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February, 2010

First Up
I've made some changes and additions to the Resources section on the site. The section is now broken up by topic, which include:

Since the Resources section is a work in progress, I'll be adding more along the way. Email me your favorite sites and I'll add them to the section. Over time, with your help, I'd really love for this to become a valuable repository of resources for independent professionals, freelancers and small businesses.

And Now for the Meat
The topic du jour, or rather, ce mois, is everybody's favorite — networking. Like it's not-so-highly-popular cousin, cold and warm calling (eeewww!), it really is a quick way to find prospects and even generate some new gigs.

But there's also a caveat. At many of these networking shindigs, everybody else is trying to sell you while you're trying to sell them. It's often a frenzied business card orgy.

The trick (and there's always a trick) is to use critical care when choosing which events you'll attend. Just because a local organization is having a networking breakfast doesn't mean you should attend it. Here are five little words to remember:

Go where your prospects are.

That means if you're a commercial photographer an AIGA gathering is probably a better choice than an ASMP one. ASMP stuff is great for schmoozing it up with your photographic-minded colleagues, but starting up a chat with an Art Director or Designer at an AIGA event might just be the advent of a profitable relationship.

Try to avoid high pressure events. You can often identify these circuses by their title. Look for the ones with something like "networking" in the event title. These bits, usually seen in the local newspaper, cause the antenna to sprout on the folks with the gatling gun business card shooter. You don't need that kind of pressure ... and aggravation.

Better options are seminars and workshops, or any event with an instructional / educational slant. They provide an environment that's low pressure and a common ground (the event topic) to start up a conversation. Educational events often, if not always, provide some networking time. If not, there's always the break, a meal or after the event.

If you choose this route, ask questions during the presentation, when appropriate, but don't become a yapping annoyance for others. Craft your questions with something like, "I'm a 20 year veteran Whatever. Over my career, I've come across XYZ very often, how would you suggest to ..." You get the idea. You've made yourself visible, communicated what you do and for how long. Plus, you've likely asked something that several others were too shy to ask. Just be sure to ask a relevant question.

When you've found the right events, my Marketing Mentor friend, Ilise Benun, has some other excellent suggestions from her report, Practical Tips (pg. 4) titled, "7 Secrets That'll Take the Schmooze Out of Networking:"

Make contact, not contacts.
The goal of networking is not to meet as many people as possible. The goal is to find a business community that satisfies your needs, one that brings together people who are our prospects and with whom you are comfortable.

Take the time to find something in common. Events where there's a meal involved are good opportunities to sit down and chat because you can't tell simply by looking at someone whether they're a prospect for you.

You don't need a sales pitch. Just respond to what you hear. Answer questions, devise solutions, be creative. Sounds easy? Just try it.

Joining groups isn't enough. Once you've made your choice, you must be visible and participate in an ongoing way. Attending events is good, but organizing them is even better.

Work on a project
This gives others a chance to see how you work, and vice versa, which allows you to really get to know others and to be there when their defenses are down.

Keep in touch
Don't even bother collecting cards if you don't have a way to keep in touch. Whether it's as simple as an annual holiday card or a quarterly promotional newsletter, you must have a way to maintain regular contact.

Until next month ...

All the best,

Do It Yourself Public Relations & Publicity Hiring a fancy schmancy public relations firm can be a pricey proposition. But fear not. You can do it yourself. Learn how from top copywriter Bob Bly.

The fact is, no PR firm or department is as knowledgeable, passionate, energetic, and enthusiastic as you are when it comes to marketing your product or service. That being the case, the absolute best person to dream up — and carry out — a winning PR campaign for your business … is you!
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