Monday, May 22, 2017

5 Creative Email Marketing Ideas to Try in 2017

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach your customers with a 3,800 percent ROI and $38 made for every $1 spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

However, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with email marketing — you do your usual sales blasts and content pieces each month, but thinking outside that box takes more time; time that you don’t have.

That’s why we did the work for you to come up with five fun email marketing ideas to try this year.

Consider which ones would appeal most to your audience and put your own spin on them.

1. Video

Slowly but surely video is taking up a larger presence in our lives.

Incredibly, 300 minutes of video is uploaded to YouTube every single minute with 3.25 billion hours watched each month, according to Static Brain Research Institute.

You can take advantage of video popularity with email marketing this year. Instead of sending the usual text or image-based content, embed a video instead.

The key is making the video as easy to play as possible, which increases engagement metrics and overall value to the reader:

“If executed properly, one of the most successful video email method being used today is setting up your video to play as soon as the subscriber clicks the play button…,” says Holly Rollins, president of 10X Digital Inc.

Constant Contact makes it easy for you to add a video to your email in just a few simple steps:

Just paste in your video URL and a clickable thumbnail will be added to your email:

Is your business new to email marketing? Try out a free 60-day trial of Constant Contact today!

2. Coupons

Coupons alone drive more than $29K, on average, in monthly sales for retailers according to a 2016 analysis.

However, these discounts are only valuable if your customers know they’re available, which is where email comes in.

Here’s how to make the most of your coupon promotion:

  • Personalize: Don’t just offer a generic coupon — include a personal message that expresses why you’re sending the coupon as a reminder of how much you value your audience.
  • Remove distractions: It’s fun to customize and design your emails, but too much can be distracting. This does the opposite of encourage clicks, and at worst, could drive potential customers away. Instead, choose one objective — in this case, highlighting a discount or coupon — and focus on that.
  • Vary your CTA by segment: There are many call-to-action options, not just Learn More, Browse, or Buy Now. The CTA for your top engagers, for example, could be to share the discount or deal via social, suggests Stephan Hovnanian, content solutions architect at Bambu. Play with CTAs among various segments to zero in on the best ones.

 Here’s how you can set up a coupon in your Constant Contact account.

3. Letter from the CEO

Everyone wants to know that the top brass is thinking about them, especially your customers who spend their hard-earned money on your products or services.

For those on your email list who have yet to buy, this sort of email builds trust, loyalty, and authority with your brand — all of which are critical to driving sales.

The letter can be done on a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis. The topic can be fluid to match the priorities and changes of the business.

One month, the CEO could address a new addition to your service line up, followed by details on your latest volunteer project in the next one.

Tip: Keep the design simple for these emails. A template like Constant Contact’s “Basic Newsletter” works well.

4. Sale preview

This sounds similar to discounts and coupons distribution, but it’s different in a few ways.

The first is that this type of email is meant to make your subscribers feel special — they’re getting an exclusive first look at this upcoming sale.

It’s also not meant to drive sales right away, but to build buzz around the upcoming event — whether online or in your store.

When designing your sale preview email, keep a few important details in mind:

  • Make it feel exclusive: Use words like, “Exclusive” (of course), “Just for you,” “For our top customers,” etc.
  • Focus your CTA on spreading the word: Whether that’s a discount code for your subscribers to share or simply asking them to post on Facebook or send a Tweet. If you go with the latter, make it easy for them by setting it up first. You can embed custom tweets and Facebook posts in your email like you do with your blog posts, removing friction and increasing the chances they’ll share.
  • Use images: Show off your product, but don’t be overwhelming. Choose your top 3 to 5 sales items to highlight with both images and text.
  • Segment your audience: Based on the products you’re highlighting, send personalized emails to separate groups. Your ability to do this will depend on how segmented your list is already; at the very least you can create two separate emails for current and potential customers.
Here’s a look at how Constant Contact customer, La Provence, sent a sale preview to boost early holiday sales:

5. Seasonal guide

Both B2B and B2C companies can take advantage of this one, even if your business isn’t necessarily “seasonal.”

“This is a great way to make a more personal connection with your audience and will increase the chance of your message getting noticed,” says Ryan Pinkham.

A seasonal guide can mean a lot of things, depending on your company’s product and service line-up. See below for a few fun ideas to try:

  • Seasonal marketing guide: Marketing or ad agencies could send a quarterly checklist and guide for analyzing content, email, and social data. Many already do something similar.
  • Seasonal style guide: Retail is the most obvious business for this email type. Focus on the styles of that season, including images of products you offer that fit within the various trends. Include helpful information, like how to pair a rain jacket with a classy pair of shoes, etc.
  • Seasonal health guide: Best for outdoor recreation/fitness/wellness organizations, this guide can include information about allergies in the spring or staying safe in the sun in the summer. Again, include products naturally within the content.
  • Seasonal tax guide: Perfect for tax accountants or other financial advisors. Simply outline important tax dates or create a free printable that subscribers can stick to their fridge for quick and easy reference. This is especially valuable for anyone who works with freelancers and contract workers, both of which have a variety of dates to remember.

Brainstorm what seasonal changes your customers care more about most and formulate an email around that. Test different topics, angles, content types and more.

Try one of these ideas in your next email!

Don’t let yourself get into an email marketing rut. There are so many ways to format and present your content, there’s no reason not to experiment!

Ready to get started? Start with a free trial of Constant Contact’s email marketing.  
 Already have an account? Log in to put it to work!

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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How To Write A Persuasive Marketing Email

When you send a marketing email, it’s a bit different from a regular email.

You’re not just sharing information, you’re trying to drive engagement that supports your business in some way.

You’re trying to drive action without being too pushy and turning your subscribers off.

What’s the secret to writing a successful marketing email?

The best email marketing campaigns have a clear focus, authentic tone, and information that’s helpful to the reader.

Use these tips to write marketing emails that drive business:

 •    Infuse the personality of your business.

Imagine you’re having a face-to-face conversation with a customer. What would that experience be like? Your reader should feel like you’re speaking directly to them as well. Extend the great experience you regularly provide to create an engaging content strategy.

     •    Make sure the subject line is true to the content of your email.

There are many tips about how to write good email subject lines. The most important tip? Be clear about what the reader should expect when they open the email.

    •    Take advantage of the preheader text to entice the reader to open your email.

The preheader text is like a second subject line. It gives you an additional chance to entice the reader to open your email. Use this to your advantage, especially when it comes to increasing your mobile open rates.

 •    Keep content clear and concise.

Picture, Paragraph, Call to Action. The best emails have a clear focus and are designed to encourage a single action from the reader. Clear, concise content also makes it easier to read your emails.

    •    Only include information that helps the reader take the action you want them to take.

Remove anything that veers from the action you want the reader to take. Doing so helps you get to the best length for your email newsletter. If it’s not helping your reader take the desired action, it’s a distraction. Remove it.

  • Plan on sending more than one email.

It would be great if all you needed was one email to do the job. The truth is people are busy and your business isn’t their top priority. It’s not that people don’t want to take action, it’s just that they get distracted. Plan your email marketing calendar to include a short series of three emails around a particular promotion: an announcement, a reminder, and a last chance.

Ready to write your marketing email?

Put these tips to use and start seeing more meaningful results from your email marketing today.

These content tips, combined with a customizable email template, make it easy to create a persuasive email in minutes.

Want to try email marketing out for your business? Try out a free 60-day trial of Constant Contact today!

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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don’t Let Growing Pains Take Your Business Down

In the past year, several high-profile entrepreneurial companies have been in the news for not-so-positive reasons. Once held up as role models, these businesses and their high-profile founders (I won’t name names) are now struggling to survive. The common denominator in their downfalls? There are several, but the main culprit is too-rapid growth.

Growing fast might seem like the answer to a small business owner’s prayers. But often, the perils of rapid growth illustrate the saying, “Be careful what you wish for—you might get it.”

What lessons can you take away to help avoid the risks of rapid growth?

1. Company culture matters.

Growing businesses run into trouble when their PR persona doesn’t jibe with what’s actually happening inside the company. If you promote your business as an egalitarian, forward-thinking innovator, but your workplace is actually rife with sexual harassment, it’s only a matter of time until customers find out about the disconnect and dump you like a hot potato.
To-do: It’s easy to keep control of your company culture when there are only a few of you. However, as your business expands, be sure to instill the same culture in all your new employees. Employee handbooks, onboarding practices and systematized training help ensure everyone’s on the same page. Make sure your managers embody your company culture, too.

2. With capital comes complexity.

Getting a fat round of funding from angel investors or VCs looks like the answer to your dreams—but often becomes a nightmare. In return for the money, you now have investors looking over your shoulder and second-guessing you, or even directing you.
To-do: Before you seek financing of any kind, know what you’re getting into. If you take money from investors, you’ll need to report on results, live up to their expectations, and maybe even give up some control of your business. The alternative could be losing it entirely.

3. You’ve got to pay the bills.

Buzz and hype can take you far, but if you aren’t paying your bills on time, you’ll eventually crash and burn. Rapid growth brings new costs, as well as the temptation to splurge on fancy office furniture or an expensive advertising agency to maintain your image.
To-do: Keep careful tabs on your company’s cash flow. You may need to monitor it daily to stay on top of things. Weigh any new expenses carefully, focusing on spending in ways that will benefit your business—not your ego.

4. Hire wisely.

When rapid growth stretches your small business’ staff too thin, it’s a recipe for disaster. Overworked employees can’t do their best, and your company’s product or service quality suffers. Eventually they become resentful, spurring morale problems and potential PR disasters.

To-do: Employees are the foundation of your business, so don’t scrimp on hiring. Have plans in place for how you will add staff as needed. That doesn’t necessarily require hiring full-time employees; it could mean knowing where to find the best independent contractors, virtual employees or temporary workers.

5. Walk the walk.

You’re busier than you ever thought possible, getting next to no sleep, and walking on air from the excitement of your business dreams coming true. It’s all too easy to start believing that the rules don’t apply to you. If you expect your employees to work for peanuts or your vendors to wait for payment while you’re signing the lease on a snazzy new sports car, you’re in for a big surprise.

To-do: Never ask your team to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Of course, you should focus most of your time on high-value activities, but you also need to be willing to get down in the trenches when it counts. Showing employees you understand their sacrifices and your partners that you honor your commitments will help your reputation grow along with your sales.

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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Benefit from Advertising Discounts on Deal Websites

 Sometimes it takes cutting prices to move to the level. 

 Being a self-made entrepreneur requires you to make smart decisions for your business to stay ahead of the competition. However, with a stable marketing plan, you may still be looking for ways to boost your sales, drive more traffic, and increase your awareness online. How can you do this though when you’ve already detailed your marketing strategy as extensively as possible for now? 

Deal websites, like Dealslands, Groupon, Scoopon and Vouchershops benefit any business. Whether you’re managing a small business with a handful of employees or a Fortune 500 company with hundreds of employees, it’s going to help your business if executed strategically.

These companies sponsor major businesses from Papa John’s pizza and to smaller businesses like Bargain Max and Jacamo. By offering small businesses like you a platform to grow a larger audience, they gain only a small portion of revenue through sponsorship on the website. The overall benefits surpass the small costs to hosts on these platforms, making it an easily accessible tool for business owners.

Let’s look at how discount websites are changing the way entrepreneurs market.

1. Attract more customers and reviews.

Increasing traffic is the goal of any business. More traffic equals more return customers. Sounds good, right? Well, using a discount website to promote limited deals helps expose you to an even larger audience. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs don’t have the connections to broaden their audience quickly.

Offering deals on discount sites gives you the exposure to millions of viewers each time you post a deal. The more deals you post, the more exposure. Plus, if your products are appealing to consumers, you could luck out into getting a few online reviews about your website.

2. Reduce inventory

It’s a common problem in business to over order on a product occasionally. Regardless of the reason, getting rid of inventory is necessary. Discount sites offer you a way to promote these products to get rid of them completely. Those 20% discount coupon codes only work if you have an audience. It’s a chain reaction with having a larger viewership to see you, your products and discounts exist.

3. Increase sales

So, while posting on a deal site requires some strategic planning, if used correctly, you can easily increase sales with them. By offering a certain amount of codes over a specific time span, you guarantee yourself customers on the promoted, discounted product. However, it doesn’t always stop there.

If you own a fashion business, you will find that offering jeans for a discount could get customers to purchase shirts and accessories at full-price. This helps increase revenue streams and profitability margins. Only 66 percent of companies see an increase in sales, but the main purpose is for exposure. However, this can be a nice perk if you’re in the right niche.

4. Meet quarterly goals

If you’ve established a perfect marketing plan, you have quarterly goals set out for yourself. Meeting these goals doesn’t always happen easily and requires a certain push. That’s where these deal websites come in handy.

If you plan the number of discounts correctly, you’ll be able to meet your financial budget and goals without overselling on products. Remember, if you have too many discount codes working at the same time, it generates a significant increase in sales. So, keep in mind how many units you want to discount to help with meeting your quarterly financial goals.

5. Boost your reputation

Most importantly, going to a discount deal website provides your business with a better reputation. The more you offer your customers quality products with occasional discounts and promotions, they’ll start talking. Promoting through their social networks, customers could help your small business get a huge boost in search engine rankings with a high volume of shares and mentions.

Better search engine rankings provide you with even more brand awareness and solidify your reputation as a great company in your niche. Offering a discount on a deal website could completely change your business structure.

These tips guarantee to help increase your sales, boost long-term traffic, and build your brands’ awareness. Struggling as an entrepreneur is difficult, but it’s not impossible to succeed with the right methods implemented. It’s a small fee for the return you’re expected to get from the deal website,

Image Credit: shuttershock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5 Warning Signs Your Business Is Killing Your Relationship

When the conversation about quality time starts, you better be paying attention.

Running your own successful business is great, especially when it creates financial freedom. But many business owners get stuck in the trap of working around the clock. Burying your head in the sand with the intention of working 24/7 may ultimately cost a high price. Unless you juggle your business and your personal life effectively, relationship breakdown will manifest.

Incidentally, there are warning signs pointing to the direction of relationship destruction. Ignorance has an adverse effect, which ultimately can lead to killing your relationship. The following are some of the fundamental relationship warning signs.

1.  Endless arguments about lack of time.

Not enough quality time with your spouse is one of the main relationship killers. Running your own business is a blatant time stealer. Working more than 40 hours each week, excluding weekends, coming home and jumping on the laptop or computer, having to attend networking events, meetings, and other business functions and tasks demand lots of time.

This will affect the quality time you spend with your spouse, causing you to grow apart. Feeling alienated and overburdened is a recipe for pushing your spouse to do their own thing. Not only that, but resentment will give birth to arguments and lead to frustration and a toxic environment in the home.

Prioritize family time. Develop a schedule and slot in quality relationship time, business time and social time. Be flexible and don’t put your business before your relationship. Also, outsource tasks to freelancers or contractors that do not require your attention and free up more of your time.

2.  Burnout puts stress on your relationship.

Not only will burnout cause emotional, mental and physical tiredness, it puts enormous strain on a relationship. Fatigue feeds irritation and stress. And stress can push you over the limit, inducing outbursts of anger. On top of that, burnout induces tension, exhaustion, lack of motivation, constant headaches, insomnia, reduced energy levels and other negative emotional and physical symptoms.

Ignoring these warning signs can destroy your relationship. Take steps to fix the problems now. When burnout kicks in, stay on top of it by getting a good night’s sleep, drinking less caffeine and alcohol and eating healthy and exercising. Take a long lunch break and lots of small breaks during the day, and get regular health checkups at the doctor's.

3.  Business talks dominates conversations.

Let’s face it. Owning a business is similar to having a new baby to the family. It’s consuming. It’s exciting. It fuels your passion. You could easily live and breathe your business. Gradually, it becomes the center of every conversation. All well and good if you’re single. However, in a relationship, you must identify that the distinction between business talk and relationship talk may become blurry. This isn’t healthy and could force your spouse to wonder where they fit in your life. In the end, non-stop business talks create division. You could be physically present but mentally absent, cocooned in your own business world.

Don’t allow business talk to control your attitude and kill your relationship. Know when to switch off. Stimulate personal conversations. Set aside designated time to update your spouse about business happenings. In addition, arrange regular date nights for light-hearted fun. Demonstrate your commitment to your relationship.

4. Financial instability can lead you down the divorce path.

Having a guaranteed and regular salary each month stops when you become self-employed. The stability of a boss paying your wages has been replaced by a nail-biting uncertainty. The uncertainty of a steady income is one of the drawbacks of running a business. Coupled with the fear of losing all, tension mounts between you and your spouse. Money quarrels are marriage breakers. It produces disagreements, empowers negativity and snaps teamwork between you. Usually, this indicates the beginning of the open door to divorce.

This age-old problem in marriages is not impossible to resolve. Agreeing there is a financial crisis is a good start for dealing with the dispute. Although some couples find it difficult to talk about money, keeping lines of communication open is vital. Other steps could include setting up a budget system and opening a joint bank account. If your spouse works, their wages will help pay the bills.

Finally, don’t rule out visiting a financial adviser or a marriage counselor who helps entrepreneurial couples.

5. Lack of emotional support from your spouse.

Your spouse’s support is crucial to your business success. Not supporting your dream or vision, especially during rocky times can lead to business failure. Perhaps they feel threatened because your business dominates the relationship. Or maybe they think it will fail. On the other hand, could it be you’ve changed from the person you used to be? Whatever the case, this presents a challenge.

How do you fix it? Lavish lots of attention on your spouse and make them feel secure and appreciated. Don’t let the business come between you. Find out their concerns. Make important decisions together. Ask for their ideas and listen to what they have to say. Share business struggles or successes and plan together. Stay committed to each other.

Although running your business is a big deal and could kill your relationship, it doesn’t have to be that way. Work on promoting a better balance between the two. Careful consideration, precise planning, commitment, dedication, and quality time together, good communication and knowing when to switch from business to relationship mode will promote a healthy work-life balance.

Image Credit: Shuttershock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Improve Your Networking Skills

If you want to succeed in business, you need to surround yourself with the right people. 

 When we think about surrounding ourselves with the right people, we often think in terms of what those people can do for us. The real question you should be asking is, “What value can I bring to people?”

People do business with people, not businesses. Most people at networking events go right out, shake hands, ask what the other person’s name and business are and hand off a card. Sound familiar? If so, smack your business-card-passing hand on the wrist!

That, my friends, is not how connections are made. Aim for the “second handshake” with your networking conversations.

Picture this scenario: You walk into a networking event, and as usual, people are looking at you like you’re their next meal. Someone immediately approaches you, reaches out to shake your hand and says (in one breath), “Hi, my name is Brady, I’m the owner of Awesome Business, I do X, Y and Z. What’s your name and what do you do?” You spurt your scripted answer back, exchange cards and walk away. There’s no connection; there’s no second handshake.

Now, try this scenario: You walk into a networking event, go up to someone who looks interesting, shake hands and introduce yourselves by name. You say, “Phil, I’m curious -- how did you get into doing what you do?” And a conversation ensues. After about five minutes, you’ve learned that you both left corporate jobs to go it on your own. You have something in common. The foundation of a relationship is laid. And you both genuinely enjoyed the conversation to the point that when you start to walk away, he extends his hand and gives you a second handshake. Success!

If you approach networking and relationship building in this manner, you’re bound to get a second handshake.

It’s these conversations -- these second handshakes -- that are the foundation of mutually beneficial relationships. The relationships that allow you to surround yourself with the right people. The relationships that lead to business success.

Questions to get a conversation started

Need some help getting that conversation going? Here are some questions you can ask that will likely throw someone a little off their pre-scripted networking pitch game. By doing that, you’re likely to have a better conversation, find a connection and get that second handshake.

Business-oriented questions:

  • How did you get started in this industry?
  • Why do you love to do what you do?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What’s your favorite type of client to work with?
  • What’s your favorite problem to solve?
  • What’s the first thing you do when you sign a new contract?
  • What’s your favorite way to celebrate success?
  • What is something a client has said to you that really made you happy?

 Digging deeper and some atypical questions:

  • When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What was your favorite toy as a child?
  • (As a follow-up) Does it connect in any way to what you do today?
  • What is your favorite holiday tradition that you celebrate with friends, family or your employees?
  • What’s something you’re most looking forward to doing with your business (or with your family) in the next year?
  • What do you feel has been the secret to your success?
  • Use these questions to help generate conversations and see what type of relationships can develop!

Images Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

5 Secrets To Keeping Your Mojo Flowing, In Good Times and Bad

Deciding your own schedules. Choosing your own projects. Working as much or as little as you want. The freelance lifestyle seems like a dream. Only when it isn’t.

Accompanied by all that flexibility and the freedom to work in your pajamas comes the nerve-racking worry of whether you’ll be able to pay all your bills this month. Will that long elusive client finally pay up? Can you afford to replace your broken down car with a functional one and keep up with your loan payments?

So yeah, it’s good when the sun shines bright on you. But unlike a job that brings in an assured salary every month, cloudy days (months?) can burn a serious hole in your everyday finances. Having been in that boat myself, I can guarantee you, it’s not a fun place to be in. So what helped me in those dark days and helped me sail along splendidly eventually? These simple tactics.

1. Dig into your network

When the going starts getting rough, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends. Be prepared to get a lot of pushbacks, and don’t feel too bad about it. Most people are too busy making their own ends meet to go out of their way and help someone else out. However, there will definitely be a few good Samaritans out there who can guide you to interesting opportunities or who will at least put you on to someone else if they can’t be of much use themselves.

You’ve been active on various platforms, interacting with friends and coworkers for years. You’ve probably built a reputation for yourself and in all likelihood, your network knows what you’re good at. This is the time you tap into these networks and figure out opportunities for yourself. Research proves that social networking is used by employers to find the right candidates. A study by Google shows that the most successful workers tend to be the most active on social networks.

LinkedIn is a great place to start but don’t limit yourself just to LinkedIn. Facebook shows your friends with common interests as yours. Twitter allows you to reach out to just about anyone from Bill Gates to your next door neighbor.

Find people in your niche and don’t hesitate to contact them for opportunities.

2. Create for the joy of creating

Human actions are typically motivated by the expectation of rewards. Professor Wolfram Schultz from Cambridge University shows us that when our expectations from any action are low, and when these actions are met with unexpected rewards, the amount of dopamine released into our brains is huge. Conversely, when we work with clear expectations of rewards that are not met, the resulting crash is nerve wracking.

Take note from this study and prepare yourself for the worst when you’re faced with a slump on the professional front. Do what you do best – write, paint, craft, sing, whatever – without huge expectations attached to your actions. Do it for the joy of your craft and the results will automatically follow through.

3. Learn new skills, explore new tools

A low period in your freelancing career is a good time to retool yourself both literally and metaphorically.

You could opt to upgrade your current skill sets by checking out courses online or at your local community college. I know a friend who built a successful pastry shop business after attending a free workshop on baking and cake decorating at her local arts and crafts store. Websites like edX, Alison and Khan Academy offer hundreds of different modules in a wide variety of subjects for absolutely free. Many universities offer online certificate programs that look great on your resume, upgrade your proficiency and don’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Besides gaining new skills, you can also use your down time to learn about new tools that make your work quicker, better and easier. Frequently, we freelancers double up as our own web designers, content marketers and bookkeepers. Traditionally, we have had neither the money nor the resources to accomplish these to our satisfaction. Fortunately, the internet is now a powerhouse of free tools that enable us to do just that.

For example, MarvelApp lets you turn your mockups and ideas into realistic mobile and web pages with its super simple prototyping capabilities. No need to hire a web developer or designer to do the coding.

You also have loads of help with publishing and marketing your blog and social posts – makes content curation a breeze, PDF Split&Merge allows you to mix, blend and remarket your whitepapers and ebooks, and Piktochart enables you to turn that boring block of industry data into visual content for your C-suite audience.

Finally, if you want a better handle on your freelance business’ finances (who doesn’t?) check out Nutcache for a free and easy to use invoicing and time tracking tool.

4. Spend money to make money

When you’re down on your luck, it seems like every penny saved is a penny earned. While this may have been true for your mom’s generation, today you need to invest in your business to see returns coming from it. Just as a savvy investor puts money into the stock markets during a bear run and sees his money grow when the markets inevitably bounce back to a bull run, create a fund for advertising your services when the orders stop coming in and your business needs that extra push.

If you have a website or a blog, promote it using AdWords and other PPC tools. Are your users active on Facebook? Advertise to your perfect target audience with paid ads on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, as the case may be. Use a tool like Retargeter to communicate to users who have already visited your website before and have shown interest in your services. This is also a good time to revive your email database. Use tools like MailChimp or Vertical Response to build ROI driven email campaigns that will bring you measurable results.

5. Moonlight: Poetry doesn’t pay the bills

When things are not looking up in your core area of expertise, don’t hesitate to branch out. It’s awesome to live on the hope that your next big client is just around the corner, but a freelancer does not have the luxury of “wait and watch” time. Bills need to be paid, the wheels of life need to be greased, and all of that comes at a price.

Head out to the hundreds of multi-disciplinary job boards on the internet and try your luck in areas that may even be a tad out of your comfort zone. Besides that usual suspects like Odesk and Elance, pick from sites like PeoplePerHour or Fiverr to find some truly out of the box freelancing opportunities. Who knows a great new project could just mean the beginning of a whole new career track!

In Closing

In good times, simply go with the flow, but remember to breathe and have a little fun for yourself too. When things slow down, try the tips detailed above to keep your head above water. Peaks and troughs in your career are expected. With a dash of resourcefulness and loads of positivity, there’s no slump that is unconquerable.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 Ways to Maximize Your Marketing

 Despite their small size, micro businesses in general have moved into the digital marketing age.

More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) market their businesses both online and offline. Over half (52.7 percent) say their online presence is “very important” to their marketing efforts, while 30.4 percent say it’s “fairly important.”

However, there’s still a long way to go. More than one-fourth (28.9 percent) of small business owners surveyed say they don’t market their businesses both online and offline. And even those who do market both ways often fail to present cohesive branding. About one-third of micro-business owners say developing a more consistent online and offline marketing identity would have a “substantial” financial impact on their businesses, and one-fourth think it would have a “significant” impact.

How can you maximize your marketing? Here are five tips:

1. Make sure your business website is up to snuff. 
Less than one-third (32.7 percent) of small business owners in the survey say their websites are their primary means of marketing. However, even if your website is not your main focus, it needs to be in good shape. Make sure your business website is mobile-friendly; most people search for local businesses on their smartphones these days, and Google awards higher rankings in search results to mobile-friendly sites. Make key information — your business address, hours, and phone number — easy to see, and keep it updated.

2. Give online advertising a try. Just 6.6 percent of micro-business owners in the survey describe online advertising as a marketing priority. However, when properly executed, online advertising can be highly effective and affordable. Since prospective customers search for businesses online, having your ads show up when they search for what you sell can only help your business.

3. Get listed in online directories. 
Only 5 percent of survey respondents say online directories are a key marketing method for them. But if your business is one that attracts local customers, online directories are vitally important to getting customers in your door. Plus, it’s easy (and generally free) to list your business in local search directories such as Google My Business or Yelp. To get the best results from online directories, make sure that your business name, address and phone number are exactly the same in all your listings — if they vary even slightly, search engines will view the variations as different businesses.

4. Don’t rely solely on social media marketing. Social media is the dominant marketing method used by micro-business owners; 53.3 percent say it’s their primary marketing focus. However, while social media marketing is important, putting all your efforts into social media marketing can leave you vulnerable. What happens if the key social network you rely on makes significant changes to its algorithm or has a sudden decline in popularity?

5. Promote a cohesive brand image. More than half of small business owners surveyed say business cards are their primary print marketing method; print advertising and signage are also used. Whether you’re marketing online, on social media or in print, you need to convey a unified brand image throughout. That means using similar graphics, colors and images, as well as reinforcing trademarks and taglines. Last but certainly not least, make sure your print materials drive customers to your website and social media platforms, that your social media accounts link to your website and that your website prominently displays your social media icons.

By integrating all your marketing — print, online and social media — you’ll get better results from each method you use. Need more help? Your SCORE mentor can advise you on how to get the most from your marketing. Find your SCORE mentor today

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.

Stay Connected with WNFP!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Networking and Need A Favor? Follow These 5 Steps to Get a Response.

 As a startup investor and advisor, I get asked for stuff. A lot.

In an ideal world, I respond to everyone and give them what they need. In reality, my time is scarce and my network must be served with at least as much as I ask of it, so I did an informal study on what gets prioritized in my inbox, and on the to-do lists of some of my most esteemed colleagues in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Here is what I learned regarding how to ask for the things you need.

Do your research. Save your requests for topics that require human insight, such as referrals, testimonials, and personalized guidance. While your third grade teacher may have emphasized that there are no dumb questions, it turns out public opinion disagrees. Invest some energy in researching your ask, as it will not only help you frame your question, but it also helps you present yourself as a knowledgeable entrepreneur.

Be specific. Any startup who has worked with me has likely received this advice. When the ask is vague, such as "Can you introduce me to an investor?" or "Can you help me find a cofounder?", the response is often lackluster. The reverse is true when an entrepreneur has offers some insight, posing a question like, "I'm looking for a cofounder who can bring financial expertise and business acumen to our team, preferably with some experience in the tech industry. Do you have any recommendations?" An image immediately starts to form in the recipient's mind that can be connected with a list of prospects. When you provide context, you remove barriers to receiving a response.

Ask until you get a response
. When you're making a big ask, a response often requires more time than a simple "yes" or "no." I, and others, often don't respond because we're in a cab in the middle of rush hour trying to wrap up a conference call while we read our emails, hoping to pick up our kids before their caretaker starts charging overtime by the minute. No response doesn't always equate to no interest. Sometimes, things just fall off the radar, or are in the "not urgent" box. This isn't a reflection of the relationship, but rather a reflection of a chronic and universal issue of time poverty. Continue to ask until you receive an answer, because every human is worthy of that. Sometimes you'll get a "no," which is your signal to move on. Other times, you'll get exactly what you need.

Follow up. When you get an answer, follow up with relevant feedback. Did you have a great conversation with a new introduction? Share your experience. Were you able to implement some advice provided? Let the advisor know what the results were. Closing the loop with feedback signals respect to the person you asked, and an appreciation for their time and insight.

Offer support. I am open with my network, resources, and advice, because I believe this is what makes innovation happen faster. That said, there is a universal desire among my surveyed group to respond faster to those who have been supportive of them in the past. If you see an opportunity to connect, advise, or inform someone, no matter how distant the relationship, take advantage of it as you're opening the door to future help, and you never know where that help might need to come from.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem is a tight-knit community with a pay-it-forward culture and a unified understanding that starting a business is one of the hardest things a person can do. Perfecting the ask is imperative to a founder's success, because no big vision can be achieved alone. Ultimately, being good at asking for things means being respectful of time, the scarcest resource of all among people who are trying to change the world.

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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

5 Ways to Make Networking Work for You

 If you are looking to access a job, venture capital or clients - the opportunity is in your network. A survey suggests nearly 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.

Networking may not be on the "favorite things to do" list. It is often awkward and time consuming. You may half-heartedly attend a networking event and checked the box, only to wonder why you were passed over for opportunity and overlooked.

Relationship capital can increase your odds of success. It can elevate the exposure of your personal brand and multiply the advocacy of others. Most importantly it can get you into circles of influence that otherwise might be closed.

It's time to take the mystery out of networking and re-think the way we connect and build relationships. Here are a few reasons why networking might not be working for you and how to turn your connections into golden opportunities.

1. Focus your intention - Stop collecting business cards. I recently heard someone bragging about handing out more than 500 business cards. Networking isn't a game of numbers it is an exchange of value. Define your networking intention and expected outcomes up front. Identify three screening questions that you can use to determine if there is a meaningful connection. By clarifying your purpose, you can target the right connections. Once you have secured the contact work on building a connection. Create a targeted list and follow-up with your contacts with timely, relevant messages that bring value.

2. Expand your circle - Too often we look for the opportunities to come from those closest - those that may have the same background and experience. If you are looking to expand your value and influence you must step out of your comfort zone into different circles. Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, during the summer of his senior year in college, interned at Odea, a podcast startup created by Evan Williams, who would go on to co-found Twitter. One of the people working full-time while he was interning was Jack Dorsey, another co-founder of Twitter who became a key connection to the tech world. Proximity can open doors. Step back and assess where you want to go. If your current network can get you there great. If not, take the risk, step out of your comfort zone and build new relationships to get you there.

3. Define your brand - Do you know your authentic personal brand? This is not defined as the number of friends or followers in social media. It is also not defined by the level of exposure you have in promoting your goods or services. Premium personal branding clarifies your purpose and position in the marketplace linked to solving a true need. If you can differentiate you can dominate. You will always be in demand. Take time to define your personal brand mission statement. Identify five partners, relationships and opportunities that will help solidify your mission statement in a unique and profitable way. This will not only elevate your network but also your personal brand.

4. Build value-driven relationships - The greatest attribute anyone can ascribe to your brand is trust. Building trust comes from an equal exchange of value. Sometimes we don't realize the value of a relationship until we need it. People who understand the value of relationships nurture those relationships with consistency - before there is a need. Take time to call, connect, send notes of gratitude or thoughtful gestures to people who matter in your network. Building this goodwill demonstrates a sincere interest in the value of the relationship. When you ask for a favor in return, they will be more than willing to help.

5. Give before you receive - In my book, Brand Me, I call it the "G2 Principle" (give to get). There is nothing worse than someone who wants to get but has nothing to give. When you become known for bringing value, delivering excellence and solving a problem - you are valuable. Before you start asking - start thinking about what you can uniquely contribute to support the goals of your contact. Offer to give your value before asking for anything in return. Building this relationship equity will serve you now and in the future.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

3 Embarrassing Networking Mistakes Everyone Makes (And What You Should Do Instead)

One of the most common questions I get asked is how I have been able to build such a powerful interpersonal network. Especially in the worlds of business and entrepreneurship, I have access to just about anyone within 0 or 1 degrees of separation.

Let me share a little secret with you: no amount of LinkedIn spamming or Twitter outreach is going to build you a truly valuable network. Instead, here's what you need to focus on:

1. Quality Over Quantity

One of the worst pieces of advice I hear is that "networking is a numbers game," implying that you need to hit up (spam) thousands or tens of thousands of people to reach anyone of importance. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

There are a number of things wrong with this approach. One is that you are basically saying that there are all these useless people out there who are, by definition, not important. And discounting anyone, including the person serving your steak at the steakhouse, is dangerous. You have no idea what they're building on the side. You have no idea who they're friends with. That person very well could be the next Daniel DiPiazza.

Building a valuable network has a lot more to do with investing in the relationships already around you. It's sort of like picking stocks. You want to look for the ones that might not be seen as extremely valuable yet, but that show potential. People are the same. Your most immediate contacts might not be super well known yet, but if you see them working toward their own goals, chances are they are going to be somewhere special a year, two years, five or ten years from now. And they might have a lot more value to offer now than you give them credit for.

By building meaningful connections early on, you establish that you aren't just interested in connecting with them because they're successful. You genuinely want to help them succeed, and in return they will feel the same about you. Those end up being the most lasting relationships of them all.

2. You Must Have Permission to Introduce

A major rule that everyone violates when it comes to networking has to do with permission based introductions.

Let me ask you a question. How would you feel if someone random showed up at your house, unannounced, that you didn't know knocking on your door? And you later found out that I gave them your address and told them to stop by? At least 95% of people wouldn't like it.

But that happens almost daily to me, and many others with "networking." I get dozens of texts and emails almost daily, with blind introductions where people are giving out my phone number, email, Skype, even office address in some cases, etc. Granted, this is a lot different than a home address, but it can feel equally as intrusive and annoying.

Tim Ferriss famously talks about this exact concept when it comes to networking. He doesn't blindly introduce people, and also doesn't like it when others blindly introduce him without asking for permission.

I have adopted this rule from Tim Ferriss, and my networking and quality of relationships have improved drastically. It's just a sign of respect, for all parties involved.

However, for every rule there is an exception.

That said, there are a handful of people on this planet that I have given pre-approval permission to introduce whoever they feel is relevant for me to connect with. But, there are only a handful because I trust their introductions. I trust that they have already pre-vetted people that they are introducing me to, because I do the same for them.

This idea works especially well if you are looking for clients leads. I will give someone pre-approval permission to introduce people that they feel are already vetted by them, or people that they already know well. But that's the only exception, and it must come with an open pre-approval. Don't give out your pre-approval loosely.

 3. Remember more than the person's name.

A lot of people try to fake their way up the networking ladder by remembering people's names, and acting as if they've known the person for years.

Remembering someone's name should be the bare minimum expectation. Besides, how are you going to have a meaningful connection with someone if you can't even remember their first name?

But what is far more important is remembering something unique about them. Something that you two share in common, or that you can use as a conversation starter. People aren't impressed when you remember their name--like I said, that's the expectation. What does impress them, however, is when you ask them how one of their projects is going, something they just briefly mentioned to you the last time you spoke. What impresses someone is when you show you are actively listening and can remember details about their life.

If you've ever overhead a "networking conversation" gone wrong, you can remember how both parties just sort of say the same things to each other. "How are you? Good. You? Good. Yup, all good. Things are good? Oh, things are great." It's mind-numbing, and neither party actually enjoys it.

Because the truth is, a conversation that happens for the sake of networking shouldn't sound like a "networking conversation" at all. In fact, as an overheard listener you'd probably assume the two people are long-time friends. That's how much both parties have taken an interest in what the other person is up to.

This is why things like networking events tend to be a wash. Some are worthwhile, but most end up being a waste of time. Why? Because people are more interested in collecting business cards than gaining a true understanding of what someone else is up to, and how they could potentially work together in a way that benefits both parties.

The art of networking has far more to do with getting to know someone on a personal level than just adding more emails to your address book. Going back to the first point, you always want quality over quantity. It's far better to have a real connection with one person than be connected on LinkedIn with 10 people you don't know a single thing about.

Remember: at the end of the day, people do business with friends.

Image credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Local Business Organization Announces Call for Webinar Presenters

Westchester County, NY, May 2, 2017 - Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP), a local business organization has announce that they are seeking expert speakers for their educational webinar series.

These webinar series are designed to educate small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals on relevant training sessions on the topic of business, sales, social media and technology to enhance their growth and development.

WNFP is seeking participants who have a passion for speaking and sharing their expert knowledge on informative topics and training which will keep attendees up-to-date on relevant business related topics they can benefit from and use in their everyday business life for development and growth purposes.

“This would be a terrific opportunity for business experts to share their expertise with peers, engage and make new professional connections and, gain industry prestige and recognition”, says Founder, Theresa Todman.

Business experts who are interested in presenting a webinar should visit to submit a request for application.  Proposals must be returned before May 30, 2017 to be considered.

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow.  Whether you’re a startup company, emerging business or individual looking for ways to network with like-minded professionals, gain additional exposure, expand your business or/and increase your company’s brand awareness and credibility; WNFP can offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Visit WNFP website at to learn more about their events, programs and activities.

Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Get Out of Your Own Way When Networking

 For some lucky individuals, the talent for networking comes naturally. For most other people, the process of meeting strangers and instantly connecting with them (in a setting where there's pressure to do just that) is daunting. So for those of us who are not naturally inclined to network, what's the point?

Networking gets a bad rap because of how it can make us feel while doing it. To some it feels self-serving, while others worry about what kind of impression they're making. It becomes difficult to listen to and engage with other people when these creeping doubts about our own behaviors sink in.
Here are 6 useful tips for getting out of your own way when it comes to networking..

1. Just Do It. But pick the right events.

There's a classic networking conversation that goes something like this:

You: What do you do?

Them: I'm a civil engineer. And you?

You: I'm a playwright.


When you meet someone and have no idea what to talk about, you may be at the wrong networking event. No matter the event, there should be a natural link between you and the other guests that you can use as a conversation starter.

If you're unsure where to start, ask colleagues what groups they're a part of or search for some industry-specific meetups in your city. Especially when you're new to networking, don't make the process any harder than it needs to be by attending the wrong events. The more specific the event is to you and your industry or interests, the more you will have to talk about with the other attendees.

2. Look at the list ahead of time.

If you're attending an event that publishes a list of attendees, do some reconnaissance and look at the list ahead of time. Is there anyone that you recognize? Or anyone whose work you admire?

When you get there, make a point to introduce yourself and use what you already know about them as a jumping-off point. Did they write an article recently that you enjoyed? Bring it up. And if it's a large conference or event, don't be afraid to reach out before the event.

3. Don't overthink the conversation.

Networking sounds intimidating because it puts added pressure on your conversation skills. Everyone in the room wants to come off as intelligent and charming, and everyone has different tactics for doing it. As cliche as it sounds, be yourself.
If you're stuck for what to talk about, lean on what you have in common. How are they dealing with a certain challenge facing the industry? What kind of management techniques do they employ?
Remember also that focusing too heavily on your side of the conversation likely means you aren't really listening to the other person. A lasting connection won't happen if you forget everything they said as soon as you leave the room.

4. If a conversation is going great, stay put.

It can be overwhelming to think about networking in the same way that we think about speed dating. But unlike speed dating, you don't have to meet everyone or give everyone equal time.
If you're having a great conversation with someone, don't cut it off so that you can make the rounds again. Think about the lasting connection and follow the natural ebb and flow of the conversation. When the conversation slows, move on or invite someone new into the discussion.

5. When you are in a position to offer value to each other, conversation will come naturally.

There are no shortage of articles out there focusing on how to pitch yourself at networking events or how to offer value to other people. In many cases, the end goal of networking appears to be an instant value swap. What can they offer me? And what can I offer them in return?
In truth, all the best partnerships follow these guidelines, but don't rush the value portion of the conversation. If there's a natural link between your two businesses or industries, that means there's room for an ongoing conversation.

6. Don't let them go.

Once outside the walls of a networking event, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the conversation going. Everyday life starts to get in the way, and over time we forget. But when it comes time to call on your network for a big ask -- a product launch, a new initiative, a call for investors, etc. -- you can't expect people that you haven't spoken to in years to jump at the opportunity to support you.

Using a system like Contactually to manage your network and to remind you when you haven't spoken to certain people lately can be a huge help. Keep detailed notes on your conversations and ask about their personal lives. If you see articles that remind you of past conversations with that person, send them over. Really engage with the people you meet, and you'll find that your connections will become much more meaningful.

With these tips in hand, you will be ready to tackle your next networking event. You may even learn to like it.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.