Monday, March 11, 2019

Five Rules For Networking Your Startup In A New City

As an expat Canadian (New York City has been home for over 20 years), a question I am frequently asked by foreign startups seeking funding or new customers is “how do I network in the United States?” Oh, if only it was so easy to give a single piece of networking advice for that 50 state question. Here’s why: when it comes to networking, it is as much about location as the people you desire to meet . One set of networking rules does not fit all geographic locations. To be successful at building networks in new cities, you need to understand how the locals interact – as it will improve the likelihood you’ll make the right connections and enhance the interactions you make.

“In Austin, breakfast tacos and craft coffee rule for a first meeting - and don't be too formal as Austin is a super casual city ” – Julia Cheek, founder of digital health platform EverlyWell

Know Before You Go

Do your research on the investors or companies you want to meet, and the city you’ll be meeting them in, well before you book a flight or send a “here’s my pitch deck can we meet over coffee” email. You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice countless times before - and it’s guidance worth adhering to, as it will save you endless wasted hours and dollars in the long run. Google meetups in the city where you’re headed. Sign up for hyper-local event newsletters. Crowd source suggestions through Twitter. Whatever your source of information, study and take a keen interest in how the local entrepreneur community interacts – then mirror their behavior.

“Some of the networks do not mix with other networks. It is important to know which are the most relevant networks for your specific startups and in some cases, you might want to participate in completely different events so that you build connections in several networks.” - Itxaso del Palacio. Investment Director at London-based Notion Capital.

Learn The Unwritten Rules

Nashville's business community prides itself on accessibility and a willingness to meet regardless of seniority , Mucker Capital’s Monique Villa tells me. People who want to be connected within the Toronto startup ecosystem should look to add value , according to Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures. As a Canadian I can confirm that we are a friendly, sincere and helpful nation and it is not surprising that the Toronto tech ecosystem reflects these values. The point here is that every city operates a little bit differently and the more you understand those nuances, the more successful your network-building will be. Ask the investors or advisors you already have if they’ve done business in the city you’re headed to – then pepper them with questions about their overall experience (rather than immediately leaping into an ask for introductions).

“People will go out of their way to be helpful and, generally speaking, entrepreneurs, investors and others in the community genuinely care about each other and want others to be successful as they believe that a "rising tide lifts all boats" and the more success stories we have in Toronto, the more likely it is that other successes will follow.” - Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures

Skip The Sales Pitch
Your goal is to make long-term connections, not simply to close a funding round or land a business deal. Entrepreneurship is a precarious, challenging and uncertain pursuit. When resources (such as time, money and introductions) are scarce, the default is to invest those scarce resources in those with shared values and a demonstrated commitment to the community. If you’re not prepared to invest in the targeted ecosystem, why should they invest in you?

“Everyone knows everyone, literally. In such a close-knit ecosystem like Singapore, all parties play in the same pool - government, corporate innovation teams, startups, accelerators, VCs, angels... One particular thing that people like talking about (think Crazy Rich Asians) is their family ties and the rich families they know.” – Pocket Sun, Managing Partner, SoGal Ventures

Warm Introductions Work Best
The foundation of strong introduction is trust – and trust does not arise from a perfectly crafted pitch deck[/tweet_quote] or complimentary email or hunting down an investor via a conference app. Avoid conferences is the advice of Singapore-based Anne Marie Droste, partner at Entrepreneur First. Droste, as with many venture capitalists seeks introductions that come from her network, preferably from another startup. “CEO to CEO [introductions] are always best for intros” in her mind. While avoiding conferences may sound harsh, I would suggest avoiding conferences if your only goal is to secure investment. If you’re attending to learn more about the dynamics of a startup ecosystem or further develop relationships you’ve made previously, then by all means, attend those conferences!

“Whatsapp is where it’s at - no one emails. Business cards are less necessary than people like to think - just when you talk to corporations.’ – Anne Marie Droste, partner, Entrepreneur First (Singapore)

Understand Communication Preferences
To build a strong network you need to recognize the communication preferences of the other person . Are they a “meet for coffee person” or a 15-minute phone call type? The same is true when it comes to technology. The good news is that many investors share their communication preferences from interviews, podcasts, blogs and tweets. You should be able to discern the best way to engage. Be prepared to adopt their preferred communication tool(s) when necessary. “ WeChat is the predominate messaging app in China and it's the most important tool for networking and getting things done” Tina Cheng, Managing Partner at Cherubic Ventures tells me, adding that the custom in China is to add business contacts on WeChat by scanning a QR code. Figure out before you reach out whether you need to get a QR code, download a new app or jump on a video chat platform, and avoid looking like yet another startup founder who doesn’t know the local networking rules.

"The Warsaw start-up scene and investor community love networking. the language of communication is English. It is easy to get a meeting with any investor out there, people are very open. Just send an email ." - Kinga Stanislawska, founder and managing partner, Experior Venture Fund

Image Credit:  Getty | Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

How To Improve Business Relationships – 5 Easy Tips

How would you like to learn some easy tips about how to improve business relationships? Let me start with a story. Over the past six months, I’ve been really exploring how to prospect for new clients. One of the things I started doing in 2018 is create courses around LinkedIn. I went down that road myself. I bought Sales Navigator at $80 a month. I tried like crazy to use that to get new business. And I failed.

Then I started teaching courses on how to set up LinkedIn better, and I had a few people take it and they loved it. But it never caught on. One of the things I learned is that people are basically LinkedIn-2averse. And there’s a reason for that.

First and foremost, there’s not a lot to do on there. You can read articles and that’s pretty much it. You know some people obviously on Facebook are playing games or joining groups or whatever it is. But the level of conversation on there is way lower. And the other thing that happens is something that I call connect and pitch. What happens with connect and pitch is somebody connects with you and then immediately, right after they connect, they sell you something. I just got one today for somebody who says, hey I’ve got business funding for you. A couple of weeks ago I got one from a guy who is recruiting for his MLM. I could go on and on, but let’s get to the bottom line.

Sometimes you get these messages in your inbox saying, “Hey, you’ve got a new connection request on LinkedIn.” When you check it out, before you can even exit the program, the person is already pitching you what they want to sell you.

If you’re one of those people that get a lot of that kind of contact, chances are you’re not gonna be real anxious to log in and try that same thing yourself. Why? Because it doesn’t work.

One Simple Email

Let me tell you something that I did. I’ve been working with a program called Nimble. It’s a CRM. Now you probably know the term CRM, Customer Relationship Manager. You probably have a CRM. You may have something as basic as your address book, or something really intense like Sales Force, HubSpot or Infusionsoft, or something along that lines. There are tons of them. But the biggest problem with CRMs is that they’re a lot like LinkedIn. Everybody’s got ’em, but not many people use ’em. Why? Because they’re not 100% sure what to with them, and often they just don’t work.

But I figured out a little bit of a secret, and that’s what I’m gonna talk about today. So the secret is this: At the end of the year, I went through my CRM in Nimble and basically pulled in everybody I did business with last year who I’d built a website for. I don’t do a lot of them, but I had a handful. I put them into a list. And I tagged them. Then I created an email and said, “Hey, I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but there are a lot of changes in WordPress. There is WordPress 5.0 and Google Recaptcha 3.0, and they are causing havoc with a lot of websites. They’re causing a lot of people to get a ton of spam. On top of that, some sites are crashing because the plugins or the server are too old, or whatever.”

So I said, “Hey, if you’re having any of these problems, I’ve got a special for you. I will monitor your site and fix any of those problems for a fee. If you’re interested, just email me back or call me or click this button.” The next morning I got up, and all of the sudden I saw that I had a whole bunch of money in my PayPal account because people didn’t even bother calling. They just went and said, “Okay I’m ready.” So just by reconnecting with past clients, using that CRM and tagging them and sending them a targeted email, I was able to increase my sales before the end of the year.

Just Log In

Have you ever heard the term GIGO? It stands for garbage in, garbage out. One of the things I want you to do, and this is the first tip, is have a commitment. The commitment is to log in every day and do something. So here’s the first step, alright? Take a look at either old data or new data. Old data could be something from your QuickBooks or something that you already have in there. Verify that some of the people that you are working with are still at the same company and still have the same phone number. You can look them up on LinkedIn, you can check your email, whatever it is.

Maybe you want to add some new people. So let’s say maybe your concept is you add five new people and you update five old people. Or maybe you just update ten of your current contacts, whatever it is. So number one, log in daily.

Do Something Daily

The second thing is to do something daily. In other words, get in there and actively update just ten records. That’s all you need to do. In ten days, in two weeks you have 100 records done. And it shouldn’t take that long, maybe five, ten, fifteen minutes, worse case scenario. We’ll talk in the future about what to do with them and some ideas on how to maximize it, but the bottom line is you’ve got to start from a baseline of good data. Garbage, in, garbage out, so get rid of the garbage.

Verify Your Data

The third tip is to verify the old ones. Just go in and look whatever data you can find. You can just get on the phone and say “Hi, it’s Brian. I just wanted to double check a couple quick things. I don’t want to bug ya. Number one, you’re still at the company B, your email address is still this, and the address is this, you haven’t moved.” Just get as much good data on people as you can. So in that 10 or 15 minutes, maybe you make one or two phone calls, just to connect that or send an email, whatever it takes.

Tag… You’re It

Tip number four, and this is one of the most important ones you have to do, is to organize that data. As you start working with your old data, make sure that you’re tagging them or categorizing them or whatever it is that your CRM allows you to do. In the case of the clients that I put in that I was able to sell something to, I went in and put in WordPress clients. Now, I have a whole bunch of other clients that I’ve done WordPress work for, but they’re also tagged as people that are already buying my monitoring services. So I was able to go in and segment the audience saying I want to look at everybody I’ve done WordPress for, but who are not using me for WordPress monitoring services. That’s how was able to segment and send those people an individual email. That’s one of the cool things about Nimble; I can do a group email but it looks like an individual email coming from just my inbox as if I was using my desktop machine. So it made it super simple to communicate once I started organizing them.

Start out with the basics. How about: old clients, new clients, maybe even past clients, people that you haven’t talked to in more than a year. Maybe it’s prospects. Those are four categories you can easily add. Then maybe start adding in the types of product or services that you have for those people. Then you can start to build a database of good, useful information that you can segment targeted information to.

Clean Up Old Data

The final tip I want to give you is just do a data cleanup. That is, if you have multiple records for the same person, try to merge them. Programs like Nimble will let you find duplicate data and select both of them and merge them together into one.

Final Thoughts

Let me leave you with some final thoughts. First and foremost, get acting. Get some work done. Spend five to ten minutes a day getting your data cleaned up or added. Secondly, have a plan. Think about old clients, new clients, prospects. Think about what can you do to communicate with them, and we will cover that in more detail in future podcast episodes and blog posts. Log in every day, make a commitment to do something and start to build a plan on how you can better communicate to build better relationships to grow your business in the coming year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?

Image Credit: metamorworks -

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Entrepreneur's Guide to Building Better Media Relationships

When you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, your first goal probably involves spreading brand awareness and recruiting customers. Many business owners reach out to the media for publicity, eager to share their story and promote their business.

To achieve this, however, you must approach the situation properly. Building positive media relationships is possibly the most important task of entrepreneurship, and failing to do so can be detrimental to your company. Here’s how to do it – the right way.

1. Do your research.

Before you pitch a journalist, you'll want to understand who they are and what they cover. Going in blind will show that you're only in it for yourself, rather than searching for a mutually beneficial arrangement.

"To make a good impression, it's essential to research and understand a reporter's beat before sending them a pitch," said George Bradley, PR manager at Circa Interactive. "By taking an in-depth look at the stories they've covered and the articles they've written recently, you'll be able to get a thorough understanding of the stories they're most interested in and will therefore have a much better chance of pitching them something they'll be receptive to."

Also, keep in mind that every journalist is different. Some like to be pitched via email, while others favor phone calls. Rather than assuming, ask for their preferred method of communication off the bat and stick with it, said Vicki LaBrosse, director of global public relations at Edge Legal Marketing.

2. Keep track of contacts.

Once you start communicating with contacts on a more regular basis, create a list or spreadsheet to keep track of each person. Include information like their email, beat, previous collaboration, the last time you pitched them and any other details you deem necessary.

"Keeping a list of media contacts that you have developed a professional rapport with can be a great way to maintain relationships and land easy PR wins in the future," said Bradley. "It's important to send these contacts personalized pitches and reference any previous work that you've done with them. This will help to show your appreciation for the media placements they have helped to facilitate and ensure that they remember who you are."

Also, he added, pitch these contacts often enough that they keep you in mind, but not so often that they roll their eyes every time they see an email from you. You can refer to your list to determine a schedule that works best for both sides.

3. Respect their time.

Journalists are busy people with perpetually full inboxes. Their time, just like yours, is valuable, and you should treat it as such.

"When working with the media, speed of response is critical to success," said Bradley. "You cannot sit on a journalist's response for a couple of days, or even a few hours in some cases, without potentially losing the opportunity completely ... Not responding quickly is a surefire way to damage a relationship with reporters and editors. You will only have one opportunity to get it right, so clear communication with everyone involved is vital."

If you can't form an elaborate response to their email or request right away, Bradley recommended letting them know that you're working on it so they don't seek out someone else instead.

On the flip side, make sure you're patient with them as well. LaBrosse advised giving your contacts space in between pitches and messages.

"Follow-up is fair, but too many reminders may be considered annoying or even spam," she said. "If you don't get a response, do not be afraid to rework the pitch – it is all part of the process. In the end, if the relationship is nurtured and respected, the reward will come."

Image Credit: Pressmaster | Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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