Words at Work

How effective writing helps your business succeed.

Words at Work header image 1

How to Waste Your Networking Dollars

December 13th, 2010 · Marketing

I have become convinced that referral marketing is the way to build a small business. It certainly works for me. That’s why this post will stray from ideas about writing to ideas about networking, with the goal of helping readers build their business success.

If you haven’t already done so, you will want to join your local chamber of commerce as well as a more structured networking group like Business Networking International (BNI). These organizations can be worth every penny of your membership dues—but not if you don’t show up and don’t follow up.

Don’t Show Up
With more structured networking organizations like BNI, a minimum attendance is required. However, even though I have helped publicize mixers held by my local chamber, I am embarrassed to admit that occasionally I forgot to show up at the actual mixer. Keep in mind that if a chamber holds only one mixer per month, each is one-twelfth of the networking opportunities for which you have paid.

To avoid forgetting, write down all those monthly chamber mixers as soon as you start using your 2011 calendar, or program them into your handheld device. Even if the locations have not yet been selected, the dates are usually chosen far in advance. (For example, the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce almost always holds mixers on the second Wednesday of the month.) As the date comes closer, check the chamber’s website for location and other details.

Sometimes you may feel tired from a busy day and just not feel like networking. Remember: it’s one-twelfth of your networking investment. Make the effort. You will be glad you did.

Don’t Follow Up
If you don’t follow up with those cards you collect at a chamber mixer or other networking event, they become just so many small pieces of waste paper.

How should you follow up? I was fortunate recently to be able to ask this question to Ivan Misner, founder of BNI and the guru of network marketing, as part of a conference call scheduled by the Referral Institute.  Misner’s suggestions were to find out how you can help your new business acquaintance and then use your connections to do so, or to make an appointment for a quiet one-to-one at a later time.

Following up as Misner suggests creates a bond between you and your new acquaintance.  BNI is based on the motto “Givers Gain.” Referral marketing is based on the idea that people want to do business with those they know, like, and trust. That’s why following up with those business cards works to grow your business.

→ No CommentsTags:··

Ready, Set, Go: Five Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing

December 1st, 2010 · Uncategorized

Even a professional writer can suffer from writer’s block from time to time. Case in point: this blog, to which I have not added for more than a year.  It’s time to hit the restart button.

Here are some reliable ways for you, me, or anyone else to get started.

1. Timing is everything.  At what time of day are you sharpest?  Are you a morning person or an night person?  Write at the time of day when your brain is at its best.

2. Clarify your goals.  What ideas are you trying to transmit? Who is your ideal audience? How does this audience think? What do they like?

3. Imaginary conversation.  Picture the ideal audience for your message. Imagine how you would talk to that person, how you would explain your topic.  As you do, write down what you imagine yourself saying.

4. Ten minute sustained writing.  Sit down in front of the computer. Stay there and write for ten minutes.  Ten minutes is not too long.  You know you can do that.  (Your only viable excuse for leaving is a fire alarm.)  Don’t check your email, play a game, or surf the net.  You are writing for ten minutes.  Let your brain go where it wants to go.  When the ten minutes are up, you can read what you wrote.  You will probably be pleasantly surprised with what you wrote.  If you are not, it doesn’t matter.  You are now going to edit.

5. Editing is easier than writing.  Don’t worry about what you say or how you say it on the first draft.  Get your ideas down and then go through it, editing and polishing.  Then put it aside and come back the next day.  Try to read from the point of view of your desired audience.

Try following these steps the next time you find yourself procrastinating over your writing. This blog is evidence that it worked for me.  And next time will be easier.

→ No CommentsTags:

Your Mother, the Marketing Expert

September 23rd, 2009 · Marketing

Your mother was right.

A few days ago I received a small white envelope—the kind that usually contains formal invitations and greeting cards—inthank-you the mail. I didn’t recognize the name in the return address.

It turned out to be a thank-you card from a young woman who recently sold me a shirt at Nordstrom. I’m talking about a sale item that couldn’t have brought her much in the way of a commission.

“I just wanted to thank you for shopping with me recently,” she wrote, adding some details about my purchase and ending with, “I hope to see you again soon.”

Nordstrom has a reputation for personal service, but this is the first time I received a written thank-you note from any salesperson there—or from any store.

What a wonderful way to market your services! Receiving the note gave me a warm, positive feeling toward the store, and particularly toward this salesperson, who had enclosed her card with the note.

These days we are so used to dashing off emails that we often overlook the value of a simple old-fashioned written note.

Susan RoAne, who calls herself The Mingling Maven®, has written on this topic.

“To email or not? Handwritten notes are quickly becoming a lost art, and some people complain that it takes too much time to write thank you notes by hand,” she says. “But most ‘manners mavens’ agree that the handwritten note is more valued. It reflects personal care, thought, and time expended. An email can be sent as a quick acknowledgement, followed by the handwritten note or card. After a job interview, to stand out from the other applicant, add what you learned from the interview or add some relevant commentary you have read or heard to a thank-you note. When we take the time to personalize our notes we distinguish ourselves from the crowd and become memorable.”

Read more on her website at www.susanroane.com.

A written thank-you note makes you stand out from the crowd. If your mother was like mine, she always told you to write your thank-you notes—and she was right.

Image courtesy: artandscienceblog.com

→ No CommentsTags:··

Who Needs a Press Release?

September 15th, 2009 · Uncategorized

Remember that Joni Mitchell song “I’ve Looked at Love from Both Sides Now”? 

I have looked at press releases from both sides, from the point of view of a publicist and that of an editor. This is a big help when it comes to knowing what to put in a press release. 

Let’s start at the beginning. What is a press release?

It’s not an ad. An ad is information that you pay to have published. Because you are paying for it, you can decide what to say and how to say it, and the newspaper (or radio or other media) is obligated to publish it the way you submitted it. 

You don’t pay for the publication of a press release. Yes, I am talking about FREE media coverage. Of course, an editor is not obligated to publish it. Your challenge in writing a press release is to make it so newsworthy and clear that the editor will want to publish it. 

Five guidelines for writing a press release a busy editor will want to publish 

1. Your topic must be some kind of news. Your release is probably the only way the news media will find out about it, unless your name is Barack Obama or Paris Hilton. They won’t be searching out your news, you must tell them. 

What do I mean by news?

Maybe you have been promoted. You have earned an honor of some kind. You achieved a new certification in your field. Maybe your business hired a new employee or moved to a new location. Maybe you are holding or sponsoring an event. 

What is not news?

If you want to publicize a new product or a sale, don’t write a press release–buy an ad. The exception to this is if you can find some way to tie your product to the news. An example would be tying a new investment product into the current mass of financial news. 

2. Write the release in media style. All the vital information must be up front, in the first paragraph if possible. Explanatory material can follow lower down. 

I have seen many press releases that began with a flowery, maybe even poetic first paragraph that someone probably spent hours writing. Unfortunately a busy editor is likely to look at this, and if the news doesn’t come through in the first paragraph, the release goes into the circular file. 

The first paragraph has a heavy load. It must both demonstrate to the editor why this story is important and newsworthy, and also provide all the important facts. 

3. Follow standard press release form. The release should be no more than one page if possible. There should be a contact name, phone number and email address for the editor if he or she wants more information at the top. Contact information for the public, which may be different, should be at the end of the body of the release. The words “For immediate release” are usually at the top. If the information should be withheld until a certain date, say so. 

4. Make sure everything is correct. Use spell check, and also proofread several times. Dates should be expressed as both the day and the date, but check to make sure that they agree. 

5. Research the media to which you are sending the release. Make sure you are sending it to the correct editor. Many editors prefer email submissions these days, but some like their press releases to be faxed. Often information about how to submit a press release is included in the newspaper’s website. 

Now you know how to write an effective press release and get a little free publicity for your business.

Who needs a press release? You do!

→ No CommentsTags:

Three Reasons to Read This Blog

September 9th, 2009 · Uncategorized

  1. Words and images surround us constantly. We are never far from some kind of media– but is it really communicating? This blog is a discussion of effective communication, particularly in writing.
  2. I have been fascinated with words and meaning my entire life. I have worked as a reporter, an editor, a public relations consultant, and a communications manager.
  3. This blog is my opportunity to share what I have learned, and what I continue to learn, about meaning what we say and saying what we mean.

How can we call attention to the message we want to deliver in the midst of the incessant competition for our audience’s attention? And if we do get their attention, how can we be sure they are receiving the message we want to send?

It’s all about communication.

Next time:  Hints for Writing a Press Release

→ No CommentsTags: