How To Make The Most Of A Networking Event

Christopher Pagli Think Local networking event

 

Have you ever wavered on going to a networking event and left feeling glad you did because it was incredibly productive? I have.

I know how hard it can be to walk into a room full of people you do not know and introduce yourself. My top six personal tips will help you make the most of your networking experience.

 

1) Have a plan before you go. – whom do you want to meet?

Make a list of five targets and reach out before the event, so the face-to-face introduction is a little warmer. Most events have Facebook or LinkedIn groups so you can see the guest list beforehand. Join these groups and add value, videos are a great idea. If your content is excellent and makes an impact, you may be approached by some people at the event.You are setting the stage and will feel more comfortable entering the room knowing you have a plan in place.

How do I start a conversation with someone I have not met? Look them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce yourself. You are at a networking event; we expect it.

2) Arrive early, get acclimated, and dive right in. I have found this is an excellent way to stay grounded, break the ice, and greet others as they arrive. It is easier to have conversations with fewer distractions in the room.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and noticed they are listening to you with the side of their head and their eyes are roaming the room to see who is there? Not a great way to show you care.

If you cannot arrive early, survey the room; see who is there.

  • Identify people you may already know
  • Look for the popular people. These are people who can’t walk two feet without being stopped or have a large crowd around them. Make it a point to find out who these people are and meet them. Chances are you will engage with other people in the immediate area.
  • Find your targets. They will introduce you to others in the immediate vicinity, and the conversations flow from there.

 

3) Make a statement. – Are you an average Joe? What will you do to make a statement once you enter the room? I am not only talking about how we look but our confidence level. Why do you think fashion models wear their clothes so well? Confidence. It makes the outfit.

Everything we do or don’t do sends a message. Every interaction is a potential job interview.

  • Dress to impress
  • Be well-groomed
  • Smile
  • Have a firm handshake and look the other person in the eye as you shake.
  • DON’T skimp on your business card! Make sure it is high quality and depicts who you are and what you have to offer. I know business cards can be costly, but it is an extension of you and their takeaway! Check out www.Moo.com.
  • Look at others business card before stuffing it into your pocket; this is a sign of respect.
  • Make notes about your conversation on the back of the card or your phone.
  • Be a good listener and ask open-ended questions that give you more information about the person. Celeste Headlee said it beautifully in her TED Talk “You do not have to show someone you are listening if you are listening.

If you present yourself as an expert, the best, or a professional, everything else needs to match your words. Unfortunately, people judge. We want every aspect of how we present ourselves to align.

4) Keep it moving – acknowledge your friends and existing connections, they may introduce to people you do not know, but don’t hang out talking to them the entire time. You are there to make new connections and nurture existing ones. I have a goal of meeting at least 5-10 new people at each event. The more I do this, the easier it gets.

5) Know how to talk about your business – Your elevator pitch should be clear, concise, and give the listener a compelling reason to take action or learn more. I always end with what makes me different. People want to know why they should refer or do business with you, especially in a room where there are many others in the same industry.

I highly recommend spending $5 on a copy of “This Book Will Teach Your How To Write Better” By Neville Medhora. In just 50 pages you will know how to write copy that sells and talk about your business in the least amount of words.

People tend to remember the first and last thing you said. Avoid industry jargon that most people will not understand.

 

6) Send a follow-up email right after the event. It shows interest and will help you stand out. Too many people do not do this. We need to stay fresh in others minds. If you took notes about while speaking with them, reference something in your follow-up email.

We meet many people at these events and what we choose to do will make or break our experience.

Please share your tips in the comments below. I look forward to hearing them!

5 Life-Changing Business Tools Under $100

Every business needs tools to be successful. I seek out the best affordable tools, try them and make recommendations for the ones that have significantly improved my productivity. My core mission is to help you save time, money and become a better marketer. The following list will do that.

This year, many of them are online which probably won’t surprise you either.

1) Wisestamp – An email signature template service offering many templates and apps for creating an impactful, interactive signature. It’s easy to use, affordable and lets your recipients know you care. Your email signature is your business card for those who have not met you yet. Be memorable.

Cost: A one-year PRO subscription will cost you $72.00. Other plans are available.

2) The Adweek Copywriting Book by Joseph Sugarman – This book completely changed how I look at writing anything. It not only applies to advertising but anything you write in hopes of persuading another human being to take action. Joe makes writing fun, and his approach is easy to digest and apply to your business. I forgot to mention, he has sold millions and millions and millions and millions of products.

Cost: At the time of this writing, Amazon is offering the paperback version for only $15.00

3) Grammarly – For those who have challenges with grammar, this app will quickly become your best friend. The G icon appears at the bottom right corner of your screen once you begin writing and will make suggestions if needed. The mobile IOS version is a keyboard and easily integrates with your apps and browser. You can toggle between this keyboard and your default one with the click of a button.

The one downside is it doesn’t work for Google Docs, but you can check your work by copying and pasting it into the online editor. An extension is available for Google Chrome and add-in for Microsoft Word and Outlook.

Cost:

  • Monthly  — $29.95 USD/month
  • Quarterly Subscription — $19.98/month (billed as one payment of USD 59.95)
  • Annual Subscription — $11.66/month (billed as one payment of USD 139.95)

4) Adobe SparkA content creation app accessible via desktop or mobile. Whether you are creating images with text overlays, videos, or web pages, Spark has you covered. I am more of a desktop user, but the app is pretty awesome and very easy to use. Your choice.

Cost: $9.99 per month or $99.00 for a full year paid in advance.

5) Zhiyun Smooth Q Handheld Video Stabilizer For SmartPhoneThis little gem is a game changer for anyone shooting video on the go. No more shaky camera and unprofessional video tours. I was lucky enough to purchase mine for $99 on Black Friday and noticed they are selling for $140 now. I had to include it on the list. Compared to some of the higher priced Gimbals this one is a solid affordable option.

Cost: $99-140. Keep an eye on Amazon for the discounted price.

The Direct Mail Marketing Commandments

 

Direct mail is alive and well. According to research from Huffington Post, 79% of people who receive an offer in the mail act on it immediately. Every time I present that statistic the eyebrows go up, and they say “really?”

I am not surprised by this number because direct mail campaigns are part of my marketing strategy.

These days, we must diversify our marketing efforts. The online world is noisy and cluttered. Physical mailboxes are less crowded thus making it a great option. The attention span of an online consumer is sad, four-eight seconds!

While 30 billion pieces a month are fighting for attention on Facebook each month, your re-purposed content could be in transit to a prospective customer’s mailbox.

Before you commit to a program, think about the following:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Where do you find these people?
  • What type of mail would interest them?
  • Will your call to action get them to act?
  • How do you want them to feel when they hold your mail?

Direct mail may not be for everybody; your type of business and margins will help decide this. If you have high margins, then you can probably afford to commit to a long-term plan. Your audience needs to see your face and message continually.

If your sales margins are low plan your budget carefully or you could risk wasting a lot of time and money.

Like advertising, we are campaigning for trust. This process takes time.

Can you get business from one mailing? Absolutely! I have done it.

By thinking about every little detail and sending something that resonates on a deep level, you can get immediate responses. One word of advice though, don’t expect it. Consider this success a bonus and keep moving forward with your campaign. Expectations can get us into trouble.

Adhere to these guidelines, and you will succeed:

  • Start with your sphere-of-influence – By now you should have a database dedicated to past and present clients or any other people that have an interest in what you do and can send referrals your way. Build from there.
  • Choose a farm area and own it – remember, building trust and brand awareness will take some time.
  • Send something of value – Always. Think about how you feel when you receive valuable information, that is how your audience should react. Send an offer with a DEADLINE so that customers can act sooner than later or maybe never!
  • Stand out – Choose colors that align with your branding and odd shaped fliers, postcards, or envelopes. You can also send actual “stuff,” can’t do that online!
  • Personalize everything you send – Hand write cards, notes, envelopes (if you are able). Show you care rather than making it seem like you do.
  • Add a call to action – What do you want them to do? How? When? People that haven’t met you yet are most likely going to research you online before making a call. Your landing page should reduce barriers to the final decision and convert the viewer. Make sure it has testimonials from past clients!
  • Be consistent – If you are sending something to your sphere-of-influence, consider touching them monthly. You will have to find the sweet spot for other audiences through experimentation. At least six times per year is a good start.

Most people have a throwaway and keep pile before they even get inside the house. Which pile will you be in? Believe it or not, you CAN control this to some extent. Just think, you could make it inside someone’s home and hang around for a while if you give them a reason to keep you around.

Tracking conversions from direct mail campaigns aren’t as easy as online, so you will need to add a code or some way to track your progress. Make it a habit of asking your customers how they found you.

This information will help you understand what works and what doesn’t.

Conclusion

Direct mail might be a good option for you.  Like most forms of marketing, we have to experiment. The more we do, the better we become.  The struggle for consumer attention is real, and we have to go above and beyond to get it and also keep it.

How To Boost Your Google Business Listing

Google business listings are a great way to maximize your presence and allow potential customers to experience your business.  This free tool will increase your visibility on Google and help you manage your business across the search engine.

In this post, I am going to walk you through the various sections and show you how to complete them.  I will also touch on the psychology behind specific features, so you understand why they are essential.

Before we begin, please conduct a Google search for businesses like yours.  Look carefully at the results.  Familiarize yourself with what their listings look like and if they are utilizing all of the features.  Take a screenshot of the results for reference later on.  

We will discuss the importance of this in a few minutes.

Have you created or claimed your listing yet?  If not please take a minute and create one or follow the steps to claim your business.  Mobile users can download the app from the Google Chrome Store.

 

Otherwise, log in to your google account, scroll down to “My Business,”  and you will see your new homepage that looks like this:

google my business listing screenshot

Posts

This feature debuted last year and is similar to what you would create on Facebook and other social platforms.

Between 100-300 words, you can create offers, promote events, provide a sneak peek behind the scenes, a day in the life of your business, or write microblog posts to engage your audience effectively.  Think about how you can give potential customers something of value here.  

I like to educate them on a specific topic.  The more you do this, the better your audience will get to know you and your expertise.  Delivering valuable information is how you position yourself as an authority in the marketplace and reinforce your value.

Try to avoid over-promotion.  The 80/20 rule is always an excellent guide.  Share 80% informative and educational content and 20% promotional.  Give more than you ask.  

As we shift more towards a mobile-first world, you will notice that the posts are in card form and optimized for mobile viewing. The jury is still out on whether or not these posts will help your SEO, but anything that gets more eyeballs on your business can help in my opinion.

The jury is still out on whether or not these posts will help your SEO, but anything that gets more eyeballs on your business can help in my opinion.

You should note that your post will expire after seven days.  It will still show on your page but not won’t be prominently displayed when your listing comes up in a search.

Here’s what it will look like:

 

Info  

Input all the details about your business and be specific, especially with the hours of operation and category.  You can add more than one.  If you have special holiday hours, include them as well.  

Add your phone number, website URL, and an appointment URL if customers can book time with you online.  You can add photos in this tab or choose to later.

NOTE: the public can suggest edits on your listing, and these changes may appear without you knowing.  Check your listing regularly to make sure the information is accurate.  You can always make corrections and submit them for approval.

Insights  

There isn’t anything you need to do here aside from connecting your Google Analytics account, so your results appear on your dashboard. Pay close attention to the numbers on a regular basis.  This data will help you make better business decisions based on factual information.

You will see how many unique visitors, page views, and new visits you had in a specific period.

I added a screen recording so you can see the various sections and what they mean:

 

We are transitioning into a data-driven world, and these insights help us understand what actions our potential customers are taking on our page, how they found us, and how we stack up against our competitors.

If you perform a search for your type of business in your target area on maps, you will see a list of your competitors.  Click on each listing and see how you compare.  

Look at the completeness of their page.  How many photos and video did they add?  Are they utilizing the posts feature?  Do they have any reviews?  If so, are they publicly responding to them?

By completing every inch of your page and taking advantage of all the available features, you will already be ahead of many other businesses in your area.  I know this because I have searched for thousands of companies and was amazed to find how many are not.  

Reviews  

Feedback is there for a reason.  It tells us what is and isn’t working in our business.  I know it can hurt when we hear negative feedback, but this is an opportunity to turn things around and possibly create a relationship that leads to more business and referrals.

Here are a few tips for soliciting reviews:

  • Ask people who have experienced your product or service.
  • Craft an email.  Ask your customer if they would take a minute and write a testimonial about their experience with you.  This next step is critical.  Include the link to your Google Business page (and any others you want a review on).  You are making it easy for them to write the review.  The more comfortable, the better.  

You won’t solicit all reviews.  Random users can leave one any time they like.  I find that most people write an unsolicited review when they have had a bad experience or an amazing one.

Some people think that too many five-star reviews will negatively affect you.  I disagree.  Anybody who takes the time to read yours can usually tell whether they are real or not. If you provide exceptional service, you deserve a five-star review.

Every time a review shows up, publicly respond and thank each person who left one.  This action shows you value what they have to say and others will see that you care about your customers.  

Remember, we want to build a word-of-mouth business and reviews are one of the best ways to do this.  

You are making a relationship with your customers, and this process sets the stage. Your happiest customers are your best customers.  Make them feel special.

Check out the 2018 Customer Service Benchmark Report from Super Office to see some eye-opening statistics.  

So, how can you provide exceptional customer service all of the time?  Respond to everyone quickly with a relationship building mindset.  If you get a negative review from a customer, don’t immediately take the offense.  Sit with it for awhile before responding to them.  I learned the hard way in my early days by reacting rather than responding, and it never goes well.

Messaging   

This feature is a game changer for customer service.

A customer can message you directly from your listing on a Google search.  All you have to do is turn the feature on, add your phone number, and customize a greeting.  Similar to the Facebook messenger, Google will calculate your response time, and it will show in your listing.  

If you answer quickly, you are more likely to receive a message from them.  

If you take a day or more guess what happens?  The majority of them will probably look for someone who will get back to them faster.  

People want answers, and they want them quickly.  In today’s world, we expect everything fast!

Photos and Video

First, add your logo, a cover image, and profile photo.  They will also show on your Google+ profile.

Compile some of your best at work or behind the scenes images to give customers a taste of what it is like to be you and do what you do.  If you sell a product, demonstrate it through video.  Produce video tips or updates to educate the consumer.  Remember that our goal is to be an authority in the marketplace.

I recommend putting as many photos and videos as you can but make sure they are a good representation of your business.  By humanizing your listing and engaging with people you are making it easy for them to relate and get to know you.  

When people are comfortable, they make better decisions.

Under the insight section, you will be able to see how you compare to your local competitors for the number of unique views on your media

Website

Google offers you a free template website at no charge.  It’s more like a web page and consists of the images and information you plugged into your listing.  If you don’t have the resources and budget for a professionally designed website, then this might be a good option for you.  

Ads

Create ads quickly with this feature.  Google will walk you through the process.  If you don’t have much experience with Adwords and how they work, do some research before creating your first ad.  Check out the Keyword Planning Tool in your ad account and learn how to choose the best keywords and phrases for your ads.

Conclusion

We covered the various features and why they are essential. Google is the most significant search engine on the planet and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.   Even if this isn’t a game changer for your SEO, it shows potential customers that you have your hand on the pulse of your business and care.  That is indicative of how you run your business.

What you learned here today applies to your website and social media accounts as well.  If people like what they see in one place they will click through to your website and other profiles.  We never know where our next customer is going to find us.

 

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