Category Archives for Business Skills

How to Stay Educated in Your Niche

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othing ever stays the same. If you think about how fast technology has changed our environment over the last 20 years, you’ll realize how imperative it is to stay educated in your niche. While your niche can remain your forte for years to come, what it looks like today will barely resemble what it will look like in just a few years. Think about it; no one is producing VHS tapes anymore, but no one has stopped watching movies. Our tools change, not our passions.

Attend Industry Events

Whether online or offline, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are in your industry and your audience. The more you can learn from others, the more you’ll be able to stay ahead of the learning curve regarding your niche. By surrounding yourself with movers and shakers, you won’t be caught off guard when people want WordPress websites instead of HTML static sites. Instead you’ll see what’s coming around the bend.

Follow the Right People

On one hand you want to follow your audience so you know what they’re up to, but you should also follow your competition and the leaders in your niche. Even if you’re a leader yourself, being involved with other leaders can help you stay ahead of the learning curve because you’ll be able to keep your ear to the ground. Try spreading out your associations because people tend to get caught up in a clique without realizing it.

Get Certified

Whether accredited or unaccredited, certification can often impress your audience. Research the accrediting authority to ensure that whoever is doing the accrediting is well known and respected in your niche before taking part. Also know whether that matters to your audience. When it comes to certain software, the software developers themselves may offer certification and if they do, that’s an important certification to pursue. In the realm of digital marketing, our favorite certification is DigitalMarketer.com. You can get certified in digital marketing through their DMHQ, Digital Marketing Headquarters. 

Perform Regular Keyword Research

Even if you’re not a writer, or a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, conducting regular keyword research can expose you to new industry terms and information that you might not otherwise be exposed to. Consider at least a yearly if not quarterly study of the keywords that are popular within your niche to stay ahead of your competition.

Read Books

Even if your specialty is highly technical, you can read a lot of books in your area to stay educated. Check out free books on Kindle to help you find important books being written today about your niche. Even historical books can help you understand your niche better in terms of where it’s going and where it’s been.

Take a Course

Many colleges and universities offer courses online today that you may not have seen in the past. A really good college that is low priced, accredited and non-profit is Southern New Hampshire University. In many cases the tuition is lower than local universities and colleges.

Teach Others What You Know

Sometimes the best way to stay ahead and educated on your niche is to teach. When you teach something you tend to study harder. It will force you to know what is going on within the industry in a more organized and productive manner. Teaching also solidifies the information within your mind better. That’s why history professors seem to remember everything. It’s not that they have photographic memories; they just tell the stories repeatedly and it finally sticks.

Track Industry Trends

Using Google Alerts and searching the internet, you can stay up to date on industry trends. You can also find trade publications, magazines, and newsletters that will help you understand what is happening in your niche. For instance, in the USA there is Small Business Majority which is a group that can help members understand how tax laws, health care laws, and other issues affect how they do business.

Continuing education, whether formal or informal, is the key that will keep you ahead of the rest. As long as you stay educated in your niche, you will have a long career and successful business working with the people you love and doing what you love.

Five Tips for Creating a Positive First Impression

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hether you work from home or work in an office, sometimes you have to conquer the dreaded business meeting. The best way to do well at any business meeting or event is to focus on creating a positive first impression.

Research the Audience

Every meeting usually has a specific audience that will go to that meeting. If it’s a more universal type meeting, research the people that you want to connect with. Know some facts about them and how they got their start. They’ll be impressed that you took the time to get to know them before meeting them.

Dress Appropriately

Find out what type of clothing people will be wearing to the meeting or event. The more you can fit in due to your mode of dress, the more people will remember you in a positive way. Dress for the position you want is a good refrain, but be careful about the “power” suit or appearing too high above your audience because you want them to remember you, not fear you.

Be First

When it comes time to introduce yourself, the person who puts their hand out first and states their name and gives their 30-second introduction is the person who holds the power in the meeting. You should also be first to introduce the person you just met to others as they approach. This makes you seem very important and people will remember you more due to your kindness.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Most people are a little nervous at events or meetings but if you ask each person you meet open-ended questions about themselves and their business, they will be put at ease. And oddly, the more people get to talk about themselves, the more they will remember you. An open-ended question is one that must be answered with a sentence instead of a yes or no answer.

Listen Actively

As you meet people and ask those questions, truly listen for their answers. Repeat back to them their name and the things they say in your own words, then ask them good follow-up questions. This will make you seem like the most interesting person at the meeting or event because you are actually listening. And as you repeat things back to the person you’re conversing with, it will also help you remember more about each person that you connect with.

One final way to create a positive first impression is by what happens after the meeting. Always follow up with those whom you met. Use the information on the business cards you collected, or find them online, and connect with them in a new way. Send them a thank you card, or cut out an article and send it to them, or find a creative way to connect with them outside of the meeting. This will make you a truly memorable connection for them.

Can Hiring a Business Coach Really Make a Difference?

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hether you’re just starting a business or you’re well into your venture, the idea of hiring a business coach may have come to mind. But you may be wondering if a business coach can really make a difference for you. To answer this question, you need to understand what a business coach does, and how to choose the right one for you.

Business coaching provides a way to interact with a professional who has your best interests at heart and can help you be more effective building your business and balancing your life and your business. Business coaches are a good mixture of accountability partner, sounding board, cheerleader and even emotional support. The business coach specializes in ensuring that all aspects of your life work together with the ultimate focus on ensuring that your business works.

Even the process of hiring a coach can be beneficial to your business. The coach will want to assess where you are right now with your business and find out where you want to go. An effective business coach will help you determine not just the direction you want your business to go, but will also identity actionable steps to take to achieve the goals you and your coach set.

  • Accountability – Checking in with someone else on a regular basis to tell them and show them what you’ve accomplished since the last meeting will give you someone besides yourself to be accountable to. For many people this helps them act in their own best interests and not put off anything, since most people don’t want to disappoint others.
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    Sounding Board – Talking plans and proposals out with a third party who is also well versed in your type of business will help solidify each plan you make so that you’re not going down the wrong roads to start with.
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    Cheerleader – Running a business is hard and some business coaches make excellent support systems and cheerleaders. In this way, you not only have a good plan of action to make your dreams come true but also someone to share your success with who has your best interests at heart.
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    Emotional Support - Many business coaches understand how home life can affect your business life. They can often help you deal with your family and friends when it comes to pushing your business forward.

If you need help identifying holes in your business plan, ways to fill the gaps, and how to create an actionable plan to push your business forward, then a business coach can definitely make a difference. The trick is finding the right business coach for your particular business.

In order to find the right coach for you that fits your business type and personality, ask the right questions of any potential coach. Plus, ask others for referrals before hiring any business coach. Finally, buy some of the coach’s products and services and try working on a short-term project with them first. This can help you ensure that they are the right coach to push your business to the next level.

12 Things to Include in Course Creation

When you create a course, you will need to start with an outline. Outlines are for you and for your audience. The outline will help you avoid missing any part of what you need to teach to meet the objectives of your course, but it will also be of use to attract your audience to your course. It will give them a sneak peek into what they will learn and encourage them to sign up.

Here are 12 things that your outline should include:

Why You Should Teach the Course – Everyone wants to know why you are the right person to teach the course. What gives you the qualifications to teach the course you are going to describe? Who you are, what your credentials are, and so forth should be listed.

Course Description – Explain to the audience what the course is about in detail, but do not make the description so long that they no longer need to take the course.

Course Goals – What are the goals of the course? For example, will the learner know how to make a web page using a particular platform when the course is over?

Learning Objectives and Outcome – Once the person finishes the course, what will they know and how can they use it? Will then have a workable item they can hold when they finish the course? Perhaps when the course is over they will have a five-page website that they can use.

List of Topics That Will Be Covered in Each Module – You want to state exactly how many modules or sections there will be, along with a title and description of what is covered in each module.

What Type of Audio / Visual Materials are Included – State what formats the information will include, for example, if you will have audio, podcasts, video, and other types of material. This will alert the student about the requirements of their own systems.

Procedures for Accomplishing Objectives – Explain what you will do to ensure that the students accomplish the objectives. For example, a reminder will go out to all students each week.

Student Requirements – In cases where there are prerequisites for what students need to know, express them. Also if they will need to complete work that is turned in and evaluated, be sure to tell them.

Assessments (If Any) – Some courses will have tests and assessments to qualify for a certificate, and others will not. If yours does, say so.

Schedule of Activities – List the schedule of activities that are included in the course that the student will do, or that the instructor will demonstrate.

Reading List (If Any) – In some cases, a book might go with the course. If you have written a book that they need to purchase, or you are using a book someone else wrote, link to it so they can buy it.

Follow-Up Opportunity – A great thing to include in your course is a way for them to follow up with you and sign up for other courses you teach or participate in other things that you do.

The outline for an online course is only slightly different than if you were teaching a course in person. In both cases, you want to explain what is inside the course, what your audience will learn, and what to do after for more information or where to find more courses that you teach.

 

How to Make Improvements in Client Interactions

Nothing is more important than ensuring that the communication you have with your clients is productive. There are many ways to communicate with a client. They encompass words and actions. Sometimes the words are spoken and sometimes they are written. But for all communication, your actions speak volumes above the words that you use. Ensure that your actions back up your words for the most effective form of communication.

Here are ten tips that you should know:

Engage with Clients – There are numerous ways you can engage with your clients, from a private Facebook group, to open office hours, to weekly Skype calls, to answering emails quickly. The more you can engage with your clients and the more they feel that you are open to communication, the better.

Show Empathy to Your Clients – Sometimes, especially when a client is complaining about something, it can be hard to be empathetic. But, you must always put yourself in your client’s shoes and look at things from their perspective in every interaction. When a client reacts badly to something, do not respond to their poor behavior; respond to the actual problem. They will feel heard and it will help.

Ask Clients for Feedback – A great way to open up communication with your clients is to show them some of your half-finished work and ask their opinion on it. That might be scary because they might respond going in a new direction than you thought, but it can help make them more satisfied with your work.

Ask Questions Directly to Your Clients – Do not be afraid to ask your clients direct questions about anything you are working on with them. Ask them if they liked your work, how they would improve it, and what suggestions they have for future work together.

Solve Their Problems – Be proactive with your clients and when you see a problem that they have that you can solve, or you know who can solve it, share that with them. Clients want their problems solved and even if they do not take your advice, they will appreciate your knowledge and expertise.

Act as Educator – You are an expert in your niche and your clients should view you that way in order to have a good relationship. Feel free to educate them on the area you have your expertise in. They will appreciate your voice as an expert.

Create Better Contracts – If you do have contracts with your clients, then the best way to make your communication work is to work on perfecting your contracts. When an issue comes up with one client, be sure to take that as education on how to make the contract with the next client even better.

Be Free with Your Opinion – The worst thing you can do is not give your client your opinion. You want to work with people who value your opinion, so be sure to give it. Always state that it is your opinion with some facts to back it up. Make it clear that they can go in whatever direction they want, but this is your expert opinion.

Always Be Yourself – Do not try to put on someone else’s personality. Only you can be you, and that is who your clients hired. Keep being yourself always. Even if it is scary sometimes, and even if a client might let you go due to who you are, those who stick with you will be a joy.

Send Them a Survey – Follow up with your clients at least yearly with a survey asking them about your work, products, and services. Having this yearly feedback will help you do better in the future with them and other clients.

Taking some time each year to review past communications with clients, analyze how you could do better, and working on improving will go far in helping you become an even bigger success.

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