This is my Grandfather and namesake Alastair Banks. He fought and lived through WW2. He was and always will be an inspiration in my life. This day is for remembering him and everyone else who fought for their countries.
Used well, LinkedIn can be an incredibly powerful tool for your business, however almost everyone I meet admits to not really understanding the platform. In professional services this is prolific, it appears firms are saying that staff should be using the tool but not actually helping them work out how to get the most from it. This seems very odd.
In this post I’ve outlined 6 tips for effective use of the platform, I hope it helps you.
1. Complete your profile fully
This might sound obvious but the majority don’t. Anything less than 100% complete is too little. Having a fuller profile helps others find you. You need to include information on your previous positions as well as your current company – think of it as an online CV if you will.
2. Start finding people
Numbers matter on LinkedIn – A slightly controversial comment perhaps but this is not just for ego. The more people you are ‘connected with’ the better the chance of working the tool you’ll have. Start searching your local area and contacts and asking to link with those people you know and trust. Over time you will naturally start to build this number quickly but in the beginning you need to give it a bit of a push.
3. Get found on Search Engines
Make sure your profile is set to ‘full’ – you can do this in the edit profile settings section. LinkedIn is very well respected by Google so the chances of you showing up in the results if you are active are that much higher. Do you rank in Google for your own name (I hope you do because your prospective clients will be searching for you)? If not, get working this site. A quick search on my name Alastair Banks actually shows two results on LinkedIn in the top 10 meaning I get even more bites of the ‘search cherry’.
4. Did you know LinkedIn has other Search Engine (SEO) value?
In your profile you are able to link to 3 external sites – perhaps your blog or company website. Many people don’t realise these links have SEO value, so you need to make sure you name the link and include a keyphrase that is descriptive of your website or business. Check my profile to see how I do this.
5. Do your homework
I use LinkedIn to find people that I’m meeting. The power of a little knowledge on their education, company history and interests can be the difference between winning a pitch or not. Bonding is such an important part of sales that you shouldn’t overlook this.
6. Ask for Recommendations
You can ask for recommendations from your contacts. Don’t be embarrassed, get on and do it. Someone saying something nice about you is that much more powerful than you saying it yourself. The more you can get, the better and don’t forget to return the favour when someone is nice enough to recommend you.
This really is the tip of the Iceberg when it comes to this powerful social networking platform. I strongly recommend integrating this into your everyday work.
If you want to know more about how to to do this then I’ll be running a new LinkedIn course on the 9th of November in Exeter with my good friend Julian Summerhayes where we’ll focus on how to get leads and sales from this fantastic tool. Sorry for the shameless plug but this course really is a great chance to tap into our knowledge at a low cost. The value of what you’d get from it far outweighs the small cost for joining us that day. Places are limited so make sure you get in quick: http://areyoulinkedin.eventbrite.com/
Hope to see you there
Now Your Thoughts
- What are your views on LinkedIn?
- How does it fit your strategy?
- I’d love to hear success stories you can attribute to the tool
A bonus post from me today but one that I feel is very important for the reasons I’m about to go into.
At the weekend, a friend came over to my house. He decided to ‘check-in’ to my house using Facebook places and invite me. Where’s the harm in that right? Well Facebook Places will geo-locate your smart phone device and show a map of where you are to all your friends. He had told over 1000 people on his Facebook profile where I lived. You’re hopefully starting to see where I’m going with this. If people know where I live it’s not the end of the world but if people are going round checking in to their friends houses & their own houses regularly then this concerns me. A lot of data is being built up about where people are and are not.
Facebook has a prolific younger audience and Facebook Places is nice and shiny to them – they want to play with it and rather than using it for the commercial benefits it might have, they are using it to check-in to homes a lot. How many parents out there don’t realise that their house’s whereabouts is being flagged up to potentially thousands of people online? What about those parties that were gatecrashed years ago – how much easier will that be now?
I’m an avid user of Foursquare (another Geo-Location tool) and have been for a year or so. The difference with this tool is that Foursquare was used by an early adopter audience which probably had a slightly more mature demographic to it’s user base who might think through the ramifications of checking in to their own and friends houses. Facebook has just opened places upto 500 million people across the globe and I truly believe that we need to educate people as to it’s use. You might remember that people were talking about Foursquare and burglaries a while ago (I wrote about it here) – this, in my opinion is far more worrying.
If you have a family (especially kids) using Facebook, guide them on the use of Places and spread the word.
Now Your Thoughts
Are you using Places? Did you even know about it? Am I getting worried for no reason?
No post from me today as I’ll be attending #likeminds in Exeter, Devon – Hope to see many of you there
Not a long post today but it’s about a topic that I’ve discussed a lot of over the past six months so I decided today to put pen to paper on it just in case it can help any small to medium sized business owners out there.
Recession or any kind of slack economy is, in my opinion, a real chance for clever businesses to really lever themselves into an industry leading position. This is of course as long as they can keep cash flowing themselves!
The main reason I believe this, is that many of your competitors are cost cutting, thinking that’s the answer to the dreaded ‘R’ word. So while they are less prominent, you need to step up and take advantage. You’ll almost certainly be able to get better deals on marketing opportunities at these times too so make use of them. Get your name out there more than they are, and get ready to clean up on the business that is still looking for your products/services.
Another reason it’s a great time to ramp everything up is because some of your competitors will almost certainly disappear completely so make sure you’re ready to pick up some customers from those businesses that found things too difficult when they are looking for a new supplier.
A quick word of warning – recessions mean more new start-ups as people who are made redundant take the opportunity to set up new businesses, so just make sure your business is lean and ready to take opposition from younger, hungry companies. Just work out what differentiates you and be ready to tell everyone from the roof tops.
A slow economy is an opportunity for us entrepreneurs – work out how you can take advantage now
This post was done last year for our ninth birthday at Optix. As we turn ten next Monday I thought I’d revisit the interview for those that missed it.
Interview with James Dawkins and Alastair Banks of Optix Solutions:
It’s hard to believe that Alastair and James were merely 20 years old when they joined forces to start Optix Solutions in 1999. Since then, their strong business acumen and un-reserved commitment to exceeding customer expectations has helped develop Optix Solutions into a professional Web Design and Internet Services Company with a dedicated team of Business Development Managers, Web Designers, Web Developers and Search Engine Optimisation Consultants – working with some of the UK’s leading organisations!
In this interview we look back at how together, Alastair and James, have achieved their success.
Q. What inspired you to start Optix Solutions?
James: Quite simply – not wanting to work for someone else!
Alastair: I’d agree with James here – we felt there was a gap in the market and didn’t want to work for anyone else after finishing University.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of running Optix?
Alastair: There are so many! I still get a massive buzz from developing relationships and helping clients – but seeing a team develop around James and me is also very rewarding.
James: Seeing all of the hard work we devote to our clients pay off! Like winning the award for Best Franchise Website Design with Urban Planters last year was fantastic, and being nominated for the Business Enterprise Award by the Federation of Small Business this year demonstrates recognition for our continuous progression as a company.
Q. What has been the most significant change on the web since Optix was founded in 1999?
Alastair: Firstly we went through the ‘Dot Com Bubble’ in 1999/2000; we saw e-Commerce start to take off through the early noughties and now Social Media is off the scale… It’s quite amazing! Have I mentioned TravellersConnected.com? (TravellersConnected.com is a Social Networking site dedicated to helping Travellers find a Travel Companion and all other Travel related advice and information. Both Alastair and James are founding members of the site which was established in 2004 and is today recognised as one of the 100 Best Travel Sites by the Times Online!)
Q. How have you been able to succeed in such a competitive market?
James: Selecting a hard-working team, trying to stay ahead of the game and looking after our clients as best as possible!
Alastair: As James said, developing a great team, looking after our clients and regularly consulting with an experienced Business Adviser have definitely helped us succeed.
Q. How do you hope Optix will develop over the next 9 years?
Alastair: We’d both like to see another office and perhaps more spin-offs like TravellersConnected.com to get our teeth into. I think when you’re entrepreneurial you’re always looking for the next opportunity.
James: An Optix sponsored race car!
Q. What do you look forward to most at the start of a work day?
James: The truth is no day is ever the same, but it’s always great hearing from our clients – so I guess we look forward to embracing the unknown and pushing the boundaries.
Alastair: Definitely, couldn’t have said it better myself James. I knew there was a reason I went into business with you.
Q. Any last words?
Both: Watch this space!
Well once again I find myself apologising for the time taken to write this post – At least I’m now settled in my new pad and have a computer at home so no excuses anymore
If you’re starting a business then I’m sure that like me, you’ll probably be selling something – either a product or a service. The majority of start-up owners have to be sales people (whether they like it or not) purely because they are often the only people in the business.
Now let’s put aside this theory that you are selling a product or a service – you’re not, you’re selling yourself!!! *Queue dramatic music*
‘People buy People’ – It maybe an over-used saying but it’s very true. So my advice is this, think about who you are and how you present yourself both physically and through your personality. You may need to do some soul searching for this. Consider how people perceive you, maybe even ask for feedback from clients and be ready to take the constructive criticism. If you’re willing to invest in this process selling will become easier.
There are many types of sales people – from those who are in more direct hard sales, to the other end of the scale who are slightly more fluffy – Some organisations may class these as ‘Hunters and Farmers’. A hunter typically drives for sale after sale, moving on after each one while a farmer, ‘farms’ their relationship with people for long term gain. My own personality is quite fluffy and I’m definitely a farmer (I even have a flat cap now but that’s another story!) but I do try where possible to match my personality to whomever I’m speaking to.
So, if people buy people then what does this mean to you? What can you do to give yourself a better chance of making a sale and more importantly getting repeat business? Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips:
1). Emanate positivity- Lets be honest things are not always great in business. There will be days when you feel like you should of just stayed in bed. When starting up, its even harder because you have all the pressures of money as well; ‘where will the next lot of money come from to pay that bill’ etc… Unless you get really lucky, this is something we all go through. My point here, is that HOWEVER you feel, you need to emanate positivity when out and about, talking to someone on the phone, networking and at meetings etc…basically anywhere you’re interacting with people not directly involved in your business. If you turn up to a networking meeting and I come to speak to you and the you start telling me that business is slow and you’re not very happy and blah blah blah, two things are going to happen – 1). You’re going to depress me and probably everyone else you talk to that day and 2). This is highly unlikely to make me want to give you my business. If you take one thing from this post please let it be this: BE POSITIVE in public. There is one guy, who I see around Exeter regularly and every time I ask him how he is, his standard response (and its been the same for about 8 years now) is “Fantastic” – said with a huge smile. I’m certain that in those 8 years there must have been a few times when it wasn’t fantastic but he certainly knows the benefits of acting positively in public. On the same note there are people who moan about everything each time I see them out. These people don’t tend to stay in business very long or certainly don’t do very well from it.
2). Dress like the person you’re meeting/doing business with. This sounds strange and possibly a bit obvious but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes. If you’re meeting with an Accountant/Solicitor then make sure you’re wearing a suit and look smart and clean. If you’re meeting a plumber then a suit is probably a little OTT, maybe smart jeans and shirt are more sensible. Clearly if your business means you must wear certain threads (like a uniform) then this may not be applicable.
3). Mimic Body Language – One of the most interesting things I’ve learnt in my time in business is the importance of body language in sales. If you mimic the person you’re talking too (and I don’t mean repeat what they say or anything silly) then you’ll be surprised how much easier a meeting will run. I’m not a body language expert but I can tell you this puts people at ease and will help the sales process. I quite often find myself mirroring the person I’m talking to at business meetings instinctively, especially if I’m getting on well with them.
4). Consider your audience – This goes for all types of sales but when selling yourself, you need to consider the person you’re selling to and adapt your persona to theirs. This might mean trying to pick up on elements of their personality, language or dress as mentioned above. To give you a really obvious example, would you act the same around a workman on a building site as you would with a solicitor or accountant? I consider it a real skill to morph yourself so that whomever approaches you, you can very quickly determine what type of person you’re dealing with and then change various aspects of yourself to suit them.
5). Build a relationship (will deal with more in future posts). A relationship will yield far better results in the long run. People will warm to you more if you spend time getting to know them and their business before telling them what you can do for them. I mentioned this in my networking post as well as I truly believe it to differentiate good sales people from poor ones. Concentrate on building relationships with everyone you know and mark my words (oh dear I sound like an old teacher), it will help you sell yourself.
I really hope this has been helpful – much of it is common sense but if you’re new to business then next time you’re due to go out to a networking event or meeting, just skim over this post first and try and implement some of it and see what results you get – I’d be keen to hear your feedback