Networking for Those of Us Who Suck at It

A Day In The Life

Networking Doesn't Have to Be so Hard via Aidan Jones

Networking Doesn’t Have to Be so Hard
via Aidan Jones

One thing that you hear early and often when you are trying to build a business or a career in industry is to network. I’ve learned in the short time I have been doing this that I suck at networking. I get very awkward when I go to an event or when I am in a situation specifically for that purpose.

Fortunately for me, I have come to learn that there is no such thing as good or bad networking the only requirement is that you fully show up at the table. Fully showing up means that you have honest conversations with the people you are interacting with. Conversations with no artifice that aren’t manipulated specifically to meet your own needs.

Here are the rules that I have come up with to make networking more comfortable for me:

  • Be as you are: I used to think that networking was like a job interview i.e. you are trying to sell yourself as the best person for the job. The truth is you just need to show up and be who you already are.
  • Be honest about your successes: People like to surround themselves with successful people, so if you have been successful at something don’t be afraid to talk about it. Just make sure that it suits the context of the conversations that are going on.
  • Be honest about your problems: You never know if the person you are talking to has experience in the domain that might be a solution to your problems, so be honest about them. Again don’t forget to consider the context.

To illustrate, I spent an evening with my cousin and her friend who happens to work for a media company. We started talking about some of the challenges (be honest about your problems) that I’ve been having along the way (you will be hearing about those soon) and it turned out that his experience might be just what I need to get me through the little patch of confusion that I have hit recently.

One last note, a lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to share their ideas because they believe that the person listening might execute on them. It is a valid fear, but at the risk of sounding naïve I will point out that no one has the ability to execute your idea exactly how you will. So except you know that the person you are conversing with is already executing in your domain, set the fear aside and engage. You never know what will come of it.

How To: Design Your Customer Experience

Today’s discussion is about creating your customer experience. I’m going to use a play as a case study, yes a play as in theater. The name of the play is Kakadu: The Musical. I had the privilege of being invited by a friend and jumped at the chance to go.

The experience was amazing, and when you find an organization that puts on a play with only two service glitches it is worth talking about. How do you achieve such a service record? By designing the product delivery/service process with the customer in mind. Here is what I observed from the outside for the Kakadu musical.

Get Your Process Down

Get Your Process Down

Marketing: This is something that is universal to all businesses – you have to market your product. By this point you should understand your target market enough to know the channels to use to reach them, and it goes without saying that you have to create a product that your target market wants to buy. I heard about the show via word of mouth, but to get to that point you have to push the message via other channels. Kakadu had several press releases in newspapers, a lot of people were talking about it on twitter, and there were radio advertisements.

Sell Tickets: Kakadu used quite a few channels to get their tickets to their target audience. The locations for ticket sales ranged from a grocery store (Goodies) to the venue (Muson Center) and a Jazz Venue (the Jazzhole) to the internet (Afritickets and Eventiso). Having multiple channels for product/service delivery is great because it gives you multiple avenues to reach your target market.

Deliver Tickets: If you bought the ticket in person you picked it up right there and then, and if you bought it online the idea was that you could print it out as well. It almost didn’t work out that way though for the latter, there were some issues with one of the online ticket purchasing platforms. This was the first service glitch as the platform didn’t provide any level of customer service; luckily the play organizers did what any good entrepreneur should do, they handled the problem. They picked up the phone listed on their contact information and sorted it out. When we got there and found out they had sold out of the regular tickets, they offered to allow us to upgrade to VIP by paying the difference.

Get them to their Seats: Rather than let us navigate the theater by ourselves to find our seats, they had really helpful ushers to get us to available seats with minimal disruptions to the people already seated.

Let them Enjoy the Show: This was the best bit. The show was amazing, the actors were amazing, and it was everything I didn’t know to expect from Nigerian theater. The set changes occurred in the dark right in front of us and the actors were totally engaged in each other. It was one of those plays that engagement with the audience was limited to the musical aspects of the show. The emotional parts of the dialogue struck so real they had me breaking out my handkerchief to catch my tears. If this show comes on again, go. In fact if I’m in town when it gets reprised, I will go again. It wasn’t all perfect though as there wasn’t an intermission so my throat was bone dry from all the laughing and cheering.

What can you learn from this?

  • Think through it all: Look through your delivery process through the eyes of the customer. What do they have to do to buy your product/service? Walk through it as if you were the customer and ask the following questions:
    • Where do they shop? How can I get my products there?
    • How do you intend to deliver the product? Is it a way that your target market is used to? Would it cause them any inconvenience? If it does, is it a deal breaker? Could it result in them being delighted enough to share their experience with their friends?
    • Is the product worth what you are asking for it? Does the product deliver on the value proposition that you have promised the customer?
    • Bottom line how can you make the whole process more convenient for the customer?

 

A Day In the Life…Investing in Your Business

A Day In The Life

 

Welcome to A Day in the Life…. This is a feature that gives a peek at what goes on behind the scenes here and at my other business. I want to show how I practice what I preach, and to share some pieces of advice that I learn from other aspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

The first post is inspired by a blog post that I read at Design Love Fest’s blog. It was a Q/A on how to invest in yourr business.

Invest in Yourself via Investing in Gold

Invest in Yourself via Investing in Gold

Today I’m going to share how I invest in my business.

Design

I believe it is essential to have a great designer you can call on when you do the initial design for your business and when you want to make changes that can impact the design of your website, product packaging, or any other touch point. It is icing on the cake to find a designer who understands how design plays a role in business strategy. Cultivating a relationship that benefits both the design and strategy of your business requires the following:

  • An understanding that whatever is shared in the relationship is confidential. This applies to both parties as you want confidence that your business discussions will not leak to the competition. Establish this early and often
  • Once you are sure that you can trust your designer (note: don’t work with someone you can’t trust in this respect), be open about the intentions you have for the designs you are asking for and be open to the feedback the designer has. While they work on making things beautiful, they can also help you make things functional to what you are trying to achieve

Learn

While I have a degree right now, I never stop learning. I’m currently getting an MBA part time while I work on my businesses and my full time job. A lot of what I learn in school from both professors and peers inform the work I do at my day job and on my businesses. Here are some tips to pick a program that works for you if that is something that might be of interest to you:

  • Choose a program that aligns with your learning objectives. To do this you have to be brutally honest about what you currently know and what you need to learn
  • Find a program that works for your circumstances. For instance if you are working full-time and have to deal with a lot of traffic to get to and from work like most of us do, a part-time program with a heavy online component is a great option to get you what you need

Train

This might sound exactly like learn, but there is a contextual difference. With this it’s about learning and networking with people in your industry and outside of it. I am always looking for new formal and informal training opportunities. If you pick the right one, you could get to meet and learn from thought leaders in your industry and find people like you who are not necessarily competing for the same customers that you can learn from. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Focus on learning and not the certificate. What you learn will be more valuable than the paper you are handed at the end. To do this, look at what the program advertises and ensure that the learning objectives are closely aligned with yours
  • Bottom line make sure you will be getting value for your money

Invest in Key Resources

As described in the business model canvas key resources are those that are needed to deliver on your value proposition. Without these key resources, keeping your VP promise will be very difficult. Don’t create a canvas and put it in the cupboard use the key resources as a shopping list for what you need to have to keep the promise you have made to customers.

That’s all for today, tune in next week for more “A Day in the Life…”

Pay Attention…

This May!

The Beginner’s Guide to Business Plans is out. Sign up for the newsletter to get your very own copy.

In other news,I will be creating my first product. It is a SWOT analysis tool that will help you use your business model canvas to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your product. The tentative release date is the 1st Anniversary of Gig Theory, August 1st. Telling you guys this now is part of me putting myself on the spot (haha), and part to get you excited about a new addition to your business planning/management arsenal.

Also coming this month is a new feature called A Day in the Life….

A Day In The Life

This will launch in the third week of May (YAY!!!) and it showcases how I use some of the information that I share with you on this platform in my other ventures.

On to this week’s post.

I was reading the back of a can of air freshener recently and some of the copy caught my eye:

“Eliminates unpleasant odors. Freshness and perfumes every room in your home with the fresh and clean fragrance of nature.”

I read it about 3 or 4 times to make sure I was reading this correctly. Freshness and perfumes? That was a fail, not a huge one, but a fail nonetheless.

Why?

Because copy is one of the ways a company interacts with their customer. Well written copy helps the company communicate value in a professional way. There are not many customers who are particular about correct word choice in sentences, but you never know. Regardless of whether your customers are the type to pay attention to such details or not – if you are going to do something, do it well.

Bottom line for you:

  • Pay attention to the written material on your products, website, and any and all copy you have floating around. If your copy is sloppy, chances are something else in your business is.

What you can do next:

  • Gather all the written material you have on your business and proof read it. Your goal with this exercise is to make sure that there are no grammatical errors and that the words flow well.