Tag Archive: Small Business Plan

Using Instant Messaging for Business

Using Instant Messaging for Business

Here’s the scene: A couple dozen professionals at a big advertising agency quietly type away at computer screens near each other, in an open room devoid of office walls and partitions.

An occasional laugh punctuates the silence. But no one is talking. They are communicating with one another almost exclusively through instant messaging (IM).

“When I’m visiting this firm, I can’t help but notice this [lack of people talking]. Seems odd to an outsider, but this is now pretty much their corporate culture,” says Helen Chan, analyst for The Yankee Group, a US-based technology research group, who has friends at the agency.

A technology designed initially for one-on-one personal chats has reached the workplace. Many business people are choosing text-based Instant Messaging over phone calls and email. They prefer its immediacy and efficiency in getting real-time information from partners, suppliers and colleagues working remotely.

Instant messaging is essentially the text version of a phone call. At businesses large and small, more and more people are using it to communicate. For many, it serves as a backstop for e-mail problems and other emergencies — witness the spikes in usage after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Wall Street Journal notes that more than 100 million people are now sending instant messages. In a report, “IM: The Sleeping Giant,” technology consultant Gartner Group predicts that by 2005, instant messaging will surpass email as the primary online communications tool.

That said, IM will benefit businesses that work in teams or on projects more than it will many retailers, independent professionals and others. That’s because IM enhances collaboration, but does not lend itself to opening new relationships. However, aside from the opportunities for time and cost savings, there are risks and downsides to its use.

Whether you’re a business owner or an avid IM user, or both, here are 10 instant messaging do’s and don’ts.

1. Do adopt a user policy for instant messaging. If you’re an owner, your employees need to know whether you view instant messaging as an appropriate vehicle to communicate with, say, customers or business partners. Any policy should contain at least general guidelines for its use. You may not think this is important — unless you know the story about the hedge fund manager who caused a major commotion by allegedly using IM to spread inaccurate rumours about a publicly traded software company. (Word got out, the software company’s stock plunged, and the hedge fund manager and his company got into some serious trouble.)

2. Don’t use instant messaging to communicate confidential or sensitive information. Take a lesson from the above example. If your company is in the business of providing professional advice regarding stocks, finances, medicine or law, chances are it’s not smart to do so through instant messaging. IM is better suited to quick information about project status, meeting times, or a person’s whereabouts.

3. Do organise your contact lists to separate business contacts from family and friends. Make sure your employees do the same. Eliminate even the remote possibility that a social contact could be included in a business chat with a partner or customer — or vice versa. MSN Messenger[link] lets you organise your contacts carefully.

4. Don’t allow excessive personal messaging at work. Yes, you make personal phone calls at work, send personal emails, and allow your employees to do the same. But you encourage them to keep it to a minimum and (hopefully) do the same yourself. For instant messaging go even further. Urge that personal chats be done during breaks or the lunch hour — or that the chats generate new customers or revenue to the business.

5. Do be aware that instant messages can be saved. You may think IM is great because you can let your guard down, make bold statements, chastise a boss, employee or co-worker, and have it all wiped away from the record when you are done. What you aren’t realising is that one of the parties to your conversation can copy and paste the entire chat onto a notepad or Word document. Some IM services allow you to archive entire messages. Be careful what you say, just like you would in an email.

6. Don’t compromise your company’s liability, or your own reputation. The courts may still be figuring out where instant messages stand in terms of libel, defamation and other legal considerations. It’s likely that any statements you make about other people, your company or other companies probably aren’t going to land you in court. But they could damage your reputation or credibility. Be careful what you say.

7. Do be aware of virus infections and related security risks. Most IM services allow you to transfer files with your messages. Alexis D. Gutzman, an author and eBusiness consultant, says her recent research for a book found that IM file attachments carrying viruses penetrate firewalls more easily than email attachments. “Instant messages [carrying viruses] will run and dip into a firewall until they find an opening,” she says. You’d be wise to learn more about the quality of your own firewall protection, to decide whether or not to restrict transferring files through IM.

8. Don’t share personal data or information through IM. Even if you have the utmost trust in the person or people you are messaging, including personal information you’d rather keep confidential (like a phone number) is not a good idea. That’s because the text of your chat is relayed through a server en route to your contact. “If anyone is on the connection and can see that traffic, they can see the personal information,” says Chris Mitchell, lead program manager with MSN Messenger. Not likely, perhaps. But it’s better to send such info through an encrypted email, or not at all.

9. Do keep your instant messages simple and to the point, and know when to say goodbye. How you should use IM is hard to stipulate. Kneko Burney, director of eBusiness research at Cahners In-Stat Group, prefers it simply for seeing if a colleague is at his or her desk, available for an in-person or telephone call. “It’s like peeking into someone’s office.” Gutzman, on the other hand, sees IM as a way to do quick research and get fast information from consultants and even lawyers. She recently used IM in researching a book, saving entire messages in her personal archives. Both agree, however, that you must limit your inquiry, get to the point right away, and avoid unnecessary blather. “With instant messaging, you don’t need a lot of pleasantries,” Gutzman says. “I pretty much can say, ‘How’s it going?’ and then get on with my question.”

10. Don’t confuse your contacts with a misleading user name or status. IM user names, like email user names, should be consistent throughout your company. And users should do the courtesy of updating their status throughout the day, so contacts know whether they are available for messages.

How To Acquire A New Business

How To Acquire A New Business.

How To Acquire A New BusinessHow To Acquire A New Business. A major part of keeping profitable and growing your business is maintaining a focus on business development. Even when you’ve got the right mix of work, clients and employees you should be looking for new opportunities. You could establish a process to do this whilst ensuring your existing customers don’t get neglected. The process helps you manage new business opportunities in a cost- and time-effective manner. Acquire New Business

Generate leads

Identify the types of companies you want to work with and a realistic number of companies you want to target over a given period of time. For example: an accountant with experience in the marketing industry might decide to target five opportunities per month focused on marketing consultancies. 

Finding potential clients and identifying new opportunities can be done through networking events, tenders listed in newspapers and industry magazines and headlines in newspapers about new projects and industry seminars. Keep an eye on your industry and stay aware of new developments.

Track the companies you approach in a database ( you could use Microsoft Excel or Access). Tracking should cover the obvious things (company contact details etc) as well as details of what was discussed, potential works, actions and more. 

Qualify the leads

Once you have a list of identified companies you must review to ensure they are realistic opportunities. Some areas to think about include:

• Do you have the right contacts to get started?

• Do you have the right services to offer them?

• How can their website help you understand them better?

• Do you have any conflicts of interest in pursuing this company?

• Does this client have growth potential or would it be a quick job?

• Who makes the decisions? How can you reach them?

3. Raise your business profile

By raising your company profile (no matter how small you are) you’ll be able to generate new business with less effort. As a leader in the industry new business will come to you. There are many ways to raise your profile; you could try sponsoring events, adverts and gaining media coverage. The size, location and target market of your business this will dictate what medium to use and the areas to cover. Acquire New Business

4. Show them what you’re made of

Start to reach your qualified opportunities by showcasing your company’s products. Send them a brochure or a copy of any newsletters you produce and invite them to join; show off examples of your work; highlight relevant media articles. How To Acquire A New Business.

Develop standard template letters in Word to send to potential clients to accompany your credentials/brochures. Ensure you link to your database (Excel, Access or Outlook) when merging the letters and envelopes to ensure you don’t have to re-enter details.

There is no specified time for this courting so be patient. It could be six months before anything comes to fruition. How To Acquire A New Business.

5. Set a meeting time

So you’re in the door. Now you need to sell yourself. Tailor the meeting to suit the way you operate as a business. It could be a formal PowerPoint presentation or a discussion over coffee. You may have no choice for the style of the meeting but make sure you are comfortable and well prepared. During the meeting be sure to demonstrate the knowledge you have developed in the previous stages.

6. Follow up

You’ve presented your capabilities and ideas. Don’t stop there. Follow up is essential. This is a major part of the process and should be taken as seriously as the other steps. You’ll probably be able to build on ideas from the meeting, or you might find an interesting/relevant article or statistics you could send to re-open discussion. Even if you don’t have anything to send, thank them for the opportunity. How To Acquire A New Business.

This article is brought to your by Apple Capital Group. Inc. For more information about our funding solutions, please call us at 866-611-7457 Ext. 1 or go to our website at www.applecapitalgroup.com

Acquiring New Business

Acquiring New Business.

Acquiring New BusinessAcquiring New Business. A major part of keeping profitable and growing your business is maintaining a focus on business development. Even when you’ve got the right mix of work, clients and employees you should be looking for new opportunities. You could establish a process to do this whilst ensuring your existing customers don’t get neglected. The process helps you manage new business opportunities in a cost- and time-effective manner. Acquiring New Business.

Acquiring New Business: Generate leads

Identify the types of companies you want to work with and a realistic number of companies you want to target over a given period of time. For example: an accountant with experience in the marketing industry might decide to target five opportunities per month focussed on marketing consultancies. Acquiring New Business.

Finding potential clients and identifying new opportunities can be done through networking events, tenders listed in newspapers and industry magazines and headlines in newspapers about new projects and industry seminars. Keep an eye on your industry and stay aware of new developments. Acquiring New Business. Acquiring New Business.

Track the companies you approach in a database ( you could use Microsoft Excel or Access). Tracking should cover the obvious things (company contact details etc) as well as details of what was discussed, potential works, actions and more. Acquiring New Business.

Acquiring New Business: Qualify the leads

Once you have a list of identified companies you must review to ensure they are realistic opportunities. Some areas to think about include:

• Do you have the right contacts to get started?

• Do you have the right services to offer them?

• How can their website help you understand them better?

• Do you have any conflicts of interest in pursuing this company?

• Does this client have growth potential or would it be a quick job?

• Who makes the decisions? How can you reach them?

3. Acquiring New Business. Raise your business profile

By raising your company profile (no matter how small you are) you’ll be able to generate new business with less effort. As a leader in the industry new business will come to you. There are many ways to raise your profile; you could try sponsoring events, adverts and gaining media coverage. The size, location and target market of your business this will dictate what medium to use and the areas to cover.

4. Acquiring New Business.Show them what you’re made of

Start to reach your qualified opportunities by showcasing your company’s products. Send them a brochure or a copy of any newsletters you produce and invite them to join; show off examples of your work; highlight relevant media articles.

Develop standard template letters in Word to send to potential clients to accompany your credentials/brochures. Ensure you link to your database (Excel, Access or Outlook) when merging the letters and envelopes to ensure you don’t have to re-enter details.

There is no specified time for this courting so be patient. It could be six months before anything comes to fruition. Acquiring New Business.

5. Acquiring New Business. Set a meeting time

So you’re in the door. Now you need to sell yourself. Tailor the meeting to suit the way you operate as a business. It could be a formal PowerPoint presentation or a discussion over coffee. You may have no choice for the style of the meeting but make sure you are comfortable and well prepared. During the meeting be sure to demonstrate the knowledge you have developed in the previous stages. Acquiring New Business.

6. Acquiring New Business. Follow up

You’ve presented your capabilities and ideas. Don’t stop there. Follow up is essential. This is a major part of the process and should be taken as seriously as the other steps. You’ll probably be able to build on ideas from the meeting, or you might find an interesting/relevant article or statistics you could send to re-open discussion. Even if you don’t have anything to send, thank them for the opportunity. Acquiring New Business.

Acquire New Business by Tim Jacquet

Acquire New Business by Tim Jacquet.

A major part of keeping profitable and growing your business is maintaining a focus on business development. Even when you’ve got the right mix of work, clients and employees you should be looking for new opportunities. You could establish a process to do this whilst ensuring your existing customers don’t get neglected. The process helps you manage new business opportunities in a cost- and time-effective manner.

Generate leads

Identify the types of companies you want to work with and a realistic number of companies you want to target over a given period of time. For example: an accountant with experience in the marketing industry might decide to target five opportunities per month focussed on marketing consultancies.

Finding potential clients and identifying new opportunities can be done through networking events, tenders listed in newspapers and industry magazines and headlines in newspapers about new projects and industry seminars. Keep an eye on your industry and stay aware of new developments.

Track the companies you approach in a database ( you could use Microsoft Excel or Access). Tracking should cover the obvious things (company contact details etc) as well as details of what was discussed, potential works, actions and more.

Qualify the leads

Once you have a list of identified companies you must review to ensure they are realistic opportunities. Some areas to think about include:

• Do you have the right contacts to get started?

• Do you have the right services to offer them?

• How can their website help you understand them better?

• Do you have any conflicts of interest in pursuing this company?

• Does this client have growth potential or would it be a quick job?

• Who makes the decisions? How can you reach them?

3. Raise your business profile

By raising your company profile (no matter how small you are) you’ll be able to generate new business with less effort. As a leader in the industry new business will come to you. There are many ways to raise your profile; you could try sponsoring events, adverts and gaining media coverage. The size, location and target market of your business this will dictate what medium to use and the areas to cover.

4. Show them what you’re made of

Start to reach your qualified opportunities by showcasing your company’s products. Send them a brochure or a copy of any newsletters you produce and invite them to join; show off examples of your work; highlight relevant media articles.

Develop standard template letters in Word to send to potential clients to accompany your credentials/brochures. Ensure you link to your database (Excel, Access or Outlook) when merging the letters and envelopes to ensure you don’t have to re-enter details.

There is no specified time for this courting so be patient. It could be six months before anything comes to fruition.

5. Set a meeting time

So you’re in the door. Now you need to sell yourself. Tailor the meeting to suit the way you operate as a business. It could be a formal PowerPoint presentation or a discussion over coffee. You may have no choice for the style of the meeting but make sure you are comfortable and well prepared. During the meeting be sure to demonstrate the knowledge you have developed in the previous stages.

6. Follow up

You’ve presented your capabilities and ideas. Don’t stop there. Follow up is essential. This is a major part of the process and should be taken as seriously as the other steps. You’ll probably be able to build on ideas from the meeting, or you might find an interesting/relevant article or statistics you could send to re-open discussion. Even if you don’t have anything to send, thank them for the opportunity.