Tag Archives: user friendly resources

Networking is Not for Dummies

18 Dec

Successful networking is more than just walking up to strangers at an event, introducing yourself and your business, exchanging business cards, and closing with a handshake and a promise to call. Successful networking requires planning. It’s essentially like going on a group sales call. You have to prepare a plan, lay some groundwork ahead of the event, and define measurable goals for yourself. Fortunately, the Internet has made all of these steps so much easier and less time-consuming.

Who will be attending the event? Whether it’s a holiday party, the Chamber of Commerce breakfast, or an association meeting, knowing your audience is important. Make some phone calls; ask to see the RSVP list; and review your list of business prospects to seek out those target-rich attendees that you want to meet.

What is your networking goal? Do you want to meet a potential client that has been unwilling to set an appointment? Or, do you want to meet someone you’ve only heard about in your business community? Knowing what your goal is will also help you determine if the networking event was successful. (I always love asking sales people if the event was successful and they say “yes.” Then, when I ask what made it a success, they appear stunned as though it’s a trick question.)

How are you going to prepare for success?

  • Make a realistic list of people who you would like to meet and why. What can they contribute to your business and what can you contribute to their business? Successful networking is a win-win proposition.
  • Use LinkedIn to see if those individuals are “connected” to others in your LinkedIn network. Then, reach out to those you know and ask them to introduce you either by email prior to the event or at the event.
  • Determine the objective you would like to achieve. Do you want to ask for business, to set an appointment, or to establish just the first step pending a phone follow-up?
  • Learn what interests your prospects enjoy. With the Internet and social media, it’s not hard to learn something about a person’s hobbies, reading interests, favorite sports teams, or travel experiences. See if you have anything in common outside of the business. Something you might be able to use to lead into a conversation. Caution: There’s a difference between doing some research and stalking. You don’t want to come across creepy, just interesting.
  • Be knowledgeable. Read the news the day before and day of a networking event. Try to hit the following sections: Sports, Money, and Weather. You’ll notice that I stay away from politics or local government. (Politics, religion, and local government are still taboo topics and far too unstable to use in your first meeting with a prospect.) This information will help you in any conversation.
  • Be a good listener. This sounds so old-fashion and redundant, but you’ll find your best conversations are the ones where you listen more than you talk. Effective listening skills give a lot of insight into the other person’s business needs, problems, and how you might be able to solve them with your product or service.
  • Ask educated questions. Do your homework. Learn about your client’s business, their competitors, and the environment in which they operate. As the saying goes, “people have to know that you care before they care what you know.” Demonstrating knowledge of their company and that you’re willing to put in the effort to learn about them will go a long way.
  • Be authentic. Be honest. Be responsive. There’s nothing that can ruin a reputation or relationship faster than inauthenticity and dishonesty. If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t care, don’t pretend. And, if you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Networking can be a very positive and productive experience. Take the time and effort to make the most of each contact along the way.

Change the Company You Keep?

1 Aug

Each week I make time for personal and professional development. I find it invigorating. Given the magic of the Internet, we now have so many options to grow our knowledge base. For me, I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading ebooks and articles, and watching TED Speaker videos. While we’re all pressed for time, there are so many alternatives that there’s something for everyone.

Most recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “Get Busy Living” with Benny Hsu, I was reminded of something my mother used to tell me; “You become the company you keep.” Meaning, choose your friends and colleagues carefully.

Benny’s podcast topic, “Why Choosing Who You Spend the Most Time With is So Important for Your Future.” Benny argues, we don’t pay enough attention to the people with whom we spend the most time. He cites a theory by Jim Rohn, a personal development expert, who believes that we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. Rohn suggests that the combined influence of our “circle of five” contributes to our attitude, health and income.

Additionally, entrepreneur Todd Smith writes, that our “associations are some of the most powerful factors in determining who you become and what you accomplish in your life. As an example, if we hang out with pessimistic people who are critical of us, their negative comments will likely impact how we view our abilities and our self-image.”

So how do we gain better control of this situation? The first logical step is to disassociate from the people who contribute negative energy in our space. If the “toxic people” are part of our work environment and thus impossible to completely avoid then we need a plan to limit our exposure and time in their presence. While we can’t control the people around us, we can control how we respond and react to them.

Second and equally important is the energy we spend in broadening our circle of influence. Quite simply, we need to better fill our time and emotional space with positive, supportive, and enthusiastic people with whom we have shared interests. Consequently, we reduce our time with negative influences. And, thanks to the Internet we are able to connect with positive, supportive people by finding local groups, organizations, and online discussion forums. We can now meet new people and connect through blogs, email, Skype, and podcasts. Positive support and influences are more accessible than ever before.

So I leave you with this challenge. If the people in your “circle of five” are not providing you with the positive, supportive, and enthusiasm you need to grow it’s not too late. Change the company you keep. Expand your circle of influence outside of its current inhabitants. A positive environment has a much more powerful influence on our lives than we realize.

What has been your experience?

Don’t Send Them Away From Your Website

11 Mar

Now that information is so freely accessible through the Internet, websites need to be more than a “store front” for your association; they need to be a resource for information that is useful and can’t be found elsewhere.  As they phrase goes, “content is king.” The most robust association websites provide content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information (a link to your website) to other members and prospects.

Why Is This Important?
One of the greatest challenges for associations is finding relevance and creating value to its members and communities. One of the most cost-effective ways to meet this challenge is to create and maintain a website that is a knowledge center. Websites need to offer robust content, useful information, user-friendly resources, and ways for members to become engaged in your association’s community.

Do and Don’t
Here are just a few do’s and don’ts

  • Don’t just supply links on your website to other websites that provide the information they’ve come to your website to find. While this is a shortcut to offering resources, it takes people away from your website. More importantly, it conveys the message that someone else has better information than you can provide. Result, they will “bookmark” those websites and leapfrog your association’s website the next time they need similar information.
  • Don’t neglect to update your resources and information frequently. This will provide both relevance and increase your organic search engine optimization (You’ll increase your visibility on a Google search.)
  • Don’t be one-dimensional in your content. Chances are your association’s members have an array of needs, interests, and ways they find value in their membership. In other words, your website needs something for everyone; your content needs to be balanced.
  • Do update your content often. If members don’t see new information each time they visit your site they won’t find a reason to come back. Once you’ve updated your content, send an email to your members highlighting the new content they will find on the site. If they go to the site often enough, it will then become a habit. Note: Sending this email on the same day of the week each week creates anticipation.
  • Do be a knowledge center/knowledge leader. People return to websites that demonstrate knowledge and expertise in their field. They like to have one place to locate all information without going to multiple sites. Use the expertise and thought leaders in your organization to demonstrate the level of knowledge your organization represents.
  • Do utilize social media, video, webinars, and blogs to offer multiple ways for people to engage in your organization. People learn and consume information in different ways. If your membership is multi-generational, it’s important to provide vehicles for communication and information dissemination in ways that are accessible to everyone. Added benefit: Using multiple media tools increases your visibility on a Google search.

Next Steps?
Let’s get started:

  • Define the core value of your association. What does (or can) your association offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
  • Fill in the Blank: “We want our members, prospective members and the communities we serve to think of us as ____________.”
  • Create a plan and process for updating your site, keeping it relevant, and discussing the analytics. What web pages are popular, how often are members coming to the site, and how is your engagement is being effected.
  • Ask for member and community feedback along the way.

While this is just a brief overview, remember that a robust association website provides content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information to others.

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