Archive for the 'Business' Category

Offline Networking – it still exists!

March 7, 2008

After my recent evangelisation about LinkedIn and its business benefit, yesterday’s invitation to join a Business Network International group in Notting Hill was timely. BNI is an interesting idea; it connects local businesses to one another through a weekly breakfast networking session and charges nearly £1000 a year! A sceptic and lacking sleep (the breakfast started at 6.45!) I made my way over to Kensington Church Street.

BNI exists across the world and in a number of different countries. Each local network is called a chapter and there can only be one industry represented per chapter, e.g. only one Lawyer, Vet, Stripper etc per group.

On arrival at ‘The Place’ in Notting Hill, The first thing I noticed about BNI is that its members seem more interested in referring you business that talking about their own. Even before I could take my jacket off, I was being pursued by an eager Interior Designer who wanted to know what Online Lead Generation and Affiliate Marketing could do for him!?

When the breakfast got underway, everyone was given 60 seconds to convey their key messages about who they are and what they do, before circulating around the room with croissants and coffee.

With about 45 minutes left we then got to the ‘referrals’ section. Dotted around the room were little sheets of paper with empty spaces in which to fill in referrals for other businesses. To give you an example, the accountant in the chapter referred one of his clients to the hypnotherapist. The photographer referred a potential client to the IFA. The web designer gave a glowing reference for the property finder… and this went on, and on, and on…. Through this small local network, this ‘chapter’ were effectively working as their own local lead generation network.

BNI won’t be for everyone and its cost makes it an expensive marketing cost. However if you run your own PR agency or are in charge of bringing in new business, it’s definitely something you should consider.

The Notting Hill BNI had an effective motto – it’s not the people in this room you are aiming to gain as clients, it’s all the people they know! A very interesting idea.

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LinkedIn – New Media for Business

March 2, 2008

LinkedIn is in the news and whichever agency is employed to position the online start up as a innovative business networking exchange are doing their jobs. Coupled with the launch of a ‘Facebook style status’ comes the launch of a new interface and homepage.

The PR and Comms Network disagree about LinkedIn.

Alex hates LinkedIn and thinks it’s pointless.

I love LinkedIn and have integrated it into everything I do.

I am currently designing a LinkedIn strategy for my company and a visit to our blog will reveal that all of our staff has a LinkedIn page, directly linked from our homepage. Recently we’ve even been winning new business through LinkedIn. So to the doubter out there (yes, you Alex), that’s significant ROI for £0 spent.

LinkedIn in my opinions serves three purposes that other social networks don’t offer.

<!1. The advent of the ‘virtual C.V.’ has meant that no one can lie about their past work experiences, like they can do on a job application. We all know someone who has landed that ‘fantastic’ job by bending the truth a little on their own C.V. and although massively unfair, fraudulent and downright stupid, unless you are willing to shop that person they disappear off into the sunset with that massive pay rise and a new car! LinkedIn immediately removes this issue. If you lie about your work experience online, you really are stupid.

<!2. We’ve all been at that ‘important’ client meeting where you realise you’ve forgotten your business cards. This normally happens when that ‘must win’ client hands you theirs and looks at you expectantly. Rapidly searching your wallet, you find only loose change and an embarrassed grin! LinkedIn is a cutting edge way of getting out of this situation. “oh we don’t have business cards, we just use LinkedIn, don’t you?”

<!3. New Business. This is less relevant for PR and of far more use for sales teams but using LinkedIn to win new business does work. That contact that you met at the bar at the last trade conference who lost your card because he’d had 13pints, can still find you as long as he can remember your name. Similarly, if you know your business is the perfect match for another enterprise and you just need to get past the sales rep who doesn’t understand what you do, you simply look up their boss and shoot off an email. Also, by using the contacts function effectively you can get someone you know who also knows your sales target to ‘introduce you’.

Yes it’s annoyingly American, yes some features you have to pay for which is a big no no in this newly empowered internet world we live in and yes the status update is a bit stupid. BUT – Bear with it – LinkedIn is one of the most useful free business tools available.

This is my profile – http://www.linkedin.com/in/alaindesmier – feel free to connect with me