A Guide to Making Connections at Conventions

ConferenceConventions are an excellent marketing and networking tool for many small to medium-sized businesses. When managed properly, conventions provide a great opportunity to attract customers, learn more about potential partners or vendors, and build a database of potential leads for the future. The largest conventions may put thousands of prospects within arms’ reach of you, while smaller events offer the opportunity to mix and mingle with peers on a more intimate level.

The Big Decision

There are a number of conventions and conferences each year — most likely, more than one applicable to your industry or line of business. Choosing the right convention to attend is a big decision. Spend some time looking over the available information. How many other businesses similar to your own do you think will be attending?

In some cases, you may do better attending a smaller convention or one that doesn’t specifically target those in your industry. You want a convention that will give you the chance to network with those who may utilize your product or service, as well as those who offer products you can use. However, if you can get your foot in the door of a convention where you won’t have many direct competitors, you may be able to obtain leads that are more valuable.

Networking

While at the convention, put less emphasis on making sales and closing deals and more on making connections, building leads, and networking. Decide ahead of time which events you will attend and which you’ll forego in order to operate your booth in person. If there are any social events, use them to reach out and speak to those you consider potential partners for the future.

Booth Matters

Your booth in the dealer or vendor area is an important marketing tool. Clearly, you want to keep it neat, orderly, and attractive to those who pass by. Additionally, you may want to offer something unique or special to encourage people to make the effort to come see you. Outside of attracting potential visitors, you want to make the booth experience “work.” Make sure you’re staffed with knowledgeable personnel and that you have samples, demonstrations, and (possibly) videos available, so you can showcase the key benefits your products and services provide.

The Takeaway

Whether you network with a potential client at a social event or an interested party stops by your booth, you want to provide a way for people to get in touch with you after the event. Start by making sure your business card stands out from the dozens of other cards attendees will pick up at the show. Have some brochures or handouts available, too. These will allow you to share more detailed information.

Collect key contact information from booth visitors, too, including email addresses, phone numbers, and social media profiles. Then, when the event is over, immediately make contact yourself. The goal is to build relationships that will be mutually beneficial now and in the future.

As you can see, there’s more to think about when attending a convention as a professional than just putting on your name badge and showing up. Spend time planning for the big day (or weekend), and maximize the return on your investment of time and effort.

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Tips To Planning Your Integrated Marketing Campaign

185529935We’re all connected to the businesses around us in a variety of ways: social media posts, direct mail flyers, advertisements in ┬ámagazines, commercials on television, and even ads pasted on the sides of buses. Many businesses, wanting to reach as wide an audience as possible, will advertise using a variety of channels. An integrated marketing campaign involves creating a clear, uniform message that will resonate across all of those channels, increasing name-recognition and driving sales. If that sounds like something your company is looking to do, here are some ways to start developing a plan.

Refining the brand message

Integrated marketing campaigns focus around building brand recognition. Take, for example, Apple. When someone views the Apple logo, they don’t mistake it for an actual drawing of the fruit. They see the company associated with it and the crisp and clean nature of the technology it creates. The same goes for the Nike swoosh and the slogan “Just Do It.” The logo actually inspires people to go out for a run. These brands have been immensely successful in determining their company message and sending it out uniformly across all channels.

It can seem overwhelming for a small business to compete with that level of success, but the key is to start simple. Determine what centralized message customers should draw from a commercial or ad. Summarize the top selling qualities of the business in just a few words.

Taking the message to the street

Remember that no one company can be everything to everyone. Instead, identify a central message and develop a targeted campaign that can be used across different advertising platforms. If a potential customer hears about your company on Facebook, they should come away with the same impression as someone who first heard your name on the radio. This will help them make the connection between the advertisements. Then, when they see a second ad on a bus while driving to work, they’ll think, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of those guys!” If the different ads had completely different messages, the odds of that prospect making the connection would be much smaller. For smaller and newer companies, this can be deadly.

Bring everything back

As you develop your message and the ads you want to use, remember to bring everything back to your website. For most companies, their website is a central point for attracting and engaging customers. This means that all advertising should work at steering people toward that site. Your website should provide contact information, more information about your products and services, and additional incentives to get prospects to buy from you.

Customers like things easy, though. Make sure your online ads provide a clear link that’s easy, appealing, and straightforward. If customers have to look for it, chances are they won’t. This part can be a bit more challenging with paper advertising, since few people are going to remember a long web address. To help these customers, consider adding a QR code or a simplified URL. Also try to keep the website address as catchy and easy to remember as possible.

Creating an integrated marketing campaign can be a fantastic business move. In the modern world, there are countless platforms for advertising and communicating with potential clients. A well-orchestrated campaign will not only reach a large audience, but it will also help increase brand recognition and drive people back to your website. The new year offers a perfect opportunity to get started with a bang by putting these marketing strategies to work for you.

Tips on Promoting a Guarantee!

GuaranteeA guarantee show confidence in your products and offer peace of mind to customers, but it may also give potential customers added incentive to purchase your product over another. A guarantee can be printed as a standalone certificate, added to a label, or included on all types of business signage, flyers, business stationery, receipts, marketing materials, website, email signatures, product packaging, yellow pages ad, and more.

Here are a few tips when promoting a guarantee:

  • Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don’t offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.
  • Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your company’s strengths, such as: “Hassle-Free Returns” or “Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it’s free.”
  • Clearly explain your guarantee terms. For example: “We provide a hassle-free, money-back guarantee within 30 days of purchase.”
  • Test your guarantee with a small target audience. If you’re nervous about implementing it, test the results again.

We at Minuteman Press are prepared to help in any way we can to help you implement your ideas….

Protecting Reputations in the Limelight of Social Media

ReputationThomas Paine once said, “Reputation is much easier kept than recovered.” There are two groups who understand this better than anyone else: businesses and celebrities. Both groups spend a considerable amount of energy protecting their reputations and promoting the image they want to portray. And both groups have seen this task grow increasingly complicated thanks to the Internet and social media.Celebrity Reputations
Quick, when you think about Angelina Jolie, what word comes to mind? Probably something like ‘humanitarian.’ What about Paris Hilton? Her reputation revolves largely around being a party girl. These celebrity reputations are not organically developed. They’re carefully orchestrated by publicists and marketing teams, who help the celebrity determine what to say, when they should be seen in public, and what types of stories should be given to the media.Hugh Grant’s experience
Today, Hugh Grant has a carefully cultivated image as a British gentleman and has starred in a variety of romantic comedies. During the mid 1990s, however, the star faced a considerable amount of unfavorable press following his participation in some illegal activities. He managed to save his image, and his career, by giving candid interviews about his own stupidity and then going on to make a variety of hit movies. Now, most younger fans probably don’t even remember that past.

How businesses can apply the same concept
As companies grow, some types of negative press are inevitable. It’s impossible to make all customers happy 100 percent of the time. Sooner or later, a disgruntled customer will complain about prices, service, or something similar. The trick to successfully maintaining a positive reputation is to address the issue head-on.

Social media and the reputation
Social media has changed customer service. Now, when customers have something to complain about, they’re not forced to call a special hotline. Instead, all they need to do is take to the company social media page or blog. They can rip the company to shreds and make their dissatisfaction known for all the world to see. The customer now has much more control over the reputation of a company.

Consider how Hugh Grant planned his comeback. His team worked to help him plan his interviews and create popular movies. He worked past the problem by addressing it bluntly and then looking toward the future. That’s also how companies must work.

Celebrities carefully construct their reputations by guarding everything that goes online, similar to how a company guards their own brand and what is posted online. When problems arise, however, they must be addressed, not glossed over. Once the celebrity or company has addressed the problem, they must then focus on providing quality in the future to give people something else to talk about.

For example, if a customer has written a blog post about a genuine grievance, reach out to them to see how the matter can be corrected. If customers post remarks on social media pages, show genuine concern that the customer had such a negative experience and try to make it right. Correct misunderstandings whenever they arise.

Customer service now takes place in the public sphere, and new clients will know if the company doesn’t care about past customers. At the same time, once a company has made genuine attempts at restitution, they must focus on providing quality for the future.

Protecting a reputation can be a difficult task in the age of social media, but it’s essential if you hope to survive. It involves carefully engaging the public while producing quality services or products that people can appreciate.

How to Make Networking as Easy as Child’s Play

NetworkNetworking is an important aspect of the professional world on many levels. If you own a business, you network to find more clients, meet potential connections, and even find other companies you might collaborate with on a project one day. Those searching for a job have continuously heard how critical networking can be for finding the right fit.

Unfortunately, many of us find networking stressful. After all, it involves going up to people we’ve never met before, introducing ourselves, making small talk, and selling ourselves and our skills, all at the same time. While it may become more natural with practice, for most people it never becomes an easy process. Except, of course, for the under ten years old crowd.

While at the park the other day, two very young girls made eye contact and instantly became friends. Without so much as an introduction, they both stopped their respective games, took off toward the slide, and took turns racing each other around the playground. The mothers remarked how easy it is to find friends when you don’t even have to worry about making small talk. How do kids do it?

They’re confident.
Most little children don’t know too much about rejection just yet. When they approach a new potential friend, they don’t worry about being told ‘no.’ The child is having fun, they know they’re having fun, and they would enjoy it if the other child joined them. If the other child doesn’t want to, however, it really won’t affect the fun the first child is already having.

Business leaders need to adapt this attitude. Are you good at what you do? Do you have something important to bring to the business world? If so, be confident in those skills. Present them to new connections, and offer those folks the chance to work with you. But remember that a refusal is their loss, and don’t let it discourage you. Approach the next potential connection with the same enthusiasm.

They have something concrete in mind.
When children run up to another child on the playground, they don’t agree to play together and then idly stare at each other. Like the two little girls, they race off toward the slide or begin digging in the mud. When one child asks another to play, they already have some great activities to get started with.

When approaching another business professional, know some concrete ways you could help them directly. If you develop a software program, when the conversation turns toward business, discuss their current software situation as well as the needs of the company and how your product or expertise might be able to help.

They aren’t pushy.
Like adults, all kids have different personalities. Sometimes one child is shy or may not want to play with other kids on that particular day. If one child says they don’t want to play, that typically is the end of the discussion. The inquiring child will retreat or find someone else to play with.

Networking professionals must also find this balance. No one appreciates a connection who’s overly pushy, even after they’re told their products or services aren’t needed right now. Professionals also tend to dislike those who seem more interested in making sales instead of making more genuine connections. You should make sure to always handle rejection smoothly and, when at networking events, focus more on meeting people. The sale can always come later.

Networking is undoubtedly an art. It requires confidence, eloquence, and the ability to form connections with other professionals to grow businesses and help people find the perfect position for their talents. Imagining a networking event to be a playground for adults can help you overcome your fears and approach the others in attendance easier and with confidence.

Blaze Your Own Trail to Business Success

BlazeYourOwnTrailSomething interesting happens between childhood and adulthood. As children, people tend to not want others to copy them. As adults, however, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to copy those around us. We see someone with a new idea, and all we want to do is imitate their accomplishments. Someone successfully develops a new app, and 50 similar ones seem to spring up overnight.

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s not always the key to success.

Consider this example: Two sisters, Anna and Mary, sit down together to draw pictures. As with many big sister/little sister pairs, Mary looks up to her big sister. She carefully watches as Anna sets about drawing a picture of their family house with everyone out in the yard. Mary picks up each crayon as Anna lays it down, then goes about copying her sister’s artwork.

After a few minutes, Anna notices what Mary is doing. “Mary, don’t just copy me!” she exclaims. “You have to make your own picture.”

Anna recognizes what many adults fail to see. If Mary simply copies her picture, she won’t be able to demonstrate her own strengths. If the sisters’ drawings are exactly the same, neither will stand out as unique. When they both create their own pictures, however, then each picture stands on its own merits and creative vision.

How to apply this to business

Developing new ideas in business is difficult. It takes a uniquely creative mind to come up with a useful service or product that no one else has thought of before. It can certainly be tempting to just copy another company or business model and hitch a ride on their road to success.

Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works. If you’re offering potential customers exactly the same product or service as an already established company, what reason would they possibly have to switch to you? Your business isn’t unique or special. Instead, it’s a copy of one they already know and trust.

Creating something unique

There’s nothing wrong with using another person’s success as a source of inspiration, but have confidence that you have something special to bring to the table, too. Find a way to work that into your business model.

For example, say you worked in retail for a considerable amount of time while putting yourself through school. You may decide to specialize in helping retail stores with their marketing plans. Or perhaps you’ve found new ways to cut administrative costs and are able to offer potential clients lower prices for the same high-quality service.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business pro, keep looking for things you can bring to the table that your competitors can’t.

Blaze your own trail. Find your own niche. And build your own success story other entrepreneurs will want to copy

What is Content Marketing?

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You’ve probably heard all the buzz about content marketing, yet may still be wondering what, exactly, it is. Content marketing is simply the new form of marketing that uses informative content, rather than blatant sales pitches, to attract potential customers. Instead of proverbially bashing people over the head with whatever you’re trying to sell, content marketing entices them to come to you to learn more about your product, services, and brand.

So, how the heck do you do that?

Create a two-way conversation.

Old-school advertising was pretty much a one-way street with the company doing all the talking. Content marketing turns it into a two-way conversation by actively engaging the audience. Do this by encouraging comments on your blog posts and social media sites, holding contests, or otherwise reaching out to your audience for input.

Keep up your end of the bargain.

Asking for audience participation is good, but it’s not so good if you do nothing with the information you gleaned. Reply to audience comments; respond to their requests and needs. Perhaps a certain aspect of your website keeps getting the same complaint. Hold up your end of the conversation by acknowledging the issue and perhaps even tweaking whatever’s wrong to better fill people’s needs.

Make it easy to find you.

Of course, you won’t have any conversations at all if people can’t find you. In addition to a user-friendly company website, you should set up a blog and accounts on your chosen social media platforms that all easily link back to your website. When you share a blog post or add new information to your website, share the link across your social media channels.

You don’t have to go nuts and join every single social media platform out there. Instead, focus on the ones where your target audience is most likely to tread. Learn more by analyzing the social media habits of your target demographic, then go where those folks go.

Fuel your audience with quality content.

Keeping your audience engaged means keeping up a steady flow of quality content. Again, you don’t have to go nuts trying to post something new and exciting every five minutes, but you do want to add fuel to your content marketing fire with fresh content on a regular basis.

Note the keyword “quality” here. Provide content that’s polished, informative, compelling, and even entertaining. While text may make up a good chunk of your content, also take advantage of the power of pictures and videos. Include them in related posts, or let them fly solo if they say all they need to say on their own.

Since people are none too fond of reading the same stuff again and again, make sure you cover a variety of different topics that are relevant to your audience.

Bombarding your audience can consist of that aforementioned strategy of beating them over the head to “buy, buy, buy” with every post you create. But it can also include posting at such a rapid and fanatical rate that your audience has no time to absorb, respond, or even breathe.

More is not necessarily better, especially if the more is of poor quality. Over-posting can not only mar your reputation as a professional, but it can backfire in a big way. Instead of being attracted to your company, you may instead find your audience fleeing in droves, leaving you with no one left to talk to but yourself.

Mastering the art of attraction is just one aspect of content marketing, but it’s one of the most essential for eventual success.