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7 Steps to Successful Business Networking Online

 

 

 

Guest Post by Shannon Miller

 

Business Networking

 

Struggling with online business networking and don’t know where to start?

 

 

Its funny how a “simple” thing, such as having a conversation, causes anxiety. Yes, that tightening in your throat, or that sinking feeling in your stomach. Or maybe sweaty palms and a feeling of overwhelm? It’s not new, it’s not novel but it’s there!

 

Pinpointing the fear is the first step in building better relationships and networking more successfully.

 

So how do you overcome that feeling? How do you find a place of ease with this idea of diving into online communities? I view the online space the same way I view the in-person space. If you would have a conversation with someone in real life, why wouldn’t you connect with them online?

 

My approach to networking is simple, I don’t network. Instead, I create genuine connections and build a real relationship. The way I handle relationships in-person or online is very similar. The first contact online is usually in social media. If I’ve found someone who has similar interests, values and ideas, I do a little research. I find out more about where they socialize online, whether it’s Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I go to the places they frequent.

 

The most important factor in any online connection though, and something many people don’t consider, is… do I like this person? Is this someone I want to do business with, have a relationship with and who I would like to spend more time with long-term?

 

Building relationships is often compared to dating, where you want to make the best possible first impression with someone. Online it is much more difficult. Trust online is built over time, just as in-person it is important to always be looking for consistency of messaging and whether the things this person says in social media aligns with the things you value most.

 

Networking for networking’s sake is dull and quite painful.

 

Building relationships and having conversations, on the other hand, is way more fun!

 

It’s all a matter of perspective! You can see it as a joy, OR a painful task. I like to think the opportunities that will come out of building genuine relationships will last for years to come.

 

Let’s break it down to actionable steps that will help you find YOUR group of people online

 

1.  Be intentional: Understand WHY you are looking for people to network with, and WHO you are looking for, and WHAT you want to talk about before you ever meet them.

  • Be specific about the kinds of people you are seeking to build relationships with. My guess is they’re very similar to you, like many of the same things, have the same values and lifestyle.
  • Where would you go online to meet “your people?”

 

2. Do a little research: Understand your potential people before you engage with them.

  • Look them up on LinkedIn and other social media platforms
  • Get to know their interests outside the business setting by exploring their website and social media.

 

3. Find something in common: Perhaps you both went to the same university, or both live near the same city, or maybe you both love running and dogs?

  • Incorporate your common interest/hobby into your message to them as a way to build connection.
  • Ask questions about them, be curious, people love nothing more than to talk about themselves!

 

4. Message them: This is where most people stall out of fear of rejection.

 

  • You’re already armed with knowledge and background on them that you can use as an automatic touch point.
  • Perhaps you want to do business with them, you love a service they provide or their mission statement aligns with the things you value.
  • When you message them, keep your message conversational, be you. What’s the worst that could happen

 

5. Offer value: In your message, include something that you can give them or do for them that they will feel is helpful or valuable.

  • Connect them with someone in your network.
  • Find a great article or resource you can share.
  • Make it personal. For example, you know of the best running trail in your area and you want to share it with them because they love running as much as you do and would appreciate your tip.

 

6. Give them a reason to stay in touch: When building a relationship, just like when building a business, look ahead to the direction you’d like the relationship to go.

  • You’ve connected with this person for a reason, you like them, they like you, make sure you have something else you can offer them of value, whether it’s time, common interests, a meet-up group, etc.
  • What can you give that would keep them interested in getting to know you? Give them something they’d be silly to refuse.

 

 

7. Follow up and say thank you: Common courtesy will never go out of style.

  • Follow up on your email, phone call or online exchange within a few days, usually no more than 3-5 days
  • Dig a little deeper into this person’s passions and interests, share more about yourself and what drives you. Be interesting and interested. They will tell you something in their message that sparks an idea for you as to how you can connect more deeply.
  • Send a handwritten note. Most of the time you can search on their website and find a business address to send a hand-written note that is thoughtful and shows you care.

 

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to connecting with someone. Networking can be as easy or as hard as we choose to make it. If you’re genuine, want to help people and can offer value in your conversations, people will take notice. Sometimes the people you want to meet are outside your network, but that doesn’t matter – simply start with people you have in common! Work laterally until you can connect directly with the people and influencers that you seek. Kindness, genuine caring and respect are always appreciated, and that’s all it may take to spark a new business relationship, that often turns into genuine friendship later.

 

business networking

 

 

About the Author: Shannon is the founder of Powerful Purpose Coaching, and can be found at www.powerfulpurposecoaching.com. She helps people engage their “WHY” to change the world!

 

 

 


9 Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur

9_Traits_Successful_Entrepreneur

 

After nearly 30 years of being employed by someone, I took the entrepreneurial leap “officially” 6 months ago, although I had started working on the stand-up for almost 2 years (while working simultaneously for a good portion of that time). I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to stand up my own company – I researched in advance, gathered my thoughts, gathered information and met with some really smart people. Every day I learn – from my own mistakes and successes, as well as what others’ have been willing to share with me. Through this entrepreneurial journey, I offer what I’ve boiled down to 9 key personality traits, talents and mindsets essential to being a successful entrepreneur:

  1. You are profit-oriented and aware of bottom-line impacts

You’re in business to make a profit, so you have to know your numbers to know if you are profiting or losing money at any given time.

  1. You clearly understand, influence, and build authentic relationships with others

All successful businesses have networks that often help entrepreneurs access resources (think people, partnerships, opportunities, etc.) they might not otherwise have access to, but they are smart enough to utilize these resources in a way that is mutually beneficial, not just one-sided.

  1. You take initiative, have conviction in your abilities, and are incredibly action-oriented

While planning is huge, achieving any good plan requires solid actions and the belief in your ability to overcome obstacles along the way

  1. You are comfortable with the unknown

You are constantly thinking of new ways to create solutions for your new or existing customers, and can look beyond the present and imagine your company’s future state in 5, 10 and even 15 years from now.

  1. You know how to systematize and delegate

You know how to work ON the business, not just IN the business. You are too busy growing your business to tend to repetitive tasks, and know how to systematize these repetitive actions so that you can comfortably delegate them to others on your team.

  1. You have the ability to quickly recover from obstacles and setbacks

Everyone has setbacks now and then, but as an entrepreneur, you have the ability to keep going – even when the going gets tough.

  1. You have an ongoing thirst for knowledge that is never fully quenched

You absorb and archive new knowledge, always thinking about how it could help your business and your customers, or new customers so that you can pivot into new ideas that make sense, but are smart enough to know not to pivot on EVERY new idea.

  1. You understand that you don’t know everything, and never will

You take calculated risks based on the information you have, and sometimes that information isn’t enough. You recognize that, and seek out those that have the knowledge or information you need.

  1. You have a reflective mindset

You understand the importance of reflecting on what happened, good and bad, and how you could approach things differently in the future. You also understand the need to step away from it all to relax, renew, meditate and energize to move on.

 

If you liked this, you may also like to check out my free marketing guide to help hone in on who your ideal customer really is!

 


Does a Decision Making Process Really Work?

A Good Decision Making Process isn't as easy as you think

A Good Decision Making Process isn’t as easy as you think

How do you convert expert, often conflicting, opinions into useful insights?

How do you foster efficient group decision-making in an effective manner?

How do you learn from past decisions (those made by you, and by others)?

Executives rate the ability to make decisions as the single most important of all business skills, yet few have the training needed to make good decisions consistently. Decisions are often made lacking complete information, in less time than needed, and with little to no skill beyond intuition simple logic applied.

With dynamic business environments and information overload being the new “normal”, the old-fashioned way of making decisions intuitively is no longer a viable business option. Decisions by status quo, intuition, or simple logic, are not enough to achieve optimal results. Why doesn’t intuition work? Well, it might if you’re simply trying to decide on a non-complex problem, such as what time to hold a meeting, but for more complex problems that require several areas of consideration (such as cost, timeliness, personnel resource skills and/or availability, etc.), a decision making process is necessary.

The skill of effective decision-making is often assumed to be within any decision-maker, but it is not as easy as you might think. To learn from your decisions, a process will help you understand what went right, what went wrong, and allow for iterative improvements based on the decision outcome and assessment of the actual decision inputs. If your primary means of decision making is through meetings with a Bunch Of Guys/Gals Sitting Around a Table (BOGSAT), making consensus-based, intuitive decisions, you will never have decision accountability, or the ability to go back and assess what went right / wrong with the decision. Not having the ability to assess the decision approach and components leaves you with making the same mistakes over and over – never having the opportunity to improve on your decision-approach, and ultimately on your decision results.

Speaking of decision outcomes, do you know what the true result of your decision was? For example, if you decided to allow a $3 Million purchase of IT equipment to perform a specific function or task, do you know if that task performed as expected? Do you know if the exact $3 Million was spent, and how? Was it enough, or too much? You’ll likely only hear back if the $3 Million wasn’t enough, and you’ll likely hear only the highest level of “yes, it worked”, or perhaps “It did was we wanted, congratulations”. But HOW much is it doing what you wanted, and was that $3 Million spent, spent in a way that optimized your achievement overall? How do you know when an implementation is “good enough” if you haven’t defined – upfront and concisely – your expectations of the outcome in the first place?

If you don’t have complete strategic alignment, then you don’t have the understanding of 1) What your organization is ultimately trying to achieve and 2) How, specifically, you are going to get there. You should be able to trace every single resource (person, piece of equipment, money, etc.) used to achieve any given strategic objective. It doesn’t matter if you are an organization operating within “agile” execution methods, or under the old-school Project Management Framework (which are really one in the same, both call for iteration – but I won’t dive into that in this article), you should know exactly how you’re spending your money and what results you are both expecting, and actually getting from those expenses. Not only should you IF you are or are not achieving the expected results, but you should know by how much. Yes, that’s right. Even the intangibles can be translated into quantifiable – but meaningful – measures with some thought. In fact, for many organizations the intangibles are more important than the tangibles – achieving the intangibles are what drive positive tangible results (such as profits).

There is a lot that goes into decision making, and a lot of it ties into prioritization and execution, if you want to look at the big picture. The big picture (strategy) has to be clearly understand in enough detail, with enough clarity to be able to give to people to know and understand concisely enough how to implement the decision. This, of course, goes beyond just the skill of decision making itself. Once the decision is made, you must be prepared to properly communicate it, or the decision will render itself useless – almost like it never even happened.

Let’s face it – anyone can make a decision. But those who can make a GOOD decision are those that understand all the inputs of that decision, the upfront expectation of that decision, how – specifically – that decision will impact the overall strategy, how that decision will be communicated, and ultimately – how that decision will be implemented and achieved.

Stay tuned for more information relating to solid decision making practices in the coming weeks! You can check us out on Facebook, too!

 


How To Get Valuable Content To Your Facebook Fans

Before Facebook Ads came along, it was relatively easy to get your valuable information seen, so that your fans and customers would see the information you put so much time and energy into producing for them – and at no cost. Fast forward to April 2012, when Facebook stated that organic (unpaid) reach to your fans was around 16%. That means that only 16 out of every 100 fans you have, would actually see your content in their newsfeed. Unfortunately, the most recent numbers are looking even lower – that organic reach is now down to roughly 6% according to a study by social@Oglivey. Only 6 out of every 100 fans will actually see your valuable content. Ouch.

Before you get frustrated, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and relax. Luckily, there are avenues that can be paired with your content to help people see the valuable information you are putting out. This is often improved when you tie multiple social media platforms together – or take it a step further and tie all platforms together (even traditional ones, such as newspaper ads, bulletins, flyers, etc.). The key is to have a goal, and then you can devise a plan that helps you achieve that goal, using Facebook and other social media platforms together, in a precise and well-planned way, will help you generate reach across all of your platforms – not just Facebook.

What do I mean, exactly? Well, with a robust plan, you determine what your goal is for each post, and synergize across platforms. If you want more Facebook fans to like your page, for example, then perhaps post a questionnaire contest on your blog that requires your blog readers to post their responses to your Facebook page. Or perhaps hold a Pinterest contest that requires readers to grab images from your Instagram account and post to your Facebook Page. And of course, use your email list to alert your email fans to your contest or questionnaire and send them to your Facebook page, blog, or wherever you need to send them to achieve your goal.

Another option, of course, is to pay for more reach. Relatively speaking, Facebook Ads, when targeted properly, are inexpensive, and the reach is amazing when you truly know your target market – and you have something of value that truly attracts your target audience. Don’t discount using Facebook Ads as a means to gain new followers! Just know that, like everything else, to be successful, you need to know what it is you are trying to achieve, and then reverse engineer your plan to get there!

Do you use social media with a plan, currently, or do you grab topics by the whim and just go with it? I’d love to hear what works for you – comment below and share your stories!