30 September 2009

Customer/Supplier Relationships

One of the results of the financial crisis is the fact that some people are making the move from being employees to becoming suppliers. In times when jobs are hard to find some people take the leap to self employment, follow their dreams and start their own business.

For those people it's often also the first time they are facing customer/supplier relationships, which sometimes can be a shock.
Customers and suppliers usually have different interests and each of them is trying to get the most out of the deal. This animation movie is a good example on how a typical demand from a customer to a graphical designer could be like. If you are easily offended please skip to the next part.

As this may come as a shock to some of you and you will think this is very much 'over the top', it's actually typical for a lot of the conversations you will experience when interacting with customers. Sometimes it will be even worse and customers might even demand to deliver your services for free. In this second movie I found some more 'over the top' examples, which are VERY recognizable.

Of course I don't want to scare you out of a possible adventure in chasing your own self employed dream, I just think it's better if you know upfront that these are actually common situations.
Using Social Media and Social Networks can improve the relationships between the users.
You wouldn't even think of having such a conversation with any of your friends, do you ?
When you really know each other, you are much less likely to start digging to the bottom like in the examples of these movieclips. Networking will help you to build your reputation and to build trust between people. When people come to you through a referral based on your reputation they will be less likely to start a 'flea market trade'. In those cases they will probably ask you to make a honest calculation and then they will decide to take it or not.

It's possible that the stressful life we live these days is sometimes pushing us over the edge and makes us dig for the bottom. But from time to time we have to stand still and look at ourselves in the mirror. Everyone needs to make a living and also those people at your service are earning a honest paycheck to feed their families. Maybe the new generations are lacking a bit of the politeness of our grandparents ... not all progress is an improvement.

28 September 2009

Writing a book

As you probably have picked up from my earlier posts, on Nov. 21 I'm launching a new book 'Friends with Benefits'. This is my second book on Social Media and a follow-up on my first book 'A Girlfriend in Every City', published exactly 4 years ago. On both occasions I have made the choice to work with Ecademy Press as my publisher, based in Cornwall, UK.
I often get questions about this choice to work with a publisher which is based in another country, so I'll try to explain a bit more about this.
In general there are two options for publishing a book : Making a bookdeal with a mainstream publisher or self-publishing. For me both these options don't really work. Getting a bookdeal with a mainstream publishing brand is close to winning the lottery. The odds are against you unless your name is Dan Brown and you have already published a million-selling book before.
If you go for self-publishing, you are choosing for publishing without any backup at all. In fact you have to become a publisher yourself to get your book on the market.
I have chosen for Ecademy Press which is a cooperative publisher, offering packages of services which makes you land somewhere in between both choices I mentioned before. When I wrote my first book in the summer of 2005, I didn't even have a clue about the processes that were needed to transform my manuscript into a nice paperback book.
For a fixed fee I now get help with every service I need, after I have finished writing the manuscript in my wordprocessor. Processes like pagesetting, layout, coverdesign, ISBN Barcode, printing setup, proofs, distribution, ... everything is taken care of while they keep a constant dialog to ensure you agree with every step.
While I still sell most of my books through my website and at the events where I'm hired as a speaker, my publisher is also taking care of websales through their own webshop and also through other webshops like those of market leader Amazon.
Another plus for me is the fact that all books are digitally printed on demand. Stocks are no longer necessary and I can survive with just a small box of books to take along to speaking engagements.
When anyone orders a book online it's printed on demand.
How long does it take to produce a new book ? Writing a book takes me more or less 3 months and the processes to produce the paperback books will take more or less the same time, unless you are hard to reach for feedback.
For me this option still works the best, but I think every writer/author should decide for themselves which option to choose.

24 September 2009

The value of networking is to get top of mind

I'm almost finished reading Penny Power's new book "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me". Yesterday evening I read this quote about a question Penny was struggling with in preparation for a conference in Bali in 2005 : "How do you measure the value in your network ?"
This was Penny's answer : "Your network value is based on what people say about you when you are not there". Indeed, networking is about being talked about when you are not in the room. That sentence really sums it all up, doesn't it ? Gaining trust and reputation from your network should be the only thing on your mind. I also have been asked the obvious question 'What's the real value of all your networking efforts ?' a number of times. My answer was this simple statement :
The single value you really want as a result of your networking efforts is to become TOP-OF-MIND for the people in your network.

I'll add an example to make this more clear :
Imagine meeting me at a networking event in Brussels. We get to know a little bit more about each other while having a drink at the bar. You are telling me about your professional activities and I'm also telling you something more about my IT company and the fact we are coming onsite to solve your computer problems. Three months later you are visiting a friend and he complains about his computer. He needs someone to take a look at his problems, but he really doesn't want to take his PC to the shop.
If my name is on top of your mind at that very moment ... I succeeded in my networking efforts.

How to achieve this ?
The best advise I can give you for this rule to work, is adding something to your story which will stick. Something that isn't average and what will make people remember you. Otherwise you will just be one of the 1000 other business coaches or IT technicians in my network. Make sure you stand out and have a special twist when you present yourself !

23 September 2009

The Health club story

Since the launch of my first book in Nov. 2005, people often book me as a speaker for their event. I love talking about social networking and social media and I have experienced that people like it most when I add lots of little stories to my presentation.

Already some time ago I was thinking about creating a story on the fact that just 'being a member' of a networking group won't do much for your business. That's when I thought of the similar experience you could have joining a health club. I created a little story around this and put it in my presentation. People seemed to like it and the story started it's journey going from mouth to mouth.
Today I'm happy to notice that even other social media writers are using this same example in their presentations and books. It's never better than the original, so here we go :

In my presentation I use this example to describe one of the five networking types : The Passive Networker. I call this type “The guy from the fitnessclub”.
Imagine it would be early January. You have been partying all through Christmas and New Year and you don’t feel in the best shape ever. One of your New Year’s resolutions is to work on your health and to become a member of a fitnessclub. In the second week of January you walk into a local fitnessclub, pay up for a full year of “better health and exercise” and you start working out 3 evenings each week. After the first month you drop back to 2 evenings each week because you just have too many meetings lined up. A little later even more fitness evenings are cancelled due to other appointments and before you know it you haven’t been inside the fitness club for months. At the end of the year you meet a friend who has been partying too much during the Christmas holidays and who says he wants to work on his health. You show him your membership card of the fitnessclub and say “I’ve tried it … it doesn’t work !!!”.

Just buying a membership card of a fitnessclub is NOT going to improve your health in any way. You will still have to work out and train those muscles to get into shape.
Buying a membership card of a business club or paying a subscription to an online business network is NOT going to improve your business in any way.
If you don’t engage in getting to know people and if you don’t attend business events and meet people face to face … it’s not going to work for you !

Taken from the chapter 'Which Networking Type are you ?' - 'Friends with Benefits', releasing Nov. 21.

22 September 2009

The future is niche

Now social networks like Facebook have reached the stage where almost everyone you know is on it, the next big thing will be niche networks. In my opinion this is an emerging trend which will lead to an incredible amount of very successful but smaller networking websites, each of them serving a very specific niche audience. Some of them are already around for some time, but indicators show their time has come to shine.

These “themed” networks will cater the needs of very specific groups of people, based on their job description, professional activities, lifestyle, hobbies or interests. Any common interest will do to bring people together around a specific topic.
These are the kind of niche networks we will probably see the most :

- Based on a professional selection (e.g. a network only for lawyers)
- Based on a hobby or interest (e.g. a network for fans of sailing)
- Based on a business relation (e.g. network for all the clients of Porsche Belgium)

Those who start these niche networks have 3 options :

- They can start a "group" on a larger network. Being part of a larger structure will give them a head start and they still have more or less autonomy to manage the group.
- They can also choose for a whitelabel offer, which is an exact copy of the infrastructure of a known network, which can be altered to their specific needs.
- Once a network reaches a certain number of members they will feel the need to have their own platform. This is the only way to design a completely tailor-made website catering very specific needs.

In the last months I also read a few articles about the mass dropout of early adopters from the larger social networks. The average age of new members seems to be increasing. Most early adopters were in their late teens or early twenties and used to be very active on these websites. Today more and more members aged +30 are joining these platforms, while we see some of those early adopters leaving again and heading toward the niche networks.

More on niche networks in my upcoming book 'Friends with Benefits', to be released Nov. 21.

21 September 2009

Dirty Little Secrets by Sharon Drew Morgen

As most of you already know, in about nine weeks I'm launching my new book 'Friends with Benefits', during a launch event in my hometown. I'll soon tell more about the event.
This new book also contains articles written by 4 guest-authors, each of them recognized as true experts in their specific expertise.
One of these great people is Sharon Drew Morgen. In my book she talks about her view on sales in a new economy.

I first got in touch with Sharon Drew in 2004 when she was prospecting for new workshop-opportunities in Europe. I convinced her to visit Belgium and be the guest speaker at our national Ecademy event in January 2005.

After meeting face-to-face we kept in touch and this way I was also one of the very first people who heard about her new book coming out :
"Dirty Little Secrets : Why buyers can't buy and sellers can't sell"

Dirty Little Secrets is not a sales book, but a systems guide through change management and decision making. It actually teaches the skills to help buyers make their off-line buying decisions.

As a proof-reader for this book I can give you a first-hand recommendation. Through lots of examples she shows and demonstrates where most sales talks go wrong. Excellent work !

Buy the book on Amazon (Release date Oct. 15)

20 September 2009

17/09/2009 Penny Power Book Launch

Last Thursday, after the Louis Gray Workshop, I also attended the Ecademy event at the same venue, which was a very special evening launching Penny Power's new book : "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me".

I've already read the first half of the book and can recommend reading this to anyone even remotely interested in social networking. Penny not only shares her view on proper use of social media, but she also shares how she lived through the startup years of Ecademy with all the ups and downs involved. Refreshing to read such an honnest view of the life of startup entrepreneurs.

Buy the book on Amazon

(Picture : Dianna Bonner)

17/09/2009 Louis Gray Workshop in London

Last Thursday I was in London to attend Louis Gray's workshop on Social Media, Hosted by Ecademy at the Grosvenor Victoria Hotel.

Someone in the audience asked him which advice he would give to any small business who wants to start using Social Media for business purposes. His answer was "start by setting up a blog".

I'm already very active in social networking but never took the effort to set up a blog before.

Let's see if we can make this work ...

(Picture : Dianna Bonner)