Invited to BranchOut on Facebook? Maybe you should just say no.

Originally posted February 2012 – is now on Hiatus

Those two magic words… You’re invited! “Are you in or you out?” (to quote George Clooneys character in Ocean’s 11).

What is BranchOut, exactly? It’s a Facebook App for Career Networking… 

  • Do I need that?
  • Do you need that?
  • Does it duplicate other online services you already have?
  • Does it perform better than other online services you use or might choose instead?
  • Would it be wise to be a participant in BranchOut, as well as other services?

Being self-employed rather on a employer-employee career path makes it a different decision. In advising others, I do my best to try things out and offer my opinion.

In short, if you’re self-employed, you don’t need it. If you work for someone else, BranchOut duplicates LinkedIn, in a big way. For most people, it’s unnecessary to do both. My preference would be LinkedIn.

The philosophy is this:

“In a land of unlimited social media and networking choices, it’s important to actually MAKE CHOICES. More is not necessarily better. That’s not to say BranchOut isn’t for some people. However, if you’re not using the least number of services offering the greatest amount of leverage, you’re wasting precious time and personal energy.”

That’s the word!

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Your 30-second commercial

30-second commercial
To be memorable, be clear and concise

If you have been involved in any organization or networking group, you’ve been asked to voice your 30-second commercial or elevator speech. Those critical few seconds determine what other people remember about you and if/how they refer your business.

I spent some time working with a small group of business leaders on their 30-second commercial. I was genuinely surprised at the look of panic on some people’s faces when asked to do a brief self-introduction.

It’s well documented that more people fear public speaking than death. Looking around the room, that was clear.

After everyone did a self-introduction, we discussed the disconnect between what one says and what people hear, and then further worked on the necessary precision for self-introductions.

Key elements of our discussion included these tips on what works and what doesn’t.

  • Start and end with your name, title, and company. Use your title, only if it clearly expresses what you do.
  • Avoid first person, singular or plural, whenever possible (I or we). Ideally you should be talking about your company, as a separate entity from yourself. If you run a micro-business of one, you can use first person.
  • Don’t give a laundry list of everything you do. If you are in a wedding networking situation, stay focused on weddings. If you are in a convention situation, focus on corporate and convention services. Pare it down even further by not listing all your possible upgrades. Concentrate on the services you provide most often (80/20 rule applies).
  • Define your market area, clearly. Each market has its own unique boundaries, bridges and natural divisions. If you have elected to work within a specific portion of a Greater Tibuktu, state it, clearly.
  • Smile! A purposeful smile puts warmth and authenticity into your voice. When one gives a deadpan delivery, the message comes across board and disinterested, as though your self-introduction is something you just-want-to-get-through.
  • Look people in the eye. Even in a short segment, one can engage two or three people directly, for connection. If it looks like your speaking to the light fixtures, a connection will not be there.
  • c-h-a-cakeWhy do people hire or refer you? If there is one standout comment you hear  from client feedback, feature it (if you can fit it in). “Most often, customers ask for the Chocolate Heart Attack, made with 11 varieties of chocolate.” or “Venue managers say that our disc jockeys are well prepared and always work as team players on events.”
  • Rehearsed, but not memorized. Just like putting a fresh announcement on voice mail, your self-introduction should flow, with ease. As you wordsmith your 30-second commercial, put it in writing. When you see the words, it’s typically easier to cut away the fat. After you’ve trimmed it, rehearse until you are able to perform it off-the-cuff. If you’ve mastered the introduction, it should never be phrased exactly the same way, two times in a row. It will always sound fresh. If it sounds memorized, the words will lack sincerity.

Let me give you an example:

“I’m Andy Ebon, Wedding Marketing Authority; writer and publisher of The Wedding Marketing Blog-dot-com. I assist wedding industry businesses connect with the bride, more effectively through seminars and presentations and my blog, as well as business and marketing coaching. Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Authority.”

Alternate Version

“I’m Andy Ebon, Wedding Marketing Authority. I’m a public speaker, trainer, and educator of wedding industry businesses. I help wedding industry business connect with today’s bride through business and marketing coaching, as well as my blog, cleverly titled: The Wedding Marketing Blog -dot-com. Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Authority.”

  • Is one better than the other? Not particularly
  • When spoken, will it sound the same as when read? No it won’t. It’s essential to practice by speaking out loud. Some words that work together in print, don’t flow as well when spoken. Find the flow.
  • Why don’t you just say ‘The Wedding Marketing Blog?’ I have chosen an easy-to-remember blog address that I want people to remember, so the dot-com portion is part of its name. I also own Wedding Marketing Blog dot-com, so if someone drops The, it will still direct them to the site.
  • How can I judge my performance? Critiquing yourself is near impossible. It’s better to collaborate with a business peer. Listen to each other’s execution and give feedback about what you heard (understood) and what is not clear or is extraneous.

See what you can do to improve your 30-second commercial. If you find any tips, particularly helpful, please comment.

And remember, if you can’t clearly express what is you do, and who you serve, it’s not reasonable to expect other people to make exceptionally good referrals.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Education Expert

Referral Lists are Overrated

Referral Lists

One thing which amazes me, continually, is how people will blame a lack of networking success on other people and special circumstances.

In the words of Emeril LaGasse,

“This is not rocket science, folks.”

On an annual basis, business owners consider their ROI from various associations, networking groups and chambers of commerce.

These people have paid their dues, and perhaps more, but still don’t see a clear and definitive (measured in $$$) Return On Investment. This a big issue, but I’m only going to address a slice of it, in this post.

REALITY CHECK: Membership in any trade group or association gives you opportunity or access. You can leverage your membership by:

  • Showing up to every meeting or almost every meeting.
  • Making sensible donations: Those that benefit the organization AND showcase your company, effectively.
  • Serving on a committee.
  • Participating in a project.
  • Serving on a Board of Directors.

Here is the trick. Connections do not magically occur during a 3-hour event, once a month. Each event and membership are simply the launching pad.

I know: “People are busy, companies are dealing with reduced staff, blah, blah, blah.”

They still have breakfast, lunch and dinner. The best way to leverage your organization membership is to get face-to-face with people. A solid 30-40 minutes before work, or at any mutually convenient time, is a solid way to develop a personal and business relationship.

If you call, and are told, “Gee, I’m busy until the second week of November,” that’s OK, make a coffee date for the Tuesday or Wednesday in November. Figure it out. Get on their agenda, at their convenience.

Your ‘coffee date’ should not be a selling situation. It should be a get-to-know-you-and-your-business meeting; a stepping stone other avenues for referrals and more.

Vendors often feel that Directors of Catering and other venue contacts condescend to them. The reality on this one is that they have their hands full just trying to meet their own sales numbers, and are often annoyed by what they perceive as business owners with their hands out, and nothing more.

This is a complex discussion, but suffice to say, if you use the coffee-connection to help determine how you can make your catering/venue/planner’s life easier, you are far more likely to have success in building a referral relationship.

Here is your assignment:

  • Referral ListsMake a list of the top 25 people you would like to do business with (Start with professionals with whom you have common ground, through membership in an association or networking group).
  • Planning through January 2012, schedule at least one coffee connection meeting a week.
  • Research in advance: Use Facebook or LinkedIn to survey the person’s interests, work history, education background, etc., and use it softly in discussion.
  • Figure out your follow-up: Take notes on anything you promised to do or look into, during that meeting, and get it done.
  • Acknowledge: With a quickie handwritten note. That trumps an email or anything else, six-ways-to-Sunday.

Being on a referral list is overrated. You want to be top of mind, and on people’s lips, when they talk with clients and peers.

If you are just paying your dues, you are likely under-achieving.

Please share your own strategies that work, and post about your coffee connections.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Getting trumped by ‘unofficial relationships’

unofficial relationshipsSometimes, one does all the correct things in wedding marketing and still get completely cast aside.

A band leader I know, worked steadily, for years at one of Las Vegas’ premier properties. The band leader had a superb array of musicians, did first class work, and represented the property, well. Most of the bookings came as direct referrals from the catering office.

One day, the referrals just stopped.

There was a new player in town. An agent who magically had a ‘social relationship’ with a key Catering Manager. He also had second-rate bands. Calling them bands would be kind. Often, the kind of band that has musicians introducing themselves to each other, just before the gig. If the clients only knew.

What can you do about a situation such as this? Pretty much nothing.

Here’s what you need to know to minimize getting stomped on.

  • Recognize that ‘unofficial’ chains of command can be even more critical than the ‘official’ ones.
  • Knowing one catering manager in an office of eight, isn’t enough. You can have a closer relationship with one person, but you need to have a relationship with everyone, and they must understand the value your service brings to them.
  • Don’t be too dependent on one venue or vendor, for referrals. Diversify your networking and referral base. You’re not as vulnerable to a dramatic change due to the preferences of just one person.
  • Do your public relations: When you work at a property and receive a ‘Thank You’ or evaluation from a client, send a copy to the contact from that venue. Let them see, from the client perspective, what an excellent job your company has done, at their property.
  • Always work at developing new relationships. ALWAYS! Not every situation and relationship is so sinister. The reality is that people change jobs and properties, all the time. It is essential to be tuned in to the movement of people throughout the wedding community of vendors and venues, in your market.

Staying current with (or ahead of) who’s who, is a critical strategy to keep your relationships warm and toasty.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog