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Work all year on annual reports

Whether you run your own business or the communications for a business, if you are involved in the annual report process, have you started work on it yet?

I have learned not to just leave preparing an annual report until July. It is so much easier and quicker to write if you have been keeping notes all year. I have an annual report document where I jot notes all year (for example ’10 November new product launched, 12 December legislation changed, 10 February started our blog’).

When you come to writing the annual report you then have a list of things from the past year to potentially include in your report. It is so easy to forget something that happened early in the year so having the list reminds you.

It has also saved me time many times because the date is listed and I don’t have to search it up. Knowing the date is useful for looking up related emails or news, assessing statistics (e.g. why did website traffic spike in March?) and just for reporting the date in the annual report (e.g. ‘We launched our blog in February and are pleased with it’).

Make preparing an annual report an all year project and you can save yourself a lot of stress and worry, and produce a comprehensive report as well.

P.S. The notes are sometimes useful for other tasks, not just for writing the annual report. Have you wasted time looking for dates or trying to remember what happened in a certain timeframe?

Using events to promote your business

Yesterday, I described an email where past events were advertised – and suggested it was not a great idea!

Yet running or being involved in events such as seminars can be a very effective marketing tool. Assuming the event is well run and provides useful information, the event shows you as an expert, professional, helpful and possibly generous with your knowledge.

Obviously, in the lead up to an event you need to promote it to attract people to the event itself – not much of an event if no one turns up because they didn’t know about it!

However, you can also promote an event to market your business as well as the event – and this marketing can follow the event as well as lead up to it. Worst case, people know you run seminars and may be able to attend your next one; best case, people give you more respect and trust in you, and are more aware of your business.

Some ways you can use an event afterwards to promote your business and credibility are:

  • talk about how much you enjoyed the event afterwards – and how much you learned. That may even include mention of things that didn’t work that you have learnt from. Talk about it in your blog and newsletter, as well as on forums, at networking sessions and with colleagues
  • gather testimonials from people who were at the event. You can put these on your website (especially near the details for the next event), in a portfolio/resume, quoted in marketing materials, in your blog and newsletter, and in media releases for future events
  • ask attendees at the event to review the event – written reviews can be added to your site/blog/newsletter, or even better, to theirs! If they do review or mention your event in their blog, make sure you leave a comment thanking them for their perspective and perhaps adding something useful as a thank you
  • give attendees something that is branded for your event – this probably only applies to bigger events like a conference or full day event. If they wear a tee-shirt, carry a bag, mark a place in a book , drink from a water bottle, add a button to their website, use  USB key or write with a pen branded for your event, people may ask them about it and they will remember it for longer themselves.
  • mention the event, as appropriate, in future media contacts, articles, blog posts, newsletters and so on, although don’t do it all the time as that would just be boring and counter-productive!
  • set up surveys asking for feedback to help you improve the next event – invite people from the last event and others to complete it. This gives you market insight whilst also drawing attention to the fact you have an event coming up!

What other ways have you used or seen used for promoting events after they have happened?

Just giving out cards does not work

I have just been reading part of the Small Business Diva blog where she wrote about networking, and her 6th point reminded me of a networking breakfast I attended a month or so ago.

Donna-Marie wrote ” When at networking events, don’t try to talk to everyone there and shove as many business cards as possible into everyone’s hands nor push your products/services on people. ” And I couldn’t agree more. Networking is about building relationships, not getting your name in front of the maximum number of people.

At the breakfast I attended, I happened to sit next to a man who didn’t tell me his name or show much interest in talking to me (his choice, and it doesn’t bother me!) However, as he stood up to leave he handed a business card to everyone within reach, said good-bye and left. He still didn’t say his name or use mine (I had introduced myself).

The end result? I left his card on the table and he gained nothing from handing it to me.

Compare that to others I have met at networking events where we have swapped cards and later exchanged emails and possibly helped each other in some way, even if we never used each others’ services.

So don’t go to networking events with the aim to hand out heaps of cards; reserve your cards for the people you click with or who specifically ask for a card or information about your services.

Walking out of a networking event with two or three, or even one, good contact is a great feeling – and a successful event.

Christmas already!

Can you believe I just received an email about Christmas? And it’s only mid March!

Ok, it was a request to fill in a survey about Christmas in your business  – a survey where the answers will be used to provide information to magazine readers preparing for Christmas. So it is reasonable to mention Christmas this early, but it still shocked me!

But it does raise the question – how soon do you plan for major events in your business? Not just Christmas, but Easter, change of seasons, new financial year, awareness weeks and so on that are relevant to your business in some way.