Friday, December 15, 2017

These Three Types of Relationships are Your Secret Weapon to Success in Business

Relationship building is essential in any business, but this concept extends beyond customer and vendor relations. While those relationships are vital, it's the direct connections that, in many cases, can make or break your success in the business world.

These relationships are your secret weapon. The people you surround yourself with can help you do the impossible, change your perspective for the better, or inspire you to keep fighting against the odds. Without them, you'd have a long, uphill battle ahead.

So, what are these relationships? I believe it boils down into these three categories:


The overall benefits of having strong, positive personal relationships in your life are invaluable. According to a study conducted by Gallup, "Individuals who say they have family and friends they can count on to help them in times of trouble are consistently more likely to be satisfied with their personal health." From this same study, Lisa Berkman, Ph.D., of Harvard University also noted that "People who are socially isolated tend to have more physiological stress, poorer immune function, and a host of biological risk factors."

How are you supposed to a run a company or get that startup off the ground if you're feeling stressed and sick? This is why it is so important to build strong personal relationships as they can directly impact your working life (and vice versa, but that's another topic for a different day). It could be the connections you form with your spouse, significant other, friends, children, classmates, or other close family members. Who they are doesn't matter--what matters is the quality of the relationship.

For me, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very entrepreneurial and supportive family. My grandfather (on my mother's side) started his own business, which my father eventually ended up taking over. My uncle also started his own tech company back in the 80s, which was acquired by McGraw Hill. At family get-togethers, my grandfather would take me aside and explain how to invest in stocks or say things like, "Why would you ever work for someone else when you can create your company?"

This is not the case for everyone--and that's fine--but take a look at the personal relationships in your life. Are the people you're closest with challenging you? Inspiring you? Offering sincere encouragement? Because when we're happy in our personal relationships, we can focus our energy and passion into our businesses. But when these relationships are not going well, then it's all too easy to let that frustration and anxiety affect our work.  


The professional relationships you make throughout your career can directly impact your likelihood of success.

My co-founder, for example, continuously helps me to divide and conquer the Herculean feats we are sometimes tasked with. During the infancy stages of Centric Digital, we had about a week to source, recruit, and train talent for a $4 million contract. We split the to-do list and sourced an incredible team in a very short period of time that allowed us to fulfill the contract and scale our company. This anecdote speaks volumes about the importance of a trusting partnership based on confidence in each other's skills and expertise. Centric Digital would not have grown so quickly if I did not have these types of professional relationships.

This concept should be applied across your entire organization--do you have the same types of professional relationships with everyone on your team? Can you trust your key players to do what needs to be done to the best of their skills and ability? If not, it might be time to start building new relationships and changing out people on your team.


Advisors, mentors, coaches--having someone (or a team of someones) to guide your progress is essential, especially for those in leadership roles.

When you're on the top of an organization, you must surround yourself with people who are more experienced and knowledgeable to offer advice on your ideas, plans, and strategies. It helps if these people are outside of your organization and are excellent, high-quality superstars--otherwise you'll never grow, you'll never learn, and you'll always make mistakes. It also helps to build relationships with advisors who are outside of your industry as they can offer a unique perspective to your current challenges.

Wrapping up

There's a famous quote by motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn that states, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." If this is the case, and I strongly believe it is, then take a moment to look at the personal, professional, and advisory relationships in your life. Are these relationships encouraging you to grow and be your best self? Do they make you feel empowered? Are you connecting with the type of people you have a deep mutual respect for? If the answer isn't a resounding, "Yes!" then it's a no. Which brings us to the real secret behind this secret weapon: networking.

If you want to surround yourself with amazing, talented, and progressive people you have to force yourself to get out there and network like crazy--and you need to do it with an open mind. Because you never know where or when you might make a crucial connection that will push you to advance your progress on the path to success.

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.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why Strong Relationships Are Key To Building a Luxury Brand

What makes a luxury brand, well luxury? If luxury brands were only steeped in their own high price points, consumers would turn to more moderately priced products. Millennials, especially, crave luxury experiences that extend far beyond the amount on a price tag.

Luxury is in the details, and paying close attention to these details can transform any brand, from a home sound system to a bedding company, from middle-of-the-road to high end. Luxury brands, whether they are fashion houses or five-star hotels, make the extra effort to go the to ensure that every encounter is one that makes consumers feel special. 

Luxury brands attract consumers because they excel at details. What separates iconic organizations from the wannabe's are the small, subtle characteristics that prompt consumers to gladly pay above and beyond a typical asking price.

But it's not enough to create a high-end product sourced from exceptional materials, you also have to market in a way that attracts luxury buyers. Promoting high price points or sleek products is not enough; when it comes to luxury, subtly and influence are the ways to win consumer loyalty.

If you're interested in building a luxury brand, you need to pay attention to how you're building relationships with three key audiences: influencers, employees, and consumers.

I sat down with Mark Birnbaum, one half of the duo behind famed hospitality group EMM to learn more about how he successfully creates luxury hospitality experiences. Among the restaurants in EMM's portfolio are Catch, Lexington Brass, and Catch Roof.

Throughout our conversation, Birnbaum harped on serving three primary audiences: influencers, employees, and, of course, customers.

Pay attention to high-profile influencers.

If a celebrity visits a nightclub or hotel, they automatically send the message to consumers that this brand is unique, and worth their hard earned dollars. Luxury brands need to leverage the influencers and household names to consistently convey their place at the top of the cultural zeitgeist.

Throughout EMM's tenure, Birnbaum and his partner Eugene Remm have never lost sight of the power of catering to high profile clientele. When EMM first made the decision to move Catch to Los Angeles, they knew they could only succeed with the support of the city's influencers. Their rolodex literally put Catch on the Los Angeles map.

According to Birnbaum, "Catering to celebrities has the power to draw immediate customer interest. Because people aspire to live like their favorite celebrities, they trust their tastes in experiences. Catch felt like a secret that only influencers had access to, which meant that the public immediately wanted in."

Celebrities are synonymous with luxury, and if you're interested in growing a strong luxury brand, you cannot abandon this customer base. Building partnerships with influential figures and  asking them to share their experiences on social media enables you to get on the culturally-relevant map almost immediately.

Don't overlook your own employees.

You cannot build a sound luxury company without serving your own employees. You are selling a lifestyle and it's imperative to practice what you preach. From transparent  communications to stellar working conditions and perks, treating your employees as VIPs creates a culture of positivity and passion.

Furthermore, when your employees are enthusiastic about their jobs, they become natural brand evangelists. Birnbaum says, "We pay special attention to every single hire we make at our locations. We want people who will not only assimilate to the culture of our restaurants, but individuals who can elevate it."

However, it's not just about hiring individuals with infectious personalities or stand-out style. Nurturing career development and implementing a transparent work culture empowers people to find confidence in their roles.

"When our employees feel confident and passionate, our establishments thrive. However, we know that instilling these attitudes starts with the EMM management team, and we know that the more effort we put into building relationships with our employees, the better our business will be," says Birnbaum.

Build unique experiences with every individual customer.

Consumers have an array of brands experiences to choose from. Even if they are influenced by their favorite celebrities and further convinced by testimonials, they still have to be convinced that your product or service is worth their repeat business.

Birnbaum is insistent in driving personalize experiences that make every customer feel unique. "We go out of our way to take care of our customers, ranging from regulars to first-time celebrities," Says Birnbaum.

Building a foundation steeped in 1:1 encounters enables EMM to continue finding new growth opportunities, because when customer service is the bedrock of your brand it's hard to falter.

As EMM looks to the future they continue to find ways to make each customer special. But they're also interested in finding solutions to make the experience convenient. Birnbaum is well aware that digital technology has dramatically altered customer behavior, and EMM is embracing digital change, including allowing customers to text in their reservations.

Creating a luxury brand with longevity demands effort; you cannot cut corners and expect to build a powerful organization. However, if you consistently commit to prioritizing these three groups in equal measure, you stand the chance of competing with the likes of Louis Vuitton and the Four Seasons.

ImageCredit: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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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

10 Tips To Achieve Great Relationships With Clients

The client." Those of us in the professional world know this seemingly benign phrase and have learned that is to be respected and, at times, feared. Don’t get us wrong; we love the client. Without the client, we wouldn’t have jobs. The client literally puts food on our table and, for them, we are grateful.

But there exists a constant power struggle between the client and the professional. Given the possibility that a client could turn to your competitor if there’s a service-related issue, it’s important that you know how to deftly navigate this struggle, lest you lose your bread and butter.

Here, I’m going to give you 10 tips for dealing with difficult clients so you don’t lose your head -- or your paycheck.

Clearly Define What’s Expected
The first thing you’ll want to do when dealing with a new client (or an existing client with a new project) is to clearly define what’s expected with regard to the scope of the project. For instance, if you’re a designer, are you going to be overhauling a website, or simply updating a few of the graphics?

This is not to say you shouldn’t take on more work if it comes your way (more on that later), but have a clear idea of who you’ll need and for how much time.

Establish Clear Time Tables

Here’s what stinks: agreeing that you’ve got a month to do a project and then three weeks in, the customer needs it tomorrow. It’s only a few days earlier, they say. What’s the big deal?

It’s a big deal because you’ve budgeted your time and people power to have this project done on a certain date and you expected to have until that date, right? Right off the bat, establish a timetable, and not just some vague time in the future but a specific date and, I’ve even gone as far as a specific time on that specific date: end of day, beginning of the day, three o’clock, whatever you decide, but make it stick.

Put It In Writing

After you’ve done all this, put it in writing and have all the main players sign off on it. I can count on my fingers and toes the number of new companies I’ve seen enter “handshake deals” with clients and then end up with more work than they can handle. This can be great if you’ve got the manpower but, more often than not, you’ll get dragged down, miss deadlines and everyone ends up unhappy.

If you’re a business, I assume you’ve got some semblance of a legal department, but if you’re independent, there are some great resources to help you get an idea of what this kind of contract should look like.

Have A Single Point Of Contact

Draw straws, have a beer pong contest, a sack race or just let the new guy do it, but determine a single point of contact for a given project. There’s nothing worse than when a client doesn’t know who to call and ends up calling literally everybody.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say "No"

If you’ve worked with this client before, don’t be surprised if they call you in the middle of a project and say something along the lines of this: “Hey, we need you to do some extra work on the project. We know we didn’t agree to it but we’re willing to pay a little more.”

This can be a good problem to have, but workplace stress and burnout are becoming huge problems in America and one of the leading causes of mental health issues that lead to employee turnover. If you’ve already got a full plate, don’t keep slopping on more food. Chances are, the client will understand. Plus, you’ve got the contract to back you up, right?

Don’t Be Afraid To Say "Yes"

On the other hand, if you think you can take on more work, by all means go for it. Just keep the above statement in mind.

Don’t Minimize Their Issues

When issues come up (and they will come up) the worst thing you can do is minimize their issues by brushing them off either implicitly or explicitly.

Instead, let the client know that you hear them and are going to take steps to remedy what’s wrong. Of course, sometimes their issues in no way relate to you or your work and they're likely just blowing off steam in your general direction (this happens more than you think). Either way, hear them out and treat them with respect.

Make It Right

If there was a mistake on your end, take steps to immediately make it right:

• Take responsibility.

• Apologize.

• Offer them something. If the mistake was major, a discount on this project -- or better yet, future services -- might be in order. If the mistake was minor, the apology should do.

• Take steps not to let it happen again.

Never Lose Your Cool

Above all, never lose your cool in front of a client. Have it out with your staff at happy hour, but don’t do it in the meeting room. There are plenty of steps you can take if things start to get heated in the workplace to ameliorate the pressure and make sure things don’t blow up.

Don’t Fear Walking Away

Finally, if things just aren’t going the way either of you had imagined, maybe it’s time to break up. Many times, an amicable separation is better than delivering subpar work to an unhappy client, so don’t be afraid to walk away. Or, if they’re being particularly cruel or mean-spirited (yes, these people exist), don’t be afraid to fire them. There will be other clients, I promise.

I hope you never have to deal with a problem client, but in the event that you do, hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful. Good luck out there!

Image Credit: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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Monday, December 11, 2017

4 Areas You Need to Assess to Improve Customer Relationships

Anytime we’re dealing with people, life is going to be messy. This truth is clear to anyone who has worked in customer service. People can be downright nasty sometimes.

But most of us have also experienced terrible customer service reps who have made us never want to return to a particular business again. Fiascos such as the one United Airlines dealt with a few months ago are still fresh on the public mind.

Any company that hopes to succeed must learn how to truly value its customers. Doing so includes turning potentially explosive situations into victories.

But it also means that companies already doing a pretty good job of building customer relationships can get better. While succeeding in some areas, they might be blind to ways they are falling short.

Tips on How to Improve Customer Relationships

Here are few tips for small businesses that want to improve how they are serving their clients.

Don’t Let Touchpoints Distract You from the Big Picture

Are you aware of your average client’s journey with your brand beyond the touchpoints? Your customers interact with your product when you are not around.

They could be frustrated during certain parts of their journey without you being aware of it. This frustration might be causing customer churn without you knowing why or even that it’s happening.

Harvard Business Review notes that “A company that manages complete journeys would not only do its best with the individual transaction but also seek to understand the broader reasons for the call, address the root causes, and create feedback loops to continuously improve interactions upstream and downstream from the call.”

It is essential that companies apply “tailored metrics” for each part of the overall customer journey. Be sure to gather information about both employees and customers to determine where customers are most dissatisfied.

One example of this type of problem is a company making a successful sale of a TV installation, but then the customer experiencing difficulty with the installation.

Even though the client can call to resolve the issue, the company could have explained the installation process better in advance. The salesperson could have eliminated the reason for the call, as well as the time and energy the customer spent resolving the problem.

An extremely important point to note here is that the source of customer service issues is internal. Because the problems arise from employees (even if unintentionally), employees must play a key role in coming up with the solutions. If they do not, the solutions will not last.

Reduce Unnecessary Pain Points

Another example of what it could look like to take steps to make your clients’ lives easier is implementing a tool such as a client portal.

An all-too-common frustration in the business world is following up on payments owed. Beyond that, there is the challenge of keeping documents organized and keeping sensitive information, such as W-2s and NDAs, secure.

It’s probable both you and your customers spend quite a bit of time on the phone or email trying to keep track of this type of data. Dealing with information in this way leaves room for miscommunication. Issues with payment and invoices are often a major point of dissatisfaction.

Using a client portal puts all of your pertinent documents in one place. This makes it easy for your clients to access them on their own time. They won’t have to wait to get hold of you if they have questions. If either of you needs to look up whether or not an invoice has been paid, it will be extremely easy to do so, and you can avoid confusion and embarrassment.

Client portals are also useful because you can see what actions your clients take on the portal. Software such as this can go a long toward eliminating customer frustrations that simply do not need to exist.

Be Personal

Being personal is somewhat easier for small businesses, but is nevertheless an important priority for any company, whatever its size. After all, what would be the point of an article on bettering customer relationships that neglected to mention the qualities that are key to relationships?

Any healthy relationship has certain characteristics, such as clear communication. The people in the relationship are not so focused on making money or getting ahead that they neglect each other. Instead, they support each other in their goals and do what they can to improve each other’s lives.

While the parallels between personal relationships and customer-business relationships do break down at some point, there are basic principles that apply to each situation:

  • Show your clients that you value them
  • Listen to their praise or complaints and respond accordingly
  • Offer rewards or discounts

Make sure you are not only meeting your customers’ needs but are also going above and beyond their expectations.

You can also offer free education on some topic pertaining to your business. You might do so through your blog, through white papers, or through webinars.

Take the Long View

You should implement all of the above strategies with a view to keeping your customers around for life. It is much more profitable to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. Retention will more quickly grow your customer base. With this in mind, you need to have someone on staff who is accountable for keeping track of customer retention.

If you don’t measure how and when people are leaving you, how will you know if your tactics for keeping them are working? If you’re not getting feedback from your customers, how will you know if they are unhappy with something you’re doing?

Be aware that it might initially be worth spending more on marketing to first-time buyers than they are going to spend on their first purchases. This might feel like a loss at the time, but if there is a high likelihood that they will stay with you for life, this strategy is worthwhile.

Focus on Lifetime Value
The overall lifetime value of your customers is more important than each individual sale. Calculate how much money they spend over time minus how much you spend on marketing to and acquiring them. When deciding how to market to your audience, choose one or two scalable marketing channels. Focus your energy exclusively on those channels before expanding to others.

Instead of just cross-selling a related item, try selling people more of the same item by using incentives. Creating an entirely new sale, even if the product is related, is more difficult that selling more of the same item.

You should also consider putting a phone number on your website. Some potential buyers are interested in your product but are unwilling to buy from or contact you online. Providing this opportunity for people to call you allows you to acquire customers you might have lost otherwise and whom you might find to be a significant part of your audience.

Don’t Assume You Have No Room to Grow

While building relationships in any arena of life is hard, the benefits of doing so in business are undeniably worthwhile, and not just for the purposes of making money. There is inherent value in helping someone else.

Even if you are already taking steps to build strong customer relationships, consider ways you could bring even more value to your clients and get them to stick around long-term.

 Image credit: 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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Friday, December 8, 2017

How Reverting to 'Old School' Ways Helped Me Build Strategic Relationships

When I was in college, I was eager and hungry to make connections. At 21 years old, as a dorm resident at Westmont College, I founded my business advisory firm, Avant Global. The company has since grown into a global business with well-known, successful clients, including the founding family of the world's largest brick-and-mortar retailer, and one of the largest holding companies in the world.

I credit this to many things, including the people I've surrounded myself with along the way. But I've realized that many of the same tactics and techniques I used on campus in my early dealings are still relevant today. Though technology has paved the way for quicker and more efficient communication, going back to old school ways can help you progress in the competitive business world.

Pick up the phone

My company helps high-profile clients build strategic relationships that drive company growth, investments, funding and more. There are many make-or-break details involved in the day-to-day business within our ecosystem. Email chains and group texts between business associates might be convenient, but calling to speak with colleagues is more effective than a "reply all" exchange.

This is especially true when you've got a global business that's building bridges between Silicon Valley and executives, investors and even successors across the globe. With clients and partners in countries ranging from the Philippines to the United Kingdom, I've learned that the voice lends a human connection that a computer screen cannot compete with.

Write it down

I'm on the road, and often out of the country, much of the year. A digital calendar and iPhone notes just don't cut it sometimes. For many, including myself, taking handwritten notes can help to retain information. It’s also valuable to print itineraries and organize them in folders. You never know when a phone battery will die, or a signal will be lost.

Think outside the boardroom

Deeper connections can be made when you're thinking out of the box and meeting outside of the office or conference call. I've found that nurturing relationships with clients by welcoming them to your home or out for coffee can be valuable to all parties, especially when "shop talk" is off the record.

I often host groups that integrate both personal and professional relationships; you can take a hike, offer a feast or go to lunch with business partners or potential clients. Deeper connections are made when you go beyond the white lights of a corporate space.
Get back to your roots

Digging into your roots and acknowledging your heritage can be fruitful on both a personal and professional level. As a Greek-American, I have a community of support domestically and globally that is bound by a cultural thread. Many of my personal contacts are also passionate about philanthropy, investing and other areas I'm immersed in.

It's through these groups that I could connect Amed Khan, a young, successful investment banker who has been building refugee camps for displaced Syrians in Greece, with an influential Greek-Orthodox priest, Father Alex Karloutsos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Father Alex has offices in New York City and conducts liturgies at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Long Island). Father Alex then introduced Khan to a Bishop in Athens who helped Khan to navigate the country's bureaucracy. Khan's Elpida Home has since become more successful, hosting hundreds of refugees who otherwise would have no roof over their heads.

These types of unique connections happen when you find ways to relate on a more personal and engaging level that goes beyond a glass screen. By reverting to “old school” tactics, you too can have a competitive edge in building and nurturing strategic relationships.

Image source: Demetri Argyropoulos

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, December 7, 2017

Why You Should Warm Up Your IP Address Before Sending Emails

If you're using your own software to send out marketing emails, it's a great idea to warm up your IP address first.

Failure to do so and you might find yourself on the dreaded "black list." That means email service providers will view your IP as an origin for spam.

When that happens, you can be sure that far fewer people will see your email messages than you had intended.

In this article, we'll go over why it's important to warm up your IP address and explain what you need to do to establish a reputation in good standing as an email marketer.

The War on Spam

There's a war on spam. If you don't prepare your IP address, you could be a casualty.

Yes, that can happen even if you aren't technically a spammer.

When you start using new email marketing software, you're going to set it up on a server that's connected to the Internet. That server, like any other online server, will have its own IP address.

At first, that IP address probably has no "reputation." That means when email service providers receive an email originating from that IP, they aren't sure whether they should treat the email as spam or not.

That's why they collect statistics. If providers find that an unusually high number of emails are coming in from the IP address over a short period of time, they'll probably flag it as a spammer.

When that happens, you can kiss your email marketing efforts goodbye. Your emails will probably get blocked or go into a spam folder where people will hardly ever see them.

Fortunately, you can get around all of that by warming up your IP address.

"Warm up" an IP Address?

What does it mean to "warm up" an IP address? It's fairly simple, really.

Just start by sending only a few emails. Then, over the next several days, send out more and more emails.

During that process, email service providers will not only take not of how many (or how few) emails are coming from your IP, but also how users are responding to them.

If providers see that users are opening your emails and clicking links on them, you'll likely get whitelisted in fairly short order. Then, you'll be able to send email blasts without worrying about earning a reputation as a spammer.

During the warm-up process, you'll still need to follow email marketing best-practices. Otherwise, you're going to get blacklisted no matter how few emails you send.
Sometimes, You Might Not Need to Warm up Your IP Address

If you're using a popular autoresponder, you probably won't need to warm up your IP address at all.

Why? Because in that case you're not using your IP address. You're using the IP address of the autoresponder. That IP address has, in all likelihood, already been through a warm-up period.

So if you're happy to use AWeber, MailChimp, GetResponse, or one of the other popular options as your autoresponder of choice, you can almost certainly skip the usual warm-up period. It's best to check with the service first, though, just to be sure.

If you're using your own software to blast out emails from a server that you set up, then you'll need to follow the warm-up process.

How to Warm up Your IP Address

When it comes time to warm up your IP address, you can follow one of two methods.

First, you can warm it up manually. That process, briefly described earlier, involves sending just a few emails at first and then gradually building up the number of emails you send every day.

Here's the warm-up schedule that you should follow:

  • Day 1 - 50 emails
  • Day 2 - 100 emails
  • Day 3 - 500 emails
  • Day 4 - 1,000 emails
  • Day 5 - 5,000 emails
  • Day 6 - 10,000 emails
  • Day 7 - 20,000 emails
  • Day 8 - 40,000 emails
  • Day 9 - 70,000 emails
  • Day 10 - 100,000 emails

If you need to send more than 100,000 emails (lucky you), you should follow the chart here for a longer schedule. At that same link, you'll also find another chart that tells you how many IP addresses you should be using based on the number of daily emails you're sending out.

Each IP address should have its own warm-up schedule.

The other option for warming up your IP address is to use a service that warms it up for you. SendGrid is a service that offers a couple of options when it comes to warming up an IP.

First, you can use the front-end to set up an automated warm-up schedule. That makes your life easy because you can "set it and forget it."

The other option is to use the API to set up an automated warm-up schedule. You'll probably need to enlist the aid of a developer if you go that route, though.

Wrapping It Up

Don't let your email marketing fall flat because you failed to warm up your IP address. Instead, invest the little bit of time and effort necessary to make sure that you establish a great reputation with the various email service providers.

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.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How to Keep Your Email Marketing Campaigns Ethical & Legal

It’s no secret that email marketing is increasingly important for small businesses worldwide.

Not only does it offer you a direct way to land in consumer’s inboxes (a.k.a. their sacred space), but it has also been proven to bring in more return on investment (ROI) than other marketing methods.

In fact, just $1 of investment in email marketing can yield an average $38 in return. Nothing to be laughed at, right?

But it’s not just cold, hard numbers that has business owners bowing down to the email marketing gods. Well-structured and thought-out campaigns can create a positive brand image, boost credibility, and create a community – abstract goals that most modern-day businesses strive for.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that more than 86% of businesses are planning to increase their email marketing budgets in the next year.

I believe that Constant Contact, is one of the best email marketing tools to help your small business get started. But, there’s a few more things you need to know. With great possibility comes a greater list of responsibility.

The importance of email marketing ethics
Direct access to consumer’s inboxes means there are a strict set of rules that all businesses must follow in order to align with legislation and ethics.

Here, I’m going to lay out what you need to know about creating ethical email marketing campaigns and why it’s so important for your business.

What exactly is the CAN-SPAM Act?
Let’s start by outlining the CAN-SPAM Act. This isn’t a tin of processed meat like you might think; instead, it’s a legislation that protects consumers from receiving too many spam emails.

The Act was passed in 2003 after a surge in the amount of spam emails consumers were receiving about certain medical enhancements and other irrelevant additions to their lives.

Under the Act, a number of requirements were drawn up to align with the national standards for email marketing stated within the law. Here’s the gist of it:

1. Use a subject line that does what it says it will

Have you ever received an email with an exciting subject line, clicked through in eager anticipation and been disappointed by the offering on the other side?

Maybe the content has nothing to do with the headline, or you feel like you’re being miss-sold something because the subject line was heavy clickbait.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, you have to make sure your subject line doesn’t mislead your readers in any way.

QUICK TIP: Don’t disappoint your subscribers by promising the world in the subject line and not being able to follow through in the body of the email.

2. If your email is an ad, say so

If your email is advertising a company, product, or anything else, you need to make sure this is clear within the email.

Under the law, there is no specific way you must identify that your email is an ad to your readers. The law simply states that your disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous.” This means that as long as your subscribers can clearly see and understand the email is an ad, you should be ok. You also do not need to place this disclosure within your subject line.

3. Your sender information must be strictly true

It can be tempting to put a funny name in the sender segment of your emails, but under the CAN-SPAM Act, you have to ensure the “From”, “To”, and “Reply-To” fields of your emails and the routing information accurately identifies you or your business as the sender.

4. Provide a physical address

A lot of businesses try to side-step this option, especially if your business is ultimately run online. But, in fact, you have to provide a legitimate address that your email recipients can reach you at.

This is a non-negotiable under the CAN-SPAM Act.

If you don’t have a physical address for your business, you can easily and affordably get a PO Box or a physical mailing address using a virtual mailroom or office.

5. Make opting-out easy

It can be sad to see the unsubscribes roll in, but if you don’t offer your recipients the opportunity to opt-out of your emails, you’re essentially breaking the law.

You must provide a link in every email that recipients can click to unsubscribe for your mailing list if they no longer want to receive your emails.

You kind of want to do this anyway – imagine a potential customer getting so wound up because they can’t unsubscribe and then not buying from you or, worse, bad-mouthing you to other potential customers.

QUICK TIP: The top reason consumers unsubscribe from emails is because they receive them too frequently.

What are the repercussions?
If you are reported for not having complied with any of the CAN-SPAM Act requirements, you could be charged with fines of up to $16,000.

Seems like a lot, right?

Which is why it’s important when forming your email marketing strategy to double-check and double-check again to be certain you are not violating any laws.

Maybe not illegal, but is it ethical?
The CAN-SPAM Act is extensive in what it covers, but there are still a couple things it does not address.

Even though these things are not addressed, you should still ask yourself if they are necessarily ethical or effective to include in your marketing strategy (most of the time the answer is no).

Buying email lists

You might have come across list brokers on the market who claim they can sell you lists of people interested in what you have to offer.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

That’s because it is. Most of these claims are false but, let’s assume for a minute that they’re not.

Just imagine how many other marketers the list brokers have made their offer too – marketers you have no idea about.

Think about all the emails those marketers have sent to people that could be on a purchased email list. Think about how many other offers those recipients are receiving every single day from the other businesses that have essentially bought their way into their inboxes.

Do you really want your brand to be associated with just about anyone or anything? The answer is probably no, right?

Therefore, in order to be ethical and comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, it would be better to refrain from buying lists/leads from such brokers.

The best part about building your own email list from scratch is it’s full of people who actively want to hear from you. What’s more, you can segment your email list depending on the actions they take and the offers they take the most interested in.

Buying traffic

Buying traffic is legal, but it’s up to you to use common sense to decide on an ethical way to purchase traffic.

For example, let’s say you found a list owner who is willing to send an email to her list encouraging her recipients to visit one of your webpages where you offer something valuable in exchange for an email subscription.

As long as the list owner has an audience with interests matching your offer and market, you’re in business.

You can start building your own email list safely and ethically.

The same goes with buying ad traffic from advertising companies (Google Adwords, Facebook ads, Bing, etc.) and directing it toward the same type of lead acquisition process (although, in many cases, sending traffic directly to a form like I described is frowned upon, so you’d rather send it to some content buffer.)

The benefits of abiding by the rules
You probably know when a tactic is “bad”.

Things like buying consumer email addresses probably gives you a bad feeling in your stomach, but it might be tempting, especially if you’re trying to get your business off the ground.

But making a mistake in the early days can lead to negative effects later on in your businesses life, ranging from bad brand cohesion to consumers actively avoiding your products because you’ve bombarded them with too many irrelevant emails in the past.

So, you know what makes an email marketing campaign “bad” and unethical. But why is it SO important to be “good”?

The results are easy to see:

  • Higher open and response rates – by making unsubscribing easy, you’re left with people who actively want to hear from you and read your emails.
  • Increased sales – by building your own list of interested parties, you’re only going to be offering your products and services to people who are looking for them. Which means more sales.
  • More trust – in this day and age, trust and authenticity is important for every business if they want to succeed and stand out. Sending campaigns that are relevant and targeted to the right people means you’ll be consistently building that all-important trust.

QUICK TIP: Abiding by email marketing ethics and laws means you’ll see higher open rates, increased sales, and more trust amongst consumers.
But perhaps the biggest benefit is knowing that you’re building your business on your terms, with a list full of potential prospects who are eagerly waiting for your emails to drop into their inbox.

Knowing the difference between ethical and unethical marketing will ensure that your emails successfully reach your recipients and gain you more satisfied subscribers and customers.

By being aware of the current legislation, you will keep your business out of trouble and safe from being charged with expensive fines.

Log in to your Constant Contact account to send out some ethical and effective emails today! 

Not a Constant Contact customer? See what you’re missing! Sign up for a free 60-day trial.

Image source: Constant Contact Blogs

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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Join WNFP Communities!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The 5 Types of Business Networking Organizations

Business professionals who don't have a lot of spare time often ask us which networking groups provide the biggest bang for their buck. There are five main types, and what works best depends on the business they're in and the prospects they want to meet.

Here's a quick rundown of the most familiar types.

1. Casual contact networks

These are general business groups that allow many people from various overlapping professions. These groups usually meet monthly and often hold mixers where everyone mingles informally. They may also hold meetings where guest speakers present on important business topics or to discuss issues concerning legislation, community affairs or local business programs.

The best examples of these groups are the thousands of chambers of commerce active across North America and elsewhere in the world. They offer participants an opportunity to make valuable contacts with many other businesspeople in the community. By attending chamber events, you can make initial contacts that will be valuable in other aspects of developing your referral business.

But, because casual-contact organizations aren't tailored primarily to help you get referrals, you have to exert effort to make them work. For example, you can volunteer to be a chamber ambassador, a position that that requires little time commitment but provides much exposure. Sitting on committees helps you get to know members better. Most of all, you need to attend events regularly so you can take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen the relationships you form.

2. Strong contact networks

Organizations whose purpose is principally to help members exchange business referrals are known as strong contact referral groups. Some of these groups meet weekly, typically over lunch or breakfast. Most of them limit membership to one member per profession or specialty.

Strong contact networks provide highly focused opportunities for you and your associates to begin developing your referral marketing campaigns. You won't meet hundreds of business people in this type of group, but all the members will be carrying your business cards around with them everywhere they go. The net result is like having up to 50 salespeople working for you! With a program like this, you'll be establishing powerful long-term relationships that will prove invaluable.

If you're considering a strong-contact group, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • You need to have a schedule that lets you attend all or almost all of the meetings. Regular attendance is vital to developing a rapport with the other members of the group and getting to know their businesses.
  • You need to feel comfortable going to a net­working event and being on the lookout for prospects who can help other members of your group. A good strong-contact networking group typically tracks the amount of business that's conducted. If you're not "pulling your weight," you'll be asked to leave or referrals will stop coming your way.

3. Community service clubs

Unlike more business-oriented groups, service groups aren't set up primarily for referral networking; their activities are focused on service to the community. However, in the course of giving time and effort to civic causes, you form lasting relationships that broaden and deepen your personal and business networks. If you go in not to benefit but to contribute, the social capital you accrue will eventually reward you in other ways and from other directions -- business among them.

4. Professional associations

Professional association members tend to be from one specific type of industry, such as banking, architecture, personnel, accounting or health. The primary purpose of a professional association is to exchange information and ideas.

Your goal in tapping into such networks is to join groups that contain your potential clients or target markets. A simple procedure for targeting key groups is to ask your best clients or customers which groups they belong to.

Many groups limit their membership to those who have specific industry credentials, and vendors aren't welcome. However, to generate more income or to give their full members a well-rounded slate of potential vendors, a growing number of associations have created an associate member category, whose members aren't active in the business or profession for whom the group was formed.

In these type of networks, we recommend you stand out by finding ways to help without selling to members. As an example, if you were a social media consultant and joined an association of professional business coaches, rather than trying to "sell" them on your services, how about volunteering to run the association's social platforms? Taking charge of their Facebook and LinkedIn pages would be a great start toward building relationships and showing them your value.

5. Online/social media networks

From a business perspective, the ideal use for social media is to build your brand and your credibility with the people you're connected to by providing value for your connections and followers. Whether you're talking about face-to-face networking or online networking -- credibility and relationship building is still critical to the process.

With social media, the key to success is outlining a strategy that considers the amount of time you can realistically dedicate to your online marketing efforts and being consistent. Map out a weekly schedule that outlines specific days and times you'll spend developing your social media strategy. Figure out what's realistic and what makes sense for your company, and go from there.

Once your strategy's in place, you'll no doubt be anxious to start seeing a return on your social media investment. It's vital to remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting, whether online or face to face. It's about cultivating relationships with people. It's about building the credibility of your brand and that doesn't happen overnight.

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!

Thank You to those who Attending Our Holiday Networking Event!

Westchester Networking for Professionals would like to thank everyone who came out and attended our Holiday Networking Event HOBBS in White Plains, NY! 

The evening was filled with laughter, networking, fun, food and wine! I hope the experience with us was enjoyable and beneficial.

Also, a special thank you to those who made the evening possible: HOBBS at The Westchester for sponsoring and allowing us to use their space to host the event, Aaron Kershaw Photography for his engaging photos of the event and those who donated items to LiftingUp Westchester in assisting with their holiday mission.

View event photos on WNFP Facebook page.

Stay tuned for 2018 upcoming events.

Wishing you a joyous and happy holiday season, 
Westchester Networking for Professionals.

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!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The 5 Essential Rules Of Networking

Step away from the shrimp at parties, and be in the moment.

For Ona Ekhomu, networking comes relatively easy. In fact, Ekhomu says networking helped him quickly rise through several companies, and land his current job as director of financial consulting at World Financial Group. "When it comes to the workplace," he says, "it's all about learning how to be people-conscious. It keeps on opening new doors."

You can do it, too.

Here are five essential rules for ensuring your network will take you places you want to be:

1. Create an elevator pitch

Before you even think about networking, it's vital to create an "elevator pitch," a 30-second introduction of yourself and what you do. That way, you can succinctly let recruiters and potential hiring managers you want to work for know your exact value.

Sounds easy, right?

Not always.

Tim Wackel, a sales trainer, says that most people going into networking situations are unprepared to deliver their elevator pitch. When some people are on the spot, he says, they "blather out some nonsense" in a lengthy script about work. To avoid this pitfall, Wackel suggests rehearing a concise, general overview.

Ultimately, when you deliver an elevator pitch, give the other person a headline. "We're looking for an invitation to continue the conversation," Wackel says. And the goal should be for the other person to say, "'Hey, I'm interested, tell me a little bit more.'"

2. Use relevant resources to improve your networking skills

Networking may come naturally to some people, but if you need to give yourself a crash course, take advantage of resources around you.

Ekhomu bought some books on how to master networking, and joined organizations like Toastmasters, which help people get comfortable speaking publicly. "No one ever finishes school as a ready-made product," he says. "Some people think, 'Oh I'm done, I don't have to do anything to advance myself.' Trust me, everybody can learn something new."

Before you go to an event, whether a conference, a happy hour, or a professional dinner, do your homework. Scan the conference agenda to see who will be on key panels. Then, make a short list of people you want to meet. Do a little research on them, and think about questions you'll want to ask so the conversations are informed and meaningful.

3. Open your heart

Although Ekhomu has had great luck making connections in his career, he's also faced certain obstacles as a person of color. You can overcome these challenges with diligent work. "Did I run into racism and bigotry? Of course," he says. "Some people can be less tolerant, and you just have to shy away from them. The key is just being open from the get-go and learning to blend in and connect. You'll find that a lot of people are willing to work with you."

From there, it's all about relationship-building to enhance your network.

"It doesn't matter if people are above you or at the same level or beneath you, it's just about making new connections and finding things that rhyme together like similar interests," Ekhomu says. "You build a relationship, people know people, and they can help you advance."

4. Keep it professional on social media

If you want people to take you seriously in the business world, spend some time cleaning your social media accounts. Online profiles are now one of the first things potential employers look at to get a view of how you carry yourself. So keep it authentic, but professional.

People make snap judgments in the first five to seven seconds of meeting someone or seeing their online presence.

5. Step away from the snacks

Let's be honest—one of the best things about networking events is the free food and drinks. But there's a very fine line you don't want to cross here, and it's directly related to those freebies. Wackel often sees people at these events eating and drinking way too much. Food and drink may be a way to relieve the pressure of meeting strangers, but they may also be a barrier to creating new relationships.

"It's hard to network with somebody who keeps shoveling food into their mouth," Wackel says.

Be in the moment. It will get you places you may never have imagined.

"Don't blow those opportunities, because you never know," Wackel says. "You may be one introduction away from the job of your dreams."

Image source:

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!