Are you an Active Listener?
Internet marketing, social media marketing, small business marketing

What is active listening?  It is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Many people do not use active listening skills in their communications. 

Oftentimes they are planning what they response will be to a particular point made by the person they are conversing with – sort of planning their “attack”. Other times they might be distracted by their list of to-dos for the day, the weather, what they want to wear, or any other things on their mind that have nothing to do with the conversation. 

What is the result of not using active listening skills?  A lot of miscommunications, misunderstandings and potential trouble in that relationship. 

In order for communications to be effective, the communicator needs to really LISTEN to what is being said and they need to care about how the other person perceives the message he/she is trying to send.

Personal relationships usually disintegrate because of poor communication skills. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations lead to resentments and walls are then put up between the involved parties. These resentments and walls grow over time and eventually the relationship falls apart. It is so important to understand the different between the message one is trying to relay and the perception of that message.  They are more often than not, not the same thing.

From a personal perspective, I have this tendency to blurt things out loud – I am not necessarily expecting anyone to act on these messages. For example, I just found out, after three years in my relationship with a wonderful man, that when is say “I am thirsty”, that he thinks I mean “get me something to drink”. I was shocked to think that is what he thought, but when I thought about it from his perspective, I realized that this is what it sounds like. When I reminded him that I also often blurt out “I have to go to the bathroom”, we both laughed, realizing that my intentions in both instances were NOT for him to take action. How could he possibly go to the bathroom for me? This is a real life example of how the perception of our message becomes the reality – not the intention.

What does this mean for a business owner?  It means that he/she needs to use active listening skills when dealing with customers and potential customers in order to truly understand, from their perspective, what the needs/concerns are for each customer and potential customer. 

It is even more important in today’s marketing and economic environment, for sales people, small business owners, customer service representatives, and anyone involved in relationships with those who affect the bottom line, to be effective communicators. The massive influx of social media marketing sites is leading businesses towards the new model of marketing. This new model demands building relationships, engagement and two-way communication channels.  Learning how to be an effective communicator will be helpful in all aspects of someone’s life – both personal and professional.

We have two ears and one mouth so we can LISTEN twice as much as we SPEAK” (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, AD 55-c.135

Small Business Internet Marketing: Stop – Breathe - Plan!
Internet marketing, social media marketing, small business marketing

busy small business ownerSmall business owners oftentimes feel like they are a chicken running around without a head. They spend 24+ hours a day trying to make their business a success. In today’s tough economic climate and with the “new” consumer prototype, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to keep ahead of the game.

What can the small business owner do? First and foremost, stop and breathe or you will just be chasing your tail. There are so many options available on the Internet, too many social networking sites, forums, blog sites, groups, etc. – that as you try to stay on-top of your competition and current with your industry, you might end up forgetting what your original plan is – if you have one.

Understanding exactly who and what you are (your brand) and exactly who your potential customer is (your target market) crucial if you want to be successful. There are many small business owners who have difficulty clearly identifying their brand and target market, but who rush onto the Internet scrambling to get involved in as much as they can in as short a time as they can. This is a big mistake.

How can you select your keywords and optimize your website if you are not clear in what you are trying to sell and who you are trying to sell to? Small businesses that sell services have even a more difficult time honing in on their exact offerings than product-oriented companies. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done – it just means it will require a little more effort.

Once you have clearly identified your brand identity and your customer base, you will be heading in the right direction and will be on the right path. Do you have a marketing plan? If you don’t, you need one. But you also have to realize that your plan is dynamic and will constantly be changing as technology changes and as you access and evaluate the effectiveness of each step.

If you have trouble identifying your target, try writing down a description of your ideal customer. Once you have created this profile, you can tailor your marketing message to this specific niche. Pretend you are your own potential customer. What would make you stop and listen to what you have to say? What would make you think you “need” your own product or service? Put yourself in their shoes and market to yourself.

A very good way to help you identify your target market is to look at your existing client base. Analyze them to get a better idea of who they are and what they like. Do a survey with probing questions to find out more about what they like about your brand, what they don’t like about your brand and even why they chose your brand.

There is no better way to characterize your potential customer than by analyzing your current customer. A word of caution – the response rate on surveys is quite low. People don’t want to be bothered so it might be helpful to give away something small or perhaps a discount on future business – something to use as incentive for them to answer your survey.

Don’t skimp on your marketing initiatives. The Internet offers you access to a huge pool of potential customers at negligible costs. Make use of these resources but remember to stop, breathe and plan.

Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
Internet marketing, social media marketing, small business marketing
It is important to distinguish between entrepreneurs and those who are self-employed. The entrepreneur wants to grow companies and the self-employed want to earn their income working for themselves. Not all small business owners are entrepreneurs but all entrepreneurs start out being small business owners. Here are some common characteristics of entrepreneurs with explanations of how one characteristic can be both positive and negative at the same time.

Strong Sense of Urgency
Entrepreneurs thrive on activity and are enthusiastic to develop and implement their ideas. They are creative. But they can also be inpatient, intolerant, tense, and uneasy when others don’t share the same sense of urgency or don’t respond as quickly as the entrepreneur wants them to.

High Level of Intelligence
Entrepreneurs are extremely knowledgeable in their area of expertise. They have to be in order to successfully run their business. But sometimes this high level of intelligence does not correlate with other important aspects of running a successful business like effective communication skills and good customer service.

Many entrepreneurs do not function well in structured organizations where there are strict company-specific rules and regulations to follow, including having to answer to an authority figure other than themselves. Most believe they can do the job better than anyone else. They have a strong need to do things their own way with the freedom to choose and act according to their own criteria. They are often creative geniuses who have unique and innovative ideas but aren’t always able to communicate these ideas clearly for anyone to be able to effectively execute them. They know exactly what they want and can become extremely intolerant and impatient if their employees are unable to read their minds.

Self Confidence
Entrepreneurs are self-confident. They have to be in order to think they can make it in the business world. But when that self-confidence steps over the boundary into arrogance, there could be some negative consequences. Arrogant people don’t consider anyone else's ideas to have value – they know best. They are difficult to work with and inflexible because it is their way or the highway. Entrepreneurs have to be their own biggest fan because they are often working alone or with only a small group of people. Self confidence can actually be a triple-edged sword.

Interpersonal Relationships
“Work, work, work.” That is the entrepreneur’s mantra. They are over achievers who never find enough hours in the day to get their work done. Their strong work ethic oftentimes interferes with their personal relationships and their interpersonal skills. Entrepreneurs are single-minded when it comes to their business – they will do whatever they have to do in order to be successful and they expect everyone who works for them to do the same. Needless-to-say, personal relationships often suffer when all one does is work. In addition, many entrepreneurs have lousy people skills and are more concerned with what their employees accomplish rather than how they are feeling. This insensitivity and lack of empathy is not received well by the entrepreneur’s employees.

Need to Control
This is usually a main reason entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs. They are risk-takers whose primary motivation is growth. Coupled with high intelligence levels, strong work ethic, high level of confidence and strong sense of urgency, the entrepreneur’s need to control can be very effective. But, their lack of empathy, inability to delegate (because no one can do it better than they can) and intolerance may have negative consequences. In all fairness to the entrepreneur, before they feel comfortable enough delegating tasks to an employee, they need to have the confidence in that person’s ability to get the job done. But if their interpersonal skills are inadequate, how will the entrepreneur be able to develop a good enough relationship with an employee to be able to ascertain that employee’s competence?

Success is the goal of the entrepreneur – sometimes success at any price. Success is the only acceptable result. Many entrepreneurs don’t have managerial experience and are unable to mentor subordinates effectively in order to foster a team spirit. This can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration on the part of the employee. The entrepreneur doesn’t understand and won’t accept that employees don’t always share the same drive and aren’t willing to live by the "work, work, work" mantra of the entrepreneur. Why should they? They don’t own the company.

Entrepreneurs are highly motivated, goal-oriented, high-energy, super-focused, visionary, driven, self-confident people who set high standards for themselves and for those who work for them. But they can also be intolerant of minor mistakes, have over-inflated egos, unwilling to consider someone else’s point of view, and unable to develop and maintain solid interpersonal relationships. The very characteristics that can lead to the entrepreneur’s success, might also lead to failure.

Why do I need to do Internet Marketing?
Internet marketing, social media marketing, small business marketing

internet marketingIt amazes me with the year 2010 here, that there are still professional business owners who don’t understand the power of the internet, so when I came across an article by a gentleman named Nigel Peck, I couldn’t resist quoting his witty commentary:

"There is a common misconception amongst many people with regards to Web Sites and it is that as soon as you have a Web Site people will start looking at it, and therefore it will attract new business. This is not true.

My answer to this is always the same 'When you get a telephone does it start ringing?’ I won't insult you with the answer to that one. A Web Site is like anything else, for people to look at it they've got to know it's there first."

I read somewhere that even if a business owner truly doesn’t see the need for Internet marketing, just the fact that competitive companies in the same industry do have a web presence, in and of itself, is reason enough to make darn sure you are on the web too.

Seems pretty obvious yet it isn’t so obvious to many people. I have actually personally had a conversation recently with someone who wanted to write and distribute a newsletter. I am a big fan of newsletters, having run a non-profit association for years. It was my number one way of communicating with our membership on a monthly basis. I asked for contributions from members, ran “member of the month” contests and shared industry-relevant information as well as association news. So I definitely agree that newsletters are a great resource. However, this person I was conversing with, when asked how he would distribute his newsletter, responded with “there will be a sign-up form on my website.” Sounds great. Now how are people going to get to the website? He didn’t have an answer to my question. He didn’t understand or agree with the importance of Internet marketing. Good luck to him getting his newsletter out.

Then there are those entrepreneurs who do recognize the importance of Internet marketing but might not have the luxury of time or the resources available. New Horizons 123 was created with this population in mind. Baby steps for smal  businesses.
Have you had come across resistance to doing Internet marketing and how have you overcome that resistance?


Log in