How to Be Effective at Your Next Networking Event

If you just finished reading my article, “Making Networking ‘Work’ for You,” you know that business networking events get their inspiration from the kinds of nets used by fishermen.  The way a fish net functions gives us insight into how to make networking work for our company.

ID-10046884Photo Credit: www.theasbc.org

When you attend a local networking event, the approach you take when interacting with other business reps will significantly effect what you get out of the event.  Pushing your company’s product or service is exactly the wrong approach.  Rather, as you zigzag your way through the room, introducing yourself and your company, concentrate on isolating the priorities of these participants to see how well they match up with your own.

What is the best approach to take when networking?  Be strategic.

  1. Arrive early and select your first few potential networking partners before the room gets too crowded.
  2. Walk over to one of them and ask an open-ended question like, “So, what brings you here today?”
  3. Keep the conversation going by asking questions about what the company does and the rep’s own specialty and background.
  4. Answer their questions about yourself and your company without elaborating, which eats up precious time.  Your goal is to efficiently find out as much as possible about each business while sharing details about your company that might spark their interest in building a relationship.  Then politely break away and move on to your next target.
  5. Find common ground.  See where you can relate to what this person/company does.  You are trying to find connections that will help BOTH of your companies.
  6. Exchange business cards, and let him or her know how much you enjoyed talking.  Ask if the rep knows of any companies that they work with that could use your services and request a referral.
  7. Look around and locate another of your pre-selected networking partners.  Don’t be intimidated by the fact that this person is talking with other people.  Just walk over and join yourself to the group.
  8. Join in the conversation by listening first and inserting a comment and/or introducing yourself at an appropriate time.
  9. Aim to eventually talk at least briefly with every participant.  The very last person you network with may end up becoming an ideal connection, so don’t lose your enthusiasm and momentum before the event is over.
  10. Don’t forget to follow up.  As soon as you leave the event, scan the business cards you collected into your phone, tablet or computer and set up a file so that you can contact these businesses fairly soon.  Prioritize them by how well they fit with your company’s needs and objectives. Jot down as much as you can remember about your conversations with each rep so that, when you talk to them again, you can pick up the conversation where you left off.  When you email or call, let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them, ask them what they felt they got out of the event, and see if you can get an appointment to keep building the relationship.

When you view networking through the perspective of how a net functions, this unique approach makes sense.  These events are not designed to trap a group of people in one room so that you can hard sell your product or service to them.  Instead, like a net, which separates fish from their environment and gathers them together, networking takes people out of their individual work environments and brings them together in an equalizing setting.  Moreover, it gives them a shared purpose—to start building relationships with each other.

Just as what affects one portion of a net affects the entire net to some degree, the connections made here enable participants to choose to become trusting and loyal support systems for each other.  This way, their businesses all have a better chance at thriving.

How can you be effective at your next networking experience?  Search for networking events in your target market areas.  Use the same approach in building business relationships as you would in making friends—in other words, look for common interests and passions.  Come up with creative ways to be supportive of their business objectives, and they will respond in kind.

As you honestly connect with these companies, they will see the value of having an ongoing relationship with your business—and with you.  Networking often opens the doors for new customers, new vendors, and qualified referrals.  Moreover, as both of your companies interact over time, you can each be there for the other to give a helping hand when needed.

 

Jinni Bradfield is a freelance business ghostwriter whose background in both education and advertising sales enables her to showcase a company’s mission, products and services, enhancing customer appeal. Over the past five years, she has written ad copy, articles, blogs and books for more than 100 happy clients. 

Explore the option of having your projects and marketing ghostwritten by clicking on the tabs at the top of the page.  


 

Making Networking “Work” for You

Photo Credit: www.roberthalf.com

Does participating in networking events work for your business, or does it seem like a big waste of time?

Most of us recognize that networking is considered a key component of any successful business.  Business reps who regularly network claim that this tool is a great way to boost their company’s exposure and potential profits.  So, how do you make it “work” for you?

The concept of “networking” adapts the purpose of nets used in the fishing trade to the business world.

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Photo Credit: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stroonn

 

 

 

By observing how a fish net functions, we can draw some surprising parallels that can benefit companies of all sizes—maybe even yours….

Except for the materials with which they are constructed, today’s fish nets are basically unchanged from those used for centuries on the seas.  Modern fish nets are comprised of multiple pieces of rope or threads, usually a nylon or strong composite material, knotted together into a device that can snag fish, clams, etc., while allowing water and debris to flow out.  Thinking of networking as a kind of net and noting how nets function will enable us to make these events work for our own company:

  • A shared purpose.  The net’s ropes and knots share a common purpose–to catch fish; similarly, the shared purpose of the various components of networking is to “snag” the attention of other businesses and to begin forming mutually beneficial relationships with them.
  • Lots of moving parts.  Just as a fish net is made up of numerous pieces of rope that form a flexible, interactive membrane, networking is comprised of numerous individuals and businesses that interact within a relaxed social setting.
  • The moving parts are connected.  The pieces of rope in a net are tied together for mutual support.  In a similar way, during networking events, business reps find ways to connect with each other that will boost the bottom line for both companies.
  • This device acts like a sieve.  Just as the fish remain in the net after the debris flows out, networking enables you to collect company contacts that meet your specific criteria while those that don’t move on to interact with other reps.
  • What affects one part affects the parts around it.  Have you ever noticed that when one part of a net has a heavy load, the rest of the net stretches to accommodate it?  In the same way, once businesses connect with other companies through networking and become long-term support systems for each other, they are willing to go out of their way to help their networking partners succeed.

By understanding how networking is meant to function, you can make it work for your own company.  The objectives of networking are to initiate relationships with other businesses through casual conversation by:  asking the reps about their business, seeking common priorities, and getting contact information and referrals.  The company you happen to be talking with may not be a perfect fit, but that rep may know of a colleague or vendor that might be very interested in what your company offers.  Get that referral.

In essence, you are taking the first step in building a mutually-beneficial support system for your company.  Your business may need some of the products or services that a company you connect with provides.  In return, your purchase of those resources boosts their profits.  As both companies come to trust and rely on each other, you will be able to find more even ways to benefit both businesses, such as discounts and customer referrals.

You will notice that networking is not a forum for direct sales or marketing.  Networking is an indirect way of promoting your business.  Participants that try to push their products and services onto other reps soon realize that no one wants to talk to them.  Being pushy backfires.

This does not mean that selling and marketing never occur at these networking events.  It just means that these efforts take a back seat to relationship-building.  As you connect with businesses and discover practical ways to build relationships with them, you will pave the way for sales down the road.

For more specifics on making Networking work for you, read our follow-up article:  “How to Be Effective at Your Next Networking Event.”  See the post on the sidebar.

Jinni Bradfield is a freelance business ghostwriter whose background in both education and advertising sales enables her to showcase a company’s mission, products and services, enhancing customer appeal. Over the past five years, she has written ad copy, articles, blogs and books for more than 100 happy clients. 

Explore the option of having your projects and marketing ghostwritten by clicking on the tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

Blue Footprints in the Snow

Business Owners: What Kind of Footprints Are You Leaving?

Footprint in soil

Although most businesses try not to leave much of a “carbon” footprint, there are types of “footprints” that you as a business owner should WANT to leave.

Like a parent, you should want to leave a memorable footprint.  Most children imitate their parents, copying mannerisms and ways of responding to situations.  As parents walk through life, they leave footprints that express the qualities they value for their children to follow.

Businesses work much the same way.  If you have taken over a family business or have purchased an already established company, you immediately step into the footprints of the former owners.   Although you eventually want to put your own stamp on the company, it might be smart to keep some of its clients, traditions and protocols at least for a while.  By doing so, you honor the people who invested their lives into the company.  By following their footprints, you recognize that you have been given a “step up” by standing on what they have already accomplished.

From the moment you set up your business, whether it is new or purchased, you start leaving your own footprints.  These will be followed by your employees.  Understanding how crucial footprints are to a business will make the difference as to how successful you are:

  • Footprints—obviously—leave an impression.  When you walk on soft ground or crunch into three inches of snow, your feet leave a clear impression.  The way you run your business should leave a clear impression, too.  It should make a recognizable mark on the world.  Your integrity, grit Blue Footprints in the Snowand aspirations should make others stop and admire what you are accomplishing.  The impression you leave should even inspire them to reach further for their own dreams.
  • Footprints should be followed.  Life is pitted with dangers and potential disasters.  No one knows this better than soldiers who have to pick their way through a minefield.  The leader painstakingly tests the ground for mines.  Those who follow must step in the exact footprints of the person in front.  Your expertise has enabled you to be that kind of leader.  You test the ground for your company.  You lead the way for all your employees.  If you consistently demonstrate your expertise in a way that both challenges and motivates them, they will trust you and will follow in your exact footprints.
  • Footprints are proof that you have been there, done that.  By walking forward and leaving footprints, you are leaving behind a permanent record of your accomplishments.  This allows you to confidently claim experience over the ground where you have walked.  This proof of experience will enable you to be a powerful example for your employees and to effectively teach them the ins and outs of your business.
  • Footprints show where you have made course corrections.  No one is perfect.  We all have had times when we started in one direction, and then realized that we are heading the wrong way.  We stop, backtrack, and then move toward a different heading.  Our footprints act as a diary of where we have been, including the course corrections.   A good business leader is not afraid to admit that he or she has made a mistake.  Backing up and setting off in a new direction is a sign of resilience, not failure.  Failure is stubbornly continuing in the wrong direction or stopping and giving up altogether.  The pattern of your footprints is a testimony to the kind of person and business leader you are.
  • Footprints are distinctive.  Just like fingerprints, footprints can be used by forensic scientists to track down criminals.  The business footprints that you leave are just as unique.  They are permanently tied to you and your business.  They are recognizable and distinguish your company from the rest of the pack.  If you capitalize on making your business’s footprints unique, they can help to brand your company in a positive and memorable way.

Turn around and take an honest look at the kind of footprints that you yourself and your business are leaving.  Do they express the values that you want your employees to internalize?  Have your footprints made a clear impression?  Do they keep your employees focused on a shared purpose?  Do they demonstrate both your experience and your ability to make course corrections?  Are your footprints expressive of what you want your company to stand for?

If so, then you can be assured that your business is making a positive impact on the world.  If not, then maybe it is time to pause and re-evaluate both your company’s priorities and your own.

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The Secret to Making an Impact

ID-100104496(1)Most of us want to leave our impression on the world, whether it is for a humanitarian cause or to get customers to purchase our company’s products or services.

In order to make an impact, we have to get others excited about the same things that excite us. In today’s fast-moving, in-your-face environment, this is not easy to do.

 

What is the secret to making an impact?

Passing our own passion on to others.  Our passion has an emotional energy all of its own. When we share it with others, it can prompt them to become as committed as we are to our passion.

This may sound like a simple process, but there are a number of barriers to getting our message across.

ID-100185968The first barrier is Clutter. The Internet, TV and radio, as well as our personal computers and smartphones are cluttered with information, most of which people can do without. Our potential customers are being bombarded 24/7 with ads, emails, YouTube videos, music, sports and news, leaving them with information overload.

Image courtesy of twobee/freedigitalphotos.net        

Our marketing has to cut through that clutter in such a way that we make a lasting impression.

Numbness is the second barrier that we have to overcome when getting our message across. Consumers eventually become numb to the attempts of salespeople trying to grab their attention to convince them to buy products that they really don’t want or even need.

Out of sheer self-preservation, customers block out the majority of sales pitches, and only open up to the ones that engage them personally within the first few micro-seconds. It is critical that we find a way to infuse our marketing with our passion. Without that emotional connection, we will miss that tiny window of opportunity to engage our prospective customers or donors.

Fear is the third barrier to making an impact. Most people have been burned numerous times by shoddy products and false advertising. They are more than a little hesitant to commit to a purchase, even when they find our marketing appealing. To overcome this barrier, we need to find a way to prove our trustworthiness. We have to demonstrate that what we are promoting will do what we claim it will, and that we back it up with our company. Testimonies from happy customers and a bullet-proof, money-back guarantee go a long way toward reassuring potential customers.

Whether we are promoting a service, product, or cause, or are starting up a website or selling our book, the barriers are the same. By cutting through the clutter, emotionally engaging numb prospects and building trust to overcome their fears, we will stand out from the competition and elicit a positive response from our prospects.

How Can We Accomplish This?

It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. The way you word your marketing and how you lay it out visually for your prospects determine whether or not you can overcome the barriers of Clutter, Numbness, and Fear. Approaching your potential customers with the old “Hard Sell” will probably send them running in the other direction. Today, high-pressure “Hard Sell” has morphed into the pop-up ads that annoy consumers as they surf the Net. This type of ad tends to create the impression that the company is either a scam or a false advertiser.

Today’s customers are savvy and well-informed. They have the entire Internet at their fingertips and can research a product with a few clicks. They check out the online reviews, so building your credibility and trustworthiness is paramount. It will separate you early on from your competitors.

Wording is the Key

Your marketing has to be worded to solve the problem that prompted your prospects to start shopping or searching in the first place. They may be looking for clothing, appliances, computers, contractors, medical or health advice, encouragement, or a cause to connect to. Your marketing must identify that need and immediately demonstrate how your company, product, book or website will meet that need. How you word your marketing must accomplish three objectives:

  • Make you stand out from the crowd (cut through the clutter)
  • Engage the prospect emotionally and logically (overcome the numbness)
  • Prove that you are trustworthy (dispel the fear)

Too many businesses fail to clear one or more of these hurdles. If you want to write effective marketing, you need more than sales talk. You must also be able to word it so that it inspires people. They have to catch your passion! The goal is to make them see how what you are promoting will enhance their lives.

If you are struggling to get the wording just right, a solution could be to bring in a ghostwriter. Your ideas and vision coupled with a ghostwriter’s unique skills can infuse your marketing with exactly what you need to make that impact.

Have an Appealing Layout

Your potential customers want to be able to quickly scan your marketing or webpage and see if you are answering their questions. They don’t want to be forced to sift through pages of print.

Lay out your message in a clean, uncluttered way. Include eye-catching pictures and intriguing videos that enable customers to experience your passion more deeply. This will visually attract potential customers to your product or cause. Keep paragraphs short and insert bullets with key points whenever appropriate. Use sizes and styles of fonts that are comfortable to read. Intersperse some color and emphasize with bold lettering and underlines. For websites, you can use website creation software or WordPress to do this on your own, or hire a web designer. For printed brochures, go with a print shop or online printing service.

If you want to make an impact…

Your marketing needs to overcome clutter, numbness and fear. These barriers keep your customers from purchasing your product or committing to your humanitarian mission. By simply tweaking how you word and present your message, you can make that impact on the hearts and minds of the people you are trying to reach.