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Archives for Service Providers

Do you know all the key players (companies) in your industry niche, in your city or region?  If not, you are NOT ready to look for a new job!

Part of “You, Inc.” is knowing your assets (talents, skills, connections and experience).  But another part is knowing which buyers are best for you.

With the Web at your fingertips, there’s no excuse for not knowing each of your potential employers better than you know the attributes of your favorite movie or sports star.  Here are some features of each company you should know… and can find off of the Web (their company website, directories, associations, etc.)

  1. Name and kind of company (Sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S, C or other corporation), and size (number of employees, divisions, or locations).  Where their headquarters is located — and how close you will be to it.  Remember — location, location, location!
  2. Number of employees, and what the name of your relevant department(s) would be.
  3. Key customers (Find in directories or association membership listings)
  4. Where the hub of your industry is.  Entertainment is not centered in Sante Fe, New Mexico — but the art world is!
  5. Key products and services … and where the money comes from!  Follow the money!  The departments that have the greatest impact on revenue get the most attention, resources and often, highest salaries.  Money talks in business.
  6. Job requirements.  Search for job descriptions on job websites to get a prioritized list of qualification they will look for.  Know how each term is defined, and relate it to your own training and experience.  Tell your story of qualification, successful experiences and networks that can help get the job done.
  7. Who do you know who works for the company?  Call, email or text them for insights about the company, industry trends, and the job or department.  Recognize that one personal opinion isn’t always complete or accurate.
  8. Check social media for relevant conversations about the industry and the company.  But DON’T make derogatory or inappropriate comments.  (And check your own social media postings and clean them up as much as possible.)  
  9. Visit a trade show booth or other public exhibit and check out the literature.  Annual reports tell a lot about the inner workings of a company.  Read it for at least two years, if possible.  Annual reports for public companies listed in the stock market are often posted on their website or linked to from Finance.Yahoo.com
  10. Drive by all the facilities within driving distance — check out their look and feel.  Are they clean or unkempt?  Are their parking lots full or sparsely filled. Are they heavily armoured against crime, or open to the public?  You can tell a lot about a person (or company) by how they dress!

Getting to know the best companies in your niche can mean up to millions of dollars over a lifetime of work — so it is important to know where the best companies are, who their key people are, their trends and best products.  It’s like getting to know a person with many fascinating personality traits!  Have fun, but open your eyes to the attributes that matter most!

Bob Bly is a long time writer about marketing and sales copy, and it was interesting to see his latest article in “Target Marketing” about how long different kinds of marketing copy needs to be to get productive results.

Several firms researched the optimal length for the following communications forms:

Type of document Length Results
Blog Post 1,500 words SEO results
Podcast 22 minutes / 2200 words
Blog posts (research by SEOMoz) 1800-3000 words Attracts over 15x more inbound links
Blog posts (research by HubSpot) 2500 words Get more shares on social media
Web pages 500+ min. words
2,000 words
Rank higher in search engines
Article length/Web (research by serpIQ) 2,000 words or longer Highest ranked on Google search engine
Whitepapers (Gordon Graham) 6-8 pages Effectiveness and readership
Press release 400-1000 words
Google AdWords advertisement 85 characters

There has been a long term argument between sales and marketing teams and graphic design teams because more words are harder to design in pleasing ways.  I know because I’m both a designer and writer!  But results speak for themselves.  People who are truly wanting to buy your product or service want the FULL story, not just teasers or headlines and beautiful colors.  They want to know the features, the value, the benefits to them and their companies.  And they will take the time to read the details if they want to buy.

So the question — the elephant in the room — becomes, WHO do you want to read your copy:  serious buyers or browsers?

This is not to downplay the role of design in communication tools — but to change the focus from downplaying the copy, to arranging and highlighting it for easy, productive reading. And design can also lead the eye in a logical fashion to get the facts, evaluate them, and ask for action:  either a free trial or an outright purchase with full understanding of the risks and the guarantees and service that will accompany the purchase.  And the results they can expect!

We’re facing a brave new world in marketing communications every month, it seems, and new tools, new channels, etc. keep us challenged.  But the consistent factor in the mix is our brain!  We absorb information in very specific ways, and we make decisions in very specific ways — so it is important for marketing and design professionals to work together to create the message and deliver it in a way that our brains work.  We love words!  And we love color!  And we appreciate great design that gives us value and results!

Carolyn Allen
CEO of SureToMeet, experienced in marketing communication including writing, editing and design.

Business cards have been part of business forever. But, the Internet finally has applications that reduce the need for business cards.

Laurie Percival mentioned that while at the SXSW conference she used Contxts, a new SMS-based service that shares business card information with someone by just sending their mobile phone number to an SMS “short code.”

There are many times when you don’t have business cards to give to a new acquaintance. You might be at a conference and run out. Or, you might be at such a casual location that your business cards aren’t handy. Both seem to occur a lot at SXSW!

There are two ways to use Contxts. One way is to send your contact’s mobile phone number to Contxts and they will send your business card information to your contact’s mobile phone. Or, your contact can text your user ID to Contxts at 50500 and retrieve your business card data via SMS.

One of the extra benefits of Contxts is that you can list all of your favorite social media addresses in your profile, which you couldn’t include on a paper business card.

Contxts won’t replace paper business cards, but as they add features it should reduce the keying of new contacts into a contact manager.

Organizations and groups face a big challenge today putting on events for their members. While the cost of events is rising, members are becoming more cost conscious.

This means organizations need to not only manage their costs for events, but also ensure that registration fees will cover their costs.

For organizations that have been collecting registration fees at their events, the number of “no shows” can result in costs exceeding revenues.

Event organizers know that the number of people who RSVP to an event can be very different from the number who actually attend the event. This is especially true for events that don’t require a registration fee to be paid online prior to the event.

For the business networking events I help organize we found that a significant number of the “Yes” RSVPs don’t attend. Fortunately, our events are free, which means we don’t have a financial obligation to meet.
However, most organizations have significant costs to host their events. So, many organizations are moving to online event registration to:

  • Motivate members to pre-pay by discounting online registration prices
  • Ensure a minimum number of attendees by the people who paid for event registration online
  • Reduce the staff needed at the event’s registration area

Most online event registration systems handle the basic needs:

  • Sell any number of registrations
  • Accept credit cards for payment

While it may appear that a traditional online shopping cart can handle event registrations, additional features are needed for an effective online event registration system.

Here are the most used features SureToMeet provided in our first generation online event registration system. (Note: we’ve transitioned to providing a patented business networking service) :

  • Display event description pages within the organization’s existing Web site.
  • Send e-mail invitations to a mailing list on predetermined schedule.
  • Obtain the name of every attendee and the registration type (e.g., member, guest, student) that was purchased for them.
  • Offer “early bird” price discounts that reward attendees for paying their event registration online.
  • Offer certain types of registrations to specific groups of people (i.e., member discounts only to members, etc.),
  • Limit the number of each type of registration that can be sold online to encourage early purchase.
  • Customize the online registration form to ask questions specific to the event.
  • Accept attendee referrals of new people, which are added to the organization’s mailing list.
  • Create an online community of attendees prior to an event so people know who will attend.
  • Download online registrations for printing nametags prior to the event.
  • Automatically update online content with links to the organization’s upcoming events.
  • Sell organization memberships online.
  • Receive online registration payments without the cost of bank credit card merchant account fees.

When an organization uses these and other features of an online event registration system attendees feel the event is more enjoyable and beneficial — starting with the online registration through the entire event.

This gives attendees a greater sense of quality for both the event and the organization. And, the online event registration system helps manage revenue to ensure that the event will be beneficial to the organization, too.

Keith Johnston of OnSite Events posted a reminder that every attendee can benefit from by spending time and money to attend meetings and events.

Events are no longer simply a conference, tradeshow, meeting or party. They are an investment with return expectations.

There are many ways to determine the return on investment, but eventually the cost of attending business meetings and events needs to translate into a financial benefit to the organizations that paid for their employees to attend.

One challenging part of estimating the ROI of sending people to big events is the time delay between expenditure and return. It can take months or years for new contacts to become customers. And, it’s hard to determine the benefit what was learned from the speakers.

One approach is to have employees write a “trip report” that details the contacts they saw and the things they learned. Over time, these trip reports can be compared to the benefits from building relationships with those contacts and implementing what was learned.

It seems that after attending a meeting or event, we come away feeling that there was more benefit in the networking than the presentations.

Every conference organizer tries their best to make every speaker relevant and beneficial for the audience, but frequently it just doesn’t turn out that way. I’ve been on plenty of conference planning committees – and have presented at lots of conferences and monthly meetings – so I’ve experienced the frustration from both sides.

The authors of We Have Always Done It That Way feel the same way:

Ask any conference attendee where the value is and you will most likely here, “in the hallways” or “at the social functions”. Why? Because this is the place where real-time business issues can be addressed.

They have some good ideas for helping attendees solve current problems by using the Web to improve networking before, during, and after a conference or event. They also have some good ideas on how to learn about attendee needs so speakers can present more of what the audience is looking for.

For us in event promotion, improving the benefits of an event gives us more to tell prospective attendees – and improves the likelihood that those who attend will come again in the future.

You can network at practically any event or activity, but a few types of events produce the best business networking results.

Events that are promoted as “networking” generally make it easy to meet a large number of people quickly, but they don’t necessarily have the structure to help you create ongoing relationships.

This means that in addition to attending pure business networking events, consider joining organizations and groups compatible with your networking objectives.
Here are a few types of organizations that have events where you can meet other like-minded members:

To find these organizations in your area check out these resources:

Here are organizations that are focused on business networking as their main activity and have networking events throughout the country:

Once you find a few local groups and organizations to join, be sure to volunteer for committees that can use your skills. Working with key committees within an organization gives you an opportunity to develop ongoing relationships. It also gives other members an opportunity to see the quality of your work, which can lead to them including you in business-related projects and activities.

While networking at business-related groups produces great results, also be open to networking opportunities at your more casual and fun groups. In addition, it’s great to volunteer at civic and social services organizations.

Here are Web sites that can help you find volunteer opportunities at non-profit organizations:

Whether you join business, civic, social services groups – or a casual group of people who share your interests – you’ll find that getting involved in groups will give you plenty of good networking opportunities.

Business cards are the currency of exchange at business networking events. Many people feel they’ve had a successful business networking experience if they’ve collected a lot of business cards — and have given their card to many people.

If business networking were that simple, we would all be tremendously successful!
The best reason to exchange business cards at a networking event is when two people feel there is enough of a connection that it’s worthwhile staying in contact.

While it’s a great to exchange business cards, the key question is whether they can look at your card a few days or weeks later and know why they should call you. If your business card doesn’t answer this question then you may never hear from that person again.

There are several types of information on business cards that can tell what you do and why your contact should call you:

Probably the hardest of these to create–yet the most effective–is a positioning statement slogan that includes two items. First, it identifies the type of customers or clients you serve. Second, it either describes the products or services you provide, or it describes the benefits your customers receive.
Here are examples of positioning slogans for various types of companies to get you started:

  • Providing accounting services to growing entrepreneurs
  • Precision drilling equipment for the aircraft industry
  • Swimming pools for fun and exercise
  • Lamps and shades that light modern homes
  • Community calendar for your events and meetings
  • Turning events into networking experiences

Take a look at your business card and make sure it tells people not only how to contact you, but why they should contact you.