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.

Agency Compensation for RFPs? A Procedure Whose Time has Come

We have been receiving our fair share of RFPs lately and as usual, the discussion turns to “are we going to get paid for this?” or “they’re just going to steal our ideas and give them to another firm to implement.”

To combat this we have been doing some research into the question of compensation for the effort that an agency expends in order to reply to an RFP, much less win the contract.

According to a recent ADWEEK article, “too often, agency executives view RFPs as take-it-or-leave-it documents, frequently ignoring the risk of giving away ideas “for free” for a chance at a lucrative contract.  Additionally, some RFP issuers have long viewed the process as an opportunity to solicit creative ideas from a range of sources without having to pay.  Neither of these scenarios is desirable.”

AutoZone, a national automotive parts retailer, recently offered to purchase ownership of pitched ideas.  On the surface, it may seem that AutoZone, and subsequently other prospective agency clients, are devaluing the creative and or strategic planning process by requesting ownership of campaign ideas in exchange for meager financial compensation.  Note: Autozone is also requesting a two-year ban preventing agencies participating in their RFPs to pitch competitors – essentially a non-compete clause.

But perhaps this might signal a procedural shift among those requesting RFPs and evaluating agency proposals.  Are agency clients now recognizing property ownership?  Will this be a trend-shift?  The ADWEEK article suggests that this is a starting point for pre-proposal compensation negotiations.  Concept development fees can be explored.  This seems like a stretch.

At a very minimum, agencies should be able to copyright the information contained in their proposals, even if they are not compensated.  Wording should be developed where the ownership of the concept, plan and execution model belongs to the developer until payment is rendered.  Alternately, a non-disclosure agreement could be entered into.  Wouldn’t this be a new idea!

Ultimately, we believe agencies need some legal protection if their ideas and plans are used without payment.

What do you think?

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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 Metrics and ROI

j0434829In the course of a new business meeting earlier in the week, I became engaged in a conversation about marketing communications metrics.  I greatly enjoy such conversations because we have a wonderful model of integrated metrics tracking that is downright exciting for those interested in such things and never fails to fuel a conversation on the topic.    

On the heels of that conversation, an article came my way talking about metrics, ROI, and various techniques used in healthcare marketing.  Given the earlier discussion, it piqued my interest so I plunged in.  The article proved to be well-written, very broad, chock full of input from various “experts” and devoid of any “so what” or actionable takeaway. 

It struck me as something to share internally as an example of an intelligent-sounding article on metrics that hits on a lot of buzz, but says nothing concrete.  About the only thing useful – from a 50,000 foot level – was buried somewhere near the middle in a quote by one of the experts” who basically said metrics should be tailored to need.   Unfortunately, much of what we see regarding marketing metrics and marketing in general seems much the same – a lot of sizzle and splash, newspeak and nodding heads, but little substance.  In my opinion, the prevalence of such things cloud understanding of the issue and curtail frank, inquiring discussion at best.  

People who “should” know all about these things fear appearing as if they don’t and so fundamental questions remain un-asked, assumptions aren’t challenged, prevailing attitudes are accepted, the boat isn’t rocked and on we go.  In that environment, basic misunderstanding grows, mistakes are made and the process gets repeated – even institutionalized. 

The only good metric is a useful one…

Our approach toward metrics in general is that they are most useful when they’re: tailored to client objectives, provide insights into effective direction and are actionable.

 

We point out these requirements whenever the discussion turns to metrics or ROI with the added caveat that metrics need to be simple to understand and track.  Which leads to something else: in both the article and in conversations, we’ve also noticed there is often confusion between “metrics” and “data.”  In my mind, data is useful and if budgets allow – always a good thing.  Metrics are forms of measure. 

 

In addition to basic misunderstanding, confusion comes when tracking online activity for example.  Is it a metric – or is it data?  One could say both.  Certainly it’s a handy activity to track, but if considered a metric, then what’s its worth if not tied to a means of manipulating the outcome toward the achievement of something that furthers a company’s objectives?  So then, data is information.  Metrics are tools tied to outcome that allow us to take effective action when needed.  

 

To be useful, the tracking of online behavior should link back to effect the desired behavior or outcome.  Otherwise, such activity too often becomes “pursuit of the month.” 

Strategies are hatched, agencies are aligned, programs are designed and launched, metrics are captured, a flag is stuck in the ground and victory is proclaimed.  Unfortunately the results produced are often dubious at best and the lingering effects of such actions tend to be harmful to an organization.  The real tragedy is that most organizations miss the fallacy of a process they continue repeating.  

 

The auto industry we know so well, is rife with examples.  Consider GM’s ongoing experiment with all things “brand.” 

 

Perhaps 15 or so years ago, “brand managers” were brought in from other industries in order to boost car sales through implementation of “brand strategies” and techniques in place within the consumer products industry – notably at P&G. 

 

Thinking changed, direction changed; young, new “gurus” were given free rein to implement new marketing activities affecting virtually all of GM’s line.  Did it work?  Well, that’s a multi-faceted question, but many would say “It didn’t help.”   Given the profound (read “faulty”) mindset change such thinking drove, it was downright harmful.

 

Cars became “products,” nameplates became “brands,” the car companies themselves became “brands,” “brandspeak” became lotus leaves and many bought into the  illusion.  Customers who simply wanted “cars” become confused with all the hype and the dizzying array of offerings. 

 

Toyota, Honda and others kept to the basics of building what consumers wanted: cars that were well-made, provided reliable transportation, were fun and looked good.   

 

Not to say they didn’t pay attention to research, new marketing techniques and metrics – of course they did.  However, I would argue that they kept a pragmatic balance, an end-goal and their customers in mind, while their competitors rushed from brandspeak “fad-to-fad.”  It’s clear which companies had more success and built the more loyal customer bases.

 

I’ll never forget when Chevrolet launched the Lumina in the late 80s.  At significant cost, Chevrolet purchased the rights to use Disney characters in ads promoting the new vehicle.  At the time, I read their thinking was to link the wholesomeness of Disney characters to the new car in an effort to connect it to families.  Somehow, families in the market for a car would be drawn to the new vehicle because of its association with Disney characters and their high regard for the family values of Disney.

 

At the time, I worked at a firm involved in the launch of the Lumina.  I had driven the car and thought it was poor in comparison to other offerings then on the market.  I remember thinking the money spent on a Disney link could have been well spent on building a better product and touting things potential buyers wanted.  At any rate, the Disney ads were soon dropped, the Lumina was never considered a “hot” seller and never sold in the volumes desired.  Today it’s gone.

 

The point is that all too often we get carried away with marketing newspeak, unproven-but-cool-sounding approaches and the application of new technologies and  tactics we don’t take the time to think about or understand.  Too often, we take a short-term view instead of the more strategic action that furthers accomplishment of a long-term and often bigger objective.

 

Meanwhile, wiser marketers “think” before they “do,” apply common sense instead of delegating to the “experts” and implement activities with the correct end goal in mind.  After the hubris has faded, they tend to be the winners. 

 

Constructive accountability is an added factor that comes into play… but that’s a stand-alone issue for another discussion.

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.