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16 08, 2013

How To Network at Your Local Chamber of Commerce

By |2017-03-03T12:07:00-04:00August 16th, 2013|Categories: Blog, Networking|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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How can you make the most of your Chamber of Commerce.

Many of us belong to our local Chambers of Commerce. We can all use tips on how to be effective so when this was sent to me, I decided to publish it. Thanks to the Rensselaer County  Regional Chamber of Commerce located in Troy, New York .

Staff Picks: What is one networking tip you’d like to give chamber members?

Laura Amos, Accounting Assistant: Asking questions and making eye contact will let someone know that you are interested.

 

Debbie O’Donnell, Executive Assistant: Seek out those people who are by themselves and look uncomfortable.  Be prepared with a few standard questions to get the conversation flowing.

 

CJ Harkola, Membership Manager: Be yourself. Join or form a networking group, preferably start with a small group & grow it. While you are growing it, give back to the community!
Kate Ollier, Programs & Events Manager: Be yourself – being genuine is a quality that aligns itself with credibility. The more you’re “You” while still being professional, the more everyone will see you as credible, authentic and a good person to do business with. It will take you far.

 

Stephanie Scully, Controller: Don’t hesitate to talk with other members. They are all terrific.

Ryan Silva, Director of Economic Development & Government Affairs: Ask questions, learn as much as you can about a person you meet at a networking function and always follow up with them


Claudette Thornton, Vice President:
Smile. And remember, everyone is there for the same reason you are. Don’t be afraid!

 

Chyresse Wells, Communications & Marketing Coordinator: Be yourself and ask genuine questions to learn as much about their role within their organization as possible and take note of how you may be able to help them in the future. Don’t forget consistent eye contact, and always smile!

 Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build customer service and sales strategies. She is a member of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
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19 09, 2010

Are You Making or Losing Customers?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:12-04:00September 19th, 2010|Categories: Blog, Networking|Tags: , |3 Comments

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Image of a sign that says Help New Customers wantedWithout customers you are out of business, period; if you don’t market to your customers you will lose them. It all makes sense to me, or do I have it wrong?

I went to a women’s group yesterday, sort of a lunch and learn. I spoke with two new business owners who told me they didn’t have a marketing budget. When I asked why they remarked as soon as I get some business I will have money to market. Huh?

I understand that things are tough but things will doubtfully get better for you if you don’t market. Look at it this way. You get a call from a potential customer who asks to see your press kit or your brochures or your testimonials; yes they’re all part of your marketing tools. Or they ask for your business cards and yours aren’t the greatest or consistent with your brochures. Will the customer want you to work for you? I don’t really know but marketing needs to be included in your plan if your business is going to get off the ground.

Despite definitions about what it is, no business can succeed without it. It doesn’t matter where you start, how you do it, you will need relationships to succeed. Relationships with potential customers who want to know you’re professional. You can build them on or off line; it depends on you, whichever works.

Here are some not so simple tips for your marketing that will help you get started.

What do you do that makes you different? Often referred to as your competitive  advantage; according to Jack Welch, if you don’t have one you can’t compete.

This is a good place to start without it you will end up lumped in the field of sameness. Maybe you provide the same services as others; maybe you do it in a different way. That’s what makes you different. So if you’re starting with the 90 second elevator speech starts with the value and then gives your service a name and a category.  Instead of saying you’re a printer, start with the exciting things you’ve made in the past or can make and then say you’re a printer.  Also make whatever you do easy to understand.

You can’t do it all no matter what you think.

Just as customers are trying to decide if you’re the right vendor, you should decide if they’re the right customers. When people start their businesses they think that anyone who walks through the door is their customer. This is the hit or miss, throw some against the wall theory eventually you will get tired of the unprofitable customers. Why not decide upfront who’s profitable and go for them. It will save you time and money.

Select your customers carefully, look for partnerships. Customers are flattered by this approach. Create a checklist of attributes for your partners.

Word of mouth never goes away

Have you customer write why they bought from you on the back of their business card. A simple testimonial goes a long way. Call one customer a day just to keep in touch. Consider at the end of the year that’s 365 customers who have had a personal experience with you. Don’t call for anything other than to see how they are and to update your files. You “one customer” might have a referral for you. Don’t forget to ask for a testimonial while you’re service is still hot.

Use online marketing

I think that businesses are intimidated because they can’t spend money to create the best web site, the best blog, Facebook or Twitter accounts. Nonsense, this is the way you keep yourself from being successful. Start getting involved online; instead of talking to people who haven’t gotten business and think it’s a waste of time talk to those who are doing business. You can be sure your competitors will not talk to you about how much business they’re doing on line. And on line is mostly free. Start a discussion on line or post a question.

I know I’m not the best writer but I believe I have a message that is useful so I plug away at it. For years I was told I couldn’t write and so I didn’t had it edited over and over again. If you’ve got a good message, people will listen.

Quit selling and help people buy

When you truly put your customer’s interests above your own you become a team member, a consultant, a partner for your client.  Help them determine what they really need instead of trying to sell them anything. This is true customer service. Help your customer find other partners that will help them grow; in the process you will find new partners.

Shift the risk to yourself and you will profit

Give the best guarantees possible; the absolute best. Give money back warranties whenever possible.

Be as personal as possible

This is the age of transparency and being personal. Send a handwritten note, a link to your page, or give a free eBook. Why not?

Create free publicity.

Ask people to review your book and post their comments; review an article you’ve written or a fund raiser you’ve hosted! Post surveys of way your customers think about your service or a special award you’ve received. Did you just run a race for charity? You don’t have to win to post you were there supporting the cause. Write articles for magazines in your industry or in your home town. Get the word out.

Integrate your marketing message.

Even if you’re small and can’t afford much, have all your literature create the same message

Whether you are high tech or need to use the shoe leather approach to your marketing, determine the best methods for you to create prospects and build relationships on a regular basis. The main secret of successful marketing to get started , keep  doing something on a regular basis and get yourself in front of the decision makers.

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24 03, 2010

Treating Your Customers to a Good “Networking” Time

By |2017-03-03T12:07:14-04:00March 24th, 2010|Categories: Networking|Tags: |1 Comment

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About a year ago I was asked to help develop an event for Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Interestingly enough, the idea was to plan a networking event for interior designers, architects other trade people and friends. Usually events seem to be about “selling things” but this was more about helping others build their businesses.
The event was the idea of John Hoffman, general manager of Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs.

"We really appreciate our area interior designers and customers in general," says John. "They create business for us and it would be nice if we could do something to help them grow their business. We see our relationship with our customers as a partnership and we are happy to add a little extra to the relationship. We have been very successful with these events in the past but it’s time to try something new." 

The event, “Using Social Networking to Grow Your Business,” was not only fun but very informative, with lots of chatter and good food, I was also able to introduce my book, Red Hot Customer Service, 35 Ways to Heat up Your Business and Ignite Your Sales, and share it with everyone.

One of Jack Laurie Floors’ past events has grown into a yearly event: the pilgrimage to NEOCON in Chicago. John says this is one of their most popular events which everyone loves. Jack Laurie Floors rents two luxury buses and shuttles approximately 100 interior designers to the event. This makes it easy to attend; we play games on the bus, sing, enjoy good food all day and generally have a good time. According to John, "We get to spend time together away from business and get to know each other better. We also discuss what we saw at NEOCON and what we liked and didn’t like. Talking about products helps us know our designers better so we can buy the right samples for their customers."

With the economy suffering, generosity goes a long way. Getting out and meeting people is time consuming as well as difficult to mix in with busy schedules. Combining fun with information is a great double header. This was the basis for their event.

So, do these events really help a business? Everyone seems to thinks so. If nothing else, it pays off in good will and everyone gets a chance to network and meet new people.
I spoke with Phil Troyer, Architect and Owner, PA Troyer Architect, about why he attended this networking event. His response: “You always have to look out for new ways to build your business.”

I was amazed to find Joe Bjerk, COO, Guardian Relocation/Home Moving and Storage with locations in Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne and Columbus at the event. Even though he's not in the flooring industry, Joe told me he was excited to be invited to this event. 

"I got to network and picked up some ideas for marketing my own business," he said.

Planning an event? Take some advice from General Manager, John Hoffman:

  • Know your audience, what they need and what will help them with their business.
  • Don’t forget students from your local design college. This is a great opportunity to get to know them, share information and build new contacts for your store. The college can also provide you with great interior design interns.
  • Have enough staff to talk with all the customers; it’s up to them to meet and greet their guests.
  • Plan a program that’s fun. If it’s too serious it just gets boring.
  • You don’t have to talk about business all the time; this is a good way to get to know people.
  • Invite people with different backgrounds and different needs; mix it up. This makes it more interesting and better networking.
  • Serve good food and drink so your guests feel special. They are special!
  • Get your vendors involved so they can network with your customers.
  • Be sure and follow up with your guests. In the case of Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs, the educational part of the event encouraged them to create a new Facebook fan page; then they emailed all attendees to ask them to become fans.
  • Every business needs customers to grow their business and growing your customer base means putting in time networking both face-to-face and through the Web. If you love your customers, this is a good way to show them.

Pictures from the event!

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For more information on building a networking event, check out:

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25 11, 2009

Join Me for Thanksgiving Festivities on Facebook!

By |2017-03-03T12:07:15-04:00November 25th, 2009|Categories: Networking|Tags: , |0 Comments

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Turkeyfb There's a party happening right now on my Facebook page today and through tomorrow. Call it my "Virtual Thanksgiving Day Festivities," and you're invited!

Come on over and post recipes, share stories of Thanksgivings past, post images and video and connect with your fellow friends. 

I truly hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your friends, families, neighbors, communities, and anyone else you'll be sharing it with. I'm grateful for knowing you and for all you add to my life.

Now, come on over!

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20 10, 2009

Want To Do More Business? Get Out and Attend That Business Networking Event

By |2017-03-03T12:07:15-04:00October 20th, 2009|Categories: Networking|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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As a business consultant, I often talk with business owners and salespeople about the importance of networking: basically getting out and meeting people. Unfortunately many people aren't too positive about the whole idea. They tell me it's a lot of work, that they don’t know what to say and they won’t know anyone at the event. I would agree with a couple of them—it does take work and you might not know anyone. But as Woody Allen once said, "90 percent of success is showing up."  

I guess to win the game you’ve got to be willing to play.

It’s more than just showing up, though. I would say it’s showing up with a purpose. Sometimes things "just happen," like forgetting your umbrella and getting drenched, but maybe that’s not even a "just happen" type of thing. As Dr. Ivan Misner, the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization, put it, "Networking isn’t about netsit or neteat. It’s about network."  

Many of you know or belong to BNI but might not know that last year alone it generated 5.6 million referrals resulting in $2.3 billion dollars worth of business for its members.

Last week, Internet Marketing Inc., located on 1115 Broadway in NYC, with additional offices in Las Vegas, San Diego, and Miami, hosted a networking party at their offices.

Who is Internet Marketing Inc. and what do they do? As they say, "They build, market and manage your online presence. They don’t create proposals and reports, they create and experience and build relations." 

I would call them a company with expertise in the future. I haven’t met everyone, but if the rest of the offices are like the New York one, they do it with excitement, enthusiasm and good will. I recently met Todd Soiefer, President of the Northeast Region, when I was speaking at an event in Princeton, NJ. Speaking about networking, I offered a business consultation as a door prize and guess who won it? Now you know how I wound up speaking at the Internet Marketing event.  What did I speak on? What else: Growing Your Business through Social Networking. 

I consider Todd Soiefer and Nicole Stillings, Senior Marketing Consultant, as masters of networking.  Throughout the night over 60 people stopped in to meet, enjoy some food and spirits as well as each other’s company. 

The event was held at their offices, in Select Office Suites, on the 12th floor and all the businesses in the building were invited as well as clients and friends. Nicole Stillings was in charge of seeing that everyone got to the event and felt welcome. Nicole had mobilized her interns, had them on the phone calling people and seeing that the arriving guests were comfortable while she went off and managed the caterers. It was obvious that Nicole is comfortable making things happen as well as hosting large events.  

"It’s most important for people to feel welcome and comfortable," Nicole says. "We appreciate them coming to join us in making the event successful so we want them to take away what they need. Not everyone is comfortable speaking to strangers so it’s our job to make sure that the event works for everyone." 

After speaking, I took the opportunity to eat some good food and speak with a couple of the guests to see what would bring them out on a rainy, New York night. They came out to meet people and hopefully do business, since this was a serious crowd.  

Drew Franklin, Senior Marketing Manager for ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP (the largest ENT Doctor group), headquartered in Tarrytown, NY, talked about building relationships.



"In order to be pioneers in our business, we have to know what we can do to attract customers," Drew said. "We might be experts in our own field but we have to learn from the experience of leaders in other businesses if we are going to grow."
Drew seemed to enjoy the event and meeting new people. 

Jim Bond, Managing Partner of The Private Travel Group, a company providing customized private jet travel also located in New York City, was of the same opinion. 

"The only way people will want to do business with us is if I can identify and fill their needs," he said. "It takes time to build relationships and the only way it will happen is if I spend time meeting and getting to know other people." 

People were laughing, exchanging cards and really getting acquainted. Interestingly enough there were musicians as well as agents, bankers, investment brokers, teachers, public relations firms and people looking for employment. 

One of the things that was most noticeable was the atmosphere of good will. Even though they say the economy is "challenged" this was definitely a positive place to be. I asked Todd what makes an event like this work and why do it. 

"Everyone is so isolated and over worked that we that we need to have events where people can do business and have fun," Todd says. "Since we talk networking we should walk the walk." 

Todd’s suggestions for a successful event: 

  • Make it simple — not too much to drink or eat, since the purpose is networking. Keep the party moving. The party doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, just inviting and friendly. 
  • When inviting people, consider who would benefit from the event. We like to invite our customers so they can make new contacts and hopefully do business from the event.  
  • Vary the age group and the experience level of the guests, this way people get to meet people they wouldn’t ordinarily meet. 
  • Hosting a face-to-face networking party is part of building your online presence. It’s important to take pictures and/or videos and then connect them to your social networking sites. Put out a tweet or two so people will know what you’re doing. 

"The most important thing for us," Todd adds, "is to keep the buzz going. We are an internet marketing company; we need to show our customers how traditional networking events paired with social online marketing can help grow their business. They need to be comfortable with the social networking tools that we provide for them. This is a good way to show them we know how to talk-the talk and walk –the-walk." 

Exactly!

Check out the recap of the event on Internet Marketing Inc.'s blog, which includes the below video they shot of my presentation.

Enjoy!