How good are your people skills? Are you friendly, engaging and above all, helpful? I forget how good my people skills are, as it’s just part of my nature – but I know that referrals are a substantial part of my business.  Would you like to increase your referral base even more? I’m hoping that’s a big YES!

New to how this works? Let’s take a look:

Start with Why Every Business Needs a Referral System by Marc Wayshak for the Huffington Post. One of the points Marc makes is “Referrals beget referrals: When you make a sale from a referral, that new client is going to be more inclined to refer you to others in his network as well. Think of it this way: You’re creating an army of unpaid salespeople who recommend you to other potential prospects.”

In Five Formalized Referrals Systems to Grow Your Sales, David Finkel makes this point for Inc Magazine. “The bottom line is for you to make sure asking for referrals is a systematized, automatic part of your business.” I’m sure we all could use this strategy even more, to build a strong prospect pipeline.

Then in The B2B Referral Sales System – The Magical Outbound Growth Engine Most Startups Never Use! we find a referral sales script as well as a referral intro-email template. Is this something you could use? Again, let me hear a big YES!

In the end, if you have great customer service skills and deliver an excellent service or product, referrals will start coming your way. However, helping them along will speed up the growth of your business and will speed up your success.

I’m a speed demon for success, you?

Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. We overlook the obvious and make things hard on ourselves. We reinvent the wheel. Fly across the country to make new business contacts. Why don’t we harvest the fruit in our own backyard?

This week’s Rainmaker is about making local connections.

Even if your business isn’t tied to your current location – which is awesome in its own right – there may be uncovered treasure in your local market to tap into. I’m referring to local scholars and professors, consultants, executives and business owners within an hour from where you live.

Connecting with these professionals may gain you access to an entirely new level of connections. So, how do you go about meeting these local treasures?

First, I recommend you join Meetup.com and find local networking groups and events. By using the search function, you can look up professional events and groups in your geographical area. By joining a specific group, you can also check out the online profiles of current members and even connect with them online before attending a live event. That way, you have a friend in waiting when you’re ready to explore!

Next, check out EventBrite.com and search for your location. You’ll find business events, workshops, large conferences as well as fun activities like local 5K running events. It’s a great tool to keep tabs on what’s going on in your neighborhood or other areas or communities that you’re interested in. Unlike Meetup, EventBrite lets you connect with event coordinators only, not other participants.

Two other great sources for local networking events and opportunities are local colleges and universities.  You can extend that as well to include your local Chamber of Commerce, professional organizations with business workshops and one of my favorites, listings in your city’s Business Journal – a goldmine of information, leads and opportunities.

Lastly, networking at Costco is a ‘secret weapon’ for those of us in-the-know. Many local Costcos offer a free, monthly networking opportunity in their warehouse with breakfast included. It’s a great place to meet other likeminded local small business owners – even if it’s just for a coffee.

What do you do with these connections? My #1 recommendation is to follow up on LinkedIn once you’ve met in person to continue the conversations online, or make a date for coffee.

A small coffee shop works best for me, with a choice of bold brew. You?

How many conferences do you attend each year? It can be a lot of money for you (or your boss) to fork over. Yet, they are so worth it! Conferences don’t just provide continuing education for your industry, they also provide priceless and countless networking opportunities.

The BEST way to get the most out of your money and time is to prepare well ahead – so you can plan the networking and follow up process to your BEST advantage.

21 Tips For Meeting People That Will Rock Your Next Conference is packed with excellent ideas and tips on what to do before you get to the conference. Tips like ‘bring business cards’ are a no-brainer, but also ‘check out the gym’, ‘be a mindful fan, not a nuisance’ and of course, ‘tweet that you’ll be there to meet other attendees’. I highly recommend this read to be best prepared. I’ve written an article on this subject myself and you can read it here.

While you’re at the conference, there are several must know’s that will come in handy – especially if this is your first really big conference. I like the featured article because it gives you five good tips that you’ll want to implement.‘If you’re going to spend money and sacrifice a valuable chunk of time that could be spent taking action, then it had better be worthwhile.’ Take a few minutes to read 5 Tips for Making the Most of a Conference.

Once you’re home from the conference – or on the way home – trust me, you aren’t done! The real networking and relationships come after you’ve met. They continue online and across multiple platforms. Here’s Nataly Kogan’s take on it: 10 Tips to Maximize Networking After a Conference.  She gives several do’s and don’ts on how to continue those conversations and give tips on how to make those relationships blossom.

I’d love to know where you are headed this year and what your most valuable tip is to someone who is a first time attendee.

Happy February, friends! Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, it’s still the month of love and relationships — so let’s keep that theme for this week’s Rainmaker.

In business relationships, much like personal relationships, communication is a key component to growth and success. How are you communicating with your prospects, your team and your clients?

First up, I recommend this read, ‘Three meetings you need to schedule right now’ by Jonah Engler via Everything PR. By following his advice and scheduling a few important meetings, he promises we’ll grow our business. Who will you be meeting with this week?

Next up is actionable advice from Cathy Miller, ‘Business Communication Shouts Action’. This is the first in a year-long journey through the alphabet. I’m looking forward to reading the next few letters. “C” for yourself!

Lastly, ‘How to write better emails and make them work for you’ by Alex Strike for B2Community highlights the importance of academic vs. business writing, words to kill and clarity in your message.  How many times have you read an email that could be shortened to a few sentences? Or, you were left wondering, huh?

How are your communication skills? Could you use a refresher?

Let’s chat!

Try it out yourself at http://tweakyourbiz.com/tools/title-generator/index.php

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As a Brand Ambassador and Promotions Expert who works with big and small brands, the question “what does branding really mean?” comes up often. Being on-brand, online branding, off line branding, brand awareness. One thing I’m very aware of is the money spent to see that it’s done right!

Brand it right or brand it wrong, being focused and on target with your messaging is important and key to establishing a look and feel — as well as a social identity for your product or service, and the revenue that it will generate.

This week, I’d like to share a few branding articles I hope you’ll find interesting;

First up, let’s look at 3 ways brands are marketing nostalgia in the age of throwback Thursday from Entrepreneur.com. “As millennials become increasingly important as customers, brands have started heaping on the nostalgia to woo them over.” If your target audience includes millennials, or any other older generation, take a look at this article on how to ‘reel them in’ using nostalgia!  (Remember Reading Rainbow?)

Next I’d like to share a video which is actually a Google Hangout On Air about ‘Branding for Small Businesses’. In this video, Lauren Zirilli, Vistaprint’s Director of Global Brand Strategy, talks about how small business can build their own brand. See what you think!

In Content Lessons From Three Brands That Kept Their Brand Promise (and Three That Didn’t) by Marketing Profs, we learn  that “content marketing has the power to help companies articulate and communicate the brand promise—which goes beyond a corporate mission statement. Marketers can craft content that shows what they really stand for.” One of the three brands highlighted is Subway, with their lifestyle campaign, ‘Eat Fresh.’

How is your brand standing out online and is your brand message consistent with your marketing message?

It’s 83 degrees where I am now in Rincon, Puerto Rico, mecca to surfers from near and far. I’m probably one of the worst surfers I know, but I enjoy the camaraderie of friends, working beach side, watermelon mojitos and fresh tuna pinchos. Life is as good as you allow it!

Traveling the world is something that’s important to me, as is growing my business and staying connected to my team, sales force and clients. Traveling the world also gives me an opportunity to meet new and interesting people who may one day be clients.

Case in point:

There’s a multi-million dollar piece of property that’s breathtaking here with a small raised look out built particularly to showcase the view. Smart Marketing 501.  My friend and I stopped to admire it, took down the contact information and talked with the owner’s son. He invited us to drinks, sunsets and a chorizo and churrasco steak BBQ on the deck that only added to the experience of ‘living the dream at the property’. Smart Marketing 601.

At one of the gatherings I met a rep from a Sun Tan Lotion company who happened to also sponsor a major Surf competition recently.  We talked about his set up on the beach, sampling, brand ambassadors and Partner Promotions — how we’ve been showcasing products and services for the past 15 years.

Got his number.
Got his Text.
Got his email.
Got a Prospect.

Next time you’re on vacation (or not) follow your dream and see where it takes you.

You might be surprised.

Writing from the road in sunny Puerto Rico,

I admit it. I’m a little behind the times not using Uber, until today when I used my first free ride to get to Logan airport. At the tap of an app, my driver showed up and off I went. No driving. No hassles. And without spending a dime!

I love this promotion because you can try Uber for free and then share it with your friends. Plus, it’s brilliant marketing with a built in reward system.

If you’re new to the service and would like to test it out, please use Uber as my guest and enjoy the ride. You can use it for business or pleasure, or as I plan to, for both.

Wishing you happy travels, wherever you go.

Dear New Year, Bring it On!

I’m always excited about possibility and my senses are keenly aware of the expansion that’s forthcoming in 2015.  Not just for me and my business, but for my friends and family, and fellowpreneurs I don’t even know yet.

Every year I like to look at highlights of my life in a visual timetable. I’ve borrowed this concept from one of my speech coaches because I’m nervous of forgetting important topics on stage.  We’re not presenting (except to ourselves) so I love this exercise to identify life events and business accomplishments.

Here’s a portion of my timeline for 2014 – want to draw one for yourself?

(Click to View Larger)

(Click to View Larger)

January – Lived in a ski house, seaside furnished apartment and Puerto Rico.

February – Worked from the slopes. Triple time on weekends.

March – Moved in to my farmhouse – I love it! A bittersweet time in my life.

April – Traveled to Prague and Budapest. Got pampered. Really fell in love.

May – Grateful for 3 new clients and writing projects.

June – Wonderful recruiting project.

July – Finished my first children’s book. Family time. Working at the island and Rye Beach.

August – Super busy with client work.

September – Woo Hoo!  The team is cranking! Speaking gigs, articles and panels.

October – Expo talk, trips to NY, birthday love, VIP days.

November – Hiring to fill positions – VIP days.

December – Big expansion plans  Great referrals Family time  Holiday surprises.

Late December – Booking new work, webinars and FUN for 2015!

Remember, you can add whatever events or accomplishments you like to your own timetable.  They can be words or images. Simple or complicated. Pictures or photos. If you create a digital version, it can have links or music or…

In reality, this is a visual map you’ve created for yourself, much like a PR or Promotions Business Building Map we create with clients (with your goals in mind)!

It’s no surprise that I love to schedule my life around my business and am blessed with a talented team to help me get there. I’ve never been a 9 to 5 er, but I can work like the dickens!

When you buy your new calendar, fill in your vacations first, even if it’s just an idea. Then plan your work around it. Writing your dreams on paper is the first step toward making it happen. Then, keep writing.  

Wishing You Happiness, Health and Prosperity in 2015.

PS –Thoughts really can turn into reality. And, it’s all possible. Share your big hopes for 2015 below.

I’m not the most active networker in the world, but I love to keep in touch with my colleagues and friends during the holidays. And, being a long standing member of a few groups, I especially like to reconnect and see a familiar face (or ten) when there’s no pressure – just to have a good time.

Last night, I had the pleasure of going to one of my Boston networking Holiday parties where I’ve been a member of years. Colleagues I haven’t seen in some time approached me saying things like:

“I read your newsletter all the time and want to talk the first week of January about a new project.”

“Your Cyber Monday promotion was a great idea and I should have taken advantage of it. Can I get feedback on a couple of ideas?

“I’m so glad you’re joining my group and your workshop idea is perfect for our members.  Maybe you can be on my advisory board?”

Not only was I having a great time, learning a couple of new dance steps (I’m rusty on that one), I also took the initiative and approached a new rum company with an amazing product and talked about representing his brand in the marketplace (after a sample or two).

The point is, business and pleasure can be mixed and when you’re not looking for the next ‘big thing’, doors open and conversations begin. Opportunities present themselves all the time, and it’s our attitude and openness that welcome them.

How will you welcome new business this Holiday Season?

I hope with a smile, handshake and for the chosen few, a meaningful hug.

PS – Lots going on in the Partner Promotions world. And so looking forward to a fun and prosperous 2015! How ‘bout you?  Share your thoughts and let me know why…