This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Category Archives: Business

Great Business Plan Tips

Why do you need a business plan?You may be wondering why you need a plan in the first place. After all, you have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve. You know the market, you have the necessary skills. So why do you need a plan?There are many good reasons. Here are just a few of them:

  • To clarify your ideasWriting something down gives it structure and substance. Your ideas will be clearer on paper than in your head.
  • To discover and solve problemsThe business idea you have in mind may have some holes – you might not have covered everything. This will become much more apparent when your words are on the page.
  • To get feedback from othersA properly written business plan can be shared with trusted people to get their advice.
  • As a formal documentBanks, investors, accountants and lawyers will want proof that you’re serious about your business. A written plan will provide that proof.
  • To guide you as your business growsA good business plan will keep you on track and focused, even as day-to-day work becomes a distraction.

If you’ve never written a business plan before, it can be a daunting prospect. But these 10 steps will help you create the perfect business plan.

1. The executive summary

This is where you describe your company and the product or service that it will sell. This must be brief, to catch and hold people’s attention.

Try to describe the goal and mission of your business in just a couple of sentences. Work hard at this and try to make it memorable.

Treat this section as an ‘elevator pitch’ document – it should be succinct and easy to remember.

2. Who are your customers?

Do you have a clear idea of the type of people (or businesses) who will buy your product or service? If not, think carefully until you do.

This is one of the first questions any investor will ask you about your business plan. Have your answers ready:

  • Know whether your customers will be consumers or businesses. If they are businesses, who will you target within those companies? Maybe it’s the salesperson, or perhaps it’s the CEO?
  • Determine whether you’ll have regular clients or one-off buyers.
  • Make sure you’ve actually spoken to some of your potential customers.

3. Evaluate the target audience

There’s no room for guessing here. You need to identify the people who will buy from you. Think about the following:

  • Demographics – such as age, gender and social status.
  • Firmographics – this applies when selling to businesses. Firmographics includes size of the company, revenue of the company and services or products of the company.
  • Location – perhaps a specific area, town, or even country.
  • Profession – maybe you’re targeting accountants, police or lawyers, for example.
  • Groups – such as people with shared interests or habits.

The better you evaluate your target audience, the more comprehensive your business plan will be.

4. What are your opportunities?Successful businesses think big. You might be starting small, but you don’t have to stay that way. So write down the possible opportunities for your business as it grows.For example, perhaps you’re planning to start by selling over the internet. That’s great, but how will you get traffic to your site? How will people find you online? Will you need salespeople? If not, how will you convince people to buy from you?As the business grows, is there scope for a bricks-and-mortar retail outlet? What other opportunities will you have if your business grows as planned?

5. Understand the competition

Every business has competition. If you don’t mention yours, investors will think you’re unprofessional – or just plain naive. Be thorough, and list all your existing and potential competitors:

  • Who are your direct competitors – those selling the same products as you?
  • Who are your indirect competitors – those whose market overlaps yours?
  • What will prevent other companies competing with you – what are the barriers to entry?
  • What is your USP (unique selling proposition)? In other words, what’s your point of difference that makes you different from your competitors?

That last point is important. You need to explain how your business will differentiate itself from all the others. That might be based on price, service, quality, range or value. Make sure you spell it out.

6. Build a simple financial plan

All business plans should contain some financial information. This should include the overall costs of setting up your business. For example:

  • Cost to make or buy products.
  • Costs for labour and manufacture, including raw materials.
  • Staff costs, especially for service businesses.
  • Distribution and marketing costs.
  • Fixed and variable overheads.

Good accounting software will help you create a draft financial model. We’ll look into this in more detail in a future guide. For now, talk to your accountant or bookkeeper for help and advice.

7. Include an outline marketing plan

For this section of your business plan, you need to think about the five ‘Ps’:

  • Pricing – how will you price the end product?
  • Positioning – how does your product or service fit into the market?
  • Promotion – what channels will you use to attract and communicate with customers?
  • Profit – how much do you expect to make per item sold?
  • Place – what are your sales outlets?

8. Plan your operations

Put your vision to one side for a moment. What are the daily tasks that need to be done when running the business? Include all business processes such as manufacture and packaging. Try to cover all departments too, including sales and customer service.

9. Get the right people

This is one of the most important factors. Think about who you want to hire. How will you find people whose skills complement yours? And how will you convince them to work for you?Also think about who you want as your business advisors. You’ll need people you can trust, to guide and mentor you at times when you need it.

10. Simplicity is the key

Keep it simple. Complex and long documents won’t be read – either by you or by potential investors. A business plan should be brief, relevant and focused.If you find yourself getting carried away while writing, stop and take a break. Then go back and edit what you’ve written. Shorter is better. The core of a good business plan should be just a few pages long.

Plan your business around your strengthsAs you write your business plan, keep in mind your strengths – and also any areas for improvement. This will help you construct a plan that makes the most of your abilities, while still being realistic. That’s more likely to convince investors that you’re serious.Your business plan is a roadmap for your business – but it’s not set in stone. Review it at least once a year and make changes if necessary.Above all, keep getting feedback from your advisors – official and unofficial ones. With their help, you’ll create the perfect business plan that takes you where you want to go.

About CRM System

When CRM systems work, they’re amazing

If sales is a big driver for your business, you’ve probably either tried a CRM system before or you’re in a hurry to get one up and running. At their best, they can:

  • increase sales (some say by up to 30%)
  • take away admin, so your sales people are happier and more focused
  • identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell to existing customers
  • ensure customer requests don’t slip through the cracks
  • consolidate and protect your institutional knowledge

The list could go on because CRM software is getting smarter all the time. These systems can do more and more to support your sales process.

But an awful lot of businesses say they use less than half of their system’s capabilities. And many say they’d give up some of those extra features if the thing was simpler to use.

When it doesn’t work, CRM software can be a roadblock

Depending on which study you read, between 25 and 50 percent of CRM projects fail. Failure can be due to a lot of things. In some cases, the system gets in the way of your sales process and reps end up fighting against it to get their job done.

When this happens, staff will probably abandon the CRM system – going back to spreadsheets, private email and other forms of manual record-keeping. Not only does that slow them down, but it means you lose the opportunity to coordinate your sales efforts, which is the whole point of using CRM software in the first place.

There’s a system for you

CRM software has come a long way. The idea of one-size-fits-all was abandoned a long time ago and systems are now built to support all types of business, with their many different sales processes. The growing choice can seem overwhelming but it’s ultimately a good thing.

Don’t just research the CRM software, research your business

To work properly, a CRM system needs to support your specific sales process – no matter how complex or unusual it might be. Every step should be easier than it was before, or your staff won’t get onboard. It’s as simple as that.

So before you start looking at brochures, look at your team and find out what they need. It’ll tell you what to look for to find the best CRM software, and it’s more important than choosing by brand or price.

Asking the right questions

To choose the best CRM software, you need to understand how your team operates. Here are the key considerations to help you choose:

How do you collect lead information?

Your CRM software should make it easy to add new sales leads. If your sales team collects business cards at conferences, get a system with a native mobile app to scan business cards. If you capture leads online, you’ll want CRM software that integrates with your website or marketing automation platform.

How many sales leads do you have?

Many businesses like Trello-style CRM software that visualizes their sales process, and shows which prospects are at each stage. That’ll work if you have a relatively small number of sales leads, but the display will become too dense and complex if you deal with high volumes. The best CRM system will give you a meaningful dashboard view.

How many steps to close a deal?

Map out your sales process and make sure your CRM software can support it. If you have to move a sales lead through 10 stages to close a deal, you’ll need a system that supports all those stages. If you have business requirements that must occur before a lead can be moved ahead, your CRM software should support required steps. Look for a system that can automate simple tasks like sending literature to sales leads.

What do you need to simplify admin?

You’ll need certain features to support your internal procedures and reporting needs. Consider things such as:

  • How easy should it be for team members to access each other’s data?
  • Do you need to secure some data, so it can only be seen by permitted users?
  • What sorts of reports do you need to create quickly and easily?
  • Will you need to be able to export or extract data easily?

Shortlisting and testing

Spend time with your team to fully understand their processes and then create a list of criteria to compare products. Consider only those systems that meet all your needs and have the vendor demonstrate a working model – don’t just rely on brochures and customer testimonials. If you can avoid it, try not to test any more than three systems.

Choosing the best CRM software for you will boost business

Around 80% of sales leads never get converted. Imagine the effect on revenue if you could move the needle just a few percentage points. Good CRM software can really help that journey by improving the quality of each contact with a sales lead or customer.

When you integrate that CRM system with compatible business software, you can create a single workflow to take someone from lead to prospect to paying customer. You’ll be able to:

  • personalize your interaction with sales leads and prospects
  • create quotes
  • turn quotes into invoices
  • graph how much each customer is worth to your business (so you can nurture them and reward them with deals, where appropriate)

But this only works if your sales team is happy to use the system. No matter how hard you might try, you can’t force compliance.

Getting started

To find the best CRM software for your business, you’ll need to:

  • map out your sales process at a high level and share it with your reps
  • get their feedback and refine your map until the sales team is happy
  • seek input from anyone else who’s involved with the customer journey (such as engineers who sometimes go on sales calls)

Your sales team is probably busy and out of the office a lot but resist the temptation to do all this by email. Call meetings, where necessary, to make sure you get the direction you need.

About Lifestyle Business

Growth isn’t always good

A lot of small business advice assumes that you intend to grow. You may be advised to hire more staff, open more stores and do more marketing to win customers.

But what if you’re happy with your current business size? Perhaps you:

  • launched your business for lifestyle reasons and don’t want to take on more work
  • feel you’re already at optimal business size
  • have other commitments that prevent you investing more time in your business
  • don’t want the stress of expanding your business
  • feel it’s less risky to stay small

It’s entirely possible to maintain a smaller business size while making a healthy profit.

Advantages of a lifestyle business

Choosing stability over never-ending growth can lead to big benefits for you and your business.

  • You don’t have to reinvest so much money
    Growth requires investment, but sometimes revenue doesn’t grow fast enough to repay it. The resulting cashflow crunch can be stressful. Non-growth businesses don’t have to worry so much about this.
  • Financial predictions will be simpler
    Revenue and expenses are simpler to forecast with a smaller lifestyle business. There are fewer building projects, equipment upgrades and new hires to budget for. That stability can make it easier to balance your bottom line, so you spend less time worrying about your financials.
  • You’ll feel less stressed
    It can be hard to relax when you keep pushing, growing and raising expectations. Ongoing expansion generally requires a lot of bandwidth. That might be good for your bank balance – but not for your blood pressure. Less aggressive targets can reduce stress and leave you more time to enjoy life.
  • The quality of your work may be higher
    Even with the best of intentions, business owners who are focused on growth and money can be distracted from the quality of their work. With a lifestyle business, you can focus on doing high quality work all the time.
  • You can build goodwill
    Non-growth businesses often spend more of their energy on non-financial goals like delighting customers and being best-in-class. The extra focus on serving the market can create goodwill and encourage greater customer loyalty.
  • You can adapt quickly to market conditions
    To chase growth, businesses often have to lock themselves into long-term strategies. But what if the market conditions change? When business size isn’t so important to you, you can stay nimble. With no fixed growth strategy, it can be easier to change direction.

You can take it slow, but don’t stand still

It’s been said that businesses are like sharks – if they don’t keep moving forward, they die. There’s some truth in this because of the twin forces of depreciation and inflation:

  • Depreciation eats into the value of the assets your business owns.
  • Inflation reduces the value of the money you earn (and causes suppliers to hike prices).

Chances are, your competitors are also working hard to take market share off you. With all this going on, you can’t afford to stand still. At zero growth, you’d actually drift backwards. But you can maintain a viable business size with just a few percent annual growth.

Keep your options open

You might not plan to grow your business now, but there may come a time when you want to. And if you decide to sell your business, you’ll probably want to demonstrate that it can grow to prospective buyers.

To keep the growth option open, make sure you maintain your market presence and networking. It’s important to know where new customers might come from. It’s like fishing – you might not want to go fishing right now, but it pays to know the best spots for when you do.

Tips to keep your lifestyle business steady and stable

  1. Spread your risk
    If you don’t have to do a huge volume of business, it might be tempting to drop clients and work with just a few of your favorites. Try to avoid doing that. You don’t want to become too dependent on one or two accounts.
  2. Value every customer
    Finding new customers is expensive. It takes a sales and marketing push, then you may have to onboard them. If your revenue’s relatively flat, you probably won’t have a big budget for all this. So treat your customers well and aim for only minor churn. It’s much more cost effective to keep your existing customers than gain new ones.
  3. Stay on top of your finances
    If you’re running a lean business, you have to watch cashflow closely. If costs start climbing or sales start dropping, you’ll need to course-correct quickly. Make sure you have access to the numbers you need to keep an eye on. Anaccounting dashboard will track those metrics in real time so you can check in whenever you like.
  4. Keep setting targets
    You might not be chasing big growth, but you should still set targets to keep you focused. Not all your goals will be financial. You might aim to achieve 99 percent customer satisfaction, for example. But make sure finances are still represented. You need concrete targets to help keep the business sustainable.
  5. Don’t forget your aim
    If you chose a lifestyle business because you wanted more time and flexibility, keep reminding yourself of that. Business can be addictive. You might start chasing extra work because you get a buzz from closing deals or your competitive instinct kicks in. It can take just as much discipline to maintain a small business size as to go all-out for growth.

Avoiding the lifestyle business trap

People regularly start small businesses to be their own boss, set their own hours, and try for a better work-life balance. In reality:

  • almost 90 percent of small business owners end up wishing they could work faster
  • a third say saving time is a key goal

Day-to-day business administration gets in the way of the dream. And the sense of being time pressured goes up the smaller the business is. If you’re in that situation, business software could provide a lot of relief. For about $30/month, a smart accounting package will:

  • allow you to create and send quotes and invoices from your mobile
  • automatically send invoice reminders to late payers
  • track and organise business expenses (and autopay them, if you want)
  • chart money in and money out on a dashboard, so you can always see cashflow

Systems like this also keep all your financial and tax information in one place, which makes it much easier for your accountant to keep your business compliant. Plus you can plug in other apps for point-of-sale, inventory management, payroll (if you decide to grow, after all) and many other tasks.

Tips for Creating Great Marketing Content

great marketing contentYour writing needs to speak to your audience

If you want to communicate with people, you need to know who you’re speaking to. You need to focus on your target audience and put them first. Try to get inside their heads and understand what makes them tick. The tone of voice and the words you choose speaks volumes. So take time to make sure everything you publish is well thought through.

Everyone is a publisher these days, whether it’s a blog post, a video or an email. So it’s never been more important to ensure that the content you create is quality. Writing well is a skill, so in this guide we’ll look at what it takes to produce great written content.

Getting started – identify your target audience

As mentioned, you need to start by knowing who you are you writing for. Different audiences will respond well to different types of writing. Try to identify one or two audiences to target, as you can’t target everyone. Ask yourself:

  • Who will use your product?
  • What information do they need?
  • What language would they use when talking about your product?
  • Who is their tribe – who do they interact with?

Try to build up a mental image of the typical customer for your product or service. Use market research to help you create a clear picture of your target audience. Next, look at the actual words and what makes for content that surprises and delights people.

Tips for creating content that rocks

Business writing isn’t easy, and it takes practice to do it well. Your writing should be informative, helpful and authoritative, with a healthy dose of personality. And of course you need to also be able to get your message across. Here are some hot tips:

  1. Keep it real
    Write the way you would speak – be conversational and use the magical word ‘you’. What would you say to a customer’s face? Read your content out loud and pretend they are sitting across from you. Don’t be over-friendly or too familiar though, or you might lose some authority.
  2. Make your content bite-sized
    Little snippets of information are more likely to be retained in your readers’ minds. Aim for about 20 words per sentence and chunk your content into logical paragraphs and sections. The attention span of someone reading online is not that long. So you need to ensure you get your point across quickly.
  3. Focus on a theme
    Start with one or two related themes and stick to them. Focus will help you build up site authority, in the eyes of your readers and in search engine algorithms.
  4. Make it scannable
    Use short, punchy bullet points when it seems natural. Consider using numbered lists too. People love these because they’re easy to read and are memorable. Make sure you use easy-to-read design. It’s important you have enough white space around your text and avoid using distracting colours.
  5. Pitch at the right level
    Use language that’s suitable for your target audience. If your audience is large and diverse, use simple, familiar vocabulary and plain English. If your audience has a specific level of education you may be able to get away with more complex words.
  6. Use meaningful headings and subheadings
    Memorable headlines will encourage your readers to take note of what you have to say. For example ‘Bookkeeping’ is a pretty meaningless title. But ‘Basic bookkeeping to run your business’ tells the reader more about what they will be reading about.
  7. Build in keywords so your content can be found
    Know in advance which keywords to use to help with search engine optimisation (SEO). Incorporate these into your writing as you go along – don’t try to add them later. Not sure what a keyword is? Read our guide on SEO writing for small business.
  8. Test your writing in a reading app
    Use online readability tests such as read-able.com to see whether your writing is pitched at the right level. If it’s not, shorten the sentences, simplify the vocabulary and try again.
  9. Don’t duplicate your content on other sites
    You run the risk of being penalised by Google in search rankings if you post the same content on another site.
  10. Make it trackable
    Use tools and link shorteners such as bit.ly or goo.gl to help track your readers. You’ll be able to find out where they come from, where they go, which articles are popular and which are not. This will help you create good content.
  11. Make it easy to share
    Use social media buttons to make it easy for readers to share your content. Target top social networks and actively try to spread the word about your business. Spend 15 minutes a day highlighting your content on social networks and let your work contacts know.

Why Focus for E-commerce Business is Neccessary?

It happens all the time. When building a new online business, many entrepreneurs become scattered and distracted in both strategy and execution, trying to move in too many directions at the same time. This lack of focus ends up causing a lack of real movement for the business in any one particular direction and can ultimately lead to failure.

In this post we’ll explain exactly why focus is so important for you and your online business. You’ll also learn three critical elements of your business that you absolutely must have focus in as well as how to achieve it.

Let’s get right into it.

Why Is Focus Important?

More than likely, you understand that focus is important. You’ve probably been told that most of your life after all. However, when starting a new online business, entrepreneurs tend to forget about focus.

The problem is that a lack of focus leads to scattered resources. Devoting time, energy and money to multiple strategies and marketing channels at the same time leads to none of them being executed well. It’s just not possible. On a daily level, a lack of focus leads to wasted time. All of this in turn leads to frustration, lack of progress for the business and ultimately failure.

The Case for a Singular Focus

Alex Ikonn, founder of Luxy Hair says that “A singular focus is the most important thing in business”. Right from the beginning, Alex and his partner Mimi executed an extreme amount of focus. When they launched their hair extension business in 2010 they made a deliberate decision to only carry a narrow product range. Instead of having many multiple lengths, weights and colors, they focused on a very tight range of products that would satisfy the majority of the market.

What’s more was their laser precision focus on marketing. Sure they read all the marketing advice out there that told them they need to advertise with Google Adwords and Facebook Ads amongst a host of other channels, but they identified one channel where they felt their efforts would make the most impact. Focusing solely on YouTube as their marketing channel, Alex and Mimi built Luxy Hair’s YouTube channel to more than 2.2 million followers.

Alex definitely isn’t the only one. The founder of Bonobos, Andy Dunn also makes his case for having a singular focus in his blog post, Get One Thing Right, saying:

“A lot of brands don’t make it because in the process of trying to get many things right, they don’t get anything right. Why are they in such a hurry?”

It’s clear that a focused strategy has its advantages. Let’s take a look at how to achieve focus in your business.

3 Critical Elements of Focus For Ecommerce Businesses

To achieve extreme focus for your business there are three major areas to consider. The overall strategy for your business, campaigns and initiatives for achieving your overall strategy and finally the daily activities and tasks associated with executing those campaigns and initiatives.

All three of these areas are connected and each area requires focus. Let’s take a look at some of the most important elements of each area to consider:

Overall Strategy (Changes Rarely)

The overall strategy is the big picture and the ultimate direction as well as purpose of the business. This is usually something that doesn’t change unless you are making a major market shift and pivoting. Within the overall strategy, there are two major elements that need to be considered in particular:

Focus on your unique value proposition – Consumer have dozens if not hundreds of other online destinations they could choose instead of you. So, why should they buy from you? That’s the question you need to answer as you start formulating your unique selling proposition.

Focus on product/market fit – We recently discussed product/market fit on the Shopify blog, but your product/market fit might just be the most important element to focus on, especially early on. Focusing on this alone in the early stages of your business can mean the difference between success and failure.

Campaigns & Initiatives (Changes Every Few Weeks/Months)

Campaigns and initiatives support your overall strategy and goal. A lack of focus here can lead to a lot of wasted time and money in scattered marketing channels and campaigns.

Focus on one marketing channel – One of the biggest faults of being unfocused in your marketing is never giving each marketing channel a fair shot by not dedicating enough time, energy or money and giving up too early.

Whether it’s search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Facebook Ads or pitching bloggers, they all require a really solid effort, some time to show results and sometimes money.

Particularly when first starting out, prioritize and choose your marketing and social channels selectively based on what you think will work best (based on product/market fit). Make sure to give each one a fair shake by devoting enough time, energy and money before moving onto the next channel.

Focus on one metric of measurement – How do you measure your business? Multiple measurements when first starting out can lead you in many different directions and leave you scattered. Choose one metric to focus on. This metric may change over time however, focusing on one metric gives you a definitive and persistent goal you can work towards and gauge your progress every single day and week.

Tactics (Changes Daily/Weekly)

Your daily and weekly focus will include tactics and activities that fall in line with achieving your campaigns and initiatives, as well as your overall strategy.

Business Marketing LinkedIn Tips

If I were forced to choose between using only one social networking site for my business, from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networking sites, I would choose LinkedIn, hands down.  I still love these other social networking sites, but LinkedIn is by far the most powerful for your business and career.

Why LinkedIn Is #1

With the average household income per user hitting $109,000, which is much higher than Twitter, Facebook, and the other social networking power houses, you know you are dealing with people who mean business.

Being that it is the largest business networking site in the world, there is a mindset shift when users log on to LinkedIn compared to logging on their cousin sites, Twitter or Facebook.

The mood changes, the messages are more professional. Conversations are geared toward partnerships and transactions, as opposed to how funny you looked in your birthday pictures, and everything is centered around advancing careers or building businesses.

LinkedIn Means Business

Everyone talks about the power of Facebook ads (I’m not discounting how dynamic they can be; in fact, I’ve had great success using them myself), but the LinkedIn ad platform is even more powerful considering the demographic is made up of decision makers.

My point being, if you aren’t using this powerful site to market your business yet, then it’s time to start taking it more seriously and step your game up.

There are a number of ways to market yourself and your business online, but here are 10 LinkedIn tips that will drastically increase your marketing potential:

1.  Complete Your Profile

Your profile is the heart and soul of your online business brand.  It usually ranks in the top 5 of Google search results for “Your First and Last Name”.  When others do a search for your name to learn about your product, service, company, or previous work experience, then you’d better have a rock solid profile or that first impression could drastically tarnish your value.  Make sure you fill out your profile 100% for starters, then go on from there to make it sexier.

2.  Connect With Everyone

A number of LinkedIn newbies or purists will say, “You should only connect with those you already know and trust, so you can make recommendations to others when they want an introduction.”  Believe me, I understand where these users are coming from, but how do you expect to expand your opportunities and options when you shut off communication to the rest of the 85 million plus members on LinkedIn?

Think about it, you already know all of the opportunities that your closest connections can share since you talk to them more frequently.  It’s time to use LinkedIn like a live networking event and introduce yourself to others, make new friends, and start helping more people connect.  Also, start accepting invitations to others who add you, as the more connections you have, the larger your expanded network grows which helps create more opportunities in the long run.  Here are six other reasons you should connect with everyone on LinkedIn.

3.  Customize Your Websites

This is a basic thing that everyone should do.  It’s simple.  Creating a call to action attracts more attention then having a generic link that says “My website”.  Make it look and sound sexier so when people come to your profile they feel inspired to click on your links and go back to your website.

4.  Be Compelling

I have a huge knot on my forehead from falling asleep on my desk in mid-browse when looking at LinkedIn profiles.  Most of them are extremely boring and showcase zero personality or compelling attributes.  Add an interesting story in your summary, have a video recommendation pop up in the first few seconds, or at the least tell people who you are, who you help, and how you help them so there is some direction for people when they land on your profile.  Whatever you do, liven it up a little so the bump on my forehead can go away 🙂

5.  Recommend Others

I’m a firm believer in giving and helping others succeed as much as you possibly can.  The more you give, the more you will receive.  Recommending others without them asking you to is a great way to help increase the social proof on their profile, which could be the difference between an OK year, and a great year for them.

6.  Join Targeted Groups

LinkedIn groups, LinkedIn groups, LinkedIn groups!  It doesn’t matter what industry or business you are in, this the part of LinkedIn you should be focusing the most.  There are benefits to both joining and being a part of niche-related groups, and also being the owner of them.

I feel blessed to be the owner of many powerful groups.  Many have over 10,000 members, and one more than 32,000 members.  Think of them as independent social networks where you can spread your message, connect with key partners, and take your business to another level.  Want more?Here are my top 10 reasons to start a LinkedIn group.

7.  Connect With Twitter

I sometimes find that I get more comments and interaction on LinkedIn from the same update I published on Twitter.  The updates (even when synced from Twitter) seem to “stay on top” longer than they would in your Twitter stream.  The more interaction you get, the more others see it as well (it’s similar to Facebook in this regard).

Make sure to connect your Twitter account to LinkedIn.  Others talk about why this is bad because a lot of your messaging won’t be targeted for your LinkedIn audience (especially when you use “@” symbols and hashtags), but for the most part, my message is staying at the top of mind for my connections on LinkedIn and for me that’s a powerful thing.  Want to clean things up?  Just use the #in with a Twitter update and it will sync to your LinkedIn account when there is a specific message you want members to see.

8.  Add Your Company Profile

LinkedIn is constantly enhancing its platform and one of the things that has been lagging, until recently, was the company page section.  Now, it allows you to add a video, share more information about your products and services, and give more insights about your company and the people working there.

9.  Optimize Your Search Ranking

People are constantly searching for others on LinkedIn.  They are looking for employee candidates, freelancers, industry experts, and so on.  Why not optimize your profile to help you be found and contacted by more people looking for what you specialize in?  Wouldn’t it be nice to get a flood of people emailing or calling you to sign up for your services or products?  Make sure you increase your ranking on LinkedIn by following these 5 steps.

10.  Add Advanced Applications

I love the fact that LinkedIn has rolled out a number of applications to help you promote your business or your personal work better.  It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, there is an application for everyone that can help you get your message across better, and improve the overall experience of your LinkedIn profile.  Go to the applications section on your profile to see which ones you could start using today, and make the most out of the new ones that come out in the future.