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Bowling for Business: How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying

Why networking is a "no-brainer."

This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on September 13, 2010 and in the Biz Press on September 15, 2010.

At 18, I didn’t understand the subtleties of the musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. So I unsuccessfully lobbied our director to produce the far more popular and ever racier show, Grease. As a senior in high school, I related more to the naïve, love-struck Sandy than to the part I begrudgingly landed… matronly secretary Miss Jones. Ironically, I now realize I should have taken notes from my role.

In the climatic show-stopping scene, Brotherhood of Man, lead characters J. Pierrepont Finch and Miss Jones sing about the common business practice of networking by joining groups like the Elks and Shriners. If “How to Succeed” were written today, the lyrics would likely also include references to social networking websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In the two and a half years that I have owned my own advertising agency, I’ve learned one indisputable fact: If you want to succeed in business, YOU HAVE TO TRY. My take on the best use of your time and talent might come as a surprise. As a marketing professional, of course I believe in the power of a well-conceived advertising and public relations’ campaign. But, when it comes to business success, in the real world as well as cyberspace, there is no substitute for networking.

By networking, I mean more than attending mixers or posting status updates on Facebook. Real networking involves investing yourself in the lives of those around you. Only this kind of venture will produce dividends in business as well as life. But don’t take it from me. Some of the best business minds in the world agree:

Jeffrey Gitomer:

How important is networking? If you’re trying to be successful, it’s the difference between mediocre and big.

Dale Carnegie:

You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in your own success.

Keith Ferrazzi:

You don’t just network when you need it. You don’t network just to get something from someone. The goal is not to get from others. It is to give.

Dr. Ivan Misner:

Networking minus follow-through equals a waste of time.

If you are ready to raise the stakes with your business—to really try to succeed—get started networking today. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to get you started creating and contributing to communities, in the real world and online.

For Free—

Check out Free Networking International, which provides information about networking opportunities across the globe. But this organization heavily promotes a $40 course to teach you how to network. So you might be better off heading to the park and striking up a conversation with strangers.

Though some have tried charging for access to community websites in Cyberspace, the best the Internet has to offer is still available to everyone for free. So if budget is a concern, take advantage of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, which allow you to fan, friend and follow folks who share your interests, goals and religious or political leanings. And when you join communities, do so as a thoughtful collaborator instead of as a bombastic broadcaster.

 

On a Limited Budget—

Hire someone to establish and maintain your social networking accounts so you can use your time to attend events in the real world. Make sure you are a fixture at chamber of commerce mixers, community events and networking get-togethers. One group I recommend is BNI, which is the largest business networking organization in the world, offering members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and business referrals on a weekly basis.

 

The Sky’s the Limit—

Don’t just attend networking events. Sponsor them. Take a cue from the Business Press, which hosts the annual Inland Empire’s Largest Mixer as a service to the local business community. This year’s effort is especially intriguing as reporters will conduct and record brief interviews with interested business men and women and provide participants with a flash drive for upload to their websites. By taking an active interest in and providing for the needs of their target market, the BP is building a network that would even make J. Pierrepont Finch and Miss Jones proud.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Clear the Clutter

Clear the Clutter from your Marketing Strategy with Pay Per Click

This column appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on January 10, 2010 and in the Business Press on January 20, 2010.

Cleaning House with Pay Per Click

On the heels of the holiday season, our house looks a bit like a war-torn country. Half-eaten plates of cookies, broken candy canes and stale cinnamon rolls crowd the kitchen counter. Torn tissue paper and abandoned gift bags pepper the living room floor. Opening a cupboard is like preparing for a bomb blast, requiring deft “duck and cover” maneuvers to guard against plastic Del Taco cups and Tupperware that fall like mortar.

The reason for the disarray is simple. We have too much crap. (Sorry for the vernacular. But there is really no other way to describe how much junk my small family somehow manages to accumulate.) Every January, to combat the onslaught, we schedule an informal “Clean up the Crap Day.” We spend hours sorting through our possessions and arranging them into piles to throw away, donate or stow. And whenever we take on the task, I wonder how, in a single calendar year, one family could have possibly made so many trips to Wal-Mart.

After clean up day, we breathe a collective sigh of relief and vow never again to repeat the practice of letting things spiral out of control. We agree to live simply, cut out the clutter and streamline our household so that we won’t have to spend needless energy sifting through excess in order to find what we really need.

In this economy, the same might be necessary for your current advertising strategy. It might be time to clear the crap. And if you’re going to get down to brass tacks, consider implementing one of the best advertising options available today, Pay Per Click.

Also known as Pay Per Ranking, Pay Per Placement, Pay Per Position or Cost Per Click, Pay Per Click (PPC) is an Internet advertising model used on websites, in which advertisers pay their host only when their ad is clicked. When you enter a word or phrase in the search bar using an engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, two different sets of results are returned… organic (or natural) and sponsored (or paid). When I explain this phenomenon to Mountain Marketing Group clients, I’m surprised at how few are aware of these two very different categories.

Organic results are purported to be completely non-biased—meaning that the engine will not accept any amount of money to influence the rankings of an individual site. This is quite the opposite of paid advertising which appears in “sponsored” or “featured” search engine results, in which higher positions are rewarded to the companies willing to pay the most per visitor. You can tell the difference between the two types of search results because sponsored keywords appear in shaded areas just under the search bar and at right.

The nice thing about PPC is that you pay only when a searcher clicks on your listing and connects to your site. By using PPC, you pre-qualify your audience, since they were actively searching for your product or service or they never would have found it in the first place.

For Free—

Although it is not possible to advertise for free using PPC, I have managed campaigns for clients who have set campaign limits at $10, just to see if their keywords generate any activity. When you consider the cost of advertising using other mediums, where you have to pay regardless of the effectiveness of the ad, PPC is a great alternative. There are simply no hidden costs.

On a Budget—

Keywords cost anywhere between .05 per click and several dollars, depending on competition. The most expensive keywords relate to the mortgage industry, where people pay up to $40/ click. Our clients pay an average .75 per click. If your product or service is highly competitive, there are still plenty of ways for you to utilize PPC without having to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. One is via Facebook, which offers PPC ads which are different than Google AdSense, Yahoo Search Marketing or Bing Search Ads. On Facebook, you can create an ad, which includes artwork, for free, set campaign limits, handpick your audience and leave thousands of impressions for only a few dollars per month.

The Sky’s the Limit—

One of our clients spends $2,000 per week on Pay Per Click advertising. The reason he is willing to invest so much is because he is happy with the results. If an advertising strategy had the potential to change the game for you, would you consider it? PPC might not be the best marketing method for everyone. But, for many, the strategy is the single most cost-effective way to hunker down and cut the crap.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Everything but the Kitchen Link

Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands

The Top 10 Steps to Use LinkedIn for Business

This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on 10-05-09

I’m often on the Internet for work. Really…it’s for work. So it isn’t my fault that I was so engrossed in posting to social media accounts last week that I failed to wake up my 13-year-old daughter for school. At least that’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.

Unfortunately, the argument didn’t hold much weight when Kaitlin bounded up the stairs at 9:30 with both barrels loaded, screaming, “Mom, what are you doing? Did you forget about me? You made me miss the bus.”

And then the bombshell, “Are you playing on your computer again?”

Now, admittedly, I spend a lot of time on my laptop. And when I’m not on it, I’m usually developing arthritic cramps in my fingers by typing on my tiny Crackberry keyboard. But there’s a reason for my obsession. Like most boutique advertising and public relations agencies, our firm is all about communication. We help people connect with current and potential customers and business associates by linking them with tools of the trade such as brochures, fliers, press releases and websites.

But my favorite method for communication is social media. I look forward to updating and reading posts and checking out photo uploads from friends on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. And, when it comes to business, it’s all about LinkedIn.

“What is it you do all day on the computer, anyway?” Kaitlin continued her somewhat justifiable tirade, while looking over my shoulder, “Are you on MySpace?”

“No. This is for professionals. It’s called LinkedIn,” I countered.

“Looks like MySpace to me,” she said. “Photos, groups, comments…”

“Well, it’s not for teenagers. Most of the people on LinkedIn are 40 years old and have household incomes of more than $100,000 a year,” I explained. “Besides, look at the pictures. People are wearing suits. Their posts are boring. And very few of them are smiling.”

“True,” she admitted. “So it’s sort of like MySpace for old people.”

To end the argument, I relented, “Exactly.”

But, in reality, there is a lot more to LinkedIn than my daughter’s rudimentary assessment. Launched in May, 2007, the site is the largest professional network in the world, with 25 million members representing 150 industries.

According to Krista Canfield, public relations manager for LinkedIn, “Basically what LinkedIn does is [to] help professionals accelerate their success.”

Consider this assessment of the site by the folks who brought us the Social Media Bible, “Anytime there is a tool that millions of people in one place at one time all with common interests are clamoring to use, you, as a businessperson, need to understand and take part of it.”

But where do you begin?

The Top 10 Things You Should be doing on LinkedIn

  1. Create a profile. Like other networking sites, LinkedIn has a user-friendly platform. So you don’t have to be a computer prodigy to follow the step-by-step tutorial in order to set up your free account. Just login to LinkedIn and get started.
  2. Complete your profile. Incomplete profiles send the wrong message. Make sure you list current and previous employment, education, honors and awards, even if you are not looking for a job.
  3. Invite friends and associates. LinkedIn is all about connections. Remember the classic Faberge Organic Shampoo commercial where Heather Locklear (yes, it was her) asked us to tell two friends about our shampoo so they would tell two friends…and so on, and so on? With LinkedIn, you will be able to connect with “first-tier” associates as well as connections’ connections, and so on, and so on…
  4. Seek Introductions. People debate the ideal number of connections. Some say that a list of more than 100 is too difficult to manage while others argue the more, the better. While the jury is still out, according to noted author and social media guru, Guy Kawasaki, “People with more than 20 connections are 34 times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five.”
  5. Write Recommendations. Take a few minutes to recommend your colleagues. When you post your referral, LinkedIn will send it for approval, asking the person you recommended to write a recommendation for you. This is worth the investment because, as I’ve learned from my membership in the SBBE chapter of BNI, the largest networking group in the real world, givers always gain.
  6. Join groups. Whatever your expertise or interest, a LinkedIn group exists. And you can join up to 50 of them. I recommend you connect with a couple of key professional groups as well as alumni groups, both from college as well as high school, as well as past companies. When your membership is approved, you get to display the group logo on your profile. How cool is that?
  7. Invite group members to join your network. Once you’re admitted to a new group, seek out strategic connections inside that group.
  8. Micro-blog. Called “Status Updates,” LinkedIn allows for short posts. Most people learned, early on, not to use this feature to report their breakfast menu. Instead, use it to provide industry info and relevant links. Posting once or twice a day is generally considered polite etiquette in LinkedIn Land.
  9. Look for a job, a sale or a partnership. According to communications guru Guy Kawasaki, “Most people use LinkedIn to “get to someone” in order to sell their product or service, form a partnership, or land a job.
  10. Participate in discussions. Follow group discussions. This is your chance to share your two cents and to learn from others. You can also take advantage of your connections by asking for advice.

So, on my next status update, I’m going to pose a question, “Where is the best place to buy an alarm clock for a sleepy teenager?”

Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: About Face(book)

Hey Culligan Man

This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on 9-28-09

Every September 24 since I could talk, I’ve told anyone within earshot that it was my birthday…family, friends, the Culligan Man. Typically, the polite, sometimes somewhat perplexed response was, “Well, then…Happy Birthday.” With that wish, I would merrily go on my way, eager to share the message with the rest of the world. In the early years, cashiers, waitresses, tax attorneys and used car salesmen would ask my age.

Thankfully, I no longer field that particular question…probably because I am old. But maybe it’s also because I no longer blurt out my birthday. This year, thanks to Facebook, I didn’t have to. When I booted up my laptop this September 24, I was greeted by dozens of well wishes from Facebook friends who responded to the Facebook-generated birthday notification. With that simple application, I became a bona-fide FB fan. (Admittedly, not everyone is a fan of this particular feature.)

According to the Facebook Factsheet,  Facebook was founded in February 2004 as a “social utility designed to help people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers…in a trusted environment.” Five years and more than 300 million active users later, Facebook is the second most-trafficked PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) site in the world, running thousands of databases and serving millions of queries a day. Also of note, the fastest growing FB demographic is people who are at least 35 years old.

The reason FB is popular is that it is exceedingly user-friendly. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of how to type on a keyboard and upload a photograph can use it. And, like all successful social networking websites, Facebook is free. Although it might have initially appealed mostly to people who wanted to reconnect with faraway friends, it has slowly emerged as one of the premiere ways for business men and women to exchange ideas and share information.

According to the Social Media Bible, the reason for the transition is all about networking, “By developing and cultivating networks, your organization can create an opportunity to develop the trust that may result in more sales.” Just like in the real world, relationships that start off social in Cyberspace sometimes lead to business deals.

Consider one of our clients at Mountain Marketing Group. He set up a Facebook account about a year ago, at the urging of a high school buddy. “At the time, I had no ulterior motive for setting up the account. But it was easy and free. So I figured, ‘Why not?’”

Initially adding people to his network only if he knew them in the real world, Dave eventually started broadening his horizons by including friends of friends. Within a few months, his network numbered in the hundreds. Since many of his Facebook friends have hair, they sometimes need cuts and color. By casually mentioning a fundraising cut-a-thon on one of his posts, he said the “accidental advertisement” convinced several people to make the leap from casual Facebook friend to real world hairstyling client. And Dave is hardly alone.

Consider the sitting president. Many pundits attribute the success of his campaign to the way he and his team leveraged social media. According to his publicists, “The goals of the campaign were to increase our number of Facebook fans; raise awareness of NYTimes.com as an interactive news center; and engage the Facebook community in a conversation about the election outcome.”

What’s more, Obama’s social media strategists said, “We increased our number of fans more than three times in just 24 hours — from 49,000 to 164,000 — and in the process far exceeded our 2008 goal of 100,000 fans. Possibly the greatest success of this campaign, however, is that our fans continue to rapidly grow…into a powerful, free word-of-mouth network that we will leverage for future marketing messages.”

Facebook has been equally effective for apolitical non-profits. According to a recent post by Rob Bergfeld’s  SmartBlog on Social Media, the online director of the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), Wick Davis, said that LFA’s Facebook strategy increased donations by 790 percent. Yes, you read that right…790%.

By setting up a simple Cause application, Davis said, “When I took over as the admin for the Lupus Foundation of America’s cause in Facebook in mid-January 2009, our cause had less than 3,000 members, and had raised $630. Since I had no idea when our Cause was created, I had no idea how long those figures had been at that level. I’m pleased to share that as of today (6 months later) LFA’s cause now has more than 21,200 members. And during that same 6-month timeframe, we’ve raised a total of more than $5,700. And those figures only represent LFA’s ‘official’ cause in Facebook.”

So, whether your goal is fund-raising, building a virtual farm, poking people just for the heck of it, generating traffic for an industry event, or announcing your birthday to the world, the answer is at your fingertips. Just do an About Face.

Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: To Push or Pull, That is the Question

Since the nature of a blog is to point to valuable content threads, found anywhere on the web, I’d like to provide my readers and clients with information about the most common question I recently hear, “What exactly is social media and how can I use it? Should I use it?”

FB linkThe short answer is that social media is the new vehicle for communicating with any number of people. It’s pull instead of push, which means that content is not just pushed by editors to listeners and readers without an invitation.
For this reason, some refer to it as “Invitation Marketing.” The longer answer is that, for the same reasons the practice of public relations was best left to professionals, so is social media. But if you want to handle it yourself, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Login and create a persona on several social media websites. Which ones? Take your pick. Some of the most popular are LinkedIn, MySpace, FaceBook, Diggit, Reddit, Flickr, Plaxo, StumbleUpon, Plaxo, Twitter and PhotoBucket. This list is by NO MEANS exhaustive. The number of social networking sites multiples by the millisecond. So try to choose the ones you find most convenient and most compatible with whatever product or service you are trying to sell.
  2. Keep your user names consistent from site to site. One of the main reasons for creating online personas is to boost search engine optimization. When meta crawlers search for the number of hits relative to your username, it will only tabulate consistent names. If your preferred username is not available on any one site, go to another. They are a dime a dozen. So it should not be difficult to find another suitable platform.
  3. Provide content. Make your point as quickly as possible. Then politely sign off.

To that end, let me take this opportunity to end my post. If you want to read some more suggestions about easily implementing social media, follow the leader.

Twitter Me Confused

So, at first, this whole social media thing was intriguing. I took some time to sign up for a few social media networking sites, in an effort to learn the medium so I could share my findings with clients. But no sooner had I started trying to locate these sites than I realized that communicating via all of them would be more difficult than scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro.

FB LinkThere is Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Reddit, De Licious, Diggit, Flickr, Reddit, Plaxo, Spoke, Squidoo…a seemingly endless stream of sites all begging for my profile. Once upon a time, I didn’t even know what an Internet profile was. Now, I spend my days linking, clicking, posting, updating and tweeting. No sooner do I complete the list than the sites beckon me for more posts. When will it end?

Sometimes, I have to admit, I wonder if there is really a future in all of this? After all, if they continue to grow at this pace, I will have to sit in front of the glow of my screen day in, day out, like a character out of The Net.

In the meantime, I choose to focus on a few. In fact, I usually recommend the same social sites for my clients. The reasons are simple. You can’t possibly communicate on all of them. I doubt any of us could even pretend to be able to FIND all of them.

In fact, now that I think of it, it’s time to attend to a few posts.