Author Archive

Label makers for business

I use a lot of nifty gadgets in my business and it just occurred to me that I haven’t talked about them in ages. Well, I was just on Amazon to check on my print books, when I ran across this label maker.

Now, I’m an Amazon affiliate. I’ll be clear about that up front. But I use a label maker in my own business and it occurred to me that maybe other people could do the same. I got the idea to use a label maker from my client, who has franchised her business internationally. She’s always hip to new ideas. I bought my label maker about four years ago.

How do I use my label maker? Well, I put labels on my devices. In fact, I put my cell # and tell people to text me, along with my email. I figure people are more likely to text you than call you. I put labels on my storage boxes. I label things I take along to meetings. I put labels in books I loan out. I put them on water bottles I use at meetings. I put them on anything I cart along with me. I put them on anything I think I might lose or misplace.

I wouldn’t say labels have changed my life. I still label a ton of things with Sharpie markers:

But they’ve been a help. And maybe they’ll help you. I have a Brother label maker (in pastel pink!) that I picked up at Staples, but I noticed the above label maker on sale and thought maybe someone else out there would want to discover the magic of label makers.

Related – Office gadgets I can’t live without

Inbound marketing for small businesses

Inbound marketing for small businesses – that’s the art of getting clients to come to you. When many people think of marketing, they think of pushy salespeople. But that’s more of an old school approach. Many small businesses increasingly pursue inbound marketing techniques that bring clients to them.

With inbound marketing, small businesses – and organizations of all sizes – make it easy for clients to find them and interact with them.

Inbound marketing brings clients and customers in

Instead of pushing your business at customers, inbound marketing puts you and your businesses where those clients are, so that you can start establishing and building a relationship based on trust. Inbound marketing means:

  • Creating and distributing content
  • Developing lifecycle-based marketing and relationship tools for every step of the customer relationship and lifecycle
  • Tailoring and personalizing content to the individuals in your audience
  • Approaching people in the channels where they want to interact, how they want to interact
  • Integrating content and messages throughout all your tools and media
  • Getting permission to keep the relationship going

Inbound marketing examples for small businesses

Some examples of inbound marketing – used by small businesses and even large ones – include:

  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Whitepapers
  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • Speaking
  • Event marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • Pay per click advertising
  • Content marketing

Inbound marketing builds trust

With inbound marketing, you provide the information clients need, as they need it, where they need it. By holding out trustworthy, well-developed content, you establish your business as an authority and a brand of trust.

How do you market to your clients?

Related to inbound marketing

What kind of consulting should I do?


When I speak at industry events or even just go to business cocktail parties, people inevitably come up to me and ask how to get into consulting. It doesn’t matter whether they know I run Consultant Journal or not – just hearing that I’m a consultant seems to get people talking. That’s because many people like the idea of being their own boss, charging for their specialized knowledge, picking their own clients or maybe just having the freedom to schedule their own hours. For many, the idea of being a consultant is a dream, but they’re not sure how to combine their skills and experiences to create their dream business.

Because I spent years consulting to government, universities, non-profits and businesses about career planning, I have a good understanding of what it takes to develop a career path. Many of the materials and tools I have developed have been used throughout high schools, universities and the US and Canada to help job seekers find their way. And, because I’ve been a business coach and a small business advisor, I know what it takes to plan and launch a business. So, with all that in mind, I wrote Discover Your Inner Consultant. It’s a workbook for taking stock of your own skills, experiences, interests and unique attributes to uncover the work you’re meant to do. If you’re ever asked, “What kind of consulting should I do?” – this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

This workbook is a hands-on guide to help you on your way to identifying the kind of work you do. Based on a personal inventory, the book helps you identify what you love, what you hate, what ideas you have and more. If you’re not sure where to go, this book can help you find your way. You can order Discover Your Inner Consultant and start working on it right away.

Professional email address ideas for common names

Your professional email address may be one of the first ways you make an impression upon prospective clients, employers and contacts. And it’s one thing to come up with a professional-sounded email address if your name stands out. But if you have a name like Robert Smith, Jane Jones, Meiling Li, Jose Martinez or Mo Khan, there’s a good chance your name has already been taken. So what do you do then?

First, read our post on Seven terrible secrets revealed by your email address. You want to be sure that you’re not making the common mistakes that people with any old name might make. So start there.

But, say you’ve already done that. What do you do when your name is taken?

What you can do about your professional email address when your name is taken

Before we get started, it’s important to know any rules related to the host for your email. For example, Gmail does not treat periods as periods. So email to jane.jones and janejones goes to the same person. It’s the same account. If there’s already a janejones, you won’t be able to sign on as jane.jones or jane-jones. But other email providers may allow you to do so.

Combine your names

  • First name + last name = RobertSmith
  • First name . last name = Robert.smith
  • First name – last name = Robert-Smith
  • First name + middle initial + last name = RobertTSmith
  • First initial + middle name + last name = RTrevorSmith
  • First initial + middle initial + last name = RTSmith
  • First name + middle name + last name = RobertTrevorSmith
  • First initial + middle name + last name = RTrevorSmith

Modify your name:

  • RobSmith
  • RbtSmith
  • RobTrevSmith
  • RobertTrevSmith
  • RTrevSmith

Invert your name:

  • SmithRobert
  • SmithRT
  • SmithRob

However, if you invert your name, some people may forget and transpose the names. Then RobertSmith may start getting your email.

Combine your name with your business, profession, degree or city

  • RobertMLTLaw
  • RobertLawyer
  • RobertChicago
  • RobertSmithLawyer
  • RobertSmithChicago
  • RobertSmithLogistics
  • RSmithMBA
  • RobertSmithMD

Associations

Did your college give you a lifelong email address? Find out if your old email address is still available or sign up for an alumni account. MoKahn@almamater or mkhan@alumni.almamater may be an easier find than MoKhan@ major email provider.

You can also check with your industry, professional or other associations to see if they offer a lifetime email address.

Set up your own domain

Buy a domain and simply forward the email to your favourite email provider, regardless of whether you have a website set up. You don’t need to have a website to forward your email.

Set up an email address for a specific purpose and forward it

Some people find that they can stick with the long, unwieldy or typo-prone email they’ve been using for years. They do this by setting up a separate email account and forwarding it. So jobhuntrobert@ may be forwarded to RobertTrevSmith82. Some email providers will even allow you to set it up so that you respond from the same account, meaning no one will ever know your secret identity, at least not when you’re replying to recruiters.

Set your email to show your name, not your address

Make sure your email is set up so that messages say, “Jane Jones” or “Jane K. Jones” not “jjonesengineer@”. And use your full name. A client, recruiter or business contact scanning a list of recent emails or trying to search a huge history will not be able to tell “Jane” from all the other “Janes”.  And, honestly, if you’re not in elementary school, most people will need your last name to help distinguish you from others.

Whatever name you choose, keep it professional. And bear in mind the norms for your industry. In some cases, an email such as “TheRealMeilingLi”, “MrJoseMartinez” or “OhThatJaneJones” may produce a smile without reducing your credibility. This may go over better if you’re a graphic designer than if you’re a corporate tax attorney, so weigh up your choice.

Choosing a professional email address poses just one step on your journey to establishing credibility. If you’d like to learn six more tips for jumpstarting your expert status, sign up here.

consulting fees

Consulting Fees – A Guide for Independent Consultants

Learn proven models for setting your consulting and freelance fees. Our new book trailer highlights some of the content and review from Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

Almost 10 years ago, I wrote a post on how to set consulting fees. At the time, there was nothing else online. The post went viral and people started contacting me for more information. I’d dared to talk about money – a taboo subject – and, to top it off, I was sharing how I went about setting my fees. Soon, Consultant Journal had a loyal following and I’d published a short ebook. Over the years, I’ve expanded and refined that information to develop a full book, available both on this site and through bookstores worldwide.

Need help with your rates? Pick up a copy of Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

Building a sustainable business means more than green choices

sustainable businessSustainable business – the phrase might make you think of green companies, but there’s something to be said for businesses that will be around for the long haul.
Back in the 90s, I was brought in to consult on a variety of businesses. It was the dot-com era and experienced CEOs were approaching me with inane business plans. I’d ask about the monetization strategy and they’d come back, telling me that convergence, consolidation and critical mass would create virtuous circles. And I’d say, “Nice buzz words. Where’s the business model?”, albeit with softer words. This was my first experience with sustainable business models.

Later, I worked with a company that pointed out the giant amount by which their revenue had grown the previous year. They asked me to double that growth. I took a look at the books and discovered they had never invoiced for any of it. They’d actually given away this vast sum. It was shocking. When I approached the company with a plan for how they could recoup this lost money and ensure cash flow for the year ahead, the CEO angrily informed me that I was there to do marketing, not accounting. Eventually, I got him on board and saved them well over a million dollars. That’s because I believe business continuity comes from looking outside your own silo to how the whole business works.

How you build and design your business comes from looking at what will be sustainable. And sustainability means more than looking at green choices. Sure, you might choose recycled paper for your business cards, wheat paper for your printer and carbon credits for your business trips – but what are you doing to build your business in a sustainable way?
Sustainability really comes down to your values and how they mesh with means of monetizing your business model. No business will run for long if It’s without profits. And your business position won’t last long if you’re not making choices that rest on sustainability in the social, cultural and economic sense.

Early on in my career, when I was still working as an employee, I was fortunate to have leaders and mentored who believed very much in corporate sustainability. They looked at how to engage and develop employees in their work, careers and lives and sought to do that with us. They asked employees to focus on how to grow the business with a focus on relationships. And my leaders and mentors modelled sustainability through their personal choices, arguing for healthy lunches at business meetings, bringing in fitness and exercise programs at the workplace, cutting work on a Friday to take us to a baseball game as a surprise, supporting employees who were ill and celebrating special moments in the lives of staff, while also inviting spouses and partners to key business events. Those early experiences shaped how I saw business could be.

In my own business, I’ve strived for sustainable choices. Even though it is not uncommon for marketing and media companies to bring on unpaid interns, this clashes with my values around human rights and, of course, setting consulting fees. My business also turns away potential clients when they don’t fit with our skillset, experiences, values or availability – or where we think they could get more bang for their buck elsewhere. These choices make my business stronger and more focused and win respect – while also ensuring that we do good in the world.

How do you build sustainability into business, employment, stakeholder and profit models?

Should you be on Facebook?

I got a call the other day, from a small business owner. They said they knew they didn’t need to be on Facebook because their market isn’t on Facebook.

“Who’s your target market?” I asked.

“Men with money.”

“Men with money are on Facebook,” I replied.

In fact, about 31% of Facebook users are 31-54, according to statistics from Jetscram.

And more than 72% of households with incomes above $75,000 use Facebook, according to Statista.

In fact, if you use Facebook ads, you can target users by income and other demographic factors.

However, PPC ads are just one way to get to people on Facebook. Facebook pages, social sharing, news stories, images and quotes and other content can reach people on Facebook.

But, even if your target market uses Facebook, it may not be the best place to meet your market. It makes a lot more sense to put together a marketing plan, based on research and strategy, and target your market based on careful thought.

I mean, sure, maybe your market is on Facebook. Maybe it’s on LinkedIn. Maybe it’s standing at a bus stop, looking at the daily paper. Maybe it’s in a board room, talking to other key influencers or at a concert, looking at a t-shirt. There are a million ways to market and Facebook – in all its iterations – poses just one method.

The more important thing is to figure out your market, the best way to reach them and the best messages and tools to use.

But don’t discount a medium just because you think your users eschew social media. Take the time to get to know your market – and the statistics behind the social medium. You might be surprised, for example, to see just how many key influencers and household decision makers use Facebook and LinkedIn. Make strategic decisions and take the time to learn more.

Related:
Should you market with PPC ads?
Putting together a business plan

You can’t market with a garden hose

So you’ve got things up and running, maybe running for a while. You’ve got your business in motion. But maybe you’ve hit a dry spell or you were busy with another project and stopped marketing or you’re still trying to get things off the ground. You’ve been talking up your business at events, reunions, family gatherings and on a variety of social media outlets. You’ve got your elevator pitch ready, you’ve got shiny business cards, a crisp new suit, and a good solid website. But there’s just one problem.

Nobody’s lining up.

What do you do?

Take a look at your basic sales skills.

Review your marketing plan. Have you created a system for building relationships with clients? It takes more than a few tweets, website clicks or hellos at a wine and cheese.

Keep your marketing active. Even veteran consultants can fall behind if they get caught up in big projects and stop marketing. Keep connected. Follow up with people you meet. Connect with other businesses. Check in with past leads.

Check your target audience. If you’re doing your marketing and nothing’s working, make sure you’re going after the right market. Now, perhaps you’ve been taking a broad approach because you’d honestly give anything to be working right now. I mean, work’s work, right?

Wrong.

Let’s say you’re washing your car. The front window has a blob of tree sap and blossoms on it. The rest of your car is in pretty good shape. If you could just get this one spot, things would go better.

Would you use the regular, glugging water from your garden hose to try to get something like that off? Would you turn use the gentle, fine mist to spray the whole front of your car, just to get at that spot?

Of course not!

You’d probably put the sprayer on the setting for a single, fast, hard stream. Maybe you’d incorporate a few other techniques – cleaners, soaps, a brush, sponge, even your hands. You’d work hard to get at it. And that’s what would work in the end. Using a fine mist to cover the whole front of the car – even if you’re busy washing the car anyway – isn’t going to hit the spot.

It’s the same with marketing your business. If you want marketing to hit the spot, you have to figure out where that spot is! Identify, profile and target your market. Own your niche.

Remember, you need to market all the time, not just when you’re out of clients. Turn marketing into an act of self care and nurture.

Related to marketing:

Why use WordPress to build your website

Networking for introverts

How to Google yourself

How to Google yourself

I was at a get-together recently and I hit it off with a fellow entrepreneur. Afterwards, I wanted to connect, so I popped their name and city into my favourite search engine, expecting to see their LinkedIn profile and business website. Was I ever in for a shock.

Please learn how to Google yourself…

The first result was for their LinkedIn, which was not filled out completely, but gave enough information to mostly confirm it was the same person. The second result was for their spouse, because their spouse’s profile also mentioned the first name of the entrepreneur. And the third result was the shocker. It involved charges and convictions — I’ll leave out the details for reasons of their privacy –  mentioned the person’s profession, professional affiliation and city of practice. I don’t know if it’s the same person, but someone with the same unique name, profession and city of residence was arrested and sentenced.

Yowza.

I want to call them and ask, “Do you know how to Google yourself?” I wonder – do they know? Do they not know what to do? Do they not know this could be hurting their business? (Among all the personal questions, but that’s a different story.)

The week before, I was approached about a big project with a potential client. Again, I thought I’d check out his LinkedIn and see if he already had a website. The search engine instead served up an article about someone with that same name and suburb, his current employer (which he’d mentioned) and allegations of stock fraud.

Whoa.

About a year ago, I was taking a family member to an appointment. I popped the person’s name into my phone so I could pull up a map to the office. Instead, I pulled up shocking news articles and professional association news releases about very shocking situations involving that person’s spouse and testimony given by the person  we were off to see. Given another professional later told me about the case, I have few doubts about whether it’s the same family. And the person I was going to see wasn’t even the one in (seriously scalding, boiling, awful) hot water.

And a little before that, I popped my own medical practitioner’s name into a website to pull up her phone number. Among the top results was a website detailing the person’s home address. That’s because there is an unscrupulous web service that scrapes information from web domain registries and generates pages with that information. Like many people, the medical professional had registered a website in the early days of their business and used their home office. I was able to warn the practitioner about the risks of stalking – they agreed – and got them to go change the information, so that their business address shows up instead. The person said, “Yup, I know how to google myself”, but hadn’t known where the address was coming from, so I solved the mystery and now their business address comes up instead.

I have no idea if any of the above people do “vanity searches”, where they search for themselves in search engines. It’s questionable whether they know that their own results or those for people with the same names, professions, employers and cities come up. And maybe some of them just leave the information there, in an effort to be transparent. Maybe they know it’s there. Maybe they don’t know what to do about it.

How to Google yourself (or search for yourself in other search engines)

Right now, stop what you’re doing and open a second browser window.

Go over to Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask and search for your name.

Try adding variations, such as:

  • Firstname Lastname
  • Firstname Lastname City
  • Firstname Lastname State/Province
  • Firstname Lastname Country
  • Firstname Lastname consulting (or whatever profession you have)
  • Firstname Lastname Businessname

You may also want to pop over to Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media.

What comes up? You only have a few possibilities – results listing other people, results listing information you wish wasn’t showing up or results listing information you do want to come up. Do some image searches, too. I know someone whose images results show many drunken pictures.

If I search for myself, for example, I currently pull up:

  • My professional website
  • My Amazon books page
  • My LinkedIn profile
  • The About page on Consultant Journal
  • A Google Plus profile
  • and then it starts getting into results for other people, mixed in with results for me.

Now, at the very least, you should assume people search for you. I know people search for me, because I can see my name and search suggestions listed at the bottom of the search results in Google and also in my Google Analytics account and keyword planner. I also see my name come up as an “autocomplete” suggestion in Amazon and Academia.edu tells me every time someone views my profile there. I can even see that some of you have been trying to find free versions of my books – for the record, I file legal notices with even websites who simply suggest they might have an illegal copy and get them banned from search engine results and that’s without even turning up a copy. Besides, do you really want to rip me off when you’ve read this far into an article? Go ask your library to get a copy instead.

Need to do something about the results? You can work to boost some existing or future results over the negative or confusing results. You can also create more profiles to create a little confusion between which results are for you and which may belong to real or potential doppelgangers. You can change your professional name. You have options. Take a look at my post on Hiding Ugly Google Results, not to mention 7 Terrible Things Revealed by Your Email Address. In an upcoming post, I’ll talk more about managing search results.

What’s the best or worst thing you’ve seen come up in a search for someone you know professionally?

Following in someone’s footsteps

Setting out on your own path can be exhilarating, challenging, even overwhelming, at times. Figuring out where you’re headed and how to get there can take a lot of energy, as you head into new territory, adjust your course, encounter obstacles and respond to unexpected and new circumstances. Yet making that journey and having the change to make your own decisions can be powerful, grounding you in your identity and values, and allowing you to decide what really matters.

Over at Branded Blog, Anneleigh Jacobsen tells the story of a walk with her barefooted husband. Now Anneleigh’s no follower – she’s an accomplished marketer who runs a business and was recently named a contributing editor to Fast Company’s first non-US publication. But she likens the journey with her husband to being the “same as following or hiring an expert in an area you don’t know – as long as you’ve chosen them well, you can follow their footsteps confidently and trust that they know where they’re going, and they also know what to do if things don’t go entirely according to plan.”

The thing with working with an expert is that you don’t have to listen to every detail. You don’t have to embrace every point they make or do everything they say. But leveraging their hard-won experience, their insights and their journey can save you time and resources, not to mention an awful lot of mental energy. People often write to me and tell me that Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants helped them feel more confident and kept them from banging their head on the wall. And so it should be anytime you turn to someone for expert guidance. Your own clients should feel the same way – that you’re making this easier for them, saving them trouble and keeping them from making costly mistakes.

As you work with your own clients, reflect on how you can help them feel confident in you. Our free report, 6 Tips for Jumpstarting Your Expert Status, provides some suggestions for how to help people feel more confident about your expertise. You may also want to assure yourself of your expertise – see Who You Calling an Expert? and Have the Confidence to See Yourself as an Expert.

Following in someone’s footsteps or at least finding someone to help you on your journey can help you get a foothold, even when you’re supposed to be the expert.