Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report June 2013

July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized by lizbygrave

Four new members joined 17 other networkers at the Small Business Network’s June meeting, held on Monday, the 17th 2013, at Sable D’Or, Muswell Hill Broadway. Not surprisingly, Nicola Zuliana had a queue of small business owners waiting to talk to him after the one-minute go-round, and I bet few of them had their small businesses in mind – for Nicola sells organic Italian wines, as well as a few other Italian goodies.

If you have too much of Nicola’s wine, you might need to turn to Costas Chaniotis, who is training to become a metamorphic technician; he hopes to qualify by the end of the year, so he can help small business owners suffering from too much work-related tension.

Colin Durban’s service was more related to the needs of small businesses: he is a video producer specialising in marketing videos, ideal for showing local groups of prospective clients a little about what your business can offer. Read the rest of this entry →

8 Reasons To Go To Business Networking Meetings…..Aside from Getting More Customers

May 16, 2013 in Business Networking, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

If you don’t network – whether on or off line – no-one gets to hear about your product or service, and of course no-one gets to buy from you.

So networking is as natural as breathing – we do it every time we tell someone what we do for a living.

Business networking events are a logical extension of this – they provide a focused way for lots of small business owners to communicate to each other what they do, and thereby get more customers.

This is of course very valuable in itself. However, it is easy to forget the other benefits of networking for small businesses:

Read the rest of this entry →

Networking for Small Businesses – How To Do It

May 10, 2013 in Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

Everyone who comes to SBN meetings comes for one reason: to network. But what does networking mean, and how can you do it effectively? We read a lot these days about the benefits for small business owners of building email mailing lists, sending out electronic newsletters, promoting their product or service – or themselves! – on social media, etc, but does all this really work?

‘Network’ is defined in my Oxford Paperback Dictionary as ‘an arrangement or pattern with intersecting lines’ or ‘a chain of interconnected people or operations’. I guess, as members of the Small Business Network, we all have at least one interconnection; for most of us, our common north London location adds a second one. Some SBN members work in the same area, such as alternative therapy or business coaching, so that adds a third interconnection.

In the broader sense, for a small business owner, a network can include anyone whom he or she meets, talks to, or even has phone or email communication – i.e. anyone in the room at the Small Business Network meetings. Even someone who seems completely irrelevant to you and your business – someone who works in a completely unrelated field, who doesn’t show any interest in what you do – can become a valuable member of your network because they could well pass on your details to friends, family and others in another part of their network.

But the key to successful networking doesn’t lie solely in the make-up of each small business owner’s network: it lies in how they use the contacts they make. That does NOT mean sending blanket emails to everyone whose address you have in the hope they might be interested in what you are selling (for let’s not kid ourselves: every marketing email is aimed at selling our product or service). In fact, bombarding a contact with emails – be they invitations; notices of workshops, promotions, etc; newsletters; Friends requests; repeat Tweets; or anything else – is the quickest way to turn a positive contact into a negative one, because the recipient of your emails will start to press the delete button without even opening the email.

If someone shows interest in your product or service, by all means send them a newsletter, invite them to a workshop, tell them about a special offer. But if after two or three emails, you get no response, take them off the list – or, better still, ask them if they would like to continue receiving emails from you.

For a small business owner, smart networking really means making note of anyone you meet who you feel might truly be interested in your offering or, conversely, whose product or service may be beneficial to you, if not now, then sometimes in the future. If, like me, your mind is a sieve, take their card and keep it somewhere prominent or write their details down on paper or in your e-files;  at the very least, tidy their name away in a corner of your brain.

Get to know the people you meet regularly, such as fellow Small Business Network members, so that you have an idea of how they work, what they do, and what they may want from you. That way,  if you are having a special offer or are launching a new product and service, you can trawl the recesses of your mind or your very efficient contact list and target your mailings.

Getting to know your contacts helps you benefit from networking in another way: if you are looking for a product or service, you know who might be able to help. For example, I am changing the designer for my magazine, Your Allotment, but the person I hoped to use can’t take on anymore work. I phoned or emailed everyone I knew who might be able to help: the answer came from someone I know socially – not a business owner – who happens to be art director of the Sunday Express. One of her friends and fellow colleagues fits the bill perfectly.

You never know when or where you might meet someone again or when you might need someone’s help, so keep your mind open and your contact book up-to-date. Just use your contacts wisely if you really want to gain the greatest benefits networking can bring: friendship, trust and, with luck, an increase in your customer base.

Blogging For Small Businesses

April 15, 2013 in Blogging, Uncategorized by lizbygrave

I’m doing what many of you do: writing a blog. Those who don’t already put fingers to keyboard are probably thinking about it, because everywhere you look, blogs seem to be the fashionable way to tell people what you’re thinking and to put you and your business in the public eye. In fact, many marketing gurus insist that blogs are the best way for small business owners to create greater awareness of the products and services they offer.

But with such a huge proliferation of blogs over the past 12 months or so – and growing with every click of the mouse – does anyone have time to read them? Who? When? What do you have to do to make your blog stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs floating in cyberspace? How often should you add a new blog to your web site? Should you write blogs for anyone else? And what do you have to put in a blog to ensure that it benefits your small business, rather than put people off? Read the rest of this entry →

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report March 2013

April 2, 2013 in Business Networking, Muswell Hill Meetings by lizbygrave

The Small Business Network celebrated its seventh anniversary by welcoming 24 small business owners – including four new networkers – to its March meeting at Sable D’Or on Muswell Hill Broadway.

One attendee, David Lawson, was still in the process of setting up his first, as yet unnamed, small business, restoring antique furniture. He had joined the Small Business Network in order to get advice and tips on how to go about starting on his new venture, always a daunting prospect for any fledgling small business owner.

Elaine Reeves, another first-timer, could help David and all the other members of the Small Business Network because she specialises in producing personalised branded items, allowing small businesses to market themselves through giveaway pens, diaries, bags, and so on. Read the rest of this entry →

Online Communication for Small Businesses

March 6, 2013 in Online Marketing, Small Business Advice, Social Media by lizbygrave

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, isn’t the only one who despairs at the damage texting is doing to our grasp of grammar and punctuation. C U Wed is pretty easy to understand, but what do you do when faced with something like PT t brg X bz?*

Writing to friends doesn’t have to be formal, but when text-speak spills over into business communication, you are looking at a completely different ballgame. Be honest: would you want to do business with someone who could not communicate clearly? Would you want to hire someone who couldn’t write a proper sentence?

But text-speak isn’t the only problem small business owners face. With the growth of email, web sites and social media, we are under increasing pressure to join the cyber race – and that means Tweets, Facebook messages, blogs, and so on. For those lacking natural writing skills, the prospect of turning out Internet copy can be daunting, whatever form it takes. Can I use text-speak in a Tweet? How personal should I be? Do I have to use proper English, proper grammar?  Can’t I be much less formal when I write for the Internet than when producing printed documents?

Yes, the Internet is less formal  – but writing Tweets and blogs carry their own rules. Tweets have to be short, of course, so you need to understand how to get the message across in just 140 characters. No padding there, then. What is it you want to tell people? Say you are promoting a special offer. No point in using the term special offer: it wastes 13 characters. Instead, just put the offer in the Tweet, e.g.: Reiki sessions three for price of two, XX Healing Today (or whatever your business is called) – just 54 characters – and/or your web site.

Facebook page? Keep that short, too, but as there are no length restrictions, you can get a little more descriptive, such as: Reiki transfers universal energy through the healer’s palms to create a state of equilibrium. Ideal for the stressed out modern world Try three taster sessions for the price of two at XX Healing Today.

Blogs can be any length, but the shorter the better. If it’s too long, unless you are another Danielle Steele or Lee Child, readers won’t make it to the end. Don’t ramble. Decide what you want to say before you start, and make sure there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If you’re not sure how to do that, look at this one and try to determine which is the beginning – and why; how it moves into the middle (the main message); and how it finishes up.

Blogs are not actually that different from printed material. You’ve got room to play around, room to include more information, thoughts, ideas, advice. But make sure you actually do have information, thoughts, ideas, advice; don’t waffle.

Whatever you write, avoid superlatives: you are probably not the only whatever you do in north London, and possibly not the best, either; if you say you are, you had better be able to prove it. Be concrete. Everything you put out there should be easy to read and understand – and that means an ability to explain things clearly, a reasonable grasp of grammar and punctuation – and no text speak, ever.

*Party tomorrow, bring extra booze.

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report February 2013

February 22, 2013 in Business Networking, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

Nine new networkers joined the February meeting of the Small Business Network at Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill, swelling the number to a very healthy 24. The eight ranged from alternative medicine practitioners and business coaching and marketing professionals to de-clutterers and chocoholics.

Vikki Parker, who offers reflexology, Reiki healing and Indian head massage under the name Gaialuna, plans to set up groups for parents and children, aged 4-12. Bebe Jacobs’ Energize Your Business also provides Reiki, Indian head massage and other therapies, but she combines that with things like parenting coaching for those with pre-school and primary school aged youngsters and business services such as Talent Dynamics, a profiling of employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

Chris Clayton also offers small business coaching, but with a difference: her company, achieve with an LP Ltd, specialises in helping musicians. Zoey Cooper works for Polkadot Global, which creates marketing material and offers translation services, while Sarah Pollinger, a financial adviser for small businesses and individuals, likes to ‘keep it simple’ so small business owners aren’t confused by economics. Read the rest of this entry →

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report December 2012 Meeting

December 11, 2012 in Business Networking, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

At Christmas time, here at Small Business Network, it is now traditional for us to have a little christmas fair at the meeting. This December we had five tables of gift items.

There was Lubica Art, selling the most stunning hand-painted silk scarves, with a special offer to all Small Business Network members of £40 in honour of Christmas, and the fact that this was the first time Slovakian mum and daughter – both named Lubica – had attended the networking meeting. And on the other side of the room, another kind of artist, Natasha Barton, also a Small Business Network debutante, displayed beautiful screenprints of London views. For those who couldn’t afford a piece of original art, however impressive, she also had greeting cards and postcards of some of her work.

A couple of tables down, established networker Amanda Eatwell had Christmas cards and general greetings cards featuring her photography, as well as photographic prints: I’ve long had my eye on the deck chairs. Another regular at the Small Business Network meetings, Vicky Williams, showed off her Jewels of Distinction – hand-made earrings, necklaces and other items, all at the sort of prices that make them ideal presents.

Jo Tocher, of Your Healthy Heart, rounded up the Christmas gift tables, selling organic toiletries and scented candles.

Read the rest of this entry →

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report November 2012

November 28, 2012 in Business Networking, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings by lizbygrave

Eleven ‘newbies’ turned up to the November 2012 meeting of the Small Business Network, representing eight different business types. The meeting, once again held at the welcoming Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill, north London, was particularly busy this month, with close on 30 small business owners getting together to enjoy the benefits of networking. Read the rest of this entry →

Blogging Tips For Small Businesses

November 22, 2012 in Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

I’m doing what many of you do: writing a blog. Those who don’t already put fingers to keyboard are probably thinking about it, because everywhere you look, blogs seem to be the fashionable way to tell people what you’re thinking and to put you and your business in the public eye. In fact, many marketing gurus insist that blogs are the best way for small business owners to create greater awareness of the products and services they offer.

But with such a huge proliferation of blogs over the past 12 months or so – and growing with every click of the mouse – does anyone have time to read them? Who? When? What do you have to do to make your blog stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs floating in cyberspace? How often should you add a new blog to your web site? Should you write blogs for anyone else? And what do you have to put in a blog to ensure that it benefits your small business, rather than put people off?

There are so many variables when it comes to writing a blog that it is hard to be specific about what works and what doesn’t. But every small business owner should think about a few basics. For a start, make it interesting – and often the best way to guarantee that is to write what you’d want to read. A customer or potential customer is likely to be interested in the same things you are, by the very fact they buy, or are thinking of buying, the product or service on offer. An alternative therapist should, therefore, be writing blogs relating to alternative therapy, or at least trying to make a blog relevant to alternative therapy. So they could write about the latest food fashion, but only in as much as it impacts on health. A web designer should write about web sites, but could consider some aspect of journalism or writing in general.

Blogs shouldn’t be too long, since small business owners have enough to do to try to run their businesses without wishing to spend too much time glued to the Internet. I reckon around 500 words is long enough. Don’t add new blogs to your site too often, either. A daily blog can become a most tedious object, both because the reader gets tired of hearing from the same person every day and because the writer runs out of things to say, so the blogs become boring – and even more tedious.

And while most small business people want their blogs on their own web sites, you can often do better by contributing to someone else’s site. Sticking with the alternative therapist, if the therapist wrote a blog for, say, a personal trainer’s web site, or a foodie web site, and linked fitness or diet to their therapy, think of the number of new readers, and hence new potential customers, that could  be reached.

Blogs can certainly attract traffic to any small business web site, but there is one final thing to remember: if you aren’t good at writing, don’t try. It’s better not to have a blog at all than one which is so excruciatingly bad that no one wants to visit your site again.