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Category Archives: Business

Tips to Success for First Crucial Meeting Prospect

Obtaining a face-to-face meeting with a prospective buyer is hard to secure, painful to schedule and expensive to attend. And yet, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into online presentation tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting and, nothing really beats an in-person meeting with a new prospect.

Can you imagine Apple unveiling to the press the Apple Watch over a WebEx? Of course not! The face-to-face meeting allows the salesperson to collect context about the buyer, subtleties such as body language and political nuance, that will be beneficial as the sales campaign evolves. The prospect sees that the selling team is are competent and credible professionals who can help the buyer think through and solve the problem at hand.

Below are tips to give your best face-to-face.

# Electronic device etiquette. Turn off your phone. Not silent. Off. If you  take notes on a tablet, silence the  annoying keyboard clicks. Whoever is presenting needs to make sure that their email client is turned off. It’s highly distracting to have email notifications interrupting your presentation.

# Give Cliff’s notes. Kick-off the meeting by telling the audience exactly what they will learn. Promise them that you have structured the agenda to optimize for their time and that you will conclude your material 15 minutes early. Say that you’ll be happy to stay behind for additional questions. Most times, you will find a few audience members stay behind well beyond the allotted time.

# Manage the introductions. If there is a large audience, eschew the roundtable introductions. They will take far too much of your precious time. Pass around a sign-in sheet to satisfy your needs. Besides, you should already have a rough sense as to the parties represented. Keep in mind the buyer’s team usually already knows each other.

# Be a Boy Scout, be prepared. Upon entering the conference room a few minutes before start time you invariably find that something is broken. Which is why you come prepared with your own projector and mobile WiFi. Something always goes wrong at this step, so prepare for mishaps.

#A Cut the fat. Do not begin the presentation with a slide that says some form of Our History or Who We Are or Our Vision. This is a surefire way to lose your audience. They already know just enough to have allowed you in their building and now want to know about youroffering, not your company.

6. Speak authentically. Be prescriptive about your offering. Talk about it within the context of a broader solution. Be transparent about the strengths and opportunities for improvement of your offering. Suggest a willingness to partner together to fill whatever gaps may be identified.

7. Find the influencer. Many times you will find that the most influential voices on the buyer’s team do not have a corresponding position on the org chart. This is a classic example of hierarchical power versus influential power. Be sure to read the room to identify these folks. They can very quietly hurt or help your efforts.

Getting the first face-to-face presentation involves a ton of hustle. So, don’t blow your only shot to make a solid first impression. Preparation, etiquette and authentically engaging the audience will be your aces in the hole to help you earn a second meeting.

Dealing with Difficult People Tips

Can you believe this guy? Never acknowledges your presence. Interrupts you in meetings. Yawns in your face. Mocks your wardrobe. Smacks his gum. Talks to you like you’re 8 years old. Keeps asking to borrow two dollars even though the Cheez-It packs in the vending machine are only 95 cents. Never pays you back. Slaps you on the back while you’re drinking coffee. Exists on the earth. Haunts your dreams.

You gonna respond to all that offense? Of course you are. But you’re not going to reveal that you can’t stand the guy. You’re not going to act annoyed. Acting annoyed or put upon or beleaguered suggests that you have lost some control, that you’ve been thrown off your game.

In business, restraint is the only means of disarming the jerk.

(That and, you know, firing, ending your partnership with or having the jerk arrested for stealing your money and slapping you all the time. But for the purposes of this column, let’s assume your counterpart must, for professional reasons, remain in your universe.)

# Staying Clean When Things Get Dirty

Etiquette is about taking the high road. But when dealing with someone you can’t stand, it’s not enough to take the high road. You want to be in a car on that high road. Better yet: a large truck. Windows up. Both hands on the wheel. You want to stay clean. You don’t want to provide the other party with any evidence that you can be a jerk yourself. If the person’s behavior is actually sinister, then you’re only falling into their trap. And there’s a lot at stake when you fight jerkiness with jerkiness.

Remember that you might be in the truck, but (and this metaphor is about to get a lot more strained) you’re pulling a trailer that is your business and your reputation. Big trailer. Huge. With fragile cargo.

“For me, it’s the 10-second rule–it’s not doing anything on the spot,” says Gianna Provenzano, CEO of Gianna and Company, a Los Angeles-based wedding- and event-planning business. “Once you say something, you can’t pull it back in. It’s about picking your fights.”

Ten seconds at a minimum. We’d suggest 20, even 30. A minute. Maybe an hour. In business, 80 percent of responding appropriately is not responding at all. What we’re talking about is underreacting.

The problem with any kind of talking in a professional environment is that you’re giving up your position. And when you act indignant, your position is revealed to be a swamp of weakness and bad temper. An overt response is almost always a mistake. You might be in a swamp of indignation, but you don’t want to reveal that.

You’re going to regret doing battle. And you’re going to regret it because a battle can happen only when someone gets to win. But there’s no winning among associates. As Tom Junod, my colleague and longtime Esquire writer, said in his 2011 essay “A Philosophy of Fighting”: “Anyone can win … if they’re willing to win at the cost of love and respect. The question is who can abstain from winning, who can resist the temptation of winning.” Winning is what businesses do. Navigating is what businesspeople do. An interpersonal issue is never conquered; it’s traversed.

If the first thing to do is shut up, the second thing to do is think of a few things that might be causing the other person to behave in a way that you can’t stand. Maybe they lost a lot of money at the dog track. Maybe their father never said “I love you.” Maybe their underpants are literally, somehow, in defiance of the laws of physics, in some sort of wad. This will cut through your outrage and recalibrate you back to the sympathetic human being you are. And once you’re recalibrated, you should do this: Stare.

Look bewildered.

Say, “Huh.”

Bemused is the reaction you’re going for. Say “Huh” the same way you would say it if you were walking down the street and saw a Chihuahua walking on its hind legs while wearing a sailor suit.

You know, “Huh.” You’re not smiling. You’re not frowning. You’re nonplussed. The series of questions implied by your furrowed brow is:What’s wrong with you? Why would you behave in such a manner? Where does one find such a tiny sailor outfit? Bewilderment is underrated. It places the onus on the offender to answer a question, without you having to ask it.

It’s about breaking the expectation of the offending party, according to Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and COO of BlogHer, a women-focused cross-platform media network: “It’s all about ‘hands,’ as Seinfeld would say. If you can’t have the upper hand, you at least have the equal hand. It’s very psychological. You’re trying to disarm their usual pattern.”

Is it passive-aggressive? Of course it is. But in the relatively dignified environment of business, this is the only kind of aggressiveness available to you. So employ it.

It’s an elegant thing, disrupting the jerk. The offender has pushed things to a state of imbalance. Your subtly expressed bewilderment will recalibrate the situation. And the calibration is exclusively in your favor. You’ll be in an advantageous position: free to go about your business.

# Key Technical Matters

Fight the urge to fight–verbally or physically.

Psychologically is fine.

When talking to someone you can’t stand, never use the phrase, “I have to be honest.” What follows won’t be pretty, and honesty isn’t necessarily the right approach.

Make a list of the things you don’t like about the person.

Cross off the things that are minor nuisances.

If there are more than five things still on the list, you may, in fact, be dealing with a jerk.

If there are more than 10 things still on the list, you may, in fact, be dealing with a sociopath.

To determine if the person you can’t stand is your enemy, say the person’s name out loud. If you are squinting and shaking your fist, the person is your enemy.

If you are squinting, shaking your fist and sneering, then the person is your archenemy.

If you are squinting, shaking your first, sneering and stroking a white cat, then you are an evil genius in a James Bond movie, and you need to relax.

Know More about Business Etiquette Rules

The rules are slightly different from standard social settings, yet business schools rarely discuss professional etiquette topics.

In her new book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette,” Barbara Pachter writes about the specific skills professionals need to understand when presenting themselves in a business setting.

From how to introduce yourself to what to order at restaurants, these are the social rules you need to know when establishing relationships.

Pachter has given us permission to use these excerpts from her book.

# Always say your full name

In a business situation, you should use your full name, but you should also pay attention to how others want to be introduced.

If your name is too long or difficult to pronounce, Pachter says you should consider changing or shortening it. Or you should consider writing down the pronunciation of your name on a business card and giving it to others.

# Always stand when you’re being introduced to someone

“Standing helps establish your presence. You make it easy for others to ignore you if you don’t stand. If you are caught off guard and cannot rise, you should lean forward to indicate that you would stand, if you could.”

# Only say “thank you” once or twice during a conversation.

“You need to say it only once or twice within a conversation. Otherwise, you may dilute its impact and possibly make yourself seem somewhat helpless and needy.”

# Send separate thank you notes to everyone involved

You should send thank you notes within 24 hours and you should send separate notes to everyone you want to thank.

“Before you choose between email and handwritten notes, consider that regular mail may take several days to get to its destination while email arrives almost immediately. This time difference can be important after a job interview, if the hiring decision is being made quickly.”

# Never pull out someone’s chair for them

It’s OK to hold open a door for your guest, but Pachter says you shouldn’t pull someone’s chair out for them regardless of gender. In a business setting, you should leave those social gender rules behind.

“Both men and women can pull out their own chairs.”

# Don’t cross your legs

Both men and women do it, but it can be distracting and even too sexy for a professional setting, says Pachter.

“The bottom line, however, is health related: crossing your legs is bad for your circulation because it increases the pressure on your veins.”

# Keep your fingers together when you point

“Point with an open palm, and keep your fingers together. If you point with your index finger, it appears aggressive. Both men and women point, but women have a tendency to do it more than men.”

# Do not push away or stack your dishes

“You are not the waiter. Let the wait staff do their jobs.”
# Keep the food options balanced with your guest
This means that if your guest orders an appetizer or dessert, you should follow suit.

“You don’t want to make your guest feel uncomfortable by eating a course alone,” Pachter says.

# If the host follows certain dietary restrictions, consider the restaurant they’re taking you before ordering

“Most people do not impose their dietary choices on others. Nevertheless, you can often judge what to order by the type of restaurant she chooses.”

For example, if your boss is a vegetarian but chose to meet you at a steak house, Pachter says “by all means you can order steak.”

# Know where to properly place plates and silverware

Remember that “left” has four letters and “right” has five letters.

“Food is placed to the left of the dinner plate. The words food and left each have four letters; if the table is set properly, your bread or salad or any other food dish, will be placed to the left of your dinner plate. Similarly, drinks are placed to the right of the dinner plate, and the words glass and right contain five letters. Any glass or drink will be placed to the right of the dinner plate.”

“Left and right also work for your utensils. Your fork (four letters) goes to the left; your knife and spoon (five letters each) go to the right.”

Also, think “BMW” when trying to remember where to place plates and glasses. The mnemonic BMW here stands for “bread, meal, and water” so remember that “your bread-and-butter plate is on the left, the meal is in the middle, and your water glass is on the right.”

# The host should always pay

“If you did the inviting, you are the host, and you should pay the bill, regardless of gender. What if a male guest wants to pay? A woman does have some choices. She can say, ‘Oh, it’s not me; it is the firm that is paying.’ Or she can excuse herself from the table and pay the bill away from the guests. This option works for men as well, and it is a very refined way to pay a bill.”

“However, the bottom line is that you don’t want to fight over a bill. If a male guest insists on paying despite a female host’s best efforts, let him pay.”

# Prepare a polite exit

Pachter says you need to be the one talking as you’re making the exit. “Remember to leave when you are talking. At that point, you are in control, and it is a much smoother exit.”

You should also have “exit lines” prepared in case you need to leave a conversation. You can say “Nice to meet you” or “Nice talking to you” or “See you next week at the meeting.”

You can also excuse yourself for a bathroom break, to get food, or say you wanted to catch someone before they leave.

Guide to Have Relationship with Online Influencers

Having even just one relationship with an online influencer can have a significant impact on your business. Online influencers are people who have a dynamic personality that comes across online and they command the respect of other key players in their niche. Relationships with influencers are sought after by business owners because these people help shape consumer decision making by popularizing products and ideas, and promoting things across multiple channels.

The good news is that many top influencers also happen to be fairly accessible, even when you think it’s impossible to connect with them. Here are five relatively easy ways to connect with powerful influencers who can hopefully help your business get to the next level:

# Get connected through someone you know
Whether online or off, when you get introduced to someone new by a mutual friend you are coming with a built-in background check. You will want to make sure that the person you want to meet knows why he or she is meeting you. Make sure your current contact is clear with his or her description of you and what you do.

Follow up after you get introduced to thank the person for his or her time. Another way to make yourself memorable is to send a gift — something thoughtful that was clearly chosen with the recipient in mind.

# Be engaged and engaging
One effective way to get your name and brand in front of influencers is to blog for other sites. You can find relevant blogs to your industry on sites like Technorati. Instead of going straight for the top blogs in your field, consider reaching out to some smaller blogs first. When you have some pieces published on the smaller blogs you can then take those to the larger sites as examples of your work.

When you are seen as someone who actively communicates with new connections it can make other online users want to connect with you. By starting small, you can connect key influencers in your field, because creating content consistently and being involved in forums in your field can alert other influencers that you are committed to your ideas and products.

# Use LinkedIn and Twitter to establish contact
Using social media can often be the fastest and easiest way to connect with online influencers because they are already established platforms for connecting with like-minded individuals. LinkedIn can be a useful place to start as it is the largest online network of professionals.

Twitter can be especially useful because the “verified” status feature lets others know that an influencer — typically celebrities or top industry performers — does indeed have a real following. You can use sites like Twello and Klout to identify the reach and following of users.

You can try tweeting your target an invitation to connect. Or you could try quoting the person in a blog post of your own, and tweet at them to let them know that you’ve quoted them in your article. A little ego stroking can go a long way.

# Don’t just say ‘hi.’ Offer to interview the person
Over social media, don’t just reach out and introduce yourself. Go a step further by offering to interview the person — either over email or treat him or her to a dinner. This can be framed as an interview that you want to post on your blog or simply an opportunity for you to pick the person’s brain. Successful people often enjoy telling their story.

The benefit to you? You’ll most likely take away at least one tip for success in your chosen field and have the opportunity to explain what it is you do. And there are multiple benefits for the influencer by way of additional exposure and potential access to new business partners.

# Figure out what you can offer and then offer to do it for free
When you connect with an online influencer, you will need to know what value it is that you are bringing. This could be something as simple as your time, your graphic design skills or your talent for short sales. You should offer to donate your time and skills for free. When you offer enough value and deliver a good product to an influential person you create an opportunity for that person to recommend you to his or her network.

Implement the strategies above to connect with influencers and you should see the number of successful people in your network grow. With so many available resources to you on the internet and otherwise, you may as well use them for something useful your own success.

Build Strong Business Relationships, Here Its Tips

As the old saying goes, “It’s now what you know but who you know.” For entrepreneurs, this couldn’t be truer. Building relationships can play a pivotal role in the success of your startup, as it can lead to important introductions to investors, potential clients, future hires and advisors.

But it isn’t easy. Relationships need trust and rapport, which requires consistent contact over time. For those looking to nurture and build valued connections, here are some tips:

# Be helpful. In a professional setting, people like to have relationships with those that can help their career or business. Be that person. It will help both your network and you get stronger.

Offer relevant and mutually beneficial introductions. Provide advice, expertise or feedback. Share information such as events, articles or research that may be helpful. Promote your contact’s work by sharing it with others.

Per the law of reciprocity, when you are helpful to others, people will feel more inclined to be helpful to you.

# Be visible. Make it easy for people to see you and know what you’re doing online.

Maintain a strong online presence on relevant social network sites like LinkedIn or Twitter. Also, publish a blog to publicly promote your expertise and provide updates on your learnings and achievements to your network.

# Keep people posted. Send updates about what you’re learning and accomplishing and ask your contacts to do the same. By doing so, you can determine who in your network is inspiring and excellent in respective fields, which can lead to connections down the road.

# Stay top of mind. You don’t want to go extended periods of time without being on someone’s radar. Ask people to join you for coffee or invite them to an event you’re attending or organizing.

Because people tend to be busy, make sure you always have a reason to meet. If you don’t, you can still stay in touch remotely. Ask a quick question over email. People will feel complimented that you’re viewing them as an expert and will be happy to provide advice.

You can also communicate with people on social networks or comment on their blogs. I keep a spreadsheet of my high priority contacts with a column that lists the date of our most recent communication. I also use email-reminder service to reconnect.

Tech Tool for Simple Marketing

Simplifying and automating some of everyday processes allows a business to effectively scale the productivity of its marketing, while retaining the quality of its work.

To facilitate productivity as a marketer, identify which parts of the company’s workflow can be automated with cost-effective tools. These tools must suit the size and needs of the marketing team and improve upon the quality of work delivered across marketing channels.

Here are five tools to help foster productivity across the marketing functions of a business:

# Social flow. Scheduling social media posts is critical for keeping up with the amount of relevant content that an organization ideally would generate in a timely manner. Social Flow helps businesses manage the distribution of their social content by alerting a team when the company’s audience is discussing related topics to its core offerings and brand graph. The tool lets organizations know when to chime into relevant conversations their audience is already having.

The tool’s algorithm analyzes real-time conversations on the largest social networks to help businesses identify trends in these conversations, to inform future efforts in creating relevant content. The tool also assists with advertising on Twitter and Facebook, based on the success of existing organic content.

# Nimble. Seamless relationship management is a challengetoday since professionals interact with one another across many different platforms, including email, LinkedIn or Facebook. Nimble is a tool for small businesses, entrepreneurs and other professionals seeking to more effectively manage their relationships with one dashboard.

The tool aggregates content from email, social networks, existing contacts and elsewhere to provide the insights necessary to build relationships with clients and connections. The tool cost $15 a month a user and offers unlimited messages and full access to all its third-party integrations.

# vCita. Streamlined invoicing, calendar management, call-to-action options and client management can save a marketing team valuable time. vCita is a platform offering all these features to users for integration with their existing tools like Gmail, WordPress, PayPal, Constant Contact and more.

Calendar management with vCita enables users to schedule an appointment right on a company’s website without their having to send messages back and forth via email. The call-to-action functionality adds a widget to a website so that visitors to a site can be converted into potential customers, by alerting them to services, letting them to pay for an offering and schedule appointments through the automated system.

# Hemingway. Creating content on a regular basis is important for a business so it can grow its customer audience, increase interactions, builde trust and drive sales. The Hemingway app can help improve this editorial content without taking up too much of a staffer’s time or requiring the help of another editor.

The free app reviews written content and identifies sentences that are hard to read, too lengthy, excessively using adverbs or similar words or phrases or passive construction. Paste text into the app and it highlights any issues.

# Automating aspects of employees’ participation on social media is another way to increase efficiency while saving staff  time. lets members of a marketing team create a simple newsletter that can be delivered to other employees in an easy-to-share format with either an individual post or a list of a few post suggestions, optimized and ready for sharing on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This helps organizations tap into the collective reach of employees on social media by automating some parts of the sharing process.

This way an organization can tap into its employees’ vast networks without overcomplicating things. Such activity can drive more conversations and awareness for the business in the long term. The cost for the tool starts at $9 a month for 1,000 shares, a price point ideal for a small business.

Avoid These Networking Mistake

At a networking event not too long ago for which 500 people attended, the speaker who was on stage directly before my presentation asked the audience, “How many of you came here hoping to do some business today, maybe even make a sale?” The overwhelming majority of the people in the audience raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something today?” Not one person raised a hand.

This is what I call networking disconnect. I find it ironic that people are so “disconnected” about a process that’s intended to be about connecting people. This kind of disconnect leads to poor results, which in turn leads people to believe that networking doesn’t work. From what I’ve experienced over the past 26 years, along with the results I’ve witnessed with hundreds of thousands of people around the world — networking works just fine.

My advice: Do not confuse direct selling with networking. Of course, there is always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made sale before by attending a networking event.” I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen, but it occurs about as often as a solar eclipse. You’re crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.

So why go to a networking meeting? You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Sometimes you go to increase your visibility and to connect with people you have never met. Sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know. And sometimes you may go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the relationship process and not just about closing deals. Visibility leads to credibility which, with time and effort, leads to profitability.

In order to make your networking efforts work, you need to embrace a “relationship networking” mentality. Here are five things to remember when attending networking events:

# Don’t go there to sell, go there to connect.
# Have meaningful conversations with people you meet.
# Follow up with people you found interesting or who you can help in some way. Don’t follow up to sell them something.
# Meet these people in a one-to-one setting, learn more about them, and ask them: “how can I help you?”
# Go for the long-term relationship, not the short sale.

Business Blog Tips

Blogging can be a great way to draw new customers to your business website. But if your blog hasn’t been updated in months or all your posts are thinly disguised sales pitches, your blog marketing plan could backfire.

Here are types of blog posts that can draw new visitors and help build customer relationships.

# Customer success story. When you receive a great testimonial from a customer, ask for permission to turn it into a post. Use the post to solicit more customer stories.

# Create an award. Giving a “best of” honor is guaranteed to get attention. Readers will want to check out who won, and all the finalists will likely share the news in social media.

# Share your customer feedback. If you use customer comment cards or do customer surveys, turn some highlights into a post.

# Reveal industry secrets or expose lies. When you promise totell people what others won’t, it’s sure to be a hit.

# Tell the story of your origins. Everybody loves to read aboutother people’s dreams and challenges, so write about why and how you started your business.

# Share a highlight. What were the big milestones in your company’s history? Tell about an important moment and how it changed your business.

# Keyword posts. Check your Google Analytics to see which keyword searches bring customers to your site. Then do posts on those topics.

# Discuss future plans. Give readers a sneak peek at what you’ll do in the coming year to start generating interest.

# Review a book. If you’ve read a book you think customers might like, give it a write-up.

# Review a product or service. This shouldn’t be one of your own products or services or a direct competitor’s offering, but rather a related item your customers might want to learn about.

# Comparison test. Provide even more value by comparing two or more related products or services.

# Post a video. Create variety with a video post. You can give a sneak preview of a new product or show a promotional event.

# Make a podcast. Record a quick interview with an expert, or just give a few of your own useful tips.

# Create an infographic. Fact-filled, graphic posts get shared a lot on social networks. This infographic got more than 10,000 retweets.

# Report on a conference. Quote inspiring speakers or tell readers about the latest trends and ideas from the conference that you’ll be implementing.

# Mention a popular post. If you notice a post by a popular blogger in your niche getting a lot of attention, add your viewpoint and link to the original post. Be sure to let that A-list blogger know about your comment and link.

# Disagree with a popular opinion. Get traffic by stirring up controversy and taking a contrary position.

# Riff on the news. How are current events affecting your customers? Run a Google Alert on certain keywords related to your business or industry to find relevant news items to discuss.

# Compile a link roundup. If you notice several interesting opinions on a topic, you can pull them together into a single post of the best ideas.

# Play off the familiar. Mention a celebrity or a pop culture touchstone and your readers will instantly relate.

# Answer the questions everyone is asking. An FAQ post shows you’re responsive and saves customers time.

# Pose your own question. What would you like to know about your customers? Just ask, and let your readers create the content.

# Talk about trends. You convey authority when you tell how things are evolving in your industry.

# Go behind the scenes. Give readers a photo or video tour of your plant, customer service desk or the backroom of your store.

# Explain how you do it. Do you have a special way you make your product, handle returns or welcome new customers? Describe your process.

# Staff profiles. Give a human face to your company by introducing new or seasoned employees.

Show your charity work. If your business gives back to the community, post a video or photo essay of that park your staff cleaned up.

# Gush about your idols. Talk about the blogs you read regularly or the thought leaders who inspire you. Be sure to alert those bloggers and business gurus so they’ll spread the word.

# Have a debate. Invite someone who disagrees with your views to do a “Point/Counterpoint” post.

# Talk about your blunders. Everyone loves to read aboutbusiness failures. End your post by telling how you’re fixing the problem.

# Create a regular feature. Do a “customer of the week” spotlight or create a monthly collection of the best online articles that match your customers’ interests.#

# Write a series. If you’d like to teach customers something complicated, break the topic into several parts. Series are an effective way to turn casual readers into subscribers.

# Make a prediction. Everybody wants to know what may happen in the future, so share your opinion.

# Conduct market research. Are you wondering which product name would attract more customers? Hold a virtual focus group on a blog post.

# Create a contest. Offer a prize for the most interesting customer suggestion or use of your product.

# Take a reader poll. SurveyMonkey makes this easy. Or you can simply set up a poll on your business Facebook page and draw readers to “like” your page.

# Share poll or contest results. Don’t leave readers hanging; do a follow-up post to announce the results.

# Read your competitors. If you’re out of ideas, see what topics are drawing a crowd on your competitors’ blogs and give your own take on those subjects. You can even link to your competitor’s post. Readers will think that’s cool.

# Display a sense of humor. Everyone loves business owners who can laugh at themselves when something goes wrong at the office. Consider giving a “how-to” post a funny spin.

# Show your passion. What aspect of your business gets you excited? What customer experience was especially gratifying? Tell those personal stories.

# Share your vision. If you’re different from competitors because of your philosophy, talk about it.

# Informational, how-to. Is there more than one way to use your product or service? Describe one of the less common uses in a how-to post.

# Tips and tricks. Don’t have time for a step-by-step how-to post? Give readers a few random suggestions for how to get more out of your product.

# Celebrity Q&A. An interview post can be quick and easy if you simply email questions to an expert of interest to your customers. If you have some dream interview subjects, go ahead and ask if they’ll participate. You’ll probably be surprised how many say yes.

# Be inspiring. Sometimes, customers would just like to feel good. Write about something you found inspiring in the course of your day or how you keep a positive work culture.

# Resource list. You could spotlight your vendors, companies you partner with, or a list of good books related to your business.

# How you got the idea for your product. This is an opportunity to credit team members and tell an interesting story about product development.

# A day in the life. Give customers an hour-by-hour account of a typical day at your company.

# Offer something special. Announce a party that gives your best customers a first look at a new product or create a giveaway just for blog subscribers.

# Round up the best of your blog. If you think some of your best stuff is buried in the archive, repost your 10 favorite posts from the past year.

Know These Networkers Habit

The ability to network successfully can be one of the greatest assets in business. It allows some people to find incredible opportunities, while others just watch from the sidelines. Here are the most important habits to develop :

# Learn their ‘story’
Ask successful entrepreneurs to tell you how they got where they are. Most people think of this as an exercise in rapport building, but hearing these stories can tell you a lot about a person’s approach to business. The more you understand your networking partner’s mentality, the better you can add and extract value from your relationship.

For example, some entrepreneurs pride themselves on working 16-hour days and doing whatever it takes, while others focus on being strategic and waiting for the right opportunities to open up. These are clues that can not only allow you to see what people value, but also what working with them might be like.

# Make small promises and keep them
No matter how small a promise you make — such as sending an email or returning a phone call — delivering on that promise reflects on your character. By following through on your word, you start building a reputation for trustworthiness, which is exactly how every great networker wants to be perceived.

# Add value
One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action. If, for instance, you know someone in your network who can help a new connection with a problem, drop what you’re doing and introduce the two individuals.

# Ask insightful questions
Before attending networking events, get the names of the people who are expected to attend and search social media sites like LinkedIn to figure out which topics they’re probably most interested in. For people who are already in your network, don’t assume you know everything they’re up to. Find out what they’re currently working on — or perhaps struggling with. This attention to detail can go a long way at your next one-on-one lunch or dinner meeting.

# Share a memorable fact
When someone asks, “What do you do?” don’t give a canned elevator speech about your company and career. Mention something personal that defines who you really are. Maybe you have a passion for playing an instrument or an obsession with collecting antiques. These are also “things you do,” so make it a point to share them. Such personal details can help lighten the mood and get people talking.

# Keep a list
What’s your routine after attending a networking event or meal? If your answer is, “I go home,” you’re probably going to miss out on opportunities. Write down important topics that came up at the event. This habit can help prevent opportunities from falling through the cracks and give you something to reference in conversation the next time you meet. You can also develop a reputation as someone who’s on top of things.

#  Reward your ‘power’ contacts
Keep a list of your top five to 10 networking partners and do something each week to add value to one person’s life or business. You might send them a book or set up a lunch to introduce them to one of your other contacts. This habit can help you be proactive about staying in touch with your most powerful contacts. Just as with fitness or investing, the most successful people are the ones who choose to be consistent in their actions.

Collaborate Marketing Competition

To succeed, a startup must generate new business and attract talented employees, which requires using all of your resources smartly. Relationship capital is the connections, networks and relationships we all have that can be leveraged for business success. It must not be overlooked.

Executives of young companies should consistently leverage their networks and connections while encouraging all team members to expand their personal networks. That spurs professional growth individually and for the company. Startups that capitalize on their relationship capital will grow and sustain a healthy corporate culture and work environment.

Below are useful tips for startups to leverage relationship capital to perfect the science of success:

# Get your employees to realize the benefits of shared relationship capital. Professional contacts are personal and hard-won possessions. People rarely share these contacts with colleagues and will never want to hand them over to their company as a whole.

You first need to gain the trust of your staff to overcome their anxiety and get them to embrace sharing their relationship capital. They need to trust you won’t take advantage of their contacts for selfish reasons. Emphasize that employees will always be the point-of-contact for their own connections. Let them know that no one will be contacting their buddy at Acme Consolidated without their knowledge. Consider incentive programs and demonstrate the overall value of sharing contacts.

Launching a relationship capital initiative isn’t easy. But once employees know you understand their concerns, learn the program’s mechanics and become eligible for a pay-to-play bonus, it is more likely that you will see buy-in across the board and a more robust network across your business.

# Drop the phone and start a dialogue. We’re all guilty of it. We’re in an unfamiliar setting, with people we’ve just met or know in passing. To mask any social discomfort or awkwardness, we whip out our smart phones, to check work emails or train schedules or the average velocity of a hummingbird’s wings, anything to keep from making eye contact that might lead to a conversation. Small talk has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Chitchat might not be the shortest line to solving international crises but it’s critical to forming new connections and building up relationship capital. That can help solve international crises, or at least next week’s biz-dev problem.

# Collaboration can go beyond the office walls. Relationships are not afterthoughts developed once a product or brand is market-ready. They are among the core components for turning a concept turn into reality. You will tap a deep pool of new business and product possibilities, along with a built-in marketing strategy, when you give your customer/client/audience the ability to collaborate with you. As Charles Darwin said, “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

# Never burn bridges. Networking doesn’t stop with racking up a bunch of business cards. Building a wide and effective network of connections is no small feat. Real relationship capital is achieved by nurturing, or at the very least maintaining, existing connections. More importantly, it means not burning your connections. Severing ties with someone, even if done unintentionally, can have major repercussions, which might take years to manifest.

# Diversify your relationships. Are you exclusively focused on your sphere of influence or are you diversifying your web of contacts? We tend to network within our own industries, but the more we branch out, the more we broaden and deepen our intellectual and social reach. Collaboration across industries can help complete projects, hatch fresh ideas, solve technical problems, and help businesses and charitable organizations address social needs.

These strategies are all achievable for startups that recognize and embrace the importance of relationship capital. Successfully launching a company from the ground up is an extremely risky undertaking, so be sure to have your Rolodex in hand so your network can help you along the way.