4 creative networking ideas for the networking-averse

By Samantha Garner | May 12, 2018

creative networking ideas for entrepreneurs

Are you an introverted entrepreneur? Do you think networking isn’t necessary in your field? Unfortunately, many small business owners can’t avoid it for long. An entrepreneur’s network of personal and professional contacts is one of the key factors in success, particularly in the pre-startup period. But no matter what stage of the small business lifecycle you’re in now, you’ll eventually need a good accountant, a lead on a qualified intern, or a good word to someone who can get your foot in a new door.

Here are some creative solutions for those who balk at the thought of networking:

Go online.

Yes, we know, social networking has been around for years. You most likely already have a professional Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram account for your business. But are those channels working for you, or against you? It’s never to late to draft or re-draft your social media strategy. Get inspiration from those who have seen success (but don’t copy), or take training that incorporates the latest trends, news, and strategies – companies such as Later offer free webinars and videos full of good social media advice for small business owners. Apps like Mixer are geared specifically towards creatives. In the era of influencers and vloggers, it’s easier than ever before to get connected online.

Scale down. 

When you think “networking,” you likely imagine a large event space with dozens of people milling around, looking nervous. But what if we told you that an intimate dinner of fewer than a dozen people, or an invitation-only gathering in a hip cocktail lounge can both count as networking? Companies like Dent and Mashable have realized that networking in small groups or more interesting locations can make it more appealing to those who get heart palpitations at the thought of traditional meet-and-greets.

Weave your interests into it.

Whether your business is outside of an office environment, or you simply want something different, try incorporating something you already like into your networking. For example, if you’re a freelance programmer, why not join forces with other programmers you know to sponsor a local, weekend-long codeathon for charity? Photographers can hold monthly meetups to visit local galleries and art studios. Do you and one of your long-term clients share a love of fancy coffee? Invite them and a few of their colleagues to a coffee tasting at your favourite roaster – you’ll have fun and the inevitable shop talk will feel natural. Networking can be enjoyable if you attach it to an event you’ll enjoy anyway.

Start something yourself.

Many solopreneurs and those in creative fields often report a feeling of isolation from others in their industry. Does that sound like you? Do you wish more people in your field got together to exchange ideas and information? Well, why not be the one to start it? Many people are surprised at how much more comfortable they are at an event if they’re the ones hosting. They have more control, and usually have a few welcome logistical things to occupy the part of their brain that would normally be feeling anxiety over business cards. By starting your own networking event, you’ll be able to create the environment that makes you comfortable – as well as the other networking-avoiders you may invite!

What about you? Do you have any creative tips for networking you’d like to share?

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Can your business use augmented reality?

By Samantha Garner | May 5, 2018

augmented-reality-small-businessRemember the Pokemon Go craze? It seemed like the whole world was obsessed with it, downloading the app and “catching” Pokemon that were overlaid over real-world views. While it may seem like a great idea for a game, augmented reality like this can have applications in business, too.

Check out our list of five ways that AR can improve your small business:

  • Training. Whether it’s a download onto their smartphone or through special AR glasses, employees can receive animated instructions that are overlaid on the equipment in question.
  • Product visualization. AR apps allow customers to see your furniture, artwork, or decor in their homes before they buy. Real estate agents can give virtual tours of their properties.
  • Improving efficiency and troubleshooting. Those working with specialized equipment and processes, such as in manufacturing and farms, will be able to troubleshoot without having to leave their work stations to double-check things or consult with a colleague.
  • Better patient experience. There are many problems that AR can solve in the healthcare industry. For example, AccuVein‘s augmented reality scanner allows healthcare workers to see where veins are in patients’ bodies, improving accuracy, and most likely reducing the fear of needles as well.
  • More engaging education. Students young and not-so-young can enjoy a more immersive educational experience with augmented reality. Whether it’s guiding children through a library scavenger hunt, helping students visualize math problems, or giving people an immersive experience in another language, AR can change the way lessons are taught.

Do you have any ideas for an augmented reality-related business?

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Best ways to anticipate your customer needs

By GoForth Guest Blogger | April 28, 2018

Businesses are facing a profound challenge that becomes increasingly relevant every day: anticipating customer needs. The market is changing lightning-fast these days, so if you are not planning and preparing a solution for tomorrow’s customers, you may be heading for a big disappointment and don’t even realize it.

Why should one plan solutions for tomorrow’s customers when one has a lot of business today? Well, there are always new businesses and startups planning their arrival on the market tomorrow. Who knows, maybe a new Steve Jobs and Elon Musk will enter your market tomorrow? Chances are they will have much better solutions than you do.

Besides, the brand new world of customer lifecycle management (CLM) replaces the current marketing concepts: the calendar and the funnel. Tomorrow, they will become more irrelevant and outmoded because they are unresponsive models organized around the business, not the customer.

For example, they don’t account for numerous daily opportunities to engage with the target audience, which means losing millions of dollars. Clearly, it’s better to use updated strategies.

CLM is a responsive model that focuses on the customer and their needs. It takes advantage of advanced analytics, encourages businesses to listen for the signals from customers, and respond to them quickly, profitably, and relevantly.

Do you want your customers to be impressed by responsive, highly personalized, and relevant experiences with your brand as well? Then take a look at the infographic created by Proessaywriting.com below.

It offers eight updated ways that business owners can determine and develop with future trends. The ways are backed up by data provided by studies of the U.S. market – however, this advice is highly valuable to Canadian entrepreneurs as well. Each technique described in the infographic comes with helpful tips for you to improve your ability to anticipate the needs of your target audience.

An effective use of these techniques will help your business survive and compete with the next Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. You’ll learn that in addition to listening, staying competitive requires using CLM and taking initiative, planning, and seeing things that your target audience will need, even if they don’t know it yet.

All right, let’s now learn how to put your business in a unique position of knowing exactly what customers need…

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, business consultant and helps people to turn their dreams into the profitable business.  Now she is writing for marketing and business resources. Also Lucy has her own blog Prowritingpartner.com where you can check her last publications. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on  Twitter.

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Why is creativity important for entrepreneurs?

By Samantha Garner | April 21, 2018

entrepreneurship creativity

When many of us hear the word “creativity,” we think of artistic pursuits. However, creativity is more than that – and it’s important for entrepreneurs to cultivate.

Creativity is the ability to view the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated things and to find solutions. It’s often associated with pairing and combining ideas or concepts to discover unique or new associations or connections. Creativity means merging previously separate ideas, concepts or forms of thought to create something new.

Why is creativity important for entrepreneurs?

Still not convinced creativity has a place in business? Check out these examples.

In 1941 George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer returned from a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He noticed the burrs that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur. Like a good engineer, he examined the burrs under a microscope. There, he noted the hundreds of “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop, such as animal fur. He saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion and invented one of the world’s most popular products – Velcro.

In 1974, Art Fry was in church when he came up with the perfect application for his friend Spencer Silver’s new adhesive. As the legend goes, Fry sang in his church choir on weekends and he used slips of paper to mark the pages of his hymnal. When the book was opened, however, the makeshift bookmarks often moved around or fell out altogether. On that day in church, it occurred to him that the adhesive could be a great bookmark. If it could be coated on paper, Silver’s adhesive would hold a bookmark in place without damaging the page. And Post-It Notes were born.

Both inventors in these examples merged previously distinct forms to create a new combination which had tremendous commercial application — they used their creativity to see everyday things in new and useful ways. 

Want to learn how to be more creative? Check out our blog post with ways to kick-start creativity.

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How to kick-start your business creativity

By Samantha Garner | April 14, 2018

home-based-small-businessDo you think you’re creative? No matter what you think, the answer is probably “yes!” We are all creative in our own ways, whether it’s viewing the world in new ways, finding hidden patterns, or making connections between seemingly unrelated things and finding solutions.

Creativity is the basis of innovation, and also the source of new products and services, new industries, new ways of doing business, new business opportunities and ultimately wealth creation. So, you can see why creativity is important for entrepreneurs.

Here are five ways you can fire up your own creativity and inspire great things for your small business.

Think in opposites
Sometimes, thinking about opposites can help you come up with a great business idea. When you’re able to hold two conflicting thoughts or outcomes in your head at once, you can often come up with creative ways to bridge the gap between the two – even if there doesn’t seem to be a connection. For example, clothing company Everlane could be said to think in opposites: What if clothing could be both ethically-made and affordable? To connect the two opposites, they adopted a strict e-commerce business model, reducing retail markups and cutting out the overhead necessary to run a brick-and-mortar store.

Have “think time” every day
For at least a few minute per day, unplug. Put your phone in the other room. Read, garden, go for a walk, go for a run, or sit and let your mind wander. Get into a routine of letting your brain loose every day — just not while you’re driving, please!

Be a kid again
When was the last time you played with Lego? Did a jigsaw puzzle? Looked for shapes in clouds? Built a sandcastle? Kids are masters at creativity because of how they play, losing themselves in imagination and coming up with amazing stories and ideas. They also can’t be dissuaded by “That’s not how it’s done” or “That won’t work” – they try anyway.

Write down all your business-related ideas
Don’t worry about how good, bad or strange your ideas might be. The key here is to set your mind free to develop a stockpile of ideas that might one day develop into something new or useful. Perfectionists, practice makes perfect here!

Spending time each day in quiet contemplation may seem challenging or even counterproductive at first, but the more you practice, the easier it’ll be to draw upon your creativity when you need it. Try to “free associate” as much as possible.

See? Creativity isn’t always about being artistic. If you can only draw a stick figure, you’re still creative! Your small business will thank you.

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