6 Keys to Good Networking

MP900382854Regardless of business endeavor, meeting people and making new acquaintances is an increasingly important job skill.  Good networking forges relationships that are mutually helpful and beneficial whether or not one is involved in market research, market planning, public relations, advertising, sales or any other related activity that involves meeting people and expanding business contacts.

Despite its obvious importance, it is often the least well-implemented tool in a marketer’s kit.  Reasons for that vary, but experts say many people simply find it difficult to meet strangers and “ask for the sale” – whether that be a referral, recommendation, direction – or the actual sale.

Numerous sales training professionals have programs and methods to help people develop better networking skills, and nearly all have some elements in common.  Here are six basic keys to better networking:

Be Precise & Have an Objective

Ask for the result you want.  Don’t leave it to chance that a contact is going to surmise your need – and willingly provide exactly what you need.  Of course you don’t ask for something that’s beyond what someone you’ve just met will provide, but ask yourself: “Why are you networking and what would you like to achieve?”

Keep it simple.  You’re meeting people for the first time, so keep it light but focused.  If you have a typical profile in mind – then seek it.  If there’s a particular company exec you would like to meet – then seek contacts who can facilitate that eventual meeting.

Determine Who Can Help

Who can help you with your objective?  Does the person have the ability to make the connection, or can he or she lead to someone who can?  Are they willing to do so?

A common mistake people make is to exceed the capacity of a new contact’s willingness to help – or “over-ask.”  So don’t.  Instead, get to know the person.  Ask questions about them, their interests, and if they know anyone else at the event.

Align Your “Ask” to Their Capability

If the person can’t directly lead you to your objective, determine what they CAN lead you to.  Remember you’re networking – so network.  A new contact might not be able to help you today – but perhaps they can tomorrow.

You should also be contacting regularly – and a person who might not be able to help you just might be in a position to assist someone you know, or vice-versa.  Networking is a 2-way street, so good networkers look for opportunities to help others.

Ask for What You Need

At this point, you’ve learned a little about them.  Now, find out about their needs.  Offer any suggestions and / or display a willingness to assist them.  Typically, people will respond in kind and ask how they might assist you.

If they don’t, let them know by offering the same kind of information they provided in response to your casual questions about their needs.

Be considerate

In an appropriate way, show appreciation for the effort or help a contact has provided.  This is dependent on your personal style and the level of support provided.  A simple email or phone call will often suffice – but whatever you do, be sincere.

Maintain the Connection

Contacts are valuable – so keep in touch with the people you meet.  Remember – you’re building a network.  Maintain contact through an occasional email, phone call, or get-together for coffee or lunch.  As hard as it often is to network and build contacts – make an effort to keep them.

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P2R Associates Awarded Another Hermes Creative PLATINUM Award

Hermes-Statuette-PlatinumP2R Associates today announced it has received a prestigious Platinum Hermes Creative Awards sponsored by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals for its mobile app development work. This latest award brings the total of number of major professional awards P2R has won to 27 for its work since 2007.

P2R’s latest award is in addition to one Automotive Public Relations Council – Excellence in Automotive PR Award, two International Association of Business Communicator Awards, 20 MarCom Awards and three Hermes Creative Awards previously presented to P2R for a range of integrated strategic public relations and marketing communications programs, crisis communication strategies, mobile app development and print and broadcast publicity achievements.

“P2R is a small agency that produces big results and these awards make that point,” said Cole.  “Our trademarked e³ Process™ results in unique programs that deliver success.”

For more information on P2R and our e³ Process™, visit www.p2rassociates.com, email us at info@p2rassociates.com or call us at 1-248-348-2464.

Claiming the Premium Market Position

Increased competition and consolidations among component manufacturers in the North American automotive replacement parts market have created an urgent need to maintain a market leadership position among customers.

Now is the perfect time for aftermarket parts manufacturers to lay claim to their respective premium replacement product(s) categories and launch an aftermarket name brand assault.  Establishing a brand as top-of-class quality can be as simple as saying it – assuming that the brand does, indeed have premium quality and can back up that claim.

Once a company decides this is the proper direction for a brand, claiming the premium position should be backed up with all company communications to the market including advertising, marketing, public relations, sales force, web site, even business cards.  Once a brand has been established as the lead, it becomes difficult for other companies to dispute.

Claim your position today.

Marketing Strategies for Today’s Economic Climate

9 strategies to help stretch your marketing dollar

As we head into Q4, business executives remain hopeful that the worst of the recession is behind us, and despite the many questions regarding the impact of policies being implemented or considered, smart American business leaders know they must look forward and find solutions.  While the urge to “sit and wait” for clarity is strong – and the norm in many places — the reality is that business goes on.  Markets continue to evolve, and competition does not stand still for indecision.

While some functions can and should be delayed, others – such as marketing – should not be.  A company’s hard-earned position in the industry, reputation and all things “brand” continue to be earned, refreshed, and solidified – by design and direct action, or by random occurrence through inaction.  The race goes on, whether the runners know it or not.

The challenge for many marketers becomes a question of how to maximize the effect of marketing and support activities when resources continue to be lean.  Different organizations will have different “go-to-market” processes and so will prioritize in varying ways, but focused attention in 9 key areas can help the majority of businesses make the most of their efforts and dollars.

Target your effortSpend your money where it matters – focused on the people who buy your products or services.  Ads or outreach activities aimed at non-buyers are not targeted effectively and won’t “move the needle.”  Conversely, a campaign that’s targeted on your customers or their influencers will consistently produce strong results.

Be repetitious and consistentAmong the keys to successful marketing communications activities are maintaining frequency and being consistent.  This is especially so in downturn periods.  On-again, off-again budgets drive on-again, off-again efforts and in the eyes of most audiences, indicate a number of things – none of them good.

Such efforts drive speculation about a company’s staying power and competence, and speak to a company’s vision.  A company with a vision and a plan gets and stays on a consistent path.  Those companies are seen as survivors and their customers perceive a sound approach.  Other companies are perceived as not “walking the talk” and jeopardize their credibility at the worst possible time.

Consistent budgets drive consistent efforts – so resist the urge to cut marketing budgets. Use the budget to maintain the visibility your stakeholders and customers expect.  Shift budget from non-producing efforts and apply them to things that work for you.

Leverage your budget – integrate activities — don’t focus efforts on individual activities or efforts that are not coordinated.  Whether its traditional or online advertising, special events or media outreach – you will achieve significantly greater results by integrating your activities.  Your marketing communications activities are like an orchestra – and you are its conductor.  The different parts support one another and leverage individual success into a larger organizational effort.  Your activities will be recognized for their cohesion and by communicating with “one voice” – your message will ring clearly in the market place.

Quality Trumps QuantitySo keep your focus on quality.  When times are tough and your competitors are shaving costs across the board – let them.  Maintain your standards and offer the same quality in your products, services – and your marketing communications.  Your customers are already looking for greater value and will fill any void created by your less astute competitors.  Let them!

Push and Pull Your Way to Success “Push” marketing includes direct mail, email marketing, and the like.  “Pull” marketing is bringing potential customers in to your website – or causing them to phone you from a variety of places that can include advertising, search engine listings and other such vehicles.  Recognize the dual nature of your lead-generating activities and look for advertising or other marketing service providers that already have your target audiences in the cross hairs.

Seek Assistance from Media Partners – Your success is their success.  They know it and will be eager to help you!  They’ll know things you don’t and many times won’t know how to help, or even that you would welcome it – so talk with them, ask questions and reach out.  In addition to their expertise typically surpassing your own – they generally work more cost-effectively.  Ask yourself if your time is best spent monitoring metrics or web effectiveness for 2 hours a day – or better spent managing those areas and driving larger success.  Think of your time as the critical and finite resource it is; and consider your media partners as resources there to help you.

Benchmark Good Ideas – and learn from others – A wise man once said, “Good ideas are where we find them.”  There are plenty of smart people out there today and many more in our past.  While technology drives incredible change – many of the challenges we face are ones that have been faced before.  Research your challenges.  See how others have overcome them and learn from their experience.

Assess Effectiveness …Measure Performance – Metrics are a good thing.  You don’t need to buy a sophisticated package or the latest whiz-bang program.  Develop your own.  Measure what you determine to be necessary for your success, keep it simple and focus on improving in those areas.  For your online activities, you’ll want to hire someone or a firm with the experience to decipher your analytics and dial-in an effective online program.  It is money well-spent.

Incorporate changes quickly – when metrics or changing conditions warrant a shift in tactics – implement the change quickly.  If you wait for the perfect solution – or until the next quarter, you’ll likely be passed by the competition.  Sometimes you’ll have all the verification you’ll need, but most times, you won’t.  This is especially true in marketing activities and more so during uncertain times or challenging environments.

Remember too – there is always merit in a calculated gamble. If the potential is great and the risk is acceptable, why delay?  Similarly, if your organization can learn to be nimble, you will be able to take advantage of rapid changes in circumstances and the opportunities they bring.  Make challenges things you simply adapt and overcome.

Effective Communication Requires Discipline, Practice and the Ability to Listen

As professional communicators, the majority of us spend our waking hours communicating with others, but not in a meaningful manner that makes us successful communicators.  Effective communication requires discipline, practice and most importantly, the ability to listen.

 

The following six-step approach to effective communicating should help you streamline your thoughts, words and actions and help to become a more effective communicator in the spoken, printed and electronic communication world. 

 

  1. What is your purpose for communicating?  Define it.  Are you only sharing information?  Or do you need action?  If so, what action and by when?  Or, do you have intent, such as a call to action?
  2. Respect for your audience.  Are you being clear and concise?  Are you avoiding industry jargon that may confuse your recipients?  Are you pushing information, i.e., “selling and telling” or pulling information, i.e., “asking and engaging?”  For example, do you give others a chance to join your conversation?  Do you listen?  Do you want to listen?  Do you really hear?
  3. Simplicity.  Is your message easy to access?  For instance, can people simply skim your email messages to find the key information, or are they faced with a “wall of words” that they have to sort through?  Are your messages timely?  Do people know how to get in touch with you for more details or where to go for more information?  Are you making sure you’re not contributing to the problem of more information overload?  (Twitter?)
  4. Be a credible source.  Are you portraying through your oral and written communication that you are to be believable and trusted?  Are you doing what you say you will do?  Consistently?
  5. Provide value.  Are you communicating the topic in a way that appeals to people’s interests?  Are you giving them just-in-time information that will help them do their job or solve their problem?  Will they know how to act on the information?
  6. Have fun.  After all, communication is about exchanging ideas, learning new things, meeting new people.  All of this should be fun.  If communication ceases to be fun, then you are not effectively communicating.  Start having some fun today.

For Business, Public Relations is Becoming an Increasingly Vital Tool

How can we, as public relations practitioners, get a message across to our clients, and potential clients, that speed-to-market, reach, market intelligence stakeholder engagement and objective expertise are the essence of our DNA and more importantly, essential for business success? 

Interestingly, in January Advertising Age magazine predicted that public relations/crisis communications would be among the bright spots in 2009.  B2B magazine also claimed that business-to-business marketers were increasingly turning to public relations for support even as overall budgets are being reduced.  Without seeing the data – we think this makes sense.

 

In 2005, Proctor & Gamble conducted a landmark study involving a marketing mix model for six of their brands over a one to three year period.  P&G found the following:

 

§      PR drives sales, often on a par with advertising

§      PR delivers stellar ROI (275%), much greater than advertising

§      PR provides a halo effect over other marketing tactics

 

These findings coincide with P2R’s experience, especially with respect to public relations delivering a better return on investment and providing a halo effect.  Our guess is that public relations’ greater credibility is the reason.  For consumers and an ever-more news hungry population, credibility seems increasingly to be the tool-of-choice for breaking through what has become a cacophony of marketing messages.  Research bears this out in yet another example.

 

A 2006 survey of marketers conducted by The Association of National Advertisers (ANA), ranked public relations number one in terms of its overall value to the enterprise.  Additionally, The Economist magazine stated, “For business, public relations is an increasingly vital marketing tool – especially as traditional forms of advertising struggle to catch consumers’ attention.” 

 

At P2R Associates – we’re delighted to see that what many have known for a long time is becoming a growing awareness.  Three major industry publications and a marketing giant all believe that public relations holds the key to helping businesses compete and succeed in these trying economic times. 

 

It is important that agencies trust their judgment, get back to the basics, focus on their strengths, then identify what works and move forward.  We need to communicate results and show both existing and prospective clients how public relations impacts business and contributes to bottom line success – however difficult it might appear to be to do so.

Marketing Communications in a Down Economy; Evaluate, Engage & Empower

Down economy? Declining sales? Layoffs on the horizon? Hunker down and wait it out? Never! Any company that intentionally pulls itself from the radar screens of potential and existing customers will find itself on a slippery road to the scrap heap and seriously behind more forward-thinking competitors when things turn around.

Smart companies exploit an economic downturn by identifying and meeting customer needs that their competitors cannot. Needs that often customers don’t even see. The market is changing, the world is changing. Companies can’t just stay on the sidelines and wait for the playing field to level out. Customers need new and innovative products and services. These are things your company has the brainpower to design, develop and bring to market. Unfortunately, this outlook is counter-intuitive in many traditional-thinking firms.

Faced with economic hard times, many companies look to eliminate communications and marketing budgets as a way to reduce costs. However, the actual effect is to reduce revenues, and the medium- and long-term consequences are often worse than the illusory short-term benefits.

In this era of near-instant communication and media saturation, an opportunity lost is not easily won back and the being “quick to market” generates momentum that becomes a hurdle to competitors. Conversely, absence from the marketplace sends the wrong message to customers, suppliers, potential investors, employees and bold competitors. For these reasons, it is vital to maintain a presence, engage the marketplace, and be visible – with the right message – to all stakeholders.

Communicating during a recession is not business as usual. A recession should shake up the creative juices of a company. The phrase – “but we’ve always done it that way,” should be banished from a company’s vocabulary and replaced with “what can we do that is different?” “How can we be of greater value?” A recession creates the opportunity and motivation for a shift in thinking and opportunities for success.

If your marketing and communications activities have been operating in their own little world, now is the time to evaluate, engage and empower – partnering inward focus with outward success. This is the heart of what we call our  P2R e³ Process™.

Evaluate – review and audit perceptions and programs. This can be done by interviewing company executives, managers, sales force, admins, customers and suppliers, industry and media, and assessing company marketing materials and brands. This method produces some surprises, but in the end almost always leads to a stronger company with a more thorough understanding of its strengths, market and opportunities for growth.

Engage – with the information garnered from the evaluation stage, create a road map for communications, utilizing all the elements and attributes of your business and marketing plan – both informal and formal. Leave no constituency unattended. Now is the time to be creative. This approach paves the way through the clutter and helps companies reach customers, investors and other key audiences with a clear, unified message.

Empower – give employees a role in creating and strategically executing the new marketing communications plan – one fully aligned with business objectives, and launched through integrated communications activities aimed at employees, customers, suppliers and all other critical stakeholders. Leave no stone unturned. Now is the time to innovate. Build on your strengths, radiate optimism, seize the marketing initiative.

Many companies think the job is done when the communications program has been launched. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Companies need to constantly monitor communications programs, assess progress, re-evaluate and adjust where necessary, re-engage audiences and track success. Get rid of what doesn’t work, refine and hone what does. Reach out to customers, employees and all other stakeholders. Question assumptions, encourage adventure and reward smart thinkers.

This continuous improvement cycle brings a focus on objectives and a freshness to the effort. It maintains a “front-of-mind” presence with your stakeholders through the positive messages you create, making you – not competitors or external forces – the manager of your reputation and the keeper of your brand. Success should be measured against pre-determined metrics established during evaluate and engage activities.

Developing and maintaining a consistent cadence of information to the marketplace is crucial to communication, marketing and branding success. The idea is to keep your message constant and your voice clear.

Wise CEOs refuse to let other priorities cloud a steadfast focus on their marketing, brand communications and public relations. Instead, they work to build and leverage their brand reputation through integrated communications activities directed to all stakeholders.

In a recent American Marketing Association survey, 63 percent of respondents said companies investing in brand building activities during an economic downturn can lessen its effect – and history supports their view. Companies that maintain or even increase marketing spending benefit from the silence of others. In fact, a recent study by the World Advertising Research Center concluded “that brands with sustained advertising expenditure through recessions have a competitive advantage.”

Another study by International Survey Research underscored the importance of employee communications. It found dramatically better financial performance in companies with highly engaged employees compared to those with low employer engagement. While the competition mindlessly cuts costs, fully engaged and empowered firms were better positioned to both increase market share and maximize revenue.

Even McKinsey makes the point. In a 2002 study of best and worst performers, researchers found that one of the most significant differences between winners and losers was with respect to their spending on marketing and advertising during a recession. The best performers actually increased spending in these areas – not just relative to their competitors, but compared to their own spending in better times. Interestingly, a 2005 study conducted by the International Journal of Research in Marketing reached the very same conclusions.

During a recession, many companies grow. After a recession, some companies grow faster than the competition. This is more likely if they have: new products and services that fit customer needs better; engaged, enthusiastic people who creatively collaborate; an absence of assumptions and an aligned and streamlined business that continues to execute its strategic vision. Focused communications across the spectrum of the business environment is the means through which these things are achieved.

While communication is an often-overlooked, misunderstood and underutilized business tool; in reality it is a vital, integrated “force-multiplier” for a business as critical to success as cash management. Indeed – an effective and sustained integrated brand communications effort is a fundamental driver of cash-flow, stability and long-term success.