Marketing Your Small Business

One of the ideas I like to share with my audiences is for each of them to form an Advisory Council. Here is how it works: Once a quarter, take your best customers out to dinner to a fancy restaurant or country club. It especially helps if these customers are what best-selling author Seth Godin calls “sneezers,” people who are most influential in your community.

After dinner, ask your Advisory Council some questions like, “I’d like to give you a sneak peek at some new products and services we are thinking about rolling out. What do you think?” or “This is our new business plan for next year. What advice would you give us?”

And you know, it really doesn’t matter what they say. The important thing is that you made these people, who seem to know everybody in the community, feel important.

Not only will they be happy to meet other like-minded, influential members of the community at the quarterly meeting, they are likely to become lifetime customers themselves. (After all, who among your competitors are treating them so royally?)  Best of all, they likely will be unable to contain their enthusiasm around others about how you make them feel special.

After their quarterly meeting with you, if they overhear someone shopping for products or services that you offer, they are likely to chime in to the conversation, beginning with words like, “You know, if that is what you are considering, you really need to see my friends. They’ll take really good care of you!”

And we all understand the power of personal recommendation and that word of mouth is the most influential and effective form of marketing you can get.

And you too can get it, for the price of dinner and some drinks, simply by making your best customers feel important.

Seth Godin

 

 

 

Booming Paralegal Field

Lawyers are not the only legal experts out there. In fact, it is common that lawyers depend on their paralegals and legal assistants to help them be more efficient and effective. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of paralegals is expected to grow by 15% over the next eight years! You’ll find paralegals in law firms, government offices and legal departments in corporate companies. They are qualified legal experts who draft legal documents, research laws and regulations, and assist attorneys and lawyers with cases and help prepare for trials.

Paralegals may help with some administrative tasks, yet most of their workload is engaging with clients and working on cases. Charged with keeping track of and analyzing case documentation and information, paralegals need to be well versed in the online world of databases and computer software to be successful in their positions.

According to Paralegal EDU, there is a lot of variability in the opinion of what certification/credentials a paralegal needs for the industry to recognize them as qualified. There is no standard paralegal preparation course, certificate or degree. Because of the variability, you will find a variety of certificate programs and undergraduate degrees that aim to teach paralegals the skills they need to be successful.

Paralegal EDU just released the results of a months-long assessment of more than 250 accredited schools offering pre-degree certificate programs in paralegal studies. They chose which programs to recognize based upon a number of factors. Some of these factors include; the flexibility of the course work to fit into learner’s daily lives, opportunities to gain experience by practicing their new skills as well as how well the program aligns with current job demands. Check out the full list of criteria.

Paralegal EDU has recognized Alber Enterprise Center’s Paralegal Certification course as one of the best programs in Ohio for Paralegals to earn their certificate. This program includes the flexible online course, a Microsoft Office Suite course to develop your computer software skills, and an externship that allows you to practice the new skills you have learned in the course.

Full Plate Time Management

When you finished work yesterday, did you accomplish all you wished?  Or, like many, was it a day filled with busyness, but little progress on your priorities? Our professional lives are complex due to a combination of lean workforce, demands on our time, and way too much to do for less. How can you get control of your time and your life when your plate is so full?  Here’s an overview and detailed suggestions in one area:

Full Plate Time (and Life) Management requires:

  1. Task Management – choosing the tasks you should do and in what order.
  2. Energy Management – having an abundance of energy to give each day your best.
  3. Attention Management – hold focus on what matters most.
  4. Workflow Management – having systems in place to serve my specific needs.

Today we’ll focus on Attention Management.

The Problem.  Many things vie for our attention and unless we take responsibility for where our mind wanders, we’ll be pulled in a zillion different ways and never get to what matters most. For many this includes crises, texts, emails, chatty Cathy, boss demands, customer needs, etc.  After setting your priorities well (task management), here are four ways to keep your attention on what you need to do.

1) Trust others.  We allow ourselves to be derailed from our priority tasks because we believe that we must be the one to address the various issues that arise.  Learn to deputize and delegate others with guidelines to handle issues for you.  This is one possible draw on your attention, but one you can solve by letting go and trusting others.  They can do it.  Let them.

2) Utilize Q2 to prevent crises (from the 4 quadrants of productivity, as referenced in Franklin Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”®. Q2 is the quadrant for less urgent but important items requiring focus).  For every crisis, discuss what can be done to prevent it from happening again.  Operating in Q2 will reduce the number and severity of the crises you face and save valuable time.

3) Eliminate distractions.  Studies have shown that checking for new emails and looking at your phone again and again are addictive behaviors that take an enormous toll on your ability to focus and attend to what is most important.  A momentary look at our phone to check an alert will take, on average, 90 seconds to get your focus back on task.  Add up each alert and it means hours of time each day distracted by your phone.   Put that thing in airplane mode when you need to write that report or during a meeting.  Ban phones from meetings to encourage full participation and interaction.  It also fosters better participation and interaction with others.

Politely tell chatty Cathy (or Charles) that you can’t talk right now, and schedule a time later if it is important.  If you are chatty Charles, stop assuming their time is yours. This is different than building relationships by genuinely being interested in others, giving feedback, and following up.  Know the difference and choose wisely.

There are many other distractions not mentioned here.  What is drawing your attention?  What will you do about it?

4) Schedule time for Q2 and Priority tasks.  Look at your calendar.  Is it filled only with meetings set by you and others?  Who is in control of your attention?  When you schedule time for your focused attention, you carve out the time you need to get priorities done.  Schedule the Q2 time for planning, task prioritization, and relationship building to make everything else work better.

So what will you do to maintain your attention to focus on what matters most?  Gaining this control gives you the focus that will make all the difference.