Tips for Essential Business Networking in 2017


photo care of the muse dot come

photo c/o themuse.com

“To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.”

– George Ross

See more quotes on networking:

Sandy Jones-Kaminski, LinkedIn

Personal and Professional Growth Through Business Networking

Are you relying solely on your online content marketing and advertising as your primary methods of brand development and growth? Your results are less than promising and well below your expectations right? In this article, I’ll share why business networking has become an essential part of developing your startup business and building that business into a consistently growing and sustained entity in the marketplace today. 

Two of the most common approaches to professional business networking today involve face to face networking events or online networking through a variety of websites structured for connecting online with industry professionals. What’s the bottom line?

“Networking is about making good connections and building

new relationships with other business people.”

– tacklingyourdebt.com

 

Why Networking?

Professional networking is nothing new in the business world. In fact, networking right from the onset has been an essential part of reaching out to those individuals or groups of people who share the same business interests and overall objectives. Your primary objective during the networking process is to introduce yourself to business owners and managers, demonstrate to them that you have the best solutions for their needs and impress upon them that YOU and your solutions are unique in a way that will bring to them the greatest benefit over your competition offering similar products or services.

Networking is perhaps the most important aspect of brand introduction and recognition in your marketing arsenal. Often times you will connect faster and more effectively when conversing one on one or as a group presentation at a professional networking event. There is nothing more powerful or impressionable than meeting people in person. The challenge, of course, is the much lesser scale than you would realize through paid advertising where your targeted audience reach can be exponentially greater.

Not everyone is comfortable with the networking environment, especially the first few times attending such functions. It takes some advance preparation before the event to essentially rehearse or practice the networking process as you anticipate the event rolling out over the course of the evening.

Focus on relaxing. Be aware that every single business person attending the event, regardless of their level of professional confidence in their office environment and/or the successes they may have achieved will have arrived for the event with a level of their own nervousness or apprehension. Relax! You’re not alone. Have some fun with it! Networking events are not structured as hard-driving, pressure infused tinder box sessions of handshakes and chest pumping. You’re not going in there to stand off against heavy hitters in the industry who are your direct competition.

What you will find on arrival are a large group of individuals standing around, sipping on coffee, tea, perhaps a wine and most of them will have an expression of bewilderment or apprehension. They know the basic routine for such events but they are awkwardly glancing around to see who will make the first move. To stand back and observe can often be a humorous way to see where guests are at as the event gets under way.

Whether an industry event hosted by community organizers of such business venues or your local Chamber of Commerce there is usually a half-hour to an hour at the opening for relaxing one-on- one or small group greetings and conversation. Keep it light! Handshakes and a confident smile are a great way to reduce initial tensions and you will find that people relax in turn and conversation will flow freely as attendees start to feel and embrace the friendly, cordial atmosphere.

Networking must always be focused on the best interests of your prospective client or customer and NEVER all about you and your sales pitch!

If you walk in the door of a business networking event and holler out loud that you have arrived and fashion yourself THE topic of discussion and focus for the evening, you are in for rejection. Don’t ever work the crowd with the ‘buy me, buy me, buy me’ attitude. Every business person in the room is there for the same purpose so relax and allow the event to unfold as it will.

Remember that often times, being the first one to extend your hand to greet others leaves a positive and memorable impression. Don’t hang back shyly awaiting others to initiate conversation.

During your advance preparation for the event, jot down notes of the key points about your business that you would like to introduce or focus on. Plan what you will wear, your posture, your polished shoes, your hair grooming, your smile, and your friendly tone of conversation. If the opportunity does not present itself the first event you attend, don’t panic as there are usually regular monthly events and sometimes even more frequently. Chamber of Commerce events often reserve half of every event for meet and greet networking and the last portion of the event to include a guest speaker and final comments from your host about upcoming special events, organization announcements etc.

More Tips for Your Networking Event

  • Arrive at the Event Prepared with a Goal: Prepare in advance of arrival to the networking event by ensuring that you have established goals for the event. Going ‘empty-handed’ without a plan will ultimately cause you to go off track and waiver with signs of confusion or lack of confidence. Always have a Plan B in mind in case circumstances change. Decide ahead of time how many people you want to meet or perhaps a target of one new job or project. Go with purpose and demonstrate your focus and professionalism.
  • Wear Suitable Attire: You are going to a professional or business networking event. Don’t arrive with a tattered pair of cut-off shorts or blue jeans and a T-shirt. First impressions (and ongoing impressions too) are critical. Look the professional that you are. Be calm, cool and collected but not too casual in appearance. Your posture during the event is important too. Don’t slouch. Stand tall and look ready for business!
  • Business Cards: Take a good supply of business cards; ready for handout to those you feel will continue to be a contact. Those business cards do not come cheap so don’t toss them out to everyone who nods and says hello. Doing so can look desperate. Keep the business cards in the same place for each event; know which pocket they are in so that you don’t fumble around trying to find them…all impressions!
  • Your Introduction: Plan for a professional greeting that identifies your name and your business name along with a brief but confident handshake. Focus on the other person’s introduction as well and try to remember at least their first name and nature of their business for the next event. Do not try to overload your new acquaintances with exhaustive information about yourself and your business. Stick to the primary information and pass the conversation over to the others.
  • Start by Listening, Then Speak: Don’t be in a mad panic to speak first. By allowing the other person(s) to speak you gain valuable time to gain composure, listen carefully and relax for your turn to speak. People tend to be predisposed about their own interests and concerns so it tends to follow that the first person to speak will not have a fully attentive audience.
  • Be Sincere and Show Interest: People see through insincerity in a heartbeat. If you stand in front of them nodding and smiling continuously but your mind is on your own agenda, just wait until they stop talking and ask you a question; then you are left with the embarrassment of having not listened to a word they have said. That is extremely deflating in a networking conversation scenario. Your turn will come. Stay focused, hear what the other person is sharing with you and ask them relevant questions of genuine interest.
  • Be on Point: When speaking, avoid rambling on and on. Stay on point with clear and concise statements and pause for the person listening to absorb what you have said. Sum up what you do in two or three sentences…no more. People especially new to the networking environment will quickly feel overwhelmed if you relay to them the equivalent of a four-hundred-page novel manuscript. Be brief and to the point.
  • Note Taking: You can experience that information overload as well so take a notepad. Jot down important essentials in point form about anyone you meet who is of interest for future conversations. Those key points will cue you later on about further discussion, a follow-up phone call or email or plan a coffee out together to explore further.
  • Post-Event Follow-up: Within two or three days of the networking event, send those follow-up emails or make those calls and share that you would be pleased to continue to stay in touch. Compliment your previous or initial meeting with them and demonstrate your attentive recall by mentioning something you talked about that really interested you or made you curious to hear more.
  • Online Connection Invitations: Don’t send your new contacts a generic invitation to connect i.e. on LinkedIn or the social media platforms. Send them an email to keep it personalized. Let them know that you enjoyed your time with them at the networking event and would love to connect with them on the professional/social network platforms. When communicating online with them remember to always use their name when messaging, at least once if not more often. Make that critical, impressionable connection and develop a trusting, friendly relationship through value-added, genuine interest in the other person and they will most often pay it forward.
  • Remember: Stop the hard line sales pitch of ‘buy me, buy me’ and shift your focus to the person(s) of interest, their needs and how you can help them with a solution or refer them to someone who can; the payback will be exponential in return.

So much of the foregoing is merely common sense but all important points to focus on when networking. Once you have the process down to a routine it is much easier to relax and enjoy meeting new friends and potential clients or new business associations. Even in the absence of direct business, any one of those individuals could turn out to be a huge resource to you in terms of ongoing referrals, an influencer and beyond!

Building Trust

Your best possible approach to networking is to avoid dominating the conversation. Show interest in the other business persons you meet. Get to know them first, on a personal level, before jumping into the business conversation. Never favor conversation with males over females or vice versa. Professional respect is imperative.

Listen carefully to a conversation and absorb what these individuals are about in their personal and professional lives. That is how friendships and trust develop towards potential business associations and engagement. The same approach needs to be woven into marketing content today. It is all about trust building rather than the ‘buy me’ sales pitch that was prevalent for decades past.

Online Networking

The other side of the professional networking process is your online connection development. There are more and more professional business networking websites being introduced online. Developing a consistent process for your online networking activities is just as important as in-person networking.

Be consistent with your networking activity in either case. Be aware of the various social media platforms that you are on and the premise of their intended use. When on a site like Facebook, it is still principally a social platform. Set up a business, fan or author page separate from your personal page and keep the business separate. For those who are there strictly for social interaction, many resent the presence of business activity in the mix. You will find yourself an outcast in the social community rather quickly and in the process do your business more harm than good. Respect where the line is drawn.

LinkedIn continues to lead the pack in terms of professional networking websites. Its growth has been tremendous since its launch in May 2003. LinkedIn was developed as a professional networking site for business entrepreneurs, owners and new business start-up proprietors to connect with each other and explore business opportunities, hiring opportunities and new business associations. There has been an influx of individuals attempting to use LinkedIn for social purposes and that has caused contention among members. Best practice is to respect that professional business focus and save social interaction and engagement for the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar sites. Even in the social media platforms, as with Facebook, a business or professional element has been introduced to those sites but their primary focus remains one of a social nature.

Professional Networking Websites

As mentioned, LinkedIn is still the frontrunner among professional networking sites but there are quite a number of more recent newcomers that you may wish to check out:

  • LinkedIn: The world’s largest professional network with more than 500 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Their mission: to connect business professionals around the globe for economic prosperity through professional growth and new associations.
  • Alignable : A professional networking and referral site, their focus is primarily on small business and start-ups. The site has developed a system of helping new and small businesses to find, discover and interact with other small businesses including their local business community. In Alignable’s own words, the site is seeking to “reinvent the small business economy”. Small business has long been the backbone of towns, cities, and regions across nations. I have recently become involved in this site, well worth a look.
  • AngelList: This is the Canadian site for AngelList. The focus here is on investment in support of new business start-ups. There is also a professional networking element developing between business owners on this site. Jobs and projects are listed for these new start-ups as well.
  • Black Business Women Online: A blog and online community for black women who are entrepreneurs and professionals.
  • neext: This site has transitioned from the former Beyond.com and is now job searching and job alerts including employer hiring ads listings.
  • Meetup: This is a networking site for professionals to help them find like-minded groups and ‘meetup’ opportunities locally for a wide range of interests.

 

Benefits of Networking

The whole premise of a small business is networking, developing relationships and taking action on newly established connections and resources that help to establish and sustain a new business. There is a time dedication and a considerable amount of personal initiative required to establish a new business and keep it growing.

The new business owner of today needs to develop a network of friends and business associates. This network provides invaluable resources to draw information from, influence and the inspiration to persist with a business when the going gets tough. Associated with those who have a similar vision and ambition will inevitably stimulate positive forward movement in your business.

Additional key benefits of networking include:

Shared Knowledge and Resources

Networking is an empowering way to obtain input from area businesses, share business perspective, increase knowledge and more. In a group scenario, other business entrepreneurs have already been where you are in the startup process and will afford you the opportunity to learn how to avoid typical mistakes of trial and error in the operation of your business.

Build Connections

Exposure starts with direct interaction but will also expand to other business connections in the community as well. New business opportunities will develop through the networking and referrals process. Sharing details about businesses in your own network strengthen your new network relationships.

Increased Confidence

It takes discipline to stay on track with consistent networking. You need to push yourself to keep making new contacts and the more routine your network conversations become, the greater your confidence level will be. Business development depends on talking to people and continuously making those new connections.

Elevate Your Profile

The more visible you and your business are, on and offline, the greater benefit you will gain for the growth of your business. Attend regular business networking events, community social events, any public activity where you can share your business identity, especially where there is an interest of a relevant nature. The more opportunity to share your knowledge, experience and expertise, the greater the benefits to your business you will realize. Establish yourself as the go-to authority and watch your business grow!

Another benefit is increased lead generation. The greater the community awareness of your business, the greater the trust and recognition and the greater opportunities for referrals will be.

 

Audience Engagement & Social Media Profiling in 2017


add-social-media-buttonsAre your website, social and professional media platforms producing the kinds of traffic and conversion results that you have anticipated? You’ve spent countless hours adjusting your online presence to comply with previous search engine algorithm changes, primarily Google, to no apparent avail? This article will focus on those two elements to your online presence and how to get improved results for the new algorithm updates just released for 2017.

Once again search algorithm updates are changing the way we develop our web content on our websites and blogs and through social and professional media platforms.

Improving the Mobile Experience

First things first; you’ve heard of the buzz over the past year about the rapid escalation of mobile use for internet access. This story continues to move forward to the extent that you can expect that the same trends will continue for years to come. Previously we were focused on optimizing our website and social/professional media for greater visibility in search engine results pages (SERP’s) and advance preparations to ensure that our online locations are mobile friendly.

The mobile technology requires changes to web design well beyond what the average user is familiar with and experts handle that in their website builder designs. What you and I must get on board with right NOW is ensuring that your website or blog is indeed configured for mobile browsing. The background design work has been established and factored into web design and now the end users (ourselves) need to do a number of things to our websites, blogs and social media to further that mobile friendliness in order that when mobile users arrive at our site or page they have an optimum viewing experience, failing which they will quickly click out and move on with the search results elsewhere.

Responsive design is simply not enough. You need to be sure that all of your navigation and site elements are highly intuitive and convenient for your visitors.

Long form content now reigns supreme. Develop your content through lengthy articles that are comprehensive; that is, to fully and deeply cover your topic. Don’t glaze over with superfluous content that does not help readers solve their problem; give them lots of details that represent advice for your readers.

People are sick and tired of old news that has no depth and lacking usable information and meaning. You now need to do extensive research on your subject matter to enable you to produce information-rich long-form articles that provide value to your readers. I know what you’re thinking; now I have to spend hours researching from countless sources and writing even longer articles. I’m pressed for time more than ever.

Because there is such a high level of priority and focus now placed on long-form, information rich content, make that your focus and relax your post schedule to accommodate fewer posts. That way you trim the time factor while maximizing the quality of content you provide for your readers. Never lose site of the end objective; increased traffic, authority interest, followers/subscribers, engagement and conversion to sales or increased customers/clients.

Social Media in 2017

Your social and professional media platforms continue to be crucially important assets for reader engagement, pushing brand awareness, driving consumers to your landing pages, websites and blogs as well as other intended online destinations. That sequence of audience transitions furthers our SEO objectives.

Today, in terms of your social media accounts, the new order for audience engagement is to become much more actively social with your followers and non-followers alike and far less focus and posting on BUY ME, BUY ME, and BUY ME. Engage with your followers and other social media users on their own Tweets or Facebook updates and do so in a genuine, meaningful way that illustrates your interest and engagement in their interests. Stop the constant selling!

By interacting socially with fellow users you subtly support your own brand through the experiential authority of your comments, your voice online. Wherever possible, practice this user engagement with those whose own account platform has relevance to your own. Then and only then do you have something which is mutually interesting to each other to talk about. Demonstrate your brand expertise being sure that your comments are fully relevant to the other party’s interests as expressed in their Tweets/update posts.

Non-Business Engagement: Don’t lose perspective on the importance of social engagement. Drop your shoulders, remove your tie, kick off your shoes and relax with social engagements. Factor that essential time into your schedule.

Comment on others’ posts that you liked; tell them that you got a lot from their post and thank them by name. If there is no room to comment directly on their Tweet, reply to them or send them a private message with the same compliment. Share others’ Tweets or Facebook updates frequently. Shares are a critical way to expand your fellow users’ audience reach and you will find that they reciprocate accordingly.

Be sure to always use the other user’s name in your responsive comments; personalize your comment by saying: “Nancy, what you’ve shared here really resonates with me. Many thanks!” Then follow up with later interaction, perhaps by private message or chat, share more specific comments and develop two-way conversation in a meaningful way. Assure them that their article or post gave you useful, meaningful insights.

By following this approach you’re not just fluffing through your comments in an ingenuous attempt to grab their attention about you and your brand. People see through that façade immediately. Maintain your comments strictly about them and when they respond with meaningful dialogue, return the gesture with your own meaningful response and close the conversation by wishing them a great day/week.

Do you see the trend that is quickly emerging here? Switch gears and back off the sell, sell, sell accelerator pedal. Reduce the frequency of Tweeting/updates about your own brand and links back to your website or blog considerably. I know that sounds counter intuitive to what we have been practicing for so long yet the new world order online paints a very different picture than those of the past number of years where it was THE only game in town.

Place the sell factor on your website or blog and ads where it belongs. Those vehicles are the primary hub location online where your content marketing should rest, beyond which expand your targeted audience through advertising. Social media advertising continues to be a powerful medium. Transition quickly to being social in your social media platforms.

Social Media Platform Profiles

If you have designed your social media profile properly you have begun by inserting your name or business name at the top of your profile next to your profile photo which should be a nice, professional head and shoulders shot of yourself in business attire (smile, looking directly at the camera or slightly off center) or your business logo.  Follow with your hashtag keywords that have the highest relevance and potential search terms that people will use to find what you have to offer. Those hashtag keywords are critical not only for search results but also to tell visitors what you have to offer once they land on your page.

Make sure you have included your business website or blog URL – a must to navigate people back to your website where the marketing process takes place. If character limitations become an issue, use a TinyURL or similar for the website or blog link. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is also linked through your social media profile and if there is still room add a short URL link(s) to your Facebook page. Add your location by city and province or state. This is especially important for the many that search for such services or products in their own locale.

A Word on Personal vs. Professional Pages on Social Media Platforms:  I strongly advise that you keep your professional content on social media platforms separate from your personal pages. Why? Because the two do not mix for the majority of people. Keep the two separate and by having individual professional pages on each of your social media platforms and LinkedIn as well. On Facebook I opened with my personal page and when I launched my business I created a business page that focuses on the business end. I am also a published writer/poet and keep that aspect of my online presence separate as well. Many people hate users posting business content on their personal page; after all it is a social platform. Business has become a huge part of social media in recent years but keep it separate from your personal page, otherwise you may well suffer adverse effects of lower follower numbers and engagement accordingly.

Images & Video Media

Another critically important aspect of social media content is the use of high quality images and videos that will have relevance to your brand, or that of your targeted audience, and which add informational/beneficial value for your followers. While staying away from the BUY ME aspect of your content, link only to the relevant image/video source or related article.

LinkedIn Profiles

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I cannot stress enough the importance of having a LinkedIn profile; if you are a business person, a marketing expert, a social media enterprise, a professional of any description or a writer, author or poet who is marketing their product, services or cause, or if you are job hunting or want to have a professional presence for business networking purposes and potential employer exposure, having a LinkedIn account is essential. The power of this mammoth professional networking platform cannot be understated.

LinkedIn Profile Image

A serious note to all of you who have a LinkedIn account for business purposes. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform with emphasis on ‘professional’. Time and time again I see profile photos that are cheesy, idiotic, circus fare, face jammed right up into the camera, comedic and contorted facial expressions, freaky colored hair and the list goes on. STOP THE GOOFY PROFILE PHOTOS. LINKEDIN IS A SITE FOR PROFESSIONALS. There is a rapidly growing furor over those kinds of playhouse mentality profile images.

Your profile photo on LinkedIn must be professional; make sure your appearance is professional. The profile image should always be a head and shoulders photo, hair groomed, clean-shaven, direct gaze into the camera with a nice smile (or slight turn for a partial side profile but only slightly). Wear a crisp, clean outfit suitable for your vocation. Take the photo while you are fresh for the day and not after coming home from a grueling 18 hour day or a night out on town. Looking stoned or otherwise inebriated turns people off fast. People want to be comfortable that in seeing your profile photo they would be dealing with a professional.

I see profile photos that are actually on the diagonal, fully sideways and some that are truly upside down. You want professionals to connect with you? Use photos like just described and they will click out in seconds and ignore your existence. Such photos have no place on a professional networking or marketing platform.

Disclaimer: I only make the foregoing comments about suitable profile photos, not to make fun or belittle anyone, rather, to illustrate the type of professional photo critical for the LinkedIn profile. Save the goofy, cheesy stuff for your socials.

Follow conventional practices in professional circles and avoid experiencing high bounce rates (quick arrival and click outs) that will render your LinkedIn page virtually useless in terms of professional activity and brand marketing and also reduce your website traffic drastically.

You are using the site to foster interest and drive traffic to your website or blog (whichever is your primary business/marketing platform).

Developing Your LinkedIn Profile

The profile page on LinkedIn is your place to sell your experience, talents and potential as a new employee, associate or business partner to those business professionals. The same holds true if you are marketing a product, service or cause. Put your best foot forward and work painstakingly on a quality, error-free, professional presentation of who you are, what you have to offer, what you have achieved and how to contact you. Get a professional friend to help you or hire a professional content writer or editor to get your profile fine-tuned to where it needs to be that tells other professions: “Yes, I want to be associated with this individual and/or their business enterprise.”

Much of my preceding comments on social media will also apply on your LinkedIn profile. Remember that your LinkedIn account is a professional networking platform – ensure that all of your content is just that…professional from top to bottom including your Profile page. I’ve linked my own social media and LinkedIn profiles at the end of this article for you to take a look at if you wish to help you employ best practices in your profile development.

Following is a partial screenshot of my LinkedIn profile page. Click on the visual to expand it for better viewing.

Don MacIver; LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn Profile Image

Use a high quality/resolution photo image of yourself (or your business logo) that is free of distortion. Image specifications are searchable if you are unsure of the most suitable image size to use for best quality image viewing. The image should be clear, sharp and as relevant as possible to your business or profession, services, product or cause. The importance of a professional appearance of the header image is as critical as the header image for your website or blog, often one and the same for brand recognition.

An incomplete, nearly blank profile page is virtually useless here. Even if your experience is minimal you should be able to draw on the experience, education and interests that you have acquired to date and as your experience and employment situation changes. Always remember to update your LinkedIn Profile accordingly.

The colors incorporated into the header image you select should mirror the colors that you have in your business logo. It all goes to brand association and recognition…an important aspect of on-page images. Remember that if you find this page unfamiliar or too difficult to develop on your own, seek the help of a professional associate or friend or even hire a professional writer or editor to set up your profile page. On-page optimization is also essential which many people are not fully conversant with. Your page must be searchable and place well in search results.

That very first field at the top of your profile must be carefully designed from your professional head and shoulder photo image (or logo) to your name and professional credentials and your business name. What follows is the most critical textual elements of your profile; your itemized list of products or services using highest level keywords (on-page optimization for SEO) which must clearly define what you do, what you have to offer and what key components of your business are.

If you are not a business or marketing professional but want a professional presence online, list your qualification/designation and key responsibilities

Contact Information

Be sure to provide your business contact-related content in the fields provided and make sure that this section is updated for any future changes so that the profile does not become outdated or containing dead links.

‘Posts’

Use this relatively new feature for creating and posting your articles which showcase your brand with content that is rich in useful information that readers can use today. Present the most up-to-date information available as readers are frustrated by old news and click out fast. Write high quality articles that benefit the reader the most. Your content should be clear, concise and free of superfluous fluff that has no actionable value for the reader. Provide information that is of strong interest and benefit to your targeted audience.

Summary

Highlight what your key services, products or cause entails or your occupational summarization. Remember who your targeted audience is to profile the most relevant expertise and experience. Do not rush this summary development and make sure that keyword inclusion is carefully designed to alert search engines and pull traffic for those searching for what you have to offer. Ensure that your profile is showing up in search engine results pages (SERP’s). You can test your search visibility by searching with your name and or business name and city location as your search terms. Note: With new online pages or sites it will take some time before it appears in search results provided the proper on-page search optimization and your page/site ranking has been executed.

Portfolio

Begin with a clear and concise summary of what you do and then build your portfolio/project profile with those project or client services most significant to this profile and relevance to your targeted audience and related achievements.

Word this section for optimum interest and action on the part of your professional readers. The Portfolio section is also of great importance to potential employers, clients and human resources/recruitment specialists seeking to find just the right fit for their client position candidate searches.

If you develop your profile effectively you will find that over time you will begin to receive contacts from business professionals who wish to express an interest in your experience and expertise. It is a powerful tool with a broad reach, not to be underestimated. A well written profile on LinkedIn will translate into exposure to any number of opportunity levels, funnel traffic to your website or blog and social media platforms as well.

Client Testimonials

I cannot stress enough how critical this section is. If you have had wonderful professional business, client or customer experiences and relationships, be sure to seek their personal testimonials. By obtaining those attestations about your quality services or products, your business objectives are legitimized and create a buzz of interest. Be sure to obtain permission before posting those testimonials publicly. Extend your thanks to that client or customer and support them in some way as well.

Testimonials are a powerful statement that will help sell your professionalism and brand authority. Flogging yourself can be an endless and sometimes futile effort so make sure you acquire testimonials from your best, most appreciative clients; they will pay it forward in spades.

Experience & Employment History

Use a chronological or hierarchal sequence to listing your career/professional history. As you would with your resume, only focus on the history that is most relevant to your targeted audience, employer or business/job role. Be clear, concise and brief in this section. You do not want to overload information beyond the primary position, company and brief, most relevant responsibilities.

Courses

Outline relevant course studies that advanced your education and skill sets as relevant to the type of position you are pursuing moving forward in your career or that serve to further your expertise and brand relevance.

Skills & Endorsements

This section is critical for highlighting your top level skill sets and expertise. Do not rush or under-populate this crucial field. This is where more defined details of your acquired skill sets or expertise come into play. I have seen countless profiles that limit their skills list to only five or six points. Consider carefully what your functions were with each respective employer during your career to date. Hone in on those critical responsibilities and the essential skills required to do the work effectively.

The Profile allows for 51 different skills to be identified. Use this area to full advantage; exposure for your expertise to all those seeking your experience level i.e. business managers, human resources personnel and recruitment experts all searching to find the one individual that is the best possible fit for their client’s position search. Do not sell yourself short.

In tandem with the skills listings, once you begin to connect with individuals in relevant industries to your own, you will begin to see skills ‘endorsements’ provided by your connections on your behalf. Make sure that you reciprocate those helpful and important gestures and acknowledge the same by initiating conversations through private messaging. Develop relationships and trust, never rushing the selling aspect of your own brand. Through that engagement process you will increase the potential for business, job or professional partnering prospects.

Engaging with your contacts and relevant group discussions develops powerful professional networking activity, perhaps the most effective means of attracting new business customers and clients today. When networking, focus on what you can do for your contacts based on their own needs and not your own. Forgo the personal selling of yourself; that will happen through genuine conversation and in turn establish your brand authority.

Education

Your educational history is fairly self-explanatory. Outline your key educational highlights and acquired qualifications, diplomas, professional designations, certificates or degrees. From this history you will want to emphasize those skills and qualifications that are most relevant to your career pursuits and at given time.

Certifications

Do not miss out or skip over this section when you have educational qualifications. Display your highest (hierarchal) designations, diplomas, certificates or degree(s) here.

Additional Info

Another important section of the profile, just as it is in your resume. Do not skimp on sharing your interests, hobbies, life passions outside the office. Show your human side and what you do with your non-working hours; it paints a complete picture for anyone considering engaging in your services in any way.

Honors & Awards

Again, this is very important information. If you have been bestowed a form of honorary recognition for something you have done over the years, professionally or otherwise, don’t leave anything out, especially an award(s) from your employer. Such awards points to your highest skill levels, achievements and the potential to reciprocate with a new employer or business partner.

Organizations

Getting involved with organizations that are relevant to your own employment or business is important. It can lead to important volunteer work and is certainly a powerful means to network with other business professionals in your community i.e. Chamber of Commerce.

Volunteer Organizations You Support

Volunteer work is an important aspect of your life and commitment to your community. Serving to help others in need is a powerful testament to character. It can also be a very rewarding experience for you personally and again paints a picture for anyone considering engaging with you on a professional level.

Recommendations

This is yet another critical element of the profile building process. When you have a solid experience with a client with whom you have had a good relationship, reach out to them to request a brief written attestation. As with a testimonial, that endorses your abilities in your industry or profession. Such statements are solid gold!

Emphasize a brief statement but if your experience with that individual has been very good, chances are that you will get a lengthier recommendation than you are anticipating! Always express sincere appreciation, publicly if suitable to do so, and pay it back in some way beneficial to the client or customer. Associates will also provide invaluable recommendations.

In summation, invest in the time and energy needed to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is all that it can possibly be. The fruits of your labor are potentially considerable. You will connect with the most amazing, influential individuals, converse in relevant professional groups, network with like minds that move mountains and establish a strong presence in the worldwide professional community.

 

LinkedIn Profile

Twitter Business Profile

Facebook Business Page

 

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

 

Business Networking; A Matter of Perspective


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Professional Networking; photo c/o Bing Search

In a world of shifting business marketing metrics, discover the one thing that has become increasingly clear; business networking has become one of the most cost-effective and productive means to foster new business relationships and potential new opportunities within the context of product or services marketing today.

Here in this article I will explore the potential for inherent value discovered through networking and expert tips on best practices for optimum results.

Whether your company’s marketing focus is near or far, professional networking with those identified as clearly possessing similar business interests and objectives has become one of the most powerfully responsive approaches to acquiring new people to partner with in terms of association and/or as newfound customers or clients. Networking today is essential; it opens doors to new friendships, opportunities, expands personal knowledge and helps to establish one’s level of expertise and authority.

The enormous audience reach through the global internet community has expanded our opportunities tremendously and let’s not forget the critical importance of finding new relationships and business opportunities right in our own communities through personal networking.

Many individuals today loathe the process of direct business marketing, especially when it comes to personal appearances at local networking venues. There is a multitude of highly negative personal perspectives associated with networking that holds business professionals back from embracing the many opportunities that networking affords. Even those in executive positions with exceptional experience and achievements harbor such negative perspective; they feel awkward, nervous, anxious, stressed, and even dirty as though they are being intrusive by networking.

Often, business professionals have a very uncomfortable networking experience because of their own perceptions of the legitimacy of networking today. Maintaining positive and realistic expectations about what can be accomplished through networking and its vital role in today’s product or services marketing environment is essential to successful networking.

Networking affords us far-reaching opportunities in addition to establishing new friendships, business associations and opportunities through online professional networking through social media and professional networking websites/networks as well as personal appearances at venues tailored specifically for networking purposes.

In her July, 2016 article on social networking sites for business professionals, Amber Leigh Turner writes on the topic and shares twenty social networking sites that fit the bill for effective professional networking practices and finding new opportunities.

What it all comes down to is a concerted, self-assured, confident and friendly perspective about networking activity and just how much opportunity can be realized through effective approaches to those in the business community with common interest and objectives. Quite simply, networking meetings are a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people who have something to offer and share, taking the time to get to know them, to establish and nurture friendships and trust and to experience discovery of opportunity through comfortable conversation.

Find out what contributing writer Glenn Llopis shared on the subject in his article ‘7 Reasons Networking Can Be A Professional Development Boot Camp’ on Forbes.com .

Advance Research

Find out through referral and advance online research where within your own community or city you will find organized business networking events/venues. Determine ahead of attending such events which ones will be the most relevant to you in terms of what you offer and seek to gain by your personal appearances.

Look to venues where attendees will most likely share common interests and business objectives as your own. The local Chamber of Commerce is the perfect place to start for networking as their organizations hold regular weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meetings and special events including those dedicated strictly to professional business marketing. At the networking events you will find a large group of business professionals there with the very same objective; to meet new industry professionals who offer their company products or services and want to share proudly through common goals. What better, more comfortable meeting environment could there be when attendees are there specifically to network with others like yourself who seek to develop new professional relationships, associations, networking and referral channels!

Dan Klamm, Outreach & Marketing Coordinator at Syracuse University’s Career Services co-wrote ‘5 Rules for Professional Social Networking Success‘ with Alana Edmunds, an IT Project Manager and Social Strategist for Recruiting & Staffing at GE Energy.

Other Organizations

There are often numerous local organizations for business professionals to attend with the objective of meeting new contacts including men’s and women’s organizations, local networking groups, associations to join, special interest groups and more.

The Right Expectations

Networking may sometimes bring almost immediate results but generally speaking you should anticipate that it will take time to find those who share the same mutual interests. It is a process of building a comfortable, friendly relationship, establishing mutual interests and eventual trust before any attempts should be made for gainful business relationships. Do NOT come out of the gate attempting to sell!

Dress for Success

An age-old marketing technique is to come to the occasion ‘dressed for success’. That is not to say arriving looking like a high-priced fashion statement. Arrive in comfortable yet businesslike attire rather than jeans, tie dies and cutoff shorts casuals. You are there to talk and attract business! You want to ensure that first and ongoing impressions are favorable.

Advance Preparation

Arrive fresh, alert and with forethought on those ideas you wish to share during the networking session; don’t improvise! Bring along business cards but use them sparingly; hand them out to those who, in your estimation, show genuine interest and have potential as newfound associations or customers/clients.

Arrive prepared with a brief one or two sentence introductory greeting which clearly identifies what you do or have to offer; don’t be ambiguous or evasive. Share that information in a timely manner following an introduction and handshake.

Success through Networking

Your success with networking will rely on and vary significantly depending on how effective you are with one-on-one networking. If your perception of networking activity is highly negative you will most assuredly be less effective in the process.

Overcome an Aversion to Networking

Be sure to maintain a ‘promotion’ mindset with a focus on company growth, personal advancement and key achievements to share while networking. Get excited about potential new opportunities and outcomes with genuine curiosity and an open mind about those potential outcomes of newfound connections and associations. Go into networking venues with anticipation that it will be an interesting, informative and even fun experience…and make it so!

Research individuals you want to meet; understand what they do, discover mutual areas of interest and similar business goals and objectives. Advance knowledge will build upon a sense of genuine interest.

Be Keenly Aware of What You Can Offer

Consider carefully what it is that you offer relative to how it will benefit new contacts or associations the most; new information, shared tasks, technical support, appreciation, recognition and exposure through networking referrals. Show appreciation to those who share beneficial information with you. Public expressions of gratitude can advance a professional’s reputation in the business community.

How to Connect

People appreciate those who share similar interests, business objectives and values. Make new contacts feel welcome and encourage their participation in conversations. Show leadership by offering to organize an event. Be acutely aware of your knowledge, insights and perspectives that others respond to and value.

Define Your Purpose

Determine in advance what your primary purpose is for the networking event individually as you attend. Reinforce those objectives in your own mind. Where possible, present your purpose in ways that will define how others can help support ‘your company’ and/or ‘your clients’ rather than a more personal focus like only helping ‘you’ to benefit directly.

Avoid Only Self-Promotion

Refrain from coming straight out of the gate with a sales pitch. Networking events are NOT intended for overt sales or marketing activities. Show mutual interest in others, ask genuine questions and be attentive to their responses from which you can formulate touch point areas of mutual interest you can talk about further.

Meet New People

Each time you attend the same venue again, be sure to meet new people, especially anyone you see standing alone. It’s fine to mingle initially with those you have met previously to exchange pleasantries but as opportunity affords, respectfully excuse yourself by indicating that you wish to meet someone nearby that you have not yet become acquainted.

Some individuals are quite reserved, even shy about approaching others. Put their mind at ease by making the first move to say hello and start up a friendly conversation. By the same token, don’t be shy to introduce yourself to an individual or group. Remember that they are ALL there for the very same reason; to meet new business professionals to share with and expand through potential new business opportunities or referrals.

Referrals

Listen for ideal opportunities to share referrals to the benefit of those you are speaking with. This is critical to establishing credibility and genuine interest that you have in the benefit of others and not just for yourself and/or your company.

Reciprocate Through Mutual Benefit

As with the referral process, be sure to reciprocate with those you speak to by giving what you get out of conversations in return.

Follow-up

Exchange business cards and follow-up after the meeting i.e. the same or next day via telephone call or email expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to meet, converse and especially for any referrals or other beneficial exchange that arose from that meeting; share information of benefit to the other individual promptly i.e. articles, website URL’s, contact information and more.

Arrange to Meet Again

Where conversations go well and your new acquaintance appears to be a potential source of new business or referrals, follow-up by further contact with the individual. An invitation to meet at a public coffee house is a great way to get together again in a comfortable, non-threatening and non-pressured environment with the intent of getting to know each other better.

In conclusion, focus on the following for best results with your business networking activities:

  • Overcome feeling that networking is self-centered, tacky or abhorrent. Overcome those negative feelings or perceptions about networking by always shifting your thinking to a ‘promotion’ mindset.
  • Focus on how beneficial networking will be for your business through personal visibility in the business/professional community and its higher purpose.
  • As a result of newfound, positive personal perspective about networking your attitude will become much more positive and you will even get excited about forging new relationships and business associations that will bear fruit for years to come!

 

Don MacIver on LinkedIn

© Lasting Impressions Editing 2016; All Rights Reserved