Our Latest Blogs

Our Solutions News Blog was envisioned to gather and share information from the very best to help you and your business to become more effective.

image
One key part of being a great marketer is understanding how people think and knowing why they act the way they do. 10 principals.
image
Which Social Network Should You Advertise On? Social media advertising is a great tactic to use to supplement your print advertising.

Brochure Mistakes

Look at your existing brochures and see if you have made one or more of these common mistakes. Try to avoid them in your next brochure.

  1. The cover fails to identify its contents and its relevance to the reader.
  2. Long words, long sentences, or long paragraphs make the text difficult to read and understand.
  3. The text fails to list ALL the benefits.
  4. Benefits are listed sequentially in one long paragraph rather than set in a bulleted column for easy reading.
  5. The text fails to ask for the order or demand some action at the end.
  6. The contents are not organized sequentially so as to deliver an effective sales message that will involve and persuade the reader.
  7. The design does not include line illustrations and charts, or other graphic elements necessary to clarify and reinforce the descriptive text.
  8. Photographs are too small, too large, washed out, or dark and blotchy.
  9. Text is set in typefaces that are too small, too bold or too light, too masculine or feminine, too whimsical, too cute, too powerful or in italic or reverse type.
  10. Typeset line length is too long for good readability.
  11. The text uses buzz words and jargon.
  12. Headlines are not set in type large enough and bold enough to provide good contrast with the text type.
  13. Headlines are not written so the reader will get the gist of the message quickly by reading just the headline.
  14. Solid, uninterrupted pages of text type are hard to read and don’t get read in their entirety.
  15. Insufficient contrast between text type and the area on which it is printed such as red print on a green background.
  16. Not enough contrast between colors used (dark and light balance).
  17. Too many colors used indiscriminately with no attempt to balance them on the layout.
  18. Insufficient white space inside the layout making it easier to read.
  19. Large areas of white space inside the layout which is distracting to the eye.
  20. Brochures sent as a self mailer without an envelope or website or other vehicle to respond efficiently.
  21. Too many inserts with a pocket-size brochure that is inconvenient to handle or store.
  22. Information is unclear (or missing) as to how or where to get additional information or order the product or service.
  23. Does not include an offer that is convenient for the buyer such as a 30-day free trial, credit card acceptance, etc.
  24. Utilizing more colors or special colors in a brochure which raises printing costs when fewer colors or more standard colors would be just as effective but less costly.
  25. Paying too much for printing by not working with the designer to negotiate printer costs.

Source: Next Level Blog

Athendee Pizazz - 3 Top Networking Mistakes

At a recent networking event in Silicon Valley I was struck by how such events can be really great or really bad. On the great side they can be the beginning of interesting friendships. On the bad side they can be shallow, stressful and unsatisfying.

With SXSW just getting started (I will be speaking there on Essentialism) my editor asked me to share a few thoughts on what attendees at any big, high-profile conference should or should not be doing to have a meaningful experience. Here are three ideas for your consideration:

A Fistful of Business Cards (vs. One Genuine Relationship).

The classic behavior at these events is to exchange a lot of business cards. This remains true even though afterwards many of the cards are close to meaningless. They won't remember you; you won't remember them.

Susan Cain, the genius behind the book Quiet, suggests a different rule of thumb for networking events: "One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards." This essentialist sentiment is one I fully endorse. In fact a friend of mine, Dave Hanley, recently pointed out to me that the sharing of business cards often signals the end of a conversation not the beginning of one.

Looking Over Someone's Shoulder (vs. Mindful Listening).

I once sat next to Bill Reilly at a networking dinner at Apple. We connected easily and have built a great relationship overtime. I was interested to discover how he learned to really listen to who he is speaking to. He found if he concentrated on listening to other people the way he focused when he meditated his interaction immediately became richer. The other person could feel he was listening, almost physically. And when they knew he was listening they formed a bond with him faster. Life almost immediately felt richer and more meaningful. As professor Graham Bodie has empirically noted, listening is the quintessential positive interpersonal communication behavior.

The Fear of Missing Out (vs. the Joy of Missing Out).

As I mentioned in a recent piece, I was once at the World Economic Forum for Latin America in Mexico with an amazing array of speakers, panels and participants. The bad news was I felt pulled to attend everything and meet everyone. When I was involved in one activity it was easy to think, "Oh, I wonder if I should have gone to that session instead!" The (well-known) term for this sensation is "the fear of missing out" (or FOMO). After two days of this, I was feeling some meeting fatigue. I decided to opt out of the rest of the afternoon and head, instead, for the pool.

One look at the actual pool and you might say, "Well that is just a no-brainer of a decision!" But that is really my point: it wasn't obvious in the moment. I had been so consumed with the fear of missing out I had not stopped to consider what Anil Dash has termed, "the joy of missing out" (or JOMO).

To my surprise and delight I was not the only person who had the idea. I was joined by fifteen or so fellow rebels. Each of us looked at each other with a little chagrin. But the serendipity that followed was amazing. With the space to relax and just talk without an agenda or scheduled "content," magical things happened. Deep relationships were formed, spontaneous ideas flowed and one important initiative was launched.

Our lives at work and at home are full of many invitations to attend this event or that meeting. Not only can the number of these invitations feel overwhelming, the fear of missing out can lead us to be unsatisfied with the choices we make as we wonder about the other half are doing. I sat down with the Huffington Post recently to talk about this.

Source: LinkedIn Post / By: Greg McKeown

IR Codes Beating Out QR Codes

The number of mobile action codes--such as Quick Response (QR) codes, image recognition (IR) and invisible watermarks applied to photographs, brand logos and icons -- appearing in the top 100 circulating U.S. magazines continues to grow dramatically, reports mobile engagement services company, Nellymoser.

The company's annual Mobile Activation Study records instances in which a printed magazine page is capable of being activated by a mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet. In addition to a steady growth in the mobile activated space, 2013 also saw a rise in the range of technologies used to deliver activations.

Findings:

MOBILE ACTION CODES APPEARING IN MAGS JUMP 55%
 
    Compared to a total of 8,448 mobile activated magazine pages (advertising and editorial content) in 2012, 2013 saw the number of mobile experiences in the top 100 magazines rise to 13,088  -- a 55% growth.
 
EDITORAL CONTENT TAKES OFF AS A DRIVER OF ACTION CODE USE, ESPECIALLY IMAGE RECOGNITION (IR)
 
    Editorial content mobile activations increased 246% from 2012 to 2013 (from 1,486 in 2012 to 7,972 in 2013). As reported in the study, "This is due primarily to editorial’s embrace of technologies that are unobtrusive to the overall look of the page’s layout— including image recognition (IR) and digital watermarking—in addition to augmented reality (AR) experiences."

IMAGE RECOGNITION (IR) USE SURPASSES QR CODES IN A BIG WAY
 
    The primary activation type overall was Image Recognition (IR), followed by QR—taking second place for the first time in the scope of the study, and watermarking in third.​

    Image Recognition (IR), which includes Augmented Reality (AR), comprised 6.1% of all triggers in 2012; in 2013, there were 7,916 pages that were activated using the technology, representing 60% of all triggers (advertising and editorial) -- a ten-fold increase. Image-based activations do not require any change in the image itself or the pre-production process, as other mobile action codes do.

    Compared to a total of 5,780 in 2012, the number of QR codes deployed in 2013 fell to 3,123 -- marking a reduction from 68% in 2012 to 24% in 2013.

    Digital watermarks reached 12% of total market share, an increase from 6% in 2012.

 ADVERTISERS REMAIN HEAVY USERS OF QR CODES

    Advertisers remain heavy users of QR code campaigns -- the trigger comprised 60% of all advertising activations. The study states, "QR is a common choice for single page ad campaigns as its distinctive appearance makes it highly noticeable, and its long tenure in the market makes it recognizable to the reader. In addition, the likelihood of readers already having an app that scans QR codes on their devices is greater than that of newer technologies, making it a more attractive choice to advertisers."
 
TYPES OF MAGAZINES DEPLOYING MOBILE ACTIVATION
 
    The most mobile activation represented segments were Fashion & Style (3,893) and Lifestyle & Leisure (3,196) followed by Home & Gardening (855), Home & Cooking (816), Entertainment & TV (750), and Fashion & Beauty (704).

THE USER EXPERIENCE, IMPROVING?

    Post-scan experiences (what happens after the reader activates content with their phone) appear to be improving, states Nellymoser, with a focus on providing more value to consumers -- though the majority of scans still take the consumer to a web site landing page.

-----------------------------------------------

About: The list of investigated magazines was selected based on circulation statistics released by the Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) and included monthly, weekly, and biweekly publications. Freely distributed and membership-based publications were excluded. Regional titles, as well as those not readily available on newsstands were also omitted.

Tens of thousands of pages were examined in search of mobile programs or activations, whether triggered by QR code, Microsoft Tag, digital watermarking, image recognition (IR), SMS code, or any other activation triggers. This study not only measures the presence of mobile activation in magazines, but also what it delivers to the reader, how it connects, and what the overall user experience looks like.

Source: Nellymoser, Mobile Activation Study Jan-Dec, 2013, accessed Feb. 19, 2014.

15 Grammar Mistakes we All Make

Even after years and years of learning it in school, grammar is just one of the things that many people don't always get right. It's hard. Words and phrases that sound fine in your head or spoken out loud can suddenly look like gibberish when written down -- that is, if you've realized that you made a mistake in the first place.

Realizing that you've made a grammar mistake is half the battle when it comes to defending your content against poor grammar. Lots of times, especially if you're self-editing, it's easy for little grammar mistakes to slip by -- ones that are a letter or two off from the word you need, or just plain usage errors that you're not sure about. These are genuine mistakes -- no one is actually going out and writing these on purpose -- and hopefully your content is largely void of these so it looks polished.

But how do you prevent those grammar mistakes if you're not even aware you're making them? Why, by reading lists posts like this, of course. ;) I'm guilty of these mistakes all the time -- in fact, I pitched this post to my editorial team as "top grammer mistakes" (har har) -- but I've found that reading posts like these helps keep me on my toes when editing my own writing.

So read through the rest of the post and see which mistakes resonate with you the most. Make a mental note to avoid that mistake in the future -- or heck, even bookmark this blog post to remind yourself of them over and over and over again.

Okay folks, here goes nothin'.

1) They're vs. Their vs. There

One's a contraction for "they are" (they're), one refers to something owned by a group (their), and one refers to a place (there). You know the difference between the three -- just make sure you're triple checking that you're using the right ones at the right places at the right times. I find it's helpful to search through my posts (try control + F, or command + F for Mac users) for those words and check that they're being used in the right context before hitting publish.

Correct Usage: They're going to love going there -- I heard their food is the best!

2) Your vs. You're

With these, it's the difference between owning something and actually being something:

You made it around the track in under a minute -- you're fast!

How's your fast going? Are you hungry?

See the difference? "Your" is possessive and "you're" is a contraction of "you are." Again, if you're having trouble keeping them straight, try searching for it through your post while editing to double check your usage.

3) Its vs. It's

This one tends to confuse even the best of writers. "Its" is possessive and "it's" is a contraction of "it is." Lots of people get tripped up because "it's" has an 's after it -- which normally means something is possessive -- but it's actually a contraction. Do a control + F to find this mistake in your writing. It's really hard to catch on your own, but it's a mistake everyone can make.

4) Incomplete Comparisons

This one drives me up a wall when I see it in the wild. Can you see what's wrong with this sentence?

Our car model is faster, better, stronger.

Faster, better, stronger ... than what? What are you comparing your car to? To a horse? A competitor? An older model?

When you're asserting that something should be compared to something else, make sure you are always clarifying what that something else is ... otherwise it's impossible for your readers to judge whether the comparison actually means anything.

5) Passive Voice

If you have a sentence with an object in it -- basically a noun that receives the action -- passive voice can happen to you. Passive happens when the object of a sentence is put in the beginning of a sentence instead of at the end. With passive voice, your writing is perceived as poor writing to your audience.

Hold up. Read that last paragraph I just wrote -- there's waaaaaay too much passive voice. See how it seems kind of jumbly and not quite punchy? Let's try that again.

Passive voice happens when you have a sentence with an object in it -- basically a noun that receives the action -- and that object appears as the subject of the sentence. Normally, the object of the sentence appears at the end, following a verb. Passive writing isn't as clear as active writing -- your readers will thank you for your attention to detail later.

Make sense? It's kind of a complicated thing to describe, but active voice makes your writing seem more alive and clear. Want to get into the nitty-gritty of passive voice? Check out this tip from Grammar Girl.

6) Dangling Modifiers

I love the name of this grammar mistake -- it makes me think of a life or death situation, hanging precariously off a cliff or something equally as a drastic. (Of course grammar mistakes are never that drastic, but it helps me remember to keep them out of my writing.)

This mistake happens when a descriptive phrase is followed by a noun that shouldn't be described by that phrase. It's easier to see in this example taken from my colleague over on the HubSpot Sales blog:

After declining for months, Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI.

... What exactly is declining for months? Jean? In reality, the sentence was trying to say that the ROI was declining -- not Jean. To fix this problem, try flipping around the sentence structure (though beware of passive voice)!

Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI after it had been declining for months.

Better, right?

7) Possessive Nouns

Most possessive nouns will have an apostrophe -- but where you put that apostrophe is confusing.

If the noun is plural, add the apostrophe after the s. For example: dogs'.

If the noun is singular and ends in s, you should put the apostrophe after the s. For example: dress'.

If the noun is singular and doesn't end in a s, you'll add the apostrophe before the s. For example: lizard's.

Simple, right?

If a noun is plural and possessive -- which isn't often -- the rules vary.

8) Affect vs. Effect

This one is another one of my pet peeves. Most people confuse them when they're talking about something changing another thing. When you're talking about the change itself -- the noun -- you'll use "effect." For example: That movie had a great effect on me. When you're talking about the act of changing -- the verb -- you'll use "affect." For example: That movie affected me greatly.

9) Me vs. I

Most people understand the difference between the two of these ... until they end up writing a sentence with themselves and another group. Like this sentence, for example:

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and I?

Nope, that's wrong. Try taking Bill out of that sentence -- it sounds weird, right? You would never ask someone to send something to "I" when he or she is done. The reason it sounds weird is because "I" is the object of that sentence -- and "I" should not be used in objects. In that situation, you'd use "me." See what I mean?

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and me?

Much better.

10) Do’s and Don’ts

I'm not talking about the do's and don'ts of grammar here -- I'm talking about the actual words: "do's" and "don'ts." They look weird, right? That's because of two things: 1) There's an apostrophe in one to make it plural ... which typically isn't done, and 2) the apostrophes aren't put in the same place in both words. It just looks like a mess.

Unfortunately, it's AP Style ... so we just have to live with it. It's a sexy angle for content formats, so I wouldn't shy away from using it, but just remember that the apostrophes should be in different places -- and that's okay.

11) i.e. vs. e.g.

Confession: I never remember this rule, so I have to Google it every single time I want to use it in my writing. I'm hoping by writing about it that the trend will stop.

Lots of people use the terms interchangeably when trying to elaborate on a point, but they really mean two different things. "i.e." roughly means "that is" or "in other words" while "e.g." means "example given" or "for example." See the difference? One's used to clarify something you've said, while the other adds color to a story through an example.

12) Peek vs. peak vs. pique

You know the difference between the three ... right? This is another that I often see people mess up even if they know what they mean. Peek is taking a quick look at something -- like a sneak peek. Peak is a sharp point -- like the peak of a mountain. And pique means to provoke or instigate -- you know, like your interest. If you're going to use one in your marketing, stop and think for a second -- is that the right "peek" you should be using?

13) Who vs. That

This is a tricky one. These two words can be used when you're describing someone or something through a phrase like "Ginny is a blogger who likes ice cream." When you're describing a person, be sure to use "who." When you're describing an object, use "that." For example, you should say "My computer is the one that overheats all the time." It's pretty simple, but definitely something that gets overlooked frequently.

14) Alot vs. A lot vs. Allot

Hate to break it to all of you "alot" fans out there ... but "alot" is not a word. If you're trying to say that someone has a vast number of things, you'd say they have a lot of things. And if you're trying to say that you've set aside a certain amount of money to buy something, you'd say you alloted $20 to spend on gas. If you're trying to remember to stay away from alot, check out this awesome cartoon by Hyperbole and a Half featuring the alot. That face will haunt you for the rest of your content creation days.

15) Into vs. In to

Last but certainly not least is the "into" versus "in to" debate. They're often confused, but "into" indicates movement (Ginny walked into the office) while "in to" is used in lots of situations because the individual words "to" and "in" are frequently used in other parts of a sentence. For example, "to" is often used with infinitive verbs (ex: to drive). Or "in" can be used as part of a verb (ex: call in to a meeting). So if you're trying to decide which to use, ask yourself whether 1) either "in" or "to" fits in with another part of the sentence, or 2) the sentence indicates some sort of movement. If the answers are 1) no, then 2) yes, you should use into.

Source: Hubspot / Written By: Genney Soskey

Is Your PR Working

OK, you are doing all the right stuff for public relations. You are using HARO like a pro. You engage with the right parts of the media just enough, (not too much!), and you are seeing some results in coverage on the mainstream media and on the just-right blogs.

For this article, by the way, we don’t really differentiate between blogs and other legacy media outlets. If you have new people learning about you from outlets that they trust, then it’s all the same yummy PR pie.

But now you want to know:

“Is it helping?”

This is one of the trickiest questions in the marketing world, even more than social media. It’s possible (though tricky) to trace a new prospect to a tweet, or a new contract to a blog post. But with PR, the line is even more murky. You may begin to ask yourself questions like:

Did a mention in a respected industry blog help tip the scales with a reluctant customer?

Did a link from a TV station bump us up in your search rankings, or was it just another Google algorithm change?

Does the TechCrunch logo on our homepage give our site the gravitas it needs to get someone to respond to a Call To Action?

These questions are inherently difficult to answer. So, give up? You just need to know what your goals for your PR are, and then periodically measure -- using the tools on this post or elsewhere -- to see if you are getting the results you are looking for.

Whether you are looking to improve your landing site performance, looking to increase sales, or whether you’re counting people who are downloading a free offer from your site, there are ways to get statistical results about your efforts. Here are a few:

  1. Turn On Alerts
  2. Social Media Mentions
  3. Measure Your Click-Through-Rate
  4. Look For Pick-Ups
  5. Landing Page Results
  6. Getting Trendy
  7. Make New Friends
  8. Going Pro

The Bottom Line

Overall, just remember that PR, like blogging, is a good thing to do and an excellent way to keep a long-term view of your success. Advertising with Adwords may get you the traffic you need for as long as you are paying for the service, but a good story in a good outlet will be around for a long time. It’s worth it to put in some effort with that long-term view in mind. Click Here » to review the full article.

Source: Hubspot / By: Scott Yates

Pacific Central Station in Vancouver

There are about 2,150 registered heritage buildings in Vancouver, plus 131 parks and trees, and additional monuments and archaeological sites.

You can find all of these heritage sites in the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR).

The City's long term goal is to protect, through voluntary designation, as many resources on the Vancouver Heritage Register as possible.

How does a site qualify for inclusion?

To be included in the VHR:  

  • Sites must have architectural and historical significance
  • The context of the building and its surroundings must still be clear
  • Alterations to the exterior of the building must be limited
  • The building must have been constructed before 1940, with the exception of "recent landmarks"

Click Here » to find out more.
Also view Wikipedia » to view listed properties.

Effective Store Signage Pays Off in Sales

A survey examining the attraction and impact of small business store signage on the consumer -- and its impact on their intent to visit a store, make a purchase and more -- finds a solid connection between good signs and positive consumer action.

The survey, commissioned by FedEx Office, a small business marketing solutions firm, in conjunction with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, finds:

  • Nearly eight in 10 (76%) consumers say they have entered a store they have never visited before based on its signs.
  • Almost seven in 10 (68%) consumers surveyed say they have purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye.
  • A small business’ sign can be an influential word-of-mouth marketing tool, with three out of four consumers saying they have told someone about a store based simply on its signage.
  • More than two thirds (68%) of consumers say they believe a store’s signage is reflective of the quality of its products or services.
  • Poor signage can deter consumers from entering a store, with over half (52%) of respondents saying they are less willing to enter a store with misspelled or poorly made signs.
  • Nearly 60% of consumers say the absence of a storefront signs deter them from entering a store. On average, consumers think 2-3 signs around a small business’ storefront is the right amount of signage.


About: FedEx Office, in conjunction with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, worked with ORC International to conduct a telephone omnibus survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18 years and older. A small business owner screener question resulted in an end sample of 914 respondents; the margin of error is +/-3.1 percent.

Source: Print in the Mix

Do It Outdoors

People are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of branded information and advertising that bombards their lives every day. The number of messages easily runs into hundreds per day, leading people to filter out as much of it as possible. Online advertisement; can be blocked with software or by opting out, television by watching recorded shows, Netflix, iTunes and the growing list of no ad options, and radio by listening to subscription music-only channels. But outdoor advertising, such as billboards, and sidewalk signs cannot be turned off. They work twenty-four-seven.

...

The Best Platform for Small Business

It is therefore one of the best platforms for advertisers and marketers, especially for small business. As the costs for electronic media escalate, out-of-home advertising remains very affordable; without sacrificing the advertisements quality and impact. When advertisers, marketers, and advertising agencies compare the cost and reach of different types of media, outdoor advertising really stands out. The average cost to reach a thousand consumers with outdoor advertising is about $1.59 which is 80 percent less than television, 60 percent less than newspapers, and half the cost of radio. It stands to reason out-of-home (OOH) advertising is now one of the fastest growing ad mediums behind online. With recent data from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America confirming a long-term trend of 5 per cent compounded revenue growth for the medium, in quarter one of 2013.

Cost, however, is just one of the attractions of outdoor printed media advertising. Strategic placement of advertisements will further enhance its effectiveness to target and persuade potential consumers. An advertisement near the point-of-sale can obviously serve as a last minute purchase reminder to consumers and potential consumers. Out-of-home advertising can also complement other media to make advertisements and campaigns more effective.

Of course, a wide range of audience in outdoor advertising is no guarantee that a business or a company's sales will soar. The most critical success factor is the message itself. It has to make an impact and make it fast. For example, on billboards, the consumer might be going by at 60 miles per hour so it is incredibly important that consumers be able to immediately comprehend the message.

Another great advantage of out-of-home advertising is that advertisers can familiarize people with the packaging of a product. It is a very good vehicle for emphasizing what the product looks like so consumers will be able to recognize it immediately when they go to the store. It is also especially useful for helping launch a new and unfamiliar product and is a good value for businesses with limited marketing funds.

...

Outdoor Advertising has Variety

Outdoor advertising can take several forms, though most are of the sign variety. The following outdoor options are most common:

Billboards... Traditionally, these were large sign structures on which sheets of paper were adhered. Today, paper has been replaced by plastic and vinyl, yet the essence of the medium remains unchanged. They are usually placed along highways and other high traffic areas.

Sidewalk Signs... These are designed to stand freely on sidewalks. Often they are used to promote retail specials in shopping areas or used as directional signs. For more casual environments, chalkboard type signs can be used which can be easily changed and updated.

Buildings and Grounds... Building owners and tenants use signs, frequently lighted, as branding for their company. In retail and restaurant locations, outdoor equipment such as patio umbrellas can also display the business’ brand name.

Promotional Flags and Banners... Flags and banners promoting a business can be placed along entryways or high traffic areas to gain attention for your business. While traditionally flown flags can be used, flexible flags are      becoming increasingly popular with small businesses. These can be made of cloth (like traditional flags), vinyl or a polyester fabric.

Inflatables... Giant inflatable animals, characters, products and structures (such as entryways) can be purchased or rented, and can be very effective in gaining attention for special events and promotions.

Trucks and Vehicles... They are moving billboards. With expanded graphic capabilities such as vehicle wraps, trucks and cars bring a business’ brand and message to places where signs are often banned.

The key to it all is quite simple; make it fun and surprising, you'll be sure to attract some attention and new customers too.

Source: DisplayBay & AllAbout4

Fix Your Awkward Networking

Did you know that Garth Brooks sang a song about the importance of networking?

Well, pretty much. Here's the scoop: Brooks left a relationship that wasn’t fruitful anymore, but because he has contacts all over the place, he knows he’ll be able to bounce back. And while Garth might be going through a rough breakup, he hit on a principle that we as professionals abide by: It’s all about who you know.

Our contacts help us get jobs, mentor us, and provide us with a sounding board for professional questions. But before that person ends up as a trusted connection, you have to cultivate a mutually-beneficial relationship, one that provides value to your professional life in some way or another. You know what I’m talking about, people: Networking.

If you cringed a bit at that word, it’s okay. For a lot of people, especially introverts, the thought of networking with complete strangers is about as awkward as it gets. The entire platform of networking has largely moved out of our local coffee shops and onto online sites like LinkedIn, taking the need to be physically present to cultivate relationships out of the equation. Unfortunately, that’s left some of the professional world feeling more comfortable interacting with people online than in person. But it’s important to be able to network both ways, so that you can get the most out of being in the workplace, going to industry events, and generally being able to have real-life professional conversations. There’s just something about that face-to-face conversation that can’t be replaced by a keyboard and a mouse.

So, that’s why we came up with these 3 brilliant icebreakers for in-person networking that you can use anywhere -- at work, at a conference, out to lunch with colleagues -- to really hone on in the core skills of networking. Keep these icebreakers in your back pocket for your future networking events.

The Networking Trifecta of Icebreakers

#1. “Oh, you’re from [X Company]? How did you end up there?”

No matter how good or bad you think you are at networking, you really can’t mess up with this question. At the surface, it’s a pretty standard question when getting to know someone. It’s a question the other person has undoubtedly answered before, so it won’t catch them off-guard. But for you, it’s a chance to practice a skill that many want, few have, and even fewer do well: Listening.

You know when you’re telling a story and the other person seems really into it? They’re nodding at the appropriate times, probably giving you a few “oh yeah!'s” and “really?'s”? That’s because this person is giving you their undivided attention, and it makes you feel good, maybe even really confident about whatever you’re talking about. This is what you should aim to do with every professional conversation you have. One tip from Ivan Misner, the founder and chairman of business networking organization BNI, suggests that focusing on maintaining eye contact with the person you’re interacting with will help you listen better and drown out other distractions around you. If you’re networking at a big event, you’ll need to really be able to focus to practice listening.

#2. “You know, I recently read that [insert relevant industry news here]. Have you heard about that?”

Think about your favorite blog. Maybe you read it every day, or once a week, or maybe only once a month. No matter how frequently you read it, the point is that you keep coming back to that same blog instead of choosing a similar one with the same topic. And why wouldn't you? It's your favorite. And whether you know it or not, one of the reasons it’s your go-to source on whatever the topic is because it provides value to you in some way.

If you want people to think of you, remember you, really connect with you on a personal level -- you have to provide them with some value. And there’s nothing more valuable these days than the exchange of information. If you want to be perceived as an expert in your field, you need to contribute something of value to the conversations going on in your field.

You can practice doing this in a safe place -- your workplace. Find those people you really want to make a connection with and strike up a conversation in the kitchen about the latest and greatest article you’ve read.

(Tip for HubSpot customers: It’s really easy to stay on top of industry news if you’re using Social Inbox. You can create streams of any keyword that’s relevant to your industry, or monitor a Twitter list of thought leaders.)

#3. “Hey, I’d love your opinion on [your latest project]. Do you have a minute?”

“Oh, you would?” At least, that's what I think when someone asks me for help with something that’s important to them. It makes me feel appreciated, respected, and knowledgeable. Clearly I’ve devoted some time to whatever topic they're asking me about, so it feels good to put what I know to good use.

Now that you know that, pretend you’re the person who's looking to make a connection with me. Why would you hesitate to ask my opinion or for my help on something if you know it makes me feel this way? There's no reason to. So, don't.

In the Inc.com article "Networking Tips: Go From Awkward to Awesome," author Patricia Fletcher explains that asking for someone’s advice about a topic they know well is a great way to get a conversation started and bonds formed. “It’s pretty cool,” she says, “to have your ask turn into a successful person’s thoughtful input on what they would do if they were in your shoes.” Take advantage of these successful people around you, either the ones you work with every day or thought leaders in your industry, by tapping into their knowledge and asking for help.

Don't Hesitate. Just Network.

So the next time you’re faced with the opportunity to network in-person, don’t shy away. If you can remember the networking trifecta -- listening, providing value, and asking for help -- you’ll make those uber-important trusted connections that will serve you well in your professional years to come.

And, once you've done it a few times, it'll feel more and more natural until you find yourself doing this without thinking about it. You'll be surprised how easy networking can be with a little strategy and the right tools. Because you know what? You never know when you’ll need to pull a Garth Brooks and call on some trusted connections for a little help.

Source: Hubspot / Maggie Hibma

Get Some Social Savvy - It's Not Magic

It also won’t make your marketing program successful, and it certainly won’t drive revenue either. That is — if it’s not integrated into an existing business ecosystem that, ahem, works.

What social media can do is amplify almost any area of your business: customer acquisition, customer marketing, support, PR, HR, business intelligence, sales, and most other business areas you can think of. But mapping social activities to business goals doesn’t happen magically. And while social can certainly help these areas, it’s not going to fix what’s already broke.

Social media is not magic

For example, if your customer care is terrible, hanging out your shingle on Twitter specifically for customer service is not going to solve your organizational problem. In fact, it might expose more faults than it mitigates. If your marketing strategy is nothing more than a program designed to offer tired discounts, then posting those tired discounts on Facebook is not going to make them any more special or exciting.

Another myth is that just by developing and maintaining an engaged community, companies can drive revenue. Think of an engaged community as the supports of your bridge. In order to reach your goals you must build upon that foundation. An engaged community alone will not get you to your goal.

Often there is a BIG disconnect in businesses between the idea and the desired result, as if having a huge amount of Facebook fans will magically put dollars in the bank.

Social media is not a one (or two) trick pony

To be fair, social media can be confusing because it’s often playing several roles simultaneously. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time because you have to keep the steady drumbeat of content and community management while creating campaigns and programs specifically aimed at meeting a goal.

When people talk about “doing” social media, most often they’re referring to the functions of community management. In essence, community management is the deliberate development of a relationship between a brand and its customers and prospects on a social media channel. At its most basic level, the goals of community management are to:

  1. Increase audience size
  2. Drive socially-visible engagement actions
  3. Grow trust, loyalty, and even love (or at least affection) for a brand

Can’t buy me love

Sure you can buy Facebook fans and spend lots of money on advertising, but that only buys you exposure, not loyalty or affection. Like any solid relationship, it will take time, persistence, charm, and a deep understanding of your audience for all that effort to pay off.

It also takes a community manager who not only knows your business inside and out, but also has a deep understanding of the technology and tools at their disposal and how specific types of content drive specific engagement “love metrics.”

Community management is hard. It takes time, resources, and a bit of trial and error to get it just right. You also can’t immediately measure business results.

So why do it?

  • When you’re building your community, you’re laying the groundwork for a referral engine
  • You’re staying top of mind and putting money in the bank against mistakes or bad publicity (“brand insurance”)
  • You’re creating a channel where you can quickly and easily communicate news and announcements
  • You’re adding value to your business by delivering relevant information to your audience
  • You’re cultivating a space where customers can quickly and easily get their questions answered and their problems resolved — and your business gets to show off how responsive you are to your customers’ needs
  • You’re creating a forum where you can learn about your customers preferences and needs
  • You’re developing a network that connects with millions of other networks
  • Most importantly, you’re creating the conditions to let your customers do your marketing for you

There’s no amount of marketing you can do or money you can spend that will equal the recommendation of friend.

Effective, well-supported community management is a long-tail investment. You may not see the “return” on it for months or even a year, but like any good thing, it’s worth investing in and waiting on because of its potential power. The trick is to nail the community management piece down and then layer in specific business drivers appropriate for the channel.

Source: Constant Contact