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7 Useful Tools To Expand Your Business Network

7 Useful Tools To Expand Your Business Network

Ah yes, the ever-important expansion of your business network question. How do you do it? What are the best ways to network with potential partners, collaborators, and associates these days?

In a constantly evolving world, it’s incredibly important to know how to make connections using the newest and most helpful technology.

If, for instance, this networking conundrum was proposed in the 1990s, the best answer would probably be things like phone calls, business functions, and business cards. Today, these things are terrible for actually making new business connections. No, instead we must turn to our online resource, the internet.

Here are 7 online tools that help expand your business network. Use them wisely.

1. LinkedIn

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    A lot of people still aren’t familiar with LinkedIn and how it works. But then again, these are the people who aren’t making the right business connections. With over 300 million users, LinkedIn is no longer that little-fish social network. It has become the go-to social networking site for all business professionals and is currently the biggest business fish in the social sea!

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    The best way to network with people on LinkedIn is to connect with them, endorse a few things that you know they are good at, and then reach out to them in some small way. Do not pitch them on something, but rather, just message them with a compliment or something similar about something they’ve done that you’ve enjoyed. After building up a bit of a rapport with someone, over a period of time, then you can start to inquire about things and perhaps try working with them.

    2. Twitter

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      Twitter is a personal favorite of mine for connecting with business associates. It’s great because everyone from Richard Branson, to Mitt Romney, to Tim Ferriss is on there. Just about every celebrity, politician, entrepreneur, athlete, or anyone else you could think of is on Twitter. So, in theory, no one is impossible to connect with.

      The average-Joe business man up the street can connect with somebody like Richard Branson on Twitter by using some clever Twitter tactics and saying the right things.

      For instance, if you want to connect with someone (maybe someone a little easier to reach than Branson), the best way to do it is to Follow them, and then start Favoriting and Retweeting their posts. By doing this, over a period of time, you will get their attention. You can then start commenting on their posts, and voila! The next thing you know they’re commenting back and you’ve built up a relationship with someone who can help you out! You can either private message them at this point (if they’ve Followed you back by now), or just ask them in a post thread if you could connect with them beyond Twitter. That’s it!

      3. Podcasting

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        One of the best tools for making connections is creating a podcast. Why podcasting, when we live in a video, in-your-face, visual world you ask? Because radio still rules! People love hearing podcasts and the podcasting industry is growing more and more each year.

        By having a podcast and interviewing people, you can invite all sorts of guests to come on your show. Everyone loves being interviewed and thought of as being special, so many people will typically accept your invitation. By creating a podcast show, you can connect with people in the business-world who would otherwise pass on an invitation to collaborate.

        4. Guest Posting

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          Similar to Podcasting, Guest Posting is such a great way to connect with others. It’s the one, tried-and-true way for bloggers to join forces with one another online.

          Reach out to some of your favorite websites and blogs, and ask them if they’d like to exchange articles with you. You could write them an article that fits their site’s criteria, and they could write an article that fits your site’s criteria, and in turn, you both win! By offering up your service, in the form of a blog post, you are giving them a great incentive to want to work with you and connect.

          5. Facebook

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            Although not as good as LinkedIn or Twitter for connecting with business associates, Facebook still holds a solid place on this list. Especially if you connect with someone’s personal page. Business pages are no good for connecting with. Oftentimes, these pages have way too many followers or people for the person running it (the person you’d like to connect with) to keep track of. A message to a fan page is a message lost.

            Instead, if you can Friend Request someone on their personal page, and you can actually get them to Accept, you are figuratively “In.” Don’t private message them right away, but just like LinkedIn and Twitter, Like some of their posts, Comment, Share, and build up a rapport for a while, and then message them. The message has a far greater chance of being returned if you take your time before sending it!

            6. Email

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              Email is the universal form of contact in today’s world. Almost everyone has an email address. And if someone puts their email address on their website, then you should take that a sign that that they are open to connecting with you. Now, don’t take that to mean you should Spam them with absurd requests. Don’t do that . . . ever!

              No, instead, send a thoughtful, well-planned, and respectful email with your inquiry. Tell them why you are reaching out to them, why they could benefit by working with you, and what you would like them to do if possible. That’s it. Keep it short, respectful, and sweet!

              7. Let’s Lunch

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                This is a really cool app that sets up lunch dates with potential business contacts. It connects with your LinkedIn profile and easily integrates your schedule with the people you’d like to bond with and sets up a scheduled time to meet face-to-face.

                This face-to-face meeting of course is the hands-down best way to really build a relationship with someone, although these days it’s becoming ever-more-difficult to do so. With a helpful little app like Let’s Lunch, however, the old-fashioned way of creating a relationship is being renewed.

                Use these 7 tools right now and start building your business network today. Who knows, you’re next connection could change your life!

                Featured photo credit: Handshake – 2 men via flickr.com

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                Justin Stenstrom

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                1 Why Your Habits Hinder You From Reaching Your Goals 2 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 3 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 4 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 5 14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

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                Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                3. Create a System

                Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                5. Use a Ratings Scale

                Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                7. Offer Feedback Forms

                Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                9. Use Self-Evaluations

                Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                10. Monitor Time Management

                This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                  The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                  While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                  11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                  We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                  Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                  For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                  Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                  Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                  From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                  12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                  This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                  Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                  Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                  It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                  13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                  When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                  Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                  Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                  14. Use an External Evaluator

                  Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                  They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                  While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                  Final Thoughts

                  These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                  The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                  The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                  Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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