#FocusFriday – Focus on Networking

IMG_1698Many people spend an enormous amount of energy on business networking and the fact is that many are just not great or even good at it. Why? The lack of focus, planning and practice, of course. For those who want to make the most out of business networking time, efforts and energy, here are some of my recommendations. These steps will allow you to focus on what really matters when it comes to networking for business growth, personal branding and relationship building:

  1. Take time to actually focus on planning out what you are going to do at a networking event or as part of a networking group. Set your goals for what you want to achieve by attending the event and spending your valuable time.  Planning must be done in advance to optimize the time where you are physically at the meeting or event in order for it to be productive for you. Investing the time upfront will aid in overall success. Spend at least a half hour planning before each event and more if it is a target rich environment or a critical event for your business success like a trade show.
  2. Research – Part of preparation is studying the group. This is important even if you are already a member. Identify who you want to speak with, follow up with or even avoid. Get to know who the leaders and influencers are and speak with them ahead of time. They will play a critical role in meeting people, facilitating introductions and understanding the group’s dynamics. Get to know the leaders first; this will pay off in the long run.
  3. Focus on the people you need to meet. Create an ideal client profile and ideal referral source profile. Take this even a step further. Identify the “perfect” client and define them. Practice explaining to those in your networking groups who this ideal client is and what you can do for them. The second part of this process is educating those who are in your networking groups about how to accurately explain who you are and what you do. This will require personal meetings and constant reinforcement of your value message. Don’t assume anyone knows all that you do and all the value that you provide. Ask them to tell you what you do and see what happens. This may be awkward and eye opening but it must be done.
  4. Focus on the person you are with. Give the people you meet and speak with at networking events all of your attention. Listen, ask questions (these are questions that you know and have practiced) and get all the information that you can. Look people in the eyes, face them directly, use their names and use open body language.
  5. Focus on the little things. Make sure you know exactly where you are physically going for the meeting and double check. Nothing is worse than getting lost, showing up late or going to the wrong location. This is all a waste of valuable time that you will never get back. Plan to arrive early and make the personal commitment to never arrive late. Make sure you are dressed appropriately. Stop in the bathroom to check your hair and attire before entering the networking environment. A few seconds of preparation can make a vital difference when making a first impression.
  6. Make sure you practice and perfect your elevator speech. Much has been written about elevator speeches. The fact is that most people are not sure what to say. Keep it brief and let people know what you do and how you can be a valuable ally. Think about relationships and not selling. Elevator speeches are more than just explanations they are your way of demonstrating your personality, your ability to communicate and what you care about. Consider your tone, how you project, how you use your hands, think about the specific words you use and don’t forget the body language. Even seated, you must project confidence and command of your subject matter. The process of creating an effective elevator speech may take a person many hours of practice. It’s well worth the effort and practicing may seem silly, but you have to do it. Use a mirror, video or ask friends for feedback.

Focusing attention on planning and executing networking is vital to success. Networking in a lackadaisical fashion is a considerable waste of time and both you and the people that are in your networking circles will suffer.

Make the commitment to spend at least and hour a week on planning and preparing for your networking activities. Block off part of the time where you will not be interrupted and examine lists or practicing your elevator speech. Spend the other time calling or connecting with influences so that you can be as prepared as possible at your next meeting or event.

Focus Friday is all about being more effective and successful in business and life activities. Focusing will allow you to save time and achieve goals in both your personal and in your professional life.

Have questions, need a resource? Contact me at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com.

Need to start creating a personal marketing plan?  Email the code PMP2016 to me at info@growyourpersonalbrand.com and I will send you a list of questions to ask yourself to get started.

Looking for some help setting up your LinkedIn plan? Visit www.growyourpersonalbrand.com

Join our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Tips for Making the Most of Your Holiday Networking

Office-HOliday-party[1].jpg

I just returned from my third – yes, third – holiday party so far this month. Say “yes” to holiday parties and events and stay positive. While the holidays are a great time of the year to get out and see people, they also present a perfect opportunity to reconnect professionally with those you only interact with a few times per year.

The best part is that most of these tips can be utilized throughout the course of the year. Of course, you must always start with being prepared and having a plan for networking.

bill screenshot 2.jpgClick here for a video of my tips for making the best use of your holiday networking time.

Be prepared for each event you attend:

  • Know who is going to be attending
  • Have a goal
  • Have an understanding of what you want to achieve – whether it be meeting new people and/or strengthening existing relationships
  • Know the event’s setting  – restaurant, catering hall, etc.
  • Remember to take into account traffic and parking

Prepare your questions so they are designed to ask engaging questions about a person’s experiences over the past 12 months and their plans for the New Year. Among questions to ask:

  • How was your year?
  • What was your greatest success?
  • Who are you looking to meet?

Remember to listen and then be helpful in assisting them in achieving their goals:

  • If you ask questions listen to the answers
  • Think about solutions….be it your solution or how you can help them achieve their objectives

When attending:

  • Recap the year
  • Ask people questions
  • Be proactive in exploring ways in which you can help them   in2016
  • Determine what your and their personal goals are for next year
  • Practice your elevator speech and be prepared to meet lots of new people

Look to connect with key leaders and decision makers as this may be your only chance in linking up with them the entire year:

  • Don’t be afraid to approach key leaders and decision makers
  • Wait your turn
  • Don’t be too pushy

Be a connector and ask to be connected:

  • If it is your party or you know people in attendance, make the intros – especially if people don’t know anyone
  • Ask to be connected and if there is anyone here that you think I should meet
  • People appreciate thought and effort:  Send out those holiday greetings and follow up/thank you cards:
  • Utilize personal email: if you’re not a big fan of the ecard, try sending a short personal video instead
  • Call people if you can’t see them in person

As always, remember to thank your clients, referral sources and others who have helped you personally as well as professionally.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Being Different is Your Competitive Advantage

different[1]In May of this year, FastCompany.com included some of my thoughts about how to be unforgettable. Many believe that demonstrating and promoting how or why you are “the best” is the most effective strategy to take. In the marketing and ad driven world that we live in today, “the best” message simply does not resonate. To be effective you must identify and show how you are different and how you approach challenges differently than others. Different is better than best.

When teaching personal branding, I always focus on ways that people can show how they are different. Below I have listed some of the questions you need to ask yourself when developing you brand message and identifying your key differentiators.

Determining how we are different is something that many people struggle with. This is not a surprise; it is hard to look at ourselves and be honest and realistic. We want to be the best, we want to believe we are different, but it is a challenge to identify what makes us different from competitors or simply others who are vying for the attention of potential customers. However, determining your key differentiators will allow you to identify your competitive advantages and this is critical to career and business success.

What makes you different? What makes you remarkable? What makes you interesting? Why should anyone care about you and what you do? These are compelling and important questions to ask to start this process.

In a time when we have just a few seconds to make an impression, we need to think about the messages we are projecting and their value. Your message must show how you are different and you need to consistently project this message for it to resonate.

Now we get to the big question – What makes you different? Have you ever thought about this, have you ever written it down? Get a clean sheet of paper or a blank screen on your computer and get to work now. Start with these questions:

  • What makes you different? (skills, experience, passion, commitment or creativity)
  • How do you communicate differently? (This can be in writing, in person, on video or through social posts)
  • How do you listen differently? (Do you actually listen? Many people don’t)
  • How do you ask questions differently? (Do you even ask questions or know what questions to ask?)
  • How do you follow up differently than your competitors? (A majority of small businesspeople fail to even follow up once)
  • How do you build relationships differently?
  • How do you provide value differently? (How do you go beyond the services you offer or the products you sell? What is the added value you provide?)
  • How do you empower or inspire others differently?
  • How do you do what you do for a living differently than others? (Get specific, there may be a number of reasons)
  • How is your leadership style different and more effective?
  • How is your ability to achieve success for your clients or for your organization different?
  • How do you show you care differently than others?

You are different and you need to think about it and have a plan for using it.

From a practical standpoint here is what you can do to move this effort forward. I have presented before many networking and business groups. Although each group is different, they share a common goal. Networking groups focus on building relationships which will generate business. Elevator speeches or introductions are a primary way people describe themselves. Unfortunately, they are often boring; too sales focused and fail to highlight why a person is different. Take a step back and think about how you do what you do differently and clearly state it.

  • Some approaches that work well include:
  • Tell a success story with an example of a winning outcome
  • Talk about a challenge that you overcame or helped a client overcome
  • Tell a story about how you went the extra mile
  • Discuss what you are passionate about in terms of business and charity
  • Relate a personal or businesses strategy that worked
  • Talk about the added value you bring to relationships
  • Tell people how you are different than competitors
  • Talk about how you empower and help

Don’t make a sales pitch, this alone will make you stand out in many groups

Are you still stuck on how or where to start?  Try this – “Hello My name is… I’m a different kind of (fill in the blank).” This is basic but it is a good place to start.

When you have the opportunity, practice and see how this approach works. Compare responses to how your pervious introduction was received. See if people mention your approach and ask others what they think of it. Do more people come up to you after?  Your elevator speech and introductions do not have to be set in stone; change them until you find what works. Practice and ask for feedback. You will also need a few versions of your intro. Have a 10-second, 30-second and one-minute versions of your elevator speech in your arsenal and ready to go.

Home Work

Write down how you are different. Start by looking at this in a big picture way then narrow it down to specific business related actions and activities, personality traits and personal approaches to life and business. Remember to focus on you and who you are, these are personal branding questions, they are not about what you sell.

For a free key Grow Your Personal Brand Personal Differentiator Questionnaire, email  info@growyourpersonalbrand.com.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Back to School, Back to Networking: Tips for Optimizing Your Networking this Fall

Students getting on a school bus for their first day of classes.

Students getting on a school bus for their first day of classes.

As summer comes to a close and the last quarter of the year approaches, it is time to start thinking about how we want to finish out the year. Many business professionals have children and are preparing them for school or going on their last vacation before the summer ends.

Once summer is over, everyone starts to feel the pressure of getting back into a networking mindset. Networking groups start meeting again, people take fewer vacations and with the fiscal year winding down, professionals “buckle down” to finish the year strong. Networking is one of the most valuable tools and skills a business person can have.

With Labor Day falling late this year we technically lose a full week of networking. I would not be concerned about losing 7 days of networking; look at it as an extra week to prepare for business development activities.

Here are some tips for getting back into the swing of networking.

Look at your online profiles

Granted summer is a time for relaxation and vacations but before doing anything business related I make sure that my online profile is up to date. Did you receive an award or have a business success since you last updated your profile? Adding an award or new accomplishments that you are proud of should be done at this time.

Examine your LinkedIn profile. As we know LinkedIn is the number one online networking site among business professionals and updating this profile is important.  LinkedIn is also a place where people go to find out who you are and what you do. Remember to have a profile that does not focus on selling. Let your experience and personality shine. Your profile should be informative and demonstrate how you can be of assistance to others. In a networking context this is where you can expect a visit from people you have met at networking events.

Networking event.

Networking event.

Set your networking goals, budget and time commitment

Knowing the level of commitment that you are able to give to networking is vital.  Networking is work and part of your overall marketing. The commitment stage is where you decide how much of your time you are going to give to meeting and following up with people as well as how many meetings you will attend. Create a schedule that works for you and does not put too much time pressure on you. Don’t overbook yourself to a point where you cannot get the most out of meetings or events.

Next, create a budget. Not many people think of this, but it is critical and should be built into a networking plan. It’s important to be aware of the amount of money being spent to be a member of each networking group as well as the time spent on networking. We know time is money and to properly network you must spend a significant amount of time. Consider how long meetings are, how often they take place, how many one-on-one meetings you will need to set up and are their extra costs for special events or activities that are not part of annual dues or fees?

Setting goals is among the important elements of networking. How many groups do you want to belong to?  How many of meetings do you wish to attend? Keep this constant throughout the year.

Networking schedule and preparation

It is important to keep track of the networking events that you have on your calendar and to prepare for them thoroughly. The night before the event, review what the meeting is about, what you hope to gain by attending and how you can help others with their business growth. Consider the fact that even if the person you are meeting with cannot help you or send you business, you may be able to assist them. Giving and facilitating relationships is the step in building trust.

Have a follow up plan

Attending an event or making an introduction starts the networking process. How you follow up with people will be critical to the outcome. How are you going to follow up? Are you going to connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email or a note or call them?  Have a plan of action and as I have recommended in the past, have a system for categorizing new contacts. Focus on those who can send you business but who can also send you referrals. Look for people who you can partner with as well. For different types of contacts or even different professions you should have a system for following up and adding people to your database.

A thoughtful follow-up approach will lead to a positive impression; it shows that you are really interested and not just looking to sell new contacts your products or services. Think about how you are going to ask for a meeting or a call. Once you have set up your follow up, be sure to have an action plan.  I will repeat again, meetings should never be sales calls. Have you ever had lunch with someone who immediately started talking about their services and why you need them? This is a flawed approach and one that will repel people. Get to know people, share information and once trust is built you can offer your solutions.

Have some fun

Summer was fun and there is no reason why the fall can’t be fun. When networking, share your summer experiences, just like you did when you were in elementary school. Ask others to tell you what they did last summer. This is a great way to engage, build rapport and get to know what people like to do outside of work. This approach will be helpful in starting conversations. As you know some of the best business conversations have nothing to do with business at all.

Welcome the fall with open arms and think about these strategies before you head out to your next networking meeting. Check out more about networking from my blog at www.corbettpr.wordpress.com.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Don’t Be a LinkedIn Loser: Strategies for Using LinkedIn Effectively for Business and Personal Branding

ClownWhen I describe someone as a “LinkedIn Loser,” I do so tongue-in-cheek. LinkedIn is the most significant business networking site in the world. If you are in business or need to network in any way you must be on LinkedIn. Even if you’re retired and volunteer for a local charity or if you are a freshman in college there are specific ways to leverage the power of LinkedIn. Here are some of my tips on how to navigate and utilize LinkedIn to your advantage. Follow these tips and you will avoid being a “LinkedIn Loser” and become a “LinkedIn Winner.”

Here are 12 tips to maximize your profile, attract attention, develop relationships and generate leads:

1. Commit to relationship building and not selling.

LinkedIn’s motto is “Relationships matter.” This platform is meant to build relationships and not sell which will push people away. Despite what digital marketers say, LinkedIn is not for selling but for building relationships. For more on this tip please visit my blogs Networking and LinkedIn: Build Relationships and Don’t Sell and Networking for Success: How to Start Conversations.

2. Have a high quality headshot.

Only one out of seven people look at your profile if you do not have a good headshot. For more information on this tip please visit my blog Making the Wrong LinkedIn Impression: Profile Photo Blunders.

Are you an Unknown on LinkedIn?

Are you an Unknown on LinkedIn?

3. Have a criteria and system for people who with you connect.

Do not be afraid to connect with people if you do not know them. LinkedIn is the conduit. There are people who want to spam you (get your email and they do so directly or with fake accounts). For more information on this tip please visit my blog LinkedIn Connection Criteria. More on this in a future blog.

4. Be active-post updates daily.

You have to be active, which allows you to be top of mind. Publish your work, share posts and comment on posts. Try to post every day, including weekends. Don’t forget LinkedIn’s publish platform. For more information on this tip please visit my blog Tips for Getting More Views for Your LinkedIn Profile.

5. Belong to the right group.

Being active at times may be overwhelming; focus on two to five groups for the greatest impact. This will get you the greatest ROE (Return on Effort). Join groups that are regionally focused in your industry, target rich for prospects and where referral sources are active.

6. Be active in groups and/or create your own group. 

This allows you to develop your community, where you will demonstrate your knowledge and thought leadership.  Show your expertise and develop relationships.

7. Have an error free page.

Take the time for someone to proofread your profile. Make sure it portrays you the way you want-it is meant to build your reputation. Grammatical errors will take away from the work.

8. Include hyper-local geographical tags in your title and in your profile.

Geo tags (community, city, town or state names) help people to find you and your business.

9. Include key words often and close to the beginning of your profile.

Key words are critical for internal search. Without them, you will be invisible. Describe what you do, where you do it and your industry expertise. If you offer a number of services mention them all.

10. Make sure your title quickly tells people what you do.

People don’t care about your official title (President, Vice President, CEO, etc.), use descriptive words instead.

11. NEVER USE ALL CAPITALS.

All caps means shouting online; if used you will be considered rude/unapproachable.

12. Incorporate videos and projects into your profile.

Videos are critical to your personal brand. Images online are important; they need to reflect who you are and what you stand for. For more information on this tip please visit my blogs Guess What? You’re a Media Company and How to be a Local Business Rock Star.

For the full list of tips here is the link to the pdf:

Having these strategies in one’s back pocket will give you and your brand an advantage over your competitors.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

LinkedIn Connection Criteria

Connection WebShould you connect with or not connect with on LinkedIn or social media in general?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked during my Grow Your Personal Brand and other personal marketing seminars.

Yes, having a large number of connections will be beneficial for your marketing, branding and business development. Your “connections” and database of contacts are valuable assets. Your contacts and relationships are important to you and must be developed properly. However, everyone is not a perfect connection and others may be inappropriate for you and your goals.

Many people have explained to me their connection criteria. Here are some common statements about how people limit with whom they connect:

  1. I only connect with people I know well.
  2. I do not connect with clients because I do not want people to see with whom I am working.
  3. I never connect with competitors or people in my industry.
  4. I don’t connect with my staff on LinkedIn because I do not want them to see what I am doing.
  5. I don’t want my employees to connect with a lot of people because this will make them targets for poaching by competitors looking for staff.

All are interesting points and certainly everyone has their opinion. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of LinkedIn? The answer is simple; just look at the company’s tagline: “Relationships matter.” This is so true and we also know that LinkedIn is akin to a huge and ongoing networking event. If you look at LinkedIn this way, then you should expand your criteria for connecting.

I personally connect with just about everyone. However, I do have my rules. I do not connect with local competitors; if they are a PR firm on Long Island I will probably not connect, but if they are from Chicago I probably will. I look at all connection requests carefully and follow my specific connection criteria.

For a PDF of my connection criteria checklist click here.

Do I connect with people I don’t know? Yes, for the same reason I go to networking events: I want to meet and get to know new people.

In terms of connecting with clients, you absolutely should. There is no way anyone will know that they are your clients. If you are worried about losing clients because of LinkedIn you have a bigger problem. You need to have better relationships with your clients.

This is my connection criteria checklist:

Your connections are a valuable asset. On LinkedIn they are your audience. You need to connect and engage with people and this will increase the value of your overall network and brand. With a well-developed network you will generate more business and create opportunities.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

Networking and LinkedIn: Build Relationships and Don’t Sell

I have been posting frequently about networking and personal marketing over the past few weeks. Networking is an important part of most business people’s marketing efforts. There is no better way than networking to get in front of people and speak with them, get to know them and build relationships. In a previous blog I described being accosted after a speaking engagement by an overly aggressive and hard selling insurance agent. The person followed me down a hall, into an elevator and for several blocks in Manhattan.

I was thinking about this incident and remembered the famous scene from Groundhog Day were Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is accosted by Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), a hyper aggressive insurance salesman in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This is the clip from the movie if you have not seen it, but I am sure the experience will be familiar:

Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day.

Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day (click for video).

I have managed networking groups and hosted many networking meetings.  I think of Ned every time I am at a networking event where the person I meet, immediately or almost immediately starts to try to sell something to me. To some degree I can understand this approach. Some people receive training that encourages this activity and others are simply business card collectors. People are desperate for immediate business; they need to make sales quotas or commissions to survive. I understand the sales process, but networking and using LinkedIn are not for selling. We all have to sell, but networking is a marketing function that leads to the sales process. You have to build relationships first to generate business leads.

I also have nothing against insurance professionals. I work with many of them to develop personal brands and LinkedIn marketing strategies. As a matter of fact, insurance professionals can be, with the right approaches, some of the best networkers. Insurance professionals often have many clients from many business sectors and professions. They also frequently work with business owners and decision makers. All are important contacts and relationships that can be brought to the networking table.

The hard selling approach simply does not work. It actually repels people from you and what you are seeking to accomplish. I call hard sellers “marketing kryptonite.” If you don’t know, kryptonite is the fictional radioactive stone remnants from the planet Krypton, the original home of Superman. Kryptonite weakens Superman and removes his super powers.

Superman suffering the effects of kryptonite.

Superman suffering the effects of kryptonite.

A person who is marketing kryptonite removes the energy from a networking event and limits the abilities of quality networkers to do what they need to do to develop relationships. On LinkedIn the same approach drives people away. How? Getting an unsolicited sales message creates a negative perception of you; it shows that you don’t care, as well as that you don’t understand how LinkedIn should be used. LinkedIn is a networking and relationship building platform that opens doors. A hard sales or miss timed sales message will close doors and limit opportunities.

The key to successful long term networking efforts is relationship building. Invest time to get to know people. Getting to know people does not happen overnight, you must meet one on one and be part of groups that focus on this aspect. It is well known and proven that people do business with people that they know, get to like personally and trust. They will do more business, give referrals and act as brand advocates for people who think of them and look for opportunities for them to expand their networks, refer business and give them information, as well as support that will help them be more successful. This process demonstrates that you have value and that you value the relationship with your contact. If you don’t give and provide value, you have no value yourself. This often happens when the individual is focused on themselves vs the other person. Leverage the power of LinkedIn to communicate with new networking contacts and use the platform to make introductions and share business growth strategies.

What not to do when networking – some simple rules:

  1. Never hard sell.
  2. Build relationships first before asking for business.
  3. Ask for referrals only after you have built trust.
  4. Never set up a meeting just to have a one on one session to present a sales pitch.
  5. Don’t focus on collecting business cards just to reach a goal.
  6. Never follow up by phone or email with a sales pitch.
  7. Don’t lead or start conversations with a list of your services.
  8. Don’t ask, immediately, who are you using for (insert your industry or profession)
  9. Don’t ask probing questions just to qualify people.
  10. Don’t use an elevator speech as a sales pitch.

What to do if you encounter Ned Ryerson or a hard seller? They are persistent so you have to hold your ground. It may be a challenge because most people are not seeking conflict. Start with this:

Ask them a personal question. If they don’t answer, ask it again.

Tell them that you are here to get to know people and find out who has the personality to work with you and your clients or customers.

Do your best to extricate yourself from the conversation and move on. Warn your friends and if possible, work with group leaders to discuss the group’s culture and approach and that hard selling is frowned upon.

In a perfect world wouldn’t we all like to do what Bill Murray does to Ned Ryerson?

See the video below:

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) and Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day.

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) and Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day (click for video).

Of course we can’t do this but we can fight back and let people know the importance of building a relationship with you and let them know who you are, why you do what you do and finally what you do.

Your reputation matters. Being known as a hard seller is a quick way to destroy your reputation in a group or online. Build relationships and you will gain value in many ways. By taking this approach your investment will be rewarded with referrals, recommendations, introductions, new business and interesting opportunities.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

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