10 Secrets of Super-Effective Networking

By Perks |

These 10 points should always be kept in mind when going out to events to network. A great way to meet new people is to partner up with someone and introduce each other to new people. This breaks the ice and sets the stage of you being someone who wants to give introductions or be introduced. Compare that to going up to someone who you don’t know. Some of their first thoughts could include, ‘Why is this person talking to me?’ and ‘What do they want from me?’

Tip #2 is one of the most valuable tips. Being introduced by a mutual acquaintance is instantaneous social proof. You now have a point of reference to call back. You also skip the vetting process because your mutual acquaintance has done that for you.

The other key tip is #8. Following up within 24 hours is a major must as you will still be fresh in the person’s mind. Email, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook – it doesn’t matter what the method of contact. What matters is that you follow up in a timely relevant manner. Make sure to include some #6 and then #7.


Spring is in the air, or at least it will be once all this darn snow melts away. Maybe it’s the good weather (all relative, Bostonians), or maybe it’s the graduating seniors/MBAs, but I always feel like I meet tons of brand new networkers this time of year.

I typically spend 3-4 nights a week meeting new people at networking events, so I figured I’d share a few best practices I’ve acquired over the last few years.

Warning: For some of you, this post may seem a bit stalker-ish. That is certainly not the intention. Entrepreneurs need to work hard to get in front of the right people, and being meticulous will put you out ahead of your competition. Happy networking!

BEFORE THE EVENT

#1: Comb through the guest list and identify your “targets.”
Many events publish guest lists beforehand, or you can simply ask the event organizer for one. Compile a short list of your targets for the evening.

#2: Find mutual acquaintances.
Use the power of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) to find people with whom you and your target are mutually acquainted. If your acquaintance will also be at the event, make sure you request an intro in person. If not, request an intro beforehand to give your target a heads up.

#3: Do your homework on what your target cares about.
You should read as much as you can (bios, blog posts, interviews) about your target and get to know what he does and how he thinks about the world. (Let’s arbitrarily assume your target is male to avoid the whole he/she pronoun issue.) This is relatively easy with a little Googling nowadays.

After digesting this info, form your own opinion about what your target is working on, or views he’s expressed publicly. Make sure you have one topic where you agree and one where you disagree (more to come on this later).

DURING THE EVENT

#4: Show up on time and check the name card desk.
Most important people show up late to events. That’s just the way it is. They’re running from one thing to another, and they can’t help being late. You, however, can show up on time and have the benefit of checking the name card desk when few of the name cards have been taken. That way, if you had any doubts as to who would be in attendance, you can now be relatively certain.

#5: Know the hotspots, i.e. “the 3 B’s.”
The 3 B’s are Bar, Buffet, and Bathroom. These are the places your target will hit at least once in the evening. If you hang out by one of these, you will probably bump into him.

#6: Display knowledge and value.
Have your mutual acquaintance make an introduction at the event, or alternatively introduce yourself. Be polite and lead with the piece of your homework that you agree on. Let the conversation take off from there. If you get into a deeper conversation, bring up the piece of your homework that you disagree on. This will show that you have some gumption, and that you’ve thought through the relevant issues deeply. Again, be polite. No one likes a know-it-all.

Throughout the conversation, if you can add value to the relationship (an intro, your expert opinion), feel free to offer. Often to “come bearing gifts” is the best strategy.

#7: Exit gracefully.
Your interaction should typically last no more than five minutes. If you find your target’s gaze wandering, it’s time to finish up. Express that you enjoyed the conversation and that you’d love to follow up. It’s ok to ask for a card and to give him one yourself if you’ve had a meaningful exchange.

AFTER THE EVENT

#8: Follow up within 24 hours.
Send a follow up email within 24 hours of the event. After 24 hours, you may be forgotten. Make it short and sweet, and make sure you have an “ask” that’s specific and actionable.

Before you press the send button, ask yourself the question, “Can [the target] read this on his blackberry without scrolling?” Obey the http://three.sentenc.es methodology for the body of the email. And, keep in mind, the target may not remember you.

#9: Don’t do any of the following:

  • Fire off a LinkedIn invite. (You haven’t “done business together”…yet.)
  • Friend your target on Facebook. (You’re not friends. Sorry.)
  • Send a file attached to your email (unless explicitly asked).
  • Leave a voicemail with your email. (It’s just annoying and never gets listened to.)

#10: Play it cool.
If you send 3 emails in one week, you will get ignored. Don’t look desperate. My rule of thumb is one email a week if you don’t hear back for up to 3 weeks. After that, it’s a lost cause, my friend. Start from #1 and cycle through again.

Overall, your goal in any networking interaction is to create the illusion of serendipity where none exists. What does exist usually is a thoughtful, meticulous process that connects you with the people who can help you most.


The Big Winners At South By Southwest

By Perks |

SXSW Interactive 2011 logo

Damien and Lauren recently got back from SXSW with some major takeaways at what was big down there. GroupMe, Foursquare, Gowalla, Pepsi, Fast Company, CNN, Chevy and Apple all came out on top as they all had physical presences. Yes, the big technology to come out of SXSW this was advertising.

It’s true that the group texting was the actual technology that shined at SXSW this year. Overall, the companies that made a big impression were the ones that were always in your face with advertising and a physical presence. The brands that made an impact were the ones that actually did something.

GroupMe took over a grill in front of the Convention Center, called it the GroupMe Grill, and gave out free grilled cheese and beer between 12 and 2 to people that could prove they had GroupMe on their phone. They won for best placement as you always saw them considering they were opposite the front of the Convention Center. Ultimately they also came out on top of all of the Group Texting apps as well. Coincidence? Probably not.

Foursquare partnered with Pepsi for the Pepsi Max Lot, which had an actual foursquare court to play foursquare with Foursquare, a bar, a ping pong table, a photo booth, tables with outlets, a couch lounge area and free Pepsi Max. Foursquare also partnered with Big Boi and Pepsi to release 2,000 Golden Tickets that were randomly unlocked as you checked in all over Austin during SXSW Interactive. If you unlocked the Foursquare badge you showed it at the Pepsi Max Lot for a physical ticket to a show with The Sounds and Big Boi. They also partnered with American Express to tie a limited amount of retailers into their social rewards program. If you tied your AmEx to Foursquare and paid at one of their retailers you unlocked a special Foursquare badge.

Gowalla had their classic Airstream trailer where they were giving you physical Gowalla Passports that you could put stickers of the places you checked into on Gowalla. This was a great representation of their service, as their app has a digital passport that you get digital stickers of the places you go. Their “there” was everywhere. After collecting 5 stickers you went back to the Airstream to get a bracelet for VIP access to their party headlined by Matt & Kim. After collecting 15 stickers you got a premium quality Gowalla t-shirt. While Gowalla’s physical footprint was smaller their takeaway was larger. To have a physical version of what you’re digitally doing really hits home their message of what they’re trying to do.

Pepsi also had their usual Pepsi stage area, which focused on the sustainability of brands you may not know that PepsiCo owns, like Sun Chips and Sabra. This year they launched an augmented reality game that was just like how Kinect for X-Box functions. A camera captures your movements as you are the controller that moves a shopping cart through an obstacle course collecting PepsiCo products. Our own Damien Basile launched this product and went up against Gary Vaynerchuck and Baratunde Thurston, and beat the both of them! In addition to all of this Pepsi had a separate stage in an adjacent room for free alternative programming, where Damien was interviewed about his new app Addieu.

Fast Company took over a restaurant behind the Convention Center where they provided free meals to people who were lucky enough to be on their guest list. They had a table with chargers that was a welcome break from having to sit by your phone and an outlet. In the back of the grill Zazzle had an area set up where you could create and pick up your own custom iPhone 4 cover. They showed off their custom printing abilities by showcasing sneakers, skateboards and other gadget cases.

CNN took over a grill opposite of the Pepsi Lot. They took off the restaurant sign to put up their own rotating CNN sign. It seemed the big thing this year was taking over grills with your own branding and custom offerings. Ironically, the restaurant was called Max’s which was located across from the Pepsi Max Lot. That irony was lost on the fact that CNN changed out the signage 1 day before SXSW officially started.

Not to be outdone, Apple launched the iPad 2 during SXSW on the 11th. Most people were willing to go to the Austin mall to line up, which was about 3 miles away. Apple decided that what they would do is open an iPad popup store in downtown Austin for the duration of SXSW Interactive. The environment was fun and festive, as the employees would dance to exuberant music as you came in and clap as you left. Apple didn’t need to pull a stunt. It’s product and culture of product became the stunt. Business as usual but definitely something to experience as I don’t see Apple doing a popup store in it’s near future again.

Out of all of the brands at SXSW with prominent advertising, Chevy turned out to be the most useful and thoughtful. Free food and swag is great, but at the end of the day all you really wanted was to not be walking anywhere anymore. Chevy took care of that. In addition to their yearly Chevy Volt lounge where you recharge all of your dying devices, Chevy had a pickup area outside of the front of the Convention Center. You could either test drive a Chevy in a closed course around town or Catch A Chevy, which would take you anywhere in the downtown Austin area for free.

To recap: In order to make a huge splash at SXSW now you have to have a big branded engagement that is useful to the festival-goers. SXSW Interactive has become so huge that your presence needs to be huge. The best engagements gave you food, battery power, a place to rest and transportation – the necessities of SXSW. In order to succeed next year at SXSWi think about what your customer would want there and give it to them. Swag is nice but a comfortable experience is nicer.


Best Popup Ever aka Thanks Constant Contact

By perksconsulting |

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More businesses should thank their customers every now and then. Doing this unscheduled surprises a customer and engenders more customer loyalty. Constant Contact’s positive sentiment went up substantially with me because of this. All too often we’re bombarded with offers from the company, effectively spamming their best customers. Instead, follow in Constant Contact’s footsteps by doing something nice and unexpected every now and then.


The Ins And Outs Of Group Text Messaging

By Perks |

Communication is all over the place with Email, Twitter and Facebook. Recently a surge in the group messaging market has given us many options to solve the problem of being able to communicate with people quickly, efficiently and reliably. The competitors are many but the winner is clear: GroupMe.

Group Messaging works by connecting many different phone numbers to one random phone number that everyone texts to. The group messaging company figures out who is texting by their registered name and number and posts their message to the random group number along with their first name in front so you can identify who is sending the message.

But before we get to why GroupMe is winning, here are some other companies in the group text messaging space:

Beluga recently was purchased by Facebook for obvious reasons. Facebook launched their messages platform that links your email and phone number to your Facebook message inbox. Facebook sees the need to provide their users a way to communicate with each other like they do in messages but easier. It’s no secret that Facebook’s mobile app isn’t up to snuff. With the purchase of Beluga Facebook bought both team and technology. For now Facebook said they’ll leave Beluga open and running, but who knows how long that will last? Facebook cannibalized the last two companies they purchased (Hot Potato and Drop.io) and they left Friendfeed all for dead when they kept it open and took the core team into Facebook to work on their own products.

Gogii has a product called TextPlus that gives users phone numbers if they don’t have one in order to text message with their friends through their app and not sms. This is good for teens who don’t have unlimited text plans, non-smartphones and have iPod Touches. Their longterm goal is to take this highly engaged group of users and get them to play social games with each other, thus transforming their conversations into conversation based gameplay.

Brightkite pivoted not too long ago from a location based checkin service that offers you badges as rewards to a group messaging platform. They saw that their group messaging service was much more popular than their checkin service so they decided to refocus on what their customers wanted.

Fastsociety came out around the same time as GroupMe. Their big seller was that you could create quick groups that expire after a certain amount of time. GroupMe now does that too in addition to keeping groups in an ongoing state.

So why has GroupMe won the group messaging market? For these reasons:

  • Get push notifications instead of text messages, thus reducing texts and consolidating where you read them
  • Checkin on Foursquare and share your location with your group to let them know where you are
  • Share photos and videos easily
  • Mute noisy groups when you need to
  • Start a conference call from the group you’re in
  • The GroupMe app is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry

In addition to this if you go to GroupMe.com/Foursquare on your mobile phone you can see which of your friends are nearby and add them to a quick group to find out if the nearby event is hot or not and where they’re going to next.

That last out of app feature is their real killer feature. Although I’ll be using GroupMe to coordinate plans for my startup Addieu at SXSW, I’ll also be interested in what parties are hot and where to go next. The Create a Group using Foursquare feature will be the killer app at SXSW as everyone is always looking for the next hot party.

How can you use group messaging?

  • Coordinating quick messages amongst your team.
  • Collaborative real-time product feedback from your best customers.
  • Create very specific groups for very specific issues.
  • Plan events on the fly

As with any new communications, make sure that the people you are adding to your group are ok with it before you add them. Some may be familiar with the technology and fine with you adding them. Others, like your best customers, would definitely need to be asked before you add them as you don’t want to alienate them.


Mashable Awards 2011 at Zumanity Theater Las Vegas

By Lauren |

Zumanity Hoops treated the attendees of the fourth annual Mashable Awards this year at CES 2011 with a special performance. The Cirque du Soleil favorite within Las Vegas’ New York New York Hotel was a special surprise for Mashable’s many media, brand, digital and social influencers in attendance.


Motorola Xoom Tablet

By Lauren |

Motorola and Google teamed up for the Xoom tablet, which features Android’s Honeycomb 3.0 technology, HD video capture and much more. It’s previewed here in the Motorola press announcement of their 2011 product innovations, exclusively at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2011.


Vator.tv – CES Trends to Watch in 2011

By Lauren |

http://vator.tv/n/15dc

Our CEO Lauren Perkins just came back from CES 2011. She’s posted a couple videos from CES to our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/perksconsulting as well as articles for Vator.tv and an interview with CES/CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro coming out on America 1.


CES 2011 Trend Rundown

By Lauren |

Perks Consulting recently went to CES and we garnered a ton of insight from it. Here’s a high level overview of what we learned:

Forecasts from CES for 2011 see the global and north american/US market growth in the double digits. The FCC made an announcement and commitment statement for spectrum.

Biggest product innovations:
1. Ford fully embraces a digital and integrated lifestyle with the announcement of electrification.
2. Motorola makes a big come back with Atrix, Motoblur Cliq2, Xoom and Droid Bionic.
3. Samsung has innovation across the board w/ big contributions via tablet PC and thin bezel super flat screen 3D TV.

Key Consumer Electronics Trends to Watch
1. Tablet Market
2. Smart phone mass adoption
3. 3D TV growth and consumer video cams

More on this to come in a detailed blog post soon.


The Process of Creating a Brand Identity

By Perks |

The brand identity is a great asset in a company’s communications that reflects the mood and the values of the enterprise. This is why creating a good visual identity is a long process that involves distinctive steps.

Clients

Creating a brand identity starts with good communication between the client and the designer to get a precise idea of the client’s needs. Some clients may be aware of that and will pay attention to every detail. Others prefer to trust the skills of the graphic designer, giving the designer a lot of freedom, which is always great for creativity.

Info

Before starting a design it’s important to get all the print and web specifics. This is the best way to save time on the last step (preparing files for print/web).

Ideas

When coming up with ideas drawing on paper is faster. Usually the company name and function helps when getting a first round of ideas. What is the company message? How do they position themselves? Where will the design go? The notes from the brief with the client should drive the research.

Remember, different themes are possible. The identity can describe the name or product (Apple), be a typographic logo (Chanel), can relate to values such as victory (Nike) or be a detail from the history of the brand (McDonalds arch).

Propose 2-3 concepts

One important tip for a graphic designer is to not show something you don’t like, because it will difficult to defend work that you’re not 100% happy with.  Show the design you feel you would recommend at the end. It will have more impact.

Refine the identity

When the brand elements have been decided it’s now time to refine details and prepare the files for the different materials. An efficient brand identity requires a guidelines document. This compiles the colors and font information plus some samples layouts to show the use of brand elements.

Keep samples of your work

Get screen captures if you design for the web or printed samples of business cards, flyers, and brochures. These assets will always need to be in a designer’s portfolio.

Creating a brand identity needs time and creativity but also a good comprehension of your client needs. Always be receptive to the comments and don’t hesitate to affirm your recommendations.