Friday, June 22, 2007

Networking: It's a must for everyone

One of the best sites I can think of for small businesses is It contains a wealth of articles on how to grow and develop your business and if you haven't yet read the variety of informative articles, you should do this right away. It's truly an invaluable resource. One columnist in particular caught my attention when I was doing some research on business networking. His name is Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder and chairman of BNI, the world's largest networking organization. Even more impressive is the notion that he is the world's leading expert on business networking. Furthermore, he has published a couple of books that certainly are useful for polishing up on one's skills.

So here I give you a summary of the articles I read by him. If you're interested in reading these in detail, visit the networking articles archive on the website.

Most people in the business world realize how important networking is when it comes to getting referrals and growing their business. Yet, there is a lot more to networking than simply showing up to events and passing out your card. Networking, in its entirety, is about building relationships of trust and credibility. If you just focus on getting referrals, you will miss out on the big picture: keeping your business growing and profitable in the long-term.

Before you even get to the event though, you need to do your homework. Target events where there will be a variety of people who aren't like you, as this develops a wide range of prospects. Set a goal of what you want to achieve at the event and how many people you want to talk to. Make sure you know what you're going to say ahead of time about your business. Try to be as specific as possible about what your business does, and talk about one product or service as to not overwhelm or bore people. Develop well thought out presentations that will help keep you and your company memorable. Lastly, have your "tools" with you. These are things like an informative name badge, business cards, and brochures.

When you go to networking events, you need to let the best of your personality shine through. It doesn't matter if you are outgoing or shy, it just means keeping a positive attitude, showing enthusiasm, staying motivated, having good listening skills, showing gratitude, and being sincere when handling business relations. To maximize your time, act like a host instead of a guest. Introduce yourself to people and then introduce him or her to someone else. Spend ten minutes or less with each person, and write notes on the back of their business card to help remember them. Ask genuine questions like "What business are you in?" and "How did you get into your business?" Most importantly, don't try to sell your service or product. Remember, networking is about building relationships, and the selling will come later.

After each event, organize and file away the business cards you received. You want to prioritize, organize, and do follow-up. Separate your cards into the people you definitely want to contact, the people you might contact, and the people you don't want to contact. Write out a schedule and set goals of how you are going to follow-up with the people you want to contact. Set aside daily some time to contact one person and follow-up with them at least three weeks after.

Remember to always treat prospects as your best client. Be genuine and truthful about what you can offer them and really take the time to see if they would be a right fit for you, and if your company is a right fit for them.

However hectic our work and social lives may be, we need to remember that old school techniques like promoting your business through word of mouth are certainly a fundamental part of growing a business. People buy from YOU and without first establishing a relationship with them, you become quite simply, another faceless name in the competitive game of business.

Laura Schutz

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Back in the late 50s a hit song called "Personality" was recorded by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Lloyd Price. The lyrics went something like this: "My friends say I'm a fool / But over and over / I'll be a fool for you/ `cause you got PERSONALITY." It has endured over the years - because it's a catchy tune with a straightforward message - and as a result, even people like me who were not around when it first came out have heard it. Price must have believed in his lyrics too, because in recent years he created a line of food products, the slogan for which is "Great Taste and Good Personality."

Can a line of food products have a personality? Of course it can, and so can the company that manufactures it.

The trouble today is that lots of businesses don't give a second thought to their personalities. They can hire the best copy writers and graphic designers in the world, but if those creative geniuses don't grasp and advance the company's personality, potential clients will never see it shining through.

Many businesses seem to confuse personality with branding. Branding is something that identifies. The original meaning of the word "brand" indicated ownership, such as was documented by burning the hide of an animal with a hot iron. Hot irons aside, that is pretty much how branding works today. When you go into a bookstore and see an orange spine, you know it is a Penguin title. Likewise, you can recognize a red and white Campbell's Soup can from a mile away. Campbell's could put out a new soup concoction daily, but it would still be Campbell's, and as such, consumers would still bring to the new creation whatever assumptions they've made about Campbell's soups in the past. Branding works, as researchers have so unanimously pointed out, because the human brain responds better to well-recognized objects-for the simple reason that less brain activity is required.

Personality can be present in a brand, but it is not the same as branding. Personality is what's behind the branding, the essence of a company or business, what makes it tick. For example, take a look at Anheuser Busch. They are a company that sincerely believes enjoying work is an important part of life. If you go to the website you'll see images of people at work, all of them enjoying it. If Anheuser Busch were a person, he (and surely it would be a male) would be a typical middle-class American guy. He might enjoy sports or getting together with his buddies for a couple of beers on a Friday night, but he's also a family man, someone who is community minded. He's a stand-up kind of guy too, someone who is there when you need him. He's the kind of guy who enjoys beauty and harmony, of the sort exemplified in the Budweiser Clydesdales. Who can blame him? Anheuser Busch has personality and they know how to use it; their marketing is nothing short of ingenious.

Just as we bring a set of assumptions to a can of Campbell's, we often make blanket generalizations about what kind of personality we think a type of business might have. We may assume that the personality of a used car dealership, for example, is likely to be calculating, manipulative and crafty. Of course there are plenty of used car dealerships that don't share those personality traits at all. But if they don't let their real personalities shine through, no one will know it.
In fact, for those of us who work in industries that often take a bad rap, displaying a company personality that runs against the grain of the anticipated one provides great opportunity to gain an edge over the competition. It's like opening a can of Campbell's only to find that it is full of chocolate. All assumptions about Campbell's go right down the drain. We see this happen all the time in the world of advertising. People assume that ad agencies are slick, aggressive firms that keep their focus on the bottom line. So when they find one that's as down to earth and sincere as the girl next door, they're knocked for a loop.
Businesses don't necessarily create their personalities; it's just who they happen to be. But smart businesses with good personalities use them to their advantage. They let their personalities shine through in the way they treat their clients and their employees, in what kind of information they provide on their websites, in the decor they use in their offices ... everywhere they can.

In the end it's the people behind a company that generate its personality. Their collective personalities shine through as one. When that collective personality is a good one, it can be irresistible, no matter what they're trying to sell. Likewise, if their collective personality is ...well...blah, they can be giving away their product for free, and they still won't be able to compete with their more spirited counterparts.

Summer, with its inherent vacations and scattering of three-day weekends, is a great time to think about your company's personality. There is a reason so many magazines persist in printing personality tests: it always seems to be easier to determine someone else's personality than your own. But if you make the effort to pin down how your company comes across to others, you can use that information to create a marketing campaign that goes beyond branding… because whether you know it or not, you've got personality.

June Bisel, BBG&G Advertising

Online marketing

Lately I've been reading a lot on Search Engine Optimization and marketing your business online. In Heather Frahm's blog "Localized Search: A Threat to SEM" she touches on how Google and other big names are starting to make searching for businesses smarter: by developing "local and personal search capabilities." This allows users to search for businesses within a specific region or by personalized characteristics as opposed to traditional search engines which search primarily by "what" and return results from all over the globe. This is an interesting phenomenon and I think it should be paid very closely attention to. Why? Because if you're a company that has more than one geographical area, you risk losing ranking spots on search engines unless you revamp your SEO strategy.

I wanted to share some tips on this blog that I learned from Heather Frahm as well as Kathleen Packard, owner of KathodeRay, which develops interactive educational experiences and corporate communications. She recently spoke at a seminar in New Paltz about marketing your business online.

First of all, Google looks for certain factors when deciding who is going to receive a top listing on their search page. You want to make sure that whatever keyword your company wants consumers to find you with is listed in your URL, title on your homepage, and your metatag/header. You can find out where your page ranks at

Another important thing you want to look at is your page ranking. This basically means how many links you have on other sites vs. how many links to other sites you have on yours. You want to have more people link to you, bottom line. The best way to do this? Simply ask other companies to do it. Many are willing to.

Some other useful tips for search engine optimization are:

- Make sure every page on your website has your company name, address, and contact information.

- Sign up for mapping services like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and MSN Live Local.

- Get listed in local-specific search engines like, Verizon Superpages, and AOL's City Guide.

- Sign up for local online outlets such as your local town's online newspaper and the local chamber of commerce.

- Look for B2B and/or B2C portals to sign up with that come up as top listings on Google.

Another great way to market your online business is through social networking. Make a blog that is informative and concise. Sign up for Myspace. If you're an author, specialist or notable, sign up for Wiki.

If you have the time and resources, Youtube is a great way to market. According to a study by The Kelsey Group, nearly six in 10 web users (59%) have watched online video ads. Of 296 respondents who had viewed a video ad, 43% said they then clicked on the website.

You can also start a newsletter. Mix promoting your business with interesting articles, facts, and information about things that will be relevant to your readers. Just make sure they are not too long and are entertaining and informative. A good way to build an email database is simply by asking site visitors to give you their email address. You can ask them to sign up for the newsletter or just do a contest and give something away for free.

The last thing I want to touch on is monitoring your reporting. Sign up for Google Analytics and keep track of where your site visitors are coming from, how many pages they are visiting, how many hits your site is getting a day, etc.

Remember the statistic I talked about last time? How 70% of consumers are now looking online for products and services? Remember that when you are deciding how much time to work on SEO and online marketing. Research also shows that local searchers are more READY to buy than broad searchers. Reason enough to make sure your company is working hard to get noticed online.

Laura Schutz An online business community

Last year an idea popped into the heads of the owners of BBG&G Advertising & Public Relations. This idea was, a revolutionary new community website where small businesses have their own mini-website and get promoted to consumers at a drastically lower cost than conventional advertising.

Basically, this site is an online business directory for consumers. But unlike simple online directories, allows businesses to upload their exact business card, write a description of their company and the products or services they offer, as well as upload everything from radio advertisements to graphics and more. June Bisel, partner and co-founder of BBG&G Advertising sums it up best when she says "It's like having your own website manned 24/7 and promoted the way you'd like to have your own site handled."

I think it's about time that small businesses were able to get their name out there easily and without straining their budgets. Have you seen the profiles of the Green Team and Wolfe Plumbing yet? Go look... you'll be able to see first-hand what exactly can do for you.

Here are some interesting statistics as well. Over 70% of consumers research local businesses online and 61% of moms use the internet to find out about new brands and products for their families. So with statistics this high, it's a wonder why a site like didn't come around sooner.

Laura Schutz