Have you been thinking of starting your own business? How is that going? It can be a bit daunting, but if you are passionate about what you do and you have the basics down pat, you are in a good place to move forward.

That said, there is a lot to consider, so we thought we would share a few things you should know, and that we wish we had known before we both opened our first business years ago.

Find out who is buying what you are selling. If you don’t know this vital piece of information, it can take much longer to get your business off the ground. In the beginning, we were working with entrepreneurs and things were going well. The challenge was that as we got our name out there, we suddenly had two very different audiences – small business and corporate. Why was this a challenge? It was a challenge because our marketing message became skewed as we worked tirelessly on marketing to the two different audiences. What did we do about this? We decided that we needed to figure out what audience to focus on, develop a solid message for them and then evolve as required.

That did work well for us and we got very clear and crisp with our messaging. In fact, we stopped having a split-personality with our blog posts and social media, and started gaining a captive audience. We felt like this would help our audience better understand how we could serve them best and guess what –it not only felt right, but business improved as well!

Are you finding that your business has a split-personality? You will know instantly, if you are struggling with what to write about or what to post on social media. It can be challenging to make that transition from wanting to serve everyone and anyone, but you need to do this. If you don’t, your business will suffer and get lost in the sea of businesses. The key is to focus, be clear as to who you want to work with and who you can serve best. If you don’t know, reflect, and ask yourself the following questions;

  • Who do I love to work with most?
  • What am I most passionate about?
  • What happens when I work with this client?
  • How do I know when I’m working with the ‘right’ clients?

You might be surprised to find out who these people are, and that it may take you in a different direction, or you may need to change where and who you network with. With that though, you will feel more fulfilled and best of all, you will be more successful!

Alright, so we have spoken about clientele and drilling down your target market when you are starting your own business. Now it’s time to talk about the plan! Do you have one? Do you have a unique brand that stands out and represents you well?  You’ve heard about the “know-like-trust” rule in marketing. If people don’t feel an emotional connection to you, meaning, if they cannot see you as the business owner or someone who they can trust, they’re unlikely to want to work with you. We have broken this down into what we believe are four pillars of growing and sustaining a business. Here goes…

Do a business plan. That’s right, even if you do not need to get a bank loan, or apply for a grant, doing a business plan is a brilliant exercise to get your head in the game of business ownership and what it really entails. Ask your banker, accountant and other businesses lots of questions, to ensure that you’re on the right track. Usually, there is no rush to start your own business, so I highly recommend that you spend some time, do your research, talk to other businesses and create a really solid plan before you launch. 

Develop a solid unique brand. When you are ready, be sure to think carefully about your brand. Your brand is part of you and should reflect who you are, it should be unique, speak to what you stand for and to your ideal client too. Hire someone to work with you to develop your brand -it’s truly worthwhile to nail this from the beginning, as your brand will be with you for years to come. You want to get it right!

Have a clear vision and goals. ​Remember, when you talk to everyone, you talk to no one. Not everyone is your client, so be sure to thoroughly assess and get clear on your own values, your skills and your goals. Doing so will help you align with the clients you really want to work with. We spend the better part of a day each month, assessing the previous month, looking forward and planning for the next month. ​What worked? What didn’t go well? What should we stop doing? Start doing? Keep doing?  This is a huge key to success!  

Be social and develop a plan. Yes, being on social media and networking face-to-face, are key to connecting with others, when starting and growing your business. The beauty of social media, is that it’s one of the least expensive ways to advertise your business, all it costs is your time. Yes, there is a benefit to doing Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Facebook Boosts of your posts. However, you don’t have to start there. The key is really to develop a great strategy for marketing your business, be unique, allow people to see your expertise, your sense of humour and be inspiring. Before long, you will start to build a following on social media and you will begin attracting the people who you want to work with. Why? Because when you post about things you care about and value, people are naturally drawn to you and want to get to know you, learn from you, and that’s how you build trust.

You have likely heard a few of the above points before. That said, these tips have been very beneficial in our business and that of our clients. We hope you find them helpful for your business and we wish you the very best as you start your own business, or build some of these tips into your existing business.

Follow us on social media for more tips and inspiration!

If you’re in the beginning stages of your business and you’re feeling overwhelmed, we would love to help and share our expertise with you so that you develop and launch a successful, thriving business! Give us a call at 705-302-3386 or email us at meow@cheetahfusion.com.

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

 

We work with a lot of business owners and professionals and we often get asked questions about networking such as; how often should I be out networking? Where should I be networking? What are some dos and don’ts of networking? It’s interesting that as business owners, we know we need to network, but there are many unknowns with networking –probably the biggest unknown is, how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking?

Well, we know that there is a huge return on investment with networking that surpasses any other marketing tactic on the planet. Yes, marketing your business online, through your website, email marketing and social media are all important and work very well. However, marketing online along with meeting face-to-face with people, can be a winning combination for success! Networking is also a very cost effective and natural way to attract new business. So, here are a few quick tips and best practices for networking:

  1. Walk into the networking space with a smile. This can be difficult if you feel nervous walking into a room full of people you don’t know. That said, if you can manage a smile and keep your head up, as you walk in, that’s a great start! As human beings, we are naturally attracted to, and want to work with people who are approachable, look confident, but most importantly, those who have a smile on their face. You will likely feel more drawn to go and say “hello” to the people who are smiling, who have their head up and are looking at who they will talk to first. They tend to exude a certain trustworthiness and are more likely to be conversational with you when you meet them as well.  So next time you enter a room, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back and smile…notice what happens!
  2. Interact with tact and be sensitive to others. Have you ever been at a networking event and had someone come up, say “hi” and before you can respond, they jam a business card into your hand? They may have even interrupted your conversation with someone else. This can leave a very negative impression and if you’re like us, it’s very unlikely you will ever reach out to that person to do business with them. Before walking up to someone to start a conversation, be tactful. If two people are talking shoulder to shoulder, that is an indication that they are open to others joining their conversation. If two people are face-to-face, and seem to be in deep conversation, that is not an invitation for you to join their conversation or interrupt them. Find another friend to have a chat with in the meantime.
  3. Be intentional when you are out networking. The best way to connect with someone, is to smile, say hello and say your name. Hold out your hand to shake theirs. Avoid the “So, what do you do?” question. This is a cop-out and can be off-putting. Instead, warm up the conversation and ask a few questions; how are you? How did you get started in your business? I’m always curious about this. Who or what inspired you to start your own business? These are all great conversation starters, as they can prompt other questions and a much deeper conversation. It also lets the other person know you are interested in them and their business. Usually when you make a strong connection, that person will ask for your business card and possibly a meeting. Finally, set the intention to meet with just 2 – 3 people and have a meaningful conversation with each of them.
  4. Make sure you are responsive. After attending a networking event, you have likely collected a couple of business cards, and quite likely you exchanged business cards with other people. So, the next step and the key to building relationships, is to reach out to them and thank them for a great conversation. You may want to invite them to continue your conversation over coffee. Also, if someone reaches out to you, make sure you respond in a timely manner. This is part of building rapport and trust with that other individual, and it starts with being responsive –so email them back within a day whenever possible! Oh, and a quick note about business cards, be very careful about adding someone to your mailing list. It may not serve you to do so. It’s always best to invite them to join your newsletter, or better yet, allow them to peruse your website, and have them join your newsletter by choice!

We have found that in most cases, when you are out networking with like-minded people, it’s likely that you will make a connection with at least 1-2 people, and they will become a client or refer someone to you, if you have followed the steps above. Be relatable, friendly, listen carefully, be curious and for goodness sake, unless they ask, do not start selling to them!  They will become agitated and will look for a way to leave the conversation. You haven’t earned their trust yet, let alone their business! Networking is not for making the sale. It’s intended to connect with others and build rapport.

How often should you network? Well, especially in the beginning when you are just starting out with your business, we suggest getting out to at least three networking events each week. This will give you an opportunity to check out a few different groups, see how you feel, and whether they are a fit or not.

How does the ROI work? Once you find a couple of groups that feel right for you and your business, choose two to three networking groups that you can attend regularly and stick with them. Be patient, as it takes time to build the know-like-and-trust factor and the more consistently you attend, the better you become at sharing stories, examples of how you can help which showcases you and your business brilliantly, helping you get good traction. If you stick with a group and show up to each meeting, you should start to get the return on your investment of time, money and energy with clients, either directly from those groups or referrals from them. It is about giving, as much as it is receiving though, so be sure to meet with other businesses within those groups to learn about them and their business, and look for ways that you can support and refer each other!

Where should you network?  There are a lot of great networking groups around, including Professionals in Partnership, a local group of which we have been members for a few years now. There are BNI Chapters all over the world, and we highly recommend that you check out your local Chamber of Commerce as well. For female entrepreneurs and professionals, there is also FemCity, another well organized networking group. We have found that there is a great variety of business owners and professionals who attend these meetings and events. Also, your Chamber of Commerce will likely offer a variety of times in which you can network from breakfast meetings, to Lunch n’ Learns, to Business After 5 networking in order to suit all types of businesses. If you are a great speaker, they even offer speaking opportunities to do a presentation on a topic of interest. This is great for visibility and helping others get to know more about what you do and how you can help them!

We hope you found this post helpful, and that you have more insight on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking. Remember to smile when you enter the room. Be curious. Ask questions. Show up consistently. Connect. Build relationships and refer other businesses –repeat. The business will come.

Please comment or reach out to us anytime. We love hearing from you!

Penni & Heather

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

Tel: 705.302.3386 | meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com

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