Strong Relationships Are Your Best Business Development Tool

In the business world, your relationships are one of the most important assets for you to cultivate. How you engage with potential clients is fundamental to your ability to develop fruitful interactions with them. But these interactions can also be a tremendous source of information that can help you improve the overall quality of your business offerings.

Your marketing efforts originate in the nexus between clear brand messaging and the building of these business relationships. Some might even say that your relationships ARE your brand. At the very least, understanding the interplay between the two is key to the success of any business. Let’s have a look at how these two things support and inform one another.

Here’s a familiar scenario: You meet someone at a networking event, strike up a conversation and develop the beginnings of a congenial relationship. In talking, you realize that there’s a potential for doing business with one another, and you agree to send your new acquaintance some more information about your products and services. It’s important to be able to support a business relationship with good documentation, so what you provide in your follow-up is going to be key.

After the Networking, Wow Them With Something Original

When in the initial stages of forming a good business relationship, it’s important that whatever documentation you send be quality, original material. You want to make sure that it represents you well, in a way that demonstrates your uniqueness in the marketplace. To really make a strong statement, instead of or in addition to a brochure, you can send a short, 30-second video. Depending on your product, perhaps you include a small sample.

There are other materials you may also want to prepare, such as documentation of your success rate. Depending on the nature of your business, this may come in the form of statistical information, testimonials, or a combination of both. Again, whether you quantify your success in terms of qualitative analysis or through anecdotal evidence, the important thing is that it has the impact of inspiring confidence in your ability to deliver.

In terms of statistical information, you may find that there is a difference as to the kind of numbers that you deem important and the numbers that a potential client is seeking. We all quantify success in different terms, based on the kind of work we are doing and the specific focus of our brand. If you are a B2C based company, your success may be counted in thousands, but if you are a B2B company, five leads may be considered a great outcome, potentially worth millions of dollars. Again, being able to quantify results is equally important as being able to share quality anecdotal and qualitative analysis.

Your Client Interactions Can Teach You So Much

Feedback from potential clients in this regard is going to be very important to you in a few ways. The first is, of course, related to whether or not you will be a good fit for working together. If you are speaking in the same terms about how you evaluate your ability to deliver what they need, and the client is impressed with your results, then you are off and running. If for some reason they are not satisfied with your track record, then perhaps they need you to offer a different type of documentation. If, however, you give them everything you’ve got and it’s still not enough, then they are looking for someone else. It’s important to recognize that not every potential client is a good fit. Better to know this up front and move on than to make the mistake of trying to force a square peg into a round hole. The results will not be good for either of you.

Understanding and accepting that a client is not a good fit for you is only one part of what you should take away from an experience like this. The other half goes back to using the feedback you get from potential clients to help you improve your overall offerings as well as the way you present them.

If you are consistently being asked to provide certain pieces of data that you don’t presently offer, then it may be time to update your data collection processes with regard to your existing clients. The key thing here is that any changes you make be in support of your overall branding goals, and not just an attempt to please others in a way that makes you lose your center. In this same vein, you may, in fact, discover from these types of interactions that there is a market for a new service or product that you could begin to offer as a very natural part of a logical business expansion.

You May Learn Even More Than You Expect!

Another thing you may discover is that you are looking for the wrong types of clients. If you are consistently being turned down by prospective clients, then perhaps it’s time for you to revisit the client personas you have developed. The success of your marketing and sales efforts is grounded on a firm understanding of who you are talking to when trying to pitch your business. This, in turn, informs your branding choices and all of your networking activity. Knowing you are talking to the right people is the first step in developing a strong client base, so take some time to revisit this evaluative, investigative process.

As in any good relationship, communication with clients should be dynamic and open. Always be ready to learn and adapt to things you are hearing, whether your conversation is with an existing client or a new prospect. If you are truly interested in creating a successful business, then it’s important to be responsive to new information, and be willing to learn and implement changes as necessary. Relationship building is an art, not a science, and this very personalized process may be one of your best and most reliable tools for professional development.

A Meeting Planner’s Role in Connecting: How to Facilitate Relationship Building Among Attendees

When it comes to pulling off a successful event, planners know that the real payoff comes after the event is over. Sure, we all want to make sure that the presentations roll out on schedule, without any technical glitches, and that the food and drinks are plentiful and satisfying. But the thing that makes any event truly memorable is the relationships that are established between attendees – especially ones that continue past the event itself and develop into ongoing business partnerships, creative collaborations, strong teams and friendships.

So what is the meeting planner’s role in making this happen? Well, to start, there is the obvious role of playing host at the cocktail party. Making introductions and facilitating dialogue are basic duties of any event host. With a little forethought, it’s pretty easy to figure out which guests would benefit from meeting each other. Playing matchmaker like this can be a lot of fun, and it’s also a great way to pay it forward by setting good things in motion.

But there are also some less obvious ways that you can elevate the educational portion of your event to the relationship building level. To me, this is the most interesting part, as it’s really rooted in the content of your event.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help attendees network better.

Relationship Building and Continuing Education Credits

Take, for example, educational events that people attend in order to earn Continuing Education (CE) credits. For many, this can feel like a boring requirement for their job, not necessarily an opportunity to enliven their day with new forms of social engagement. If you, as a planner, make your educational sessions more interactive and engaging, then you succeed on a number of levels. First of all, you will improve people’s retention of the information they receive. But you can also improve the quality of relationships people create as they are learning. Plus, everyone will have more fun in the process.

One way to do this is through roundtable discussion. If you build roundtables into your educational component, you give attendees an opportunity to share their perspective, expertise and experience with one another. This is an excellent way of helping people gain useful information from the field, wisdom that may not necessarily be available through official educational materials. We all know that on-the-job training and real life experience are both invaluable. Exchanging hard-earned lessons with colleagues can not only be an incredible learning opportunity, but a chance to bond and commiserate.

To deepen this experience even further, you can structure the discussion so that everyone has a chance to talk. With a good moderator, you can blend talking points with questions that are designed to draw out people’s experience and unique perspective, in order to fully explore and develop your discussion and make sure everyone feels included.

Making Follow-up Easy

There are practical things you can do, such as pre-arranging tables with contact information for everyone at the table. Providing pre-printed information on a piece of paper that already includes space for writing notes will facilitate follow-up. How often do we attend events and collect business cards and contact information and then never do anything with it? Anything we as planners can do to facilitate the follow-up process is welcome assistance.

Another idea is to provide a checklist for all of your attendees with things they can do to get the most out of the event. This can include suggestions about following up with the people they have met. You can also offer some incentive in this regard by featuring them in a newsletter or email. Perhaps you (or a writer on your team) interview all the people at the table, and then create a story that is subsequently written up and distributed to everyone. This can help tie the group together by re-stimulating their interest in one another, extending the education that happened at that table and reinforcing the connections that were made at the event.

Different Approaches for Different Goals

There are multiple variations of this approach for different learning environments. Internal company events are usually more about team building, and will take on a particular shape, depending on the overall goal. Perhaps you are facilitating a project-based discussion, where people work together to solve a problem. This may take the form of a mini-hackathon that results in the creation of a best practices document. Depending on the group, you may solicit answers to questions beforehand, coordinating through department heads. The discussion can serve as the beginning of an interactive process that sets in motion follow-up calls, meetings or facilitated chats. The event becomes a way to start an ongoing conversation, where you are shooting for a certain level of engagement. Depending on the group, you may or may not be called upon to provide some measure of follow-up.

In a company with a strong, cohesive culture, organize an activity that offers rewards for enhanced participation, such as an assignment or a contest. This type of exercise can further strengthen the culture or even support the development of a specific campaign or other set of goals. A highly targeted activity like this requires close integration with the organization’s leadership and a motivated group of participants.

Industry events, on the other hand, are less about team building than they are about networking. Content may be more generic and open ended, with a focus on exploration and discovery as opposed to some specific goal. Again, your efforts will be in overall service to your client’s goals, which will largely define the level and quality of interaction between attendees you are called upon to facilitate.

Gamification

Gamification may be an element you choose to bring in. However, it’s important to remember that any game you organize must support the larger goals of your event, otherwise it could become a distraction. Two other important things to keep in mind here are whether or not the game serves to help build relationships, and whether you have full buy-in on the part of participants. People have to be interested and engaged in whatever activity you bring to the table, in order to get the most out of the interaction.

Now that we’ve looked at using the educational component of your event as a tool for networking and relationship building, we can revisit the ways that you can improve the quality of networking in a more social setting – that is, how to be a better matchmaker! But that’s a whole other topic… stay tuned!

Looking for help building networking into your meetings or events? Let us know how we can help.

 

Jessica Levin Honored as Finalist for PCMA Visionary Awards, Community Advocate of the Year

Photo Credit: EAPhoto

On May 3, 2017,  Seven Degrees Communications President, Jessica Levin, was honored as a finalist for Community Advocate of the Year at the PCMA Foundation’s Visionary Awards. This award honors one PCMA member in the business events industry who has developed and managed a unique and impactful program benefiting the community in which their meeting was held.

More than 1,000 leaders in the business events were in attendance at the premier industry recognition event that took place at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C.

“I was thrilled to be a finalist and represent the New York chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association for our work in the community.   Over the last several years we have dedicated resources to support The Bowery Mission and Operation BBQ Relief. It feels great to be recognized for our work and hopefully we inspire others to give back.”

“Our 2017 honorees and award winners’ accomplishments serve as inspiration to both industry veterans and novices alike,” said PCMA President & CEO, Deborah Sexton. “Each an expert in their profession—always endeavoring to lead the advancement of their organizations and the business events industry.”

Other finalists included Adam Anderson of Informa Exhibitions and Peter C. O’Brien, CASE, Global Account Executive with Marriott Global Sales Organization, who took home the Community Advocate of the Year award.

Celebrating Eight Years of Seven Degrees Communications

Today, Seven Degrees Communications celebrates our 8th anniversary, and I could not be more proud of what we’ve built. The idea of helping people to connect with one another about their products and services while developing great, mutually beneficial relationships has become central to our flexible approach to marketing communications.

Over the last eight years, our roster of services has grown to encompass social media marketing, PR and event planning, as well as content development, technical writing and graphic design.

When I first started this company, I knew that I could help clients navigate what was then the relatively young world of social media to help build their networks. What quickly became apparent, though, is that social media was not a stand alone service and belonged as an integral part of a marketing plan.

The biggest evolution is how we work with our clients.  It took us awhile to realize that the best way for us to help our clients succeed was to function as an outsourced marketing department, with myself in the role of CMO. We work as an extension of a company, as an integral part of the leadership team. We manage relationships on their behalf, represent them at public events, and help create and maximize the impact of the most strategic business connections.

You may be wondering, why would someone want to outsource an entire marketing department?

Here are a couple of key reasons:

  • COST EFFECTIVENESS – Many companies want the expertise of a CMO but can’t afford to hire someone at the level of experience they require. We offer access to executive level talent along with an entire creative, tech and support team at an affordable monthly rate, designed with budget in mind.
  • AUTHORITY – Many executives don’t have the time or the desire to create a marketing plan and manage its execution. As a CMO for hire, I come to the table as a partner, with an informed perspective based on over 20 years of industry experience, ready to advise on the best course of action with a plan to implement it.
  • FLEXIBILITY – With a varied suite of services capable of addressing specific needs, we bring to the table whatever resources are required, implemented by a hand picked team. Once we sign on, we do what it takes to manage marketing initiatives, campaigns and events, even if that changes from month to month.
  • INTERDEPENDENCE – When companies partner with Seven Degrees Communications, they engage our collective creativity, wisdom, experience and judgment. They can rest assured that our team is on the case, a steady presence in front of as well as behind the scenes, coordinating with them and working on their behalf.

Of course, we still work on smaller projects and with organizations that have marketing teams, but this approach has been great for many businesses.

As things have changed over the last eight years, we’ve adapted. We hope that the next eight years will be as full of adventure and accomplishments as the last. As always, we express our sincere gratitude for those who have trusted us with their business and friendship.

If we haven’t yet had the pleasure of collaborating, let’s have a conversation about how we can help you with your marketing and communications. Who knows? It might be the start of a beautiful partnership.

Happy Connecting!

About Your Holiday Card (Or Lack There Of…)

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For as long as I can remember, we have sent hundreds of holiday cards to our business colleagues and friends.  Real. Printed. Holiday Cards.  If anyone knows me, they know that I am not a fan of e-cards…

When we do send cards, we like them to be creative and bring a smile to someone’s face.  We want them to be memorable and festive. We want to share the joy of the season with our community.

This year we had a case of “writer’s block” when it came to our design.  We had a few ideas, but nothing we loved.  As I sat there thinking about the holidays, I firmly believed that there was something else we should be doing.  

Through our work with NY PCMA, we have adopted The Bowery Mission as one of our charities. For the last two years, our PCMA chapter has helped The Mission by building over 500 care packages to be distributed to homeless men and women in New York City.  With this is mind, we made the decision to make a donation to The Bowery Mission instead of using the budget for holiday cards.

As you can see from the video above (click the image to view), the money that we donated will be used to provide meals to hungry people in the next few weeks.  We encourage you to go check out the work that The Bowery Mission does and how they help people get back on their feet.

With that said, this is not your holiday card, but this is a reminder that we can all make a difference this holiday season— in your town, in an organization, and in the world.  

Happy Holidays from our team at Seven Degrees Communications. 

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