Digital Networking Tips for SME's

Last week I talked about the benefits of networking face to face and promised to look at networking digitally to enable business to grow. Confidence can often be a factor in avoiding going to events, but time is also a great excuse for not using networking as a valuable tool for marketing business and growing trust within your local area. Once investing time in this area businesses often find that networking offers far more value for money than advertising can achieve and from my own personal experience, I can highly recommend considering all forms of networking as a way of letting people know what your business has to offer.

To help you decide where beset to spend your time and what kind of networking you should consider you should start by analysing your business and considering your target markets. Remember to set short- and long-term goals as these can often differ dramatically and this could change the outcome of the analysis. Face to face networking could be good for local businesses looking for local customers as this will enable the community to hear about them from word of mouth.

For businesses whom have a target audience that is based all over the country and even the world, digital marketing could be the best approach for you as doing so can ensure you reach a much wider number of people. For those considering this here are some useful tips to consider:

·         Using your target market analysis investigate what types of social media they use and build a network on them. Don’t feel that you must do everything as being an SME you probably won’t have time to make it worthwhile, so it is essential to know where best to build to encourage networking with the right people.

·         LinkedIn is great for B2B but is not just full of executives as many have often suggested to me. It can be a great place to create a business page that can even act as a free website for you if this is an area you are lacking in. You can showcase everything you do and by sharing with relevant groups on the platform this can be a very good way to tell people what you do.

·         Facebook is often mistaken for a tool that is only used to talk with friends and family when it is a good place to meet people who are in the local area and may be interested in your company. Additionally, Facebook can be used to build a business profile and connect with other local businesses and consumers by joining groups and posting regularly there. As with any form of online marketing it is essential that you post regularly (but don’t spam people!), show your helpful side offering advice not just telling people what you sell and keep the topics current and relevant to encourage interest in what you are saying.

·         Instagram is a place where you will find lots of visual content so if you are looking for a creative target market then this could be for you. Offering your own visuals can encourage your network to grow.

·         YouTube is a fantastic place to showcase what you do and who you are. By creating your own how-to video’s people can find you when they are looking for tips on how to do something and once they can see you and what you offer is useful, trust will eventually build.

·         Once you have started to build your presence on social media and have added contacts and followed people whom you would like to form a relationship with you can slowly start to connect with them and even speak on a 1 to 1 basis either via chat or video call. Just remember though, people’s time is precious so don’t suggest this to soon or come over pushy as this will result in the opposite effect.

·         There are several online networking forums that often have a paid subscription or the ability to video chat in a larger group. These may be worth investing in, but you should be sure that you will get out of it a good access to the kind of target market that you want to attract, so shop around!

These are just a few ideas to help you on your way. You may be reading this thinking you do not know where to start with building your business network. If you are based or trading in Warwickshire or you are local and simply have a “pipe dream” that you would like to make true – CWRT can help you.

We offer free workshops and networking to guide you on your business journey and networking is only one of the areas that we will look at with you.

Contact Kerri or Jude us on 02476 551 777 to talk to us and take control of your destiny today.

Networking Tips for SME's

Starting in business can be daunting for anybody and the thought of going to a networking event can add to the stress due to the fear of standing up and presenting to people.

Personally, I have attended many forms of networking meetings and while some were more useful than others, I cannot stress enough how much value you can get out of going for any business.

For an SME the cost of joining a network can be something that you feel is unnecessary but from the outside looking in I can see how being a member could bring more short term business than placing an advert in a magazine as well as bring long term relationships and ongoing business week after week.

We all have the same excuses for not wanting to attend ranging from lack of confidence to not having the time and from worrying about the expense to childcare constraints. It is important to look at networking as an investment in time to grow success and believe me the more you do it the easier it gets.

For those considering networking have a look at these helpful tips to guide you in your journey:

·        There are a wide range of networking companies who you can go to for free as a guest to see if you like it, although some charge for breakfast. Some of these include the BNI, B2B and FaB, if you search you will find plenty of them and you can book online. A good starting place is looking on Eventbrite as many of these advertise on the site.

·        Before you attend make sure you speak to the organiser and understand what the session will be like and what they expect from you. This will help you to be prepared and should help you feel less anxious about going along. Be prepared to stand up and talk about your business for around 60 seconds as this is often the norm. Also make sure you take plenty of business cards with you.

·        At each event make sure that you collect everyone’s business cards and make thorough notes while each speak about themselves. I have never been to an event where people have not come straight over to me and asked questions so if like me you worry about approaching people yourself, you needn’t worry.

·        Remember it is not all about you, take a valid interest in another people’s business and consider how you can help them. I have never met a salesperson who can do well from selling from the first breath they take. Trust in business goes a long way and building a rapport with potential customers is often the first step to them wanting to ask you for help.

·        After the event don’t wait long before emailing and calling everyone to introduce yourself again and to ensure they can get in touch if needs be. While you are fresh in people’s mind, they are more likely to reply.

Networking events are a great way of getting your business known but there are other ways you can do this if you don’t want to go to these kinds of meetings. Social Media is a very powerful tool and if used correctly can do a lot for free. My next blog will look at this in more detail.

These are just a few ideas to help you on your way. You may be reading this thinking you do not know where to start with building your business network. If you are based or trading in Warwickshire or you are local and simply have a “pipe dream” that you would like to make true – CWRT can help you.

We offer free workshops and networking to guide you on your business journey and networking is only one of the areas that we will look at with you.

Contact us on 02476 551 777 to talk to us and take control of your destiny today.

Are You Using Social Media to It's Full Potential?

Starting or running your own business can feel like being faced with having to push a boulder up an icy mountain. One of the biggest business risks is cash-flow and it can often be a barrier to taking the leap and doing something that you are passionate about.

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As a former business person myself I understand how daunting business can be and following my own experience I would like to share some tips that I have found useful along the way, at regular times throughout the coming months.

Social Media is often perceived to be used solely as a sales tool and with a market saturated in “Social Media Experts” it can be easy for a small business to be persuaded to spend money they cannot afford on these services when actually what they do is not difficult to achieve yourself with guidance.

One of the common misconceptions about social media is that it is not required unless you are looking at boosting sales. Many businesses forget the power that social media has on reputation and by ignoring comments that could be visible for the world to see you could be loosing more than a few customers.

On the reverse side if you can embrace using social media for customer service and for boosting reputation you can avoid making mistakes that could break your business. In the digital age it is easy to manipulate people’s opinions using online media tools and while many are controlled by large corporate organisations, there are independent review sites around where you will find a rare opportunity to view and demonstrate freedom of speech. 

Here are some pro-active tips that I would suggest to make the most of social media:

·       Depending on your product / service and target market it is essential to make yourself aware of every online platform where reviews can be shared. Some of the top sites are Tripadvisor, Trust Pilot, Glassdoor and Google but most major retailers have their own review systems to encourage future orders such as Amazon, Ebay and Booking.com. While time consuming it is important to activate alerts where possible and respond to every post that is given. Don’t forget to ignore the positive reviews as answering these only strengthens the case that the customer has given about you.

·       Make yourself known on social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You should thoroughly invest time in building as much information about your business on these sites as they can serve as a free advertising tool if used correctly.

·       Post relevant information often and ensure that you add hash tags and relevant key words as this can mean potential customers who search for that word can find you. You can set up automatic postings on most sites so that you can even do this without it impacting on the other priorities of your day.

·       Speak to people who are members of relevant social groups. Join as many as you can and don’t be afraid to offer friendly advice, support or tips as these can often lead to trust and this trust is a firm foundation to build repeat custom on.

These are just a few ideas to help you on your way. You may be reading this thinking you do not know where to start with building your social media image. If you are based or trading in Warwickshire or you are local and simply have a “pipe dream” that you would like to make true – CWRT can help you.

We offer free workshops to guide you on your business journey and social media is only one of the areas that we will look at with you. Contact Kerri or Jude on 02476 551 777 to talk to us and take control of your destiny today.

British Business Bank’s Flagship Enterprise Finance Guarantee programme passes £3bn lending milestone to smaller businesses

British Business Bank’s Flagship Enterprise Finance Guarantee programme passes £3bn lending milestone to smaller businesses

“The Enterprise Finance Guarantee is an important option for smaller businesses who need access to finance to grow, but struggle to meet the lender’s normal security requirements."

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