Today’s Networking – Our Tips on Moving Beyond the Digital Scene

Successful networking has always been the foundation of creating avenues to fulfill both personal and professional goals. While digital platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter make it easier to connect, forging a genuine relationship is still at the heart of building your network. This means making sure you add face-to-face networking opportunities to your schedule too.

So, do you have to be an extrovert or create a phony persona to make these connections? More importantly, once a relationship has been started, how do you nurture it to the fullest extent? Here are some of our favorite tips for effective networking in a digital world.

Good Networking Is a Win-Win Proposition

Networking is intended to open new doors to you, but look at it from the other person’s perspective. He or she is also pursuing potential opportunities. As legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar put it, you’ll get what you want once you help enough other people get what they want.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini wrote about the concept of reciprocity, which means people tend to give back to those who give to them. Even a simple gesture like buying someone a cup of coffee can inspire them to return the favor.

Share Your Network

As with many other concepts, networking is about quality, not quantity. According to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, 150 is the approximate ceiling of the number of meaningful relationships we can maintain at any given time.

Forming quality relationships is the key to maximizing your network. For example, you may not have a social media specialist in your network, but your connections have well-rounded networks of their own, so they can make referrals when needed.

Branch Out

Branding is no longer just for corporations. Creating and growing your personal brand makes you stand out by establishing your unique value and skills.

Multifaceted people are more compelling than one-dimensional individuals. The more you become involved in “extracurricular” activities such as blogging or running a side business, the more others will be drawn to you.

Meet Face-to-Face

As deeply entrenched as social media has become, it still can’t take the place of personal interaction. Make it a point to attend offline networking events that are focused on your interests in order to create local connections in addition to your online connections.

• While the events may occur in real time, online sites such as Meetup and Facebook Events are a great way to discover what’s going on in your area.

• Get the most out of your time by attending workshops, seminars and talks where you can learn something in addition to networking with others.

• Business cards may seem old-school, but they’re still a more personal and memorable way to exchange information when you do meet face-to-face.

Save Time and Money with Ecommerce Fulfillment Services

Do you have your hands full trying to network and also coordinate inventory levels, order processing and logistics? Contact Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics to learn how we can give you back more hours in your day so you’ll have time to make networking work for you.

How to Take Product Photos for Your Store Like a Pro But on the Cheap

As online shopping continues to grow market share, the sense of touch has been removed from the buying process, making visual appeal more important than ever. According to ecommerce consultant BigCommerce, two-thirds of consumers rate image quality as “very important” when it comes to online purchases.

Before you rush out and hire a pricey photographer, check out these great tips for cost-effective and professional-looking DIY photos.

1. Technique Is More Important than Equipment

Don’t let anyone talk you into dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on a state-of-the-art camera. If you can afford it, then by all means, but modestly priced cameras and even smart phones are capable of producing high-quality photos. Decisions such as lighting, staging and processing play a more significant role.

2. Create Your “Studio”

• Set up a table as close to a window as possible without getting into the shadow cast by the windowsill.

• Use poster board or mats to create a generic white background, “sweeping” it from the horizontal tabletop to the vertical wall to provide a seamless look.

• You’ll need at least two lights. Clamp-style is preferable as they stay in place but can be easily moved around. Make sure to use identical light bulbs with a cooler shade.

3. Include Action Shots When Appropriate

In many cases the white background will be sufficient, but some products have more appeal when shown in use. For instance, a picture of a person wearing sunglasses can be more attractive to potential customers.

4. Don’t Stop at One

Take a number of pictures of your product from a variety of sides and angles. Multiple views are the best way to overcome the two-dimensional aspect of online images.

5. Keep It RAW

For best results you should shoot in RAW format, which captures all of the visual data and gives you greater latitude in editing. In addition, changes don’t affect the original file so you won’t have to worry about losing data.

6. Evaluate and Adjust

After every session, review your work with a critical eye to see what worked and what didn’t, and then apply your findings to future photo shoots.

Ecommerce Fulfillment Services for the Busy Entrepreneur

Are inventory, order processing and logistics taking valuable time away from the business of driving sales? Contact Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics to learn more about our comprehensive ecommerce fulfillment services.

FedEx Announces New Surcharges Effective Today

Learn About the Amazon Effect

Today is the day that the new temporary surcharge amounts for FedEx Express International parcel and freight shipments from China increase.

FedEx announced an earlier temporary surcharge on international parcel and freight shipments on April 6th. This new updated surcharge impacts shipments from China.

FedEx explained the surcharge was due to new coronavirus restrictions which are disrupting the global supply chain. Additional costs incurred by FedEx due to limited air cargo space is driving up costs.

We will keep you advised of any additional shipping cost impacts as we know them.

Got a New Product to Sell? Get Some Tips on How to Create Demand

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It survived the concept pitch, the drawing board, R&D, prototypes, focus groups, and testing. Now your new product is ready to launch.

Whether you opt for a “soft launch” to introduce your baby to just a few markets or demographics; or a “hard launch” that involves a company-wide strategy and major rollout, you’ll want to build brand recognition and product awareness the fastest, most cost-efficient and most ROI-oriented ways as possible.

In years past, the debut of a new product into the market meant heavy investment in paid advertising. Just 10 years ago, you may have designed your launch around print ads, brochures, radio, outdoor boards… the so-called “interruption” marketing.

Today, however, consumers are more savvy and more discriminating. They’re less likely to respond to such expensive media as TV, print, or direct mail, and more likely to head for their desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 50 percent of today’s shoppers spend 75 percent of shopping time online!

Let’s repeat that statistic: Half of the consumers spend most of their shopping time on the Internet. It’s where they get their information and, increasingly, make their purchase decisions.

If your marketing is mired in 20th century tactics, you have a great opportunity to enjoy the benefits 21st century marketing can offer in terms of brand recognition.

The New “Word of Mouth”

A 2011 survey of small-business owners revealed a surprising fact about their attitude toward online marketing.

  • A combined 65 percent of the participants thought that the web and social media had little or no value for their business, or didn’t know enough about it to form an opinion;
  • But at least 50 percent agreed that “word of mouth” is a major force in attracting customers and prospects.

Here’s the point where these two ideas (dis)connect: Today’s word of mouth comes from the web.

Social media, websites, forums… that’s where people go to share information, communicate with businesses, comment on products and make recommendations to others. They’re where you need to be.

Content Drives Consideration

Having a website for your business is one thing. Optimizing that site so that people seek it out is another. To establish or boost brand recognition, your site needs to be a destination. The good content you provide makes this happen.

What do we mean by “good content”? Let’s start by defining what good content isn’t. It isn’t an unsolicited email, a coupon or an ad. Web users are bombarded with such sales pitches every day, and will largely ignore yours. Good content isn’t a press release about your latest award, or an announcement of a new location. In other words, it’s not about you.

It’s all about your customers and prospects – what they find compelling, or what worries them. Consumers want facts and proof, not promises. So your good content can:

  • Outline a common problem consumers face and show how your product or service provides a solution.
  • Give background information into your industry that helps people understand how your product came to be.
  • Offer a guide to safety or security tied to your industry.
  • Provide statistics on the way people use the product or service you offer.

Factual, insightful or entertaining content engages consumers in a way that paid ads do not.

When introducing a new product, you’ll face an understandably wary audience. Good content establishes you as more credible.

Get Seen to Get Leads

Building brand awareness, and qualified leads, through content starts with grabbing attention through the media that matters:

  • Blogs. A series of informative articles, peppered with the search engine optimization (SEO) words and phrases a search engine recognizes most, will boost your website to the top of the Google results. Other text-based online marketing includes reports, e-newsletters and industry white papers.
  • Multimedia. Think of what you might pay for one run of a local TV commercial – plenty. Compare that to producing engaging, entertaining videos and posting them to YouTube for free. Videos, podcasts and infographics get responses from consumers. The best go viral.
  • Social Networking. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks attract communities who share an interest in the product or service you provide. Post your content to your social media page, and you’ll be in a good position to net new “friends” or “followers” who will comment on, and share, your offerings.

Once you’ve built a community of visitors interested in what you have to say, you can use strategic landing pages to gather their contact information in exchange for more, or exclusive, content. This tactic narrows the field from casual searchers to qualified leads.

Does This Strategy Work?
Yes – countless small businesses are using the power of the Internet to build brand recognition for their new products. It could work for you, too.

Be Careful How What You Say About Your Product Features and Benefits — Don’t Get Caught by the Feds

Don't Get Caught by the Feds

Several years ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its guides governing endorsements and testimonials for marketers. The timing of the revision is noteworthy — the previous guidelines dated back to 1980, before anyone heard of the Internet, much less Facebook. Your online marketing could have the best intentions, but any over-selling efforts could get flagged by the Feds.

Why the Update and Change by the FTC?

1) Not Everything Online is Yours to Use

Celebrity images or endorsements. Think a photo of Beyonce or Tim Tebow will grab attention and boost your brand image? Or perhaps you want to use a classic rock song as background for your YouTube video? You could be asking for a cease and desist letter at best, and a copyright infringement suit at worst. As for endorsements, it goes without saying that using someone’s image on your marketing implies endorsement that may not exist. If you do spring for a real endorsement, the FTC’s detailed guidelines cover honesty of opinion, reliability of the claim and disclosure of the celebrity being a paid spokesperson.

Social media misdeeds. For a glimpse of how social media has changed the face of marketing, you need only to see what the FTC is eyeing these days. According to Mashable, some questionable practices catching the agency’s eye include “flogging,” which consists of blogs that exist only to promote a product or service; and “astroturfing,” in which phony customers post misleading or biased reviews on sites like Yelp.

2) Claims Need Substantiation

Marketing claims. “Natura”… “organic”… “green.” Words like that may bring images of environmentally sound, sustainable and chemical-free products. But sprinkling in claims without substantiation can get you into trouble, as Neutrogena recently discovered. The cosmetics company was hit with a $1.8 million class action fine for describing some of its skin-care products as “natural” when they contained what the suit called “chemically derived, synthetic fragrances.”

As for “green” marketing claims, the FTC wants you to provide “competent and reliable evidence” of your claim, in the form of reliable scientific evidence, defined as tests, analyses, research, studies or other evidence when you claim your product is “green..”

Apples to OrangesGood, better and best. The subtle wording of parity claims constitutes an established form of marketing. Take Brand X’s claim that “no battery lasts longer.” Does that mean Brand X battery lasts longer than Brand Y? No; batteries are generally identical regardless of brand. As a parity claim, “no battery lasts longer” simply means that Brand Y (and every other brand) is likely to last the as long as Brand X — but not longer.

Parity claims abound in marketing: “No pain reliever works faster.” “Get the best chocolate taste.”  The FTC does not generally care about “best” parity claims. But superiority claims to be “better” than a competitor must be backed up with accurate and non-biased proof.

Some companies push the good/better/best envelope too far. When Ford once claimed its car was “700% quieter,” the FTC asked for a clarification. Ford had to admit that they meant the inside of the Ford was 700% quieter than the outside — not a highly compelling claim!

Carefully Craft Your Content

The vast majority of marketers are never cited by the authorities, so running a clean campaign is not so hard to accomplish. When you describe your features and benefits with care — giving an accurate description without over-selling or using unethical tactics — you’ll boost your company’s credibility while encouraging new business.