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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!

Web technology makes it very easy to quickly communicate with so many people that it’s easy to forget the overriding purpose of creating a powerful web site.

It’s cool to be able to interact with customers who come to a web site. We can share a great deal of information, gather more profile data than we think we can use, and provide an entertaining, informative, and educational environment.

It’s so cool that we sometimes lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish with this technology. Sure, we want to sell products with e-commerce or generate leads for salespeople.

But how does this impact the audience? I mean, really impact them.

Many people involved in Internet marketing feel that they’re helping members of their audience improve their lives through the information and products provided on the web.

Some time back a series of TV spots ran for iVillage. They talked about women with real problems finding real help from people like themselves. Because many ailments are shared by very small groups of people, these groups are so small that local support organizations aren’t always available to help. The Internet provides access to those communities of people who share common interests and needs, and are willing to help.

Speaking of TV commercials, another company is advancing the concept of one-to-one marketing and mass customization. Xerox periodically runs a campaign with the theme, “keep the conversation going.” This campaign shows that providing personalized information to customers appeals to people – on paper, of course. Xerox makes a good case that profile data can be used to personalize more than just web sites and e-mails.

Influence Decisions

But all of these – from communities of like-minded people to personalized web, e-mail, social media, and, yes, paper-based communications – are done for one reason, and that’s to influence decisions.

Communication is a give and take. Whether it’s an online community where people share their experiences or an e-commerce site where merchants provide products (and get paid). We communicate when we want to influence those around us to be like us, respect us, and sometimes buy from us.

Internet Interaction

But how do we actually use the web to provide the kind of interaction that touches people and influences their decisions? The slogan used in the Xerox TV commercial has the answer: Keep the conversation going.

The conversation we use in everyday life is also aimed at influencing the decisions people around us make. We know that we need to speak the language of the person we’re trying to communicate with and understand what they’re feeling.

Have you watched a couple of Internet techies talk to each other? At first they ask a few questions to learn about the other person’s experience level and background. Then they shift into a very different level of talking that uses a language of their own, sometimes called “technospeak” (and sometimes called “technobabble”). They don’t care if the non-technical people around them don’t understand their TLAs (three letter acronyms), because those conversation shortcuts help them communicate better.

Building Relationships with Conversation

They can quickly form a bond of trust and understanding that frequently allows them to learn from each other. That respect can lead to learning something new that influences their decisions.

So how can we use conversational techniques on the web to influence visitors? Portions of the Xerox web site are written in a conversational style, but there’s more to making a site conversational than the style of writing.

A truly conversational site learns about visitors, saves that information in profiles, and then uses that knowledge to react to different interests.

Here’s a quick test to see if your web site is conversational:

  • Does the site ask questions aimed at learning about each person?
  • Can the site determine if someone is just starting to learn about products like yours or has researched the market and is about to make a purchase decision?
  • Does the text on the site change to match the interest and knowledge level of the visitor?

These are just a few of the ways that profiles about people can be used to make a Web site more conversational, but the real focus should be on getting in step with each visitor and matching what the site says with what people are thinking and feeling. The art of conversation is taught in books, classes, and seminars, so there is a procedure for doing it. Why not use the same procedure on the Web?

Intuitive navigation and great design help people find the right document. But taking advantage of meaningful profile data allows dynamic Web and e-mail to make an impact on members of the target market and influence their purchase decisions

Cliff Allen, cofounder of SureToMeet, president of Coravue

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