Posts Tagged ‘Networking’


Does Business Etiquette Still Matter?

?????????????In recent years, business has become very casual. Gone are the work days of suits, stationary, big titles, corner offices, secretaries, and power lunches. Small business is now done through email, video chats, texting, meet ups, social media and casual attire.

However, etiquette still matters in business and can be a competitive advantage for you. Here is how:

Attire: How you look still matters. While John T. Molloy’s classic “Dress for Success” maybe outdated, someone who is dressed too sloppy or casual will still not be trusted as a person that is dressed as well as their customer. Appropriate attire choices also must made for video chats unless you want to show your customer your workout outfit.

Writing: Since so much of communication is done in short informal manner, there is greater chance of miscommunication. Being able to write effective email communications is still an important skill and requires increased practice. This can be done by sending an email to a customer and then following up immediately by phone to make sure that they understood exactly what you wrote.

Dining: A lot can be learned by having a meal with a business associate. People can win or lose a deal, promotion or job based on their table manners. This doesn’t necessarily mean using the right fork, but still includes RSVPs, keeping your napkin on your lap, elbows off the table, and chewing with your mouth closed. Not sure of your habits? Have a friend take note at your next lunch.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): More companies are not issuing smart phones, but instead are having employees bring their own smart phones.  As a result, personal and business data are mixing on the same device. It is critical to set the rules in advance as to what type of access the employer has for inspection of that device and whether it can be wiped cleaned when that employee leaves.

Travel: More small companies are doing business in different countries.  They need to be aware of various business and dining customs, business hierarchies, displays of affection and alcohol use. Important customs vary by country and culture.

Social Networking: Many small business owners and employees have separate social media sites for business and personal use. However, their brand image on both sites need to be consistent since customers will do a web search that will cover all of them. Personal and professional lives can no longer be practically separated.

Also remember that different generations will prefer different etiquette so this will add to its overall complexity. A great guide for the small business owner is the 2014 version of Emily Post’s “The Etiquette Business Advantage

What business etiquette is most important to you?


How to Find a Mentor for Your Small Business

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????Have you ever considered finding a mentor in your industry to ask for advice on running your small business? Having a mentor can help you avoid mistakes they’ve made and guide you to finding a faster path to profit and prosperity. And it’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Here are some suggestions for how to find the right mentor for your company.

First, Figure Out What You Need

Are you looking for a mentor who can advise you on running a business just like yours? Or someone who can help you in a particular area, like marketing, sales, or product development? Knowing what area you want to improve in can help you figure out where to start your hunt.

Look Around Your Industry

There are likely people who have worked in your field for years that are willing to help you along the same path. If you don’t know many people in your area, attend industry networking events to meet them. Ideally, you want to find someone who’s a little further down the path than you are so he can help guide you based on his experience.

Visit Local Small Business Resources

You’ve probably got a SCORE chapter or Small Business Development Center near you, so take advantage of the free access to business professionals. If they can’t help you, they may be able to connect you with willing folks to serve as mentors. The best thing about SCORE is that you can find a mentor online as well as in person. Also look for a Women’s Business Development Center, they offer great resources as well for men or women.

Check Your Online Network

Don’t overlook your online contacts in your search. While you might not be able to meet face-to-face, having a virtual mentor you can connect with on Twitter or LinkedIn can still provide the benefits you’re looking for. Pay attention to who you interact with on social media, or search for someone you think has the experience you need.

How to Approach a Potential Mentor

Finding a mentor is all about relationship-building, so be prepared for the long haul. Start by simply getting on this person’s radar so he or she knows who you are and what you do. Support him in any way you can, such as by sharing his blog articles or responding to his status updates online.

If the person you’re considering is local, invite him to coffee to get to know one another. If it feels right, mention that you’re looking for a mentor and see where the conversation goes. Be sure to highlight what the other person will get from the relationship. Many people might not even consider that you’d want them as a mentor, so don’t be afraid to ask flat out once you’ve built up the relationship. They’ll likely be flattered.

Lay out your expectations for the relationship:

  • How often you’d like to meet, and how (phone, email, in person)
  • What you’d like to learn from him
  • How you can reciprocate (offer business referrals, etc.)

Your potential mentor may have other ideas about how you can work together, so be open to hearing them.

As you build your mentor/mentee relationship, be grateful for the time he gives you, and find ways to show your appreciation. A heartfelt thank you note can go a long way, as can a thoughtful gift during the holidays.


Mondays with Mike: Improve Your Client Relationships With Social Media

In the olden days – you know, before Facebook – the success of a marketing campaign was often simply a measure of how much money you had to spend.  After all, we know that if you repeat something often enough, then people will believe it. 

My, how times have changed.

People consume information so differently now, that the weight of a single television commercial or magazine ad is often diluted by all of the impressions that we get from other forms of media, and that’s a huge opportunity for small businesses.  You can build your brand without investing tons of money, if you’re willing to invest a little time.  Consumers are looking for a genuine connection and a way to interact with a company, and you can give them what they want by using social media.

There are lots of serious minded folks who dismiss Facebook and Twitter as frivolous fads – wasters of time and energy.  What those folks don’t know is that their company is most likely already being discussed on social media.  Whether you run a restaurant or a carpet cleaning service, chances are good that there are online reviews of your business.  If that doesn’t scare you, it should.  The conversation is happening.  The only question is whether you want to participate and start to shape that conversation into one that presents your company in its best light.

Responding to reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor is a great opportunity to thank happy patrons for their business, and it’s also a chance for you to see what your customers didn’t like about their experience.  If it’s appropriate, a public acknowledgement of their complaint and a promise to make it right shows that you value your customers and are invested in providing excellent service.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Social media also gives you a chance to invite prospective customers in for a virtual visit.  You can post pictures of your daily special at the restaurant, or you can write a quick blog post about why you’ve chosen a particular brand of environmentally safe cleaners for use in your customers’ homes.  You can run silly little contests on your Facebook page, inviting folks to provide suggestions for your newest drink creation or offering a freebie for the 1000th person who likes your Facebook page.  The idea is to get your customers involved on your social media platforms.  Invite them to share pictures of your business on Instagram, and make sure you monitor all of the possible sites that might have reviews of your business.  It’s possible that you’ll luck into some great, unsolicited free advertising, but if you carefully cultivate your social media presence, you’ll end up interacting with far more consumers.

Your company’s reputation depends on your relationship with your customers, and you can manage that relationship – in part, anyway – by using the free social media tools available to you.  Whether you’re in love with Facebook or not, you’re missing out if you don’t acknowledge the powerful opportunities that it provides you.


The Dos and Don’ts of Trade Show Marketing

It's no secret that trade show events are quite costly. In fact, they can quickly command 20-30% of your marketing budget with just a few events each year. So, it pays to do it right.

DO capture leads in volume. Time is money. The number of hours the tradeshow floor is open is limited and attendees have a full agenda of sessions, networking, pre-arranged meetings PLUS the list of exhibitors they have already prioritized as “must visit” during the event. You’re already fighting time (not something many people win). So, you might as well gather as many new contacts as possible during the short time period that attendees have in the exhibit hall. Sort them out and prioritize them later for sales follow-up.

  • You have no idea if the next person that walks by your booth could justify your investment in it. Make an introduction without judgment.
  • Even contacts that aren’t ready to purchase or partner now could be opportunities to nurture for when they are ready.
  • You have spent too much money to be there to treat each conversation as an hour meeting. You’ll miss out on hundreds of new leads. Gather some initial information and set a time to follow-up after the show.

DO follow up promptly and nurture new leads over time. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you are going to spend the time and money planning, promoting and presenting your brand at an event, the only way to quantify the return on that investment is to contact, qualify and nurture the leads that you generated. While that seems obvious, according to industry research published by Exhibitor Online, only 47% of companies track event leads by their source throughout the sales cycle and a mere 28% measure and report the number of event leads that ultimately convert to sales. That’s just sad.

  • Lead capture systems have come a long way. Rent the number needed for your booth size and staff and jot a few notes. It makes follow-up more effective.
  • Even if some people don’t buy from you (and many won’t), they are more likely to share your brand, message, etc. with others if you follow-up effectively and educate them.
  • Bottom line? The whole thing is a waste of money if you don’t have a plan to score, nurture and stay in touch with the event leads you generate.

Stocksy_txp3d2d0418cB7000_Small_164728There are also some things to avoid in the event marketing world. These are my favorites. I encourage you to share yours and keep the sharing going.

DON’T stand around your booth chatting with your own team. It makes attendees perceive that you’re not in a conversation with them.

DON’T eat in the booth. Would you want to have a conversation with someone talking while eating? If you wouldn’t do it in your storefront (that’s what your booth is, after all), don’t do it in the booth.

DON’T talk on your cell phone, or text, or check email, etc. while staffing the booth. Step away from the booth to take a call so that when you’re in the booth, you are focused on the attendees.

Treat your booth as if it is the single, most important presentation of your brand to a new audience. Because in many cases, that’s exactly what it is. So, keep it professional, engaging and fun! Oh, and don’t forget to smile.


How to Define & Refine Your Elevator Pitch

Stocksy_txpb08fd375357000_Small_170332First impressions really do matter. Think back to the last time you attended a networking mixer. Did you have a quick and smooth response to the question, “What do you do?” Or did you stutter and stumble over your words, finding it difficult to explain your business? If it was the latter, it’s time to define or refine your elevator pitch.

First, What Is an Elevator Pitch?

Consider it your verbal commercial; it’s how you explain what your business does and how it can benefit the person you’re talking to. Typically you can get it all out in 30 to 60 seconds. Any longer, and you will bore your audience.

What’s Wrong With Your Current Pitch

Think about the response you get with your current elevator pitch. Do people look confounded when you try to explain what your business does? Do they look around the room, bored and ready to escape? These are clues that can help you understand what needs to be fixed with your current spiel.

Your audience doesn’t care what you think is great about your company. They care about how it can help them. So if your current pitch is focused on the features of your business and not the benefits to your audience, you’re not succeeding in connecting with your audience the way you need to.

Perfecting Your Pitch

Now that you know what’s wrong with your old pitch, toss it aside and start brainstorming on your new one. Essentially, your elevator pitch should have these three components;

  1. The problem you solve for people
  2. How you solve it
  3. What makes you unique

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be boring in addressing each point. Some of the most successful elevator pitches begin with a thought-provoking question, like:

Could you stand to make more money?

Tip: make the question an automatic yes to get your audience in a receptive frame of mind. Make it an obvious question to answer; who would answer no to the question above?

Next, look at where your audience is coming from. If you’re at a small business networking meeting, probably every small business owner is there to find potential customers.  Knowing this, you can move on to that pain point:

I’m Melinda Emerson, the “SmallBizLady,” and I help small businesses like yours bring in more money.

Now you’ve really got their attention. You’ve latched on to a problem they have, and now you’ve told them you can fix it. Now they want to know how.

I do that by looking at what’s not working in your business, helping you fix it, and guiding you to find new customers.

Now, I could have said that I offer marketing consultation services, product development, and marketing analysis, but I didn’t want my audience’s eyes to glaze over. They want the big picture: I can help them make money. How I do it is a conversation we can have one-on-one if they’re interested.

If you’re speaking to a crowd, you can also tell people how to find you. Typically mentioning your website is sufficient.

Don’t be afraid to have several versions of your elevator speech, especially if you meet with different groups. Tailor it to fit your audience.

How to Find Out if It’s Working

The best way to measure the success of your elevator speech is to gauge reactions. If people are engaged when you speak, you’re doing a good job. If they come up afterward to ask questions, even better. You want your elevator speech to be a teaser that makes people want to exchange business cards and learn more about what you do.

Armed with your new elevator speech, you’ll be ready to knock ‘em dead at your next networking event!


3 Ways to Prepare for a Trade Show

DS2_8820-maWhen we plan events as part of our marketing strategy, there typically 2 primary goals: lead generation and brand awareness, with leads being the most important. There are, of course other reasons to exhibit and sponsor events, such as partner relationship development, meeting with multiple current customers in one location, and even hiring new employees. However, these are generally secondary objectives.

It's no secret that events are quite costly. In fact, they can quickly command 20-30% of your marketing budget with just a few events each year. So, it pays to do it right.

Here are a few tips that can make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.

1. Start early. With planning, promoting and logistics – it is never too soon to start the process. From ordering onsite services to designing your theme, message as well as promotional and educational materials – event dates are hard deadlines. The show must go on, as they say, so it’s better to be prepared and have all of your information ready with a consistent look and feel, and of course, content.

​Here’s why:

  • Discounts are often available if you order onsite services early.
  • Shipping costs less if you can send ground and use the event transportation company.
  • Avoid rush charges on graphic production and material printing.

2. Prospect pre-event. Tell your customers, prospects, previous event leads and potential partners which events you will be participating in and what you’ll be doing at each one. Share your role in the event; let them know if you are exhibiting, speaking, sponsoring or hosting a custom event. Spread the message across multiple channels and sources so you can attract as many targeted attendees as possible.

Here’s why:

  • The audience is already spending the time and money to get there.
  • Meeting with so many people in the same place reduces your travel budget.
  • Filter through the primary prospects from the “just kicking the tires” so you can focus your follow-up activities on your best opportunities.

3. Create a fun, engaging experience at the event. Background banners and a literature stand with hand sanitizer as your give-away (granted, a much needed item at events, but not the reason people attend) in a 10×10 booth are common place. Be different. Do something fun! Make people want to seek out your booth, event, activity, etc. You are spending a lot of money to produce an event (even with a 10×10 booth) so create a memorable experience that people talk about well after the event ends.

Here’s why:

  • An extra dollar or two (yes, that’s all it takes) on your give-away can stand out as something people remember – and use.
  • Your fun theme will stick with people and help them remember your brand as one they associate with smart and creative people.
  • The last thing you want is to throw money away. And that’s what happens when your give-away is cheap or not memorable.

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Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Run a Successful TweetChat

Learn how to run a successful TweetChat for your business with these tips from the host of the longest running TweetChat that has ever been on Twitter, Melinda Emerson.


Transitioning from Networking to Relationships

One of the biggest assets for any business isn’t on its balance sheet—it’s the entrepreneur’s network.  Networks become a valuable source of customer, service provider and even employee referrals and leads. 

However, many people go straight from a networking event to expecting favors or other immediate results.  Like good friendships, network relationships require care and attention.  And like a fine wine, they take time to become robust.

After you network, use the following five recommendations to help you to build solid, mutually-beneficial and long-term network connections.

Take Notes Immediately

The back of a business card provides a blank slate where you can take the notes that you need to begin developing a personal relationship.  When you first meet new contacts, they can reveal quite a bit about whom they are, what they need and how they can help you.  As you jot down key points, make note of any ideas that you have for information that you can share to demonstrate your value to them.  Keep track of this information to help you to know the best way to connect in the future.

Make First Contact Quickly

You do not have a relationship simply because you walk away with a handful of business cards.  Networkers can forget each other’s names in just a few days, so your first meaningful contact happens when you pick up the phone or send an email.

Within a few days of your initial meetings, reach out to remind your new acquaintance who you are and why you are excited about the new relationship.  This is not the time to start asking for favors, but it might be a great time to share a bit more about each other and confirm how your association can be mutually beneficial.

Feed Your Network

I love it when one of my contacts sends me a link to information about our common business interests or even hobbies.  I don’t even mind some good natured trash-talking about the performance (or lack thereof) of my favorite sports team.  Sending valuable and relevant information is a great way to show your commitment to building a good two-way relationship.    

Of course, you need to strike a balance between maintaining regular contact and subjecting someone to information overload—I fondly refer to this as the fine line between being “persistent” and “annoying”.  Only send information that applies specifically to your contact’s interests and concerns.  Articles you send that solve their unique problems are like gold.  Generic information or off-color jokes are like spam.  If you can proactively offer valuable assistance to your contacts, they will want to do the same for you.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

A good network provides mutual assistance in times of need and feeling free to ask for help is an important part of the relationship.  Personally, I see these requests as recognition of my accomplishments and expertise and I welcome the opportunity to help when I can, if it’s a small, clear and easy ask.  So don’t be shy when you need to ask for help.  Just make sure that you express how much you respect their skills and experience — and remind them of ways that you can help them in the future.

If the request is a significant one, also offer to pay them for their time to show that you value it and them. 

Say Thank You — and Mean it

Whether your contacts generously share information or step in to resolve a specific issue, show your gratitude in a personal way.  While a thank-you email might be nice, you can probably do something more meaningful.  At one end of the spectrum, writing a personal recommendation on LinkedIn or even tweeting or re-tweeting a compliment that brings them more business might be some valuable ways to say thanks.  But when someone brings you a lucrative new business contract or enhances your business in any significant way, an invitation out to lunch or even a gift can be an appropriate display of gratitude.

Making quality connections can be the difference between minor and major business success, so follow the steps above and lather-rinse-repeat as necessary.

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