Using events to promote what you do

Chantal

Do you use events to promote your business? You probably go to networking meetings, to connect with new prospects, but have you thought where else you can go, or what else you can do?

Attending workshops. If you’re attending a workshop as a delegate, you can also use it as a networking opportunity. There will be other business people there and some of them could be potential clients or suppliers. I’ve been to business workshops on a weekday, where people have turned up looking like they’re just going to the shops on a Saturday morning. Not quite the impression you want to give other people, so make sure you make an effort.

Running workshops. Do you run workshops to demonstrate your skills and experience? If you provide a service, delivering a workshop is a great way to show people what you do and how good you are. Use the time to give away advice, rather than spending time telling people what you do, and you will build up rapport with your audience. Once they trust you they are more likely to buy from you.

Conferences. Attending a conference is a great way to learn from the speakers. It’s also a great networking opportunity. Some conferences arrange networking sessions in between speeches, so make the most of. Take plenty of business cards and dress like you mean it. If you can, speak to the speakers too, because you never know who they know.

Open days. Moving offices? Launching a new product? Celebrating a success? Through a party or open day and invite everyone you know. Last summer we celebrated our 10th birthday at Appletree with a party. We put a marquee onto the lawn outside the office, wheeled in a hog roast and poured a few glasses of wine. We invited all our clients, past and present, along with lots of our suppliers. It was a great networking event for us and for everyone else who came – lots of business cards changed hands!

Think about what events you can go to or run yourself, to help you promote your business beyond the reaches of networking.

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The importance of interaction

Alice

When you’re dealing with social media, one of the most important things to consider is interaction.

Interaction is when your readers, audience, fans, friends or whatever are compelled to respond to your social networking activities. This will happen when you post up something that is worth commenting on, full of value, beneficial and helpful, entertaining or educational, or even controversial, just begging for a response to counteract it or confirm their approval or agreement with it.

Blogs thrive from comments. Spiders register a comment as new material, so it can enhance a post by making it more attractive to the search engines. It also adds to the conversation because the reader is presented with new ideas and concepts that contribute to the subject matter or interest factor. Ideally posts should be written to encourage a comment, or contain a call to action to remind readers to leave feedback or their point of view.

Facebook works on interaction, as every time you post on your profile, or ideally on someone else’s profile as a comment to their status update, Facebook sees this interaction and clocks it as a match. The more interaction you have with your Facebook friends, the more likely you are going to see your posts or blog feeds on their profiles. If you don’t partake in lots of interaction on social networking sites, it’s not only the search engines that deem you to be inactive, its the social networking robots as well, which can be detrimental if you want to create interaction to help promote yourself or your business.

Twitter is the master of interaction, of course! It is all about interacting with your fellow Twitterers, chatting, commenting, retweeting, sharing in real time – generally forming relationships with your followers as you interact and find out what they are doing. Really this is not a place to be doing business in the old sense of the word, it’s about communicating and making friends, networking by being sociable, asking after their health, family or latest event, having a giggle over a piece of news or notification from elsewhere, exchanging information about each other as if you were face to face and not separated by the web in between two computers. It is a place to find out information, learn from a blog feed, gain trust and credibility by giving and sharing, having a conversation with real people who respond readily – in other words, interacting.

Using social networking sites, and also social bookmarking sites, needs commitment to fine-tune your interaction with your followers and friends. It’s no good having a fantastic blast one day, and then forgetting to continue for the next few days. Even if your followers forgive you, the search engines and social networking sites won’t. Robots don’t understand like humans do, and they see inactivity as exactly as what it is, and immediately your ratings go down, you loose those slots on your friends’ profiles, your stats take a plunge and your Twitter streams are dark and empty.

I know it’s hard to keep it up indefinitely, so it’s worth working out a social media diary to help you keep the momentum going. Plan in advance what you are going to say that month, or week if you think short-term, so that there is always information available to use when your inspiration dries up. It’s much easier to provide content, leading onto to some beneficial interaction, if you have a focus, goal or objective towards your social networking activities – get more leads, raise your profile, extend your expertise, collect more fans or ‘likes’, increase your subscription rates, develop your visibility on the net – need I go on?

And above all – it’s so important to have fun!

When you speak, does the room listen?

Chantal

Do you go to networking meetings and leave not remembering what many of other people said they do? Do you go to presentations and stop listening after the first five minutes?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, it’s because the people talking didn’t do enough for you to listen them.

Does the same happen when you speak? Do people forget what you say?

If you answered yes to these two questions, then perhaps it’s time to think about the impact you create when you’re networking and what you say. I’ve seen people start a presentation by telling the audience that they’re nervous and that they’ve never done this before. That just leaves the audience focusing on the nerves of the speaker and not listening to what they say. I meet people at networking meetings who talk and talk about what they do, without telling me anything useful. I stop listening and start wondering how I can get away from them.

So, if you’re nervous, don’t tell the audience, because they probably won’t notice. If you’re really nervous, get some help with speaking in public – Toastmasters International is where I learnt and I recommend it all the time. If you spend networking meetings going on about what you do, without taking a breath, think about how to be concise and what to say to present your business in just a minute – which is only about 120 words.

When you invest time in networking and speaking in public, make sure you get the best return for your investment by making sure that the room listens when you speak.

Why you should add blogging to your marketing mix

Alice

There are many pros and cons to having a blog. Unfortunately, if you mention blogging to the uninitiated, they immediately think of the cons, partly because they don’t know the pros. But in my mind blogging is an essential part of marketing that should be ignored at your peril, as businesses without blogs are seriously isolated in this ever-increasingly online world. So here are some pros and cons so you can make a choice:

The pros of blogging

Having a blog will increase your business’s credibility. Here is a medium that will allow you to express another side of your business, deliver more information that cannot be crammed into your website, somewhere to answer customers questions, and offer solutions and other valuable expertise. It allows you to converse with your customers through their comments, and influence prospective customers who want to learn more about you before they buy.

Blogs will increase your business’s visibility, not only through their pages, but because each new post can be ‘fed’ to other social networking sites, increasing your business’s exposure to a much wider audience than via your website alone. They are notoriously compatible with search engines, who send their spiders hourly to check for new material (since that is what a blog is designed to produce), not to mention their plugins (applications) that enhance the use of search engine optimisation, and proactive use of contextual links to direct traffic to your website and other online promotions.

The cons of blogging

The first thing that puts people off is the thought of constant updating and monitoring. OK, an effective blog is one that is posted in at least three times a week, as this consistent new material is what stimulates the search engines to visit, but if writing new stuff is deemed too difficult, especially when you can’t think of what to say, why not outsource this task to a copywriter, VA or marketing firm?

There are some people who worry about how much blogs are visible on the web, but then all online activities are exposed to ever increasing audiences, especially if they are connected to each other through social networking. The idea of a blog is to promote your business to more potential customers, and having the chance for your readers to immediately respond to your posts, and you returning a reply, is surely a valuable commodity to forming customer relationships?

OK, so it’s not easy to see immediate results, but then all online marketing is long term. Blogs can take up to a year to get ‘noticed’, but this depends on how often you blog (obviously if you post several times a day you will gain a following much faster than if you contribute only once a month). Self-hosted blogs allow extra applications to Google Analytics for monitoring your blog’s performance, but there is an in-built stats system that automatically shows how many times your blog is visited and which posts are more popular.

As you may have gathered I am totally biased towards blogging, because this is ‘my’ subject, and with good reason. This blog has helped promote Appletree to a higher online level, and linking it successfully to social networking has increased its exposure to a much wider audience than before. So, is a blog something you should ignore or participate in?

How would a blog work in the 19th century?

Alice

Blogging is definitely a 21st century phenomenon. So why am I thinking of it in Victorian terms?

Quite some time ago I posted a question on LinkedIn asking how would a Victorian gentleman view blogging. The responses were as varied as they were interesting, some even replying as if they were Victorian gentlemen themselves! Apart from the florid language and lengthy time taken to describe things, it was a good insight to break down blogging into its most basic format, to view it without all the bells and whistles that adorn this platform that could also confuse the true reason why to blog.

The internet was viewed as the telegraph, and therefore a blog is somewhere to publish your news through the telegraph system to reach a much wider gathering than through letter alone. Of course, sending a letter to The Times would certainly reach many readers, and the Victorians were compulsive letter writers (as well as reading them), but a blog could resemble an inclusive Gentleman’s Club through which you could submit your thoughts and musings, ideas and innovations, gripes and grumbles, retorts and responses, to both a private and public audience.

This opportunity to broadcast yourself as a source of authority, where readers will take your opinions as fact, would be much less expensive than writing and printing a series of pamphlets. These might be in danger of not reaching their intended audience, be wasted in their distribution, and be limited in their extent of circulation, and certainly could not enable their recipients to respond immediately through the same medium.

Your letters would reach their recipients much quicker than the usual method of postage, without the initial cost of paper, envelope and a stamp. And if you wanted to change your mind or add more to your message, this could be possible even after distribution. Replies may even be instantaneous, resulting in an immediate response of your own, thus adding to the conversation which could elaborate further on the subject matter.

And it would be worth while reading other gentlemen’s letters on their similar methods of communication, just to keep in the know, monitor what your competitors are doing, and steal a march on other exciting projects by acting first. Every time you reply to these letters, your signature will allow other readers of these missives to find out who you are and read what you have written, thus extending your expertise in the subject and your presence in the community.

And there is also somewhere where you can leave your visiting card for interested persons to access, find out more about you, and even take the opportunity to visit you, either at your Club or in person. You would only have to distribute one visiting card, as it would be able to be seen by a great many more persons than leaving it on the table in a Club or another social meeting place in the hope that it might get noticed.

What other elements of a Victorian business man’s life might be improved if he had this wonderful innovation they call a ‘blog’?

What differences are there between blogging and micro-blogging?

Alice

Blogging and micro-blogging are both forms of social networking. Of course you’ve already sussed that micro-blogging is a shorter version of blogging, and it is, as a more concise, focused version.

Blogging allows you to express yourself in a chatty, conversationalist manner in as many words as you like. How long your posts are is open to contention and depends on what purpose you write your blog for, but I think they should not be over long. Blogs are newsy and should be aimed at your readers who don’t have a lot of time, and are looking for a quick fix to get their information or be entertained with knowledge that is in the ‘now’. (Anything that is over 750 words could be termed as an article, especially if it is extreme in its technical language and the audience it is aimed at, and really should be allocated to online article directories.) Posts can also be controversial, argumentative, opinionated, poignant, show-stopping or thought-provoking. There is room for expression as well as pictures and other media such as videos and audio. They are also archived for researchers and for reference in the future, and posts are shared with your audience through subscription services and RSS to feed them into other social networking profiles or streams.

Micro-blogging is also known as Twitter. (It could also be considered as updating your social status fields in your social networking profiles, or chatting with your friends on msn or other communication methods.) The nature of this activity is that it is short, quick-fire, concise and limited to a small number of characters (Twitter is 140, on other social media it is more). Because you are constrained in what you can say, it is mostly in letter characters, and if you want to expand your thoughts you need to direct your readers through a (usually shortened) link to a blog post or Facebook fanpage or LinkedIn Group or whatever source you like. This is the same for other media such as pictures, video, audio, etc. But the main reason is to share information with an immediate audience as a real-time updating service, revelling in the concept of ‘now’ or otherwise it has gone, catching your audience as it passes through and hoping your contribution is suitable enough for them to share it with their followers.