over too many different areas. A good friend and mentor of mine recently told me, in his “down home” style, “Remember who brung ya to the dance.” By this he was telling me to focus on the customers, markets, etc that have made our success in the past possible. It’s far easier to expand business with someone you’re already doing business with than to abandon them and go running for the next biggest and greatest thing.

While we’re on the subject of focus, my wise friend also counseled me to stop “swinging for the fences all the time.” He was advising me to spend more of my time on work we would be certain of attaining and not spend too much time on speculative monster accounts. It’s ok to have some of that in your mix, but the stability of your company and your sales lies in diversification and with a customer base that appreciates what you do for them on a daily basis.

It’s much easier to please small to medium accounts than it is to cater to the whims of that big elephant. If you displease them or fail to deliver, you’re in big trouble when they leave. You aren’t nearly as exposed with more smaller accounts.

Look closely at all the key areas necessary to grow your business. Really drill down and look at how much capacity for growth you really have. This means knowing exactly who is going to be doing the work or how you’re going to pay for it. All of us are working thin after the last year. If you really want to grow, but can’t support that growth, there’s no point in driving forward.

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Great Ideas on Using LinkedIn

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I’m a huge believer in LinkedIn and other social media sites. They are, without a doubt, the next generation way to build our businesses. Today, I wanted to offer a guest blog post by Jim Gibson, publisher of Online Media Today. Jim’s blog post has created a great discussion in the Inbound Marketing Group on LinkedIn and I wanted to share it with you today. If you’re new to LinkedIn or want to get more out of using it, here are some great ideas. Enjoy.

By Jim Gibson - Publishing Partner, Online Media Today

Ten Tips When Using LinkedIn!

LinkedIn Tip #1: Have a Plan

Decide what you want to accomplish before you start. LinkedIn, like other business oriented social networking sites, offer a number of ways to generate the results you are after. Want to present your company? Looking for a job? Network with like-minded professionals? Need an answer? Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your space? Each of these approaches present excellent opportunities to leverage professional online networks but make sure your plan is solid before you start.

LinkedIn Tip #2: Make Your Profile Easy to Digest

Tell your story but keep it brief. Short, pithy, sentences are more likely to be read than lengthy paragraphs. It’s like an elevator pitch (explained in less than 1 minute). Use bullet points. Readers often scan content and bullets help to highlight your successes. Provide details of your work history and make sure to highlight your special skills. Above all, make sure to check for proper grammar. Make sure to use important keywords when describing your professional experiences as these can help others find you more easily. And before you post your profile, read it aloud to yourself to hear how it sounds or better yet, ask a colleague to read it and tell you what they think.

LinkedIn Tip #3 – Your Profile Photo

You must have a picture! But make sure it’s a good one and shows you in a professional light. This is not the time to be too cutesy. Don’t upload the picture you took at your last toga party. For women, this is not the time to strike that sexy pose. Choose a professional and friendly picture that demonstrates your real personality yet shows you are here for business.

LinkedIn Tip #4: Give (and ask for) Recommendations
If you want recommendations on your profile, be prepared to ask for them. Look at those you are connected to and offer recommendations to those who deserve them. Make them short and to the point and be sure to include specific accomplishments – don’t be too general. The more genuine the recommendation you give, the more likely it is to be returned. Rule of thumb: if someone gives you a recommendation, thank them first then return the favor!

LinkedIn Tip #5: Join Groups

Be a contributor. Generate posts and respond to discussions. Group interactions provide you and your company great exposure. Check out other member profiles and follow their discussions. This is a great way to identify valuable contacts and network in meaningful ways.

LinkedIn Tip #6: Be the first to comment!

Clearly, it’s important to engage and interact with your audience. This helps to establish you as a valued contributor and can lead to more meaningful connections. But what most people do is look for posts that already have lots of comments and, only then, do they add theirs to the mix. The common thought, naturally being, posting where there are lots of people = lots more visibility.

Don’t get me wrong - that’s cool. But the important thing here is to support the post originator and there’s nothing cooler than to give that first (note: quality) acknowledgement. People post on social sites in order to get feedback and hate it when a post goes virtually unnoticed. The first one to post is a welcome sight (Ahhh.. someone noticed!) and helps to foster a new relationship with the person who started the discussion in the first place! This is the true meaning of social networking - one on one. But, by building relationships intelligently, one on ones ultimately lead to one on many.

Don’t be afraid to be the first to post a comment. A good post originator will thank you, appreciate you and most of all notice you. It’s done this way in real world social settings so why not acknowledge its effectiveness in the virtual world as well.

LinkedIn Tip #7: Connect with Thought LeadersFind those considered leaders in your industry. Search by company to find the people who are true influencers and follow what they are doing. Research who your industry leaders are through existing trade publications and find them on LinkedIn. If they are and we share a contact I know well, reach out through the contact for an introduction.

LinkedIn Tip #8 – Selecting Groups

Search groups using industry keywords and related topics
Look at the groups of industry leaders, subject matter experts and top executives
Look at groups your connections are members of
Use pertinent Q&A category and ask what groups people belong to
Pose the question in your current groups: “What other groups do you find useful?”

LinkedIn Tip #9 – Use the Search Feature

Using the “Search function on your LinkedIn home page (upper right), you can “search” on People, Jobs, Companies, Answers, Inbox and Groups.

If you move to the right of the search box and click on “Advanced,” you can search on keywords, name, company (current and past), geographic location, industry, job title (current and past), school, groups, by language, by the interest of those being searched, when they joined LinkedIn, those in or out of your network, and by relevance – and any combination of the above.

Find the companies you want to do business with and the people you need to meet at those companies. With over 50,000,000 business professionals registered, your search results can pay big dividends

LinkedIn Tip #10: Use Applications

LinkedIn has teamed up with some of the Internet’s premier companies to offer registered users access to new applications that enable you to collaborate on projects, get key insights, and present your work to your audience in interactive ways. Have a Power Point presentation you want to share? Install the free SlideShare app and instantly share your presentation to a wider audience. Need to brainstorm with your team on a new idea? Load Huddle Workspaces on your profile and instantly collaborate with your colleagues. There are many apps to choose from and several are showcased at: http://learn.linkedin.com/apps/.

Planning for 2010 and Beyond

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

The first week of the New Year is always a special time for me. it’s when I sit down and try to objectively look at what happened in the previous year and plan for the coming year. For almost everyone 2009 was a train wreck of a year. The wheels came off and most companies are lucky to still be around. So, looking back for me was mostly painful. The only thing we can do is suck it up and keep moving forward. There aren’t going to be any quick fixes and fast turnarounds.

Planning is going to be the theme for January. Over the next month I’ll be blogging about how to set the course for your 2010 Business Plan so you can be as profitable and productive as possible. Here are some beginning thoughts to help you get started with your planning.

1) Focus, focus, focus. When I look back on ‘09, the single biggest thing I see was the disorganized, random, chaos of reaction. When things don’t go as planned, we react. Too often that reaction is unfocused and relevant to the event at hand. Our actions don’t fit into a bigger plan, so we aren’t nearly as efficient as we’d like to be. It is more or less like sticking your finger in the dike to stop the leak. It may fix the immediate, but it does nothing to address the bigger problem of why the dam is leaking in the first place.

Focus means selecting a course of action and sticking with it. You don’t have to get it all right, but you do need to concentrate on the desired outcome and fix on that. We can make minor corrections along the way, but don’t be tempted to make radical changes in midcourse.

2) Know what the outcome of your efforts is supposed to look like. Are you trying to add new customers? Increase sales? Increase frequency of sales? All of the above? Clearly define what your expected outcome is so you’ll know if you are on track or off course. Have Plan B, C, and D in place if you’re ahead of schedule, behind schedule, or on schedule. With alternatives in place, and a clear idea of the result you’re looking for, it makes it much easier to stay on target for your goals. This will help you avoid wholesale course direction changes that can stall your momentum and dilute your efforts. And it can help you from wasting time on nonproductive diversions.

3) Understand the difference between planning and action. The plan is the framework to achieve your results. It is strategic and should result in increased stability and soundness. The tactics or actions are how you’re going to get there. We tend to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy.

4) From Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders, “Begin with the End in Mind.” Define your ending point or year end goal for 2010 and begin piecing the parts together.

Over the next month, I’ll be concentrating on the planning process so by Feburary 1st, you’ll have a workable plan in place for you.

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