You don’t necessarily have to have an office, or even a presence, in another country to broaden your global business knowledge and reach. Our infographic below shows that small business professionals live all over the globe. Get out there and meet these fellow SMBs by asking and answering questions in the Startups and Small Businesses Category of LinkedIn Answers and joining LinkedIn Groups. You can also find your peers (or mentors) by doing a LinkedIn Advanced People Search by title, company size and a whole host of other facets.
With passion in my heart and incorporation documents in my hand, I was sitting in my newly furnished office when a good friend stopped by to wish me congratulations on my business venture. I’d been at it for almost two months and between marketing materials, website design and hiring an assistant, I’d yet to actually get out there and make a sale. I loved the business and believed with everything in me it would change people’s lives, but I was missing something critical: revenue. On the way out the door, my friend (and successful business man) gave me a piece of advice I somehow missed in the throes of starting my small business.
If you can’t make any money, you don’t have a business – you have an idea.
OK, so I get how obvious this little tidbit is, but I honestly believe his statement was the kick in the butt I needed to build a successful business and not just an idea. It’s a mantra I come back to time and time again as a reminder that while in many aspects of life, money isn’t everything – but in terms of business survival, it is.
SMBs have unique challenges in terms of making money. In a world where sensitivity to the economy and a need to stay on top of new revenue streams are crucial, LinkedIn offers more than a few ways to help you keep the doors open.
Be the Expert: Whether you’re selling insurance, stocks or paper clips, the key to being at the top of your game (and your earning bracket) is to be the recognized expert in your industry. In a competitive economy where the buyer is in control, the best way of differentiating yourself is with a qualified reputation as the best in your field. And get this – it doesn’t have to take years to attain. The quickest and most effective way to be identified as an expert is to act like one. Your name should be synonymous with skill, authority and know-how in your industry. Set business standards by frequently sharing updates on LinkedIn and leading LinkedIn Group discussions about essential industry news. Be the influencer that your peers look up to. Is a merger occurring among two leading businesses? Is there a great conference you’ll be attending? Did you just listen to a great TED talk? These seemingly innocuous tasks act as advertising for your brand. If people see you as a trusted and educated leader in your industry, they’ll think of you when they (or someone else) needs your product or service.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled: So your business is in the black and your customer flow is constant. Think you’re ready to sit back and relax? Not quite. To be a successful business owner means that you’re not only on top of what’s going on in your industry, you’re in front of it. If like most small and medium-sized businesses you don’t have an enormous budget for R&D, I have great news for you: you don’t need one. Follow the industry big-wigs on LinkedIn and let their research dollars do the talking. Everything from company news to the comings and goings of key people will tell you an enormous amount about what your competitors have in the pipeline (and alternate directions you may want to consider). Another amazing way of both saving and making more money? The old fashioned focus group made new (and cheap) by virtue of technology, and the fact that legitimate professionals building their own reputation are eager to give their two-cents worth.
Help People Find You: This is a true story. Three weeks after my baby was born, after one too many nights of 3am wake-ups, I logged onto LinkedIn sure I was going to find the night nurse that a fellow working mom friend had told me about. I could remember her name, but little else in my sleep-deprived stupor. Guess what? I couldn’t find her, but, unfortunately for her, I did find a handful of other well-qualified candidates. We’re a very whim-oriented society in need of immediate satisfaction. It’s your job as a SMB to be as accessible as possible. If a customer can’t find you online, then you’ve got a big problem. Make sure your company has a LinkedIn Company Page with a great overview that includes a Products & Services tab. If you’re a night nurse, your personal LinkedIn Profile better be 100 percent complete and include LinkedIn Skills like infant nutrition, weaning, and first aid. The more specific you are, the better. Don’t miss out on potential clients because your name isn’t out there. Online professional networking is the new Yellow Pages – make sure you’re listed.