Bolster Your Business Card

Business Cards

To me, networking events can be overwhelming. I meet dozens of new contacts in a short period of time, and, not being particularly good at remembering names or details of new people in general, I often find it difficult to recall too much about a person once he or she walks away. That’s why I love individuals with good business cards.

I like a card that gives me more than just a company’s name, person’s name, and his or her contact information. Give me a clue about what you do! For instance, my card tells you that I am an Account Executive at Gossett Marketing and that we deal in “Creative Promotions & Products.” It also indicates the professional organizations with which we are affiliated – Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Advertising Specialty Institute, Promotional Products Information Center, etc. You get the drift.

Aside from content, I love unique designs that make me take notice of my new contacts’ business cards. I recently received one that had a space for notes on the back – no more writing tiny, later-illegible notes to myself! Some have beautiful graphics that are spot varnished. Those are always memorable to me. Others are in unusual sizes or shapes. That style of card isn’t my favorite because it won’t fit in my business card holder, but it does stand out, and there’s something to be said for differentiating yourself. And I actually once received a nail file that served as someone’s card: it’s still in my handbag!

Your business card might be the only thing that your new contact can remember about you, so it should make an impact. Keep that in mind the next time you re-order!

Do your cards stand out? If so, please tell us why in the comments below.

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.

Preparation: The Key to Networking

Shaking Hands I believe in being prepared for networking events. Think of them like a job interview. The first thing you want to do is sell yourself in your elevator speech (click here to read my previous post on that topic). Then it’s important to learn about the person with whom you are connecting: does it seem like he or she will benefit you or vice-versa? It’s like figuring out whether a position in a new company will work for you. Then it’s time for the end of the interview, when my least favorite question arises. Much like I find, “Do you have any questions for us?” to be a stumbling block, when a new contact asks, “What can I do for you?” I sometimes have a hard time answering immediately.

To get over my fear of “What can I do for you?” I’ve come up with a couple of stock answers that work for me. My go-to is to ask for referrals. As you know by now, Gossett Marketing is a creative promotional products distributer. While I believe that every company needs some sort of promotional products, not every person within that company is going to be buying them. Let’s say I’ve just met a doctor from the Jackson Memorial Hospital. When he asks what he can do for me, I’m not going to tell him I’d like a free yearly physical; instead, I’d ask him to please refer me to his department’s marketing director. Or if he seems to know several people at the event, I’d ask him to introduce me to them right then and there.

If the person with whom I am networking does seem to be someone with whom I’d do business, then my “What can I do for you?” answer is always the same: I suggest that we schedule a meeting. We generally do not set a date then and there, but it opens the door for a future appointment. I also make sure to follow up with that person the next day – don’t drop the ball when someone wants to meet with you!

Those are two really easy stock responses to what I find to be a difficult question. Of course, if you are a networking pro who doesn’t get tripped up when put on the spot, go ahead and be daring with your answers! But having these two in my back pocket makes me infinitely more comfortable when meeting new people – like a job interview, in networking preparation is key.

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!

Make 2015 Business Resolutions!

2013 resolutions
Happy 2015 everyone! I love early January because the whole year is a blank slate, so it’s a great time to figure out how to fill the next 12 months, be it from a budgetary, emotional, or even a physical standpoint (who hasn’t resolved to count their pennies, make peace with their in-laws, or start a diet at the dawn of a new year?!). Well, it’s also an excellent opportunity to resolve to make business changes. I, for one, am making 2015 networking resolutions to help me expand my business reach. Here they are:

  • I resolve to network outside of the box. I hit luncheons and after-work chambers of commerce gatherings, but I’m sure that there are networking opportunities that I missed in 2014. That’s why I want to take a computer graphics course – it seems like a great chance to meet individuals who manipulate artwork (and logos!), which means that they might need to put graphics on promotional products. If I can learn something and possibly pick up new customers on the way, that’s a win-win for me! Networking doesn’t have to happen at sanctioned events, so my goal is to keep on thinking outside of the box.
  • I resolve to get creative with my post-networking follow-up. Like most people, when I gather cards from others with whom I hope to do business, I e-mail and call in order to build those relationships. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. But if I do something creative, then I have a better chance of getting noticed. So I plan on connecting via social media – not just Twitter and LinkedIn, but it will be a nice touch to offer to write a guest post for their blogs. And I think I’ll go back to basics and send a follow-up note via snail mail. It’s another opportunity to get my information physically into another person’s hands, which should make me stand out!
  • I resolve to focus my networking. Sometimes when I go to networking events, I find myself floating from group to group, not meeting anyone who seems, well, promising. So this year, I plan on trying to make a list of the types of people and companies that I think will be good business prospects. Do they need promotional products? I want to meet them! Do they know everyone in town? Hopefully they’ll want to get to know me too, and we can refer business back and forth!

Now, like any new year’s resolutions, I can’t guarantee that these three changes will make a difference, but they’re certainly worth a shot. And if I find that one works better than the others, then I don’t mind changing courses and just following that path. Wish me luck!

What are your 2015 business resolutions? Leave them in the comments below.

3 Tips to Foster Business Relationships

networking relationships

Of course the reason that any of us attend networking events is to build new business relationships. It’s easy to meet people at events, but it’s not necessarily so simple to turn those meetings into productive connections. It takes time and a good amount of follow-up to make yourself known and memorable to the people that you meet at an event, and even if you do put in the effort, there is certainly no guarantee that anything will come of it. So I’ve taken a poll of the Gossett Marketing team to see how this group of successful (and modest!) networkers does it. Here are 3 simple tips to foster the business relationships that begin at networking events.

  1. Have a reason to follow up with someone. After an event, it’s tempting to send out a generic “it was nice to meet you today” e-mail to everyone whose business card you received. Resist the urge! Instead, send a personal note that brings up the topics that you discussed. For instance, if you spoke with someone about a problem they are having, try presenting a solution in your e-mail. Not only will you look like a useful contact to have, but you will open up a dialogue that will help your relationship grow.
  2. Bolster your budding business association through social media. As Gossett Marketing’s blogger, I’m particularly fond of this idea – when I meet people in the real world, I like to then connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn because I find that it is a more casual, open way to connect than with them than by leaving stiff telephone messages. It’s amazing how quickly you can bond with someone via 140 word tweets!
  3. When all else fails, resort to snail mail. I think that everyone has been rejected when trying to build a business relationship with a new contact. You call, you e-mail, you tweet – all to no avail. At some point you have to throw in the towel (or else risk looking like a stalker). Before you do that, though, take the time to write the object of your business affection a quick note and mail it to him or her. Be sure to include your card, and just be honest about it. Say that you understand that he or she is busy, but that you wanted them to have your information. Everyone likes to get mail, so you know that he or she will read it, and perhaps it will move them to give you a call. If not, then at least they will have seen your name and company logo again – every bit of exposure counts.

I recognize that we aren’t reinventing the wheel with these tips, but sometimes networking – or the time spent following up after an event – can be frustrating. Rather than give up, try some different approaches. You never know, they could help you build new business relationships that could be profitable to both parties.

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!

Quality – Not Quantity – Networking

Quality Quantity

In my mind networking is less about quantity and more about quality. Yes, if you attend an event you want to meet several people, but what’s more important than simply exchanging business cards is actually connecting with someone else. You want to get past the perfunctory, “My name is Lillian Osborn and I am an Account Executive with Gossett Marketing…” elevator speech and have an actual conversation. Ask questions, answer questions, have a laugh or two! When you really engage a new contact that is when he or she is going to remember who you are, what you do, and how you can do business together.

When I follow up with the individuals with whom I’ve really connected at networking events, I always find them more receptive and willing to continue that connection. It generally ends up with a meeting, referrals, and increased sales of promotional marketing products.

Do you really try to engage others at networking events? Or does a quick introduction and business card exchange work for you? The latter has never been successful for me, but if it does well by you, please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to learn your tricks!

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

How E-Mail Enhances Networking

email networking If you are a diligent networker who frequents networking events, makes strong connections there, follows up with those you’ve met, and really created relationships, then you know that over time you can build up a large business network. Having so many business contacts can actually prove difficult – how do you maintain relationships with so many people? If you ask me, you’d better start to harness the power of the internet, and e-mail in particular, to keep yourself relevant to your network even if you do not have time to connect with each and every one of its members personally on a regular basis.

The easiest way to stay top of mind with your vast business network is to send out newsletters. Your newsletters should be informative and relevant to your industry, providing helpful tips that your contacts will appreciate and/or use. The key to a good newsletter, though, is not to send it too frequently. I stop and take the time to read the newsletters that I receive biweekly or monthly, but I delete those that come through daily or twice weekly. I just don’t have time to read that many non-work e-mails, so individuals who e-mail their newsletters too frequently get deleted, and ultimately forgotten.

Writing a blog is another excellent way to stay top of mind with your network. Like your newsletter, your blog should largely be pertinent to your business, although it’s always fun to throw in some “Easter Eggs” to keep your readers interested. The nice thing about a blog is that members of your network can subscribe to it and get e-mailed updates when a new article is posted. In the case of this blog, I write new posts three times per week, meaning that my subscribers see my name that frequently. I recognize that in the previous paragraph I griped about receiving too many e-mails and ultimately trashing those that come in too frequently; however, blog updates are different. Because the people who receive e-mail updates have elected to do so, they are less likely to be annoyed by receiving them.

Now, I’m not saying that sending out a newsletter a couple of times each month or jotting down a few blog posts are all of the networking/networking follow up that you should do. But if you have an extensive network, then both are great tools for your arsenal. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” is especially true in the networking world, so make sure that you are visible!

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