The Beat Goes On : Visit the Job Boards

As the coronavirus continues to stalk the land and our political leaders and many citizens continue to see a business shutdown as the only response, making a living has become very difficult for the 57 million Freelance Professionals in the U.S. (Statista). If our clients don’t work, neither do we.

Federal government relief was rumored to be on the way, but I don’t see any evidence of it. It’s probably going to be smarter to put one’s energy into finding projects from a mix of new and current clients (same as it ever was!).

Still, maintaining the discipline and enthusiasm required for a job hunt is difficult and discouraging when the prospects for success appear bleak. But if you can make yourself surf through job board listings three times per week, you might come up with a project, however small.

I am most grateful that my largest client came through and asked me to provide a one hour marketing consultation with one of their clients, an RN/ Nurse Practitioner and midwife who recently launched a Freelance business that focuses on hormone management in women, from post-partum to menopausal. BTW, I sent Easter/ Passover cards to a select group of clients, including this one, and thank heaven my outreach paid off!

Among the marketing strategies the RN will pursue as she builds her Freelance consultancy is a new website, which will function as a lead generator. I was so excited to be able to refer to the RN a Freelance web developer with whom I had worked a few years ago. I’ve reached out to him and as soon as his schedule allows, I’ll conduct an email introduction and hope that the relationship will be fruitful.

That is how we’ll make it through this never-before-experienced crisis, my Freelancer friends. We must rally forward and do some job hunting at least two or three times each week for at least an hour at a time and as well we ought to remember to refer our colleagues along the way.

Now about the job boards—-I found a few possibilities, some familiar and others unexpected, to help you jump-start the client building work,

Aquent

Specialties covered include Management, Marketing, IT Design, Managed Services and Professional Development. Some workers can qualify to receive benefits. Free online training courses for workers are also available. http://acquent.com

This company is strictly top- drawer and seeks only cream of the crop gig workers. Extended Workforce Services is what the company provides and the work assignments may not be remote; there are 35+ offices around the world, primarily in the U.S.

Guru

The site boasts that prospective employers will work with among the most talented professionals in the field, regardless of the assignment. Among the services provided are translation/ writing, legal services, architecture & engineering, marketing & sales, business & finance, software development & programming and administrative services. https://www.guru.com/d/jobs/

LinkedIn ProFinder

The ProFinder algorithm sends jobs to your inbox, thus eliminating the need to continually search for employment possibilities. Only five proposals are accepted for each assignment, so time matters for assignments that appear very attractive .

Proposals are short, which allows bidders to quickly put themselves into consideration but limits one’s ability to sell oneself in some instances.

I’ve submitted 8 -10 proposals over the past 12 – 18 months, and I came close to being hired only once. The project was interesting and the rate of pay offered was very decent. The lady who interviewed me over the telephone was very nice and also honest.

That said, I still recommend that you sign up for ProFinder, create a profile and compete for assignments. The first 10 submitted proposals are accepted at no charge but to submit additional proposals the job seeker must join LinkedIn Premium at $60/ month and that is steep. Depending on your luck, you may decide to pay up and roll the dice on being hired. Or you’ll pull the plug on this service.

However, none of my other proposals was ever acknowledged, including one submitted by a man who had once written for the New York Times. What was his motive for the job posting? Maybe he thought he just felt my writing isn’t good enough? http://LinkedIn.com

The Creative Group

Freelancers looking to earn money and work on interesting projects may be very happy with this site. It’s the place for advertising whiz kids, marketing rock stars, genius art directors, amazing website designers and super organized account managers, too. Full time and project work is available, both on-site and remote.

The company is a division of the global giant Robert Half Staffing Agency. https://www.roberthalf.com/submit-resumeglobal

TopTal

TopTal announces to both job seekers and prospective employers that the site features the top 3% of Freelancers from around the world. software developers, finance experts, product managers, marketers, graphic designers and project managers are the principal hires. ://www.toptal.com/careers#positions

Upwork

I’ve gotten a couple of small jobs on the site but I abandoned ship when it was announced that it would cost money to submit a proposal. On top of that payment, there will be a 20% fee attached to each invoice submitted. Furthermore, Upwork clients like to low-ball on fees, so there is not a lot of revenue to be generated, unless one specializes in software development and other IT functions.

I was lucky enough to start work on a sales training manual but then the client pulled the plug and regards was the end. She claimed to really like my work. The fee charged was less than half of what it should have been. I suspect that the client suddenly got spooked by the business start-up costs Oh. well. I sometimes think about reaching out to say hello to the client. She was great to work with. http://Upwork.com

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Runner on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay neighborhood (Boston, MA) on Monday April 20, 2020, what would have been the Boston Marathon.

Multiplication Table: Inclusive Interpretations of Business Growth

I’m not much of a gambler, but I’ll wager that at least 75% of those who aim to track the growth of their business or self-employment venture follow just two metrics—net profit and market share (or the length of the client list). The two are reliable indicators of business performance and so most will look no further. But if you think about it, limiting one’s assessment of a business to just two metrics is short-sighted and will not yield a comprehensive measurement of business performance. Furthermore, focusing exclusively on revenue means one is likely to overlook other metrics that demonstrate growth.

A business is a complex organism that consists of numerous variables that play a role in its success or failure. In order to thoroughly measure the performance of a venture, Freelancers and business owners would be wise to look beyond the usual suspects and broaden their view and understanding of what’s going on.

It’s a beautiful thing to regularly monitor Key Performance Indicators. It’s even better to know which KPIs, when considered together, will accurately reflect the state of the venture. Revenue and profit are the king and queen of KPIs, but forward-thinking business leaders also monitor less obvious but still powerful growth indicators.

Let’s consider two metrics that matter in every business, churn and referrals. Churn occurs when customers who could reasonably be expected to at least periodically do business with a company instead sever contact and take their business elsewhere, presumably to a competitor. The opposite of churn is customer retention. Referrals are recommendations of potential customers to a business, made by current customers of that business or those who are familiar with the business. A business leader should not only monitor referrals and the churn rate, but also create strategies to encourage the former and discourage the latter. Let’s talk about it.

Churn

A high churn rate indicates that the business is not retaining customers and this has an adverse effect on top line (and bottom line) revenue and profit. Now the type of business must be taken into consideration. Wedding planners, for example, can be expected to do business with a bride only once and repeat business is rare. But if customers are severing contact with a business and seeking out a competitor, it signals a big problem and an urgent need for corrective action.

Limiting churn has a positive impact on customer retention. It has been demonstrated by a number of researchers that it costs a business at least five times more to acquire a new client than it does to keep a client. Reducing churn is an indirect multiplier of revenue and profit and is therefore worth the effort.

A well-written customer survey that communicates the company’s commitment to meeting or exceeding expectations and creating a positive customer experience may yield a surprise or two and, most importantly, information that is actionable. Finding opportunities to have face-to-face conversations with customers who have remained may also surface information that will clue business leaders in on modifications that should be made.

Referrals

I am in business to help business leaders identify goals and strategies that will take their venture to the next level. I also frequently collaborate on the branding, marketing, content marketing and social media campaigns associated with that process. Reducing churn to increase customer retention, as well as bolstering referrals, supports both the top and bottom lines of a business.

A great way to pump up your referral numbers is to launch a campaign focused on referrals themselves. The simplest referral campaign is to just ask a customer to “tell your friends.” Another useful tactic that can motivate customers to make referrals is to offer a 10% – 15% discount off their next order, or a product or service upgrade, for every customer who is referred and makes a purchase.

The referral process can be taken online with an easy referral link in team members’ signature blocks. Offer incentives to existing customers, extra services that are valuable to those making referrals to you.

Referrals are a huge vote of confidence because they signal that the company is trustworthy, dependable and doing something right. Referrals are the warmest, most qualified leads a business will encounter and often little more than clarifying the choice of specific product or service features and confirming a delivery date and price are all that’s needed to close a sale. Yippee!

Happy Chanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa! Enjoy your favorite holidays and thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: © The School Run

Defining and Delivering Good Customer Service

Superior customer service is a cornerstone of the customer experience and the customer experience is a foundational element of the sales journey. I see the customer experience as governing everything that leads up to the sale and customer service as governing what happens after the sale. Along with designing a confidence-building customer experience that persuades prospects to become customers once the need for your products or services is established, to remain viable, every business must develop customer service protocols that support customer retention and encourage referrals.

As reported in Forbes Magazine in May 2018, American businesses lose $75 billion annually due to poor customer service and the U.S. Small Business https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2018/05/17/businesses-lose-75-billion-due-to-poor-customer-service/#5777314e16f9 Association reported in 2018 that 68% of customers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service. It is worthwhile to review your company’s customer service from time to time. Below are suggestions that might guide a refresh of your company’s approach to customer service:

  1. Answer the phone.  When a prospective customer calls for information, s/he does not want to leave a voicemail message and wait for an answer. The prospect wants to speak with a live person now who can answer questions quickly and correctly, in a friendly and professional manner. Hiring the optimal number of front-line staff is the antidote. Freelancers who work alone and receive a fair amount of incoming calls can hire a telephone answering service to take calls when you cannot.

2. Take the extra step. When the intention is to help a prospective customer, understand that doing the minimum is not enough. For example, when speaking with a prospect who has questions about your products or services, merely directing him/her to the company website to obtain more information does not exemplify good customer service. Instead, ask the customer about the problem that must be solved, inquire as to what s/he would like to achieve and then discuss how your product or service can (or cannot) provide the desired solution.

3. Be helpful. If it is discovered while speaking with a prospect that your product or service cannot provide the necessary solution, do not be afraid to refer the prospect to a competitor or another company that can meet his/her needs. Your generosity will be remembered and may be returned with future business and referrals.

4. Listen. Let the customer talk. Allow the customer to ask questions or describe a problem. You (or front-line staff) ask clarifying questions along the way, to demonstrate that you are listening and evaluating how your products or services might be useful (or not) to the customer. The more front-line staff know about your customers and their needs, the more of an asset they will be to your company and customers. Prospects and customers will appreciate the empathy and product knowledge and that will almost certainly increase customer retention, new business and referrals.

5. Resolve problems quickly. No business owner enjoys receiving complaints, but those complaints reveal product or process breakdowns that you have the opportunity to fix. Customers gain confidence when a business quickly responds to and resolves complaints. Apologize profusely and throw in something extra (an upgrade or gift certificate, based on the price of the item purchased) to demonstrate that you value the customer and regret the inconvenience that you’ve caused. If handled correctly, you will win repeat business and a source of referrals (instead of bad-mouthing on Yelp).

6. Train staff. Make training a key element of front-line staff on-boarding. Conduct a product boot camp for new hires, plus an annual refresh for all staff, to ensure that employees are familiar with your product and service lines (bring in a Freelance colleague with sales training experience to conduct the annual training session). Give front-line staff the tools and information they need to support customers as efficiently as possible. Empower them to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so they’ll rarely have to say, “I don’t know, but the owner will be back at…”

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Date night at the malt shoppe 1930s USA

Upgrade To A Branded Elevator Pitch

Think about it.  Your elevator pitch and your personal brand are co-dependent.  The two share a mission-critical objective, to create a positive and memorable first impression of you and your enterprise when you meet personal and professional contacts.  The all-important self-introduction known as the elevator pitch is, while brief and simple, nevertheless your most important marketing tool, because it’s often how people first get to know you and your business.

From the opening line to the final sentence, your elevator pitch is Step 1 in  communicating your personal brand.  Its content must be clear and concise, and persuade people that you are worth knowing and doing business with.  Build the introduction to your brand by choosing two or three of your services or products to use as talking points; write them down and rehearse your pitch frequently.  Like a singer or musician, memorize the melody of the song that is your elevator pitch and improvise as needed.

Your delivery is as important as its content.  Polish your presentation by speaking in a pleasant and energetic tone of voice.  Exude a welcoming and friendly demeanor as you greet people with a smile, all the while standing up straight and maintaining eye contact, as you extend your right arm to initiate a comfortably firm hand shake and give your name.

Networking is a 365 days a year activity and your elevator pitch can easily be tailored to fit any context, whether you’re at a holiday party or a business association event.  Purely social events usually do not require mention of your business life, unless the topic comes up a little later, as you chat with your new acquaintances.

What matters most is that your pitch ensures that you are perceived as competent, credible and authentic.  When introducing your professional role, use easy-to-understand, jargon-free language as you succinctly describe two or three of the services you provide (What you do) that solve two or three problems that your clients encounter and must resolve (Why you do it).  Depending on who you’re meeting, you may choose to reveal the types of organizations that you work with (for Whom you do it) and the value (benefits and outcomes) that are achieved when clients work with you.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Take the time to develop an elevator pitch that creates a trust-building first impression for prospective clients, influencers and referral sources and serves as an effective first touchpoint for your personal brand.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Client Retention Means Exceeding Expectations

Client retention and referrals are the best ways to build a good client list. Earlier in the year,  one of my clients referred to me a colleague who is in a closely related business.  I was so happy!  While working with clients new and long-term,  my mission is to do an excellent job and exceed expectations, so that I will create the conditions for a long relationship and the receipt of referrals.

The two clients are friends,  yet very different in working style.  The first is laid back and easy to deal with.  The new client, to be honest, has not yet developed trust in my abilities. There is a tendency to be more hands-on than I would expect and to assume that things may not have been done correctly on my part.  I’m not sure of the source of the client’s anxiety, but I’ve decided to view the matter as a learning opportunity that will keep me in top form.  I will be pushed to do my best work and have the opportunity to go into trust and credibility building mode.

I started on the client retention path by first learning who had referred me and then sending a thank you email.  Prior to that,  the client had received December holiday cards, as it is my custom is to send holiday cards to all clients I’ve worked with in the previous five years.

Regarding the new client,  my objective is to help that individual relax and know that I’m in control and will make him/her look smart and capable in the eyes of superiors and peers.  I’ve written previously about how to establish a good relationship with difficult and demanding clients. https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/how-to-manage-a-difficult-client/

Other tips include:

Be prepared

If you know that you’ll be asked to address a certain problem that the client must resolve, or you must make make recommendations about how the client might capitalize on an expected opportunity, do your homework and come to the meeting brimming with practical ideas and insightful questions.

Listen to the client

Listen and learn how the client views matters from his/her perspective, whether it’s how to implement the solution for the project you’re working on,  how to resolve a customer service glitch, or any other matter that is presented.  Show that you value the client’s opinions.

Respect the client’s ideas and suggestions

You may not have all the answers. The client’s lived experience matters.  Be open to incorporating the client’s ideas into your proposed solution.  Always agree with the client and validate his/her choices. Subtly adapt his/her suggested strategy into something that you know will be more effective, when necessary.  If the client mentions that another consultant has handled a similar project in a different way,  listen up and learn. You may receive valuable information on how to improve your business practices.

Communicate constantly

Misunderstandings cause relationships to fray and misunderstandings occur when communication is unclear and insufficient.  Meetings may be infrequent, but emails are a way to report on (in writing!) your many successes toward achieving the objectives and goals of the project.  I keep my clients apprised of what I’m doing.  This custom also helps when it’s time to send an invoice and billable hours must be justified.  What I don’t want is a client who questions why I’m claiming so many hours.  Moreover, if the client feels that some aspect of the project scope should be expanded or diminished,  adjustments can be made in a timely fashion.

Get it in writing

Take meeting notes and within 48 hours post-meeting, send an email to confirm what has been discussed and agreed-upon. Include project specs, the fee structure, the payment schedule, project milestones, the deliverables and the due dates.

Client retention is the foundation of every business.  It takes less time and effort to retain a client than to pursue and acquire a new one. Furthermore,  long-term clients are much more likely to bestow on you that ultimate affirmation, a referral.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Freelancer Fails You Must Avoid

Life is a gamble and there are no guarantees. Making one’s living as a Freelance consultant adds an extra measure of unpredictability. Do whatever you can to control that which you can control and lay the groundwork for success in your consultancy.  As they say, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You will see that most of what you must do right hinges on communication, in one form or another. Here are a few unfortunate practices that will bring down even the most professionally knowledgeable and well-connected consultant:

The service does not make sense

Or, it is poorly communicated and prospective clients don’t understand the service or how to make use of it. The ability to describe one’s services, help a prospective client picture how and when it might be useful to their organization and in the process persuade the prospect that the service is valuable and the Freelancer has the skill to deliver it is how business is created. Finding your sweet spot, defining your value proposition and communicating it well, are vital.

Sometimes, clients don’t know what they need, but they know that they need help. A serendipitous meeting with such an individual could mean a contract for you and perhaps the start of an ongoing business relationship. It is hugely important to be able to effectively communicate to prospects what you do, the problems you can solve or help them avoid and goals you can help them achieve. Doing this well makes you look like an expert who can be trusted. If the money and motive are there, you will be hired.

Poor follow-up or follow-through

Whether one is a Freelancer or traditionally employed, being reliable is a must. if you promise the client that something will be completed by a given date, then do that. Answer calls and emails ASAP, ideally on the same day and most certainly within 24 hours. Even if the client has not asked a question, anticipate what information will reinforce their confidence in and confirm that you are in control and meeting expectations by checking-in and giving periodic updates. Timely communication is reassuring.

Inadequate business development

Freelance consultants are always looking for the next assignment and that may mean helping a current or past client to create that assignment. During your project work, look for additional services you might provide, while their checkbook is open. Take a past client out for coffee and see if you can get back in there, weaving in your objective as you talk about how they’re doing.

Too shy to ask for referrals

Every business needs referrals and word-of-mouth endorsements from a source perceived as trustworthy are the best. The process of obtaining a referral starts with you providing excellent service that exceeds client expectations. Timing is also a factor. Asking for a referral while on the job and definitely not while you’re presenting the final invoice, is the preferred strategy.

Making a referral for the client, either while you’re on assignment or after the fact, will make you golden and increase the chances that the favor will be repaid, if the client knows a colleague who may need your services. Knowledge of the client’s business relationships can help you to tease out a referral. If you know that the client is active in a particular business or professional association and there is a prospect in the group that you would like to meet and try to work with, tell the client that you would appreciate an introduction.

Poor billing practices

If you want to get paid, you must invoice. On some projects, it’s wise to tell the client when you will invoice. If you do so, follow the agreed-upon schedule. Late invoices annoy clients and adversely impact your cash flow and financial management as well. Always describe or itemize the services delivered in your invoice. Specify how the check should be made out, include the tax identification number,  the invoice due date and the address to which the check should be sent.

Inadequate client relationship management

Freelancers need repeat business and that means nurturing relationships is a priority. Do what can be reasonably done to keep communicating with past clients.  Definitely, send December holiday cards to all those with whom you’ve worked in the past 5 years. If you encounter an article that you suspect will be of interest to a former or current client, send an email with the link, along with a friendly message. If a past client is speaking somewhere and you can afford the time and money to attend, do so. Take notes, so that you can ask a question that will make your client look good. Attention spans are short, so it is necessary to stay on the client’s radar screen if you expect to be hired again.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Seven Resolutions for 2011 Part 2 of 2

Here are the remaining four resolutions that should help you construct the framework for a prosperous year.  Nothing especially novel or profound is being suggested.  To the contrary,  I’ve presented nothing that you don’t already know.  Consider these resolutions to be  a gentle reminder.  You decide which deserve follow-up. 

4.   Revisit your networking  strategy

Get the most out of networking by following a basic agenda,  one that keeps you focused on the real purpose for being there and takes the experience beyond just a random meet & greet.  This agenda works best face to face,  but it can also be used when engaging in online social networking.  The recipe is:  Get a clientGet a referralGet educated.  In other words,  when you’re out there networking,  do your best to get something tangible.  At the very least,  get some information that might help you land a client or receive a referral.  Sweeten the pot for those whom you’d like to know better by offering them something of similar value,  to make helping you worth their while.  Networking flows best on a two-way street.  With this criteria  as a guide,  consider which social networking platforms you use and why you use them.  Is the ROI worth the time spent to keep up?  Next,  consider if you are participating in the right amount of face to face networking and assess the quality of your usual haunts.  How much time and money have you spent at these events and how has being in those rooms impacted your billable hours?

5.   Review your client list

Which clients pay you the most money?  Can you make that happen again this year?  From which clients might you be able to get more money?  Can you dare to raise your hourly rate or project fee for any of them?  Conversely,  which clients are more trouble than they are worth,  high maintenance headaches who do not pay enough to make up for the misery incurred?  Are there clients you should fire?

6.   Develop a prospect list

Who is your dream client?  It’s time to devise a strategy to reel in that big fish.  Identify your decision maker,  or key influencers who might get you in the door.  Maybe you know a colleague who can either make an introduction to the right person or tell you at which networking activities you could meet whom you need to meet?  Make a plan.

7.   Review professional development needs

Will enrolling in graduate school,  taking a seminar or earning a certification increase your credibility and make your services more marketable?  Is there a professional organization that would benefit you,  one that offers good peer networking and useful skills updates? Ask around.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Diversify Under Your Brand Umbrella

“Show me a company with more than 10 % of its business with one customer or more than half of its business in one industry and I’ll show you a company at risk of being (adversely) impacted by one company or one industry.”

Paul Weber,  CEO Advertising Group    Kansas City, MO

In the Freelancer’s favorite dream,  we somehow manage to sign a nice group of steady clients who all offer multi-week projects that carry us smoothly through the year.  We smile as we sign our contracts and deposit our checks…

In the rude awakening that is the  “new normal”  economy,  however,  the realization of our dream is slipping further from our grasp.  Client behavior is more fickle than ever and outrageous fortune can oh,  so easily snatch a good account away from us,  no matter how well we work with the prime contact or how long the association.

A departmental  shake-up can cause  someone new to enter the Garden of Eden,  who will cast us out and bring in their own hand-picked specialist.  Other times,  industry changes,  shifting organizational priorities or even a technology upgrade can render our services obsolete. 

Knowing our primary customer groups and industries where our services are most welcome is essential branding knowledge for every Freelancer.  Nevertheless,  underneath the umbrella of your brand,  it is wise to keep eyes,  ears and mind open for new sectors of enterprise.  Where else might you find an open door?

I liken it to cross-training in fitness:  participating in different activities expands our competencies,  guards against boredom and makes us less vulnerable to injury.  Cross-training makes us  stronger,  more versatile and ultimately,  healthier.  Under the umbrella of fitness,  it is possible to run,  swim,  bike,  row,  ride the elliptical,  weight train,  core train and practice yoga.  It is wise to apply that principle to your body and your business.

Here are five activities that will help you to apply the cross-training principle to your business and help you to diversify your client base:

1.   Cold call  by reaching out to clients you haven’t worked with in a while or re-approaching prospects who liked your services but weren’t ready to take you on at the time.

2.   Energize your PR  by sending out press releases that announce your speaking or teaching engagements to media followed by clients that you want to reach.   Get involved with an event sponsored by a local business or business association and send press releases to your targeted media outlets.  Remember to make follow-up phone calls and create an opportunity to develop relationships with the media along with the participating business owners.

3.   Network face to face  and meet people.  Approach new contacts with the mindset of helping them to achieve their objectives by making introductions and sharing information.  Your generosity can pay off in referrals,  no doubt to new clients and possibly new industries.

4.   Collaborate  with complementary businesses to broaden or deepen your professional reach and get introduced to new clients or industries.

5.   Volunteer  for a cause that resonates with you or join the local Rotary Club.  Your network of professional relationships will increase,  others will see your expertise in action as you apply your talents to various projects and referrals may eventually come your way,  giving you entrée to new clients and industries.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Build Your Self-Promotion Strategy

I modestly propose several tactics that you might use to build a subtle,  yet effective, self-promotion strategy that will deliver not only name recognition and hits on your web site,  but also paying clients and enthusiastic referral sources.

Online Tactics

  • Set up a website that describes your services in language that clicks with your clients.  Demonstrate your understanding of what clients need when hiring for your category of services  by highlighting the solutions  you offer and problems that will be solved or avoided through your expertise.
  • Include website features at your discretion.  If a  ‘call to action’  that clients value can be devised, then use it.  If you are a public  speaker and can pinpoint what clients typically want to see and hear when a hiring decision about speaking or teaching is made,  then add a video of you meeting those expectations.  If you’ve written  ‘white papers’  that address topics known to be of interest to clients, then add them.  If you want to add your public appearances calendar to demonstrate that you are in demand by reputable organizations,  by all means add and keep it updated.
  • Establish a LinkedIn profile and use it as your adjunct web site.  Complete your profile and periodically add updates to showcase special achievements,  good business books you’ve read and professional events you will attend.   Join a group or two and stay up to date with what is happening in communities that impact or interest you,  whether alumni or professional.
  • Start thoughtful discussions in your groups and add comments to others’ discussions to build a reputation as a good resource. Visibility in your groups may lead to online relationships that can yield off line results like referrals or maybe even a client.
  • Set up a subgroup in Huddle Workspace for more specific  in-group discussions.   When it seems appropriate,  reply privately to a discussion and invite that person for coffee if the geography is convenient and it seems like a face to face could be mutually beneficial.

Off-line Tactics

  • Join or visit networking organizations affiliated with your profession, where you can meet industry peers and stay current with industry trends, challenges and business growth opportunities.  Join/visit additional organizations where you can meet prospective clients,  referral sources and perhaps find speaking opportunities to showcase your expertise.
  • Prepare a short narrative about a recent achievement:  an interesting project,  a marquee  client,  how you solved a vexing problem that stymied others,  how you brought something to the next level.  Write down your story and practice and perfect the language,  so you will have instant recall and be able to trot it out when necessary.
  • Do some public  speaking and establish yourself as an expert in your field.  There are numerous (alas, often unpaid) speaking opportunities at business associations, professional groups, colleges, adult learning centers and nonprofit organizations. Figure out a topic or two that you can authoritatively address and put yourself on a couple of calendars.  Referral sources/potential clients may be in the audience.
  • Volunteer for a cause that has meaning to you.  This can present a golden opportunity to meet movers and shakers,  potential clients/referral sources, demonstrate leadership and expand your skill set into areas that enhance you professionally.   You might chair a committee  or even propose a high profile event (I’m in the midst of both) and benefit not only the organization but also spice your CV.
  • Become a mentor to someone who will receive a much needed career boost when you share  your knowledge, insights and relationships.  Not only will you receive great satisfaction from guiding someone along the path of professional growth and success,  you will also gain an ally and will learn from the person you mentor.  You’ll benefit from the perspectives of another,  perhaps younger,  person who can broaden your sights and could also  reveal new business avenues for you.  Important benefits accrue to mentors,  including expansion of one’s professional network and renewal of  managerial and coaching skills.
  • Maintain your personal life.  Stay in touch:  send Christmas cards,  remember birthdays and congratulate friends’ accomplishments.  Go to your school reunions.  Go to the flower show or go hear your favorite blues singer.  Go away for the weekend or a week.  Learn to dance the samba or resurrect some long neglected talent like playing the xylophone.  Have things to talk about besides business!

Thanks for reading,
Kim

Referral Etiquette Part II

There are three groups where one can find and groom good referral sources:  clients,  colleagues and friends/family.  Good referrals begin with good relationships.  In addition to providing excellent services that fulfill client expectations, developing and maintaining solid professional and social relationships is paramount. The ability to clearly and succinctly describe the services you provide,  your typical clients and the problems that your services solve is also important.  Finally, be willing to make the first move in the referral game.  If you initiate referrals,  you are likely to receive them in return.

Know what you want
Before going off in search of referrals, think about what you’d like to achieve when meeting prospects.  You’ll want more than some fuzzy idea of how you like to meet people in a particular industry.  Clarify which job title is likely to be the hiring decision maker for your service and the usual goals or business challenges that drive the need for your category of service.

Then you can be clear and precise in your referral requests and will be able to craft the right introductory pitch.  Moreover, clarity will help associates to think of you as they themselves network.  You and your friends and colleagues  can then function as a referral network  for one another

Know who to ask
If you’ve worked for a client on two or three projects and have developed a comfortable relationship with your contacts, let them know that you are always looking for new business and can they recommend someone with whom you can follow up? You may not receive an immediate answer, but the seed will be planted.  Also, there will be no pressure on the client to give a name if they prefer not to do so.

If a referral is made, be sure to get approval for using that person’s name and confirm that if asked, that person feels they know you and your work well enough to provide a good recommendation.  Make it easy and comfortable to refer your services. This approach also works for obtaining referrals through social relationships.

Follow up within one month
While your name is still fresh within the mind of the referral source,  make the call or send the email and get the ball rolling.   Do not let the trail go cold and squander the opportunity.

Failure to appropriately follow up on a referral is deadly.  It happened to me a couple of times and I shall not forget it and I certainly will never refer either of them again.  In fact, I severed ties with both parties.

In one case,  I referred a young lady who launched a bookkeeping business when she was my student at the Center for Women & Enterprise business plan writing course.  A restaurant owner friend of mine  was desperate for that service and I was happy to make the connection.  For reasons that will forever baffle me, the bookkeeping entrepreneur was always too busy to follow up, despite confirming that she looked forward to meeting a prospective client. The young lady was unmoved by urgent emails sent to her by both the restaurant proprietor and myself. The restaurant owner forgave me, thank heaven, and we remain on good terms.

In the other case, a woman with a 20 year career and an MBA called a potential prospect too hastily, before I could confirm the other party’s interest in her services.  I suggested that MBA lady check out the website of someone whom I had literally just met and let me know if she saw some alignment.

If things looked promising, my plan was to invite the prospect to likewise peruse the website of MBA lady.  If all agreed,  I would make the connection. Unfortunately, MBA lady took it upon herself to contact the prospect, whom I had met a mere three hours before,  claiming that I had made the referral! I was furious. The prospect did not love it and has been cordial but cool to me ever since.

Thank your referral source
Remember to thank your referral source ASAP. Even if business is not done,  it is wise to let your source know that you appreciate their confidence in you and respect their generosity. Whatever happens,  let your referral know the outcome.  Referrals are vital to the survival of your business. They are a special favor and should not be taken lightly. This simple courtesy will encourage more good referrals for you.

Thanks for reading,
Kim