Networking works!

Over the years I’ve encountered a number of people who say networking doesn’t work. Rubbish! Today I’m going to prove that networking works on a number of different levels.

Selling my services

Press coverage

Gaining media coverage can be helped when the editor is in your network!

My diary is currently full of exciting projects. I have just completed a marketing campaign for a baker celebrating a centenary in business. The news release I sent out was picked up within the hour by one journalist who knows me through networking.

I’m working on marketing plans for a variety of businesses from business support organisations to restaurants, coaches and health and well being consultants. I’m about to launch a campaign for a client’s new coaching academy and am working with another organisation to offer some training of my own. I have completed a number of speaking engagements and have more in the pipeline, All of this work has come through my network.

Are these people I met yesterday? No most of them are not! Most are people I have built a relationship with over a number of years. Those whom I have met recently were recommended to me by clients or people who have known me for a number of years. That’s the point. Networking is rarely a quick win. It takes time to build relationships, to earn peoples’ trust and for them to need our services. The people who say networking doesn’t work usually expect to go to an event and sell their services instantly.

Helping my clients

I have a lovely new client who is looking to open a shop and online retail business. Retail is my first love so this is a really exciting project but in retail location is everything and she is planning to open in an area I know very little about. However, I do know a man who is an expert in her area. I asked him for help and I have just come back from an incredibly useful meeting with him and my client.

My clients frequently ask if I can recommend an accountant, a graphic designer, a printer and various other services. I almost always can because of my network. I may never become a client of some of these businesses but that doesn’t mean I can’t put work their way. My network can help me to deliver a better service to my clients.

Finding service providers

After almost 23 years living in our home we have a number of renovations that we want to do including replacing a shower room. My network has provided me with recommendations for four plumbers capable of doing the work. One of those plumbers has recommended a plasterer and an electrician for some of the other work we need doing. Those people will do a good job because they will want to work with the plumber on other projects.

I am a bit achy today because my personal trainer who I met at a networking event found some under used muscles in my workout yesterday! By working with him and my diet coach who I also met networking I am slowly getting into the shape I want to be and fit and ready for my holiday.

I am close to being ready to book another holiday through a travel expert in my network. I no longer buy named brands of skincare because I have suppliers in my network who have better products that are great value. Yet another contact will be repairing and redesigning some jewellery for me.

So if you thought networking doesn’t work please think again. If you work at it, give before you expect to receive and allow the time it takes for relationships to develop I’m sure you will find it works for you too.

Using Linked In for business

Many people see LinkedIn as the social networking site for those in, or wanting, a corporate career, and in many ways it is but it can also be useful for growing businesses.

What to use Linked In for

Linked In is described as the professional networking site so is great for establishing your qualifications and experience for your role.

  • Ensure that your profile is fully completed with details of your skills, qualifications and experience so that any prospects checking you out get an accurate picture
  • Invite clients and former colleagues to write a testimonial to add weight to your claims (In my opinion the endorsements are not worthwhile as I know from experience people will give endorsements without ever using your services) but testimonials take more effort and are therefore seen as credible,
  • Link your blog to your Linked In page so you can demonstrate current expertise and keep your page alive without too much time or effort.
  • Consider setting up a business page to tell prospects more about your business

Get introductions to key targets

I'm only one Linked In connection away from a person I may want an introduction to.

I’m only one Linked In connection away from a person I may want an introduction to.

The concept behind Linked In is that we are never more than six connections from anyone so it’s a great place to find ways to connect with key targets. Search for your target by name or job role and then Linked In will show you how you are connected.

For example, on my bucket list is writing a book so I decided to search for a commissioning editor of business books at McGraw Hill, one of the leading publishers in the category. I found that I only need one connection to get an introduction! So if you have an ideal prospect, someone you want to joint venture with, or someone you want to pitch to, why not search for them on Linked In and see who could introduce you? Just make sure your profile is up to date first.

Do you have any success stories on Linked In? Please share them here.

 

Using Twitter for Business

I’m continuing my social media theme today with a look at Twitter which I believe to be the easiest platform to get to grips with. Used properly Twitter can be a fantastic tool for business and it doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes a day.

If you are new to Twitter you might find this handout useful.

What to use Twitter for.

Think of Twitter as a conversation with friends or people you would like to get to know better. People wouldn’t like you very much if you only ever talked about work or sold to them and they would soon get bored if you only spoke about yourself and what you had for breakfast! The best Twitter users mix up their conversations with questions, endorsements photos, sales pitches, useful information and sharing other people’s news etc. So here are some things you can use Twitter for:

  • drive traffic to a blog, lead page, event or article
  • share product development photos
  • share infographics that could be interesting to your audience
  • share testimonials and customer feedback
  • respond constructively to complaints and negative feedback so you show you are a trustworthy business
  • share tips, ideas, recipes and other people’s articles
  • ask questions or connect with other people at an event via live tweeting
  • build on relationships made at networking and other offline activities
  • find journalists looking for news stories (search #journorequest and click on ‘all’ to make sure you find all requests)
  • do customer or competitor research
  • find suppliers
  • thank customers and suppliers for good service or help
  • share real time information to help your customers e.g. Southern Electric used Twitter to give their customers updates during a power cut, Thames Water used it to let people know what was going on when the water stopped pumping; not great news but better for customers than no news!

Look out for local conversations to build relationships in your own community. Using a hashtag in the search bar will help you to find and participate in conversations. Try #yourtown to find people locally, use #business or #smallbiz to find business conversations. You may find regular conversations on Twitter, for example #EalingHour every Tuesday from 8.00-9.00p.m. connects local residents and businesses; #bizhour is a regular business conversation.

What else do you use Twitter for? Please share your tips in the comments section.

Some good examples of how to use Twitter effectively

Sainsbury's sharing tips, news and connecting with customers

Sainsbury’s sharing tips, news and connecting with customers

If you are new to the platform or wondering if you are making the best use of Twitter for your business take a look at some of the following accounts:

  • @Sainsbury’s
  • @ContactusEaling
  • @TheoPaphitis
  • @Jacqueline_Gold
  • @aquadesigngroup
  • @bodylinestudios
  • @thameswater

 

Boost your Twitter results

Twitter can be managed in just a few minutes a day. Use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to programme your broadcast messages such as promotions, invitations to events and selling messages. Link your blog to Twitter so that it goes out automatically. that way you can devote your Twitter time to making connections with people. Twitter expert Mark Shaw has some useful tips in this article, I couldn’t put it better myself so read what Mark has to say.

I hope this article will get you using Twitter more strategically to grow your business. Be clear about what you are using Twitter for. Consider having a separate account for business if you are likely to post things in your personal account that you wouldn’t want your customers to read. Make sure you follow up on Twitter conversations, set Twitter up so that you are notified of Tweets to you on your smartphone. That way you will always be able to respond to customers in a timely manner.

Do please connect with me, @Glenda_S on Twitter, and I’ll be sure to share some of your tweets and news. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

 

Find your audience on social media

I’m often asked which social networking site a novice should choose to get started on so today I’m going to address that question.

The short answer is that you should be where your target market is! Whilst I’m going to discuss some general information I believe we all need to research our own audience. Ask your customers, prospects, competitors and network which platforms they use, what they use them for and how often they visit. This will give you an idea where to start, what to contribute and when to post and as I said in my last post your first social media contacts will be from your existing network. Don’t forget the question about what people use their social networks for because you might well find your audience is on Facebook but in a purely social context, they may not want to share what they get up to at the weekend with you!

Who is on what social media platform?

Social media PowerPoint 2As I said earlier these statistics are both general and fluid so are a starting point rather than a definitive answer!

  •  Facebook has around 1.5 billion users 23% of whom log in at least 5 times a day. 40% of its users are 45-54 with slightly more being men than women. 70% of marketers have acquired new customers via Facebook. Facebook has so much insight into its users that it is possible to target advertising via the platform very precisely.
  • Twitter has 550 million registered users of whom 215 million are active on a monthly basis. It has grown by 44% in the last three years and is used for lead generation by 34% of marketers. 65% of Twitter users are female and they are evenly split between the 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 age groups.
  • Google+ there are over 1 billion enabled accounts and 359 million active users monthly. The platform has grown by 33% in one year and has increased its use amongst 45-54 year olds by 56% since 2012. Being active on Google+ should help with search engine optimisation.
  • LinkedIn has over 300 million users and 187 million unique visits monthly. Special interest groups are a big feature of the platform with over 2.1 million groups and 200 conversations every minute, you are bound to find groups in your area of interest. Linked In is primarily used by professionals in the 35-54 age group.
  • Pinterest has more than 2 million users in the UK and 80% of its users are female with the biggest age group being 45-54. It is said that users engage more on Pinterest than on any other platform as members share each others’ ‘pins’
  • Instagram, now owned by Facebook has more than 200 million users and has grown by around 100% in a year. Users tend to be younger than some of the other platforms with teens to mid 30s dominating.

Next steps

So if you are new to social media spend some time now researching where your audience is, if you are already active then think whether you are spending your time in the right places,

In my next few posts I’ll share some insights into how businesses are using the different platforms. I hope you’ll check back in here on Monday.

Don’t be scared of social media.

In the last few weeks I’ve had a number of communications with business leaders who admit to being scared of social media. Apparently this is not uncommon. People are scared that they don’t understand how to participate, that they don’t have the time or money to join in, that they don’t understand the technology or that it will lead to their business gaining a bad reputation. In my view these are excuses that are easy to rectify. Social media is essential for every business operating in the market today whatever its size. It is a low cost form of marketing that we can’t afford to ignore.

Join the party

Think of joining social media as like going to a party where you know some but not all of the attendees, you start by talking to your friends and then get introduced to new people some of whom you get on well with. When you become active on social media the first people you will connect with will be people you know, then you’ll start joining in conversations through them but with people you don’t know and slowly your circle of connections will increase.

What is social mediaIf you found yourself at a party with a room full of strangers the chances are you would hang back and listen to conversations until you felt comfortable enough to join in. That’s a great way to start on social media. Start on one platform, I recommend Twitter, connect with a few people and just watch what they do. What do they post? What kind of conversations do they get involved in? When are they active? When you are comfortable that you understand the medium join in and start conversations.

Social media does not have to be expensive or time consuming

Now I am prepared to admit that social media can be the procrastinator’s best friend. We can all use the excuse that we are working on our marketing when in fact we are just stopping by the coffee machine (metaphorically) for a gossip. Self discipline is required. We can achieve all our social media goals in around 15 minutes a day on average, even less if time is short.

Of course if you’ve got deep pockets you can throw lots of resources at developing and implementing your social media strategy. But most of us don’t have such deep pockets so we need to find a way to make it work for us. We need to decide what we want to get out of our social media engagement and then plan how to achieve that. I’ll be discussing this more in my next post. Whilst you can outsource much of your social media activity I don’t believe we should hand over the whole lot. Social media is about building relationships and I don’t think anyone can do that for us as well as we can do it ourselves.

Social media is useful for managing our business’ reputation

Some people fear that social media will damage their reputation. This is a fear that emanates from media stories about people getting in to trouble for what they have posted.It’s true that it’s important to be careful about what we post.

If you went to a party with some influential people who could put business your way then you would control your drinking to ensure you didn’t let yourself down wouldn’t you? You probably wouldn’t get into an argument about politics either. The same restraint is important on social media. Have some boundaries about what you will talk about. Don’t post when you have had a glass too many or when you are very tired or angry. Always ask yourself, ‘would I say this to this person face to face or if I met them at a party, would I care if I was overheard?’ if the answer is no then don’t post it either.

Just because you are not on social media doesn’t mean that people are not talking about you there. Encourage your customers to give you feedback on social media and deal with any criticisms promptly and fairly, that will allow you to build trust with prospects and make your business appear human. Most people will share their satisfaction with their following and you can always harvest those conversations for other marketing activities.

Social media is an enormous topic so will be my theme for this month. We’ll look at the different platforms and how businesses like yours are using it effectively. Do pop back for new articles every Monday and Thursday and if you could use some help to get started book your free 30 minute consultation here.

What makes a good business card?

Today’s post is prompted by a question from a client and it is a good one that many of us don’t devote enough time to thinking about. So here are some questions for the next time you need more business cards.

Why have a business card?

In this digital age you could be forgiven for thinking that business cards are a bit old hat but this would be wrong. Without a business card how will you be remembered after a networking event? Without a business card what will you give to the journalist you meet at a football game? Without a business card how will the potential investor you meet on holiday remember you?

You never know when you are going to meet that person who could make a real difference to your business. That’s why you should always carry a well constructed business card that reflects you and your business.

Designing your business card

Your business card is frequently the second impression, after you, that someone has of your business so it should make a positive impact. Don’t be tempted to cut corners on the quality of card or the design. When you hand that card over to a new contact you want them to think you are a professional from a quality business.

Make sure that your business card conveys the right impression of your brand so be consistent with your brand’s identity. This means using your corporate colours and fonts and your logo if you have one.

Whilst it can be tempting to make your business card stand out by veering away from the traditional size, shape or finish this can be dangerous. Most business people have a file or box that they keep business cards in, if yours doesn’t fit they will throw it away. People also like to write an aide memoire on a business card so that they can remember you and any promise they made so make sure that the finish on your card allows them to do this.

This is a great image that clearly demonstrates what the business is

This is a great image that clearly demonstrates what the business is

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And the reverse side makes the important information easy to find whilst leaving a bit of space for me to make my own notes.

What information to include

Think how you want people to contact you or to stay in touch. You will obviously want to include your name, business name, job title, email address and phone number or numbers. You will probably want to include your website and may want to include at least some of your social media addresses such as Twitter, Linked In or Facebook.

I think our business cards also need to convey what we do so if you are a photographer, artist or designer maker include a photograph to showcase your work. Other businesses may need to convey what they do in words. If you use a strapline make sure that it is meaningful.

As a regular networker I pick up hundreds of business cards in a year and I’m not always as disciplined in organising them as I should be. I tend to do a cull every few months and if a business card doesn’t help me to remember the person I met or their business it goes in the bin! So make sure that I will remember you or what you do. Try to leave a bit of space on the card for me to make a note that will help my memory.

This card makes it easy to remember what the business is about.

This card makes it easy to remember what the business is about.

Contact information is easy to find and there's a clear reason why I should be interested in this person's business. However there is little room for me to make my own notes such as where I met her.

Contact information is easy to find and there’s a clear reason why I should be interested in this person’s business. However there is little room for me to make my own notes such as where I met her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m off to update my business cards, what about you?

How to follow up a networking event.

In my last blog I was rather critical of the way a couple of people had followed up networking events so today, as promised, I want to share some ideas for doing it well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be Mrs. Perfect here, I’m sharing lessons learned from other people as well as my own experience.

Follow up

I know it’s easy to get sidetracked by the day job but following up after a networking event is essential. If people have shown interest in us and we fail to follow up we are leaving opportunities on the table. If we have promised to do something for somebody and we fail to do it why should they believe anything else we say?

However when we meet a lot of people in a short space of time it can be very easy to forget what we agreed with whom, so make a note of what you agreed as soon as you possibly can. Put it in your smart phone, in your diary or notepad or on the person’s business card, then add it to your to do list as soon as you can.

If you go to a lot of networking events in a short space of time it can be all too easy to forget whom you met where, especially when you are not given an attendance list. I find it helpful to prepare an envelope in advance. I put the name of the event and the date on the envelope, together with a note reminding myself what I promoted in my 60 seconds and then I put all the cards I picked up at the event in the envelope. That way I can make sure that my follow up is relevant and accurate. This tip is particularly useful if you delegate the follow up emails to someone else.

It’s not all about you!Networking

Regular readers will know that this is a common theme in my blogs. We are all governed by self interest in one way or another. The temptation therefore is to go on about what we have to offer but have you ever been stuck at an event where the person you’ve just met only talks about themselves? How do you feel? Frustrated? Angry? You want to escape as soon as possible. Don’t make this mistake in your follow up.

Make the opening paragraph of your follow up email about the person you met. Highlight something they said that could be of interest. Give them some information that could be useful. Offer a helpful introduction. By now they are thinking well of you and are ready to read about your offer.

Keep it brief. Remind them what you talked about at the event, include a link for further information. That link might go to your website, your Facebook page, your blog or your Twitter account. Make it easy for them to follow up your conversation. If you found a lot of common ground you could suggest meeting for a one to one. If the connection wasn’t so strong consider inviting them to link up with you on Twitter, Facebook or your preferred social media. The idea is to work at building the relationship so whatever works best for you but make it clear what you would like the person to do.

A word of warning!

If somebody gives you their business card it is not an invitation to add them to your database and bombard them with newsletters, offers and anything else that takes your fancy. In the UK we have strong electronic privacy regulations, so do many other countries. People need to opt in to receiving your emails. In my view if someone gives you their business card they are giving you permission to follow up once or twice. Ask them if you can add them to your mailing list and make it easy for them to respond. In my latest follow up email I gave people a link to reply on with a simple ‘Yes Please’ as the subject. It worked, some have signed up.

A good rule of thumb is to do unto others what you would like others to do to you. Ask yourself. ‘if someone I had met today sent me this email what would I think of them?’ If the answer is ‘I’d think how friendly but professional they were and I’d like to get to know them better’ then you have got your follow up right.

Do you have any tips of things that have worked for you? Please feel free to share them here.