Successful Public Speaking

Basic Business Cents

So you have been asked to give a talk; are you excited or apprehensive? It doesn’t make any difference if you prepare and rehearse properly, you will become comfortable with your ability to effectively get your message across. It doesn’t matter if your talk is 5 minutes to your church group, 20 minutes to Rotary or Lions, or an hour key-note address to a large crowd, the home-work is the same.

Harvey Mackay, author of Outswimming the Sharks, said, “The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about.” It is important to research and study your subject so that you can develop a focused message that will be a valuable take-away for the audience. But it may be more important to research and study your anticipated audience. Ask yourself what are they interested in and what are their expectations. Relate your message in terms of benefits to the audience. They are not there to hear how smart or how eloquent you are, they are there to hopefully hear something that might be useful to them.

A secret weapon in speaking is to create a mind map that can be visualized. Start by dividing your talk into three main points you wish the audience to remember. Place them in three circles on a sheet of paper and add additional points radiating from the appropriate circle. If you try to put your talk into a standard outline form, you force your brain to think serially and it just doesn’t work well that way. Thoughts come randomly and they can be placed on the proper circle as they come to mind. Keep audience interest by adding stories or anecdotes to emphasis points throughout the talk.

Having done this in your preparation, you will be surprised at how you remember this map in the delivery of the talk. You will find that you may not need notes, or at least only this one page. When finished with this map, you have the body of your message detailed and only now it is time to develop the introduction and conclusion. A professional speaker once told me that the audience will only remember three things after your talk; the introduction, the conclusion, and the stories. This is rather disheartening after you have studied your subject so hard but there is probably more truth to it that you might like. This only emphasizes that your stories must be relevant and properly enforcing key points of your message.  Stories and anecdotes keep the audience interest and, properly used, reinforce key points of your message.

The introduction should be a “grabber” to get the audience attention. The conclusion should be a memorable one-line summary of your key points that leaves the audience on a high note.

Next comes rehearsal- practice, practice, practice. When you think you are ready, ask a friend to listen to you or tape yourself so you can listen and learn. Practicing out loud is important. When you become satisfied and comfortable with your talk, you are ready for the delivery.

First of all, remember to teach and not preach; the audience will appreciate you more and you will be more effective. Pay attention to your appearance and personality. The audience will feed off of what they see of you. If you look like you are having fun, they will have fun. If you appear dismayed, they will be also. Put a smile on your face; be confident, and enthusiastic. Be animated, energetic, gesture, and be alive. Maintain eye contact and talk to the audience, not at them. Be engaged with the audience, ask for questions if you like, or use other means to get them involved. Any talk worth listening to, is worth learning by the speaker, so don’t ever read your talk. If you use slides, remember no more than three lines per slide and no more than three words per line. Use slides to emphasize points, not as an outline to follow.

The talk may be over but not your effort. Write a hand-written not to the person responsible for your speaking opportunity. Take time to criticize your performance and list what you can do to improve next time. Obtain email addresses of attendees to expand your network. If questions were raised and you are not satisfied with your answers, follow up with a short email containing further thoughts.

You prepared well by studying your audience and subject, you developed a mind map and rehearsed so you did not need notes, and you were comfortable in your delivery. You are now an effective and successful public speaker.

 

Basic Business Cents

Successful Public Speaking

So you have been asked to give a talk; are you excited or apprehensive? It doesn’t make any difference if you prepare and rehearse properly, you will become comfortable with your ability to effectively get your message across. It doesn’t matter if your talk is 5 minutes to your church group, 20 minutes to Rotary or Lions, or an hour key-note address to a large crowd, the home-work is the same.

Harvey Mackay, author of Outswimming the Sharks, said, “The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about.” It is important to research and study your subject so that you can develop a focused message that will be a valuable take-away for the audience. But it may be more important to research and study your anticipated audience. Ask yourself what are they interested in and what are their expectations. Relate your message in terms of benefits to the audience. They are not there to hear how smart or how eloquent you are, they are there to hopefully hear something that might be useful to them.

A secret weapon in speaking is to create a mind map that can be visualized. Start by dividing your talk into three main points you wish the audience to remember. Place them in three circles on a sheet of paper and add additional points radiating from the appropriate circle. If you try to put your talk into a standard outline form, you force your brain to think serially and it just doesn’t work well that way. Thoughts come randomly and they can be placed on the proper circle as they come to mind. Keep audience interest by adding stories or anecdotes to emphasis points throughout the talk.

Having done this in your preparation, you will be surprised at how you remember this map in the delivery of the talk. You will find that you may not need notes, or at least only this one page. When finished with this map, you have the body of your message detailed and only now it is time to develop the introduction and conclusion. A professional speaker once told me that the audience will only remember three things after your talk; the introduction, the conclusion, and the stories. This is rather disheartening after you have studied your subject so hard but there is probably more truth to it that you might like. This only emphasizes that your stories must be relevant and properly enforcing key points of your message.  Stories and anecdotes keep the audience interest and, properly used, reinforce key points of your message.

The introduction should be a “grabber” to get the audience attention. The conclusion should be a memorable one-line summary of your key points that leaves the audience on a high note.

Next comes rehearsal- practice, practice, practice. When you think you are ready, ask a friend to listen to you or tape yourself so you can listen and learn. Practicing out loud is important. When you become satisfied and comfortable with your talk, you are ready for the delivery.

First of all, remember to teach and not preach; the audience will appreciate you more and you will be more effective. Pay attention to your appearance and personality. The audience will feed off of what they see of you. If you look like you are having fun, they will have fun. If you appear dismayed, they will be also. Put a smile on your face; be confident, and enthusiastic. Be animated, energetic, gesture, and be alive. Maintain eye contact and talk to the audience, not at them. Be engaged with the audience, ask for questions if you like, or use other means to get them involved. Any talk worth listening to, is worth learning by the speaker, so don’t ever read your talk. If you use slides, remember no more than three lines per slide and no more than three words per line. Use slides to emphasize points, not as an outline to follow.

The talk may be over but not your effort. Write a hand-written not to the person responsible for your speaking opportunity. Take time to criticize your performance and list what you can do to improve next time. Obtain email addresses of attendees to expand your network. If questions were raised and you are not satisfied with your answers, follow up with a short email containing further thoughts.

You prepared well by studying your audience and subject, you developed a mind map and rehearsed so you did not need notes, and you were comfortable in your delivery. You are now an effective and successful public speaker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Improving the Health of Your Business

Basic Business Cents

Everyone would like to find the magic recipe to improve his or her business. I have a secret; it doesn’t exist unless you consider thought and subsequent action a secret.  Deming said people hope for instant pudding. Kano said improvement is a hot and sweaty job.

Maybe it is not so hard if we break it down to the three major business areas, marketing, production, and finance, and then work on those areas.

All work is composed of a series of processes. There is a tremendous breakthrough when people understand their processes and then seek to flow chart, improve, replace, and/or innovate better processes.

This certainly applies to marketing, which includes sales, promotion, advertising, networking, and planning. What works and what doesn’t work? Improve continually those processes that work and stop or cut back on those that don’t work to bring desired results. You probably would be better off replacing some marketing processes as the field of marketing is changing rapidly with electronic media rapidly bringing new marketing opportunities. Be critical of your marketing actions; if you are doing something solely because that is the way it has always been, you can be assured that it is wrong.

Production is a broad term; I use the context meaning of performing the transaction of the business, the changing of input into output. It can be the assembly of a product, the performance of a service, or the movement of merchandize in retailing. Start by identifying the major processes of the business and then chart all the action steps in each process. Once you see it in black and white, you will inevitably find ways to streamline and simplify the process. You will be looking for ways to remove complexity, improve quality, and improve throughput, or simply put—better, faster, and cheaper.

Finance is typically thought of as the reporting of the results of marketing and production, but it has a bigger role. This means its processes can also be improved. Certainly it means the reporting of the revenue and expenses with the resulting net profit and cash flow. It should also detail a pro forma projection of these four elements for the next year as a minimum by month. Without this prediction of the future, it is like driving your car by looking in the rear view window. With this financial forecast, management can see the effect of their decisions by the impact on the future projection, thereby making it the most valuable management tool at their disposal.

This brings us to leadership. Leaders need to set the example by charting, improving, replacing, and innovating steps in their work processes. Leaders are the role models; people will follow their actions, not their words.

Maybe there is a magic recipe after all; it simply involves time, thought, and effort.

 

 

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Improve Your Decision-Making Process

Basic Business Cents

I have a friend who used to become so stressed when faced with a decision at work that he became physically ill. His doctor finally advised him to resign from his position and he retired early. That is an unusual case and most of us are much luckier when faced with decisions.

You make many decisions every day. Some are easy, some are challenging, and some are difficult. Some are of little consequence, and some are very important. Some of you find making decisions easy and some find it very stressful. No matter the conditions, higher quality, more timely, and easier decisions can be made with a standard process that you follow on a regular basis. Acronyms are sometimes useful in aiding our memory of the steps of a process, such as the CADET Decision-Making Process.

C. Classify the Type of Decision. Some decisions must be made instantly because time demands an immediate decision. In this case, you must rely on your experience, intuition, and training and make the best decision that you can. When you have more time, you can categorize your decision into one of three types. If it is of little consequence, you can again use your experience, intuition, and training and make the decision and go on to more important work. If it is more important or challenging, then walk through the CADET Process in your mind and make the decision.  It is useful to make a chart of the pros and cons of the decision, either on a flip chart or white board if in a group, or simply on a plain sheet of paper if by yourself. If the decision is critically important, then research the problem necessitating the decision and analyze the data collected on the consequences of various decisions.

A. Identify and evaluate Alternative Solutions. You might go to the people directly involved with or affected by the decision and brainstorm all possible alternatives. Two to ten heads are usually better than one.  More than ten begins to diminish the effectiveness of the time used and quality of input. Collect data on the problem requiring the decision. Good data always simplifies decision-making. Again, talk to the people involved and evaluate alternatives and their consequences. It is possible to do research on what others have done, both inside and outside your organization, when faced with a similar decision.

D. Make the Decision. After you are satisfied that you have sufficient data and input from the people involved, don’t procrastinate. You are probably being paid to make such decisions and not for waffling. Waffles get eaten. Remember the maxim attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

E. Execute the decision. It is wise to communicate the reasons for the decision to the people involved and to management. Remember, don’t just tell them, discuss it with them to make sure they understand and agree.

T. Test the impact of the decision. If possible, implement on a test sample and support your theory used in making the decision. If the results are positive, roll it out across the organization. If not, reenter your decision-making process armed with what you have learned. Whether or not you implement on a test case first, monitor the results to ensure you are achieving what you desire.

Learn all you can from your experience with the CADET process to improve your decision-making ability for the future. As with any process, regular use will improve your comfort and ability to get results, improve your skills, and increase your usefulness to your organization.

 

 

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Is Management a Profession?

Basic Business Cents

Debate rages in academic circles on whether management is a profession similar to medicine, education,and law. Managers like to think of themselves as professional but there are many different characteristics. Management as a profession does not have a certification examination or barriers to entry like law and medical. It has no code of conduct; it has no yes-or-no criteria.

Business management is not expertise in a narrow field but ability to integrate excellence in a number of fields such as finance, marketing, engineering, production, quality, inventory control, and personnel. This raises the interesting question, “How does one prepare to become a professional business manager?”

Three areas should be integrated into a manager’s preparation, formal education, learning from others, and experience.

Although education is provided in individual fields as listed above, the most popular formal program is the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Most MBA students have prior work experience. Each is building on a different base, learn different things, and go on to different careers. The universities recognize and build upon their experience and knowledge and use collaborative learning so the students can learn from each other. Harvard is noted for their case studies of real world situations and has been the leader in this group analyses and development of approach for solutions.

The London School of Business sent teams of students to analyze my company for several years.  We welcomed their scrutiny because we learned much from them. They expressed their views strongly and caused some discomfort to some of our people with their critique, but it was a very beneficial process and only made us better. Hopefully, they also gained some knowledge.

Another preparation step is to learn from others. This learning can be done informally by helping friends and acquaintances analyze their business problems and offering solutions or in a formal setting like SCORE®. This is a national organization that provides mentorship to small businesses at no charge. Consultants always learn from their clients so volunteering to help has dividends.

Collaborative sharing of experiences can also be informal or in a formal setting like the CEO Roundtable. This organization charges a modest fee and has a paid moderator for groups of about twelve heads of non-competitive organizations. They have monthly meetings and discuss a problem at one of the organizations, which the moderator selects from interim one-on-one meetings with each CEO. They focus on one problem each month but all gain because problems are often common from organization to organization.

Experience is the third step in preparation is experience. Always take time to analyze what you learned dealing with a problem. Develop your own theory on the best solution and compare it to what actually worked. Do not report a problem without a proposed solution so that you appear to be part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Volunteer for assignments so that you can learn. Identify the next desired position and prepare for it.

The profession of business management is indeed different than that of law, education, and medicine. Certification of qualification for business management would be problematic and arbitrary. It would be counter-productive and dysfunctional because it would inhibit cooperative learning. Management preparation must be a collaborative effort in each of three steps: formal education, learning from others, and experience.

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Achieving Job Satisfaction

A friend stated recently that his Dad worked his entire life at a job he hated. What a shame! We spend so much of our life at work that it should be something that we enjoy and receive satisfaction from doing something well and worthwhile.

Our job, our career, should bring us pride in what we do. Our accomplishments should be something our children like to talk about. Our work should bring fulfillment to our life. How do we find that work?

Let us talk first about our managers’ role in helping us achieving that pride in our work. After they hired us and placed us in the present position, they have a responsibility to help us achieve our job satisfaction and happiness. A question the manager should ask is, “Do I work in the system or on the system.” Typically, the employee is given a work process and does the best he/she can within the guidelines of that process. The manager’s primary job is to manage the process and not the employee. The employee will do the very best they can; they can’t help it. No one goes to work to do a poor job, but is often limited by his or her work processes. The managers therefore need to focus their attention on improving the work processes that will allow their employees to do better. Oh, and by the way, how does the manager receive more job satisfaction, micro-managing the employee or improving the process that allows the employee to do better? No doubt, the manager receives more job satisfaction by process improvement, which provides more productivity and pride in work by the workforce. Education, training, and positive feedback in real time also play a part in work improvement and employee satisfaction. Delegation of authority as the employee is capable and ready can give the employee an opportunity to blossom and grow.

Now for the employees’ responsibility: attitude, pride in work, enthusiasm, and happiness are all important in work productivity and quality. First, prepare yourself for promotion. Learn the requirements of the next position you desire and lay out a plan to improve you qualifications. Take advantage of education and training opportunities, learn from others, apprentice or intern, and volunteer to gain experience.

If that desired opportunity is not available where you work, don’t be afraid to seek it elsewhere. Gone are the days where we do the same job for our lifetime for most people. Most people today will have several different careers in their life as they seek opportunities leading to better work fulfillment. Technology is eliminating many jobs, social media is changing marketing and communications, and improved and innovative knowledge through electronics means is changing the work world. Display initiative and prepare yourself for change that will bring opportunities.

Money and titles are not the most important; job satisfaction and enjoyment are. Position yourself into an upward cycle of enjoyment in what you do, which leads to becoming a more productive employee, which leads to more satisfaction and pride in your work, which leads to becoming a better employee, which leads to ………..

 

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Benefitting from Internships

Who doesn’t like win-win situations?  How about win-win-win?

Some years ago, my company hired the daughter of a friend from across the lake. She was required in her college curriculum to intern with some company for a summer in her specialty, marketing. That was one of the best hires that we ever made. She was willing to work for no pay because the internship experience was required for her graduation, but we could not do that in all fairness to her and did pay a modest amount. She brought new, creative ideas that were successful and taught us as we taught her. From that time on, we hired one or two interns every summer.

An internship can be defined as a method of on-the-job training for white-collar and professional careers, similar to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary. Interns can be found in colleges, local high schools, and the post-graduate staff. Lance Bagstad, Superintendant of Park Rapids Public Schools, shared that recent legislation, requiring schools and businesses to work together in providing students with college and career readiness skills, is opening the doors for collaboration. Tried and proven school-to-work opportunities still flourish but can be enhanced through partnerships and likeminded goals. It might take a little digging to find intern positions but once the students unlock the process, they will have contacts and understanding that can be used year after year.

Win #1 is for the hiring organization. High on the list for most organizations is how to improve marketing and bring in more revenue. The marketing world is changing as it transforms into the electronic world. Who understands computers and application programs that take advantage of speed and amplification of communications like young people? Students interested in careers in marketing, technology, or preferably both, are ideal intern candidates, but other fields are also beneficial to many businesses. Students can bring current academic views and employees can learn from them. Most interns are eager to learn, display initiative, are intelligent, energetic, and extremely grateful for opportunities to grow.

Win #2 is for the interns. Learning and living real world character values of responsibility, accountability, and commitment resonates in an internship for young people. They gain knowledge and practical application of that knowledge which will help them in their remaining classes at school, make a little money, and gain satisfaction from being productive. Students can use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain school credits. Not to overlook is the benefit in applying for career opportunities after graduation. The experience, display of initiative and other ideal traits will be duly noted by interviewing parties.

Win #3 is for the local community. Internships create jobs! Students share experiences with other students and school staff, which add to their knowledge. They create interest and excitement for career employment among other students. Perhaps most important to the community is creating interest among the students in working for local companies and keeping this promising talent in the local area.

Rarely do we have opportunities that cost little in time and money that offer these benefits to our organization, to the local youth, and to our community. Our local school is very open to partnering with businesses to provide the win-win-win for all. Try it and see for yourself.

 

 

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Changing Times

People don’t resist change; they resist being changed!

Too often, people do not recognize, nor respond to, change that is upon them and they are changed by others from outside their normal sphere of competition. An example is the computer industry. At one time IBM, Univac, NCR, Burroughs and a few others ruled the market. They did not react to the change of the users who desired smaller computers and distributed computer usage. Hence they were replaced by DEC, Data General, Varian, and a few others supplying minicomputers. That group did not react to even smaller and more user-friendly microcomputers as provided by Apple, IBM (they made a comeback), Dell, and Hewlett Packard.  Only Apple made the transition, in fact led it, to the next generation of tablet computers and smart phones. Apple is now joined by Samsung and others, as we see more and more serious competition from around the world.

Change is here; it will always be here, but at an ever-increasing pace. Some of the changes are: more focus on short-term thinking fueled by the increased speed brought about by the electronics world, social conscious, environment concerns, limited budgets, weather instability, on-line sales/marketing, and competition from anywhere in the world. Awareness of how these and other changes might change your business is critical, as is how you react to lead the way.

Recognizing the changing trends and willingness to change are two different subjects. Like most in the four generations of the computer industry, you can wait until your business is obsolete as other more adventuresome businesses move in, or you can lead the way. The change required is usually radical, not superficial, and must be made quickly. Leaders take a risk but the risk of followership is well-demonstrated. An example of the value of quick action is Nike teamed up with Apple to develop sensors in their shoes to transmit to Apple’s products to log speed, distance, calories burned, and other data. Other competitors are left behind with less desirable partners with whom to react.

Authors Elie Ofek and Luc Wathieu in Harvard Business Review, July-August of 2010, listed a 4-step process to address trends in business.

  1. Identify the Trends that Matter. Ask yourself, what trends have potential to reshape your business, and how profound are they, short-term or long-term trends.
  2. Conduct Experiments. One experiment would be a radical change that satisfies needs that customers might not yet know that they need. The second is a more conservative approach to reacting to perceived customer needs.
  3. Compare the Results. Examine what you have learned from the experiments. The first experiment might have uncovered a new market in which you can become the leader, or it might not. You might learn valuable information, which will enable you to more intelligently conduct the next experiment.
  4. Isolate Potential Strategies. With this new perspective, you can take action on a broader basis.

Change is not an option and you can change or be changed, the choice is yours.

 

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Employee Feedback

Dogs like a pat on the back, and people do too.”

W. Edwards Deming

People want and need feedback on how they are performing. They want to learn. People have an inherent desire to perform well, improve, and excel. Long ago, Human Resource or Personnel department staff recognized that supervisors and managers did not provide sufficient feedback to workers so they devised performance appraisal systems to force feedback at least once a year. Think for a minute, do we wait for months to give feedback to our puppy for wetting on the floor or coming when we call? Yet we often treat people that way by waiting months to provide feedback. Obviously, we need to give feedback in real time as performance is noted. The more time that is expired between the event and the feedback, the more the effect is diminished.

Okay, so we need to give feedback promptly, but how? In order for people to learn and grow, they need guidance by both positive and negative feedback. A good rule of thumb is to give three “atta boys” to every “aw shucks”; three positives to every negative. Positive feedback can be given in front of others as long as it does not cause jealously. Negative feedback should always be given in private to prevent humiliation. Both types of feedback should be constructive, helping the employee increase performance and sense of worth.

Be thoughtful and considerate. It is best to deliver the feedback in person unless the individual, or group, is remote. In that case, a handwritten note is more effective than cold email or voice mail. You might be surprised to find how many people keep handwritten notes, as they are meaningful to them.

Be real; be genuine in your feedback. Think carefully about what you say or do as the impact can have a lot more impact than you think. People can tell the difference when you are going through the motions or are sincere. Insincere positive feedback can be more damaging than doing nothing.

Pay attention to the frequency of your feedback. Too much, or too often, feedback loses effect and you may not be taken seriously. Too little and you don’t help the employee learn and they may feel neglected. Employees who feel neglected often look for another job where they will be appreciated. Turnover in employees is expensive.

For those on the receiving end of feedback, learn how to take it. Many people feel uncomfortable receiving a compliment because they do not know how to act. They don’t want to be seen as an egotist and so tend to deflect the compliment. A good way is to stand erect, look the person straight in the eye, and let them know how much it means to you. Sincere recognition deserves sincere expression of gratitude.

Don’t forget that managers and leaders can also be the recipients of feedback. You too, can feel good with a pat on the back. Learn how to accept it as employees will observe your behavior and emulate it.

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Elating Your Three Constituents, Satisfying Isn’t Good Enough

Dr. W. Edwards Deming often said, “Satisfying your customers is not good enough; satisfied customers will switch. You have to provides goods and services that are so good that your customers will brag about you to their colleagues and stay true to you.”

You have two other key groups that are equally important, stakeholders and owners.  Satisfying isn’t good enough for any of the three groups; all three must be elated with their relationship with you and your organization.

Customers will tell you what they want and need if you will only listen. Sounds simple but listening is hard as we like to talk and may not know the right questions to ask. Listening is an art and must be practiced.

Customers’ objectives can be broken down into three groups-quality, delivery (timeliness), and cost. Of course customers are looking for quality, not just of the product or service but also of the processes that produce the product or service. If the process is of high quality, then they can depend on the product or service to be of high quality. No one sets out to buy an unreliable or poor quality product or service.

Delivery or timeliness can relate to the product/service being available when and where needed. It can involve development time of new products, handling time, ensuring reliability of suppliers to deliver on time, or any element of time consumed from the raw material to the point of use by the end customer.

Cost is larger than the out-of-pocket cost of the purchase. The total cost of ownership should be considered including maintenance, product life, down time, and difficulty of use.

Stakeholders will also tell you what they want and need if you listen. Stakeholders include employees, suppliers, local businesses that benefit from your existence, and lenders. They want to be treated with integrity, fairness, honesty, and respect. They should understand your vision of the future for your organization and want to be a part of achieving that vision. The environment is also a stakeholder. The employees want to see growth opportunities, which involve a growing organization that provides education, training, and tutoring. They should be excited, energized, and comfortable that they made the right decision to join in your quest.

The owners are the third group, which must be elated with your performance. They also will tell you of their needs and wants if you listen. Their key objectives revolve around return of investment of time and money, growth, recognition, prestige, and leaving a legacy. Sounds like the same things you want, right?

What if you are the owner? Same thing applies and must be planned the same as the other two groups. Too often small business owners toil long hours without paying themselves a salary. Good planning and execution takes into consideration fair compensation for the owners as well as stakeholders.

The three groups can be likened to the abc’s of business-customers, stakeholders, and owners. Each is of equal importance and must be elated with their transactions with your organization. Satisfying them is not good enough.

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Electronic Word-of-Mouth Marketing

An old story relates of three business owners vacationing in Florida. One said he was celebrating a very successful fire sale. The second said he was also celebrating a very successful sale but his was a flood sale. The third inquired, “How do you start a flood?” There are many better ways to bring customers to your door, but the best by far is word-of-mouth. Getting your customers to brag about your goods and services to their friends and colleagues is effective, but slow to develop. A tool is available today to speed up that development, social media.

Many tools, called application programs or apps, are available to help you. The most common are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Google+, Pintrest, and blogs and new ones are emerging regularly. A posting by a customer about a positive experience with your product or service is made on their favorite app. If readers are impressed, they might re-post it and it is read by a whole new set of friends, and then another reposting, etc. This can cause an exponential growth in information about your products or services. If it really takes off, it is called going viral.

As important, if not more important, to posting on social media is listening to social media. What are your customers saying? What are they looking for? Are you offering them what they need?

All of this is dependent on the quality of your products and services. It can work in reverse and that is disastrous, so you have to make sure that you are providing goods or services that will cause people to brag about you. Just meeting their expectations or satisfying them is not enough; they should be so proud of the decision that they made to do business with you that they will want to share with their friends the good experience. People who use these apps tend to be on line daily so the news can mushroom quickly.

To kick start your electronic word-of-mouth marketing, get a presence on various apps for your business. You do not need to be on all of them, but be timely, current, and careful of what you post. Do what you do well. You will want to have frequent messages, at least weekly, that are not blatant advertising, but attention getting and interesting. They might be informative, useful, or practical. Of course, they need to be brief, which is mandatory on some apps.

Next, you need to get your customers to enroll as friends of your business app. You can do this with a small sign next to the cash register, use email “blasts”, direct mail, media advertisements, or simply talking to your customers when you come in contact with them. Make sure the directions are clear on how to transcend the process of becoming a friend of your company. Or better, collect email addresses of your clients and send them emails to invite them to become friends or contacts of your organization.

Electronic word-of-mouth is fast, effective, easy, and inexpensive. Our forefathers never dreamed of such a wonderful tool to use to promote their business. And you don’t have to reduce profit by having sales or wondering “how to start a flood.” Just make sure the quality of your goods and services is high and continually improving, so the resultant word-of-mouth is positive.

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