Thank Those Who Refer You

If you’ve ever read this section of our blog before, then you probably know that the Gossett Marketing team is very involved with networking. We do so through our local chamber of commerce, running and golf groups, and more recently via Twitter and other online channels. You get it: we’re out there, we network, and we want you to do the same! So what if you are already a networking pro? How can we help you take it further?

Well, if you are networking successfully then certainly you are getting referrals. You’ve met so many business contacts through your efforts and you have made such a great impression on them that they want to help you grow. I sincerely hope that this is the case, and if it is, then kudos to you! Other than assisting the individuals and companies to whom you’ve been referred, what do you do when you’ve received a glowing recommendation from a business contact? One thing that I like to do is to say thank you with a hand written note and a gift – nothing extravagant, just a token of appreciation that makes me stand apart from the pack.

One gift that I’m loving right now is a nice metal pen inscribed with my referrer’s name. Sure, you can give them something that is imprinted with your company’s logo, but personalizing the pen helps to ensure that they do not lose it, plus it shows that you took the time to think about them – you’re not just giving out a promotional product that is taking up space in your gift closet.

If you know your referrer very well, then you can give him or her something more personal. Does he enjoy wine? Then what about a pretty corkscrew or bottle stopper? Or if she’s a golfer, then a ball marker would come in handy. Maybe she talks about her dog all of the time – get Fido a colorful bandana! The world is your oyster, I’d just be sure to have any of these items imprinted with your company’s name to keep you top of mind.

If an individual takes the time to refer you and your services to his or her business contact, then certainly he or she deserves a thank you. If a thank you and a smile go far, then think about how much your referrer will appreciate a thank you and a gift! And every time they use that present, you and your company will come to mind.

referral

Disconnect to Connect at Networking Events

Smart Phones We live in a very digitally connected world. I get it, we all have smart phones that allow us to talk, text, check e-mails, browse the web, post to Facebook, Tweet – it’s a huge amount of technology in the palms of our hands. I’m not going to lie, I’m addicted to my iPhone and find myself reaching for it more often than I should, and at times when I probably shouldn’t; however, there are certain times when I feel like playing on my phone is vastly inappropriate. One such time is at networking events.

I was at a networking breakfast not too long ago where a speaker was on the podium for far too long. I’ll admit that he was boring and that the information that he presented wasn’t groundbreaking, but I was there, and I guess my mom raised me right because I tried to give him my undivided attention. It’s the golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – and if I was giving a boring speech at the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, then I’d want those in attendance to pay attention to what I was saying! Well, I guess that most of the attendees missed that lesson because the vast majority were bowed over the smartphones that they had quasi-concealed in their laps.

Once the presentation had concluded, we had the opportunity to continue networking with those around us and I have to say that I really wasn’t interested in connecting with the people who had ignored the speaker. My first impression of them was that they were rude and self-important – too good to spend 20 minutes away from their smart phones and pay attention (or fake paying attention) to the gentleman who was presenting to the organization – so why would they bother with the likes of me? And, more importantly, why would anyone from the Gossett Marketing team want to deal with them?

I know, I know, I’m on a soap box ranting about technology to which I freely admitted I’m addicted. I’ll get off in a second, but I just want to hammer home my point. There is a time and a place for everything, and a networking event is neither the time nor the place for your smart phone! Use these events as an opportunity to connect with other attendees – and to disconnect from the digital world for an hour.

Act Like a Star When Networking

Red Carpet The Hollywood award season is in full swing, and I think we can learn a lot of valuable business networking skills from movie stars as they sashay down the red carpet.

Accept Invitations
Often when I see coverage of awards show arrivals I think to myself, “what on earth is she doing there?” because seemingly-random celebrities show up where I do not expect them. Maybe it’s a TV star like Jennifer Aniston who is attending the Oscars instead of the Emmys, or just an actress who has fallen off of my radar. Well, to answer my own question – these celebrities are there because they were invited and because it is excellent exposure.

I occasionally get invitations to networking events that make me scratch my head because they seem so random – I’m not a doctor, so why are you asking me to attend an event for them? I also get so many invites from our chamber of commerce that I’m tempted to ignore them. However, if you are invited and you can make it, you should show up. Just like a celebrity at an improbably event, it’s a great opportunity to be seen and that always makes you – and your company – more memorable when a customer needs your goods or services.

Be Picky
I love the show Ellen, and one of my favorite segments that she does during awards season is she sends normal people to the red carpet to interview celebrities for her. Generally, before they know that the people waving a microphone at them are associated with Ellen, the stars walk right past them and head to Ryan Seacrest and the other well-known entertainment reporters. However, once they realize that these non-celebrity interviewers are associated with a national talk show, they always stop to chat.

While I feel that it’s rude of the stars to walk past people who would like to interview them, I understand that they need to be picky. They have a limited amount of time to walk the red carpet so they want to maximize their publicity. It’s a good lesson for us as we attend networking events: we can afford to be choosy when it comes to the people we talk to. Now, I’m not saying that you should ignore someone who strikes up a conversation if you don’t think you’ll ever work together; however, I do think you should limit the time that you spend with that person and focus on those who really are potential customers. And if he or she gloms onto you, excuse yourself to the restroom or have a friend rescue you from the conversation so that you can really work the room to your advantage.

Go Glam
Whether or not they truly feel that way, movie stars seem to ooze confidence on the red carpet. They get gussied up and strike their best pose and essentially act like they own the place.

Similarly, you might not feel overly confident if you walk into a networking event without knowing a soul there – so fake it! Wear a nice outfit: that always makes me feel more self-assured. Then throw your shoulders back, hold your head up high, and do just what the celebrities do – act like you own the place!

Business Events and Halloween

Trick or Treaters Business events are a lot like Halloween. Now I know this sounds weird. But, when you think about it, how weird is trick-or-treating?! You go to people’s doors and ask for candy while wearing a costume – utterly bizarre! However, it is a little bit like attending a networking function! No, I haven’t lost my mind, hear me out.

OK, OK, unlike trick-or-treaters I know that you don’t wear a costume when you’re at your local chamber of commerce…or do you? When I walk into a business breakfast I slap on a grin that I don’t necessarily always feel like wearing – that’s not to say that I don’t want to be there, I’m just not particularly smiley before my second cup of coffee. I don’t misrepresent myself, I just try to act friendlier than I feel. I enhance myself. That super-outgoing side of me? Not the usual Lillian – it’s my costume!

Sadly, conferences don’t necessarily involve candy, but just like you were looking for sweets as a child on Halloween, as an attendee I know you’re after something – business cards! And when you’ve collected them all day, don’t you get back to your office and sort them, just like you did your candy when you were a kid? There are the Reese’s cups of cards – cards you are thrilled to receive from people you were hoping to meet. Then there are the Mystery Flavor Dum-Dums – cards from people who could turn out to be great contacts, but aren’t sure things. And you always get one or two homemade treats – the cards that you throw away just like you would homemade candy (which my mom always said was full of razor blades). Tell the truth – if you attended an event with a coworker, don’t you compare your haul just like you did as a kid?

Think Halloween at your next networking event. Maybe the trick-or-treating comparison will make it more fun. Or maybe you’ll be as confident as you were when you knocked on strangers’ doors all those years ago. Or, better still, maybe someone will actually have candy!

If you need something to talk about at your next business function, check out this YouTube video of a very patient cat wearing Halloween costumes…that’s an ice breaker for you!

Fun and Games for Business Networking Events

photo from www.benicialibrary.org

photo from www.benicialibrary.org

Why do you go to business networking events? Everyone has different reasons for attending these types of casual proceedings. Entrepreneurs are looking for prospective new clients, as are lawyers, chiropractors, sales representatives, ad infinitum. Some people like to attend a local Chamber of Commerce networking event when they want to grow their prospect field and when they are new to the area and are looking to find out “who’s who.”

Whatever your reasons, the business networking event often evokes fear and loathing in many. If networking is not one of your natural talents, take heart. When you turn these events into your own personal game with goals that once you’ve achieved them gives you permission to leave, you can at least learn to enjoy them and may even get good at developing your game. Who knows, you could land a great big client and develop some very useful, and interesting relationships.

Game On!

All games have goals. Kids turn everything into a game. For instance, racing to the house screaming, “The last one in is a rotten egg!”

Make up your own networking game and set specific goals. For instance, decide to approach a specific number of people at the event you are attending. Establish rules, such as I’ll only speak to women who are wearing dangling silver earrings and a blue blazer and men wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and a brown tweed sport jacket with a handlebar mustache. You get the idea.

When you make networking a game, especially where you are not likely to know people or at very large events, you become interested in achieving your goal. You look interested. Perhaps people will approach you as you search out the specific traits you’ve established. Also, you give yourself an excuse to leave once you’ve met your goal. No one else needs to know your game or your rules for playing.

Necessity is the mother of invention. When you attend business networking marketing events, do so with enthusiasm. Challenge yourself to achieve a few goals that may seem silly at first. You never know where that attitude for fun and games may lead!

Surprise Networking

photo from bustedtees.com

photo from bustedtees.com

I’ve written many posts over the years about what I consider to be “non-traditional networking.” That is, doing your business networking outside of the usual chamber of commerce event. I’ve mentioned the fact that I run with a group of people from all walks of life and we’ve all ended up interacting professionally on some level – taking our relationships beyond sweaty Saturday exercise. I have also espoused bringing business cards to airports, children’s recitals, and the like because you never know where you will meet someone who needs your services and vice versa. Suffice it to say that I am always on the lookout for a networking occasion even when others might not, so it was a nice surprise when another opportunity popped up totally unexpectedly!

I was recently invited to play in a fantasy football league comprised of some of my good friends and several people who I had never met prior to our draft day. Like so many fantasy leagues, we got together for a draft day party and probably had a few too many cocktails as we picked our teams. It was a lot of fun and it gave me a chance to meet some new people and to heckle my old friends for their horrible teams (I’m not a very good sport). Since then I’ve kept in touch with the other members of the league. We text back and forth good-naturedly when our teams match up and occasionally get together to watch football. Like anytime a new group of friends gets together we have all told everyone what we do for a living, and I know that several of my league’s members have referred business to others within the group.

When I was approached about joining my fantasy football league I did so on a lark – I watch a lot of football with my husband so I figured the competition would make it more interesting for me. I had no idea that I would make new friends or much less potentially gain business from the endeavor. It just goes to show you that you should keep your eyes open for networking opportunities absolutely anywhere. Now if you will excuse me, I have to brush up my roster for this week’s match up!

Online and Offline Networking at its Best

photo from www.jekyllisland.com

photo from www.jekyllisland.com

As a member of both the Greater Miami and the Coral Gables Chambers of Commerce, the whole Gossett Marketing team receives a heck of a lot of emails regarding their events. We also seem to get frequent communication from various other networking organizations around town, such as the Miami Beach Chamber, Chamber South, etc. I generally read all of these emails to see whether there is something that I might be interested in attending. One thing I’ve noticed is that all of the local Miami chambers are asking members and guests to help them promote their events by using Twitter hashtags in the lead-up and posting pictures online during and after.

Having attendees promote an event before, during, and after is a great idea in that it generates publicity for the happening. But even more so than that, I think it is a wonderful tool for the people who use it. If you know anything about hashtags, then you are aware of the fact that they make Twitter searchable. So if you know that you are going to go to a networking function that has a publicized hashtag, use it to see who else is going to be in attendance. That way you can begin to connect with them prior to the event, and then meet in person when you are there. Networking can be intimidating if you’re walking into a roomful of strangers but if you “meet” someone beforehand via a social networking site, then you have a built-in friend when you get there!

If you, as an attendee, are participating in hashtagging an event, it also gives you an automatic excuse to talk to people (not that you need one if you’re networking, but it might make it more comfortable to approach strangers). Introduce yourself, tell them that you want to get a picture of them exchanging business cards or some such so that you can share it online, and then post it. Be sure to get the Twitter names of everyone in the picture too so that you can tag them – and then definitely look them up and follow them once you get back to the office. Meanwhile, at the event, continue to chit chat and learn more about them in person.

After you’re done with the networking event, continue to follow its hashtags. Then befriend others who do the same. You can forge initial bonds with them online and plan on attending the next activity together to meet in person. And the cycle continues!

Long story short, if you see that a chamber of commerce is offering a hashtag for an event then be sure to use it so that you can meet people before, during, and after it happens. It’s online and offline networking at its best!

Are you Working Networking Events

Is there a right way to work a networking event? I must admit, sometimes I marvel at how well some people are able to work a room, while others never seem to move.
I was at the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Trustee Reception recently at the newly opened Doctors Hospital Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center on South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. It was a great location for the reception – plenty of open space for all the attendees to mix and mingle.
Of course the bar area was quite the popular spot and when I first approached there was a gentleman just standing to the side observing everyone. He wasn’t engaged at all. I saw others I knew nearby and was immediately intercepted to be introduced to some new members. Probably a half hour later I walked back to the bar area and discovered the gentleman was still standing in the same place, seemingly had not moved an inch, still observing, not speaking with anyone.
I introduced myself to him and we discussed his business a bit and exchanged cards. But I couldn’t help but think – Why was he here? He was just waiting for people to come up to him instead of reaching out and engaging others in conversation. I saw him leave shortly after and thought – was my card the only one he received?
I don’t pretend to have the best or right approach to networking. I do understand how many people are shy or unsure how to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. However, one way that I get over that feeling is to think of myself as the “hostess” of the event. It helps me to get in the right frame of mind to reach out to make everyone feel welcome and for me to introduce myself to those looking lost.
Do you have any networking “tips” to share? Please comment below. dg

When Networking Mix It Up!

photo from smallbiztrends.com

photo from smallbiztrends.com

It always strikes me as odd when businesspeople network exclusively with other people from their own industry. I understand making some contacts within your own profession because you can turn to them for advice or simply use them to vent; however, if you are only meeting people who do the same thing that you do, then you’re only associating with your competition. While it’s great to know who you’re up against, don’t waste too much time at networking events that are industry-specific. Mix it up!

How do you mix up your networking? Well, the most obvious answer is to participate in events that attract a wide variety of people from different businesses. Chambers of commerce are particularly good for this – whether you join your community’s chamber or go with one geared towards minority businesses or the like, you’re sure to encounter a wide number of people with whom you can do business.

OK, so what if chambers of commerce aren’t your thing? Well, then it’s time to look at your life and how you can use your day-to-day for networking. If you have kids, then I’ll bet you meet fellow parents at school or sporting events. You probably see those parents frequently, which makes it rather easy to build a relationship with them. Ultimately, you’ll learn what they do, and potentially start to refer business back and forth. Easy!

If you don’t have kids or if you’ve built your parental network up as much as you can, then what? Well, think about your hobbies. If you like building model trains, then I’m sure you’ve met someone who shares your passion at the train store – network with him. Do you see the same people at the gym day after day? Take out your headphones and talk to them. And if your hobby is just streaming Netflix? Well, I love that too, but unfortunately it’s not ideal for networking. However, all hope is not lost! If that’s you, then head to LinkedIn and Twitter and meet people online. Networking problem solved!

Long story short, when networking mix it up!

Networking Tips from the Pros

photo from edgenetworking.org

photo from edgenetworking.org

For a few years now I’ve been writing about three posts per week for InterestingMarketingTidbits.com. Having three distinct categories on the blog helps me figure out topics – there is a section for promotional products that I fill with chatter about the products I’ve seen, an area for “Everyday Life Vignettes,” which I use to feature anything and everything, and then the category that you are currently reading, reserved for business networking tips. For some reason networking posts tend to be the hardest for me to come up with. I mean, how many times can I tell my readers to follow up with the people that they meet at a chamber of commerce event?! Today I was struggling to come up with any ideas so I Googled “business networking tips.” In doing so, I found a lot of good resources so I thought I’d just go ahead and share the links below. Take a look and let me know what you think – any good tips?

  • Click here for Joan Sotkin’s comprehensive list at prosperityplace.com. I like #6.
  • This article from businessknowhow.com has some smart networking hacks like the importance of holding volunteer positions within organizations.
  • In this post, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter,” gives an excellent overview of how to behave at a networking event. #15 is so important and so frequently overlooked!

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