Joining up your networking , social media and content marketing

The Networking Retreat

Every Christmas and New Year I get the time not only to think about my business for the next year, but also all of your businesses.

Helping people to make more sales from their interactions is what really floats my boat. Knowing that someone is achieving more because of a conversation they’ve had with me, whether on the ‘phone, in person, at a conference somewhere or online, makes me smile every single time.

In 2018, all of us face exactly the same challenge which every business which ever existed has faced – how to get the attention of the people who would buy from us, and how to keep that attention so that we are there, in the right place at the right time.

Now, my thing is networking and I have taught hundreds of people how to get more from their networking efforts. Over the next three days, starting today, I’m going to explore how to use three vital elements of networking to get that attention and, crucially, to retain that attention in the right way. That way, you stand the best chance of being in the right place at the right time AND building the trust necessary for your networking contacts to either do business with you, or refer business to you.

Those three elements, in my opinion are:

– Networking events, and how we use them.
– Social media, and what we do there.
– Content marketing, and how to use it to build trust quickly.

Networking Events – and how to use them to make sales

Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation, and networking events are the start of those little conversations.

Where so many people go wrong is twofold – they try to treat the networking event as the whole of the conversation and/or they never put in the effort to continue the conversation once the networking event is over.

Here is how most people can make a huge difference to the results they get from networking:

Actively use the networking event – so many networkers just expect something to happen because they turned up. The event itself is just a platform, a set of opportunities presented over the bacon and eggs. Your mission is to work out how to use that networking event to your best advantage. Some things which can make a huge difference:

Arrive early and stay late. Use your time to have conversations with people. Someone has gone to all the trouble of assembling a load of business people for you to talk to, make the most of it, don’t rush in just before breakfast and rush out again after your last mouthful of scrambled egg (or whatever the hell that is they serve in some hotels labelled as scrambled egg).

Respect the platform. Different networking events have different cultures, different agendas and, crucially, different purposes for the sixty or forty second introduction. A one size fits all approach does not work in networking, any more than it does in any other marketing opportunity. Spend the time to learn about the networking event and prepare everything you need, including your introduction, well in advance.

The introduction is an opportunity to start a conversation. Now, if you tell me you’re just “winging it” and that’s working for you and you’re making a load of sales from your networking, then great, crack on. If on the other hand, like most people I work with, your introduction just isn’t “working” then adjust it with two things in mind. Firstly, everyone else is there for the sake of their business, so your 40 or 60 seconds needs to be communicated in language which will get them paying attention. Secondly, you should aim to intrigue so that the right people want to talk to you and find out more, not give them so much information that they’re either bored stiff or, worse, think they know enough about you and don’t need to find out more.

Have a plan to follow up afterwards. Some of those follow ups might be to book a further 121 with someone, other follow ups might just be a polite thank you for the time and conversation, and an invitation to keep in touch, some might even be in response to a specific request about your services. The fortune, as they say, is in the follow up. To be really blunt, people will forget you when you leave the networking event unless you actively take responsibility for keeping the conversation going. Make sure you have a plan to do so and a system to assist you. I use SalesRadar to make sure I forget as little as possible (you can get a seven day trial of SalesRadar right here – salesradar.io). The real opportunity for us is that most people won’t bother, leaving those of us who do with an immediate competitive advantage.

Make it easy for people to buy from you, and to refer to you. Your efforts in making these two things simple will be rewarded over and over again. Remove the obstacles which prevent people buying from you and make absobloodylutely sure that people really understand what you do. That way you can make every potential opportunity as seamless as possible. The less friction, the less resistance, the less stupid barriers in the way of people buying from you, the more chance you have that they will. Look at how simple online retailers make it for us now, and if they don’t we vote with our feet and buy somewhere else. The same basic principle applies to us.

Getting these few things right can make such a massive difference. Making an impact at networking events is not about being the loudest or most confident person in the room. It isn’t about being wacky. Being noticed for the right reasons is where the real value is in networking events and getting the above bits and pieces right, as often as possible, will result in more sales.

How to use social media to make more networking sales

It was in July 2008 that I properly got into social media. That’s when I signed up for my Twitter account and learnt to love this incredible new use for the internet.

Sure, before that we had had MSN Messenger, IRC, ICQ, Email and all of the other ways the Internet allowed us to keep in touch, but this was something different, and something special.

There is no doubt that social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate and, for those of us in business, it has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with our prospects. The ability for us to keep in touch with our audience at scale, and at a fraction of the cost that was the case previously, is the big news of the early 21st century.

Since I learnt how to use social myself I can credit hundreds of sales either directly or indirectly to various social platforms. And I’ve helped many other business owners to do the same. But still, in very late 2017, still so many business owners are getting it wrong, and not making the sales they know they could be.

The problem is that so many of us are still treating social media like we used to treat other marketing and advertising platforms. Almost as if the word “media” has been stuck in there just to confuse us.

I was an estate agent for twenty years and every week in that twenty year career we advertised in The Oxford Times Property Section. We would spend time crafting our ad every week, choosing carefully which properties we featured that week, and what our editorial needed to say. And, for our £1000 per week spend, we got huge value from this.

When the internet came along, we treated that broadly the same. In the late twentieth century we used our website just the same as we did our newspaper ad, to advertise the properties we had for sale and our various services for house sellers.

But here’s the thing, and here’s where I think people are getting it wrong. If you opened up the property section of the Oxford Times, or if you connected to the internet to visit out website (unplug the ‘phone, plug in the modem, connect to the Internet, manually type in our website address, this was the 90s!) you were doing so because you had at least half an interest in buying or selling a house.

When people use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, they’re not going there to buy from you, just as people don’t go to networking events to buy from you. They’re going there to keep in touch with friends, or news stories, or to mess about with their profile. If the first thing they get from us when they log in is an ad, we’re going to bore them and potentially lose them as a connection.

Social media is less about media and more about social. Using social media to make sales for your business takes a bit of effort, and that’s where the real opportunity is, because most people won’t bother.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using the tools available to save time on social media. I personally use SmarterQueue (you can get a 30 day free trial right here, and it’s cheaper and, imho better, than a lot of the other tools – https://smarterqueue.com/?ref=2wq)

But showing up, personally, is where the real action is. In real life conversations, unless you’re a complete tool, you’ll spend time being interested in the other person, instead of just broadcasting about yourself. And that’s exactly what we need to do on social. Just scheduling some posts, or paying someone else to do it, just ticks the box, gives you the impression you’re “on” social media, without really achieving anything.

If all you’re doing on social media is posting, you’re doing it wrong. So much of my time is spent reacting to other people’s stuff. Being interested instead of trying to be interested. If you want people to like, comment on and share your stuff, then a brilliant place to start is by liking, commenting on, and sharing their stuff.

It is still the case that too many of us expect other people to put in the effort to read our stuff, without us wanting to put in the effort to read theirs. And that sucks no matter how you look at it.

The more time I spend engaging with other people online, with no real agenda, the more views I get, the more likes I get, the more retweets and shares I get and the more sales I get.

I even get to see when people are ready to buy from me, something which the newspaper never gave us.

Just as with networking, there is no one size fits all approach on social, and you must treat each platform separately.

The four platforms I spend most time on are:

Facebook – well it is the daddy of social media these days. I maintain my personal profile, my business page and my free Facebook group every single day. Don’t forget, ever, that for most people, their time on Facebook is to keep in touch with their children or grandchildren, to keep their networking relationships alive, to learn stuff from other people. They didn’t go there to buy from you, but if you spend enough time engaging on their terms, they won’t mind if you advertise every so often and if you give them enough value, they might even check your ad out and buy from you.

Twitter – Twitter changed my world. When I first registered there in 2008 I had no idea the opportunities it would lead to (I’m here if we’re not already connected – https://twitter.com/noredbraces). The platform has matured for sure, and changed a lot, but reports of its death are greatly exaggerated (apologies to Mark Twain). Twitter has become THE place for breaking news, and for sensible commentary on that news. Journalists, major celebrities and many others hang out Twitter. So why’s that relevant to you? Because it gives you the chance to engage, converse and bring value to these people along the way. By engaging with journalists on Twitter, I got mentioned in articles on networking in both The Guardian and The Telegraph. My use of that platform has changed as the platform has, but the opportunities Twitter affords are still massive.

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/noredbraces/ – its where all the cool kids are. A platform based on images and hashtags, Insta gives an opportunity for any business to show that it is human. Instagram is almost two platforms in one, the Twitter style timeline where can can view and comment on other people’s post, as well as share our own, plus Instagram Stories – probably the biggest engagement opportunity for any of us since Twitter launched. If you’re ignoring Instagram, or don’t believe it’s “right” for your business, you’re missing huge opportunities.

LinkedIn – I spoke to a major social media influencer just before Christmas and her opinion was that LinkedIn is going to be huge news in 2018. In my opinion, it already is! Slower moving and more serious than Facebook, LinkedIn is where I connect with corporate clients and decision makers. I tell my story, and advertise my wares on LinkedIn just as I do on Facebook but in a subtler way. Ignore LinkedIn at your peril. Sure it takes a while to get your head around it, but with native video recently added to LinkedIn the shop window opportunity there is just massive. If we’re not connected already – let’s do so – https://www.linkedin.com/in/noredbraces/

Video – Yeah, I know that video isn’t a platform in its own right but every one of the platforms I mention above are huge video sharing platforms – so what are you doing to capitalise on that? As with everything else, each platform requires a subtly different approach, not least because Twitter and Instagram limit the time of the videos you can share. Every one of us these days carries around a better video camera better than the one I bought to record my first son’s baptism in 1996, so making the video isn’t the issue. But making video which people notice, brings value to them and encourages them to buy from us is where the magic happens. And I haven’t even mentioned YouTube yet. PS – my Facebook videos, all of them, can be found right here – https://www.facebook.com/pg/stefanthomas.biz/videos/

Your opportunity to keep in touch with people at scale, and to notice when people are ready to buy and when it’s time to go 121 is huge. Make sure you take advantage of it.

2018 is going to be massive for those of us who put the effort in. I can’t wait to share your journey into the next year and beyond.

Content marketing is THE way to increase your networking sales

Content marketing isn’t a new thing. I think people are scared of it because they think its new, but it’s been around for a very long time, and we’re all familiar with it really.

It is often put out there that the Michelin Guide was the first instance of content marketing (tell people where the good restaurants are, they drive to them, driving uses tyres, Michelin sells tyres) but it goes way before that.

In the olden days, you would go to the butcher who was able to tell you how to cook that joint perfectly. You’d favour the off licence where the people really knew about wine and could give you advice on the best one to serve your guests. You’d queue for the travel agent who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of which resorts were best for kids the same age as yours.

Putting it simply, you bought from people because you trusted their knowledge on their subject matter, the people who knew their stuff, the people who didn’t just sell you what they wanted to sell, but sold you what was absolutely right for you.

We haven’t changed, and our buyers haven’t changed either. People buy from people. And people buy from people who they know, like and trust.

If you’ve read the last couple of Emails, you’ll be making steps to get your networking and your social media right. Content is, in my opinion, the thing which joins everything else up. Content is the thing which can genuinely get people over the line to buying from you, and the brilliant thing is, it’s a complete win – win.

You see, if you’re doing your networking and social media right, you’ll be building an audience. An audience of people who have met you at networking events, or connected with you on social media and who you’re using both networking and social media to keep in touch with.

If you’re doing social right, you’ll be spending time engaging with others and taking the time to be interested in them. And the more of that you do, the more they will be interested in you.

So what are you giving them now they’re interested?

For most people, and even most people in business, the answer is nothing. People check us out, and there is nothing to see. People accept out invitation to “like” our Facebook page, but all that’s there is adverts for our services. Or subscribe to our blog, but it’s just updates on stuff that really is only of interest to us and the people who work for us.

Content marketing is the use of blogs, articles, posts, videos, podcasts, Emails (like this one) and anything else you can put out there to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about, to give value to your audience, and to show people what you’re about.

Content attracts the right sort of customers and clients to you, because you are constantly educating them.

Content is the biggest shortcut to trust, and the real opportunity is that most people won’t bother.

What knowledge do you have that you could share? What could you do a video about, or write an article about, that would genuinely help your followers?

What do your potential buyers now know – and knowing that piece of information would massively help their buying decision?

What advice do you often give for free anyway, which you could write down and share for everyone’s benefit?

Actually putting some effort into your content enables you, in 2017 going into 2018, to land grab your niche. Gary Vaynerchuk says that you can become “the authority of content”. Marcus Sheridan states that “the person who controls the conversation controls the industry”. The shopkeeper who was the most knowledgeable and the most helpful was the one who had people queueing out the door. Everyone else was left to compete on price alone.

I am building myself as the “authority of content” by creating and sharing information which I think is helpful to my audience on my niche – making more sales from networking. I have had people book onto The Networking Retreat, or hire me as a speaker for their conference, who have never met me, but trusted me because of the volume of content I put out there. I can genuinely see now how putting content out there in the right way has accelerated so many of my business relationships through the Meet – Like – Know – Trust – leading people to trust me enough to buy from me, or refer people to me.

In my first Email this week I talked about attention – how to get it, and how to keep it. Joining up my networking and social media with content, is the way I achieve both.

You’re ready to start, or up your game. All of the tools are there. But if you want to massively accelerate your success with networking and content marketing and make more sales in 2018 than you did in 2017, check out this exclusive one day event I’m hosting with Chris Marr, the founder of The Content Marketing Academy – http://thenetworkingretreat.co.uk/moresales

Becoming a recognised authority in your field, someone who people actively want to buy from, is at your fingertips. I hope many of you take advantage of the opportunities which 2018 will present, and I look forward to working with you.

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