Friday, October 20, 2017

Can't Stand Networking Events? Pretend to Be Somebody Else

Networking events have a decidedly mixed reputation in business. Lots of people can't bear them for all kinds of reasons: Introverts worry about clamming up, extroverts about being bored, and hard-driving types about it being a waste of time. You might have your own reasons to finding any possible excuse for avoiding them.

But in-person networking is not going away anytime soon. Sure, social media networks are terrific because they allow you to connect with new clients, share interesting articles, and you never have to leave your desk.

But let's be real -- as you're scarfing your lunch and reading your former CEO's latest think piece on office culture, you still know deep down that the face-to-face experience of business socializing can make an important difference for sales, industry connections, new knowledge, and who knows what else.

One of the ways I've grown my business from a stack of file folders (remember those?) to a multi-million dollar consulting firm is by using the skills I've learned as an actor and improviser to make these events more productive -- and, dare I say, often quite fun. And the good news is that you can, too.

The first thing to do is to approach the event as a play or a film. It might feel strange to think about it in that way, but the metaphor holds up.

You'll be making an entrance into an unfamiliar space. You'll hear -- and soon be adding to -- a cacophony of dialogue over the course of the evening. The people will be arranged in pairs or small groups which will change and rearrange in an intricate and fluid choreography.

Seeing the event as a play or film means that your conversations will be a series of scenes, and that allows you to perform as a new character. Yes, I mean perform -- literally.

You can then make "performance choices" and try things you wouldn't normally do, which increase the effectiveness of your presence and experience. You might not be rapping about the Constitution in front of thousands of screaming Hamil-fans, but the choices you make in these scenes matter.

So congratulations! As a new cast member of "Networking: The Musical!" you suddenly have a Playbill full of possibilities for how to perform at your next event.

Here are a couple of my favorites:


1. The Gracious Host

You're not actually the host, but you're doing what a generous host would do.

You go out of your way to greet people. You engage them in conversation, not because you're looking to get something from them, but because as the host, you know that will make them more comfortable (remember, it's not just you who finds these events awkward).

You ask them questions about why and how they came, and what they're finding useful about being there. You know that people are here to meet each other, so you're keeping an ear out for people who might connect well.

Did that guy say he's in social media marketing? He might want to talk with the woman with the hot new app. Is this couple going hiking next weekend? Maybe they want to meet the folks who rent out a mountainside full of glamping cabins.

The best thing about playing The Gracious Host is that your motivation to chat with people is totally altruistic; you get all the benefits of being there, while banking good networking karma for the future.


 2. The Curious Journalist

Perform as someone who is fiercely and genuinely interested in who people are and what they do. You are curious. You are generous. You are brave.

You aren't afraid to ask questions that are a bit provocative. "Do you have any tips for people who are bad at networking?" "What did you think you'd be when you grew up?" "What was the best career advice you ever got?"

And as someone who's extremely curious, you ask follow-up questions as well, making sure they're closely connected to what the person just said and not answerable with a simple "yes" or "no."

Both the "Gracious Host" and the "Curious Journalist" have one important trait in common: They listen. When you play one of these characters, you're paying much more attention to the other person in the conversation than to yourself.

Because you have more important things to do with your attention -- like asking questions, or making connections, or helping everyone else feel comfortable -- your awkwardness, or boredom, or self-consciousness just fade away. And you're free to reap the rewards of a successful networking event.

As they say in another (extremely profitable) show: You're not throwing away your shot.

Image Source: 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.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The 17 Essential Rules for Email Marketing

Earlier today, a subscriber to my free newsletter asked me to critique his marketing email. (I do this as a free service to subscribers.) During our conversation, I felt the need for a complete list of the rules for effective email marketing. Here they are:

1. Prune your list mercilessly.

It's not the number of email addresses in your list that count; it's the percentage of email addresses belonging to prospects who might buy from you. Delete addresses that don't open your emails and make it easy for uninterested "prospects" to unsubscribe.

2. Send emails during off hours.

Numerous studies have shown that marketing emails are much more likely to be answered if they are sent when prospects are not juggling all the daily emails that get traded during normal work hours.

3. Have a short, relevant Subject line.

Numerous studies have also shown that emails are more likely to be opened if the Subject line is 2 or 3 words, as opposed a sentence. Ideally, the teaser (the first 20 words of the email; see #5 below) should complement and reinforce the Subject line's relevance.

4. Use the recipient's first name.

Unless you're marketing to a culture that values formality, start your marketing email with the first name of the prospect, followed by a comma. No honorific (like "Mr.") and absolutely no "Dear..." Write as if to a colleague, not your Great Aunt Mable.

5. Pack a benefit into first 20 words.

In most email readers, the Inbox display includes the sender, the time sent, the Subject line, and the first 20 words (or so) of the email. Prospects decide whether to open your email based on those four elements.

6. Don't pretend intimacy.

Stock phases like "Hope you are having a great summer" are not only insincere (why would you, a stranger, care?), they uselessly consume the valuable visual "real estate" that appears in the inbox summary of the email.

7. Show your uniqueness.

Your email must create the impression that you, personally, are worth the prospect's personal attention. Find something about you, your product or your company that might be uniquely interesting or compelling to the prospect. (But see #12 below.)

8. Write from the customer's viewpoint.

Prospects are interested in themselves, their own careers, their own business, and their own customers (in that order.) They will shrug off and ignore any message that's primarily about you, your business, your product, your enthusiasm, or your opinion.

9. Remove all features and functions.

In most cases, prospects have no idea why they would want or need any individual feature of your product or service. Unless (as is seldom the case) the prospect has already studied your product category, a list of features is just visual noise.

10. Avoid unfamiliar acronyms and buzzwords.

Most prospects stop reading an email the second they see an acronym or technical term they don't immediately recognize. For example, the term "CRM" means something to most business-folken; a term like "sales enablement system," in contrast, means squat.

11. Be precise rather than abstract.

Statements like "saves money and time" or "improves productivity" are so colorless and vague that they fade into the background. Instead, provide a real example that shows exactly what the prospect is likely to experience.

12. Don't toot your own horn.

People who don't know you don't believe your when you claim to be the best at anything. Worse, they're likely to assume you're either conceited or telling the opposite of the truth. For example, most people know it's a red flag when a salesperson claims to be "honest."

13. Try to start a conversation.

Unless you're marketing consumer goods, the purpose of email marketing is to get into a conversation with the prospect, not to sell to the prospect. Start with trading emails, then segue in the second or third email into an appointment for a brief telephone call.

14. Ask a yes/no question.

The lowest barrier to getting into a conversation is a simple question that requires a yes or no answer. Important: answering "yes" must not be an attempt to commit the prospect's time and energy. Example: "Is this of interest to you?" (good) "Can I send you some information?" (bad)

15. Include only 1 call-to-action.

The more calls-to-action that you stick into the email, the less likely it is that the prospect will take any of those actions. In almost every case, the most effective call-to-action will be for the prospect to reply to your email.

16. Never assign homework.

Contrary to popular belief, sending a prospect information will not convince them to consider your offering. Quite the contrary, sending a prospect "information" creates a barrier to having a conversation. You're saying: "Read this and then get back to me." Like that will happen.

17. Test, test, test.

First, test for open rate using different combinations of the Subject line and the first 15 words. Second, test for response rate using variations of yes/no questions. Finally, test for conversion rate by tracking which responses turn into purchases.

Don't have an Constant Contact email marketing account? Try for FREE!

 Image Credit- 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.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How To Run A Business Without Spending More Than 20 Minutes In Your Inbox Every Day

If you’re a business owner and you are finding yourself strapped for time, email should be one of the first things to go. For most people, it is not only the biggest time sink, but the least productive way they spend your hours. Email feels busy, but how many messages not worth responding to do you go through a day? How many could have been answered with form emails or directed to an FAQ?

I’ll be honest; I have little discipline when it comes to my inbox. I went as far as adding Gmail to an app that flashes warnings at me whenever I’m doing something labeled "not work." I still found myself cheating. My inbox was a constant distraction.

Since then, I’ve followed some guides and developed my own process. I'm getting everything finished and I spend only 20 minutes a day answering emails. It’s something you have to customize for your own situation, but I believe the following process can allow anyone to do the same.

Track How Much Time You’re Using 


You can’t fix a problem you don’t fully understand: You need to see firsthand how much time answering emails is taking away from productive endeavors. This is an easy step for anyone. Use any timer online or on your desk. Similar to when I first started counting calories, when I first started tracking my time spent on email, I realized my initial estimates were way off. I was spending about four hours a day just picking through my inbox. But even when I only checked my inbox at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., I was only part of the way there. I was still spending two hours a day looking at emails and found myself checking my inbox before bed as well.

Once you understand how much time you’re using, you can set a goal. I had a pretty big one: I wanted to go through my whole honeymoon without worrying about emails piling up. I broke up my milestones by months, and I measured with daily time spent on email. Last month, my goal was to get down to 30 minutes per day. I was a little bit ahead of schedule. Next month, I'll aim for 15 minutes, and then five. By August, I plan to spend no time in my inbox.

Eliminate And Automate

You’d be surprised how much lighter your inbox becomes when you make use of standard features like filters. For the first 30 days, try setting up filters daily. In Gmail, you can filter to archive, filter to labels, filter and forward to someone else, and the list goes on.

Have some fun and count how many emails you are receiving in a given week. Divide that by seven to get your average daily emails received. You can measure against this number at the end of week five. Unsubscribe from everything. If you must keep it, filter it to your archive. You can always run a search to find it later on. In my experience, you absolutely will not. I am still waiting to “need” a single thing from my archives.


It might sound super fancy to have an assistant, but it really isn’t. If you are running a company, or several, I can almost guarantee this will save you more money than it costs. Pick up a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek, because Tim Ferriss had a lot to say about this topic. It inspired my method. I am still very much in the thick of it and am learning as I go.

This was by far the most time-consuming part of the process, but totally worth it. You need to work with your assistant to have them handle every email they reasonably can. You’ll need to be patient, as this takes a long time to learn. I am currently down spending only an average of 15 minutes (last night 42 minutes), two-to-three times per week going over emails my assistant doesn’t know what to do with (far from four hours, right?). Not one important email has been missed, yet I’ve saved hundreds of hours on emails in the past couple months.


Your next 30 days is all about documentation. Create an FAQ for whoever you choose to delegate your mailbox to. Keep in mind, you don’t have to delegate right away. You may find that by the time you get to this step, your time savings are considerable and you can manage from here. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t document what you are doing. In the event you change your mind and/or your needs grow, you will be prepared to pass it off. I do this with everything.

I built my FAQ based on Tim Ferriss’ template that he shares in his book. Record login information for your various email accounts, the purpose of each account, some basics around setting appointments, a reply policy, when to check for mail, and other rules to follow. Finally, include the FAQ that is intended to provide context for your lifestyle and answer common questions so you don't have to go over the same ones over and over again.

Free yourself from the frustrating time sink that is email. Analyze all of the ways that you're spending your time. By tracking, automating, delegating and documenting, you can get your duties as a business owner narrowed down to the most important strategic decisions.

 Image Credit: Shutter stock

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.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!