Archive | November 2014

E-Bay scamming its sellers

E-Bay is now scamming its own sellers, not only taking heavy fees for sales, Sellers are put on hold for weeks before receiving payment for goods. E-bay effectively using the money which must be millions to gain interest at every ones expense. Their greed knows no bounds

Bill Boothroyd – Disgruntled seller of many years.

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Quote of the Day

“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.”

                                                 – Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

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6 Word of Mouth Marketing Tips to Get People Talking About Your Business

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Word of Mouth Marketing for eCommerceReady to give your eCommerce store a marketing boost? Have you thought of trying word of mouth marketing?

Word of mouth is the strongest form of recommendation, and spreads quite quickly too. If people are talking about your business, then you can be sure you’ll get a big lift in your sales from new customers. According to a study done by Ad Age word of mouth can increase marketing effectiveness by 54%!

But wait a minute – word of mouth marketing? How can you increase the word of mouth about your own company?

Excellent question — read this post to find out a 6 ways that you can actually get your customers to talk about your business!

What is Word of Mouth Marketing

Before we get into the different ways to promote word of mouth let’s just quickly clarify what word of mouth is.

Word of mouth is any time someone talks about your brand. That can be in a conversation with their friends, it can be on social media, it can be in your own product reviews – essentially, it can be anywhere. So word of mouth marketing is the act of encouraging word of mouth about your brand.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

1. Promote Word of Mouth by Providing Above Average Service

The very first thing you should look at when trying to figure out how you can possibly get people to talk about your company is actually just that – your company.

Ask yourself a few questions: Do you sell above average products? Do you provide above average service and customer support? Do you deliver an overall above average experience?

It might be useful to take a look at your company from the perspective of your customers in order to answer these questions.

If you answer no to these questions, then there you go, that is the first thing about your company that you need to change.

Think about it like a restaurant. If you go into a restaurant and the food is just OK will you say anything to your friends about it? Probably not. You will only feel the need to say something if the food was very good, or on the negative side, very bad.

If your products or services meet expectations exactly then no one will talk about them. It takes a little extra something to get people talking.

The same holds true of your service and support. Even if you sell relatively standard products, if you provide absolutely amazing service then people will definitely talk about you.

Need an example of amazing service? Take a look at L.L.Bean’s satisfaction guarantee:

example of excellent customer serviceL.L.Bean is so interested in its customers’ satisfaction that it is willing to exchange any item at any time if it is in any way unsatisfactory! Now that is customer service at its best.

If you can provide that kind of service and sell amazing products, you can be sure that your brand will get a hefty boost through word of mouth.

2. Connect With Industry Influencers

The idea of word of mouth marketing is that the more people talk about your brand in a positive light, the more people will be convinced that your company is good and that they should buy from you. Now when it comes to the “mouth” aspect of word of mouth, some “mouths” are bigger than others.

What do I mean? Well, if you sell soccer equipment, then getting Leo Messi to talk about how great your soccer equipment is will definitely have a bigger impact than if any regular person talks about how great your gear is.

industry influencer word of mouth

The point is, if you can connect with influencers in your industry and get them talking about your brand, then people will listen. But not only will people listen, they will start talking about your brand too!

So by catching an influencer you are actually achieving double word of mouth marketing success – first you have an industry celebrity talking about you, then you have your customers talking about you too!

In order to connect with influencers, before sending them an email or calling them up, try to make yourself known to them first on social media or on their blog. You can post comments on their content, or mention them in posts on your own blog. That way, when you do contact them your company will be at least somewhat familiar to them.

3. Create a Core Group of Insiders

In addition to connecting with industry influencers, you should also look out for your “super customers.” People who consistently buy from you, or who have written a number of positive reviews about your brand. These people can be converted into brand advocates – aka word of mouth marketing heroes.

How can you do this? Not so hard actually. What you want to do is to make these people feel like they are your brand’s insiders. They are the ones who get to know everything first and get to try everything first, because they, and only they, are your company’s best customers!

Here’s a step by step process you can follow to do this:

  1. Put together a list of potential candidates
  2. Compose an email to send out which makes the recipients feel super special by informing them that they are being added to a small and exclusive list of insiders that will receive company updates and other news first.
  3. When you are releasing a new product, or if there is a product that you would like to give a boost to, offer your product for free or at a discounted rate special to your insiders, and in return ask them to write up a review for your blog or to leave a review on your product page.

Just by making the insiders feel special you will make them feel more connected on a personal level to your company, so that they will be not only willing, but excited to test out your product and write reviews.

Here’s an example of an email I received from Razor Social after attending a webinar:

razor social vip listThey understand that anyone who signed up for a webinar is probably a higher potential and higher quality customer than someone who did not, therefor they created a “VIP list” for those who joined the webinar with special and exclusive offers.

This is the exact technique you should use in order to draw in your core group of brand insiders!

4. Incentivize Word of Mouth to Get People Talking

It’s not always enough to just provide excellent service and wait for people to start talking about your business, sometimes people need a little shove to get them going – why not give them that shove?

You can do this by simply providing an incentive for your customers to talk about your products. Offer a discount to people who leave reviews or give coupons to people who write a longer review for your blog. There’s nothing wrong with a little bribery to get things rolling.

Another great way to incentivize your word of mouth marketing is with StoreYa’s Refer a Friend marketing tool. The way Refer a Friend works is after a customer completes a payment, a screen will pop up giving them the option to redeem a coupon in exchange for referring their purchase to a friend:

storeya refer a friendAs you can see, not only does the current customer get a coupon, but the referred friend also gets the coupon! This is a fantastic way to get positive word of mouth going, plus it will help you to bring in repeat customers.

Click here to get Refer a Friend for free!

5. Use Social Media to Create Personal Connections

As was stressed in tip 3, a huge aspect of word of mouth is the degree to which your customers feel they have a personal connection with your brand. The closer they feel to your brand, the more likely they are to talk about it.

Lucky for you, social networks are a fantastic medium for connecting on a more personal level with your customers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that one of the main aspects of social media marketing is just that.

There are any number of ways that you can achieve this connection:

Respond to mentions of your brand: Use a tool like Mention to monitor mentions of your brand on social media and personally respond to comments and posts. When possible, you should respond with humor or in some other creative way. Here’s an amazing example of how to respond from Kapost:

respond to mentions

Use user generated content: Use your customers’ own content as a way of giving them a shout out on your social networks. You can use their pictures for your profile, or publish a review which they wrote. Doing this makes them feel appreciated and needed by your company. Check out this example of using customer photos from Eggo Waffles:

example of user generated content

Take a look at How to Use User Generated Content for more on this!

Post about company culture: Give your fans an inside look into what goes on at your company by posting pictures of your offices, your manufacturing process, company events, etc. in order to present your company in a more personal light to your customers. Buffer did a nice job of doing that with this post:

buffer inside look

6. Publish Quality Content

You can also get people to talk about your company in a slightly more indirect fashion. If you consistently publish quality content on your blog, then you will naturally find your way into people’s conversations.

What do I mean by this? Here’s an example:

If you’re business sells watches, and you publish high quality articles on your blog about all kinds of topics related to the watch wearing culture like: comparisons between brands, new watch releases, watch wearing fashion tips, etc. then people will read your blog and begin to think of your company as a thought leader in the watch industry.

A perfect example of a company that does this well is Virgin Atlantic:

virgin atlantic blog

Their blog is not related directly to their products, but rather to the culture surrounding their target customer.

If you can become a thought leader in your field then people will begin going to your blog, for example, for all the latest watch news, or for any questions that they have. Essentially, your blog will turn into an important resource for people interested in your industry.

Once this happens, the word of mouth will follow. People will start referring your blog left and right to all of their watch enthusiast friends. These new visitors will see your blog, check out your products, and, if they like what they see, they’ll pass it on to their friends.

By becoming a thought leader in your industry, you can actually promote the word of mouth marketing for your products as well!

To learn more about blogging for eCommerce, check out The ABC’s of Blogging for eCommerce.

Get People Talking!

Now it’s your turn. Take these tips that you’ve learned and try to apply them to your own business.

It is true that it’s hard to gauge the success of a word of mouth marketing campaign, but you can get a general idea by keeping an eye on what the online world has to say about your brand.

Don’t let this difficulty discourage you though, because word of mouth is certainly the most effective referral your business can get!

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Quote of the Day

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

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The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life

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By Leo Babauta

Two minutes here and there rarely matter very much over the course of a day, a week, a lifetime.

But there are two minutes you could spend, right now, that would have a huge impact on your life.

I’ll save you the suspense: it’s two-minute meditation.

And it’s extremely simple: take two minutes out of your extremely busy day (cat videos) to sit still and focus on your breath. Just keep the gentle fingertip of your attention on your breath as it comes into your body, and then goes out. When your mind wanders, take note of that, but then gently come back to the breath.

That’s it. No mantra, no emptying the mind, no perfect lotus position, no meditation hall or guru (bald Leo Babauta). Just pay attention to your breath. No need to push thoughts away, just come back.

That might seem too simple to matter much. And in truth, you won’t get miraculous effects after two minutes of meditation. You won’t reach nirvana, you won’t be suddenly calm all day long.

But you will probably feel a little calmer. You will have created a small space of undistractedness in a sea of distraction (Facebook). You will have learned to notice when your random thoughts pull your attention, urge you to go check on something.

This is an amazing start. And if you do this two minutes tomorrow, and the day after that … all of a sudden you have a few new skills. You can create space between your thoughts and urges, and your reaction. You can create a pause that will cure your procrastination habit.

And the best part: it only takes two minutes a day. If you don’t have two minutes to spare, you might want to loosen up your schedule (Flappy Bird).

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Your ultimate guide to Minimum Viable Product

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by @davidnarsavidze

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is useful product strategy that is loved and used by many lean startup practitioners around the world.  Many entrepreneurs, however, end up with MVPs that don’t land anywhere near their expectations. Their MVPs have very low conversion rates and no paying customers. 
 

This Minimum Viable Product guide will be useful if you want to build a web product your early adopters will love. In addition to that, it is packed with definitions, strategies and great MVP examples. How do you build your MVP?  What are Concierge, Wizard of Oz and Piecemeal MVPs? What’s the difference between low-fidelity and high-fidelity Minimum Viable Products? What are great landing page MVP examples? It covers these and many other questions.

I have divided it into two parts to make it easier  for you. In part one, we are going to discuss problem discovery and smoke test development- things that are better done before you build your actual MVP. In part two we’ll define and discuss advanced lean principles and strategies that will be useful when developing your “high-fidelity” Minimum Viable Product.

Deconstructing your idea into a business canvas/business plan

So, before anything, you have formed the business idea in your mind. You have estimated the potential market size of your idea. You have an idea an idea of who your customers might be. You have defined your revenue model etc. As “The Startup owner’s manual” defines it, you have basically deconstructed your grand vision into the nine parts using the Business Model Canvas (Petri’s canvas the more advanced version of it, by the way, worth checking it out).

Minimum Viable Product-Business Model Canvas

Then you probably ran experiments to test your “problem” hypotheses. This stage is critical and the MVP without the clear problem statement is bound to fail. Usually, this is the stage where the most startups fail. They create a landing page in hopes of testing the problem/solution fit. Kinda taking a shortcut without doing proper problem interviews, whereas they should be concentrating on the problems of their customers first. The result? Very low click-through rates.

Understanding your Customers’ problems

If your MVP looks like a mess, what you are missing is the proper understanding of the problems your customers are facing, this is stage 2.Customer Development in general will never end and is critical to your startup. You just cannot omit that. So before you move on, check this greatblog or buy this priceless book. Here are some additional resources you might like.

Minimum Viable Product-identifying customer problems

NB! When done with this stage, sit down and ask yourself the following question: “what do I want to learn from my MVP experiment?” Why is this question important? Having clear learning objectives will help you to design your experiment much faster. Also, having clear goals will help you to decide whether you should persevere or pivot.

Creating a Smoke test or Low-fidelity MVP

In stage 3, you can test your basic assumptions and design pass/fail tests. Will customers click on the buy button? How many views, comments and likes will my video or post generate? Your main goal here is to find out whether there is any interest in your concept.

Minimum Viable Product-Smoke Test

Do landing page, introduction video, mockup or Facebook group count as real MVPs? Well, ask yourself: “would I pay for the product I have just built?” If you are still wondering how to answer this question, then the answer is “no”. This however, does not mean that smoke tests should not be created. Smoke tests are a good way to test your initial assumptions and decide whether your MVP should be built at all.  As mentioned before, the Smoke Test is a basic representation of your idea that will help you find out whether there is an interest in your concept.

Even though sign up forms are not “products,” conversion rates from signup forms might be a good experiment to run, so you could try to test a “problem” in the market without building anything at all. Take a look at the best MVP  smoke test strategies and examples below.

A Landing Page

There are tons of simple ways to build a landing page, run A/B tests and optimize your landing page without a single line of code. A couple of the best ones are LaunchRock and Unbounce. Not satisfied? 🙂 Find more here.

What’s the best landing page MVP example? Buffer, the app that queues up your tweets and posts them automatically, started out as a simple landing page. As soon as people started clicking on paid plans, Joel, the founder of the Buffer, realized that it was the time to create a working app.

There are also tons of other great examples and daily boards full of landing page Minimum Viable Products. Check ProductHunt or Startupli.st for daily inspirations.

Explainer Videos

Instead of creating a promotional video, try to show your product in action (even if it is not built yet). Here are some great Minimum Viable Product explainer video examples:

Thalmic Lab’s Myo device was able to attract 10,000 pre-orders or $1,5 million in sales in the first 48 hours with this video. They have now pre-sold over 30,000 units.

Dropbox was able to increase its beta waiting list from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight with this simple video.

Basic prototype or app

Check these great tools in case you are building an app or a prototype. You might want to check Axure, Balsamiq or Photoshare for mockups and this list for the best app makers (if you’re building simple app). Also, visit ProductHunt for daily MVP app inspirations and examples.

Facebook pages, forums, online groups and communities

If you know your customers well, then you probably know what they like and where they go. Maybe your target audience cares about women rights(everyone should) or likes martial arts? There are unlimited targeting options on the web. Search , Reddit, etc., for sub-groups and communities. Create and promote your own group if you can’t find what you are looking for.

Crowdfunding campaigns

Crowdfunding campaigns offer a great opportunity for validation if you are aiming at the mass audience. They are especially useful for physical products and innovations. You don’t have to create the product itself, just remember to present your prototype or idea well. Check Kickstarter, Indiegogo orRocketHub for great  MVP examples.

Surveys and questionnaires

This will not replace your problem interviews, but will help to polish your value proposition. Surveys can be done manually over the phone, or in crowded places in exchange of gift cards, smoothies or something useful to your target audience. There are also ways to install very simple surveys onto your website using Sodahead’s pollware or Qualaroo surveys . Turn to Google forms or Survey.io if you are looking to create the form itself. CheckFluidSurveysSurvio, AYTM, Survata or even mTurk in case you are looking to buy the respondents. Check for particular groups on Quora and Linkydinkif you are targeting some specific groups of people. Looking for experts in the field? Go for Zintro. In any case, don’t forget about survey design and keep it very short.

Idea and product spotting networks

There are websites dedicated to the search of new products and ideas. Think of submitting your idea to ProductHunt, Betalist, Moblized or Quirky ; see if you will get some traction. ProductHunt, and Betalist will be especially good for apps, and websites. Quirky, for real-world products.

Mockups, Presentations

Mockups and presentations are probably quite useless on the web, but very useful in sales meetings. We were able to sell great products like tulsu.fi just based on the mockups we presented to key decision makers.

Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product

In the first part you learned how to create your very basic smoke test or low-fidelity Minimum Viable Product. In addition to that, you read about critical stages that you have to do before the Minimum Viable Product. This is part two of the MVP ultimate guide. Here we are going to discuss principles and strategies when building a complex Minimum Viable product. Now comes the sweet part— you will present all of the things you learned in the form of the MVP.
 

What is Minimum Viable Product? Here is definition:


[MVP] is a concise summary of the smallest possible group of
features that will work as a stand-alone product while
still solving at least the “core” problem and
demonstrating the product’s value.

-Steve Blank


If there would be one sentence with which to describe the basic strategy when building your MVP, then this would be one: your Minimum Viable Product should provide one COMPLETE FOCUSED EXPERIENCE to your early adopters.

In other words, the best is not to forget the word “viable”in the Minimum (Minimal) Viable Product. Here’s a good example from the Spotify product development team.

How spotify builds products, minimum viable product

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If you want to sell a car (your successful end product) to your customer for the X price, a lot of times a badly designed MVP/landing page might  look a lot like a wheel (see picture). Instead of creating a wheel (incomplete MVP), think of something that would provide customers with the complete experience of  getting from A to B faster than walking. A skateboard might be a very simplified solution to that and it requires a lot of manual power, but it is that complete experience and a faster way to get to B. And, of course, it is much cheaper and faster to build compared to the car.

Remember , this would also mean restricting all the extra features on your skateboard like, for instance, the custom deck design (your MVP’s extra features), etc. Do not worry, early adopters in most cases will ignore “the look,” because they are searching for the solution to  their problem and that is the only thing  that matters to them at that point (PS! simple or minimal does not equal ugly)

The whole point here is that you learn with the least minimum effort! The MVP concept is not as much about the product, as it is about learning. Also, MVP is your critical step before moving onto finding your product/market fitand that’s the ultimate goal. Why would anyone want to mess it up?

How to build complex MVP or high-fidelity prototype

As mentioned before, it is easy to build something that is very minimal and that you can call a “product,” but it is very challenging to build something that is “VIABLE” too. Again:

Minimum Viable Product strategies

 Below, I have added  some great strategies to overcome that challenge. These great strategies will help you  build your ultimate  MVP.

“Emulating real stuff” approach

“Concierge, Wizard of Oz and Piecemeal” MVPs. What is a concierge MVP? It is a method of manually guiding your user through your solution. One of the best examples of the concierge MVP delivery is Food on the Table. Food on the Table provides custom weekly meal plans and ties them down to grocery store sales. Thus, people with specific meal plans don’t have to think what to buy the next day, all the grocery store items are selected by Food on The Table.

In the early days, Manuel Rosso, CEO of the company, had started up the service without even building the website. How? He would go to every customer in person with the recipes and grocery lists. In exchange, customers would pay the subscription fee. Thus, full service was provided to customers along with invaluable feedback from them.

The “Wizard of Oz” MVP seems to do exactly the same, only the customer doesn’t see all the manual work. Your website or app look and “feel” like real products, but you carry out all the product functions manually. Zappos founder launched the website, but would carry out all the other functions like shipping manually until the experiment was a success and it was time to scale up the business.

Another great approach that I got introduced to in this post is called the “Piecemeal MVP.” It allows you to do exactly the same as the “Wizard of Oz” and “Concierge” approaches, but here you will emulate all the missing features with the existing services.

My favourite example is from Steve. Steve Blank describes how he advised one team to change the approach when building their MVP. He was approached by a team of engineers that were planning to build precision agriculture drones. Instead of advising them on the drone features, he proposed  to use the helicopter with a high-definition camera (I guess buying  cheap drone was too expensive back then) and try to sell the data to farmers. The riskiest assumption in that MVP was not the drone technology, but whether the customer would pay for the data it provided. Great “piecemeal” MVP example!

MVP-your riskiest assumption is not whether something can be built, but rather would X customer pay Y price for it

“One Painkiller feature” approach

Many great businesses started either as a hobby, which allowed them to validate customer’s problem throughout the time or as a single feature product (Dropbox, browser add-ons, even google). One of the best examples is Buffer. It started out with a  very focused approach and one feature. Currently, Buffer has many more features, uses, and millions of dollars in sales.

Conclusion

MVP is all about experimenting and learning. Of course,  there are no “rules” and templates when building your MVP. Lean startup is a mindset and should be applied to every stage of your product development. Very often you will end up with very low click-through rates or no interest in your product during the presentation to the potential customers.

Perseverance and constant learning are crucial in here. In the already famous story, Rovio made 52 games and was almost bankrupt before this was sketched. So, keep on learning.

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Score a Meeting with Just About Anyone

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By Dorie Clark

We’re all inundated with meeting requests. It’s easy to say no to the egregious ones, like the stranger who recently emailed me to suggest that I meet with him on a specific date so I could provide him with free career coaching. But — though I know better than to ask for pro bono resume critiques — I’ve certainly been on the other side of the equation at various times, having my meeting requests turned down or ignored altogether. In fact, most of us probably have; in an increasingly time-pressed world, almost no one has the leisure to connect “just because.” Here are the strategies I’ve learned over time to ensure the people I want to meet are more likely to say yes.

Recognize where you’re starting. A good friend can easily drop you a line letting you know they’ll be in your city and suggesting a meetup. “You can write with a presumptive tone at certain levels of intimacy,” Keith Ferrazzi, the author of the networking classic Never Eat Alone, told me during a recent interview. “But you have to lead with certain degrees of currency when you don’t have that level of intimacy.” In other words, strangers should never presume that the other person wants to connect with them — that fact needs to be established first. So in your initial message, you need to give them a good reason (the “currency” that Ferrazzi mentions), which could be anything from a PR opportunity (such as interviewing them for your blog) to something you can teach them  (how to improve their search engine optimization) to the opportunity to connect with another guest they want to meet at your dinner party. Make clear the value proposition of getting to know you; otherwise, it’s far too easy for them to underestimate you and assume you don’t have anything to offer.

Start with a modest ask. An hour or a half-hour doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But if you’re one of 20 or 50 requests that week — which isn’t an uncommon number for busy professionals to receive — it can quickly become overwhelming. So don’t ask to meet for lunch; aim smaller, so it’s easy to say yes (a strategy I describe in “How to Land an Interview with a Cold Call”). I recently agreed to a phone conversation with one aspiring author who vowed in his email, “You must have a full schedule, so I will get to the point quickly and can keep the call to less than 10 minutes.” In the end, I didn’t speak with the author for 10 minutes; our call, which proved to be engaging, lasted 30 — despite the fact that I likely would have rejected a request for that amount of time. That’s the same strategy that well-known psychologist Robert Cialdini discovered in his early research on door-to-door fundraising campaigns for the United Way. Adding five words to the standard pitch — “even a penny would help” — doubled contributions. “Because how can you say no if even a penny is acceptable?” Cialdini told me in an interview for my forthcoming book. “We doubled the number of people who gave and no one [actually] gave a penny. You don’t give a penny to United Way; you give a donation that’s appropriate.”

Always find a warm lead. No matter how successful you are professionally, there are always going to be some people you’d like to meet that haven’t yet heard of you. The challenge is to break through and ensure they view you as a colleague — someone “like them” — rather than a stranger impinging on their time. Finding mutual contacts is one of the best ways to do it. Even Ferrazzi, known for his networking prowess, still has “aspirational contacts” he’d like to meet. In those cases, he says, “I leverage others to help with outreach.” Facebook, with its “mutual friends” function, makes this simple; LinkedIn — which charts connections out to the second and third degree — makes it even easier. Having shared contacts introduce you puts you on peer footing and gets your relationship off to the right start.

Just as sitting is apparently the new smoking, time is the new money. No one can afford to give it away carelessly these days. If you’re asking someone you don’t know for a half-hour, or even 10 minutes, you have to think of your request like you’re making a VC pitch. Why should they speak to you? How can you establish your credibility upfront? How will it benefit them? How can you pack the greatest ROI into the shortest time? If you can answer those questions well, you should be able to get a meeting with just about anyone.

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