p2w2-SBL: How twitter can help your small business

twitter logoWelcome to this week’s p2w2 Small Business Links (p2w2-SBL) post. In p2w2-SBL we bring you the best resources available on the Internet on this topic. Today, I focus on how twitter can help your business.

Create unbelievably valuable network, meet potential collaborators and find extraordinary business leads

“Just by way of writing, reading and responding to each other’s tweets, unbelievably valuable networking contacts have become familiar workday presences. I’ve met and hired 3 subcontractors for my business, met numerous potential collaborators and even found extraordinary new business leads. I’ve been to numerous networking and social events (lifesavers for a WAHM in a new city!). Interesting, creative, challenging, thoughtful and very deeply caring people have come into my life. New ones seem to appear every week. Twitter has served up answers, opinions and inspiration.” (Laura Fitton: Ode to twitter)
“Do you have a brick and mortar business? Connect with your local clientele by using TwitterMap.com or TwitterLocal.net. These sites will show you all the Twitter updates happening in any given geographic area. Sign into your Twitter account and enter “L: city, state” and then visit TwitterMap or TwitterLocal to find “Twits” near you.”(Carrie Hill: Small Business Owners Need Twitter and LinkedIn)

“How could I hire a stranger to work on an important project? Simple. I knew enough about her from Twitter to be confident she could do the work. Her authentic behavior in the [Internet] told me she was intelligent and articulate. When we briefly stepped into the real world, I quickly confirmed this. And her work was outstanding.
The most valuable social networks, and the most valuable contacts within those networks, are based on trust. Most of my Twitter friends are people I have never met in person and with whom I had no connection prior to twitter. Twitter provides exactly the right environment in which to build trust.”(Joel Postman: twitter is the new anti-metaverse)

twitter is the new discovery channel

“Twitter has become my best way to discover. Discover cool websites….discover blogs, podcasts, even breaking news… It has been an amazing and inspiring

resource.” (twitter is new discovery channel)

“We also combine the power of our collective news/intellectual interests. I get the “best of” ideas that various Twitter friends read or create, any given day. This magnifies the depth and breadth of information I consume.” (Laura Fitton: Ode to twitter)

Twitter is a sounding board. Get advice, directions and support

“Twitter is a sounding board. CEOs of large companies ask questions about products and strategy. Small businesses can do the same.” Joel Postman

“I use Twitter to ask for advice, directions, support, and to ask others for their open-ended interpretations to general questions.” (Chris Brogan: Newbies guide to twitter)

Build traffic; Engage your customers and get insights into your business

Martin Bowling

Twitter helps engage your customers by offering them valuable information and insights. By talking to your customers in a high trust environment, you can get insights into your own business with unmatched depth and volume.

“Building links to a small business Web site? Follow people who can help you out, engage in the community and when they call for help/suggestions, offer yours” (Carrie Hill: Small Business Owners Need Twitter and LinkedIn)

Twitter is Answers (like Yahoo! Answers), a chat room, a water cooler, an advertising tool and more rolled into one.

If you realized twitter’s potential the first time you saw it, you may be a genius. Because, not even Evan Williams, its founder, could have guessed how useful twitter was going to be. Lots of people, including me, can’t figure out the first time why they should use twitter.

“Frankly, twitter went from “what the heck” to “how the heck did I live without this?” very quickly.”

“I began to see how creative/productive Twitterers can inspire. I used it to surround myself with role models. I started getting to know people, and to enjoy the company, humor, conversation and great links.” (Laura Fitton: Ode to twitter)

Twitter is Answers (like Yahoo! Answers), a chat room, a water cooler, an advertising tool and more rolled into one. You can derive value out of it by spending time and connecting with people on it.

Twitter - What are you doing?

Picture credit: Sitting on the toilet http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/

Clients and Service Providers: Partners or Arch-enemies?

Have you ever finished a meal at a restaurant and found the experience not worth your time and money? The waiter was not attentive enough, the food was stale, options were limited and finally you got the overall feeling that the management did not really appreciate your business as your attempts to request better service were ignored.
You just joined the dissatisfied customers club.

Could I get some service please
Could I get some service please? Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandj98/

Most know an unsatisfactory service when we are receiving it. Are we able to think for our own customers and go the extra mile to make their experience delightful?
p2w2 provides you with nuggets from the collective experience of all our users to make your more successful in building a lasting partnership with your customers.
p2w2 Blog had a great post recently on Pitfalls in Supplier Relationship Management. Interestingly, most of those points could apply in the other direction too. Suppliers too can at times get too fat and arrogant and succumb to the same pitfalls. They stop relating to the individual(s) behind the client organization, seek to squeeze too much by atrociously charging for every additional service request, adopt the “take it or leave it” approach when the client is trapped in a dire situation and finally, make every decision a matter of ego.

Another great post is on Freelancer Essentials, and it talks about how to establish as a reliable service provider. I will extend on these posts.

In my own career, I have gained a lot from working with seasoned professionals in customer relations. The need to manage clients and internal teams across the globe makes it even more challenging! This post draws from my experience on the bare essentials in establishing great relations with your clients.

View it from long-term client relationship perspective

In the services business, upwards of 70% of revenue comes from repeat business. Most of the new business comes from referrals from your existing clients. Effectively, your current clients can make or break your current revenue and its growth. What does that tell you? Every issue you have with your current clients should be viewed as if it affects growth of that account as well as a few other accounts. That’s the long term view. If you think it affects your current deal, you can move past that. That’s the short-term view. Which one do you follow?The right approach is to work together to get to a partnership, where both sides care for and actively work towards each other’s success. You give feedback to the client where if affects your business and the other way around. Not every client wants only the best price. They need relationships, timely service, and even references from you so your client can get other clients!


The Expansive Relationship of Two Individuals as An Independent One. Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/derricksphotos/

Brighten the relationship with out-of-work activities

Partners share other interests too outside of work. Connect with your customer by finding out shared interests apart from just timely delivery of the agreed services. Photography, blogs, parties, baseball, soccer or Ping Pong… What does your client love to talk about? If you have similar interests, talk about them. If you know other people who have common interests, or can be of help to your clients, connect them. Your client will appreciate that and help you when you are in need.

Ask for feedback; Listen to your customer

Don’t pay lip service to listening to your customers. An often used, but usually poor strategy, is to use someone else (either outsourced, or a different administrative department) to survey your customers.

Your must ask for feedback frequently – what are we doing well for you? Where can we improve? Most people shy away from asking.

There are many benefits from asking for feedback.

First, it gives your client a platform to vent their feelings. You must patiently listen to her. That itself shows to the client that you give importance to her. You are one step closer to satisfying the client.

Second, it helps you narrow the gap between client’s expectations and your performance.

Third, you can figure out if there’s something you have but does not cost much for you but has a lot of value to your client. Discovering such aspects creates mutually beneficial relationship.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes

When you are at the receiving a service, consciously evaluate it. I have personally found this useful.When you are at the doctor’s office, waiting to talk to your bank’s service desk or requesting support from your internal technical/HR/facility helpdesk – were you treated the way you would have liked? What did you like? What should have been better? How can you apply that in the way you deliver service to your clients?

Bad news does not age well

The earlier you tell your client, the better the chance of working together on reducing the impact.

To deliver the message faster and to mitigate the impact, You can set up regular status meetings and using the meetings to disclose or warn about bad news. Being too early is better than being late at all.

Never defend the indefensible

When you make mistakes, accept them. Being passionate about your work and your team is noble. But nobody is perfect and at times we all make mistakes. Mature customers understand there are problems once in a while. Your ability to recover is as important as your ability to avoid most of them. Accept your faults and move on.

Customer is never wrong about the results s/he wants

Customer is sometimes wrong – but they are never wrong about the results they want (e.g. better service quality, faster deliver), but they may often be short- term focused and less knowledgeable about how they want you to achieve it. When a customer tries to tell you how to run your business, you should have the confidence in your own abilities to not let any pressure distract you from applying the right solution to deliver the right results.

Part amicably when things are simply not working out

Finally, there are times when your value systems simply do not match with those of customer’s. When there is too much interference that cramps your style of doing business or you are unfairly treated, it might require you to walk away. If a dialogue with the client does not produce a solution, move on. But you should part amicably. Parting amicably is always better than a bitter lawsuit! But parting amicably gives the client a chance to come back and talk about other opportunities she may have and retains a bit of reference value of that client for you.

Keep track of your goal

At a very high level, these are basic common sense points that we apply in most of interactions in our social circle. But the daily rigmarole can sometimes make us lose track of these when we deal with our clients. Being watchful

and not losing sight of what we have set out to achieve – a successful, well run business – should keep us right on track! I would love to hear from you on any other advice you might have for us and your fellow small business colleagues here at P2W2. Please do leave your comments!

YOU INC: Freelancer Essentials

of the globe is so easy, inspiring and empowering, that you can earn in dollars, on work that is interesting to you, from the comfort of your home with nothing more than a PC and a broadband. All you need to do is learn to anticipate a potential customer’s unmet needs (both real and imagined) and deliver on quality and timelines in a manner that she finds it easy and satisfactory to outsource the work to you than do it herself or outsource it to anyone else.Freelancer Essentials

Successful freelancing is more than just talking

It’s easier said than done. Do you know of a young businessman who started his own firm? He had just rented a beautiful office and had it furnished with antiques.

Sitting there, he saw a man come into the outer office. Wishing to appear busy and important, the businessman picked up the phone and started to pretend he had a big deal in the works. He threw huge figures around and made giant commitments.

Finally, he hung up the phone and asked the visitor, “Can I help you?”

The man said, “Yeah, I’m here to install the phones…”

If you are an amateur entrepreneur in services (“freelancer”), your client is as knowledgeable as the phone installer. She knows what you can do and what you can’t.

If you promise high, that does not mean you can deliver. She knows it takes time. She wants to know if YOU know that it takes time to deliver quality.

Here are a few hot tips on how to succeed as a freelancer:

Quality is paramount

The crux of delighting a client is in exceeding expectations. You have to exceed expectations on quality itself (i.e. ensuring that you deliver to the technical specs of what the client needs), second, on timeliness (you must deliver on-time) and third,

on soft aspects of the relationship i.e. responsiveness, courtesy etc.

All these together constitute quality. Not one in isolation. It’s like a shooting game where you have to hit not just one, but multiple targets with a single bullet!

If you know what the client wants, you can deliver it

Managing to extract a clear brief from your customer can be challenging at times, especially with a customer, who is not as gifted with words or time, as you are and is still experimenting with the outsourcing model, but this is a skill that you absolutely must develop in order to succeed as a freelancer.

To make your client articulate, you must ask the right questions. (Is it this or that? Did you mean…, is it ok if…, when do you need this…) because you would like to nail down the exact specs of the project and narrow down the ambiguity.

After that, you must write down the requirements of the project in scope statements – articulate clearly what’s included, what’s excluded, the timelines, major decisions taken during meetings and so on.

Sounds obvious? You will be amazed at how many offshore projects get kicked-off without a review and comment on the scope of the project.

The onus of making the buyer articulate what he/she wants rests with you. You have to make sure that the terms are clear.

Delivering on time enhances client’s confidence in you

Don’t assume that the other party would instinctively know that you are working on the project. Send timely updates to let the buyer know the progress on her project. Specially, when you have started the project and when you have met important milestones. And, unless absolutely needed for emergency reasons, don’t ask the buyer to stretch the deadline. Plan and meet the schedule. If you know that you can’t meet the deadline for sure, give the news as soon as you know it. Don’t wait until the deadline to give this news. If there’s high probability of delaying, figure out when you are likely to deliver the milestone or the project and let the buyer know.

That will enhance the customer’s confidence in your abilities because buyers know that there will be delays. It’s your job to manage them.

Build relationships – not temporary employment

Every provider-client relationship is unique and important. The relationship is a function of exceeding expectations on quality and timeliness, putting buyer’s requirements ahead of your own, the compromises you’ve made in favor of the buyer, competitive pricing etc.

If you share a great relationship with her, then you will get a lot of business and she will refer a number of clients.

Relationship leads to higher repeat business and spin-off relationships.

Put all the specs and changes in writing

A deal in writing forces clarity of thought and brings everybody on the same page. Successful service is about having common expectations on what has to be delivered and then staying true to that commitment. The scope of the project, the time lines and all the other deliverables must be clearly written.

We know that terms change. You must document them as soon as they change. That brings in clarity to your project. Use p2w2’s Terms feature that lets you articulate all the terms. It lets you manage those terms even when there are multiple changes.

Lethargy is client-repellent

It causes delays and affects customer satisfaction. You must develop the habit of working for a few fixed hours everyday. Preferably, you should have a designated work area at home and the discipline to follow fixed schedules even at home in order to keep a pipeline of projects ready for the next couple of months’ rollout. A freelancer’s income could be erratic, but you don’t have to contribute to making it even more.

If you are a housewife, looking for some extra income, this could be just the right profession for you, provided you are willing to commit yourself to schedules. Housewives doubling up as freelancers would have to develop the necessary discipline in themselves.

Sample your work; then ask for good rate

Too low a price can make a client feel that you are a bad at work. Too high rate is not sustainable. Over time, you will know where to do the balancing act. However, a buyer must taste your work before she’s convinced that you deserver a better price for your work. She has to experience both the quality of your work and your ‘dependability’ factor. If you are good at both, the buyer will herself want to keep you with higher rates. In addition, diversity in projects can bring you higher fees.

Beware of cross cultural pitfalls

Culture differs from place to place. For instance, a deadline is not held sacred everywhere. Nor is the definition of work ethics the same. But if you are working on a project, you have to have patience to understand the client is talking about.. Especially, if you feel that your client is being unreasonable or ridiculous, find out why? What does she need? Why is she acting in this way?

Keep in mind the time zone differences and project culture. It is the service provider’s responsibility either to know the buyer’s work ethic and work with her if it suits or inform her about your own.

Freelancing is a great teacher. But you have to learn

Freelancing has its obvious benefits: you are your own master and you have the freedom to choose your own projects, price, terms and schedules. But there are challenges. Because you would have to develop all the qualities of an entrepreneur, especially in terms of rendering a job well and on time!

If you are new to the trade, have the patience to learn the tricks of the trade. p2w2 will provide you the right content and the right platform for you to succeed.

Picture credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/honan/

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