Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Business Networking Articles The Networking Gurus

Business Networking Events: How to Know Where to Go

You've heard all the buzz about networking being one of the best ways to grow your business or advance your career and you're ready to give it a try. You know it’s through your relationships with other people that you will make the connections you need to be successful in your career or business.

But how do you find these places to network? What do you need to get ready before you go to a networking event? What's the best way to work the room once you're there? And when it's all over, what kind of follow up should you do?

Don't worry, help is here!

This month's networking tip focuses on how to find places to network. To find networking opportunities, it helps if first you know who you want to meet. Once you know that, it's easy to discover where to go. Start by creating a list of the type of people you want in your network. Ask yourself:
- Who do I want to build relationships with? Customers, clients, colleagues, competitors? People from a specific industry or profession? What interests do these people share? Where do they spend time?

Networking opportunities occur almost every day, practically anywhere and at anytime. You've got your business functions, chamber events, the golf course, association meetings, and leads groups. And that's just the beginning. What about your athletic club, your yoga class, the PTA, the chair lift or an airplane?

You can network at any of these places, and we recommend that you do, however, there are at least five types of groups where you can go to grow your network:
1. Business Networking Groups
2. Leads Groups
3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups
4. Community Service Groups
5. Special Interest Groups

1. Business Networking Groups - A wide variety of groups fall within this category, most of them meeting monthly. These groups are set up for the primary purpose of networking and usually include people from a mix of industries. They may meet at breakfast, lunch, or after work. Some groups have a structured format, while others have an unstructured mix and mingle format. Some require membership and allow guests; others are open to anyone and everyone. If you are shy, you may find that groups with a more structured format work better for you than the informal mixers and receptions.

2. Leads Groups - The primary purpose of a Leads Group is to exchange leads and contacts. These groups tend to meet weekly, usually at breakfast or lunch, and have a very structured format, which can be good if you're shy or new to networking. Leads groups require membership and are "exclusive," meaning that only one member in each category of business can join. Each group will have only one financial advisor, one coach, one massage therapist, one realtor, and so on. There are private Leads Groups and Leads Groups within most Chambers of Commerce.

3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups - These groups are organized around an industry or a profession. While networking happens at these events, their primary purpose is usually educational. These are a great place to meet colleagues or competitors. You could also attend the groups your prospects, clients, or referral partners belong to.

4. Community Service Groups - A large number of public and private organizations exist whose main purpose is providing service to others. There are charitable or fund raising groups, civic, community, political and religious groups, to name a few. These groups allow you to meet like-minded people and to contribute at the same time.

5. Special Interest Groups - These are the fun groups! Another way to meet people is to participate in activities of personal interest to you. Whatever your interest, there's probably a group you can join. You'll find book clubs, chess clubs, and hiking clubs. There are dance classes, yoga classes, volleyball leagues, and more.

Now that you know who you want to meet and what types of groups these people might attend, it's time for you to find some events to go to. Here are five ways for you to begin creating your own list of places to network:

1. The easiest way to find networking events is to ask people. Ask your friends and colleagues if they belong to any groups or attend any networking events and let them know you're interested in going with them.

2. Your local newspaper or business journal will often list business networking events, but more and more these papers are publishing this list online rather than in their printed paper.

3. The Internet is a good place to look for events. Typing “networking events [your city name]” into a search engine will pull up a variety of events.

4. You can also look in the Yellow Pages or directories of associations for the names of associations and professional organizations. Your local library will have copies of these directories.

5. If you live in the Denver area, one of the easiest ways to find a comprehensive listing of business networking events is to subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, The Networking Gurus News, a monthly listing of all major networking events in the Denver area. You can view it and subscribe online at http://thenetworkinggurus.com.

To decide which groups to attend, ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
- What kind of people attend?
- How often does the group meet?
- What is the usual structure of the meeting?
- Is there usually a speaker?
- How much time is allotted for actual networking?
- How many people typically attend?
- What is the cost of attending?
- What are the time, place and dates of upcoming meetings?

Once you have gone through this process, you will be set to find groups that are right for you and your networking needs. Enjoy, and happy networking. Be sure to read next month’s tip, which will tell you how to prepare for an event before you go.

This article, copyright Donna Feldman & Cindy Rold, The Networking Gurus. All rights reserved. The Networking Gurus web site is a comprehensive resource of business networking events, skills and information for busy business professionals. For free networking resources visit http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

VA Virtual Summit downloads!

Are you a Virtual Professional? Did you miss the IVAA Virtual Educational Summit last week?

Never fear - the downloads are here! :)

We are excited to announce that all session recordings from last week's online Educational Summit are available for purchase for the next 30 days. For only $45, you can download 21 sessions covering topics including marketing, collaboration tools, Sharepoint, technology, subcontracting, VA training, and much more!

Go to http://www.vasummit.org/registration2006.htm to pay, after which you will receive a link to the download site.

Each session includes video as well as audio. Please note that in order to view the video files, you will need ActiveX controls enabled in your web browser during viewing.

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to learn from experts in our field!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Before You Buy Software on eBay

I've found many great deals on Ebay - even on much needed software. Most of the time I get what's advertised. Once in a while I get pirated software. Before you buy,check out these important tips from Digital Inspiration!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

7 Strategies for Choosing an Effective Domain Name by Online Business Coach Donna Gunter

A great article from Donna Gunter...
~ Cindy
A friend of mine calls me the "Domain Queen", since at one time I owned around 50 domains. I've let many of them go (I own only 22 now) as my business has changed and developed, or I've just simply lost interest in the project. I'm often asked how I go about picking effective domain names, so as the "Domain Queen", I'll share my thought process with you.

1. What's the purpose of the domain name? Are you planning on using this name as the main website for your company, as a one page sales letter site, or squeeze page site? If the domain name will be your primary company website, try and find the closest version to your company name that you can. If you're just starting out, choose your business name and domain name with care. When I started my virtual assistant practice, I chose the name SOHO Business Solutions, as I thought everyone knew that SOHO stood for Small Office, Home Office. I think I've run into 2 people in my 7 years in business who knew what that acronym stood for. If I had it to do over again for this business, I would choose a business name and domain name with virtual assistant in the title, like InternetMarketingVirtualAssistant.com, a name I just recently purchased.

If the purpose of a domain is for a one-page sales letter site or a squeeze page, think ahead as to how you might promote this site. Because content is king in today's internet marketing world, there's little chance that either of these types of sites would be picked up by the search engines on key words. Therefore, your best promotion strategy is PPC, or "pay per click", where you're buying keywords for placement in search engines. If you're buying keywords from Google, for example, the paid listings appear at the top of a search in a blue box, or down the right-hand side of your screen. You want to be sure that the info displayed there is compelling enough to get someone to click and visit your site. So, for example, I've created a squeeze page, GetMoreClientsOnline.com, which has a compelling solution to a common problem that my clients have, as a side door gateway to my OnlineBizCoachingCompany.com coaching website.

2. Brainstorm a list of ideas of the problem you're trying to solve or the solution that you have. A domain name that clearly indicates what you do, or a problem that you solve, or a solution that you have to a problem will give a visitor a fairly clear picture of what s/he'll find on your website. What I typically do is go to my domain registrar, www.UltraNetDomains.com, and just start plugging in the names I'm brainstorming until I come up with 3 or 4 that are available. If the domain name that you type in isn't available, the service will come up with 10 or so alternates for you to consider. I found this alternate listing quite helpful recently in picking the name of an article directory site that I want to create.

3. For SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes, it helps to have your keywords in your domain name. Marla Regan, who's a professional organizer, has put two keywords in her domain name, OrganizedTime.com. Retirement Coach Lin Schreiber has her keyword niche in her domain, RevolutionizeRetirement.com. Consultant John Reddish has the desired outcome keywords in his domain, GetResults.com. I own a domain that I haven't yet developed for house sitters, BecomeAHouseSitter.com. Before buying your domain, make a list of keywords that someone might use to find you online. This list could include your industry, your target market or niche, a problem your target market has, or a solution that you can offer.

4. Shorter is better, if it's to be your primary domain. I haven't always followed my own rules here, as I tend to have business names that are quite lengthy. If the domain name is going to be your primary domain where your primary email address will be housed, you want your domain name to be as short, catchy, and memorable as possible. After a few times of spelling out your lengthy email address, you'll come to appreciate the beauty of a short domain name. Your domain name can contain up to 67 letters and numbers, although I would encourage you not to have one of this length, and can contain no special characters other than hyphens.

5. Purchase your your given name as a domain name. I typically tell my clients not to try and brand their given name as their business name, as that takes many years, much money, and lots of hard work to have the name recognition of Oprah, for example. However, it still pays to purchase your given name as a domain name, as well as any common misspellings of your name. Many people think my name is Donna Gunther, with an "h" in the last name, but I've been unable to register that common misspelling of my name, as a photographer in Venice, CA, has owned in since 2000. Once you've purchased your name as a domain, you can redirect it to your primary website. This means that when someone types in a domain, they land at the website to which you pointed that domain. So, currently DonnaGunter.com redirects to OnlineBizCoachingCompany.com because I don't want to use my name as a website, although that might change in the future.

6. Buy the .COM version of the name if it is available. When people hear a domain name, they "hear" .COM whether it's .NET or .BIZ or .ORG or whatever. So, it pays to find a domain name that you like that is part of the .COM family. If you just can't get the name you want, try a hyphenated version of the .COM name. For example, when I was seeking a domain name for my Self-Employment Coaching Gym, I really wanted SelfEmploymentSuccess.com, but it wasn't available. However, Self-Employment-Success.com was available, so I grabbed that. Many SEO specialists state that search engines like hyphenated names, and many online business owners use hyphenated keywords in their domain names to be more attractive to search engines. I don't have a clear answer as to the validity of this theory, so I just advocate going this route before having to resort to the .NET or .BIZ of the name you desire. Some domain name holders may be willing to sell you the domain name that you want. You can find out who owns a domain name by checking the WhoIs Registry at Internic, http://www.internic.net/whois.html. For info about country codes (two-letter) top-level domains (.UK or .CA, for example) visit http://www.uwhois.com/cgi/domains.cgi?User=NoAds

7. Consider owning other versions of your primary domain name. If you are registering the .COM version of a domain for your business, you may also want to secure variations of the name, alternate spellings, common misspellings, and the .NET and .ORG versions of your domain and repoint them to your main site to keep them out of the hands of your competitors. You can also go broke very quickly by purchasing all of these variations, so exercise some restraint in your purchases and don't go crazy with purchasing every single variation of your domain name. For my coaching company site, I own both the OnlineBizCoachingCompany.com and OnlineBusinessCoachingCompany.com and decided that was good enough.

Your domain name is the beginning of the establishment of your presence online, Take some time and put some thought into the process so that the domain name serves you well in the years to come, and is an effective tool for helping you get more clients online.

(c) 2007 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at http://www.GetMoreClientsOnline.com. Read about running an online biz at our blog, http://www.getmoreclientsonlineblog.com.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bet your car!

As an admitted procrastinator who works well on a deadline, I found this week's article by Robert Middleton speaking directly to me!
~ Cindy

Bet Your Car

Last week I talked about your intentions for the New Year. But now that it's here, what are you actually going to do?

In my Marketing Action Groups, a participant would often set a goal to perform a marketing activity such as writing an article or setting up a speaking engagement. And frequently they would get stuck or go off track.

When this happened I often used my "bet your car" strategy:

"You've said you'd do this for several weeks and you haven't. I realize you're stuck. But I also know you know what to do. So I'd like to make a bet with you. I'd like you to bet your car that you'll get this done this week. Are you willing to bet your car?"

"You mean, if I didn't get it done, you'd get my car?" (Realize that a dozen or more other participants were listening in on the conference call at the time.)

"Yes. I'd get your car. Are you up to it?"

"Well, yeah, I guess I am. I'll do it. I'll bet my car that it will get done!" This was followed by loud cheers from the group on the call.

And guess what? It always got done. Usually with a lot less effort than they had expected.

The lesson is simple: When you make a promise with real consequences, something changes. Reality sets in. The mind's homing mechanism goes into action. Since there's no way they're going to give away their car, they find a way to get it done.

The thing is, you can't keep betting your car. (What if you actually lost it?!) This is a useful wake up call. But it's easy to slip back into the comfort zone of doing only what's necessary to get by. Before you know it, you're stuck and off track again.

So how do you get unstuck and stay on track?

There are some very practical and powerful ways to do this. Here are some that have worked for me and my program participants.

Action or Consequences
This is just a variation on the theme of betting your car, except the bet is smaller and it's for real. If you don't take the action, you pay the consequence. One of my favorite is paying $25 to a political party you don't like if you don't take the action.

Make a Public Promise
Declare that you will be doing a particular marketing action by a definite date. Make it public to a group of your peers (such as in a mastermind group.) And ask them to hold you accountable. Don't let each other off the hook. Be ruthlessly supportive.

Write it Down
Intentions that get written down have a much higher chance of getting completed. Put the goal on your master projects list; create a detailed action plan; put specific action steps on your daily to-do list. Keep them on the list until done.

Put it on the Calendar
If you want to do speaking engagements or teleclasses, book them first, then promote, then develop the program. Most do it in reverse, perfecting the program before committing to a date. This can lead to procrastination through perfectionism.

Get Support
Sometimes it's not just a matter of doing it, it's a question of how to do it. You may need input, brainstorming, guidance or consulting before you're ready to commit to getting it done. But my recommendation is to commit first, then get support.

Question your Thoughts
Once you commit to something, your resistance just may kick in.
And you'll find a way to talk yourself out of it. Thoughts that say, "I can't do it, I can't find the time, and I'll only be rejected anyway," are worth close examination. Don't believe everything you think! Be your commitments, not your thoughts.

Create a Bigger Vision
This may be the most effective of all. I've noticed that clients who have a burning desire to create a successful business don't get easily stopped by challenging marketing activities. They just find a way. Think big and your enthusiasm will carry the day.

The More Clients Bottom Line - It's often less important what marketing activities you do than it is finding a way to carry them through to completion. Master this and you'll be unstoppable.

© 2006 Robert Middleton, All rights reserved.
By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert's web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.