Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marketing to Kids in Canada: Things to Watch Out For

Many parents think that when it comes to television advertising aimed at children it’s like the “Wild West” where anything goes. In actuality, there are some very strict guidelines to follow with regard to marketing to kids in Canada. The first consideration is to classify what is meant by children’s advertising. These would be commercials that are packaged before, during or right after any type of children’s programming. In this case, “children” are defined as anyone under the age of 12.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters established a Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children in 1971. The following are a list of the highlights of this code that the advertisements must adhere to. A commercial for children should:

·         Use age-appropriate language that is accessible to the target audience. 

·         Refrain from any type of content that could inspire children to harm themselves such as wild stunts.

·         Collect only the minimal amount of personal information for a contest that would allow a child to participate in that activity.

·         Restrict the advertiser from dealing with anyone other than the parent or guardian of a child who wins a contest.

·         Require that a child must get their parent or guardian’s permission before handing over any type of personal information.

·         Refrain from using any of the personal information gathered in a contest to advertise products that aren’t age appropriate for children under 12.

·         Refrain from collecting any date from the children about their family’s financial status.

·         Keep third parties out of the equation when it comes to this personal information.

Self Regulation

For the most part, companies are permitted to self regulate their advertising practices. However, when it comes to children’s advertising those ads must be submitted to the CAB for approval before going on the air. Even with those approvals, parents still retain the right to complain about a company’s advertising practices. These complaints would be submitted to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. On the average the ASC receives about 1,200 complaints a year for general advertising but only received one complaint for a child-directed commercial. This is an indication that companies who do advertise for children take that role very seriously.

Factual Presentation

In terms of the actual presentation of a product, advertisers must adhere to certain factual considerations such as:

·         Any representation of a product cannot exaggerate its function in terms of speed, color, durability etc.

·         The size of the actual product needs to be established.

·         The words “new” or “introducing” can only be used in context with that ad for up to a year.

Finally, marketing to children can’t involve direct pressure to purchase or use a product. They also can’t encourage kids to tell their parents to “Buy me this!” The general rule of thumb to apply would be what would you want your kids to see in a commercial?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creating the Perfect Business Partnership

Although the original idea for your business might be all yours that doesn’t guarantee you won’t need a partner to get that business running and keep it afloat. A solid business partnership can actually increase the likelihood that your company will find success. That’s because you’re sharing the responsibilities and expanding your networking potential.

What makes a productive business partnership? Consider the following factors:

Set Your Goals

You should already have a business plan with a strong vision and measurable goals. When you go looking for a business partner you want someone who can share in your vision. You need to be honest about your own limitations. Are there some skill sets you need to develop for yourself? What can you learn from a business partner? Suppose you were opening a restaurant and had terrific chef but they didn’t know anything about desserts. Wouldn’t it make sense to hire a pastry chef? You want to find a business partner that can build upon your talents. They also have to be enthusiastic about your vision. You’re not looking for a “gun for hire” but a genuine partner.

Look Beyond Your Circle

As you begin your search for a great business partner, you’ll want to go beyond your immediate social circle. Yes, you might have a friend or family member who could fit the bill but don’t stop your search there. Go to where you might find the most qualified partner. There could be trade shows, industry events or conferences, where you will find like-minded individuals who would prove to be an asset to your company. The last thing you want to do is find a business partner who doesn’t have any experience in your industry.

Manage Expectations

After you’ve narrowed down your candidate list you’ll want to carefully detail the responsibilities for your new partner. Depending on the circumstances, a business partner could become an equal owner in the company because of the investments, skills or ideas that they are bringing to the table.

However, that doesn’t mean they can automatically dictate how things should be run. That should come from you as the controlling owner. Of course, you’re hiring a partner because you want the support so be open to any ideas they might have about management, marketing and production. If you’re both clear from the outset about what you expect from each other than there shouldn’t be any surprises down the road.

Make It Legal

Once agreed upon, all of those responsibilities should be put into the form of a legal contract. This contract should spell out things like compensation and termination of the partnership. Essentially you should cover all the bases. A handshake is a noble way to do business but won’t matter in a court of law if something goes wrong. As with every other aspect of your business, get it in writing and get it signed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Great interview questions to ask when hiring your first employees

Starting your own business is exciting and also challenging… but you’re finally making your dreams come true of becoming your own boss.

You’ve worked out and tested your business plan. You have investors lined up and you’re ready to go. All you need now is the right staff.

There is always going to be a huge learning curve associated with any type of startup. Ideally, you shouldn’t weather that storm all alone. You should find capable workers who can support your plan. Part of the hiring process will involve interviewing your prospective employees. The following questions could become a good guide for the interview.

How are you with customer service?

The correct answer should be, “Awesome!” But don’t take their word for it. Run a few scenarios by them to see how they would handle a particular situation related to your business. Role playing is an effective way of seeing how this employee might handle a spontaneous situation especially one involving an irate customer.

Describe what it means to be adaptable. 

There’s no escaping that with a startup you’re going to have some days of genuine chaos. How will your new hire handle the pressure? Can they think on their feet? Will they need constant supervision? Ask them to discuss a previous work experience when the unexpected happened and how they adapted to that situation.

What was the last project you worked through successfully?

Hopefully, the candidate you’re interviewing will have had some experience relating to your business. They should be able to talk about a previous work project they either initiated or were put in charge of. What did they learn from that experience? What mistakes did they make?

How would you rate your drive to succeed?

It’s easy to find workers who punch in, do their tasks and punch out. They get the job done but don’t go that extra mile. If you’re excited about starting your business then you want someone who is going to share your enthusiasm.

How do you resolve employee conflicts?

Hiring a staff means you’re hiring multiple personalities. In the best case scenario everyone will work in harmony but we all know that is a lofty goal to achieve. Even if the person you’re interviewing is just for a staff position you still want to get a sense of how they’ll get along with the rest of your team. Communicate your goals and then see if they “get it.”

One of the best indicators of a good employee is through their references. Ask the references similar questions about the candidate. Look for consistencies in the responses. If there is any inconsistency, find out why.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Key Components of a Manufacturing Production Plan

If you’re in the business of manufacturing a product then you need to develop a thorough production plan. That applies to everything from making “widgets” to sandwiches. The type of effective production plan depends on your business model. It will help if you can hone in on what type of manufacturing production will be most beneficial to your business. Based on that answer, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about inventory, material purchases and transportation. Consider which of these production plan strategies apply to your business:

The Demand Matching Strategy

This type of manufacturing applies to a company who is only making a product to exactly match the demand for that product. A restaurant only makes a single meal when a customer orders that meal. They have all the ingredients on hand for the meal but don’t go into “production” until the order is placed.

The Level Production Strategy

In this plan, a company will make an average number of products to match a projected demand for those projects. This is a consistent approach based on tangible order numbers. If that restaurant sells an average of two dozen chicken dinners every night then it makes sense for them to prep two dozen chicken dinners every night in anticipation of the orders.

The Stock Making Strategy

This strategy involves making product before a customer would place an order. The benefit of this plan is the ability to make a master production schedule that will determine a specific set of goals per manufacturing run. You’re going to make 100 widgets every day to meet any anticipated demand over the year.

Once you have settled on the type of manufacturing strategy you’ll be adopting, you should plan out a production schedule. Don’t guess as how much time or labor would be involved in making a product. You should conduct test runs of the manufacturing process to get a baseline for those facts. That will help you estimate what a typical run of a product will cost in terms of time and work force.

The test run can also help you develop a schedule for ordering supplies. If it takes a single day to create a product and you plan on having a consistent five day run then you can figure out how much materials you need on hand to complete an order. It all comes down to a matter of organization and scheduling. Don’t leave anything to guesswork.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Your Entrepreneurial Dream - Don't Let Anyone Steal It

From the very moment you had your first job, you’ve probably began the dream most common among workers: how to be your own boss?

Actually, that’s the 2nd most common dream; the first would be to win a jackpot lottery prize and retire!

But the dream of being your own boss isn’t as farfetched as you would think. If you have an entrepreneurial dream then what’s holding you back from taking it to the next level? Maybe you once had a great idea for a business that you see developed later on by a complete stranger into a successful entity.

That only means your ideas are worth pursuing. Don’t let another entrepreneurial dream slip by.

Consider these insightful tips to help make your dream of being your own boss come true.

1.      Define Your Goal and Vision

Saying you want to be your own boss is a good motivating factor but how are you going to get there? You need to define your goal in terms of a business plan. Suppose the company you’re working for now is an area you excel at. Could you start your own version of that company? That’s usually how many small businesses begin as off-shoots from former employers in the same field.

2.      Keep It Real

The key is to pick a specific goal that you can follow. To say, “I want to make a million dollars profit in my first year,” is not realistic no matter what the business. There is nothing wrong with having lofty ambitions but you have to be practical about the direction your want to follow on your entrepreneurial journey. You might want to own your own restaurant but perhaps it makes better sense to start a small diner and build a clientele. Less overhead and more room for “learning curves.”

3.      Learn the Ropes

If you’re planning to start a business that you’re already familiar with then you should have a solid foundation of how that business works. However, that doesn’t mean you know everything about running that business. You might be adept at sales but how are you at bookkeeping or payroll or property leases? Those are all areas you’ll have to become familiar with as your business expands. To accomplish that it might make sense to learn the ropes either through college courses or working with a mentor.

4.      Take the Leap

Sooner or later all of your dreaming has got to come down to earth, so to speak. This means you have to actually begin to implement your plans. If you have a well thought out business plan then you’ll be using that as a kind of road map for this journey. There will be bumps along the way but at least you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Starting your business means you’ll have to be decisive in your business decisions. That’s what being a boss is all about. No more sitting on the sidelines; it’s time to get in the game!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why Startups Need a Strong Vision

 Thanks to the GPS we never have to get lost again. All we need to do is plug an address into our phone or car’s navigation system and we can make it to our destination easily. We even get alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic!

Can you imagine going to some new destination in an unfamiliar part of town without directions? Now try to imagine a starting your business without any direction. You wouldn’t know what goals to aim for, when you reach your target or where you see your business in the coming years.

That’s not a good way to start any endeavour.

However, if you can create a well thought out vision for your business, you’ll be able to build upon and execute that vision towards success. Without it, you could quickly get lost.

Dream Big

A startup’s vision is your chance to dream big. The single store you’re opening today could become a major franchise down the road.

That is part of your vision. Will you know how to achieve that goal?

You will when you set forth a specific set of benchmarks to reach in the coming months and years. Your vision is as much about the future as it is about the day-to-day operation. Don’t hesitate to dream big.

Try this simple exercise: In five years, where do you see your company?

The answer to that question is what your vision is all about. Do you think you could achieve that goal without first understanding what it is?

Make the Commitment

The vision for your company isn’t just about those lofty ideas and grand schemes. There has to be a practical aspect to this as well. Your vision needs to have elements of a concrete plan included.

You don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty details of your operation, but you should know the answers to these questions:

·         When is it the right time to rent commercial space?

·         How do you measure the success of a marketing campaign?

·         What is your profit margin for each of your products or services?

·         How many employees do you need to hire and how much are they worth?

Those are tangible aspects of your vision that can be put into action once you make the commitment to do so. Just because you want to bake a cake for the very first time doesn’t mean you can unless you have a recipe to follow.  

Put It in Writing

When you craft a vision for your business you should always put it in writing.

This makes it real.

The best approach to creating a vision for your business is to imagine handing off what you’ve written to a total stranger. Could they follow your plan without asking any questions? That’s how thorough your vision should be.

It will give you the best chance at starting on the right foot. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ten Leadership Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Have

Being the boss means you’re the leader of your company. On many levels, the success or failure of your new startup will depend on your leadership skills. If you’ve started a business then it’s a safe bet you have some level of leadership abilities to tap into, but there is always room for improvement.

Consider these top 10 leadership skills that all business leaders must have to be successful in their businesses.

1.      Strong Mission Statement: Why did you start this business? It can’t just be about making money for yourself. Your mission statement defines the purpose of your company and will help inform every decision you and your team will make.

2.      Strong Vision: Unlike the specifics of the mission statement, the vision for your business paints the big picture. It tells your employees where you want to take your business and how your staff members can support you.

3.      Tangible Goals: As a leader you need to set the “bar” for your staff. You can do this by establishing goals foryour business. Whether its daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly sales figures, there should be a target to shoot for. You might have to adjust these goals to meet the practicalities of your business but without them you could find your company floundering without purpose.

4.      Strong Team: The major responsibility of a team leader is to actually pick that team. You need to strike a balance between the prospective employees resume, their interview and your own instincts to build that cohesive team. Just know that a good leader also knows when to make changes. If an employee isn’t working out, it’s better to sever the ties and move on than dwell on a mistake.

5.      Know-how: You need to present an image of competency to your employees, investors and customer base. This doesn’t mean you need a PhD in the particular business you are setting up, but all of those folks will be turning to you for answers. If you don’t have an immediate answer, don’t fake it. Take the time to get it right.

6.      Solid Communication: Building on the well written mission statement, vision and goals you need to keep those linesof communication open. Don’t just say, “My door is always open.” Seek out your staff to get their input. Challenge them to come up with solutions or new ideas by fostering a productive and open channel of communication. Be the model of how you want your employees to communicate with each other.

7.      Relate To Your Staff: This doesn’t mean becoming everybody’s friend. Although it might evolve to that you need to keep the boundary lines well drawn. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to relate to your staff and visa versa. The perfect example is with any company function that can involve families. The great “equalizer” among any group of people are the common bonds shared by families.

8.      Positive Attitude: “There are no problems; only solutions.” Projecting a positive attitude is infectious. Your staff will be looking for you to set the tone. Make it a positive one.

9.      Provide Inspiration: Providing inspiration isn’t just about coming in early and leaving late. A leader will often remind his team what they are “fighting for.” That type of affirmation can help drive up productivity in any company.

10.  Roll Up Your Sleeves: Every once in awhile you should step out from behind your desk and get into the trenches with your staff. Let them see you’re working as hard as they are and you’ll build extremely high levels of loyalty.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is An MBA Worth It For Entrepreneurs?

There is no denying that adding an MBA to your resume is an impressive accomplishment. It is definitely the kind of degree that can give you a leg up as you enter into the job market, but what if your goal is to be your own boss?

Do you need that MBA to become an entrepreneur? The records show a mixed result of successful entrepreneurs: some have an MBA and others don’t.

If you have both an idea for a business and catalogs for college you might want to consider the following factors before making your final decision.

The Risks

Investing in a startup business is going to take up a lot of your time and money. The same can be said for pursuing an MBA degree. On many levels it will be hard to accomplish both tasks simultaneously. With the MBA there will be extreme limitations on your time. To succeed with that degree you’ll want to give it your best effort without distraction. Are you ready to make a 2 to 4 year commitment of further studies?

If you do go down the path of the MBA, chances are you’ll forge a strong bond with many of your classmates. The pressure will be on to excel out in the real world as a majority of your fellow grads will be snagging those high paying corporate gigs. Would you be prepared to give those up to pursue your business startup? In other words, would your drive to becoming an entrepreneur wane over the ensuing years of your MBA studies? It’s perfectly natural but it’s a good argument for diving into your business first.

One thing you might not learn in an MBA program is probably the most important skillset you can develop, and that’s sales. It’s the ability to persuade investors or clients to come on board your startup. The only tried and true method of that is through trial and error. You’ve got to get out of the classroom to practice your pitch and find the cash.

The Rewards

On the other side of the coin, having an MBA can become a benefit, especially if you focus your degree program on the specific area of business you intend to pursue.

Depending on where you obtain your MBA, you could find yourself surrounded with future captains of industry. That’s an extremely valuable network that you can tap into. You’ll also be able to work out the details of your business plan in a kind of “laboratory” setting. Wouldn’t it be better to run several models of your business by a collective think tank of professors and business experts then going into the venture “blind”?

With the MBA you’ll also have a solid “fall back” position should your business plan come up short. It might be that added level of security could be your deciding factor.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Government Financing Programs for Canadian Environmental Businesses

“Going green” is not just for residents who recycle. Many companies are taking proactive steps to develop and implement environmentally friendly business practices. The Canadian Government is fostering this atmosphere by providing numerous resources to not only help a business go green but to provide limited financing for entrepreneurs who are getting into the environmental business.

The go-to site for any small business should be the Canada Business Network. There is a wide range of government-backed loan guarantee agencies designed to help a small business that might be having difficulty securing a loan from other creditors. Among the agencies are:

Canada Small Business Financing Program: This is a program that can help a business owner secure up to $500,000 from an accredited lending institution by offering a loan guarantee. These loans are meant for direct improvements to a business such as purchasing equipment or property for the company. For these loans a small business is defined as any company making less than $5 million a year.

Eco-Financing: This program applies to businesses operating in Quebec who are associated with the environmental industry such as acquiring carbon credits, research and development for greenhouse gas reduction or acquiring offset credits.

Export Guarantee Program: If your business will be involved in export related activities or foreign investments then you could find a benefit of a loan guarantee from this agency.

Canadian Agricultural Loans Act Program: This is a loan guaranteed program that assists farming businesses in securing credit. It applies to start-up farmers or for a farmer taking over an existing business with a maximum loan guarantee of up to $500,000 that can be applied towards land purchase and construction.

There are also many funding and incentive programs being offered to Canadian businesses who adopt “green” technologies or practices. These include rebates for installing solar energy panels, and helping agriculture business produce their own renewable energy sources.

Additional resources offered by the Canadian Business Network are for environmental technology verification. This allows businesses to get any environmental system they are using to be certified. That will help the business secure those loans which are geared towards eco-friendly businesses. In other words, you might have to prove you’re eco-friendly before getting the loan.

The Energy Management Information Systems Planning Manual helps business owners audit their company’s use of energy. Armed with this information, a business owner can make adjustments in their energy use that could save them money in power costs.

The FleetSmart program offers incentives and resources for companies who want to switch their transportation fleets over to more fuel efficient models. In some cases, companies are making a complete switch to electric cars with the help of these incentive programs.

Bottom line: whether you want to make your business more eco-friendly or want to start an environmental related business from the ground up, the government of Canada is a terrific place to start.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Small Business Financing - It's All About Who You Know

Believe it or not there are plenty of folks out there looking to invest in a small business. Your challenge is to get your business plan in front of them. Easier said than done, right? Actually, if you apply yourself you’ll find that it’s quite easy to build a network of potential investors. First, make sure you have a rock solid business plan ready to go. It makes no sense to seek out investors unless you’re ready to pitch. You might get only one shot and you have to be ready. Here are some tips for building up a network of investors.

1)      Go Online

There is a huge social network waiting for you to explore that is only a few mouse clicks away. LinkedIn is the most obvious choice to start your campaign to connect with potential investors. Here you’ll have a chance to build up a professional profile and find other business professionals who might be able to help. A connection you make on a site like LinkedIn might not be in a position to write you a check but they could connect you to someone who can.

2)      Try Crowdfunding sites

Beyond the direct networking possibilities of social media, there is another burgeoning source of investors you could find online and that would be with group funding. A site like Kickstarter is bringing together pools of small investors who are willing to share their funds with a business that looks promising. Once again, you have to be ready to fire up your business machine and answer any question in a competent matter.

3)      Ask your family and friends

It’s amazing the amount of help we can get from our family and friends if we just ask. You might have a favorite aunt or uncle who is willing to take a shot at investing in your business. As long as you treat them as you would any other potential investment then there is no reason not to present them with a business plan. Just as your online network could help you bridge the gap to meeting potential investors, you might have a friend who works for a company or has their own relationship with a potential investor. Throw a friendly dinner party and make your pitch. Keep it honest and sincere and you’ll reap the benefits.

4)      Network at events

This is a no-brainer. There are plenty of tradeshows geared for entrepreneurs to help them connect with investors. Seek them out but don’t stop at the tradeshow. Follow the money. This means going to places where the “money” would hang out: a country club, museum opening, first night at the opera, polo pony matches… wherever you might think that serious minded business professionals would gather you should try to infiltrate. This doesn’t mean barging in with your stack of business plans ready to hang out. Go make some new friends and see where that takes you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Predicting Accurate Sales Revenue for your Business Plan

Your business plan is your calling card. This is how you’ll be judged by potential investors and lending institutions. It has to be expertly prepared and you need to be able to stand by every projection.

The key word there is “projection.” For all practical purposes, you’re making an estimate as to how your business will perform. In the real world, those numbers can go up and down.

Predicting accurate sales revenues could make all the difference with your potential investor. Those numbers have to be realistic and rock solid. Here are the steps to take for making accurate sales predictions.

Step 1: Expenses

You’ll need to put together the list of fixed and variable expenses. These will include all the items you know you’ll be paying out for on a regular basis such as office rent, equipment rent, payroll, electric, phone and inventory (if applicable). You should also factor in the budget for marketing campaigns. It proves you’re being realistic about your business expenditures.

Step 2: Income

Here is where you’ll be doing the bulwark of your predicting. How can you estimate revenue when you haven’t sold your product or service yet? One approach would be to analyze the competition. What kind of business have they done in the past several quarters? If they are a public company you can find that information easily.

You might also have experience from a previous job that can provide projected sales figures. Your local Small Business Administration or Chamber of Commerce might also be able to help you.  

You should also analyze your own market. This is easier with a brick and mortar type of store than with an ecommerce business. Think of your business as a zone that attracts potential customers. What would be the average amount of customers who would visit your store or site each day? Of that number, what percentage would make actual purchases? Of that number, how much would they spend? This is how you shape projections. You should always strive to be conservative with those estimates so as not to over inflate your company’s value.

Step 3: Do the Calculations

Here the math is simple: You subtract your expenses from your sales projections. That is your profit margin and it’s the number your investors will be most interested in.

Whatever set of numbers you put into your plan you’ll need to make sure you’ve got backups for them. This can actually be explained as part of your business plan but it’s a guarantee you’ll be asked at some point, “How did you come by these figures?” You want to make sure you have a responsible answer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to be a Guest Speaker to Promote your Business

One of the most effective ways of getting the word out about your business is to talk about your business. That doesn’t necessarily mean stopping strangers on the street and passing out business cards (although that can work!). You should find ways to become a guest speaker. While you might not command those huge keynote speaker fees, you could volunteer to give a talk to local community groups or at trade show conferences. Those event planners are always looking to broaden their agendas and you’d be providing them a great service. Here are five terrific tips to help you become an amazing guest speaker to promote your business.

Get the Facts

 Know your audience. You should develop a kind of “stump speech” which is basically the same speech that can be delivered to any audience. However, that doesn’t mean you can tailor make that speech to fit a particular group. What you might be presenting to a group of senior citizens is different than to a group of high school seniors, even if it’s the same product. You should also know exactly how much time you’re allotted for your speech and when you’ll be “going on.” Additionally, if you require any special equipment like a projector or extension cord it’s always best to bring that yourself. Don’t count on the facility to have what you need.

Write Your Own Intro

Since you’re going to be introduced it will be best if you can position your biography and theme of your speech. Writing your own introduction can certainly be done with humility. It’s also a great relief to your host since they won’t have to worry about getting that information wrong.

Have Take-aways

It would be extremely beneficial if you can put something into the hand of everyone listening to your speech. Whether it’s a brochure, menu of services or even a refrigerator magnet, giving the attendees something with your company name and contact will be invaluable in terms of creating new customers. If you have something to sell immediately, like a book or other promotional items, make sure you clear it with the event planner in advance. Also find out if there will be other speakers selling stuff. You don’t want to be the only one selling.

Engage Your Audience

The best approach to giving a speech is to make it more like a conversation. Yes, you’ll be doing most of the talking but you don’t want to get stuck reading from a written speech or slides on a power point presentation. One of the most effective ways of engaging an audience is to ask them questions. You don’t always need to hear the answer but you’re getting them to think about your presentation by turning it on their own lives. That will make what you have to say resonate with the crowd.

Stick Around

Don’t just talk and run. If you have time in your presentation to open up the floor for questions, that will be terrific. Often attendees might prefer to pull you aside after the speech to ask questions. Stick around to meet the folks and find out more about them. Who knows? You might even be asked to give your speech somewhere else! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to use LinkedIn to get New Clients

While everyone is busy posting pictures of their pets and catching up with friends over on Facebook, serious minded business professionals are turning to LinkedIn as a way of staying connected with associates. They are also discovering the benefits of utilizing LinkedIn to expand their own customer/client base. There was a time when dedicated salesmen would have to “work the phones” to generate new leads. Today’s internet savvy sales force knows how to work the social media networks. Here are some tips to help you use LinkedIn to get new clients.

1)      Share the News

The worst thing that a potential new client or even a long time business associate should ask is, “What have you been up to lately?” If that happens then it’s clear you’re not using LinkedIn to its fullest extent. Whenever your business has a new product or venture you should post the details on LinkedIn. You can also send industry news that is relevant to your network or contacts. You can boost that announcement by adding a follow up direct message to your contacts asking for the time to catch up through a call or email.   

2)      Make the Connections

After you’ve established your own social circle of professional contacts on LinkedIn it’s time to go exploring. Spend some time every day reviewing who your contacts are connected to. Perhaps someone you once worked with are friends with a CEO you’d like to get in front of. Armed with this information you can ask for an introduction or use that connection as your “conversation starter” with the new contact. Either way, you’re expanding your reach which is what LinkedIn is all about.

3)      Track Down Former Co-Workers

Over in Facebook everyone is digging up old acquaintances from as far back as kindergarten. You should be doing the same thing on LinkedIn but keep it focused on business. Take a trip down memory lane and go looking for former business associates or fellow college grads. Where are they working today? Would that be a valuable connection to make?

4)      Ask for Introductions

Making a connection is easy but what if you want to gain access to a company where you have no network? You’re essentially making an old fashioned “cold call” reaching out to that company. Your network is the best bet to be introduced to someone within a company. Find out who knows who and ask for an introduction. The best thing about LinkedIn is that it allows you to see who is connected to whom.  This doesn’t mean you make a contact and then go for the hard sale. Let that relationship build. (See hint #1!)

5)      Join the Groups
Every member of the LinkedIn community has the opportunity to join groups built around common interests. Here is where the community really comes to life through ongoing discussions. Those groups could all contain potential clients. Get involved but keep it professional. The best way to connect with strangers is to create your own LinkedIn group. Revolve the group around a particular industry/category and invite your peers to connect and share.