Tuesday, July 25, 2017

You're Shy and You Need to go to a Networking Event. What do you do?

Let's build up a few scenarios you may experience in your professional life.

You were just laid off from your job and you are in the process of updating your resume with your outplacement service and then they suggest the dreaded "You should start networking with professionals"  Ahh!!! And you proceed to hide under the desk at the thought of talking to others.    You never been to a networking event.  What is a networking event?

Or how about this one, you are at the bar at a restaurant and you notice a group of people with those "Hello - I am Gertrude" name tags and you are thinking what is this a support group or something?  Then one of the attendees come up to you and introduce yourself and you freak and frantically try to get the bartenders attention to order that next scotch.

For the shy person that have never been to a networking event, the thought of making that transition to being the CEO of yourself and going to business networking events is a tall task.   Your first thought is why is everyone so friendly?   Why are some people asking me so many questions or worse why is this person giving me their ten minute elevator pitch on solar energy?  Is this person hitting on me?  Ewww...

Business Networking is easy.  Really.   Even the most introverted person can be converted and become a networking superstar.   It is a wonderful feeling and it builds confidence in yourself.

So I like to provide some tips to help the shy professional that like to take the leap and attend a business networking event.

Set a goal to meet five people. Three if you’re really shy.
People go to industry events to meet new people. They are very open to meeting you. One thing that really helps is to set a goal of meeting a certain number of people. That makes me get on with it and get it done. Every time you force yourself to step toward a new person, you’re checking off one of your five. Once you hit five, you can go home. But don’t be surprised if your success with those five makes you stay because you’re having a great time.

Start by reaching out to others standing alone.
My usual strategy is to walk up to another person standing alone and introduce myself.   The majority of the time, your new conversation partner is even more self-conscious than you and will remember you as the person who threw them a lifeline.   You both can laugh at the end regarding how hard it was to break the ice and come to the event and now you have a networking partner for future events.

Leverage your natural human curiosity.
Think of a list of questions that can get you through the first few minutes of the initial introduction. There’s no one on earth who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves.  Learn what they are working on. This provides an opportunity for stories, which is a great way to find common interests.

Don’t hang with people you know.
Sometimes we know a couple of people at a networking event and glue yourself onto those friends, making no effort to meet new people. Connect with friends, but network with them together.   It makes it more fun!

Don’t let the connections disappear.
Make every hard-won networking connection last. If you’ve enjoyed your time with someone, make sure you try to keep the connection going. Tell them you’d like to stay in touch. That’s a flattering thing to hear. Get a business card. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow up and stay in touch.  Go to a future networking event together!

There are many other tips, so if you like, please contact me for any networking help and join our group Mass Professional Networking.  The next thing you will know, you will become a business networking pro!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What Exactly is Digital Marketing and Why You Need It - A Blog for Businesses That Are Slow to Change

20 years ago, a local business could put a simple marketing plan together and call it a day. They would place a yellow pages ad, newspaper campaign and some basic advertising.  It was really all it took to get in front of potential customers and meet their revenue goals and business objectives.

Back then, people consumed/received information very differently than they do today.   Remember all those cold calls you use to get or the stacks of newspaper advertisements in the Sunday paper?

Today, people spend an average of 5.2 hours per day on their mobile devices scanning the Internet and social media channels.  Because people are predominantly online, it only makes sense for local businesses to be advertising and engaging people online.

Over 20 million people are active on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at any one minute so why not go where the people are?   People are more likely to react to a great advertisement on their phone than taking the time to read the newspaper or search for those yellow pages.

A second thought is with social media you can quickly engage with your current and potential customers by posting specials and asking for customer feedback.  The last I checked, it is pretty tough to acknowledge customer feedback in the newspaper.

The problem with most businesses is that they do not have the time to engage with customers and actively post content on the social media platforms and they are right.   Business owners normally need to focus on their business whether it is service oriented, their art (music) or a trade.   Spending money on a Yellowpages ad or newspaper advertisement is easy and fast and they assume they work.  Most businesses do not have the time to measure the Return on Investment from their ads whether they are offline or online.

In reality, a simple social media post has more reach than a newspaper advertisement or a TV Commercial, since a post can go viral with the right keywords and get re-posted over and over again for free.   Try placing a second newspaper ad for free.

So in closing, before taking a leap into the world of online marketing, take a look at your business goals.  Are you meeting your revenue projections?   Do you have enough customers?  Are you getting the right customers?   Have a solid business plan and a way to measure what type of marketing can be successful to grow your business and then engage a digital marketing expert to help you.   Digital Marketing is a full time job and you will need to focus on your expertise/trade first.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My SmartPhone Bit The Dust, Now What?

Have you had one of those days, where one of the most inconvenient thing happened to you and you become flustered and questioning what to do next?  

Some examples of having a bad day can be getting a flat tire in the middle of the Mass Pike without having AAA to rescue you or dropping a bowl of red spaghetti sauce on your nice white shirt.   Well I had one of those days yesterday while on the last leg of my vacation in the Pine Tree State, Maine.

 Are you ready?

My smartphone went bonkers and bit the dust!

I was supposed to be off the grid for the past few days while spending time in beautiful Maine. However, just like any addict, I was drawn to my smartphone, checking email, the latest Instagram Stories, the Facebook News Feed and review my text messages. Then suddenly, a big bright streak went across my screen and I freaked out.    I think everyone on the beach heard me yell out some choice words while covering their child's ears with those Wonder Woman beach blankets.

My phone proceeded to reboot itself and then came back up and then I was able to see part of the screen while the rest of the display was a nice lime green color.   I desperately checked my Facebook feed and tried to post my 23 pictures of Maine before my phone called it a day.   Luckily I was able to post some nice pictures and check a couple of Instagram stories, then poof... my phone turned a bright red ball of fire!

I had the feeling like I just lost my job and a tree just landed on my new car.   My smartphone is useless and what can I do now.  It was the Fourth of July, so not sure if my pride and joy can be recovered on this holiday.

By not having my smartphone, it made me realize how dependent we are on them.  They give us directions to a park, or can help order our dinner.  You can shop online on your phone or talk to someone half a world away for free.   You can text someone without hearing their annoying voice.  You can be a loner, but yet, you can have thousands of Facebook Friends and Instagram followers.   Smartphones allow us to be popular but have no human interaction for days.   They are generally the cause of all what is wrong today, and ironically the leading cause of auto and pedestrian accidents today.

I look back to the world before smartphones and even cell phones in general.   The days of human interaction since you had no choice.  When cold calling was the cutting edge sales technique.  When phones had a cord on them connected to a wall or when you had to use a paper map to route your way to the beach.  Those were simpler times.

Times when you listened to your music on a CD or cassette tape instead of Spotify and actually watch where you are walking and smiling and saying hi to people on the street.    I remembered when I would spend the night calling my friends on the house phone and battle with my family on who can use the phone next.    Another decision was what to do on a Friday night in person with people.

Back then, you would call someone on the phone and talk to them about going to a music club with people that had lighters, instead of cell phones, to put in the air when a great rock ballad was played.

 Today, it is all about Tinder, Texting and Twitter.   The latter (Twitter) is the evil of our president, so you know how far we have come.

So, I am here, with no smartphone until later in the week when my replacement comes in the mail and I am hungry thinking about a pizza.

Let me see where I put that Yellowpages Phone Book so I can order a pizza from the House of Pizza.  The last I remember, I thought I used the phone book for something else, like a door stop.

Maybe I will keep the good 'ol YellowPages in a safe place next time, since you never know when your smartphone pulls a freak out on you!    Disaster Recovery at its finest.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

You Can Network Anywhere! Really! Some other choices to network beside at an event.

Business Networking at events is one of the most effective ways to build a diverse network of successful professionals that you can help with your expertise or rely on for something that you are working on, such as looking for a new job.   In many large cities, there are always a networking event to go to on any given night.   Some are focused on specific professions and some are more general with speed networking.

The argument for traditional business networking events is that most attendees go to the event with their own agenda.  Face it, you network to build your professional contacts and ultimately your business and career so of course it is all about you when you meet people at networking events.

There is nothing like meeting new people and building relationships with familiar faces, however, believe it or not, business networking events are not the only place to build your social and professional network.  Let's look at some other places you can network that may result in a great lead and/or ultimately new business or a career.   Face it, when you network in most places, the other person may not have a mission like they would at a business networking event.

Ok, so here we go!   There may be some humor in some of the options.

The Airport/ Bus Station/ Subway Stop - Most times people travel alone, are entrenched into their smartphones, but are generally bored while waiting for their ride.    If you do catch their eye, try a simple hello and it they are receptive, start some small talk such as where are you traveling to, or what you do for work.   In this situation, there is really no pressure so next time, don't bury yourself in a book or on your phone and say hi to people.

At a Music Concert - Unless you are a death metal concert, people are usually feeling joyous and are anxious for their music hero to take the stage.  Since concertgoers are having fun, might have had a couple of drinks, it may be easy to strike up a conversation and talk a little business.   It may be awkward to exchange business cards with someone before the music starts, so maybe pull out your phone and connect with them no social media and follow-up later.

At Your Local Pub or Coffee Shop - Yes, this is the traditional networking spot before business networking themselves got popular.  My dad was an entrepreneur and in sales, and he cut his best deals at the local Irish pub.  Again, people are generally friendly at pubs or coffee shops and they are more likely to strike up a conversation with you and connect with you on social media.    Just don't tag yourself with a couple of brewskis in the your hand if you are trying to make an impression.

At the Gym - Like music concerts, generally everyone is happy at the gym unless they took one two many doses of creatine.   It may be easy to strike up a conversation with someone about their workout and goals.  If you are in the health/wellness business, you may be able to offer suggestions.   It may be awkward for a guy to network with a girl right away or vice versa, but if you draw the line early by chatting about shop, this can be a very effective way to build your business network.

At the Park, especially a Dog Park - If you are thinking of taking Fido for a walk, go to a dog park.  It is easy to mingle with people and talk about your canine.   Complement the person's pet so you build trust and they spark up some small talk.    You can also talk about the neighborhood and some things you are working on to see if it generates any interest.

Alumni Events - I know I did not want to include events, but this is one not to pass up.   Most schools have alumni activities such as a Red Sox game, or a boat cruise hoping to get alum to mingle and help each other out.   The pressure is off at an alumni event since most people are there to help each other out and are properly doing something that may relate to what you do.   My advice this summer is to look for alumni events to attend with the fall season coming faster than you think.

At an Evening Class - Continuing Education is very popular for professionals looking to start a "side gig" alongside their regular job and may take a real estate or a social media class at night to build up their skills.    You will already have something in common with others in your class, so the pressure is off to be able to strike up a conversation and build trust.   The only agenda attendees have at a class is to learn.

So here are eight other options to build up that professional network.  Of course, there are other options such as conferences, church, or meetups so anytime you are around people you have the opportunity to network.  Always remember, the person you are talking to may not be a good lead, but they may know someone that can help you.

Let me know about your successes networking at unique places.

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