April 28, 2011

Quora

A website devoted to answering people’s questions on a variety of subjects. The twist with Quora is that it allows you to interact with others on the site and develop relationships while also giving a sense of fun. Two reasons to use it: to build your expertise and to get answers to questions. Click here to try it out.

Requesting a Testimonial

You might be surprised at how many small business owners don’t collect testimonials on a regular basis. When I ask clients for testimonials to put on their newsletter, brochure or website, there is often a big scramble to start gathering them. I was like that too, till my marketing guru Debi Hartlen MacDonald set me straight about it a few years ago.

What do testimonials do for you?
  • Provide social proof
  • Position you as the expert
  • Answer questions that your prospect has about working with you, even though s/he may not ask outright
There are two activities you can undertake:

1. Put a process in place to collect testimonials as part of your sales process. For example, when I send an invoice, I request a testimonial at the same time. Using an online app like LinkedIn makes it easy. When you receive testimonials, keep them all in one place. Copy them into a text document and keep them in a folder. Or immediately post them to your website and make that your collection point. (Here's my list.)

2. Launch a project to collect testimonials from previous clients. Compile a list of your current and past clients. Identify the ones that you would like to have testimonials from. Don’t just include your ‘high ticket’ customers. Chose the ones you most enjoyed working with, the size of company that you prefer, the culture you felt comfortable with, etc.

Testimonials are more effective when they're specific. Make it as easy as possible on your customer. Generate a list of questions that your customers can respond to. When formulating your questions, think measurable results. Don’t use questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Use your testimonials everywhere. Put at least one testimonial on every page of your website. Use them as headlines; use them in sidebars and footers. Use them in brochures, emails, and online profiles.

One last point… you shouldn’t worry that you are ‘bothering’ your customers. If you have done a good job, your customers will be more than willing to sing your praises.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on April 28, 2011

April 12, 2011

Get Your Own Board of Directors

Mastermind groups can take many forms. I have been fortunate to be a member of several wonderful groups. In some cases, we didn't call them mastermind groups... but that's what they were.

The concept comes from Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich. He defines the mastermind principle:

Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.

The purpose of your group can vary greatly. One that stands out for me was a group of facilitators, trainers and coaches. For almost 4 years, we met quarterly to spend a day training each other and sharing best practices. Oh yeah, we also had a ton of laughs and became great friends.

A type of group popular with small business owners takes the form of a board of directors. Each member gains from the others' experiences and skills. You can see opportunities from a different perspective, get challenged, create plans and be held accountable, access your peers' resources, share a sense of endeavour and develop your skills. This works great if you keep the group small - 2 to 4 people.

Here are some other models commonly used:
  • accountability
  • problem-solving
  • book club
  • business process
  • professional development

Clearly defining the group's purpose is really really important. (Yes, I said really twice... because it really is important!) Without a common understanding, things can fall apart fast. And trust is, of course, essential.